March 4, 2006

Harry Browne Dies; Marital Arrangements and Freedom

Posted in Death, Life, Love, Politics at 12:04 pm by mj

Reason has Former Libertarian Party Presidental Candidate Harry Browne’s obituary. (Also see the Wikipedia entry.)

Three days after his death is not really the time to go into my own opinions (I’ll say I voted for him twice, but the second time I was cynical about it), but I found this comment on Miss Passey’s blog quite interesting:

As I recall, he was against marriage; not only that, but he believed that if two people lived together, only one person should own the home and the furnishings. This, he felt, would cut down on quarrells about what kind of furniture to buy, etc. Having little to no experience with real-life romantic relationships, I mentioned this to my inamorata as a good idea. She was shocked and outraged. “If you owned the home and all the furniture belonged to you, how would I ever feel it was my home, too? I would feel like someone just staying over all the time. I would feel like your serf.” I thought she was being irrational. (Of course I envisioned me being the one who owned the house and everything in it.) Years later I would wind up in a situation where one person–and it wasn’t me–owned the home and all the furnishings . . . and I realized my (by then) ex-girlfriend had been right! I felt exactly the way she said she would feel! I was a serf living in the master’s manor without any real rights in the situation–and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

This reveals so much about how those who have no power formulate opinions on how to use the power they don’t have. Many of the LP’s proposals fall into exactly this camp. It’s very much like how humans develop from adolescence into adulthood. It’s as if the universe made us to develop wild-eyed opinions on how we should behave early in life when we are powerless, specifically so that it could find new and entertaining (not to mention humiliating) ways of proving us wrong as we acquire autonomy. Sorta like how some television writers develop their characters.

Of course, American culture is steeped in serfdom–the idea that one spouse owns everything, and the other is utterly dependent. It’s still that way in Chinese culture (even in the states). Even the INS (er, DHSCIS) pretty much assumes this kind of arrangement.

It makes me happy I’m not a woman, since it’s usually the case of a 20-something woman marrying a well-established 30-or-40-something guy, moving into his house with his furniture and doing his laundry, and calling that a marriage. How could anybody be free and happy in such a relationship? (I guess many women are, it’s just an alien concept to me.)

Given our long history with these arrangements, it’s beyond me how this could have seemed like a good idea to an adult writing a book on freedom. Even if I know well the attraction it holds to the just-past-adoloscent mind.

Still, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World did turn me toward contemplation at the time (and helped spark a deep epistemological crisis within me a couple of years later), and mayhap is a large unacknowledged factor in why I’ve become increasingly apolitical.

(Not that I, uh, recall very much of the specifics these days except for the part about contracting instead of entering into an employee-employer relationship…)