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.

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Members have made 118 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of mask Inactive
    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.

    • #1
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:05 am
  2. Profile photo of Joseph Paquette Inactive

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

    • #2
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:13 am
  3. Profile photo of captainpower Member

    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

    • #3
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:18 am
  4. Profile photo of Sumomitch Inactive

    “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.”

    • #4
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:22 am
  5. Profile photo of ConservativeWanderer Inactive

    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.

    • #5
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:22 am
  6. Profile photo of KC Mulville Member
    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.

    • #6
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:23 am
  7. Profile photo of KC Mulville Member

    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.

    • #7
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:24 am
  8. Profile photo of ConservativeWanderer Inactive
    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
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:30 am
  9. Profile photo of Adam Freedman Contributor

    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.

    • #9
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:39 am
  10. Profile photo of Mike H Member
    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. 

    • #10
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:48 am
  11. Profile photo of flownover Inactive

    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.

    • #11
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:50 am
  12. Profile photo of Chris Deleon Inactive
    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?

    • #12
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:51 am
  13. Profile photo of S Inactive
    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.

    • #13
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:53 am
  14. Profile photo of Gil Bailie Inactive

    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.

    • #14
    • December 8, 2012 at 1:58 am
  15. Profile photo of Mike H Member
    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.

    • #15
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:01 am
  16. Profile photo of ConservativeWanderer Inactive
    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.

    • #16
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:02 am
  17. Profile photo of Jim Ixtian Inactive
    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.

    • #17
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:07 am
  18. Profile photo of Astonishing Inactive
    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.)

    • #18
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:20 am
  19. Profile photo of Jim Ixtian Inactive
    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.

    • #19
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:21 am
  20. Profile photo of Lavaux Inactive

    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.

    • #20
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:21 am
  21. Profile photo of Mike H Member
    You just proved my point. And you’re probably not aware that you did. · 15 minutes ago

    Awesome! Glad I could help.

    I really was trying to convey the thought process of those who are prejudice against anti-gay marriage arguments and what you may be able to do to circumvent their prejudice while simultaneously not coming off as one of those people, but it seems I may have failed. Live and learn.

    • #21
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:22 am
  22. Profile photo of mask Inactive
    Becky53
    Mask, exactly my point — causation is a chicken or egg type of conundrum — the collapse is already here. So to warn of big consequences if marriage institution crumbles is like crying over spilled milk. 

    1 hour ago

    I don’t anyone on our side disputes that crumbling marriages means dire consequences but rather is there anything to be done about it.

    I think that for a certain large sector of the population you are correct – it’s too late.

    My plan is to raise kids who value marriage.

    • #22
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:22 am
  23. Profile photo of Ignatius J. Reilly Inactive

    Peter could not be more correct.

    The GOP wants to die fighting marginal tax rate increases for high income earners? It’s time for the Establishment GOP and Libertarians alike to face facts: A new Republican President or Senate won’t be achieved on lowering taxes.

    “You didn’t build that” was a cute rallying cry for us. But guess what? Middle class Americans are employees, and they are scared to death. Traditional defenses against globalization’s creative destruction– marriage, real estate, education, civic society — are broken and battered. Marriage is in collapse. A real estate bubble’s cure is a bust, but that kills middle class wealth. Education is hyperinflated by easy government credit, but those debts remain forever. Faith is pushed from the public square. All of those 100% precincts voting for Obama weren’t fraudulent. They were places where voluntary participation in civic life is over.

    Establishment materialists want to ignore this icky cultural gunk in favor of economic lever pulling. Libertarians are wrong to think that an atrophied public will rise courageously to the challenge of globalization.

    • #23
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:23 am
  24. Profile photo of Jim Ixtian Inactive
    Astonishing 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.)

    Yep. I agree.

    My idea is for men en masse to take away the one thing that women crave about marriage-it’s conveyance of social legitimacy and status-bynot marrying women until marriage actually resembles what it was and should be. In essence, men should have a strike on marriage.

    Think of it as a male version of Lysistrata.

    Women are the gatekeepers of sex, the gatekeepers of commitment. If women refuse to honor their duties, then men must stop honoring theirs. It’s that simple. In order to rebuild marriage as a stable instution, Conservatives must destroy the farce we now call ‘marriage’.

    • #24
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:31 am
  25. Profile photo of Edmund Alexander Inactive
    Rob Long: So, Peter, are you suggesting that the next conservative candidate for the presidency be against no-fault divorce?

    Ending no-fault divorce and unilateral dissolution of the marriage contract has to be at the heart of any realistic plan.

    We have it in our Constitition that the Federal Government should provide “uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.” The reasons for this are best illustrated by the problems posed under the Articles of Confederation that resulted in Shay’s Rebellion. American debt was trading at an enormous markdown because no one had any faith in the abilities to pay being brought forward. This also struck the citizens in higher borrowing costs, and all of this was exacerbated by fears that a given state might allow default. Any state passing such laws would undermine the whole, as anyone could go there and dissolve debts. This was a national issue not left to the states.

    It’s no different in divorce. A party is breaking a contract it voluntarily entered. This mismatch between the requirements in honoring fiduciary contracts vs. honoring sacred vows is why there’s such a breakdown on one side of this structure.

    • #25
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:31 am
  26. Profile photo of Sumomitch Inactive

    “Establishment materialists want to ignore this icky cultural gunk in favor of economic lever pulling. Libertarians are wrong to think that an atrophied public will rise courageously to the challenge of globalization.”

    Pugnatius is right. Unfortunately, I don’t see how a religious selfless family culture can be resurrected from a secular, individualist consumer urban society, at least prior to the collapse.

    • #26
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:39 am
  27. Profile photo of Edmund Alexander Inactive
    Jim Ixtian

    I couldn’t disagree more. The numbers don’t support that stance either. In 2010 there were about 150,000 total gay married couples. That’s total. Just last year there were about 872,000+ divorces. And those numbers don’t include data from several states including California, Georgia, and Louisiana. Let’s just state there are well over 1,000,000+ divorces per year and that’s been a pretty consistent number per annum.

    You have to address the pitiful state of heterosexual marriage first and foremost. Addressing No-Fault divorce, Alimony, and Child Custody laws are essential to fixing marriage. SSM is deeply problematic, but the immediate problem is the pitiful state of marriage which has far more reaching consequences because of the presence of children in those relationships.

    QFT. This is at the heart of it. Not only is SSM a lost cause, it’s completely missing the forest for the trees, and it exposes the right to well-deserved criticisms of hypocrisy when people loudly protest gay marriage–or seek legal battles that alienate millions of young persons that might otherwise be receptive to conservatism–yet say nothing about Hollywood 6-minute marriages.

    • #27
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:40 am
  28. Profile photo of Edward Smith Inactive

    @Edmund Alexander, Comment #52

    The Pill is another matter. The Pill is actually a danger to the long-term health of those who rely on it. I doubt it can ever cease to be – you are playing with the chemistry of the human body, a machine more subtle that we could ever design or even fully understand.

    Now how you pay for the Pill can be addressed. And how freely it can be prescribed.

    You can’t buy Antibiotics over the counter. Although you do get it in commercially processed meats. Then again, you can find out which processors are dosing the livestock with antibiotics and steer clear of them.

    I don’t have any solutions. I am just saying that there are a number of ways for a people motivated enough by their need for the long term health of their culture to be imaginative.

    I recall hearing that within Orthodox Jewish communities they keep close tabs on family bloodline in order to prevent the dissemination of Tay Sachs Disease – knowing they are particularly vulnerable to it because various Hasidic communities are descended from small, close-knit communities.

    • #28
    • December 8, 2012 at 2:59 am
  29. Profile photo of Southern Pessimist Member
    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. · 1 hour ago

    Yeah, that member feed has become an express lane, but Flownover you are never run over.

    • #29
    • December 8, 2012 at 3:13 am
  30. Profile photo of Becky53 Inactive
    Jim Ixtian
    Astonishing 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.)

    Yep. I agree.

    My idea is for men en masse to take away the one thing that women crave about marriage-it’s conveyance of social legitimacy and status-bynot marrying women until marriage actually resembles what it was and should be. In essence, men should have a strike on marriage.

    Think of it as a male version of Lysistrata.

    Women are the gatekeepers of sex, the gatekeepers of commitment. If women refuse to honor their duties, then men must stop honoring theirs. It’s that simple. In order to rebuild marriage as a stable instution, Conservatives must destroy the farce we now call ‘marriage’. · 55 minutes ago

    Edited 48 minutes ago

    It reminds me of my father – he complained that he was born in the wrong generation — right before the Pill and Feminism. Both would have made his youth a lot more fun and he would not have felt the compulsion to marry.

    • #30
    • December 8, 2012 at 3:32 am
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