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A Libertarian Looks at President Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Proclamation

May 2012

Our president’s views on marriage have “evolved” and now he has come out in favor of “same-sex marriage” (hereafter named “ME” for “marriage equality” in this essay).

This comes on the heels of a crushing defeat to ME advocates at the hands of the citizens of North Carolina who voted 61% to 39%, the previous day, in favor of a state constitutional amendment defining only “traditional marriage” (hereafter named “TM” in this essay) as legal.

The two Billys (Clinton and Graham) weighed in with full-page ads in North Carolina newspapers advocating ME and TM, respectively.

America is not of one mind on this issue.

I am writing this in an airport, about to fly to Mammoth Lakes, California, to perform a marriage. Fitting that I write this now.

Let me lay my cards on the table. Please don’t jump to conclusions based on this short list. My conclusions from this essay are going to surprise you:

  • I am a strong advocate for TM (traditional marriage).
  • I am also a strong advocate for a free society, where coercion is only used to stop aggression.
  • I operate from the assumption that our government’s natural tendency is a “benevolent drift toward a total state.” Our government and leaders generally mean well and end up growing the government and its control over our lives in order to help us. Of course, I believe this generally does more harm than good.

So. On to the discussion…

I am amazed that the advocates for TM and ME are operating under an unhelpful assumption: That the government (federal or state) has the power to license adult relationships.

Marriage licenses are a relatively new thing. For most of our history marriages have been a contract (formal or informal) between individuals and/or families. A religious sanction has been seen as helpful and/or optional in most societies. A “priest” or someone of similar social standing often (but not always) presides.

For much of American history, because we are such an under-populated nation (the topic of another essay), men and women have simply found one another and moved in. They would start referring to each other as husband and wife. Priests/clergy were scarce (perhaps an occasional circuit rider) and the magistrate may well have been the equivalent buggy distance away and expense (in today’s travel time and real cost) of flying to India.

This was also true in Bible times. “He took her as his wife” is a common phrase. The main “social marking” event was a feast/reception and no mention is made of a “judge” or a “priest” showing up. Most Bible people more or less followed the pattern of Adam and Eve and just started the marriage up at their own discretion.

Marriage licenses, unfortunately, came into widespread use after the Civil War, in an effort by racists to control or end “mixed marriages” with newly freed slaves (which in fact had been happening constantly throughout our entire history going back to Jamestown).

When people perceive a “problem,” government is always all too ready to dash in and help “fix” things, and they typically end up with more control over our lives in the end. Just think of the TSA if you want an example.

Thus the widespread custom of marriage licenses was born.

Fast forward to 2012. The culture wars have latched on to the TM vs. ME battle, reinforcing Caesar’s (my favorite term for government power) hold on the role of  “decider.”

Both sides, in feverishly trying to get their view adopted by 100% of the public, are playing a gigantic chess game of “Mother May I” with plebiscites and court cases.

Truth is, the opponents are taking their partisan case to a “casino” where the house (government) always wins.

It’s as if two kids get into a playground argument and, unable to settle their dispute, take it up with the school principal. After generations of this appealing to authority, the principal eventually would control all playground activity at the smallest level of detail.

Free and unsupervised playgrounds (think basketball on the public park courts of the South Side of Chicago or sandlot baseball in the Dominican Republic) always produce better performers than over-managed and over-parented suburban youth sports (think Little League dad syndrome). Liberty works.

So back to the TM/ME debate. As a strong supporter of TM (I think of it as the Creator’s “plan A.”), you may be surprised with what I am going to say.

In short, get rid of marriage licenses. Altogether. While you’re at it, get rid of equivalent licenses for barbers, real estate agents and the like. Even business licenses. I pay $100+  a year to the City of Huntington Beach for my little private S-Corporation license and $800 annually to the State of California so they can keep me on some “register.” I get nothing of value in return for either payment. Yet no one questions the right of the government to demand/coerce such money from us. We obediently write our checks.

So, what business does the government have in registering and charging for voluntary adult relationships? What’s next, a friendship tax?

The whole TM/ME argument is base on a false premise; that the “school principal” is the decider. Both sides seek exclusive permission to define marriage aligned to their opinion and then impose that opinion on the other side, with Caesar’s blessing.

Let me suggest a better way.

In a truly free, non-coercive society, people can do as they please as long as they are not aggressing against others or their property. In a state of liberty, all would be free from physical, social, legal, economic, and intellectual aggression.

Picture a society where adult citizens could live with whomever they wanted and enter, freely, into any covenants they choose with others, on whatever terms they should select.

Any attempt to hinder free people from doing so is a restriction of their liberty.

It is also, and this is often left out, a restriction of intellectual liberty to impose a viewpoint on others. Unfortunately, “liberals” often don’t see their shortcomings in this area. In pushing for marriage equality (ME), they see themselves as the defenders of liberty and forget that they are aggressively redefining marriage and hoping to force this new definition on those who hold to TM (traditional marriage) views. It is not enough, for liberals, to have ME become the law of the land, they fully intend for TM supporters to embrace it, or label them as bigots.

In a free society, we would not be free to foist our definition of marriage on those who choose to think otherwise. This goes both ways.

In other words, requiring someone who strongly supports TM to call same-sex marriage a “marriage” is a form of intellectual aggression and has no place among free people. People have a right to their own viewpoints, definitions, and opinions.

Conversely, TM supporters like me have no right to tell ME folks that they cannot consider same-sex marriage a marriage. The truth is, they already do consider it same sex “marriage” a marriage. And I don’t get to vote on what other people think. And ME supporters don’t get to vote on what I think.

Appealing to Caesar is inappropriate among free people who disagree. We need to work it out on the playground for ourselves. No one has to play jump rope. No one has to hang on the monkey bars. No one has to play tetherball.

Respect for the freedom of another person does not require validating his or her opinion, just his or her right to have that opinion, and agreeing not to aggress against it.

Let’s make this more personal. I am a staunch supporter of TM. However, I realize that there are tens of millions of people who have their minds made up that ME is the way to go. If they want to call same-sex marriage a marriage, that is up to them. I, however, do not have to consider it a marriage or call it one. I can find polite ways to avoid that word (marriage) when discussing the issue. Much as atheists in a free society do not have to believe in God, name him, or pray to him, but they are obligated to let others do so.

First of all, however, we have to get the government out of marriage. Adults would be free to enter into any contract with each other. A new private business would spring up: relational contracts. There could be standard and custom-made contracts. It would be similar to the wills and trusts business so common today—no judge or priest is needed to make it so. These contracts could be cheaper than current marriage licenses, and much more customized to suit the needs of the contract parties. It could be notarized, and you could even get a little card for your wallet designating next of kin if you are found (God forbid) in an accident.

This contract can be updated or cancelled at any time. It’s not like our current way of doing things (with a huge divorce rate) is working all that well….

Next of kin can be designated by anyone. Caesar has no right to decide who your next of kin is. Can be a blood relative, can be a spouse, can be a best friend. Sexual intimacy (or lack thereof) should play no role.

All this being said, one’s Facebook status (single, married, in a relationship, it’s complicated, etc) carries more weight these days than paper from the court house.

These adult, free-will covenants could be celebrated by a reception, a party, a religious ceremony, or whatever they like. They would be free to call it whatever they like. A marriage. A partnership. And those of us “looking in” would also be free to call it whatever we like.

Faith communities would be free to craft their own values on the marriage issue. Some would practice only TM. Some would be open to ME. The congregations or denominations could decide for themselves. Coercion would be absent.

My own Lutheran tradition, with its “two kingdoms” has already paved the way for a dual-voluntary system when it comes to marriage. A tolerant public sphere and a voluntary church sphere. We also teach that marriage is not a sacrament (as opposed to Roman Catholic teaching), and does not need clergy present to make it “real.”

The truth is, I insist on being free to hold exclusively to the TM view, and have the right to congregate with others who agree. We have the right, as a congregation, to live accordingly, just as Orthodox Jews are free to restrict themselves to a kosher diet and set their own voluntary community standards.

A same-sex couple would have every right to call their relationship a marriage. But they would not have the right to force others to call it a marriage. They would be free to try to convince and persuade others, but not to coerce them. That would violate the free thought of others.

Free societies are not “winner takes all” societies. They are truly tolerant and non-aggressive, at every level. Valuing liberty does not mean we have to like what others or doing or to approve of any opinions or behaviors.

What about taxes?

Our tax code would have to be changed to “filing individually” and “filing as a legal collective.” Much as the tax code is free of religious labeling, it would have to be neutral on this issue too, so as not to side with a partisan group. And the truth is, coercive income taxes have no place in a free society anyways. But that’s another story.

Caesar has become such a huge part of our lives that we have forgotten the ground rules of liberty.

Let me be clear. I am not advocating ME. I am advocating for my right to hold to TM within a (much) freer society which is neutral on the subject.

Let’s move toward living freely. And thinking freely.

Visualize liberty.

Come home, America.

Now would be the time.

Al Qaeda has been decapitated. The seven dwarves of wannabe Bin Ladens are hopeless.

The Cold War is over in Europe. As over as leisure suits.

We get most of our oil from the Western Hemisphere. No real reason to import it from the psycho-political Middle East.

Libya is not our problem. The chaos in Mexico is.

Time to come home, America.

We are a New World nation.

We started dabbling in Old World politics in McKinley’s administration with the “White Man’s Burden” and the Philippines. It was a slippery slope. 110 years of adventure with a ton of heartache.

Now is the time to realize the great promise of the New World.

The founding fathers warned us against “entangling alliances” in the Old World.

We ignored them.

And we have paid.

And paid.

And paid.

In gold and blood.

We had no business in World War One. None. No one is even sure what the war was about, almost a century later. Why send our young men into that meat grinder?

And had we never messed around in the Philippines and taken over Hawaii in a sleazy way there would have been no Pearl Harbor. Russia would have eventually defeated the Nazis without us (do the math). There may not have ever been Nazis in the first place if we had not tipped the scales of WW1 so that Germany was crushed.

It is time for America to come home.

If Europe cannot defend itself without our help, then that’s their problem. Why did they need us to straighten out Kosovo?

If Korea is hopeless without us, then Asia has to band together to subdue the nut case pariah nation of North Korea.

We are obsessed with the Middle East. As Dr. Phil would say: How’s it workin’ for you now? Israel is plenty able to kick the pooey out of anyone who messes with them. And last time someone fired scuds at them it was because our soldiers were shooting up Mesopotamia. We get the Israelis in more trouble than anything else.

These fights are not our fight.

Our natural GNP level is 20% of the global total (with 4% of the population), this has held steady for a century. We had a short percentage spike in the 1950’s while the rest of the world rebuilt after the disaster of WW2. It’s time to go back to our “natural” sphere of influence of 1/5 of the globe. Right now, we are acting like we own the whole enchilada. Imperial over-reach has killed more empires than anything else.

It is time to:

  1. Pull our troops out of Europe.
  2. Pull our troops out of Korea.
  3. Leave the Eastern Hemisphere, militarily. 100% withdrawal.
  4. Help Mexico fix Mexico.
  5. Establish a free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere, the New World.
  6. Stop worrying about trade with India and China. If they won’t play nice (which they will), then transfer those jobs to North and Latin America.
  7. We won’t even start with the schizophrenic nation of Pakistan, our worst ally…ever.
  8. Build a world-class freight railroad system from Alaska to the tip of Chile.
  9. Re-align the military to protect the Western Hemisphere. Seamlessly. With big oceans on both sides and no natural enemies, we are easy, and cheap, to defend.
  10. Develop a joint Western Hemisphere Navy (like NATO was) to which we would supply 3, not 12, carrier groups.
  11. Thus save trillions in military expenditures and foreign aid, all the while  enhancing our security. Oh, by the way, this would balance the budget.
  12. Be on good terms with the Old World, but stay out of their un-solvable feuds.
  13. Have every student in our hemisphere learn English and Spanish in addition to his/her native tongue. No exceptions.
  14. Create a national volunteer service throughout the hemisphere to build the infrastructure. Mandatory two years after high school. Get our young people out from in front of screens with video games and Simpsons reruns and out doing some good.
  15. Eliminate drug cartels.

To resurrect a term, it is our manifest destiny to be the leading nation (with great partners) in the New World.

Come home, America.

This vision made it into the epilogue of The Blackberry Bush, my 2011 novel.

Please pass a link to this article to everyone you know. Thanks.

PS: Just was reminded by a friend that McGovern’s acceptance speech in 1972 was entitled, “Come home, America.” 8-track, flashback! Here are the closing lines:

So join with me in this campaign. Lend me your strength and your support, and together we will call America home to the ideals that nourished us from the beginning.

From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America

From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.

From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of  the neglected sick — come home, America.

Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.

Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for this “is your land, this land is my land — from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters — this land was made for you and me.”

So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.

And now is the time to meet that challenge.

Good night, and Godspeed to you all.

-George McGovern, 1972, who lost to Nixon, who resigned in disgrace shortly thereafter…

Debt has become a national epidemic.

We, individuals, are slaves to the myth of universal home ownership, and the debt that comes with it. You don’t own your house. Only a part of it. And if you’ve paid it off, the community still owns it. Don’t believe me? Quit paying your property tax (a form of rent). The very term “real estate” comes from the Spanish “re-al” which means “royal land.” No one owns land free and clear in the USA.

We, as a nation, are slaves to chronic government debt. We have started to think of it as normal.

The United States of (Neo) Slavery.

We, as a society, are buying more than we produce, creating a trade imbalance which…you guessed it….enslaves us at all kinds of levels.

When our real (adjusted for inflation) wages don’t go up, they push credit cards on us to keep demand for goods and services up.

We are a debtor nation of debtors.

When the bubbles burst (and the gold bubble could be next), we are left “owing our souls to the company store” with no means to pay it back.

Hardly a way to live up to the ideal of “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”

My grandfather and my father-in-law, the two people in my family who rented (rather than bought) homes, for most of their lives, died richer than anyone else in our clan. They only bought homes when they retired–and paid cash.

Paying interest (along with paying taxes) is pouring money down a black hole.

And the tax credit on mortgage interest is a joke, unless you are really, really bad at math. If you think it’s a good deal, please, I beg you, never go to Vegas. I hear, all the time, “I don’t want to pay off my house because I would lose my deduction.” Good Lord. Go ahead and continue to pay more interest than you will ever get deducted from your taxes. Every month.

It happens to churches too. I have actually heard the phrase: “If you are serious about mission you will take out a mortgage on your church property.” The Crystal Cathedral is collapsing in a morass of 8-figure debt.

We lethally destroyed the British army at Yorktown, and won our freedom. We took a HUGE blood-hit as a nation to free our African slaves. We hit the beaches, facing machine gun nests and barbed wire, at Normandy to free Europe.

Only to enslave ourselves.

The government, in the early 21st century, made it far too simple to go massively into debt and the result is the Great Recession. Today in LA, tens of thousands of people are gathering outside a sports arena to get help with mortgages they cannot pay. It’s a huge nut to crack every month.

My cynical side believes that perhaps those in charge in the 1930’s were tired of labor unrest and demonstrations. So they made it (too) easy to buy a house, knowing that those with endless mortgage (Latin-French for “until you die”) payments were less likely to hit the barricades in protest. Big mortgage payments would keep us docile.

Ever notice how the unrest of the late 60’s and early 70’s was calmed with a deluge of easy-credit plastic cards? I owe, I owe, so off to work I go….

Debt is out of control in America.

We need a national makeover.

I’m going to plant a flag on this issue.

Please hear me, I respect the opposing view. I just don’t share it.

The truth is, God gave the whole earth to the human race and told us to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply.

Even when he gave Israel to the children of Jacob, he warned them to treat the foreigners nicely; that they would be evaluated, as a nation, by their hospitality toward them. All through the Old Testament stories, there are prominent foreigners sharing the lives of Israelites (e.g. Uriah the Hittite) at a high level.

I have Scandinavian heritage, and you have the right, in my ancestral homeland (the Swedes call it “Allemansrätten”), to wander across anyone’s property, as long as you respect their privacy and leave everything the way you found it. And you can camp for free on anyone’s land, as long as you don’t disturb anyone or make noise, for up to two nights.

I believe in the right of every peaceful man or woman on Earth to be able, unhindered, to:

  • Travel anywhere on planet Earth he or she can afford to visit. As long as you pay your way and are not a burden.
  • Seek and take gainful and respectful employment anywhere it is legitimately offered.

I don’t believe in gated communities.

I don’t believe in national fences that keep people in (Berlin Wall) or keep people out (Mexican border at Tijuana).

All God’s people have access to all God’s world.

People of Western/Northern European ancestry have no greater right to staying in my California county than people of Latino ancestry.

And I believe that a mobile population is good for the economy. Anytime free labor can find its way to free capital, there is prosperity for all. That’s the free-market libertarian in me, talking.

Mobility is a basic human right.

The big question is: Do you see people as an asset or a liabilty?

Sure there are people who are one or the other. But on balance, how do you see the human race?

America was founded on the idea that people are, on the whole (and with some exceptions), an asset. Look at the Statue of Liberty. We saw the “huddled masses” of peasant Europe as an amazing asset. They built the farms that now feed us. Their blood now runs through our veins…

Overpopulation is a total myth. Europe and Russia are starting to decline in population. Most of America is empty (every spend much time looking down out of the window seat?). Our rural areas are depopulating. Detroit has thousands of acres of emptiness and some of it is returning to native forest. Sure there are areas of overcrowding, but Anglo North America could easily handle two billion people. (Currently 350 million). Our biggest challengers in this new century will be China and India, because they are blessed to have more people. More workers. More ideas.

We have to re-think transportation and energy–but that’s been done before and we can do it again.

People are not bad for the earth. People are beautiful and creative. We are the crown of creation. Made in the image of God.

I live in California. We are so blessed to have hard-working Latino and Asian immigrants in our midst. They have, together with us, built this state. I have driven all over our great state for the past ten years, and most of it is….empty. There is room for all–especially those willing to work.

You can’t have free markets (and I’m a free market guy) without freely mobile labor. We can’t put a fence around America.

My wealthiest California friends say “Unless we let inexpensive labor connect with our abundant domestic capital, we may as well ship all of our manufacturing to China.” Sobering.

Fences just accumulate and build up tensions, artificially. It’s where weapons tend to congregate. The barbed wire fence across Korea is a source of great tension right now.

Truth is, fences don’t work anyway. The Great Wall of China was a colossal failure. And the “Iron” Curtain rusted in one generation. Walls will always be breached, just like in medieval warfare. Eventually, European towns just quit building them because they were ineffective.

We have to learn to live together. It won’t be easy. There will be huge challenges.

We may have to get rid of the welfare state altogether to make for a workable world.

But building more fences is not the answer.

They won’t last.

They won’t work.

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