Fault Line between SoCons and Libertarians
I’m a regular participant over at Ricochet, and the subject of the “fault line” between social conservatives and libertarians arises from time to time. It’s a subject that is very interesting to me. Here’s how I see it.
The libertarian’s worldview begins with the fully developed and fully capable adult, which they refer to as the “individual.”
I will refer to him as the “individual as an infant” since this is how he enters the world. Libertarians do not account for how the “individual as an adult” came to be. If his legitimate needs and entitlements were violated while he was the “individual as an infant,” from a structural or policy standpoint they turn a blind eye, as they shun the very idea of entitlements and policy restrictions/encouragements for adults generally. The pain this causes the “individual as an infant” is personally meaningful to libertarians, but it is not meaningful to them on a structural/policy level. In other words, they are unwilling to use structural means to avoid that suffering because these structural means impinge on the liberties of the current “individuals as adults” in the short term.
Without providing for the structural means to reduce the risk factors for the suffering of the “individual as an infant,” Read more…
And here is another article, this one from 2009, on why “privatizing marriage” will not live up to its promise.
One proposed solution to the divisiveness of the same-sex marriage debate is to have the government get out of the marriage business altogether. This proposal is appealing because it seems to remove marriage from the realm of political contentiousness. We could mimic a market-type solution, in which individuals can make their own decisions about the meaning of marriage, and we need not make any collective decision. But these appearances are deceiving. We need to think through what it actually means to say that the government should “get out of the marriage business.”
Read it all here.
I have been writing an open letter to Ron Paul on why “privatizing marriage” or “getting the government out of the marriage business” is a really bad idea. In the process, I went back to some of my old writings on this topic. I have been trying to get people to pay attention to the problems with this so-called “libertarian” position since 2005! Here is a link to that first foray on this topic, originally published in Policy Review, the flagship publication of the Hoover Institution, back in 2005.
Marriage is a naturally occurring, pre-political institution that emerges spontaneously from society. Western society is drifting toward a redefinition of marriage as a bundle of legally defined benefits bestowed by the state. As a libertarian, I find this trend regrettable. The organic view of marriage is more consistent with the libertarian vision of a society of free and responsible individuals, governed by a constitutionally limited state. The drive toward a legalistic view of marriage is part of the relentless march toward politicizing every aspect of society.
Although gay marriage is the current hot-button topic, it is a parenthetical issue. The more basic question is the meaning of love, marriage, sexuality, and family in a free society. I define marriage as a society’s normative institution for both sexual activity and the rearing of children. The modern alternative idea is that society does not need such an institution: No particular arrangement should be legally or culturally privileged as the ideal context for sex or childbearing.
The current drive for creating gay unions that are the legal equivalent of marriage is part of this ongoing process of dethroning marriage from its pride of place. Only a few self-styled conservative advocates of gay marriage, such as Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Rauch, seem to understand and respect the social function of marriage. Marriage as an institution necessarily excludes some kinds of behavior and endorses other kinds of behavior. This is why the conservative case for gay marriage is so remarkable: It flies in the face of the cultural stampede toward social acceptance of any and all sexual and childbearing arrangements, the very stampede that has fueled so much of the movement for gay marriage.
This article is not primarily about gay marriage. It isn’t even about why some forms of straight marriage are superior to others. Rather, the purpose of this article is to explain why a society, especially a free society, needs the social institution of marriage in the first place. I want to argue that society can and must discriminate among various arrangements for childbearing and sexual activity.
Read it all here.
The Libertarian Party of Minnesota has taken a position on the proposal to place a marriage amendment on the ballot for the voters of Minnesota. I am taking the time to rebut this paragraph because this kind of argument has become all too common, even among those who have every desire and intention to expand the scope of government. You might think this would give Libertarians pause, but, that is another story.
Here is what the LPMN has to say:
The proposed Gay Marriage Ban would expand government control and restrict the freedom of consenting adults to live their own lives as they choose. Libertarians believe that marriage is a private matter between individuals. We believe that marriage is a fundamental human right, and that all personal relationships, including marriage, should be at the sole discretion and agreement of the individuals involved, as well as any family, friends, or religious institutions they may choose to involve. Government has no business restricting or interfering with marriage. This ban would create a caste system by dividing society into two classes: those who are permitted to marry, and those who are not.
Let’s start at the beginning:
The proposed Gay Marriage Ban would expand government control and restrict the freedom of consenting adults to live their own lives as they choose. Actually, affirming that marriage is the union of a man and a woman does not affect anyone’s ability to “live as they choose.” It affects people’s qualifications for the rights and responsibilities associated with a social and public institution. Same sex couples can live together, invest and spend money together, probably share parenting, and of course, do anything they want in their bedrooms.
Libertarians believe that marriage is a private matter between individuals. This statement has multiple meanings, and so is nearly Read more…
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. Read more…
I am responding to the inquiry of a student who wanted to know, in effect, whether it would be desirable to somehow get the government out of the marriage business altogether. Couldn’t we sidestep a lot of the conflict over marriage, by eliminating the default relationship contract currently known as marriage, and allowing any couple or other adult grouping to create any contract they found mutually agreeable? Read more…
Before I go any further in my responses to my young friend who asked about privatizing marriage, I want to acknowledge one thing: this proposal is outwardly appealling. I recently received an e-mail from an earnest young man, who wanted my opinion of his proposal to essentially privatize marriage. His idea was to have government create a new institution called civil unions that would be the same for all couples, opposite sex or same sex, and leave the idea and institution of “marriage” strictly to religious bodies. This position is becoming the “default” position in my quarters, so let’s acknowlege its attractiveness.
The proposal to privatize marriage in some form or fashion is appealing for two reasons. Read more…
Part 1. in a series of responses to a question posed by a student.
No one contract can treat same sex couples and opposite sex couples identically.
(Warning: this post is long! But Worth the effort if I do say so myself!)
1. If you believed that it is not possible for the government to be neutral in the definition of marriage, would that change your view of the desirability of your proposal? Read more…
I hear this proposal frequently. “Get the government out of marriage” has become the new default position for alot of people. (I suspect for some folks, this position is really a way to get the same sex marriage issue to go away. I don’t think that will work, but that is another story.)
I recently recieved this note from a student, with exactly this question:
I am a student at (local university X) and I took a legislative strategy class taught by Professor Y. In it students were required to write a bill, and Professor Y was intrigued by the bill I wrote dealing with a possible different solution to the gay Read more…