Gays, straights & conservatives

Greg Gutfeld, blogging at Big Hollywood, has this to say on the subject of gays in the conservative movement:
...If you want to argue against homosexuality, you need to move it beyond religion. Fact is, if I get mugged, I can explain to the police why the mugger must be arrested – without saying “it’s in the Ten Commandments.”

After all, pointing to God as the basis for your distaste is what our enemies do every time they try to blow us up. We’re better than that.

Getting It Wrong with the Globe

Today's Globe and Mail on the impending $3.7 trillion US budget. This comes with the following graphic (which takes up most of a two-page centrefold in the print edition). To add some historical context it shows revenue and expenditure - in inflation adjusted dollars - for the last 80 years or so.

Except . . . a closer look shows that, according to the scale, government dollars in and out have been wobbling around the $20 billion mark since 1950. Since this would amount to an annual tax take of about $66 per person it can't be in today's money.

And then, America has twice as many people 50 years ago, those people are at least twice as productive and government takes a bigger slice of the pie than it used to. How does that translate into government revenue in 2010 being less than in 1960? That's some inflation-adjustment. Or maybe it's just that the Globe had to fire some fact-checkers as circulation spirals down to a hard landing.

Gay equality: "logically coherent from a conservative POV"

Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine has commented about the dustup at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington over the participation of GOProud, an organization of gay Republicans. The conference was boycotted by several social conservative groups who believe that it is impossible to be a fiscal conservative without also being a social conservative. Gillespie writes:
As a libertarian, I'm in no way tied to CPAC (did speak there a couple of years ago and have attended from time to time), but it's fascinating to me that the conservative movement can't recognize some elemental facts. First and foremost that the world they're trying to create, especially when it comes to intolerance of alternative lifestyles, is never going to happen. And that by insisting, as Sen. James DeMint and Rep. Jim Jordan have, that you can't be a fiscal conservative without being a social conservative, you're alienating all those independents who just might give the GOP a second chance at running the federal budget. And you're in open denial of reality: A person's choice of sexual partner in no way means he or she can't be in favor of less spending on farm subsidies. There's a stunning knot of bull-dinkey at the heart of the argument that tolerance equals uncritical embrace. Do conservatives, of all people, think that the state allowing all religions to practice means official endorsement?


Maybe, baby, just maybe. Conservatives should recognize a few things. First, as Clouthier suggests, the fiscal con wing was exposed as just that, a total con job. Under Bush and a supposedly conservative Congress, federal outlays jacked up about 60 percent in real terms. Second, defense cons blew it. They had two wars to show themselves as effective, and they screwed the pooch, wagged the dog, shat the bed, whatever. After a good, long ride at the top, they did nothing well. They didn't create a coherent foreign policy that suggests when the U.S. might intervene and when it shouldn't (the Global War on Terrorism is not simply vague, it provides no stopping point for Wilsonian interventionism, which is decidedly not conservative). And third, social cons have lost, period. Gays are not going back in the closet and demands for equal standing under the law are logically coherent from a conservative POV. Gays didn't destroy marriage or the family (neither of which is in ruins, by the way, but that's another issue). The same goes for drug legalization, which has been touted by such raging liberals as William F. Buckley. In terms of abortion, like it or not, the country has settled into a semi-easy truce that abortion earlier in a pregnancy is OK and the closer the mother comes to term, the less comfortable people feel with it. In any case, advances in contraception and reproductive technologies will almost certainly render such decisions moot as people have gain ever-vaster control of their bodies.

In a historical way, libertarianism predates post-war conservatism. Libertarianism, with its emphasis on individual freedom, conscience, and responsibility, is the direct descendant of the classical liberalism that grew out of the English Civil War of the mid-17th century and worked its way through the Scottish Enlightenment, the Austrian economists, and others. It seeks to shrink to sphere of the state to that of an impartial judge protecting the equal rights of citizens and it valorizes, as Reason's motto puts it, "Free Minds and Free Markets." Sociologically, however, libertarianism has long been seen as a lesser brother to postwar conservatism, "chirping sectaries" in Russell Kirk's dismissive phrase, with about as much potential for leadership as Fredo Corleone.

That's no longer the case, dear conservatives. I'm no triumphalist but everything in the past 40 years suggests that the old-style left-wing command and control models have been thoroughly vanquished in theory if not practice (even old Europe has sold off virtually all of its state monopolies!). And the conservative desire for control of individuals' desire and lifestyles has similary come a cropper; your actual champions in the highest positions in the world have tried your ideas and been found wanting (who can disagree that George W. Bush was a "big-government disaster"?). In a world of increasing decentralization of power and corresponding growth in individual autonomy, libertarianism is looking better and better, both as a description of what's happening in those parts of our lives not completely under the thumb of government and as a guide to minimizing the reach of the state where it still is too grabby.

Social conservatives: "phony solutions for real social ills"

David Boaz writes in the LA Times about the contradiction between the problems that socons identify in society and their proposals to solve them:
Social conservatives say they're trying to address the problems of family breakdown, crime and welfare costs, but there's a huge disconnect between the problems they identify and the policy solutions they propose. It's almost like the man who looked for his keys on the thoroughfare, even though he lost them in the alley, because the light was better.

Social conservatives tend to talk about issues such as abortion and gay rights, stem cell research and the role of religion "in the public square": "Those who would have us ignore the battle being fought over life, marriage and religious liberty have forgotten the lessons of history," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) at the Family Research Council's 2010 Values Voter Summit.

But what, exactly, are the policy problems they say they aim to solve?

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at the same summit, said: "We need to understand there is a direct correlation between the stability of families and the stability of our economy…. The real reason we have poverty is we have a breakdown of the basic family structure." And Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said: "It's impossible to be a fiscal conservative unless you're a social conservative because of the high cost of a dysfunctional society."

Those are reasonable concerns. As a 2009 Heritage Foundation report stated, children born to single mothers "score lower on tests, have increased chances for committing a crime, have higher chances of living in poverty, experience more emotional and behavioral problems, are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and have higher chances of becoming pregnant as teens." And social problems like that do tend to lead to higher government spending.

But those problems have nothing to do with abortion or gay marriage, the issues that social conservatives talk most about.


When Huckabee says that "a breakdown of the basic family structure" is causing poverty — and thus a demand for higher government spending — he knows that he's really talking about unwed motherhood, divorce, children growing up without fathers and the resulting high rates of welfare usage and crime. Those also make up the "high cost of a dysfunctional society" that worries DeMint.

But the "Family Values" section of DeMint's Senate website talks about abortion and gay marriage, along with adoption. There's no mention of divorce or unwed motherhood.


Reducing the incidence of unwed motherhood, divorce, fatherlessness, welfare and crime would be a good thing. So why the focus on issues that would do nothing to solve the "breakdown of the basic family structure" and the resulting "high cost of a dysfunctional society"? Well, solving the problems of divorce and unwed motherhood is hard. And lots of Republican and conservative voters have been divorced. A constitutional amendment to ban divorce wouldn't go over very well, even with the social conservatives. Far better to pick on a small group, a group not perceived to be part of the Republican constituency, and blame it for social breakdown and its associated costs.

That's why social conservatives point to a real problem and then offer phony solutions.

But you won't find your keys on the thoroughfare if you dropped them in the alley, and you won't reduce the costs of social breakdown by keeping gays unmarried and preventing them from adopting orphans.

Telco balls-up

Another revolting development in the dismal saga of government regulation of the telcos. A federal court has overruled the Harper government’s overruling of a competition-killing ruling by the Telecommunications Oligopoly Board (also known as the CRTC). As a result Wind Mobile, okayed for business in 2009, and having worked to build a customer base over more than a year, is being told that it’s not okay, that they are – horrors – foreign-owned (as their capital originates from Egypt, of all places; ironically a jurisdiction even more indifferent to modern communication than Canada).

This does not take effect at once, of course. The company has been given a breather for 45 days to prepare their response; they will probably appeal, the government will probably appeal (to preserve Cabinet’s scope of action), and the whole thing will drag on. And on and on.

While it is always tempting to lash out at the courts for this dim decision, the real fault likely lies elsewhere. Courts can’t disregard the law, however stupid it may be; they have to validate what is written. More responsibility lies with the government for trying to do an end-run around retrograde legislation instead of just repealing it outright. Admittedly, this might not be easy for a minority, as the opposition parties would fly into flag-waving hysterics at the mere mention of a foreign-owned company attempting to enter our sacrosanct communications market. At the least, though, the guv should have scoped out any potential pitfalls in their approach, maybe by asking a law prof if it would stand actually up to a challenge in court. They appear not to have done this – but then again they’ve only been in office for 5 years, so the idea of due diligence is probably still a bit new and strange.

This site doesn’t have any opinions about the legal technicalities of the ruling (except that nothing could be more boring). But the main point isn’t the law: its oligopoly and protectionism. What matters isn’t foreign-ownership – it’s lower prices. A cell phone company owned in equal parts by Mexican drug lords, Saudi princes and Robert Mugabe – if it offered better rates – would be a huge improvement over market control by Telus, Rogers and Bell and their sock-puppet discount arms. Not coming any time soon, though.