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A Libertarian Looks at President Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Proclamation
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.
Did you hear the news?
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a paper that gives all of California’s “bazillion” electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
This is not a misprint. To the winner of the NATIONAL popular vote. Here is the LINK.
In other words, the votes of someone in Indiana will have as much effect on California’s electoral votes as mine, a taxpaying resident of the state of California.
Why did he do this?
Liberals are afraid of a repeat of the Bush/Gore election where Al won the popular vote (by a hair) and George won the electoral vote (by a dimpled chad in Florida.)
Abolish the electoral college! (shouts everyone)
How silly! (shout I)
The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom of the founding fathers.
On their better days, I believe they were truly inspired by God. And, like Martin Luther King, I don’t believe you can separate faith convictions from politics.
They founded the Electoral College for a reason.
A very good reason.
The envisioned each state sending its best and brightest (college presidents, business leaders, agriculturalists, journalists, clergy, intellectuals, historians, etc.) to a real meeting in Washington DC every four years. Kind of like the group that wrote the constitution in the first place….
They would choose one person to manage the country for four years. Keep it in the black. Keep it efficient.
Politicking was seen as bad form. The decision was NOT to be made ahead of time. The idea of a sitting president raising a billion (!) dollars for re-election would have resulted in deportation.
There was to be no popular vote for the president. The leaders of the country were to confer and choose one.
Because the founding fathers were afraid of two things:
1) America becoming a high-overhead imperial power (like England).
2) A spike in popular opinion putting a charismatic nut in the office of the presidency through a direct popular vote.
Thus the constitution was built with lotsa shock absorbers to cushion against instability, extremism, and hysteria.
Only the House of Representatives would fully mirror the current mood of the people. Every two years everyone is back up for election. New “movements” would get representation here (tea party, contract with America, new deal, reaganomics, great society, etc.) and a chance to gain a foothold. New ideas would be given a test drive.
The Senate was staggered so that only a third of the seats would come open at any given time. The terms were longer than the president’s; denoting higher status. They were to be chosen by state legislatures, to provide yet one more filter against extreme mood swings. The Senate was thus to be more conservative and less prone to sharp turns. They would be the ones approving foreign treaties (or basically just staying out of them).
The presidency was not an elected King/Queen. The president was to be an efficient, proven leader who could keep things on track. Not a charismatic survivor of a brutal campaign trail. Not the winner of endless debates.
George Washington was thus elected president (by a real electoral college) more or less against his will. He begged the country not to put is picture on the money and thus elevate the presidency. He insisted on “Mr. President” rather than “Your highness” or even “Your honor.” The president was to be like a city manager of a large country. Not in the news all the time.
Time to bring this great idea back. No more imperial presidency. No more sending our troops abroad without a declaration of war. No more elected emperors.
Have each state send its brightest and best; non-partisan if possible, and choose a good manager for the next four years. Peter Ueberroth would have been chosen in the 80’s after organizing the L.A. Olympics and making a profit.
Leave the electioneering to the House of Representatives, where it belongs. A popular house. Where fresh ideas are given a chance.
But the real power should be in the Senate. Longer terms than the president (six years). A compounding society of wisdom. Not susceptible to the whims of the season.
The electoral college.
A great idea.
About time we get it right.
And put the presidency in its place.
Please pass the link for this on to everyone else. Thanks!
Middle America celebrates spontaneously.
Much like the day we achieved victory over Japan, the revelers were overwhelmingly young.
I am struck by the negativity of the far right and the far left.
The far right:
This gang has a huge Obama allergy. Even if he does something the right wing would normally cheer, there must be something “wrong.”
This allergy clouds their thinking to the point where they parse out his speeches looking for proof of “narcissism,” and accuse him of timing the whole thing to coincide with re-election strategies.
They are even accusing him of lying about the timing of the attack, since they have proof that DNA takes longer to evaluate. Never mind all the Pakistanis in the Abbottobad neighborhood who were tweeting like crazy about helicopters overhead exactly when Obama said they were there.
Since he is a “bad man,” or so the thinking goes, everything he does, even if they agree with it, must be wrong. Thus, he deserves zero credit for leadership or calling the shot.
The far left:
This has always been the whinier voice in America. They are upset with the young celebrants in Times Square and outside the White House, because we should not be celebrating the death of any human being.
Much of this is tinged with Christian language implying we should love our enemies. This view clearly attempts to come across as more civilized than the U-S-A chanters. Martin Luther King is invoked (i.e. we should have used non-violence against Bin Laden).
I’m just glad MLK was not in Churchill’s chair during World War Two or all the European Jews would be dead and my wife and her Dutch family would be working the fields of ethnically cleansed Russia.
A sophisticated chronic embarrassment about all things American is the basic vibe underlying all far-left language.
Meanwhile, Middle America celebrates.
These are the people that provide the soldiers, pay the taxes, and head into the WTC fires with FDNY on their jackets.
These are the people with fragile small businesses which have been shaky in the economy which has been chronically unstable since 9-11.
These are the young people who have grown up for half of their lives with Osama bin Laden’s work forcing grandmas to take off their shoes before getting on planes and having to show up way before their flight, having their water bottles confiscated.
These are the honest people who have all of their banking tracked and their hard earned paychecks put on hold to “clear.”
America has had the jitters, economically and otherwise, since 9-11. The man who started it all has been brought to justice.
Let’s let the young people celebrate.
http://wp.me/pGQxY-fh << Use this short link to pass this essay on to everyone.
My novel, The Blackberry Bush, debuts June 2011. Watch for it!
I find the whole birther thing fascinating.
Donald Trump is the latest in a long line of populists.
Sounds like a good thing, “people” and “popular” come to mind.
Populism, however, in America, is, as the picture above illustrates, an intellectual bad hair day.
Populism has tended, in our history, to have racist overtones. Demagogues would heat up the less educated chunk of the white majority, and prey on their fears. Xenophobia (fear of everything foreign) is the easiest fear to nail.
Barack Hussein Obama is the first US president to have a non-country-club name.
Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, George Bush, Bill Clinton.
All WASP-y names that bear the homey scent of a Norman Rockwell painting, complete with the turkey dinner.
And now we get a half white-Kansas, half black-Kenyan in office with a Muslim-sounding name.
And his being a Columbia-Harvard type distances him even more from the Bubbas at Chatterbox Cafe diner.
For a lot of Americans, he doesn’t feel like “one of us.”
So we have to find something to prove that hunch. Birth certificates. Grades. LSAT scores. The birther thing is not going to go away; it will just move on to other suspicions. They are scouring the nation to find something, anything, to prove that their queasyness is legit.
I’m surprised it took someone so long (Trump) to cash in on it. A (very) white Presbyterian, plain-talking guy (with a few things of his own to hide).
If anything will win the election for the Democrats, it’s this. The populist/birther thing will energize the less educated part of the far right, but it will alienate the moderate middle.
And it’s the moderate middle that decides every election. The 49 to 51 percent voter in the dead center decides every election.
Truth is, though (and truth is always important), there are more white people in America than ever before. It’s just that we’ve been joined by a lot of Asians and Latinos. The African-American population is substantially lower (by percentage of the total population) than it was right before the civil war (then about 20% of Americans were black).
Why have we been joined by so many others? Because we are an open society with great opportunity. By the end of this century, or certainly by the end of the next, we will most likely mirror the racial mix of the whole world:
43% Caucasian (including Latinos and those Caucasians from Northern India)
34% East (Chinese/Japanese) and SE Asian
11% Non-Caucasian Asian Indian
That’s because America SHOULD be an exceptional country where the best and brightest from everywhere want to come here.
You know, Statue of Liberty stuff.
We need to embrace an American exceptionalism, but not one based on being white, or being afraid of the world. One based on free enterprise, democracy, civil rights, hard work, and a continent-wide energy level unknown anywhere else on earth.
If you vote against Obama (as I did in the last election), do so because of his politics or track record, not because of his vague “foreign-ness.”
Time to put the birther thing to bed.
We are a great nation and we have work to do.
What are your thoughts on the Gulf BP oil spill?
Blaming seems to be the national pastime.
Especially when we feel powerless.
Considering how physically leveraged an offshore rig is, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened earlier.
And there is the crucial distinction between short term and long term solutions.
We need to do a better job of mobilizing our capacity to stop the leak. If we can put men on the moon….
We also need to make sure BP pays for this.
And, of course, we need to find a different way of getting and using energy. Oil will always be dirty and oil will always spill.
Spent some time on Wikipedia and elsewhere today.
Why? Listened to the State of the Union last night (it’s all the Republicans’ fault) and then listened to talk radio responses (mostly: Obama is an evil socialist who just might have really been born in Sweden, not Hawaii).
Wanted to find out for myself what’s really going on with the debt/deficit/spending thing.
Got surprised by a lot of things. The right/left divide has created an ideology-bound way of bending the truth about debt/deficit. Both left and right just see what they want to see. And they love to blame each other.
Facts suffer under this ideological pressure to prove one’s side as “correct.”
Q: When (in the last 75 years) was the cumulative (real % of GNP) national debt the lowest?
A: During the Carter years. Lower than the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 80’s, 90’s or whatever we decide to call the last decade.
Q: When was federal spending the highest?
A: FDR’s reign. Nowhere in our history even comes close in federal spending as % of GNP. The Great Depression and WW2. Since then, it’s been less clear which side of the aisle is the biggest spender.
Also, the national deficit and the national debt are not the same thing.
For some of you this is 101, but apparently not for most Americans, a majority of whom are unable to distinguish correctly between the two.
The deficit is the annual gap between government income and spending; the “hole” in the annual budget, if you will.
The debt is the cumuilative total amount we owe (to whom is pretty unclear, no matter how much you look into it); the result of lots of deficits in a row.
I am a pro-family, free market, fiscal conservative (not that this matters, just want to be clear that there is no “liberal” agenda here) and was surprised to find out that the following presidents increased the total national debt, during their total time in office, by these percentage amounts:
Jimmy Carter: 45%
Ronald Reagan: 189%
Bush the Elder: 55%
Bill Clinton: 36%
Bush the Younger: 89% (not so bad over 8 years, considering the challenges he faced)
Obama: We don’t know yet, the first years for all of the above presidents were not indicative of the patterns to come for their terms.
Of course, Reagan, Clinton and “W” were 8-year presidents. The others were 4-year guys. Factor that in. Also, inflation is always a rich field for misinformation. It often gets left out or mentioned specifically in order to skew info. 1960 dollars are not the same as 2010 dollars, so sometimes “record” deficits are not really records. No president, in real GNP %, has spent as much as we did in WW2.
Same is true for population changes. America has about 300 million people (we’ll see how the 2010 nose count goes) which is almost twice as many as when I was born. Comparing the debt of a nation of 300 million to the debt of a nation with 150 million is apples vs. oranges.
It seems that, in real un-spun facts (which no one would dispute), the presidents who have most increased the National Debt of the US, in my lifetime, have been primarily–Republicans.
So how do the Democrats get the ‘tax and spend’ rep?
No matter how you cut it, no matter whose numbers you use, Bill Clinton was the most frugal of the presidents in our lifetime–and the prosperity during that era, in my opinion, may have resulted from that (my libertarian tendencies are showing). Not that I approve of him, his policies, or his views. But I like his deficit numbers. Who doesn’t?
The last recorded annual surplus (the opposite of an annual deficit) was during Clinton’s term. A Democrat.
My only explanation is that Republicans somehow don’t count defense spending as “real.”
In all fairness, Republicans aren’t ‘tax and spend,’ they just spend (and cut taxes). This opens up huge deficits.
Bush the Elder had the courage to call this “voodoo economics,” and he was right. He took it back so he could be Ronny’s VP, but it was true then and it’s true now.
Now granted, thank God that Ronald Reagan spent so much on defense–he bankrupted the Soviet Union without firing a shot; history will remember him for that. But he raised the stakes with money he didn’t have.
Glad he did it? Yes.
But it was real spending.
Granted, the social programs that the Democrats prefer are usually more or less useless in terms of real results (good intentions–lousy outcomes). But they cost way less than aircraft carriers.
And those who want to paint Democrats as socialists, ironically LOVE socialized military (obviously the most expensive form of socialism around). But somehow that doesn’t count.
Please hear me, I also, along with the Republicans, prefer a well-funded socialized military. A private military (pay the Hessians to protect us) would be a mess. And the corruption would be unbelievable. Interesting that no Republican would deny our men and women in uniform the right to socialized medicine…which they all have.
We fought a war (WW2) on two continents and destroyed massively evil regimes (Nazis, Fascists, etc.) in four years with socialized military. I am also very proud of our men and women today in the military–they are amazing.
Not that I have totally formulated how I feel about all this, but it’s important for social and market conservatives like myself to look at real numbers. We tend to want to idealize Republicans and demonize Democrats. Overspending is apparently an equal-opportunity employer!
The truth is important. In my adult lifetime, the big spenders have been the Republicans. The only difference is, they cut taxes at the same time–which piles up debt.
Military spending counts as real spending. And there is a real cost to being a warrior nation with extensive, long term, expensive deployment (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan) in a hemisphere (Eastern) where our country isn’t (Western). Last I checked, with all of our valiant efforts, those four countries (where we have spent so much money and spilled so much blood) are still nut cases. Half of Korea is arguably the strangest place on planet earth.
If we are going to make real progress against big government, we have to look at real numbers. Including military spending.
How much of the world are we going to protect and how many failed states are we going to rescue from crazy dictators? Can we afford to straighten out the whole world? Where does it end?
Seems simpler to me. Agree on what % of our GNP we want to spend on the public sector (including military). Make real laws (Constitutional Amendment) against spending more that that. And then prioritizing, through democracy, how that fixed amount gets spent. Decide on how much of the globe we are going to police and stick to that. Let the Europeans worry about Kosovo, etc.
Living within our means.
My libertarian side says that our economy would flourish. And our military would focus on defending (which they do well) our homeland.
Just ideas. But since they’re my ideas, I think they’re right.
Unless you have better ones, which may well be true. Let me hear from you.
What do you think of Obama after about a year in office?
I am looking for thoughtful reflections. Nuanced. Deep.
He is not the Antichrist and he is not the Messiah.
All opinions (far left to far right) are totally welcome, as long as they are respectful of our president and of other posters; otherwise, I will edit and/or remove them. I don’t normally do this, but I am specifically looking for a higher level discussion.
In other words, this will be a rant-free “thread.”
My odd Forrest-Gump-Life led me to interact with him in the 80’s in Chicago when we were both community organizers on the South Side. I was with Grand Boulevard Community 76 (Betty Booker and Co.) and he was with a church group in Roseland. We had meetings at the Urban League to coordinate efforts with other organizers. I was in housing preservation and grant writing. We are almost exactly the same age. I’m zany. He was very serious. So there wasn’t much affinity. We weren’t close, although there is “organizer-solidarity” in these situations, and I forgot all about him until the big speech at the Democratic Convention when I tried to place him from my memory. I did visit his church (fairly often) and that’s a whole ‘nother topic for another time.
I am looking for a broad, high quality debate on his character and his effectiveness.
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