Who is the State to Decide ?
It is not a good thing when personal choices need to be sanctioned by the state. This is the ultimate irony in the Engels critique of the family and property rights. Engels wrote of how the state is used to enforce the power disequilbriums of men over women and the wealthy over the poor. Yet, are not marriage and business contracts done voluntarily, at a given point of time despite, or because of, the individual histories leading-up to that point in time, by the free will of those consenting at that moment in time? Why should these voluntary relations be any business of the state at all (unless of course the contracts are violated and redress is not made voluntarily as well)?
The irony of course is that Marx and Engels wanted the state to wither-away and not to be involved at all in the affairs of man. Whereas of course the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and (some of) the Left still use Marx and Engels’ analysis in their call for more state control over individuals.
Today there are three headline issues reinforcing this irony, and the sad state of affairs that society believes they (we) need this state-sanctioning. What it boils down to, mostly, of course is money.
Those seeking gay marriage laws want the benefits given by the state to hetereosexual couples. The solution of course, is not to have the state say one way or another what is a marriage. It is a contract that would be recognized as such by employers (it would be a good employee compensation benefit attracting good employees, just ask the Levi Strauss company) regardless of what the state has to say about it. It is wrong that people have to petition the state for this acknowledgement of personal choice. The fact that the state too grants financial benefits to married couples also, as Engels said, gives up personal control of our personal lives.
Same thing with stem cell research. The researchers want state money. If the state was not involved in research well then, there would be no harm no foul. The ethical and/or moral choices surrounding tissue source, and there are options, would be left to individuals exercising their own judgment, not the judgment of those controlling taxpayer purse strings. The ethical choices should be in the hands of those directly involved.
Lastly, but most importantly, is abortion. Who is the state to say what a woman can or cannot do with her body? Yes, when is a child a living person? And, uniquely to humans, children require years of nurturing before they are ready to live on their own. Who is to know this and control this best except those making the choice to have children in the first place? The state is not in the position to decide. Abortion is a sad, terrible, and scarring thing, and there are, thankfully, options besides abortion, but it is nonetheless an individual’s, not the state’s, choice.
The fact is that people will do what they will do. It is when someone effects someone else negatively that the state must step-in. If the state was not stepping-in (or more specifically, if we as citizens and voters have not allowed the state to step-in) in areas beyond the prevention of property crime and violent crime then we would not have this downward cycle of self-perceived necessary intervention into our lives. We should, again, in Marxian analysis, raise our consciousness as to what role do we expect or want the state to play. It is more than just a philosophical dialectic.