Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The lump-of-freedom fallacy: gay rights and the right

While reading a post by Sunny (plus the comments) over at Liberal Conspiracy, I suddenly realised something.

It’s intermittently puzzled me why many on the right (certainly not all) object to legal equality for gay people. I mean, assuming that they have a clear ideological reason rather than just a prejudice shrouded in rhetoric. Because one thing that seems to epitomise the right is their yearning that the state not take freedoms away from private individuals – freedom to drive a 4x4, freedom to keep one’s own money, freedom to hunt foxes, freedom to offer employees a pittance to work in dangerous conditions for long hours…

But there may be some semblance of a reason. If so, it’s a bad reason.

A quick detour: the lump-of-labour fallacy is the idea that there’s only a certain quantity of employment available, and so technological automation or economic immigration will produce unemployment. But the truth is that, through positive effects such as higher productivity and lower inflation, such changes can benefit the economy and lead to higher employment.

What about gay rights, then? Well, if you listen to those (more prominent in the ‘land of the free’ than the UK) who campaign against gay marriage, you’ll hear the charge that such a thing would threaten the institution of marriage, as enjoyed by ordinary straight-talking straight folk. And, on this side of the pond, there are similar complaints about gay adoption rights damaging ‘the family’ or, this week, that making it easier for lesbian couples to use IVF would undermine fatherhood.

No. Letting a gay couple marry does not reduce the ability of any straight couple to get or stay married. Letting a gay couple raise children does not reduce the quality of parent-child relationships in any other family. There is no ‘lump of freedom’ that malicious lefties wish to redistribute from straight to gay. Following the little logic of the argument through, the fallacy is embarrassingly obvious. Perhaps it’s just prejudice after all.

The only ‘freedom’ lost by extending gay rights is the freedom of homophobes to live in a country with laws different from those passed by elected representatives – in other words, the selective, privileged freedom to control others. But true liberalism has to be egalitarian.

So, I’m with JFK – freedom is not diminished for some by granting it to others. Quite the reverse:

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.


anticant said...

Homophobes are homophobes because of their own unresolved sexual ambivalence. The only way they can come to terms with their bisexual component is by projecting it onto the hateful 'other' and attacking those who don't repress their homoerotic instincts.

One of the commonest - and totally illogical - arguments against decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1960s was what I called the 'prairie fire' thesis which said "this is so utterly horrible, depraved, disgusting, and unnatural that it must be banned completely because if it isn't, it will spread like wildfire and everybody will be doing it."

There is no place for reason or logic with these people.

Tom Freeman said...

It's interesing that 'homophobia' literally means 'fear of the same'...

Also interesting is this study by Adams, Wright and Lohr, in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 1996:

Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?
The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.

Charlotte Robinson said...

The right have to find someone to hate so they can avoid dealing with their own sexuality. For the truth about Gay Marriage check out our trailer. Produced to educate & defuse the controversy it has a way of opening closed minds & creates an interesting spin on the issue: www.OUTTAKEonline.com

Andre said...

Actually I've always considered myself to be more pro-family than the homophobes who oppose gay marriage and gay families.

I am "pro-family" because I am for DIFFERENT and diversified forms of family. Rather than narrowing down and making boundaries or families.

anticant said...

I think 'homophobia' was first coined by Dr George Weinberg in his book "Society and the Healthy Homosexual" [1972] to mean the dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals, and an IRRATIONAL fear and hatred of them, leading to their mistreatment.

Etymologically, it's a bastard word but a useful one.