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June 29, 2006


Mike Huben

It's always funny when people who think government can do no right then proceed to say how they think government should be run.

Same sex marriage has not been imposed by courts, contrary to Miron. It has been recognized as implicit in laws already enacted, such as the Massachussetts State Constitution. You might say that those laws impose it, the same way they impose other rights to make contracts.

Ballots are a wretched way to deal with many issues compared to representative legislation for a simple reason that any economist should recognize. Representatives can make deals about multiple issues with minority and majority interests, allowing horse trading. Ballots do not permit that; we'd expect less satisfactory outcomes because there are still Pareto improvements possible.

Ballots also have a rather poor history in terms of great reforms. They tend to go in the other direction. Think back to emancipation, sufferage, civil rights, and a host of other issues that never could have passed on state popular ballots. Instead what we see are ballots to deny equal rights to gays.

There is nothing inflammatory and polarizing about the court decision. The inflammation and polarization are already there, festering and causing misery. The court decision merely bring the mess into the bright light, and into the political process. Our culture in large part accepts the result of the political process, so in large part channelling the problem into the political process alleviates it.

Miron suggest (again) "leave marriage-like arrangements to private contracting". Won't work. Won't work for the exact same reason why incorporation can't be left to private contracting, and needs a state imprimiteur. Information costs and other externalities for third parties get too high to be efficient.

James M. Jensen II

Mike, I tend to disagree with you here. Same-sex marriage was never explicitly illegal, but given the era when the marriage laws were enacted, it couldn't have been their intention to allow such marriages. This is a loophole in the language of the laws.

It has long been precedent that states not allow some-sex marriage, and for a court to strike down such a controversial precedent is going to be inflammatory. By the letter of the law, they were correct, but it remains preferable that the citizens themselves get to decide so controversial an issue.

I agree that this carries the problem of prolonging the discrimination, but that is a problem in any vote by the public in a democratic nation. The Constitution does not protect us from being arbitrary. The question I would pose would be, what are the relative costs of having so controversial a decision handed down from above rather than decided by the people?

If the people do decide against allowing gay marriage, that is not the end. If gay couples have waited this long (at least 200 years, depending on how you count), it stands to reason that they can wait a little longer to do it the right way. They still are able to get civil unions (most places, anyway) and have a wedding ceremony, if I'm not mistaken.

The public are already close to half-and-half on the issue, so if the issue is raised again in ten years time, people's might turn around.

Mike Huben

James, in the era when marriage laws were enacted, it couldn't have been their intention to allow marriage between different races either. That was a long-held precedent as well. And plebiscites to permit interracial marriages would have failed.

So tell me about the relative costs of interracial marriages permitted by courts. Or do you think we still should be waiting for these?

marriage and sex

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