Gay marriage and the Chesterton fence.

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.

G.K. Chesterton.

My post on the hypocrisy of Dave Rubin who has nominally deserted the progressive side whilst benefiting from gay marriage, begot an argument with a commentator who demanded to know why gay marriage is bad. The essence of his argument is that since gay marriage does not affect him then he cannot see why it is of any importance.

… how does a gay marriage (as is now allowed in NZ where I reside) harm my heterosexual marriage and our 2 sons?

Leaving aside the obvious threat to his two sons, (since one crucial aspect of gay marriage is the continuation of the normalization of homosexuality), the commenter commits a classic libertarian style error which is to assume that a choice that appears not to affect you is then taken on face value.

This is also known as Chesterton’s fence, named after the prolific writer G.K. Chesterton. The reasoning behind Chesterton’s fence is that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood.

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

The Wikipedia page goes on to state that history is full of negative examples that were the result of failing to understand this concept.

Human societies across the world have had negative views about and suppressed homosexuality for almost the entirety of human existence. Before the last two decades the idea of gay marriage has never been countenanced as far as I am aware. In other words there is a fence across a road which then leads us to believe that there must be a reason for its existence in the first place.

Which brings me to my final point. If such a fence exists then the onus of demonstrating why it is there is on the people who wish to remove it, not the people who wish to see it remain in place. I caught a post on Gab on this topic by The Z Man:

zman

In other words their argument consists of insulting and demonizing their opponents for asking the reasonable question of why they wish to remove the fence. It is no argument at all. But conservatives seem to think that not only can opponents of gay marriage be attacked in this way but they then must also make the case for why it is not a good idea to remove the fence in the first place.

Instead of demanding that we make the case it would be more prescient of them to inquire of advocates of gay marriage as to why removing this fence is a good idea. But that would expose them to the firing line of progressive attacks because the very act of questioning the motive of progressives will cause the questioner to be attacked himself.

Which is why conservatives have proven very adept at preventing these mistakes from being corrected. Their intellectual cowardice makes them the useful idiots of the progressive Left. Instead they can feel noble and just as they badger those of us who wish the fence to remain in place, secure in their ignorance until the reasons for the fence’s existence are laid bare before them, by which time it will be too late.

10 thoughts on “Gay marriage and the Chesterton fence.

  1. JOHN RICKETTS

    Whilst I abhor homosexual marriage as the gross parody it is; I believe the argument is that why should homosexuals be denied the legal ‘advantages’ (taxation, common property, divorce, pension) which heterosexuals enjoy, after all “they love each other too”.

    Mind you, I’m quite fond of my dog.
    I’m sure there will be advances if I could marry a juridical person (a corporate entity) too.
    Where does the farce stop?

    Going to the GK Chesterton fence, I wasn’t initially sure whether you meant Homosexual Marriage is the fence, or Laws against it were the fence. I’m guessing the latter. Then “come back and tell me that you do see the use of it” gives us the opportunity to explain the use/purpose of traditional marriage laws. It’s no longer about bringing up children. That will be an interesting blog.

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    1. Yes, the fence is the exclusion of gay marriage and even homosexuality itself from human society.

      You are aware that homosexual unions already enjoy full legal advantages that heterosexuals enjoy, aren’t you.

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  2. I would remove all legislation on marriage (and tax deductibility status for religions). This way, churches can continue offering traditional marriages and homo societies can offer homo marriages and call them whatever the hell they please. There is no place for the government in any of this. Trying to say that traditional marriages and gay marriages are the same and that this is all about ‘equality’ is sheer nonsense. A shovel can spade, but a spade can’t shovel.

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  3. You know if everyone was free to do what they want, the Whole World would be ruled by ruthless dictators with jackboot gangs of thugs who gave not a damn about any life not their own. Anarchists seem to always come from safe and quiet bedroom communities. Because anarchy anywhere else would be so horrible no one would ever support it.

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    1. MarkT

      Massive straw man. Admittedly there’s no clear and widely accepted definition of libertarianism, but it’s generally with limited government, not anarchism. Government is there to protect individual and property rights, and foreign aggression, but it’s role is not to dictate matters of private morality.

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  4. Hallie Cantor

    Arguing with a liberal against gay marriage is a waste of time, given the total lack of value system. Liberals want complete freedom to do or be whatever they please, with no societal controls. They may understand why there is a fence — but hey, it’s your fence, not theirs. They don’t have to honor it.

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  5. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 02.23.17 : The Other McCain

  6. MarkT

    The ‘Chesterton Fence’ analogy is invalid to my argument, because I’m not seeking to take any fence down. In fact it’s the opposite, I’m questioning why you want to take down a new type of fence that’s recently been erected. I agree there’s no strong reason in favour of gay marriage, but I fail to see any strong reason against it either. I don’t have strong views either way – but you obviously do, because you declared someone who would otherwise be an ally a hypocrite, simply because he formalised his relationship in the way the laws of his land obviously allow. So the onus is actually on you to explain why. The only argument I can ascertain is you somehow see a threat to your heterosexual marriage (the old fence), because laws now allow gay marriage (the new fence) – but I fail to see what it is.

    I also fail to see how marriage having Catholic origins supports your case – any more than the fact Henry Ford invented mass produced cars implies every car we make today should be black.

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