Postmodern Conservative

Justice Kennedy on All the Lonely People

So Joe Knippenberg and others have asked: Could a libertarian really embrace Kennedy’s reasoning today? For myself, I would respect a lot more a straightforward argument about the equal protection from arbitrary deprivation of individual rights. But still, I’m no libertarian.

Kennedy: “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there.”

Libertarian: Does that mean there’s an entitlement that government facilitate a world where individuals aren’t lonely? That sounds like wacky Great Society thinking!

Keep in mind, many to most libertarians really believe that government should get out of the marriage business.

A good thing about Kennedy’s opinion: He says that government should support marriage and parenthood, as both are indispensable for our social order. So he’d be for, I guess, the parts of reform conservatism that give parents as parents tax breaks, and all that. And he’d be for government’s responding in un-counterproductive ways to the collapse of marriage as a stabilizing relational institution in the lowest parts of our middle class. In some ways, Kennedy’s emo-relationalism is closer to the truth than straightforward individualism.

Peter Augustine LawlerPeter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...


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