Abolishing legal recognition of marriage is a bad idea

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Scott Ott, the artist formerly known as Scrappleface, is an evangelical Christian and a writer for PJMedia. He has joined the chorus of too-clever-by-half folks who say the way to deal with societal disagreement over the nature and purpose of marriage is to abolish state recognition of marriage.

Liberty-loving people, who revere the extraordinary innovation of a government that guards individual rights, should work now to get government out of the business of marriage licenses, employee benefits based on marital status, tax breaks for married couples, and any other kind of regulation or benefit, regarding marriage or marriage substitutes.

Here in Oklahoma, certain Republican voices have echoed his sentiments and reasoning, including party activists Richard Engle and David Van Risseghem.

The top-rated comments to Ott's column all disagree with him and point out the consequences of removing government recognition of a fundamental unit of society that arises organically from the nature of human reproduction. Here is the top comment by someone calling herself "werewife":

Sorry to have to join the general dissent here, and for a nonreligious reason. The leftist program is to reduce the active institutions of society to just two: The atomized single individual, and the sovereign omnipotent State. Everything in between - the congregation, the workplace, the club, the sports league or community theater company or moms' playgroup or whatever, and especially the FAMILY - will be reduced to an entirely personal and private matter with no status whatsoever in the public realm which the almighty State must respect, unless the group itself is an active arm/agent of the State. The Soviet Union ran on such a principle. Soon enough these United States will too, and proposals like the above will only make it easier.

For an expanded discussion of this idea, see Stella Morabito's piece at The Federalist, "How Personal Relationships Threaten The Power of the State". Morabito is responding to an article that praises a single mother who chose to keep the child's father out of their lives, and she quotes several leftist and feminist authors who see intact families as a source of inequality. Morabito writes:

In all of their ponderings about inequality, our progressive friends never fully address the ultimate source of human misery: isolation brought about by broken and weak human relationships. Of course, cultivating strong human relationships would be counter-productive to an agenda that aims to grow impersonal bureaucracy and its attendant power cliques....

Some of the 12 year olds in Lily's world are in the business of telling all of us what to do and how to live, and ensuring that the only enduring relationships we have are with our government keepers. Others among them -- in politics, academia, the media, Hollywood -- will keep in place conditions that that suppress strong personal relationships. Why? Because only weakened human relationships and alienation can serve to build a culture of distrust, envy, and divisions in class, gender, race, etc. that empowers an elite "vanguard"--among whom, politicians, academics and media moguls are prominent.

By enabling a culture of excess in which self-absorption and self-indulgence reign supreme, power elites seem invested in guaranteeing our problems will be self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating. Their bait -- sloth, sex, and nonstop mind-numbing entertainment - is a feel-good trap. Nothing substantial can be built on what they offer, least of all solid relationships....

It seems funny, doesn't it, how progressive agendas always seem to begin as "solutions" in search of problems? Collectivist agendas breed alienation, isolation, distrust, and dependency, which produce poverty, social chaos, and epidemic anxiety, which soften the ground for collectivist agendas. The myth of "inequality" is perpetuated with the prescription that further isolates people from one another.

Totalitarian states have a history (and a present-day practice) of banning groups operating independently of the state, no matter how apparently benign or apolitical their purpose, because any group can pose a threat to the state's power. Consider the illegal independent labor union in Poland, Solidarity, which brought down the communist government, aided by a Catholic hierarchy that the Communist Party had tolerated. The Chinese Communists didn't make the same mistake: They have government-controlled Catholic-style and Protestant-style churches; independent churches (known as "house churches") are illegal and subject to persecution. The Chinese government has been relentless in pursuit of a system of eastern philosophy called Falun Gong.

It is also standard practice for totalitarian governments to sow the seeds of distrust and alienation everywhere, but especially within families. Children are indoctrinated in the state ideology and taught to identify and report deviationist thought by their parents. There are no independent clubs for children, only the state-run Young Pioneers. Betrayal is rewarded; loyalty makes you subject to collective punishment.

Earlier this year, I saw the "Operation Pedro Pan" exhibit at the History Miami museum. The exhibit powerfully recounts the experiences of the children (mostly in their late pre-teens or early teens) who were airlifted to foster homes in the United States in the early days of the Cuban Revolution. The Castro government had nationalized the schools, including church-run schools, and Christian Cuban parents sent their children to the US to keep them from being indoctrinated by the Communists and against family and religion. (More about that exhibit another time.)

Here are a few more apt comments on Ott's piece. Ruta22 writes:

You lost me at "a government that guards individual rights". Your argument is a bad joke. Another example of someone who doesn't get what's really going on. Disappointing would be an understatement.

Basically, you call for us to cede both public space and government to leftwing totalitarians. Don't pretend otherwise. If you don't understand yet what the leftist plan to do in that vacuum, you need to go read some history. There's a much bigger, organized plan by the left going on that you're not willing to admit to.

I'd write more, but why bother? Anyone who can write "let's be the people of liberty who help them escape from the burden of law through Jesus" doesn't understand that the day that you are no longer allowed to openly preach about Jesus may soon be coming. That's the whole point to the leftist game plan. Got it?

"Cruising Troll" points out that the issue is not how two people relate to each other, but how society deals with this intimate relationship and its consequences:

This is the case in EVERY human society, whether a Stone Age tribe hidden in the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin or the most "advanced" secular European country. Custom and law (the two ARE related) guide how we treat these relationships, both developed over long periods of time based on human experience.

So no Scott, you're wrong about marriage. Anybody who says that government has no place to "incentivize or reward or restrain mutually-voluntary intimate relationships" is either ignorant, naive, or evil. I fully understand the libertarian impulse behind such a statement, but it is misplaced. Perhaps sufficient wealth and technology can successfully ameliorate the realities that have resulted in EVERY human society having a particular intimate relationship called "marriage" that is distinctly different from merely two (or more) people shaggin' in the bushes, but color me skeptical.

It's certainly reasonable to ask whether a particular government policy/law regarding marriage is rational, and a libertarian perspective can be valuable in assessing the matter, but less so if it starts from a position of naivete.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 10, 2015 9:11 AM.

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