Thursday, August 13, 2009

Americans Are Conservative Until It Has A Cost

Matt Yglesias has an interesting response to Ross Douthat's column.

Douthat writes:
"More than most Westerners, Americans believe — deeply, madly, truly — in the sanctity of marriage. But we also have some of the most liberal divorce laws in the developed world, and one of the highest divorce rates. We sentimentalize the family, but boast one of the highest rates of unwed births. We’re more pro-life than Europeans, but we tolerate a much more permissive abortion regime than countries like Germany or France. We wring our hands over stem cell research, but our fertility clinics are among the least regulated in the world.

In other words, we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us."
Yglesias writes:
"I think this explains a lot about the appeal of anti-gay crusades to social conservative leaders. Most of what 'traditional values' asks of people is pretty hard. All the infidelity and divorce and premarital sex and bad parenting and whatnot take place because people actually want to do the things traditional values is telling them not to do. And the same goes for most of the rest of the Christian recipe. Acting in a charitable and forgiving manner all the time is hard. Loving your enemies is hard. Turning the other cheek is hard. Homosexuality is totally different. For a small minority of the population, of course, the injunction 'don’t have sex with other men!' (or, as the case may be, other women) is painfully difficult to live up to. But for the vast majority of people this is really, really easy to do. Campaigns against gay rights, gay people, and gay sex thus have a lot of the structural elements of other forms of crusading against sexual excess or immorality, but they’re not really asking most people to do anything other than become self-righteous about their pre-existing preferences."
The opportunity cost of being a conservative christian is sex with men. On the other hand, the the opportunity cost of not having sex with men is happiness. If you are a gay economist this is an easy dilemma. Sphere: Related Content

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