It’s all too easy to forget that some of the arguments for same sex marriage which drive the rank-and-file supporters involve — surprise — money (especially government “entitlement” money). From today’s Inquirer:

Since her heart attack and stroke in March 2005, Heggs has been in and out of the hospital and unable to work. A nurse for 35 years, Heggs now receives $1,400 a month in disability payments from Social Security.
“When I die, who is going to get my benefits, my Social Security?” Heggs said. “I’m with Paula. She is entitled to my benefits. She was there for me when I was sick. She was there for me when I got depressed. When I lost everything, she didn’t leave.”

I never thought about it, but why on earth should person A be entitled to government benefits because person B died? I don’t care whether they married or not; it’s one thing for a spouse to leave his property to the other, but why should government entitlements be involved?
It strikes me that there’s nothing fair about that. The problem is, once something is an entitlement, it becomes like tangible property. Fair or not, an entitlement to something tends to create a sense of unfairness for others who aren’t entitled, and so on.
So, while I haven’t given much thought to it before, I have to admit that same sex marriage would at least compound unfairness more fairly. Perhaps there’s somewhat of a nexus between here libertarian and conservative thinking.
But the nexus ends where it comes to the confusion between allowing something and the illogical belief that if a thing is allowed it must be good. I advocate allowing sexual freedom, so in the eyes of conservatives this makes me a “hedonist” even though I’m personally monogamous, and the type of person who refuses to take off his clothes at a nude beach. It’s about as logical as saying that supporting heroin decriminalization means advocating heroin or saying it’s good. Likewise, I don’t think abortion is a “right,” although I’d have problems with imprisoning women for doing that to themselves; in the eyes of moral conservatives this makes me complicit in murder. If I hear that “we” “slaughter” “millions” one more time I’ll scream, because I am only responsible for my moral crimes. Am I to blame for my friends who died of AIDS because I believed in the right not to be arrested for screwing? People would say that I am. These are the sorts of things that make me tend to distrust social conservatives. It’s annoying to be blamed for the acts of others, and reminds me of the endless scolding by gun control people for shootings. How am I to blame in any way for someone else’s shooting spree?
So, at the heart of my libertarianism is a sense of annoyance. It’s the idea of reducing everyone to the level of the worst offender, and treating all people as suspects that I can’t abide. Being personally conservative means nothing; to be an officially licensed conservative these days, you have to believe in moral seat belt laws for everyone else. My problem is, I hate the people who would reduce us to the level of the worst, and do not agree with anticipating their behavior by reducing everyone to the lowest common denominator. There are alcoholics. Therefore, no one should be allowed alcohol, and people who think it should be allowed are moral degenerates allied with the distillery lobby? If I heard that enough times, I’d reach for my checkbook and proudly send my money to the distillery lobby.
As to the people who screw up, I know this will sound selfish, but there is no way to prevent people from harming themselves or being evil. All I can do is be prepared to kill them if they try to harm me. I don’t think I have any illusions about humanity; I just don’t think government solves problems. I go along with libertarianism to that extent, but I’m generally skeptical about anything that smacks of utopian thinking. Just restore the Constitution and leave me the hell alone. If I cared about the morality of other people (at least, to the point of intervening in their lives beyond arresting them for committing crimes) I’d go nuts. People who claim to care about my morality (which collective morality by definition includes) worry me, because they don’t know me, and people who don’t know me and want to tell me what I should think make me very suspicious.
I know it sounds frivolous, but it’s getting harder and harder to be left alone, and it worries me. Little stupid things, like not wearing the funny gun diversity t-shirt to an airport, not offending anyone lest they take it the wrong way. I mean, what if I had a kid? Might some insane bureaucrat want to take my kid away because I have a pit bull (yes, it happened in San Francisco) or a house full of guns?
Are such concerns mere paranoia? Suppose someone with kids and guns decided to ridicule the local child protective bureaucrats relentlessly in blog post after blog post. While there’s a First Amendment right to do that, aren’t these “faceless bureaucrats” actually human beings with a huge amount of discretionary power to conduct home inspections on the slightest pretext? I mean, it’s not as if the “Nanny State” is some wholly artificial externality. There are real people with real human failings, who have power, and who believe that they have the right to use it. (Not that I’d ever ridicule bureaucrats, but I do have a right to do that, don’t I?)
I think that as information becomes centralized, and moralists converge from both sides, perhaps these will not remain idle or theoretical worries. That’s my main worry about broadening marriage; I think the goal is to broaden society’s control net, safety net, whatever you want to call it. I used to think homosexuals wanted to be left alone; now it’s communitarian lesbians with children supported by a network of government bureaucratic activists — many of whom would probably love to inspect the homes of all neighbor children who expressed disapproval of communitarian lesbians.
People are increasingly unable to keep their lives and lifestyles to themselves. I’ll never forget a San Francisco Bay Area lesbian who hated and feared Newt Gingrich because she felt he was “threatening” her lifestyle. What, I wondered, could he possibly do to her? The answer was not much actually; it was a feeling thing. He made her feel uncomfortable, disrespected, disapproved.
While no one likes being disapproved of or disrespected, I think it’s better to tolerate disapproval than demand approval. But it’s still a free country. People are allowed to demand approval. It’s when they demand approval enforced by the power of the state that a certain line is crossed for many people. Not that same sex marriage does this by itself. But when there’s an army of activists backed up by an army of bureaucrats, “hate crime” laws can lead directly from a kid teasing another kid to visits from the child police. I could see that eventually leading to SWAT teams enforcing laws against intolerance.
Culture wars are bad enough, and I deplore them. But if the government gets into being the culture police, things could deteriorate further. In England a student was recently questioned by police for making a racist remark:

“She asked to be taken out of her group because the other five students were Asians and four didn’t speak English so there was no point in her being with them. When she pointed this out to the teacher she was accused of being racist.
“The matter was referred to the community police officer based at the school and she was taken to the police station and kept in custody for over six hours while they questioned her.”

This country isn’t England yet. Here, there has always been a right to disapprove of or disagree with lifestyles, and even to be a racist. But if laws are enacted to protect people against bigotry, where does it lead? Martin Luther King Jr. used to say that there was no way to police what was in a man’s heart, but I’m not sure that represents the modern trend.
I remain very distrustful of state involvement in the lifestyle business, and I’m wondering whether there might be more common ground between libertarians and conservatives than is commonly supposed.
I do wish differences in philosophy didn’t take the form of accusations of hedonism and murder (and of course bigot), but I guess if I can get used to being called a “RINO,” I can tolerate being a hedonistic murdering bigot.
Besides, if all things are relative, and there’s no such thing as right or wrong, who’s to say there’s anything wrong about hedonism, murder, or bigotry?
ADDITIONAL NOTE: My thanks to an unnamed muse who helped me generate these thoughts during an email exchange.