July 28, 2015

Will Privatizing Marriage Diminish Freedom?

Stella Morabito and Shikha Dalmia certainly think so (see recent articles here, here , and here). The argument boils down to this: the end of government-issued marriage licenses will provide an opening for opportunistic government busybodies to interfere in family relationships. According to Morabito, "Government must recognize marriage in order to leave it alone."

Morabito's claim, on its face, is obviously untrue. The state could simply leave marriage alone. In fact, the arguments presented in these articles—ostensibly arguments against the state leaving marriage alone—aren't really arguments against the state leaving marriage alone at all. This is because they are based on the assumption that the state won't actually leave marriage alone. This might be true, but it makes for a very poor argument. Pointing out all the negative effects of state interference in family relationships is supposed to be an argument against the privatization of marriage? Seriously?

That doesn't mean that Morabito and Dalmia aren't right in one sense. Opportunistic government busybodies will almost certainly try to turn the privatization of marriage to their advantage. That's no argument against privatizing marriage, though. That's an argument against opportunistic government busybodies.

Though the state may attempt to increase its intrusion into the family unit under the cover of so-called privatization (which is, again, not the same thing as an actual argument against privatization), there are good reasons to believe that it won't succeed. For example, there are, even now, quite a few unmarried couples with children. Are these couples in any danger of the state claiming ownership of their children? No. Also, state-issued marriage licenses are something of a historical novelty, relatively speaking (see this article). Were married couples in the days before state-issued marriage licenses subject to greater government intrusion in their personal lives? No. So, obviously the lack of a state-issued marriage license doesn't necessarily lead to greater intrusion into family life.

The state is going to take any route toward expansion that it can find. It always does. If state-issued marriage licenses are done away with, then one of the state's tentacles will be cut off. When the state begins to encroach on our liberties through another avenue, we will simply have to fight them there as well.

P. S.  

Robert P. Murphy has responded to the Shikha Dalmia article here.  The Tenth Amendment Center has posted a response here.

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