Rand Paul has a Time op-ed where he digs into his family’s roots as segregationist-types and argues that, rather than share marriage with the gays, it should be privatized. I debunk that argument at Slate, but didn’t have the space to address this weird and pathetic attempt at a “gotcha” that Paul wedges in there:
Do consenting adults have a right to contract with other consenting adults? Supporters of the Supreme Court’s decision argue yes but they argue no when it comes to economic liberties, like contracts regarding wages.
Further proof that libertarianism is not really a philosophy or ideology so much as a pathetic attempt to make half-baked right wing “gotcha” type arguments seem intellectual when they never, ever are. For those who don’t know what the fuck Paul is talking about—and he declines to explain—he appears to be trying to tie his opposition to the minimum wage to this issue. The argument is that because a law limiting marriage to man-woman marriage and a law setting minimum wage are both laws that put limits on contracts, then you can’t oppose one limit while supporting the other. Either you’re for all limits or none at all. Paul, in classic libertarian (read: 13-year-old Ayn Rand fan) form, is trying to argue that it’s somehow hypocritical to think that laws should be assessed on their merits, as opposed to reduced to this childish black-and-white thinking where you either are for rules or against them.
Or, for the TL;DR version: If a dude can marry a dude, why can’t I pay my employees 5o cents an hour? Your move, liberals!
Unfortunately, these facile and pathetic attempts at “gotcha” have a tendency to take off in conservative circles, so I suspect this is not the last time we see this gambit. So here’s a quick rebuttal beyond, “Don’t be a dumbass.”
The liberal position is completely consistent here. We believe that the government should create sensible regulations on what kind of contracts people can enter into, to protect people and help society flourish. Liberals don’t oppose the idea of an employment contract. We simply believe that there should be limits on what an employer can demand of an employees, to prevent exploitation. More specifically, we believe all employment contracts should have a built-in baseline: Minimum wage, maximum hours, health and safety protections, minimum benefits, that sort of thing. Anything you want to add to it, have at it, but in order for your contract to be valid, it had to fall within these parameters.
The marriage contract is exactly the same, in this sense. You and your partner can sign a prenup or have a private agreement where one of you cooks and the other one cleans or whatever. No one cares. But in order to get married, you have to sign off on the standard marriage contract, which comes with certain protections and benefits.
Legalizing same-sex marriage doesn’t change any of this. All it does is open up the number of people who can enter a marriage contract. If there was a law banning employers from hiring gay people, liberals would also oppose that law. But if we overturned that law, we would expect that the hiring of gay people happens within the same parameters—minimum wage, health and safety protections, etc.—that controls the hiring of straight people.
The fact that one law is illegitimate doesn’t mean all laws are illegitimate. Just because you want marijuana legalized doesn’t mean you think murder should be legal. Paul’s attempt at some kind of intellectual chicanery here is childish and simplistic in the extreme. Adults should understand that the world is a complex place and our legal system sometimes has to be complex in response. However old Rand Paul is on paper, this op-ed makes it clear that intellectually, he’s about 8 years old.