10 May 2012

A Question on the Controversy Over North Carolina’s Amendment

Politics 87 Comments

I am surely going to regret posting this, but hey nobody said you could stay on the cutting edge of the blogosphere by playing it safe…

So in the small society (and I use the term loosely) of my Facebook friends, people were very angry about the North Carolina amendment prohibiting gay marriage. One of the particular jokes, though, upon reflection is a bit odd.

So first, the joke: Flying around my “news feed” were several variations of a poster, showing a guy saying:

IN NORTH CAROLINA, YOU CAN MARRY YOUR FIRST COUSIN.
JUST NOT YOUR GAY FIRST COUSIN.

OK, that’s funny and I probably chuckled the first time I saw it. But why is it funny? Clearly, the only reason is that even the people pushing the poster around agree that barring first-cousin marriage is somehow more understandable than a state barring marriage between homosexuals.

OK, so where do that get off with that judgment? It can’t be because of the danger to children, since the proponents of gay marriage have made it abundantly clear that arguments about procreation are invalid. And it sure can’t be because, “Most people think first cousin marriage is unnatural and icky”–I have numerous FB status updates from various people yesterday, saying what they think about that kind of stance.

There are currently 25 (I counted fast, don’t quote me) states that prohibit first-cousin marriage. Isn’t this a monstrous violation of individual liberty? If two cousins love each other and want to spend their lives together, why should a state government have anything to say about it?

As most readers of this blog know, I am a Bible-believing Christian but also a pacifist who doesn’t endorse any form of the State apparatus as a way of achieving social objectives. So I obviously don’t think the government should have anything to do with telling people whom they can and can’t marry.

Yet I really do think this indignant reaction–pointing out that North Carolina allows first cousins to marry but not homosexuals–is interesting. For example, imagine if the NAACP launched a poster campaign after the Trevor Martin shooting that said, “Florida: A State Where You Get More Jail Time For Shooting an Illegal Than a Black Citizen.” Would civil rights activists have thought that was funny? I doubt it, because they would have been just as horrified if Zimmerman (in their minds) targeted and killed an illegal immigrant in cold blood.

So again I point out: Every single argument I have seen for gay marriage on FB, would also show that it is monstrous for States to prohibit first cousins from marrying. Thus, why was that joke about North Carolina funny, to the people who are really outraged by the amendment?

87 Responses to “A Question on the Controversy Over North Carolina’s Amendment”

  1. Joe says:

    This owns. Thank you.

  2. John Peer says:

    Seems like incest has always been way more taboo than homosexuality in most societies. Maybe for biological reasons, as it is likely to lead to genetic damages. So that might count for something.

    • soren says:

      You’re extremely historically ignorant. Cousin marriage(even first cousin marriage) has historically never been as taboo as homosexuality… not even close.

      • Jerome Bigge says:

        I believe the Egyptian royalty back in the time of the Pharohs had brother and sister marriages in some cases. Idea was to preserve the “family line”. Of course such relationships also carried the risk of carrying possible genetic defects into the next generation.

    • JimS says:

      and, some could likely come up with numerous “biological reasons” against gay marriage that are equally valid as first cousin concerns.

      • Anonyjerk says:

        Yeah imagine the kids that would result from such an ungodly union.

  3. RPLong says:

    Don’t regret this – this is great!

  4. Ken B says:

    Sometimes you write clearly Bob. This is not one of those times. Is it because we’re discussing jokes again? But to guess at what you are asking …

    The joke, the mechanism of it, can work as long as you see cousin-cousin marriage (read sex) as more objectionable than gay marriage (read sex). So the joke will work in much of modern America and will flop in most of modern Saudi Arabia.

    You can see this idea in action if you re-imagine the joke being about old men marrying 9 year olds — just not gay 9 year olds. That joke would flop in Saudi Arabia (and will doubtless bring forth howls of self-righteous outrage from many commenters here).

    • J. W. says:

      “The joke, the mechanism of it, can work as long as you see cousin-cousin marriage (read sex) as more objectionable than gay marriage (read sex).”

      I think that this is sort of Bob’s point, actually. I’m going to guess that those FB arguments to which he is referring include claims like “any two consenting adults should be allowed to marry if they love each other” and “it’s none of the government’s business which two consenting adults decide to marry” etc. The claim that ANY consensual pairing of adults is objectionable (here, that between first cousins) runs counter to these claims–which, if we actually took them seriously, would lead us to allow first-cousin marriage.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ken B. wrote:

      The joke, the mechanism of it, can work as long as you see cousin-cousin marriage (read sex) as more objectionable than gay marriage (read sex).

      Right Ken, you are repeating my post back to me. So my point is, the people who are absolutely flipping out on FB about what sort of moral monsters could have passed this amendment…have similar “bigotry,” only applied to a different group of people.

      I’m not judging anyone here, just pointing out that the joke works because the people who are worked up over gay marriage, tend to think rednecks are a bunch of unnatural icky people with weird customs and sexual relationships.

      • Ken B says:

        OK, checking maps I see that in NH you cannot marry your cousin, but gay marriage is allowed. So as a test of all our theories, can we construct a joke on this?

        In New Hampshire, you can’t marry your first cousin. Unless it’s you gay first cousin.

        Does the joke work?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Ken, well, the joke might work now, but only because it’s being ironic in light of the previous poster. And technically its conclusion isn’t true; you actually can’t marry your gay first cousin in NH. Remember, comedy is truth…

          • Ken B says:

            I agree. The only inherent funniness is the generic loophole idea.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      Sometimes you read clearly, Ken. This was not one of those times.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Aaaaaand now I no longer find the joke funny.

  5. scineram says:

    Good point. I myself always go straight to siblings, because there even sex is illegal and people really hate it. At first everyone says it’s iky, disgusting, but of course under liberalism that is out. Then they point to birth defects, so I say than protected sex is OK. And even if protection is not sure, there is still no argument against gay incest.

    • J. W. says:

      The argument about birth defects is weird. Should the law prevent non-relatives from marrying if we know beforehand that their coupling has a high chance of resulting in children with birth defects? If not, then why relatives specifically? And should our concern extend to the possibility of children who are less “fit” in general? If not, why not?

      If your interlocutors still have a problem with the possibility of birth defects, just say that at least one of the siblings has been sterilized.

  6. Bob Roddis says:

    Hipsters hate southerners who aren’t hipsters. It’s the only ethnic group that is still cool and OK to hate. It’s even more OK and cool to hate them if they are Christians. The only reason that they are southerners and Christians is because they are inbred and married their cousins. Otherwise, they’d be smart, cool like us and Keynesian.

  7. Bob Roddis says:

    I forgot to mention that the only reason the southerners rose up and attacked the north in the civil war was because they were inbred and married their cousins. Being inbred made them irrationally hate Saint Abe Lincoln.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Maybe the joke of humanity is that we’re all at some level retarded because we’re all kind of related to each other in some way.

      Maybe intergalactic cross breeding mutant species are laughing even harder at humans as a whole. “Silly humans, inbreeding with each other like that. Bwahaha”

  8. Bob Roddis says:

    It seems to me that since the advent of “no-fault divorce”, we don’t even have marriage anymore. Further, the legal effect of marriage is that a) certain joint property becomes untouchable by creditors of only one of the parties; b) the non-employed party might get health insurance; and c) the property and children of both parties will be thrown, unbeknownst to them*, into a single pot to be divided by a crazed government judge in the event of a “no-fault divorce”.

    Justin Raimondo chimes in:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/the-libertarian-case-against-gay-marriage/

    *or maybe known

  9. Blackadder says:

    There is some evidence that widespread cousin marriage impedes the development of individualism and democracy. That might be an argument for restricting cousin marriage but not same-sex marriage.

    Needless to say, I doubt that Bob’s Facebook friends are basing their anti-NC comments on what they read in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      There is some evidence that widespread cousin marriage impedes the development of individualism and democracy.

      Sooooo, there is some evidence that widespread cousin marriage impedes the development of…everything?

      Individualism and collectivism pretty much exhausts all possibilities.

      • Blackadder says:

        Individualism and collectivism pretty much exhausts all possibilities.

        True enough. But I didn’t say cousin marriage impeded the development of collectivism, now did I?

        • Major_Freedom says:

          True enough.

          It’s tricky, because democracy is a form of collectivism. It puts groups above the individual.

          Collectivism isn’t exhausted by democracy, and so in principle you can say cousin marriage impedes democracy, without having to say it impedes collectivism, because other forms of collectivism besides democracy could be encouraged in lieu of democracy, which is probably what you had in mind.

        • P.S. Huff says:

          I think MF was suggesting, probably tongue-in-cheek, that democracy and collectivism are synonyms.

          • Christopher says:

            I think Blackadder got that.

    • RG says:

      Impeding individualism AND democracy? Oxymorons are most fun when unrealized.

      • scineram says:

        How could chemo cure ovarian AND testicular cancer?

  10. Demosthenes says:

    Umm… Guys, the joke is funny because it paints North Carolina as a Southern, backwards place where us rednecks marry our cousins and are bigoted against gays.

    • Ken B says:

      Actually it’s funny because everybody in NC is already a first cousin to everyone else. It’s like banning marriage totally.

      :)

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Demosthenes, ummm, right, which means the people pushing the joke are guilty of the very things they are outraged about.

      • Ken B says:

        Just a guess Bob, but I bet many are really outraged at people being southerners at all.

      • Anonyjerk says:

        Not quite Bob! They’re certainly guilty of the same prejudice they criticize, but presumably the thing their actually outraged about is passing the law limiting same sex marriage. The moral outrage is only part of the joke.

  11. mobile says:

    Just want to note that marrying your first cousin has a long and distinguished history, in America and around the world.

  12. JimS says:

    I’m out in Northern California. A few years ago, the death of Diane Whipple, killed by a dog owned by two lawyers Knoller and Noell. There were many more stories in the local paper than nation wide concerning this. One must note that this couple adopted a thirty something year old cop-killer and seemed to work tirelessly to aid some very nasty people. Knoller frequently modeled nude in front of her “adopted son.” (Makes one wonder about visitatin in CA prisons). One thing that stands out in my mind, in addition to the relations this couple had with their “son’s” friends was an interview statement by Noell wherein he stated that people view bestiality or inter-species sex as they once viewed homosexuality.

    We seem anxious to do a bizarre dance around certain issues in an attempt to appear “non-judgemental”, but I assert that may be a very dangerous thing; a dance that may devovle into a race down a deviant path.

    I would like to ask Doctor Bob how he squares such behavior or positioning with his faith? I sense, though you have not stated directly, that you support homosexual unions, at least politically, but how does that rest spiritually? Personally, I can see the reasoning of being inclined to acknowledge that soemthing is polically permissible along the lines of individual freedom etc., but not so within the confines of a particular faith. Does then one vote their religious conscience?

    Thanks;
    JimS

    • Paul says:

      Religious conscience should affect personal actions only. If you think it is the best that everyone have the same religious fundamentals than you, then you must try more effective evangelizing.

      As ultimately we choose our own morality, I would highly doubt that using the force of law to change someone’s mind is effective at all because ultimately in order for that person to change their mind it has to be a decision from the heart. I tend to get stubborn and resistant when people force me to do stuff, so I can’t imagine that it will work on such a large scale as a law.

      The question, then, is how to effectively evangelize.

    • Drigan says:

      St. Thomas Aquinas addressed this by saying that some forms of immorality are tolerable because to punish the immorality would cause a more grave form of immorality. Personally, I think this applies to nearly all (perhaps all) forms of government intervention.

  13. stickman says:

    Despite making me morally uncomfortable, I think that you make a sound argument here. That’s only as far as it goes, however, in the sense that any law is to some degree a restriction on some individual’s freedom. (Personally, I find the notion of “natural rights” unconvincing…)

    Of course, the biological aversion to family unions is hardwired into our system: The revulsion that the vast majority of people feel towards incest is underpinned by both evolutionary safeguards and social conditioning… Though, admittedly to a far greater extent with immediate family members than, say, cousins.

    I believe that the same is true of other animals, since the point is to avoid the risks of homozygosity. I once read a quote by an evolutionary biologist to the effect of: “By restricting the gene pool, incest makes the whole point of sex redundant.”

    That said, you could obviously say that same is true for homosexuality! Although, interestingly enough, homosexuality would appear to be much more commonplace in nature than incest… If I had to guess at why this is the case, I’d think that it might relate to the idea that “no offspring” is more palatable than “disabled offspring”… especially, given that other members of your species are breeding ‘normally’.

    • Ken B says:

      You can make a decent sociobiological case for an incest taboo. Harder for homosexuality I think. And despite what some here seem to think, atitudes about homosexuality have varied far more widely over history than have attitudes about incest.

  14. Steve Horwitz says:

    I haven’t made that point publicly because you are quite right Bob. No reason to legally prohibit first cousin marriage, especially in this day and age.

    • Anon says:

      There are always “reasons”…to someone…for some purpose…

      What do you mean by “in this day and age”? It’s not “in this day and age” of…individual freedom, is it?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Steve Horwitz, that’s good then, you recognize the problem with that joke.

    • Ken B says:

      Why is the issue cousin marriage? Why prohibit father-daughter, mother-son, or sibling marriage?

      • stickman says:

        Yes, good point. I’d like to hear Bob and Steve’s take on this. (Let’s assume that we’re dealing with consenting adults here.)

        • Major_Freedom says:

          I think this is what Murphy may have been alluding to when he said he may regret making this post.

          It’s often quite difficult, especially for libertarians, to make a point of principle as a non-advocate.

          If I had a nickel for every time “I am saying people should be free to do X if they want” was conflated with “I am saying people ought to do X”, I’d be a millionaire.

          • Ken B says:

            Who says Bob is advocating? I’m pointing out we could repeat this entire post, joke included, with siblings not cousins (except we’d need to make it about Kentucky *ba-dum*). If it applies to cousin marriage why logically does it not apply to sibling marriage? This is a questionof logic and applicability not advocacy.

            • stickman says:

              Precisely.

              MF, I’m being totally sincere when I say that I’m interested in their (and anyone else’s) take here. Does shifting this issue to direct siblings or parent-child marriages change anything?

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Stickman, not sure if you’re looking for my opinion. Note that I haven’t said anything about my own views on it. I understand why a lot of people think gay marriage is “icky” and think it would be a bad idea for the State to sanction it, and I also understand perfectly well the arguments that proponents of gay marriage deploy in favor of recognizing it officially.

                My whole point with this post, was to say that the people who were mocking NC by bringing up the first-cousin thing, were implicitly demonstrating that they are OK with prejudices against certain marriage practices, even though those prejudices cannot be defended on “rational” grounds.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                The consistent libertarian would say no.

                And it is precisely this slippery slope that scares many people into wanting to “draw a line” somewhere.

                Of course, the choice then becomes being hypocritical yet “safe”, or being principled yet “scary.”

              • stickman says:

                Yup, I gotcha Bob. As I said above, I think that you’ve picked up on something worthwhile here…

                Still, the point that I’m converging to is that there is probably no way to comfortably rationalize this issue… At least not entirely.

                MF’s comment on consistency reflects this notion as well. If libertarianism is about always taking the logic of your assertions to their full, deontological conclusions… Then I guess I wouldn’t qualify. I do think that there are limits that we draw at some point (on different issues), even if these may ultimately be defined as arbitrary.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Who says Bob is advocating?

              Nobody. That’s my point.

          • Daniel Hewitt says:

            If I had a nickel for every time…

            You might enjoy this, MF. I am sure you can identify with these…..

            http://libertarianchristians.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/photo.jpg

  15. Ken B says:

    One issue that I never ever see addressed in discussions like this is, why aren’t my concerns (speaking as a typical citizen) about what contracts I am willing to enforce relevant? For example, if Bob Murphy sells himself as a slave to Daniel Kuehn I am unwilling to help enforce that contract. (It’d be close in Bob’s case, especially if tar & feathers are involved, but that’s just me.) Doctrianl libertarians always say any contract should be fine, but that misses this concern. Your contract burdens me with enforcement; I think I should have a say.

    So in partial answer to my own question, my willingness to enforce contracts pertaining to cousin marriage but not sibling marriage is a factor.

    • Dan says:

      Why would you be forced to enforce the contract?

      • Ken B says:

        Huh? Are you suggesting we do not enforce contracts? Because courts do it all the time. Society in general enforces contracts.

        • Dan says:

          What? You said,”Your contract burdens me with enforcement; I think I should have a say.”

          So if I have a contract with my neighbor how are you burdened with enforcing it? If you mean that since the courts are public you indirectly are burdened then I would just say to privatize the courts and problem solved. Otherwise, I have no idea what you are talking about.

    • Egoist says:

      why aren’t my concerns (speaking as a typical citizen) about what contracts I am willing to enforce relevant?

      You just answered your own question. A slave who asks why can’t he isn’t permitted by the master to act like a master, and why his call to act like a master isn’t “relevant” to the master, are answered by his asking these questions.

      You say “what contracts I am willing to enforce”. But “I” and “citizen” are not the same thing. The “I as me” is different from “I as citizen.” Only in the former can you shake off labels of “typical citizen” and “seeking permission”, and “wanting others to grant relevance.”

      For example, if Bob Murphy sells himself as a slave to Daniel Kuehn I am unwilling to help enforce that contract. (It’d be close in Bob’s case, especially if tar & feathers are involved, but that’s just me.) Doctrianl libertarians always say any contract should be fine, but that misses this concern. Your contract burdens me with enforcement; I think I should have a say.

      Doesn’t libertarianism contain the proviso that an individual cannot be forced to enforce a contract unless they contracted to enforce a contract?

      So in partial answer to my own question, my willingness to enforce contracts pertaining to cousin marriage but not sibling marriage is a factor.

      A factor in what, exactly? Suppose you lack the power to stop a brother and sister from signing a piece of paper saying they are husband and wife, which is the case because they exist.

      What factor are you bringing to this?

  16. Christopher says:

    If you are interested, you can pretty much find all the arguments for and against banning incestuous relationships here.

    http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?action=html&documentId=905957&portal=hbkm&source=externalbydocnumber&table=F69A27FD8FB86142BF01C1166DEA398649

    Some of them differ from the arguments brought up against gay marriage. So this might be one justification for “the joke”.

    • Christopher says:

      One funny thing to add here:
      In Germany, heterosexual intercourse between siblings is illegal whereas homosexual intercourse is allowed. So the joke would go something like:

      In German you have to become gay to **** your cousin.

      In the end, the main difference between gay sex and incestuous relationships is eugenics. That’s the rationale of the German law and probably the explanation for many people’s intuition that incest is somehow “worse” than gay sex.

  17. Tel says:

    Anyone who says this is not about procreation is kidding themselves.

    First cousins contain (statistically speaking) 1/4 of their DNA identical, inherited from a grandparent. So the normal protection against genetic abnormality (i.e. inbreeding) is diversity, but the children of first-cousin parents do not have that protection across 1/4 of their DNA. That doesn’t mean they will necessarily be born as mutants, it just increases the chance slightly.

    It’s a lot easier to publicly justify the outcome when there are no children of a marriage, than trying to justify children who grow up with disabilities, and become a physical and very visible manifestation of the decision.

    That’s not the end of the story though, because in relative terms, making a baby is not particularly difficult, but raising that child to adulthood, and producing a quality citizen who is a productive member of society, is much more demanding, and easier to get wrong. You can be sure that pushing homosexual marriage is part of the way towards homosexual parenting and same-sex families. There’s really no point in trying to pretend otherwise… so what you are really making a decision on is whether the upbringing in a same-sex family is going to raise children to be the sort of citizens that you want as neighbours. That’s the question.

    Personally, I’m a supporter of diversity. I don’t see any good reason why a same-sex family is better or worse as a place for kids to grow up than a more biologically conventional family. I’m not going to be a hypocrite about it though… I absolutely do NOT believe that the government should be in the business of controlling people’s private lives, so I’m willing to say both homosexual marriage and cousin marriage should be legal. We have enough laws as it is, a few less and they won’t be missed. In the case of first cousins wanting to have children, I’d not do it myself, nor recommend it (because of the risk involved) but then again, lots of things we do have risk involved, that’s not a decision for the government, that’s a decision for the individuals.

    The only time the government should get involved is if the parents find they are unhappy that their baby has some genetic problem, and the rule of law should say, “Well, you made the decision, you must now do the right thing and treat that baby decently.”

    By the way, I also do NOT believe that the federal government should be getting involved in the marriage issue at all. It should be a matter to be settled by the states. If one state want to ban something, that’s a matter for the people of that state to deal with, no one else.

    • Tel says:

      By the way, the idea that we are more politically comfortable with hidden outcomes than with visible outcomes is pretty common.

      Keynesians are happy to point out that war stimulates the economy, but for the people who died in the war the stimulus does not boost their economic productivity one bit. It’s just that when it comes to collecting statistics, the dead people don’t get counted so we can pretend there’s a positive outcome.

      In Australia, there’s a big political issue about illegal migrants, refugees, etc. When they crash their boats on rocks and turn up on the news everyone runs around making a fuss about it, when they get here and are rounded up and put into camps by government everyone makes a fuss about that too. However, when there are much bigger migrant camps all over the world, full of people who would very much like to come to Australia but have no means to make the journey, they are invisible and therefore politically irrelevant.

      • Egoist says:

        I’m all for cousins to marry and have children, because the more mentally handicapped people there are, the less complaints there will be for the more menial things I want others to do for me, like flip burgers and clean toilets.

        • RG says:

          Some mutations, like a larger frontal cortex, can be considered beneficial. Some mutations, like lobster hands, can be considered detrimental. The Hebrews inbred enough to supposedly create a mutation that allowed a woman to give birth without a fertilized egg and a man that couldn’t die. The Japanese inbred enough to create a lineage with only four fingers on their left hands. I say we should foster the inbreeding and hope for supermodel nymphomaniacs.

          • MamMoTh says:

            I’m in.

          • Tel says:

            So Fukushima should give the Japanese a significant edge here?

    • Ben Kennedy says:

      By the way, I also do NOT believe that the federal government should be getting involved in the marriage issue at all. It should be a matter to be settled by the states. If one state want to ban something, that’s a matter for the people of that state to deal with, no one else.

      If it should not be a federal issue, why should it be a state issue? This is a great issue to take the anarchist plunge. There is no point to government-sanctioned marriage. Leave it to the religious institutions.

      • Tel says:

        Well, there’s this document called the US Constitution and it doesn’t list telling people who to marry as something the federal government should concern themselves with. That means it falls to the states.

        Doesn’t mean the states HAVE to get involved either for that matter, just means they CAN get involved.

    • Scott says:

      Actually, it is only 1/8, since humans are diploid organisms. Each grandparent contains 2 full complements of ‘human genes,’ and passes them on, ideally, at random.

      Also, to muddy the waters further, you must take into account the natural inbreeding coefficient of the population in question, and also effects of subpopulation mating barriers (i.e. Wright’s F-statistics, or departures from the ‘ideal’ of random mating.)

      When it’s all said and done, these kinds of effects usually bring the overall inbreeding effects up to around ~.10 for humans, not far from the .125 from direct cousin marriages.

      Marrying your cousin probably isn’t all that bad, genetically speaking.

      • Tel says:

        Hang on.

        If I figure out how to clone myself and produce two identical copies of myself then those kids will be 100% genetically identical.

        If I have sex with a woman and produce two kids they will be 50% genetically identical (ignoring identical twins which are rare).

        If my two kids each produce two kids then the cousins will be 25% identical (again ignoring identical twins and presuming random partners within a broad gene pool).

        … and so on down the generations …

        I’m not sure that the F-statistics apply because the whole idea is to make sure that breeding does happen across a diverse gene pool. I suppose all those tiny fractions of 2nd cousins and 3rd cousins might add up. Has anyone ever measured it in humans? It would be a pretty controversial thing to do.

        People do tell jokes about towns that have a real big family tree, don’t have any branches on it… I’ve never taken that sort of thing seriously.
        :-)

        • Tel says:

          Hmmm, it just occurred to me that if I had two children, one each by two different randomly chosen women then those children would only be 25% genetically identical, and then if they also each did much the same the cousins would be much more diverse. That’s probably a good way to increase the genetic mixing within society, but it’s not how most people structure their families. It’s also not what is generally thought of as “first cousins”.

          Might also boost the STD population, maybe better stop there.

          • Scott says:

            Right — now you’re starting to see where the thinking leads. Very strange possibilities. If you really value heterogeneity, you will encourage the breaking up of families, infidelity, divorce, etc. Obviously, there are other values to place in the balance.

            Actually, cloning yourself is not the same as ‘selfing’ yourself (i.e. a hermaphroditic mating with yourself, assuming that were possible). Cloning does not take into account genetic segregation and recombination at meiosis.

            Actually, Wikipedia says that I am wrong. The correct number is 1/16, but anyway it comes from the genetic definition of inbreeding — the probability of homozygosity at a locus via descent from a common ancestor. So, it is an analysis of the cross (i.e. the mating) not the relation itself, which I am not sure is necessarily the same number. I do not remember exactly how to do the math anymore, unfortunately.

            The point is, the number to compare is not 1/16 (or whatever) versus zero, because zero is not what people actually do. If you measure inbreeding statistically, by deviation from the binomial ideal (i.e. Hardy-Weinberg), you find that what people actually do comes to about .10, depending on the culture you are talking about. It is slightly higher for Japanese, slightly lower for Americans, but basically, people do not actually mate randomly. There is definite population substructure, otherwise, for example, there would no longer be any ‘races’ in a place like the US. So, a cousin mating is statistically very similar to what people actually do, and there is very little reason to be mathematically prejudiced against it. There might, of course, be other reasons.

            • Tel says:

              I still disagree, 1/16 presumes that all children are produced at random (i.e. picking a new partner each time), but clearly long-lasting marriage relationships amongst humans are the norm, so we should calculate based on that presumption. Anyhow, genetic diversity is not the be-all and end-all, upbringing is more important. I’m certainly not suggesting that marriages should break up just to encourage diversity.

              Slavery was only abolished 150 years ago, and since then plenty of new immigrants have come to the USA, so that’s only a handful of generations. Not nearly enough for a situation like, “there would no longer be any ‘races’ in a place like the US”. I agree that during most of the last 150 years inter-racial marriages have been socially discouraged, I think that’s not such a big deal today, but it takes time for these things to happen.

              People travel a lot more now than they used to, and the chat on the Internet and stuff. Diversity is increasing all by itself. I like the fact that it is happening, but we don’t need government to force it along.

  18. Ryan says:

    I think that all the self-proclaimed liberals’ howls of outrage surrounding the NC constitutional amendment are hilarious. I have to ask them: are you not entertained? Is this not what you wanted? This is democracy in action! This is the clearly expressed will of Society! This is the greatest political system ever devised–how could you POSSIBLY improve upon it?

    Obviously, they made the classic mistake of believing that their favored political system would only ever be used in accordance with their own values, and I’m just emotionally immature enough to rub their noses in it.

  19. RG says:

    Can I marry my gay first cousin if he’s Mexican?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Only if he makes you tacos.

  20. RG says:

    Can I double marry my first cousin and her brother?

  21. RG says:

    Can I marry my first cousin that’s my sister’s wife?

    • Tel says:

      You would have to learn to share, but basically OK.

  22. MamMoTh says:

    Marriage is just the basic brick of collectivism, which we all know leads to keynesianism and other kinds of authoritarianism.

    Marriage should be banned.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      What does Randall Wright say about it?

      • Major_Freedom says:

        I’m just laughing at how Mammy doesn’t seem to get that banning marriage is itself authoritarian, and that voluntary marriage is not collectivist, and that…

        • Tel says:

          He means banning the act of singling out some voluntary lifestyle arrangements as more legitimate than others.

  23. Seth says:

    I found the joke funny because in North Carolina you and your first cousin could get married, whether s/he is gay or not. I don’t believe the authorities will come lock anyone up for it, will they?

    Now, North Carolina may not treat the latter as it treats the former, but what does that mean? They have to file separate tax forms and make out a will and trust to pass property to one another?

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