One of these now am I too, a fugitive from the gods and a wanderer, at the mercy of raging Strife.


Empedokles says that things are in motion part of the time and again they are at rest; they are in motion when Love tends to make one out of many, or Strife tends to make many out of one...


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Why Diversity Destroys Social Capital, part I

In 2007 Harvard researcher Robert Putnam published the results of his long-awaited research which showed that increased diversity lead to a reduction in social capital.  Putnam’s massive study concluded that:
…inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, to give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television (2007: 150).
In the presence of diversity, we “hunker down”, he argued, “we pull in like a turtle” (2007: 149).
            These results have been echoed in other studies as well.  For example, Dronkers in his study of immigrant neighborhoods in the Netherlands finds that:
1) neighborhoods’ ethnic diversity reduces individual trust in neighborhoods; 2) those with neighbors of a different ethnicity have less trust in neighborhoods and neighbors 3) a substantial part of the effect of neighborhoods’ ethnic diversity on individual trust can be explained by the higher propensity of having neighbors of a different ethnicity. We conclude that ethnic diversity can have a negative effect on individual trust. (Dronkers 2008)
And Hero concurs that “When we considered the interaction of diversity and social capital, a powerful dampening effect of the former on the latter was shown” (Hero 2007: 157).
            The explanations for the findings of Putnam’s and other similar studies have usually been couched in moral terms:  liberals see it as confirmation of persistent prejudice; conservatives see it as a confirmation that multiculturalism is destructive to society.  Both sides see social capital as an important good in society, but they differ in that whereas liberals believe that social capital and diversity are compatible, and that the promotion of social capital is frustrated by prejudice, conservatives believe that social capital and diversity are incompatible and that the good of social capital can only be achieved by reducing diversity through integration.  My hope here is to resolve this dispute by offering a non-moral explanation of the mechanism by which social capital is created and maintained, and thereby come to understand how this mechanism is in turn undermined, so that ultimately we can come to judge the compatibility of social capital and diversity. 
            In his influential account, Coleman wrote that “Social capital is defined by its function” (Coleman 1988: 96).  If so, it might be fruitful to consult the voluminous philosophical literature that has been dedicated to the understanding of the notion and nature of natural function, and see how this may be applied to social capital.  The thought is that this literature might provide insight into the distinctive function of social capital:  what is its function, how it performs its function, and how it fails to perform it.  Specifically, I intend to apply the biosemantic framework developed by philosopher Ruth Millikan to these ends.  There are other accounts of function in the literature, but Millikan’s is specifically geared towards understanding the nature of interpersonal cooperation and communication, and as such is equipped with a set of conceptual tools applicable to the study to social capital.  A secondary goal of the paper then is to introduce the biosemantic approach to sociologists and political scientists who might otherwise be unfamiliar with it.  My plan is to first review the tenets of biosemantics and then show how it may be applied to the debate over social capital.  I do not intend to supplant other approaches to the understanding of social capital, only to provide a conceptual foundation for them, or add an additional piece to the puzzle that is a very complex phenomenon.  I do not claim that the biosemantic approach alone can explain all the myriad phenomena that social capital is invoked to explain, only why cultural diversity causes a decline.  
I.  Biosemantics
            Millikan’s great insight in her landmark Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories was to look at the evolutionary origins of language, thought, and behavior and to apply this framework to the philosophical problems of mind and semantics.  Starting from a naturalistic account of the phenomena of teleological function, Millikan is able to move up into the spheres of intentionality, meaning, representation, and interpersonal communication.  For Millikan, functional items like hearts and kidneys get their functions not by what they currently do, or have a disposition to do, but by possessing a certain history.  Specifically, there must be a history of both reproduction and selection.  “Reproduction” is to be understood counterfactually as had the ancestor differed in some respect, the descendent would likewise differ in that respect.  Picture the way the words on the paper that comes out of a copying machine are copies of the words on the original, or the way that children’s genes are copies of their parents’ genes, or the performance of social customs such as shaking hands or bowing when greeting are copies of previous performances of those gestures, or the way manufactured items on an assembly line are copies of a blueprint or prototype (1984: 23).[1]
            The second requirement is that the item must be selected for the possession of a feature.  “Selection” here is to be understood not as conscious choice, but in the Darwinian sense that the reason an item or feature exists is that this feature has correlated sufficiently often with some effect, and this effect helped account for its reproduction as opposed to things lacking this effect (1993: 35).  The effect in question is the proper function of the item.[2]  In the case of biological items such as organs or inherited behaviors such as mating displays, the proper function is that effect an item’s ancestors had that accounted for the proliferation of the genes responsible for its production (1993: 14).  Put more intuitively, a specific animal mating display, for example, has proliferated because this behavior corresponds more positively with the ability to attract mates than some other behavior.  This behavior was selected by natural selection over some other behavior at least in part because of that correlation; those who performed this display were more likely to attract mates, and thus to pass these behavior-producing genes into their progeny, than those who didn’t.  Hearts, to take another example, have pumping blood as their proper function not because they currently pump blood, or have the capacity to pump blood, but because the genes that produce hearts are copies of an ancestor’s genes, and the reason these genes have proliferated is because they correlate with the production of things that pump blood (1993: 35).  Thus diseased, malformed, and damaged hearts that lack the ability to pump blood still have the pumping of blood as their proper function because the genes that produced them are copies of genes that have proliferated because they sufficiently often produce things the pump blood, whether or not the current item in question has this ability.  Many mating displays fail to perform their mate-attracting function, maybe they even fail more frequently than they succeed, but they succeed often enough to make it worthwhile to pass on the genes.
            It is not only the case of the copying and selection of genes that thereby have proper functions in this sense.  The account of selection merely requires that a feature be reproduced because it correlates positively with some effect more positively than if it were lacking this feature.  Thus things may have proper functions that exist for reasons other than natural selection working on genes.  Manufactured artifacts are also copied and selected because they produce some effect (1984: 28).  Hammers have driving nails as their proper function because it was the ability to drive nails that has lead to the copying of these artifacts by humans in manufacture.  In addition to innate behaviors, a learned behavior can have a proper function if it is reproduced because it leads to a reward; it being the function of the behavior to bring about this result.  Behaviors learned through trail and error or through imitation, for example, fall into this category (1984: 28).  When a child first learns to imitate (reproduce) light-switch-flipping behavior because they have observed the correlation between light-switch-flipping and room illumination, the proper function of this behavior is to illuminate the room.  The proper function of taking the bus is to arrive at ones destination; the proper function of opening the refrigerator is to get food, and so on.[3]   Likewise, saying/reproducing language items such as words, sentence syntax, phonetic accents, and so on have proper functions; the child learns to iterate tokens of “ba-ba” because this correlates sufficiently often with the reception of a bottle and thus food.
            In some cases two items have a common purpose that has been achieved in the past by each party reproducing their share in a pattern of behavior.  This serves to coordinate each one to the other in order to cooperate in the achievement of this common purpose.  For example, drivers have a common interest in avoiding collisions, so, in the United States and many other countries, a convention was instituted whereby drivers drive on the right.  Drivers thus coordinate with one another in order to cooperate in the achievement of their common goal.  Other countries of course may have instituted the similar convention of driving on the left.[4]  Producing and maintaining this mutual adaptation whereby each party contributes to the shared goal is the “stabilizing” function of the item or behavior; it is what keeps both parties to the coordination responding in standard ways (1984: 31, 2005: 54).[5] 
            One such case are the reproduced patterns involved in certain animal mating dances where both the producer of the dance and its audience (called the “consumer”) have a common purpose and have come up with a convention in order to coordinate with one another in order to reach it.  The intended audience “expects” a dance of a certain form to be performed, its conventions followed, and the producer expects the audience to react in a standard way to its performance.  Because consumers often enough respond to the dances in a way that benefits them, producers are encouraged to keep producing.  And because responding to the dances aids consumers, they are likely to keep responding in the standard way.  Despite the fact that often the dance may fail in its purpose, it is more likely to succeed than some random motions, and that makes it worthwhile to keep it in use.      
            Language devices have their stabilizing functions as well.  For instance, if the listeners of an utterance reacted randomly to ones speech it would be pointless to continue to make those utterances, and the speaker would soon stop.  Likewise, if speakers’ utterances never communicated useful information, or if the hearer was too often manipulated against their best interest, hearers would soon stop believing what is said (1984: 31).  Speakers and listeners thus arrive at a convention to which each is attuned in order for each of them to succeed in performing the stabilizing function.  Speakers must produce forms that the listener is prepared to accept, and the intended audience, the consumers of the language form, must react in ways that reinforce the speaker in so speaking.  For instance, it is a convention amongst English speakers that we utter “dog” when trying to discuss dogs.  Likewise, it is a convention amongst English writers that we write the characters d, o, and g in order when we are trying to discuss or refer to dogs.  Ones hearer must be coordinated with this convention and so be prepared to respond to the utterance of “dog” such as to know that it refers to dogs.  It will do no good to utter “dog” amongst those who are not coordinated with the speaker by the possession of a common linguistic history so as to respond to this utterance in a predictable way. 
Speakers within a language community are, simply, adapted to an environment in which hearers are responding, sufficiently often, to the forms speakers produce in ways that reinforce these speaker productions. Correlatively, hearers in the community are, simply, adapted to conditions under which speakers, sufficiently often, produce these language forms in circumstances such that making conventional responses to them aids those hearers (2005: 57).

Thus, people continue to utter “dog” in order to draw attention to dogs only insofar as listeners often enough continue to respond to this utterance appropriately. It is in both the speaker’s and hearer’s interest to continue to respond in this way since the hearer is liable to gain useful information and the speaker is liable to meet his goal of spreading such information. "Dog" has been copied from person to person for generations because it is successful in doing so in relation to dogs.  The stabilizing function a linguistic form performs is one of the aspects of the term’s meaning (2005: 58). 
            There are ways of communicating besides through the use of spoken human language.  There is the common phenomenon of non-spoken communicating signs that have been designed to coordinate between producer, consumer, and environment. In these cases items with stabilizing functions may attain intentionality.  To use a now classic example, after finding a source of nectar, a honey bee returns to the hive and does a dance.  Other bees watch the dance and so learn the location of the nectar relative to the sun and the hive.  They then fly off in the direction of the nectar in order to retrieve it and bring it back to the hive.  Millikan calls items such as the dance of the honey bee “intentional icons” because they are about the location of nectar (1984: ch. 6).[6]  In order to be an intentional icon the sign in question must, firstly, be able to vary in accordance with variations in the environment.  Secondly, it must be a function of the producer of the sign to produce it for a consumer in accordance with certain mapping rules by which the sign maps its intended environmental feature.  Finally, it must be a function of the intended consumers of the icon to use it in the way the mapping relation indicates (1993: 106).
            For example, the form of the dance of the honey bee varies depending on the location of the nectar relative to the sun and the hive, it is produced by the dancing bee in order to indicate this relation, and the watching bees then use the mapping relation indicated to direct their direction of flight.  In another example, soldiers wear their ranks on their uniforms where they can be clearly perceived by their intended audience. The insignia varies according to the soldiers rank and both tells consumers what the rank is and so prescribes appropriate behavior.[7]  Finally, beavers slap their tails on the water when danger is near in order to tell listening beavers of its presence.  The slaps vary with the time and place of danger, and the listening beavers use this icon to initiate hiding or other avoidance behaviors.[8]     
            For each item that possesses a function in the sense described here there will be an explanation of how the item has historically managed to perform this function. This explanation will mention how the structure of the item in question has managed to “do its job” historically, what conditions were in effect, what the environment was like that allowed the item to successfully perform it function.  Millikan calls such an explanation a “Normal” explanation and the conditions that have historically held in order for the item to succeed in performing its function “Normal” conditions (1984: 33).  “Normal” is capitalized to prevent confusion that might occur if one was to think that Normal conditions are average or frequent since “normal” often has that connotation.[9]  For example, just think of how few sperm manage to perform their function of fertilizing an egg, or how infrequently the skull needs to perform its function of protecting the brain from impacts.  It might be helpful to think of Normal conditions as “activation conditions” or “enabling conditions.”  In abNormal conditions an item will fail to perform its function, or at least fail to accomplish it in accordance with a Normal explanation.  Diseased hearts are in abNormal conditions, being underwater for extended periods an abNormal condition for otherwise healthy lungs, and whatever it is that prevents a specific sperm from fertilizing an egg is also an abNormal condition.

[1] Biological organs such as hearts, and manufactured items such as hammers, and innate behaviors such as mating displays are not reproductions of one another since these items are not copied from one another:  hearts are not copied from other hearts, innate mating displays are not copies of other mating displays.  Instead, items such as hearts and mating displays are produced by genes that are indeed reproductions of one another.   My heart and my parents’ hearts--and your heart, and the mating displays that are the result of the same genes, and all the hammers that are reproductions of the same prototype, are all members of what Millikan calls “higher-order reproductively established families” (1984: 25).
[2] Millikan calls this type of function a “direct proper functions,” but not needing to use any of Millikan’s other distinctions in my current purpose, I will just refer to them as an item’s proper function, unless I specify otherwise (1984: 25).
[3] I am assuming that the reason these behaviors are being reproduced is because they have lead to the specified result.  One might be taking the bus not because it has corresponded in the past with arriving at ones destination.  Such behaviors can have “derived proper functions” in addition to direct proper functions (1984: 39).  The nature of derived proper functions is not needed for the thesis of this paper.
[4] The fact that neither driving on the right nor driving on the left is superior to the other in the performance of this function, and that the convention thereby spread merely by the weight of precedent, is what makes it a convention (2005:7). 
[5] Elsewhere Millikan refers to these as “conventional functions” (2004: 105), “coordination conventions” (2005: 9, 40), or “cooperative functions” (2005: 58).

[6] These are called “intentional signs” in Varieties of Meaning (2004).
[7] This is what Millikan calls a “pushmi-pullyu” representation based on the creature from Dr. Doolittle. Pushmi-pullyus have two faces--they communicate facts, and direct behavior (2005: ch. 9).
[8] These last two cases are examples of what Millikan calls “intentional signals” (1984: 116).
[9] In subsequent writings Millikan stopped capitalizing “Normal,” and recently has been calling Normal conditions “historically enabling” conditions (2000: 62) and Normal explanations “normal mechanisms” (2004: 85).  I still find the capitalization helpful.

Why Diversity Destroys Social Capital, part II. Social Capital

With this framework in mind we can now begin to apply it to the question of social capital.  It is important to understand that stabilizing proper functions can be destroyed by abNormal conditions. If a producer consistently fails to receive the Normal response from its intended consumers, consumers will eventually come to cease trying to get their purpose across by means of using language in conventional ways.  And if speakers do not use linguistic forms Normally, a hearer will soon stop trying to extract useful information from them from which to form beliefs (1984: 31).  To take an obvious example, just think about being placed in a country where the inhabitants speak a different language.  If you approach a person and try to get information from them by using the inquisitive mood, but they do not respond by using language forms that you understand, conditions are abNormal for the use of the inquisitive mood in ones language and meaning has broken down.  In such a case the stabilizing function that coordinates speaker and hearer fails since the speaker and hearer are not adapted to one another. You may try your luck with a few other people hoping that one of them will be adapted to respond to your language production, but after a few tries you will soon stop trying to communicate with others by the means of your native language.  The same goes if someone approaches you and begins producing sounds to which you are not properly adapted for interpreting.  You will soon either try to communicate in some other way, by gestures perhaps, and thereby try to direct the person to someone who may be able to help, but you will eventually cease to try to communicate by using your language. 
Meaning can be destroyed in less extreme cases as well. Take the case of the use of the indicative mood. Its stabilizing function is to produce true beliefs in its listeners and it does this Normally when the speaker/producer has a true belief, communicates this fact to the listener/consumer, and they then come to possess a true belief (1984: 53).  If listeners were not liable to obtain true beliefs from speakers sufficiently often they would soon stop forming the belief that corresponds to the utterances of speakers, and if listeners were not going to convert ones utterances into beliefs, speakers would stop trying to communicate by using these language forms.  The stabilizing function of the indicative mood can thus be undermined by abNormality when the speaker does not have a true belief (but thinks they do), has true beliefs but intentionally spreads a false statement (lies), or when the consumer misunderstands or refuses to believe the statement (1984: 55).  For example, if a group or individual has been shown to have spread false information sufficiently often, people will longer trust what is being told to them.  And someone who is so stubborn that they refuse to believe anything that is told to them will soon find that few people will make the effort to tell them anything.  This discussion of how the successful functioning of the indicative mood both requires and reinforces honesty on the part of the speaker, and requires and reinforces trust on the part of the listener should begin to illuminate how this approach applies to the study of social capital where honesty and trust have been central topics (2005: 16).    
            In the case of the imperative mood, the stabilizing function is to produce a certain action in the listener. This happens Normally when the action in question is to the benefit of both the speaker and listener. The Normal performance of the stabilizing function of the imperative mood can be impeded when the listener comes to no longer believe that the orders that are given them are in their best interest.  They will then come to stop obeying the commands that are given.  And if the listeners stop following the commands given by the imperative mood, speakers will soon stop using it to try to cause behavior in others.
            Millikan has not given a name for the process by which the stabilizing function of interpersonal coordination is undermined by abNormal conditions in this way, and how the presence of frequent abNormal conditions can lead one to stop producing or consuming conventional forms and other coordinations, but I propose we call this phenomenon “meaning decay” in the case of intentional items, and simply destabilization in the case of non-linguistic interpersonal stabilizing functions.  “Alienation,” as I will use the term, is the recognition that one stands in a different historical relation than another does.[1]  As applied to the current discussion, this occurs when one is cognizant of the fact that one is outside a historically Normal producer/consumer co-adaptation, or is otherwise unable to enjoy the benefits that a stabilizing function bestows.            
We are now in a position to address the nature of social capital and how diversity undermines it.  The result of the preceding discussion is this: social capital exists to the extent that interpersonal stabilizing functions proceed Normally, and is lost to the extent that abNormal conditions prevent successful functioning and causes meaning decay.  Social capital just is the presence of Normal conditions for interpersonal stabilizing function and diversity destroys social capital by preventing the successful performance of this function.  The study of social capital should thus be the study of how people coordinate and cooperate and so arrive at stabilizing functions, and what factors inhibit or prevent successful coordination.   
This account of the nature of social capital cuts across the bridging/bonding and micro/macro debates as it equally applies to all these types.  As far as bonding social capital, the value of biosemantics to the study of social capital is that it allows us to understand what the bonds of bonding social capital are, how the mechanism of bonding occurs, what its function is (Putnam 2000: 22).  These bonds have previously been taken as primitives, as automatic, with vague gestures towards a supposed brute fact that “birds of a feather flock together.”  The existence and nature of interpersonal stabilizing proper functions provides us with a detailed account of this bonding mechanism and how stabilization may be achieved.  
 Macro-level stabilizing functions--society-wide cooperation among those who “can hardly be said to know each another” (Halpern 2005: 16)--have stabilizing functions as well.  The societal conventions involved in obeying the rules of traffic, sharing standards of attire, cooperating with other pedestrians, or sharing a common language by which to communicate, are all stabilizing functions.  The difference between micro-level and macro-level social capital lies not in the type of substances involved, but in the nature of the concepts involved.  The concepts involved in these macro-level interactions are temporary and are discarded once the interaction is over; as when we only possess the concept of the individual car in front of us for as long as we need to track it while driving.  As soon as the car moves out of our vicinity we discard the concept like we discard the concept of our individual glass at a cocktail party when we can no longer keep track of it (2000: 80).  Because of the fleetingness of these interactions it would be very inefficient for us to retain a concept of each individual we encounter.  Thus macro-level social capital must involve society-wide stabilizing functions that do not rely on enduring concepts of individuals.  The way to make sure these conventions are followed is to have them widely adopted so that each individual can be assured that others are following the conventions without needing information about the distinct individual with whom we need to coordinate (2005: 12).
Micro-level interactions such as the strength and reliability of an individual’s personal networks are equally stabilized, the difference being that the bonds can be stronger to the extent that one can form enduring concepts of the individuals involved and thus track those involved in the recurring cooperation, and through experience build degrees of trust that would be impossible when dealing with strangers and the many individuals that are encountered in traffic or crowds.[2]   In high social capital, tight-knit communities, the subjects might possess a concept of an individual that lasts for the subject’s entire life and includes information stretching back for decades to include familiarity with the individual’s ancestors.  
The nature of bridging social capital will be discussed in section 3 below.
I will now provide some examples of how this argument may be applied to the problem of diversity.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive inventory of the ways that diversity undermines social capital and other cases surely exist.  We have already discussed how the alienation that results from being in the presence of those who can not understand ones language—that is, where a producer reproduces a linguistic form in the absence of a Normal consumer—will eventually result in the producer to stop producing, what I am calling “meaning decay.”  This is what Putnam refers to as “hunkering down” or “drawing in as a turtle” (2007: 149).   But it is not only the failure to possess a common language that can produce this effect. Even the collection of distinctive inflections, phonemes, and emphasis that we call a regional accent has its stabilizing functions.  Simply not possessing the accent that is commonly used in a region is alienating.  If one feels that ones listeners are not picking up on the subtleties that are conveyed with an accent, that they are not adapted to the conventions on how words are to be pronounced, meaning decay is the result of this breakdown in the stabilizing proper function of this use of language, and one will quickly either adapt to and adopt the regional accent, or go find others with whom one is already coordinated and so are able to appreciate it.  What usually happens is that people who move to a new region come to adopt the local accent as a means of coordinating with those with whom one must communicate and thus remove the alienation and enjoy the benefits of coordination.
Meaning decay can occur among intentional icons other than spoken human language.  For example, one way people adopt conventions is in the way they coordinate their appearance.  In schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and any other group or sub-group you will find a high degree of coordination of appearance.  The way new styles of attire are selected and reproduced and thus spread through a population are extremely complicated and varied.  Yet enough can be said here to make the point.  One benefit of this coordination is that individuals are thereby able to blend in with one another in order to not attract unwanted attention.  (On the other hand, there are those who take advantage of the coordinating conventions and intentionally violate them specifically in order to stand out and attract attention.)  Another reason for adopting these conventions is the same for having spoken language; people are capable of communicating things about themselves by their choice of attire.  You can communicate wealth, or sophistication, or even political and social views, or kind membership (see section 3) by choice of attire.  In your appearance you wear your history on your sleeve, as it were.  The phenomenon of people coordinating their appearances by adoption of common styles of dress because of what this “says” about you qualifies these items as intentional icons, and members of these kinds are in on this language just as much as they are in on the co-adaptations involved in speaking the shared language. 
 I have already mentioned as an example the stripes that are worn by soldiers to indicate rank and proscribe appropriate behavior.  When one displays an intentional icon amongst those who are not the Normal consumers, meaning decay will result.  For instance, the meaning of the stripes on a soldiers uniform decays when worn among civilians who do not know their significance.  It is being produced, but the Normal consumers (other members of the military) are missing.  From the consumer’s side, seeing someone wearing something with obvious meaning, but for whom you are not historically attuned, causes alienation and meaning decay as well.  Examples of this are the Muslim head scarf and other religious and/or cultural garb when worn among those brought up in different traditions.  The head scarf is a sign of modesty, and it indicates this Normally when the wearer and perceiver are historically adapted to interpret it is this way.  In such a case meaning decay and alienation does not occur merely because one does not understand the meaning, something which might quickly be corrected by doing research or by asking, it is that when worn amongst non-members it also indicates that you are outside the Normal producer/consumer pair.  It thus produces alienation and its corresponding destruction of social capital.
Further examples are how different cultures have different conventions for the proper distance to stand from one another when conversing.  Having someone stand closer or further away than you are accustomed to when having a conversation is a result of miscoordination, and produces that awkward uncomfortable feeling which results from alienation.  Offering to shake hands when your consumer is prepared for a bow produces a similar result.  Listeners that react to you in unexpected ways, have different habits, or mannerisms—all of which have been replicated and selected--will produce similar results.  And just imagine the effect on social capital if cultural diversity was allowed to the extent that individuals could retain varying customs regarding which side of the road on which to drive. 
The most extreme case is where moral standards differ between populations.  Whatever account one may accept of the origins of morality, moral behavior remains in practice in a population for a reason.  In other words, moral behavior has a stabilizing function.  Someone performing an act which they believe to be moral, but others believe to be immoral, destroys this stabilizing function of moral behavior and is a more devastating blow to social capital than any other case.  Being in the presence of those behaving in ways that one deems immoral but others find perfectly acceptable is a very alienating experience.  The presence of female genital mutilation, homophobia, abortion, animal cruelty, or any other practice that is deemed immoral by some in a population will cause severe destruction of social capital.
            The conclusion is that since different cultures possess different accents, languages, standards of humor, reactions, morals, norms, gestures, etc., the greater the degree of cultural diversity, the greater the frequency of abNormal conditions and thus destabilization and meaning decay, and their corresponding destruction of social capital.  It should thus be clear why social capital and diversity are incompatible, and why efforts to make diversity and social capital compatible are bound to fail.  If we wish to bring about Normalcy of interpersonal stabilizing proper functions, this can only be done by co-adapting the partners of the stabilizing coordination.  There are several ways we can do this:  one way would be for the consumer to adopt the conventions of the producer’s language and customs and thus adapt to the producer.  On the other hand, the producer could learn the language and customs of the consumer and so succeed in stabilization.  Or, both the producer and consumer can abandon their coordinating conventions and adopt new ones.  Or, the cultures can merge.  All of these solutions would help to eliminate alienation by removing the signs of historical differences that cause it.  But in all of these cases, the solution is to get rid of the diversity that is causing alienation and meaning decay and instead adopt common conventions that bring the producer and consumer into coordination.  If social capital exists by the Normal performance of interpersonal stabilizing functions, and a diversity of differing conditions for interpersonal coordination will inevitably cause malfunctioning, it is only through the elimination of this conflicting diversity by both participants coming to adopt Normal partner roles that social capital can be maintained.     

[1] More specifically, alienation usually is the recognition that one is a member of an historical kind (as discussed in section 3) and so stands in an historical relation that another historical kind or member thereof does not.  For example, a member of the historical kind “English speakers” will experience alienation when among a group of Russian speakers and so becomes cognizant of the fact that he does not bear the same historical relation to the other members of the group as they bear to one another.
[2] For a detailed account of the nature of conceptual tracking of individuals see Millikan (2000).

Why Diversity Reduces Social Capital, part III. Bridging Social Capital: Historical Kinds and Cultural Homeostasis

            Throughout this article I have assumed that there is only one model of diversity, what we might call micro-level or inter-personal diversity.  But since the world has always been diverse, and high levels of social capital have existed in the past, and still do persist in many places around the world, the question should be what kind of diversity is compatible with social capital.  Start by considering that every kind of diversity is also a kind of homogeny.  For example, if every street containing one-hundred houses contained representatives of one-hundred different cultures, in one sense this would be diverse, but in another sense it would be entirely homogenous in that every street would be like every other street.  There is of course another type of diversity, intercultural diversity.  It is generally understood that this kind of diversity is compatible with social capital of a different kind:  what is usually called bridging social capital.  The thesis of this article is that both bonding and bridging social capital have a common nature and are at root interpersonal stabilizing proper functions.  Where they differ is in the type of things that are so related:  individuals within what Millikan calls historical kinds in the former case, and between individuals belonging to different historical kinds in the latter.  And so the purpose of this section is to provide a teleological account of bridging social capital and the nature of the objects that are thusly bridged. 
As might be expected from their name, historical kinds are constituted not by some essential properties or essence, but by the possession of certain historical relations between members (2000: 23).[1]  For an individual to possess properties because of historical relations with other members who possess them is what constitutes being a member of a historical kind (2000: 20).  A common such historical relation is that one item is copied or reproduced from another (as discussed in section 1), or that they share a common origin, often (but not always) because of some effect that is achieved, that is, because of its function.[2]  For example, a paradigmatic example of an historical kind is a biological species.  Aristotle believed that the members of each species shared an eternal form or essence that constituted the essential characteristics of the various species and kept them constant through time.  In contrast, modern biology does not believe there is any such essence to species, not even on the genetic level, i.e., some gene or group of such “cow genes” that all and only cows have.  For any suggested essential property of cows, or any historical kind, a counterexample could be contrived of a member lacking that feature.  Instead, what keeps the characteristics of species stable over time is, first of all, that the genes that make cows are copied from one another.  This genetic copying process that occurs in reproduction guarantees a similarity between generations (2000: 20).  Secondly, the environment itself will see to it through natural selection that mutations that do not provide a benefit to the individual will not get passed on.  Thus the stability of environmental conditions will contribute to the stability of the species over time.  Finally, genes in a gene pool must remain sufficiently compatible with one another so that when they are combined in sexual reproduction they can produce offspring that have a decent chance of viability and survival (Eldredge and Gould 1972: 114, cited in Millikan 2000: 19).  If the diversity of genes became so great that the chromosomes of a mating pair were no longer compatible, viable offspring would not result.  These factors will contribute to the stability, or “homeostasis,” of the species over time.[3] 
Historical kinds can be more of less “rough” depending on the regularity of the causative factors between copies, and by the number of commonalities that go together (2000: 26).  For example, like biological species, cultures and other social groups have stability through time.  They are not as stable as species, and in many places the speed of cultural change seems blindingly fast, but many features of a culture do persist through time.  Not too much emphasis should be given to the “stasis” in homeostasis.  The world is always changing through environmental changes, technical innovations, new scientific understanding, and communication, and this prevents true stasis.  Nevertheless, all of these things also have a resistance to change due to the forces of homeostasis.  Americans still predominantly speak English, celebrate Christmas, drive on the right, conduct elections, and so on.  Despite the radical changes that have occurred, these features have remained constant over the decades and centuries.  None of these traits are universal, but neither is it the case that all swans are white, all birds fly, or all hearts pump blood. Nevertheless, the social sciences that study these kinds can persist in doing empirical studies on these groups that result in justified yet fallible inductions concerning these categories because these real historical relations promote the possession of commonalities between members.  If there were no such forces there would be no possibility of the social sciences for there would be no forces promoting likeness among members resulting in social groups.  “If social groups were not real, there could be no gain in empirical studies concerning them, for example, studies of the attitudes of American doctors towards herbal medicines, and so forth” (2000: 22).  
In the case of species homeostasis there is the process of genes being copied across generations whereas cultural traits are not genetically inherited.  Nevertheless, the same forces are at work in keeping together the cultural, ethnic, civic, vocational, and social groups studied by social sciences, all of which are examples of historical kinds.[4]  Notice, first, that behaviors, language, customs, traditions and the like are copied from person to person through family and cultural traditions, and through education.  Similar to the way genes are copied across generations, these behaviors and ideas are copied into new generations and will promote historical continuity.  

For example, school teachers, doctors, and fathers form historical kinds when these groups are studied as limited to particular historical cultural contexts.  Members of these groups are likely to act similarly in certain ways and to have attitudes in common as a result of similar training handed down from person to person (reproduction or copying), as a result of custom (more copying), as a result either of natural human dispositions or social pressures to conform to role models (copying again) and/or as a result of legal practices (2000: 22).

The second factor in the biological case was the role the environment played in keeping genes stable.  The environment will play a similar role in the case of social groups; cultures existing in the polar region, or a dessert, or a rain forest, or a city, or in proximity to other cultures will have persisting factors that will need to be dealt with by behavioral and cultural adaptations by successive generations.
The final factor was the need for compatibility between genes in a gene pool.  The same need for compatibilities exists in the case of members of a culture.  Take as an example the Normal conditions for visual perception of color.  If one is in abNormal conditions for color perception, say, it is too dark, or there are colored lights instead of sunlight, and one is unable to judge accurately an object’s color, the solution is to bring the object into Normal conditions, to bring it outdoors, for example, and look at it under the sun.  Millikan writes “One knows how, physically, to maneuver oneself into conditions [N]ormal for making accurate perceptual judgments of a given kind” (2000: 103).  Either by instinct or experience, people are quite good at bringing about Normal conditions in order to ensure successful functioning of their visual or linguistic or other teleological mechanisms.  When trying to see something, we bring objects into Normal conditions for visual perception, when trying to hear a sound we might turn our head in order to sense from which direction the sound is coming, or move closer to the sound, and so on.  
Similar to these cases, people naturally will seek out conditions that are Normal for the interpersonal stabilizing functions of language, appearance, customs, morals, tastes, and other stabilizing functions.  We naturally attune ourselves to one another to enjoy the benefits of successful interpersonal coordination.  We need to do so if we are going to succeed in communicating and in other day-to-day interactions that require coordination and cooperation amongst members of a community in the performance of stabilizing functions.  In the case of coordinating behaviors such as the American convention of driving on the right hand side of the road, the stabilization keeps the cooperating partners behaving in conventional ways; in the case of intentional icons, the benefit afforded by stabilizing proper functions serves to keep producers producing in historically Normal ways, and consumers consuming in historically Normal ways. 
Just as the stability of biological species results from the maintenance of compatibilities in the gene pool, the need for Normal inter-personal coordination is what keeps words meaning the same things over time, or keeps traditions alive, or keeps moral practices in existence.  Without the forces of cultural homeostasis cultures and social groups would be unable to persist (or exist) and there would be no cultures or cultural diversity.  In the United States, drivers must coordinate with one another such that Normally people drive on the right, people shake hands when greeting rather than, say, bowing to one another, we start work at 9 a.m., we have standards for dress, we use dollars for currency, etc.  These and innumerable other historical co-adaptations are what create, constitutes, and maintains a culture; they are the bonds that hold a culture together.  And just as homeostasis preserves the diversity of biological species, this process of cultural homeostasis is what preserves cultures and cultural diversity; it keeps cultures in existence and stable over time and safe from dispersal.  But notice that if the argument of the second section of this article is correct, interpersonal stabilizing proper functions that contribute to cultural homeostasis just is bonding social capital.  Thus is explained the grounds of the often-invoked metaphor that bonding social capital is the “sociological superglue” that keeps groups together (Putnam 2000: 23).
Too much diversity on an interpersonal level can destroy cultural diversity by introducing the too frequent abNormal conditions of meaning decay, and thus disrupting the process of cultural homeostasis, just as too much diversity in the gene pool will result in genes that are incompatible with one another and unable to produce viable offspring.  If this happened to all the members of a species, extinction would be the result and the world’s biological diversity of species would be lessened.  Likewise, were the process of cultural homeostasis to somehow break down either by members ceasing to produce the Normal coordinating behaviors for that culture--perhaps they adopt the behaviors of another culture as in the case of cultural imperialism or invasion, or perhaps the members of the culture are widely dispersed by a hostile outside force--the culture would cease to exist and the world’s cultural diversity lessened.  Thus micro-level interpersonal cultural diversity, if carried to an ultimate extent, undermines itself by disrupting the forces of cultural homeostasis that make the existence of cultures possible in the first place.
Fortunately, the forces of cultural homeostasis as constituted by stabilizing proper functions are so fundamental to the ability of people to get by in the world, the necessity for co-adaptation so strong, that people will seek out Normal conditions, as we have seen, and cultures will generally remain safe from dispersal unless acted upon by an outside force.  People will either adapt to the prevalent language and customs of a place, and thereby integrate, or they will seek out those with whom they are already adapted and congregate.  But there is no irrational bigotry or prejudice involved in seeking out those with whom one can coordinate and communicate Normally.  These vices themselves destroy social capital by preventing the successful performance of the stabilizing function of the indicative mood, and so result in one not benefiting by acquiring new knowledge, or lead to the malfunctioning of the imperative mood by preventing one from doing what is in their best interest, because one blindly refuses to believe or do what is said by someone against whom one is prejudiced.  But preferring the presence of those one can expect to communicate and coordinate with successfully is not irrational or a vice.  The reasons for avoiding meaning decay are the same as those for having language, culture, and communication in the first place, namely the benefits that accrue to the functioning of language and culture.  It is part of the job of social science to study the factors that foster or impede the reception of these benefits by preventing the assimilation into a given history.  
With this understanding of the forces that keep historical kinds together, we can proceed to discuss the interactions that exist between historical kinds through bridging social capital.  As indicated previously, the difference between bonding and bridging social capital is in the kinds of things that are related:  individuals within an historical kind in the former, and between historical kinds, or between individuals belonging to different historical kinds, in the latter.  But the nature of social capital as stabilizing proper function is the same for both.  This present account explains why “bridging social capital is intrinsically less likely to develop automatically than bonding social capital” (Putnam 2003: 279).  Stabilizing functions come to exist because the parties have a common interest.  In the case of groups with a function, such as the promotion of a specific political, or social, or economic goal, if there is no common interest between groups, there would be no need for a stabilizing function to bridge them.  On the other hand, different groups or cultures might have common interests, such as trade, or a common antagonist, and so derive a set of diplomatic (bridging) conventions in the pursuit of this common goal, only to return to their respective kinds afterwards, or, as in the case of organizations such as NATO, continue to exist as a loose homeostatic group of groups itself.  Bridging social capital is more likely to exist between sub-groups of a larger group where there are already many shared conventions--language, or values, for example--than where there are few or no shared conventions.  But even here diversity would destroy bridging social capital if it prevents the adoption of common standards and conventions by which the groups can cooperate.   
In conclusion, since social capital is possible within a culture to the extent that the coordination of stabilizing functions proceed Normally, and cultural diversity is possible in the sense of a diversity of cultures each maintained through the cultural homeostasis that is produced by bonding social capital, they are compatible as long as cultural homeostasis is allowed to persist and not disrupted by too frequent abNormal conditions.  The promotion of diversity should not become mere neikophilia—love of breaking the bonds that bring a people together--for it is by these bonds that cultures can exist and persist, and that individuals can enjoy the benefits of cooperation that social capital bestows.        

[1] Historical kinds are called “secondary substances” in Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories (1984).
[2] There is some controversy whether these kinds always have functions.  Millikan herself does not seem to believe so and writes that “dogs and people are members of natural kinds not members of proper function categories” (  On the other hand, Godfrey-Smith (1994) has argued that “whole organisms, like people, have functions.  Past tokens of people did things –survived and reproduced—that explain why current tokens are here.  Hence, we have the function to survive and reproduce” (reprinted in Allen (1998: 459).

[3] Although Millikan follows Eldredge and Gould in reserving the term “homeostasis” for the last of these factors, I will follow Boyd (1989) in using the term to refer to any of the historical relations holding these kinds together. 
[4] Many of these groups are like human artifacts designed to perform a “derived proper function,” that is, one derived from the intentions of the creators.  For instance, groups may have the function to provide care for the homeless, or to promote commercial or political interests.  Additionally, if the group is copied from the model of some other group, like the Chamber of Commerce in each town, then it also has a direct proper function. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Child Production Problem Prevention Pact

I have been noticing that there are a number of problems in society. One is that there are lots of children who are being produced and not cared for. In many places around the world children are abandoned to living on the streets with no one to care for them, in other places orphanages require the dedication of scarce resources. I’ve also noticed that studies show that teenage girls raised in a single-parent household are more likely to become pregnant as a teenager. And boys raised by single-parents are more likely to have problems with aggression, attention deficit disorder, delinquency, school suspensions, and are more likely to end up in prison. I’ve also noticed that if a couple produces a child and then relationship ends, it places many burdens on the remaining parent as regards supporting and raising the child alone. We should do something about these heterosexuals producing all these problems! We need a way to prevent all these problems heterosexuals cause.

Therefore, I hereby introduce the modest proposal of “The Child Production Problem Prevention Pact.” All individuals who wish to form a natural reproductive unit with another individual are encouraged to join up for this pact. This institution will be designed to prevent the problems we have named. There are three obligations one takes on when signing up for the pact as there are three problems that result from the production of children. First, the couple vows not to abandon or mistreat any children that may result from their intercourse, and will provide for the material and emotional well-being of the child. Second, the couple vows not to abandon their partner to raise the child alone and suffer the problems therein. Third, the couple vows to society that they will not burden society with any child that may produce.

Eligibility: all couples who form a natural reproductive unit may join. A natural reproductive unit is a device created by God or natural selection with the function to produce offspring. It is the functioning of this unit that is causing all these problems and requires an institution by which to address them.

Question: I am infertile. Can I and my partner sign up? Yes, you still form a natural reproductive unit even if you are unable to perform that function. For example, in a liberal society the State does not have the right to prevent individuals from trying to be farmers even if they are unable to farm. A liberal State does is not in the business of saying who may join as a natural reproductive unit as it does not practice eugenics.

Question: We would like to join but have no intention of creating a child. Can we still join? Yes, functional items still have functions even if they do not perform that function. For example, even if there is never a fire and so the fire department never performs its function it still has the function of preventing fires.

Question: Can I join with a member of the same sex? No, you do not form a reproductive unit.

Question: Why can only reproductive units join? Becasue the state will be dispensing benefits to those who sign up and take on this function and it is unfair to provide these benefits to those who do not perform this function. For example, in order to join the police department you must possess a function relative to the prevention of breaking the law, such as being a police officer, or detective. In the case of marriage, sorry, I mean the Child Production Problem Prevention Pact, you must possess the function of producing children which is relevant to an institution designed to prevent the problems that result from the production of children.  A same sex couple either possesses no function or a function unrelated to the production of children.

Question:  But that is not fair to those who are attracted to the same sex.

Response: It is no more unfair than that a fireman may not join the police department, or, perhaps, that someone with cerebral palsy can not acquire the function of a linebacker and so can not join the football team.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

10 Answers to Arguments in Favor of Gay Marriage

I have argued in the previous post that marriage is a social institution with the function to prevent the problems of heterosexual intercourse, namely, the production of children. People will agree that tools like hammers have functions, that biological items like hearts have function, that behaviors like animal mating displays have functions, that social institutions like the police and fire departments have functions, but when you suggest that marriage has a function, people’s heads explode. Perhaps it is just that supporters of gay marriage immediately see the implications of accepting that marriage has a function and so deny it against all evidence. To say that marriage has a function is to approach marriage the way a biologist would look at a behavior or organ. It is to ask why does marriage exist? Why hasn’t it died out like a fad? Why has it been around for centuries and millennia? What does it do that keeps it getting reproduced over and over? What problems does it solve that makes it so valuable to keep around? When looked at this way it becomes clear that the function of marriage is to prevent the problems that result from heterosexual intercourse, namely, the production of children. The reason for the disagreement over gay “marriage” is a lack of understanding of the nature of functions. This post answers 10 objections to this view.

Objection 1: Preventing the problems that result from heterosexual intercourse can not be the function of marriage since people get married for all sorts of reasons other than the having and raising of children. Couples might marry for wealth, to secure an alliance, to receive tax breaks, to avoid deportation, and so on.
Answer: Marriage has a function and functions have nothing to do with people’s intentions. For example, a screwdriver could be used to fulfill various intentions--as a weapon, a can opener, a hole puncher, etc.--but its function is still to turn screws. That is what it was reproduced for its ability to do. Furthermore, even if it is constantly used as a space heater, making toast remains the function of a toaster. Whatever people’s intentions, an item’s function does not change.

Objection 2: Marriage can have nothing to do with the production of children since lots of people might get married and decide not to have children. Or they may be infertile and unable to have children. The argument presented here would say that these couples are not married because they do not perform the function of marriage.
Answer: An item or institution may have a function and yet never perform it. Imagine a police department that is lucky enough to exist in a place where there is no crime and so no criminals ever need to be apprehended. The apprehension of criminals is still its function despite the fact that it is not performed. Or simply imagine an otherwise working toaster that is never actually used to make toast. Making toast is still its function even though it is never performed. Similarly, a marriage that never performs its function still has that function. Likewise, with infertile couples, even if an item is unable to perform its function, it still has that function as its function. A broken toaster or malformed heart still has their distinctive functions even if they are unable to perform them. All that is required for marriage is that the couple forms a natural reproductive unit and takes the vows.

Objection 3: Even if it is granted that reproduction is the function of marriage, if those who can not perform a function ought to be prevented from membership in the institution, then infertile couples ought to be prevented from being allowed to marry since they are unable to perform that function. For example, if an individual can be justly prevented from taking on the role of computer programmer when they can not program computers, then infertile couples who can not perform the function of marriage can be prevented from marrying. And so if homosexuals can be prevented from marriage because they can not conceive children together, so ought an infertile heterosexual couple.
Answer: In the computer programmer example, the person in charge of selecting candidates for the function is the hiring manager, and they are justified in rejecting a candidate who can not perform the job. But in a liberal society, the selection of marriage partner is left up to the individuals involved. Society does not have the right to prevent someone from trying to be a farmer even if they do not succeed at it. The State, however, does have the right to deny someone who is doing something other than farming from being considered a farmer.

Objection 4: An infertile couple may happily remain together for decades. How can you say that this is an unsuccessful marriage?
Answer: Mutual love and happiness are great virtues of marriage; they are properties that help to enable a marriage to perform its function. And so this marriage is good insofar as it displays these virtues. However, it has been a monumental error to mistake the virtue of marriage for its function: love is not the function of marriage. Furthermore, no one would deny that a couple that lovingly raise a child display other virtues, and that these are by necessity missing in the case of a childless couple. A couple that marries for happiness alone is indeed successful in that they succeed in the performance of the derived proper function of this marriage (assuming that the individuals entered in to the institution to make themselves happy). People may join all sorts of institutions and get much satisfaction out of them without ever successfully performing the function of the institution.

Objection 5: You say that in a liberal society the selection of partners is left to the individuals involved. How can you then deny homosexuals the right to select whomever they want for marriage?
Answer: The selector role is relative to function. In the case of marriage the role of selection is to choose with whom you wish to enter the institution of marriage, not with whom you wish to join some other institution. But suppose two individuals wished to cooperate in the function of farming. In a liberal society the individuals involved are allowed to select whomever they want as partners. But if they start building furniture instead of farming, the State is in the right to deny them the title and any benefits bestowed to farming. In the case of marriage, the fact that the two individuals are of the same sex is a guarantor that the individuals will not be joining the institution of marriage.

Objection 6: Your argument begs the question by describing the problem in such a way that it excludes homosexual couples. You have defined marriage as preventing the problems that result from heterosexual intercourse, namely, the production of a child. Considering that this definition of marriage contains “heterosexual” right in the definition, of course homosexuals will be excluded.
Answer: Saying that something has a function is not to offer a definition or analysis of that thing. A functional account of marriage is not a definition or conceptual analysis of the concept of marriage. Since I am not analyzing “marriage” it does not beg the question to point out that heterosexual intercourse has certain consequences missing from homosexual intercourse, and that these consequences might need a social institution with which to address them. If Aristotle was allowed to define the brain as an organ whose function it is to cool the body, then he could never be refuted by those arguing otherwise, he could only be shown that the item which he took to be a brain, that lump of grey matter in the skull, was not in fact a brain. Anyone arguing otherwise would be accused of begging the question by including their new account of its function in their definition.

Objection 7: It might be objected that it is acceptable to exclude someone from taking on a functional role only on those occasions where an individual or group would be harmed by allowing them to take on the position. For example, the candidate for a computer programmer position who is unable to actually program computers would harm the owner or shareholders of the company were he employed, whereas allowing a homosexual couple to marry does not harm anyone. But a lone farmer, even if he is unable to farm due to physical disabilities, can not be prevented by the state from farming since he is not harming anyone.
Answer: The State does confer certain benefits to married couples. At least one reason for giving these benefits is that marriage benefits society by preventing the problems that might result from sexual intercourse as well as providing new members of society so that society might continue to exist. Stable gay relationships might provide some benefit to society different from the benefits marriage provides. For example, the Massachusetts Supreme Court judged that stable relationships benefit society and that marriage promotes stable relationships. I am not convinced that lasting relationships in themselves benefit society apart from the benefit that it provides in the raising of children, but allowing the point for the sake of argument, the benefits that society bestows on childless stable relationships ought to be different than those it bestows on marriage since the latter provides very different benefit to society and society should bestow benefits according to the good that is produced.

Objection 8: What if a homosexual undergoes a sex change operation to become the opposite sex. Can they then marry their partner?
Answer: Sex change operations do not change an individual’s sex. Sex is a functional category and is assigned by nature. Sex change operations may however make life more pleasant for one whose sex and sense of sexual identity do not correspond.

Objection 9: If marriage has changed over time into its current state, why not call this marriage and not the institution designed to perform its traditional function?
Answer: I don’t much care what it is called as it is merely a verbal dispute. We could call it schmarriage if one likes. Or we could call it “the solution to the problem of the production of children by heterosexual intercourse whereby the biological parents jointly raise the child,” but that is a mouthful. The most important thing is that this solution to the problem be given a name that distinguishes it from other social institutions for the same reason we give anything a name, namely, to distinguish it from other things so that we know what we’re talking about when we are talking about this distinct thing. That being said, I do think there are good reasons for restricting the name “marriage” to the traditional arrangement. The main reason is that this is what has historically been called marriage. Words spread based largely by the weight of precedent, and the precedent in this case is to reserve the name “marriage” to the union of a man and a woman. A Kripkean baptism occurred many centuries ago for this arrangement and that gives it a claim to the name. In the example I gave of the corrupt police department, when the split occurs whereby a faction wishes to return to performing the original function, it seems to me that it is this institution that should retain the name of police.

Objection 10: What about someone who no longer farms at all? If the State is offering tax breaks to farmers, it seems as if the State would be justified in denying those benefits to someone who does not actually farm since they are not providing the benefits of that institution which the tax breaks are meant to encourage. If so it would imply that, say, a celibate, or infertile couple, or a couple of “empty-nesters” could be denied the title of marriage.
Answer: There is a difference between how rights and benefits are treated. A retired or even paralyzed farmer or doctor is still a farmer or doctor even if they can no longer perform that function. They still have the rights bestowed on farmers or doctors, the rights to membership in professional organizations, for instance. However, since they are no longer performing the function it might be just to deny them certain State benefits. For example, it might be just to deny the retired farmer tax breaks farmers receive since he is no longer farming and his fields lay fallow. As regards the marriage discussion, “empty-nesters” are still married and entitled to the rights therein, but they no longer get to claim a child as a dependent and receive the benefits given to those with dependants.