Thursday, 12 July 2012

On Marriage


A debate is taking place underneath my recent video On Marriage, and unlike most YouTube debates it's not just a bunch of people hurling insults at each other (there is still a lot of that, obviously - but there's also more to it).

One poster in particular has been very persistent in arguing against the legalisation of same sex marriage on socioeconomic grounds. He (or she – I'm not sure, their YouTube channel is private) urges us to read an academic paper by one Douglas W Allen, a professor of economics at Simon Fraser university. So I read it, and while I'm no academic and certainly no economist, from what I understand his basic hypothesis is this:

The legalisation of same sex marriage would have high costs and low benefits to society, and therefore it is against society's interests to allow it.

He writes at some length about what these high costs might possibly be, but as far as I can see it boils down to "some laws may have to be changed, and that will make marriage a weaker social institution, although it's impossible to really know that until it happens, but best not risk it." I'm oversimplifying, obviously, but if that's not the gist of his argument you're welcome to read the paper yourself and correct me in the comments. I've no idea if what he argues actually has any merit - he seems to imply that marriage laws in their current form are perfectly optimal and any alteration to them must necessarily be bad.

Anyway, what I really want to get onto is a theory I developed while digesting Professor Allen's paper: that the exact same arguments could be proposed in support of slavery.

Slavery was brilliant for society. Enslaving a minority of the population meant that production costs were kept down, and the savings could be passed onto the consumer. The majority could also enjoy a feeling of social superiority, which is always nice. When slavery was abolished, the only people who benefited were the former slaves; everyone else suddenly had to pay more for their cotton and be very slighly less openly racist.

In fact, the only reason slavery was brought to an end was because a growing minority became increasingly uncomfortable about other human beings being denied the rights and privileges granted to the majority. In other words, the values of compassion and egalitarianism triumphed over economic and social self-interest. As they will triumph again.

10 comments:

Tailor-Made English said...

There is an alternative argument as to why slavery was abolished.

The UK was more interested in selling its superior technology that it had gained through the industrial revolution. If people could still employ slaves they had less need to buy the heavy machinery that was designed to replace hard labour, therefore Britain pushed the anti-slavery line.

I'm not saying I agree with it completely, but it does have the ring of a certain element of truth.

Mike Booth said...

Sounds plausible.

Jake Evans said...

You know there are more slaves today than at any other point in history...

andymorley90 said...

oh mike, though i love you enough already for your amazing character mr murkett, this blog post has made me love you even more

Ayanami / Rasetsu said...

i really don't see How allowing that would cause any damage to the economics . I mean marriage does not help either. is just something between two people . if a person wants to hate his/her partner and have discussions everyday it is their business . .

Kirbsmeister said...

If marriage is an economic burden then perhaps heterosexual marriage should be banned too. I'd be interested to see if Mr Allen agrees with losing HIS right to marry.

manic depressive said...

ive wondered for a while if there is actually that much of a difference btween civil partnership and a marriage. in the uk obviously we have the CP and i dont understand why it matters if its called marriage or not if that is what it means to the people who are part of one. (i hope that makes sense)

Morgan said...

Married and Marriage are "legal terms".
If you are not "legally married" then insurance can (and will) be denied, along with Social Security benefits, and many others.
Even down to the right to visit your partner in the hospital.

Sean Hawkes said...

To add to what Tailor-Made English said, in the U.S., the fight to abolish slavery was supported in the North, not just by humanitarians who were concerned with the plight of the slaves. It was heavily supported by the white working class, who of course had a hard time competing for employment since they were so damn selfish as to want to be paid for their work.

It was also supported by business owners in the North, who were of course having a much harder time keeping their overhead down due to the much lower amount of black people available to do the work for free.

By todays standards, a large portion of the speeches that Abraham Lincoln (who has of course been repainted in history as a great liberator), would be viewed as so racist, and so disdainful, that he would be rebuked at a tea party rally. Ok....probably not. But he was still pretty bad.

Anyway, love the blog, and the videos. Thanks for all the great entertainment.

Sean Hawkes said...

To add to what Tailor-Made English said, in the U.S., the fight to abolish slavery was supported in the North, not just by humanitarians who were concerned with the plight of the slaves. It was heavily supported by the white working class, who of course had a hard time competing for employment since they were so damn selfish as to want to be paid for their work.

It was also supported by business owners in the North, who were of course having a much harder time keeping their overhead down due to the much lower amount of black people available to do the work for free.

By todays standards, a large portion of the speeches that Abraham Lincoln (who has of course been repainted in history as a great liberator), would be viewed as so racist, and so disdainful, that he would be rebuked at a tea party rally. Ok....probably not. But he was still pretty bad.

Anyway, love the blog, and the videos. Thanks for all the great entertainment.