Sandefur gets it right

This post on the Left’s dissonant support of sexual freedom by Tim Sandefur is great. He locates the central contradiction in the left’s support of individual sexual rights as contrasted with its total rejection of all other individual rights and offers a compelling diagnosis.

The answer is: historical accident. During the 1960s, natural rights arguments were heard most powerfully from the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, who associated themselves with the left. That injected the left with a rhetorical tradition that is powerfully effective. They aren’t able or willing to let that tool go. They often employ it in the most ridiculous ways (esp. environmentalism) but in the area of sexual freedom, they’re on solid ground arguing natural rights, even though it clashes with their view on virtually everything else.

Of course, if the Left’s support for sexual liberty is tactical rather than foundational, then we should expect that support to ebb with the daily tracking polls. Which, of course, is exactly what we do see. None of the major Democratic candidates for President supported same-sex marriage and all agreed to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Sandefur sees this and points out that the status quo is inherently untenable,

And so we’re left with a weird and totally unsustainable situation: the left, which rejects the principle of individual rights in virtually every other sphere, speaks with the most morally grand tones of the fundamental human right of sexual freedom. That situation can’t last. How can it be that a business license or a building permit is a mere government privilege, but a marriage license is a basic human right?

There are certainly arguments to be made about the centrality of sexual choice and the importance of sexual freedom and why those liberties deserve protections that economic liberties do not. But as Sandefur notes, those are not natural rights arguments; they are progressive arguments that treat sexual liberties as privileges granted by the state in furtherance of the state’s objectives. The left doesn’t often use that language to defend sexual liberty because… well because doing so would reveal the underlying truth: that the progressive commitment to sexual liberty is merely instrumental. If social engineering demanded restricting sexual freedoms (like criminalizing sexual reproduction) then sexual freedoms will be restricted. In the end, for the progressives, neither the business license nor the marriage license is sacrosanct.

Eventually, supporters of sexual liberty will discover the same kind of betrayal that supporters of economic liberty encountered on the right. If the progressive commitment to sexual liberty is merely instrumental, it is no less instrumental than the conservative commitment to free trade and economic liberty. The sad fact is that we have long moved past the point where any major political party or movement regarded individual liberty and autonomy with much respect or attention.

It will be interestingto see exactly how the next challenge to Proposition 8 is handled. With today’s ruling upholding the amendment. It appears that the only options are either yet another amendment to reverse what was reveresed (and another court challenge to attempt to reverse the reversal of the reversal of the original judicial reversal), or Califonria activists can try to take their fight to the feds. Given the current political climate and the, shall we say tepid support, that gay-marriage proponents have gotten from Obama, that route doesn’t see too promising. But who knows?

It would certainly be a pleasure to hear why gay-marriage should recevie protection as a fundamental right and incorporation through the 14th amendment, but why the second amendment should not be incorporated. If a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, what should we imagine is the stubborn insistence on inconsistency? The bugbear of dullards?


Good News & Bad News

I’ve had a lot of good news and bad news in the past couple of weeks.

America is a prosperous and healthy nation to the extent that Americans enjoy the freedom to pursue their lives and their fortunes as they see fit. Freedom, if it means anything, means the right to freely associate: the right to build relationships, partnerships, families, and fortunes as we choose.

The fact that millions of voters chose to deny their neighbors these basic rights and chose to approve and enshrine a future commitment to the systematic violation of individual liberty is deeply saddening. That’s the bad news, and it’s pretty bad.

Two weeks ago, I found out that a cousin of mine is pregnant. On Sunday, two close friends told me that they too are expecting their first baby. Today, I found out that two other close friends have set a date for their wedding. That’s the good news, and the good news is pretty great.

To be sure, this change: this hope, this love: it’s personal. This is not the stuff of pundits or politicians and it shouldn’t be. This is the stuff of life.Change, hope, and prosperity do not flow from Congress or the White House, they flow from our homes, as we build our lives, change our fortunes for the better, find love and joy, and create families. I can’t imagine anything more audacious than love. Nothing speaks more to hope than a new baby, and certainly nothing makes for more of a change.

We are fortunate to live in a country where the transfer of political power is bloodless and peaceful. We are fortunate to live in a country that constrains the powers of government and–for the most part–secures our liberty. The task ahead is to ensure that everyone’s liberty is secure. That would be change I could believe in.

[Update: I’m referring here to the voters who chose to enact laws invalidating thousands of marriages and to deny the benefits of marriage to an entire class of people because…. well, because they could. The bigotry expressed in ballot measures like California’s Proposition 8, or the similar ones in Arizona and Florida pulled support from both sides of the aisle.]

Virtual Murder

Following up on yesterday’s item about virtual theft is a story about virtual murder in Japan. (Again, from Eugene Volokh.)

Like the theft, this virtual murder was accomplished through the use of real-world force.

A 43-year-old Japanese piano teacher’s sudden divorce from her online husband in a virtual game world made her so angry that she logged on and killed his digital persona, police said Thursday.

The woman used login information she got from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married, and killed the character. The man complained to police when he discovered that his beloved online avatar was dead.

Volokh argues that,

Had she engaged in the “virtual killing” from her own account, by using a feature of the game that made such action possible, or even exploiting a bug in the game that made such action possible, it seems to me that this would just be an interesting extra twist in the game’s narrative. Such action should be dealt with by whatever mechanisms the game’s operators provide (perhaps including expulsion of the misbehaving user, if the operators view such conduct as misbehavior), or at most by a breach of contract lawsuit for violating any user license agreement terms — not by the real-world criminal law.

One interesting aspect of this is the amount of harm caused. In the virtual world (Maple Story, in this case) it should be possible for the administrators of the game to restore the dead avatar to life. In which case, the harm inflicted by the virtual murder amounts to at most a few days lost playing time. (And as it happens, Maple Story is free to play.)

This is a great example of the kind of issues that in-game, virtual courts could help resolve conflicts. The game has officially sanctioned marriages, creating invitation and reception mechanisms and even going so far as to reward the marrying couple with wedding rings. But the game did not provide a mechanism for divorce. The AP story is thin, but it seems as though some in-game mechanism to resolve disputes may have mollified the virtual wife.

Again, these cases are currently oddities only because the amounts of money involved in the disputes is still small. But the value of virtual goods will continue to rise, and as they do, these cases will become more common and more serious. (Maple Story is free to play, but players can purchase in game currency and special items by buying Nexon cash with hard currency.)

One absurdity: Maple Story prohibits “same-sex” marriages. Presumably because they think it would be wrong for two 12 year-old boys to virtually marry. Unless one is pretending to be a girl of course. Then it’s OK.