Friday, December 07, 2007

"Family Values," Liberty, and the State

Among Maverick Philosopher''s answers to Dennis Prager's 23 questions in "Are You a Liberal?" is this gem:
The State is involved in marriage in order to promote a legitimate common interest, namely, that there be healthy families in which men are tamed, women are protected, and children are socialized. There is no reason to extend these protections to any two people who choose to cohabit.
MP points to a deeper truth, which is that civil society (and thus liberty) depends to a large extent (though not exclusively) on the exaltation of heterosexual marriage and "family values." As I say here:

Liberty requires a consensus about harms and the boundaries of mutual restraint -- the one being the complement of the other. Agreed harms are to be avoided mainly through self-restraint. Societal consensus and mutual restraint must, therefore, go hand in hand.

Looked at in that way, it becomes obvious that liberty is embedded in society and preserved through order. There may be societally forbidden acts that, to an outsider, would seem not to cause harm but which, if permitted within a society, would unravel the mutual restraint upon which ordered liberty depends. . . .

What happens to self-restraint, honesty, and mutual aid outside the emotional and social bonds of family, friendship, community, church, and club can be seen quite readily in the ways in which we treat one another when we are nameless or faceless to each other. Thus we become rude (and worse) as drivers, e-mailers, bloggers, spectators, movie-goers, mass-transit commuters, shoppers, diners-out, and so on. Which is why, in a society much larger than a clan, we must resort to the empowerment of governmental agencies to enforce mutual restraint, mutual defense, and honesty within the society -- as well as to protect society from external enemies.

But liberty begins at home. Without the civilizing influence of traditional families, friendships, and social organizations, police and courts would be overwhelmed by chaos. Liberty would be a hollower word than it has become, largely because of the existence of other governmental units that have come to specialize in the imposition of harms on the general public in the pursuit of power and in the service of special interests (which enables the pursuit of power). Those harms have been accomplished in large part by the intrusion of government into matters that had been the province of families, voluntary social organizations, and close-knit communities. . . .

The state has, in the past century, undone much of which society had put in place for its own protection. For example, here's Arnold Kling, writing about Jennifer Roback Morse's Love and Economics:

Morse argues that the incentives of government programs, such as Social Security, can have the same [destructive] consequences [as government decrees].

It is convenient for us who are young to forget about old people if their financial needs are taken care of...But elderly people want and need attention from their children and grandchildren...This, then, is the ultimate trouble with the government spending other people's money for the support of one part of the family. Other people's money relieves us from some of the personal responsibility for the other members of our family. Parents are less accountable for instilling good work habits, encouraging work effort...Young people are less accountable for the care of particular old people, since they are forcibly taxed to support old people in general. (p. 116-117)

Most Western nations have created a cycle of dependency with respect to single motherhood. Government programs, such as welfare payments or taxpayer-funded child care, are developed to "support" single mothers. This in turn encourages more single motherhood. This enlarges the constituency for such support programs, leading politicians to broaden such programs.

Earlier in the same article, Kling says:

There are a number of issues that provide sources of friction between market libertarianism and "family values" conservatism. They concern personal behavior, morality, and the law.

Should gambling, prostitution, and recreational drugs be legalized? Market libertarianism answers in the affirmative, but "family values" conservatives would disagree.

Another potential source of friction is abortion. It is not a coincidence that the abortion issue became prominent during the sexual revolution of the late 1960's and early 1970's. That was a period in which social attitudes about sex-without-consequences underwent a reversal. Prior to 1960, sex-without-consequences generally was frowned upon. By 1975, sex-without-consequences was widely applauded. In that context, abortion rights were considered a victory for sexual freedom. Libertarians tend to take the pro-choice side.

Gay marriage is another legacy of the sexual revolution. Again, it tends to divide libertarians from "family values" conservatives.

One compromise, which Morse generally endorses, is to use persuasion rather than government in the family-values struggle. That is a compromise that I would favor, although unlike Morse, I approach the issue primarily as a libertarian.

If one views a strong state and a strong family as incompatible, then a case can be made that taking the state out of issues related to prostitution or abortion or marriage actually helps serve family values. If people know that they cannot rely on the state to arbitrate these issues, then they will turn to families, religious institutions, and other associations within communities to help strengthen our values.

I am unpersuaded, for the simple reason that society cannot rebuild its norms without the state's help. Having sent the wrong signals about "family values," in general, and about heterosexual marriage, in particular, the state has wrought much harm; for example:

Abuse risk higher as kids live without two biological parents

Thursday, November 15, 2007

- David Crary, AP National Writer

....[M]any scholars and front-line caseworkers who monitor America's families see the abusive-boyfriend syndrome as part of a broader trend that deeply worries them. They note an ever-increasing share of America's children grow up in homes without both biological parents, and say the risk of child abuse is markedly higher in the nontraditional family structures.

"This is the dark underbelly of cohabitation," said Brad Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia. "Cohabitation has become quite common, and most people think, 'What's the harm?' The harm is we're increasing a pattern of relationships that's not good for children."...

[T]here are many...studies that, taken together, reinforce the concerns. Among the findings:

-Children living in households with unrelated adults are nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents, according to a study of Missouri abuse reports published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005.

-Children living in stepfamilies or with single parents are at higher risk of physical or sexual assault than children living with two biological or adoptive parents, according to several studies co-authored by David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center.

-Girls whose parents divorce are at significantly higher risk of sexual assault, whether they live with their mother or their father, according to research by Robin Wilson, a family law professor at Washington and Lee University....

Census data leaves no doubt that family patterns have changed dramatically in recent decades as cohabitation and single-parenthood became common. Thirty years ago, nearly 80 percent of America's children lived with both parents. Now, only two-thirds of them do. Of all families with children, nearly 29 percent are now one-parent families, up from 17 percent in 1977.

The net result is a sharp increase in households with a potential for instability, and the likelihood that adults and children will reside in them who have no biological tie to each other....

"It comes down to the fact they don't have a relationship established with these kids," she said. "Their primary interest is really the adult partner, and they may find themselves more irritated when there's a problem with the children."
And the beat goes on:
The teen birth rate in the United States rose in 2006 for the first time since 1991, and unmarried childbearing also rose significantly, according to preliminary birth statistics released [December 5, 2007] by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)....

The study also shows unmarried childbearing reached a new record high in 2006. The total number of births to unmarried mothers rose nearly 8 percent to 1,641,700 in 2006. This represents a 20 percent increase from 2002, when the recent upswing in nonmarital births began. The biggest jump was among unmarried women aged 25-29, among whom there was a 10 percent increase between 2005 and 2006.

In addition, the nonmarital birth rate also rose sharply, from 47.5 births per 1,000 unmarried females in 2005 to 50.6 per 1,000 in 2006 -- a 7-percent 1-year increase and a 16 percent increase since 2002.

The study also revealed that the percentage of all U.S. births to unmarried mothers increased to 38.5 percent, up from 36.9 percent in 2005.

And on:

An ETS study reported by the NYT finds four family variables--including proportion of single-parent families--explain two-thirds of the variation in school performance.

And on:

[M]arriage qua marriage tends to be a much more important indicator of well-being, both for children and for parents, in the United States than it does in Europe. Perhaps this will not always be so; perhaps the coexistence, in the 1990s and early Oughts, of falling crime and higher rates of out-of-wedlock births are a leading indicator of the Swedenization of American social norms. But I doubt it, not least because the secondary consequences of family breakdown, persistent inequality and social immobility chief among them, appear to have worsened over the last decade....

What the state has sundered, it must mend. With respect to marriage, for example, I have argued that

it is clear that the kind of marriage a free society needs is heterosexual marriage, a primary civilizing force. I now therefore reject the unrealistic (perhaps even ill-considered) position that the state ought to keep its mitts off marriage. I embrace, instead, the realistic, consequentialist position that society -- acting through the state -- ought to uphold the special status of heterosexual marriage by refusing legal recognition to other forms of marriage. That is, the state should refuse to treat marriage as if it were mainly (or nothing but) an arrangement to acquire certain economic advantages or to legitimate relationships that society, in the main, finds illegitimate.

The alternative is to advance further down the slippery slope toward societal disintegration and into the morass of ills which accompany that disintegration. (We've seen enough societal disintegration and costly consequences since the advent of the welfare state to know that the two go hand in hand.) The recognition of homosexual marriage by the state -- though innocuous to many, and an article of faith among most libertarians and liberals -- is another step down that slope. When the state, through its power to recognize marriage, bestows equal benefits on homosexual marriage, it will next bestow equal benefits on other domestic arrangements that fall short of traditional, heterosexual marriage. And that surely will weaken heterosexual marriage, which is the axis around which the family revolves....
....Although it's true that traditional, heterosexual unions have their problems, those problems have been made worse, not better, by the intercession of the state. (The loosening of divorce laws, for example, signaled that marriage was to be taken less seriously, and so it has been.) Nevertheless, the state -- in its usual perverse wisdom -- may create new problems for society by legitimating same-sex marriage, thus signaling that traditional marriage is just another contractual arrangement in which any combination of persons may participate. Heterosexual marriage -- as Jennifer Roback Morse explains -- is a primary and irreplicable civilizing force. The recognition of homosexual marriage by the state will undermine that civilizing force. The state will be saying, in effect, "Anything goes. Do your thing. The courts, the welfare system, and the taxpayer -- above all -- will "pick up the pieces." And so it will go.
Of course, the state not only continues to undermine heterosexual marriage (except where the general will is consulted through referenda), but it also continues to undermine other social norms. There is, for example, the new California statute known as SB777,
a public education bill prohibiting schools and teachers from "reflecting adversely" on gays and lesbians. The Democratic majority in both houses of the California State Legislature supported the bill, which was signed into law by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [in October 2007]. Meanwhile, pro-family groups are mobilized and will challenge this bill with a petition to force a statewide referendum. The law's implementation has been postponed by court order until January 1, pending results of statewide signature gathering....

Although the bill adds "sexual orientation" to the list of protected groups in this State, supporters are playing down its significance, calling it instead a safety measure. Meanwhile, critics, including Republican members of the Legislature, all of whom were opposed, regard the legislation as an attack on the family....

On the face of it, the changes are simple and uncomplicated. Existing provisions of the Education Code that prohibit discrimination against members of protected racial, ethnic, national, gender, ancestral and disabled groups have been changed to include "sexual orientation," which specifically refers to members of homosexual, lesbian and bisexual groups.

Supporters of this change are right in one particular, at least from their point of view: the bill simply "updates" existing law. That is, existing law already gives protected status to members of designated groups. The question has always been whether that effectively denies protection (or provides less) to all not belonging to those groups, including especially white males. This sort of categorizing, critics have argued, puts members of all groups in gender conflict while opening the door to protected status for illegal aliens....

Not surprisingly, SB 777 adds the term "sexual orientation" to the categories of persons protected against "hate crimes," a concept based on the assumption that a violent crime against a gay or lesbian person is particularly heinous, more so than when committed against others.

The main part of the bill concerns public education. All public school districts will be responsible for forbidding any discrimination and monitoring for compliance. Thus, while religious schools whose tenets conflict with homosexuality and lesbianism are exempted, publicly funded alternative and charter schools are not. The new law specifies that "No teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity that reflects adversely upon persons because of [sexual orientation]." (Italics in text.) The same requirement is laid on districts’ adoption or use of textbooks or other instructional materials.

The bill does not define what constitutes adverse reflection. It could mean anything from simple good manners, which is wholly defensible; to failure to "celebrate" the homosexual lifestyle, as prominent writers such as Harvey Mansfield have noted. According to its advocates, diversity comprehends all protected groups. who should be celebrated and not merely tolerated.

According to press reports, only in September did State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, the bill’s main sponsor, remove language that would have forbidden in public schools the use of "mom," "dad," "husband" and "wife." It is a fair question whether removing those terms has changed the intent or effect of this legislation.

This latest development in the so-called "culture wars" once again raises the question whether it is a zero-sum game in which, in this case, the protection against adverse reflection on gays and lesbians necessarily entails a rejection of traditional morality and even human categories. Many do not believe so. Time will tell whether this is part of a slippery slope or merely equal justice. Still, one wonders when the straighforward concept of protection takes the broader form of not "reflecting adversely," that the object is not tolerance but privilege.

I have no doubt that the object is privilege. The effect of SB777, should it become law, will be to suppress and further denigrate heterosexual marriage and all that it stands for. On that point, WND quotes Meredith Turney, the legislative liaison for Capitol Resource Institute:
[State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack] O'Connell, the bill's author Sen. Sheila Kuehl and Gov. Schwarzenegger have all maintained the party line that SB 777 merely "streamlines" existing anti-discrimination laws. However, these attempts to discredit the public outcry against SB 777's policies are disingenuous and misleading. In fact, SB 777 goes far beyond implementing anti-discrimination and harassment policies for public schools.

The new law states that "No teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity that promotes a discriminatory bias because of' … (homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexual or transgender status). Including instruction and activities in the anti-discrimination law goes much further than 'streamlining." This incremental and deceitful approach to achieving their goals is a favorite and effective tactic of liberals. Expanding the law is not 'streamlining' the law.

Mr. O'Connell's doublespeak reveals his – and his peers' – arrogant attitude toward their "gullible" constituents. In fact, parents are not stupid and they recognize that their authority is being undermined by such subversive school policies. This is nothing less than an attempt to confuse the public about the true intention of SB 777.

The terms "mom and dad" or "husband and wife" could promote discrimination against homosexuals if a same-sex couple is not also featured.

Parents want the assurance that when their children go to school they will learn the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic – not social indoctrination regarding alternative sexual lifestyles. Now that SB 777 is law, schools will in fact become indoctrination centers for sexual experimentation.

Just as taxpayer-funded universities have become indoctrination centers for political correctness and other Leftist dogmas.

Yesteryear's rebels (the "kids" of the '60s and '70s) didn't get everything they wanted through their protests and riots. So they found a more effective way to destroy the social fabric, which -- being perpetual adolescents -- they despise. The more effective way was to seize the levers of power in academia and government, and thence to dissolve the social cohesion upon which liberty depends.

No, the answer isn't to take the state out of the "family values" business. The answer is for social and fiscal conservatives to recapture the levers of power and undo the damage that the state has done to liberty over the past century.

There will always be a state. The real issues are these: Who will control the state, and to what ends?

Related posts:

A Century of Progress?
Feminist Balderdash
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence
Consider the Children
Same-Sex Marriage
"Equal Protection" and Homosexual Marriage
Marriage and Children
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
Equal Time: The Sequel
The Adolescent Rebellion Syndrome
Social Norms and Liberty
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
A "Person" or a "Life"?
The Case against Genetic Engineering
How Much Jail Time?
The Political Case for Traditional Morality
Anarchy, Minarchy, and Liberty
Parents and the State
Academic Bias
Ahead of His Time