I have received several comments to my post Libertarians and Culture. I have decided to address selected comments via this post.
Robert Wenzel was gracious enough to publish my post at Target Liberty. I will begin by addressing one of the comments from Wenzel’s site, regarding this paragraph of the original post:
Every thriving – even surviving – society requires governance; not government as the term is currently understood, but governance. The lowest level, closest to most voluntary, most decentralized level of societal governance, is the family. Destroy the moral foundations of family and you destroy society. Of this there is no doubt, and history has enough examples.
I don't share the same view of how sacred the family is. This smacks of conservative moralizing. Genetic connection is one of the least voluntary connections. Family members are often people one would never choose to affiliate with otherwise.
Who said anything about sacred? Unless one falls into the Bakunin camp of anarchist thought, there will be hierarchical structures in human institutions. Anarcho-capitalists desire that these hierarchical structures are – to a maximum extent – voluntary.
There will be governance. As an adult, I voluntarily submit to many forms of this: to my customers (whether a boss or consumer), to my spouse, to my church, to social norms (within bounds that I find reasonable).
There are some basic facts about family: every single person on earth has a father and mother – maybe not present (but this issue only furthers my point), but a father and mother nonetheless; except for cases of rape, the relationship between the father and mother was voluntary – I suspect most would agree the most intimate voluntary relationship.
Children are raised in a family – again, I am quite aware of the dysfunction in society today where this is not always or even often the case, but this only furthers my point. For children, the relationship isn’t voluntary in any sense that fits within the generally-accepted meaning of the term, but libertarian theory has more than one incomplete answer when it comes to the issue of children.
Once children reach maturity – however you care to define the term – off they go, responsible for their own way; the relationship between child and parent is re-defined, and now voluntary. If the now-mature child – or the parent – no longer wishes to associate with the other, feel free.
But where was the foundation laid? There is no institution on earth that is more common to all than family, and in no other institution could one say that the foundation for and application of governance (not government) is as widespread. None.
From whom should children receive this governance if not the parents (because, protest as you might, a child will receive governance) – public schools, head start programs, mandatory pre-school, government paid supervisors, television? Can it be argued that third-party intellectuals, on average, know better what is good for the day-to-day raising of your child than you do? A peek into any of these bureaucracies and institutions will provide a decisive answer to the question.
Regarding the dysfunctionalities that I touched on above, these are nothing more than breakdowns in the foundation of family. It need not be labeled “conservative moralizing” to suggest that children being raised in a two parent home have a better chance at a successful life – meaning a life where they can contribute positively to society; there is evidence of this in every racial and socio-economic group. Look around you and tell me otherwise. I don’t mean as exceptions – of these there are many. I mean as a rule.
Can it be argued that this foundation in a family is irrelevant, that however a child is raised for the first five, ten, eighteen or whatever years doesn’t matter? Once they get out of the house they start with…nothing…a clean mental, intellectual and moral slate? I am no sociologist or psychologist, but I know enough to know the answer to this question.
I know that libertarians – myself included – point to various voluntary organizations to provide governance and support in the absence of a state: churches, civic organizations, social clubs, etc. There are two important things missing in each of these that are present in the family: first, none of these are as universal; second, by the time someone joins, much of the foundation for what an individual will be has already been laid….in the family.
Now, what about destroying society if the family is destroyed. This won’t take long: the results speak for themselves. In most environments, cultures, and communities where the family is not valued, civil society isn’t to be found.
For those who believe that this is all just conservative moralizing, consider the possibility that a libertarian society will be a far less libertine society than what we live in today. Who will subsidize the libertine lifestyle in a libertarian society, as the state does today? Children out of wedlock is perhaps the most obvious example, but if I want to spend some time on making a list, I can come up with a few more.
Now, on to some of the feedback at my site:
WillyTruth June 29, 2015 at 4:42 PM
Like you, I don't believe the state has any legitimate claim to control marriage….Yet, despite all this, I am happy for my friends who were before banned from the option to (ask permission from the state to) enter into marriage with one another.
As Willy suggests: no one was banned from marriage. They were merely banned from the state recognizing the marriage; they were banned from using the state to ensure receipt of certain benefits available only to state-recognized married couples; they were banned (although this had been crumbling in any case) from forcing businesses to deal with them.
Yet…an idea underlying Willy’s comment is one that I have struggled with even when writing the original post. Many married libertarians have used the state to achieve the condition of being married in a state-recognized manner – thereby gaining access to various state-sanctioned benefits and privileges.
I have nothing to add. It is an idea that remains a struggle for me.
Jonathan Jaech July 1, 2015 at 9:01 PM
I take issue with your implication that the [Supreme Court] opinion is a signpost of increasing decadence in culture….
I need not lean on the Bible or religion for this. From Jacques Barzun’s Dawn to Decadence:
The blow that hurled the modern world on its course of self-destruction was the Great War of 1914-1918.
Barzun points to four individuals who stirred the public in their thought prior to the war; of these he points to George Bernard Shaw and the Fabians as “[t]he most unified and best organized.”
His enormous output of plays, preface-essays, political tracts, music and drama criticism, and correspondence – a quarter of a million letters, most of them also small essays on the subject he was master of – make him a 20C Voltaire carrying the message of a Rousseau in his propaganda for radical change in government, morals, aesthetics, and religion.
…what preoccupied Shaw was philosophy and religion.
The Fabians were successful at what Barzun calls “the Great Switch.” This is where liberalism was redefined to its opposite – where classical liberalism changed to what is today known as liberal.
What was the result from the Great War, laid at the feet of the new liberals birthed by the Fabians, the war that Barzun decries as the death blow?
Class barriers lost rigidity; conventions were relaxed. The soldier was cut loose from his nine-to-five at the office or six-to-four in the factory as well as from home and its constraints. Watchful neighbors having scattered, each spouse, now separated, gained sexual freedom if it was wanted, or at least escape from a bad marriage.
It scrambled the continuities of western culture.
…family life broken as badly as by divorce…social distinctions and manners diluted or erased…
The devastation, both material and moral, had gone so deep that it turned the creative energies from their course, first into frivolity, and then into the channel of self-destruction.
I find nothing directly linking Shaw and Fabian thinking to this Supreme Court decision (nor would I expect to); yet it doesn’t take a great imagination to link the two.
When it comes to understanding the road to and meaning of decadence, I will go with Barzun (for the atheists in the audience).
Anonymous July 1, 2015 at 11:27 PM
Does homosexuality, recreational drug use, acceptance of other cultures, beliefs or religions necessarily threaten your personal views on morality if they don't violate the NAP?
I would not use the term “threaten,” but given the spirit of your question I answer: yes, moderately, no, no, and no.
Couldn't they serve to strengthen them? Decadence has consequences as you mentioned, and there's no more powerful tool of persuasion than dramatic demonstration. Wouldn't the examples created serve to show those you love why your moral stance is preferable when the consequences are in plain sight?
There is plenty of “dramatic demonstration” around us today, with consequences for certain destructive behaviors in plain sight. It doesn’t have much effect except, occasionally, when the “dramatic demonstration” hits very close to home. It is the acceptance or rejection of ideas that wins out.
I just don't see how attacking subjective morality that doesn't violate the NAP instead of framing it as a libertarian issue helps anyone but the state.
I was clear to separate the libertarian and non-libertarian aspects of my post. I do not suggest that the state need be involved in any way regarding the issue of morality.
I will suggest that libertarians praising such lifestyles drive away far more people from libertarianism than do libertarians like me. My tent leaves room for all, as long as they support the NAP. Those who demand that libertarians praise such decisions and such lifestyles shrink the size of the tent.
Vonu July 2, 2015 at 3:45 PM
A marriage license is an adhesion contract, and there is no way that an adhesion contract can be entered into voluntarily.
I had to look up “adhesion contract”:
A standard form contract drafted by one party (usually a business with stronger bargaining power) and signed by the weaker party (usually a consumer in need of goods or services), who must adhere to the contract and therefore does not have the power to negotiate or modify the terms of the contract. Adhesion contracts are commonly used for matters involving insurance, leases, deeds, mortgages, automobile purchases, and other forms of consumer credit.
Unless one is pointing a gun to your head demanding that you sign the contract or else (which makes the contract voidable by the coerced party in any case), an adhesion contract – like every other contract – is entered into voluntarily.
Don’t sign it. See how easy that is?
I thank everyone who provided feedback. In working through the points raised, I feel even more sure of my earlier statements and conclusions.