UPDATE at end.
Huh. So apparently the GOP is going all-in on the birth control stuff. TPM: “Republicans will move forward with legislation by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that permits any employer to deny birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.”
I see the religious conservatives getting ready for this battle, but where are the libertarians? Perhaps we need a refresher course on the libertarian case against female sexual autonomy and birth control. For this, let’s go to our man Ludwig von Mises and his 1922 book Socialism. The book is a full-frontal assault on all things socialist; one of the many cases he brings is against “free love” and for the traditional family.
Why? He starts the case like this: “Proposals to transform the relations between the sexes have long gone hand in hand with plans for the socialization of the means of production. Marriage is to disappear along with private property… Socialism promises not only welfare—wealth for all—but universal happiness in love as well.”
Corey Robin suggested I check out this book, and it is great. I love this part, as it is very relevant for the Right today: “The arguments, sometimes unctuous and sometimes venomous, which are put forward by theologians and other moral teachers, are entirely inadequate as a reply to this programme.” The socialists are coming with a plan to equalize gender relationships – and by making the wife an equal of the husband it is only a matter of time until the worker seeks to be the equal of the boss, and with sex itself freely shared among consenting equals how can we even maintain the idea of “private property”? The theologians in charge of sex and the family are both (a) inadequate to stopping them and (b) kinda creepy about the whole sex thing to boot (Mises goes on at length about this). The libertarians are going to need to man up on this.
I think it is fair to lump “free love” as he means it with birth control. He writes Socialism in 1922, a year after Margaret Sanger founds the group that becomes Planned Parenthood (which she does after a decade of writing sex education for women columns in a variety of socialist and anarchist magazines while trying to evade arrest). He doesn’t mention Sanger but he’s pretty obsessed with this book Woman and Socialism (“no other German socialist book was more widely read or more effective as propaganda than Bebel’s Woman and Socialism, which is dedicated above all to the message of free love”).
Let’s get some more quotes onto the internets and then encourage our libertarian friends to have at it. Help that whole fusionist project by spending 2012 finding increasingly esoteric ways of denouncing birth control alongside the religious conservatives – the future of private property depends on it! Mises:
So far as Feminism seeks to adjust the legal position of woman to that of man, so far as it seeks to offer her legal and economic freedom to develop and act in accordance with her inclinations, desires, and economic circumstances—so far it is nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution. When, going beyond this, it attacks the institutions of social life under the impression that it will thus be able to remove the natural barriers, it is a spiritual child of Socialism. For it is a characteristic of Socialism to discover in social institutions the origin of unalterable facts of nature, and to endeavour, by reforming these institutions, to reform nature….
Free love is the socialist’s radical solution for sexual problems. The socialistic society abolishes the economic dependence of woman which results from the fact that woman is dependent on the income of her husband. Man and woman have the same economic rights and the same duties, as far as motherhood does not demand special consideration for the woman. Public funds provide for the maintenance and education of the children, which are no longer the affairs of the parents but of society. Thus the relations between the sexes are no longer influenced by social and economic conditions…
Just as the pseudo-democratic movement endeavours by decrees to efface natural and socially conditioned inequalities, just as it wants to make the strong equal to the weak, the talented to the untalented, and the healthy to the sick, so the radical wing of the women’s movement seeks to make women the equal of men….But the difference between sexual character and sexual destiny can no more be decreed away than other inequalities of mankind.
(Now if the GOP keeps on this they might lose by a wide-enough margin to allow for advancement on the universal preschool and expansive daycare fronts….)
Check out dueling Mises quotes and interpretation in the comment section from Gene Callahan – “With the spread and progress of capitalism, birth control becomes a universal practice” – and Corey Robin (whose recent book on conservatives looks even stronger in light of these arguments by Mises) who points out that Mises isn’t talking in terms of woman’s autonomy but the husband as family owner: “In the market economy every individual is spontaneously intent upon not begetting children whom he could not rear without considerably lowering his family’s standard of life.”
Also Corey Robin goes to the text to lay out what Mises actually said on feminism, gender equality and marriage here in an important comment – one that lays out how committed Mises is to a project of maintaining a so-called natural inequality between genders and how, rather than a fad, it is essential to how he views his critique of socialism.