Tuesday, August 27, 2013

... And What Is The Consistent Libertarian Position on Abortion?

Libertarians are as divided on the issue of abortion as are every other group.

The main reason we are divided is that we have accepted the government's terms for the debate, in other words the debate has been framed to be between those who are "pro-life" vs those who are "pro-choice".

A consistent Libertarian, however, doesn't have to choose between one or the other position, however.  Doing so does not make one more or less of a libertarian.  It is true the LP has been pro-choice since it was formed.  As long as I am involved it will remain that way; however, some alterations to our platform are in order.  For one thing, the rights of men have never been addressed within any of the LP's platform positions on abortion.

Everyone wants there to be fewer abortions.  Everyone.  Everyone recognizes that abortion is at best a tradeoff of negatives.

But only freedom will get us all what we want, which is fewer abortions.

The only way to address abortion is to make it look less like a necessary option, and to reduce the incentives that push people towards it.  Reducing barriers to adoption, making sure minors have access to sex education materials or counseling, voluntarily supporting efforts to provide free or low-cost contraception, and more economic opportunity will all tend to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Economic growth tends to suppress the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies.  In a truly free-market economy, there would be so much wealth available to earn, more young people would put off childbearing in order to get in on the economic action.

Libertarians also understand that human behavior responds to incentives.  Get rid of the incentives for abortion or against it, and human behavior will tend to migrate towards the widely-accepted moral end we all want.

For instance, reducing the legal and financial penalties for getting someone pregnant will change behavior towards reducing the number of abortions. A man should have the right to invoke the paper equivalent of an abortion: During the pregnancy or within a defined time frame of being informed he has fathered a child, he should be able to -- essentially "give up the child for adoption by the mother" (or someone else), and be released from all parental responsibility and entitlements (getting to participate in birthdays, custody, etc).

Men shouldn't be forced into situations any more than women are.  They bear the financial and psychological costs of unwanted pregnancies as much as women.  And they deserve the same right to opt out of parenthood as women.

If women understood their partner could opt-out without any financial penalties, that would tend to discourage unwanted pregnancies to begin with.

If men knew that, they would be far less likely to pressure their partner to abort.

But more importantly: Knowing they could opt-out without financial penalty would lessen the likelihood of intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancySome researchers pretend they do not understand why some men end up killing their genetic offspring in the womb.  They wonder how there could have been any genetic advantage to doing so.  That just shows that a college degree doesn't impart any common sense.

There are no evolutionary incentives to kill an intimate partner (except it's easy to imagine that in ancient times, a time of famine would have driven parents or partners to kill in order to survive).  But normally, there would be no evolutionary incentive.

In contrast, modern society has -- perhaps inadvertently -- constructed numerous financial and legal incentives.  Watch this episode of Forensic Files and listen to what the police said was this young man's motive for murder.  This true story is not an isolated incident, either.  IPV murders account for almost a thousand murders every decade.

As is the rule with poorly thought-out laws everywhere, the current paradigm that shoves everyone into a one-size-fits-all straightjacket introduces unintended consequences.

The solution is freedom.

As with everything else, only freedom brings about the result everyone wants: fewer abortions (and fewer deaths in general).

Harry Browne rejected the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice".  We Libertarians should follow his example.  He said:  "Whatever we believe abortion is, we know one thing: government doesn't work, and it is as incapable of eliminating abortions as it is of eliminating poverty or drugs."

This should be obvious to anyone today:  The cat's out of the bag.  There is already a market for smuggled drugs that induce abortion.  Everyone knows about RU-486, and the "morning-after" pill.  No one in favor of banning abortion  can possibly be ignorant of these things.  If government bans abortion, as Browne says above, it will be every bit as incompetent at the job as it is with any of its other prohibitions.

Dr. Walter Block, professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, provides an alternative to the standard choice between "pro-life" and "pro-choice" which he terms "evictionism". According to this moral theory, the act of abortion must be conceptually separated into the acts of (a) eviction of the fetus from the womb; and (b) killing the fetus. Building on the libertarian stand against trespass and murder, Block supports a right to the first act, but, except in certain circumstances, not the second act. He believes the woman may legally abort if (a) the fetus is not viable outside the womb; or (b) the woman has announced to the world her abandonment of the right to custody of the fetus, and (c) no one else has "homesteaded" that right by offering to care for the fetus.

But perhaps more to the point: Why shouldn't government ban abortion?  Well, be careful what you wish for.

Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party's 2004 presidential candidate, said: "I oppose government control over the abortion issue. I believe that giving the government control of this issue could lead to more abortions rather than less, because the left-right pendulum of power swings back and forth. This shift could place the power to set policy in the hands of those who demand strict population control. The government that can ban abortion can just as easily mandate abortion, as is currently the case in China."

Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson: "The government powerful enough to give you what you want is powerful enough to take everything you have."

Let's all keep that in mind before we advocate banning abortion.

Only freedom will get us what we all want.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just What *IS* The Consistent Libertarian Position on Marriage, Gay or Otherwise?

Last week (August 12 - August 17, 2013) I spent the week manning the Libertarian Party table at the Rockingham County Fair.  Our candidate for governor, Rob Sarvis, was on hand on Friday (8/16) and spoke to many voters about his campaign.

One man who spoke to Rob at some length asked him what his position was on gay marriage.  Rob gave what is now a rather common libertarian answer -- that we were in favor of gay marriage.  The man promptly said "well, you lost me right there."

More recently, a local activist in Harrisonburg resigned from the newly-established city committee, apparently due to his perception that the new group was in favor of recognition of gay marriage.

These two incidents underscore what I think is a tactical error on the part of LP activists in recent years: the practice of saying we are in favor of gay marriage.

Several LP media releases have said essentially the same thing, including one earlier this year from the Virginia LP.

Here is the text of the Libertarian Party's platform position on same-sex marriage:

"1.3 Personal Relationships - Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships."

So let's put it this way:  In a libertarian society marriage and incorporation would be two distinctly different institutions.

Marriage would be a religious institution where two people come together to bind their immortal souls in the presence of their creator.  Government would have zero involvement in such an institution.

Incorporation, on the other hand, would be a legal union or contract between consenting adults in the eyes of the State. Adults, whether there are 2, 3, or 10 of them could share their lives, homes, bank accounts, etc. and live in communes (forming a type of voluntary communism) if they so choose.

A much different world that would be.

So is the Libertarian Party in favor of gay marriage?

Libertarians actually take NO position on marriage, except for the idea that everyone has the absolute right to arrange their affairs and relationships as they wish -- without interference by any government authority.

In other words, Libertarians don't "favor" any kind of marriage, gay or otherwise -- we just want the government out of it.

When the above media release from LPVA went out, as an anarcho-cap, I would have greatly preferred that it spoke of the actual libertarian solution to the gay marriage issue:

- repealing all government laws meddling in marriage -- this would include repealing all subsidies, special rights, grants of privilege, restrictions, government-required blood tests; and,

- abolishing marriage licensure.

Democrats and Republicans have had ample opportunity -- for years -- to wipe the entire debate off the table by doing exactly the above.

But as usual, they have accomplished nothing.

"Conservatives" have a majority in the Virginia state house and a Republican is governor. Yet not a single Republican has even bothered to *introduce* a measure to eliminate marriage licenses (much less get it to a vote on the floor of the legislature). Not a single Republican has bothered to introduce a measure to reform "marriage law" by simply repealing them all and pushing marriage back into the voluntary sector; and henceforth treating marriage arrangements as we would any other contract.

Democrats and Republicans colluded to put marriage into the realm of the state in the first place.   First it was reactionary Democrats setting up marriage licenses to prevent blacks from marrying whites; now it's reactionary Republicans attempting to use the same licensing law to keep others from arranging their marriage affairs as they see fit.

Conservatives and liberals alike can't have it both ways. If you are happy with government definition of marriage, then don't blame others for trying to capture that definition for themselves.

Remember: The government powerful enough to give you what you want is powerful enough to take everything you have.

Think about it.  If Christians set up the machinery to set in law their version of morality, one day atheists, gays, Democrats, Bhuddists, polyamorists, Islamists, or others will grab the steering wheel and use that same machinery to run over you.

Take power away from the state, and you can safely ignore everyone who does it differently than you would prefer.


In some ways this is kind of a non-issue for me because I think everyone -- gay, straight, bi, lesbian -- should boycott state marriages and return marriage to the private sector (common-law contract, churches, synagogues, etc).  Common-law marriage (which Virginia abolished many years ago) is nevertheless still recognized in Virginia if the marriage was entered into in a common-law state (full faith and credit, etc).

The state has NO business endorsing, or not endorsing, marriage.

Here's an important reason: Regarding marriage, there are two widely divergent groups of people who cannot and will not agree to a compromise -- yet both groups are forced to pay taxes.  For conservatives, it is galling that their tax money would be used to pay for endorsing/enforcing a marriage type that they are opposed to.  For the gay & lesbian community, their tax money pays for endorsing/enforcing a marriage type that they are left out of.  That is an inherent, permanent conflict.

No one should be forced to pay for things they don't agree with.

In some ways, the GLBT community of the 1990's made a gigantic strategic error calling for government licensure (and thus approval) of same-sex marriages.  Doing so energized the religio-statists and got them out to vote.  Twenty years later, and the two groups are still locked in mortal combat.

A better path would have been to calmly push to eliminate marriage licensure altogether (why should the state be in your bedroom, anyway?), and to train judges, arbitrators, and mediators to fairly adjudicate marriage or partnership contract disputes.

Had this been the chosen path, the alternative lifestyle lobby might have found its interests aligned with the hardline religious sector, which would probably endorse getting government out of permitting what to the religious is a sacred union that should be a matter for the couple involved, and their god.

Here is a summary review of the Libertarian position on marriage:

Libertarians favor ending all government interference in the marriage market.  For the same reason we favor repealing all restrictions on the individual ownership of firearms, we also favor the abolition of blood tests, marriage licenses, government definitions of marriage, and the repeal of all laws restricting the right of individuals to agree to agree between themselves to marry -- no matter what sex, race, religion, creed, or number are involved.

At the same time, Libertarians want to eliminate the individual income tax, replace social security and medicare with private insurance, and get government out of the business of dictating who one chooses to associate or not associate with.  There are tax benefits to being married -- because there are income and estate taxes. Eliminating the special treatment eliminates the desire for special interest legislation.

UPDATE 2/29/2014: Andrew Akers wrote a fairly succinct summary of the difficulty Libertarians have in persuading both sides of the marriage debate to give up a little:
I submit that the real issue (for people who take issue with this) has nothing to do with whether marriage is a legal contract unique from other contracts.

Based on my observations, the important thing for most people is how the term "marriage" is applied. Those opposed to "gay marriage" are often accepting of "civil unions" for same-sex couples, whereas same-sex couples insist that the term "marriage" be applied indiscriminately.

As with many other issues, the Libertarian position here is relatively foreign to those on both sides of the debate.

Hence what we say about "marriage" will be interpreted in the context of the actual debate, which is primarily about the application of a term. Libertarian "opposition to gay marriage" takes on a different meaning in this sense.

It gives the impression that we side with religious conservatives in "preserving the sanctity" of two-person heterosexual unions as superior to other kinds.

 I tend to agree.  However, we have to start somewhere.  If Libertarians are too scared to speak in favor of the actual fair and free solution to the debate, who else will?