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Popes Acknowledge Economic Fallibility & Independence of Economics

Posted by Tony Listi on November 1, 2012

The Catholic Church has always said that, though politics and economics should have moral goals, prudence is necessary to ensure those goals are actually met. The Church cannot infallibly demand certain economic-political policies be put in place.

The Church has always said there is a lawful diversity of opinion on economic-political matters:

“If I were to pronounce on any single matter of a prevailing economic problem, I should be interfering with the freedom of men to work out their own affairs. Certain cases must be solved in the domain of facts, case by case as they occur…. Men must realize in deeds those things, the principles of which have been placed beyond dispute….These things one must leave to the solution of time and experience.” -Pope Leo XIII

“It goes without saying that part of the responsibility of pastors is to give careful consideration to current events in order to discern the new requirements of evangelization. However, such an analysis is not meant to pass definitive judgments, since this does not fall per se within the Magisterium’s specific domain…. The Church has no models to present; models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another. For such a task the Church offers her social teaching as an indispensable and ideal orientation….” -Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

“Indeed ‘the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns;’ however, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office….” -Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno

“[E]conomics and moral science employs each its own principles in its own sphere….” -Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno

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Posted in Catholicism, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, The Papacy, Welfare State, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Children and Their Rights Unjustly Absent from Same-Sex “Marriage” Debate

Posted by Tony Listi on November 21, 2011

I’m getting really tired of seeing debates over same-sex “marriage” (SSM) that ignore, dismiss, or downplay children and their rights and that talk about marriage as if it were primarily an adult-centered civil institution. It is so sad that leftists, most libertarians, and many so-called “conservatives” treat children this way. The real debate over marriage as a public, civil institution should not be about adults but about children and children’s rights.

The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to each other for the sake of their children and their children’s rights. Marriage as a civil institution is about children; the law should recognize it as children-centered institution. Children and their rights are the reason why marriage is a public, civil institution (not merely a religious institution) and why it should have special legal status.

While not every marriage can or does bear fruit in the procreation of children, every child has a mother and father, and the well being of that child depends significantly upon the relationship between his or her mother and father, which marriage, as a civil and social institution, is designed to strengthen and stabilize.

The law should recognize these basic facts of biology, social science, and human nature and should protect the child’s rights by protecting marriage. Legal protection of marriage is necessary because children are unable to defend and protect their own rights, and the violation of those rights and consequent harm and damage done is extremely difficult to remedy satisfactorily after the fact.

SSM tries to change marriage from a children-centered civil institution to an adult-centered civil institution, necessarily perverting and destroying the essential public purpose of marriage and harming children, who depend upon marriage for their well being.

Many people often say that same-sex “marriage” (SSM) does “no harm to anyone.” While it might have little to no direct and immediate effect on adults and current marriages, SSM would certainlydirectly, and immediately harm future children by:

  1. Undermining, if not removing entirely, the children-centered nature of civil marriage, which children depend upon for their well being,
  2. Turn children into commodities to be manufactured and possessed that unrelated adults have a “right” to have, separating children from at least one parent as a matter of routine procedure,
  3. Empowering the state to routinely and arbitrarily assign parentage and custody of children without any regard for biology or genetics.

Marriage should not be about self-centered adults who want recognition and approval from the State for their private relationships which serve no public purpose. As a civil institution, marriage is not about the “happiness” or “rights” of adults but the happiness and rights of children. 

SSM strips away the essential public purpose of marriage (children and their rights) and leaves only the inessential private purposes of marriage. Under the new definition(s) of “marriage,” a whole host of private relationships having nothing to do with the procreation and proper raising of children could be considered a “marriage.” By the time the logic of these new definitions reaches its full implications, there will be nothing left of marriage except an absurd and dangerous government registry of roomates and friendships.

A relationship based on homosexual affection or behavior is no more deserving of legal recognition and approval than a relationship based on the activities of living together, golf, chess, dancing, or studying. Homosexual behavior, living together, golfing, playing chess, dancing, and studying are all private behaviors that serve no essential public purpose. If these individuals want to formalize their private relationship and create reciprocal rights and responsibilities amongst themselves, they are free to do that under the law using contracts. But of course, no private individual or corporation outside of that contractual relationship should be forced by government to recognize that contractual relationship and to perform some specific action because of the existence of that contractual relationship.

But marriage, a relationship based on procreating children and securing their positive rights, deserves special legal status that transcends contract law because it serves the very essential public purpose of procreating children and securing their positive rights. Marriage is more than a contract because it intends to create and care for an entirely new human being, an entirely new third party to the “contract” who has special positive rights that depend upon the marriage relationship itself to be secured.

Perhaps some people will argue that SSM and the creation and proper raising of children can go together…. But SSM inherently promotes and encourages the outrageous, immoral, and harmful notion that children are commodities or things which adults have a “right” to have, regardless of whether they are the biological parents of the children or not. On the contrary, children should be loved into existence and are persons with a positive right to a relationship with both biological parents, to know and be known by both biological parents.

Creating a child with the intention of preventing the child from having a relationship with one or both of his or her biological parents is cruel and unjust to the child. Artificial reproduction technology merely makes this injustice and cruelty more possible and likely than before. SSM thus tries to change marriage into an institution that separates children from at least one of their parents as a matter of routine procedure.

Most dangerously, SSM would lead to changes in parentage laws entailing the empowering of the State to assign the parentage of children to adults based on inherently arbitrary criteria rather than on biology. Currently, unless scientific testing shows otherwise, family law assumes that the father of a child is the husband of the mother of the child (i.e. presumption of paternity), if the mother is married. But by changing the legal definition of marriage from one man and one woman, the State is empowered to ignore human nature and biology and arbitarily assign children to the custody certain adults. Such changes create legal precedent for the State having complete and arbitrary control over children and to whom they belong. If you think this sounds far-fetched, it has already happened in Washington State.

This blog post draws heavily from the Ruth Institute’s pamphlet “77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage.” Click here to get your copy!

Posted in American Culture, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Conservatism & Science: Why Politics is Not a Science

Posted by Tony Listi on January 1, 2011

Science is conservative in some respects:

  • It generally changes incrementally and gradually as new evidence comes to mind.
  • It tests everything against experience. Results matter, not just theories or intentions.
  • It inherently looks to the past. Past occurences and observations are the foundation of science. Without faith in the past, science could not function.
  • It sees the world as inherently orderly, functioning according to certain reliably consistent laws of nature.

But science is not conservative with respect to the fact that science is fallibilistic. The foundations can and have been uprooted several times. The notion of science as the slow, steady, and conservative accumulation of knowledge was destroyed by a series of revolutions at the biological, cosmic, and atomic levels. Copernicus, Darwin, Einstein, and Heisenberg in partcular were instrumental in proving that science sometimes radically uproots the current paradigm of empirical/scientific knowledge. Strictly speaking, nothing is ever really “settled” in science.

True conservatism does not allow for epistemological revolutions in moral and political philosophy:

Conservatives do not deny the existence of undiscovered truths, but they make a critical assumption, which is that those truths that have already been apprehended are more important to cultivate than those undisclosed ones close to the liberal grasp only in the sense that the fruit was close to Tantalus…. Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgement that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before. (William F. Buckley Jr. in Up from Liberalism)

Marxists and libertarians of almost all varieties think that politics is a science. But it isn’t, strictly speaking.

Conservatism is a more humane political philosophy because it recognizes the reality of human nature and the influences upon it. People are not mere physical material, mere combinations of atoms and molecules, who react in the exact same way to certain external stimuli, whether economic or political. Sure, human nature in general doesn’t change, but culture and nurture mould the raw material human nature. Also, people are individuals and thus sometimes deviate from nature, culture, or nurture by willful choice. No nation is perfectly virtuous, but some nations are more virtuous than others in certain respects. 

Thus, while there are certainly timeless political principles, their direct and pure application will not yield the same results for every single group of people under any and all circumstances. Prudence cannot be dispensed with, and thus politics should be considered an art ultimately. Of course, just because something is an art doesn’t mean that reason should be ignored. Orderly art requires reason, the faculty that creates order.

Moreover, it is actually the notion itself of politics as a science that has been so harmful to American politics. Science became largely about experimentation and knowledge for its own sake or for the sake of power, unhinged from moral considerations. Regressives applied hubristic, reckless, and immoral political experimentation in America, irrationally disregarding experience and time-tested experience (not to mention constitutional law). The consequences have been devastating.

Science in itself has no moral compass. To say that politics is a science is to introduce the element of amorality (or rather immorality) into politics.

Posted in Conservatism, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Contraception (& Protestantism) Paved Way for Gay “Marriage”

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2010

No Children

Contraception literally divorces procreation from sexual intercourse in violation of Scriptural commands and of both Catholic and early Protestant traditions. It is immoral and its rotten cultural fruit, including the gay “marriage” craze, has been immensely harmful to American society.

Contraception also allows men and women to divorce procreation from marriage. Because of contraception, American society no longer views marriage as a children/family-centered institution but merely a relationship of mutual self-gratification and convenience that can be ended at whim. Children and their rights are no longer integral to the institution of marriage in the minds of many Americans, especially among the young.

Because marriage is viewed this way now, it is only natural that the notion of gay “marriage” has gained ground culturally. Popular debates surrounding the issue hardly ever even mention children and their positive rights (see here also). Marriage is treated as an institution whose purpose is primarily for the benefit of the two (or more, perhaps) people involved. Only when one forgets that only one man and one woman united together procreate children and that children develop better under the care of their biological parents do the notions of “marriage discrimination” and “marriage equality” begin to gain plausibility.  

Contraception is what started the cultural ball rolling in divorcing children and their positive rights from marriage.

And how exactly did contraception come to be accepted and widespread in American society? American Protestants caved in to liberal regressives in the early 20th century. Up until around 1930, all Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) rejected contraception as immoral. It was only a matter of time before this cultural change would produce legal changes.

So I find it very ironic that many conservative Protestants are staunch defenders of marriage and yet condone the use of contraception, the very thing that paved the way for gay “marriage” in American culture and law.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Conservatism, Culture War, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Children’s Positive Rights

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2010

Libertarians sometimes complain that Big Government treats its citizens like children (e.g. using the adjective “paternalistic” to describe govt.). They also denounce the notion of natural positive rights, which are rights that compel others to do something, and uphold negative rights only, which compel others to refrain from doing certain things.

The irony of all this is that many libertarians don’t see that these two concepts, children and positive rights, are related. The government should not treat its adult citizens like children because adult citizens have only negative rights and no positive rights. But the inherent logic of this sort of argument seems to dictate that children have positive rights, unless one wants to erroneously assert that no one has positive rights.

Adulthood, legally defined according to age as a matter of prudence, carries with it a moral responsibility to take care of oneself rather than demand others take care of you (which is what children and statists do). Thus one major reason why the welfare state is immoral: it forces some citizens to care for other citizens as if the former were parents and the latter were children when in fact everyone is an adult. Adults are expected to be mature, self-sufficient, cooperative with others, rational, independent. Thus they have no positive rights.

Children are irrational, dependent, and helplessly weak by nature. Yet they are still innocent human beings, persons with human dignity. It is children’s irrational, dependent, and helplessly weak nature that confers upon them natural, individual, positive rights. They have a right to attention and care for their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. It is an evil and an injustice for a child to be neglected or abused.

But upon whom do children have these rights to attention and care? Not upon everyone. Not upon the State. And not upon just any random person. It is parents who are obligated to provide attention and care insofar as they are able to; it is upon them that children have positive rights. Why upon parents? Because the parents gave their children life and existence and are thus responsible for their children and their children’s rights. One would think this would be self-evident but apparently not in this decadent era and culture.

It is the concept of children’s positive rights that separates conservatives and libertarians philosophically. From this concept springs the conservative’s commitment to pro-life and pro-marriage public policy. The inherent moral differences between adulthood and childhood cannot be ignored or glossed over when it comes to political philosophy.

The purpose of government is to protect people’s rights, both natural and civil, both positive and negative, as far as it is possible for government to prudently do so. Of course, this purpose assumes an accurate determination of what rights human beings actually have and what differences among human beings really matter.

Not only does the child in the womb have negative rights against being killed, but he or she also has positive rights upon the mother, a right to her body and the sustenance it provides. (However, if the baby actually does pose a threat to the life of the mother, which is extremely rare and usually means the baby would not survive either, one may save the life of the mother by infringing on the positive rights of the child but not the negative rights. One may remove the child from the mother but not actively kill the child through violence.)

The government has a duty to protect both the positive and negative rights of the unborn son or daughter as prudently as possible. Outlawing abortion and prosecuting abortionists seems very prudent. Because the preamble to the Constitution reveals that our founding document was meant for “posterity,” i.e. the unborn, and their rights too, I believe one can make a sound originalist, constitutional argument for federal involvement in protecting the rights of the unborn. But if not, I will take the states’ rights alternative as the next best thing. Even pro-life legislation has to be constitutional to be enacted, for the rule of law according to founding principles (e.g. federalism) is more important than any individual right or single issue.

Once born, how well these positive rights of children are secured is intimately tied to the character of the relationship between mother and father. The purpose of marriage as both a civil and religious institution is to ensure that the relationship between mother and father is best suited for the procreation and raising children. As a civil institution, it has no other purpose. Children are best raised by their biological mother and father (see here also). If the relationship between mother and father is unstable and unloving, the child’s positive rights will suffer in a variety of ways.  Because homosexual relationships are absolutely sterile by nature (not by dysfunction), they do not deserve any legal recognition whatsoever. (And the legalized separation of children from their biological fathers and mothers through sperm and egg “banks” is immoral and should be outlawed. No one has a “right” to a child and such “artificial” children suffer psychologically.)

The government has a duty to protect the positive and negative rights of children as prudently as possible. American society recognizes that children have negative rights, thus the laws against physical and sexual abuse. There are very few things that government can prudently do to secure the positive rights of children without causing greater evil. However, through prudent regulation of the institution of marriage, it can promote more stable, enduring marriages, which in turn will help secure children’s positive rights. Legally defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, repealing no-fault divorce, and treating marriage like a corporation are a few basic, prudent measures government should take to help strengthen marriages and thus better protect the positive rights of children. Because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, I’m not sure how one can avoid a national marriage policy. But again, if the states’ rights alternative could work, I’ll take it as the next best thing. Even pro-marriage legislation has to be constitutional to be enacted, for the rule of law according to founding principles (e.g. federalism) is more important than any individual right or single issue.

Many libertarians like to say that “liberty is indivisible” and that conservatives are inconsistent for dividing economic and individual/social liberty. But in reality, conservatives absolutely agree that liberty is indivisible. We are not inconsistent; we just have a different view of human nature and rights. It is merely the case that many libertarians are unwilling to acknowledge the obvious and relevant differences between adults and children with regard to rights. This self-evident and empirical distinction among human beings is what libertarianism seems unable to handle morally and humanely.

Posted in Abortion, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Culture War as Stigma War

Posted by Tony Listi on August 1, 2010

Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way, however. It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do. You may keep your life, your property, and everything else. But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger among us. You will retain your civic privileges, but they will be of no use to you. For if you seek the votes of your fellow citizens, they will withhold them, and if you seek only their esteem, they will feign to refuse even that. You will remain among men, but you will forfeit your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellow creatures, they will shun you as one who is impure. And even those who believe in your innocence will abandon you, lest they, too, be shunned in turn. Go in peace, I will not take your life, but the life I leave you with is worse than death.
Alexis de Tocqueville

A friend of mine drew my attention to a very important article written by Jeff Schafer at the Alliance Defense Fund. It’s entitled “Stigma and Dogma, Revisited.”

This article re-echoes something that De Tocqueville (quoted above) observed early on about the dangerous tendencies of democratic culture. Stigma and social pressure rule the day in a democracy.

Yet stigma and social pressure were what kept the U.S. conservative and free for so long, esp. with regard to our current social issues. In the early history of America, abortion and deviations from traditional marriage were so powerfully and thoroughly stigmatized that they were not political issues at all. Not so anymore.

Stigma is the expression of moral outrage. The article reminds me of one of the Leadership Institute’s Laws of the Public Policy Process: “Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.”

If conservatives are to take the long-term view of changing the culture in order to win (as the left did over a century ago), we have to be willing to publicly engage in the Stigma War. Big govt., govt. coercion, govt. dependency, promiscuity, sexual perversity, infanticide, etc. must all become shameful, stigmatized things again. Conservatives have to be willing to publicly denounce these things as immoral and shameful.

Why do you think the left likes to engage in name-calling? Racist, sexist, homophobe, bigot, etc. All these epithets are intended to stigmatize conservative views, whether the labels rationally apply or not. And they’ve done a pretty good job of it.

When people evaluate candidates or policies, it is moral factors that determine their choices; it is the elements of shame and guilt that convince people to be politically active and to hold certain political views with intensity.

We need not lose hope completely that the world is doomed to irrationality though. Feelings of guilt, shame, and moral outrage do not spring up spontaneously or irrationally; they are rooted in certain rational, though often false, paradigms and faith systems. The problem with the left is not that they aren’t rational; they are, assuming their faith-based assumptions to be true. It’s the fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality, human nature, and justice that separate us from them. (And these false assumption are inculcated into Americans through the cultural institutions of primary schools, academia, arts & entertainment, churches, and the media.)

We need to bring the reasons for our political faith and assumptions to the surface in the most clear, concise, direct, impactful, and thought-provoking ways possible. And this is where the necessity of activism comes in. And good activism is based on good organizational preparation beforehand that gathers the people and resources to make activism effective.

Moreover, activism should be directed not merely at challenging current leftist stigmas and dogmas but toward recapturing the cultural institutions mentioned above that inculcate these false stigmas and dogmas into American youth (and older).

Posted in Abortion, American Culture, American History, Culture War, Democracy, Education, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Activism, Political Philosophy, Political Psychoanalysis, Race, Racism, and Affirmative Action, Student Activism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“Church and State” vs. Religion and Politics

Posted by Tony Listi on July 25, 2010

When I get tired of addressing the same misunderstandings over and over again, I decide to write a blog post about it that I can just send people to, rather than having to explain myself and common errors over and over again.

The “separation of church and state” is a common objection people of many political persuasions like to fling at conservatives, as if these objectors had any philosophical or historical understanding of the phrase and their interpretation of it.

There is a difference between the institutional separation of church and state vs. the philosophical separation between religion and politics. There is a difference between institutions and people vs. ideas and philosophy.

The former is possible, desirable, and necessary for the sake of both church and state. It is not good for priests, pastors, bishops, or popes to hold political offices outside of the Vatican. There have been times in the history of Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, when religious leaders wielded formal political authority too. But more importantly, before Christianity and after the Protestant Revolution, the state assumed religious authority as well, dictating to its subjects what they shall believe and how they shall act, subjecting religious leaders to political authority. In the modern era, this usurpation has been accomplished through government-run education and a variety of laws premised on anti-Christian principles.

The Crown and Parliament of England in particular controlled the Church of England. This reality is what motivated the American founders to enact the 1st Amendment which prohibited the “establishment of religion” at the national level (it did not prohibit established churches at the state level and many states had and retained these established churches after the ratification of the Constitution). The 1st Amendment prevented the establishment of a Church of the USA, funded by tax-payer money, akin to the Church of England.

Both the life of the spirit and the public life of politics suffered (at least eventually) under such institutional arrangements. The institutions of church and state must be kept separate and independent. I am FOR the separation of church and state. And these arrangements are what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote the phrase in his letter to the Danbury Baptists (the phrase is not in the Constitution).

However, the latter, the separation of religion and politics, is intellectually impossible.  Religion makes claims about the origin and nature of man, including his natural rights. Just because one is an atheist or agnostic doesn’t mean one doesn’t have religion. Everyone has religion because everyone has a view about the origin and nature of man and about his nautral rights. And natural rights are the basis of good, just, and moral politics. Natural rights are what the founders appealed to in the Declaration of Independence.

It is impossible for one to be for or against the separation of religion and politics. The fact is that they cannot be separated, as a matter of reason and contemplation about what each sphere entails. The political order rests upon the moral order and the moral order upon the religious order.

So the next time some preacher, pastor, priest, bishop, or pope starts talking politics, denouncing abortion and gay “marriage,” I don’t want to hear appeals to the “separation of church and state.” It is irrelevant.

What you are really saying is that you want a separation of the Christian religion from American political discourse, which is un-American historically and philosophically dangerous. You would rather substitute a leftist, collectivist, libertine, secularist pseudo-religion for Christianity as the basis of moral judgment, natural rights, and law. Such a substitution would be immoral, unjust, and terrible for the spiritual and material well being of all Americans.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, The Constitution, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Frank Meyer, Libertarianism, and the Family

Posted by Tony Listi on July 24, 2010

 

Frank S. Meyer

Frank S. Meyer’s book In Defense of Freedom and essay “Freedom, Tradition, Conservativism,” are must-reads IMO. His critique of Russell Kirk in his essay “Collectivism Rebaptized” is also insightful and persuasive. Kirk and Meyer have been the most influential thinkers on my own political views but Meyer most of all.

In his essay “Freedom, Tradition, Conservativism,” Meyer argues his belief that conservatism and libertarianism derive from the same Western political tradition and merely represent two different but complementary emphases that have always been in tension:

I am well aware that what I have been saying can be criticized as eclecticism and attacked as an effort to smother principle. But it is not the laying aside of clear belief, either by the libertarian conservative or the traditionalist conservative, in order to present a front against contemporary collectivist Liberalism, that is here conceived. Rather it is the deepening of the beliefs which each holds through the development of their implications in a dialectic free of distorting narrowness…a dialectic in which both sides recognize not only that they have a common enemy but also that, despite all differences, they hold a common heritage….

[E]ach side emphasizes so strongly the aspect of the great tradition of the West which it sees as decisive that distortion sets in…. [T]he complementary interdependence of freedom and virtue, of the individual person and political order, is forgetten.

Moral order, tradition, liberty, and individualism need not be in conflict in a free society though a healthy tension exists among them.

Notably for contemporary disputes among conservatives and libertarians, in his book In Defense of Freedom, Meyer affirms the exceptional and necessary character of the institution of the family (emphases mine):

To this completely voluntary character of associations proper to the free nature of men, there are only two exceptions–the state and the family. Neither can be voluntary because of the human condition itself…. The family is the institution into which children are born and under which they develop as human beings. As far as they are concerned, it is not voluntary…. As far as their parents are concerned, the family is, however, entered into voluntarily; marriage is, in a free society, originally a mutual voluntary act of two individuals–voluntary, even though any marriage worthy of that exalted name is an unbreakable compact and though the family, proceeding from marriage, creates morally indissoluble bonds of parental obligation.

The family is the most important form through which virtue is inculcated in children. But it is not the institution of the family as such that inculcates virtue; it is the persons who constitute the family–father and mother and other close relatives–who in actuality decide the issue of the moral and intellectual direction that children take…. The family as an institution cannot guarantee the raising of the young in the paths of virtue, although the family is a necessary form; only individual persons, acting through the form of the family, can do so.

Frank Meyer embodies my political philosophy: an Austrian libertarian who recognizes the necessary and exceptional nature of marriage and children. Libertarians would do well to temper their ideology of liberty with the same recognition of the unique nature of the family. One cannot expect limited government and liberty in a society where the institution of the family is weak, if not completely destroyed.

Posted in Abortion, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Quotes, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Libertarians Wish to Legislate Morality…Just Like Everyone Else

Posted by Tony Listi on July 17, 2010

I’m getting very tired of hearing libertarians (and others) say, “You shouldn’t legislate morality!” As if their philosophy and policy proposals were morally neutral!

Ironically, most Big Government statists have a sounder grasp of the general relationship between morality and politics than libertarians. The “Don’t Legislate Morality” objection against conservatives and statists alike is mere smoke and mirrors, a rhetorical flourish with no substance whatsoever. Rights are always a matter of morality, regardless of where one’s moral assumptions come from.

Libertarians wish to codify their morality of liberty into law. The most thoughtful and principled libertarians would support liberty even if it did lead to impoverishment, inefficiency, and misery. They see liberty as a moral issue; liberty in itself is not morally neutral. Violence against the life, liberty, or property of another person without just cause (self-defense or reparation for previous injury) is not merely bad for material prosperity but bad for people; it is immoral, a violation of human rights. Moral relativism or neutrality simply doesn’t exist in conscientious libertarianism (or any other political philosophy).

And yet there are many people in this country (socialists, leftists, regressives, liberals, etc.) who disagree with this libertarian morality of non-violence. They believe that it is very moral to enact laws that plunder some people in order to give to others or that make people act in certain ways. In fact, they believe libertarianism in itself to be immoral. So libertarians need to ask themselves: “are we trying to impose our morality of non-coercion on others?” That answer has to be YES. Libertarians oppose the (im)moral assumptions behind statism and statist laws. A law has no less moral or immoral content merely because it allows people to freely act in certain ways, for the allowance of that freedom is based on moral presuppositions.

The question is not whether we should legislate morality (for that is a given) but “what is moral?” and “what can the law prudently do to enforce that morality, if anything?” And conservatives and libertarians agree more on these questions in comparison with the statists, especially when it comes to economic issues. In the realm of economics, I’m about as libertarian and Austrian as they get. Of course, when it comes to issues of abortion and marriage/family, I part ways with libertarianism– for reasons that I can explain in even libertarian/scientific terms, phraseology, and paradigms, showing how libertarianism breaks down in these cases.

So if you’re a libertarian reading this now and happen to disagree with me on these social issues, please refrain from incoherent slogans about “legislating morality.” They’re irrational and self-contradictory. Realize that you and I are both making moral claims. Then we’ll understand each other better, find more common ground, and be better able to cooperate politically.

Posted in Abortion, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The “Right to Marry Whomever” vs. The Rights of Children

Posted by Tony Listi on March 4, 2010

The whole debate over same-sex “marriage,” like most highly controversial political issues, has reached the level of imprecise, emotional sloganeering. It is hardly surprising but not conducive to good policy-making.

It is time to stop being bamboozled by the rhetoric of the homosexual agenda. Even many young people on the political right have fallen prey to it. As conservatives and libertarians, we of all people should be much more careful about “rights”-talk than the socialists and statists. For every right there must be a corresponding duty. If I have an unconditional right to health care, then the doctor has an unconditional responsibility to give it to me. So then what exactly does it mean to have a “right” to get married?

When one starts thinking precisely in this way, one realizes that it depends on what we mean by “marriage.”  By marriage, do we mean merely the social institution by which one person binds oneself to another person through certain vows? Or do we mean that exact same institution which is also publicly recognized and ratified by government? Every good debate must define its terms.

Clearly, in the first sense, everyone already has the “right to marry.” There are no laws preventing people with same-sex attraction from legally binding themselves to each other, making vows to each other, living together, having sexual relations with each other, sharing property,  expressing affection for each other, etc. etc. Nor am I advocating laws to prohibit such things. This is the emotional straw man that the left and many libertarians like to throw at conservatives.

Of course, it is certainly true that homosexual relationships are currently not recognized and ratified by the state. Rightly so, for why should they be? Why should the state be involved in such relationships? The burden of proof must always be on those who demand more government action. To address these crucial questions, it helps to ask ourselves why life-long, binding heterosexual relationships, i.e. marriages, have been recognized and ratified by the state since the beginning of the institution.

Also, following the wisdom of Aristotle, it is injustice to treat unequal things equally. For example, there is no legal equality between children and adults in America for good and obvious reasons relating to intellectual maturity. It would be injustice for children and adults to be of equal legal standing. Likewise, if we can find reasons that the state recognizes and ratifies heterosexual relationships which do not similarly apply to homosexual relationships, then we have found relevant inequality between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

So why has the state legally recognized marriage between one man and one woman? Because it is that sexual relationship that brings children into existence, and it is that marital relationship that fundamentally affects the psychological and emotional well being of children. The state recognizes marriage because of children and children’s rights upon their parents and their parents’ relationship.

Homosexual couples are naturally infertile and scarce. So there is no equality between heterosexual and homosexual unions in this regard. They do not bring children into existence and cannot provide a mother and father to children, as heterosexual unions do. They therefore do not deserve recognition by the state. It is as simple as that.

Should the state recognize the relationship between golf partners? Dance partners? Pen pals? Would such people be “oppressed” without such recognition? Of course not! These relationships serve no public good.

Moreover, while many people want the state to recognize “gay marriage” merely for the sake of combating discrimination against homosexuals in other spheres of social life, it seems quite clear that, like affirmative action, this agenda has only increased hostility toward homosexuals. Indeed, giving homosexual relationships public recognition that they do not deserve is just like giving an unqualified minority applicant a job or higher education they do not deserve.

Ultimately, transfers of property, who can visit someone in the hospital, and other common examples are not what marriage is all about and can be remedied through other currently available legal means (e.g. power of attorney, contracts, wills, etc.). They are not essential to the issue of marriage. If currently available legal instruments need some reform to allow greater individual liberty, then we can pursue that.

With all this in mind, it should be clear by now that most same-sex “marriage” advocates are merely trying to use the government to promote and legitimize homosexual behaviors, behaviors which have no public significance or relevance.

Moreover, what is lost in all this self-righteous chest-pounding for recognition are the rights of children. They have a right to care, love, and protection from their mother and father, the two people who gave them the gift of existence, insofar as it is possible. The state has a responsibility to govern and legislate in such a way that encourages parents to fulfill their obligations, that promotes family life without oppressing it.

All people have the right to “marry” whomever (or whatever) they choose. But only heterosexual unions, these unique relationships among human beings, have a true right to the attention and recognition of the state.

Now, who wants to tell me which verses of the Bible I quoted above?… Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Homosexuality, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments »