Secular Conservatism, Libertarians, Progressives, and Marriage

 

I take conservatism to be an appreciation and defense of what has been proven to work, and which benefits society and the individual in a balance.

If that seems overly-broad, let me provide an example.  Morality is effective in curbing largely destructive impulses and reactions, therefore morality is worth defending in principle, with some room for debate on many fronts.  Not all morality is the same, and it is not always helpful in the particulars.  But to hold that morality is not a necessary part of society is anti-conservative in my view, as morality is the most tested method for a society to control its own behavior with respect for the society and the individual in balance. 

Libertarianism is a radical extreme that places no value on society as a body, and progressivism is a radical extreme that places no value on the individual.  Conservatism is the compromise position arrived at through experience, and stored in our cultural traditions as the wisdom of the ages.  To a secular conservative, the Bible is one of many instruments to this end.  Just because there is a religious proscription against adultery doesn’t mean that only religious people can defend a belief that adultery is harmful to individuals and society.  Likewise with other religious proscriptions.

Religion is, of course, a large component of the conservative movement, but philosophically it is not a necessary component of a thoroughly conservative position.  Not even for marriage.  I view the partnership between religion and conservatism as a co-development from a common origin.  Shared predicates yield shared conclusions, and therefore common interest.  Where religion ascribes things to God, secular conservatism agrees to the extent that it is destructive of society and the individual for mankind to mess with certain things.  Progressivism on the other hand is the confidence that a small group of people in the present know better than (on the one hand) everybody else across time, and better than (on the Other hand) God in His infinite wisdom.  Secular conservatism and religion get along just fine as defenders of our culture.

I see value in describing much of libertarianism as allied with progressivism, because conservatism is where the middle is, and to pull us off that mark either this way or that is just as destructive.  If a movement seeks to abolish our traditions as proven over time, it is not conservatism.  Progressivism and libertarianism get along just fine as disruptors of our culture.

There is already a philosophical position consistent with conservatism which enshrines human rights and the liberty of the individual: it is called conservatism.

Now, not every tradition is valuable, and a slavish devotion to traditions which are not good is not conservatism; that’s mechanism, on the process level.  Radical opposition to a flawed and failing government is not anti-conservative, but radical opposition to the institutions of our culture, most definitely is.

For example, you could argue that big spending by government is now a tradition and that it is therefore conservative to defend it and radical to oppose it, but this is wrong for a number of reasons.  First, it may be a tradition, but empirically it has not been proven to be a useful one.  Some spending is necessary, some spending is excessive — making judgements is important, and at any rate, even if all projects were equally worthy, the sheer sum of spending which displaces other worthy but non-government projects must be taken into account and weighed for relative merit.  Big spending is anti-conservative because it is destructive.

Second, the dependencies come to play in that objects and policies are not the only subjects to be appreciated and defended.  The decision to spend less is no less valuable than the process by which we arrive at that decision, and its implications.  If we feel that the accumulated wisdom vouchsafed in our culture is probably more valuable as a guide for society (in the aggregate) than the intellect spawned in a few brilliant fellows, then a process which lends itself to operation gently over time by many rather than abruptly, once, by the few is an inherently conservative method of arriving at conclusions.  Big spending is anti-conservative because it operates through an anti-conservative process.

As the free market is operated gently by many, and government spending is operated forcefully by few, any problem not specifically recommended for government remedy is probably better handled outside of government.  So no matter how “traditional” big spending may have become, it is not conservative in itself, and it is not conservative to defend it merely because it is the status quo.

Marriage pre-dates any law.  It simply is, and it is between one man and one woman.  This may sound circular, or like a “no true Scot” defense, but I assert it as a foundational fact.   Marriage is not produced by law any more than our rights are.  Marriage is enshrined and defended by law in our culture, and if the law should fall, marriage would remain, just as our rights do.  The law does not trump marriage.

This should not be too alarming; conservatism is a platform, a set of positions.  Some planks rest upon others and not all must be as heavily pedigreed.  I hold that marriage is a foundational plank in the conservative platform.  I hold that marriage is an emergent cultural defense against various destructive impulses and reactions, including those of jealous males, engineering females, and hostile out-group sentiment.  Good manners are a defense against some offenses which can become lethal, and marriage is a defense against outrage.

Humans are sexual beings (as our grade-schoolers are reminded every minute by government busybodies), and many of our impulses and reactions are not rational in the way we would like, no matter how logical they may be from a chromosome’s point of view.  As manners are typically maintained by society itself, morality is often maintained by religion as a specific example of a philosophy operating in context.

As the male-female pairing is not up for debate in conservatism (I challenge you to convince me that it is not what has been proven to work), so the societal adaptation which defends it is a necessary component of conservatism.  I realize that many “conservatives” disagree with this, but they are mistaken about either their conservatism or their conclusions.

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  1. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Salvatore Padula:

    Asquared:

    Salvatore Padula

    Whose votes are the politicians buying?

    Yup.

     They are buying the SSM vote directly and they are appeasing the cultural marxist bloc that sees repression in every human institution, so they are buying their vote indirectly.

    • #661
  2. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Asquared: As for the reference to biological parents, I simply meant that the history of subsidies associated with marriage derive from marriage being used by government as a proxy for a nuclear family (much like the government currently uses race as a proxy for poverty).  In other words, government subsidized this particular arrangement because 95% of the time, this arrangement resulted in children produced the old-fashioned way.

    What about the non-subsidy based privileges of marriage such as hospital admittance, spousal privilege in court, being able to file a joint tax return, etc.?  

    • #662
  3. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Asquared:  They are buying the SSM vote directly and they are appeasing the cultural marxist bloc that sees repression in every human institution, so they are buying their vote indirectly.

    How on earth does that constitute “buying votes”?

    • #663
  4. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Larry3435:

    Ed G.:

    Larry3435:

    …..From the Oxford dictionary – “The legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship.” My definition – “An agreement by two or more people to commit to mutual support and sexual exclusivity.”

    …..

    That’s partly what I’m asking for. What I’m mainly asking for, though, is acknowledgement that civil marriage has some set of identifying characteristics based on some purpose.

    As I said, you endlessly conflate the words “meaning” (or “definition”) and “purpose,”; and you endlessly make the teleological argument that the purpose controls the definition.

    But I’ve refuted that argument too many times, and I’m tired of it.  …..

    Larry, you’ve been refuting arguments that I’m not making and declaring victory in your head. I’d like you to acknowledge that civil marriage has not been defined the way either you or Oxford are defining marriage here, that gender has been a central part of the definition. I’d like you to acknowledged that gender has been a part of the definition of civil marriage for identifiable reasons other than intolerance and vote buying.

    • #664
  5. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Asquared:

    Salvatore Padula:

    Asquared:

    Salvatore Padula

    Whose votes are the politicians buying?

    Yup.

    They are buying the SSM vote directly and they are appeasing the cultural marxist bloc that sees repression in every human institution, so they are buying their vote indirectly.

     So they really aren’t buying votes so much as doing what the people who already vote for them want? How is that remarkable in a representative democracy? (I prefer the Burkean trustee model of representation, but I recognize that I’m in the minority in that regard.)

    • #665
  6. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Salvatore Padula: I prefer the Burkean trustee model of representation, but I recognize that I’m in the minority in that regard.

     You monster!

    • #666
  7. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Asquared: I agree with SSM supporters that government should get out of the business of recognizing marriages, but we disagree that SSM is a step in that direction

    Just for the record — though as Ed would say, I’m in a minority on this — I do not present SSM as a precursor for getting government out of the marriage business. I have no problem with government licensing marriage.

     That tension between your position and the position of SSM proponents who do want government out marriage is what I’ve been trying to explore here. You have a ready answer to what public purpose marriage will serve and therefore the margins in which it can operate.

    • #667
  8. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Salvatore Padula: I prefer the Burkean trustee model of representation, but I recognize that I’m in the minority in that regard.

    You monster!

     I think it’s worth noting that after his famous Letter to the Electors of Bristol Burke failed to be re-elected. 

    • #668
  9. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Ed G.:  That tension between your position and the position of SSM proponents who do want government out marriage is what I’ve been trying to explore here. You have a ready answer to what public purpose marriage will serve and therefore the margins in which it can operate.

    Right.  After 670 comments, I think it’s pretty clear that there’s a real diversity of opinion on the matter, not only between the sides, but within each side.  The more narrowly we address our challenges and questions to each other, the more productive this will be.

    • #669
  10. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Salvatore Padula:  I think it’s worth noting that after his famous Letter to the Electors of Bristol Burke failed to be re-elected. 

    It’s amazing how a single action can simultaneously prove both sides of a debate.

    • #670
  11. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    …..

    What about the non-subsidy based privileges of marriage such as hospital admittance, spousal privilege in court, being able to file a joint tax return, etc.?

     Personally, if the obligations are going to continue dwindling then I’d rather that the privileges do the same instead of expanding to anyone and everyone. If society now truly  believes like Larry that there is no public interest to be served by civil marriage then by all means I’d rather see it abolished altogether than expanded incoherently to no or even progressive ends.

    I suspect that society doesn’t really agree with Larry that civil marriage serves no public interest. If I’m right about that, then I wonder what interest they do think it serves and what that will mean for how it actually operates in and affects the world. The whole debate is really about competing answers to what public interests marriage serves now and which interests it should serve going forward.

    Refusal to consider these competing versions of public interest and how each affects what marriage (as an institution) does strikes me as a poor lens through which to consider marriage policy.

    • #671
  12. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Ed G.:

    Larry, you’ve been refuting arguments that I’m not making and declaring victory in your head. I’d like you to acknowledge that civil marriage has not been defined the way either you or Oxford are defining marriage here, that gender has been a central part of the definition. I’d like you to acknowledged that gender has been a part of the definition of civil marriage for identifiable reasons other than intolerance and vote buying.

     Sorry, Ed, but I consider the former point irrelevant and the latter point both irrelevant and so obviously wrong that it reaches the point of being ridiculous.  As I have said repeatedly, I do not care what historical practice has been in this context, because it imparts no wisdom.  And it certainly doesn’t establish the existence of some immutable “definition” of the word “marriage” to which we are now required to adhere.  On the second point, you keep asking why a decision was made (i.e., what purpose it served) when it is crystal clear that no such decision was ever made, nor was the issue even considered more than 20 years ago.

    • #672
  13. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Just for the record — though as Ed would say, I’m in a minority on this — I do not present SSM as a precursor for getting government out of the marriage business.  I have no problem with government licensing marriage.

     That’s a fine position.

    To people that want to extend government licensed marriage just one step, I don’t fully understand the distinction between SSM and other forms of marriage that most people believe should continue to remain unrecognized, eg, polygamous and incestuous relationships, but I recognize that on this issue, more people are rationalizing their positions rather than letting rational thought guide their positions.  

    I always say, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

    • #673
  14. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Ed, you cannot give me any other context where you would consider your own argument to make the least bit of sense.  I’ll give an example:  

    Until about 50 years ago, soldiers were always men.  In every society in all of history, soldiers have been men.  Sure, you can cite exceptions, like Joan of Arc, but the categorical rule (as you put it) is that soldiers have always been men.  This proves that gender is inextricably a part of being a soldier.  So women cannot be soldiers.  It is not that allowing women to serve in the armed forces is a good idea or a bad idea.  It is that allowing women to serve changes the very definition of being a “soldier” and that only “zombie soldiers” will remain.

    You can deny it if you wish, but that is exactly your argument.  And if you don’t like my example, then give me any other example where your reasoning would apply.

    • #674
  15. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    What about the non-subsidy based privileges of marriage such as hospital admittance, spousal privilege in court, being able to file a joint tax return, etc.?

    The joint tax return is the mechanism by which tax subsidies are delivered, so I don’t consider that to be a non-subsidy benefit.  

    As for hospital visitation, I don’t see why that is tied to marriage at all.  I always said the Terry Schiavo case demonstrated clearly that, if given the choice, some people would ban their spouses from  their visitor list.  From what I understand, that issue is greatly exaggerated.  No hospital that I am aware of prevents SS couples from hospital visitation. 

    My understanding of the spousal exclusion is that it was thought that wives were dependent on the husband as the sole breadwinner for her and her children and therefore could not be counted to give damning evidence against their only financial support.  Given the prevalence of dual-income families, I’m not sure that the circumstances that led to its creation continue to exist, so I don’t think I support its continuation for any married couples, hetero or SS.

    • #675
  16. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Asquared:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Just for the record — though as Ed would say, I’m in a minority on this — I do not present SSM as a precursor for getting government out of the marriage business. I have no problem with government licensing marriage.

    That’s a fine position.

    To people that want to extend government licensed marriage just one step, I don’t fully understand the distinction between SSM and other forms of marriage that most people believe should continue to remain unrecognized, eg, polygamous and incestuous relationships, but I recognize that on this issue, more people are rationalizing their positions rather than letting rational thought guide their positions.

    I always say, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

     So wrong.  I said government should not ban something without a good reason, meaning a clearly identifiable injury.  Genetically defective children (whether caused by incest or prenatal use of crack) are a clearly identifiable injury – to the child and to the parents.  But no one ever explains who would be injured by SSM.  At least, not that I have heard.  It’s always just some vague reference to “society,” with no details.

    • #676
  17. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Larry3435: And after SSM, every existing marriage will go on exactly as before.

    I’ve said this before, but my concern is not people who are currently married, but children who will grow up in a society where marriage is considered as something that is unrelated to children.

    I see that as inevitably increasing the number of children growing up in families without both a mother and a father.  Now, you may not care about those future children, but regardless, the concern is not the impact on people that are currently married, the concern is how future generations think of marriage and what that implies for future generations of children.

    I know we disagree on what that impact is, but as you keep preaching, let’s be clear about what each other’s position is.

    • #677
  18. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Larry3435: Genetically defective children (whether caused by incest or prenatal use of crack) are a clearly identifiable injury – to the child and to the parents.  

     But according to you, marriage has nothing to do with children.

    Once you separate children from marriage, how can you ban certain marriages based on concerns about genetic defects?  

    • #678
  19. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Salvatore Padula:

    So they really aren’t buying votes so much as doing what the people who already vote for them want? How is that remarkable in a representative democracy? (I prefer the Burkean trustee model of representation, but I recognize that I’m in the minority in that regard.)

     That’s fine, but I tend to agree with Larry on the issue

    Larry3435: The politicians’ actual purpose (as it is, was, and forever shall be) is to buy votes…

    Let’s be clear, no nationally elected official from either party (with the possible exception of Ron Paul) is currently following the Burkean trustee model.  Politicians from both parties buy votes with other people’s money. That is how our government currently works. 

    SSM is yet another example of that. 

    • #679
  20. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Larry3435:

    Ed, you cannot give me any other context where you would consider your own argument to make the least bit of sense. ……

     
    With an opening gambit like that, how can I resist engaging?

    Easily, it turns out.

    • #680
  21. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Ed G.:

    Larry3435:

    Ed, you cannot give me any other context where you would consider your own argument to make the least bit of sense. ……

    With an opening gambit like that, how can I resist engaging?

    Easily, it turns out.

     A deft sidestep.  Well, maybe not that deft.

    • #681
  22. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Asquared:

    Larry3435: Genetically defective children (whether caused by incest or prenatal use of crack) are a clearly identifiable injury – to the child and to the parents.

    But according to you, marriage has nothing to do with children.

    Once you separate children from marriage, how can you ban certain marriages based on concerns about genetic defects?

    Point 1:  Which is why incest is banned for both married and non-married couples.

    Point 2:  It is really, really easy.  Show me some other form of marriage that results in defective children, and I would ban that too.  On the other hand, if a woman has had a hysterectomy, she can go ahead and marry her brother for all I care.

    Anyway, SSM doesn’t “separate children from marriage.”  Illegitimacy does.  And government subsidizes illegitimacy.  So talk about your government hypocrisy.

    Just to be clear, I would prefer that kids who are born, be born to a married couple – for the sake of stability.  But I don’t care at all if a married couple doesn’t want kids.  That’s their choice, and none of the government’s business.

    • #682
  23. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Larry3435: But no one ever explains who would be injured by SSM.  At least, not that I have heard.  It’s always just some vague reference to “society,” with no details.

    I share that frustration — one does get the impression from some traditionalists that SSM will somehow destroy all of marriage, yet no particular marriage — but sort of understand where folks are coming from.

    Perhaps I should write a post on this, but I think one way to understand the differences between SoCons and libertarians is that the former are more willing to use government to protect public social goods than are the latter, and that libertarians tend to have fairly narrow concepts of “harm.”  I think that’s why we talk past each other about so often on this.

    • #683
  24. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Larry3435: Anyway, SSM doesn’t “separate children from marriage.”

     It does separate children from the concept of marriage, that was my point.

    You’ve repeatedly criticized any attempt to connect marriage and children, so I don’t see how you can dispute that.

    • #684
  25. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    I share that frustration — one does get the impression from some traditionalists that SSM will somehow destroy all of marriage, yet no particular marriage — but sort of understand where folks are coming from.

    Perhaps I should write a post on this, but I think one way to understand the differences between SoCons and libertarians is that the former are more willing to use government to protect public social goods than are the latter, and that libertarians tend to have fairly narrow concepts of “harm.” I think that’s why we talk past each other about so often on this.

     I put forth my argument back in 680.

    I get that people disagree, but the concern is not that a current marriage will be harmed, it is that through government forced acceptance of SSM, people’s attitudes towards marriage will change (Larry wants people’s attitudes towards marriage to change because he views any discussion of traditional marriage as inherently intolerant of homosexuals).

    Changes in attitudes causes changes in actions.   That may be good, it may be bad, but let’s not forced changed attitudes in hope that the consequences are good.

    • #685
  26. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Larry3435: But no one ever explains who would be injured by SSM. At least, not that I have heard. It’s always just some vague reference to “society,” with no details.

    I share that frustration — one does get the impression from some traditionalists that SSM will somehow destroy all of marriage, yet no particular marriage — but sort of understand where folks are coming from.

    Perhaps I should write a post on this, but I think one way to understand the differences between SoCons and libertarians is that the former are more willing to use government to protect public social goods than are the latter, and that libertarians tend to have fairly narrow concepts of “harm.” I think that’s why we talk past each other about so often on this.

     Mrs. Thatcher once said, “There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals and families.” Like Tom, I understand where those who are concerned that SSM will harm society are coming from, but absent some reason to believe that any specific individuals or families would be harmed, the societal harm argument seems to me to be unconvincing.

    • #686
  27. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Asquared:

    You’ve repeatedly criticized any attempt to connect marriage and children…

     No, I have NOT, and I’m getting pretty tired of you twisting my words.  I have denied that the ability to have children defines marriage, and therefore that an infertile couple cannot be considered to be “married.”  But I just said, a couple of comments ago and as clearly as is humanly possible, that I prefer kids be born into a marriage for the sake of stability.  Do you really not understand this simple sentence?  I really am done talking to you.

    • #687
  28. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Larry3435:

    Asquared:

    You’ve repeatedly criticized any attempt to connect marriage and children…

    No, I have NOT, and I’m getting pretty tired of you twisting my words. I have denied that the ability to have children defines marriage, and therefore that an infertile couple cannot be considered to be “married.” But I just said, a couple of comments ago and as clearly as is humanly possible, that I prefer kids be born into a marriage for the sake of stability. Do you really not understand this simple sentence? I really am done talking to you.

    Meh, if children are connected to marriage, then SSM radically redefines marriage, which is exactly what you are claiming you are not doing.  

    By supporting SSM, you are inherently disconnecting marriage from children and you’ve criticized anyone that argued that children are connected to marriage so I don’t really understand your point.

    • #688
  29. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Salvatore Padula: ike Tom, I understand where those who are concerned that SSM will harm society are coming from, but absent some reason to believe that any specific individuals or families would be harmed, the societal harm argument seems to me to be unconvincing.

     What do you mean by specific families?  Do you mean that if I can’t say that Tommy Smith living on 123 Main Street will be harmed, then my concerns have no validity?

    • #689
  30. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Asquared:

    Larry3435:

    Asquared:

    You’ve repeatedly criticized any attempt to connect marriage and children…

    No, I have NOT, and I’m getting pretty tired of you twisting my words. I have denied that the ability to have children defines marriage, and therefore that an infertile couple cannot be considered to be “married.” But I just said, a couple of comments ago and as clearly as is humanly possible, that I prefer kids be born into a marriage for the sake of stability. Do you really not understand this simple sentence? I really am done talking to you.

    Meh, if children are connected to marriage, then SSM radically redefines marriage, which is exactly what you are claiming you are not doing.

    By supporting SSM, you are inherently disconnecting marriage from children and you’ve criticized anyone that argued that children are connected to marriage so I don’t really understand your point.

     No, you really don’t.  Done.  Talking.

    • #690
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