Thursday, June 27, 2013

Getting It Out of Our Systems (and the Systems Out of Us)


Gay activists are pretty happy with the Supreme Court’s decisions this week, but it was also a good week for the multilayered federalist system. 

When America’s in doubt (and especially, to my mind, when even some libertarians are a bit torn about how to handle things), punting to the states at least avoids everyone having to fight viciously for one-size-fits-all, centralized victory.  Even when it means Arizona enforcing immigration regs that may soon be obsolete or California making extra-onerous climate regs, at least the state-by-state method allows for some variation and experimentation (though individual property rights remain my favorite sweeping, all-purpose systems-hack, of course). 

Indeed, I very much look forward to (repeatedly-arrested but unbowed) libertarian activist Adam Kokesh’s planned fifty-state-capitols July 4 protests calling for all fifty states to secede simultaneously from Washington, DC (replacing his less-ambitious, but potentially more-dangerous, earlier plan for an armed DC pro-gun march that day).  Diversity is strength, after all, and the mass-secession plan has the Constitution and history on its side – instead of just anarchist/libertarian theories that not all states or citizens would necessarily like. 

Secession might prove the path of least resistance for those who want to maximize resistance, so to speak – and, hey, it’s not like only pro-slavery states can secede.  Consider the beneficial break-up of the USSR, which may not have been as unlike us as we used to think. 

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I’m happy to see the feds be gender-neutral on marriage and at the same time to let states (outside the Ninth Circuit, presumably) keep wrestling with the issue – though I keep hoping social conservatives will just give up, I admit, since I don’t want these issues to keep splitting the free-market portion of the electorate. 

As the print record will show, I had hoped the rise of (somewhat “conservative”) gay commitment ceremonies in the 90s might mollify the social conservatives, then hoped the early-00s knocking down of sodomy laws by the Supreme Court might get conservatives to give up on that stuff and just stay focused on econ, then hoped some compromise would be reached on gay marriage...though people keep fighting this battle, plainly, alienating various potential GOP voters in the process.

(Even very-Christian Rand Paul would pretty clearly like the issue to stay at the state level so he doesn’t have to touch it, and his aged dad was moving that way on the issue by the time of his final presidential campaign, despite some very-nearly-unlibertarian deviations on the issue earlier in his career.  I watch Rand Paul’s delicate libertarian/GOP/mainstream balancing act with almost as much tension as I did Nik Wallenda’s dizzying tetherless tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon.)

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Being radical enough to get something big accomplished while also seeming moderate enough not to be marginalized is a tricky game that recurs in many contexts: As befits the climactic entry of this blog’s “Month of Systems,” I’m really talking about the challenge of working within the system to drastically alter the system. 

Whether the topic is constitutionalism, philosophy, or conflict-resolution in general, everyone tends to sense that appearing to be in the “neutral” position is an easy route to victory-by-default (though any pretense of neutrality is usually a bit phony).  I was reminded of two thinkers I like who manage to sound pragmatic/moderate and still have very radical implications, David Stockman and Jonathan Haidt, when I saw the former speak at a Reason event and the latter in the audience for the talk, earlier this week. 

And here’s hoping that a feminist out there trusts me to be neutral-despite-some-radical-notions when I moderate my planned July 9 onstage Dionysium debate on evolutionary psychology (and the question of whether gender roles are more determined by nature or nurture).  We have our ev-psych/“nature” debater (Diana Fleischman) and will need to finalize her feminist foe very soon, so by all means contact me if you want to be that feminist (we’re very civil, really – civility and humor are also good defaults, after all). 

After that biological-systems-hacking debate (so to speak), August 12 will bring our econ-hacking debate on Bitcoin, so join us (possibly even volunteering to be a debater) for that, too.

Every Dionysium debate is a potential shock to the system, though.

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