Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 6, 2015

Getting Government Out Of Marriage

Okay, people, let's clear something up.

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, a lot of people have started yelling mindlessly to "get government out of marriage".  They then start accusing people who want government recognition of their marriage of being "statists" who "worship the state" and want "government approval" of everything they do.  Why can't they just have their own little private agreement and leave everybody else out of it!

Uh, hold on a second there, Pongo.  That is NOT what it means to "get government out of marriage".  Marriage is a type of contractual relationship.  In fact, it establishes a new familial relationship between you and your spouse.  This is a complex maneuver that can radically affect things like who gets custody of children, who gets power of attorney if you're incapacitated, who inherits your stuff, etc.  These are all potential major disputes that have to be arbitrated by the big giant arbitrator of disputes--the government!  You can't get government out of marriage in THIS way . . . because that actually means violating people's right to contract!  A contract that the government doesn't recognize as valid is no contract at all.  It cannot be enforced when it comes to a dispute.  What happens to your kids if you die and your spouse doesn't have automatic custody?  Do they go into foster care?  Does some random relative you may not even know (who might even be a sex offender) become the default?  No.  So it IS necessary for the government to recognize marriages.  Official legal recognition of contracts is one of the PROPER functions of government.  You are not a "statist" for desiring this.

Getting government out of marriage means that the government shouldn't be deciding who CAN get married.  If people are of age to legally contract, they should be free to engage in any form of legal contract, marriage being one.  This is their absolute right.  They should not have to seek a license or legal permission from the government.  The government's sole involvement should be in rubber-stamping the contract to say "this is an officially recognized contract and must be upheld under the law".  That's it.  Denying people access to that rubber stamp is NOT equivalent to saying "you can do whatever you want".  It is actually violating their right to free action, because any yahoo can come along and dispute their action until they have a legally recognized contract.  It is no different than forbidding people to form an LLC because their income is under $50,000 per year, or refusing someone a CPA license because they're black.  The government shouldn't be in the business of ALLOWING people to contract or LICENSING them to contract.  But it is part of the government's legitimate job to GUARANTEE people's contracts--whatever they are, as long as the nature of the contract violates nobody's rights.

May 6, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

People have been saying a lot about this latest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, not much of it very coherent.  But then, the movie itself on first viewing is a bit incoherent.  On second viewing, though, I find that my opinion has solidified:

This is a great work of art.

Oh, I know what people will say.  It's cinematically flawed.  The bad guy is bizarre, his motivations unclear, messy, poorly characterized.  There's too much going on.  It just flies at you out of nowhere.  It's just a bunch of meaningless action scenes.  But that is what makes it great.  Because that is what the movie is about.  The mess isn't random.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is about mess.  About the unknown, impermanence, the inevitability of failure and death.  And fighting anyway.  Risking anyway.  Embracing life anyway, knowing not just that it may go wrong but that it will go wrong.  That there are no perfect answers, no ultimate solutions, that trouble will always come 'round again.  Yet this is no excuse not to live, or to declare the whole thing not good enough and set out to smash it all.

Ultron had one thing right . . . destruction is perfect.  It is pure.  It is the only thing that is.  And if purity and perfection are your standards, your goal, your "peace in my time" . . . then destruction is your only aim.  The only realm in which evil can never happen is one in which nothing can happen.

To embrace life fully means not just to embrace happiness, but to embrace pain.  To embrace the inevitability of death, of failure.  You can call them your enemy, you can fight them with every part of you, but you must embrace that they exist and can never be escaped.  Only by embracing their existence can you conquer them and have a chance at creating something that is majestic, glorious, transformative in its very messiness.

Like this movie.

It may not be everyone's cup of tea.  But it's a great work of art.