The Good Fight & Marriage
In my previous post, I devoted a great deal of digital ink to navel-gazing on my future career path. Thank god so few people are reading this narcissistic crap – for myself, I hope that one day this will prove a useful repository for what I thought and cared about on May 9th, 2012. I had mentioned the Good Fight, and I wanted to dwell a bit more on what I had meant by the Good Fight. I’m not sure I know.
Somebody had once described to me the culture of San Francisco with a striking phrase I may never forget: “A strong presumption in favor of personal freedom”. It is so wonderful a phrase because of its constituent parts, each essential. The highest value is truly personal freedom, the ability to do what one wishes to the extent it does not conflict with the personal freedom of others. Furthermore, this is not an ideology or a diktat but merely a “strong presumption” – personal freedom is the ideal to be venerated, not a policy commandment. In matters of negative externalities such as gun control or pollution, this presumption is honored in the breach. Finally, the central freedoms concerned are personal – the freedom of business is an afterthought to the goal of protecting and honoring individual freedom. The ability to act as you will is an important aspect of the Good Fight, but not the central aspect.
If I had to describe the Good Fight as I understand it, it’s the fight for greater freedom and autonomy for those who have the least of it. This is an awfully diffuse subject – sometimes it means fighting to constrain rights that are harmful to others’ autonomy, such as the right to pollute the air and water. And sometimes it means fighting for a more, rather than less, intrusive government – I personally believe a strong social safety net and the public provision of health care massively enhances personal freedom and specifically the ability of people to embrace entrepreneurship.
It also means standing up for those who are discriminated against and oppressed. Today, President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, the day after the citizens of North Carolina chose to enshrine bigotry in their constitution (you know, again). This day illustrates what the Fight is all about – making sure that gay and lesbian Americans are as free as the rest of us to follow their dreams. In the grand scheme of things, gay marriage isn’t that important to me as a policy issue, but it’s always touched me on a deeply emotional level. I simply can’t comprehend what can motivate the opposition other than bigotry, and the fight to defeat bigotry at the polls and in civil society is incredibly important.
The President isn’t leading our side on this front – he’s following. The fact that we have made it politically expedient to come out in favor on the issue means that we’re winning.