What Went Wrong in Ireland, And What Will Go Wrong Here
This guest post by blogger and scientist William Briggs gets to the heart of Friday’s historic vote, in which Ireland became the first country in the world to vote for “same-sex marriage.” What is wrong is not the way the vote went, he says, but the idea that people can vote on what marriage means. It was originally published on May 25 with the same title at the eponymous blog”William M. Briggs: Statistician to the Stars!” [The word “gmarriage” is not a typo but an abbreviation of the words ‘”gay marriage,” created by Mr. Briggs because he says the phrase should not be used because it describes something that is not possible — ed.]
What went awry in Ireland was not the result of the vote, a result which was, of course, the wrong decision. The offense was something much deeper, something basic. It was the vote itself.
That a people could think, could even let themselves imagine, voting for something fundamental and unchangeable as marriage was a collossal breach of civil order, an act that must presage greater disorders to come. And this would still be so had the vote gone the other way.
Voting whether to call marriage something other than it is, is like voting whether to expand triangularity to include objects with more than three sides (in the name of equality), or like voting to kill citizens whose lives have fallen below some utilitarian threshold (via, say, abortion). It’s like voting to call black white or up down or for anything which is impossible but which is desired. It’s like voting that everybody gets to go to heaven.
That people cannot see this is the cause of the problem. Of course it is! Folks in democracies have fallen victim to the propaganda that voting is a good, and since voting is a good, it is always good, and since it is always good, anything, anything at all, can and should, eventually, be voted upon. “Truth” can be discovered by voting. The “wisdom” of the crowds!
This must lead to tyranny. It already has. To be forced to call a thing which it is not is tyrannical.
Voting is a good and does have it uses, but under only very limited circumstances, such as in small groups where all share a common goal and where the consequences of a decision are largely uncertain, and when there is no leader to assume responsibility. Leadership removes the burden of voting. Captains do not ask the crew which direction to steer. Voting leads to shipwrecks.
Most people do not have the capacity to understand the uncertainties and complexities of major decisions, though they are easily manipulated into thinking they do. Most do grasp the consequences of simple decisions. A group of (similarly ranked) colleagues deciding where to go to lunch might successfully vote. But a nation of every citizen eighteen and up deciding fundamental questions of life and of death? Guaranteed eventual disaster.
Worse, egalitarianism insists that an ever greater fraction of people get to vote and get to vote on more things.
Now if you were among the minority in Ireland, you are likely already convinced about the dangers of voting. But if you are with the majority celebrating “equality”, that most dreadful condition, you might not be. Voting, after all, got you what you wanted. Consider California. That State voted to ban gmarriage (remember Prop 8?). Was that the right vote? Did voting, forever after, reach the truth?
If you say yes, because you’re determined to hold onto the principle of voting, then you cannot say California came to the wrong conclusion. You must agree that it was the right decision. Which means you must change your own belief and say with the majority, “Same sex marriage is wrong.”
But if you say California came to the wrong conclusion, you must then agree that voting can be dangerous. And if voting is dangerous, its use should be restricted.
And that’s what gmarriage supporters did. They eliminated the vote by appealing to State leaders, who by fiat ushered in gmarriage. Believe it or not, this is a better situation than if the citizens of California originally voted for gmarriage, because leadership in some form has been exercised. But it is still bad because the original vote imbued in (all) citizens the illusion they could decide Truth. (Of course, the situation in California is even worse than I paint it, because the leadership erred and now citizens must recognize four-sided “triangles.”)
Voting saps the energy of losers—I speak here of voting on Truth, on foundations, and not on situations where there is a general understanding of uncertainties—which is good when the vote has reached the correct decision, but awful when the wrong decision is made. The losers say to themselves, “The outcome is sad, but we must abide by the will of the people.” But there is no such thing. Thinking there is, and thinking voting is always good, in time compiles error upon error, until, as the man said, the center cannot hold.
Solution? If you’ve understood the argument above, you already know.
William M. Briggs is a professional statistician as well as a writer and speaker. A former professor at the Cornell Medical School, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, and “sort of Cryptologist” with the US Air Force, he is now an independent consultant. He blogs at William M. Briggs, often about the misuse of statistics, pseudo-science, proponents of climate change, Catholicism, philosophy and philosophical fallacies, and ethics.
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