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Insight From San Franciscans

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4 Responses

  1. dave hoffman says:

    Fun post.
    What do you think explains the difference between your commentators and survey subjects? Selection driven by how you prompted them? Something about online responses? (i.e., the “Bradley effect”, but more … personally … based)?

  2. Ari Waldman says:

    Thanks for the comment!

    I think its mostly about the character and nature of online responders, in general. Before I started blogging, I would never read comments, but I find myself drawn to the comments to my posts. It’s almost a masochistic thing (plus, some people ask really fantastic questions!).

    Those who comment on websites tend to be of the zealous variety. They have a specific world view and they like to use CAPITAL LETTERS to express it.

    But, in classic law prof talk, it has to be a host of factors. Men and women in the Castro saw a young, well-dressed man and were drawn in (two even asked me out on a date!); I may have been subconsciously prejudicing my sample, but smiling more at the well-dressed than at those who I didn’t think were interested. I tried to get a diverse sample — black/white, young/old, male/female, etc. — but it was entirely nonscientific.

  3. I’m not sure the student reaction to gay marriage is accurately described as libertarianism, at least in any robust sense. I think it is more dismissal of any valid reasons not to permit gay marriage (in which case, why not?). For “libertarianism” to be doing any real work, there has to be some concession of potential policy reasons to maintain a regulation, but nonetheless opposing it because it infringes too severely on human liberty.

    Imagine you pitch to me a regulation mandating that all barbers wear brightly colored jester hats. I’d oppose it, primarily because, well, what purpose could such a regulation possibly serve. Even if you managed to cobble together some halfway plausible story (it makes them less frightening to young children, say), I’d still oppose it because I think those reasons are silly and there is no point to such a regulation. That’s not “libertarian” of me, unless libertarianism encompasses any opposition to governmental regulation. But of course, non-libertarians are perfectly capable of opposing governmental regulations that they think are silly.

    Contrast that to opposition to an anti-flag burning bill. There, I might concede the facial validity of the policy objective (disrespectful to veterans or whatnot), I just think that, nonetheless, commitment to personal liberty and freedom of expression trump. That’s a libertarian position — it uses a strong presumption in favor of human liberty in order to trump another, facially valid principle.

    I think most students’ pro-gay marriage position is more in the former camp, though. They just find the supposed problems with it baffling; they don’t even accord them facial validity. Barring gay people from marrying serves no apparent purpose to them — it’s just a gratuitous restriction on gay people. So why bother having it?

  4. Orin Kerr says:

    I think David Schraub makes a very good point.

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