TaraElla Themes 2017-18

A Moral Liberty
Contrary to popular (American) belief, real liberals are not Left (or Right), but pro-liberty.
The Ideas Lab is on a campaign to revive Moral Liberalism.
For more about Moral Liberalism, read TaraElla's book The Moral Libertarian Horizon.

A Liberal and Truly Intersectional Feminism, no GLIF

Only Liberal Feminism is Truly Intersectional Feminism. Learn more here.
Both the Ideas Lab and The TaraElla Show aim to advance liberal intersectional feminism.
To learn more about how other 'intersectional' feminists are doing it wrong, read The Disappointment of G.L.I.F.

More Music
More new work will be added to the catalog of TaraElla's Music.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Free Market Principles Applied in Cultural Matters

It is a well settled fact that the government should not be heavily intervening in the free market economy. This is a point now accepted by left and right alike. Whilst the left may have a different view of fairness than the right, both agree that we should not have sky high tariffs, that we generally would not have government monopolies in most industries, and that intervention is only justified when they serve a clear purpose of preserving a free and fair playing field. Both sides agree that businesses in the market economy should be able to trade and innovate freely in general. Both sides agree that intrusive governmental intervention is clumsy and anti-freedom, is anti progress, and benefits nobody.

I believe the same standard should apply to cultural matters. Some regulation is required to maintain a free and fair playing field for everyone. For example, we need to have law and order, and some (including myself) would argue that we also need antidiscrimination laws and gun control. But all those things are based on a clear need to protect a free and fair playing field, and do not otherwise stifle innovation. Here, both left and right should reject heavy handed, intrusive regulation – like banning certain lifestyle choices, or banning gay adoption, for example, no matter how they feel about the subject personally, unless there is a clear consensus on the need for it, backed up by clear evidence, and in the service of freedom and fairness. Of course, I also believe unwarranted government monopolies, for example in the area of marriage, should also be abolished.

It is possible and desirable to have the same set of principles, based on freedom, for both the social and economic spheres. It is time we start thinking this way.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Decentralising the Control of our Traditions

We have come to a crossroads in how the traditions of our collective heritage is to be maintained. Rapid changes in the way we see the world and changes in our knowledge of the world have challenged our traditions, and our traditions have had to adapt quickly.
As to just how they should adapt, that was a question that divided us. It caused some of the most famous 'cultural war' battles in our recent history. Amidst all this confusion, a sector of our society decided to just stick to what we knew, as if these changes in circumstances never happened. They claimed the conservative tradition for themselves, and went unchallenged for some time. But it appears they don't have the answers at all. As the years go by, it has become ridiculous to maintain a worldview that is based upon evolution being untrue, being gay being a choice, and only the traditional interpretation of the religion you grew up in being the source of all the answers to the world.

Young people are leaving tradition behind, and many are doing it wholesale. Values like commitment, decency, and valuing the family are in danger of being left behind. Yet a new way of preserving the best of our traditions whilst adjusting old rules to new knowledge and circumstances have arisen. It would appear that this would rescue our great traditions, but then we are fighting over the politics over it, and squandering all the goodwill. David Cameron may be right about embracing marriage equality to promote the institution, but for every Cameron there are plenty of people like Tony Abbott, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, who remain too stubborn to listen. Implementing this cure via political means is going to be disappointing, clearly.

Tradition needs to become a decentralised thing. Rather than being administered by government or specific authority bodies, we need to own it as individuals, and give it our best shot at interpreting it in the circumstances of the modern world whilst maintaining its spirit. And politics should just give way to allow this to happen. Over time, the best adaptations will win in a free market of ideas.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Marriage Privatization Just a Name Change? It's Much More!

Marriage privatization, as a term, simply means that there should be no references to the word 'marriage' in law. There have been many approaches suggested, but I would suggest going for the most conservative method: changing 'marriage' to 'civil union' in law, and perhaps also reforming the law to give equal rights to non-registered cohabiting couples as is already the case in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

This approach has been criticised for just swapping one term for another. But it's a matter of perspective. Marriage will always be a popular cultural institution, and civil unions will always be only a legal institution rather than a cultural one, I believe. After all, you don't say 'please civil union me' or 'we are civilly united', as marriage equality activists have pointed out. Therefore, the terminology change causes the government regulation to become more separated from the cultural and historical institution.

In my model, marriage will be the institution people enter into to create families, and will be maintained by the couple and their surrounding community. Civil unions will be the legal contract governments administer, as a tool to help marriages. Governments now control something that can assist marriages rather than the marriage itself here, a very important difference.

This change can have a profound effect on things. For example, we can have a simple and non-bitter process for ending the civil union, but culturally we can still view that marriage shouldn't end unless there is significant problems. The divorce rate wouldn't have skyrocketed after the no-fault reforms if this approach had been taken, I believe.

Or take the marriage equality thing. Rather than having a politics heavy campaign that feels top-down that 'redefines marriage' in our opponents' eyes, it would have been a cultural change that started from everyday life. The acceptance of these unions as a part of normal everyday life will finally demanded the government's equal treatment through provision of equal civil union rights. And we may have had it done long ago if we could go that route instead.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Marriage Equality 'Changes the Definition of Marriage'? That's a Myth.

Opponents of marriage equality have long been charging supporters of equality of 'changing the definition of marriage', often adding that they are doing a dangerous thing by meddling with a long-standing definition.

To this, I answer that yes, we are campaigning to change the way the marriage laws are written. However, this is because the law is rigid as it always is, and hasn't been able to fairly accommodate a minority in our society, gay and lesbian couples.
Marriage itself, however, is defined in culture, rather than law. Different cultural and religious groups may have slightly different definitions of marriage, but they generally do agree on fidelity, family formation and raising the next generation as important elements. Still, not all of these concepts appear in the marriage laws. The marriage laws of a secular state, thus, has never been the cultural authority on marriage.

Does marriage equality 'change the definition of marriage'? I don't believe it does. Whilst not stated in the marriage laws, marriage is generally for a lifelong cohabiting, exclusive sexual relationship. It does not include close friends, for example, indeed any pair of close friends trying to get married without intending a cohabiting, exclusive sexual relationship would generally be met with disapproval culturally. Whilst the law states that marriage 'is a union between a man and a woman' without referencing what I just touched on, you would find that a cohabiting, exclusive sexual relationship would be expected. It appears that around 98% of the population is only capable of entering into a cohabiting, exclusive sexual relationship with the opposite sex. Therefore, even if the law is changed to state that marriage 'is a union between two people', you would find that 98% or more of marriages will remain between a man and a woman. The changed definition creates a flexibility to accommodate a 2% minority. I believe the actual outcome of enshrining marriage equality will change the situation from 'marriage is between a man and a woman as a rule with no exceptions' to 'marriage is between a man and a woman as a rule, but for a small minority who cannot follow this rule we have accommodated their needs compassionately'. That means it's not like the definition of marriage has been changed, we have just compassionately allowed exceptions.

This confusion about the legal vs cultural definition of marriage is a good reason why we need marriage privatization - but let's leave that for another discussion.

We have indeed changed the definition of marriage in the past, as a society. And some of those changes, like no-fault divorce for example, haven't been pretty. But that's a separate issue. Every time we changed the definition of marriage in the past it applied to every couple. For example, legalising interracial marriage meant that every person could choose a spouse of a different race, which is a new choice that is open to every person. Legislating for no-fault divorce meant that every married couple could divorce more easily - again it affected every couple. Marriage equality is about providing equality for a minority of about 2% whilst changing nothing for the vast majority of around 98%. How is that called changing the definition, except technically?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Marriage Privatization the Answer to Fixing the Cultural Side-Effects of No-Fault Divorce

I have now come to the conclusion that the proper way to fix the cultural mess no-fault divorce has created is by marriage privatization.

No-fault divorce was legalised in many places before I was born. Originally a legal device to improve things for separating couples and decrease the risk of people being locked in situations of domestic violence, it has helped if not created a culture of easy divorce. Luckily, I come from an extended family where divorce was generally taboo during my upbringing - it wasn't the sort of thing that happens to families like ours. But divorces were happening out there, and I have long held a view that the current divorce rate is unacceptably high - by a factor of at least 50 times probably. No contract other than marriage comes with the possibility of one party just walking away from it without needing to pay appropriate compensation, and no other contract comes with an almost 1 in 2 chance of failure.

Can we, or should we, go back to the previous system we had, though? Up until around 2006 I was in favour of courts not granting divorces easily, a few years ago I instead embraced an optional covenant marriage style legislation, for a while. But it wasn't going to change things - people could still separate, for one. Covenant marriages have been quite unpopular too, and it won't be a force for change either way. Also, determining fault in marriage breakdown is rather complicated in the modern world, may lead to potentially unfair outcomes, and would generate lots of legal costs.

It is the culture of divorce that is driving the high divorce rate, I believe, and no-fault divorce has caused that, as a side effect. Whilst no-fault divorce may be a good idea for court proceedings, it has also generated the cultural idea that marriages can just end because the couple has drifted apart and are no longer attracted to each other. The truth is that, marriage is a life-long commitment, and you cannot just end it because you are no longer attracted to your partner or you find a 'more suitable' one. It shouldn't end unless you really, absolutely, cannot live with each other. People are still usually able to live with each other even when not particularly attracted to each other, unless there is violence or intimidation, or one party has committed adultery. To walk away in the absence of such absolute need is fault in itself, I believe. Whilst no-fault divorce is actually quite practical in law, in culture it is a disaster. It's just another way that putting a cultural and religious institution into the law can generate inappropriate outcomes. Marriage privatization can fix this.

The fact that marriage, if based on a marriage certificate from the government, is owned by the government and could be revoked by the government at any time, is the source of many problems. If marriage was instead owned and maintained by the couple and witnessed and helped by the community of family and friends around them, I believe things would be much better. If governments no longer own any claim on marriage, any 'no-fault' separation would just be the termination of a civil union. Whichever party was at fault of not trying their best to maintain the marriage - well, they would know it themselves, and the family and friends would know it too. And there would be no government to help soothe the guilty conscience, nor any decree from a court to make a moment of profound failure into a moment of freedom (the decree would be to dissolve the civil union - the marriage is still broken solely by the guilty party). This would definitely help end the divorce culture, I believe.