One of the hardest lessons to learn as free people is how to resist the urge of I don’t like X, so X ought to be illegal. The conservatives haven’t mastered it. The liberals haven’t mastered it. The libertarians try, but it isn’t always easy.
Gay marriage here in Iowa is a perfect example of this tendency at work. Many of us were raised to believe that homosexuality is wrong. As free people we certainly have every right to believe that if we choose. Things that are “wrong” should be illegal, right? Not necessarily.
Libertarians believe that as long as the action doesn’t harm anyone else, it should remain legal. The government shouldn’t be in the business of enforcing morality for its own sake. Do we really want the likes of Bill Clinton, Larry Craig, Rod Blagojevich, Richard Nixon or J. Edgar Hoover defining morality for us anyway?
When we use the force of government to impose our own morality on “those people” (whoever that may be), we have to realize that we are all “those people” to somebody else. I’m not gay, but there are certainly those in this country who would view me as one of “those people” who needs to have different values imposed upon.
Some would view me as “one of those” kooky gun owners in need of regulation and registration. Some would view me as “one of those” evil white males in need of some reverse discrimination to put things right. My support of a third party might even land me on the Dept. of Homeland Security’s list of “those” darned domestic terror suspects. Sooner or later we all end up on the receiving end of these attempts at government “redistribution of values.” It is better if the government just protects our rights and leaves the moralizing to we the people.
The so-called “values voters,” who may be opposed to gay marriage, can console themselves that the seemingly wide support for it is not necessarily part of some headlong rush toward mindless hedonism and away from all “traditional values.” As reason contributor Jonathan Rauch points out:
“Here’s something in the [ABC-Washington Post] poll data which is revealing, if indirectly. Rising support for [same-sex marriage] is accompanied by increased support for legalizing illegal immigrants and decriminalizing marijuana—but also by a decline in support for gun control. A new poll from Pew confirms the turn against gun control, and adds that opposition to abortion is growing.”
After Rauch wrote this article, a Gallup poll showed a majority of Americans identifying themselves as pro-life for the first time since the poll started. Rauch continues:
“What does all of that have to do with gay marriage? Just this: It suggests that [same-sex marriage] is part of a libertarian shift in values—not a libertine shift or a flight from values altogether. The public increasingly rejects the claim that gay marriage harms a third party (as abortion does) or violates anyone’s rights (as gun control arguably does).” [My thanks to Advocates of Liberty for posting a link to that article.]
So gay marriage might not be the end of the world as we know it. That is probably why Iowans have mostly responded to the gay rights mantra of “We’re here! We’re queer! Deal with it!” with a collective shrug and an “Okay.”
Really, we don’t care. Now shut up, our favorite show is on!