Jonah Goldberg

I guess I'm against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

I know that's not the sort of forthright lead columnists are supposed to start out with.

My wishy-washiness stems in part from the fact that I'm against gay marriage, but I'm also against this "solution." Moreover, I really don't like most of the arguments for or against gay marriage.

Both sides seem to suffer from a nasty case of consequentialism. That's the branch of thinking - of which utilitarianism is a subset - that says that a decision should be judged entirely on the consequences that result from that choice. So, what's wrong with that? Isn't that what politics is about?

Well, yes and no. There are two problems with consequentialism. The first is that, like utilitarianism, it dismisses principle or, worse, it pretends something is a principle when it isn't. So often we hear one political party or another cloak its positions in rhetoric about democracy or justice when really they're talking about personal enrichment or partisan advantage.

The second problem with consequentialism is that it often works on the false assumption that we can know what the consequences will be. The last great constitutional disaster was Prohibition. The 18th Amendment was supposed to get Americans to stop drinking booze. People made straight-line predictions that if you made hooch illegal, people would stop drinking it. Some did. Many didn't. Go rent "The Untouchables" for the rest of the story.

Proponents of the FMA believe that it will have the straight-line effects they desire: no gay marriage, stronger traditional marriage, no more debate about gay marriage. The opponents of FMA make similar arguments about gay marriage itself, saying that the consequences will be obvious, beneficial and predictable.

I really don't buy any of it.

I think gay marriage is probably a bad idea. But, I admit, my feelings stem partly from a conservative view that holds that all radical new ideas are probably bad ones.

I like "muddling through," as the British say.

If I had my druthers, we'd take this issue very slowly, over a generation or two. It was only in 1973 and 1975 that the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, respectively, removed homosexuality from their lists of mental disorders. That was the right decision, but it does illustrate how profoundly young a "mainstream" gay culture is.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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