Language Structures Thought

Anastasia ponders the relationship between language and politics, observing that the limitations of language dictate the limitations of reality - or at least our ability to understand reality. What we cannot describe cannot exist - for us. That is the radical conclusion of pragmatism as Peirce and James understood it; language structures, and in fact precedes, thought -- at least higher-order, distinctly human thought.

She ties this in to a linguistic argument one of her co-bloggers, Clara, made against gay marriage. As I mentioned in that thread, Roderick Long conclusively refuted the historical definition arguments already, so I won't bother discussing them any further here. But apart from the linguistic debate, there is also the question of "thin" vs. "thick" conceptions of libertarianism, the topic of the Molinari Society's second symposium. As Long defines it, thin libertarianism is libertarianism understood as a narrowly political doctrine, while thick libertarianism is libertarianism understood as essentially integrated into some broader set of social or cultural values.

My fellow coblogger Scott wrote in the thread in question:

I see nothing objectionable about Clara’s post. All she is arguing for is the freedom to recognize or not recognize people as being married as an individual matter, as opposed to one being imposed by above by the government.

Now, from the standpoint of thin libertarianism, Scott is right - there is nothing objectionable about Clara's post, for she does not advocate statism or coercion; she merely states her disapproval and disrespect for homosexual relationships.

But for those of us who have a thick conception of libertarianism; who believe that there is more to morality than merely refraining from rights violations; who believe that some social values are more conducive to a stable, free, peaceful, prosperous society than others; there is something objectionable about Clara's post.

Clara tells us that a "a husband-husband-husband setup" is not as meaningful as a "husband-wife bond." She "reserve[s] the right to think [these setups] are hogwash." She believes that allowing homosexuals to marry would constitute "broadening word definitions until language loses its meaning." The push for gay marriage represents "a vocal interest group gain[ing] at the expense of the majority."

Now, I know Clara well enough to know that she is a nice person, and has no personal animosity towards homosexuals. At the risk of psychoanalyzing a friend, I think she's basing her arguments on tradition - on the fact that many people find homosexuality strange, unsettling, and icky.

But despite her non-bigoted intentions, her arguments are still a form of bigotry, perpetuating a culture of anti-gay intolerance.

Suppose someone said that an interracial marriage is not as meaningful as a monoracial marriage; that he or she reserves the right to think interracial marriages are hogwash; that allowing interracial couples to marry would constitute broadening word definitions until language loses its meaning; that this push for interracial marriages represents a vocal interest group gaining at the expense of the majority.

The person who said this may not be a racist; perhaps he or she is uncomfortable with change, and despite not having any animosity towards black people, finds interracial marriages strange and unnatural. Yet would we not look upon the argument itself as essentially racist, perpetuating a culture of racial intolerance?

Just as language structures thought, thought structure political action. While it is logically possible to have a society in which both bigotry against a minority group is socially acceptable and that minority group does not have its rights routinely violated, it is not likely. In order to have a society that respects the rights of minority groups, there needs to be more than just the absence of organized coercion; there needs to be social norms against bigotry.

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If you believe that

If you believe that nationalism is different than racism and not inherently bigoted, than that right there is a reason fitting your definition.

Huh? as it happens I don't think it (or at least the type of ethno-nationalism* you imply) is different in any meaningful way from racism.

*I'm inferring that you have in mind some sort of ethnic collectivism, otherwise your comment makes no sense - the interracial marriages people are most likely to oppose tend to involve people of the same nationality.

Lea, I was extra careful in

Lea,

I was extra careful in distinguishing motivation from effect. Not all people who oppose interracial marriages are racists, true, but that does not mean that opposition to interracial marriage does not constitute and promote racism. As you said, people may be narrow minded or just not realize the inherent bigotry in their beliefs, without holding any direct hostility to those they unwittingly discriminate against.

I referenced my preferred definition of bigotry in the other thread (originally suggested by Charles Johnson). "A bigot is one who is irrationally (unreasonably, unjustifiably) and strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ."

One can disapprove of certain forms of behavior and desire that those behaviors cease without being a bigot, so long as one has rational, reasonable, justifiable reasons for doing so. When one lacks these sorts of reasons, one commits the moral crime of bigotry.

But that just pushes the

But that just pushes the question back one level. Are there non-malicious, non-bigoted, justified reasons for believing that nationalism is different than racism and not inherently bigoted? I think not, and have argued at length to that effect.

There are lots of reasons to

There are lots of reasons to oppose interracial marriage, most of them silly but not all of them malicious or bigoted.

Rubbish. Perhaps you could outline these non-malicious, non-bigoted reasons? Anyone who is opposed to interracial marriages is by definition a bigot no matter what disingenuous device they contrive to jusify their bigotry. It is you who stretches the meaning of the word bigot beyond usefulness in carving out this exception.

Perhaps you could outline

Perhaps you could outline these non-malicious, non-bigoted reasons?

If you believe that nationalism is different than racism and not inherently bigoted, than that right there is a reason fitting your definition.

Patri, Scott - I think you

Patri,

Scott - I think you miss the point of the satire.

More than likely. I have to think about it more.

Micha, I don't think it's

Micha,

I don't think it's fair to say that everyone who condemns interracial marriage is a racist. They may be narrow-minded in not having enough faith that people can overcome the challenges inherent in interracial marriage and proceed to a happy family life. But it's only fair to call them racist, in my view, if the underlying claim is something like "a white person is too good to marry a black person (or vice versa), and therefore never should." There are lots of reasons to oppose interracial marriage, most of them silly but not all of them malicious or bigoted.

In general, I think you've just succeeded in taking all meaning out of the word "bigotry." I would say that being a bigot means something along the lines of hating people for no reason pertaining to their character of behavior (e.g. skin color), or perhaps "hating the sinner, not the sin." However we may want to fiddle with that definition, distaste and disrespect for individuals must be involved. If you've redefined "bigotry" to simply mean disapproval of certain forms of behavior, even coupled in some cases with a desire that those behaviors may cease, then I'm a proud bigot, so is Clara, and you should be too.

It's impossible to hold any moral values without disapproving of anyone or anything; while it is possible to do so without hating or disrespecting any person.

Micha: 'It's harder for me

Micha:

'It's harder for me to see how libertarianism can exist without the idea of social norms'.

I agree to the extent that any exercise in imagining away social norms moves us too far from reality. However, the idea that libertarianism can't exist without a particular set of social norms is a different proposition altogether. Perceptions do change over time, but there aren't any shortcuts in massive changes of opinion, and it doesn't always move in the right direction or stay there. If libertarianism genuinely were not robust enough to include the freedom to hold and voice opinions which others find offensive that would be an extremely serious problem to overcome.

What counts as a valid,

What counts as a valid, rational reason for discrimination?

I'm not sure if one can define what constitutes good reasons apart from "I know it when I see it." Tentatively, I would say it's reasonable to discriminate in pursuit of values that are considered justifiable in other contexts. So, using the example above, it's reasonable to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs when choosing a marriage partner because religious beliefs have a significant effect on lifestyle and child-raising choices. Lifestyle and child-raising are two important issues that all people must consider when choosing a mate, regardless of whether they are choosing based on religious, political, or cultural beliefs.

Dave,

Good counterexample. I wouldn't want to call that bigotry. But I am uncomfortable with the multiculturalist idea that we should all be proud of our heritage. Why? None of us chose our heritage or had any say or influence over it. So why should we be proud of something we have no control over?

I think it makes sense to be curious or interested in learning about one's heritage, if the curiousity moves you. There seems to be a fuzzy line between interest, respect for, and pride in one's heritage, on the one hand, and irrational favoritism for one's heritage at the expense of other people, on the other. But the absence of a bright line test (or at least my inability to formulate one) does not imply that there is no ethical continuum.

I disagree. I visited

I disagree. I visited Ireland because I had ancestors who came over from Ireland, would my motivation for visiting Ireland be bigoted? The way I see it, it's not a whole lot different.

Do you also believe it is

Do you also believe it is entirely valid if someone values their race enough to wish to see it live on and feel that dilution of race causes a weaker interest in said race? Because that’s the argument we get from the white nationalists. The arguments you have given for nationalism are identical to the arguments given for racism.

Yes, I think it is an entirely valid argument. And let us be clear here, because I think it is a valid argument, doesn't mean that I agree with it. All I am saying is that it is consistent with their value system (IE that they value being of white herritage). What we're really arguing here is whether or not certain values are valid.

Perhaps it's useful to

Perhaps it's useful to differentiate between those who are opposed to inter-faith, inter-racial or inter-national marriage for themselves and those who wish those personal preferences to apply to others. The latter is a more serious form of bigotry than the former and it is the only one worth worrying about.

But I think it is entirely valid if someone values their culture enough wish to see it live on and feel that dilution of herritage causes a weaker interest in said herritage. I don’t think that is necessarily a bigoted or racist reason, although it is an entirely nationalist argument.

This highlights my major objection to nationalism - the "intrinsic value" argument. Heritage or culture has only dispositional or instrumental value - it's not worth preserving for its own sake. The collectivism in such nationalism is not (necessarily) socialist but rather the notion of considering someone primarily as part (or excluded) from the collective nation rather than as an individual in her own right and further that that 'nation' has rights which can (and frequently do) supercede individual freedoms and that those who are considered to be members of that nation have certain duties and obligations, whether they like it or not.

It's one thing to take an interest in one's "heritage" (although this is typically for hyphenated Americans an invented caricature) it's quite another to allow this interest override a general principle of taking people as one finds them and respecting their own private choices.

Yes, that’s the argument.

Yes, that’s the argument. I think valuing one’s race simply because it’s one’s race, or one’s nation simply because it’s one’s nation, is bigotry. Those values are morally reprehensible.

Those values are also widespread.

What counts as a valid, rational reason for discrimination?

Yes, that's the argument. I

Yes, that's the argument. I think valuing one's race simply because it's one's race, or one's nation simply because it's one's nation, is bigotry. Those values are morally reprehensible.

I’m inferring that you

I’m inferring that you have in mind some sort of ethnic collectivism, otherwise your comment makes no sense - the interracial marriages people are most likely to oppose tend to involve people of the same nationality.

Yes, believe it or not I deal with a lot of nationalist socialists online who tend to define nation upon cultural borders.

I will admit that

I will admit that nationalism is something of a smaller segment version of racism, but I think it is at least easier justified since most people identify with a particular culture and wish to associate with those of that same culture (and I use culture as the definig point of nationalism since all of the nationalists I have encountered seem to define a nation by its culture). So, to go from racism to nationalism is at minimum tangental.

But I think it is entirely valid if someone values their culture enough wish to see it live on and feel that dilution of herritage causes a weaker interest in said herritage. I don't think that is necessarily a bigoted or racist reason, although it is an entirely nationalist argument.

Is someone opposed to inter-faith marriage a bigot as well?

Dave, Most people identify

Dave,

Most people identify with a particular skin color and wish to associate with those of that same skin color. Hence, we see kids sitting at school lunch tables segregated by color, bars that cater to white or black crowds, and interracial dating and marriages still fairly novel and noticable.

Do you also believe it is entirely valid if someone values their race enough to wish to see it live on and feel that dilution of race causes a weaker interest in said race? Because that's the argument we get from the white nationalists. The arguments you have given for nationalism are identical to the arguments given for racism.

Is someone opposed to inter-faith marriage a bigot as well?

As a Jew whose parents are very concerned about me marrying within the faith, I've done a lot of thinking about this question, and concluded that yes, opposition to inter-faith marriage is a form of bigotry. Now, the issue is complicated when talking about Judaism, because it is both a religion and an ethnicity, and one is considered Jewish if one's mother is Jewish, regardless of belief in God.

As for only marrying those with similar religious beliefs, no, that is not bigotry, because there are rational, reasonable, justifiable reasons for discriminating in favor of those who share similar ideas about child raising, lifestyle choices, and so forth, and there are good reasons for discriminating against those who do not share those ideas. There are no such reasons for favoring someone merely on the basis of where or into which clan they were born.

It’s absurd to say that

It’s absurd to say that gay marriage renders the word marriage meaningless. The word still indicates a committed, long-term bond between two people. That seems quite meaningful to me, regardless of the genders involved.

I agree that it's absurd, but I have the feeling that people are hyperbolizing when they make the claim.

The satire is effective, but not persuasive -- the term white so far as I know, has never been used to include people of all races, whereas the term men has been used to include people of both sexes.

It's absurd to say that gay

It's absurd to say that gay marriage renders the word marriage meaningless. The word still indicates a committed, long-term bond between two people. That seems quite meaningful to me, regardless of the genders involved.

BTW, my favorite example of the language structuring thought issue is the feminist complaint against the use of male pronouns for the generic in English. A complaint which I found unconvincing until reading Douglas Hofstadter's unsettling satire on the subject.

It’s harder for me to see

It’s harder for me to see how libertarianism can exist without the idea of social norms. Roderick Long and Charles Johnson have a lengthy but persuasive argument to this effect [..]

Color me unpersuaded.

A society cannot be free unless those with power choose to make it free. Likewise, a society will not treat women with decency and respect unless those with power choose to make it so.

Well, guess what. Libertarians and feminists are both in the minority, and consequently none of us are living in our respective paradises. To get our way, we're going to have to change social norms. So you're right there. The difference, though, is that to achieve a free society we only have to persuade enough people to leave each other alone. To achieve a respectful society, we have to persuade enough people to respect each other.

The first requires changing people's actions. The second requires changing people's beliefs.

Which do you think is more likely? Which do you think is even possible?

And finally, concerning non-governmental oppression:

There is nothing un-libertarian, then, in recognizing the existence of economic and/or cultural forms of oppression which, while they may draw sustenance from the state (and vice versa), are not reducible to state power. One can see statism and patriarchy as mutually reinforcing systems (thus ruling out both the option of fighting statism while leaving patriarchy intact, and the option of fighting patriarchy by means of statism) without being thereby committed to seeing either as a mere epiphenomenon of the other (thus ruling out the option of fighting patriarchy solely indirectly by fighting statism).

Far be it from me to defend the patriarchy... but I disagree. You can in fact have patriarchy and liberty, as long as you can walk away from the patriarchy without being shot.

Long and Johnson's argument seems to me to go like this: if everyone is against you, even if they're not using force, your life is going to be very hard; unjustly so, for surely you have never done anything to deserve their animosity. I'll grant you that. But I fail to see anything libertarian in the concept that others owe you the slightest bit of kindness if they choose not to give it freely, no matter how hateful, unjust, selfish, or insane their reasons are.

Even if you were utterly alone against an uncaring, hostile, and unjust world: if the worst that they could do was to leave you alone, you would be no worse off than if the rest of hateful humanity didn't even exist and you were the only person in the world.

Libertarians should be

Libertarians should be righteous and moral. We should not shy away from naming the things that are morally repugnant, such as [gay marriage | anti-gay bigotry]. We have a responsibility to society to demonstrate to others that we find such things to be objectionable; otherwise, other people may begin to think that [gay marriage | anti-gay bigotry] is acceptable, and we would all be worse off.

But we should never delude ourselves into thinking that such moral values are libertarian (whether thick, thin, or chunky).

Being libertarian does not mean being a moral relativist. Libertarians are free to hold strong and absolute moral values of any kind on any subject. But the only moral value which is itself libertarian is the rejection of coercion.

On a completely different point:

While it is logically possible to have a society in which both bigotry against a minority group is socially acceptable and that minority group does not have its rights routinely violated, it is not likely. In order to have a society that respects the rights of minority groups, there needs to be more than just the absence of organized coercion; there needs to be social norms against bigotry.

I expect that a society where bigotry is tolerated but coercion is not is more likely to give up bigotry than a society where coercion is tolerated but bigotry is not is likely to give up coercion.

I am unconvinced by

I am unconvinced by arguments to "tradition", or put another way, "we should do this thing because we've been doing it for a long time."

You need something a bit more substantive than that. Traditions all got started for a reason, as a response to some social or cultural need. Those needs change over time, and as such, the willingness to change traditional practices (that addressed no-longer-current needs) has to exist in a society if it is to be considered healthy or dynamic.

I can understand why people needed, or wished, to have their unions blessed by a local proxy for their god, but I never understood why they had to be recognized by governments.

I see some in this argument saying that gay marriage leads to gay adoption leads to screwed-up kids, but I think that's been substantively rebutted as false. Do the right-wingers have anything else to offer, or is it back the "appeals to tradition"?

Scott - I think you miss the

Scott - I think you miss the point of the satire. It intentionally uses a language bias which we have never seen, and thus are not inured to. It simply picks a different sort of bigotry, the racist sort, and then translates current language into the new kind.

Many people, me included, find it quite shocking, and feel that the parallel is quite accurate, with the main difference being that one bias we are used to and the other we are not. And hence that negative beliefs about the new bias must apply to the old one.

Bernard, It's harder for me

Bernard,

It's harder for me to see how libertarianism can exist without the idea of social norms. Roderick Long and Charles Johnson have a lengthy but persuasive argument to this effect in their radical feminism paper.

Some of libertarians’ sharpest jabs at feminism have been directed against feminist criticisms of sexual harassment, misogynist pornography, or sadomasochism. Feminists in particular are targeted as the leading crusaders for “political correctness”, and characterized as killjoys, censors, or man-haters for criticising speech or consensual sex acts in which women are denigrated or dominated; it is apparently claimed that since the harassment or the portrayal doesn’t (directly) involve violence, there aren’t any grounds for taking political exception to it. But the popularity in libertarian circles of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead (a deeply problematic novel from a feminist standpoint, but instructive on the present point) indicates that libertarians know better when it comes to, say, conformity and collectivism. Although its political implications are fairly clear, The Fountainhead pays relatively little attention to governmental oppression per se; its main focus is on social pressures that encourage conformity and penalize independence. Rand traces how such pressures operate through predominantly non-governmental and (in the libertarian sense) non-coercive means, in the business world, the media, and society generally. Some of the novel’s characters give in, swiftly or slowly, and sell their souls for social advancement; others resist but end up marginalized, impoverished, and psychologically debilitated as a result. Only the novel’s hero succeeds, eventually, in achieving worldly success without sacrificing his integrity — but only after a painful and superhuman struggle. It would be hard to imagine libertarians describing fans of The Fountainhead as puritans or censors because of their objections to the Ellsworth Tooheys of the world—even though Toohey’s malign influence is mainly exercised through rhetorical and social means rather than by legal force. An uncharitable reading that the situation unfortunately suggests is that libertarians can recognize non-governmental oppression in principle, but in practice seem unable to grasp any form of oppression other than the ones that well-educated white men may have experienced for themselves.

A more charitable reading of libertarian attitudes might be this: while the collectivist boycott of independent minds and stifling of creative excellence in The Fountainhead is not itself enacted through government means, collectivism clearly is associated with the mass psychology that supports statism. So is patriarchy, actually, but it is most closely associated with a non-governmental form of oppression—that is, male supremacy and violence against women. All this makes it seem, at times, that libertarians—including libertarian feminists—are suffering from a sort of willful conceptual blindness; perhaps because they are afraid to grant the existence of serious and systematic forms of political oppression that are not connected solely or mainly with the state. It’s as though, if they granted any political critique of the outcomes of voluntary association, they would thereby be granting that voluntary association as such is oppressive, and that government regulation is the solution. But such a phobic reaction only makes sense if you first accept (either tacitly or explicitly) the premise that all politics is exclusively the domain of the government, and as such (given Mises’s insights into the nature of government) all political action is essentially violent action. This is, as it were, a problem that has no name; but we might call it “the authoritarian theory of politics,” since it amounts to the premise that any political question is a question resolved by violence; many 20th century libertarians simply grant the premise and then, because they hold that no question is worth resolving by (initiatory) violence, they call for the death of politics in human affairs.

At least one libertarian theorist, the late Don Lavoie, makes our point when he observes that there is

much more to politics than government. Wherever human beings engage in direct discourse with one another about their mutual rights and responsibilities, there is a politics. I mean politics in the sense of the public sphere in which discourse over rights and responsibilities is carried on, much in the way Hannah Arendt discusses it. …. The force of public opinion, like that of markets, is not best conceived as a concentrated will representing the public, but as the distributed influence of political discourses throughout society. … Inside the firm, in business lunches, at street corners, interpersonal discourses are constantly going on in markets. In all those places there is a politics going on, a politics that can be more or less democratic. … Leaving a service to “the forces of supply and demand” does not remove it from human decision making, since everything will depend on exactly what it is that the suppliers and demanders are trying to achieve. … What makes a legal culture, any legal system, work is a shared system of belief in the rules of justice — a political culture. The culture is, in turn, an evolving process, a tradition which is continually being reappropriated in creative ways in the interpersonal and public discourses through which social individuals communicate. … Everything depends here on what is considered an acceptable social behavior, that is, on the constraints imposed by a particular political culture. … To say we should leave everything to be “decided by markets” does not, as [libertarians] suppose, relieve liberalism of the need to deal with the whole realms of politics. And to severely limit or even abolish government does not necessarily remove the need for democratic processes in nongovernmental institutions.

It’s true that a libertarian could (as Karl Hess, for example, does) simply insist on a definition of politics in terms of the authoritarian theory, and stick consistently to the stipulation, while also doing work on a systemic critique of forms of oppression that aren’t (by their definition) enacted through the “political means”; they would simply have to hold that a full appreciation of oppressive conditions requires a thorough understanding of what “the economic means” or “action in the market” or “civil society” can include. But given the curious misunderstandings that many libertarians seem to have of feminist critiques, it seems likely that the issue here isn’t merely terminological—it may be that the real nature of typical feminist concerns and activism is rendered incomprehensible by sticking to stipulations about the use of “politics” and “the market” when the ordinary use of those terms won’t bear them. You could, if you insisted, look at street harassment as a matter of “psychic costs” that women face in their daily affairs, and the feminist tactic of women’s “Ogle-Ins” on Wall Street as a means of reducing the “supply” of male leering by driving up the “psychic costs” to the “producers” (using shame and awareness of what it’s like to face harassment). In this sense, the “Ogle-In” resembles, in some salient respects, a picket or a boycott. But no-one actually thinks of an Ogle-In as a “market activity,” even if you can make up some attenuated way of analyzing it under economic categories; it clearly fails to meet a number of conditions (such as the voluntary exchange of goods or services between actors) that are part of our routine, pre-analytic use of terms such as “market,” “producer,” and “economic.” Just as clearly, an “Ogle-In” has something importantly in common with legislation, court proceedings, and even market activities such as boycotts or pickets that appeals to our pre-analytic use of “political”—even though neither the “Ogle-In” nor the market protests are violent, or in any way connected with the State: they are all trying to address a question of social coordination through conscious action, and they work by calling on people to make choices with the intent of addressing the social issue—as opposed to actions in which the intent is some more narrowly economic form of satisfaction, and any effects on social coordination (for good or for ill) are unintended consequences.

Libertarian temptations to the contrary notwithstanding, it makes no sense to regard the state as the root of all social evil, for there is at least one social evil that cannot be blamed on the state — and that is the state itself. If no social evil can arise or be sustained except by the state, how does the state arise, and how is it sustained? As libertarians from La Boétie to Rothbard have rightly insisted, since rulers are generally outnumbered by those they rule, the state itself cannot survive except through popular acceptance which the state lacks the power to compel; hence state power is always part of an interlocking system of mutually reinforcing social practices and structures, not all of which are violations of the nonaggression axiom. There is nothing un-libertarian, then, in recognizing the existence of economic and/or cultural forms of oppression which, while they may draw sustenance from the state (and vice versa), are not reducible to state power. One can see statism and patriarchy as mutually reinforcing systems (thus ruling out both the option of fighting statism while leaving patriarchy intact, and the option of fighting patriarchy by means of statism) without being thereby committed to seeing either as a mere epiphenomenon of the other (thus ruling out the option of fighting patriarchy solely indirectly by fighting statism).

It's hard to see that

It's hard to see that libertarianism sits easily with the idea of prescribed social norms. I suspect rights are likely to be violated in the name of preventing bigotry as enthusiastically as through bigotry itself.

fair enough- I'm in Grenada

fair enough- I'm in Grenada Nicoragua, and I pay a bit dearly for the ability to research the biographies of all who post here. Nevertheless, this issue was big with JTK as I remember and as such my point is still applicable.

The idea that it's "dishonest" to claim that it confirms the stereotypes of Liberals is laughable. There is of course diversity of thought, but you do see these instinctive conservative tendencies in alot of Libertarian thought, and nevertheless the crux of my argument is that equal rights is wholly and obviously consistent with the aim Libertarian thought, properly understood. Something which it seems you agree with.

-Matt

Matt, It's more than a bit

Matt,

It's more than a bit dishonest to claim that this thread affirms the liberal stereotype of libertarians, since this thread involves a debate between libertarians, which itself contradicts the notion of a libertarian stereotype. But it's not even fair to say that this thread involves a debate between libertarians over gay rights, since Lea, the main opponent of that position here, is admittidly and openly not a libertarian, but a conservative.

This is the sort of argument

This is the sort of argument that seems to justify the Liberals' stereotypes about you guys: that you're just conservatives who are a hair too smart to be conservatives. Justifying the denial of equal rights to gays is so clearly contradictory to the principles and spirit of libertarianism that it's no wonder some of you guys are having to do backflips trying to argue the point.

I'm not sure why we're arguing over an individual's right to discriminate, since we're talking about instituionalization and equal rights (the latter of which should never be discussed alongside personal preference.) Nevertheless, I'd like to chime in on Micha's side regarding the Ireland example which I happen to think falls nicely into the "curiosity" category rather than "bigotry." I don't think it's a case of "valuing one's race" simply because it's one's own, but rather a scenario in which one's interests are rooted obviously justifiable ties (family ties.) A person who goes to Ireland doesn't say "I'm going to Ireland because all other countries are shite compared that one true place" (and if they do I would call that bigoted, if it was meant seriously) they say "I'm going to Ireland because I'm interested in my heritage."

Micha, I think there's a big

Micha,

I think there's a big difference between being proud of your heritage and thinking it is better than someone else's, and enjoying your heritage - taking pleasure in the fact that you can trace back the history of your family or community and its traditions and customs. That latter kind of pleasure, I think, is essential for finding our identity as social beings - there's something about us that wants to know and love our roots. This is why William Faulkner's novels are so poignant: he often writes about characters who find out that their heritage is ugly and disgraceful, and, though it does not affect them directly in any way, they are devastated by it.
It's a subtle difference, but you can generally tell who falls into which category. If you've seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," the father who's always ranting about how all the words in the world come from Greek is clearly a nationalist bigot; but visiting Ireland sounds pretty innocuous.

As for non-malicious reasons for shunning interracial marriage, they are cultural. Most African-Americans and Africans have grown up in a very different culture than I have - socially, politically, psychologically; their families are more than likely to be very different from mine. All of that should weigh in when considering marriage to a person of a different race. I don't think it constitutes a condemning argument against interracial marriage - especially in the U.S. there are tons of interracial marriages that can and do work out great. But I don't think staying away, in terms of dating, from people of a different race is entirely irrational.