Skip to comments.Notes on the Institution of Marriage
Posted on 05/19/2014 6:49:09 AM PDT by Nelson Hultberg
In todays rapidly disintegrating, do-your-own-thing culture, our pundits, professors, and judges are in desperate need of some powerful doses of rationality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the conflict over the institution of marriage and what its definition is to be. What follows are several insights that hopefully will clear up some egregiously warped notions being bandied about by Americas intelligentsia.
In a free and ordered society (which is what those of us on the political right maintain as the ideal) the defining of marriage cannot be left up to individual whim. It must be defined by the predominant institution of authority in society, which in our day is the state while in earlier times it was the church.
Why is this so? Because if adult individuals were allowed to freely define marriage as they see fit, polygamy and the building of harems would soon become part of the cultural landscape, various besotted hippies would be requesting licenses to mate with their pet dogs or horses, and certain sicko men would demand to hook up with their 18-year old nubile daughters.
Contrary to what Rousseaus modern progeny believe about the innate goodness and rationality of man, there are millions of innately crude and animalistic humans in this world, and there always will be. In the absence of a government definition of marriage as an institution (on the state level), these distasteful humans would instinctively seek to flaunt their egos especially in todays culture of rampant moral relativism.
History and the intractabilities of human nature tell us it is not possible to make marriage a purely voluntary endeavor devoid of authoritative definition and licensing. A rational society enshrines rules to define its fundamental institutions; it does not allow human whim to dictate their structure. These rules, societys intellectuals glean from a synthesis of reason, experience, and intuition down through the centuries. We call this synthesis right reason, i.e., the practical wisdom that societys foremost thinkers hand down to us. If our thinkers do their job right, they teach the people what these rules are, which then manifests in a free and ordered society via democratic vote and federalism.
Many libertarians will object to the above reasoning, for they espouse the right of individuals to partake in whatever is peaceful and does not infringe upon the rights of others. Thus they maintain that individuals should be allowed to define marriage as they see fit. But do these same libertarians object to the state prohibiting close relatives from marrying? I know of none who do, even though such a marriage act is peaceful. Thus wise men and women conclude that prohibitive marital definition on the part of society is sane and logical. Under our system of Lockean federalism the states need to define what a marriage is.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
As for the present brouhaha over same-sex marriages instigated by todays gay and lesbian community, it would not be an issue in a truly free society in which government was properly (i.e., constitutionally) limited in other words where individuals were free to associate or not to associate. It is only because gays and lesbians have gained the power through the courts to force their acceptance in the various social interactions of humans that they are now demanding to have same-sex unions equated legally with heterosexual marriage. In a society that was free to voluntarily accept and reject its associations, homosexual citizens would no longer have the ability to mandate their acceptance (i.e., sledgehammer their lifestyle into social approval). Consequently, they would have to become sexually discreet again. Their demand to equate same-sex unions with heterosexual marriage would dissipate in face of the more important need to get along in a society that had the right to freely approve or disapprove.
This is a perfect example of why the right to freedom of association is so important in the maintenance of a free and ordered society. Once any group be it racial minorities, females, or homosexuals gains the ability to legally mandate its automatic acceptance by everyone else (i.e., overrule the right to freedom of association), then there is no longer an adequate check on the customs, practices, and lifestyles permitted in that society. Whatever humans can dream up and descend into will then develop among the members of that society, and they will relentlessly push for its inclusion into what is accepted by the dominant authorities of the culture. This is the nature of humans. They have a tendency to partake in whatever will not incur disapproval from their fellow humans. The freedom not to associate is one of societys forms of disapproval. Liberals denounce it and legislate against it, but it is a very natural and needed disapproval in the preservation of cultural order.
Todays chaos of values is primarily the result of the moral relativism that has seeped into the teachings of our intellectuals over the past 90 years. But to a certain degree, it is also the result of our abandonment of the fundamental right to freedom of association in society. This abandonment has created open season for any and all lifestyles, no matter how bizarre and irrational, to manifest themselves.
Does this mean that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens and can be treated with contempt? Of course not. They are humans with the same rights as heterosexuals, and they deserve to be treated with the same respect and civility that one conveys to all other human beings. But they do not have the right to legislatively mandate their acceptance. Whatever acceptance in society they are to gain must come voluntarily through reason and persuasion.
THE NATURAL ORDER
Historically the conflict of values between hetero and homosexual humans has always been solved through the practice of discreetness. Homosexuality is tolerated in a civil society as long as it is not flaunted and does not attempt to establish alternative lifestyle status via judicial coercion. Quite simply, gay and lesbian sexuality is different from straight sexuality. It is not an alternative; it is an unnatural form of sex because it does not, in the words of legal philosopher Robert P. George, fulfill the two-in-one-flesh communion of persons that is consummated and actualized by acts that are reproductive in type, whether or not they are reproductive in effect (or are motivated, even in part, by a desire to reproduce).
This is the defining characteristic of marriage validated by the wisdom that has been handed down through thousands of years of human history: Marriage is a merging of two persons consummated by reproductive type acts. Gay and lesbian sexuality does not engage in reproductive type acts. Thus it is not an equal union to that of man and woman and therefore not a marriage. It goes back to Aristotles famous Law of Identity: A is A, B is B. A thing is what it is because of its nature. A rock can never be an orchid. And a gay union can never be a heterosexual marriage.
There is a natural order in existence, and government should not be used to coerce people into accepting a disorder or a lie. For example, the Federal Reserves fiat paper money can never achieve parity with a gold dollar. Governments legal tender laws mandating that paper money must be considered the same as gold are an attempt to codify a lie into fact. Such self-deception can only bring decay and derision throughout society. The same applies to a government mandating that homosexual unions must be considered the same as heterosexual marriages by the countrys citizens. A deviation from the norm can never have parity with the norm.
Obviously gays and lesbians have a right to equality under the law, but this means only that they have the same right as all other citizens in society to form a contractual union and have it upheld by the law. It does not mean they have the right to coerce their fellowman by judicial decree into accepting such a union as a marriage. Marriage has, for thousands of years and for very sound reasons, been legally defined as between opposite sexes. Judges do not have the right to change this; only the people do.
We must understand that much of legality is dictated by cultural mores manifesting in majority approval. Both conservatives and libertarians are very concerned with the concept of individual rights as a foundation of our laws, but conservatives understand that individual rights do not dictate all laws in society.
For example, the freedom of citizens to form contractual unions is dictated by the concept of individual rights. But the legal definition of such contractual unions is dictated by our cultural mores manifesting in a vote of the people. Thus judges cannot dictate which unions are to be defined as marriages, for individual rights are not involved. Our cultural mores will decide this via right reason and majority vote. In other words, there is no such thing as a legal right to have ones associations defined in a specific way. Our culture will determine who is to be defined as married, not our courts.
Moreover, if gay men and lesbian women are allowed to codify their unions into marriages because of feelings for each other, then so also should straight men with each other and straight women with each other. Why should not any pair of friends be allowed to legally marry? But as a society we dont legalize this. The institution of marriage is, by the laws of nature, a union of a man and a woman. To extend it to every conceivable pairing of humans desecrates its spiritual link, its rational purpose, and its practical necessity. Such obtuse egalitarianism is insane.
We as a people must come to grips with what Jefferson termed the natural aristocracy that is inherent in human existence, i.e., the hierarchy of disparate achievement that individuals will bring about when left free. Lifes earnings, relations, status levels, economic results, and positions of power cannot be equalized in society. We all have imperfections that we must learn to live with. My imperfect mug can never have parity with Cary Grants; I must accept this and build my life voluntarily in accord with the Constitution and the traditional mores of civilization discerned by "right reason." Gays and lesbians must do likewise with their imperfect sexual orientation. Freedom mandates this. To blank out on such a truth, as our reigning pundits and professors are doing today, is to destroy the vital spiritual-ideological glue that cements the infinite variations of humanity into a free and cohesive society.
[This article is based upon an excerpt from Nelson Hultbergs book, The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values.]
We certainly need to understand the experience derived premises of the traditional thinking that we embrace, as Conservatives and as rational beings with a recognition of the importance of intellectual integrity. But, in my own experience. to be really effective, we need to recognize also, as a core principle, that the generic adversary is largely driven by compulsion, greed, or some other base emotion. This does not mean that we should not address the realities of nature & human existence; but the major effort must be to reach those who have been misled, which necessitates learning to discern who has been misled as opposed to whom is driven by neurotic impulses, or evil intent, or other purely base motivations.
Don’t bother; he’s a post-and-run blog pimp.
For someone who purports to be a libertarian, he begins with a surprisingly statist premise: “the defining of marriage cannot be left up to individual whim. It must be defined by the predominant institution of authority in society, which in our day is the state...”
He thus misses the libertarian argument against “same sex marriage”, to wit, that it represents an arrogation of power to the state — the state has never heretofore defined marriage, only regulated it — nor for that matter did the Church, either East or West, only regulated and blessed it — the definition, like the institution, was (and is for those of us who do not recognize the state’s purported authority to redefine the nature of non-state institutions) something that existed from time immemorial, prior to any state or any religion.
Admittedly he may miss this because he has a libertarian sensibility which sees only the individual and the state (very much like a leftist sensibility, but with the opposite valuation placed upon the roles of the two) and ignores the institutions of the non-state civil society which we conservatives value very much (marriages, families, churches, and various other associations of individuals for many purposes that are in some way greater than the sum of their parts).
Marriage is the familial, societal, governmental, and economic building block of our civilization, our country, and our communities. It is a God-ordained, God-given institution, the first and most important one. It is fundamental to the laws of nature and of natures God, and absolutely necessary to the fulfillment of the ultimate stated purpose of the U.S. Constitution, which is to secure the Blessings of Liberty to our Posterity. It must be fiercely defended on every front from any and all who would pervert it or subvert it, or America cannot possibly survive. The attack on the natural family represents an existential threat.
There isn't a libertarian argument against homosexuals marrying, the libertarian position is gay equality, including in marriage, the military, adoption,etc.
The state and religions, and tribes have always defined marriage, you just didn't notice it, but if you showed up in 1790 and wanted your marriage recognized by the Army, or for a marriage license, you and your boyfriend wouldn't make the cut, nor in ancient Rome, or Greece, or when the Catholic church made marriage law.
The fact that a "marriage" between "Adam and Steve" would not have been recognized by the any of the several states in 1790 or the Latin Church (or for that matter the Orthodox Church) or the Roman Empire, does not mean that those institutions defined marriage, but that they recognized what marriage is, rather than arrogating to themselves the purported authority to redefine it. A married couple arriving in the Roman Empire from the Persian Empire or the lands of the Scythians would be understood to be married, even though neither the Roman civil authorities or, in latter times, the Orthodox Church, had married them. A couple married by the Church (East or West) travelling along the silk road to China would have been understood to be married by all the various cultures, religions and societies they met.
The notion that regulation or registration by the state makes something into a state institution, defined by the state, able to be modified by the state, is a profoundly statist notion, and as such anti-libertarian.
There are all kinds of variation in marriage, and always has been, polygamy, limited polygamy, monogamy, even in America we had problems with polygamy, it is one reason for the creation of the Republican party.
I said that gay marriage would not have been recognized by the federal government in 1790, just as polygamy was outside the definition of marriage.
And don’t start writing my posts for me about the state, controlling authority has always defined marriage for it’s own culture.
“”The state and religions, and tribes have always defined marriage, you just didn’t notice it, but if you showed up in 1790 and wanted your marriage recognized by the Army, or for a marriage license, you and your boyfriend wouldn’t make the cut, nor in ancient Rome, or Greece, or when the Catholic church made marriage law.””
Libertarianism supports gay marriage, and polygamy, and whatever, libertarians are idiots and liars about marriage, they have no opposition to gay marriage and polygamy, only against conservatism.
States and the feds could only disallow what didn’t fit their legal definition of marriage.