Chesterton’s Fence and Institutions that Protect Reproduction


There’s all truth about politics, which is presumably too large for the human mind to encompass, and then there are the truths we need in our current situation. There’s a lot of that too, but more manageable. One of the big names you need here is Hayek.

Hayek is not as well known as he should be, which is a fierce indictment of so-called “education” in our society. He devoted a lot of attention to, and provided thorough intellectual grounding for, the idea that is often summed up with two words: Chesterton’s Fence. The brief version: A “reformer” comes across a fence in a road and says, “I see no reason for this fence; we should knock it down now!” Chesterton says, “No, you fuckwit, because someone probably put it there for a reason. Fences don’t just spring out of the ground at random.”

A fence is produced by human beings purposefully, but the metaphor of Chesterton’s Fence generalizes to human institutions that arise and are selected through a non-purposeful process of cultural evolution. The phrase “Chesterton’s fence” is more memorable than Hayekian phrases like “spontaneous order,” “cultural evolution,” “dispersed knowledge,” “the results of human action but not human intention,” etc. But you haven’t really understood Chesterton fully until you’ve absorbed a certain measure of Hayek.

Exposition like Hayek’s is necessary to satisfy people who are concerned about careful arguments, as opposed to vivid metaphors. And it is needed when our enemies— totalitarians of all kinds— demand such arguments. (They don’t actually care about arguments, but they often pretend they do for tactical reasons.)

There are irrefutable arguments that are summed up in the phrase Chesterton’s Fence. Some of the social phenomena for which the Fence metaphor is relevant are things we understand in detail, but some we can’t understand in full detail— or at least we don’t yet— and so we must rely on the Fence as a general principle.

Two examples of such phenomena we understand in detail are the ways that market economies work— see Hayek’s essay The Use of Knowledge in Society — and the red-pill Darwinian explanation of traditional institutions to deal with female behavior.

An example of a recent social innovation whose effects are not understood in detail is homosexual “marriage.” This has never existed in the western world and has been a very rare thing indeed in the world in general, if it has existed at all (discussion below). Why? The obvious response is, “Because it’s fucking absurd!” Yes, of course it is. But why should it be harmful? It doesn’t hurt the society, right? No, wrong. At least that must be the presumption. It must be the presumption on Darwinian grounds, because until around 1990, no one on planet Earth had ever seriously proposed the idea.

“Gay marriage” may be harmful because it dilutes the seriousness with which people regard all marriage. (It may be like shampoo commercials that tell you that you have a “right” to glossy, wavy hair: By trivializing the concept of rights, they weaken it.) Or it could just be that no one ever thought of it before now because such a manifestly idiotic idea was unthinkable. (A married couple is a formally recognized mating pair, and obviously this is absurd for two members of the same sex.) But if it has been thought of and tried before, it was obviously lethal to the societies that tried it.

When it comes to such radical innovations we must rely on Chesterton’s Fence or we’ll uproot institutions that are necessary to our society’s survival. Social institutions that facilitate and protect reproduction are vital. A society cannot tamper with them and remain viable.

Some of these institutions may be impossible to replace if we destroy them. We may be dooming our societies to death if we uproot them. Chesterton’s Fence says to social innovators, “All the presumption is against you. And the fact that you don’t see any objections to your social engineering plans is not a point in their favor. Rather the opposite.”

The reason the lack of apparent objections presses against your pet social innovation is this: If there were known objections, you could, possibly, refute them. Chesterton himself allowed for this possibility. But the actual situation is this:

(1) You can see no objection to your pet innovation (“gay marriage” or whatever),
(2) No society has ever had it and survived.

That’s a daunting pair of facts, because (2) means there’s some reason not to have it, and (1) means whatever the reason is, it’s too subtle for you to understand it. In other words, this is above your intellectual pay grade. It may, indeed, be above all human beings’ pay grade.

Furthermore, homosexual marriage is not the kind of change that one could support by arguing that, say, technological change makes it viable now. What technological change? How is that relevant?

Some try to attack Chesterton’s Fence by saying it proves too much; if it were followed seriously it would preclude all innovation. But one, Chesterton himself explicitly disavowed this, and two, the Fence can be used to support practices that are universal or near-universal and to reject ideas that have never been followed.

You can’t use the Fence to oppose languages with loose word order because such languages have actually existed for thousands of years. You can use it to oppose e.g. women in fighting positions in the military, homosexual marriage, open borders, etc., because those things haven’t.

Discussion of the politically correct “History of same-sex unions” article at Wikipedia:

Summary: Hilariously desperate propaganda.

Wikipedia wants to convince you that same-sex marriage is reasonably common, or at least not unheard-of, in human history, but time and again they put forth an example, then are forced to qualify it as being explicitly temporary— i.e. not a marriage— or not actually condoned by religious authorities of the society, or— and this is so hilariously desperate— they just basically cave in and admit that it was just men fucking boys in the ass in ancient Greece, and involved no marriage whatsoever, and they try to finesse the issue by using the weasel word “union.” Or we get, “In late medieval France, it is possible the practice of entering a legal contract of ‘enbrotherment’ (affrèrement) provided a vehicle for civil unions between unrelated male adults…”

“In the southern Chinese province of Fujian, through the Ming dynasty period, females would bind themselves in contracts to younger females in elaborate ceremonies.” This could mean anything, e.g. an apprenticeship, an adoption, a teacher accepting in loco parentis for a student.

My favorite example, though, is this: “Michel de Montaigne, a 16th-century French philosopher and prominent essayist, reports having heard a third-party description of a same-sex wedding occurring some years earlier…” In other words, “This one guy said he heard a rumor of a gay marriage…” When the advocates of a view are forced to resort to a single example which is third-hand hearsay, it’s because the verifiable facts do not support their claim.

The article also states,

“There are records of same-sex marriage dating back to the first century A.D. Nero was the first, though there is no legal provision for this in Roman Law, and it was banned in the Roman Empire in the fourth in a law of 342 A.D., but the text is corrupt, ‘marries a woman’ nubit feminam might be cubit infamen ‘goes to bed in a dishonorable manner with a man’ as a condemnation of homosexual behavior between men.”

This refers to Wikipedia’s claim that the Emperor Nero “married” a slave boy (or two), but provides only that example from Rome, and Nero anyway was insane. (He “married” the slave boy to replace a woman whom he, Nero, had murdered. He had his own mother killed. And he died by suicide by his own hand or by asking one of his courtiers to kill him.) This does not substantiate the claim that homosexual “marriage” was a normal part of that society. And indeed, below that the article just gives up and admits,

Conubium existed only between a civis Romanus and a civis Romana (that is, between a male Roman citizen and a female Roman citizen), so that a marriage between two Roman males (or with a slave) would have no legal standing in Roman law (apart, presumably, from the arbitrary will of the emperor in the two aforementioned cases).”

[I am quoting Wikipedia’s citation for this last passage against the inevitable erasure of it by censorious SJW leftists:
Corbett, The Roman Law of Marriage (Oxford, 1969), pp. 24–28; Treggiari, Roman Marriage (Oxford, 1991), pp. 43–49.; “Marriages where the partners had conubium were marriages valid in Roman law (iusta matrimonia)” [Treggiari, p. 49]. Compare Ulpian (Tituli Ulpiani 5.3–5: “Conubium is the capacity to marry a wife in Roman law. Roman citizens have conubium with Roman citizens, but with Latins and foreigners only if the privilege was granted. There is no conubium with slaves”; compare also Gaius (Institutionum 1:55–56, 67, 76–80).]

5 thoughts on “Chesterton’s Fence and Institutions that Protect Reproduction”

  1. C.’s Fence, though a valuable tool for preventing decisional overconfidence, is useless if the environment changes so that the reasons for the fence not longer exist.

    >institutions that facilitate and protect reproduction are vital. A society cannot tamper with them and remain viable.
    The environment of human reproduction has already changed dramatically through the advent of safe, easy, reliable and cheap contraceptives and abortion. Sex and reproduction, and with it marriage, have been decoupled.
    This has rendered not only ancient social institutions like marriage obsolete, but also many of our sexual instincts:
    Until before the last few decades, every sexual instinct and behavior that lead to insemination was associated with reproductive success: Cheating, lying, pretending to be in love, rape, showing off, intense socialization (seeking out dances/parties/etc.), even prostitution. These old instincts still drive behavior, of course, people have a lot of promiscuous sex, but do not intend to burden themselves with children and actively prevent having them.
    They have sex not for reproduction, but because it’s rewarding, and so we get a lot of sex without reproduction, and thus a biological fitness failure from maladaption, just like we get the obesity crisis for similar reasons:
    Old instinct programs are ill adapted to a new environment that has changed quickly and dramatically.

    Marriage itself, the family unit itself, has become very likely OBSOLETE.
    This is something many don’t want to be true, because it is against their romantic ideals.
    But ask:
    Why exactly would people marry, or at least live together as a family unit of long-time partners?
    It’s unseen in all other primates. There is no compelling biological reason for it.
    There HAVE BEEN two reasons:
    Mate guarding for men (always being close to his female partner makes sure his children are really his own and he will not invest in another man’s genes);
    and protection and resource security for women (women are weak and need a protector and provider, even more so during pregnancy and infant care).
    These reasons have become OBSOLETE:
    Men don’t need to mate guard anymore, because the advent of DNA-based paternity tests practically abolished man’s risk of being cuckolded.
    Women don’t need any typical man’s protection and resources anymore, because the modern welfare state is a better protector and resource provider than the typical man (exception:the few very rich men).
    These two critical changes of social and reproductive technology have abolished the actual underlying biological reasons for two reproduction partners staying together for a longer time, and lead and will further lead to the abolishment of marriage and single-parent families becoming the norm.

    >homosexual marriage is not the kind of change that one could support by arguing that, say, technological change
    >makes it viable now.
    Not so:
    Homosexual marriage now CAN, because of technological change, be a reproduction institution:
    I’ll not go into the details here as this information can easily be found elsewhere, but any two people – two women, two men – can today reproduce without having to useuse the chromosomes/genes of a person of different sex, because gametes can today be made from any two people’s cells/chromosomes, naturally or artificially inseminated, and implanted into a surrogate mother. Even a single person can clone itself, so technically “single-person marriages”, being married to oneself, have become possible, as weird as that sounds.
    Just for the sake of fascinating exemplification:
    A, say, boy can today have multiple fathers and mothers:
    A genetic father (his paternal grandfather), a clone father (who provided the nucleus), a legal father (who commissioned and raised him), a genetic mother (his paternal grandmother), an egg-mother (who produced the oocyte), a surrogate mother (who gestated and gave birth to him) and a stepmother (who raised him).
    CONFUSED? This is where we are now technologically, and in the future it probably becomes normal, cheap, safe – most people will want to have the best children and in the most convenient circumstances they can afford – so this will likely be the reproductive environment of the future.

    Why are homosexual MEN hated by heterosexual men? It begins with a disgust emotion.
    Why did this emotion evolve?
    In the ancient environment natural and sexual selection put intense pressures on men, among them the risk of attracting STDs – unlike today, an evolutionary death sentence, because STDs were untreatable and killed directly, made the man infertile, or sexually unattractive (many STDs make genitals look, smell and taste disgusting – cunnilingus and fellatio are not uncommon in many mammals, and evolved as a protection instinct against STDs – this is why people today like to do it in the first place).
    STDs were spread by homosexual men – because of their much higher promiscuity; then and now gays have much higher STD load. Now you’ll wonder how the gays’s STD infected hetero men – the answer is: Bisexual men, which are more numerous than exclusive homosexual men, and quite the adulterers, who transferred the gays’ STDs on the heterosexuals’ wives and those then on the heterosexual men.
    (Homosexuality is actually only a rarer subform of bisexuality, the latter existing because it produces some reproductive benefits, bisexual men have higher ejaculation rates (twice as frequently as heteros) and have kids earlier (higher reproduction RATE (=lower intergenerational distance=quicker to evolve/adapt), but not more children), because they got children earlier in the ancestral environment, because they could practice sex earlier in their youth with other men which translated into higher sexual experience and earlier and quicker seduction of girls and women, just like it still happens today.)
    Hetero men who evolved a disgust for gays and got rid of them simply out-reproduced those who tolerated gays due to lower STD rates, and their sons inherited the instinct – which can be on a spectrum from mild disgust to murderous rage. So homophobia evolved as a fitness-improving emotion of hetero men.

    Homosexuality among males seems eerily common and beneficial for biological fitness if the STD-factor were removed – which is likely to happen from technological improvements!
    If risks for homosexual behavior were removed, evolution would not longer restrain genes for it, its reproductive benefits would lead it soaring through the population, everybody would be bisexual.
    In isolated communities on many Pacific islands people were exposed to practically no STDs – susceptible individuals to any that had once existed had long since died, leaving behind only those who were immune; small populations means that not many new mutations in STDs happened; any sexual activity was low-risk, and in such societies bisexuality was the norm when they were 1st encountered by Western anthropologists.

    By the way:
    Homosexuality is by no means unique to humans; almost all birds and mammals show similar behavior;
    male monkeys and apes, for example, show the same range of homosexual behavior as men: mutual caressing and masturbation to anal intercourse; one masturbating to ejaculation while being penetrated anally by another; as in humans, less than 1% are exclusive homosexuals (=nonreproductive), but bisexuality IS reproductive – in humans, about 5% of men in industrial countries are bisexuals, and monkeys/apes who have anal intercourse with other males have no lower rate of intercourse with females.


  2. “The environment of human reproduction has already changed dramatically through the advent of safe, easy, reliable and cheap contraceptives and abortion.”

    Contraception and abortion are not relevant to “gay marriage.”

    “Marriage itself, the family unit itself, has become very likely OBSOLETE.”

    Bizarre. Also, saying marriage is obsolete destroys your own attempt to argue that gay marriage is desirable. You’re not even coherent.

    “Homosexual marriage now CAN, because of technological change, be a reproduction institution… any two people – two women, two men – can today reproduce without having to …use the chromosomes/genes of a person of different sex…”

    Again you’ve switched from arguing against marriage to arguing for homosexual marriage. Make up your mind.

    In any case, you’re wrong. All the things you mention may be theoretically possible, but none of them has actually happened. There is no person who is offspring of two men’s DNA, e.g. This hasn’t even been real-world tested.


  3. >destroys your own attempt to argue that gay marriage is desirable. You’re not even coherent.
    >Again you’ve switched from arguing against marriage to arguing for homosexual marriage. Make up your mind.

    I am not attempting to argue pro or contra anything.
    I just want to find out the truth.

    What I personally want matters practically only after I have a good, ideally true understanding of what is going on and what parameters I must attempt to change to bring it about.


  4. [Copying ERTZ’s comment from another post into this post. ERTZ wrote:]

    A little update example to better understand what I commented here:
    and you found weird

    I just remembered it and wanted to add this;
    my brother works in a clinic for reproductive medicine and the numbers of such arrangements are rising steadily;
    it’s just expensive and thus mostly restricted to rich gays and lesbians (some of which are rich because they are children of rich sexually normal parents).
    There seems exponential growth of these deviant sexuality and artificial reproduction methods, probably because modern society does suppresses it anymore and the technology for it becomes ever cheaper.
    It’s publicly unnoticed because most of these people keep it private, but the numbers are already in the 10s of thousands every year in the world – rising fast.
    LGBT+ (and especially related clinics+reproductive doctors) currently lobby intensively to not only legalize such reproduction methods, but also to have it covered by welfare/national health system (Europe/GB etc.) by the taxpayer:
    So there is an ideological as well as financial incentive behind it.

    If sexual deviance is not suppressed but supported by society, you WILL get more of it, because that’s how biology – mutations etc., work.

    Just wanted to point that out, because it’s currently almost invisible, but probably will be noticed when it’s already widespread and pretty much the norm.


  5. I’m having a hard time sussing out your position on this – or maybe as you say you don’t really have one yet – but in any case some thoughts prompted by this, which may or may not have anything to do with your comment:

    This says nothing about unknown attack vectors of homosexual “marriage” on society, like a frivolizing of the concept of marriage, as I mentioned above, from something that has a crucial role in child rearing to “I have have a right to get married just because I want to.” Or any number of unknown problems. Dangerous unknown unknowns are the main point, IMHO, of Chesterton’s Fence.

    Some possible deleterious effects on society, from that Twitter link:

    Australian women have also spoken out about their damaging experiences of surrogacy. Sydney surrogate birth mother Shona Ryan told a Canberra conference: “My subconscious, my body, my emotions, knew I’d given birth and were screaming out for that baby. I kept having the urge to tell people, ‘I’ve had a baby!’”

    Commodification of human beings, both the babies and their mothers, the psychological effects on the children, etc.


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