Tuesday, 22 April 2003

Santorum Sanitarium

As mentioned previously, Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has been getting a fair amount of defense from the libertarian parts of blogdom. However, the Left Leaner has dug up the transcript of the interview (via a Feedster search that led me to Atrios—I always knew he’d be good for something), and in some ways it’s even more damning. The actual text of what Santorum says:

AP: OK, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?

SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.

The italicized part is the commonly-excerpted part. The reporter originally added the word (gay) to the statement, but Santorum is clearly coming out here in opposition to the Supreme Court stating that there’s a “right to consensual sex within your home.” Or, to clarify for those who haven’t had my civil liberties lecture, he thinks it ought to be constitutional (syn: legal, permissible) for a state to outlaw sex between consenting adults—any consenting adults.

But wait—it gets better. Let’s continue on the magical mystery tour of Rick Santorum’s constitutional philosophy:

It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold—Griswold was the contraceptive case—and abortion. And now we’re just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you—this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it’s my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that’s antithetical to strong, healthy families. Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, where it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

That’s right. Your personal liberty is less important than the government’s compelling interest in creating “strong, healthy families” like Rick’s. (Insert your own joke about social capital and communitarianism here. No offense, Bob Putnam.)

Then it just gets plain weird:

Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality…

AP: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about “man on dog” with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.

I’m freaked out, and I’m only reading this sludge.

SANTORUM: And that’s sort of where we are in today’s world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.

Let’s zoom in on this part: “The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions.” Chew on that for a while. Now let’s compare and contrast with a different view of what the state’s role should be:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The fundamental purpose of our government is to secure individuals’ God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not to decide what people get healthcare, figure out who’s more worthy of an air-conditioned house, or—for that matter—dictate what two consenting adults are allowed to do in their bedroom. Perhaps Sen. Santorum should think about that for a while.

Jacob Levy at the Volokh Conspiracy has more; he’s much less sanguine about Santorum’s comments than Eugene was (although in the latter’s defense, I don’t think Eugene had seen the interview transcript at the time).

Andrew Sullivan makes the same point in the midst of flooding the zone on Santorum. The sad thing is that if Santorum were talking about economic policy in the same terms (hypothetical: the state ought to have the right to limit people’s income to $100,000 per year), the usual suspects on the left would be cheering him on… which nicely dovetails with Eugene Volokh’s point here about why libertarians can’t be Democrats either.

Radley Balko (The Agitator) is equally unimpressed—and by that, of course, I mean thoroughly disgusted with the illiberal bullshit coming out of Santorum’s mouth.