Opposing Same-Sex Marriage Is A Lot Like Opposing Interracial Marriage

Cartoon by Kevin Siers, @KevinSiers

Cartoon by Kevin Siers, @KevinSiers

Conor Friedersdorf and I both oppose economically punishing people for opposition to same-sex marriage, or for having donated to the prop 8 campaign.

But Conor’s argument is, partly, that SSM opponents are morally superior to those who favored anti-miscegenation laws, and those who compare the two are being unfair to SSM opponents.

Opposition to interracial marriage was all but synonymous with a belief in the superiority of one race and the inferiority of another. (In fact, it was inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation that has done more damage to America and its people than anything else, and that ranks among the most obscene crimes in history.)

Opposition to gay marriage can be rooted in the insidious belief that gays are inferior, but it’s also commonly rooted in the much-less-problematic belief that marriage is a procreative institution, not one meant to join couples for love and companionship alone.

One thing I’ve noticed in this debate is how unfamiliar proponents of stigma are with thoughtful orthodox Christians—that is to say, they haven’t interacted with them personally, critiqued the best version of their arguments, or even been exposed to the most sophisticated version of their reasoning, which I find to be obviously earnest, if ultimately unpersuasive.1

A few points:

1) I have interacted with orthodox Christians, critiqued their best arguments, and closely read many arguments SSM opponents have identified as their best (such as Robert George’s “What Is Marriage”?). As a co-blogger at the Institute for American Values blog, I had the opportunity to discuss issues with some of the country’s leading opponents of marriage equality, including David Blankenhorn, Elizabeth Marquardt, and Maggie Gallagher (David and Elizabeth, to their credit, have since switched sides on the marriage equality issue).

But I have to wonder, has Conor been exposed to the most sophisticated arguments in favor of anti-miscegenation laws?

Virginia Assistant Attorney General R. D. McIlwaine III, defending anti-miscegenation laws to the Supreme Court in Loving vs Virginia, argued that interracial marriages, like incestuous or child marriages, should be prohibited for the good of the people in those marriages:

It is clear from the most recent available evidence on the psycho-sociological aspect of this question that intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems than those of the intramarried; And that the state’s prohibition of interracial marriage for this reason stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage or the prescription of minimum ages at which people may marry and the prevention of the marriage of people who are mentally incompetent.

McIlwaine went on to argue – of course – that permitting interracial marriage would be bad for children.

Now if the state has an interest in marriage, if it has an interest in maximizing the number of stable marriages and in protecting the progeny of interracial marriages from these problems, then clearly. there is scientific evidence available that is so. It is not infrequent that the children of intermarried parents are referred to not merely as the children of intermarried parents but as the ‘victims’ of intermarried parents and as the ‘martyrs’ of intermarried parents.

Now, perhaps Conor would say that in context, McIlwaine’s arguments were “inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation,” and I’d agree. But McIlwaine himself would probably have denied that, and his arguments did not explicitly call on white supremacy, any more than the arguments of sophisticated opponents of marriage equality explicitly call on heterosexual supremacy. In fact, many opponents of interracial marriage, back when that was a respectable position, argued that their positions had nothing at all to do with prejudice, and that to tar them with such accusations was unfair. Sound familiar?

The distinction Conor makes between interracial marriage opponents and SSM opponents doesn’t actually exist. The more sophisticated arguments against interracial marriage avoided overt racial supremacy, instead relying on concepts like the good of society, the good of children, and (of course) natural and biblical law. Again, sound familiar?

2. Conor makes an incredibly weak argument when he writes that modern opponents of SSM are morally superior to opponents of interracial marriage because civil unions.

Opposition to interracial marriage never included a large contingency that was happy to endorse the legality of black men and white women having sex with one another, living together, raising children together, and sharing domestic-partner benefits as long as they didn’t call it a marriage.

Does that clarify the inaptness of the comparison?

In the context of the 1960s and before, the “they should have sex outside of marriage” position was simply not available to respectable public figures. So it’s true that the modern way for SSM opponents to be “moderates” was never used by interracial marriage opponents.

But interracial marriage opponents could and did position themselves as moderates, for instance by supporting the Utah approach (in which interracial marriage was a misdemeanor rather than a felony, and interracial marriages performed outside of Utah were legally recognized) rather than the more drastic North Carolina approach (which declared interracial marriage a “infamous crime” punishable with up to ten years in prison). Some interracial marriage opponents didn’t even want it made illegal at all, and argued that community stigma was the way to deter interracial marriages.

3. Like Conor, I oppose organized boycotts against individuals because they oppose same-sex marriage. But the distinction he draws between SSM opponents and interracial marriage opponents is simply wrong – a product of short historical memory. The opponents of interracial marriage were not inhuman monsters; they believed they were acting for the greater good, and did not consider themselves hateful bigots. Beyond a doubt, some of them were good people in many ways – charitable, kind to others (including to people of color). Some of them loved their children and were pillars of their communities. Some of them were at least as smart as any of us. And their better arguments did not overtly rely on white supremacy.

And it was nonetheless true that their anti-equality views were, as Conor says, “inextricably tied to a singularly insidious ideology of white supremacy and black subjugation.” Even when their arguments were not explicitly white supremacist, they still implicitly relied on white supremacy. Without an unspoken social consensus in favor of white supremacy – in favor of a belief that non-white people’s well-being has only trivial importance, and that sacrificing the well-being of non-white people is therefore justified even when the good being achieved is obviously nebulous at best – the seemingly “non-racial” arguments against interracial marriage had no foundation.

Exactly the same thing is true of anti-SSM arguments today, including the “sophisticated” arguments Conor refers to.2 The more sophisticated arguments against gay marriage carefully avoid overt homophobia. But they only make sense in the context of a homophobic society, which is why they increasingly lose purchase as our society becomes less homophobic.

Without an unspoken social consensus in favor of homosexual inferiority – in favor of a belief that lesbian and gay people’s well-being has only trivial importance, and that sacrificing the well-being of queer people is justified even when the good being achieved is nebulous at best – these seemingly “non-homphobic” arguments against gay marriage have no foundation. In this way, the “sophisticated” arguments against gay marriage are just as based in homophobia as the “sophisticated” arguments against interracial marriage were based in racism.

4. I don’t think that people who are opposed to marriage equality now – or, for that matter, people who were opposed to interracial marriage in the 1960s – are or were inherently bad people. Most of us are neither moral monsters or ahead-of-our-time moral prodigies. Instead, for the most part, we pick up our morality from what the people around us believe. Those of us who believe in marriage equality have, I am sure, a morally better position. But most of us don’t hold that position because we are inherently more moral people than those who disagree. Rather, most of us were just born into a place and a time in which we were raised to believe in the equal dignity and worth of queer people, and as a result we have either always been in favor of marriage equality, or easily adopted that position once it became socially acceptable.3

My point is not that those who oppose SSM aren’t responsible for their own views and choices. People make their own choices, and can choose to oppose beliefs they were raised with, as the huge numbers of people who have changed their minds and now favor marriage equality have proven.

My point, instead, is that a simple “moral monsters versus decent people” analysis – whether it’s Conor’s contrasting of interracial marriage opponents versus SSM opponents, or the folks on the left who want opponents of SSM driven from their neighborhoods – is an unrealistic model of a much more complicated human reality.

  1. Note: In Friedersdorf’s article, the “One thing I’ve noticed” paragraph is a footnote, but since I’m going to refer to it in this post I’ve “promoted” it. []
  2. Conor explicitly refers to “the much-less-problematic belief that marriage is a procreative institution, not one meant to join couples for love and companionship alone.” But that argument, which is based on natural law theory, is entangled with natural law arguments that homosexuality is intrinsically morally inferior to heterosexuality. []
  3. This is true not just for heterosexuals, but for everyone. Being a homosexual doesn’t make one immune to absorbing society’s homophobia, unfortunately, any more than Jews are immune to anti-semitism, etc etc.. []
Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Same-Sex Marriage | 4 Comments  

Ten movies (or more) I’ve seen ten (or more) times

beatrice-emma-thompson

David Neiwert created this meme on Facebook, and it seemed like a good way to waste time to me. :-)

1. City Of Lost Children (1995)
2. Duck Soup (1933)
3. Passion Fish (1992, an obscure gem)
4. Mulan (1998)
5. Sweeney Todd (the Angela Landsbury version, not the it-never-happened Depp version). (1982)
6. Arthur (It was rerun on HBO at least twice a day when I was 15. The entire cast is great, but Gielgud steals the movie.) (1981)
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
8. Ran (1985)
9. Midnight Run (Blistering hot NYC summer, nearby theater had this movie and air conditioning. Sarah and I saw it over and over, and enjoyed it every time.) (1988)
10. Cyrano de Bergerac (1990 version with Depardieu.)
11. The Purple Rose of Cairo. (1985) Actually, there are several Woody Allen films I’ve seen over a dozen times – Bullets Over Broadway, Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters – but I think I’ve seen PROC the most. (It wouldn’t surprise me if Allison Deutsch Andersen could do an entire list of ten films she’s seen ten times or more just from Woody Allen’s catalog.)
12. Supercop. (1992) Jackie Chan climbs everything in sight, and Michelle Yeoh jumps a motorcycle onto a moving train. What more could I want?
13. Much Ado About Nothing, the Kenneth Branagh version. (1993)
14. Groundhog Day (1993)

Comments:

1) It makes me kind of sad to realize that I haven’t seen most of these films in at least ten years. I don’t watch films as intensely anymore, and certainly don’t rewatch films as much as I used to. To some degree this is because I’m more likely to watch TV nowadays (nearly done with “True Detective”), but it’s mainly because I have so much less spare time than I used to.

1.5) Half the 14 came out in the 1990s. Another five came out in the 1980s.

2) Of the 14, 3 (Passion Fish, Mulan, Purple Rose) have female protagonists. 6 have male protagonists, and 5 have female and male co-protagonists. Only 5 – City of Lost Children, Passion Fish, Mulan, Sweeney Todd, and Crouching Tiger – pass the Bechdel test.

Five of the movies have non-white protagonists or co-protagonists, but that includes some movies that were made in Asian countries.

So what movies have you seen over ten times?

Posted in Popular (and unpopular) culture | 33 Comments  

Brief Updates: Mind Meld, Dark Matter Zine, Little Faces

A couple of brief updates:

I. Mind Meld in the Tardis

Even though I was late turning it in (due to finding a four-day-old kitten in our backyard and trying to figure out how to take care of it!), Mind Meld has kindly published my entry on Where I Would Take the Tardis.

I want to go on a between-TV-episodes trip. I want to go on a boring trip.

II. Dark Matter Interview

I was also recently interviewed by Dark Matter zine about my participation as the reprint editor for the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed magazzine. The interview was a lot of fun and included other people who’d been working on the issue, Galen Dara and Wendy N. Wagner.

I said I’d put together a list of reference materials for the interview, and I still will, although it’s of course massively late now. ;)

III. Little Reprinted Faces

Earlier this year, Strange Horizons asked me to choose a story for their quarterly reprint slot. I picked Vonda McIntyre’s completely awesome “Little Faces.”

I wrote an intro about it, which couldn’t do the story justice:

Vonda N. McIntyre is a sophisticated feminist science fiction writer and “Little Faces” is a sophisticated feminist science fiction story, operating on many levels, including attention-grabbing science, an interesting plot, and political and social critique that blends into the character’s emotional arc.

The story does more than treat readers to flashy visuals and awesome far-future stuff. For instance, it analyzes serious issues, like female-on-female violence and the meaning of consent. It plays with the audience’s expectations by defaulting female instead of male.

If I were a better person, I might write about that.

Instead, I’m going to write about alien sex.

And I’m very pleased that the story is now online (again, since it was originally published online) for people to enjoy:

The blood woke Yalnis. It ran between her thighs, warm and slick, cooling, sticky. She pushed back from the stain on the silk, bleary with sleep and love, rousing to shock and stabbing pain.

She flung off the covers and scrambled out of bed. She cried out as the web of nerves tore apart. Her companions shrieked a chaotic chorus.

It’s also in audio.

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments  

A Comment Posted On The “Boycott Moreland Farmers Pantry” Page

moreland-farmers-pantry

So some Portlanders are organizing a boycott of Moreland Farmers Pantry, a not-yet-open grocery specializing in GMO-free foods, because it has been discovered that the owners of the story are anti-marriage-equality and have said so in Facebook postings. (A secondary issue is that one of the store’s co-owners linked to a libertarian article arguing that stores should have the legal right to refuse to serve gay customers). The boycott includes publishing a list of vendors who are working with MFP, so that readers can encourage those vendors to cut off relations with the not-yet-open store.

Here’s the comment I posted on their facebook page about a half-hour ago. (Regular “Alas” readers will notice that I adapted some text from a post I wrote about Mozilla last week.)

Speaking as a Portlander who has gathered signatures, made phone calls, and knocked on doors to support marriage equality, I very much disagree with this boycott.

Do you really think trying to drive people who disagree with us out of business is a good way to persuade people who disagree with us? Is a society in which people are economically punished for speaking out on a currently live controversy, the kind of society you want?

Three reasons I think this boycott is misguided:

1. It goes against what I think of as a “free speech culture” to try and drive small stores out of business because of the owners’ statements on current political controversies. Although there’s no government censorship going on here, we can and should want more from a society than just “no one was thrown in jail.” Truly open and free speech – substantive free speech – won’t exist if people are afraid of being economically destroyed if they speak out on current issues.

2) It doesn’t actually advance the cause of marriage equality in any significant way. If anything, it hurts the cause, by giving our opponents ammunition for their “gay bullies” argument.

3) It encourages people to think of politics as a matter of maintaining personal purity through choosing the correct store to shop at, rather than making meaningful change.

(I totally acknowledge that you have a free speech right to criticize, and to boycott, the Childs. But I likewise have a right to criticize your boycott.)

The owners of the boycott page deleted my comment. I wanted to ask them why, but they’ve blocked me from leaving any other comments, so I can’t.

Local restaurant owner Nick Zukin has publicly (and intemperately) disagreed with the boycott, on similar grounds to my objection, and some folks on Facebook have suggested that his restaurant should now be boycotted in turn.

Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc. | 33 Comments  

Fruma costume design for Hereville book 3

fruma-outfit

I can just make up outfits on the fly, rather than stopping drawing pages to design an outfit, but the resulting clothing tends to be extremely repetitive and bland. Much better to try and think the outfit through, and wind up with something that doesn’t look exactly like all the other outfits I’ve drawn Fruma in. (Although it’s clear that Fruma likes horizontal stripes, since I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve used horizontal strips in one of her outfits.) I haven’t shown Fruma wearing boots before, but this story takes place in the autumn, so I think boots make sense.

I like this outfit; it seems to occupy a point partway between frumpy and pirate.

Posted in Hereville | 2 Comments  

Annie Oakley, Historical Cranky Lady

When I originally wrote this, the crowd-funding campaign for funding this book was still ongoing. It’s over now—but yay, it succeeded! Here’s what I wrote about it.

Cranky Ladies of History: Annie Oakley

Several months ago, Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner Roberts contacted me and asked if I would consider writing a story for their anthology, Cranky Ladies of History. “That sounds awesome,” I said, and also, “I so don’t have time.” But I agreed to do it anyway, partially because I (and all SFWAns, but especially me) owe Tansy Rayner Roberts a huge debt for her work on the interim issue of the Bulletin, which she co-edited brilliantly and in a ridiculously short amount of time. But also because this was an easy favor to grant—because come on, Cranky Ladies of History, how cool is that?

Cranky Ladies of History had met its crowd funding goal. They also had a blog tour where the anthology’s writers blogged about the cranky ladies they chose to crank about.

I spent some time in IM talking to Tansy about which Cranky Lady I should pick. Tzu Shi? Agrippina? Mary Anning? Ada Lovelace? Eventually, we decided on Annie Oakley.

You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun

If you don’t know who she is, Annie Oakley was a sharpshooter with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. She grew up in poverty which necessitated that she learn to shoot so that she could help feed the family. After joining the Wild West Show, Annie became a hugely successful performer, especially groundbreaking as a woman.

She had a complicated relationship with feminism: she taught women to shoot, and she advocated for women to be allowed in the army. On other important women’s rights issues of the day, she wasn’t in synch with the feminist position. For instance, she opposed women’s suffrage.

Although the musical that was made about her life story, Annie Get Your Gun, includes the song, “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” she sort of did. She married Frank Butler after beating him in a shooting competition.

I Can Do Anything You Can Do Better

With her gun, Annie Oakley could:

Shoot distant targets by sighting through a mirror

Shoot holes in thrown playing cards before they landed

Snuff a candle

Shoot a cigarette out of a man’s mouth

Shoot the cork off of a bottle

There’s No Business Like Show Business

Annie Oakley was an extremely highly paid performer, and she’s been called America’s first female superstar. One interesting aspect of her show biz persona was her conservative dress style. Pictures show a stiff, strong-featured woman with long brown hair, wearing loose blouses and calf-length skirts with boots. She often wears fringe, bolo ties, and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat.

In the photographs that don’t look posed, she stands in a masculine style, displaying no submissiveness or apology.

Doin’ What Comes Nat’rally

I first learned about Annie Oakley as a kid from the musical, Annie Get Your Gun, which is a fictionalized version of her life. I wonder whether the real Annie Oakley might be annoyed by the way it’s shaped around her relationship with a man. The plot begins when she meets Frank Butler and ends when they go to the altar.

The music is by Irving Berlin and the book is by Dorothy and Herbert Fields. It’s an old-fashioned musical with racist moments such as the song “I An Injun, Too.” Songs like “Doin’ What Comes Nat’rally” also romanticize the poverty she grew up in while maintaining a condescending attitude toward the rural poor.

The musical also features a lot of hits, including “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

My father had an abbreviated medley of songs from Annie Get Your Gun on a piano roll for his 88-key upright player piano. While he pumped, I used to sit on the rug behind the piano bench, and sing along.

In college, I saw the show on Broadway with Bernadette Peters as the lead. I have a soft spot in my heart for “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”

The greatest woman rifle shot the world has ever produced

There’s a lot of research ahead of me as I decide what to write about Annie, her gun, and all those shot up playing cards. I don’t yet know what story I have to tell about her, but I look forward to the books and documentaries that will help me find it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments  

Pelosi didn’t say Congress would have to vote for the ACA to know what’s in it

pelosi

In another thread, Ron wrote:

The ACA is one example, when even the then-Speaker of the House said that Congress would have to vote for it to find out what’s in it…

Ron, regarding that Pelosi quote, here’s how Politico reported it the day Pelosi said it:

Pelosi: People won’t appreciate reform until it passes

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that people won’t appreciate how great the Democrat’s health plan is until after it passes.

“You’ve heard about the controversies, the process about the bill…but I don’t know if you’ve heard that it is legislation for the future – not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America,” she told the National Association of Counties annual legislative conference, which has drawn about 2,000 local officials to Washington. “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it – away from the fog of the controversy.”

During a 20-minute speech, she touted benefits she thinks will be tangible to the audience’s employers. She said there’s support for public health infrastructure and investments in community health centers that will reduce uncompensated care that hospitals now need to deliver.

“You know as well as anyone that our current system is unsustainable,” said Pelosi (D-Calif.). “The final health care legislation, which will soon be passed by the Congress, will deliver successful reforms at the local level.”

She was saying that Americans won’t fully appreciate everything they get from Obamacare until it’s been implemented and in place for a while. She was NOT saying “Congress would have to vote for it to find out what’s in it.” There is simply no reasonable interpretation of Pelosi’s quote, in context, which would lead a fair observer to conclude she was saying Congress didn’t know what it voted for. (Indeed, if you read the full text of her speech, she had just spent two paragraphs describing some of the ACA’s specific effects.)

I can understand why you’d be mistaken about that – the media (and in particular right-wing media) has lied about what Pelosi said, if not from day one, then certainly from day two or so. But now that you’ve been told the truth, I hope you won’t repeat that canard again.

Incidentally, I defy anyone to name any legislation in our lifetime that has been more thoroughly covered in more detail before passage than the ACA. We had two years – at least – of play-by-play discussion of every legislative proposal related to the ACA before it passed. There was commentary from specialized ACA-beat reporters and health economists constantly available on the web the whole time. I’m not saying knowledge was perfect – it never is. But anyone who complains that information on the ACA wasn’t available before passage must have kept their head shoved firmly in their pants for two years or more, because that’s the only way to have so completely missed out on that news story.

Posted in Health Care and Related Issues | Leave a comment  

Two Reasons The American Action Forum’s New Minimum Wage Study Shouldn’t Convince Anyone

minimum_wage_theory

Fox News reports:

A new report from the conservative-leaning American Action Forum, shared exclusively with FOXBusiness.com, shows hiking the minimum wage hurts hiring.

The study looks at the 19 states that have minimum wages above the national rate of $7.25 an hour, as well as the 31 states in which the minimum wage is equal to the national average. The report finds that in 2013, a $1 increase in the minimum wage was associated with a 1.48 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate.

What’s more, this $1 hike also led to a 0.18 percentage point decrease in the net job growth rate, a 4.67 percentage point increase in the teen unemployment rate and a 4.01 percentage point decrease in the teenage net job growth rate. Overall, the AAF reports that high state minimum wages increased unemployment by 747,700 workers and reduced job growth by 83,300 jobs.

The study, “How Minimum Wage Increased Unemployment and Reduced Job Creation in 2013,” is published on AAF’s website.

I’ve read it, and I don’t think it’s persuasive, for two reasons: First, it’s an outlier, and second, its methodology compares apples and oranges, because it compares entire states rather than economically similar regions.

1) In 2009, Hristos Doucouliagos and T. D. Stanley – both PhD economists who are published experts in meta-analysis (they literally wrote the book on the subject, har har har) – “conducted a meta-study of 64 minimum-wage studies published between 1972 and 2007 measuring the impact of minimum wages on teenage employment in the United States. When they graphed every employment estimate contained in these studies (over 1,000 in total), weighting each estimate by its statistical precision, they found that the most precise estimates were heavily clustered at or near zero employment effects.”1

Doucouliagos and Stanley concluded, “Two scenarios are consistent with this empirical research record. First, minimum wages may simply have no effect on employment… Second, minimum-wage effects might exist, but they may be too difficult to detect and/or are very small.” Here’s their graph:

minimum-wage-effects-on-tee

So this AAF study is, at best, an outlier. The evidence from 64 minimum-wage studies shows that the minimum wage either has no effect on teen unemployment, or that whatever effect it does have is extremely small.23

2) In 2010, in a study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics (pdf link), Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich showed that minimum wage studies “that do not account for local economic conditions tend to produce spurious negative effects due to” regional effects in employment “that are unrelated to minimum wage policies.”4

In other words, if you don’t control for regional differences in employment, it will look as if the minimum wage is correlated with higher unemployment; but the moment you account for regional differences, that finding disappears.

This is why the best studies of the minimum wage compare contiguous counties in neighboring states. The counties used to test minimum wage effects are, as much as possible, within a single economic region, except that one is in a state that has just raised its minimum wage. In other words, good studies compare apples with apples. The AAF’s hamhanded study, in contrast, simply compares entire states, as if the only significant economic difference between (say) Oregon and George were minimum wage levels. They’re comparing apples and oranges.

(To be fair, the AAF study also controls for high school graduation rates. But that is literally the only confounding factor they consider. Nothing else – not region, not college graduation rates, not industry – is controlled for.)

How did they make such an amateur mistake? Possibly because this study was conducted by an amateur. Ben Gitis, who conducted the AAF study, graduated from college (undergraduate) less than a year ago, according to his AAF bio. Gitis majored in econ, but he’s not an economist, and he doesn’t know how to objectively measure effects of the minimum wage.

  1. I’m quoting John Schmitt’s excellent overview of the debate; pdf link. []
  2. Another recent meta-analysis, by Dale Belman and Paul Wolfson (pdf link), had similar results, concluding “that there is a negative and generally statistically significant employment effect which is between small and vanishingly small.” []
  3. To be fair, economists themselves seem to be split on the question of what effect the minimum wage has. However, a majority agreed that the minimum wage’s positive effects outweighed any negative effects. []
  4. In 2011, Dube and Reich replicated their finding using a different dataset, this time focusing on teen unemployment. Allegretto, Sylvia A., Arindrajit Dube, and Michael Reich. 2011. “Do Minimum Wages Really Reduce Teen Employment? Accounting for Heterogeneity and Selectivity in State Panel Data.” Industrial Relations, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 205-240. []
Posted in Economics and the like | 11 Comments  

Boycott Firefox! says both sides of the Marriage Equality debate, and to hell with free speech

brendan-eich-robert-george

Well, certain members of both sides, at least.

OKCupid is taking a surprisingly strong stance against Mozilla. Right now, those who visit the hipster/nerdy dating site using Firefox see this message (full text here):

Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid. [...]

OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site.

However, we urge you to consider different software for accessing OkCupid.

The reason this comes up now is that some Mozilla employees have been objecting to Eich’s recent promotion to CEO, because Eich donated $1000 to support Prop 8. (There is no sign that Eich has changed his views since then.) (Eich, incidentally, is credited with inventing Javascript.)

I think it’s fair for Mozilla employees to object to Eich’s promotion – it’s their company, they’re directly impacted by who runs it, and they have a stake in the company’s internal culture.

But OKCupid is in the wrong. Note that they are not asking that Mozilla change any specific corporate policies; rather, they are saying that no one who disagrees with them in private life about SSM should be CEO. This isn’t working to create real, positive change; it’s an attempt to economically punish Eich for disagreeing with them. “We wish them nothing but failure” is not a generous sentiment.

Now here’s where it gets funnier. Robert George, co-founder of NOM and the leading intellectual of the anti-marriage equality movement, read this article, in which Eich non-apologized “I express my sorrow at having caused pain.” Eich continued:

I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion.

Apparently even that weak corporate boilerplate statement1 is more equality than Robert George can stomach. George, in a public post on his Facebook, called for boycotting Firefox:

I have just deleted Mozilla Firefox from my computer. If I’m not morally fit to be their employee, I’m not morally fit to use their products. If you are a faithful Catholic, Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox Christian, Mormon, Orthodox Jew, Muslim, or member of any other tradition that believes that marriage is fundamentally the institution that unites a man and woman as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children born of their union, providing those children with the inestimable blessing of being brought up in the committed bond of the man and woman whose union brought them into being, or even if you believe in marriage thus understood quite apart from membership in any community of faith, I would ask you to do the same. Why contribute to the prosperity of those who would exclude you? Cancel Firefox or any other Mozilla product. Sure, its competitors are probably “just as bad,” but we have an opportunity here to send a message to all of them.

Problems with both their approaches:

1) It goes against what I think of as a “free speech culture” to encourage an companies to fire employees (even CEOs) based not on how well the employees can do the job, but on their stands on current political controversies. Although there’s no government censorship going on here, that’s not enough. Truly open and free speech – substantive free speech – won’t exist if people are afraid of being fired for taking a side on a controversial issue.

2) It doesn’t actually advance anyone’s cause in any meaningful way. (Admittedly a plus as far as Mr. George’s bigoted cause is concerned).

3) It encourages people to think of politics as a matter of maintaining personal purity through choosing the correct products, rather than making meaningful change.

This sort of approach makes both sides look like bumblers and busybodies, searching around for a high horse to nit-pick from, and makes both sides look as though they aren’t committed to a civil debate or the ideal of substantively free speech. I don’t know if Robert George’s side can do better, but I’m certain the pro-SSM side can.

  1. You can read Eich’s full statement here. []
Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Same-Sex Marriage | 44 Comments  

Federalism is Usually Opportunistic

ssm-and-federalism

Another example: House Republicans Want To Sue The President For Not Arresting People For Marijuana

Posted in Same-Sex Marriage | 15 Comments