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27.8.12

Ignorant APSA note damages further LA higher education


Thanks a lot, American Political Science Associations Executive Council, for making the professional lives of specifically political scientists and generally anybody in higher education harder by making us look stupid.

First, I would like to apologize to the reading public, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, legislators, and state Supreme Court justices, on behalf of political scientists everywhere who can think logically and for themselves for the ignorance shown by the APSA Council’s letter to these policy-makers, criticizing the state for its prohibition of same sex “marriages” and saying it will not hold its annual meeting again in the state until that changes. Believe me, many of us are not as intellectually lacking or divorced from the real world as the letter implies political scientists generally are.

That meeting, occurring this week in New Orleans, was planned with the city as its site almost a decade ago, before the state by an overwhelming popular vote amended its constitution to make sure marriage was defined as a union of one man and one woman. By 2008, some APSA members got around to protesting the arrangement, but the organization, which has backed out of other host cities because of its liberal orthodoxy, decided to stay to prevent disruption.

So the letter was its mea culpa with exculpatory explanation to the left and a feeble attempt to get back at being trumped by reality. But to the wider world, it comes off as complete whining, half-baked idiocy.

It claims that there now exist “discriminatory burdens on same-sex couples,” apparently because “partners who hold legal rights, through marriage, civil unions, or other forms of committed care for each other, now face unanticipated challenges and undue burdens when visiting Louisiana.” One would hope better from those whose life work is engaged in research and learning easily could discover that a decision-making rights that one person may have granted to another can be done through a simple durable power of attorney (look on the Internet for the version applicable to your state’s laws, which are recognized in all other states). There is nothing undue about that, nor should this be unanticipated since the majority of states have standards very similar to Louisiana’s on this issue.

Thus, the complaint that “Some of our members who are in same-sex relationships believe that attending the conference could potentially place them in peril if a partner were not allowed to make a medical decision in an emergency situation,” is entirely without merit, and if the APSA, in contrast to the content of the note, wanted to perform a useful service, it would assist its members that have this false fear in learning about the legal instruments that moot this concern.

Further in the letter, “APSA stands in support of the human rights of scholars and in opposition to discrimination in all of its forms.” Presumably, this means it considers opposition to same-sex marriage as “discrimination” against a “human right.” The latter appears to come from jurisprudence such as the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, although that document does not define marriage.

Yet even if we apply liberally a definition of marriage to include any kind of coupling where at least one being involved is human and thereby make same sex couples eligible to enjoy this right, it is the state, and in the United States its first order divisions known as states, which defines what a state of marriage means for legal purposes (for religious purposes, any definition will do, but has no legal status). And in the states, it means that a man and a woman in a married condition derive certain advantages bestowed by the state for legal purposes.

But there is a reason the state grants these privileges: because the marriage of one man and woman creates the optimal conditions by which to perpetuate the state. This assists society as a whole through creation of successors through reproduction and in a manner that brings into being the most productive citizenry with the least amount of costs to support them. That’s why these advantages are not made available to unmarried couples, whose relative lack of stability, if there is any at all, makes less likely the production of children and children whose upbringing in that condition disproportionately reduces their life prospects and increases the chance they will be less productive for society and increasingly dependent upon the state.

That’s especially why these benefits philosophically should be denied to any combination that is not one man and one woman, because reality trumps ideology: these alternative combinations cannot produce children, so why should the state subsidize this behavior when it does nothing to aid society? And even in the cases of where one man and one woman, because of age, health, etc; cannot have children, conferring legal benefits from marriage still makes sense because the state has an interest in their service as examples of loving partnerships to encourage other married couples who have the biological capability and will to reproduce. No matter how much the fact is ignored, simply enough people of the same sex cannot couple to produce children, so the state is under no obligation to encourage such unions.

So the APSA Council is being disingenuous here in the wording it chose, as I don’t think its members would be in favor of laws that allowed the state to solemnize same sex marriage but with no additional legal benefits. What it really means is it considers as “discrimination” the state not allowing same sex marriages that also don’t have the same benefits as do those of couples who have the biology to produce children. But to argue this shows a profound ignorance of what constitutes “discrimination.”

In reality, policy universally discriminates, because it makes decisions about how political resources are distributed. More narrowly, to use a specific example, there is a tremendous discrimination in how societies treat murderers, sending them to prison for a long time if not taking their lives. But it’s justified because of their actions. So in a pejorative sense, “discrimination” only occurs when it is unjust, when equals are being treated unequally.

Yet in denying the same benefits to same sex couples as to couples of one man and one woman, the unequal treatment is justified, because of the different and unequal roles that each play in maintenance of the state. Thus, the Council tries to redefine illegitimately “discrimination” to mean it occurs when policy does not meet its ideological purity test, rather than be determined by a reasoned search for the truth about the nature of just distributions.

Learned individuals should be disappointed by the inadequacy of the argumentation in the note, and the political scientists among them embarrassed to be seen as associated with such sloppy thinking. Yet all of higher education in Louisiana suffers as a result, for the thinking members of the public read something like that and conclude that cuts to higher education in the state brought about by budgetary problems and encouraged by a state fiscal structure that channels cuts in worse times to universities and colleges aren’t so harmful after all. They must think that if the letter’s kind of reasoning is what goes on in and gets taught from the academy that not much is being accomplished there nor is the taxpayer getting his money’s worth from it.

So when we in Louisiana higher education in the future find even greater eagerness among policy-makers to cut the state’s higher education system rather than to reform inefficient practices both inside and outside of it in the budgeting process, we’ll know it was part of our own profession that helped to stab us in the back, making even more difficult provision the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed in the state.

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