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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The idea for this post came from a video by the Motorhome Diaries crew interviewing Steve Horwitz, blogger and professor of economics at St. Lawrence University. I recommend checking it out (under five minutes).

As recently as one hundred years ago, in many more developed societies, husbands had nearly total control over the family. Going back another hundred years, families were essentially enterprises. Today, it's difficult to think in such callous terms, but each family member was essentially a unit of production. Families had many children, not out of love, but out of necessity. At the time, many children increased economic security through additional units of production and to ensure that parents had a safety net if they reached old age.

Economic freedom allowed families to hire workers outside the family (by extension, allowing children to find work outside the family). Previously, the only work found outside the family was through an apprenticeship with a tradesman, guild, or clergy. However, they required family connections. This is a similar process found in labor unions today. In postmaterialist societies, unions are backward (i.e. reactionary), antiquated entities, continuing a practice that is no longer necessary in more developed countries.

Additionally, increased economic freedom reduced the average family size (so carbon Malthusians should give credit where credit is due). Children are no longer viewed as a necessity (except in Russia, which speaks volumes as to the country's level of economic freedom). Rather, children are born out of a loving couple's honest desire for children. Instead of forcing them to work, parents are now able to invest in their children, demonstrating societies' changing views with regard to children.

Increased economic freedom changed families for the better. In today's society (at least in more developed countries), arranged marriages are a rare and antiquated practice. Families no longer require the political and/or economic benefits of marriage. Marriage has become about love over finances (for the most part).

This same process (one might call it the human development process) has increased homosexual rights, particularly with regard to same-sex marriage. As marriages are no longer about economic/political partnerships and families no longer need to rely on children as units of production or to provide a future safety net, it is financially realistic for gay and lesbian couples to marry.

At the end of the video, Dr. Horwitz makes the following statement:

You have people on the right, conservatives, who love (or they say they love) free markets but don't like these sort of changes [e.g. homosexual rights] that capitalism has brought forward....If you're going to really have markets, you can't stop this kind of ongoing cultural change.

On the other hand, people on the left have the opposite problem. They like the cultural change but refuse to give credit where credit's due, which is to recognize the role that capitalism has played in bringing those about. To the extent that they're stifling capitalism, they're stifling the very dynamism that produces those social changes they like so much.
The hypocrisy by both major political parties is rather amusing (and sad). Katherine Mangu-Ward with Reason Magazine touched on a related issue regarding homosexuals and the major political parties, stating:
But you know who your real friends are, LGBTers. And we're going to help you get through this. Besides, who knows better than libertarians what it's like to be in a long-standing lopsided love affair with a mainstream political party?
She's right, LGBTers. Given that the libertarian platform has formed the basis for your rights, it's in your self-interest to support the continuation of this platform - libertarianism.

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