Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Tales of the City
I've been known to say that the only way to tell the truth about NYC is to lie through your teeth. But I have a kind of fun true story about the city.
Lately I have been working mostly at night. The other night I wanted to make an adjustment to a website I am responsible for. It should have been a small thing, but I wound up getting a lot of strange error messages. The problem eventually had me questioning my own sanity, as well as the integrity of the disk on our server (which is a bit scary). After a few hours of wrestling with it, I figured out what was wrong, and successfully made my updates. It was around 4 AM by this point. I decided that a suitable reward would be a beer. Since I had no beer in the house this meant that I had to walk several blocks down 5th Ave to find an open store.
The store that is open in the middle of the night in my neighborhood is run by an elderly Korean fellow. He has a kind of authority, a gravitas, if you will, that you do not often find among caucasian gentlemen, these days. He is not a frail old oriental man- he is large, and robust- I'd not want to tangle with him, despite the fact that he is at least 30 years older than I am.
I have mistrusted wallets since I lost one that contained most of my savings, when I was 16. I carry my money in my pockets, and while my twenties tend to stay fairly crisp, my dollar bills wind up crumpled into little balls underneath my keys, my ATM card, and my twenties. This is not a problem for most shopkeepers- they are happy to have my money, no matter how crumpled it is. This fellow did not like the state of my bills.
As I fished the crumpled dollars out of my pocket, one by one, his face grew sterner. He had a scale on his counter, and it was there that I placed these bills, after smoothing them, as much as was possible. He took them, but with a contemptuous look. "You hate money", he said- his accent was very strong.
"You hate money", he said, "You always be poor".
I had heard him this time, but I must have looked as if I hadn't. "You hate money, you always be poor" he repeated.
Out of the mouths of babes and old korean grocers...
Monday, June 14, 2004
"I've long been a supporter of drug legalization- not because I am some dewy-eyed idiot who lacks an understanding of how devastating certain drugs, legal and illegal, can be, but because I have seen the carnage that prohibition produces.Damn I'm a useless bastard. I hope that someday there will be a world I'm not worthy of.
Recently I have become a big fan of prohibition on opiates, specifically heroin. I have high hopes for Afghanistan, and believe that they may be able to put together a real entrepreneurial culture there. As well, I am very respectful of their traditions- I'd like to see the traditional family farmer in Afghanistan succeed. It's clear that right now is not the time for drug legalization, much as I believe in its rightness.I think, in fact, that we should run some new commercials- "This poor Afghan child depends on you- have you had your fix today? Heroin- it's not just for breakfast anymore." After two decades of carnage, we owe them our patronage.
In fact, I am thinking of setting up a "fair trade" heroin company. If you'd like to be a stockholder, get in touch- I suspect it might be profitable. No Junkie could resist the plastisised handouts showing how this "fair trade" was allowing some beautiful young afghan girl to attend school, or buy a tractor, or something."
Friday, February 27, 2004
By the way- I should point out _why_ i feel the way i do about marriage, and about the state. The most cogent thing i can think of to say about the gummint is this- whatever it does, it does at gunpoint. I don't believe that that can be entirely avoided (which is why I am neither a radical libertarian nor a radical anarchist)- some things need to be done at gunpoint, and it is more comfortable to use the state as a proxy for those things (more comfortable than what?- the alternative). But I'd prefer to limit it.
So whatever you want the state to do... you should be willing to see forced upon the recalcitrant, at gunpoint.
This is all pretty obvious stuff... but it seems that very few people really get this. More to come on the subject of anarchy.
I guess I should point out, at the outset, that in the end, I'm not really a libertarian, if you require that term to refer to someone who holds a position that requires the abolition of the state, etc.- I am a libertarian only in the sense that personal liberty is the value that informs most of my politics. In fact I would be the first to recognize (well, maybe not the first, but you know what I mean) that radical libertarianism tends to wrap around into radical anarchism, which is a thinly disguised form of totalitarianism.
What does this have to do with gay marriage? Just this- I have noticed that being a libertarian (or having some tendencies in that direction, if you prefer), makes it hard to reason about that question, as such. To me, it seems obvious that the state shouldn't have a damned thing to do with marriage- but that individuals should be able to form contractual relationships which have standing in a court of law, and which mimic the legal "incidents" of marriage.
The push for gay marriage, as opposed to civil union, seems to be mostly about using the power of the state to determine something that is in the end a matter of conscience. This has nothing to do with rights- civil unions are capable of resolving all questions of rights.
This controversy has nothing to do with that- it is entirely a question of what the state endorses as "real" marriage. My question is this- why should it endorse anything as "real" marriage? It is disingenuous in the extreme for advocates of gay marriage not to also advocate polygamous marriage- although it is very understandable given the realities of making it (gay marriage that is) legal. It would be nice if those advocates stopped calling people who point out the obvious inconsistency in their position "bigots".
So what should be done? As I said, believing the things I do makes it hard to reason about this, simply because my preferred solution will never come to pass- or at least it won't come to pass in the near future. A lot of people have already pointed out that if (legal) marriage became a matter of contract, as opposed to a matter of conscience, the problem would go away.
So why isn't that what gay marriage advocates are arguing for? Simply because they want a system as exclusionary as that which exists today in regard to heterosexual marriage, but which includes them. This is completely indefensible as a matter of principle- but I am not quick to condemn it... given the political realities of the day it probably wouldn't help to note that gay marriage would (will, in fact, as it is inevitable) put the final nail in the coffin of traditional straight marriage- as a matter of conscience enforced by the state. Of course anyone who blames gays for the first 23 nails has been asleep since 1966. If you really wanted to avoid polygamy you should never have stopped enforcing the Mann act, OK?
Of _course_ that slope is slippery- thing is by the time you get to gay people the seat of your pants has already been worn through, your ass is full of red clay, and it is way too late to hold up your hands as a signal- you need to put them down on that slippery ground just to keep yourself from spinning off into some gully you never imagined when you began your trip down the hill. Should have drawn the line at adultery, or maybe even onanism.
I can't approve of gay "marriage"- the government shouldn't be in the business of telling people what kinds of marriages they should take seriously. The (unfortunate if you happen to be of a particular disposition) result of this is that I cannot approve of straight "marriage" either. I don't find that unfortunate, myself. I'm also perfectly willing to dissaprove of polygamous "marriage" :) (although I have to admit that it sounds kind of good to me, assuming that I could arrange for a suitable coterie of adoring females to become my "wives")- I'm an equal opportunity disapprover (I should note that I more than disapprove of the reality of many polygamous marriages, which often involve very young girls who are traded like livestock- that is just wrong- why? see the harm principle).
Marriage, as it currently exists is exclusionary. It grants certain privileges (and certain defects, I suppose) to a set of people whose inclusion in that set is purely a matter of conscience. Allowing gay marriage does not increase the fairness of the system- it simply expands the set of persons who may use the power of the state to validate their relationship, and, not incidentally, justify their drawing on the treasury.
Marriage is dead. Long live marriage.