Getting the Government (Back) Out of Marriage

Sarah Skwire and Steve Horwitz
Show Date
March 18, 2018

Defenders of the free market are often caricatured as calculating, utility maximizers, whose only concern is the efficient allocation of resources. Any attempt to analyze a “market for love” with intersecting supply and demand curves is bound to fall flat. However, that doesn’t mean libertarian economic thought has no implications for how the institution of marriage could be improved. Before their wedding, one year ago, Sarah Skwire and Steve Horwitz had both independently written about the libertarian answer to the hot-button question of same-sex marriage. Horwitz, a libertarian economics at Ball State University, has applied an “Austrian perspective” to explain how the evolution of the market, and the relatively recent development of “marrying for love,” is changing the way people might want to structure the marriage contract. Skwire, a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, has studied “What Marriage Was Like before Bureaucracy,” and found – incredibly – that it worked just fine. They join Bob on their one-year anniversary to discuss a Reason article they co-authored last November (Getting the State Out of Marriage) in which they advocate replacing the one-size-fits-all contract with a private system adapted to changing norms around marriage and family life. They argue that the idea of a traditional marriage system is flawed, and make the case that government’s intrusion into the institution – particularly the special benefits based on marriage status – has created unnecessary controversy.