I consider all Republican debates time-fillers until New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie jumps in, but Monday night's debate did crystallize for me why I dislike libertarians. (Except one, who is a friend of mine and not crazy.)
They lure you in with talk of small government and then immediately start babbling about drug legalization or gay marriage.
"Get the government out of it" is a good and constitutionally correct answer to many questions, but it's not a one-size-fits-all answer to all questions.
It was a good answer, for example, when libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was asked about government assistance to private enterprise and government involvement in the housing market.
But it's a chicken-s**t, I-don't-want-to-upset-my-video-store-clerk-base answer when it comes to gay marriage.
Asked about gay marriage, Paul said, in full:
"The federal government shouldn't be involved. I wouldn't support an amendment (prohibiting gay marriage). But let me suggest -- one of the ways to solve this ongoing debate about marriage, look up in the dictionary. We know what marriage is all about. But then, get the government out of it. ... Why doesn't it go to the church? And why doesn't it go to the individuals? I don't think government should give us a license to get married. It should be in the church."
If state governments stop officially registering marriages, then who gets to adopt? How are child support and child custody issues determined if the government doesn't recognize marriage? How about a private company's health care plans -- whom will those cover? Who has legal authority to issue "do not resuscitate" orders to doctors? (Of course, under Obamacare we won't be resuscitating anyone.)
Who inherits in the absence of a will? Who is entitled to a person's Social Security and Medicare benefits? How do you know if you're divorced and able to remarry? Where would liberals get their phony statistics about most marriages ending in divorce?
Paul can't even scratch Social Security and Medicare off that list by taking the libertarian position that there should be no Social Security or Medicare, because he also said during the debate: "We don't want to cut any of the medical benefits for children or the elderly, because we have drawn so many in and got them so dependent on the government." (And of course, those programs do exist, whether we like it or not.)
So Rep. Paul is a swashbuckling individualist when it comes to civilization's most crucial building block for raising children, but willing to be a run-of-the-mill government statist when it comes to the Ponzi-scheme entitlements bankrupting the country. He's like a vegetarian who says, "I'm not a fanatic -- I still eat meat."
Some of those legal incidents of marriage can be obtained by private contract -- such as the right to inherit and make medical decisions. Gays don't need gay marriage to leave their electric spice racks to loved ones.
But there are more obtuse Americans than there are gay Americans, so courts are going to be bulging with legal disputes among the unalert, who neglected to plan in advance and make private contracts resolving the many legal issues that are normally determined by a marriage contract.
Under Rep. Paul's plan, your legal rights pertaining to marriage will be decided on a case-by-case basis by judges forced to evaluate the legitimacy of your marriage consecrated by a Wiccan priest -- or your tennis coach. (And I think I speak for all Americans when I say we're looking for ways to get more pointless litigation into our lives.)
If one spouse decides he doesn't want to be married anymore, couldn't he just say there never was a marriage because the Wiccan wasn't official or the tennis coach wasn't a pro?
Under Paul's plan, siblings could marry one another, perhaps intentionally, but also perhaps unaware that they were fraternal twins separated and sent to different adoptive families at birth -- as actually happened in Britain a few years ago after taking the government-mandated blood test for marriage.
There are reasons we have laws governing important institutions, such as marriage. As in landscaping, you don't remove a wall until you know why it was put there.
Marriage is a legal construct with legal consequences, particularly regarding rights and duties to children. Libertarians would be better off spearheading a movement to get rid of stop signs than to get rid of officially sanctioned marriage. A world without government stop signs would be safer than a world without government marriage.
It's true that eventually -– theoretically -- there could be private institutions to handle many of these matters. But for anyone calling himself a libertarian to put eliminating official marriage above eliminating Social Security and Medicare is certifiable.
It's exactly like drug legalization: Sure, all good libertarians want to legalize drugs, but the question is whether that is more important than legalizing the ability to locate your widget factory where you want to put it. Even purists can have priorities.
Most libertarians are cowering frauds too afraid to upset anyone to take a stand on some of the most important cultural issues of our time. So they dodge the tough questions when it suits their purposes by pretending to be Randian purists, but are perfectly comfortable issuing politically expedient answers when it comes to the taxpayers' obligations under Medicare and Social Security.
If they could only resist sucking up to Rolling Stone-reading, status-obsessed losers, they'd probably be interesting to talk to.
In my book "Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America," I make the case that liberals, and never conservatives, appeal to irrational mobs to attain power. There is, I now recall, one group of people who look like conservatives, but also appeal to the mob. They're called "libertarians."