Thursday, July 23, 2009


Ego Vir in Via scribo

Hic est gaudium medium. (Non est gaudium magnum, quia non novum pappum nuntiat; interea, gaudium maior est quam favam gellam repperire ... )

Si non Latinam sciis legere, pagina ipsa hae utiles praebet.

eh? quid cogitat?


ok, sorry for any and all solecisms, anglic calcae, and generally-bad or painful Latin in the above...

some guy on the street


Toby Bartels said...

Sorry to leave a note on an unrelated blog; I wanted to send this by email but didn't find an address for you. (You can email me at if you want, and I don't mind at all if you delete this comment.)

You wrote on the n-Cafe:
>I believe some important things are precisely an activity shared by one man and one woman, and that this is a Good Thing.

Do you mean that getting an automatic tax break for filing married, even if you run away from your accountant and don't get all of the other tax breaks to which you might be entitled, should be shared only by one man and one woman? I disagree; in fact, I find it quite discriminatory of the government to say that this is an option legally available only to one man and one woman.

/dev/null said...

Ah! Dr. Bartels is referring to this exchange in a far-away blog on stuff quite different. In fact the exchange itself and the blog are focused on two completely different things, altogether.

Toby, I've sent you a brief response already (you've probably noted THAT before THIS) to the effect that, no the tax break you describe is not one I endorse, though thankfully I'm largely relieved of the decision-making responsibilities that led to such abuse of the Matrimonial Institution, and its civil vitiation largely speaking.

What I mean is that Marriage has a civil character in about the same way that individuals have a civil character --- to protect it/them from the carelessness or malice of other people; but any given marriage does not by itself improve the state of society unless it improve the lot of the two married individuals, in which case tax breaks are superfluous. What MAY arise in marriage which is to the betterment of society but potentially TAXING of the married individuals is new children, new citizens.

To convince you that individual citizens as-such are of real positive value, I appeal to the authority of the United States millitary, which will apparently spend up to two million dollars on a rescue mission for ONE of its soldiers. (I understand they usually won't pay ransom, but there are other factors in play there.) Yet clearly, the responsibility of caring for a child until he reaches the age of public responsibility requires resources --- food, shelter, clothing, perhaps medicine --- so it makes sense that the social good a child represents might help to offset the needs it places on its family.

(another day, I'll advocate a Federal Reserve Bank that keys the value of its currency to approximately fix estimated circulation per capita; and a tax structure that encourages business s.t. an individual can live on about a fifth of that per-capita circulation)

So, in short, a married or "cohabiting" couple with no children has no need of extra government assistance, so there's no reason to give them a tax break. finis

Toby Bartels said...

Would you offer a tax break for siring and bearing a child, or for raising one? In the former case, surely an equivalent break should go to a single woman who bears a child through artificial insemination (or should be spread among her, the sperm bank, and the donor; I'm not particular). In the latter case (which is my guess as to which you mean), surely an equivalent break should go to a single parent that adopts a child and raises it. Of course, an unmarried or cohabiting couple should get the same treatment as a married one, whether they sire and bear a child or adopt and raise one.

I'm not much interested in arguing how the tax breaks should go, although I also am more inclined to give breaks for raising a child than for marriage or for siring and bearing a child. (However, I don't think that the existence of individual humans is valuable in itself; what is good or bad is only what happens to those persons that exist. While I don't consider the U.S. military in any way an authority on right and wrong, I do agree with the principle that individuals should be rescued, and otherwise helped, once they exist. This includes prolonging their lives, at least assuming that they wish it, which is usually a good assumption.)

Here's what I'm concerned with: As I'm sure you know, there is currently a political and legal debate in most of North America and western Europe about equal rights for couples regardless of their sex (same or opposite), especially regarding state recognition for adoptions and marriages. Civil marriage may be good or bad for the people involved (and the tax code is very complicated; sometimes it gives a penalty for marriage instead of a break, at least in the U.S.), but it should be the same regardless of sex. The same for adoption; and of course, this all covers more than just taxes, such as immigration, medical decisions, and so forth.

Of course, marriage isn't only civil marriage. A Unitarian Universalist congregation will usually recognise (and be happy to solemnise) a same-sex marriage after the divorce of an opposite-sex marriage; the Catholic Church will refuse, for two reasons. I would go along with the UUs on this, but since I'm no longer Catholic, what they do is not really my business. (I would support a gay Catholic couple in this matter, for their sake, but I would also frankly advise them to leave the Church if they asked my opinion.) If we had full separation of marriage and state, then this would only strengthen the institution of marriage, in my opinion, leaving it to the people involved to decide how to order their own affairs.

You hinted in your email that you were really talking about something towards the end of the video clip rather than the beginning. Perhaps sex is something that should only happen with one man and one woman? Perhaps emotional manipulation, or reconciliation? I don't know, but I don't see why any of these things is better between one man and one woman than between two men, three women, and an androgynous intersex neutrois. If you want to be more specific, please do.

/dev/null said...

First of all, I would quibble with whether "an unmarried or cohabiting couple should get the same treatment as a married one"; I don't believe they provide the same benefit that a (healthy, happy ...) married couple do. And in the presence of a child I'll certainly advocate encouraging the people raising it to marry.

For different reasons, I don't believe that two men or two women can give the child as complete an upbringing as a (healthy, happy, traditionally-defined ...) married couple can. A boy needs to learn both what it means to be a man, and how to relate to women; contrariwise for girls; having both a father and mother who are happily married immensely simplifies such a project. So I can't advocate encouraging single-sex partners to adopt children; neither can I advocate long-term residence orphanages!

Not being an economist, (honest!) I'm not fundamentally interested in aranging the tax-breaks. That said, it seems to me that government and law having a persistent quality, they should be so arranged to encourage responsibile behaviour on the part of potential progenitors of future children, and also on the part of their eventual parents. So far as I can tell, sperm banks, surrogate childbearing, etc. have the opposite effects, however they may be marketed.

As much as I quibble about whether "an unmarried or cohabiting couple should get the same treatment as a married one", I also take issue with the proposition "Civil marriage [...] should be the same regardless of sex" in that it is vague. (I realize the skip is long, but I'm sure we can all see it isn't deceptive) The principle for individuals is sound: employment, housing, health benefits ... should not unfairly discriminate between the sexes. But a marriage isn't about individuals, it's about a pair. What's more, public standards (rightly) don't recognize a universal and fair right to "marry X". For instance, civil law in most of the world keeps to the form of monogamy and insists that "X" be married to only one person at a time, whatever "X" may feel on the matter, or significant others.

And finally for the question of what the video is about, yes, it is about sex! and Spencer's line (or is it Tracy's?) "Thank God for that little bit of difference!". I'm not going to pretend that two men or three women or n bodies can't short-circuit themselves and take pleasure in it for an afternoon, whether with LSD or plain tactility; nonetheless I agree with the Catholic Church that this is a generally bad idea for all involved.

Yes, I will stick to the position that the most intimate human conjunction short of childbearing ought to involve one man and one woman, who ought to be married, without trying to avoid begetting. I can also find survey data suggesting this really is the most fun!

Toby Bartels said...

Well, I would like to see your survey data, because I certainly don't believe it. Since that seems to be what you were originally talking about, maybe you can ignore the rest of this. But since it's about something important to me, I'll say it anyway. <g>

My original focus on taxes comes from the setting in the first half of the video clip, so I won't harp on that. But I'll still focus on legal issues. That is, I disagree with you that sex is most fun between one man and one woman, who ought to be married, without trying to avoid begetting. But since that sort of thing only affects the people involved, it doesn't matter much if we disagree about that.

What does matter, and affects many people, is the attitude of the government towards this. And yes, it is a matter of the government's attitude towards individuals, not just couples. The government says that X and Y may marry but X and Z may not; that is discrimination between the individuals Y and Z. The current laws that don't recognise marriage between two individuals of the same sex discriminate based on sex just as much as past laws that didn't recognise marriage between two individuals of different races discriminated based on race (where in both cases, 'sex' and 'race' are further defined by the government, sometimes with and sometimes without fidelity to an underlying facet of human nature).

I certainly can't accept the government's doing this for such a flimsy reason as that an opposite-sex couple (healthily and happily married) will raise a child better than a same-sex couple (also healthily and happily married). That may or may not be true on average, but it's certainly not true in every case. Given that a couple is raising a child together, the child should have a stable home with the customary legal protections, and it's quite perverse for the government to say that their family won't get the same status as the family next door because it might have been better for the child to be raised by somebody else all along, rather than the healthy, happy parents that they have.

I don't know that either you or I will tell the other anything that we haven't already heard. I don't like it when the government tries to tell people what to do, and I don't like discrimination on the basis of sex; much less do I like discrimination on the basis of sex in order to encourage people to do things differently. You seem to have different values from mine, and apparently you have statistics to show that the government is telling people what to do and discriminating against them in a way that will do more good than harm in the end.

/dev/null said...

I rather fear, Toby, that your last paragraph's opening may be nearly true.

Further, my reply will need more formatting, so I think I'll have to put it in another epistle; perhaps, altogether, blog-and-comments isn't the best medium for a discussion like this.

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