To Buy or Not to Buy

As the Washington blade reports:

Elton John is among those who support a boycott of gay fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s label over their controversial comments about children conceived through in vitro fertilization. “You are born and you have a father and a mother, or at least it should be so,” said Dolce during an interview that Panorama, an Italian website, featured in its March 12 issue. “You cannot convince me of what I call children of chemistry, and synthetic children: Wombs for rent, seeds selected from a catalog.” …

“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic,’” wrote John, using the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana. “And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF—a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay…

I have no issue with anyone publicly stating they won’t be purchasing products or services because they find the expressed views of the business owners insulting or bigoted, or when (apparently not the case with Dolce & Gabbana) the profits of the business are being used to support efforts that are viewed with disdain. Your money, your choice.

By the same token, those who think the personal or political views of business owners should not be a factor in purchasing decisions have that right as well. As Gabbana responded to John’s boycott, “You preach understanding, tolerance and they you attack others? Only because someone has a different opinion?”

Boycotts of this kind become problematic when government gets involved, as when liberal local officials threatened to zone out Chick fil A franchises because the owning family funded groups opposing same-sex marriage (the company says it no longer contributes to anti-gay marriage groups).

The decision to purchase or not purchase is an individual one. Efforts to press companies to change their support or opposition to political causes (that is, boycott organizing) is part of social pressure and lobbying that takes place in civil society. Dolce and Gabbana have rights to express their views, and Elton John and Ricky Martin can take exception and urge consumers to boycott the company. Some will see that as another kind of intolerance, and others will view it as appropriate.

Efforts to outlaw political speech deemed offensive, or to use the power of the state to punish those who exercise their legal rights to engage in the political process, is where we should always draw the line.

Gay Marriage and the Federal Budget

If you haven’t heard much about the effects of DOMA’s downfall on the federal budget, that’s because there isn’t expected to be much of an effect. True, various benefits such as health and survivor benefits will now be paid to spouses of civilian workers and military personnel, and some gay persons will be entitled to Social Security benefits based on spouses’ earnings. On the other hand, it would not be surprising to see married gay couples’ income profiles falling more often on the “marriage penalty” rather than the “marriage bonus” territory on this interesting tax chart. And a host of benefit and subsidy programs, most importantly Medicaid but also other means- or income-tested programs, will save money once a spouse’s assets and income can be taken into account. All in all, a 2004 CBO study suggests the impact on the federal budget is likely to be very slightly positive. Josh Barro has the details here. He concludes:

The fiscal benefits aren’t a crucial reason to support same-sex marriage, but they do lend support to one of the “conservative” cases for it. Marriage is a structure through which people depend on each other, so they don’t have to depend on the government. For gay men and lesbians to take advantage of that fiscally friendly option, the government has to make it legal for us to marry.

Capitalism and the gays, cont’d: the theology of unnatural transactions

Jeet Heer, via Alex Tabarrok:

Aristotle’s linkage of non-procreative sex with usury profoundly influenced Christian thinkers. Thomas Aquinas, whose Summa Theologica codified the fusion of Aristotle with Christianity, argued that sodomy and usury were both “sins against nature, in which the very order of nature is violated, an injury done to God himself, who sets nature in order.” Echoing Aquinas, Dante placed sodomites and usurers in the same circle of Hell in the Divine Comedy. In his 1935 tract “Social Credit,” Ezra Pound, whose obsession with crackpot economics took him down many historical byways, argued that “usury and sodomy, the Church condemned as a pair, to one hell, the same for one reason, namely that they are both against natural increase.”

There is a flipside to this tradition of seeing sodomy as the enemy of the natural economy of the household: The counter-tradition of liberal economics founded by Adam Smith challenged the household model by seeing economics as rooted in the free trade of goods between households and nations. Precisely because Smith was more receptive to previously condemned or taboo economic activities like trade and manufacturing, he was also more open to sexual liberalism.

The long-held orthodox Christian view was that the charging of any interest at all on lent money is improper, a view that if taken seriously tends to retard the emergence of whole sectors of the modern economy such as banking and insurance. This view persists in conservative Muslim theology, with the result that elaborate “Islamic banking” institutions have arisen in the Middle East to achieve many of the same effects without overstepping the letter of religious law. Most of the Christian world has engaged in a more straightforward modernization of its theology, with the old usury prohibitions lingering on, if at all, as a condemnation of the charging of unreasonably high rates of interest. Prohibitions on nonprocreative sex, one may hope, are proceeding on a similar trajectory of decay.