You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.


crypto and public policy

Ostrich Politics

Filed under: General — July 31, 2003 @ 11:16 am

The Pope and our President seem to agree: gay marriage is immoral and thus should be illegal. (In all fairness, conservative Jews and Muslims share this point of view, but I’ll stick to current events for now).

They also agree that safe sex is a bad thing…. unless by that you mean “no sex,” in which case you are following the path of “moral law.” The Pope has long pushed this view, and Bush’s $15B aid package to Africa for fighting HIV/AIDS actually contains $5B earmarked towards teaching abstinence and otherwise focuses on treatment, not other means of prevention. Not to mention the Bush Administration’s fact cleansing to keep information about safe sex out of the public’s hands.

I will put aside – for the purposes of this argument – the criminal act that is encouraging poor Africans to not use condoms and thus get infected with HIV, and the encroachment on social freedoms and the breach of equality before the law that is George W.’s anti-gay-marriage stance. These are incredibly serious concerns, but it’s clear that Bush, John-Paul, and co. are not buying these arguments.

Instead, let’s examine the concept the French call “Ostrich Politics.” Let’s assume that Bush and John-Paul’s ultimate dreams include the long-term welfare of society (well, at least Americans for Bush and Catholics for John-Paul). After all, we should assume they want what’s best for their people. If not, we’ve got other problems.

Ostrich Politics is about sticking your head in the sand and refusing to view immoveable facts as a practical, reasonable basis for policy. Will pushing abstinence by instilling fear actually stop people from having sex? No, say the studies: people are simply going to have sex. Except they might have unsafe sex because the information about safe sex is not being made available. Will refusing to recognize gay couples (10% of the population) somehow make them go away? No, say the scientists. Homosexuality is not a disease. It can’t be “cured,” and doctors have known that since the 1970s. Homosexuality just is. It’s a fact. Yet life-long homosexual partners are forced to live their dedicated, loving relationship in a social no-man’s land, without proper healthcare support, government benefits, or inheritance rights.

Faced with facts they don’t like, Ostrich Politicians choose to ignore them and enact policy that would make sense if these facts never existed. Not only will this fail to achieve intended goals, but the actual results are disastrous: more people having unprotected sex, and more citizens ostracized by the government.

In computer science, we have an important principle: garbage in, garbage out. If you make poor assumptions, you’ll get poor results. Leaders can preach ideology as much as they want, but actions should be based on facts, not wishful thinking.

UPDATE: I’m told that 10% is a highly controversial figure concerning the number of homosexuals in the population. Some claim it is as low as 2%. Certainly possible, as I’m no expert on the statistics. I stand by the arguments above, even if the actual number is 2%.

UDPDATE II: I’m reminded by a reader that while many Jews do indeed oppose gay marriage within their faith, almost none seek to make it illegal for everyone else.

1 Comment

  1. filchyboy:

    Whatever the figure I think it’s safe to say everyone knows another person who is gay, even if that person is closeted.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.