The Paleolibertarians Are Right About Sex
—*@Kierkegarchy on Twitter *
A common accusation traditionalists make against libertarianism is that it inherently leads to libertinism. In a libertarian social order, there’s no way to prevent the widespread sexual immorality like what we’re currently witnessing, which in the long run, will have externalities that lead to the collapse of a functional society... or so the argument goes. What I find most ironic about this argument is that it ignores the fact that the socially conservative values traditionalists pine for typically arose out of more libertarian (i.e. generally less politically intrusive) societies of the past. In nearly all of these societies, prostitution was legal to some degree, but the cultural values tended very strongly towards chastity. The reasons why would be obvious, if only we looked at the underlying incentive structures.
What the new batch of traditionalists misunderstands is that it isn’t a lack of coercion that causes people to become sexually promiscuous. Just the opposite; promiscuity could only exist on the level we’re currently seeing if the state was subsidizing it. This is because promiscuous behavior has numerous inherent risks that would have to be mitigated on a massive scale for such a large number of people to take them: unplanned pregnancy, greater risks of STDs, lower ability to bond, higher probability of infidelity, and a million other factors that would drastically lower someone’s value in the spousal marketplace. Or at least, it would lower their value in the spousal free market if we had one.
An easy litmus test to tell whether or not a social institution is being assimilated into the Borg-State is to ask yourself whether the obligations within the institution are unidirectional. After all, normal people don’t settle for one-way agreements in order to get what they want (unless, you know, they have a gun pressed to their head). So when we see the laundry list of unreciprocated obligations that husbands have to wives, or men have to women, the most reasonable assumptions is that marriage has become a government institution and that women are the governments’ clients. Men have legal obligations that enable female behavior—alimony, child support, anti-discrimination laws, domestic violence laws, etc.—without having commensurable legal privileges in return. These one-way obligations would never exist in the absence of government, and are the first major incentive towards sexual decadence because they inflate the spousal market value of promiscuous individuals.
On an evolutionary level, males are judged on their ability to economically support their family. However, with female income rising compared to males’ due to this series of one-way obligations that wouldn’t exist in a free market (e.g. anti-discrimination laws, mandatory family leave, and a myriad of other state-influenced factors too numerous to list here), low earning males that would have previously been considered viable spouses are being devalued against their female counter-parts. To put it more simply, poor government policies are forcing lower status males to settle for women they previously would not have settled for—i.e. women who previously would have been considered too much of a tramp to be worth marrying. Either these lower status men accept sexually undervalued women or get none at all. Couple that with women’s ability to initiate no-fault divorce while still maintaining a legally enforceable claim to a man’s income, and the result is rapidly deteriorating time preference and massively inflated sexual market value for women. This inflated value allows women who previously would not have been considered suitable spouses unless they were chaste to become more sexually promiscuous with few repercussions.
With natural spousal valuations out of the way, the only thing discouraging sexual decadence is the cost of caring for unexpected children. This is where female-driven statist programs (that Uncle Sam disproportionately shakes down men to pay for) like WIC, Head Start, and free birth control through Medicaid come in. Aside from being a giant vote-buying scheme, the reason these programs have led to the collapse of conservative Christian morality is because they socialize the costs of promiscuous behavior. With easy access to abortion or state-sponsored childcare, the sexually unrestrained can push the costs of pregnancy onto society, enabling them to avoid the negative consequences associated with being sexually intemperate. This cost shifting would not be possible without State coercion.
Fascinatingly, legalizing prostitution (as many Paleolibertarians have suggested) would actually help to remedy this situation. The reason why is that it only lowers the market value of those who are already adulterous. Prostitution forces the sexually decadent who demand commitment from their partners to compete with the sexually decadent who don’t demand commitment. To the low status males that the first group preys on, the choice is easy: lower commitment costs them less. To paraphrase a tweet that went viral a while ago: “When female sex dolls finally go mainstream, the women will scream, ‘They won’t love you like a real woman!’ and men will whisper, ‘Neither will you.’” On the other hand, the virgins’ market value will remain practically untouched. This is because chastity automatically garners a higher market value than harlotry (in the same way a mint-condition car has a higher value than a used one, all other things being equal).
All this isn’t to say that sex dolls or prostitution are morally respectable; however, if our goal is to build a society that peacefully incentivizes Christian values, then legalized prostitution would be a small step in the right direction and (despite what some of the trad kids online will tell you) abolishing the State would be a gigantic step in the right direction. Conceivably, the traditionalist counterpoint is that the problem isn’t with the State involving itself in sexual relations per se, but with the current laws promoting decadence. If only the State interfered for us, we’d be fine. In my opinion, this is very clearly a Faustian deal. If we want marriage—the only proper context for sexuality—to be recognized as a religious sacrament instead of the political tool that it currently is, then we can’t allow the State to arbitrate; otherwise there will always be the incentive for the State to politicize it in exchange for clients and political power.