Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Social Institutions

Here is an outstanding post calling for humility on the issue of gay marriage. Megan argues that many previous reforms were attempted for good and compelling reasons and the results were terrible for marriage. She also points out that 'people who don't see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it':
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

I've never heard this argument before (she quotes from G.K. Chesterton) but it certainly makes sense. The idea that marriage is 'just a piece of paper' is fairly widespread in our society. Many of the people that say that also say that same piece of paper won't keep them together with their partner. While that might be true for them it inarguable that the decline of marriage as an institution has been devastating in segments of our society.
I do support gay marriage but the 'tradition argument' gives me pause. I think that our society has come to a point where same sex couples are able to live on a more even par with hetero couples. I also think that a significant portion of same sex couples are hyper-committed to each other. My hope is that including them in the world of marriage will strengthen the overall institution.
But...I'm far from certain.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Owning the Issues

Near the end of this post from Eric Black (whom I greatly respect) comes this comment:
Apparently the NRSC missed the memo about the new bipartisanship and has decided that share of responsibility for the nation's problems may have carried over from previous Congresses and administrations has now expired.
The recession was in full swing when the Obama administration came into office so it doesn't make sense to lay all of the blame at their feet. But is it reasonable to suggest that they've had a negative impact in the last five months? Here are three reasons why I think it is:

1) Uncertainty. We've had something of a command and control economy since the change over. Some companies are told how they should run themselves and what contracts they should honor. Others are given huge sums of money and virtually allowed to escape past bad decisions. This makes it very hard for anyone to plan for the future. When corporations feel this way they freeze like a deer in the headlight. Hiring freezes all around and the worsening employment numbers show that.
2) Wild spending. The amount of debt that's been run up in just half a year is truly breathtaking. Set aside whether the spending was justified or well thought out (and I don't think it was either) the sheer amount of debt creates strong doubts about future inflation and the ability of the country to borrow money. This extends the time period of uncertainty. Now a company has to worry further than a year or two and wonder how bad the economic environment will be five or ten years from now. Again they freeze and try not to hire or expand.
3) Cap and trade. At it's essence this is an attempt to artificially raise the price on energy in an attempt to push people to use less. Energy is an infrastructural item and rising prices there effect virtually everything else. So adding to short and long term uncertainty we now raise prices across the board. What do you think companies do then?

All three of these things can be laid at the feet of the Dems since Jan 20, 2009.

The White House told us that the stimulus bill would start dropping unemployment by now. Instead it's grown higher than they said it would if the damn thing wasn't passed. Biden said that they 'misread' the economy. That's possible but isn't it more likely that they just prescribed the wrong medicine?