Thursday, February 14, 2013
French Assembly passes homosexual marriage, adoption bill
France's lower house of parliament on Tuesday approved a sweeping bill to legalize gay marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt children, handing a major legislative victory to President Francois Hollande's Socialists on a divisive social issue.
The measure, approved in the National Assembly in a 329-to-229 vote, puts France on track to join about a dozen mostly European nations that allow gay marriage and comes despite a string of recent demonstrations by opponents of the so-called "marriage for all" bill.
Polls show most French support legalizing gay marriage, though that backing softens when questions about the adoption and conception of children come into play.
The Assembly has been debating the bill, and voting on its individual articles in recent weeks. The overall bill now goes to the Senate, which is also controlled by the Socialists and their allies.
With the vote, France joins Britain in taking a major legislative step in recent weeks toward allowing gay marriage and adoption -- making them the largest European countries to do so. The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Spain as well as Argentina, Canada and South Africa have authorized gay marriage, along with six states in the United States.
The issue exposed fault lines between a progressive-minded leftist legislative majority in France, and its conservative roots. Critics -- among them many Roman Catholics -- railed that the bill would erode the family. The Socialists, however, sought to depict the issue as one of equal rights, and played off France's famed Revolution-era motto of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity."
"This law is going to extend to all families the protections guaranteed by the institution of marriage," Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said before the vote. "Contrary to what those who vociferate against it say -- fortunately they're in the minority -- this law is going to strengthen the institution of marriage."
As with many major and controversial reforms in France, the issue drew its share of political grandstanding over weeks of debate: Conservative opponents forced a discussion of nearly 5,000 amendments, a move derided by Socialists as inconsequential stalling tactics. But by the final vote tally, the government rank-and-file rolled out grand, solemn statements of victory.
"This law is a first necessary step, a social evolution that benefits society overall," said Socialist representative Corinne Narassiguin, announcing her party's support for the measure. "Opening up marriage and adoption to homosexual couples is a very beautiful advance ... It is an emblematic vote, a vote that will mark history."
The government didn't get all it wanted: Hollande's Socialists backed off plans to link the measure to relaxed restrictions on fertility treatments after catching political heat for its stance on assisted reproduction. The issue is expected to come up in a separate bill later this year.
Society and State in Modern Britain
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once famously declared that there was “no such thing as society.” Her remarks referred to the nonexistence of a collective entity.
No Society, Lady Thatcher?
Many on Britain’s left attributed a kind of moral bankruptcy to these remarks. Unfortunately, taken out of context, the phrase provides ammunition for collectivists who wish falsely to portray libertarians as uncaring, egotistical individualists interested only in maximum economic efficiency (or worse—profit). According to such critics, libertarian-minded individuals believe, contra John Donne, that each man is an island, and that what “society” exists at all is only a disconnected assortment of competing atoms, zealous only for their own interests at the expense of all others.
This straw man has proven to be a dangerously effective way of scaring many into collectivist thinking. In reality, any sound description of practical liberty places great importance on the role of society. Society consists of a complex array of fundamental structures, such as the family, as well as myriad other voluntary associations and institutions that tend to grow up organically—that is, without central planning. In fact, the path of modern history demonstrates that unwarranted and immoral State intervention has been the actual cause of social atomization.
Welfare State Atomization
While both classical liberals and conservatives stressed the importance of separate roles for society and State, the twentieth century saw tremendous growth in the latter at the expense of the former.
One prominent—but by no means solitary—example of this diminution of society is the replacement of private charity with the welfare state. From 1987 to 2012, in Britain, State funding of charities rose to such an unprecedented level that some 27,000 charities are now dependent upon the government for more than 75% of their incomes. The so-called “voluntary” sector receives more money from the State than from private donations.
This unnatural intervention weakens the sense of duty, custom, and manners which animate an organic system of civil society. State intervention has not only debased the very concept of charity, but reduced individual responsibility to others to what Kenneth Minogue has called mere “politico-moral posturing.” Such involves merely the desire to project one's decency. By having the correct socially approved opinions, one needn’t act at all. The morality of crowds is replaced by the burgeoning of bureaucracies. Once we have signaled our rectitude, we can go on behaving as atoms.
Proponents of the welfare state tend to ignore the plain evidence that wherever State interference hasn't cramped or enervated them, voluntary assistance and mutual aid have been the norm. Before the advent of the welfare state, this assistance came in the form of charity and mutual associations called friendly societies.
In 1911, the year the Liberal government introduced compulsory national insurance, around 9 million people (of the 12 million covered by the scheme) were already members of such mutual aid associations. That’s 75 percent. During the 19th century, there had been a vast proliferation of friendly societies, which sought to provide social security and sometimes medical assistance to their members. Sadly, the imposition of the welfare state, particularly with the post-World War II Labour government, helped undo much of this positive work. (There are similar stories of crowdout in the voluntary sector in the United States.)
The Coalition currently governing Britain has just reached the halfway point in its term. In that time, there has been much debate over the respective roles for society and the State. Prime Minister David Cameron has made much of his flagship policy (known as “The Big Society”), which is ostensibly aiming to “create a climate that empowers local people and communities” that will “take power away from politicians and give it to people.” While this policy sounded to many like a refreshing change, few commentators cottoned onto the inherent contradiction in a bottom-up, grassroots movement being started by a Prime Minister.
Despite the quasi-Burkean rhetoric, the “Big Society” still places the State in role of Nudger. Like most political approaches, it ignores the very edifice upon which a genuine functioning society truly rests: liberty. People do not require prodding from the State to fulfil the roles that society has traditionally performed. Left alone, people in “society” will function entirely naturally because they are capable of crafting effective civil association from the bottom up. Whenever the State assumes a role in this sphere it will have the opposite effect: Voluntary service will be viewed as superfluous, local non-State authorities redundant, charity itself corrupted.
It is remarkable how a once-liberal (i.e., liberty-loving) country could be so steadily inculcated with social democratic ideals. What was once considered healthy and good has come to be seen as aberrant and alien. Thankfully, a persistent germ of the individualist spirit still remains in Britain. Given adequate support, liberty could flourish once more. If Britain is to recover its former freedoms, the voting population must be informed and convinced of the superiority of spontaneous order over statist planning. The Big Society notwithstanding, government will not likely inspire its people to voluntarism.
Democratic Rep. Joins Atheists in Push for Congress to Celebrate Evolution With Annual ‘Darwin Day’
A storm in a teacup
Today marks evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin’s 204th birthday — a noted holiday for atheists, humanists and non-believers who wish to see the famed scientist gain increased respect and adoration. In fact, the American Humanist Association (AHA)’s International Darwin Day Foundation seeks to reserve Feb. 12 each year as a day to celebrate “science and reason.”
While there are events planned across the globe to celebrate Darwin’s life, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) also introduced House Resolution 41 today, an effort to officially designate Feb. 12 as “Darwin Day.”
If successful, atheists believe the action would send an important message to the nation and world. In working with Holt on the bill, the AHA was also able to help get seven co-sponsors on board with the bill. The organization lists them as follows: Rep. Michael Capuano (MA), Rep. Mike Honda (CA), Rep. Ed Markey (MA), Del. Eleanor Norton (DC), Rep. Jared Polis (CO), Rep. Charles Rangel (NY), and Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY).
“The passage of Rep. Rush Holt’s proposed resolution in Congress would send a strong message to the world that the United States supports science education,” said the organization’s executive director Roy Speckhardt. “Charles Darwin’s significant contributions to the advancement of science and our understanding of the world deserve recognition.”
Below, watch Holt speak in favor of Darwin, praising him as “one of humankind’s greatest thinkers”:
The event’s intention is to honor Darwin’s scientific accomplishments, notably his creation of evolutionary theory. The AHA press release describing the initiative explains, in part:
"Charles Darwin’s evolutionary discovery of natural selection as the basis for biological transformations responsible for the diversity of life on earth is the foundation of modern biology, genetics, and medicine. Other areas of science and the humanities can also trace advancements to Darwin’s ideas. Since his publication On the Origin of Species in 1859, additional advances in knowledge have fine-tuned and repeatedly verified his insights."
Previously, the AHA attempted to get Darwin Day passed, but former Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) was unsuccessful in moving Congress to do so.
Multiculturalists bury heads in sand
In a speech in January to the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in London, Scott Morrison, Shadow [conservative] Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, signalled that if the [conservative] Coalition wins this year’s election, an Abbott Government will make social integration and the promotion of Australian values its priority.
Morrison also indicated that an Abbott Government would move away from the emphasis that the official multicultural policy currently places on the promotion of cultural diversity. Morrison justified the Coalition’s approach by pointing to growing community concerns about multiculturalism. A 2012 Scanlon Foundation report found that people residing near areas with high-concentrations of residents who are culturally disconnected from mainstream Australian society were more likely to be lukewarm, at best and understandably, about cultural diversity.
Cultural dis-integration is a real issue in South West Sydney. The predominantly Lebanese-Muslim community that lives in and around the suburbs of Bankstown and Lakemba experience a range of social problems, including low educational attainment, welfare dependence, and crime. Religious extremism is also a problem, as was alarmingly demonstrated by the Islamist riot in the Sydney CBD in September 2012.
Morrison’s speech prompted this reply by Geoff Gallop, former Western Australian Premier, now Sydney University academic, which downplayed the significant challenge the Islamist riot posed to the idea of a peaceful and tolerant multicultural society.
Gallop maintained that if social harmony was under threat due to ‘putting differences ahead of unity,’ we should not focus on those groups who practice a self-imposed form of divinely-inspired, anti-Western and anti-women cultural apartheid, but should instead remember the ‘Australian-born and bred nationalists’ who rioted at Cronulla in December 2005.
Gallop ran a familiar multiculturalist line. Multiculturalists have always attributed community reluctance to embrace multiculturalism to racist attitudes among ‘non-ethnic’ Australians. Politicians who pander to so-called ‘populist’ concerns about multiculturalism have always been accused of seeking to return ‘open’ and modern Australia to the ‘closed’ attitudes of earlier times.
The reality, however, is that defenders of multiculturalism who are willing to discuss the disgraceful Cronulla riot, but who prefer to overlook the appalling Islamist riot, are ignoring the real issues of social cohesion that multiculturalism raises for liberal-democratic societies.
By refusing to discuss the significance of the violent protests orchestrated by local Islamists, they are not only burying their heads in the sand about multiculturalism, they are also endangering community support for Australia’s long-running and overwhelmingly-successful non-discriminatory immigration program.
For a mass immigration program to be politically feasible, it must have broad-based community support. Legitimate concerns about immigration leading to ethnic or religious-based social division need to be addressed — not dismissed as racist.
Politicians who seek to reassure the community that government policy is to integrate migrants irrespective of colour and creed into Australian society are hardly seeking to revive the bad old days of the White Australia policy. They are in fact establishing the policy framework that will help build popular support for Australia’s large and ongoing annual intake of migrants from around the world
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.