Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let's not pretend, libertarians

David Leyonhjelm claims in the Fairfax press this morning:

"...the basis of contemporary marriage is love and affection." 

And then this:
"Support for marriage equality does not require, or indeed imply, approval of any particular marriage or marriage outcome. Nor does it open the door to bigamy, polyamory or any other dire outcomes that some people predict."

Of course it does.  The arguments have already started in America, and probably elsewhere, that multi partner marriages can have lots of love and affection, so why shouldn't the government recognise those as legal marriages, if we all agree that gay marriages should be allowed because marriage is about love and affection?   And in fact, I don't think polygamy is something to have a moral panic about; I don't think it is a good way to organize society, but there is a huge amount of cultural precedent for it around the world, contrary to same sex marriage.

Now, at the risk of being on the side of the nutty Catholic element of Catallaxy, what they argue about the libertarian claim that recognising gay marriage is about getting the government "out of the bedroom"  is correct.  That is, libertarians are being disingenuous:   if they truly wanted the government "out of the bedroom", they'd be arguing for it to recognise as few relationships as possible as marriages; not more. They would, I would have thought, be against the way de facto couples were brought completely within Family Law, despite the fact that they may have deliberately decided not to marry so as to avoid at least some of its legal consequences.  That it was done may be argued as a justified government intervention into regulating relationships for the social good, but it can hardly be argued as having increased liberty at the individual level.   Quite the opposite.

Government recognition of marriage confers benefits and (at least when it ends, if not before) imposes obligations.   Making marriage more open to diverse groups, including same sex and polygamous relationships (as the logic inevitably runs) means more government involvement in the regulation of private relationships across society; not less.

It's particularly ironic that libertarians are frequently non-traditionalists (as well as atheists or agnostics) who recognise no particular significance to marriage as a legal status in their own lives  - they take the Leyonhjelm line that you "don't need a marriage licence" to make a marriage "real".  Thus they seem to have both little regard for what legal marriage means personally, while insisting that government should take an expansionary view of it.   The reason?   Well, because it makes some (actually, a relatively small number of gay people) feel left out.  
Libertarians hate a welfare entitlement mentality in others, yet they are happy to endorse a "symbol entitlement" mentality, and have chosen to paint this argument as essentially a rights issue in the same way wet liberals and Lefty's do.   And libertarians are not normally all that taken by the idea of human rights, but they will make an exception for their gay friends, it seems.

As far as I'm concerned, there is very little that is intellectually consistent about the "libertarian" view on same sex marriage with the rest of their world views.   

I don't really care if they just argue "well, it's what people want"  (which, in much of the world, it is) and left it at that.   But don't try and argue it as being an issue particularly consistent with small government, libertarian instincts.

And while I am not going to lose any sleep over the possibility of same sex marriage arriving here soon, I suspect that long term it will be seen as an early 21st century faddish interest which relatively few gay couples will ever take up.   I would much prefer, though, that gay relationships be recognised as civil unions similar to, but without the exact same status, as heterosexual marriage, which has a long tradition in the West of being at its core about having kids.  And as a conservative on matters of biology - being against the use of surrogacy or IVF for anyone, let alone gay couples - the argument that gay couples have kids all the time now does not wash with me.  (And older couples who can marry even if they are not fertile - they get the "benefit of the doubt", so to speak.  Rules about marriage don't have to be entirely, 100%, logically consistent.) 

My view, in another irony, is arguably a truer "small government" view of marriage than that espoused by libertarians.  

1 comment:

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