Do you know what a Rube Goldberg machine is? Here are some pictures if you don’t. It’s an elaborate machine composed of unnecessary parts that requires an extraordinary amount of tinkering to get working correctly.
Rube Goldberg machines are really fun to play with, but only on the principle that “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”
Progressives are a group of people who accept the premise that it is society’s right, nay, duty, to tinker-tinker-tinker with things in pursuit of the ‘common good.’ If someone gets hurt in the meantime, they’re ‘ok’ with that. I hear this a lot when Democrats are asked about problems that surface as thousand page bills become laws, “Well, there will be bumps in the road” or “While there are kinks to be worked out, …” You’ve got to break some eggs to make some omelets.
The result of such thinking is that in trying to fix one perceived problem, the ‘solutions’ erected invariably create new problems, and the solutions to these problems create yet new problems, and so on and so forth-literally, forever. Back in 2010 I warned the soon to be victorious Tea Party to be careful about accepting the premise that we have the right and duty to tinker forever with the ‘machine’:
These people believe that leaving things be leads to social inequalities and only the machinations of the government can balance it all out. Of course, when you tinker with part of the machine you will inevitably disturb a different part of the machine. When your machine has a million parts which all are interconnected, if you perceive that your job is to personally make sure the machine runs with efficiency- as you perceive efficiency- then no doubt, a high level of intelligence is required, and not just by the president, but by the hundreds of other agencies established to monitor all the different parts of the machine.
I was thinking about this today when I read Juan William’s piece in the WSJ on race and guns. I typically sigh and groan my way through whatever Juan is saying, but there was something in this one that caught my eye:
Almost 50 years ago, when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, the national out-of-wedlock birthrate was 7%. Today it is over 40%. According to the CDC, the out-of-wedlock birthrate for white children was just 2% in the 1960s. Today it is 30%. Among black children, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has skyrocketed from 20% in the 1960s to a heartbreaking 72% today. The Hispanic out-of-wedlock rate, which has been measured for a much shorter period, was below 40% in 1990 and stands at more than 50% as of the 2010 census.
This is pretty interesting, don’t you think? Interestingly, while Juan mentions this and highlights the importance, he doesn’t speak to what may be the cause of this significant shift. And please note that while it has disproportionately affected blacks, Juan also points out that the national figures have also increased significantly, more than 4 times so (from 7% to 40%). No-fault divorce is certainly one specific thing we can point to, but before there was no-fault divorce, there was this idea that we can tinker-tinker-tinker with society.
On the progressive point of view, moving to no-fault divorce was no big deal, because marriage is no more than a social construct, anyway. There is just one teensy-weensy problem: marriage is not just a social construct.
There are specific, non-arbitrary reasons why there is something we refer to as the institution of marriage. When you disregard these non-arbitrary reasons, they don’t go away. You know why? Because they are not arbitrary. Get it?
Consider this example: if you put your hand into the blade of a running lawn mower, your hand is going to be ground into a bloody pulp. Does this fact displease you? Does it strike you as unfair? Should you like to say, “Oh, but people should be allowed to stick their hands into the running blades of lawn mowers without their hands being reduced to pulp! Let us correct this injustice with a law!”
Such a law would be pointless and worthless, because it doesn’t really matter what you think. When you put your hand into the moving blade, it is going to be pulpified. But the social engineer of the progressive sort is not to be deterred: “We shall require that lawn mowers be so constructed so that…” And the construction of the Rube Goldberg machine has begun. The ‘experts’ will get to work trying to balance the ability of a blade to cut grass against people’s ‘right’ to stick their hands underneath the carriage without them being obliterated. You can very well expect, on this view, that there will be a few ‘bumps in the road’ and ‘kinks to work out.’
Now, of course there is presently no movement for such a law, because people don’t need to be told that if you make a lawn mower such that it won’t blend your hand into a puree, it won’t effectively cut grass any more, and, well, blended hands are bad. There is a de facto, default equilibrium that emerges–without anyone feeling a need to pass any kind of law at all, one way or the other–as people come to terms with objective reality.
Marriage is like that. It is a word we use to reflect an objective reality that exists whether anyone likes it or not. And, as in most cases where people defy objective reality, the consequences of messing with the ‘equilibrium’ results in getting people hurt. No-fault divorce has hurt people on a broad scale; I am one of the persons who has been hurt by it, so I can speak from personal experience. Moreover, I have seen the consequences on adults and children all around me. No-fault divorce was an attempt to circumvent the way that people really are, the way they are ‘built’, the way new people are made, and the best conditions for the way these new people grow up to be adults themselves.
The result of this tinkering has of course led to all sorts of government programs to try to counteract the consequences of this government ‘program.’ All of this tinkering assumes that ‘marriage’ was a mere social construct and wasn’t the way it was for a particular reason, but, in fact, that assumption is just not valid. The components of ‘marriage’ surfaced ‘naturally’ because of certain, non-arbitrary realities that will not change, even if we change the definition.
Now, there will be someone who says, “This is just your religious viewpoint, and you should not impose your views on others!”
To this person I must say, “You sir, are an idiot.”
The following propositions are not ‘religious’ in the slightest:
- Men have penises.
- Women have vaginas.
- Men have sperm.
- Women have eggs.
- Children are the direct result of sperm ‘interacting’ with eggs.
- Children are not made any other way (yet).
- Until recently, the way that sperm cells make their acquaintance with eggs is that that the men, who have penises, put their penises inside the woman’s vagina, and from there an ejaculation event takes place, sending the sperm into the vagina.
- A vagina can only hold one penis at a time.
- A penis can only be in one vagina at a time.
- The word for this event/activity we call ‘sex.’
- A newly generated child is always the result of just one man and just one woman participating in the sexual act.
I feel some embarrassment at having to be so direct about this, but despite the tremendous amounts of money given by the government to Planned Parenthood and our schools in pursuit of ‘sex education,’ there seems to be some ignorance about the above propositions. Much to Planned Parenthood’s glee, our young people continue to engage in this activity, and they continue (to everyone’s great surprise!) to have children ‘out of wedlock.’ I say ‘glee,’ because of course Planned Parenthood would go out of business if this no longer happened. But at any rate, we live in a society where men and women are having sex willy-nilly and remain shocked, positively shocked, when babies result. (Granted, they are only babies if they are wanted… until then, they are only ‘fetuses’ and can be disposed of, like tumors.)
Now, from the above realities, other realities are derived. When I mention these, some people will say that some of them are only my ‘religious’ viewpoint.
To these people, I must, regretfully, say: “You are idiots.”
Please note, that I am not calling them ‘idiots’ because they disagree with my assertions, but rather that they wish to deride them as ‘religious’ and bigoted.
These realities are objective facts that emerge from people who ‘encounter’ the previous list of objective facts:
- Sex, while being physical pleasure, also reflects and creates an emotional intimacy between the people who engage in it. (No doubt, this is true even in ‘gay’ ‘sex’, too).
- This intimacy has historically, and typically, distills into a desire to remain in a relationship with each other, exclusively, often for life; this, we loosely call ‘marriage.’
- The child that emerges from this process will thrive in an arrangement where the two partners in the sexual act continue to stay together, for life.
- Where those two partners do not remain together, children experience various forms of pain–emotional, of course, but often materially, such as when a child is raised by a single parent.
- While adoptive parents can be, and usually are, well regarded by their adopted children, adopted people tend to be very interested in their birth parents, and feel a connection to them regardless of how healthy and balanced their present situation is.
- That is to say, people draw meaning and significance from where they came from, and the circumstances in which they were born.
Now, in defense of the people I have just named as ‘idiots,’ I admit that these propositions are not nearly as apparent, obvious, and self-evident as what happens if you stick your hand into a lawn mower. (I can’t say as apparent, obvious, and self-evident as my first list of propositions, because, as I said, despite them being such, our society appears to have only some murky understanding of them). Part of the problem, of course, has to do with the fact that people experience these dynamics differently, and they are difficult to quantify. Another part of the problem is that they involve people, not things, and agents, not merely processes. You can introduce a sperm to an egg in a test tube and measure the ‘results’, but it is not nearly so easy to raise children in numerous different kinds of family structures and then measure and monitor them to see how it goes.
Which leads to another important aspect of the problem, which is that the scope of time involved makes ‘self-evident’ assessments a little harder to make… the results of the ‘social experiment’ of no-fault divorce and other aspects of the ‘sexual revolution’ have taken decades to unfold, and the impacts have yet to be fully realized. Not even one generation of results is enough to provide us with the ‘data’ we need to ‘properly tinker,’ because of course it is not only the children of the ‘no-fault generation’ we must look at, but the children that their children have. Quite possibly, we will need to see many generations before the full impacts are apparent.
In the 1960s, when no-fault divorce was advocated and implemented, they (we may believe) sincerely thought that ‘marriage’ would actually improve, that the lives of children would be better, that society would ultimately benefit from the ‘openness’ and flexibility brought to bear on sexuality and relationships. 50 years later, I believe there is already evidence enough to see that this was WAAAAAAAY off base.
On the other hand, the argument that I am making in this post could have been made, and was made, in the 1960s. Nothing has fundamentally changed about people, about sex, and about children, because these are not things that can be ‘tinkered’ with without predictable consequences. It is just a fact that one man-one woman, life long monogamous relationships in which children are generated and allowed to grow to maturity is the ideal ‘construct’ for facilitating happiness for all involved–the man, the woman, and the children. (I have no problem granting that this ideal is not easy to maintain, and often thwarted–but the ‘thwarting’ often is proof of the point, not a detraction).
Now, we may ask why the government should be involved in this process at all, if, generally speaking, it would naturally emerge anyway–as, historically it does and has.
There is only one rationale for ‘wider societal’ interjection into this process, and that centers around the children.
We do not have laws regulating friendship. We do not have laws regulating affection. This is because it is self-evidently the case that adults can make friends with whomever they please, and our affection for each other is thoroughly nobody else’s business, period. If government ‘intrusion’ into ‘marriage’ is to be justified on this basis, then it cannot be justified at all.
When people cease to be ‘best friends forever’, the government doesn’t get involved, because it is generally accepted (still) that adults can fend for themselves on this score. Children, however, are at the mercy of the adults’ decisions, and entirely vulnerable to their actions. It is only insofar as these innocent agents can sometimes sorely use an advocate besides their own parents that the rest of us are concerned at all.
Now, gay marriage is another grand, social engineering experiment. Like every other experiment of this sort, the impact and the consequences will take decades to unfold before there is sufficient ‘data’ to allow further progressive ‘tinkering.’ The ones at the center of this experiment will be the children, and it is only the children we have a societal obligation to.
If ‘gay marriage’ is widely adopted, it will be because society has moved to accept the view that the core element of ‘marriage’ is recognizing the ‘affection’ and ‘intimacy’ that two consenting adults have, ascribing legal status to it, and providing privileges to that ‘arrangement.’ If that is the prevailing determinant of what constitutes ‘marriage’, then the proper thing to do is to simply jettison ‘marriage’ as an issue for government to be involved in at all.
If the rationale for government involvement remains the protection of those that cannot protect themselves, then I highly doubt that we can justify constant and continued ‘tinkering’ with human relationships such as what we’ve seen for the last hundred years (beginning with the Bolsheviks), because it is precisely that kind of ‘tinkering’ that has inflicted various degrees and kinds of harm on this generation, now coping with previous tinkering.
But we seem to be beyond and past this. We seem on track to continue adding ‘corrections’ to our social Rube Goldberg machine at the points where it ‘unexpectedly’ ends up hurting someone or many, many someones. If ‘gay marriage’ is widely adopted, it will require more changes to the ‘machine.’
If ‘gay marriage’ is widely adopted, the government should simply completely disentangle itself from ‘marriage’ altogether, as it would cease to have a justified rationale for being involved, having discarded it in order to adopt ‘gay marriage’ (and no-fault divorce) in the first place. Better to let the pieces fall where they may, and then, a hundred years from now, pick up the pieces again.
Personally, I wonder if at that point we’ll ever trust ‘society’ or the ‘government’ to tinker with human society in this manner again. At any rate, whatever my views on homosexuality are, I have no interest–zero, zilch–in speaking to the physical pleasure and affection these folks wish to have, or passing any legislation about it one way or the other. But I find it immoral to make children an object of experimentation; if these are not to be our rationale for ‘intruding’ in the affairs of others, then it would be better, on my view, for the government to walk away from the issue of ‘marriage’ altogether.
Then time will tell.