Thank you Barney Frank.
About once a week, I visit my favorite liberal propaganda website to reinforce many of my political opinions. One of the articles this week was about the debate over marijuana legalization. It was definitely written from the anti-prohibition viewpoint, so my thoughts were very nicely echoed.
It was then that I realized that I’ve never mentioned my stance on drug policy on my blog! This must be rectified. So here it is. I’m for the legalization of any drug for recreational use that isn’t highly addictive. This means I support the legalization of marijuana. The reasons are the same as the relatively well-known ones. Just in case you don’t know them, I’ll list them here.
The first point is the most important to me. Even if the drug was habit-forming, I’d rather have addicts than bodies. High demand combined with prohibition for any substance has one inevitable effect: It creates a black market run by organized crime syndicates that invariably are violent. Combine that with the fact that the drug is harmless to one’s health and that it makes economic sense should make this policy change a no-brainer.
So why do people oppose legalization? Here are the reasons I know of:
I’ve been avoiding doing a post on California’s Proposition 8 for two reasons. First, I’m not a Californian. While I certainly have on opinion about it, it was not my state constitution that was up for amending. Second, I tend not to blog about news items that get plenty of coverage in other blogs. That’s why you’ve seen zero presidential election posts (and their associated Sarah Palin posts).
I’ve changed my mind about posting about gay marriage partially because I’ve been involuntarily thinking about it since November 5th but also because of the community of bloggers and podcasters I pal around with online. I’ve read and heard a few good thoughts on this issue and read multiple good discussions on Twitter and elsewhere. So I’m caving to peer pressure. This post also serves as a reference I can link to in my comments to other blogs.
The first thing I notice about this issue is that there seems to be widespread support for gay civil unions but widespread opposition to gay marriage. Civil unions grant the same legal benefits as marriage, but given a different name. While this seems to satisfy the equal protection clause of The Constitution, I would argue that it amounts to “separate but equal”, but this is not the focus of this post.
Taking the opposition’s perspective for a moment, what is it that is different between “marriage” and “civil unions”? It’s certainly more than just semantic since passions over the difference runs high. It’s that “marriage” represents both a legal and a spiritual union whereas “civil union” is purely legal. This brings up an interesting question: what business does the government have codifying any spirituality. Considering the spiritual connotation, I can understand why Christians would want to own the term. From their point of view, authority to grant a spiritual union comes from God and not any Earthly governing body.
I live in North Carolina’s 8th district, I don’t believe in the Jedeo-Christian God, and because of that, I’m supremely frustrated and disgusted with my representatives in both the House and Senate. Last week, I saw this advertisement paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). I write a letter.
Later that same day, I learn that my representative in the United States Congress, Robin Hayes, said the following at a McCain rally: “liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.” It took me a week, but I finally wrote a letter to him earlier today. Not even an hour after sending off that letter, I see this advertisement ‘approved’ by my Senatorial representative, Elizabeth Dole. It’s basically a modified version of the NRSC, so I sent Dole a modified letter.
You can read my specific responses to these in my letters (reprinted below the fold). But all three of them together reveal a trend: they are un-American. America is the land of the free where all people are free to believe (or not believe) whatever they choose and express themselves. Furthermore, we are all entitled representation in the federal government. The three items described above go beyond simple expression of disagreement – they actively seek to disenfranchise non-believers. They express a belief that is disturbingly wide-spread in the GOP; that atheists/agnostics don’t deserve representation. We’re not “real” Americans. Given that religious freedom is the first right explicitly protected in the Bill of Right, such activities are anti-democratic and un-American.
If you are a constituent of either of these two candidates, I encourage you to write them letters as well expressing your disapproval. I also encourage you to vote against them next Tuesday.
The New Yorker has a fascinating article about differing views on human sexuality between conservatives and liberals. While there’s not much too terribly new in it (we already know liberals take a realistic approach to human sexuality that emphasizes family planning where conservatives want to dominate human sexuality through fear and misinformation), it’s well written and has some interesting insights. Here are a couple of excerpts:
[Social scientists and family-law scholars] Regnerus and Carbone and Cahn all see a new and distinct “middle-class morality” taking shape among economically and socially advantaged families who are not social conservatives. In Regnerus’s survey, the teen-agers who espouse this new morality are tolerant of premarital sex (and of contraception and abortion) but are themselves cautious about pursuing it.
Evangelicals are very good at articulating their sexual ideals, but they have little practical advice for their young followers. Social liberals, meanwhile, are not very good at articulating values on marriage and teen sexuality—indeed, they may feel that it’s unseemly or judgmental to do so. But in fact the new middle-class morality is squarely pro-family. Maybe these choices weren’t originally about values—maybe they were about maximizing education and careers—yet the result is a more stable family system.
For too long, the conventional wisdom has been that social conservatives are the upholders of family values, whereas liberals are the proponents of a polymorphous selfishness. This isn’t true, and, every once in a while, liberals might point that out.
Anyway, if you want a great overview of the opposed views of human sexuality, this article is well worth reading.
Haidt is trying to demonstrate that liberal morality is more contracted than conservatives. In particular, he describes five foundations of morality of which, liberals only concern themselves with two. Doering argues that Haidt’s five foundations are incomplete. In fact, he thinks that the five are only half the story – that each represent only one polar end of continuity. Thus according to Doering, Haidt did not discover three moral foundations exclusive to conservatives, but the conservative end of three continua. Here is Doering’s expanded moral foundations:
2) Fairness/Reciprocity___|________Privilege/Bully power
4) Question authority_______|________Authority/Respect
5) Rights/Secular Freedom___|________Purity/Sanctity
The ones in bold represent Haidt’s original five. The left side represent the foundations of liberal morality and the right represents conservative foundations. Note, however, that Doering relabels the sides as ‘secular’ and ‘theocratic’ respectively, assuming that all conservative morality is religiously based.
One of my favorite publications, Skeptic has weekly online content called eSkeptic. This week’s eSkeptic linked to an article on one of my favorite sites, Edge.org, by one of my favorite thinkers, Jonathan Haidt. Needless to say, I was excited.
I blogged about Haidt in the past. Some of you may even remember the moral survey he created based on his theory of morality. If you don’t, it’s not too late to take his survey and many others (his is entitled “Moral Foundations Questionnaire”).
His new article is somewhat a suggested application of his Moral Foundations Theory. First, he identifies how psychologists have answered the question “What Makes People Vote Republican?” in the past.
…conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate.”
In other words, the electorate’s fears and simple mindedness are exploited by conservatives. I’m sure that you’d be shocked to learn that most psychologists are liberal.
Using Haidt’s theory, this is not the case at all. There are aspects of human morality that are completely ignored by liberals. These other aspects emphasize the role of the group in society over the role of the individual. The group is a tool with which individual selfishness is repressed and the good of society is promoted. For most conservatives, ‘the group’ is actually a number of interdependent entities such as the family, the church, and the country. Group cohesiveness is enhanced by in-group loyalty, respect for authority, and exemplifying purity.
Haidt’s research shows that almost all humans intuitively recognize these as moral virtues, but to different extents. Conservatives speak to these moral intuitions. You can see it in Republican policies – loyalty to the country in banning flag burning, respect for authority in their patriotic fervor, and purity in their stance on homosexuality. These policies resonate with people who see themselves not only as individuals but members of groups. That is why people vote Republican. It’s not fear or ignorance, as temping as it is to blame those things, it’s their moral intuitions.
“Duh,” you may be thinking. “We’ve known that ‘values’ voters tend to vote Republican.” That need not be the case, though. With Haidt’s theory, we have a way that Democrats can reclaim some of this moral territory. We Democrats can do so without compromising our ideals by simple re-framing our rhetoric. Talk about environmental issues in terms of keeping our bodies pure through clean air, water, and food. Promote labor unions as groups that promote the greater social welfare. And, just as FDR did, Democrats can promote in-group loyalty for the economically oppressed. The latter would be especially effective in this climate of economic uncertainty.
In any event, read the article and some of the responses below. I hope to write more about some rebuttals later.
The above comic is created and licensed by Rudis Muiznieks of Cectic.com.
The intolerant authoritarians have figured out how to turn tolerance on it’s head. Tolerance for those different from us is a quintessential element of our liberal form of government prized by most of the West for the past 200 years. It was first enshrined in our very own Bill of Rights. But certain groups, particularly religious conservatives have undermined tolerance in a subtle, but egregious way. They are demanding that others must tolerate their own intolerance.
It’s an act of subterfuge. They disguise their own hate and fears as religious beliefs and then cleverly prey on our good-natured love of tolerance to provide cover for intolerant actions. American Christians have done a fine job of this to protect their intolerance of gays and atheists. But it has been the Muslims that mastered the technique. They have successfully stifled free speech multiple times. First, they tried with The Satanic Verses. Later, the succeeded preventing most U.S. news sources from reprinting the Mohammed cartoons. More recently they’ve prevented publication of the book The Jewel of Medina, a book about Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha – a girl forced into marriage and rapped by Muhammed at age 9.
They’ve even managed to get the United Nations to ban criticism of Islam, exempting fatwas and Sharia law from ever being considered human rights violations, though that is often exactly what they are.
I’d normally classify Cectic’s comics under ‘humor’ but, unfortunately, this is no joke. Do not tolerate intolerance no matter how much religious clothing it puts on.
The following article by Greg Mankiw a very highly respected economist at Harvard outlines what I believe would be a lot of peoples dream election. Ok, it may be more geared towards economist but just imagine if candidates actually would focus on these topics to garner the support of the many groups within this country or the many groups starting thinking more like economist. If that were to happen, maybe we could enact more positive change.
Out of the 8 topics Greg Mankiw focuses on, I think two standout either because it is a hot topic or something not often focused on but they are:
OPPOSE FARM SUBSIDIES Economists like free markets, a principle that applies to agriculture as much as any good or service. Again, Senator McCain has the lead. Senator Obama’s endorsement of the recent $300 billion farm bill, his support for domestic ethanol subsidies and his opposition to imported sugar ethanol may bring votes from farmers, but economists view these policies as a burden on taxpayers and consumers.
LEAVE OIL COMPANIES AND SPECULATORS ALONE With the stunning rise in oil prices, both presidential candidates have been tempted to demonize market participants. Senator McCain has complained about the “obscene profits” of oil companies and called for a “thorough and complete investigation of speculators.” By contrast, most economists see nothing more sinister than the forces of global supply and demand at work. There is little benefit, and potentially much harm, in the candidates’ populist finger-pointing.
The second was actually a was a hot topic for while.