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Should Marriage Be Within The Scope of Government?

Xerographica

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Over at the Bleeding Heart Libertarian website, Jason Brennan wrote an entry on marriage equality... Mmm, these bullets I'm biting are tasty. Here's the trap he (a BHL) sets out for regular libertarians...

1. The government gives married people rights and privileges.
2. Rights and privileges established by the government are unjust.
3. Allowing gay people to get married would increase the total amount of injustice.

One of the comments matches part of my perspective pretty closely...

"There is a sound logic to 1 and 2, but the conclusion I would draw is rather than allow gay marriage, straight marriages should be eliminated." - OH

The problem with the BHL project is that it largely ignores economics. In other words, most of the supporters suffer from the same disease as liberals. So thought I'd take this opportunity to consider the economic aspect of marriage.

Markets produce the maximum benefit because people are free to trade with whoever maximizes their benefit. So the concepts of "exit" and "entry" are central to economics...

What do we want with a Socialist then, who, under pretence of organizing for us, comes despotically to break up our voluntary arrangements, to check the division of labour, to substitute isolated efforts for combined ones, and to send civilization back? Is association, as I describe it here, in itself less association, because every one enters and leaves it freely, chooses his place in it, judges and bargains for himself on his own responsibility, and brings with him the spring and warrant of personal interest? That it may deserve this name, is it necessary that a pretended reformer should come and impose upon us his plan and his will, and as it were, to concentrate mankind in himself? - Frédéric Bastiat

The thing is, even Bryan Caplan, a libertarian economist who should know better, rationalizes his way into supporting the government's involvement in marriage...Policy Implications of the Marriage Premium.

As Kevin Spacey's character in House of Cards said, "When the tit's that big, everybody gets in line." Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Isn't that the free-rider problem?

When people enter into a marriage, it's because they perceive that the benefits will exceed the costs. The greater the disparity between perception and reality...the greater the incentive to exit the arrangement. Divorce is simply the consequence of the costs exceeding the benefits.

Since the consumption of nations or the governments which represent them, occasions a loss of value, and consequently, of wealth, it is only so far justifiable, as there results from it some national advantage, equivalent to the sacrifice of value. The whole skill of government, therefore, consists in the continual and judicious comparison of the sacrifice about to be incurred, with the expected benefit to the community; for I have no hesitation in pronouncing every instance, where the benefit is not equivalent to the loss, to be an instance of folly, or of criminality, in the government. - J.B. Say

It would be criminal if you were forced to stay in a marriage in which the costs exceeded the benefits. Right?

So should the government be in the marriage business? How can we, as a society, truly know whether the benefits exceed the costs?

But on the other hand, imagine that this fatal principle has been introduced: Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few—whether farmers, manufacturers, shipowners, artists, or comedians. Under these circumstances, then certainly every class will aspire to grasp the law, and logically so. - Frédéric Bastiat

Yeah, the free-rider problem.

Imagine that the government was not in the marriage business. Then it would be up to private organizations to recognize the contracts between two...or more...individuals. It doesn't take much of a stretch to imagine that churches would be in the marriage business. Why would churches be in the marriage business? Why is any private organization in any business? It's simply because the benefits exceed the costs. It should be really hard to be in any business when the costs exceed the benefits.

Imagine the Old Church only gives marriages to straight people while the New Church gives marriages to anybody. Where's the difficulty? Which church gives you the most benefit? Which church provides the biggest tit for you to suck? You'd make up your mind and give your buck to whichever church gives you the most bang.

Right now the government provides a damn big tit. Hey Jason Brennan...is the tit you're sucking on tasty? Mmmmm...good?

Isn't it weird when adults drink milk? When I was a little kid I drank both real milk and soy milk. Now I just drink soy milk.
 

JP Hochbaum

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As a libertarian I actually agree. People who get married should not have benefits for doing so.
 

austrianecon

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No group should get benefits. Get rid of all special deductions and drop the tax rate by 10%.
 

Xerographica

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As a libertarian I actually agree. People who get married should not have benefits for doing so.

You're a libertarian? So what responsibilities fall within the proper scope of government?
 

samsmart

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Over at the Bleeding Heart Libertarian website, Jason Brennan wrote an entry on marriage equality... Mmm, these bullets I'm biting are tasty. Here's the trap he (a BHL) sets out for regular libertarians...

1. The government gives married people rights and privileges.
2. Rights and privileges established by the government are unjust.
3. Allowing gay people to get married would increase the total amount of injustice.

There is a fallacy here.

Another way of looking at it is:
1. The government denies same sex couples rights and privileges.
2. The government denying one group the rights and privileges that another group has is unjust.
3. The government no longer prohibiting gay people to get marred would increase the total amount of justice.
 

Real Korimyr #9

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I disagree with your second premise. Some privileges granted by government serve the benefit of society-- not least of which are the copyright and patent laws that make intellectual property possible.

The privileges granted to married couples are in keeping with the purpose of encouraging marriage for the benefit of society.
 

iguanaman

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I disagree with your second premise. Some privileges granted by government serve the benefit of society-- not least of which are the copyright and patent laws that make intellectual property possible.

The privileges granted to married couples are in keeping with the purpose of encouraging marriage for the benefit of society.

I agree and there is no reason to discriminate those benefits by denying them to a part of society. It is the same as the racial discrimination that used to exist.
 

Xerographica

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There is a fallacy here.

Another way of looking at it is:
1. The government denies same sex couples rights and privileges.
2. The government denying one group the rights and privileges that another group has is unjust.
3. The government no longer prohibiting gay people to get marred would increase the total amount of justice.

There aren't a lot of options here.

A. the government gives perks to married people. In this case it's discriminating against single people.

B. the government does not give perks to married people. In this case there's no point for marriage to be within the scope of government.
 

samsmart

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There aren't a lot of options here.

A. the government gives perks to married people. In this case it's discriminating against single people.

B. the government does not give perks to married people. In this case there's no point for marriage to be within the scope of government.

It's not a perk. It's an incentive for the government to hire good employees. And the private sector provides them as well.
 

Xerographica

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I disagree with your second premise. Some privileges granted by government serve the benefit of society-- not least of which are the copyright and patent laws that make intellectual property possible.

The privileges granted to married couples are in keeping with the purpose of encouraging marriage for the benefit of society.

My second premise? You're disagreeing with Jason Brennan's pseudo argument. My only premise is that taxpayers should be allowed to choose where their taxes go. Would you be willing to put your own tax dollars where your mouth is? I'm fine with the government being in the marriage business...as long as I have the option to spend my own tax dollars on more important things.
 

Xerographica

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It's not a perk. It's an incentive for the government to hire good employees. And the private sector provides them as well.

I have no idea what you're talking about.

  1. Every endeavor uses society's limited resources.
  2. Supplying married people with licences, perks, rights, privileges is an endeavor
  3. Therefore, the government uses society's limited resources to be in the marriage business
  4. Could these resources be better used elsewhere?
  5. How do we determine the best use of society's limited resources?
  6. Shopping.
If taxpayers truly benefit from government marriage... then given the opportunity, they would give enough of their own tax dollars to keep the government in the marriage business. If taxpayers wouldn't be willing to pay for government marriage, then government marriage would go bankrupt.
 

Spartacus FPV

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I don't believe the government should be involved in marriage at all, it should not be a legal institution but a mere declaration of intentions between two consenting (or more, **** it) people.

We can easily can all laws relating to marriage, and sort out any other complications (next of kin, health care decisions, DNRs etc..)
 

Guy Incognito

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No libertarian can support government recognition of marriages.
 

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There are many things that people get wrong about this subject. The government recognizes legal family. It ensures that legal family has top priority in many things, such as say over medical/financial dealings, children, etc. when someone else can't. Who will enforce this if not the government? We however as a culture believe that spouses should be the closest next of kin to an adult who chooses to have one.

A spouse is really another relative, just one with extra because of where we have placed a spouse and what we consider the type of relationship that spouses have. For most couples, spouses share responsibilities of establishing and maintaining their house, financially, physically, emotionally, and where children are concerned. These aren't necessarily evenly distributed but that is a private affair between the spouses to decide. The government simply ensures that spouses are recognized as having that private familial partnership that entitles them to money/property earned/owned by their spouse should their spouse die/become incapacitated above anyone else.

There certainly are other things that could be considered "privileges" but honestly I want to know specifically why people have such a hard time seeing that most of the stuff is not really getting more than what single people get.

And don't start with taxes. Many married people still pay more in taxes than if they were each single. Even if only one person worked so they got a tax break from being married on just one income, you are also talking about a benefit to society for them being married since without the one spouse working, taking care of the other, then the non-working spouse would most likely be a burden to society since they aren't working now.
 

austrianecon

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Eh? If no group should benefit...then what would we be paying 10% for?

if you get rid of the benefits (deductions) you can lower tax rates for all. I.E. no mortgage tax deduction, marriage deduction, child deduction.. and so on.
 

roguenuke

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if you get rid of the benefits (deductions) you can lower tax rates for all. I.E. no mortgage tax deduction, marriage deduction, child deduction.. and so on.

Prove it. The Congressional Budget Committee did research on this and found that marriage is a positive on our national monetary intake, not a negative.

And child deductions are not connected to marriage at all. They are solely about whether you have a child or not.

You need to lay out exactly what costs marriage has on the government finances and compare those to the benefits of marriage. You cannot simply say well if we did this, it would be better, because you have no way of knowing that without taking into consideration the consequences of doing those things.

What if you only took away the bennies of marriage and left/added the bad things (people paying more taxes, spouses paying inheritance taxes, spouses not getting spousal SS, etc.) and more people ended up needing welfare? What if they simply didn't get married anymore, figuring "what's the point"? This could easily cause way more issues and financial problems for our country than that little bit that certain couples benefit from the government with marriage.
 

Xerographica

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There are many things that people get wrong about this subject. The government recognizes legal family. It ensures that legal family has top priority in many things, such as say over medical/financial dealings, children, etc. when someone else can't. Who will enforce this if not the government? We however as a culture believe that spouses should be the closest next of kin to an adult who chooses to have one.

You would simply tell the hospital who your next of kin was. Where's the difficulty?

A spouse is really another relative, just one with extra because of where we have placed a spouse and what we consider the type of relationship that spouses have. For most couples, spouses share responsibilities of establishing and maintaining their house, financially, physically, emotionally, and where children are concerned. These aren't necessarily evenly distributed but that is a private affair between the spouses to decide. The government simply ensures that spouses are recognized as having that private familial partnership that entitles them to money/property earned/owned by their spouse should their spouse die/become incapacitated above anyone else.

It's called a will.

And don't start with taxes. Many married people still pay more in taxes than if they were each single. Even if only one person worked so they got a tax break from being married on just one income, you are also talking about a benefit to society for them being married since without the one spouse working, taking care of the other, then the non-working spouse would most likely be a burden to society since they aren't working now.

When you pay taxes...do you get your money's worth of public goods?
 

Xerographica

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I can't define that in one sentence or in one forum post.

You can't delineate the proper scope of government in one forum post? Are you sure you're a libertarian?

While one can reject this notion of a stripped-down state, libertarianism is a principled and coherent worldview. It provides an answer to every question. Police departments and the army - yes. Just about everything else - no. Ask most politicians, from Gingrich to Clinton, what the role of the federal government is, and you'll get a stream of mush. Poke a libertarian and you'll get a response like the one Dick Armey gave shortly after becoming majority leader: "Defend our shores, build a system of justice, and construct some infrastructure. Gee, I'm running out of other suggestions." - Jacob Weisberg, The Coming Republican Crack-Up

Perhaps this illustration might help...

 

JP Hochbaum

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I just happen to know that today's libertarians are doing this whole liberty and non coercion thing incorrectly. They portray capitalism as the greatest thing ever but never explain why.

"The heart of libertarianism is the abstract individual, who engages in voluntary actions to attain certain ends, and should be allowed to do this, free from outside interference. But such an abstract philosophy is incomplete and incoherent. In the mainstream, Marx is often projected as disregarding the individual, but in fact, Marx was always highly concerned with the individual. The difference is that Marx’s concern with the individual caused him to zoom out to see the context in which the individual operates, and which aspects of an individual’s character are shaped by the context in which the individual labours. Under capitalism, the most important aspect of purposeful individual action – production – is subsumed, under the command of somebody else, and spurred only by the fact that the work is necessary for the worker’s survival.*** Hence, within his most purposive sphere, the individual is not free to act to realise his own ends through means chosen by him; rather, both the ends and the means are determined by forces outside his control. To me, this doesn’t seem very libertarian."

Yes, Libertarians Really Are Lazy Marxists | Unlearning Economics
 

Fisher

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I just happen to know that today's libertarians are doing this whole liberty and non coercion thing incorrectly. They portray capitalism as the greatest thing ever but never explain why.

"The heart of libertarianism is the abstract individual, who engages in voluntary actions to attain certain ends, and should be allowed to do this, free from outside interference. But such an abstract philosophy is incomplete and incoherent. In the mainstream, Marx is often projected as disregarding the individual, but in fact, Marx was always highly concerned with the individual. The difference is that Marx’s concern with the individual caused him to zoom out to see the context in which the individual operates, and which aspects of an individual’s character are shaped by the context in which the individual labours. Under capitalism, the most important aspect of purposeful individual action – production – is subsumed, under the command of somebody else, and spurred only by the fact that the work is necessary for the worker’s survival.*** Hence, within his most purposive sphere, the individual is not free to act to realise his own ends through means chosen by him; rather, both the ends and the means are determined by forces outside his control. To me, this doesn’t seem very libertarian."

Yes, Libertarians Really Are Lazy Marxists | Unlearning Economics

Well, first and most importantly, Libertarians have such an inconsistent doctrine with such unrealistic expectations of what would really happen if their policies were implemented, I think of them more as lazy anarchist. That said, everything has a season. Capitalism worked well enough in the US, but will not serve us well in the future given the competition from the global capitalists now. I think we need to start thinking about hybrid economic models.
 

roguenuke

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You would simply tell the hospital who your next of kin was. Where's the difficulty?

You're unconscious and someone claims they are your kin/spouse.


It's called a will.

Which most people don't have and you are not going to legally be able to force people to make a will. It would violate their rights and people aren't going to stand for it. The majority like having people considered their legal family.


When you pay taxes...do you get your money's worth of public goods?

Sure. I get paid. My husband gets paid. I get police protection if I need it. I get housing, insurance, etc. I get schooling for my children (in the near future anyway). I got schooled long ago. My family had schooling. I feel protected from internal and external enemies (at least to some degree). My kids aren't dying of lead poisoning or choking on smog. My family is free to explore the many protected, beautiful lands of this country, lands that I should one day work in to help protect. I recognize that I have a good life due in no small part to the country I live in.
 

Xerographica

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I just happen to know that today's libertarians are doing this whole liberty and non coercion thing incorrectly. They portray capitalism as the greatest thing ever but never explain why.

There are plenty of libertarians who have offered plenty of excellent explanations why capitalism is far superior to socialism...

...
...

Either you shop for yourself or somebody shops for you. Here you are shopping for yourself. This is you shopping for yourself. This isn't somebody deciding for you exactly how much of your own time you spend on this forum. This isn't somebody else deciding exactly how much time you spend on this thread. This is capitalism. It's your freedom to spend as much time/money as you want on whatever it is that you feel is important.

Can you explain why this is the greatest thing? Why do you call yourself a libertarian if you aren't impressed with the explanations in support of capitalism?

"The heart of libertarianism is the abstract individual, who engages in voluntary actions to attain certain ends, and should be allowed to do this, free from outside interference. But such an abstract philosophy is incomplete and incoherent. In the mainstream, Marx is often projected as disregarding the individual, but in fact, Marx was always highly concerned with the individual. The difference is that Marx’s concern with the individual caused him to zoom out to see the context in which the individual operates, and which aspects of an individual’s character are shaped by the context in which the individual labours. Under capitalism, the most important aspect of purposeful individual action – production – is subsumed, under the command of somebody else, and spurred only by the fact that the work is necessary for the worker’s survival.*** Hence, within his most purposive sphere, the individual is not free to act to realise his own ends through means chosen by him; rather, both the ends and the means are determined by forces outside his control. To me, this doesn’t seem very libertarian."

Yes, Libertarians Really Are Lazy Marxists | Unlearning Economics

What nonsense. Capitalism works because of consumer sovereignty. Do you not understand the concept of consumer sovereignty? In case you missed it the first time, here you are choosing how much of your own time you spend on this forum. That's consumer sovereignty.

Markets allow resources to flow to where they create the most value simply because people are given the freedom to spend their time/money on the things that they value most. We choose to spend our time on this forum...therefore this forum continues to exist. If we don't spend enough money on this forum...then this forum will not continue to exist. We are the kings. We express and communicate our preferences and it's our demand that determines the supply.
 

Xerographica

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Well, first and most importantly, Libertarians have such an inconsistent doctrine with such unrealistic expectations of what would really happen if their policies were implemented, I think of them more as lazy anarchist. That said, everything has a season. Capitalism worked well enough in the US, but will not serve us well in the future given the competition from the global capitalists now. I think we need to start thinking about hybrid economic models.

Companies compete for limited resources...and now countries compete for limited resources. Therefore let's have companies and countries produce things that do not match people's preferences? Socialism will never work. Why? Because production only makes sense when it's guided by demand. Government planners are not omniscient. Without consumers expressing their preferences government planners can't possible know how much of any good to supply. Therefore we end up with the massive misallocation of society's limited resources.
 
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