Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Govt in Marriage

A few days back, an interesting question came to my mind about the limits of government. The question is quite simple:

Why should the government decide who can and who cannot be married? If democracy stands for personal freedom and the right to freedom of expression, then why should the government be required to accept a union between any two people who love each other? Is the entire idea of registering a marriage undemocratic?

The first idea that comes to my mind is that, if marriages were not registered, couples would be able to break up at will and leave one of the two members in dire straits unfairly. For example, a married couple might accumulate assets over time and if they break up, those assets will have to be divided fairly. And that is the government's job: to prevent anything unfair from happening. The role of the government, after all, lies in ensuring fairness, in the absence of which society itself break down.

However, the government has clearly expanded its mandate beyond these reasonable limits. A clear example is the fact that you need legislation to allow homosexuals to marry. What is the logic behind this? Why should the majority have to give its consent to what is entirely a personal choice? Why should the majority be able to hoist its moral leanings on the minority? That is not democracy - it is majoritarianism. This is not something like regulating driving licenses: it is possibly the most personal of all matters: marriage.

A limited government that respects individuals should not have any power to regulate marriage between individuals. It can ensure fairness in asset distribution, or protection from domestic violence, or anything that transgresses on individual freedoms. But to decide who is to be free and who is not is most undemocratic indeed. 

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