Is Marriage merely a social construct?
Over at the Public Discourse Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis, young proteges of Robby George, respond to Prof Andrew Koppleman’s claim that marriage is nothing but a social construct. They get the better of Prof Koppleman, but there is one point I would add, for the benefit of the libertarians who come around this site.
It is clear from the context that Prof Koppleman believes that all human institutions are mere conventions, constructed for convenience. Therefore, he believes human institutions can be reconstructed at will. My point to the libertarians is that they would never accept this argument with respect to the market, or the right to private property. The market, while regulated and recognized by the state, has pre-political realities embedded within it: the fact that people take better care of things that belong to them than to things owned in common, the natural urge to truck and barter, the fact that people respond to incentives in a systematic and predictable way, the need to own the fruits of one’s labor in order to survive. These are all pre-political realities that the modern market economy recognizes and respects. The problems assoicated with central economic planning arise because it flies in the face of these natural realities.
Libertarians, I take it, prefer the free market because it is more respectful of the pre-political naturally occuring economic realities than the alternatives. Therefore it requires less micro-managing by the government, and just generally works better at producing material goods at lower cost than the government-managed alternatives.
But look libertarians: conjugal marriage is comparable to the market. Conjugal, natural marriage is a pre-political realitiy that has long predated any existing government. Until the government started actively attacking marriage in the last 60 years by removing its most basic features, natural marriage could function with a relatively lean structure of law. Natural parenthood, mother and father, are concepts well-understood to everyone. The legal institution of connjugal marriage supports natural parenthood. Marriage, along with a presumption of sexual fidelity within marriage, attaches natural mothers and fathers to their natural chidlren, as the routine, default procedure. For every child, there is a mother and a father.
With same sex marriage, the state proposes to create something that really is completely and entirely a social and legal construct. Same sex marriage cannot stand without specific protections from the state. Same sex couples cannnot produce a single child without the active assistance of other people, which includes the cooperation of the legal system in declaring the child to be theirs. And the state fully intends to give itself all the powers it needs to make man woman marriage and same sex marriage identical institutions. But since there really are differencernce between men and women, there are differences between couples with two men, two women or one of each. The state that is committed to wiping out all differencence is a state that has written itself a blank check to intervene in every area of social life. We have already seen this in Canada.
So: redefining marriage from being the union of a man and a woman to being the union of any two persons means replacing a natural, pre-political reality that can run unassisted the vast majority of the time with something that is entirely the creation of the state, something completely socially constructed, something that will require continual coddling by the state in order to survive.
Tell me again how this is a libertarian move? How does this limit the power of the state?