Privatizing Marriage: Do we need the state?

Shikha Dalmia at Reason Magazine writes that privatizing marriage is a terrible idea.  He thinks it will further the culture wars, because what if some guru decided to pronounce 19 people married or a consenting adult son & mother might get married.  This is silliness, because such people could act as if they were married with no approval from the state.  A license isn’t going to keep people from forming private unions which the majority might not think is appropriate.

He also points to that getting the state out of the marriage business would mean no more marriages by the justice of the peace.  He states, “This would mean that couples would be subjected to community norms, many of them regressive, without any exit option.”  He believes that “Just as property rights (at least in principle) establish the scope and limits of state power over an individual, marriage does something similar for couples. It basically establishes their right to jointly own property and inherit it from each other, keep and raise their children, and make medical decisions for the other when one is incapacitated.”
I think this is a weak argument.  Anyone can draw up a contract to jointly own property.   People that aren’t married raise children together all the time.  I recall encountering a number of couples through the years that chose to not get married, but live and raise children together.  There is no need to contractually work out every detail of a relationship in advance.  Couples have been cohabiting without a declaration of marriage since time immemorial.  Dalmia is worried about legal issues if a marriage breaks up.  It isn’t like there is not precedent to deal with these situations, as roughly 40% of children in the US are born out of wedlock.

I wonder if Dalmia is upset with all the havoc caused by the break-up of unmarried parents raising children.

Like Democracy? Embrace Free Markets

You know how the political system is dominated by two parties that do a horrible job representing average citizens interests?  That is not democracy.  Democracy is billed as this governmental system where the people have the power, not a group of elite rulers.  Yet what people call democracy is a system where we are ruled by a group of elites that can be very unresponsive to the desires of the people.  Recent examples of this are the Bail Outs during the financial crisis and ACA.  People were overwhelming against the bail-outs, yet those were passed because apparently the elites think they know what is better for the populace than the people that voted for them.  In the case of ACA, people hated it for different reasons, but still surveys said people didn’t want it.  Yet here we are with ObamaCare.  People didn’t get what they desired despite voting for people to represent them in the government.  It makes you think that democracy is a fiction.

Yet there could be democracy!  In the market place, you vote with your dollars by purchasing those things which you find most useful.  It is true, that you can’t purchase every thing your heart desires due to a limitation of resources.   We have to choose between competing demands, so we may not be able to go on vacation and build a new deck.  Yet we get to determine which is a priority for ourselves, and go for the priority.  Therefore, the results from voting with your dollars is much more satisfactory than representative democracy.  When I vote with my dollars, I can get a nice vacation or the food that I like or the technology that makes my life easier, etc.  I make the compromises with which I am most comfortable.

Let’s contrast that with state democracy.  The people that vote third party generally aren’t even going to have a voice at the table.  The people that vote for the two major parties have likely compromised some of what they would like by voting for them.  For instance, people against the drone war voted for Obama, the person waging it, because they felt he represented their interests better than Mitt Romney.  People that wanted to see ACA repealed voted for Mitt Romney, despite the fact he was not going to work to repeal it.  They go into the voting booth already compromised.  Even if they agreed with everything in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party platforms, they still face compromise as these two parties negotiate, so the individual dos not get to choose what issues they are willing to work a compromise.  Basically, even in a perfect representative democratic government, the individual has little control.

Enter voluntary activity.  If insurance or health care for all is the desired good, then that could be worked toward voluntarily.  Of course voluntary activity would have to be done at a local level, which is a problem for people with grand plans claiming health care is a human right.  I think this is a weird statement to say that the government needs to provide health care because it is a human right, since our government can only act to provide it with-in our territory.  What about all those places, developing countries, where basic health care is out of reach?  If we are to have grand plans to provide a certain level of health care for all, shouldn’t the entire human race be included?  I think the answer would be that we have no control over what other nations provide for their people, so we have to start smaller with our own country.   My view is that we don’t really have control of our own government, so we ought to start smaller with local voluntary solutions.  We ought to use our own dollars to vote for voluntary solutions in the free market.


Aristotle thinks there are natural slaves

Aristotle, in answering the question of whether or not slavery is natural or convention:

But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature?

There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.

I guess I am pretty shocked by this statement.  I have always thought slavery a supreme evil.  It goes against the ideas I hold true, such as every person has the right to life, and therefore the right to administer their life as they best see fit.  If slavery is natural, then I don’t see how it could be natural for men to claim that all men have the right to administer their own lives.  I can’t square it.

However, it has occurred to me in the past that many people like to be ruled.  I am not sure if this is from social upbringings and what they were exposed to, or if it is a naturally human tendency.  I don’t know that there is a way to tease that out given the amount of history of social precedents where we are governed.  I can see also that there are people that don’t like to be ruled as well.  There are also areas where people accept rule and reject it in other areas.

Even if there are some people that are, by nature, marked out for subjection, as Aristotle asserts, there is no way to look into any given person’s mind and see if   it is a natural tendency or if it is how he was taught to think.  When we look at the individual, then, slavery cannot be considered a natural state, and therefore justified.  Every person should be free to be their own master, and if they so choose to be subservient to a master, they should be free to leave that circumstance at any time.

Reason Mag asks “Are the Unvaccinated Legally Responsible?”

A woman tragically dies from a measles infection which leads Ronald Bailey at Reason Magazine to ask “What legal responsibility should the unvaccinated individuals (or more likely their parents who refused inoculation) bear in these cases?”  What Mr Bailey appears to want us to consider, when thinking about this question, is the large number of people infected and the number of deaths before the measles vaccine was licensed.

This seems to me to look at the issue through the wrong lens.  It is a collective lens.   Mr. Bailey is encouraging us to look at vaccination through the frame work of how many people have not suffered through measles and death as a result of the vaccine.  It seems he wants us to consider that since vaccines have helped prevent so many people from getting sick, that somehow justifies compulsion.  Although, he isn’t outright calling for compulsion, if people are to be legally culpable for spreading disease by declining to vaccinate, that threat would be a form of legal compulsion.  Yet people (in general) do not vaccinate to prevent other people from getting sick. They vaccinate to prevent those diseases for themselves and their children.   If large swaths of people getting vaccinated does prevent the spread of those diseases, it does not mean that an individual is liable for another’s contraction of the disease if they happened to abstain from the vaccination. It simply means that the spread of disease can be reduced and it can be done so through voluntary action of individuals that choose to vaccinate because they want the benefits vaccines offer.

The question about legal repercussions is one based on collectivism, not individual rights.  By collectivism, I am referring to the idea that everyone should be vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease, and you could be held liable if you do not comply and get vaccinated and a disease is traced back to you.    Which means, Mr. Bailey’s question isn’t about the liberty of the individual.  His question is about if the collective should be able to force individuals to assimilate, although it speciously appeals to the individual based on a sad and unfortunate death.

I find this idea of the collective coercing individuals with the threat of legal repercussions to vaccinate to be at odds with personal liberty.  If people have a right to life, they therefore have a right to control what they do with their body.  Someone else’s right to life is independent of what you do to your body.  If someone else can be at fault for not preventing their own illness, and thus responsible for others contracting it, that means that there is no individual right to your own body.  If you have to take a medication for someone else’s benefit, you do not own your body.  The collective owns it.

I submit that there is no legal responsibility on the part of people that choose not to vaccinate.  The collective does not own an individual’s body.

Overcharging Investigations

This week I heard the DOJ is investigating airlines for possible collusion between airlines to keep prices high.  Tonight, the news said that Whole Foods was investigated for overcharging customers.  Apparently guilty, the CEO’s apologized, but claimed these instances were honest mistakes in weighing and marking produce.

I’m just shaking my head that resources are allocated on these kinds of investigations.  We don’t really need to be protected from pricing.  You look at a price, and determine whether or not the item in question is worth it to you.

Now I do get that there could be an element of fraud in the Whole Foods case if they are stating the weight of food is different from the actual weight.  It is just that food items are typically not that much money.  What the investigation revealed was “The overcharges ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.”  That doesn’t seem a material enough amount to pursue legally, in my opinion.  I mean, what are people going to do?  Form a class action to get back their ten bucks?

This seems like the type of thing that could easily be solved by media or people on social media advising people that they need to double check weights at Whole Foods.  Most grocery stores have scales readily available to customers.  There was no need for NY Consumer Affairs to get involved.


Rush: The Band, not Limbaugh

I am on a huge Rush kick right now.  I just can’t get enough.  I started listening to  them a couple of weeks ago, after pretty much ignoring them most my life.  How could I be so unaware of just how awesome Rush is?  The guys I knew in high school all listened to Rush.  My husband loves Rush, and he says Neil Peart is the best drummer ever.  Somehow, I was just not into them.  I know a ton of Rush songs just from listening to rock stations, but I was only hearing them without true appreciation.

What would lead me to start listening to a band I was well aware of, but never into? First, I heard Tom Woods talked about Rush, but still I dismissed them as a “guy thing”.    Then, I read a  Reason blog that mentioned how Rush wanted Rand Paul to quit quoting The Trees in his speeches, and commented that Neil Peart had gone through a Randian phase and how some of his lyrics were influenced by Ayn Rand. The libertarian lyric hook got me listening.  I love lyrics, especially ones that make sense and/or tell a story.  Rush generally make sense, add to that the utter rocking out of their music, and I am hooked.

I really dig the diversity of their lyrics.  There is fantasy, political commentary, life on the road, life as a star, love songs, and life advice.  I’ve only been listening to the stuff released in the 70’s and Moving Pictures.  I’ve yet to explore their later releases.  My two favorite songs currently are By-tor & the Snow Dog and Something for Nothing.  The musical battle in By-tor & the Snow Dog blows me away.  I am awed by the theme and intensity of Something for Nothing.

I know some people that can’t get into Rush because of Geddy Lee’s voice.  I get that it is different, but I don’t find it grating like other people.   Even as I had not been into Rush in the past, I did at least admire the intensity with which he sings. When he sings Peart’s lyrics, it comes across as genuine.  It is like he is Peart’s mouthpiece to the world.


State Licensing

I was listening to this Paleo podcast with Robb Wolf where he interviews Laura Schoenfeld who is a registered dietitian. She had to go to school in order to get a license. I find this admirable because she did so with the intent to promote health advice that actually isn’t in line with the US government food pyramid advice. She realizes that becoming a registered dietitian would give her the credibility she desired to spread information to help people.

Wolf is pretty libertarian. Schoenfeld is paleo, but no libertarian. It seemed to me that she realized Wolf is libertarian, because she makes the case for licensing to him, but it is evident that she expects him to disagree with her. He was a nice guy, and tried to suggest some happy medium versus take her licensing argument down.

I was stunned by the weakness of her argument for licensing. One minute she is going on about how these people (from the state) were trying to improve nutrition by getting whole milk out of school. Which in her view, if you are going to drink milk, you should be drinking full fat, whole milk, not that low fat stuff. She is paleo, so she believes the food pyramid is ruining people’s health. The people, the state, that issue licences, promote what she believes to be unhealthy choices. Their reach is so far that it is teaching school children and influencing what doctors and nutritionist promote. In effect, the licensors have a monopoly on what people are told regarding nutrition. Her argument for licensing is that some people without knowledge might give people bad advice. I was flabbergasted that she thought that was a good reason for licensing. The state has led a huge portion of the US to believe a bunch of misinformation about nutrition, and obesity rates and related diseases have skyrocketed as a result. This is my belief & hers. If you believe the entity granting licenses is responsible for dissemination of information that has actually harmed a large number of people, why does it make any sense to argue for them to require dietitians to be licensed? And, of course, some people will be out there giving bad advice if there is no licensing. But holy moly! That pales in comparison to what has happened with the state monopoly.

I didn’t like that Wolf tried to forge some compromise. I didn’t expect him to come down on her, but he could have just acknowledged that licensing was not in line with his beliefs and steered the conversation away from that topic.


Robb Wolf Podcast 274