The Scapegoat Principle
I’d like to expand on a comment I made below, which is likely to get lost as such comments often do.
Will floats a precautionary argument against same-sex marriage. If we grant same-sex marriage, the argument goes, something modestly good will happen to a very small number of people. But then, something very, very bad might happen to a whole lot of people.
We don’t know how it will happen. We don’t even know what “it” is. But it might happen, and it is really, really bad. So we must not allow same-sex marriage.
Because of it.
This form of argument is lazy, in that one is usually expected to articulate what one’s afraid of when invoking the precautionary principle. Even “because terrorism!” is a better precautionary argument than “because no one knows what!”
Will has been very cagey about all this, and while I know that he’s offering the argument merely to start a discussion, I can’t help but think that there’s nothing worth talking about here. Cower under your blankets, if you’re really that afraid of you know not what.
Worse, the argument is fundamentally irresponsible. If we decline to name what we’re afraid of, and if we decline to name a mechanism, and if we still think the argument has conclusive force — then anything bad that happens to heterosexual marriage automatically falls on same-sex marriage. It’s a free “I told you so” for anything bad at all. It turns gays and lesbians into scapegoats for every imaginable social problem, as far too many would happily make us already.