“Marriage and the Limits of Contract,” by Jennifer Roback Morse, Policy Review, April 2005, http://www.policyreview.org/apr05/morse.html (from Stanley Kurtz on the Corner).
Yesterday, National Review linked to a libertarian attack on legal recognition homosexualist marriage. The article, written by a Hoover Institution fellow, raises good points and agrees with tdaxp in several places. While I think I would disagree with Jennifer Morse on some other issues, here is she spot-on.
First and most importantly, the article recognizes there are different kinds of freedom
Rousseau could be describing the modern hook-up culture, down to and including the reluctance of hook-up partners to even talk to each other. He seems to define â€œnaturalâ€ as acting on impulse and â€œfreedomâ€ as being unencumbered by law, social convention or even attachment to other people.
Libertarians cannot accept these definitions. Being free does not demand that everyone act impulsively rather than deliberately. Libertarian freedom is the modest demand to be left alone by the coercive apparatus of the government. Economic liberty, and libertarian freedom more broadly, is certainly consistent with living with a great many informal social and cultural constraints.
(If only Robert Locke was so wise!)
Morse also shows how increased family size can lead to decreased government size — a brilliant application of the horizontal/vertical dichotomy.
But the influence of the libertarian rationale goes far beyond the membership of the Libertarian Party or the donor list of the Cato Institute. The editors of the Nation, for instance, support gay marriage but do not usually defend the sanctity of contracts. This apparent paradox evaporates when we realize that the dissolution of marriage breaks the family into successively smaller units that are less able to sustain themselves without state assistance.
Families also serve as an alternative to state welfare
But for this minimal government approach to work, there has to be a family in the first place. The family must sustain itself over the course of the life cycle of its members. If too many members spin off into complete isolation, if too many members are unwilling to cooperate with others, the family will not be able to support itself. A woman trying to raise children without their father is unlikely to contribute much to the care of her parents. In fact, unmarried parents are more likely to need help from their parents than to provide it.
Pat Buchanan, normally a loon said it best: “liberals” want government so strong we don’t need families, conservatives want families so strong we don’t need government. Put another way, “conervatives” want to create a culture of freedom by replacing vertical controls with horizontal controls.
Third, she realizes the permance of Old Style Man.
Libertarians have every reason to respect marriage as a social institution. Marriage is an organic institution that emerges spontaneously from society. People of the opposite sex are naturally attracted to one another, couple with each other, co-create children, and raise those children. The little society of the family replenishes and sustains itself. Humanityâ€™s natural sociability expresses itself most vibrantly within the family. A minimum-government libertarian can view this self-sustaining system with unadulterated awe.
Exactly right. Functioning systems of control are ones that survive. Just as “sustainability” is an important part of determing what third-world aid programs we create, “sustainability” must be a vital part of what controls we protect and establish.
tdaxp’s note: The first time I read this article I found four serious flaws. All went away on a second reading. She clearly has a unifying philosophy of the world that I would disagree with. Nonetheless, on homosexual marriage she is exactly right. This paper is a brilliant defense of traditional marriage from the homosexualists and the New Stylists.