The Importance of Marriage in a Free Society


by D.J. Webb

There seems to be great confusion among libertarians on moral issues, including, most notably, the central importance of marriage in society. It is held by some that in a “free society” people may behave as they please, or even ought to do so, and that any attempt to uphold fundamental social values that underpin the fabric of society is simply equivalent to the imposition of an authoritarian conservative social agenda.

Such an approach mixes everything up. In a free society, people are at liberty to behave as they please, within (very restricted) boundaries. But this does not at all mean that all choices in terms of personal lifestyle should be approved of by everyone else. There are things that other people may legally do that I don’t approve of. I fail to understand why some libertarians insist that we should approve of all lifestyles. Should it be illegal for a women to have five children by five different fathers, none of whom she was married to? No. Should I have to approve of it? That is also a “no”. Should it be facilitated by being funded by the state? That is a very definite “no”. We are confusing liberty to behave in ways that are objectively downmarket with a very different cultural Marxist agenda, one that insists that the current attempt, very successful so far, to unpick the bonds of society should be welcomed by all.

Most such libertarians also gloss over the fact that the state is promoting novel lifestyles today. There is nothing radical or anti-authoritarian about approving of single motherhood: the officials of the state believe that this lifestyle should be funded by society in general, and that only “nasty” individuals could object. The key point for libertarians to understand is the way in which the state is promoting the dissolution of marriage by means of supposedly egalitarian laws and welfare provision: the individuation of the population supports state power in that it provides an issue for state intervention, creates social problems for the state to solve and dovetails with the state’s own attempts to force sex equality (a very jaundiced interpretation of sex equality) into every sphere. What may seem like the happy propagation of “bread and circuses” is, in fact, the destruction of a coherent society, thus facilitating the onward march of the managerial state.

This issue has come to the fore in my personal life recently, as a woman I know, a 39-year-old woman with a 10-year-old, a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old child has announced to everyone in her circle of acquaintance that she no longer loves her husband and is seeking to dissolve their 13-year-old marriage. Does he physically abuse her? No. Is he a bad husband? No. It merely seems that she overestimates her plain and frumpy looks and is seeking to find an 18- or 20-year-old replacement for her husband.

Should it be illegal for her to stop living with her husband? Clearly not. There is no concept of libertarianism whereby she would be forced to stay—and separation a mensa et a thoro has always been possible. But we are dealing with something very different here—and a certain mulishness on the part of some libertarians insists on overlooking this—and this is state intervention to enforce a rather lopsided supposed “equality of the sexes”. What has happened is that state intervention now ensures that she can take the house and nearly all of the other marital assets and the children—and turf out her husband.

This is very different to the situation in the 1930s, where a trollop like her would simply come home one day, find the locks changed and a bag packed for her on the pavement outside, with her husband instructing her to “sling her hook”. As her husband is the main breadwinner and she has not been in regular work—he has kindly agreed to stay in the marital home until she finds a job, so that she can afford to keep up payments on the house (on which there is still a mortgage outstanding) after he leaves—it is her husband who has paid for the house and everything else hitherto. Clearly the marriage arrangement provided some guarantee for him that by paying for everything or for most of the marital assets hitherto he was investing in a marriage “till death do us part”—and yet the wife can now take the lot. Can any supposed libertarian explain this to me? To support this sort of thing is not libertarian at all. This is is just state-mandated scrounging on the part of women.

I have told her to stop scrounging, and to ask her husband’s forgiveness and to seek to repair her marriage, for the sake of the children, if nothing else. She responded with hysterical outrage. Any marital problems can be worked through, as they were in the old days. I cannot and will not approve of this person’s behaviour—which I find unacceptable.

From a libertarian point of view, she is at liberty to leave the marital home and “hit the high road”. In a truly free society, that would be her only choice. She could find a job first so that she could afford to rent a tiny flat, and then move out, hoping to meet a future “partner” (as the lingo now goes) with whom she would hope to create a more substantial life. Libertarians cannot go further than this without ceasing to be libertarians. In a free society, the number of women choosing to do this would be strictly limited. I read of one woman recently, and I’ve been trying to remember who, who left her husband in the 1930s and managed to support herself and her child by giving piano lessons—such a choice could not be objected to by libertarians, whatever the morality of ending the marriage, as it would not be based on shaking down the husband or relying on state benefits. Support for immoral lifestyles that depend on shakedowns of a man who had reasonable grounds to believe he was investing financially in a “till death do us part” relationship or that depend on state benefits is simply unacceptable to genuine libertarians.

The financial impossibility of making it without a husband until recently kept women wedded to the marriage idea. Women supported the family and marriage even when their menfolk tired of it—because they sought to be able to give a good upbringing to their children. The insistence of full equality in wages—despite the fact that the consensual nature of the average woman generally means she is not a vital thinker or leader of any organisation, or, where she is, she merely repeats the rote formulations of others—individuals like Margaret Thatcher are exceptional women; there are many, many more women in managerial roles today who delight in persecuting others for “racism”, “sexism” and other alleged vices, and speak the insincere bureaucratic language of political correctness more fluently than men—has fuelled the idea that women don’t need men.

Most men would probably not oppose equal salaries for people of strictly equal abilities—although, once again, the personal qualities of the average women do not support the view that they will always occupy 50% of all available positions at each level of an organisation—but the feminists have gone much further than this. Because many women still prefer to man the hearth and look after the children, it is alleged, although entirely falsely, that their cooking and cleaning amounts to an equal contribution to the family’s finances, and so, where a housewife is married to a billionaire, upon divorce she is entitled to half the huge assets of her husband. This is a gold-digger’s charter, and has no connection with equality.

The availability of easy divorce is a further contribution to this agenda. It was once argued that divorce would impoverish women—that was the line taken by opponents of a referendum to legalise divorce in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s—but it seems that the contrary is so. The women will always corner almost the entirety of the marital assets—and a continuing income stream from a man she allegedly doesn’t need any more. If women don’t need men, then why is alimony even possible? I would look more sympathetically at the case of a woman who, in contrast to the example cited above, wanted to keep the marriage together and asserted her right to lifelong maintenance from a man who had vowed to be hers “till death do us part”: as the innocent party, and as someone with no intention to marry again herself, she might indeed have a moral right to upkeep, although not necessarily to millions and millions. This sort of thing ought to be capped at level of maintenance necessary to rent a semi-detached house and a non-humiliating standard of living—or a clean-break settlement that would cover only those things.

Another element in the equation is the no-questions-asked availability of child benefit, as well as income support, housing benefit and so on. Flats are also made available by the state on a priority basis to young girls with babies and no husbands. Once she has cornered the flat and the benefits package, she is home and dry, and only has to have a few more babies to make it quite worthwhile. Beyond a certain point, having borne enough children, she will be living a lifestyle a low-end job could not give her.

While women may be enjoying their state-mandated advances, there is an impact on society, not least the impact on the children. There is a strong connection between family breakdown and physical abuse and sexual abuse of children. Child poverty and a lack of discipline that leads to delinquency and crime are also strongly related to family breakdown. Oddly enough, socialists who aim to persuade the state to spend more on eliminating child poverty would achieve their aims better by supporting the family.

The number of children being brought up in children’s homes—or being fostered out or adopted out—reflects the collapse of normal family relationships. Interestingly, we have recently been told that Muslim gangs raped or otherwise preyed on at least 1,400 girls in Rochdale, with the tacit approval of the local police and council, and there are thought to be tens of thousands of similar cases across the country in other towns. This is generally raised to make a point regarding multiculturalism and immigration. However, there is an additional point that needs to be made: the girls preyed upon (I believe most of them were girls) were living in children’s homes, and the reason why the council allowed them to be abused was because they looked down on such girls, and may have presumed that girls from children’s homes were “like that”, or were somehow willing partakers in underage sex with the Muslim gangs.

Family breakdown has become normalised to the extent that the numbers of children being brought up in formerly typical two-parent families are falling rapidly. With many young men now no longer seeing any point in getting married only to later get divorced, it is likely that the numbers of children living in “normal” families twenty or thirty years hence will be much lower than they are today. I will ignore the synthetic outrage over the view that two-parent families are better—single-mothers do a great job, etc, etc, is what we are told, and we are being uncharitable by denying that—as it is my view that a family with a father and mother can provide discipline, love and material comforts to a child better than a single-parent household. Similarly, the notion that children do not need fathers is transformative socially, in a negative way, and probably related to the greater acceptance of lower standards of behaviour by young people than in the past.

Whatever may be thought on those subjects, there is an injustice being done to the men involved, who see the rug pulled from beneath them, both financially and in terms of their relationship with their children. The family provides an existential imperative: work and everything else a man does is done to facilitate family life. Without a wife and children, there is simply less to get up for in the morning. The ultimate outcome for both husband and wife upon family breakup may be unhappy retirements. In the days when the state did not claim the right to unpick the marriage vow, both parties to the marriage accepted from the outset and every day thereafter that they had to work at it, and work through any problems. The notion of “being cruel to be kind” sums up the promotion of morality and the way in which it served both the common social good and, ultimately, the happiness of most of the individual people it applied to.

The wrapping up of marriage is part of the march of the state. Without families, people exist in an individual and individuated relationship with the state. People who fall on hard times often have no family to rely on: the state is their family. Where society is a collection of individuals, the organs of the state are stronger, and can justify their strength. Where society is made up of families, most people have others to rely on before turning to the state.

It is quite wrong to suppose that the unpicking of morality is a libertarian triumph. Rather, a free society is based on a society with strong moral values. Strong moral values are the sine qua non of freedom. In the days when most people behaved well, relationships between the populace and the police were different. The “local bobby” was a friendly soul who knew everyone on the estate, and knew he only had one or two rascals to look out for. Now that standards of behaviour have genuinely fallen a long way, we see anti-social behaviour orders, intervention by social workers, monitoring by teachers and much else. Yet falling standards of discipline in the home are partly connected to the rarity of a father in the home.

Any attempt to fold up the welfare state would be impossible without stronger families. Who else would people turn to? If girls get pregnant without getting married, one option would be to require her family to bring up both the girl and her baby (thus providing a great incentive for parents to urge their daughters to “keep a penny between their legs”). The absurd hypertrophy of the benefits system is directly related to family breakdown.

Traditional moral values are simply the basis for an orderly society where people know how to conduct themselves, having regard, not just to their rights, but also to their duties to one another. Duty should not be a dirty word in libertarian circles, although it does contain four letters. I admire the women whose husbands are crippled in accidents, possibly requiring nursing every day for the rest of their lives, who get on with it, and accept it as their lot in life, and thus their duty. As for the women who jeopardise the lives of their children by breaking up marriages in the knowledge that they will shake down their husbands and gain every penny, I simply feel that such individuals should be publicly scolded by all who know them. This behaviour shouldn’t be facilitated by the state, aided by an army of harpies who shriek with confected outrage at each attempt to query this militant interpretation of “equal rights”.

Key points for a free society:

  • Marriage should be for life.
  • My conservative view is that couples who maintain a home together and bear children out of wedlock should be deemed “common-law spouses” and issued marriage certificates, whether they like it or not.
  • Divorce should be abolished (and this should apply to kings too), although judicial separations could be used in extreme situations. There is nothing the state can or should do to remove the moral force of a vow so sternly worded as the marital vow.
  • If divorce is permitted, it should not be until the youngest child is 16 years of age.
  • In cases of separation (or divorce), the idea that a woman should get half of everything, even if it runs into millions, has to be rejected as absurd. We need to incentivise women to support the maintenance of their marriages.
  • The spouse opposing the separation (or divorce) should, in nearly all cases, gain custody of the children.
  • Child benefit should be paid only to traditional family units, to avoid subsidising social breakdown.
  • It should be illegal for councils to give flats to unmarried mothers. In the days of contraception, there is no such thing as an “accidental pregnancy”.
  • There should be no benefits for unmarried mothers. It shouldn’t be illegal to have illegitimate children, but the mothers would have to rely on private money or her family’s support in order to follow this course of action.
  • Following the privatisation of healthcare and education, these services would be commercialised, possibly with vouchers or subsidies. It should be impressed on single mothers that without husbands, how could they afford healthcare and education for their children? This once again reflects the libertarian principle that novel family arrangements should not exist only because healthcare and education are provided by the taxpayer.
  • The Child Support Agency should be closed. Unmarried mothers who do not fit within the definition of “common-law spouses” (chiefly because they’d never shared a home with the father) would have no right to seek child-support payments from the fathers of the offspring, as the failure of the mother to marry the father first would be held to show that no commitment had been entered into by the man. Once again, without private money, such girls would not be able to bear children out of wedlock.
  • Unmarried mothers could try to reach a signed agreement with the father to support the child after birth, and in such limited cases the mother would have the confidence to proceed with the pregnancy knowing she had financial support available.

None of this equates to a full promotion of traditional morality. In particular, if people take steps to prevent the conception of children in frivolous relationships, they would be able to practice what has traditionally been known as “fornication”. What people do in a private room is private business. But the bearing of children whose upkeep, education, health and behavioural discipline are then a state matter is something else entirely.

What seems like a “free society” is merely the state promotion of the dissolution of the social fabric. Don’t mistake this for libertarianism. Legions of social workers, healthcare workers, teachers, and social-security advisers lie in wait for the greater opportunities social collapse offers them. There is simply no denying that a free society will not be created in England until behavioural standards improve. Women of England, stop behaving like trollops! Clean behind your fridges! Look after your menfolk! And stop behaving like entitled minxes!

 

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77 comments

  • “I fail to understand why some libertarians insist that we should approve of all lifestyles.”

    And I fail to have ever heard of, spoken to or met any of these libertarians you seem to believe exist. Could you point me at some? I’d like to investigate them for myself

    • Thomas, maybe I’ve interpreted some people as implying that libertarians have to be “pro-gay” – they’d don’t!! I think there is a conservative libertarianism, which I subscribe to, which would hold that public decorum is essential (and people can do what they like in private as long as it has no public repercussions), and a left-wing libertarianism that sees radical lifestyles as the affirmation of a free spirit that libertarians should welcome. In any case, I’m not going to hunt for quotes: it seems you are saying that you do not approve of all lifestyles, and so we’re in agreement.

      • DJ, I’m not just saying that I do not approve of all lifestyles. I’m saying that I have never, in about 20 years of involvement in the libertarian movement, met so much as a single individual who claimed to be a libertarian and to approve of, or think that everyone should approve of, all lifestyles.

        That said, no, we are not “in agreement.” Most of your “key points for a free society” sound a lot more like Romania under Ceaucescu than like anything I’d recognize as a “free society.”

        • It’s a question of leakage. There is a tendency among libertarians to suspend judgement on certain behaviours once it is established that they ought not be actually forbidden. Behaviour which they themselves would never engage in, mind you. Surely you must have noticed this?

          • Carl,

            I’ve noticed that a lot of libertarians tend toward the “non-judgmental” mentality you’re talking about, but I’ve also noticed that that “non-judgmentalism” extends to those who don’t approve of this or that.

            In other words, they do exactly the opposite of “insisting that we must approve of all lifestyles.” They’re fine with people who don’t approve of, say, homosexuality, drug use, gambling, whatever … right up to the moment of suggesting that those who don’t approve of X are entitled to forcibly impose their disapproval by forbidding the acts in question.

  • “But the bearing of children whose upkeep, education, health and behavioural discipline are then a state matter is something else entirely.” Nothing is a state matter, D J Webb. That gang can send its costumed thugs round but that doesn’t make it any of their business.

    The list of key points has nothing to do with freedom. As far as I care someone can have as many bastards as they like but the producers pay for them not taxpayers. Who shouldn’t exist anyway. D J Webb is not a believer in Liberty despite what he says.

    • Unfortunately, Mr Ecks, you imagine you are anti-state, but you support the very reason why the state is in any of those things in the first place. If the state were not in the business of the maintenance, education, health and discipline of children, there would be few unmarried mothers in the first place – the whole process of social change rides on the back of state of spending at 50% of GDP. To argue in support of this social change, while claiming the state needn’t be in any of these areas, is to say nothing.

  • I think this is a bit of a straw man David. Libertarians disagree about most everything with each other, but I think everyone basically subscribes to the view that freedom to do X includes the freedom to not approve of X. We simply don’t think that disapproval of X justifies the State stopping people doing X.

    For instance, in libetarianism, anyone has the right to disapprove of drinking alcohol. But we would not approve of the State stopping people drinking alcohol; neither should the State support the drinking of alcohol (e.g. by giving people beer money). It is just nothing to do with the law.

    • I am strongly in favour of the drinking of alcohol, by the way.

    • So you agree that single motherhood should be deprecated? And that this social change that is only possible because of state spending should be tackled by ending the state programmes that support it? I think I’ve winkled out an agreement.

      • I agree that the State should not fund any such lifestyle choice. I do not think it should force people to marry, or dictate marriage contracts either. I think the term “deprecate” is dubious though. People should be left to live their own lives, the sufficient counterbalancing force being that they must also be responsible for the consequences. I don’t think any more deprecation than that is necessary or desirable.

        • You would have Derek Jarman’s Jubilee as the idealtype of a supposedly free society, without even considering that long before we got to the Jubilee level, the state would have cleaned up.

          Marriage is just the relation of a man and woman for the purpose of children – and if they are related to a child, a state decree they are no longer “related” cannot be of any real effect (which is why alimony is still paid). Does an American decree that a child has divorced his parents make him no longer their child? No. Does a court decree that a woman is no longer related to THE FATHER OF HER CHILDREN (read that again – the father of her children) make them no longer related? Of course not – he is still THE FATHER OF HER CHILDREN. I merely assert the natural, biological meaning of marriage against your attempts to insert a state-concocted definition thereof.

          • All I can remember about that was fat Toyah Wilcox spitting at the camera. It was a very long time ago. I’m not entirely sure what relevance it has to this discussion.

            As to marriage being the relation of a man and woman for the purpose of children; well, not really. As I discussed above.

  • Most certainly the state should not support or interfere with peoples child production. If that is your point you have dressed it up in a lot of verbiage with a dictatorial tone.

    • Mr Ecks, can you specify the dictatorial points? I just state the state should not fund family breakdown – and that without a reassertion of supposedly “puritan” morality, the chances of a libertarian society are precisely zero. This is just a fact. Strong family values are a sine qua non of a free society. The glee with which the state is promoting “libertine” values shows who is the ultimate beneficiary of such social change.

      • Ahem. The Progressive State is not libertine. It really is important to understand this. Its motivation for funding single mothers is not libertine, its promotion of gay marriage is not libertine, and its sexual values are most assuredly not libertine. Its primary theory is Feminism, which is not libertine.

        To somewhat over simplify, Feminism is intensely puritan. It characterises all male sexuality as a fearful burden upon women; it thus tends to reject marriage as a sexual burden upon wives, and an arena for male sexual oppression, and thus seeks to fund women living independently of men (but retaining rights to male support via the courts). The motivation for supporting single mothers is not libertinism (I’m a libertine, I know one when I see one). It is the exact opposite; on this issue the motive is to remove women from the burden of male sexuality which being a wife (supposedly) subjects them to.

        Genuine libertinism and libertarianism are entirely compatible. The key element is standard to libertarianism- that people bear the consequences of their own actions, which is the moderating force. To get off sex, think about drinking again. Under libertarianism you have the right to drink yourself into a stupour every day. The moderating force is that you need to be sober enough to maintain an income. If the State gives you an income so you can just drink all day every day, you won’t do that, so the “social market” doesn’t balance.

  • You keep on saying people bear the consequences of their own actions – and then immediately proceed with the state propaganda on why they shouldn’t do so – which is not surprising as you get this from the BBC in the first place.

    Look – if people get married that is a “action” for which they bear the “consequences”. If people have children, that is also an “action” for which they bear the “consequences”. Divorce is particularly repugnant, as it claims to “unpick the consequences” for feckless individuals.

    This agenda – which is a pro-state agenda to individuate the population – is based on telling people to do whatever they feel like without regard for absurd and old-fashioned concepts such as “duty” (cue the laughs!)

    I do not participate in the ahistorical conflation of modern views with views in the 16th century – which cannot be accepted on intellectual grounds due to ahistoricity. All we are left with is the fact – which I accept – that femininists seem ideologically motivated and rigid, but they achieve their goals by telling men and women “walk out of your marriages; do what feels best; your kids will be happier when you divorce; drop your kids off at the children’s home if you can’t cope” etc etc.

    People ultimately like the voices of those who tell them they have rights, but no duties, and should just do what feels best to them.

    Worst of all, whenever you raise topics like this, the state-funded social change has proceeded so far that there are always many around who are divorced or have abandoned their children (heros one and all!!) who speak up, mouthing the BBC propaganda fluently – “it was so much better after we got divorced – better for the children, in fact”.

    Why do you think Eastenders is broadcast? People’s morals are directly educated by such disgusting programmes – if people on there can get married, or commit bigamy, or serial divorce, or cheat on their spouses, or walk out of their marriages, or dump their children, or have blazing rows dumping their husband’s clothes in Albert Square – it must be OK, right? I think you would struggle to show Eastenders was a puritan show! Quite the opposite.

  • I’m opposed to the libertine state.

    Let me go further. The state has played a blinder. Morality is now removed from the area of marriage and family — in the old days our ruling classes were pressured by the need to conform in personal life; they may not all have done so, but many of them found they couldn’t do things they wanted to do, and not because they were illegal — morality is now removed to “speech”.

    There is still a class divide. Those who know the right words vs. those who speak freely. You could label that puritan – this is still ahistorical, but you could argue that in every period of society the ruling class will always find issues to purse their lips over and effect a class divide. A libertarian society in the future will still have economic classes and class identities, and thus moral issues that form a social divide, and it can’t be any other way. This brings out quite clearly the lame intellectual value of claiming feminists are starting where Oliver Cromwell left off. They’re not – the only similarity is that a moral divide is visible in society, as in any society.

    This new dividing line is very convenient. A state bureaucrat who has abandoned his wife and children, but who is careful never to say banned race words and never to talk about women cleaning behind the fridge – is regarded as “morally upright” according to the new definition. Think Chris Huhne – not a racist, not a sexist, and a passionate advocate, I don’t doubt, of gay rights.

    By removing the arena of morality to speech alone, there are other key benefits for the state. The lower classes will never know all the right words, and so “deserve” their position. And just as the proles in 1984 were encouraged to watch porn, the proles today are positively enjoined to abandon their children – leaving them with reduced and damaged lives, thus lacking in the ambition and sense of hope required to take on the establishment and providing a huge justification for state intervention. Actually, marriage rates are higher higher up the social pyramid, as the Establishment’s anti-family advice is largely for proletarian consumption.

  • The only “rider” I would add is that sometimes it is convenient to make an argument that is not watertight, but which you know your audience will accept owing to their background philosophically.
    E.g. it sometimes is best just to explain immigration in terms of the Establishment’s desire for cheap labour – although cheap labour is also in abundance here, and there seems a more important political justification, in that the Establishment has given up on the nation-state and is seeking to close it down.

    In similar terms, while not being a watertight argument, you could argue to someone who draws all his opinions from the BBC that he is falling prey to a new moral “puritanism” – as that person will have been educated to regard that as a negative term, it could be effective to portray political correctness as puritan to such a person. Such a person is unlikely to venture that there is always a moral divide, and that the very purpose of reducing morality to speech is to open the doorway to libertine values in the sphere of marriage, family and the children. You don’t have to always use a watertight argument. You can sometimes make a cheap argument – which this is – to score a quick hit, and if it works, it may be a good idea. I may use it myself from time to time if it’s convenient.

  • “which is not surprising as you get this from the BBC in the first place.”

    At which point, David Webb stumbles over in his big clown shoes. Honestly, you are entirely free to believe whatever claptrap you like, but it’s pointless trying to have a reasoned discussion in this environment.

    I don’t even own a fucking television. Now, you go off in a huff because I said a dirty word, like you usually do.

  • A further addition to my comment at 10:52: once the sphere of morality is moved from traditional personal values to speech, then the “puritanism” (if we accept ahistorical use of the word to refer to a moral divide, such as would exist in any society) moves from personal values to speech. In other words, the femininist harpies denounce those who oppose divorce (see Rod Liddle: http://www.spectator.co.uk/columnists/rod-liddle/9382812/easy-divorce-has-been-catastrophic-for-british-children-and-i-say-this-as-a-divorcee/) . So if puritanism exists today, its advocates denounce those who oppose divorce and who advocate traditional family values – which makes Ian B one of the New Puritans.

    • DJ, I’m not denouncing anyone’s values. I’ve written many comments saying that nuclear families are (a) a good structure and (b) in my view historically central to the success of Europe. I am simply saying that people should be free to make their own choices. The difference between you and me is that you want to force everyone to do the same thing for fear society will collaspe if they don’t, whereas I think people are capable of making those choices in a free society.

      Also, etymologically the term “puritan” as a general term for somebody with a rectal broomhandle can be traced back to the sixteenth century, so we can use the term in either manner. The way I use it refers to the particular moral zealotry of the Anglo nations, which has been in a culture war with liberalism since the Reformation. It is characterised by certain beliefs-

      (a) that some particular objective moral code is essential to prevent society collapsing

      (b) it is the duty of a moral superior Elect to impose this on the reprobate masses by State force

      (c) a particular emphasis on the suppression of hedonism

      (d) a particular emphasis on control of the personal and private- “lifestyle reform”- including an emphasis on controlling manners and speech. “The unspeakable”.

      (e) probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten because I’m typing too fast.

      There have been three identifiable puritan waves, interspersed by liberal relaxations. The first was Cromwell’s nasty regime. The second was the Victorian Era. The third is the one we call Political Correctness. Looked at in reverse, Victorianism was a previous wave of political correctness, and thus ironically most conservatives are actually promoting a previous version of social radicalism.

      This, historically, is the explanation for the growth of the State in the Anglosphere in modern times. Puritans can only achieve so much by private civil action. They will always have to turn to State force at a certain point. They can bully people into drinking less, but people keep drinking, so in the end it has to be government prohibition. And so on.

      The thing that baffles me (rhetorically) is the blindness of many conservatives. Here we are in the midst of the most furious sex panic in 100 years, while the Progressive Establishment stoke up ever more hysteria about everything from being overweight to drinking two glasses of wine of an evening to playing video games, and conservatives still cling to this straw man that the Progressives are libertines. It’s mesmerisingly in denial of reality.

  • I did not say I would force anything. I said I would stop funding social breakdown – and I would delete laws that permitted people to get out of the consequences of their own actions. To the extent that people are prepared to take the consequences of their actions, they may do as they please – but that does include duty to husband and children.

    There is no “force”, other than economic pressure to remain in the family, given the lack of benefits to fund an alternative.

    Do you recall those horrible Australian trollops coming on TV last year claiming they were hard done by because they were “forced” to give up their children in the 1950s? These trollops now pose as the victims! None of them were forced to do anything! Only, there were no flats for single mothers and no benefits, and no Child Support Agency for them to sue the fathers – so all that was said to them was “how are you going to support the child with no money?” They gave up the children because they had the children regardless of the fact that they had no means of supporting them. There was no force involved.

    You could be understanding of a young woman (I won’t say “lady”) who got herself in difficulties in an era before easy contraception or abortion (no morning after pill), but nowadays, it is just not like that. No one has children without intending to.

    Your own definition of puritanism show the weakness of the concept: the use of state force in imposing the code (the state is behind the anti-family drive today); and an emphasis on suppressing hedonism (when the state is promoting it in order to individuate the population and promote the managerial state).

    Your further absurd connection of Cromwell and the Victorians show all you mean is a moral code. There were therefore puritans in ancient Greece and in feudal Poland, and in hunter-gatherer Yanomami societies – if it just means a moral code.

    In so far, as you mean “it is political correctness”, the political correctness is this: it is non-PC to support marriage!

    We are in the throes of a sex panic – but the whole idea is to further individuate the population and weaken the family bond and create fear of adults. In fact, such moral panics can only thrive in a society that has already been individuated to a large extent so that fear of strangers and of society in general becomes set in many people – who look to the state to come up with a solution.

    Down with the libertine state! And down with its puritan opposition to support for marriage and the family!

    • I really would like to live in this imaginary England of yours where the State promotes hedonism, really I would. Unfortunately I find myself in this actual real England where the government has just introduced more internet censorship, the (feminist) DPP is bragging about using child porn laws against teenagers for sexting and where the officially allowed daily alcohol intake is now measured in thimblefuls. You don’t understand what’s happening around you DJ, really you don’t.

      It is interesting to note how you fear “individuation” though, considering that the whole point of libertarianism is an individualist society.

    • “I did not say I would force anything. I said I would stop funding social breakdown — and I would delete laws that permitted people to get out of the consequences of their own actions. ”

      Have a look at your list again. You have the state issuing “marriage certificates” and dictating the contents of marriage agreements (no divorce, etc.). You’re as managerialist as it gets — you just want things managed to produce different outcomes than some other managerialists seek. You are, to put it simply, just the flip side of the “progressive” coin. Different ends (you want a temporary status quo maintained at all costs, even against natural evolutions; they want that status quo shattered even against natural social inertias), same means (state diktat).

      The fact is that how families are constituted and defined has changed constantly throughout history, and that that change is going to continue. Libertarians neither want to rush nor impede that change through state power. Progressives want to rush it (and push it in a particular direction), conservatives want to thwart it (and hold it in a particular place) by ordering people around.

      • Thomas K, unless people stop having children, any future “evolution of the family” will still involve a duty to family members.

        • DJ,

          Yes, “family” will always imply mutual obligations. State involvement has severely distorted the nature and extent of such obligations. Your mistake is in believing that state involvement can return things to some pristine former state of affairs which actually never existed.

          Personally, I want the state out of the business of defining, encouraging, discouraging, subsidizing or fining marriage. Let those who want to be married negotiate binding contracts specifying the obligations involved, the conditions for dissolution, etc. If they’re of a particular religion and want their church to recognize their legal partnership, then that contract will conform to said church’s teachings. The absolute maximum involvement of the state (too much, IMO, but some minarchists might want it) would be arbitrating/mediating any claims pursuant to breach of said contract.

          • Thomas, the state is running rings round its opponents! It has muddied the waters to such an extent that libertarians are now confused enough to retail state propaganda! Look the idea that the state should back out of defining, encouraging etc personal relationships – is the new state propaganda. They have moved the locus of morality from sex to speech, and now propound libertinism in household arrangements and puritanism in speech. You are shilling for the state!

            Look! As long as people bear children, marriage will always be defined as the relationship of a man to a woman through their joint children. To argue against this is redolent of Aleksandra Kollontai (former Soviet ambassador to Sweden) who abandoned her husband, and then her children, and then joined the revolution, and wrote novels, including “the Love of Worker Bees” propounding free love, and collective rearing of children by the commune. As long as people bear children – marriage can only be the duty that results from the bearing of children.

            Everyone who has got married has vowed “till death do us part” – and so divorce is breach of contract. And, more to the point, if they have children, then a state divorce cannot make the spouses no longer related to each other – and the one is still the other parent of the other one’s children.

            To assert that the bearing of children involves irrevocable duties is not “state definition of relationships” – but rather flows from the natural consequences of the act of bearing the children in the first place. It is the state’s definition of a biological relationship of the child to both parents as no longer including a relationship between the parents (this is known as “divorce”) that is the state intervention.

            If you can devise a form of family that does not include the bearing of children – then you are right in your arguments (which is why the state should not seek to register or dissove homosexual relationships – as they can’t produce children).

            You are trying to argue that the traditional prohibition against divorce in England was “state intervention”, when in actual fact it merely formalised the fact that the people involved could never get out of the fact that having had children together they would always be linked. That biological reality still exists. In arguing in this fashion, you don’t realise you are regurgitating the state’s own arguments, now that it has shifted the locus for the moral divide in society from sex to speech.

      • The fact is that how families are constituted and defined has changed constantly throughout history, and that that change is going to continue. Libertarians neither want to rush nor impede that change through state power. Progressives want to rush it (and push it in a particular direction), conservatives want to thwart it (and hold it in a particular place) by ordering people around.

        I agree with most of that (we had to agree some time Thomas, heh) except partially the last sentence. Progressives and Conservatives are both committed to driving relationships in particular directions, neither of which are (at least, necessarily) the direction that relationships would evolve in naturally (i.e. in the free “social” market). By the social market, I do not mean “a market with socialism”. I mean the social relations people freely choose in a free society being the result of individual actions, some of which are more successful than others.

        • In a free social market, single motherhood would be rare – as, without benefits or the casual assumption that women will always gain all the marital assets, women could not afford to turf out their husbands. I’m repeating this until I’m blue in the face. Someone will understand it one day.

          • So you won’t need your state shotgun weddings and state marriage contracts then will you, DJ?

            • Look – you fail to realise that state marriage certificates and formal weddings are not required. Under English Common Law, people living together with children – ARE married. They’re in a common-law marriage. If you want to get rid of state marriage and divorce entirely – we are still left with the fact that people living together and having children – IS marriage, whether declared or not, because, in substance, marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman for procreation. And stable, committed relationships, whether with a piece of paper from the town hall or not, are the foundation of a free society.

              In fact the only purpose of the piece of paper is in making it public – so that the people then feel they are in a commitment difficult to back out of. If you got rid of the pieces of paper, you still need to get to a situation in society where they are stable and committed relationships for the upbringing of children in order to avoid creating social problems that inevitably justify state intervention.

              • I’ve actually pointed out in multiple threads here that marriage was once a Common Law contract without any formal approval of either church or state required. It was taken over first by the church, then by the state.

  • Hedonism – any Benefits Street is wallowing in it. They may not like teenagers sending pictures of their private parts (which I regard as stupid, but harmless, particularly as they are well over the age of biological maturity), but the schools are actively sexualising children from a young age. Primary school children drilled in the possibilites of anal sex, etc (no pun intended).

    An individuated society is not a free society – it is one where people have lost their connection with others to such a degree that the state is their only reliable support, or so they think. This is a salutary warning to libertarians that “individualism” cannot be based on an individuated society. A free society has strong families – the “individuals” are not lone and isolated individuals who only relate to each other through the state and who so fear others that absurd moral panics become rife, but rather individuals cocooned in loving families who therefore have the family support networks not to need the state.

    Down with the libertine state and its promotion of hedonism and managerialism.

  • Get rid of state schools. That will stop the sodomy lessons–unless the parents insist on them.

    • Well, yes, Mr Ecks. I fully agree – parents should be able to insist that lessons in sodomy are not attended by their offspring. This has all got out of hand – and flows from, as you say, state funding of schools. This further supports my argument: by allowing the state a virtual monopoly on education, they are able to promote libertinism in private moral conduct and puritanism in speech – and privatising education would deal with that. Incidentally, single mothers would have nothing to pay for private education with – it would be very difficult to raise children without a husband and breadwinner in tow – once again, supporting my argument.

      • Ah, yes, to oppose state control is to “shill for the state,” while to support state control is “libertarianism.” Get thee to a dictionary.

        “Everyone who has got married has vowed ’till death do us part.'”

        And while you’re consulting that dictionary, you might want to crack a history book, too. Hint: The Sarum Rite is not the sum total of human marital history and practice.

      • Look, I’m not in favour of state sex education either, or any ideological schooling. Anyway, I’m anti-state and compulsory schooling, full stop. But the perception of these sex education lessons is wrong. They’re not “sodomy lessons”. They’re “safe sex” lessons with the intention of preventing disease transmission and pregnancy, which is why they’re trying to get it hammered into the children as early as possible.

  • I am not sure if it is true but if these kinds of lessons are being given to 6 year olds then it needs stopping. Nobody–apart from a progeria sufferer– reaches puberty at age 6.

    • Two reasons. Firstly the idea that the younger you start, the deeper the education goes. Secondly, they need priming to report paedos.

  • The first idea constitutes child abuse in itself .At that age kids should be focused on their Xmas party not precise details the deployment of dick/cunt let alone variations on that theme and assorted diseases. Yes, kids sometimes have curiosity but that is what it is-not sexual interest For Christ’s sake let them have a childhood.
    And the second is the quintessence of leftist propaganda bullshit.

    • Well, depends what they’re being taught. Look, I’m as anti-proggie as anyone, and as I said I don’t approve of state sex education at all, but they’re not being taught how to felch. It’s more a mixture of “there are ghey peeps in the world” and “if a man touches your pee pee, tell a constable”. Neither of which are wrong to talk to kids about per se, even if it should be parents rather than teachers doing it.

      • No, it’s much more than that. It includes teachers bringing in dildos to school on which to demonstrate to giggling primary school children how to put a condom on it.

  • “We are in the throes of a sex panic – but the whole idea is to further individuate the population and weaken the family bond and create fear of adults. In fact, such moral panics can only thrive in a society that has already been individuated to a large extent so that fear of strangers and of society in general becomes set in many people – who look to the state to come up with a solution.”

    That seems intuitively more plausible to me than suggesting that the paedomania is about pleasure. The ruling class may be evil, but I am confident that it isn’t stupid enough to waste its time on a witch-hunt designed solely to stop old men enjoying themselves with young boys. I’m sure the ruling class is very happy for this to go ahead. Their aim is more likely, as you say, to be the creation of an atmosphere of distrust.

    The state doesn’t care who buggers who any more, so long as they can use it to their own advantage in some way…

  • Some things can not be dealt with empirically, but some things can be – and this is one of them. If the present “liberated” society is libertarian it would continue even if all government subsidy was removed. Does anyone think that the vast number of one parent families (and so on) could really continue without government subsidy? I would normally cite Charles Murray (“Losing Ground”) at this point – however, I have been told that he is now in favour of government income support (and so on), although I have not seen the evidence that he has switched.

    • Murray hinted at some kind of “guaranteed income” scheme as early as The Bell Curve in the mid-1990s. I distinctly remember that because I read it as soon as it came out and was later surprised to hear him referred to as a “libertarian.” He devoted an entire book (In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State) to the proposition in 2006. I haven’t read the book, but here is his description of it in an AEI interview (at https://www.aei.org/publication/bell-curve-20-years-later-qa-charles-murray/):

      “I want to dismantle all the bureaucracies that dole out income transfers, whether they be public housing benefits or Social Security or corporate welfare, and use the money they spend to provide everyone over the age of 21 with a guaranteed income, deposited electronically every month into a bank account. … Massive government redistribution is an inevitable feature of advanced postindustrial societies. Our only option is to do that redistribution in the least destructive way.

      Of course, he’s far from the first “libertarian” to suggest such things. Milton Friedman advocated a “negative income tax,” which was partially implemented in the United States as the “Earned Income Credit” (basically a refund in excess of income taxes withheld if you make below a certain income).

      And for the record, before Mr. Marks launches into a “black flagger” denunciation of me, let me be perfectly clear on this: I do not support any such kind of scheme and have vigorously denounced the recent advocacy of “guaranteed income” by e.g. by Matt Zwolinski of Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

    • I doubt that the large number of one parent families would continue. But then as I keep pointing out, our society is neither liberated nor libertine. Most obviously, libertines (using the hedonist definition) don’t want babies, they get in the way of fun. You and DJ need a better adjective.

  • I’m thinking that where there are no children, it’s much easier to accept easier divorce (without the presumption the wife gets 50% of many millions). Having children and then getting divorced totally crosses the line.

  • All the “key points” proposed by the author for a free society are the antithesis of libertarianism; a sort of oppressive conservative counterpart to bleeding-heart ‘libertarianism’.

    Libertarians want to remove governments entirely out of defining and legislating on marriage and other consensual sexual or lifestyle arrangements. Marriage should be nothing more than a legally binding contract — governed by the law of contract, naturally. These contracts would come into force by the signing of the names in the lawyer’s office, or maybe even at the church after a religious ceremony conducted by a priest if the lawyer is willing, probably for an extra fee, to make the journey. At non-religious weddings, lawyers could even fulfil the role currently performed by registrars, since the involvement of the latter in officiating would be redundant.

    The wonderful thing about this is how liberating it would be for the marrying parties: different religious communities could lay out what constitutes breach of contract according to their own interpretation of their religion, while couples in general could have, agreed in writing, what they expect of one another on a day-to-day basis, be it sex at least twice a week, or something as mundane as who has the greater burden of washing the dishes. This would have the effect of punishing fault in divorce, which is normal when companies sue for breach but apparently unthinkable and ‘unjust’ for spouses to do so against the at-fault party.

    Until government is abolished, though, we are obviously stuck with state interference in marriage and divorce, so we should push for as much liberty as possible within that system. The best thing I can think of is making pre-nuptial agreements legally binding (at the moment, they are persuasive upon the courts, but not binding, and judges are free to vary them as they wish, almost always in the woman’s favour, or set them aside entirely).

    Unfortunately, even where pre-nups exist and are the norm, they only function within the confines of no-fault divorce; that is to say that a couple cannot regulate who pays what based on who is to blame for marital breakdown. I want to see much greater freedom in this area, and the courts should only be able to set aside such a contract when it is void ab initio, not just because it seems ‘unfair’ to some liberal judge that a wealthy, cuckolded man and his poor wife have agreed in advance that she will not get a penny if she commits adultery.

    Nonetheless, a pre-nup with restrictions is better than an unprotected marriage. Men who marry in modern Britain, things as they are, must be living on a death wish. The financial slaughtering men suffer in divorce cases is so well-known that I am actually losing sympathy for men who choose to marry — and I am saying this as somebody who wholeheartedly supports the institution of marriage and basically agrees with the author’s view on the social and cultural importance of marriage. I fear that the only way the current order of things will change is if men radicalise themselves into a proper marriage strike.

    With 50% of marriages ending in divorce, marrying is too great and foolish a risk to take, I am sorry to admit. I imagine there is a good chunk of that remaining 50% who stay unhappily in their marriages, perhaps to avoid being a daylight robbery victim by their wives. If I ever ‘marry’ (very, very unlikely), I will have a non-binding ‘ceremony’ with a friend ‘officiating’, exchange vows and rings, and have a celebration afterwards. Superficially, it will look like any regular marriage, except it will not be. We can call ourselves husband and wife, she can adopt my name, and we can even have our friends and family believe the pomp, but it will be what is known in law as a non-marriage (because it does not even satisfy the legal requirements to be a void marriage). 90% of Britain’s Muslims are in such a marriage, in fact, and their divorces are governed by officially unrecognised religious courts whose rulings (fatawa) they abide by voluntarily and by faith. It works simply because those participating in it ‘believe it’ into existence. It is acquiring the benefits of marriage without being a marriage.

    By the way, common-law marriage, which is an irregular but legally contracted marriage, has never existed in the England and Wales. There used to be four forms of irregular marriage in Scotland, the last of which, marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute (which is what we English usually think of as common-law marriage), was abolished in 2006 by the Family Law (Scotland) Act.

    It is mistakenly claimed that before the Marriage Act 1753, cohabiting couples in England and Wales enjoyed the protection of a common-law marriage, but neither the name nor the concept existed at that time (in fact, such cohabiting couples were more likely to be prosecuted for fornication in an ecclesiastical court). It has been a mere social usage since the 1960s to refer to a cohabiting, unmarried couple, and so-called ‘common-law spouses’ have never had rights to one another’s assets upon separation.

    • Vabadus, your comment is useful in illustrating all of the errors some libertarians make on this issue. Firstly, there was common-law marriage in the Middle Ages (to argue otherwise, you would have to find a statute requiring government registration of marriages between 1235 and the Reformation – can you find such a statute?). It has nothing to do with the 1753 Marriage Act. Before the mid-16th century, there was little attempt to record marriages. Find me a marriage certificate from 1300 please! It is – and remains – a fact of ecclesiastical canon law that the “ministers” in a marriage are the couple themselves. We have “solemnisations” of matrimony, not administrations for this reason. In canon law, a vow made in secret before God to stay faithful for life is a valid marriage – and it was only after the Reformation that both the RC and other churches started to require public records of such things. Your paragraph on common-law marriage includes a huge chunk lifted directly from the well-known reliable source, Wikipedia – which anyone can edit.

      The main error made in your comment is not to deal with my argument at all. I have argued — and I will repeat it here, in the vain hope that eventually at least one person will understand it — that a man and a woman become related to each other through their joint blood relationship to a child. This is what Jesus meant by a man and a woman becoming “one flesh”. How can people from different lineages be “one flesh”? Because marriage allows for procreation and they do become biologically related through a child in so far as the child contains the genetic material of both of these two hitherto unrelated people. I’m trying to be as explicit as possible as to what my argument is: a reply that doesn’t even comprehend the terms of the discussion will leave us talking at cross-purposes.

      Consequently, marriage is based on a natural reality that is not created by the state and cannot be abolished by the state. if you have a 5 year old child – and the judge claims to “dissolve” the marriage, can he also dissolve the fact that you and the mother of the child will always be connected through the child? Unless you can answer “yes”, you don’t have a point. Worryingly, you don’t realise that you don’t have a point.

      In America children can divorce their parents. I suppose the Vabadus libertarians would say “we need to get the state out of defining adult-child relationships. Why is a child related to his mother just because the state insists he is?” Just as parent-child relationships are biological facts -and it is state attempts to redefine them that are absurd, so relationships between parents of a child are not a product of state definition, but of the biological facts. It is for this reason that any attempt to “divorce” parents of a child cannot remove the fact that they are related to each other still…

      • “In America children can divorce their parents.”

        Not exactly, although that is often how it is informally referred to. Most such cases involve children who have earned substantial wealth and their parents are taking it and pissing it away, but I can give you a case I’m familiar with because I knew the guy. I’ll call him “Bob” to protect his identity.

        When Bob was very young, his father died. In such cases in the US, the Social Security Administration pays a monthly support check for support of the minor children of deceased parents, generally to the surviving parent or, if they’re in state care, to whatever agency is involved.

        Bob’s mother at some point — I don’t know if it was immediately or later — basically started pissing “his” Social Security money away on booze and/or drugs, was unemployed, didn’t keep house, maybe Bob ate and maybe Bob didn’t.

        By the time he was 16, Bob was working a part-time job (to the limit of hours the law allows for minors) and doing well in school (since he was a minor, his mother had control of his bank account and blew through that money as well).

        Normally in cases of clear abuse/neglect like that of his mother, the child or someone else would eventually complain and “Child Protective Services” would stick the kid in a state facility or in foster care until age 18. But Bob was lucky enough to have a friend whose dad was a lawyer who was willing to help and took a different approach.

        It’s called becoming an “emancipated minor.” Bob went before a judge and argued (with supporting evidence such as school grade reports, etc.) that he was competent to live on his own as an adult, with a few restrictions. He was allowed to move out of his mother’s home and rent an apartment on his own. The Social Security check that would come until he was 18 was thereafter made out to him. He was allowed to have his own bank account, entirely under his own control. He was allowed to work a full 40-hour week at his job, as long as he maintained reasonable grades and remained in school.

        So he did not “divorce” his mother in the sense of a court declaring she was no longer his mother (in fact, my recollection is that she eventually straightened herself out and that they re-established a warm relationship). He simply attained the legal status of “adult” earlier than is automatically accorded in law and was allowed to take charge of his own affairs.

        • Thank you for the clarification – but it doesn’t affect the point in hand. Could libertarians argue that the mother-son link is entired state-created and thus the law could be changes to allow a son to no longer be his mother’s son? Any such “legal reform” would fly in the face of the fact – which can’t be altered, not by libertarians or by the state. Similarly, joint parents of a child are related to each other – and “divorce” is a fatuous declaration that they are not. It is not “libertarian” to argue that biological realities can be abrogated by autonomous individuals. This is the key point. Nearly all of this is state anti-family propaganda dressed us a “freedom” and “liberty” in the interests of the state – but no one is able to explain how the facts on the ground become no longer the facts in this process.

      • Couples are married regardless of whether they have children. Couples marry when the woman is beyond childbearing age. Married couples simply are not and never have been defined via their children. Your first paragraph was doing so well, but then you came up with this definition of marriage that nobody has ever used, and I don’t know why you would define it that way.

        • It is incorrect to say “no one has ever used” this definition of marriage (and I notice – strangely – that you have yet to come up with an explanation of how divorce dissolves the real relationship of the couple with their children and thus with each other; I know it can’t be explained), as Jesus used it:

          “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

          • Umm … please point out in that Bible passage where children are in any way referenced. I’ve read it a couple of times and I’m just not seeing it.

            That said, it does seem fairly obvious that marriage did develop around the function of creating and raising children (and by extension in both directions, conserving and conveying property across generations). It doesn’t follow from said development history, however, that marriage has ever been in every single instance about that, or that future developments might not eclipse those particular functions.

            • Sure – the words “one flesh” – people from unrelated lineages (a man and a woman from different families) becomes one flesh – genetically related – by their joint reproduction.

              • Interesting. Not only can I not find any evidence in any English translation that the passage you cite means what you claim it means, but that passage directly precedes a biblical rational for, um, divorce.

                • Yes. It is followed directly by Jesus’ comment that the only acceptable grounds for divorce was adultery. The Church of England has traditionally not accepted any grounds for divorce. And as I’m not expounding religion here, but rather the fundamental basis of English liberty in natural relationships, English Common Law and the interpretation of Christianity of Ecclesia Anglicana (whether that interpretation correctly matched that of Jesus), it strictly speaking makes no difference that Jesus allowed divorce on the grounds of adultery.

                  • So was the matter of children inserted into the meaning of that verse by 1) the Church of England, 2) English Common Law or 3) You? Because there’s no way to get it from Matthew’s language itself.

                    • I’m discussing the phrase “one flesh”.

                    • Yes, I know what phrase you are discussing it. It’s just that you are imputing meanings to it without basis and building faery castles out of moonbeams on those meanings, then trying to pass the result off as 1) history and 2) libertarianism.

                      It’s not so much that any given conclusion of yours is wrong as that your process resembles that of a man in the middle of a king-hell acid trip, stumbling down a hall full of objects, mis-naming them for the most part but occasionally calling a light fixture a light fixture instead of calling it a 1966 Chevrolet Impala. Sure, he got one right, but that hardly validates his cognitive processes.

      • ‘Firstly, there was common-law marriage in the Middle Ages (to argue otherwise, you would have to find a statute requiring government registration of marriages between 1235 and the Reformation – can you find such a statute?) . . . Before the mid-16th century, there was little attempt to record marriages. Find me a marriage certificate from 1300 please!’

        Pre-record marriages were not common-law marriages in name or in form! Unrecorded ceremonies were simply the regular manner in which marriages were conducted, whereas common-law marriages are defined specifically as irregular forms of marriage that come into effect despite not conforming to the usual requirements and process of contracting a marriage.

        ‘I have argued — and I will repeat it here, in the vain hope that eventually at least one person will understand it — that a man and a woman become related to each other through their joint blood relationship to a child. This is what Jesus meant by a man and a woman becoming “one flesh” . . . Consequently, marriage is based on a natural reality that is not created by the state and cannot be abolished by the state.’

        You are presupposing that there is only one definition of marriage and that Jesus Christ, through the Bible, is the creator of this definition. In fact, marriage pre-dates both the State and religion, and divorce has existed for as long as marriage. The undoing of the joining of two fleshes to become one is irrelevant here because Christians do not hold a monopoly on what marriage is. Muslims, for example, regard marriage precisely as a contract rather than a sacrament.

        The historical origins of marriage are also irrelevant, as it goes. The libertarian solution of privatising marriage means that anyone can enter into a contract, entitle that contract ‘marriage’, rescind that contract, and call that rescission ‘divorce’, so I do not buy for a second that divorce could or should be abolished in a libertarian or almost-libertarian society. Why would free individuals under libertarianism be compelled to accept only the Biblical definition of marriage? As a non-Christian, I do not believe that marriage would make me one flesh with my wife.

        Going back to your point, though, if Christ himself accepted divorce on the sole grounds of adultery (and Christians would, naturally, be free in a libertarian system to form a marriage contract in line with the strictures demanded of them by their religion, providing for rescission of the contract only in the case of infidelity), then surely he did believe that in this exclusive circumstance, the joining of two fleshes into one could be undone?

        • “You are presupposing that there is only one definition of marriage and that Jesus Christ, through the Bible, is the creator of this definition.”

          I don’t think that’s actually what he’s claiming. I think he is arguing that (his interpretation of) the CoE definition of marriage is the definition of marriage most (or solely) compatible with a free society, not that it’s the “only” definition of marriage.

        • Vabadus, I will not reply to any further non-productive and/or mulish comments. In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic church throughout the West permitted secret and clandestine marriages. Marriage was an issue for church consistory courts, and the church held that a commitment before God in private, even with no ceremony, was valid. In English common law, a clandestine marriage was accepted, as it was simply a church matter – if the church was likely to assert that people were effectively married, then in English common law that was good enough and so the issue is whether if the matter came before a consistory court the bishops would claim that the presence of children must mean that private vows (for which a priest is not required) had been exchanged. To argue that before the Reformation there was no common-law marriage would require you to identify a statute between the start of Parliament in 1235 and the Reformation laying down requirements for marriage. What is the title and year of the statute you are relying on? There were constant claims that kings and princes had been clandestinely married, with such claims proving hard to investigate, and from the Reformation onwards the RC church decided only public marriage could be accepted. The CofE’s prayerbook (16th C) provided for publication of banns etc – and the whole of Europe began to formalise the thing.

          I have yet to receive any comments of the non-mulish variety in the comment thread here. Almost no one has even understood my argument that a man and a woman, having had a child, cannot become “unrelated”. You state, mulishly, “in fact, marriage pre-dates both the State and religion”. I blame the education system, and the lack of a tutorial system in most universities for this sort of “discursive ability”. In fact, I do not claim that Jesus or the Bible or the CofE created marriage. I state that marriage – and will not repeat it again for people whose discursive abilities lean towards the generation of PC propaganda in a post-intellectual age – that marriage is based on the natural and biological fact that parents are related genetically to their children, and so have an unbreakable bond with the other parent of the child. If anything Jesus, the Bible, the CofE or Vabadus says contradicts that biological reality, it will of course be nonsense.

          • There is a difference between being mulish and being in polite disagreement; I see plenty of rudeness, arrogance, and presumption in your comments, though.

            Anyway, let us focus on the nub of what you are saying: that a man and a woman, having had a child, cannot become unrelated.

            Well, both parents will forever be related to their offspring, but they cease to be related to one another if they divorce. Why? Because they are only related to each other by marriage rather than consanguinity, and if the marriage is terminated, so is their relationship. Relationship by genes cannot be undone for obvious biological reasons; an affinal relationship can. Christians who believe that a husband and wife become one flesh might disagree, of course, but there is more than one understanding of the meaning of marriage, as I wrote about before.

            Even if the relationship between husband and wife could not be undone, that is no justification for outlawing divorce under libertarianism. You could simply argue that divorce qua undoing the permanent bond between husband and wife is a delusion without having to abolish divorce.

  • Traditional England was a substantially free society. England’s cultural traditions – its law, its religious heritage, its political thought – contain the essence of real liberty. Freedom implies a certain cultural basis – this is the real kernel of what I’m saying – whereas anarchy or disorder cannot support any worthwhile form of freedom. I don’t want to turn England into Somalia under the rubric of “freedom”. If you want example — England in the late 19th century or early 20th century was much closer to the ideal than anything anywhere today. Surely a novel remains to be written depicting a future libertarian dystopia in England, where order has collapsed. All great ideas contain the seeds of dystopias — compare late 19th-century Socialist ideas with the reality of Russia in the 1930s. The post-family society being created by the state today — it is even considered “offensive” to mention fathers in school today in case it “upsets” a child with no father — oddly draws much of its support from libertarians, who may imagine they are espousing a radical, individualist cause.

  • I apologize for my late contribution to the discussion. But I do hope it will be better late than never. I apologize that It turned into a bit of a diatribe in the writing, too!

    From the first three-quarters of this essay, I got three take-home points.

    (1) Relations between the sexes in Western societies today aren’t as they should be.
    (2) Feminists bear a considerable share of the responsibility for this situation.
    (3) State meddling is responsible for the rest of the problem.

    I can agree with all three, and very strongly with (2). Though I’d add: (4) The institution of traditional marriage doesn’t meet people’s needs any more. (If, indeed, it ever did).
    I find myself, however, disagreeing with many of the ideas put forward in the last quarter of the essay.

    In a minarchist libertarian society (which, for the purpose of this discussion, is one which includes a system of contract law, but not an active, rapacious, meddling political state) I’d expect at least three different types of personal relationship contracts to evolve.

    First are what I call partnership contracts (we might call them PCs, forsooth!) The main purposes of such contracts are companionship, comfort when you’re down, and sexual pleasure; or some combination of the three. There would be no requirement for there to be exactly two parties to the contract, nor any requirement for parties to be of opposite gender. Like all sane contracts, these would include force majeure clauses. They would also include procedures for termination by mutual agreement, or in the event of default by one party. Termination arrangements, such as ownership of co-habited property, would also be included in the contract if relevant.

    I envisage there would be a huge variety of such contracts. They might be for a fixed term, either long or short, or on a rolling period basis. The relationships they cover might be continuous, regular, intermittent or one-off. They might include co-habitation, or the provision by one party of accommodation for the other(s); or neither. They might include arrangements such as sex-for-money, or sex-for-travel, or sex with a particular kink. Some might allow the parties to have other relationships concurrently; others might not. I expect there would also frequently be clauses covering, for example, the use (or not) of condoms, and situations such as unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Whatever the parties to the contract want, and mutually agree on.

    At the second level is what I call a family contract (FC). This is a PC with additional purposes: the founding of a family, or the maintenance of a family, or both. Here, the conditions would be stricter. The vast majority of FCs would be between two individuals of opposite genders. Co-habitation would almost always be included, and property arrangements on termination would be very important. I envisage that an FC would normally last until the youngest child reaches a particular age, with an option at this point to extend (or convert to a PC) by mutual agreement.

    Third is the traditional marriage contract (TMC); an FC with a strong religious flavour and extremely strict conditions, including “till death us do part” and (as the author says) a “gold-diggers’ charter” that enables the female party, with the support of the state, to ruin the life of the male party.

    To force anyone who wants a relationship into a TMC – which is what the author seems to be suggesting by what he says about common law spouses – is, if I may use a phrase, an “un-libertarian activity.” This standpoint shows the same lack of concern for the individual as do those that want to make prostitution, or other relationships that ought to be covered by a partnership contract, unobtainable.

    On the gay angle of all this, I’m sure most here will agree that gay people have historically been treated very badly by the state; Alan Turing, for example. That gay people are now able to enjoy the benefits of a kind of partnership contract (even if it is inaccurately dubbed “gay marriage”) is, I think, a good thing. It is high time that the rest of us should enjoy a similar right to have partnership contracts tailored to our own circumstances.

    • Neil,

      Nice analysis.

      You envisage a huge variety of “PC” contracts, and you’re probably right — but I suspect that de facto “standard boilerplate” would emerge quickly and enjoy mass adoption. People without substantial assets that required special clauses, etc. would just grab the boilerplate and go. People with more specific needs would grab the boilerplate and have a lawyer modify it. People with very special situations would have something drawn up bespoke.

      Here’s where I think you’re talking past DJ, though:

      “The institution of traditional marriage doesn’t meet people’s needs any more.”

      His approach doesn’t seem to be one of “meeting people’s needs.” It seems to be one of thinking about “what best supports/maintains a free society, if we define ‘free society’ as something that looks like ‘traditional Britain?'”

      • Thank you, Thomas.

        You’re right about there eventually being (one or more) boilerplates. My guess is that they will give a long list of questions people might want to settle in advance about what each party is expected to bring to the partnership, and provide sample (and legally quality assured) wordings for each, which can be included in the contract if they are relevant.

        As to your last point, I think we probably need a discussion with DJ and other denizens of this forum over what we think the phrase “free society” actually means. Perhaps a bit like the discussion I had with David D’Amato a few months ago on the word “capitalism.” Other words and phrases which we often use unclearly or at cross purposes come to mind too, like “equality.” So much so, that I’ve started a list of them…

  • Isn’t it rather paradoxical that the only way to get our liberties back is to push for a theocracy? (Marriage cannot be respected until the matriarchy is overthrown and the patriarchy is re-established in its place and all patriarchal societies need God to make them respect marriage.) But then profound truths are often paradoxical.

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