Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Gays and the End of Reproduction

by Joe Miller

Many of you know (at least via his writings and comments here), Tom from Liberty Corner. Now I like Tom. I even agree with him on some things once in a while. It's not terribly often, I'll admit. Despite his libertarianism, I'm actually far more liberal than he is on social matters. And despite my respect for markets, I'm far less of a marketist than he. Many of our differences, though, are disagreements in application, not so much in principle. Sometimes, though, I find myself pulled up short by something Tom writes. Take this, for example, from his recent post on gay marriage:
the kind of marriage a free society needs is heterosexual marriage, which . . . is a primary civilizing force. I now therefore reject the unrealistic . . . position that the state ought to keep its mitts off marriage. I embrace, instead, the realistic, consequentialist position that society -- acting through the state -- ought to uphold the special status of heterosexual marriage by refusing legal recognition to other forms of marriage. That is, the state should refuse to treat marriage as if it were mainly (or nothing but) an arrangement to acquire certain economic advantages or to legitimate relationships that society, in the main, finds illegitimate.

The alternative is to advance further down the slippery slope toward societal disintegration and into the morass of ills which accompany that disintegration. (We've seen enough societal disintegration and costly consequences since the advent of the welfare state to know that the two go hand in hand.) The recognition of homosexual marriage by the state -- though innocuous to many, and an article of faith among most libertarians and liberals -- is another step down that slope. When the state, through its power to recognize marriage, bestows equal benefits on homosexual marriage, it will next bestow equal benefits on other domestic arrangements that fall short of traditional, heterosexual marriage. And that surely will weaken heterosexual marriage, which is the axis around which the family revolves.
Okay, so far this is a pretty standard social conservative response to gay marriage. I think that it's wrong, deeply counter to the harm principle, terrifically paternalistic, and fairly arrogant. It says, in effect, that only my preferred way of arranging social institutions can possibly work, and those of you who think that you'll be happy arranging your lives in some other way, well, you're just wrong and so I'm going to prevent you from doing so. Indeed, it's awfully hard for me to see how it is that allowing two (or three or whatever) people who genuinely love one another from making a legal commitment to one another undermines society. I'm with Andrew Sullivan here. Andrew argues that allowing gay marriage is the genuinely conservative position. Surely gay monogamy is more conducive to societal stability than is gay promiscuity. To the extent that marriage encourages monogamy, well, then, someone genuinely concerned with social stability should be all for it.

That, however, isn't the real shocker. Tom follows up the above paragraphs with this:
Moreover, the undermining of heterosexual marriage will cause the fertility rate (number of births per woman per year) to decline, given the high correlation between marriage and reproduction. (In spite of the 1960s and women's "liberation," two-thirds of births in the U.S. are to married women.) Replenishment of the population requires a fertility rate (births per woman in a lifetime) of 2.1.
WTF?! I'm sorry. I meant, with all due respect, Tom...what the bloody fuck? Look, maybe it's the case that marriage and fertility are correlated. But surely it's a stretch to think that we have anything more than a correlation here. If anything, the causal chain runs in the opposite direction. It's hard to imagine many people who say things like, "Well, we're already married, so we might as well have some kids now." It is, however, not all that uncommon for people to say things like, "Well, we want to have kids, so maybe we should get married."

But even leaving this all aside, how exactly is it that gay marriage (or polygamy or marriage between man and goat) is going to undermine fertility rates? Does anyone think that outlawing gay marriage is somehow going to result in fewer gay people? Are there really lots of women out there who say, "Gee, I'd consider becoming a lesbian if only I could get married, but since I can't get married to another woman, I guess I'll have to settle for some dick." Take that last however you'd like.

Look, anyone who wants to have children is going to have them. The desire to have children is a desire that is independent of the desire to marry. The two are correlated, but they aren't logically dependent upon one another. As it happens, in our society, people who want children are often people who want to marry. People who are married are often in a better position to raise a child. What difference it makes who said people are fucking is beyond me. And unless you really do think that legalizing gay marriage will somehow create more gays, the worry that gay marriage will undermine fertility rates is terribly misplaced.

Shorter version: post hoc ergo propter hoc.

8 Comments:

Blogger Matt McIntosh said...

1. Legalize gay marriage.
2. ???
3. The human race goes extinct!

"I think you should be more explicit here in step two..."

7:58 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Okay, Joe and Matt. First, from this post:
http://libertycorner.blogspot.com/2005/11/equal-time-sequel.html
to which I failed to link in the post on which Joe is commenting:

"Given the signals being sent by the state, the rate of formation of traditional, heterosexual marriages will continue to decline. (According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of adult males who are married dropped steadily from 71.1 percent in the 1960 census to 58.6 percent in the 2000 census; for females, the percentage dropped from 67.4 to 54.6. About half of each drop is explained by a rise in the percentage of adults who never marry, the other half by a rise in the percentage of divorced adults. Those statistics are what one should expect when the state signals -- as it began to do increasingly after 1960 -- that traditional marriage is no special thing by making it easier for couples to divorce, by subsidizing single mothers, and by encouraging women to work outside the home.)"

Which leads to this, from Joe:

"It's hard to imagine many people who say things like, 'Well, we're already married, so we might as well have some kids now.' It is, however, not all that uncommon for people to say things like, 'Well, we want to have kids, so maybe we should get married.' "

But it is hard to escape the fact that marriage and children do go together, isn't it? Yes, there are lots of kids born out of wedlock, but persons who are unmarried do tend (on the whole) to avoid having children. The avoidance of marriage therefore means (on the whole) the avoidance of having children. Thus lower fertility rates.

Poof goes the "post hoc ergo propter hoc."

Chew on that. I'm going away for a long weekend. If you have more to say, I'll respond as necessary when I return.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous jamie mccall said...

Hmm...for I think the first time ever, I have nothing to add to what Dr. Miller has said and actually agree with it all.

Damn, and this had to happen right after grades are due and Ive graduated, meaning I can get no brownie points.

Sigh, oh well.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Keenan said...

yeah,
If gays wanna settle down, let 'em. However this means that we must allow every other type of arrangment; polygamy, arranged child marriages, marrying your cousin, farmers marrying their goats.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Joe Miller said...

Tom,
But it is hard to escape the fact that marriage and children do go together, isn't it? Yes, there are lots of kids born out of wedlock, but persons who are unmarried do tend (on the whole) to avoid having children. The avoidance of marriage therefore means (on the whole) the avoidance of having children. Thus lower fertility rates.

Unfortunately, I don't think that this really gets you anywhere. It certainly doesn't undermine the post hoc fallacy. In fact, I think that this just commits it again. What you would have to show is that avoiding marriage somehow causes rather than just correlates with declining fertility rates. After all, it could very well be (and probably is) the case that both lower marriage rates and lower fertility rates are symptoms of some common underlying cause. Or each may be the result of a different cause entirely.

Just showing that A happens and B also happens doesn't in any way demonstrate a causal connection between A and B. To assert said causal connection without any underlying evidence of such a connection is, by definition, a post hoc fallacy. That's the move that you make in your post. Making the same move again in your comments here doesn't make the fallacy go away; it makes the fallacy again.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Joe Miller said...

Keenan,
Yes, it would imply that (except perhaps for the arranged child marriages, which are nonconsentual on the part of the bride and groom). What's really the problem, though? If you enjoy fucking your goat and want to do so under the bonds of matrimony (you want to make an honest goat out of her?), then have a blast. Why should I pass laws preventing that?

3:29 PM  
Anonymous mes said...

joe,

[re: goat-fucking]

um... non-consensuality, perhaps?


Michael

11:04 AM  
Blogger Liosis said...

First I must say latin=love.

"(We've seen enough societal disintegration and costly consequences since the advent of the welfare state to know that the two go hand in hand.)"

What? Before the wars there was anarchy, and that wasn't a welfare state at all. I don't think you can get much more disintegrated then anarchy.

I do remember thinking something similiar about same-sex marriages. The need to prevent it is vanishing because we are not driven to repopulate...considering all the suburbs they are building I'm pretty sure we have reached our quota.

Actually that would work very well. Everyone in in the wealthy countries should marry same-sex and then adopt from developing countries, therefore uniting the world and preventing the boom that comes with famine relief, which we will all be giving because we will be being logical and weird.

3:04 AM  

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