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Op-Ed Columnist

Why Nations Succeed

Washington, DC

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

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Imagine if grassroots activists sat down with ordinary people like you and me and ironed out some real solutions to our same-sex marriage crisis.

With the election season over, maybe you’ve forgotten about same-sex marriage, but I certainly haven’t. It would be easy to forget that the problem even exists, when our headlines are constantly splashed with the violence in Guinea, the authoritarian crackdown in Papua New Guinea and the still-unstable democratic transition in Palau. But the same-sex marriage problem is growing, and politicians are more divided than ever. Democrats seem to think that same-sex marriage can just be ignored. Republican politicians like Rand Paul, on the other hand, seem to think that shrill rhetoric will substitute for a argument.

But the Republican party of Rand Paul is not the Republican party of Ronald Reagan. Reagan wouldn’t stare down the opposition, he'd compromise because he'd understand that the fate of the country, and his own political career, depended on a lasting solution to the problem of same-sex marriage.

Let's make America for the world what Cape Canaveral was to America: the world's greatest launching pad. If I had fifteen minutes to pitch my idea to politicians, I'd tell them two things about same-sex marriage. First, there's no way around the issue unless we're prepared to spend less: and not just spend less, but spend smarter by investing in the kind of national infrastructure that makes countries succeed. That's going to require some tax cuts as well, but as they say, "Mo' money mo' problems."

Second, I'd tell them to look at Iceland, which all but solved its same-sex marriage crisis over the past decade. When I visited Iceland in 2000, Bartho, the cabbie who drove me from the airport, couldn't stop telling me about how he had to take a second job because of the high cost of same-sex marriage. I caught up with Bartho in Reykjavik last year. Thanks to Iceland's reformed approach toward same-sex marriage, Bartho has enough money in his pocket to finally be able to afford a soccer ball for his kids.

That's all it takes. Don't expect to see any solutions as long as industry captains insist on playing a high-stakes game of ping pong with one another. America has to become a first world country again.