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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: November 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gay Marriage, Religious Rights, and Freedom of Association

California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure aiming to outlaw same sex marriage, passed on a very close vote. Prop 8’s supporters* pushed a campaign of fear, misinformation, and a complete distortion of the meaning of individual liberty. This campaign commercial is typical of the intolerance and hysteria being promoted from the “yes” campaign.

Argument #1: Churches could be forced to marry gay people.

Argument #2: Religious adoption agencies could be forced to allow gay couples to adopt children; some adoption agencies would close their doors as a result.

Argument #3: Those who speak out against gay marriage on religious grounds will be labeled “intolerant” and subjected to legal penalties or social ridicule. Careers could be threatened.

Argument #4: Schools will teach students that marriage is between “party a” and “party b” regardless of gender. Schools also teach health and sexuality and would now include discussions of homosexuality.

Argument #5: There will be “serious clashes” between public schools and parents who wish to teach their children their values concerning marriage.

Argument #6: Allowing gays to marry will restrict or eliminate liberties of “everyone.” (Example: Photographers who do not want to work at same sex weddings)

Argument #7: If Prop 8 fails, religious liberty and free speech rights will be adversely affected.

My response to these arguments is that we should be advocating for more freedom for everyone rather than restrict freedom of a group or class of people. The state should recognize the same contract rights** for a gay couple as it would between a man and a woman. To get around the whole definition of marriage issue, I would propose that as far as the state is concerned, any legally recognized intimate relationship between consenting adults should be called a “domestic partnership.” From there the churches or secular equivalent to churches should have the right to decide who they will marry and who they will not (just as they do now).

Rather than subject an individual’s rights to a vote or either party forcing their values on the other, we should instead advocate freedom of association and less government in our everyday lives. Somewhere along the way, we as a people decided that the government should involve itself more and more into the relationships of private actors. The government now has the ability to dictate to business owners quotas of who they must hire, family leave requirements, how much their employees must be paid, and how many hours they work (among other requirements). For the most part, businesses which serve the public cannot deny service to individuals for fear of a lawsuit.

A return to a freedom of association society would remedy arguments 1, 2, 6, and 7 from this ad. As to Argument #3, the anti-gay marriage folks are going to have to realize that in a free society, they are going to have to deal with “social ridicule”*** or being called intolerant. Anyone who takes a stand on any issue is going to be criticized and called names. In a freedom of association society, an employer would have every right to decide to layoff individuals who hold views or lifestyles they disagree with.

While we’re on the subject of intolerance, perhaps we should take a moment to consider if people who would deny equivalent rights which come with marriage are intolerant. This ad is exactly the same as the previous ad except that the words “same sex” and "gays" have been replaced with “interracial.”

Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when there were such laws against interracial marriage. Those who argued against interracial marriage made very similar arguments to what the anti-gay marriage people are making now. Today most of us would say those people were intolerant.

Intolerance aside, Arguments 4 and 5 can also be answered by reducing the role of government in our lives. What the “yes” people should be arguing for is a separation of school and state. While we as a nation are trending toward more government involvement in K-12 education, those who do not want the government schools to teach their children the birds and the bees or enter into discussions of homosexuality can put their children in private schools which share their values or home school. School Choice is the obvious answers to these concerns.

Prop 8’s supporters have turned the whole idea of individual liberty on its head. They claim that in order to preserve the rights of the greatest number of people a minority of people necessarily must sacrifice their rights. This is absurd and dangerous. Perhaps it is this complete misunderstanding of individual rights among Californians which contributed to Prop 8’s passage.

When explained properly, the rights of life, liberty, and property is the easiest concept to understand.

Posted Elsewhere:

Dan Melson @ Searchlight Crusade has written a very thought provoking post on this issue. Some of his arguments I agree with, others I don’t but all of his points are well argued.

Hat Tip: The Friendly Atheist

*The Mormon Church among the strongest supporters; it seems ironic that a group which once promoted plural marriage is now advocating for marriage consisting of “one man and one woman.”

**Don’t even try to give me that tired slippery slope argument that “If we allow the gays to marry, what’s next? Will we then allow a man to marry his dog/cat/goat or an inanimate object?” Only an adult of sound mind can enter a contract; an animal or an inanimate object cannot.

***I’m not quite clear on what they mean on this point. Are they saying that people who disagree with them should not be allowed to criticize them or call them names? Does this mean that since Prop 8 passed they won’t have to deal with being called intolerant or subject to social ridicule? It seems the anti-gay marriage folks are trying to have it both ways on free speech.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Technical Problems @ The Liberty Papers

If you have tried to visit The Liberty Papers today, you undoubtedly saw the error which reads: “This Domain ( Has Been Disabled.” The blog’s administrator, Brad Warbiany, informed me and the other contributors that the blog’s host (Bluehost) has been hacked; most if not all other sites which are hosted by Bluehost are having the same technical problems.

Those of you who enjoy The Liberty Papers will be happy to know that this is only a temporary setback. We are in the process of finding another host which will hopefully have better customer and technical service.

We don’t know how long the site will be down but in the meantime, I will be posting more posts here @ Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds and you can be sure the other contributors will also be busy posting on their blogs as well. If you are not as familiar with their blogs and their writing, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to them and their blogs.

Brad Warbiany @ The Unrepentant Individual : All things’ regarding individual liberty, home brewing, college football, fatherhood, and now Krispy Dips! If you enjoy snark and humor even regarding serious (and not so serious) issues, you’ll love this blog.

Doug Mataconis @ Below the Beltway : A lawyer by trade (but we don’t hold that against him J ) just outside the beltway provides special insight in the current state of liberty in America. If you haven’t read his work, you are truly missing out.

Jason Pye @ : Libertarian activist in Georgia, Jason volunteered for the Bob Barr campaign was a delegate to the 2008 Libertarian Convention in Denver, involved with Pork Busters and numerous other pro-liberty causes. Jason has been featured on his local TV news for Georgia Pork Busters and has been a guest on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “The Blog Bunker.”

Chris Byrne The Anarchangel : Not to be confused with the street magician, this gun toting Miniarchist from Phoenix, AZ doesn’t mince words and doesn’t back down from a fight. With the Anarchangel, be sure to check your political correctness at the door.

Quincy @ Pith ‘n Vinegar : Quincy posts very infrequently @ The Liberty Papers but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything to say! You’ll find most of his writing in the comments sections of other contributors and his blog. Intelligent, witty, and always plenty of pith ‘n vinegar.

UPDATE: The Liberty Papers is up and running again.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Libertarian’s Advice for Republicans and Republican Leaders

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism [...] The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.
-Ronald Reagan (1975)

For the second election in a row, you find yourselves on the losing end. A significant majority of Americans have lost confidence in you and your lack of vision.

As you debate amongst yourselves the reasons why you lost the White House as well as numerous seats in both houses of Congress, perhaps this former Republican who has flirted with the Libertarian Party* over the last decade can offer you some helpful advice and constructive criticism. While I do not presume to speak on behalf of the many thousands of disillusioned former libertarian- leaning small government Republicans who were once a valued voting bloc in Ronald Reagan's "conservative coalition," I am quite certain that there are many others who would agree with my appraisal of why you find yourselves in the position you are in.

President-Elect Barack Obama is wrong about a great many things but one thing he (and his party) has which you do not is clearly defined principles and the ability to communicate these principles effectively. I know what the Democratic Party stands for, what does the Republican Party stand for?

I know what the modern meanings of the terms "liberal" and "progressive" mean, but I have no idea what the modern meaning of the term "conservative" means. I have recently seen polls which ask the following question:

The Republicans lost the election because
a. The Republican Party is too conservative
b. The Republican Party is not conservative enough

I find this question to be impossible to answer!

If by "conservative" one means a party which appeals almost exclusively to white Christian male culture warriors whose primary agenda is using the police power of government to accomplish desired political goals, then my answer would be "a."

If by "conservative" one means promoting the rights of life, liberty, and property then clearly, my answer would be "b."

I do not believe the ambiguity of the term "conservative" is by accident. "Conservative" is every bit the nebulous term as we have heard ad nauseam from the Obama campaign (i.e. "hope" and "change"). Because these terms are so under defined, each person who hears these buzzwords assigns his or her own meaning to them. I seem to recall every candidate in the Republican primary refer to himself as a "conservative" or even a "Reagan conservative" at one time or another. How is it possible that candidates with philosophical differences as stark as that of Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani both claim to be conservative?

Now that I have pointed out your apparent error of asking the wrong question (garbage in, garbage out right?) to try to regain the trust of a majority of voters, I believe it is time for you to explain what exactly a conservative is. My understanding of the term is more in line with what Barry Goldwater described in Conscience of a Conservative** as opposed to what the Republican Party has offered in the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 campaigns.

I realize that a political party cannot be all things to all people but all of your constituents deserve to have a clear understanding of where your party is going. Does this mean that moving forward that you will have to choose between two very large voting blocs - small government conservatives and social conservatives?

This depends completely on how you choose to frame the issues. Where the Republican Party seems to stand now is that government can and should be used to force individuals to behave a certain way***. This approach is completely at odds with the small government conservative approach that undesirable behavior can be changed with the power of persuasion**** rather than force. Is it possible that the Libertarian Party has an approach that a majority of social conservatives could live with? Perhaps you could learn something from The 2008 Libertarian Party Platform:

(From the Preamble)

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

This approach to governance that the Libertarian Party offers is why I have left the Republican Party and voted accordingly. Thus far, I have not seen any evidence that your party will become the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom. Some of the names I have heard bandied about as the "new face" of the Republican Party such as Mitt "Romney Care" Romney, Sarah "I can see Russia from my house" Palin, and "Tax Hike Mike" Huckabee suggests that you are yet to learn why small government conservatives are leaving in droves.

This is not to say that you will continue to lose every election until you return Goldwater/Reagan conservatism. There is a good chance that you will regain one or both houses of Congress in 2010 and perhaps the presidency in 2012*****. But if you wish to win elections and stay elected, you will need to return to these philosophical roots.

Until that day comes, I will continue to support the Libertarian Party and only support Republicans who demonstrate in word and deed their wishes to shrink the size, scope, and power of government. *And has recently joined the Libertarian Party and voted for another Republican turned Libertarian (Bob Barr) for president in this election.

**I would recommend everyone in a leadership capacity of the G.O.P. to read this book. I am certain that all of you have it on a shelf collecting dust and cobwebs. I would also recommend Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (read John Galt's speech if nothing else) to learn why lovers of liberty such as myself were very turned off by the McCain campaign's collectivist references to "a cause greater than self," "sacrifice," and "the common good."

***Abortion, end of life issues (right to die with dignity), gay marriage, gambling, drug use, prostitution, blue laws, etc. are all examples of personal choices that social conservatives believe should be regulated or abolished.

****Persuasion as in convincing individuals to make a different choice with a compelling argument. No matter how much one tries whether using persuasion or force, not everyone will make the "right" decision. This is a fact of life we need to learn to deal with.

***** Due to the unrealistically high expectations Obama set for himself, many of his supporters will be sorely disappointed when they learn he is a mere mortal. I also believe the Democrats will overreach and try to take the country further to the Left than a majority of Americans are prepared for.
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