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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Answering Critics of Marriage Privatization

1. Marriage Privatization May Affect Marriage Culture
Some people have raised concerns that marriage privatization may affect marriage culture. But just how that effect will be is still debated. Some contend that marriage culture will be weakened. However, there is no evidence nor any inherent logic that the non-use of the 'marriage' word and its replacement with 'civil unions' will weaken marriage culture in any way, since 'marriage' will be around in our culture for at least centuries to come either way. Conversely, many people also say that marriage privatization will strengthen marriage culture. When couples can set their own terms for their own marriage, it is logical that there will be more ownership of marriage in our culture, and therefore there will be a stronger marriage culture. There is a third option too - that marriage privatization would not change marriage culture in any way. As culture is not really reliant on government, except in the fantasies of authoritarian types, this is not unlikely too.

There is another aspect to this argument too. When marriage is in the hands of the government, they have an increased power to mould it any way they like. All the conservatives who don't believe in marriage privatization will regret it if one day the government allows polyamorous marriages. I believe that one of the reasons some of them are so paranoid about marriage equality, to the point of inventing a slippery slope argument, is because they are just too aware that whenever government favours on definition of marriage over another, they can further change the definition at any time. But this has nothing to do with marriage equality itself - it's just the natural consequence of letting government control marriage. When marriage returns to the collective hands of the public, no future government will be able to impose a new definition of marriage on the people without majority support.

In short, whilst there is plenty of debate about what kind of impact, if any, marriage privatization will have on marriage culture, the case for a stronger marriage culture under marriage privatization is at least as strong if not significantly stronger than the case for the opposite. Marriage culture is weak enough as it is, with the 40%+ divorce rates, and many would agree that there needs to be a change. Many believe marriage privatization should be part of that change.

2. Marriage Privatization May Lead To Bigger Government Through Welfare
This is an argument made to convince small government libertarians, but I believe it is just a conservative argument dressed up to appeal to libertarians. Firstly, believing in the result of increased reliance on welfare depends on believing in a weakened marriage culture under marriage privatization, something clearly not agreed by any supporter of marriage privatization that I know. Therefore, this is speculative opinion only. Conservatives often make and support policy on feeling rather than hard evidence, whilst libertarians are more likely to look at evidence. Hence the differences on things like the drug war. Therefore, acting on speculative opinion is essentially conservative and totally unlibertarian.

Plus it is against libertarian principles to use the ends to justify the means. It is a very conservative but not libertarian thing to do. For example, plenty of libertarians, myself included, do believe that legalising marijuana may have adverse effects on societal productivity and welfare dependence. Yet only conservatives, not libertarians, believe that the status quo of criminalising marijuana should be maintained because of this. The conservative worldview generally supports using anti-liberty means to achieve desired outcomes, whilst the libertarian worldview requires one to support liberty as a principle. Another great example is where conservatives often support wars to 'spread liberty and democracy' but libertarians almost never do, even though they too believe in liberty and democracy.

Therefore, I believe arguments like these are purely conservative and incompatible with libertarian thinking.

3. Marriage Privatization Is Impracticable As A Political Goal
This argument is often put forth by liberals and libertarians who believe that there is nothing we can do about government control of marriage. I have to disagree here. I believe we are not going to achieve the ideal of getting the word marriage replaced by the word civil unions everywhere in law in the next 30 or more years. But that doesn't mean that we cannot have a change in culture and even some changes in law that supports the idea of marriage as a cultural institution defined by the couple and their families and community first and foremost. We need to lay the groundwork and win the cultural argument first.

In the West, marriage has been in the hands of the government for a few centuries. Marriage privatization will take time. It will definitely be a much longer term thing than reforms like marriage equality. I believe full legalisation of marijuana and euthanasia will even come before legal marriage privatization. But one day its time will come. We just have to be patient.