Marriage and Family Life


The Defense of Orphans: A Libertarian Approach
March 3, 2010
by Eric M. Staib
"In the previous article, Economics of Adoption: A Libertarian Approach, the economic forces guiding the market for the collection, transportation, and distribution of orphans were examined. Having accomplished this, we may now address the private defense of this market."

Economics of Adoption: A Libertarian Approach
February 24, 2010
by Eric M. Staib
"Having previously established the ethical underpinnings of the rights of Haitian children and their biological and adoptive parents, The Ethics of Adoption in Haiti: A Libertarian Approach, we may now use praxeological deduction to analyze the manner in which the market for adoption and child transfer would proceed in a free society."

The Ethics of Adoption in Haiti: A Libertarian Approach
February 17, 2010
by Eric M. Staib
"A libertarian approach to adoption, as Murray Rothbard laid out in his Ethics of Liberty, would solve the Haitian crisis in a swift and orderly manner."

The Gay Adoption Conundrum
by Jeffrey A. Tucker
"I argue for the validity of the political intuition of both the left (that gay couples shouldn't be prohibited by law from adopting) and the right (legalization raises the specter of children placed by courts in ethically dysfunctional environments and otherwise used as political footballs). I conclude that the social, cultural, and religious conflicts associated with gay marriage and adoption are best resolved through laissez-faire."


Beyond Patriarchy: A Libertarian Model of the Family
by Roderick T. Long
To get beyond patriarchy in a free society, we must persuade parents to give more weight to their children's preferences, and we, who will constitute the market, should demand that women be given opportunities in the business world.

Bourgeois Families in a Free Nation
by Roy Halliday
Bourgeois families will thrive in a free nation because (1) people with the middle-class work ethic will migrate to a free nation in greater numbers than people with other values, (2) a free nation will not have laws that undermine the bourgeois family and subsidize alternatives, and (3) people raised in bourgeois families will be more successful than people raised by alternative institutions.

Capitalism and the Family
July 2007
by Steven Horwitz
"Those of us who value the dynamism of the free market and its power to expand the range of human freedom could do well to apply those ideas to the recent changes in the family and begin to see the ways in which those changes have resulted from the creative powers of the market and have thus expanded human freedom."

The Definition of "Family" in a Free Society
by Gordon Diem
"Family in a Libertarian free society will be an open, voluntary relationship based on mutual and reciprocal benefits family participants receive from family membership."

Families Become Clans in a Free Society
by Mary Ruwart
Clans or extended families will become stronger without government "safety nets."

Free Families to Statist Societies and Back Again
by Phillip E. Jacobson
"In the absence of the state it is likely that some entirely new family traditions would emerge, but also that previously established ones would continue to exist, including some which are currently rare."

A Libertarian Approach to Family Values
December 20, 2010
by dj
"I do believe that, ideally, all children should be brought up by parents that are committed to each other and to their children, I don't see that the state can mandate the traditional family as the sole household arrangement. However, by the same token, it should not be funding the breakdown of the family either."

The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child
by Robert Ingersoll
"With every drop of my blood I hate and execrate every form of tyranny, every form of slavery. I hate dictation. I love liberty."

Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn't Work By Jennifer Roback Morse
Reviewed by Ryan H. Sager
July 2002
"Morse makes a compelling case for libertarians and others to pay more respect to the role of the family. While many commentators have certainly made the case for strong families, Morse's economic approach is a novel and thought-provoking addition to a long-running debate."

The Vatican and the Free Market
October 1996
by John C. Goodman
"In summarizing the results of the conference, Becker, who is not a Catholic, said, 'I am struck by the similarity between the church's view of the relationship between the family and the economy and the view of economists—arrived at by totally independent means.'"

Unregulated Families: A Mixture of Old and New Forms
by Richard O. Hammer
Lack of zoning laws will allow extended families, including divorced parents, to live and work in the same neighborhood, marriage contracts will be enforced better, and increased prosperity will make separation from your spouse more affordable.


Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family
September 2002
by Rebecca O'Neill
"The weight of evidence indicates that the traditional family based upon a married father and mother is still the best environment for raising children, and it forms the soundest basis for the wider society."

How Do Fathers Fit In?
by The Institute for the Study of Civil Society
"Most children do best when their mothers and fathers engage in what developmental psychologists call authoritative parenting. This style of parenting involves spending time with children, providing emotional support, giving everyday assistance, monitoring children's behaviour, and providing consistent, fair and proportionate discipline."

In Defense of “Deadbeat” Dads
August 4, 2004
by Wendy McElroy
"Fathers who have been imprisoned because of an inability to pay are perfect candidates for release. Indeed, their continued incarceration comes close to establishing a de facto debtors’ prison—an institution supposedly abolished more than 200 years ago by President Adams."

Is There Really a Fatherhood Crisis?
by Stephen Baskerville
"Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherless children: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and psychological disorders—all correlating more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other single factor. Tragically, however, government policies intended to deal with the “fatherhood crisis” have been ineffective at best because the root cause is not child abandonment by fathers but policies that give mothers an incentive to initiate marital separation and divorce."


The Facts Behind Cohabitation
by The Institute for the Study of Civil Society
"Some people describe cohabitation as a rebellion against traditional family forms, striking a blow for freedom and independence. While some people do make a conscious choice to avoid marriage, others simply 'drift into' cohabitation. Many other people live together because it seems the best choice available at the time, even though they see it as far from ideal."

A Man’s (and Woman’s) Home Is a Castle
January 20, 2004
by Wendy McElroy
"The fact that parents accused of child abuse are not currently accorded due process—indeed, they are “guilty until proven innocent”—reflects a 180 degree change in society’s attitude toward the home and the family. The family used to be viewed as a private realm into which the law entered with extreme caution.
Since the ’70s, however, the family per se has been under attack as a breeding ground of domestic violence, child abuse, and other brutality. This change in attitude is largely rooted in a brand of feminism that arose in the ’70s: gender feminism, which has exerted great influence over laws concerning women and children. Gender feminism views men and women as separate and antagonistic classes, with the family being another expression of gender conflict."

A Reply to Victor.
by Zelm (Sarah Holmes)
A reply to The Woman Question. This article defends the idea of separate households for men and women.

The Woman Question
by Victor Yarros
A libertarian argument against the radical feminists who advocate separate households for men and women.


The Abolition of Marriage
by John Beverley Robinson
Proposes that sexual relationships be based on consent rather than marriage, which involves compulsion.

The Case for Gay Marriage
January 1, 2011
by R. Smith
"Marriage equality is more important than many Americans think, and no constitutionally-sound argument has been made to date against the legalization of same-sex marriage."

The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage: Why same-sex marriage is an American value.
by Theodore B. Olson
"Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation."

The Culture War Over Gay Marriage is Here to Stay: California, Iowa, and Vermont are only the beginning
April 16, 2009
by Cathy Young
"Traditional views that stigmatize divorce and single parenthood and emphasize complementary male/female roles in the family have been losing ground for some time (for better and worse); but, until now, they have not been equated with bigotry and thus implicitly declared beyond the pale."

Does Marriage Matter?
by The Institute for the Study of Civil Society
"This report represents what current social science evidence reveals about the importance of marriage in our social system."

Don't Let Government Define Marriage (Or Optimal Child-Rearing Environments)
by Gardner Goldsmith
"If conservatives believe that they can, in the words of President Bush, "trust the voters rather than the courts" to decide what is a marriage, then why not let the people truly decide, and remove the power to define marriage from the hands of government entirely?"

For Better or Worse: Gay marriage is better.
by Thomas W. Hazlett
"The institution of marriage is a public good. As H.L. Mencken pointed out, monogamy kills passion--which is dangerously antisocial--and so preserves civil society. But boring, established, long-term relationships would serve the tranquilizing social function for homosexuals as much as for anyone else. Why can't the religious right see that some of the most harmful excesses of the "gay lifestyle"--you know, the "disgusting" practices that I read about in graphic detail whenever my name is rented to a Falwellian fund-raiser--may flow from the lack of such calming institutions?"

Gay Marriage: An Oxymoron
July 2, 2008
by Justin Raimondo
"The very phrase “gay marriage” is an oxymoron. Homosexuality, after all, is really all about the avoidance of marriage – and the responsibility of raising a family. It is the embrace of sensuality for its own sake, as an instrument of pure pleasure rather than procreation. Do gay guys really want to give up what is most attractive – to males, at any rate – about their recreational activities, the tremendous sense of freedom it implies?"

Gay Marriage vs. American Marriage
Summer 2004
by Kay S. Hymowitz
"But beneath all the diversity, marriage has always had a fundamental, universal core that makes gay marriage a non sequitur: it has always governed property and inheritance rights; it has always been the means of establishing paternity, legitimacy, and the rights and responsibilities of parenthood; and because these goals involve bearing and raising children, it has always involved (at least one) man and woman. What's more, among the "startling diversity" of variations that different cultures have elaborated on this fundamental core, our own culture has produced a specifically American ideal of marriage that is inseparable from our vision of free citizenship and is deeply embedded in our history, politics, economics, and culture. Advocates for gay marriage cite the historical evolution of that ideal—which we might call republican marriage—to bolster their case, arguing that gay unions are a natural extension of America's dedication to civil rights and to individual freedom. But a look at that history is enough to cast serious doubt on the advocates' case."

An Individualist's View of Marriage and the Family
by Norman Barry

Inviting the state into our intimacies
June 28, 2012
by Frank Furedi
"Gay marriage is presented as an issue of equal rights, but it’s better understood as a top-down overhaul of the institution of marriage."

Is it time to get the state out of marriage yet?
November 5, 2009
by J.D. Tuccille
"The practical answer may well be the one that has long been deemed the most radical: privatize marriage and let individuals, churches and familes decide for themselves what "marriage" means."

Is There a Libertarian Position on Same-Sex Marriage?
June 8, 2012
by Laurence M. Vance
"If a libertarian wants to redefine marriage – or call black white, up down, or right left – then he is perfectly free to do so, but he shouldn’t term his personal preference or individual decision a libertarian position."

I Wed Thee, and Thee, and Thee
Autumn 2004
by Kay S. Hymowitz
"Same-sex marriage advocates tend to jeer at the argument that allowing such unions will open a smorgasbord of marital practices. They insist that what interests them is not to transform the institution radically but only to welcome their homosexual friends, neighbors, and relatives to its benefits. A few recent developments suggest that they're dead wrong."

Letter on Marriage
by Herbert Spencer
"There should be a thorough recognition on both sides of the equality of rights, and no amount of power should ever be claimed by the one party greater than that claimed by the other. The present relationship existing between husband and wife, where one claims a command over the actions of the other, is nothing more than a remnant of the old leaven of slavery. It is necessarily destructive of refined love; for how can a man continue to regard as his type of the ideal a being whom he has, by denying an equality of privilege with himself, degraded to something below himself? To me the exercise of command on the part of the husband seems utterly repugnant to genuine love, and I feel sure that a man of generous feeling has too much sympathy with the dignity of his wife to think of dictating to her, and that no woman of truly noble mind will submit to be dictated to."

The logic of marriage
March 3, 2011
by Roderick T. Long
"The anti-marriage-equality act (calling it the defense-of-marriage act is the equivalent of calling the old prohibition on women's and blacks' right to vote the defense-of-voting act) is trivially unconstitutional; there's no way that granting special rights to heterosexuals and denying them to homosexuals can be considered 'equal protection of the laws.' More importantly (since justice is always more important than legality), the anti-marriage-equality act is a sin against human equality, and an oath to enforce it would be just as illegitimate as an oath to commit any other crime."

Marriage and Love
by Emma Goldman
"Marriage and love have nothing in common; they are as far apart as the poles; are, in fact, antagonistic to each other. No doubt some marriages have been the result of love. Not, however, because love could assert itself only in marriage; much rather is it because few people can completely outgrow a convention. There are to-day large numbers of men and women to whom marriage is naught but a farce, but who submit to it for the sake of public opinion. At any rate, while it is true that some marriages are based on love, and while it is equally true that in some cases love continues in married life, I maintain that it does so regardless of marriage, and not because of it."

Marriage and the Law
Polygamy debate evokes familiar 'rights' argument

November 28, 2010
by Debra J. Saunders
"In 2005, after Canada legalized same-sex marriage, then-Prime Minister Paul Martin commissioned a $150,000 study by three law professors to debunk any notion that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy. Big mistake. The study recommended that Canada repeal its anti-polygamy law. While they recognized 'the strong association between polygamy and gender inequality,' the authors determined it wasn't fair to discriminate, for example, against a Kuwaiti second wife who would be barred from immigrating to Canada with their husband and another wife."

Marriage and the State
by Sean Turner
". . . the fight should not be how the federal government defines marriage. It should not be over the federal government’s deference (or lack thereof) to the states. No -- the fight should be to remove the state from private consensual agreements altogether – including marriage."

Marriage and the State
by Matthew O'Keeffe

Marriage Contracts Should Be Enforceable: The Libertarian Case Against No Fault Divorce
by Innes Fleming

Marriage License & Registration, Please
November 6, 2009
by Steve Bierfeldt
"What is relevant is that government has gotten into the business of deciding who should be allowed to marry and who should not. As the state has ordained itself with this power, the people have meekly submitted themselves in hopes of attaining its seal of approval."

A Marriage Proposal: Privatize It
by Colin P.A. Jones
"Couples entering into marriage should be allowed to use a partnership agreement tailored to their own circumstances and aspirations—one that reflects the values and expectations that they themselves attach to marriage—not forced to take or leave a one-size-fits-all version supplied by the government. The privatization of marriage would not only give couples far more choices, but it would also end the strife among those who seek to turn marriage into something that they can control by defining what it is."

The Marriage Quagmire
August 5, 2003
by Wendy McElroy
"To save its soul, marriage needs to be removed from power politics and privatized.
What constitutes a marriage should be determined by contract between the consenting adults involved, not by government. Politicians should be stripped of the power to dictate which consenting adults may marry or the terms of those marriages. The only proper concern of law should be to enforce the contract and to arbitrate any breach that occurs."

Marriage Under the Influence of the Idea of Contract
by Ludwig von Mises
"Thus marriage, as we know it, has come into existence entirely as a result of the contractual idea penetrating into this sphere of life. All our cherished ideals of marriage have grown out of this idea. That marriage unites one man and one woman, that it can be entered into only with the free will of both parties, that it imposes a duty of mutual fidelity, that a man's violations of the marriage vows are to be judged no differently from a woman's, that the rights of husband and wife are essentially the same — these principles develop from the contractual attitude to the problem of marital life."

Nationalizing Marriage
Judges don’t get to decide if a law is ‘asinine’

August 17, 2010
William J. Watkins Jr.
"In the best of all worlds, marriage would be privatized so that consenting adults would be free to enter into binding, legal agreements without permission from the state. Instead of allowing private parties to make such choices based on their own traditions in a free society, Judge Walker has intolerantly chosen to redefine and nationalize marriage agreements, imposing a single standard: his own."

People - Not the Government - Should Decide What Marriage Means
by Brian Micklethwait

Rebels Without a Clause: The hazards of legalizing gay marriage through the courts
April 15, 2009
by Jacob Sullum
"For those who agree (as I do) that the benefits of civil marriage should be available to all couples regardless of sexual orientation, does it matter how we get to that destination? I think it does, because the approach taken in Iowa, although liberty-enhancing in this case, ultimately undermines a constitution's ability to constrain government action and protect individual freedom."

Redefining Marriage Away
Summer 2004
by David L. Tubbs and Robert P. George
"Some proponents of same-sex marriage believe that its legalization will help same-sex partners be sexually faithful. The evidence, however, suggests that acceptance of the norm of sexual exclusivity is a minority view among homosexuals in the United States and elsewhere. Furthermore, because intimate relations between persons of the same sex are inherently--and not merely contingently--unconnected to procreation, there is no principled reason to limit same-sex marriage to two persons. Thus, one can reasonably predict that same-sex marriage is going to be intrinsically unstable, as Sex Panic recognized in expressing its contempt for the institution. As if to confirm these points, the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Provincetown, Massachusetts, told the press that they had an "open" marriage."

Religion, Culture and Law in Free Societies
by Tibor R. Machan
"No one is required to like or approve of it when gays marry. Certainly, no one is forced to enter into such unions. So, to try to resist or ban such unions is clearly not a matter of defending one’s right to liberty. It is to impose a code of personal conduct on others who do not agree with it."

Remaking Marital Law
Does legalizing gay marriage go far enough?

July 12, 2012
by Roderick T. Long
"Just as libertarians are divided as to whether to focus their efforts on petitioning the state for more liberty—inevitably, on the state's terms—or on building alternative institutions that bypass the state entirely, a similar choice faces those who favor marriage equality."

The Right To Marry
May 12, 2012
by Scott Lazarowitz
"Who the hell is the government to allow or forbid private people to establish their own voluntary associations, relationships, contracts and marriages?"

The Separation of Marriage and State
May 21, 2009
by Jerry Salcido
"A free society based on private contractual or covenantal relationships, however, is not what either side of Proposition 8 advocates. Proposition 8's supporters have used the state to solidify what they consider to be the appropriate private relationship. Proposition 8's opponents, on the other hand, want all of the state-provided benefits that come with being "married" and with that end in mind have used the state to force everyone to accept their relationships as equal."

Should Marriage Licenses Be Restricted to Heterosexuals?
September 23, 2010
by Robert Wicks
"I have long been of the opinion that state licensing should be extended to the point that it is meaningless."

A Solution to Reclaim Holy Matrimony
by Bryan Rusch
"Christians can easily point fingers and cast blame that a few men wearing black dresses have determined and given rise to homosexual marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I submit that Christians are ultimately responsible for this travesty. They gave up the high ground to the State in matters of Holy Matrimony decades ago by acquiescing to State licensing and forsaking the Church's First Amendment protections. In doing so, the Christians have effectively married themselves to another god, a god whom they still faithfully serve, and have yet to divorce from entirely. That god is the State."

They Who Marry Do Ill
by Voltairine de Cleyre
"A lecture presenting the negative side of the question, whose positive was argued under the heading “They Who Marry Do Well,” by Dr. Henrietta P. Westbrook; both lectures delivered before the Radical Liberal League, Philadelphia, April 28, 1907."

Three major myths about marriage.
June 22, 2009
by CLS
"First, marriage was entirely private without interference of either church or state. Catholicism started to exert control over marriage in 1545 and then the Protestant Reformations demanded that the state take ultimate control over marriage."

Victory Through Lexicography?
May 9, 2012
by Roderick Long
"Critics of same-sex marriage often argue that its defenders are guilty of seeking to 'redefine' marriage. It is true that the term 'marriage' has traditionally been applied, for the most part, to heterosexual unions specifically (though often polygamous ones, a fact such critics persistently pretend to overlook). But it is also true that the term 'marriage' has traditionally been applied exclusively to relationships in which the husband held legal authority over the wife -- relationships in which the wife was not only subordinated to her husband but actually absorbed into his legal identity."

The weak case against gay marriage
August 11, 2010
by Jacob Sullum
"Opponents of gay marriage will ultimately lose the public policy debate if they can't do a better job of defending their position."

Who Defends Marriage?
by Roderick Long
"Under Mr. Sobran’s favoured political régime, and mine, the legal definition of marriage, like all legal issues, will be decided not by a monopolistic government but by private, co-territorial enterprises competing for customers. Within the same geographical area, some legal institutions will cater to socially conservative customers by offering only traditional heterosexual marriage contracts and advertising boldly “We defend the family!” while other institutions will cater to socially liberal customers by offering a wider variety of marriage contracts and advertising with equal boldness “We defend equality!” And the whole legal wrangle over marriage will be done with, forever."

Why Marriage Is Good For You
Autumn 2000
by Maggie Gallagher
"Recently, I had the opportunity to review the scientific evidence on the consequences of marriage for adults with University of Chicago scholar Linda J. Waite for our new book, The Case for Marriage. What I found surprised me. Quietly, with little fanfare, a broad and deep body of scientific literature has been accumulating that affirms what Genesis teaches: it is not good for man to be alone—no, nor woman neither. In virtually every way that social scientists can measure, married people do much better than the unmarried or divorced: they live longer, healthier, happier, sexier, and more affluent lives."


Mother's 'Work' Doesn't Warrant Paycheck
May 9, 2006
by Wendy McElroy
"When you define the value of family meals in terms of cold cash, then you've lost the importance of what's really going on. When you convert acts of love into acts for profit, you've lost at life itself."

Politicizing the Housewife
November 1, 2001
by Wendy McElroy
"Choice is the key to individualist feminism and to whether or not housework is damaging to women. To those women who choose to stay home and raise a family, it can be not only the most fulfilling use of their time, but it can also teach management skills that translate well into the workplace afterwards. In approaching marriage and the family, the feminist slogan should be: “the personal is personal.” Individuals should choose, and the state should have no role."

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This page was last updated on July 14, 2012.