August 8, 2003 by AK

I didn’t want to plunge into this mess, but it just wouldn’t leave my mind. Over at A Small Victory, Michele is unhappy about the way John Derbyshire of the NRO treats gay issues. Well, the Derb seems to be a homophobe in the most literal sense: he is afraid of all things gay. For one, he’s afraid of what he calls “straight flight”, or, in the lingo of economics/pol. sci., “institutional capture” by the gays. Basically, he’s saying that as soon as there appears a critical mass of gay members within a certain circle or organization, straight male members begin to opt out of it. Take Broadway or the fashion industry. I can distinguish two assumptions behind the reasoning. One: straight males don’t like to be associated with, or be mistaken for gays. Two: when gays get in groups, they can’t help acting like a group, not as individuals. Derbyshire is afraid the same will happen to marriage: when it gets popular with gays, only gays will get married. I’m not going to argue with his assumptions – what’s the point anyway? – but with marriage, I’ll be you anything there’ll be no “straight flight”. Hopefully, straight weddings – embarrassed by the showy tastelessness of the most publicized gay ceremonies (my risky conjecture) – will just get more modest and non-kitsch. Fine with me.

The Derb also likes to stress the incompatibility of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism. Divorce on demand, he argues, creates demand for welfare. Liberal drug laws would boost demand for government-sponsored rehab programs. Apparently, gay marriage will also beget extra demand for gov’t spending in some way. Well, it’s just democracy in action: when people want easy divorce or cheap dope, they vote for it. Perhaps they are just too stupid to realize they’ll have to vote for more budget spending, but that’s they way it works. Social conservatives try to change popular sentiment before it turns them into a minority standing in the libertine majority’s way. That’s understandable. But whatever you do, do it for the right reason. My problem with Derbyshire’s argument is that his definition of demand is too narrow. Demand for child care and single parent support is not necessarily demand for welfare. Drug legalization may not boost drug consumption, but if it did, the derivative demand would be not precisely for federal or state rehabs but for specialized medical care.

Next, talking demand is not enough. How about supply? If you believe in free markets, you should assume they are able to meet whatever demand society generates for whatever services. Period. Libertinism might make total overheads too burdensome, impeding economic progress. Perhaps. But it’s a different story.

Is Derbyshire a Straussian, by any chance?


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