Archive for Deireadh Fómhair, 2008


Deireadh Fómhair 31, 2008

Some of my ramblings in response to a post at Cedar Lounge Revolution:

“… if the state were to implement supports or equivalency in the taxation code wouldn’t that have a solidifying effect upon cohabiting couples?”

Not necessarily. How is that set-up different from marriage, which already exists?

It’s different because marriage is both a legal and social commitment in a way that free cohabitation simply is not. If I incorporate a business to take advantage of tax breaks, I can’t simply walk away from it after running up large personal expenses (except if I’m a bankster, of course).

“…the benefits that would accrue from such recognition would itself incentivise those couples to move towards marriage, or would at the very least disincentivise them to break up?”

But if they both have essentially the same benefits, by definition there is no incentive to move. The incentive to move only exists if there is something different about the institution of marriage.

There is a valid objection that people who are willing to undertake such a lifelong commitment – with regard to establishing and maintaining a family, which is what fundamentally marriage is for – should not be placed in the same category as people who can walk away with far fewer constraints (especially when the welfare system displaces the traditional responsiblity of the father, and externalises the cost onto the rest of society). The tax and other benefits are a recognition of society of the huge long-term personal investment (costs) internalised by both people.

“…‘family’ is the crucial context or indeed ’social institution’ if you prefer. And since families come in all shapes and sizes – with marriage being but an element (albeit the majority) of many of them – I’d tend to the view that concentration on marriage over family is a mistake.”

Family is more important than marriage as social institution; many family’s have marriages, but not all; therefore family is more important than marriage.

In a strictly abstract, formalist construction of things, this hierarchy of sets may be true – if you choose to define it that way. It’s not value free, in other words. We are not talking about squares being automatically a subset of rectangles, but rather of what institutions tend to foster certain behaviours – and what those institutions were evolved for.

“…it is not marriage that provides the child with a mother and a father in a publicly committed relationship, but circumstance. Some people will make that journey, others won’t. But chances are the child, the mother and the father will exist one way or another.”

There is a danger of confusion here: in one sense, family is a set of given biological relationships; whereas as a social institution, family is a set of social relationships, which can be chosen to a degree. The discussion is over the choice of marriage as the best set of social relationships to contain the biological ones.

“…it certainly is true that ‘children benefit from having a mother and father both present…and they are much more likely to stay together if married’, I’d drop the much in that sentence…”

But this still concedes one of the main points of marriage…

“…and suggest that it is futile to argue perfection when we know it cannot be achieved.”

But to reach perfection is not necessary, when simply attempting something better. This is equivalent to saying that if perfection cannot be reached, we shouldn’t even try to do better. And perfection is not being argued for – certainly not in the qualifier “much”.

“…a curious inversion where the institution of marriage becomes more important than the actuality of the relationships.”

Marriage itself does not exist passively and independently outside, but as an institution seeks to sustain, fortify, and shape certain social and personal relationships. It is a set of relationships as ongoing implicit and explicit commitments.

“…religious and cultural aspects of marriage… imbue it with a character, either in the secular or religious versions, which has sustained it as the most popular expression of public relationship amongst people.”

First of all, secular and religious versions of marriage are not equivalent culturally and historically; it’s arguable whether secular states such as the Soviet Union, produced more long-term stable marriages compared to more traditional societies; this is part of the debate about marriage as an constructive, historic, cultural institution, not simply a set of recent laws.

“That’s not going to disappear simply because the state affords similar or the same rights to cohabiting couples…”

Hopefully it won’t disappear altogether – it may be heavily displaced as  though a primitive tribe, however, as inexperienced or even less responsible people choose the state-sanctioned easy option of no long-term commitment, with easier escape, and costs/burdens significantly externalised onto the rest of society.
“Arguably it will increase the distinctiveness of secular/religious marriage…”

It can’t – by definition – increase the distinctiveness of marriage, if it removes the differences from it. The main difference left – that marriage entails a public, cultural and legal commitment, whereas free cohabitation does not, is not simply a personal life-style choice, but has an effect on the rest of society.


US third party coalition / parallel system?

Deireadh Fómhair 26, 2008

A comment on an article regarding the US Libertarian Party from Nolan Chart, found via Thomas Knapp’s;

I’m a lefty from a Democrat background, with traditionalist leanings; would gladly have voted for Ron Paul (the man is principled and honest) or Bob Barr though (appreciated his being a spokesman for the ACLU), simply to send a message.

I think Barr made a bad mistake in rebuffing the 3rd party debate especially sponsored as it was by Paul. This was unecessary, and just seemed petty (“I’m here to get votes for me, no one else” or some such) and unworthy of the ideals he was supposed to be presenting – not to mention neither politically nor strategically astute.

That actually turned me off, and while I respect those who vote Constitution Party on principle, like Mr. Cymberknopf I also voted Nader.

I think maybe the US third parties should consider building a entire parallel process to the D/R duopoly; instead of playing by their rules, create their own “National Platform” Party/Machine where the third parties can

– pool resources;

– strategically divide up counties in swing states for canvassing;

– with delegates weighted by resources contributed and democratic debate and voting at the end to decide which candidate is selected (you know – kind of like how the original system was supposed to work);

– a smart coalition system wouldn’t just be majoritarian, but would encourage candidates to take on the views of people outside their immediate ideological group, so as to perpetuate “the machine” in 4 years; for example, some sort of internal Proportional Representation and transferable/preference ballot, so that the smaller groups would not just opt out altogether.

Everyone’s a comedian: TeeVee update on US campaign

Deireadh Fómhair 21, 2008

Senator McCain finally appears on Letterman – 2 Parts:

Senator McCain roasts Obama at Al Smith Memorial Foundation dinner:

Senator Obama returns the favour:

Conservatism: WTF?

Deireadh Fómhair 21, 2008

I’m responding to three posts on three US Conservative blogs, by John Schwenkler, Rod Drehrer, and Clark Stooksbury. It concerns a suggestion by Christopher Buckley (son of deceased, famous US Conservative William F. Buckley) – himself recently purged from the magazine his father set up (he endorsed Obama). The suggestion is a conference examining what has gone wrong with American Conservatism, particularly with regard to ideological and political alliances.

Now, as the proud grandson of both a 1916 IRA man, and a New York union organiser, “Conservative” is not a label I would always have considered, em, close to my heart. Particularly since that brand was associated with some of the most obnoxious attitudes towards the Irish, and towards Catholics, in both Britain and America.

A French writer in “Liberty Magazine” (Pierre Lemieux?) once referred to the US Republican party as “the American House of Lords” compared with the Democrat “House of Commons”; and that’s about the best analogy I’ve ever heard, and it gels with the notion traditionally common in many Irish American households that the three defenders of the working man were the Church, the Union, and the Democratic Party.

It’s interesting to hear about the “Obama is a Muslim” attempted smears, in that this was essentially the same kind of smear used against JFK (swap Catholic for Muslim) when he was running for the white house (a TV News anchorman joked that he would turn the Statue of Liberty into one of the Virgin Mary – this was also the era when Catholics were held suspect because they went to confession, and would thus pose a security threat by disclosing information to agents of a foreign potentate…)

However, in the last few years (basically, since 9/11) I’ve been surprised – very, very surprised – by the genuine intellectual diversity and even radicalism shown by the more thoughtful people on the Right, at least in the US. In Ireland, much of the Neocon yuppy-larvae of the Celtic Tiger have seemed happy to mindlessly regurgitate whatever talking points that seem most likely to piss off opponents, as if annoying lefties and traditionalists was the primary source of hipster political authenticity.

So, I now consider myself a Sean-Tóraidhe/Paleo-Tory; both because it refers to a historically-grounded Irish practice of resistance, a native communalism and spirit of independence consistent with traditionalism and religious practice, and because it may even get up the nose of obnoxious arch-British Tories of today. In the spirit of solidarity with those who would prefer an intelligent opponent rather than a stupid friend, I offer my own list for consideration (the rule is, you have to offer up one sacred cow of your own for consideration):

1. Beyond Political Flat Earth: What About Conservative Democrats?

2. Here There Be Dragons? Left-Wing and Socialist Traditionalists.

3. Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Union?

4. The Three Champions of the Working Man: The Church, The Union, and the Democratic Party.

5. Traditional Socialism: Monastic Orders as Functioning Non-State Communism.

Just sayin’.


Regarding the “one sacred cow” of my own – well… considering I’m not from a Conservative background… the whole list?

Resilient Communities

Deireadh Fómhair 17, 2008

I’m going to use the next few posts to organise some materials concerning potential Resilient Communities, that may be submitted to and discussed by the Network of European Technocrats (more personable and user-friendly than the name might suggest!)

Some Right Libertarians think discussions of Self-Sufficiency, Transistion Towns, and possibly even Resilient Communities are equivalent to supporting Autarky – total economic isolation. This is a straw man argument: supporting individual liberty does not negate community life, nor planning responsibly for such (if we can have volunteer Fire Fighters and Civil Defence, why not plan for the scenarios of resource wars, peak oil, or economic depression – not so far fetched, are they?) This also demonstrates an unfortunate – but all too human – knee jerk reaction against political opponents’ ideas, even if at core they may not be so bad.

Irish Ship Sinking: Government Bails Out Iceberg

Deireadh Fómhair 3, 2008
"Four Hundred BILLION Euros!"

Irish Finance Minister: 4 hundred BILLION Euros!

Even the bloggers at The American Conservative (you’d think they’d have enough to write about) are amazed by the Irish Government’s preemptive bailout (it’s not a bailout!) of (take breath) 400-500,000,000,000 (I have to stop and count the zeroes each time… not so good at maths to begin with…).

400 or 500? “A hundred billion here, a hundred billion there… pretty soon you’re talkin’ real money” (apologies to Barney Frank Everett Dirkson of Illinois (1896 – 1969)).

Just a back of the envelope calculation:

400,000,000,000 ”guarantee”
/Divided by/
4,400,000 population in the 26 counties.

€90,909  exposure per man, woman & child;

Or, €454,545 per family of 5;

But it’s not a bailout! Ah, well, phew! We’re alright then.

Update: Mon Oct. 6

Who the hell knows anymore? With all the foreign funds swarming into Ireland now, maybe the bhoys in the Dáil have pulled a great stroke… that is, if our collective bet pays out, that increased exposure won’t actually expose us to a financial shit cascade if not only our own, but now foreign banks start to go belly up.

Palin vs. Biden: Robo-Mom vs. Uncle Joe

Deireadh Fómhair 3, 2008

I watched the webcast in Ireland among a group of incorrigibly liberal American hipsters and artists (they thought McCain was the “best pick” of the Republican candidates – I know, I know, I want to weep…), some Irish, and a Latin American; they abandoned any pretense of drinking games early on and just made their way through a bottle of strange Polish “bison vodka” as the debate went on.

Palin didn’t crater (as they hoped). It was obvious that she was heavily tutored in predigested answers to regurgitate at the mention of certain key-words or themes.

An argument broke out (well, one drunk guy against everyone else) at the end: whether this shtick would work with the undecided voters she was meant to appeal to. We settled it democratically (we shouted him down repeatedly).

The key moment of the debate for me, that changed the entire context of both performances, was when Biden momentarily choked up when discussing single-parenthood. It came across as almost embarrasingly authentic and unexpected. What did Palin do in response? She rattled on obliviously as Robo-Mom, with her predigested answers and rehearsed mannerisms. Whatever else about Biden, he at least seemed to establish some sort of emotional bridge in that one moment as an actual warm human being, whereas she just marched relentlessly on like some sort of pretty, preprogrammed PTA cyborg.