My endlessly incestuous and endlessly repetitive arguments....

about endlessly incestuous and endlessly repetitive topics....

every endlessly incestuous and endlessly repetitive day....

In an interesting discussion of laws prohibiting incest, Clayton Cramer takes issue with the idea that what consenting adults do is none of the government's business:

The claim that what consenting adults do is none of the government's business would apply equally to racial discrimination in employment, or building a machine gun in your home, or having sex with animals, or torturing animals to death for a paying crowd. I think this would make a marvelous new reality show: "Let's see how long this dog stays alive, screaming in pain, while we slowly rip its skin off its body!" A lot of things involve consenting adults that civilized societies don't considerable acceptable--but in the pursuit of making one small group feel good about themselves by mandating legalization of same-sex marriage, the intellectuals are slowly destroying the basis for rules that define civilization.
I'll try to take these one at a time.

Racial discrimination is not done between consenting adults.

Torturing an animal has nothing to do with consenting adults as it is not between them. I've discussed this before -- quite exhaustively in fact -- and I am just too damned tired of these endless debates to repeat all of the thoughts of an entire essay which was hard enough and gut wrenching enough to begin with. Basically, I couldn't care less what large "L" libertarian doctrine might be, but here's a small part of what I said:

This is the third time I've read about a pit bull (or a close relative thereof) being violated like this, and if "libertarianism" really means letting that son of a bitch do that to the poor dog, then I guess it means I'm not a "real" libertarian. (So what? Will the world weep over my "treason"?) Libertarianism can be criticized for a lot of things, but I just don't see "libertarianism" in allowing this to be done to some poor dog.

It's a little easier to analyze this case because the animal let the humans know it was in pain. In general, though, there's no way to know, as animals cannot complain. Nor can they consent. There is no such thing as a consenting animal, and unless the animal cries, there is no such thing as a complaining animal. While I disagree with the animal rights philosophy that animals are like people, I nonetheless consider them more than inanimate chattel. Thus, while I would support the right of a person to neglect his car until it conked out (say, to buy an old clunker and run it into the ground), treating a horse that way would be unconscionable, and I support making it illegal. Indeed, the first laws against animal cruelty were passed to prevent the routine working to death of harnessed horses in factories once they had outlived their usefulness. Laws prohibiting cruelty to animals may quite properly define cruelty as including having sex with them for the animals cannot consent to sex. This is no more inconsistent with libertarianism than supporting laws prohibiting sex with minors.

Likewise, just as one cannot enforce a contract entered into by a child, there'd be no way to enter into a contract with an animal. Consent would be meaningless; suppose a valuable racehorse was "told" that it might sign a contract by imprinting a piece of paper with its hoof. If it did so, no court would consider that a valid contract because a horse cannot enter into a contract.

I see the question of whether it is within "man's nature" to have sex with an animal as basically moot. No one can define with precision what man's nature is anyway. Is masturbation part of man's nature? What about having sex with a dead animal? Is that necrophiliac bestiality? What about sex with a butchered carcass? Is that more "wrong" than screwing a rump roast?

How about a watermelon? Yeah, I know, it's considered by some to be an inflammatory symbol, and screwing fruit sounds pretty demented, but does it rise to that level of immorality requiring we punish the offender with criminal sanctions? And for those who are into smaller fruits or veggies and very different activities, how about bananas and cucumbers?

OK, let's really follow this out.... How about sex with a pumpkin?


I'm so tired of the lack of common sense I could almost scream "screw the pumpkin!" But I'll try to restrain myself and stick to the issue at hand.

I think that truly consenting adults have the right to consent to things done to themselves, no matter how horrid we might think they are, as long as they don't do harm to others in the process.

Incest is to my mind more complicated, and it raises more questions than are settled by the invocation of the ordinary "consenting adults" meme.

While I've spent a lot of time doing it, I'm always exhausted by discussing the philosophical limits of libertarianism, and I don't think I'm an extremist libertarian, which is why I use a small "l" in describing my personal philosophy. I think it's a time-wasting exercise in frivolity to waste time debating such things as whether hand guns should be sold in elementary school vending machines, but I have seen capital "L" Libertarians doing just that.

I think there is a balance between the political process and any philosophical doctrine which would trump that, and this was why I supported getting rid of sodomy laws state by state. (Yes, I did a better job in that post than I could today, but like a few thousand other essays I've written, it's long gone and long forgotten.)

I hate to interject a new topic into a tedious post, but this is as good a time as any to point out what has become my number one objection to blogging.

I am sick of repeating myself.

I'll reword that:

I am sick of repeating myself repeating myself.

I'd like to laugh it off, but the thing is, when you've written a blog post, no matter how hard you worked on it or how long it took, it simply disappears after a few days, and then it might as well not exist. Yet, exactly the same issues will arise again, and will be discussed and debated as if they are brand new. Saying "I've said this before" is a very unattractive and unappealing sort of argument. Quoting from an old blog post is no fun. But reinventing the same wheel you've carefully invented (and probably reinvented) is even less fun.

So for me, repetition is the single worst aspect of blogging. In an ideal world, I would only write about new things. But the world is not ideal, and I know I need to get over my aversion to repetition.

If I never hear the word "sodomy" again, it will be too soon. I was complaining about how I never wanted to write about sodomy again two years ago.

And yet here I am, two years later, not only still sick of writing about sodomy, but actually sick of repeating how much I hate repeating that I am sick of writing about sodomy.

Anyway, what I was going to say (before I so rudely interrupted myself) is that I know it's a lot more work to get rid of bad laws like sodomy laws, and I know the political process is disgusting, but had that been done in the remaining few states which had sodomy laws, the argument that Incest Now Threatens Western Civilization would be nowhere near as loud or as credible as it currently seems.

Frankly, the idea of incest annoys the hell out of me almost as much as the idea of a demented maniac screwing a dog. That a brother and a sister would do that is unfortunate.

But anyone who thinks it is new, or that it represents a new wave of "freedom" threatening Western Civilization might remember that it's as old as the Hapsburgs (unless you believe that Adam and Eve's children did it), the gypsies, and even the Amish. It's unfortunate, and has known consequences.

Like this silly creature:


"Charles II of Spain, the pathetic victim of Habsburg inbreeding" -- so unfit to rule that his reign ushered in the War of the Spanish Succession:

Charles II, King of Spain, was unlikely to live much longer and the Spanish throne had no direct male heir. The pathetic victim of generations of Habsburg inbreeding, Charles was both mentally and physically retarded. He suffered from severe epilepsy and in him the Habsburg lower jaw was so pronounced as to appear as a caricature. He could not even chew food properly, leading to digestive problems.
That's what happened when the Hapsburgs kept screwing each other's cousins, nieces, and worse.

I see that Wikipedia's incest entry has (quite predictably) become a ferocious battleground and I guess that's because of the ideological theoreticians.

I'm sure I'm repeating myself but I often wish common sense would prevail. Society has a right to prohibit incest. But OTOH, if a brother and a sister fall in love, should they be imprisoned so they can pine away for each other for ten year stretches? Whether imprisonment solves the problem might be a question for the political process, but perhaps the psychiatric process is better equipped to deal with them. I think a good argument can be made that society has the right to sterilize people who insist on doing such things with their genes. It might not be a libertarian solution, but I think it's better than locking them up.

However, it makes more sense to focus on the people causing the problem than the people who aren't.

Here's the Pennsylvania law. Other jurisidictions are similar:

18 Pa.C.S. §4302


A person is guilty of incest, a felony of the second degree, if that person knowingly marries or cohabits or has sexual intercourse with an ancestor or descendant, a brother or sister of the whole or half blood or an uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of the whole blood. The relationships referred to in this section include blood relationships without regard to legitimacy, and relationship of parent and child by adoption.

Here's California's incest law:

§ 285. Incest
Persons being within the degrees of consanguinity within which marriages are declared by law to be incestuous and void, who intermarry with each other, or who being 14 years of age or older, commit fornication or adultery with each other, are punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.
I don't see much of a groundswell to get rid of these laws, but I think that if the incest activists (assuming there are any) want to get rid of them, they should do so by lobbying from state to state. I might sarcastically say "Good luck," if I could find the incest lobby. (The latter has been mentioned, but only in the polemical sense.)

I guess even common sense has its polemical limits.

So do I.

posted by Eric on 05.03.07 at 10:51 AM


2 min 20 sec.


Phelps   ·  May 3, 2007 11:48 AM

I go back and forth. I fully agree that if two freely consenting adults wish to have sex, the government has no right to say no, even if the freely consenting adults are siblings. I see no basis for the government to have an opinion one way or the other.

But it becomes a problem is where a child results--because now you have a third party involved who didn't consent and, of course, couldn't consent because he/she didn't exist at the time. Nobody asked Charles II his opinion on whether it was wise for his parents to produce him before they did it.

As I said, I haven't carefully worked out my position, but it would be something along the lines of legalizing the sexual relations, but prohibiting reproduction. Not on philosophical grounds, but on pragmatic.

tim maguire   ·  May 3, 2007 12:59 PM

Philosophically, I don't think the government has legitimate business in the bedroom, but incest goes beyond the bedroom. Pragmatically, political solutions to these questions beat court-mandated ones, and are a better way to settle racmorous cultural disputes. It comes down to who is perceived to have a right to rule over whom.

Assuming that tyranny results, which form of tyranny is better? Majority tyranny? Or elitist minority tyranny? The answers are not as clear as I'd like.


Eric Scheie   ·  May 3, 2007 1:32 PM

I once counted myself among the Libertarians, as well, and one of the grievances I had against it was its fundamental incompatibility with democracy on its intellectual face.

If we could work out a single, philosophically consistent standard by which society could be governed, then we logically only need someone to enforce that standard - which precludes democracy pretty much altogether. But of course we don't have such a standard, a product of our simple human imperfection, and instead we have a thousand divergent standards that we all agree to work out through the democratic system.

In other words, yes, incest is obviously a troubling issue. Which is why it's best for societies to work out a solution in a democratic way rather than with a one-liner some fellow cooked up on the basis that it's "philosophically consistent" with other policies. Nothing irks me worse than Libertarians (or Marxists or autocrats or etc.) saying that X not only has an obvious solution but that X is beyond the pale of legitimate democratic discourse. This line of reasoning is an invitation to bad policy.

S Wisnieski   ·  May 3, 2007 7:19 PM

'Consenting adults' what a convenient phrase to absolve personal responsibility.

Nevermind screwing with puppies, goats and horses, what about...

a man who unknowingly is infected with AIDS and half-cocked on meth is enjoying himself at an all night gangbanging session at the local private gay club, is he absolved from any responsiblity because he didn't know he had AIDS and the other twenty adults consented to sex? Which reminds me will Reagan be blamed for spreading AIDS?

or what about a seventeen year old female who drunk as a skunk on bourban is having a pogo stick shoved up her vagina by a couple of groovey dudes emulating their favorite porn stars, is she really in a consenting state of mind? Or will Jesus be blamed for uptight puritanism?

That said, I don't get the whole argument 'government stay out of our bedrooms' but 'give us free health care, free education, free housing, free art, cheap gas, an AIDS cure, and while you're at it feed the world's hungry'.

syn   ·  May 4, 2007 9:34 AM
"I am sick of repeating myself repeating myself." - Eric

That's because when you argue with a fuckwit, Eric, they beat you down through persistence, impermeability, and experience.

Ironbear   ·  May 4, 2007 2:54 PM

I fail to see why incest is a special case. A 45-year-old woman having a baby with a someone she's not related to is at least as dangerous as a healthy 25-year-old having one with her brother. (To say nothing of the fact that a 15-year-old is, ceteris paribus, biologically a better mother than either of them. But that's another story.) No one would stand for regulation of middle-aged women having babies. The only other possible grounds for regulating incest is simple disgust and tradition, and I hardly think this is the sort of blog where such things are respected.

Aaron Davies   ·  May 4, 2007 8:38 PM

Ironbear, I try not to argue with anyone, and I understand that arguing with type of mindset you mention is a waste of time. (Although I wouldn't put Clayton Cramer in that category at all.)

My argument here is with myself and with the nature of blogging, because I find it tiring to repeating myself -- especially when I was already wordy the first time around!

Eric Scheie   ·  May 8, 2007 8:06 AM

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