Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.

Libertarians and baby selling

I got involved in a discussion over at the Econ Lib blog on the question of baby-selling. The question arose when Bryan Caplan opined that it would be best for all concerned if women considering placing their children for adoption could recieve explicit payments for their babies, not just compensation for their hospital expenses and the like. As part of his argument, he claimed:
In a free market, most of the baby suppliers would be poor families in the Third World, and most of the baby demanders would be much richer families in the First World.  The exchanges would drastically raise babies' well-being and chances of survival.
Here is the gist of my response (made after I teased people a little, and drew some of them out a bit.)
1. Some posters seem to think that allowing explicit payment for an adoption would leave the adoption institution intact. But this is not appropriate to assume that "adoption" would continue to be the same kind of institution. Currently, and for a long time in the Christian West, adoption has been considered a child-centered institution. It is a solution to the problem of a child without suitable biological parents or other relatives. Any benefits to the adoptive parents are strictly incidental. This is what makes it different from market transactions, where the focus is on a calculation of costs and benefits from both parties, who are assumed to be able to fend for themselves. Allowing explicit payment does more than change existing incentives, i.e. something that used to cost $5 now costs $6. Allowing explicit payment for infants changes the very structure of incentives: transactions that are now literally unthinkable will become subject to cost benefit calculation. This fact will change the structure of a whole variety of incentives. Many of the people who are objecting to paying for infants are making this point in one way or another. 2. Some of the comments in some form or fashion, echo Bryan's original observation that people who adopt babies almost always love them. Implicit too, is the idea that mothers almost always love their babies too much to sell them into terrible circumstances without good reason. You are in effect counting on an unnamed, undefined and unanalyzed factor, namely, the maternal instinct, to prevent the worst abuses from occuring. I find it mildly amusing that you tough-guy economists are relying on mothers to keep you out of trouble. BTW, do fathers have any rights at all in these transactions? I realize that is slightly off this thread, but that is revealing in and of itself. The baby-making process has become an individual activity, rather than what it is in fact: the ultimate in team production. 3. I also find it mildly amusing that a point of view that starts out with a presumption of liberty can't come up with a principled reason for prohibiting the buying and selling of the weakest and most vulnerable of human beings.

Rosie O'Donnell is dating...

She broke up with her 12 year lover/"wife" in October. She had 4 children with Kelli. Now she is dating her new love interest, named Tracy, who has six children.  How nice. Rosie O'Donnell made herself a poster child for same sex marriage and parenting. Now, she's a poster child for what, exactly? And don't lay the guilt trip on me, "heterosexuals do this all the time," nonsense. I've been on a campaign against divorce for a long time. The fact is that data as we have it right now strongly suggests that same sex unions are less stable than opposite sex unions, with most data pointing toward two women being the least stable combination.  Does anybody care about the impact on these 10 kids, who are getting passed around?

Staging a Show Trial on Prop 8

Ed Whelan is all over the Federal Court case against Prop 8 and the legal shennanigans to televise the trial. This case is fast turning into a the worst sort of Soviet-style show trial, designed more to make an example out of dissenters from the regime, than to administer justice.
Any intelligent and fair-minded judge would recognize that the obvious candidates for a pilot program would be low-profile cases that present no apparent risk of intimidation or abuse of trial participants and in which all parties consent to televised coverage. Only an idiot or a hardened ideological advocate for same-sex marriage — and (presiding Judge) Walker is no idiot — would imagine that the Proposition 8 case is a good candidate for the program. A coalition of major media companies has asked Walker to have the Proposition 8 trial televised because “televising this modern-day Scopes trial would present viewers with a national civics lesson on a hotly contested issue that crosses social, political, educational, and religious boundaries.” But the role of the courts is not to “present viewers with a national civics lesson.” It’s to decide cases fairly. In some cases, that goal might not be jeopardized by televising the proceedings. But in other cases it will be. The very fact that these media companies are intent on portraying the Proposition 8 case as a “modern-day Scopes trial” reinforces the ample evidence that this trial should not be televised. If Judge Walker persists in failing to recognize that elementary fact, the national civics lesson that he will be providing is yet another reminder that too many of our federal judges willfully abuse their authority in order to advance their own political agendas.
Read all of Ed Whelan's article here.

Cool Catholic Quote of the Day:Catholicism is not for wimps

from the National Catholic Register's story on military chaplains during the Christmas season in Afganistan and Iraq:
Father Michael Duesterhaus has been deployed to combat areas three times, including Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006. The Navy chaplain said “close teamwork, mission focus and personal deprivations [can] deepen one’s faith” and recounted how “one Marine, who I baptized, confirmed, and gave first holy Communion to in the Al Anbar Province told me one night, ‘Catholicism is a tough religion. ... Have to believe that the Eucharist is truly Jesus and not a symbol. And confession — whoa, there’s a challenge. Yeah, it’s tough. But I’m a Marine. Who wants a wimpy faith?’”

Marriage Law Digest for December 2009

is now available from iMAPP.   The Digest is a summary of significant legal developments concerning marriage during the month of December. Edited by Mr. William Duncan, who is also a member of the Ruth Institute's Academic Advisory Board, this month's edition includes cases from around the English-speaking world. This is a valuable resource for anyone who wants links to the important cases. The cases this month include: CONTENTS1) MCFARLANE V. RELATE, Appeal No. UKEAT/0106/09/DA, Employment Appeal Tribunal, November 30, 2009 (religious discrimination claim for employee fired for refusing to affirm same-sex couple counseling).9) Recent Legislation (topics: same-sex marriage). 2) BOISSION V. LUND, 2009 ABQB 592, Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, December 3, 2009 (hate speech prosecution for letter to newspaper on homosexuality). 3) J.MCD. V. P.L. & B.M., Record No. 186/2008, Ireland Supreme Court, December 10, 2009 (dispute between sperm donor and same-sex couple raising child). 4) LADELE V. LONDON BOROUGH OF ISLINGTON, [2009] EWCA Civ 1357, England and Wales Court of Appeal, December 15, 2009 (religious accommodation for marriage registrar’s objections to same-sex civil partnerships). 5) ELANE PHOTOGRAPHY   V. WILLCOCK, CV-2008-06632, New Mexico Second Judicial District Court, December 11, 2009 (wedding photographer’s religious objection to same-sex ceremony). 6 ) PERRY V. SCHWARZENEGGER, No. 09-17241, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, December 11, 2009 (compelled disclosure of Proposition 8  campaign information). 7) Recent Law Review Articles (topics: racial  analogy to gay rights, religious liberty and samesex marriage, interstate recognition, feminism and marriage, divorce jurisdiction,  impotence trials). 8) News Stories (topics: education on homosexuality, religious liberty and antidiscrimination laws).

Mother must transfer daughter to former lesbian partner

The latest on the disputed custody of Isabella. Miller has apparently disappeared with her child, rather than comply with the court order to surrender her daughter to a woman she used to have sex with.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. Isabella was born to Miller through artificial insemination in 2002. The couple broke up in 2003, and Miller moved to Virginia, renounced homosexuality and became an evangelical Christian.

(Judge) Cohen awarded custody of the girl to Jenkins on Nov. 20 after finding Miller in contempt of court for denying Jenkins access to the girl. 

The judge said the only way to ensure equal access to the child was to switch custody. He also said the benefits to the child of having access to both parents would be worth the difficulties of the change.

This is the most recent press release from Lisa Miller's attorney at Liberty Counsel.
The Vermont trial court recently ordered that Lisa must give up custody of her daughter and place custody with Janet, despite the fact that the same court has repeatedly found Lisa to be a fit parent of Isabella. The Vermont court has ordered the transference of custody to take place by January 1, 2010. Unrefuted testimony has shown that for the last five years, Janet has neither attempted to phone nor write Isabella. She has never sent Isabella a card of any kind for any occasion. Janet has refused to attend Isabella’s Christmas plays, because she does not want to be around a Christian environment. She has also said that it is not in Isabella’s best interest to be raised in a Christian home.
The court is ordering a perfectly fit parent to surrender custody of her child to a person who is not related to the child, either by blood or adoption. Why? Because she used to have sex with this person, and this person is claiming parental rights. Contrary to what the court claims, I don't think this is at all like a heterosexual custody dispute. This is more like a custody dispute between a parent and a stepparent, who claims parental rights to a child that he/she never adopted. For the court to assign itself the power to say, this person has "enough" of a relationship to count as a parent, is way too much power.

Fathers, Sons and Hunting

I just found this lovely article by a young Catholic priest, about his father, his deceased brother, and hunting. (No, the brother didn't die hunting.)  It is about the ways in which Father Figures help the development of young men through their time together in the wild. wordlessly. Fr. Patrick tells this story about himself as an eight-year-old.
At the end of deer season, I was confused as to why Dad only saw or harvested bucks when I accidentally slept in, yet when we hunted together, the most we would see were rabbits, birds, and does. He never told me, but now I know. It was those crackly plastic bags of Dorito chips I insisted on taking into the deer blinds! I was a bag crackler and chair squeaker! The worst kind of greenhorn! How could he have been so patient without ever saying a word of frustration or disappointment to me? How could he have sacrificed those many hours of “no luck” just so that I could sit with him over the hunting spot, him knowing ahead of time that my presence would guarantee a zero in the way of buck activity? If hunting were simply about killing animals, then yes, they would have been pure wastes of time. Harvesting the animal is only part of hunting though. When thinking of the many deer hunts Dad and I shared, I think on God the Father’s Providence in each of our lives. Sitting next to Dad last deer season, I was first in spotting all the animals. I pondered how my five senses used for hunting were worthless twenty eight years ago, and how my Dad’s were superhuman.
He asks rhetorically:
During this time of crisis in Fatherhood and manhood in America, when more children are growing up without father figures than at any other time in American history, could one solution be the rediscovery of the outdoors, hunting, and fishing? Do we not need fathers and father figures willing to spend time with boys, doing the things which men did as a matter of course for centuries before these last fifty or so years?
Obviously, yes. I can't teach my son to be a man, the way another man can. Read it all here.

Health care bill attacks marriage

We first reported this travesty here. Now CitizenLink has picked up on it, hopefully spreading the word to millions more people.  The welfare rules of the Great Society drove marriage out of the homes of the poor. The health care bill has the potential to drive marriage out of the middle class. A closer look at premium payments in both the House and Senate health care bills shows higher premiums that might discourage couples from tying the knot.
For instance, in the House version, an unmarried couple each making $30,000 a year would pay $1,320 combined each year for private health insurance.  If that couple chose to marry, their premium would jump to $12,000 a year, a difference of $10,680.  Allen Quist, a former Minnesota State legislator and current candidate for Congress, discovered the penalty while looking at numbers from the Committees on Ways and Means, Energy & Commerce, and Education & Labor. "This extraordinary penalty people will pay, should they marry, extends all the way from a two-person combined income of $58,280 to $86,640, a spread of $28,360," he wrote in a blog post.  "A large number of people fall within this spread. As premiums for private insurance escalate, as expected, the marriage penalty will become substantially larger." The Senate bill includes a similar penalty. "The Senate bill stipulates that two unmarried people, 52 years of age, with private insurance and a combined income of $60,000, $30,000 each, will pay a combined cost of $2,483 for medical insurance," Quist wrote.  "Should they marry, however, they will pay a combined cost of $11,666 for insurance — a penalty of $9,183 for getting married."
Is this difference in insurance premiums enough to tip the scales from marriage to cohabitation?  For some people, who are already loosely attached to the institution of marriage, the answer is surely yes.  Once the principle of granting benefits to individuals rather than families is in place, the numbers can be tweaked to get any desired result. Libertarians: are you sure you don't care about marriage?  The state has been, and is continuing to actively push people away from marriage. Why do you suppose they are so keen to break the family into individuals?  Christian liberals: are you sure you want the federal government to be the primary source of health care for every man, woman and child in America?  The power to tax is the power to destroy.  And the power to subsidize is the power to corrupt.  The government is giving itself enough power to destroy what's left of the family.  They may or may not exercise that power at this particular time: but if this health care bill passes, they will have the power.  Why do you suppose they want that power? Wake up everybody: breaking the family into individuals empowers the state, not the individuals, and certainly not the family.

UK policy turnaround on marriage?

Or just a lot of hot air?  You decide. I can't keep up with British politics. It is true though, that the UK has been much more aggressively anti-marriage than the US, as Patricia Morgan has ably documented.  I reviewed her book here and reprinted here.
The Government is all over the place on family issues. In Harman's equality camp, the mantra is that single parents must not be discriminated against by encouraging marriage in the tax system. That's not unlike saying that those who don't go to university shouldn't be discriminated against in the jobs market, but I'll let that pass. In another camp, which Balls has just joined, are those who believe, like Cameron, that marriage is a gold standard for the raising of children.... Why in all his years at the Treasury did Gordon Brown preside over the steady erosion of the tax advantages of wedlock, while the burgeoning benefits system positively encouraged parents to live apart? My guess is that, in his instinct to act like Tony Blair when he inherited his office, Brown assumes that matrimony will be associated with all that stuffy, old religious observance, and, like Blair, he doesn't want to be thought of as a "nutter".
As yes, the ultimate insult: being thought a "nutter" because you believe kids need a mom and a dad and all that other religious mumbo-jumbo.  If religious people are the only ones who can see that moms and dads matter, so much the worse for the atheists!

Pantheism is not Christian

I have a bit of commentary about the movie Avatar, buried in the comments over at the First Things blog. I'm seeing more and more strange stuff from people who ought to know better, so I'm going to have to write more about it. But for now, check out this link, for my comments and a few others. Most of my comment: I went to see Avatar, at the urging of my adolescent son. he enjoyed the beauty of the movie, as well as the violence of the fight scenes. (The adolescent boy market is a significant market share of the movie market.) Appealing but wrong-headed movies like this are not harmless. In fact, the appeal is the problem. All the people living in harmony with each other, and with the earth, until the Evil Humans appear: this is not a harmless fantasy. This is the Gnostic fantasy that the world as we know it is evil, and that we can fix it if we only had the will and the power. Or should I say, the will to power. The problem is that the world as we know it has elements of both good and evil. The human race has been trying to create perfection, and has never succeeded. Yet still the Gnostic fantasy persists: we, at last, have the secret knowledge that will allow us to live in harmony with nature and each other and never again have any trouble. If only we could get those Other people to stop asking so many impertinent questions, stop dragging their feet, get with the program, and enter into our dreamworld.
But the Biblical God says the created world is good, and that the world after the creation of man and woman is very good. Sin enters the world, not because human come on the scene, but because they try to make themselves gods. That is, they refuse to face reality: God is God, and we aren’t.

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