Sunday, June 28, 2015

Libertarians and Culture

You won’t need a link; this week the Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage.  All are welcome.

It apparently needs to be said that the only proper libertarian position is that marriage isn’t any business of the government – at any level.  From a solely libertarian viewpoint, marriage is nothing more than a voluntary contractual arrangement. 

This isn’t the view of many so-called libertarians.  They are praising the decision.  They only desire a world of subservience and dependence, in which they suck on the pig’s teat for their succor.

Like gaining legitimacy from a government that has violated the life and property of countless billions of individuals is something to be desired.  “Oh great god government, destroyer of nations, destroyer of life and property, I look to you for legitimacy, please send your blessing upon me; bring me salvation and make me whole.”  This is the prayer of those libertarians who praise the ruling.

Don’t believe me?  Just ask the bleeding hearts:

Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the same-sex marriage case makes clear that what is at stake is equal access to liberty, the freedom to marry. (Emphasis in original)

There is also praise for the ruling at Cato, see here and here.

What “liberty” and “freedom” does one gain by having their marriage blessed by an illegitimate government?  I find none.  Yet this doesn’t mean there is no gain to those individuals so blessed.  There is certainly a gain for those so blessed via access to services and the like.  From the government, benefits such as Social Security and Medicare are now available; from private employers, various state-mandated (and, without doubt) voluntary benefits are now available – whether the employer wishes it to be so or not.

Of course, these benefits could also have been made available via contract.  All such benefits are nothing more than contractual agreements – I know the statement is fuzzy when it comes to government benefits, but the principle is the same; it is more easily explained when using the private example:

I work for the Hard-Nose Conservative Company; no matter how much I insist, they will not provide medical benefits to my “partner.”  I find another opportunity with the “Welcoming Company.”  We agree that they will provide these benefits.  I change employers.

See how that works?  No force required; no judgement in a 5-4 decision.  It’s called a contract.

The “freedom” that these so-called libertarians proclaim is the freedom from voluntary relationships.

But none of this is the main point of my post – the point is culture.  As a libertarian, I say smoke pot, snort coke, visit a pro, choose your gender, marry whomever you want, whatever.  As long as you impose no cost on me, I have no standing to intervene.

But this doesn’t mean I am obliged to celebrate such rulings – even as a libertarian. 

However, culture matters.  I suspect there is not a single example in history where a growing libertine culture has not destroyed the previous, prevailing culture within a few generations.  Decadence comes with a cost.

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.

This Supreme Court ruling is not the beginning of this destruction; the road to decadence began long ago.  I need not provide a list of examples (this would make for too-long-a-post on its own): just consider every act that chips away at the family, consider how these are now acceptable – and even praised; many by libertarians. 

The libertine libertarians celebrate decadence.  They are cheering on the doom of us all.  They ensure that those who might otherwise be attracted to the libertarian message but at the same time are mature enough to understand that culture matters will not consider joining the libertarian cause.

Call me thick and you would be wrong; this isn’t a libertarian issue.  It is an issue of culture, and culture will determine the future of this society, far more than any narrowly defined libertarian theory.  Libertarian theory speaks to nothing more than the legitimate use of force.  Everything else is what defines a society.

I see no reason for this destruction to be praised.  A libertarian need not praise this decision to remain libertarian.


  1. This is likely one of the few consistent libertarian views I've seen to the SCOTUS ruling.

    Thank you

  2. Many thanks for applying your razor sharp scalpel to this issue and clearing away the mine field of murky, wrong headed illogic from so many different sides.
    As you point out, this is a cultural, and at bottom a spiritual(in the broadest terms) war against us individually, and a direct attack on western civilization itself.

    1. jeffersonianidealJuly 2, 2015 at 2:49 AM

      The funny smell you are detecting is the result of faith desperately attempting to form an emulsion with libertarianism.

    2. The funny sense you are detecting results from faith hastily attempting to form an emulsion with libertarianism.

    3. I said spiritual in the broadest sense of the word, and didn't imply any sort of religious content, although anyone can apply their own definition, or lack thereof to that meaning. That includes you and laughing Gil.

  3. Spot on Little Joe!!!!!!

  4. To my mind the issue “traditionally” is about procreation and responsibility, not privilege. Libertarian thought in some quarters includes the freedom from responsibility for offspring. However, society has thought otherwise and accordingly devised ceremony and vows dealing with the RESPONSIBILITY of a union presumed to result in children.

    Perhaps this is passé in the modern world in which case we should, as you suggest, just decouple the government from procreation since it is ineffective in any case.

  5. Great analysis as always, and I like that you approach the issues from moral, rather than merely utilitarian, stand.

  6. Like you, I don't believe the state has any legitimate claim to control marriage. Like you, I don't believe the state has a legitimate claim to exist at all. Like you, I am often annoyed by the BHLs and their ilk. It is indeed an issue that should (Constitutionally speaking--which, like you, I don't care about) be left to the states under the 9th & 10th Amendments. Like you, I'm disgusted by the political capitalization that has followed with those who have flipflopped on the issue in recent years claiming credit. And I have no doubt that this SCOTUS decision will eventually result in some sort of liberty-grab, whether forcing churches to wed gay couples or forcing states to recognize "gender identities" or some such nonsense. Although in the wake of this decision the state will continue to exist either way, so regardless of what the Gang of 9 decided there will be similarly anti-liberty outcomes. 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. Of course this is far from ideal, and hopefully more people look at this issue and see the farce of state power for what it is, but ultimately gay people are slightly freer today than they were a few days ago, even if the freedom allowed is largely ceremonial.

  7. Issuing marriage licenses, determining who may, or may not marry, or distributing benefits or levying penalties based on such licences, is not a proper function of a minimal state. Indeed, the only moral state is one that is not a "state" at all, i.e., one that is entirely a voluntary organization.

    That said, the Obergefell opinion is one that seems worthy of acknowledging positively for at least two general reasons: (1) a majority of the Court cited liberty as a protectable interest, and (2) schadenfreude, irony and instruction are provided by the flurry of impassioned dissents from the conservative justices, who are hypocritically quite willing to rule from the bench when it suits them. That's not to say the ruling couldn't lead to much anti-libertarian rulings down the road -- but such outcomes are the natural tendency of the statists anyway.

    I take issue with your implication that the opinion is a signpost of increasing decadence in culture. Marriage as a state of commitment between two or more people is either entirely neutral when it come to decadence, or tends to oppose it. War, greed, selfishness, injustice, coercion, domination, sloth, fraud, oppression, hatred of one's own species -- all of these things (and others) increase decadence. But the very demons of hell could all marry each other, and it would not increase the decadence of hell one iota. Indeed, Satan might find it an alarming trend.

    To use a more prosaic example, when LGBT people or others settle down and marry, we might expect there to be a corresponding decrease in promiscuity. If one supposes that sexual activity for any purpose save reproduction or family-building to be decadent, then why wouldn't more LGBT marriages be associated with a decrease in decadence? I understand that in some traditions homosexuality was regarded a crime worthy of death, but the passing of such beliefs is no more to be mourned or regarded as decadent than the passing of acceptance of chattel slavery, or beliefs in the merits of sacrificing virgins to gods.

  8. Longtime reader, first comment. I agree with your Libertarian arguments. The fact that so many see the state as the sole arbitrator of rights is incredibly disturbing. I'm not celebrating the decision.

    But I have some questions. Let's pretend that this is a free society, and that marriage licenses are a relic of the past... Gays have long been free to marry. Drugs are legal, etc.

    You say that society requires governance and morals, and I'd agree. 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?

    Couldn't they serve to strengthen them? Decadence has consequences as you mentioned, and there's no more powerful tool of persusuan 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?

    Do you believe that the legislation is the cause of the culture/morality or vice versa? What's more dangerous, a culture that is accepting of behaviours they deem decadent or a state who decrees morality and brutally enforces it with violence?

    I guess my point is - I agree with your Libertarian views. And your views on morality aren't for me to judge. But, if I was a SJW on a witchhunt to paint libertarians as bigots, this would be an easy target.

    It just seems like it'd be a lot more palatable for a bigger audience if we said "hey, I've always supported your right to be gay" and at the same time said "if you're morally opposed, you're not forced to associate with anyone".

    I appreciate your work. 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'd love to hear your response. Thanks.

  9. While I agree that libertarians shouldn't celebrate this, I don't think we should be sad about it.
    Culture changes. Technology, lifestyle, language, value of money, art topics and general aesthetics. Everything changes. Some things change a lot, like hair styles, and some things change very little, like people's general understanding of history. I don't think people, at large, know today more about mathematics or american history than one hundred years ago, because most people don't care about these topics.
    Therefore, it used to be that americans were fond of liberty, and didn't like when politicians came to tell them what to do. Now, after many generations of people cultivating indolence, americans seem to like to have laws that tell everybody what to do.
    Perhaps it is time to leave.
    America has gone the way of Europe. It is sad, but America is pretty much dead. You are now subjects of oligarchs. You are not americans anymore.

  10. I am agreeing with Willy Truth. The greater "freedom" aspect is that gays now have the freedom to legally marry each other, an act that aggresses against no one else. From that narrow, but real, perspective, I support the ruling, though I agree that it really should be none of the government's business (as if it had any moral credibility or standing).

    The irony is, as has been mentioned, that the ruling will open the gates to further laws and rulings that will infringe on the natural rights of others, in the areas of free speech and association, for example.

  11. A marriage license is an adhesion contract, and there is no way that an adhesion contract can be entered into voluntarily.

  12. As a libertarian, I say read your bible, eat your barbecue, visit a christian church, marry whomever you want as co-consensual virgins. As long as you impose no cost on me, I have no standing to intervene.

    Unfortunately, it seems the above activities often do impose enormous costs on peace-abiding folk. Far too often they appear to be massive fonts for sociopathic nationalism, flag waving, boot licking, military and authoritarian glorification, perpetual wars, prohibitionist laws, vapid moralizing on the role of the state too secure god's will, and from the more catholic side of it, endless lecturing and scheming vis a vis the use the law as an instrument of the catholic social justice dirigisme.

    And in terms of libertarian public ambassadorship, I would have to go with RuPaul over Ron Paul. Or at least the version of Ron Paul that was kowtowing and placating the "christian morality" folk.

    You, paleos...until one of you owns up to authoring the Ron Paul Newsletters, these claims about the supposed superior popularity of your moral views are vacuous indeed. And besides, a movement led by Casper the Ghost evokes the scriptural warning of 1 Timothy 4:1

    "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons"


  13. All

    I have addressed several of the above comments here:

    Thank you for your feedback.

  14. Suppose the Government of the US would establish the following "laws":
    1) libertarians are not allowed to marry non-libertarians
    2) all public restaurants must have a special toilet for libertarians
    3) libertarians are not allowed to vote, go to school with non-libertarians or buy and sell things

    Under these conditions, Should libertarians demand a change in the laws, or just leave the country?