Thursday, December 17, 2015

Toward Plural Marriage: Understanding and Countering the Liberal Wringer

Mercatornet ^ | 12/17/15 | Scott Yenor 

According to the modern idea, marriage is merely a consenting relationship between adults, for whatever purposes those adults define. This idea has given us same-sex marriage. As many have pointed out, plural marriage is the next logical step. Why should a marriage so understood be limited to two people? Many same-sex marriage advocates characterized this “slippery slope” argument as fear-mongering while the debate over same-sex marriage was waged in the courts. Now that the debate is over, “stategery” no longer demands such reticence. The endorsement of plural marriage is baked into the cake of the endorsement of same-sex marriage—and that endorsement points quite a bit beyond plural marriage as well.
Contemporary liberals seem to begin with the idea that the state must remain officially neutral, as contemporary liberals understand that term, among the diverse ways of life lived in a democratic society. Public neutrality supports the individual’s right to choose. When the public takes sides on a controversial topic and favors one vision in law, it effectively limits the right to choose one’s life plan and humiliates those whose life choices the public does not embrace. Only when the state has a “compelling state interest” and narrowly tailors legislation to secure that interest can it be just to take sides and limit rights.

During the same-sex marriage debate, this mode of analysis prevailed. The public is divided on what marriage is, went the argument, so the state must remain neutral. This neutrality allows homosexuals the same ability to exercise their “right to marry” as heterosexuals. Traditionalists have sought to argue that marriage serves an important public purpose related to procreation and education of children that would justify limiting the recognition of marriage to those capable of reproducing and best suited to raising children. But, according to contemporary liberals, these traditionalist arguments are either speculative, incomplete, excessively controversial, or insufficiently rigorous.
In arguing for plural marriage, liberals trot out a familiar set of arguments. To counter them, conservatives must expose the biases and moral assumptions implicit in these supposedly neutral positions, demonstrating how and why they fall short.
Scholarly Arguments for Polygamy
With previous decisions preparing the courts and the public mind for same-sex marriage, books extending the contemporary liberal argument are in the pipeline. These books practically write themselves: just take previous books on same-sex marriage, find “same-sex marriage” in the text, and replace it with “plural marriage.” Two prominent examples include Mark Goldfeder’s Legalizing Plural Marriage: The Next Frontier in Family Law, which is due out in March, and Ronald C. Den Otter’s In Defense of Plural Marriage, which was written after Windsor and released just before Obergefell. Plural marriage, these scholars argue, is a product of choice, and marital equality demands recognition of dignified human beings as they pursue their life plans.
Den Otter’s book is a model of contemporary liberal analysis. His initial chapters involve “judging the case against plural marriage,” where he puts all of the empirical and quantitative arguments of defenders of traditional marriage through a deconstructive analysis. Social scientists have argued, based on sound science, that polygamous families are bad for women’s equality, the well-being of children, and liberal citizenship. These arguments have a more than respectable pedigree, tracing back at least to David Hume’s “Of Polygamy and Divorces” (1752) and to Montesquieu’s Persian Letters (1721).
Den Otter argues that laws against polygamy or plural marriage do not accomplish a “compelling state interest” in a “narrowly tailored” way—a familiar line of reasoning to all who have been paying attention to the same-sex marriage debate. There are four basic arguments—what I call the liberal wringer—that Den Otter uses to dispense with arguments against plural marriage.
The Four-Part Liberal Wringer
First, Den Otter attempts to discredit studies that demonstrate that polygamy in Islamic countries is often patriarchal, illiberal, and abusive. Den Otter argues that this is a “statistical generalization” that is not applicable to the United States or the Western world. “Whatever it might be like in Africa or the Middle East,” Den Otter writes, “legalized polygyny in this country would differ from what it would be like in a place with a different culture, different levels of wealth, and different political and legal systems.” Transport polygamy to America, and we will get a healthier “postmodern” polygamy based on consent and equality. Our plural marriages will be virtually indistinguishable from monogamous marriages. More generally, this first aspect of the wringer is the argument that the bad things associated with the proscribed practice are not really endemic to the proscribed practice. Some external conditions have rendered the proscribed practice either less bad or innocuous or positively beneficial.
Second, Den Otter responds to studies showing that polygamists today in southern Utah or Northern Arizona tend to be insular, abusive, and inclined toward underage, arranged marriages. Den Otter insists that those characteristics are not intrinsic to plural marriage itself. “The criminalization of polygamy . . . is more likely than not to be counterproductive.” Plural marriage under conditions of taboo and sanction is bound to manifest illegal practices, hierarchies characteristic of criminal enterprises, unnatural distortions, distorting jealousies, and excessively narrow education. The solution to this problem is to baptize the practice with public acceptance. “Very much like drug use, prostitution, gambling and other human vices, legal prohibitions will not only not solve the problem but will probably also worsen it.” Bring plural marriage out of the shadows and our liberal culture may transform it into something consensual, egalitarian, open, and liberating. More generally, this second aspect of the standard liberal argument is that the negative social impacts associated with the proscribed practice are caused by the stigma attached to it; removing the stigma will tame the practice.
Third, Den Otter responds to studies showing that plural marriages cause problems such as underage marriage or spousal abuse. He argues that the public can regulate those secondary effects rather than banning plural marriage; punish the crime of statutory rape or the abuse of the spouse, but allow the institution to survive. After all, “polygamy will be practiced. The real issue is how the state can best respond to its inevitable existence.” Let us improve that plural marriage experience through proper regulation of its occasional nasty effects. More generally, the argument goes, even if bad things still occur, there are less restrictive means or more “narrowly tailored” policies for dealing with those bad things. It will be easier to curtail those bad things if the practice is made legal.
Fourth, Den Otter argues that if our liberal society were really interested in gender equality, the well-being of children, and the other problems manifest in polygamous marriages, it would have to ban many kinds of monogamous marriages as well. Many monogamous marriages are, after all, not as egalitarian as liberals would like. Some are downright abusive. Despite this, the public does not ban monogamy. This shows that the public is not really that serious about those problems and that our evaluations rely “too heavily on . . . structure” and not enough on function. More generally, the liberal argument goes, bad things may be associated with a particular proscribed practice, but the bad things sometimes happen in practices that we accept or embrace, so seriousness about those bad things would mean going after those accepted or embraced practices as well. Because we do not reject these mainstream practices, we have no ground to ban the proscribed practice either.
On issues ranging from legalization and abortion to pornography and same-sex marriage, we’ve heard this set of arguments before.
The Abolition of Marriage
Where does this deconstruction of marital dyads leave us? Den Otter points to the “abolition of marriage” itself as the ultimate destination. In the meantime, it is necessary to include more and more groups in a more and more minimal marriage. In this, Den Otter follows paths laid by other scholars. In Minimizing MarriageElizabeth Brake argues that “friendships, care networks, urban tribes, and other intimate associations” such as polygamy are equivalent to marriage. In Untying the Knot, Tamara Metz puts forward much the same endpoint but calls it the abolition of marriage as a legal category. She also argues that the state should recognize “groups of nonsexually intimate caregivers (siblings or postmarriage collectives, for example).”
This is the state of the debate within contemporary liberalism. Some would apply neutrality incompletely for now, as circumstances warrant, while others push the envelope more completely. Some think this more complete drawing out of implications amounts to the abolition of marriage as a legal category, while others call it the minimizing of marriage, with a promise to do more minimizing in the future. Some think that the state should never acknowledge adult relationships, while others think the state should offer a menu of choices of legal rights for whatever adults would like to share a life together; Metz calls these ICGUs, or “Intimate Care-Giving Units.” Still others—including Den Otter himself—worry that favoring adults who care for one another would be violating neutral principles and instead advocate SPICs: “Semi-Private Intimate Contracts.”
With apologies to Alexander Pope: whether this amounts to the abolition of marriage let fools contest; arguments for restricting marriage will fail the test. This is how the rolling revolution manifests itself in practice.
There is some more work to be done in disestablishing our current conception of marriage. This will probably begin with public recognition of plural marriage, then of consensual adult incest, and then of friendship, then, perhaps, of marriages with human-like robots (see, for example, David Levy’sLove and Sex with Robots). The post-marriage landscape seems to be the current center of debate among contemporary liberals: what, if anything, should replace marriage?
Exposing Built-In Biases
Defending any aspect of public morality is nearly impossible on these terms. Anyone interested in defending marriage and family life must first expose the built-in biases and hidden moral teaching within the contemporary liberal perspective. This is going to be the work of a generation. This task was begun in earnest during the same-sex marriage debate. It is now high time to show that contemporary liberals peddle morality as much as, and more dishonestly than, any bunch of poets.
When I say that this must be the work of a generation, I mean several things. The edifice of contemporary liberalism must continue to be exposed as violating the pretended principles of liberal neutrality. The idea of autonomy must be exposed as the inhuman, central lie of our constitutional life:autonomy does not exist, for all human beings are hemmed in by habits or mores from their nurturing and their nature. Any decent society would aim to have habits promoting self-government at the center of its idea of consent, not pretend that “consent” must be unaffected by any and all extraneous considerations.
We must continue to make the moral argument for marriage as a community of love, connected to having and raising children. Above all, we must make the argument that human nature is a complex mixture of freedom and necessity, virtues and vices, and chaotic passions that can be ordered toward a good life, and that marriage and family life are indispensable to that end.
Scott Yenor is currently a Visiting Fellow in American Political Thought in the Simon Center for Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation and is a Professor of Political Science at Boise State University. Republished from The Public Discourse with permission.

Can Ted Cruz Win the General? Yes, He Can!

American Thinker ^ | 12/17/2015 | Lloyd Marcus 

Some say, "I like Cruz, but I'm voting for Trump because I don't believe Cruz can win the general." These voters are really saying they believe we have lost the country to the Left. Therefore, a true conservative touting traditional values cannot win the presidency in today's America. This mindset reminds me of what many conservatives did to Sarah Palin.
Palin epitomized the character, principles, and values we in the tea party longed to see in our politicians. Defying the Left, Palin boldly defended the Constitution. She was a faithful long-suffering powerful advocate for God, family and country. When the full rage of the Left was unleashed to destroy her, suddenly Palin became a political leper in the minds of some conservatives and was declared unelectable.
On numerous occasions, Sen Ted Cruz pretty much stood alone in Washington as an advocate for We the People. Cruz courageously endured several barrages of slings and arrows from the Left and RINO Republicans; yet keeping his pit-bull grip on defending Americans.
Conservatives praised Cruz to the hilt for his courage and unwavering stand for the people. But when Cruz goes for the big chair in the Oval Office, those same conservatives who praised Cruz say, sorry dude, you're a bit too extreme for the masses. Sorry folks, that is not the way to treat your friends; particularly someone who has had your back.
Also, I reject the Left's "Ted Cruz, conservatives, and the tea party are extreme" crap. I have spoken and sung at over 500 tea party rallies nationwide over the years. The only thing the patriots who attend the rallies want are politicians who will govern according to the U.S. Constitution. Will someone on the Left please tell we what is "extreme" about that?
(Excerpt) Read more at americanthinker.com ...

Senate Intelligence Not Investigating Cruz

thehill.com ^ | December 16, 2015 

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that they are not investigating whether Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) discussed classified information during Tuesday's presidential debate.
"The Committee is not investigating anything said during last night's Republican Presidential debate," Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top two members of the panel, said in a statement.
They issued the statement after Burr told reporters on Wednesday morning that he had asked his staff to review the debate transcript for references Cruz made to a National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program during a back-and-forth with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
(Excerpt) Read more at thehill.com ...

FRC's Tony Perkins, 50 Conservative Activists Reportedly Plan to Endorse Ted Cruz

CP Politics ^ | December 16, 2015 | Samuel Smith 

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and dozens of other prominent conservatives are expected to endorse Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president, a move that aims to coalesce conservative support around one candidate, a National Review article claimed Tuesday.
The article states that a coalition of as many as 50 influential conservative activists gathered on Dec. 7 at the Sheraton Hotel in Tysons Corner, Virginia for a meeting that was spearheaded by Perkins for the purpose of hashing out which candidate the conservative activists will unite their support behind.
After a long day of discussion and debate, it took five different votes for the group to come to the 75 percent supermajority needed to get the coalition's members to back one candidate. The report states that through the first four sets of ballots, the votes were split between Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Although the article states that Perkins and other senior members of the group were likely "pushing hard" for the coalition to back Cruz, it took until the late hours of the night for the coalition to get 75 percent of the vote in favor of Cruz when five other members finally decided to switch their vote to Cruz on the fifth ballot....
(Excerpt) Read more at christianpost.com ...

The High Cost of Stupidity

National Review ^ | December 16, 2015 | Kevin D. Williamson 

When politicians try to tax corporations to death, the corporations are likely to take rational action.
What would the U.S. economy look like if there were eleven new companies the size of Pfizer?
A little back-of-the-envelope math: If those eleven companies each employed about the same number of people as Pfizer, that would be the better part of 1 million new jobs, which would take care of about 13 percent of those Americans currently jobless-- and if they got nice Pfizer wages, too, so much the better. There would be an additional $2.1 trillion in the pension funds and individual retirement accounts invested in those companies' shares. If those firms paid taxes comparable to Pfizer's, their annual tax payments would exceed the annual total revenue of...
[snip]
But we aren't getting eleven new Pfizers. In fact, we're losing the Pfizer we have.
Pfizer is merging with a smaller Irish pharmaceutical company, Allergan, and the legal headquarters of the new enterprise will be located in the Republic of Ireland rather than in the United States. The main reason for this is the U.S. corporate tax, which is effectively the highest in the developed world (it is exceeded on paper by the corporate tax of one very poor country, Chad...
[snip]
Merging with a small firm overseas and relocating the corporate headquarters to a friendlier tax environment is called a 'corporate-tax inversion,' and the maneuver, though entirely legal and ethical, cheeses off the sort of people who'd like to get their hands on a chunk of that corporate cash and use it to fund favors for their political supporters. (Also legal, though not obviously ethical.)
[snip]
Capital just wants to be loved. It will go where it is most welcome. And try as they might, the politicians can't stop it.
(Excerpt) Read more at nationalreview.com ...

Liberalism: The age of impassioned ignorance!

Personal Liberty ^ | 12/16/2015 | John Myers 

My dad used to repeat this quote: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."

That's been an impossible task for me given my 30 years as a columnist. My solution is simple: When I don't know the answer, I just say I don't know the answer. If many people were more honest about a great many things, they, too, would say they don't know the answer.
Take the past two weeks, in which I have written about my doubts over man-made climate change. The personal attacks in the comment section from a minority of readers were bristling.
I was accused of being a shill for the petroleum industry, a member of the Flat Earth Society or just an overall ignoramus who is fat and has a bad haircut. Why did some readers believe I earned such derision? It was because I wrote that man-made climate change is a theory and has some ways to go before it is proven.
I admitted I don't know the cause of carbon-based climate change or even if the small amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere is what is causing long-term climate change because we don't know whether there has been climate change over the long term -- a period of centuries, not decades.
I think I got into hot water with the liberals for saying no one person and no group of scientists can say for certain anything other than that man-made climate change is a theory that President Barack Obama and other progressive leaders are making a huge wager on with our money.
After all, man-made climate change has become the root of all evil, from Islamic terrorism to drowning polar bears. And through it all Obama envisions himself as the man who is leading the charge to save the planet.
Remember when the Soviet Union and the United States were one split second from destroying life on Earth? That was a problem, and it wasn't a theoretical one. That Ronald Reagan spent the Soviet Empire into bankruptcy and averted a nuclear Armageddon was a major accomplishment. I don't say this because I am a Republican (I am a libertarian). I say it because it is obvious.
What is not obvious, at least to me, is that the just signed U.N. Paris climate agreement has yet to be demonstrated as a landmark moment. Of course, that doesn't stop Obama from declaring victory in the war on carbon any more than the facts dispute what former Vice President Al Gore said was his role in creating the Internet.
From a liberal to libertarian
I was having a beer with a friend a few years ago and he looked around the upscale bar we were in. "There is nothing sadder than a young Republican," he said.
"Except an old Democrat," I added.
My first political experience, which has stayed with me for half a century, came from Liberal Party leader and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In 1968, he decriminalized homosexuality. Trudeau said, "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."
What I learned during my university years was that the Liberal government wasn't interested in peeping into my bedroom, what it wanted was to get into my wallet.
After I graduated and moved to the United States, there was a basic dividing line between Republicans and Democrats on what role the government should play in people's lives. That line could be bent and often was for important legislation. But it has fundamentally split in American politics and even in the way people think over the past 15 years. Both sides have become hardened in their beliefs.
I lived in the United States, and I am an American citizen. How I feel is best summed up by the character Col. Frank Fitts in the 1999 Academy Award-winning movie "American Beauty": "This country is going straight to hell!"
No one party, let alone one individual, is responsible for the dysfunction of our government, which is spreading throughout our society. But Obama's brand of liberalism, along with his hubris, deserves some share of the blame. And he has had much help from the environmentalists, who are determined to save the planet even if it means destroying the nation.
While filming "The Revenant" in Calgary, Canada (where I live), renowned actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio experienced a "terrifying" moment with climate change. Variety reported on DiCaprio's comments at the !&A for the film:
"We were in Calgary and the locals were saying, 'This has never happened in our province, ever,'" he said to the largely guild and Academy audience. "We would come and there would be eight feet of snow, and then all of a sudden a warm gust of wind would come."
...
"And of course, I'm not talking about climate change in relation to movies and how difficult it's going to be to make movies," he said, "but it was scary. I've never experienced something so firsthand that was so dramatic. You see the fragility of nature and how easily things can be completely transformed with just a few degrees difference. It's terrifying, and it's what people are talking about all over the world. And it's simply just going to get worse."
The locals that DiCaprio was speaking to were certainly pulling his leg. What he experienced is called a Chinook, and it predates the Indians' arrival to the Great Plains. It's a much-welcome weather pattern that comes and goes over the course of a winter, and one that most first-grade children know about.
DiCaprio could be excused if he were just a movie star. But he is far more than that. He is the head of a multimillion-dollar environmental lobby group, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and a producer of documentaries on climate change.
So I'll address any Greens who are still reading. While I am no scientist, I make only one claim: man-made global warming is at this time a theory.
And oh, yes, DiCaprio is an idiot. Yet DiCaprio is an important opinion maker to tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of people through his star power and an estimated fortune close to a quarter of a billion dollars.
The entertainment industry shouldn't be painted with a single brush, so I leave you with this from a stand-up skit of the late, great comedian George Carlin:
We're so self-important, so self-important. Everybody's going to save something now. Save the trees; save the bees; save the whales; save those snails. And the greatest arrogance of all: Save the planet. What? Are these f*cking people kidding me? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven't learned how to care for one another. We're going to save the f*cking planet? I'm getting tired of that sh*t. Tired of that sh*t. Tired. I'm tired of f*cking Earth Day. I'm tired of these self-righteous environmentalists. These white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren't enough bicycle paths, people trying to make the Earth safe for their Volvos.
(Watch video of George Carlin at link)

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