How to make trouble over marriage

Christina Annesley writes powerfully on the topic of marriage, gay marriage in particular, and I think she has hit on something important. First she skewers the idea that this is a simple matter and dismisses the usual libertarian line that religious groups e.g. the Church of England should be free to discriminate against homosexuals by pointing out that the Church of England is the church of England. We kinda own it, or at least the state does, so this is not a case of normal people being told what to do, it is an argument between departments of Government. Also, were the CofE not the CofE but the C of… something else… it would still be using a state run system:

Much to my chagrin, marriage is currently a state licence, and it monopolises the right to grant that licence. Whilst I sincerely hope that this changes (and preferably before I can afford my own wedding), these are the facts as they stand. So the question as to whether libertarians should support the right of religion to opt-out of same-sex marriage can be rephrased as; do voluntary institutions have the right to use a state licence? It’s an interesting and complicated question, and brings up the question of – who does the state belong to?

Although the state is funded unequally by the people, it coerces against them equally; based on this argument, we could rightfully deduct that it does indeed belong to ‘us’. Equally. With no special allowances made for any system of beliefs – religion, for example. And as I have already pointed out, marriage is currently a state institution. What right, then, does a discriminating institution have to use a state licence to discriminate against other people that have an equal entitlement to that licence? Surely none at all, and the state is therefore completely entitled to revoke that licence on the basis of discrimination – on the same grounds as it could, for example, if an LGBT organisation that happened to be a provider of state marriages denied a marriage to someone based on their religion.

Of course, this is hardly an ideal situation for anyone.

Well, no. And we saw that coming didn’t we. We were talking for years about why the privitisation of marriage is the only good option. We were, unfortunately, crowded out by statist “liberals” who wanted to permit the state system to be used by gay people and they got their way, they got a compromse. The result is, predictably, (and Paul Marks for example did predict it) a conflict between those who see themselves as having a right to marry religiously, and those of a religious institution that dissapproves. Binding people together, as in so many bad movies, inevitably leads to friction.

It is worth remembering though, that while the sensible quiet and lightly enumerated voice of libertarians was ignored and easily defeated, we have been vindicated. We have another shot at articulating this argument now as the Drewitt-Barlows fight to have a ceremony in a church against the will of it’s owners. Let’s see if we can make a more audible contribution this time.

Tech giant shows accountability of markets

Facebook has to be one of the biggest of “big business” players out there and has certainly had it’s fair share of scrutiny from social campaigners, in particular, from privacy campaigners. The privacy issue is one where an instinctive mistrust of powerful entities seems to drive large sections of the population to paranoia. What these campaigners often forget though is that nobody is forced into dealing with these firms and that there are other choices to choose. This competitive pressure is a powerful way for customers to keep firms accountable and ensure services are run as they prefer. This is a distinct advantage that the free-market has over planned and mixed economies where state-backed monopolies insulate service providers from this source of pressure.

© Marco Pako

© Marco Pako

Facebook’s latest brush with social campaigners was with a crowd of feminist activists who grew concerned about mysoginistic content hosted on Facebook’s social platform. The content, of course, was not Facebook’s creation but was there on account of Facebook’s self-service approach to content sharing, yet it did not seem to suit Facebook’s interests for it to be there. I’ve looked at some examples, and frankly I agree. When the content was brought to the attention of advertising managers at several major brands the brands decided it wasn’t in their interests either. The FT explains what happened (registration required):

The placement of brands’ adverts next to the offensive content reflects targeted advertising techniques that follow users rather than individual pages. These techniques identify individuals who are likely to buy a particular product and then automatically places ads for that product on whatever page he or she visits.

Adverts for Nissan, Nationwide, Unilever’s Dove skincare brand, were automatically placed next to the offensive images that Facebook users either sought out or stumbled upon accidentally. To the companies’ embarrassment, screenshots juxtaposing the misogynistic images with their products were then widely circulated.

Nationwide said earlier this week that it had pulled its Facebook adverts pending resolution of the situation. Dove said it was working with Facebook to have the offensive content removed and “refine our [ad] targeting terms in case any further pages like these are created”. Both companies said they had not been aware that their ads had been placed on the pages in question.

Say what you like about radical feminism, but this is a handy example of how free-markets, freedom of (dis)association, and naked self-interest have combined to resolve a genuine problem non-violently, and without imposing any central diktats or uniform ideas of what is acceptable in the culture. The only thing that changed is what is acceptable on one platform, and consumers are free to visit a different one. In this case, heterogeneity preserved what is valued generally – freedom of speech – and discouraged that which is generally held to be abhorrent.