Repost: On Nurturing as the Purpose of Marriage

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar BSK says:

    I think in similar terms, though usually think in terms of “commitment”. A marriage is a commitment to another… a commitment to do the things that you describe here as nurturing. Of course, not all commitments are realized and not all marriages are eternal, but that is a reality of life.Report

  2. Avatar BSK says:

    My first sentence is about as poorly written as possible. It should read something more like, “I have similar sentiments, though usually think in terms of “commitment.”Report

  3. Avatar RR says:

    I see your view as transcendent of the libertarian values system in that it reaches a point at which a liberated sense of “being” is possible rather than a singularly anti-government approach, and for that I give you mountains of credit. However, I think that the “marriage is about love” argument that you seek to debunk is actually strengthened by your essay in that the nurturing you point out is predicated by love, and while it is true that love and sex do not require marriage, marriage does (or ought to, IMO at the very least) require love. When you state that marriage is about concern for the total well-being of the other person, I’d say that love is the basis for that. You are right to disagree with those who loosely throw around “marriage is about love” by itself, but at the same time your point may be used by such people to see the real implications of government sanctions of marriage. Plus the whole article makes everyone contemplate the nature of marriage on a more meaningful (someone hipper than I would call it “deeper”) level, and that I believe is what is important to the ongoing debate. Thank you for this piece, all the same. It’s nice (that’s a huge understatement) to see some real philosophizing on the internet.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to RR says:

      Libertarians want to remove the state from many areas of life precisely because we have private purposes that we intend to pursue. Usually, those purposes are so varied and mutually incoherent that we don’t emphasize them in discussion. The whole point of private life is that it doesn’t have to be coherent or organized if we don’t want it to be.

      To the extent that we recognize a proper role for the state, that role is confined to facilitating individual autonomy, as — I think — it is here.Report

  4. I’ve no dispute, either large or small, with the thoughts in this essay as they relate to interpersonal relations. Indeed, I think you hit it right on the head. While I don’t see a significant difference between the word “love” and your use of the term “nuturing,” semantics are not substance in this case.

    What I don’t see here, though, is any reason for the state to be involved in this issue in the first place. IMO, state-sanctioned marriage exists to facilitate the “conservative sublimation” of property and status into a social institution.

    The state creates and enforces laws. Looking at what those laws do with respect to marriage, we see that they are concerned overwhelmingly with property and status. Property is writ broadly, including not only the four traditional families of property (money, chattel, land, and IP) but also property in the form of eligibility for entitlements (e.g., Social Security, medicare, insurance). Status is writ broader still, primarily the status of “parent” into which the law does so much meddling in those instances when marriages dissolve and the benefits provided to those who can claim the status of “parent” (such as tax deductions and the power to control the education of the child).

    I’m not a feminist scholar so I’ve little to say on the issue of whether traditional marriage is also intended to subjugate women. Suffice to say in this respect that I’m sufficiently liberal as to applaud the abolition of coverture in the law but sufficiently conservative as to note that socially it does not seem that at any point in history was the notion that a woman’s identity ever abolished by marriage as a practical matter.

    Social institutions should work to the benefit of society, measured by how much they benefit and harm individuals in that society. If we are going to consider romantic love, or “nuturing” to use the phrased in Jason’s essay, as the foundation and goal of marriage, that does mean shifting the mechanics of how the social institution works, and the law should follow and support those shifts.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Transplanted Lawyer says:

      While I don’t see a significant difference between the word “love” and your use of the term “nurturing,” semantics are not substance in this case.

      I sort of think that semantics are substance here. When “my” side in the SSM debate says “marriage is about love,” the other side answers that love is no business of the government, and that asking for SSM is just so much unseemly begging for social recognition. You want a stamp of approval, the argument goes, for mere love. And we don’t intend to approve.

      Nurturing is more than that. I love many people in the world, but I’ve only committed to total, lifelong well-being of one of them. (Yes, I’ve committed to my daughter, but I trust that one day she will be independent of me — independent in a way that I don’t expect my husband ever to be!)Report

  5. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Unable to sleep last night, fitfully alternating between the bed and my chair in this hotel room, I came across Public Speaking, directed by Martin Scorsese, a documentary on Fran Lebowitz, the famously savage and witty author of Metropolitan Life on Justin.tv.

    Sitting at her booth in Ye Olde Waverly Inn with her portrait painted on the wall, Lebowitz snarls about today’s gay agenda. Why do gays want to get married and enter the military, the two most confining institutions of all? Wasn’t that the greatest thing about being gay, back in the day?

    Fran Lebowitz came to New York City, a smartaleck lesbian kid with a mean mouth. She wrote two trenchant collections of essays a long time ago and became an NYC institution, earning a few shekels from writing a few squibs and becoming the female Willy Loman of the literary world on her endless speaking tours. I suppose her cruelty is just a schtick: never conflate the artist with the art. She hobnobbed with Warhol and mourns the deaths of an entire generation of gay men to AIDS, the cultural elite of her day. She remembers when gay bars were illegal and the New York Times would publish the lists of the men arrested, lists that ended hundreds of careers. I suppose she’s entitled to her bitterness. It’s paid the bills for years. There isn’t a nurturing bone in her body.

    But I still wonder if her critique of the gay agenda doesn’t carry some weight, as her critiques of feminism back in the day were borne out over time. Leibowitz argues as women surged into the workplace, into academia, into every corner of the landscape, divorce rates soared, too. Men were still more aggressive, more career oriented, less likely to look at their own baby in the same room even as they began to do more of the housework and carrying the baby around. I don’t agree with Leibowitz, but in her harsh and often unfair criticisms, there are hard rocks in the snowballs she’s thrown over the decades with deadly accuracy at the shop windows of American culture.Report

  6. Avatar NoPublic says:

    We lost something when we crammed 4 or 5 different root words for affection and interconnectedness into the word “love”. Maybe it’s time to resurrect some of them.Report

  7. Avatar Matty says:

    I think I’m the one who requested this so thank youReport

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