Marriage: How to De-Politicize the Culture War

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In the United States, same-sex marriage is de facto legal — based on a combination of court rulings and legislation — in 36 states, the District of Columbia and several American Indian jurisdictions.

The Supreme Court is widely expected to come down on the side of ending marriage apartheid nation-wide this summer. Even if it doesn’t do so in one fell swoop, the Constitution’s “full faith and credit clause” will make itself felt over time, if for no other reason that married couples move, then divorce.

Ireland’s late-May referendum may be a global bellwether. 62% of voters in that largely Catholic country brushed aside the objections of church leaders to legalize same-sex marriage.

Some social conservatives, particularly in the United States, seem to have finally got it through their heads that they’ve lost this battle; they want to move on. A few of them even have an inkling of the best way to go about doing so.

On May 19, Alabama’s Senate passed a bill that, if also approved by the House and the governor, would move marriage from the category of state-licensed activity to a matter of contract between parties. No ceremony necessary — if you want one, that will be between you and your church or other social group.

It’s about time! Libertarians have been suggesting this for decades.

With the state out of the business of defining and licensing marriage, that institution can evolve organically as people decide for themselves how to organize their lives.

People who want to marry can just consult a lawyer. Or, and I predict this will happen very quickly, legal services firms will make boilerplate marriage contracts available for inexpensive download, with selections of additional “drop-in” clauses to accommodate most reasonably common scenarios (property settlements in case of divorce, for example, as are handled with “pre-nups” now by some couples).

The Alabama bill, according to news accounts, specifies only two parties, but not their sexes. On the ground, those who want marriages of more than two parties will presumably be able to have workable contracts drawn up to accommodate their desires, neatly sidestepping (for e.g. polygamy) the decade-long political war we just went through over same-sex marriage. Presented with a facially just and valid contract, a court will likely honor and enforce that contract.

Will this approach get the state out of marriage matters entirely? No. Marriage contracts might specify arbitration instead of state court litigation in case of divorce, but when it comes to matters of child custody and child support, the state will probably assert a compelling interest to intervene as it sees fit.

But it’s a start. People are better than politicians at making important life decisions for themselves.

[hat tip for the Alabama story — George Phillies of Liberty For America]

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.




Regulating Rides: Markets Are Better than Politics

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Jacksonville, Florida’s politicians have, once again, arrived at an impasse on the matter of how to regulate “ride-sharing” services UberX and Lyft (Christopher Hong, “UberX, Lyft remain in limbo as City Council looks to state for new regulations,” Florida Times-Union, May 17). Instead of asking the state’s legislature to bail out its regulatory regime, perhaps the city council should exchange the “how” for a “whether,” and answer “no.”

The best way to handle regulation of UberX and Lyft is to repeal all regulations pertaining to taxi and limousine services in Jacksonville (and, of course, in other locales as well).

If that sounds radical, it is. But “radical” is not the same thing as “extreme.” Rather, it refers to addressing matters at their roots. So let’s do that.

Taxi regulation is not, and never has been, about protecting customers. It is, and always has been, about protecting established businesses from competition.

In Jacksonville’s case, the purpose of the city’s medallion system is to keep prices high for the benefit of Jacksonville Transportation Group (owners of Gator City Taxi, Yellow Cab and Express Shuttle) by limiting cab numbers, making entry into the market very expensive, and thus ensuring that JTG operates without significant competition.

When JTG and its political allies spout off about “protecting the customer,” they’re just laying down a line of bull to cover up their real agenda: Maintenance of JTG’s de facto monopoly at the EXPENSE of the customer. This is equally true of similar medallion and regulation regimes in cities across America.

Instead of fighting this monopoly scheme, UberX and Lyft are — in Jacksonville, anyway — ignoring it. Which does get to the bottom of the matter, doesn’t it?

Of course, this upsets the local politicians, who are used to being obeyed. It also upsets JTG, which has become accustomed to making money through control of politicians instead of through open competition to provide the best service at the best price.

But it doesn’t upset the customers — citizens of Jacksonville who, thanks to UberX and Lyft, can now get a ride when they need one, instead of when JTG gets around to providing one, at a price set by the competitive market rather than by JTG’s political machinations.

Jacksonville’s council faces a simple choice. It can remain aligned with JTG by shoring up its monopoly, or it can align itself with the voters, the customers, the people, whom it claims to serve.

If it wants to do the latter, it will resolve that the city shall repeal, and henceforth lay no, restrictions on commercial ride services beyond those codified in state law. Which, in my opinion, UberX and Lyft, and their customers, should ignore as well.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.




Pan Fascism: Mussolini was a Piker

English: Benito Mussolini and Fascist blackshi...
English: Benito Mussolini and Fascist blackshirts in 1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

California’s Senate unanimously approved a bill proffered by Sacramento Democrat Richard Pan on May 18. The bill “would allow so-called beer bikes to operate on streets, but leaves cities to decide if alcohol is allowed on board.”

Why are “beer bikes” so important to Senator Pan?  If you guessed “because he likes freedom,” you’re wrong. According to the Associated Press, he’s concerned that “current state law does not include a definition for this type of vehicle, creating legal uncertainties.” Pan may or may not like beer bikes, but he’s deeply worried that something, somewhere, might be happening sans the supervision of Richard Pan.

This is just today’s example. I come across stories like it on a daily basis. A kid cited for running a lemonade stand without a permit. A traveler robbed of his cash by “law enforcement” on the claim that unless he can explain it to their satisfaction, some crime must be involved. And so on, and so forth.

Somewhere, some politician gets a bee in his bonnet and a law gets passed. Not in response to some clear, present, actual danger, but to ensure seamless regulation of all matters, large and small, such that nothing, anything, ever goes unaddressed by the political process.

This attitude, which drives modern American politics, stems from the doctrines of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, founder of the political ideology known as fascism. As he put it: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

Mussolini only had a couple of decades to implement his ideas before World War Two and death interrupted him. Unfortunately, a more slowly moving version of those ideas took root in America around the same time under other names (“progressivism” being the most popular and enduring).

Today’s politicians surpassed Mussolini’s control fetishism long ago. We’re fast approaching the “progressive” ideal embodied by the ant colony in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King: Ubiquitous signposts reminding us that “EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY.”

Not that today’s “conservatives” are any better. They’re every bit as keen on controlling others as “progressives” are; they just have different notions concerning which strings to pull on their puppets (all of us who aren’t politicians, that is). As Richard Nixon might say, were he still alive, “we’re all progressives now.”

Well, maybe not all of us. If you prefer freedom, look for the “Libertarian” label when next you vote.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.