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Red is married, blue is single

Another poll that looks into the red state/blue state divide in American politics that we’ve discussed before: Americans deeply split over politics. The main conclusion is that

“married and single voters live not on different planets, but different solar systems, when it comes to their politics and values … Republicans have a problem with single voters, especially single women. The Democrats’ problem is with married people, especially married women.”

All of which makes sense. Liberals want to get rid of traditional institutions like the family, and connections to particular people generally, as the basis for social order. They want to substitute abstract universal institutions like the world market and the bureaucratic PC welfare state. So it’s not surprising that those who marry and so accept particular connections and traditional institutions as the basis for who they are should reject liberalism, while those who don’t marry accept the views all current public authorities tell them to accept. (It’s interesting, by the way, to see the company that American Catholics have fallen into.)



let me get this straight Mr. Kalb:

“good sheep”= red wool—plugged into a group personality that someone thought up for them a while back…

“bad sheep”= blue wool—plugged into a group personality (group alienation? crazy!) that someone thought up last week…

you cannot judge which group is “right”, because you either have to accept to the criteria of one group or the other…

one problem—is everyone a sheep in your scenario?

it sure seems like it. your thinking here is as muddled by structuralism as ever, my friend.


It seems to me Mr. Fiore is insistent that all views be understood to reflect a single explanation of everything. I don’t say anything about a “group personality” or about the impossibility of rationally deciding between different views. I do believe that culture and natural patterns of human life are a large part of what makes us what we are, and it’s smart to accept that. It doesn’t seem to me that either is a totally closed self-referential system, though. Both are part of a more comprehensive human reality.

I don’t see that anyone is necessarily a sheep in my scenario. It’s true I alluded to a sheeplike aspect of the behavior of many liberals, as an implicit rejoinder to liberal claims of intellectual independence. The allusion doesn’t mean that I believe that aspect of things explains everything. It’s quite comprehensible that the liberal view of things would have immediate appeal to young unmarried careerist urban people today. Nor do I believe that liberals are necessarily stuck being liberals, on the grounds that they have a view of things and every view of things declares itself justified. On the contrary, I urge them first to put their view on the same common footing as other competing views, rather than on some pedestal of supposed neutrality that makes it a priori a superior authority for all other views. I then invite them to contemplate its implications in life and thought and consider whether those implications really make sense.

Dave, your summary is flawed. “[T]hat someone thought up for them a while back” leaves out, at the least, “and generations have thought about since and agreed with, more or less.”

There is more to this site than what you tried to boil it down to.


not many people (since the Reformation and Enlightenment) have been able to assent to the kind of traditions you folks are espousing without cultivating a pitch black blind spot to social injustice…

Mr. Kalb,

We can’t even begin to “contemplate its [liberal democratic individualism] implications in life and thought and consider whether those implications really make sense” if we can’t let go of outmoded, a priori definitions of what a “working society” looks like…

Just for example:
Are you willing to discard the idea that a growing child needs a male and female role model in place at all times? As a child of divorce who has no psychological maladjustmednts of any kind, I certainly am!

We could go on forever, but I’ve got to leave for work

Good day sirs!

I agree that in thinking one’s way out of the liberal box one can’t rely on what, from a liberal view, are “outmoded, a priori definitions.” I also agree that some children recover from almost anything but think that a tolerable society probably needs a more demanding standard.

The general point Mr. Fiore raised initially has interesting aspects. It seems that any sufficient account of truth would have some aspects that aren’t rationally demonstrable at least not by us. On the other hand, modernist accounts like liberalism can be shown insufficient because of their very clarity. So on that line of thought it seems that the progress toward truth would involve knocking down false self-contained “truths” like liberalism and then coming to a truer and more open-ended understanding of things through recognitions that are not fully articulable, and can be logically defended against objection but not logically demonstrated. Newman’s Grammar of Assent ( ) describes the process.

You make some good points Mr. Kalb, although, regarding single-parent households, I would argue that, far from “surmounting a difficulty”, I benefitted from only having one obstacle to my dvelopment—as opposed to the usual two.

but your remarks about “clarity” raise a very important question, namely: which of us, exactly, is a champion of “abstractions”? As you seem to agree, I stand for something far more “concrete” than you do!

I will speak to this issue on my blog this evening!


“I will speak to this issue on my blog this evening!” — David Fiore

After seeing Mr. Fiore affirm here more than once his belief in the unimportance of the two-parent family for the psycho-social development of a society’s young, I somehow don’t think his is a blog I’ll be visiting. (And yes, Mr. Fiore, I refer to the *opposite-sex* two parent family, in case you’re wondering, not the “Heather Has Two Mommies” version or whatever…)

They say ignorance is bliss.

“Unadorned” knows for sure.



You seem to think it’s enough to generalize based on your own personal anecdote, when in reality, it is painfully obvious to all how utterly uninstructive your experience is. Another person could just as easily come in and say “I was raised by a heroin-addicted prostitute, and it made me strong and resilient to life’s troubles! Thus, I conclude that being raised by a drugged-out streetwalker is good for children.”

Now both of us know how silly that argument would be. Individuals may rise above their circumstances because they have free will, but there are certain factors in one’s life that are decidedly not positive influences. Coming from the broken home of a single parent is among these factors. I shouldn’t even have to explain why children are better off when their parents aren’t aloof.

Mr. Fiore makes an interesting point about concreteness. Certainly the views of someone who supports existing general tendencies in public life to that extent supports something that is more concrete than the views of someone who’s critical, thinks the general tendencies are destructive, and wants something else. Still, in this case it seems to me that the general tendencies lead to a situation in which abstractions like the unconditioned liberal ego are everything, while the “something else” leads to a contrary sort of situation.

Mr. Kalb wrote:

“It seems that any sufficient account of truth would have some aspects that aren’t rationally demonstrable at least not by us.”

This is, in fact, what Kurt Goedel’s incompleteness theorem suggests:

“In 1931, the Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel demonstrated that within any given branch of mathematics, there would always be some propositions that couldn’t be proven either true or false using the rules and axioms … of that mathematical branch itself. You might be able to prove every conceivable statement about numbers within a system by going outside the system in order to come up with new rules and axioms, but by doing so you’ll only create a larger system with its own unprovable statements. The implication is that all logical system of any complexity are, by definition, incomplete; each of them contains, at any given time, more true statements than it can possibly prove according to its own defining set of rules.” (from Jones and Wilson, An Incomplete Education).



Is Mr. Fiore really prepared to stake out his ground for illustration of his argument on the proposition that children will mature and flourish as well in a divorced household as in a traditional two-parent household? Is he really prepared, further, to defend this ground by referring us to his personal experience?

Somehow I take Mr. Fiore to be a more thoughtful man than such a course of logical and empirical stupidity would suggest.

Mr. Kalb says:
“Mr. Fiore makes an interesting point about concreteness. Certainly the views of someone who supports existing general tendencies in public life to that extent supports something that is more concrete than the views of someone who’s critical, thinks the general tendencies are destructive, and wants something else.”

But this is more of the same—it treats abstract entities and ideas as if they were “real things” rather than the Frankenstein monsters that they are, and ignores the reality of the people who are trapped in them… I would submit that, if you want to fight to prevent your next door neighbour from doing what they want to do with their lives (for example—marrying the “Wrong kind of person”), then you are an “abstractionist” of the first order. Which is fine, I guess. Just stop pretending that you have some sort of connection to some sort of “holistic”, evolving truth. All traditions are man-made—and nothing man-made ought to be treated with kid gloves. How about you save your reverence for the real people whose existence you deny with your a priori generalizations!


My intention was not to create any new theory about what “works best” when it comes to child-rearing, it was to illustrate that, if you come to analyze a situation armed with an a priori notion of what a “happy family” looks like, then you aren’t going to see anything worth seeing…

To wit:

If your playbook says—“broken home”=”bad childhoood”=”we need institutions to prevent this”, then you are going to to completely ignore my very concrete insistence that, “hey!, I’m alright… I’m a functional adult and I’ve never paid a dime to a therapist…”

And since—as J.W.’s ‘incompleteness theorem’ makes clear—we’re never going to build a system that’s anywhere near responsive enough to our needs, I think it’s wiser to consult the people who are going to be affected by that system, here and now, rather than the dead people who thought up the system in the first place.

I don’t understand Mr. Fiore’s point about denying the existence of real people. I don’t think it denies the existence of real people, for example, to say that they don’t have to treat something as a marriage that is nothing of the kind.

that’s what I’m saying Mr. Kalb—you place more importance on a faltering institution than on the people it affects… you’d rather prop up an abstraction than tinker with it at the suggestion of those real people (I’m not making them up!) for whom it manifestly does not “work”.


Boy — I was a philosophy major & I am now a lawyer.
David wants to “tinker with tradition” because of real people have “wants”
Meanwhile Jim would like to peal back the antological truth to its core understanding.
Meanwhile -HALF my sisters friends (35+) are going BARREN without good husbands (or even prospects) all because of the “tinkering” of the 60 generation who would love to make some (utopian)perfect the enemy of the good.
[& they most manifestly did not “choose” this fate]

Look at the facts on the ground Dave.
(Stanley Kurtz -Weekly Standard Article on the condition of the family in Scandanavia would be a good start)

These are “real” people too.

Thanks — Fitz

Mr. Fiore apparently considers only the immediate desires and experiences of particular identifiable individuals to be real. Everything else that makes up the life of an individual or society is an abstraction. The consequence is that for him all social order — all durable connections among human beings — becomes a complex of abstractions to be judged in a purely technical way and modified freely to facilitate particular individual goals.

I have a much broader range of things that I view as concrete. For example I view — and experience — marriage as quite concrete. It has definite features that correspond to permanent aspects of human nature and can’t be made other than what it is by an act of choice. It seems obvious to me that it is fundamental to any tolerable social existence, and that it is part (along with the other aspects of family) of what makes people what they are. To undermine marriage and family is to undermine the possibility of stable and satisfying human identity. It is an attack on humanity as such.

Mr. Fiore says he views it as an advantage that he only had one parent to get in his way. That is not the view of most children and others affected by divorce. All those others are real people, and they suffer. I think our understanding of what is real should be broad enough to understand how and why they suffer.


Here’s where I differ from a lot of the “60’s generation” tinkerers that you blame for your sister’s friends’ “barrenness”—I DON’T argue that the state exists to gratify the wishes of its’ citizens (in fact, this seems to be YOUR position—”these poor 35-plussers need husbands? the state is obligated to create an environment in which they can find one”…)

I hate the “cult of empowerment” that many soft lefties have embraced just as much as I despise the paleoconservative cult of tradition. I have never argued that people ought to get what they want—all I’ve said is that we are obligated to listen to them. It’s one thing to not be able to find a husband—but it’s quite another to be told, by the government, that your choice of a life partner is somehow “immoral”. Fate is something we just have to deal with. Institutions, on the other hand, were MADE to be unmade!

And just in case people think I’m arguing out of self-interest here, keep in mind—neither my girlfriend or I is gay, and we’ve lived together without wanting to get married for almost three years now… the point is that, if we wanted to get married, we could! And I think everyone ought to have the same right…

I’m not talking about a Catholic marriage service either—the Catholic Church can make whatever decisions it wants regarding its’ own sacraments, and, as a monolithic, “unliberal” organization, it is not required to be responsive to its’ parishioners’ feelings. They mold themselves to the institution. That’s fine. But it’s not fine when you try to transpose the model to the political state…


And to Mr. Kalb,

You say that most children of divorce suffer, and you may even be borne out by surveys, but wouldn’t it be interesting to go back and study what how badly estranged husbands and wives (and their children) suffered when they had no option to divorce?

We know from the historical record that being forced to stay married didn’t mean being forced to refrain from taking lovers, or hiring scads of prostitutes. Is that good for the young ones? The “Daddy’s gone on a business trip” scenario? And what about slavery Mr. Kalb—did it “work” for the slaves—and if not, why? Just answer that question and I’ll be satisfied. We’ve got to start talking particulars here. The debate has been far too abstract.


By Mr. Fiore’s logic, all we need to do if find a few slaves somewhere who will actually defend the institution of slavery (on account of their enlightened masters, or suchlike) in order to undermine the moral case against slavery; and, more importantly, the moral case for the state to destroy said institution.

The evil of slavery is a mere abstraction; abolitionists are mere “abstractionists”; there are REAL PEOPLE out there who like slavery just fine and, by jolly, “we are obligated to listen to them”!

Replying to Mr. Fiore: our side of course never looked upon the ill-effects of divorce with approval, but merely asks that the other side once and for all stop weakening and even prohibiting precisely those very elements of spiritual feeling and community feeling which have traditionally kept divorce to a minimum and wayward husbands and wives in line through shame and stern disapproval at the level of everyday social interaction and broadly-accepted formal and informal communal moral authority (elements such as religion-expressed-out-in-the-open-not-forced-into-hiding, patriotism, and the moral authority which inheres in the sense of the settled, broad traditional community in which one lives and all the ramifications of that such as the two-parent family, opposite-sex marriage, etc. — elements which the left has not succeeded in replacing with successful alternatives because the bureaucratic, anti-religion, anti-tradition alternatives which the left keeps offering deracinate and alienate instead of inspiring feelings of legitimacy and moral nourishment). We are asking the left to stop tearing down, so that we can build back up.

Yes- Well put (unadorned)

To put a human face on it (as so many always require)

At 33yrs old, me and my peers are about half unmarried. This goes for my older sister and her friends also.
None of them made a “choice” to be this way.
All would much rather be married, have already been married -or heading in that direction.
What happened was we got sold a false bill of goods.
We tried to live the lifestyle MTV and the Boomers sold us. Easy sex without commitment, multiple relationships, pursuit of career over family — illreligion ect.
Well — now as we get older (& the girls grow barren) we lack the social structure of a serious mateing ritual to fall back on to find spouses.
We also lack a morally serious public language that would help us in this all important endevour.

It is truly tragic- very real pain and dissolutionment -(all for want of some simple moral values and reinforcment of them in our youth)

The autonomy principle & libertarian values are INCAPEABLE of addresing these very real human needs.

(for those who never went to law school)
(commercial transactions)
The problem with a false bill of goods IS
you can NOT sue the person who sold it to you!
Because it is incumbent upon the purchaser (of said bill) to make sure that what is described in that bill of goods — IS ACTUALLY THERE!

Woe is us……
Thanks — FITZ

To Mr. Fiore: We can agree that every setup, laws against murder or whatever, causes some problems for some people. It seems glaringly obvious though that the effects of the weakening of marriage and family have been bad for almost everyone. If you want to look into the overall issue you might read Maggie Gallagher’s The Case for Marriage. She’s sensible, humane, and well-informed.

As to slavery, I discussed it repeatedly on the 2Blowhards interview. I think there was something about it each of the three days. So why not look at what I say there if you’re interested.

To Unadorned, Fitz, Mr. Kalb,

Okay—I think this has gone far enough. We can’t come to terms here, because we aren’t even using the same terms, and we aren’t ever likely to.

I applaud Fitz for being forthcoming enough to express the problem in existential terms… Believe it or not, I sympathize. Really. I do. But the fact is that, even though I’m only three years younger than Fitz, I don’t feel like we’re part of the same generation at all.

Let’s look at the evidence:
My parents divorced when I was three. There’s a history of alcohol abuse in my family. I did not benefit from privilege of any kind. And yet—I’ve never done anything harmful to my body or mind. I’ve never done anything because MTV told me to. I have many friends and I live with a woman I love and three wonderful cats. I’m on my way to a nice PhD and a good career, and I’ve published a novel… I’ve been productive. I’ve been sociable. I think I’ve had a positive impact upon the people in my life. And I did all of this without even coming close to flirting with religion or traditional structure of any kind. In fact, the only thing that could possibly have held me back is the kind of “pre-assigned role culture” that you folks are craving.

Have I ever felt “alienated”? Sure. But I think that has only made me appreciate the people I care about all the more. All I have to do to keep those thoughts from affecting my mood or social behaviour simply to interact, borne up by a fundamental understanding of the reality of the people I’m interacting with—an understanding that can only come out of the experience of loving a person very much… I imagine it’s the same with a devout Christian and God—with the difference being that all I get from the experience is the grounding I need, while a Catholic/Muslim/strong traditionalist of any kind has to accept the massive structure that has been built upon the sacred ground they were seeking in the first place.

Whether you guys believe it or not, people in the West today are finding new ways to relate to each other, and from what I can see they’re doing just fine. And for those that fail—or crave a predesigned role, well, no one’s saying you can’t become a Catholic/Muslim/Strong Traditionalist, all I’m saying is—don’t ask other people to give a freedom that has enriched their lives.

My objections to Mr. Kalb’s position has focused upon his seeming desire to bury the liberal traditions of the West in a Catholic Social philosophy that has never had any place on this side of the Atlantic (outside of Quebec)… Be Catholic, by all means, but don’t expect the rest of the continent to embrace Catholic first principles! And recognize, please, that many people my age or younger are pleased (if not altogether satisfied—there will always be room for improvement) with society as it is. We’re not all directionless hedonists!

And Paul—it seems that there ARE people who like being slaves, and they’re welcome to find “masters” and play out that role, if that’s what they want to do with their lives (sounds ridiculous to me—but so do a lot of things, and it’s none of my business) But if these slaves wanted to force the government to bring back the institution of slavery (thus re-enslaving a lot of people who have other plans), I’d be just as opposed to their position as I am to yours—they amount to the same thing.

Pace Turnabout!

Our discussion is at an end (but feel free to visit my blog sometime—I’m not on about liberalism all of the time!)


Mr. Fiore, you wrote:

“And yet I’ve never done anything harmful to my body or mind. I’ve never done anything because MTV told me to … I’ve been productive. I’ve been sociable. I think I’ve had a positive impact upon the people in my life. And I did all of this without even coming close to flirting with religion or traditional structure of any kind.”

The above comments strike me as the words of a man who has never really made an examination of conscience. Am I accusing you of lying? No—I believe that you believe what you wrote. But I understand human nature, and the fact is that there is scarcely any man alive who hasn’t harmed his own mind and body in some way, or impacted others in a negative way, the effects of which will reverberate through the generations. There is scarcely any man alive, in this country, who has not somehow been influenced by MTV and the anti-culture it promotes.

That you live with a woman you love is noteworthy, but whom will you love tomorrow? You can’t answer that, because you don’t believe that love is a grace-infused act of the will, or that love imposes obligations. At least, that is what one may reasonably conclude from your comments.

You’ve been comfortable enough to be very candid with the host and readers of Turnabout, which speaks well of them all. I’m a child of divorce too, and am also reasonably well-adjusted. However, as a result of that divorce, I will be saddled with certain weaknesses until my dying day. These effects of divorce may not be universal in kind or degree, but they are indeed normative. Being aware of them, one may counter them—but it is foolish to willingly blind oneself to them.

Well said, Mr. Culbreath.

Mr. Fiore: I tried to post this comment at your own blog, but to no avail, so I’ll post it here.

May I take the liberalism you espouse as “the most ‘concrete’ political theory that has ever existed” [quoted from Mr. Fiore’s blog] to be, mutatis mutandis, the liberalism of John Stuart Mill? That is, a theory predicated on the principle that no man may lawfully force, or attempt to force, his moral views on another man? We might call this “Open Society Liberalism,” because it posits as its guiding principle the ideal of the Open Society.

May I also assume that you are an atheist?

Finally, let me just say this in defense of what you are disparaging as abstractions: Human civilization is, at base, a product of human imagination. To maintain it requires not merely that we punish and control barbarism and cruelty in concrete manifestations, but also that we “police” the imagination with the instruments of custom and prescription and inherited tradition.

To illustrate that, consider the effect it would have on you if an acquaintance turned to you and said, “Dave, occasionally I dream of violently raping your girlfriend. Of course, it’s just in my imagination.” Would you ever let this acquaintance, say, drive your girlfriend to work? I submit that you would think very hard about it.

My point is that, if men felt empowered at all times to utter their darkest thoughts, the cement of trust and neighborliness, so to speak, would rapidly dissolve; and the binding of civilization would follow in sort order.

Part of civilization is this control on our imaginations; our trained habit to repudiate our darkest thoughts, or at least, to never utter them. The prosecution of the crime, when it happens, is only the last option, and the state only the most obvious, but hardly the most important, element of civilization.

You write that “I am convinced that no problem was ever solved by silencing dissent,” [again, quoted from Mr. Fiore’s blog] but we have quite a number of examples of societies where all dissent was accepted, even celebrated and empowered. Two good examples come to mind: Weimar Germany and Spain of the early 1930s. In short, societies that just kept on talking without limits — and talked themselves into civil war.

“And yet—I’ve never done anything harmful to my body or mind. I’ve never done anything because MTV told me to … I’ve been productive. I’ve been sociable. I think I’ve had a positive impact upon the people in my life. And I did all of this without even coming close to flirting with religion or traditional structure of any kind.”—Mr. Fiore

One person can walk on the grass. If everyone walks on the grass, there’ll be no grass to walk on.


I apologize for Motime’s recent wonkiness. Yjings seem to be back to normal, and I’m about to post your interesting comment and my reply at the blog.

Thank you.


Mr. Fiore:

You must get a new comments program. Here is my reply:

My problem with Mill’s Open Society Liberalism is that it is incoherent. It claims that “all questions are open questions,” but what it really means is that all questions are open questions _except_ for the question of whether all questions are open. That one is quite closed.

In short, the Open Society is an orthodoxy in its own right, as you admit when you declare that Liberalism is a faith which “must be defended.” As such, it must act to protect the orthodoxy, generally by placing too high a price on certain opinions for most people to continue espousing them (and, off at the end, by persecuting them). This, I submit, is what we refer to as “political correctness”: the Open Society defending its orthodoxy; in this case, defending its orthodoxy of negation.

A man in Britain recently was prosecuted and fined for carrying a sign that condemned homosexuality, even though _he_ was attacked by demonstrators. Young children are rebuked by their teachers for praying together before lunch. Etc, etc. The assertion of moral absolutes is an infraction against the Open Society, and must be discouraged, silenced and finally prosecuted. The logic is inescapable.

Now, because the Open Society is not constrained by any moral stricture whatsoever, outside its own principles, it must become even more ferocious. There is no obligation to act with charity or mercy against violators; nor even fairness. There is only the commitment to the negation.

For example, your “neo-Calvinism” is incompatible with Open Society Liberalism: personal relationships _cannot_ be sacred, in the sense of making claims prior to one’s commitment to the Open Society. That is, however much you value human relationships (or animal relationships), they must still be subordinate to your assent to the Open Society.

I submit that the Open Society must, by virtue of its logic, degenerate into a cruel and inyielding tyranny. The fact that societies do not do this, merely reveals that they have not altogether committed themselves to the Open Society.

Mr. Cella,

I have no problem acknowledging the contradiction you describe—it’s true, the open society cannot question its’ own first principle… But that first principle is that people—unlike ideas or doctrines—cannot be deconstructed! That’s why, when a person tells me that they want to live their life in a way that I can’t understand at all, I’m willing to just let it go. The open society=”faith in the reality of other people”.

You’re right to bring up this example of the “man with the sign” to illustrate the limits of what the open society can tolerate. Anytime you express a belligerent judgement of what other consenting adults do, you have crossed the line and become a bully, and the liberal state exists to prevent that. The right to oppress others is the one right that cannot be countenanced—that way lies fascism. (which is not to say that the man with the sign deserved to be attacked…)

On the question of the children who wish to pray—I have no problem with that, and there’s no reason they should be prevented from doing so. I feel similarly about the argument about “not being able to wish people Merry Christmas” and other standard anti-PC arguments. Of course you’re “allowed” to say Merry Christmas. And if anyone takes that the wrong way they can go home and whine about it to whomever they want. Expressing culturally specific goodwill is not the same as condemning a person for behaviour that has nothing to do with you.

But these are largely questions of application, not theory. In an open society, you are free to do anything you want so long as it does not oppress others. All “bucks” must stop somewhere—and in the liberal scheme of things, the buck stops at the individual’s right to our respect, even if we believe that they are acting foolishly (so long as they hurt no one but themselves) or even that they are going to Hell… Go ahead and think it—but put away your signs, or save them to express something you believe in about the way you live your own life, rather than to express a judgement about someone else’s…