A common perception conservatives have of libertarians is that we are necessarily for the “liberalization” (the “bad” way, not the classical liberal variety) of all social issues. Libertarians are seen as pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. The Johnson-Weld campaign has served to further this opinion by claiming that libertarians are fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
There is admittedly some truth to this observation. For the sake of argument, let us concede that most libertarians probably are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. Some say only about 30% of libertarians are strongly pro-life. Certainly most libertarians would say the state should not be involved in marriage at all. But is it a necessary consequence of libertarian theory that all libertarians must be pro-choice and pro-gay marriage? Not at all.
Let’s look at abortion. The stronger libertarian argument is actually pro-life. Why? By simply following the non-aggression principle (shorthand named the NAP). People ought to be able to live as they wish provided they commit no aggression against another person. The pro-choice position affirms the first part of the statement in that the mother (attention is rarely given to the father) ought to be able to do as she wishes with her body. The caveat of committing no aggression against another person, however, is ignored.
This leads us to the perennial question of whether or not the baby/fetus is, in fact, a person. Both science and common sense dictate that the baby is, well, a baby. Left to natural development, what transpires at conception will mature into a little human. Not a goat, chupacabra, or any other living thing. It is a human, a baby, a person and therefore is owed non-aggression and, therefore, the right to life. Committing violence against this person is contrary to libertarian principles.
Another point to consider is that the child is in a state of dependence to her parents. The child did not ask to be brought into the world and cannot exist without her parent’s support and protection. Just as it would be reprehensible for an airplane pilot to parachute from and abandon his aircraft while his passengers’ lives are dependent upon his care, so it would be abhorrent for a parent to abandon their pre-born child in that dependent state.
What about gay marriage and other LGBT issues? If you hold to traditional, biblically-informed understandings of homosexuality, gender, manhood, womanhood, sex, and marriage, you have a home within libertarianism. How so? Fellow LCI contributor, Laurence Vance, says it well,
Same-sex couples should certainly have the right to form any kind of legal arrangement they choose whereby medical and financial decisions by one party on behalf of another could be made. But this right has nothing to do with them being a same-sex couple. It is only because any couple – gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgendered, or undecided – or any group of people should have the right to form any kind of legal arrangement they choose. If they want to call their arrangement a marriage, have a ceremony, and go on a honeymoon – fine. They have the freedom to do so just like they have the freedom to replace their Chevy emblems with Ford emblems and call their Camaro a Mustang. They just shouldn’t expect or demand everyone else to violate nature, language, tradition, and history and do likewise.Just because someone calls their same-sex union a “marriage” doesn’t make it so. As far as the State is concerned, it has no authority to redefine an institution that pre-dates the existence of the nation-state. Christians should have no problem with individuals forming, as Vance says, legal arrangements whereby they can assist one another with medical and financial matters.
Vance adds, “Libertarians as individuals may support or oppose the ‘marriage’ or legal arrangements of same-sex couples – just like they may support or oppose the health benefits of Vitamin C or the use of child safety locks – but that doesn’t mean there is a libertarian position on it.”
If there is anything resembling a libertarian position on gay marriage, it is simply get the government out of marriage. Its only role is to recognize the contract, that is all. Now that the State has attempted to redefine marriage, this should be an approach more and more conservative Christians find attractive. Regardless, there is no libertarian position on gay marriage.
So to those conservative Christians who are attracted to libertarianism but have reservations over abortion and gay marriage, I say, “Jump on in! The water’s just fine.”
This post originally appeared at the Libertarian Christian Institute.
Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, obstacle course racing, and all things Star Wars. He blogs at JeffWrightJr.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute. You can also find him @jeffwrightjr.