Today’s Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage is a great result, but based on dubious reasoning. It is undoubtedly a momentous occasion for gays and lesbians around the nation. In a comparatively short time, they have moved from being a widely despised minority whose intimate relationships were criminalized in many states, to full marriage equality around the country.
For gays and lesbians seeking the right to marry and for many of us who have supported their cause, the result in today’s case matters more than the reasoning. But the Court’s legal reasoning also deserves attention, both because it is important in its own right, and because it establishes a precedent for future cases. Unfortunately, much of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion is based on dubious and sometimes incoherent logic.
Gay rights advocates have advanced several different rationales for a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. In my view, the strongest is that laws banning same-sex marriage discriminate on the basis of sex, much like laws banning interracial marriage discriminate on the basis of race – a position defended in an amicus brief I coauthored with Prof. Andrew Koppelman. But some of the other rationales for a right to same-sex marriage are also plausible, particularly the theory that laws banning it engage in unconstitutional discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Unfortunately, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion doesn’t clearly endorse any of the various arguments previously advanced for a right to same-sex marriage, even as it to some degree nods at all of them. The result is a far from satisfying majority opinion.
Every Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the American men and women who have died in combat. With speeches and solemn ceremonies, we recognize their courage and valor. But one fact goes unacknowledged in our Memorial Day tributes: all too many of our soldiers have died unnecessarily–because they were sent to fight for a purpose other than America’s freedom.
The proper purpose of a government is to protect its citizens’ lives and freedom against the initiation of force by criminals at home and aggressors abroad. The American government has a sacred responsibility to recognize the individual value of every one of its citizens’ lives, and thus to do everything possible to protect the rights of each to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. This absolutely includes our soldiers.
Soldiers are not sacrificial objects; they are full-fledged Americans with the same moral right as the rest of us to the pursuit of their own goals, their own dreams, their own happiness. Rational soldiers enjoy much of the work of military service, take pride in their ability to do it superlatively, and gain profound satisfaction in protecting the freedom of every American, including their own freedom.
This year’s Objectivist Summer Conference 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina features and outstanding lineup of talks and lecturers, including the return of some of our favorite lecturers.
- C. Bradley Thompson: The Abolitionist Movement and Its Lessons for Today
- John Allison: The Leadership Crisis and the Free-Market Cure
- Andrew Bernstein: Objectivism versus Kantianism in The Fountainhead and Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs under Capitalism
- Eric Daniels: From “Sputnik” to the Internet: Real Solutions for Reforming Science Education
- Onkar Ghate: “Charlie Hebdo”, the West and the Need to Ridicule Religion
- Peter Schwartz: Defining Basic Moral Concepts and Principles and Anti-Principles in Ethics (advanced talk)
- George Selgin:Money Under Laissez-Faire andThe Destabilizing Consequences of Central Banking
- Amesh Adalja: Infectious Diseases and National Security
- Rituparna Basu: Understanding the Arguments for Universal Health Care
- Michael S. Berliner: How Music Saved a Life: Ayn Rand and Operetta
- John Dennis: Making Decisions in Context
- Ray Girn: LePort Schools Information Session
- Gena Gorlin: Battling Depression and Anxiety: Insights from Moral Philosophy and Clinical Science and The Science of Self-Control: What We Can (and Cannot) Learn from Contemporary Psychologists
- Elan Journo: The Jihadist Movement and The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
- Ryan Krause: In Defense of Monopolies: How Antitrust Criminalizes Business Strategy
- Andrew Lewis: Magna Carta and Its 800-Year Legacy
- Keith Lockitch:Climate Change and Ideology
- Shoshana Milgram: Moral Self-Defense: How-To Advice from Ayn Rand and Filming “The Fountainhead”: Ayn Rand’s First Plan
- Jean Moroney: Aligning Your Subconscious Values with Your Conscious Convictions and Fueling Achievement with Objectivist Values
- Adam Mossoff: Life, Liberty and Intellectual Property: Why IP Rights Are Fundamental Property Rights
- Gregory Salmieri:Epistemology and Justice in the Age of Social Media
- Thomas Shoebotham:The Legacy of Beethoven,Schumann and Musical Poetry,Chopin, the Bel Canto Pianist,Mendelssohn: Classicizing Romanticism,Berlioz: The Symphony Reimagined, and Liszt and the Virtuoso Tradition
- Steve Simpson: Free Speech Under Siege
- Aaron Smith:Benevolence, Goodwill and the Rationally Selfish Life
- Tara Smith: How Does Objectivity Apply to the Law? and Constitutionalism–the Backbone of Objective Law
- Don Watkins: How to Think about Inequality
and the following panels…
- ARI’s Accomplishments in Its First 30 Years
- Financial Matters
- Life Extension in Our Lifetimes
- Running Topic-Specific Centers
- Admiring Ayn Rand in Hollywood
I am giving 2 lectures at Objectivist Summer Conference 2015 this summer in Charlotte, North Carolina! The conference runs from July 4 through July 9.
One is on “Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs Under Capitalism,” describing the achievements of such producers and great minds as Madame CJ Walker, George Washington Carver, Elijah McCoy, and numerous others. That innovative black American thinkers and entrepreneurs flourished during the freest part of America’s economic history is a little known aspect of our heritage. This talk is a step toward remediating that failing.
My other talk is on “Objectivism Versus Kantianism in The Fountainhead,” showing that the philosophy of Kant permeates and motivates, in differing forms, every villain and foil in the story–Ellsworth Toohey, Peter Keating, Lois Cook, et. al.–while the story’s hero, Howard Roark, is an embodiment of every principle of Rand’s philosophy. Rand versus Kant is not merely the essence of “The Fountainhead”–the 2nd greatest novel ever written–but is the essence of the contemporary struggle for reason and individual rights.
These will be outstanding lectures at a great conference.
Do not miss it. http://www.objectivistconferences.com/
I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas. One is as free to condemn Islam — or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens — as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialism or Democrats or Republicans.
To be sure, there are some kinds of speech that are unprotected by the First Amendment. But those narrow exceptions have nothing to do with “hate speech” in any conventionally used sense of the term. For instance, there is an exception for “fighting words” — face-to-face personal insults addressed to a specific person, of the sort that are likely to start an immediate fight. But this exception isn’t limited to racial or religious insults, nor does it cover all racially or religiously offensive statements.
…the disaster of inner cities isn’t primarily about race at all. It’s about the consequences of 50 years of progressive misrule—which on race has proved an equal-opportunity failure.
Baltimore is but the latest liberal-blue city where government has failed to do the one thing it ought—i.e., put the cops on the side of the vulnerable and law-abiding—while pursuing “solutions” that in practice enfeeble families and social institutions and local economies.
These supposed solutions do this by substituting federal transfers for fathers and families. They do it by favoring community organizing and government projects over private investment. And they do it by propping up failing public-school systems that operate as jobs programs for the teachers unions instead of centers of learning.
If our inner-city African-American communities suffer disproportionately from crippling social pathologies that make upward mobility difficult—and they do—it is in large part because they have disproportionately been on the receiving end of this five-decade-long progressive experiment in government beneficence.
How do we know? Because when we look at a slice of white America that was showered with the same Great Society good intentions—Appalachia—we find the same dysfunctions: greater dependency, more single-parent families and the absence of the good, private-sector jobs that only a growing economy can create.
There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies. There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.
But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.
Here is the cartoon that the NY Times has written such hateful and disparaging things about — you decide.
Comments Steve Simpson at Voices for Reason – Attacks on Free Speech Come to the U.S. | The Ayn Rand Institute:
As I wrote last week, many intellectuals in America and elsewhere have taken an attitude of appeasement toward the terrorists and their sympathizers, thus ensuring that their attacks will continue. Of course, violence is not justified, they say, but should we really go out of our way to celebrate those who offend others or humiliate “marginalized” groups? (In this case, the answer is “yes.”)
Already, we are seeing that attitude toward the organizers of the event in Garland, who are being called “Islamophobes” and purveyors of “hate speech,” always with the caveat that of course violence is not justified.
But this attitude is a form of justifying violence, in the same way that criticizing a rape victim for dressing provocatively is a justification of rape. It says, you brought this on yourself, or you provoked your assailant, or you are the type of person who deserved this. In all events, the message is that your actions, not the actions of your assailants, are the relevant cause of the attack.
There are many circumstances in which it’s appropriate not to take sides in a debate or to criticize one side or the other or both. But that applies only when there actually is a debate to take sides in or to ignore. It seems too obvious to point out, but a debate does not exist when one side is trying to kill the other.
The moment someone resorts to violence in response to speech is the moment that the issue is no longer about the merits of any side’s position or the character of the speakers but about whether we are going to have the freedom to take positions — that is, to think for ourselves — at all. If we fail to support those who are trying to speak, we necessarily end up condoning, and therefore supporting, those who are willing to resort to violence. There’s no middle ground in a dispute like this, because there’s no middle ground between speech and force. Free speech cannot exist when some people are willing to resort to force.
Whatever one thinks about Charlie Hebdo and the organizers of the Garland event or of any of the arguments or positions they take or support, there is no question that Islamists who threaten and use violence want to shut down all debate, all discussion, all thought, and all criticism of their religion. That is why they resort to violence.
It’s so commonly reported that Islam forbids Muhammad’s portraiture that it seems almost a waste of space to repeat it. After all, isn’t that why some Muslims were so outraged in 2006 when the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten depicted Muhammad in an unflattering light? Isn’t that why the Metropolitan Museum of Art pulled three paintings of the prophet? Isn’t that why the TV show South Park had to censor all mentions of Muhammad in a 2010 episode? “Islam forbids images of Muhammad,” CNN boomed in a headline last week.
But the reality is substantially more complicated. The Koran, in fact, does not directly forbid the portrayal of Muhammad. And the second most important Islamic text, the Hadith, “presents us with an ambiguous picture at best,” wrote Christine Gruber of the University of Michigan. “At turns we read of artists who dared to breathe life into their figures and, at others, of pillows ornamented with figural imagery.” The most explicit fatwa banning the portrayal of Muhammad, she notes, isn’t tucked into some ancient text. It arrived in 2001. And its creator was the Taliban. The ban is a very modern construct.
I don’t think the Onion cannot make this stuff up!
THE ABC has questioned whether parents should read to their children before bedtime, claiming it could give your kids an “unfair advantage” over less fortunate children.
“Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?” asks a story on the ABC’s website.
“Should parents snuggling up for one last story before lights out be even a little concerned about the advantage they might be conferring?”
The story was followed by a broadcast on the ABC’s Radio National that also tackled the apparently divisive issue of bedtime reading.
“Evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,” British academic Adam Swift told ABC presenter Joe Gelonesi.
Gelonesi responded online: “This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion that perhaps — in the interests of levelling the playing field — bedtime stories should also be restricted.”
Contacted by The Daily Telegraph, Gelonesi said the bedtime stories angle was highlighted by the ABC “as a way of getting attention”.
Asked if it might be just as easy to level the playing field by encouraging other parents to read bedtime stories, Gelonesi said: “We didn’t discuss that.”
That would be “blaming” the parent who does not read to their kids. Perish the thought. As one reader notes, “The fact that people like this are given a respectful hearing, rather than being run out of polite company, is a sad commentary on our cultural decline.”
The right to think, to speak, and to write in freedom and without fear is ultimately a more sacred thing than any religion.
There is no “but” in the First Amendment.
Today is May Day. Since 2007, I have advocated using this date as an international Victims of Communism Day. I outlined the rationale for this idea (which I did not originate) in my very first post on the subject:
May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their regimes. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so….
The main alternative to May 1 is November 7, the anniversary of the communist coup in Russia. However, choosing that date might be interpreted as focusing exclusively on the Soviet Union, while ignoring the equally horrendous communist mass murders in China, Cambodia, and elsewhere. So May 1 is the best choice.
Our relative neglect of communist crimes carries a real cost. Victims of Communism Day can serve the dual purpose of appropriately commemorating the millions of victims, and diminishing the likelihood that such atrocities will recur. Just as Holocaust Memorial Day and other similar events have helped sensitize us to the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and radical nationalism, so Victims of Communism Day can increase awareness of the dangers of extreme government control of the economy and civil society.
“Every year on Earth Day we learn how bad humanity’s economic development is for the health of the planet. But maybe this is the wrong message. Maybe we should instead reflect on how human progress, even use of fossil fuels, has made our environment cleaner and healthier. Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress explains.”