The Spectacle Blog

Matt Welch Misses the Point

By on 9.6.11 | 2:48PM

Matt Welch has a 3G response to my review of his and Nick Gillespie's book from our September issue. He writes of the section on gay marriage, "As in so much of the gay marriage debate, I don't see how a single one of Antle's arguments here couldn't be used against interracial marriage as well."

But I wasn't arguing here against gay marriage per se. I was arguing against the notion that it is necessarily libertarian to expand the state's involvement in a set of mostly unregulated personal relationships and then apply antidiscrimination laws against those who object to those relationships. Libertarianism is about what the state ought to do, not what people ought to do.

One can argue that gay marriage is a good idea from the perspective of treating relationships equally under the law or recognizing advances in reproductive technology that make childbearing possible outside heterosexual sex. That's not the same as saying that it will, on the whole, minimize government involvement in people's lives.

If anything, the history of race in this country is probably more problematic for libertarianism because eradicating Jim Crow required the regulation of a good deal of private conduct as well as the reversal of racist state laws. But my broader point here, which Welch is both missing and proving, is that there are sometimes conflicts between liberty and equality, egalitarianism and limited government, fighting "revulsion" (which is, by the way, the only "argument" against gay marriage that really applies against interracial marriage) and coercion.

My basic problem with both this book and Welch's response is the failure to grapple with these conflicts between minimal government and "tolerance" in any meaningful way.

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