There’s always something to howl about

Who “Nose” What’s Right?

This is an article whose inception has come from some recent interactions on other blogs with regard to NAR’s update of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics concerning discrimination against sexual orientation. Though I participated in commentary on this topic, what really was bothering me was what follows. Simply put, I’m pretty damned tired of being proselytized and dumbed down by NAR, and even more tired of watching the planet forsake common sense because crafty special interest groups have figured out how to dilute the “Fathertongue” so as to render it useless.

I’m against “Gay Marriage”, and wanted to talk with you about why.

Wait, excuse me for a minute…there’s a bunch of people at my door.  Oh my, it’s the ACLU, some folks with signs with something about LGBT on them, some reporters from MSNBC, and even someone from NAR with a photocopy of the newly amended Article 10 sexual orientation anti-discriminatory verbiage.

Ground rule #1 – This is not about religion. Yes, I am a Christian, and yes Christians mostly believe that gay marriage is not appropriate. Yes, I’m one of them. But in this article you get no traction with any comments slamming Christianity. This is not about my faith. As with most “discrimination” issues, I am well able to separate my philosophy and faith from an honest discussion about rule of law, society, sociology, the family, and more importantly, the long hand of a master to whom I owe no allegiance.

Your Right to Throw a Punch Ends Where My Nose Begins

This saying has been a way of life for me for as long as I was able to stick up for myself. Hopefully you won’t find the saying controversial. It’s a reminder that I am an individual, complete and independent, and while we do in fact interact, your right to exercise your independence ends where my “nose” begins. You may shout or debate. You may whisper behind my back, or come to my door with placards. You may join with your own pugilists to wage war on my philosophy. You may lobby and convince. All these things you may do. But you must stop your fist where my nose begins.

The Marketing Wordsmith

My stand in saying I am “against” gay marriage comes from my long love of the written and spoken word. I’ve written that we must say what we mean, and that doing otherwise because of societal or group pressure always demeans and diminishes us. Greg Swann writes eloquently of these pressures in an essay at

I think that Greg uses the term “fathertongue” to describe the activity of communicating with the use of the written and spoken word. He differentiates this from “mothertongue” communications, nonverbal in nature. And so if it follows that we communicate, and that communication is a lynchpin that holds society together, then understanding, respecting and mastering the written and spoken word are skills all of us should undertake to the best of our abilities.

Believe me, those who work in the field of marketing have in fact mastered this art, and I’ll use these marketing wordsmiths’ work products to demonstrate how and why the word “marriage ” morphed from X to Y while the “fathertongue” watchmen slept in the tower.

We Say X…but we Mean Y

Here’s some examples of how we’ve lost our way with words, and more importantly, the real meaning behind those words.

• If you take a pregnant woman and force the early termination of a child she is carrying….it was called an abortion. Now it’s “a woman’s right to choose.
• We used to call the duty we owed to our country the Selective Service. Now it’s the All Volunteer Army.
• We used to talk about same sex relationships as homosexuality. Now it’s “gay rights.”

You see, the marketing folks figured out that if you SAY it over and over, this new phrase for the old phrase, we’ll dumb down and forget what the original term actually meant. Only I haven’t forgotten…and I really care.   You should, too.

Marriage – The Union of a Man and a Woman

You know the phrase, don’t you? “It’s the economy, stupid.” Small talk, hardball, softball, gamesmanship, scare tactics….none of these hide the obvious. We all know what this phrase means.

Marriage. You know what it means. Boy meets girl. Guy meets gal. Man and woman join together. Kids (mostly the old fashioned way, with an occasional wonderful adoption). This what the word marriage means.

We have other words to describe relationships. Dating. Going steady. Living together. Friends with benefits. Different words, all of which denote a different relationship with a different set of facts.

Why then, I ask, change the true meaning, context and value of the word marriage, a word and relationship from which we have germinated and grown our society over these many years? Will you replace MY fathertongue with yours? Will you thrust your fist into my nose, insisting you have a right which I do not? Will a segment of this democracy numbering 20% or less dictate a change in my right to use the commonest of words in the commonest of ways to communicate the commonest of relations?

Oh, but gay couples want equal rights. They want the right to live together, bring children into their families, devise and contract as couples, obtain the right to be considered direct family for such things as medical care, visitation, etc. And do I protest these?

Not for one moment. I’ve been an advocate for these changes for many years. A child of the 1960’s, Vietnam, and the Civil Rights movement left me well equipped to stamp out discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. (I surely did not need NAR to remind me of this as they felt they had to in Article 10 of their Code of Ethics….but thanks daddy).

Just don’t usurp my word.

You can have these words (or more) – civil union, civil partners, LGBT’s….and I’ll march with you to the legislatures to see that the rights I mentioned above are provided rightfully to you.

Just don’t try to morph my word.

But Things and Meanings Change Over Time

Sure, some things have changed.

  • I used to think that what Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather said was true….turns out it wasn’t always.
  • I used to think my baseball heroes were, well heroes. Rose, Bonds and Clemmons prove otherwise.
  • I used to think Congress had the only right to declare war. Billions of dollars and thousands of lives later…..guess not.
  • Used to be that “R” rates movies had some bad language and some frontal nudity (mostly female and breasts only). Now……(don’t get me started).
  • And you used to be able to stand toe to toe with another person, shout, scream, spill venom, and if fisticuffs broke out a Band-Aid usually fixed the damage. Now, it’s shoot first, stab second, defame publicly third. No one understands the importance, the tradition, the meaning of discourse any longer.

Don’t Get Your Nose Out of Shape

Who “nose” if I’m right about gay marriage? Remember, it’s the word “marriage”, and its common and well established usage that I am unwilling to cede over to a special interest group. (Yes, LGBT is, by just about any standard, a special interest group).

Who “nose” if NAR had to take the step of reminding all of us that discrimination, in any form, is discrimination? I suppose if our governing body thinks we’re unable to conduct ourselves without discriminating, then it should come as no surprise that the general public likewise fails to discriminate our profession from that of politicians, lawyers and car salesmen.  (Again, no offense intended to you should you fall into these categories….but you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?)

So if you’d like to punch me out because I’ve expressed a view with which you do not agree, then just remember to be nice. Your right to throw your punch ends where my nose begins.

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    60 Comments so far

    1. Jim Klein September 9th, 2011 2:53 pm

      Great post, Don, a good reminder why ne’er-do-wells MUST usurp the fathertongue. For me, the meta-point is the folly of having laws–which ultimately reduce to nothing but a punch–dealing with these matters in the first place.

      Sure, that would leave lots of idiots discriminating in all sorts of idiotic ways. I figure that the market takes care of all of that and besides, discrimination (in the wide sense) is about all that humans do, ultimately.

    2. Teri Lussier September 9th, 2011 4:28 pm

      >Marriage. You know what it means. Boy meets girl. Guy meets gal. Man and woman join together. Kids (mostly the old fashioned way, with an occasional wonderful adoption). This what the word marriage means.

      I disagree with you, Don. I truly can’t recall the last time I thought of marriage as the exclusive domain of opposite sex couples. I’m thinking it was probably in the 1980′s… Which means my kids have been raised to think it applies to two people who commit to loving each other in complete and exclusive ways, nothing at all to do with orientation. That’s our fathertongue. I’m for ‘marriage’. None of my damn business what sex the couple is, or isn’t.

      Having said that, I would prefer my wolves not hide in some legally created sheep’s clothing. If someone has a problem with me or someone else, I would like to know that before they take my money, allowing me to move along if I want to.

    3. Don Reedy September 9th, 2011 5:10 pm


      Teri…Thanks as well. Here are my thoughts with regard to your comment that “I truly can’t recall the last time I thought of marriage as the exclusive domain of opposite sex couples. I’m thinking it was probably in the 1980′s…

      First, as I tried to point out, re-inventing or altering a longstanding, universally known word isn’t going to advance us…merely fool us. Of course if you think that re-inventing the meaning of a word “to right a wrong” is what’s occurring, then your heart would be in the right place, but I think you’d be off track. Take the example I gave of how the word duty has changed. Duty infers obligation. Volunteer does not. But we have come to infer that some segment of our country can willingly do “our duty” on our behalf. This change, subtle though it may seem, erodes the real meaning of the word. We are in fact the wolves deceiving ourselves, devouring ourselves….simply because we’ve been fooled into transforming the word “duty” into a form of agency.

      Next, the altering of the word “marriage” is similar to that which is happening with Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.” A whole history, rich with both life and death, ripe with pain, robust in our culture, is threatened by changing that which cannot be changed. You, more than most, know what I’m saying. I could offer a different way to say something you’ve written. But would you not agree that once written, my change to your meaning, your intent, your art, your fathertongue….is not wrong?

      This is not about who’s having sex with whom. It’s not even about “marriage. It’s about this sad path we’ve taken to walking.

      Once we can change a word’s meaning to suit an individual or group, then you create a form of literary anarchy….and the crowd rules without having to respect, learn from, or engage in discourse with it’s antagonists. For me….this is unacceptable.

    4. Teri Lussier September 9th, 2011 6:25 pm

      Okay Don, let me put it this way, from the time I was aware that same sex couples lived in the same house, in committed relationships with each other, with the same intent as my husband and I or any other married couple, my definition of marriage was expanded, not changed, Don, expanded to include same sex couples.

      At any rate, I’m always glad to know where people stand… So. Thanks for that.

    5. Jim Klein September 9th, 2011 9:36 pm

      Here’s a twist. With regard to what you’re talking ABOUT, Teri, I’m way closer to you than to Don. But it’s not what we’re talking ABOUT, because I doubt any of us gives a hoot who loves whom or who sleeps where. Even if Don really cares, it would be in good motivation and it would be in himself. I doubt he believes in physically intruding in other people’s lives.

      No, the real issue is what’s made of it and there’s only one way to “make” in this sense. We go along because it’s always done with sane words representing crazed ideas. The more confusion and redefining there is, not to mention outright reversals, the easier it is to pass off the crazed ideas.

      Or at least that’s how it used to be.

    6. Teri Lussier September 10th, 2011 4:32 am

      Y’all are going through some twisty mental gymnastics here.

      Let’s try this: Go to and hit: define: marriage. This boat has done set sail.

      Words are malleable, they are cultural. Don’t believe me? Look up “tea bag”. Words don’t belong to any one person. Bill Clinton does not get to define the word “is”, society does. You do not get to define the word “marriage”, our culture does.

      Huck Finn? Huckleberry Finn is a work of art, not a word. Changing the definition of marriage, which doesn’t belong to any one person, is not at all the same as changing one man’s work of art, which does belong to one person. You didn’t create the word marriage you don’t get to decide its definition, although even if you did, society could change that. Kleenex is often used in place of tissue.

      Language is beautiful because it is so malleable. If you don’t like that, well, either thou must despaireth of thine present situation, or, it sux 2 b u…

    7. Jim Klein September 10th, 2011 6:53 am

      > Language is beautiful because it is so malleable.

      Sure, and that in turn is beautiful because of what changes it…people who are themselves changing. The thing is, people can move forward or backwards. The problem isn’t that the concept changes to include same-sex or whatever; the problem is all of the things that happen because of that.

      The Newspeak Dictionary is the greatest weapon on Earth. That’s because it changes people’s minds, and changes them away from reality. For instance, “implied consent” means “implied submission.” Don might be griping that some people view same-sex unions as “marriage,” but I’m not. I’m griping that so much rests upon it.

    8. Don Reedy September 10th, 2011 8:58 am

      Just a few notes, and thanks to both of you for participating in this conversation, by the way.

      On the fringe of all our comments and thoughts is passion. Passion, in Teri’s case, about love and relationships, the right to be with, make friendships with, and love whomever one pleases. I share that passion, as does Jim.

      Jim comes to this with a passion as well. His passion for thought, dissection, clear thinking, and accuracy find its way into all he writes. I share that passion with Jim, as do you Teri.

      The passion about which I am writing in this essay is the passion for language, language that really does link us to our roots, bind us with other peoples, allows us to be honest to both others and ourselves in our communications.

      Language does indeed change, Teri, and Jim has captured part of what I’ve tried to express by noting…

      “The Newspeak Dictionary is the greatest weapon on Earth. That’s because it changes people’s minds, and changes them away from reality. For instance, “implied consent” means “implied submission.” Don might be griping that some people view same-sex unions as “marriage,” but I’m not. I’m griping that so much rests upon it.”

      “I’m griping [because] so much rests upon it.” It’s okay to Google a word and see how the tide has shifted. I’m just commenting on, observing, wondering how and why that tide has turned.

      Thanks so very much for helping my words become much fuller in their meaning through your participation.

    9. Sean Purcell September 10th, 2011 10:45 am

      I’ve always considered the word marriage to be more about religion than union. A married couple was a couple married in some type of religious ceremony. Not claiming that’s the “long standing, universally known” meaning, only that it’s the long standing solo meaning… for me.

      I agree with Teri that words change and that’s a gift. It’s a gift because, like both Don and Jim are stating, it tells us a lot about what’s happening in our society. If I were the Word Police, I’d relegate the word marriage to a religious ceremony and civil union to a… civil one. Beyond that, I could care less who is marrying or civilly unioning with whom. But thankfully, I am not the word police and, more importantly, we don’t have word police.

      What we do have (and have always had) are people/groups who attempt to be thought police. Yes, they use the manipulation of words to further their strictures, but that’s okay; it drives each of us as individuals to be vigilant and join the conversation where we see fit. If we are not, or do not, then by definition there must not be too much opposition.

      Here’s what interests me about all of this: recent and numerous studies, while not conclusive, continue to find that the actual percentage of gays/lesbians (and to a miniscule amount transgenders) in the population are 3.5%. (By the way, that’s roughly the same percentage researchers find in the animal kingdom… which goes a long way toward answering the whole “choice” issue.) Isn’t that amazing? How in the world did such a statistically insignificant group of people amass such cultural power? And why in the heck aren’t we co-opting them into whatever tent we belong?

      It would seem to me, if one wants to advance a certain philosophical and cultural agenda (e.g. voluntaryism), one should seek out the obvious masters of agenda setting to help. You may or may not agree with the gay/lesbian “agenda,” but you have to respect their ability to advance an agenda.

    10. Russell Shaw September 10th, 2011 11:33 am

      To even imply that most words have A meaning is faulty logic. Few words have just one meaning. Most words are in fact, homonyms.

      It is common for a word to have many different meanings – some of those meanings very different than some commonly used definition or even the original root of the word.

      Looking over how words and specific definitions make their way into a dictionary it is obvious that it is based on popular usage. If your main point is that this particular word means something very special to you it might be instructive to actually look in an older (large) dictionary. It has had more than one meaning for a very very long time.

    11. Don Reedy September 10th, 2011 12:11 pm

      Russell, your input, as with Sean’s, is welcomed. In fact, you drove me to this information about homonyms. Although this article deals with only “elemental”, mostly single syllable words, your point is well taken.

      My main point, to address your comment, was that I had an itch that needed scratching. I am uncomfortable from a societal viewpoint, with how easy it seems now (see Sean’s comment, which is directly on point) to morph the meaning of a word from its generally accepted usage. I’m not conflicted over etymology, since I find this study instructive, and quite in keeping with what you are indicating about meanings changing over time.

      And Sean, the Word Police DO exist. I didn’t want this essay to take a different direction, and so I alluded to “Huckleberry Finn” in one of my comments to Teri, thinking the issue with this classic story would be well known to most. I wasn’t talking about the story, though, I was talking about altering the use of the word “nigger”, replacing it with the word “slave.” What’s happening here is of a different nature than what is (IMO) happening to the word “marriage”, but it is happening.

      Thanks for your input guys.

    12. Greg Swann September 10th, 2011 1:16 pm

    13. Russell Shaw September 10th, 2011 3:31 pm


      Are you suggesting that C-21 agents are not SMARTER. BOLDER. FASTER. ?

      I can’t stop laughing!!

    14. Don Reedy September 10th, 2011 3:40 pm


    15. Greg Swann September 10th, 2011 7:25 pm

      My take (YMMV):

      The campaign for gay marriage began as a ploy by collectivists to undermine the family as a redoubt, which is competition for the state. But my personal grunt’s-eye-view suggests to me that actual gay marriage, sanctified by the state or not, is a huge win for the middle class. Every homestead is a polity, its own little government. When my neighbors and I govern our behavior in similar ways, we live at peace, and that’s all I care about at that level.

      I would prefer it that marriage and family law were handled as commercial contracts — and then, of course, contested in free-market courts. But I do not believe that the essence of marriage is diminished by people doing things I don’t do. I’m comfortably indifferent to other people’s opinions about my marriage, too.

      But marriage is a doorway to family life — and not the only one, as anyone raised by a grandfather or an aunt can attest. I want for people to have families. They are a great redoubt from collectivism, but that’s because they’re a great redoubt from everything.

      The battle for civilization is individualism versus collectivism. Alas, individualism has few champions just now. The loyal-opposition should be called the queasy-collectivist party. They offer no principled arguments against collectivism — too much the contrary! — and, of course, no arguments at all in support of individualism.

      And yet when they are confronted with the inevitable contradictions between a private conscience and a public everything, even then they can’t take the individualist side of the argument: Get the state out of the marriage and family business. And so they see their principles — their more important principles — desecrated, and they are left with the worst of all worlds: A full portion of a stew they won’t eat.

      That’s a mistake, I think, and it’s the mistake that makes all the other mistakes possible. I’m doing what I can to help people understand that there is nothing self-sacrificial about a family — at least not a healthy family. We care for each other out of love, not guilt or shame or pity. I like people who behave that way. I like behaving that way. I don’t care what name they give to the way they live, and I don’t care what they might want to call my marriage.

      We are what we habitually do. I like people who habitually pursue important values. Gay or straight or poly-amorous or whatever, I want for them to have marriages as happy as mine is right now.

      All that said, I do agree that it’s sleazy of the NAR to sneak that into the Code of Ethics. It’s not a legal mandate, so it amounts to forced political speech. Oh, wait… Pardon my redundancy.

      This is a good post, Don. You’ve got a lot of people sorting through their thinking, a wonderful gift.

    16. Jim Klein September 10th, 2011 8:32 pm

      I just found this, also written Friday…

      For Teri, that essay is close to what I was trying to say. For Russell, great stuff…it’s funny how so many people, including academics, don’t understand that a dictionary is descriptive, not prescriptive.

      Language change is fascinating. It’s driven by efficiency of meaning and muscular efficiency, as well as a desire to mimic those we respect and admire. It’s this last sort that I take Don’s article (and the zerogov one) to be about, and that it’s a hugely misplaced respect. In large part, I think they’re both right.

    17. Teri Lussier September 11th, 2011 1:32 am

      >For Teri, that essay is close to what I was trying to say.

      I get it. I got it.

      >The problem isn’t that the concept changes to include same-sex or whatever; the problem is all of the things that happen because of that.

      Here’s the thing, all warm and fuzzy, just to give you manly men something to roll your eyes at:
      You don’t make the world worse by increasing the love in it.
      You don’t make your personal world less by increasing stability around you.
      The Collectivist Bogeyman does not move in next door because the LGBT couple got legally married.

      Most importantly: The word “marriage” is no way degraded just because you’ve added the word “gay” to it.

      Y’all can be afraid of whatever you want. Personally, I don’t see that this is the thing to fear.

      >people can move forward or backwards.

      Another post for another day, but life isn’t linear. People can move in any direction they choose, usually they move in many directions at the same time. Economically, these are dark days for some of us, and yet, but still, even so, I keep thinking that this is the best time ever to be a living, breathing, functioning human being in the world. – A dispatch from freakin’ Dayton OH.

    18. Dan Connolly September 11th, 2011 1:21 pm

      Thanks Teri! Very well said.

      The last thing I want is government regulating who can love whom and what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. Not allowing gay people the ability to file their taxes jointly, buy insurance as a family, visit each other in intensive care wings of the hospital restricted to family only, or to enjoy any of the other many benefits that come to married people, to me is an example of a twisted political climate gone horribly amok.

      I say keep the government out of regulating issues that have more to do with religious beliefs than anything else.

    19. Jim Klein September 11th, 2011 7:58 pm

      > Most importantly: The word “marriage” is no way degraded just because you’ve added the word “gay” to it.

      I know I haven’t been clear, Teri, but I agree with this. I haven’t the least problem with language adaptation, in whatever way it manifests. My gripe is with all the insanity that rests upon it. I don’t think heterosexual couples should have anything that gay couples shouldn’t; I just don’t think any of it ought to be decided by Govco.

    20. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 4:57 am

      >I just don’t think any of it ought to be decided by Govco.

      What choice do gay couples have right now, Jim? Like Dan said, couples who are exactly like every married couple I know, and who long to be socially and legally recognized as such, are denied basic rights by Govco. It’s stupid for one, and it’s infuriating for another. There is no reason for this to be happening.

      Look, I was going to be done commenting on this post. It’s upset me terribly, and that’s dumb in its own way. I appreciate you clarifying your thoughts Jim, but now I’m leaving you all to it while I go sell a house. Hopefully to a gay couple… ;-)

    21. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 6:55 am

      > It’s upset me terribly

      Why? What happened? Was someone injured? Did I overlook a pool of blood?

    22. Jim Klein September 12th, 2011 8:12 am

      “Like Dan said, couples who are exactly like every married couple I know, and who long to be socially and legally recognized as such, are denied basic rights by Govco.”

      Yeah, I know; I agree. It’s wrong, and I should’ve been clearer about my agreement with Don. To me, it’s not about whether it should be this way or that way. Since I look at everything hierarchically, the wrong is that it’s any way at all, driven by guns, which is all Govco has to offer.

      If the word (and idea) change were just a reflection of social acceptance, I wouldn’t give a hoot. Just like you, I’d say it’s good. The thing is, it’s not. It is as Don says, just another group looking for more ways to get in on the grabbin’. It’s the NAR in the bedroom.

    23. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 8:40 am


      I’m warm and fuzzy. I feel things. It’s who I am. It’s part of my charm.

      >Was someone injured?

      Interesting question… But, I read your stuff, so I know where this is going, I’ll speed this along and get to the punchline- no blood was shed in the writing of this post, or any comments. Thanks for putting this crap into perspective, Greg.

    24. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 9:25 am

      > I feel things.

      And that distinguishes you from whom?

      Ayn Rand used to say, “Emotions are not tools of cognition.” By this she meant that emotional reactions — unreasoned habituated responses to events — are hugely likely to be in error, where only thoughtful, rational consideration can lead to valid conclusions. To that we can add the debate-silencing power of political correctness, which uses expressions of emotion as weapons against people who won’t back down.

      I’m not accusing you of that ugly crime, but you’re either on the bus or you’re off of the bus. Either you’re discussing a serious subject with other adults who have every right to hold views different from your own, or you’re unwilling to consort with those people at all. How could it be both?

      FWIW, there is no limit to the benefits of quoting the matter you’re objecting to. When you deployed the words “Collectivist Bogeyman” Saturday, I assumed this was the fallacy of derision, but I had no idea at all what you were attempting to deride — attempting to dismiss without an argument. And if it should happen that you paste in a quotation and yet can’t find anything to disagree with, that’s useful, too.

      My rule-of-thumb is that, whatever the pretext — usually a desperate, dreadful emergency defended with an ocean of tears — if the proposed solution is more government, the actual objective being sought is more government, not the treacly pretext. That’s a rebutable presumption, to be sure. Feel free to rebut it in this context.

      It’s okay to run, but I don’t think it’s okay to imply that your emotions, you aversion to the topic or to your interlocutors, or your lack of free time make you the “winner” in the discussion.

      Tell me why I’m wrong. There’s no rush. This will keep.

    25. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 10:34 am

      >“Emotions are not tools of cognition.” By this she meant that emotional reactions — unreasoned habituated responses to events — are hugely likely to be in error, where only thoughtful, rational consideration can lead to valid conclusions.

      Yes. I understand that, Greg. That’s why I said I didn’t want to continue to comment here. I’m reacting and not thinking, and that’s not being helpful to anyone. I am not able to think my way through this at this time, I get that, more than you do I suspect. It’s all upsetting to me, and until I can calm down, I’m simply being a pain in the ass here.

      My emotions don’t make me any better, I’m not suggesting that at all. Did I say that? oh. “part of my charm”? Yeah. That was me trying to insert a little self-deprecating humor. I’m not trying to win. Win what?

      “Collectivist Bogeyman” was in response to zerogov, whcih I read as a fear-based post that finds collectivism lurking about like a bogeyman ready to pounce.

      Don, I do apologize for the crap comment. It’s me who is smearing crap. My participation in this has deteriorated. I know this. I see it. I get to live with it…

      At this time, until gay marriage is legal, gay couples have limited rights. Including gay marriage to the giant pantheon of laws doesn’t change anything for heterosexual couples. It changes everything for gay couples. Why is this a problem? Don, I don’t understand. Jim, how does this increase any lasw that have any effect on you at this time? Why would anyone choose to exclude 3.5% of couples to laws that are already in place? It’s a simple thing… It takes away nothing from anyone else and it adds so very much- what difference would it make? There’s no slippery slope here, it’s so simple. It’s so logical. It’s so reasonable. It makes sense… even if I don’t…

    26. Sean Purcell September 12th, 2011 11:16 am

      I’m missing where Teri is supposed to have gotten off the bus. She is not asking for more government, in so much as you, Greg, claim that “if the proposed solution is more government, the actual objective being sought is more government.” (I don’t beleive that to be an accurate assesment at all; more gov’t. is often sought because the seekers believe their “best intentions” are what’s best for everyone, and therfore must necessarily be enforced… upon everyone. That this leads to a degradation in the exercise of my freedom is an effect of more government, but not always the sole reason people think more government is the answer.)

      I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but I believe her point was the same as mine: We don’t need more government on this subject matter (we don’t need any, but that’s not the discussion at this point), we need less. The government’s definition of marriage is an addition. Removing it is a subtraction. That the government speaks to this at all is a continuance of coercian and enslavement, I get that. But removing its heavy hand is an improvement, however slight.

    27. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 11:21 am

      > There’s no slippery slope here

      Oh no? I expect that prognostication will turn out to be untrue.

      Even so, I don’t care. The actual problem is caused by the state. The cure for government is not more government, not ever. No one should understand this better than persecuted minorities — who are either persecuted directly by the state or by people whose crimes are covered up by the state. It seems completely obvious to me that a more-powerful state will engage in even more persecution — albeit not necessarily of gay couples. I’m happy to welcome anyone to my side of the table — to get the state out of marriage and family altogether. I’m not willing to advocate growth of government in any form, in pursuit of any objective.

      Thanks for clarifying your views. I think this is a good thread, very thought-provoking.

    28. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 11:57 am

      > the seekers

      Identify them. Everything in American political life is driven by professional ideologues. “People” don’t want anything. Only individuals are capable of wanting. What do the professional ideologues behind the mad-rush emergency push for legally-sanctioned gay marriage want?

    29. Tim Riggins September 12th, 2011 12:59 pm

      I think for the most part people have forgotten that everyone has the right to do what is right for them just as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else.

    30. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 2:26 pm

      >I don’t want to put words in her mouth,

      I’ll say it this way: Gays should have the same rights as straights. How do you get there quickly? You legalize gay marriage. Why wouldn’t you get there quickly? It’s simple to do. As for me, I think letting my political ideology get in the way of a simple and quick solution to giving more people rights that are already in place for 97% of the people, makes no sense. But that’s me. I’m not an ideologue. I’m just a person who is delighted when other people get to enjoy the freedom I get, (and take for granted, btw!). Hooray for freedom.

      Ultimately, sure thing, let’s get the govt out altogether, but why hold up a freedom for a few folks in the meanwhile? The govt isn’t going anywhere any time soon. I can’t see holding this up for a few folks based on either political ideology, or, a word, and I haven’t seen a reason to think otherwise.

      These are real people. Their lives are as precious and short as anyone else. Just give them one right, for god’s sake. Stop making them beg. Stop keeping them from enjoying all rights available. No scary liberal agenda here, just don’t see any good reasons not to do this already.

    31. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 3:19 pm

      > get in the way

      > hold up a freedom

      > give them one right

      > Stop keeping them from enjoying

      How are you doing these things? I’m not aware of anyone who has superpowers like these.

      Verbs imply action, and action implies independently-observable existential events. None of these things is happening here. We’re having a discussion, that’s all. No one here has the power to change anything.

      My belief is that any hobby-horse pushed up to my gate by collectivists is chock full of collectivism. You seems to disagree with that proposition. I predict we will find out that you are wrong much sooner than my own ideas will be tested, but none of that really matters.

      For my own part, I’m closer to Don’s position today than I was on Friday:

      > How do you get there quickly?

      What’s the rush? Could it be there are matters of much greater significance — to each of us — that we might take up first? I do think this is a trivial issue, and I understand you do not. But the entire frolicking house is going up in flames right now. Any ideologue or pundit pushing gay marriage as an immediate priority gets two spots my Trojan Horse radar.

    32. Jim Klein September 12th, 2011 3:29 pm

      There might be a whole new world before this thread is over! For the record, Greg is offering my basic point and Sean, I think he’s spot on with, ““if the proposed solution is more government, the actual objective being sought is more government.” I was going to pick that line too, to say how much I think it IS an accurate assessment…on nearly all issues to nearly all people.

      Teri, your charm–and that’s what it is–is that you’ll express exactly what you think and feel. This ain’t Orthodox Objectivism, where the goal is to sacrifice exactly that. If you were to ever change that…well, I don’t know what I’d do.

      And yes, I understand your practical argument. The world is the way it is, so shouldn’t we try to fit things into it, a better way? That’s alright with me, but I just don’t think that way, especially not in an intellectual context like this one. I don’t really care how Don views gay marriages, and my POV is pretty much what yours is. I just always look for the principles and the principles here are that the practical (as you suggest) can’t be moral because it’s in a context of total immorality—not on the part of gays, of course, but on the point that everybody else is sticking their noses into it in the first place.

    33. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 4:07 pm

      Me: > But the entire frolicking house is going up in flames right now.

      Here’s an example of what I mean. This is not terribly important, either, compared tot he potential collapse of Western Civilization, but it strikes me as being a lot more important, and a lot more consequential, than gay marriage.

      Vide: Unmentioned in the child support article I cited earlier today is this grim fact:

      Tens of thousands of males from the ages of 15 – 45 are completely unable to “come in from the cold.” They might be incarcerated, they might be street-guys, they might be working off the books, or they might be living off the the largess of a woman — mom, grandma or a girlfriend.

      But they are effectively forbidden from living the straight life, as above-ground members of the middle class, because of the child support system. As soon as any one of these men gets a real job, he will be wage-garnished into poverty, then shipped off to jail.

      We have created an entire generation of young men who are essentially untouchables — unable to integrate into the larger middle-class society no matter how much they might want to. There are other ugly consequences — acting out behavior resulting from systemic emasculation, fatherless children, etc. — as well.

      I love gay couples. They’re amazing homeowners, good neighbors and great sellers. I’m thinking that the best benefits to be realized from getting the state out of family life will be felt by other people, though.

    34. Sean Purcell September 12th, 2011 4:19 pm

      But the entire frolicking house is going up in flames right now. Any ideologue or pundit pushing gay marriage as an immediate priority gets two spots my Trojan Horse radar

      Agreed, but then this is a discussion – a philosopical one – on liberty, government and so forth. Whether or not it’s trivial is beside the point. Don’t join the thread if it’s too small.

      I don’t know where this is being pushed hard… to the contrary, tonight’s Rep debate will entertain us with quite the opposite side of the same disgusting coin. There will be candidates pushing their religious views all over the dais… wanting to create Constitutional amendments for chrissake. I don’t really care which ox we’re goring, I like the discussion and right now, we’re discussing the coercive force of government within the realm of marriage.

      Jim, it is often said here that “the moral is the practical,” but you say the practical here is not moral because it involves sticking noses in other people’s business. The government’s trunk is already under the marriage tent and dictating who stays and who goes. So the practical and the moral is to shove that nose back outside, is it not?

      I am all for the free market of an anarchy. In some ways we are marching there faster than people realize, thanks to the internet. But we are not there yet. When a hobby horse is pushed up to the gate by collectivists, it is full of collectivism. But are all hobby horses pushed by collectivists?

      When the hobby horse is “less,” it merits consideration. I’ve asked this before: if a law were put up for vote, that cut federal income taxes by half, would you vote for it? To vote for it is to vote for coercian and theft, no matter the scale. But to vote against it is to implicitly vote for even more coercian and theft. The government stuck it’s nose into marriage and it doesn’t belong there: so removing it is immoral? How’s that work with other areas? Sorry Mr. Black Man, I would love to see government sanctioned slavery be gone, but supporting such a move is against my principles because it involves the immorality of government action? Sorry Teri, I wish the government did not make a law that all women were chattal, owned by their husband, but to remove that law sounds too much like collectivist action?

      The actions of a government lead to coercian and obstruction of liberty, and so are evil; which logically suggests that government itself must be evil. Okay, with you so far. Reducing the breadth or scope of a government action must then be the opposite of evil, yes?

    35. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 4:22 pm

      I’m glad I stuck with this. This is quickly becoming hilarious.

      >I’m not aware of anyone who has superpowers like these.

      Here in Ohio, we voted on whether to legalize gay marriage. Other states do that as well. We are voting to include people in our world or not. FTR, we voted not. Probably lots of Objectivists here. :-D

      >We’re having a discussion, that’s all. No one here has the power to change anything.

      I think you must be right about that.

      >My belief is that any hobby-horse pushed up to my gate by collectivists is chock full of collectivism. You seems to disagree with that proposition.

      What am I saying that is collectivist?

      >What’s the rush?

      This is kind of funny. I wonder how long straight marriages have been recognized?

      >Any ideologue or pundit pushing gay marriage

      That’s just it. I’m not pushing gay marriage. I simply don’t understand the objections to it. I think you are reacting to things I’m not saying, Greg. I understand there are people shoving an agenda down throats. I’m not here doing that.

    36. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 4:27 pm


      >If you were to ever change that…well, I don’t know what I’d do.

      Not a chance. Me and Popeye- we yam what we yam.

      >I just always look for the principles and the principles here are that the practical (as you suggest) can’t be moral because it’s in a context of total immorality—

      People don’t have what you have… I understand what you saying, but, man oh man, Jim. C’mon… gah…

    37. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 4:33 pm

      > What am I saying that is collectivist?

      You’re saying, “Get on the bandwagon!” I’m pretty sure you know how to object to that kind of appeal when it’s directed at you. But: I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the people who think they have something to gain by shouting, “Get on the bandwagon!” When the collectivists pioneered family law, starting a hundred years ago, only people like me foresaw the ugly consequences. I’m eager to get government out of all sorts of law. I am not willing to lend what little political power I have to growing the government in any way.

    38. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 4:33 pm

      >People don’t have what you have…

      That’s going to bite me in the ass, isn’t it? I’ll wait for it…

    39. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 4:38 pm

      >You’re saying, “Get on the bandwagon!”

      Is that what you are hearing?
      Okay fair enough. I’ve got to get some work done but I’ll think about that.

    40. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 5:06 pm

      > I don’t know where this is being pushed hard

      Yikes! Your state government is actively disenfranchising its own sovereign voters over state-sanctioned gay marriage. How much harder will these usurpers have to push before you notice them?

      You and Teri are both conflating passing laws with repealing them. I am in favor of the repeal on just about any law. When a law is passed — especially a law proposed by professional collectivist ideologues — it’s a safe bet that individual freedom will be diminished, usually by a good margin.

      Married people care about taxes — income taxes, capital gains taxes, property taxes, sales and use taxes. I’ll be an even bigger fan of gay marriage when gay couples get behind the idea of repealing taxes. Getting rid of family law will be a boon, too. Adding any laws to the books will reduce freedom for everyone — ultimately completely.

      I come back to where I was on Saturday, though. This does not matter very much in a world in flames, but the state aggressively sanctioning gay marriage will be better for the freedom-seeking side of our political debate. Why? Because married people care about taxes, that’s why. Turning life-long Democrats into house-proud Republicans is a net gain for the middle class, in the long run.

      > religious views

      > Sorry Mr. Black Man

      > all women were chattel, owned by their husband

      This is the well-poisoning fallacy.

      I’m sure I have told you this before, and I’m sure you won’t like it any better this time: When you are hot under the collar, that is a signal from your body that you yourself do not fully accept what you are saying. The extra heat is there to make up for the lack of light, as it were. It is always beneficial to question your own premises carefully when you have any sort of physical reaction to an intellectual argument. Your postulated fathertongue concepts are at war with your habituated mothertongue emotional reactions. One of them — or both — is false to fact.

    41. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 5:18 pm

      Just to clarify these ideas: I understood that global warming was a hoax when first I heard of it, on the order of thirty years ago. My reasoning was the same rule-of-thumb deployed here: If the proposed solution is more government, the actual objective being sought is more government. I will tell you, at full voice, that all rules-of-thumb are epistemologically invalid reasons to uphold or reject a proposition, because they cannot be rigorously defended. But when your drunken brother insists he has really changed this time, put your hand on your wallet. And when a collectivist tells you his proposal will result in more freedom for you, throw some coal on the fire; you’ll be forging new chains for yourself in no time.

      I’ll give you a moral precept to work from, too: If you don’t know for sure what it is you’re doing, don’t do it.

    42. Teri Lussier September 12th, 2011 6:24 pm

      >You and Teri are both conflating passing laws with repealing them

      Not me. I understand exactly what I’m saying. Currently it’s the only way to get what I want- does that make me an egoist or an egotist? None of this might fit into any Objectivist agenda. Don’t care. Never claimed to be an Objectivist. Don’t toe that line.

      >“Get on the bandwagon!”

      I want to bring my friends closer to the world I have, while they are still alive and young enough to enjoy it. It’s personal, it’s emotional, I’m fine with that. It doesn’t make sense to everyone, but the arguments presented against it don’t make sense either, which makes me think it’s personal and it’s emotional across the board, mine are just the most obvious- they are out of the closet. ;)

      Don, we will have a conversation in private. Give me a few days to move away from this, I won’t feel so raw.

      Nothing I can add to this conversation at this point, so I am unsubscribing for real this time. Here’s to a productive week, y’all.

    43. Jim Klein September 12th, 2011 7:35 pm

      ” >People don’t have what you have…

      “That’s going to bite me in the ass, isn’t it? I’ll wait for it…”

      Wait no more, and it’s twice wrong! There isn’t the least thing special about me except that I pay attention. Okay, you could argue that since I paid close attention in grammar school and went out of my way to learn things, that I have some sort of “intelligence” or something that others don’t have. They could’ve had it too if they wanted, though.

      But here’s the more important point. As an adult, I have consciously and purposefully /avoided/ having anything that others don’t have. No degree, no training, no technical skills of any sort; I’m the most unmarketable guy you’ll ever meet.

      Yes, I did that on purpose. I’ve so long been so sick of hearing people say why they can’t do what they can do, that I had to prove to myself that they were nuts. And they are—you don’t need anything to make your way in this world except your mind…AND a desire to use it. That’s why I’m different; I’ve used it all my life.

      I don’t need a nanny to tell me how to live, and neither do you and neither does anyone else here. Nobody does, truth be told, but not one in a thousand believe it. That’s why Greg is right about the issue at hand. It’s not about gay people feeling hurt or dismissed by others—nobody gives a hoot about that, especially gay people. It’s about what they want to /get/ and about others wanting a world where everyone /gets/, as if that could happen without somebody giving. And since not enough people are willing to give–on whatever issue and for whatever reason–the “get” becomes “take” and here we are.

      That’s why I thought Don’s post was so good. As I keep telling you, my opinion of gays being gay, or loving or living together, is way more like yours than Don’s. But that’s not the point, because it’s never the point in a statist society. The point is ALWAYS how the statism should be increased and for what goals. But those goals are always derivative to the more fundamental goal of increasing the statism, and so the word changes are NOT for the reasons you and I would like–to demonstrate an acceptance of others being however they are–but rather as an outgrowth of an excuse to increase the control by some people over others.

      You’re proving Don’s point, you know. From the most innocent of motivations–wanting gay people to have as much “right” to their own lives as anyone–you’re implicitly arguing that we each ought to have less control over our own lives.

      That’s all you can ever be arguing when you argue for this law or that law to determine how people should live. Maybe there was a time when laws were only meant to prevent harm to individuals, but not one of us remembers those days. These days, laws are meant to control how people live and the feelgood pc-correctness of stuff like “gay rights” are just another tool in the arsenal.

      No, of course I don’t think gay people should be treated as less than human. They’re just as human as anyone else; duh. I just don’t think the answer is therefore to treat /everyone/ as less than human.

      Notice that “lowest common denominator” is a recurring theme in all things Govco, and that it’s the exact opposite of Splendor.

      Look what’s become of us, Teri. We’re like ravaging wolves, each fighting so that we won’t be next one torn to shreds. Think about it—you don’t really care if some Mormon guy in Utah has five wives, and you don’t really care if some religious zealot hates gays. What you care about–what you’ve been fooled into caring about–is that we should have a society that reflects “decent” or “admirable” or whatever qualities. Yes, we should have that, but everyone’s been snookered into believing that we can have a decent society if only we act indecently enough. It’s a snooker, a con, and it’s done with words and ideas. You want gays to have “rights,” and as you mean it, that’s decent. But you’re the one who pointed out the world is as it is, and in this world the Newspeak Dictionary defines “having rights” as “not having rights,” or IOW not deciding how you’ll live your own life.

      I know you know this, and Greg’s been yapping about it forever. “You cannot rid the world of cannibals by eating them.” You can tweak indecency till the cows come home, but you ain’t never gonna tweak it into decency. Begin at the beginning…”Gentlemen, leave your guns at the door.”

    44. Sean Purcell September 12th, 2011 9:52 pm

      >How much harder will these usurpers have to push before you notice them?

      Much, much harder, as they are not even on the radar screen. As you said “the entire frolicking house is going up in flames right now.”

      >You and Teri are both conflating passing laws with repealing them.

      We don’t need more government on this subject matter (we don’t need any, but that’s not the discussion at this point), we need less.

      Reducing the breadth or scope of a government action must then be the opposite of evil, yes?

      That’s me conflating passing laws with repealing them?

      >This is the well-poisoning fallacy… hot under the collar… etc

      Yes, you do like to trot this pedantic silliness out with me from time to time. I was offended the first time and responded in defense; but after that I realized you weren’t actually saying anything. If you disagree with the analogies I use to clarify what I’m saying, lay it out there.

      Reducing government intrusion – like when the gov’t defines marriage – is the moral and the practical.

    45. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 10:52 pm

      > Never claimed to be an Objectivist.

      I expect Jimmy drew an invalid inference from the overall context of our little world here.

      > the arguments presented against it don’t make sense either

      The reason collectivist ideologues pick issues like this is because they can drive a wedge into the contradictions inherent in ostensibly-freedom-espousing, actually-rent-seeking Rotarian Socialism.

      A religious institution defined and defended by the state? That’s a perfect fit. People will cling to both, the religion and the state sanction, and you can very easily blast light at the hypocrisy. This is not a new game.

      The contrary proposition — dilute religion, strengthen the state — is a false alternative, but it seems persuasive if people — in the large — are used to judging matters of fact by reference to the behavior — or imputed behavior — of the champions of each position, rather than thinking about the issues at bar and what else might be behind them.

      In other words, if you buy the premise — that all of this mishegoss while the whole world is going up in flames is intended to achieve nothing but a more perfect happiness for Mr. and Mr. Smith and Mrs. and Mrs. Jones — you’ll buy the bit.

      I don’t buy the premise. The objectives of the collectivist ideologues behind all this have not changed: They hope to undermine the family as one of the redoubts individual people can turn to, in preference to becoming a welfare client.

      This was the original purpose of marriage and family law, and I see no reason to regard gay marriage anything but a further elaboration on that strategy. As I have said, I think this time the stunt may fail, but I don’t care very much about any of this in any way at all.

      > Currently it’s the only way to get what I want

      I think Jimmy’s argument tonight kills.

      But: I can offer an easy compromise that will make sense for everyone in favor of actual equality:

      Get rid of the broker’s license.

      If a civil union is not acceptably the same thing as a marriage, and even if no one will get the state out of the family business altogether, all that must be done to restore peace is to get the word marriage out of the laws. Every legal union would be a civil union — I would hope comprised however the to-be-united want. Whatever individuals choose to call a marriage would be their own private business, just as what individuals call a family is already their own private business.

      That’s a pissant repeal, but any movement in my direction is good, particularly right now.

      Meanwhile, there is not a dime’s worth of difference about what anyone here has said:

      Don wants to maintain a distinction between a legal marriage and a legal civil union. He does not want to deny anyone anything, he simply wants the word marriage to have a particular definition.

      Jim and I are both arguing from a hierarchy of values, so most ethical questions are very easily resolved. Speaking just for myself, at any particular inflection point, in effect I ask myself, “Will taking this action add to or diminish my present and future self-adoration.” In actual fact, that’s all automated, habituated, all of it essentially subsumed under the header of being who I am. I don’t ever do anything to betray my self, and this kind of thing would not even be on my radar, had Don not brought up the general subject. I would never lend my support in any way to anything like this. The particulars are nothing — there are dozens of these extra-special emergencies at any time, fertilized by the many contradictions that grow like eyes on an old potato under ostensibly-freedom-espousing, actually-rent-seeking Rotarian Socialism. The particulars are nothing, but to concede to the fundamental principle behind any kind of coercion — that’s a complete betrayal of everything I am.

      And at the same time, every other disputant in this thread has his or her own objectives, which may have nothing to do with the other person’s objectives. We are trading in different currencies, and that’s why the sums seem not to make sense. This is why precision matters, even thought it’s a pain in the ass to write and to read: If you reconcile the currencies first, you’ll have a much more productive discussion — or perhaps no discussion at all. ;)

      I am deeply impressed by this joint, though. This is a fun ride.

    46. Greg Swann September 12th, 2011 11:03 pm

      > everyone’s been snookered into believing that we can have a decent society if only we act indecently enough

      This was a gorgeous comment, a real treat to read.

    47. Don Reedy September 13th, 2011 8:12 am

      I’m not absent here. I said what I said, expanded a bit on it, and learned from this exercise in debate and discussion.

      There are many moving, clear thoughts in this essay and comments. Oh that this kind of discourse would ensue in other venues with the passion, respect and control that it has here.

      When you open yourself and your thoughts, as Greg has shown so many times, one of the most wondrous of life’s many blessings occurs.

      I am going to summarize my thoughts on this topic by stealing Jim’s and Greg’s last comment, and morphing it….in violation of my primary premise.

      These were gorgeous comments, real treats to read.

    48. Jim Klein September 13th, 2011 11:29 am

      Sean, I finally read your earlier comment closely and you bring up good points. Unfortunately those good points are exactly why we’re in the mess we’re in. This topic has been an excellent example IMO, since it’s using a no-brainer question–should gay people live their lives as they wish–and forcing it into an immoral context.

      As Greg noted, he and I are looking at it hierarchically. So to slightly change the topic to make my position clearer, you wrote…

      “…if a law were put up for vote, that cut federal income taxes by half, would you vote for it?”

      No, I would not, and for the very reason you say…

      “To vote for it is to vote for coercian and theft, no matter the scale.”

      That’s right, and that’s why I haven’t voted since I read Billy Beck’s cutting analysis of it. No matter which way you vote, you’re voting that voting is a legitimate means to take what belongs to other people. Well, it’s not legitimate and that’s the end of it for me. The details just don’t matter. Sure, I’d rather the taxes were cut in half but what I’d rather isn’t cause for me to turn into a thug and acknowledge that there could be something civil about mob rule.

      And BTW, I’m not knocking those who would vote for it. I understand what Teri’s saying—we live in this world so we should try to make it as good as we can. The thing is, that’s EXACTLY what has brought us to where we are. I understand Teri doesn’t want Thug Rule either, but she (and every other decent person) are throwing up their hands and saying, “But that’s the way it is, so I’m doing the best I can.” That’s alright; I don’t try to second-guess people, but these are principles that have stuck with the human race for thousands of years and they WILL lead to our extinction unless we deal with them forthrightly. Just look at the epistemology…”Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

      I’m not pretending my approach will get rid of it, but for myself I just can’t try to accomplish a lesser goal at the sacrifice of a higher one. And in a social context, I take “not being a thug” as foundational. Sure I may suffer for it, which is why the Epicureans stay away from this stuff, but I never did learn how to not pay attention to something, and it’s too late to start now. Besides, I’m skeptical that I’d even want to, anyway…though the Epicureans make some mighty good arguments for it.

    49. Sean Purcell September 13th, 2011 2:01 pm

      Epicureans… I learn more in the discussions on BHB than any where else I can think of right now.

      Thank you Jim, for answering my “half the tax” question. This is the heart of the dilemma for myself and, I’ll bet, many like me: a philosophical belief confronting an immoral system.

      Greg does not like my anologies, but they help me to clarify. I often use rape, as it is so universally reviled that it makes ideas much clearer, and that’s the analogy I would use here: my sister belongs to a gang and she is raped once/week. Would I vote for a new gang rule that resulted in her being raped only every other week? How does one vote for a rule that tacitly approves of rape? How would I look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t vote for that rule? Would I feel the same if it weren’t my sister, but rather someone I didn’t know? What if it were someone who “deserved” it? (Similar to the claim that the rich should pay more.)

      Is it morally acceptable to allow evil to continue unabated, rather than reduce it by means which might acknowledge (or even tacitly approve of) the very evil it proclaims to reducd.

    50. Jim Klein September 13th, 2011 6:37 pm

      You’re goin’ deep in the mine now, Sean! I love analogies BTW, but they have to be VERY carefully examined. Your example does me no good because it starts, “My sister belongs…” and I don’t know what rape is in that situation. I’m sure it’s bad; sorry.

      “Is it morally acceptable to allow evil to continue unabated, rather than reduce it by means which might acknowledge (or even tacitly approve of) the very evil it proclaims to reducd.”

      That reads like such a sensible sentence–everyone knows what it means, after all–and yet start to look at it closely. At first I was struck by “morally acceptable,” since that leads to the obvious questions of “to whom, for what” and so on. Nothing confusing there, no matter what one concludes is morally acceptable.

      But step back and look at the question itself. It really is the cannibal question…can it be not-evil to use evil to eradicate evil? That’s the question, right?

      I mean really, how dumb have we been, and for how long?

    51. Greg Swann September 13th, 2011 7:00 pm

      > can it be not-evil to use evil to eradicate evil?

      Batman’s fallacy. We talk about it a lot around here. The TV show “The Closer” is having real fun with that idea this year.

    52. Teri Lussier September 13th, 2011 7:01 pm

      >I understand what Teri’s saying—we live in this world so we should try to make it as good as we can. The thing is, that’s EXACTLY what has brought us to where we are.

      Where we are is a damn good place, Jim. Best place ever, I suspect. I can’t dislike this world. It’s too beautiful on a regular basis to go looking for bogeymen. Did you see the moon last night and tonight? Gorgeous. Here I am talking to people across the country, people I may have never met or only met briefly, but people I care about like my own flesh and blood. I can have my mind blown any time I turn on a computer, or my phone- my phone??? Dang. It’s such a simple thing to change a life. It doesn’t make sense to me not to do it. The moral is the practical.

      >I mean really, how dumb have we been, and for how long?

      Do you have kids, Jim? NOMB of course, but kids grow in all sorts of sloppy ways. Sometimes their verbal skills are growing, and it appears that nothing else is, then BAM, we find out they suddenly can walk, and in no time are climbing, but now they are still only talking in two word sentences… My point is, that’s humans. We grow all over the place. So we aren’t so smart (WTH is an Epicurean anyway?) but I’m typing this on a computer so maybe we aren’t so dumb. Politically we are every which way but maybe not, because last night there was a Republican debate and lo and behold, a woman and black and a libertarian to boot were scattered amongst the shriveling white guys. Whodathunkit when I was a whippersnapper? All in all, not too shabby for an effed up country, if you ask me. Which you didn’t. ;-)

    53. Don Reedy September 13th, 2011 7:35 pm

      While off my original point, I have to join in.

      “Is it morally acceptable to allow evil to continue unabated, rather than reduce it by means which might acknowledge (or even tacitly approve of) the very evil it proclaims to reduced.”

      Jim answered this intelligently, followed by Greg’s “Batman’s Fallacy”, also an intelligent observation.

      My answer. I don’t care if it’s morally acceptable, I’m not going to allow evil to continue unabated. This seems reasonable to me, since moral behavior, especially when contrasted with the concept of evil, is like solving an equation with all independent variables.

      Could I go back to one of the headings I used in this post. Your right to throw a punch ends where my nose begins. If I perceive evil, something akin to what Sean described, then I’m going to stop you from making my own personal nose bleed. We can go back to the couch or confinement after the fact to see how that plays out in the collective minds of those who stand before me in judgment, but I’m going to take action.

      “How dumb have we been, and for how long?”

      Wow, what a great idea for a book, let alone a post!

    54. Jim Klein September 13th, 2011 7:38 pm

      Good thoughts, Teri, and all correct too. I’ve been talking more of building than destroying myself lately, so I agree with the sentiment.

      Did you know the US has the highest incarceration rate of any society ever? That’s my understanding, anyway. Do you imagine that we just have the most rotten criminals of all time? I’m guessin’ you don’t, partly for the reasons you enumerate here.

      How’s that saying go, “First they came for the Jews, but I wasn’t a Jew…”

      Your political approach made some sense to me years ago, but not any more. Like I wrote, I pay attention. Police abuse, never in short supply, has grown enormously lately…and it’s not just because it’s more widely known. Surely you know about Gibson Guitar…I mean, Gibson Guitar! It just doesn’t get any crazier. We’re there, whether you want to see it or not. Sorry.

      I’ll leave you with this, too. Politically, we’re not every which way. There are a trivial number of actual freedom seekers, and everyone else is trying to figure out which vision of freedom to impose.

    55. Don Reedy September 13th, 2011 7:58 pm

      Jim, I just got an old Yamaha guitar I bought up in SFRAN about thirty years ago repaired. It had begun warping (I was using strings that were too heavy apparently), and I wanted the action to be easier.

      “Strummin my six-string”, Jimmy Buffett’s line, has been an avocation of mine since I could pick up a Ukelele at age 4. It’s truly a “peaceful, easy feeling” when you put the neck in one hand, the pick in the other, and begin to let the wonder of octaves and chords take shape.

      Gibson….travesty. The poison is like carbon monoxide, with a hint of sulfur. If you don’t sniff around (like a Bloodhound, e.g.) you’re likely to die before the place smells enough to ward off the direst of fates.

    56. Sean Purcell September 13th, 2011 8:08 pm

      Hmmm, this is beginning to remind me of a conversation I had in college: my roommate pointed out that I didn’t care about starving people. I said (in my best pc tone) that of course I did. He asked what I was doing spending $40,000/year on education then, when that money would feed a LOT of starving people. I went on rationalizing for a while e.g. by getting an education now, I can make a difference later that will feed more people than this $40,000 will; if you teach a man to fish; blah, blah, blah.

      When all was said and done, however, I couldn’t let go of this fact: by definition, I didn’t care. (Do I have to define what I mean by “care” here?) And it wasn’t the not caring that bothered me, it was the admitting of it. (This was decades before BHB and voluntaryism and father tongue and all the other education I’m getting now instead of back when I was actually in school.)

      In this string, I could word the rape analogy better, I might even be able to word it in such a way that it perfectly captures an idea… but the idea, in the end, would have to be: I don’t care that she’s being raped. If I did, I wouldn’t be talking about coercing others (through voting), to save her; I’d do whatever I thought it took to remove her (or eliminate “them”). The ugly truth is, I’m not willing to die to save her. Or, I’m not willing to go to jail over taxes, even as I call it theft and coercion. So I’ll sit here and write and debate and philosophize and rationalize that I am teaching someone else to fish, but when all is said and done, I’m not acting… I’m not being… and that’s okay. I am only responsible for who I see in the mirror each morning.

      But… I’m lying to myself if I say I care about starving people, or theft by taxation, or the woman across town being raped. Which leads me back to this question: If I actually don’t care (which my actions illuminate), why wouldn’t I vote to cut the taxes in half? If I’m not actually going to eliminate my participation in evil, why wouldn’t I use a little evil to decrease the evil I incur?

    57. Don Reedy September 13th, 2011 8:26 pm

      “If I actually don’t care (which my actions illuminate), why wouldn’t I vote to cut the taxes in half?”

      Sorry Sean, but your actions do not mean that you don’t care. They simply mean you’ve decided not to act on that about which you may or may not care.

      I think most of us are in the same boat. We care, but we choose to act or not act based on something other than caring. Retribution, physical fear, embarrassment, inadequacy….all can be the rationale for not acting upon those things about which we care.

      Back to what I said about acting. Generally, if I see true evil, I will want to act. If I do not, then select a reason from above and assign it to me. If I do, select that my caring rose to a level above that of consideration of self.

    58. Sean Purcell September 13th, 2011 8:32 pm

      Don, first, allow me to rectify my selfishness: I jumped into this fantastic post and tremendous comments, without ever once thanking you for writing such an inspiring piece. You are a poet Don.

      Having said that, I will now question you… the back slapping doesn’t last around here, does it? :) I’ve been previously engaged in a conversation with your emboldened line at the center:

      Your right to throw a punch ends where my nose begins.

      Really? Do my rights ever end? If I punch your nose, or in some other way infringe upon your free exercise of your inalienable rights, does that in any way reduce my rights? No. It may lead to an infringement on my free exercise of my rights (you might punch me, or you might choose to no longer trade with me), but you can’t end my rights, right?

      Maybe I’m confusing rights with something else; I know that discussion has happened here before and I’m not so adept at these concepts to keep it all straight… yet. But it seems to me that by virtue of being, I am free to do as I like. And you (and others) are free to react as you like. The “penalty” for infringing on your free expression of your rights, is my own degradation of ego (and quite probably my life if I am left to completely fend for myself in an agora that will not trade with me).

    59. Sean Purcell September 13th, 2011 8:39 pm

      >I think most of us are in the same boat. We care, but we choose to act or not act based on something other than caring. Retribution, physical fear, embarrassment, inadequacy….all can be the rationale for not acting upon those things about which we care.

      I now go back to my trusty rape analogy: I am amongst a group of men raping a woman. I know it to be evil, but my level of caring about participating in that evil act does not raise to the level of overcoming my fear of what the other men will do to me if I stop… Are there acceptable levels of evil?

    60. Greg Swann September 13th, 2011 8:49 pm

      > like solving an equation with all independent variables.

      Self-adoration is the constant.

      > something akin to what Sean described

      The rape example is the lifeboat fallacy being used to rationalize the Batman fallacy.

      (To be precise, the Batman fallacy is actually the conflation of these logical fallacies: Tu quoque (you do it, too), two wrongs make a right, the lifeboat, and might makes right. Mostly government is just kleptocracy, this for most of human history. But government always rationalizes its existence with the Batman fallacy.)

      In actual lifeboat situations — which do occur, at about one-quintillionth their frequency in online debates — your own on-going self-love may require that you take actions that you will never live with in peace — despite any bluster that may be accumulating at the back of anyone’s throat right now. The reason for doing this, despite the damage you are doing to your present and future self-image, would be to avoid still worse injuries. Your action may be completely defensible, the least-worse choice. But it will not be an undiluted good for your ego, then and thereafter. Every purposive action is taken first by the ego upon the ego, and you cannot see yourself behaving savagely and still celebrate your equity or equanimity — not in the same way you could before. This is ontological fact, the actual physical, mental and psychological consequences of violence, regardless of what anyone might say about it.

      (This is an excellent moment to reread A canticle for Kathleen Sullivan, if you liked it the first time.)

      The word “retaliation” is a common subterfuge to rationalize leaping from the lifeboat to real life with a pretend license-to-thug. True lifeboat situations almost never happen, and if Batman is swinging his fists at any other time, then he is the criminal.

      Asserting dominion over another person is self-destructive no matter why you are doing it. Massively so, over time, if your motives are vile. But destructive of your present and future image of yourself and of your future purposive behavior even when you have only done what you had to do to avoid a worse fate for yourself or another person. This is inescapably true, a fact of your being as a being, as a human being.

      Teleology is shoulding, but egoism, really, should be about should and not about should-not. This seems like simple arithmetic to me: If behaving in any way contrary to my nature must result in a net diminution of my self-adoration, then I should only do those things that correspond to my actual, inescapable ontological nature — and, as much as I can, only those things that add to my self-love. The should-not argument can seem compelling, but it’s completely boring once you’ve understood the should position. There is no reason whatever to philosophize loss if your only focus is on every sort of profit — most especially profit in splendor.

      There is no splendor in rape, and there is almost no benefit in thinking about it. Thinking instead about your own values and how best to maximize them seems like a much better way of expressing the idea of self-adoration.

      This is by now just a newsy letter, so I’ll add this: I’m not talking about government or anarchy or whatever. I’m talking about egoism, in everything I say. I don’t care how people behave now. I want to see how they will behave when they learn to think of self-adoration as the paramount human value.