Dale Carpenter on Ted Olson on SSM

Dale Carpenter from the Volokh Conspiracy blogged earlier today about a NYTimes profile of Ted Olson, a lawyer highly regarded in conservative circles and highly decorated for service for the Bush Administration. He has won 44 of 55 of the cases he has taken to the Supreme Court (including the decision responsible for Bush ascending to the White House after the Florida election debacle). Most recently he has taken up the cause of getting California’s Proposition 8 (banning same sex marriages) struck down in the courts, a journey that will likely lead to the Supreme Court. It is a worthwhile read and is the best treatment of national media to the core of the debate, which are about the rights of people to enter into binding contracts.

Dale Carpenter’s post is a noteworthy read too. He even extended the libertarian thinking at the core of Olson’s argument to its logical end:

The second suggestion is to identify libertarians as supporters of gay marriage. I think that’s descriptively true: libertarians are far more likely than traditional conservatives to support same-sex marriage. But as a substantive policy matter, it’s hard to see same-sex marriage as a genuinely libertarian cause. It enlarges the empire of marriage, and thus of state regulation. It’s true that one voluntarily enters this system of regulation, but the government offers many special advantages and inducements to enter it. From a libertarian perspective, marriage is a subsidy made available to encourage us lead a certain kind of life favored by the government, just as the state encourages us to own a home, go to college, contribute to charity, buy fuel-efficient cars, etc. In part because of its channelling and traditionalizing potential, same-sex marriage is a conservative cause, in my view, though I appear to be one of about five people in the country who actually believes this.

I of course have long advocated ending the state’s subsidy on marriage because I as a persistently single person have no access to the benefits governments give to married couples and frankly, I think it’s kind of unfair. Extend the subsidy to 100% of the people.

This is of course an argument that would be laughed at in most venues, and even if I’m not terribly serious about that advocacy, there is an argument there and people should understand it, particularly when they start extending the advocacy of subsidies to other things. Because you can never just subsidize ONE thing; people start getting jealous and demanding subsidies appealing to their most vested interests.

What is the socially optimal equilibrium in the market for subsidies?

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