Sunday, October 01, 2006

Women and Freedom: The foundations for a right – left libertarian coalition.

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Christy Burbridge's blog on Wendy McElroy asked the right questions. But McElroy is a really irrelevant to the issues. She is a paid hand simply providing services to the highest bidder. If she disappeared today tomorrow the interests she represents would be having tryouts for a replacement, just like they did when they needed someone to replace Phyllis Schlafly and Anne Coulter, Kelly Anne Fitzpatrick and Laura Inghram went at it. Keeping the women's movement focused away from the real issues matters to those who must keep America divided to hold power.

The important points all go to the reason a coalition between the right and left elements of libertarianism has never happened before, although today it is starting to take place with agonizing slowness. Bush and his NeoFascism contingent has demonstrated just what is wrong with the centralization of power, less local organizing, and denying individual rights.

The issues all focus those inherent rights for women our country has never recognized. That is the avenue that the NeoCons have used to shackle all Americans. The merge point for a left right coalition meets at the place where all of us are recognized to possess those rights and do so outside of the interference of the State.

Until you give freedom to everyone no one is free.

Libertarians need to know this and all Americans need to understand why the various attempts at reform in the last 230 years have failed so abysmally.

We need to understand what the struggle for the Rights of Women means to all Americans and refuse to be blinded by anyone.

It started with the failure of the Founders to recognize women as part of humanity and with the issue of slavery for blacks. Both of these issues were placed on the back burner to allow the Constitution to be ratified. By so doing the 5% of Southern slaveowners who owned slaves were allowed to keep their curious institution and women were denied their right to exercise control over their own lives. Instead, state legislation was used to truncate the right of women to contract, work, own property, have custody of their own children, and control their own bodies. It was a handy tool. Soon it would be applied to everyone.

What did not happen therefore was the many experiments that the colonies would have carried out in determining how their people would determine their own futures. It would have been a mixed bag, no doubt. But the feet also vote and many more would have exercised that option if their local government was bad and some someplace else provided better options. People choose for freedom when the choices are available.

This happened to some extend anyway. A half million Southerners left the Southern states in the years immediately following the Revolution because they did not want to live in a slave culture. Fewer Northerners who owned slaves left states there who would soon end slavery and headed south or south west to territories who would continue the practice. Read Bound Away by David Hackett Fischer.

What did not happen was the creation of a market in opportunities for women. But it might have. New Jersey included women as voters for a number of years after the Revolution. In the absence of a Federal government some states might well have done the right thing, allowing women to exercise their inherent rights. These states would have prospered. Women have always been the stability and strength of communities. Today we know that women cultured business is transformational. What if it had started in 1800?

That would have allowed women in some states to enter into business and education generations earlier. Women could have voted with their feet, leaving oppressive states to settle where they could exercise control over their own lives.

Even while they were unable to speak publicly women were still core movers of the Abolitionist Movement. Given more money and autonomy it is likely that the impact by choice would have radically changed history.

That did not happen, but the power of choice for women and the exercise of their inherent rights on an equal footing with men is still at issue today and still keeps us divided.

Women noticed that the ideas of freedom enunciated such as Lysander Spooner ignored their rights to the same freedoms. Eventually this sunk in. The question Libertarians should ask themselves is given what Classical Liberals and Libertarians have done why would any woman believe anything we say?

Freedom matters to women, too, but our Movement has sneered at them refused to help in their struggles, and ignored women who worked for freedom. To Libertarians feminist is usually a cuss word.

Feminist is a word with a distinct meaning and the meaning is all about freedom.

It is not a synonym for female, it means, “(B)belonging to movements and ideas which advocate the rights of women to have equal opportunities to those possessed by men.” Men can also be feminists and, in fact, my own great-great-grandfather was a male feminist who often hosted Parker Pillsbury, a cousin, at his home in New Hampshire.

Equal opportunities are impossible without the ability to exercise your inherent rights.

As any real proponent for inherent rights should know, women's claim to a semblance of equal standing in law depends on legislation passed by legislatures today. This is not equal, men's rights deriving from the recognition of inherent rights as set out in the Declaration of Independence and women's claim being created through legislative action. Such legislation is by its nature a privilege enjoyed at the discretion of the legislative body. Their inclusion with men as having inherent rights as provided for by the Declaration of Independence has never happened for reasons that I will cover in the book I am writing, True Liberty: A Women's Revolution.

It is true that today legislatures routinely pass laws that truncate individual rights, sometimes in the name of 'fairness.' The refusal to include women as persons under the Constitution created the preconditions that forced women to resort to the use of legislation starting in the 1800s.

Tough getting a Constitutional Amendment passed when you are lumped with non-voting idiots. Try it sometime for yourself.

The long and torturous swamp of Progressivism might well have been avoided entirely if legislation had not been used to limit the rights of women in the first place. Today all of us are subject to the pernicious action of legislatures, none of our rights being safe while these takers are in session.

That men's petards are now hoisted along with those of women just shows that bad precedents are persistent. Repairing the situation calls for admitting the mistakes made originally and taking appropriate action now.

The State should never have made any laws relating to personal relationships and this might well have been avoided if instead of ratifying the Constitution America had instead allowed the colonies to become a market in social experimentation. Women and blacks were certainly the losers; blacks facing generations of slavery and women even more generations of struggle to establish even the most modest of places in the world outside of the home.

Note this marriage contract. Such contracts were common among those committed to the Abolitionist and Suffragist Movements.

May 1st Text from Lucy Stone Marriage: The following was signed by Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell prior to their May 1, 1855 marriage. The Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who performed the marriage, not only read the statement at the ceremony, but also distributed it to other ministers as a model that he urged other couples to follow.

While acknowledging our mutual affection by publicly assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it a duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of, nor promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage, as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess. We protest especially against the laws which give to the husband:

1. The custody of the wife's person.

2. The exclusive control and guardianship of their children.

3. The sole ownership of her personal, and use of her real estate, unless previously settled upon her, or placed in the hands of trustees, as in the case of minors, lunatics, and idiots.

4. The absolute right to the product of her industry.

5. Also against laws which give to the widower so much larger and more permanent interest in the property of his deceased wife, than they give to the widow in that of the deceased husband.

6. Finally, against the whole system by which "the legal existence of the wife is suspended during marriage," so that in most States, she neither has a legal part in the choice of her residence, nor can she make a will, nor sue or be sued in her own name, nor inherit property.

We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited, except for crime; that marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership, and so recognized by law; that until it is so recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws, by every means in their power...

This was the world that confronted women. Men and women in my family signed similar contracts.

If women had been men they would have taken up arms and been right in so doing. Nat Turner had a right to use violence because he was being held in servitude enforced by the denial of his exercise of his inherent rights. Women have the same claim to action in protection of their rights.

States have no rights. Only people have rights.

Instead of becoming violent women undertook change using legislation, the best alternative, a Constitutional Amendment, being out of their reach in the years before they achieved the right to vote. Only a handful of men, including I am proud to say, Parker Pillsbury, continued the struggle for women's rights after the betrayal of the 15th Amendment.

In the more than a century since the close of the Civil War the only Constitutional change for the betterment of women has been the Suffrage achieved in 1920. All other changes have been achieved through the marketplace and through legislative action, a medium that fails to give women affirmation of their inherent rights and continues the assumption that legislation is just as good. Wrong for all the above reasons.

The real solution remains the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment followed by rescinding all legislation related to personal relationships including ALL family law statutes. Women and men are not the same and the State should not try to assert that they are. Privatize marriage. How this would work out in practice should not color the issue. The marketplace should be allowed to operate in all parts of our lives and the use of deceit, coercion and violence should be actionable.

The reason Susan B. Anthony decided to focus on the right to vote was only to obtain the tool of the vote so that they could access the exercise of their inherent rights.

This opens up the possibilities for coalition as well as solving the problems regarding the misuse of legislation. Women clump on the left because the left has at least paid lip service to their issues. Leading from the truth about freedom is better.

Until we confront the mistakes made and lay out a plan to redress those mistakes an effective coalition is impossible because until the the market for human action affirms the inherent nature of rights we are not all able to act for our own good without reference to government.

What would a movement look like if it included the power women bring, able to choose for freedom? That is the uniting point for Progressives who care about social justice and Libertarians who understand that all of our choices matter.

That coalition makes freedom possible not someday but now. That can make freedom for each of us a reality.