If Marriage Collapses, So Does America

That headline isn’t nearly as hysterical  as it might sound. To wit:

In “A Nation of Singles,” his cover story for the Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last quotes Princeton professor Robert George:

As Robert George put it after the election, limited government “cannot be maintained where the marriage culture collapses and families fail to form or easily dissolve.  Where these things happen, the health, education, and welfare functions of the family will have to be undertaken by someone, or some institution, and that will sooner or later be the government.”

Marriage is what makes the entire Western project–liberalism, the dignity of the human person, the free market, and the limited, democratic state–possible.  George continues, “The two greatest institutions ever devised for lifting people out of poverty and enabling them to live in dignity are the market economy and the institution of marriage.  These institutions will, in the end, stand or fall together.”

There are all kinds of profound implications here, but shall we start with just one?

Anybody who thinks Republicans should shut up about social issues–that we could fix the economy and the country by electing libertarians who just don’t care about the institution of marriage–has another thing coming.

Note: You can hear Jonathan discussing his “Nation of Singles” piece on this week’s Need To Know podcast with Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger.

  1. mask
    Barkha Herman: Isn’t the US divorce rate already 50%?  That, in my book is a failing grade.

    Marriage has failed because we as a society pay women to have children out of wedlock.  I worked at one place where most of the women were from inner city Detroit; and every one of them had had their first child by 14.

    Financial incentives work.  

    Also, two people individually can make 35k each and pay a tax rate of 15%.  However if they marry, their tax rte goes up to 25%. 

    To get more people to marry and stay married, there need to be better financial incentives to marry and stay married. · 3 minutes ago

    I’ve heard the 50% divorce rate is misleading.  To say that 50% of marriages end in divorce is much different than 50% of the people get divorced – e.g., a smaller sub-set of people get married, divorced, remarried, divorced.

    Still it’s too high a number.

    And I agree with you about incentives.

  2. Joseph Paquette

    Are ‘married’ gay couples more likely to be republican?  Maybe we need to rethink the gay marriage issue. 

  3. captainpower

    The breakdown of the family necessitates “a welfare state to protect women and children, and a police state to control men” – George Gilder.

    via Dennis Prager

    Raycon had a similar comment in a prior thread as well

  4. Sumomitch

    “The two greatest institutions ever devised for lifting people out of poverty and enabling them to live in dignity are the market economy and the institution of marriage.”  

    The “creative destruction” of our market economy, however, is also a major cause of the decline of the American family. The sheer wealth of modernity invites ever larger portions of our urban population to see the pursuit of individual hedonistic pleasure as the sole purpose of existence (a characteristic of urbanism observed since the agrarian revolution).  Citizens are officially encouraged to define themselves as consumers first and foremost, by Madison Avenue and the Beltway alike.

    On the production side, the effects of free trade globalism, mechanization and computerization, the internet and free movement of labor have had profound negative effects on the ability of single men in the lower half of the IQ bell curve to have enough reliable income to form families. In a workplace that demands mobility (no jobs in Pittsburg–you need to get to North Dakota!) a family and home are millstones. The growing welfare state becomes for many women a better spouse, in a vicious circle.

    Ironic, if these institutions do, indeed,”stand or fall together.”

  5. ConservativeWanderer

    Hate to tell ya this, Peter, but that ship has already sailed.

    We are penalizing marriage through the tax code, while subsidizing bastardy (yes, I used that word) through welfare.

    Attempt to change either and you’ll be shouted down from both left and right.

    America is doomed, as I’ve said many times in the last month or so.

  6. KC Mulville
    Dan Hanson: 

    In addition, has it ever occurred to social conservatives that opposition to gay marriage not only pushes young people towards the democrats, but it may make them cynical about the institution of marriage itself? 

    That’s only if you accept the logic that the reason we oppose gay marriage is because we don’t like gays.

    And. let’s face it, no matter how often we explain and lay out the case, there’s a widespread myth (no, it’s a lie) that conservatives hate gays.

    But that isn’t the logic of the argument against gay marriage.

    I hate the subject anymore because no matter how often I discuss why I oppose gay marriage, the other side insists on believing that my words are simply masking a secret prejudice … which is itself their prejudice.

    When they discover that my objection would also include opposing marriage between heterosexuals who aren’t spiritually willing to build a family (because I believe that marriage and family are inseparable) , they simply ignore that fact and allege that beneath my argument is prejudice.

    Opposing SSM is not … repeat not … proof of anti-gay bigotry.

  7. KC Mulville

    Of course, if your immediate reaction to my post above was – deep down inside, KC really is prejudiced against gays, but he doesn’t want to admit it  – then you’re who I’m talking about.

  8. ConservativeWanderer
    KC Mulville

    I hate the subject anymore because no matter how often I discuss why I oppose gay marriage, the other side insists on believing that my words are simply masking a secret prejudice … which is itself their prejudice. · 2 minutes ago

    Exactly.

    And I think what bothers me the most is that on this issue, people who call themselves conservatives are operating the way leftists do regarding this topic… if you disagree, you are automatically a bigot.

    Personally, I think anyone that thinks that way is projecting their own bigotry onto me.

  9. Adam Freedman
    C

    Peter, I agree.  I’ve never accepted the idea that conservatives should enter into a truce on social issues (with all due respect to Mitch Daniels). 

    I could probably agree with libertarians to take the state out of the marriage business altogether and leave marriage to churches.  But if the State is going to define marriage, and endow it with an elevated status and certain privileges, then there has to be some rationale.  Until relatively recently, it would have been uncontroversial to state the obvious: we privilege marriage because it fosters procreation within traditional nuclear families, resulting in multiple goods (as outlined by professor George and other commenters above). 

    The new “equal protection” philosophy is that the state must bestow the title of “marriage” on any union of consenting adults, lest feelings be hurt.  Given the power of the state in today’s society, that philosophy will ultimately lead to further weakening of marriage.  As ever, the victims of this progressive revolution will be women and children.

  10. Mike H
    ConservativeWanderer

    KC Mulville

    I hate the subject anymore because no matter how often I discuss why I oppose gay marriage, the other side insists on believing that my words are simply masking a secret prejudice … which is itself their prejudice. · 2 minutes ago

    Exactly.

    And I think what bothers me the most is that on this issue, people who call themselves conservatives are operating the way leftists do regarding this topic… if you disagree, you are automatically a bigot.

    Personally, I think anyone that thinks that way is projecting their own bigotry onto me. · 8 minutes ago

    I think what happens is not that people are necessarily assuming you are being prejudice (though I’m sure many are), but instead are assuming your argument is informed by or biased by your religious beliefs (which you may, in fact, not be stating) and thus some may believe you are not being forthright. People may be skeptical that your arguments are purely intellectual unless you state from the beginning that you were non-religious, or if you could convincingly separate it from your religiosity.

    That being said, they’re are still no guarantees you win that argument. 

  11. flownover

    Before this goes south into a gay marriage debate, this subject has to be evaluated on the basis of the 95% of the population, rather than the loud 5% . I tried to run this flag up on member feed , but the express lane was cranking. 

    As for the gay thing, perhaps we should make a deal : let them have gay marriage, but all of their divorce lawyers have be to former plaintiff’s attorneys.

  12. Chris Deleon
    MichaelC19fan: What are Republicans going to do about the collapse of marriage? Go Rick Santorum and ban contraceptives? …

    Did Rick Santorum ever propose such a thing?  Or is this just the caricature painted by the Left?

  13. S

    The problem is feminism. Why women think that a “career” is so important I’ll never understand. After 13 years in the workforce I find that most people stare at spreadsheets, make powerpoint presentations, etc. Why people give up on marriage and family to do that crap all day is a mystery.

  14. Gil Bailie

    Good for you, Peter, for passing along George’s important warning. Politics is embedded in culture, and when a culture grows so ideologically intoxicated that it breezily disregards anthropological realities, it’s doomed.

  15. Mike H
    Stephen: The problem is feminism. Why women think that a “career” is so important I’ll never understand. After 13 years in the workforce I find that most people stare at spreadsheets, make powerpoint presentations, etc. Why people give up on marriage and family to do that crap all day is a mystery. · 0 minutes ago

    Oh come on, do you think a career isn’t important for any other reason than to bring money in? Why should a woman find a career less fulfilling than a man? There’s still may be too much cultural bias towards pushing everyone into the workforce instead of raising a family, but the fact that you singled out women sounds a little outdated.

  16. ConservativeWanderer
    Michael Hinton

    ConservativeWanderer

    Exactly.

    And I think what bothers me the most is that on this issue, people who call themselves conservatives are operating the way leftists do regarding this topic… if you disagree, you are automatically a bigot.

    Personally, I think anyone that thinks that way is projecting their own bigotry onto me. · 8 minutes ago

    I think what happens is not that people are necessarily assuming you are being prejudice (though I’m sure many are), but instead are assuming your argument is informed by or biased by your religious beliefs (which you may, in fact, not be stating) and thus some may believe you are not being forthright. People may be skeptical that your arguments are purely intellectual unless you state from the beginning that you were non-religious, or if you could convincingly separate it from your religiosity.

    That being said, they’re are still no guarantees you win that argument.  · 13 minutes ago

    Edited 12 minutes ago

    You just proved my point. And you’re probably not aware that you did.

  17. Jim  Ixtian
    Stephen: The problem is feminism. Why women think that a “career” is so important I’ll never understand. After 13 years in the workforce I find that most people stare at spreadsheets, make powerpoint presentations, etc. Why people give up on marriage and family to do that crap all day is a mystery.

    Well, that’s the problem-that Feminism has sold the Helen Gurley Brown-esque lie that women can have it all-career, Sex & the City fun, and then a side of marriage, husband, and children.

    The truth is that women can’t have it all. Fertility issues eg the ‘biological clock’ mean that women’s best strategy is to find a husband when their fertility is at its highest-in their 20′s. Feminism convinces women to delay this schedule and wait until their 30′s, also assuming that there will be enough men around who are actually interested in marriage. The truth is that strategy is really risky because there won’t be enough men around who actually want to settle down with a woman whose got fertility issues-not to mention many other issues.

    Feminism is really bad mating strategy for women.

  18. Astonishing
    Rob Long: So, Peter, are you suggesting that the next conservative candidate for the presidency be against no-fault divorce?  Because that’s done more to undermine marriage than anything else.

    The Pill has done more to undermine marriage than anything else.

    Without The Pill, which altered family relations fundamentally, no-fault divorce would have remained a wacky theory.

    (Interestingly, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce law.)

    I’m afraid we’re in a pretty deep hole here and are sorely in need of a really brilliant idea to save the family. (In case anyone is wondering, by “brilliant idea,” I am not referring to gay marriage.)

  19. Jim  Ixtian
    Rob Long: So, Peter, are you suggesting that the next conservative candidate for the presidency be against no-fault divorce?  Because that’s done more to undermine marriage than anything else.

    I disagree with this somewhat.

    It isn’t just no-fault divorce(1st introduced in the US by then Gov. Reagan) but a whole slew of other factors including no-fault divorce that have brought American society to the decline it is facing;

    The Sexual Revolution, Feminism, Women entering the workforce & University system en masse at the expense of men, the rigging of laws to favor women in the schools, courts, and workplace eg Title IX,  Female controlled birthing eg the Pill and abortion, penicillin-thereby reducing the cost of promiscuity, and even the availability of porn have all contributed to the current doom America is facing.

    Getting rid of no-fault divorce may solve some of America’s problems, but not all of them.

  20. Lavaux

    You’ve put your finger on it. Politicians can easily manipulate our economic behavior, but they can’t make us get married, bear children and dedicate the best years of our lives to them, especially when they promise to take care of us like our parents once we leave the nest. At some point something has to push us out of the nest, and that thing had better be optimism, self-confidence, ambition and energy – that is, the American Dream – or we’re finished as a people. Not necessarily so as an idea, however, because the idea constituted the people.

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