Tuesday, September 1, 2009
In light of Vermont's recent move to accept and grant same-sex marriages, the conservative National Review Online posted an opinion piece on the unbreakable bond between social and fiscal conservatism (hosted here by NPR). Well, the article claimed to be a piece on the unbreakable bond between social and fiscal conservatism, allegedly in an attempt to imply Republicans would have more electoral success if they played to their socially conservative base, but really it was a long and faulty missive against same-sex marriage.
You can read the article yourself at the link above, but I'll give a brief synopsis: the writer of this article, Robert W. Patterson, makes the implication that being a socially liberal conservative will ultimately lead you to being a socialist. He then targets same-sex marriage as the apparent keystone of the integrity of the socially conservative philosophy. The first point of argument is the inevitable comparison to the downfall of European morality in light of their growing acceptance of same-sex marriage. Higher rates of divorce and unwedded relationships are blamed on same-sex acceptance. He links this to Marxism. Then, he makes an argument for the traditional familial unit being the core reason for America's growth and prosperity. He considers the ability to create offspring to be the most important part of a relationship and the ultimate failure would be to, in his words, "look like Europe."
Though the hypothesis is that conservatism is inseparable across the social-fiscal barrier, the article is clearly just another argument against same-sex marriage; the writer hardly mentions economic points, nor does he touch on any social issues outside of gay marriage. It is unfortunate then that his argument is so weak in that regard. First, there is the repeated comparisons to social liberalism and socialism or Marxism, a clearly fallacious appeal to probability, or in other words an attempt to imply the slippery slope argument; if we do anything slightly progressive, we are no better than the commies. Ironically, the nations that so many neoMcCarthyists think of when they fling these words around are a far cry from anything that would come about from a little added freedom. But that's neither here nor there. Whether or not socialism is bad is one thing, but there is no correlation between same-sex marriage and Stalinist regime. To suggest otherwise is nothing more than a weak appeal to unsupported fears of the uneducated.
Patterson then shifts the comparison out of the Eastern Bloc and into current day Europe. Based on the original premise of the argument, we must assume that he is making this comparison because Europe is in economic shambles compared to the US. But this is not necessarily the case. The numbers can be misleading, but while the US enjoys a higher GDP than the EU, it also sees longer working hours and a larger lower class. While its hard to say for sure which one is really better, then general assertion is that the US makes more because it has to; we have so many poor people that they cannot afford not to work long hours every day at multiple jobs. Europeans work 30 hour work weeks, sometimes less, and may take several weeks off for vacationing. They turn a lower profit because they don't have to worry about it. Maybe its that affordable health care. Sorry, back on topic.
While the true economic strength of Europe is up for debate, it is not even challenged by Patterson. He simply makes the assumption that we will all agree with him that it is bad. He reasons that it is bad because people there divorce more often and have kids without getting married. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, there is absolutely no correlation between marriage trends and economic performance. Conservatives would probably like us to think there is, but there isn't. That these two things seem to occur in relation to each other is likely coincidence at worst, and at best arguably a symptom of an entirely unrelated phenomenon (not same-sex acceptance) which is clearly not sought out by Patterson. Patterson in fact DOES attempt to link both the marriage trends and the alleged economic disparity of Europe to its acceptance of same-sex marriages. This is a blatant logical fallacy. Correlation does not imply causation. While Patterson can argue in favor of his belief all day, he fails to provide even a shred of logical evidence to support this claim.
In an attempt at passing a negative evidence fallacy off as proof, Patterson instead attempts to argue that the US's long adherence to the sanctity of heterosexual marriage and the social stigma of having children out of wedlock are the direct cause of the US's fast growth from its birth as a nation of colonialists to the greatest super power in the world based on the observation of Adam Smith. However, the US as it stands today has more thanks to give to the industrial revolution and the fortuitous outcomes of two World Wars than the nuclear family. If early America appeared to have a stimulated economic growth due to nuclear families, it would only be due to the times requiring such a grouping to be successful. Farmers would need their families to help them work the crops and livestock. This doesn't imply that the world would have fallen apart if homosexuals were publicly accepted then. It is not as thought they did not exist until someone gave them permission to. Now, thanks to technology, bigger jobs can be done by smaller groups of people. Even if there was a valid argument for the nuclear family being vital to economic growth, it stopped being relevant at the turn of the last century.
Patterson claims that same-sex marriage cannot be productive for society because it depends on the state for existence, but it doesn't have to. It would not have to depend on the state anymore than any marriage does to exist if it were not so heavily opposed. In counterargument to the claim that reproduction is of the utmost importance, homosexuals can reproduce via donors just as heterosexuals can choose not to reproduce via contraception. Ultimately, Patterson has put together a bizarre set of unrelated allegations which he has then attempted to weave together into some semblance of a proof of his original assertion. But the whole thing collapses under its own weight. Homosexual marriage is not the cause of European economic OR social changes. Also, those social changes are not bad just because he says they are. Conversely, the US did not gain economic supremacy by denying homosexual identity. And even if it did, it did so for reasons that are now totally obsolete. Same-sex marriage does not pose a threat to marriages in general or procreation. Any correlation between the two is coincidence at best and more likely a result of seeing what one wants to see. And ultimately, to return to the original point, social liberalism and fiscal conservatism can work in conjunction without turning us into the USSR. Patterson certainly failed to convince us otherwise anyway. Sphere: Related Content