Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Is Going On at Cato?

Far be it from me to pass judgement on the sexual partners people choose, if you are not using sexual date rape drugs, I say go for it. But, this brings up a curiosity at that inside the beltway organization, the Cato Institute.

Cato executive vice-president David Boaz is standing on a chair clapping and congratulating President Obama for his pro same-sex marriage stand. He tells Politico:
Congratulations to the president for getting on the right side of this generation's civil rights struggle. He can be an important leader for equality under the law.

But of course, this announcement does raise questions. Was he telling the truth to voters in 2008 when he said, "I believe that marriage is between a man and woman and I am not in favor of gay marriage" and when he told voters in 2004 that "My religious faith dictates marriage is between a man and a woman, gay marriage is not a civil right"? Or when he told voters in 1996, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages"? Has he been wrestling with a conflict between his religious faith and his belief in the Constitution, or just with conflicting political pressures?

Nevertheless, he's in the right place now. And he says he's been "evolving," so we know he sees his new position as the evolved one. Good for him.
That this comes from senior executive of a supposedly libertarian institution is shocking, but, then again, given the rumors of what else has gone on at that place, maybe not.

First, it may not be wise for a supposed libertarian to call the state getting in the middle of consensual sex, as "this generation's civil rights struggle," since the government getting in the middle of the last "civil rights struggle" is a continuing disaster (see LBJ's Great Grandkids).

Government law for same-sex marriage is really nothing but the expansion of government control across a spectrum of people, who had at least one small corner of freedom.  The "equality under the law" that Boaz cheers is a twisted use of that phrase. Gays have "equality under the law," in the common way the term is used. Gays have a right to be represented by a lawyer in a court of law, to be free from self-incrimination, to a jury trial, to own property, etc.

When Boaz writes of "equality under the law", he must be thinking of the heavy hand of government setting the terms of a relationship, setting the terms of adoption rules of private agencies and setting the terms for handouts for those who fall in line and marry in front of the state. All this is, of course, what true libertarians should rebel against. For a libertarian, snaring more people into the government trap is not to be cheered, calling for people to be removed from the claws of government is what  libertarianism should be about. What is Boaz thinking?

What is going on at Cato?


  1. It is beyond tragic that Americans are made of doublethink. Unlike Mencken, or Rothbard, they haven't fleshed out their libertarian thinking to realize that the State has encompassed all human affairs, and that it severely damages/destroys everything it touches. Most people worship the state in believing that it is a problem solver or protector. It is more akin to the devil, who comes as your friend in a time of weakness only to destroy and enslave you. Many people, even my friends, would probably question my overall health in writing a statement like this. And that is the tragedy of the demoralization of this country.

  2. Yes, true libertarians want government out of marriage, but if government is going to do ANYTHING, (e.g. give out benefits) gay couples better have equal entitlements/political rights as straight couples. If anything this issue is unrelated to libertarianism, but it is certainly not anti-libertarian to ask for equality.

    1. Libertarians don't have to give additional groups special privilege whenever a like-group already has one. Hans-Hermann Hoppe discusses this in his book “Democracy: The God That Failed”. It’s better to extend the privilege to everyone (in which case it ceases to be special privilege) or terminate the first group’s advantage. Otherwise you end up subsidizing a slew of idiotic groups. If marriage subsidy should be extended to gays, shouldn’t it also be extended to polygamists and so on? And shouldn’t citizenship be extended to everyone in the country at any given time? I suspect these things would only make matters worse. You’re adding another subgroup of kings when we should be eliminating the first, not increasing their number. We’re better off having fewer kings than more. The gay “rights” movement isn’t at all opposed to marriage subsidy; they just want it for themselves. We don’t have to be like Republicans and obstruct them on their path to subsidy, because you’ll probably lose the argument if you’re perceived as anti-anything. But neither do we have to advocate support.

  3. "What's going on at Cato?"

    There is a very basic problem. It is very hard(no, impossible) to be a statist to ANY degree and be consistent. That is the problem. That's why Rothbard was kicked out, that's why they have their HQ in DC, etc., et al.

    It's a very fundamental problem and it'll never be solved.

    It's very hard to be "stout" in being "anti-state"...tremendously difficult it's human nature to "get along" or not seem "extreme"...and even overlook the basic tenets of a "healthy" state...which is taxation/theft or war in the name of "defense". It is why only those of high moral character can withstand publically taking such stances. I do it anonymously on a prominent local political blog and get hatred in return-I can't imagine how bad it would be if anyone knew my name. I'm quite sure my business and personal life would suffer dramatically.

    I'm not even sure you could call Cato "minarchists" anymore.

  4. What conservatives do not understand is the fact that if they use the state to sanction their idea of marriage they will lose on this issue. Conservatives will be perceived as limiting peoples freedom and the pro-gay marriage will be seen as expanding freedom. The sad reality there will be less freedom for all.

    Be careful what you say at work or play
    The state defines what is gay.
    One little slip of the tongue
    The state will fine what you have done.

  5. How easy it seems to be for some straight folks to dismiss the lack of equality that committed gay partners face in the following areas:
    -lack of AUTOMATIC medical decision-making and visitation that legally married people enjoy
    -lack of AUTOMATIC legal presumption that estates pass to surviving partners, which legally married people enjoy
    -lack of access to married survivor social security benefits
    These are not "special rights." They are indeed valid instances of the most basic humane legal protections extended to the institution of marriage under US law. That straight libertarians routinely fail to acknowledge these legitimate injustices is shameful.
    Of course the truly libertarian answer is to get the state out of the marriage business and the old-age insurance business and the medical care business altogether.

    1. And the AUTOMATIC right to have someone take half your shit.

      There is nothing AUTOMATIC about marriage except a whole bunch of "common law" that generally puts the state in charge of your post-relationship finances. IMHO, smart people create prenuptial agreements to define how the relationship can end to remove, at least partially, the state's say in the matter. Marriage should be a contract between two people that defines the necessary details of intimate cohabitation and separation, should that come to be.

      The "libertarian" position of maintaining your "right" to continue screwing the taxpayer after your lover's demise is not a particularly compelling position.

      Everything that gays claim they want through marriage (sans taxpayer funding) can be achieved through contract. That brings me to what I think is the main thrust behind the push for gay marriage: the ability to force private employers and companies to convey benefits. I believe that once marriage is nationalized and made gender-neutral, there will be a plethora of lawsuits to force private companies to convey benefits -- no matter what the owner's religious beliefs dictate.

      I brought this up to libertarians quite a few years ago, and the response was, effectively, "we'll hold a sign up on the corner in protest if that happens."

      The libertarian (or limited-government conservative) position should be that heterosexual people should be freed from state control. Homosexuals will find that state control of your relationship is not what it's cracked up to be.

    2. The idea above and below that the estate-passing and medical decision-making/visitation mechanisms can be instituted using contracts is simply not true. I have been through this with lawyers on such arrangements and there are a host of complications, barriers, unknowns, and arbitrary recognition by legal jurisdictions. (The NOLO book can only get you part-way there.) I have known personally folks whose medical related contract in this regard was simply dismissed out of hand by the hospital, which is under no legal obligation to respect any contract to which it's not a party. It's universally expensive and legally complicated to achieve even similar outcomes to the common-law protections. So why can't committed gays have the same legal protections (and obligations) that straight marrieds have? (Sorry, no, it's not an agenda to foist other benefit obligations onto anyone, at least not by me. Why project that motive onto my clearly indicated concerns, which are straightforward? This is about the just application of the statutory and common law.) And, again, as I said at the end, yes, the libertarian position should be to have the state removed from all these areas where it has no legitimate authority. But conservatives and libertarians don't have to like gays to advocate their just treatment before the law.

    3. "...there are a host of complications, barriers, unknowns, and arbitrary recognition by legal jurisdictions."

      All those things are true of heterosexual relationships as well. When I got divorced, my attorney was ecstatic with the assigned judge, because that particular judge pretty much universally enforced prenuptial agreements. That implied to me that there were other possible assignments where that wasn't the case.

      I'm not an attorney, but I don't see why a hospital would be exempt from Tortious Interference lawsuits. Hell, you can be sued for tortious interference for having an affair with someone's spouse. Sometimes, you just have to fight it out with people or organizations. Once it costs a couple of hospitals money, the rest change their behavior very quickly.

    4. Oh, and one more thing:

      I have used lawyers many, many times, and there is absolutely NOTHING you can do that doesn't have a "host of complications, barriers, unknowns, and arbitrary recognition by legal jurisdictions", no matter what you're trying to accomplish. You just have to choose a path and proceed. That's part of our idiotic system with zillions of laws and regulations. Fortunately, most of the time you can find a way to make it work out.

    5. So you want an organization to be under a legal obligation to respect a contract to which it's not a party? Seems to me like you want to use the state to force people to treat your interest group a certain way. Sorry, but I won't support nor advocate for one group to get "legal protections" that require the rights of another to be violated.

    6. Thank you for all the responses. Still, no one has really directly answered the question I posed above: Until we can get the state out of the marriage biz, "why can't committed gays have the same legal protections (and obligations) that straight marrieds have?"

    7. If I have a contract with you, and an organization, for no good reason, interfered with the contract -- which is what you were stating happens -- then you should have tort recourse against the organization. You need to let the organization know about your contract ahead of time (as a married person would also need to do) so they can opt out of servicing you at that point should they decide, but other than that, it's a legitimate contract that should not be subject to arbitrary interference (use of force) by third parties.

      And I don't support your use of state interference to override contracts.

  6. Except for receiving social security booty, uh, benefits, all of Anonymous's items can be handled by creating appropriate legal documents. Nolo Press supplied me a book years ago on how to do it. Oh, the objection is that it's not automatic? Well, why should it be? Isn't the libertarian for contract rather than state imposition?

  7. "Government law for same-sex marriage is really nothing but the expansion of government control across a spectrum of people, who had at least one small corner of freedom."

    Dollars to donuts says Bob Wenzel will NEVER criticize Ron Paul or any of the Mises boys who have gotten married legally

    1. I bet those bastards use ROADZ!11!!! too.