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Gay marriage is no surprise; the divorce rate shows not even straight people respect the institution

To much surprise, the U.S. Supreme Court recently refrained from taking up cases involving gay marriage bans in five different states. As it stands, same-sex nuptials will remain legal in at least 30 states. There’s little doubt the rest of the country will eventually follow.

Gay marriage is coming in full force. Whatever remnants of traditional marriage remain have been vanquished by the grinding march toward “equality.” It’s now considered counter-culture to believe marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.

As the nation debates the virtue of same-sex matrimony, the divorce rate continues to inch upward. After a rise following the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, the number of divorces filed flattened during the Reagan years. Since then, it has continued to climb, in concurrence with a culture that is becoming more liberal – even libertarian – in almost every way.

Changing family dynamics have even forced Pope Francis to convene a synod to discuss the church’s role in familial matters – including communion for divorcees who remarry.

The fight over gay marriage has largely distracted from the divorce trend. It’s gotten to the point where divorce – the splitting of a sacred bond – is done blithely, as if it’s the severing of a business relationship. Contracts can be nulled for a fee that’s less than a student loan payment.

Couples are making the decision to split based mostly on feelings of passion. When the flame dies, so does the marriage. The unfulfilled promise left in its wake has broader implications than just that of children raised outside a two-parent household. It helps drive society away from the idea of everlasting commitment.

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Fear of a realist Rand Paul

My latest at TheDC is about the libertarian-realist convergence, why it scares the neocons, and how the Koch brothers are more anti-war than the Center for American Progress:

There’s something sublimely Machiavellian in the fact that the Kochs and those funded by them are more anti-war than the Center for American Progress. The right-wing billionaire might have a lot of pull, but the thing he’s pulling on is aliberal hegemony, though it’s comprised of neoconservatives and liberal hawks. The insurgencies we support usually talk about things like democracy and human rights; left-wing values, not right-wing ones — we take down autocrats and make the world safe for gay rights and democracy. And if you’re part of the permanent revolution, you better obey the party rules.

Read the whole thing here.

Network

Networks, the internet, and Coase

I am reading The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium by Martin Gurri. It is about the spread of networks and how they challenge traditional hierarchical organizations. So far, it seems to fit into the broader narrative of the decline of traditional types of authority, being replaced by networks. This narrative includes the spread of the sharing economy, Uber, AirBnB, the blockchain, Bitcoin, as well as the loss of trust in governments.

While reading I had a realization, that in retrospect seems obvious. However, I have yet to read anyone else make the claim I am about to very explicitly, so I feel it is worth blogging about.

The decline of hierarchy and the growth of networks fits perfectly into Coase’s theory of the firm. Coase, in his famous 1937 article argues that firms exist to reduce transaction costs. What he calls firms can be interpreted more broadly as hierarchical organizations, including the traditional nation state. The spread of the internet has lowered transaction costs. The benefits networks at the expense of traditional hierarchies. No longer do we have to book flights through a trusted travel agency, we can get them directly from the airlines. We can buy goods from anonymous strangers because a rating mechanism guarantees their trustworthiness.

The ability to network has empowered people to circumvent the firm. Coase asked, why have a firm, why not contract everything. As transaction costs fall more people will contract, rather than use a firm. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is we have yet to fully exploit how the internet can lower transaction costs. Electricity took 40 years to be fully integrated into everyday life. If we assume a similar time frame for the internet we can expect another 20 years of innovation, much of it being geared toward lowering transaction costs. How firms, and more interestingly the nation state, evolve in response should be watched closely.

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Trolling as moral philosophy

This summer feminist videogame journalists and cultural critics nailed some male game developers’ shallow, sexist portrayals of women. Gamers rallying around the hashtag GamerGate responded by trolling and lampooning gaming journalists, some harassing the journalists. As the Mitrailleuse’s Ezra Jones notes, blog and media coverage has been acerbic. The Atlantic rightly calls for legal and social pressure to end trolling, as young women are disproportionately likely to be victims of internet harassment or stalking. Yet trolling also usefully mocks and questions conventional norms. Is it possible to extract the good from trolling?

Is trolling ever justifiable?

Trolling is usually crude online speech ranging from mocking social norms to mild political incorrectness to harassment or death threats. Shielded by anonymity and goaded by likeminded forum users, trolls can freely make death and harassment threats, which no gaming journalist deserves. Mild political correctness is less terrifying, but is still insensitive. But lampooning social convention is worthwhile. In best (and rare) form, trolling mocks conventional morality and self-seriousness.

The Athenian philosophers Socrates and Diogenes the Cynic exemplify two elements of the ideal troll: A) publicly ridiculing moral convention, often at personal risk, and B) resisting moral sanctimoniousness. Socrates taught his personal ethics in defiance of Athenian mores and law. His subsequent trial defense, recorded in The Apology, mocked Athenians’ moral conformity and ignorance. Receiving a guilty verdict, Socrates proposed as punishment that he receive free meals for life. More jury members voted for his death than did for his guilt. So Socrates satisfies condition A. But he does not satisfy condition B – he claimed that despite his ignorance, he was the wisest man in Athens. And in perhaps the most pompous act in Western philosophy, he asserted Athens would collapse without his criticism.

Diogenes lampoons both conventional morality and himself. He satisfies condition A by publicly mocking morals, spitting and peeing on his interlocutors, and pooping in public theaters. His speech came at great personal danger, an act Athenians dubbed parrhesia. For Socrates and Diogenes, breaking conventional norms was also freeing – not coincidentally, Athenians equated parrhesia and freedom. Unlike Socrates, Diogenes lived humbly, satisfying condition B. He lived in a large jug, with stray dogs, and owned only a wooden bowl, which he broke when he saw a slave boy drinking from his cupped hands. Once, napping in the sun, Diogenes woke to Alexander the Great standing over him. Alexander asked if he needed anything, and Diogenes answered “stand a little out of my sun.” Alexander laughed, said if he weren’t Alexander, he’d like to be Diogenes, and Diogenes answered “If I were not Diogenes, I should also wish to be Diogenes.” Diogenes was a good troll.

Modern trolls satisfy condition B – they’re not self-serious – but fail condition A. They mock conventional morality, but anonymity shields them from personal risk. Trolling is not brave. If GamerGate trolls want to act morally (they don’t), they can begin by taking responsibility for their speech. Stopping the harassment would also be nice.

Private cities around the world

The PanAm Post was kind enough to publish a piece I wrote about private cities around the world. Below is an excerpt.

First, private cities could provide better administration of public goods (e.g. security, roads, sewage, and clean water), because the income of the developer is linked to his ability to attract residents. City owners are incentivized to provide valuable goods and services.+

The second, and more important reason, is that private cities incentivize institutional change. Economic freedom leads to economic growth, which increases the value of the land on which the city resides, benefiting the developer. As such, private-city owners have a strong incentive to lobby their central or state governments for a degree of institutional autonomy to increase their competitiveness.

The Honduran ZEDEs, though not as far along as projects mentioned in the piece have the most potential as they have the most institutional autonomy. Honduras has even inspired their neighbors, El Salvador and Costa Rica to begin to consider laws of their own to allow institutionally autonomous zones.

The spread of private and/or institutionally autonomous cities is happening faster than I expected.

When will The Baffler post the Thiel v. Graeber debate?

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They said it’d be up in a week or two, on September 21st. It’s October 28th.

Technical difficulties? Or is there some other reason?

Update: Graeber thinks he won:

How ’bout the Baffler lets us decide?