Behind the Curve

Jonathan V. Last, A Nation of Singles:

Instead of trying to bribe single America into voting Republican, Republicans might do better by making the argument​—​to all Americans​—​that marriage is a pillar of both freedom and liberalism. That it is an arrangement which ought to be celebrated, nurtured, and defended because its health is integral to the success of our grand national experiment. And that Julia and her boyfriend ought to go ahead and tie the knot.

I think Last has it backwards, or at least half backwards. He notes correctly that incentives to marry have diminished — IOW, people are behaving rationally — but then says that the way for Republican pols to get more votes is to encourage people to marry. But how do you do that? He leaves this question unasked other than to suggest an appeal to patriotism. I don’t think that will do it.

On the one hand there are disincentives to marriage that are probably here to stay, such as rising levels of female productivity and income that reduce women’s need for breadwinner husbands. On the other hand are disincentives created by bad government policies, and here is where thoughtful pols could focus their efforts. High rates of taxation increase costs of child rearing, and welfare-state subsidies diminish women’s need for husbands. Cut tax rates and subsidies. No-fault divorce and a backward legal system make divorce in many cases a good deal for women and a Damocles sword hanging over the heads of men who are married or considering marriage. Change the rules to shift more of the expected costs of divorce to women.

There’s also female hypergamy, a corollary of rising female education levels and incomes. Women have a strong preference to marry up. One result of this tendency is that, in any given society, as women become more accomplished the population of men they will consider marrying shrinks. This is human nature. There may not be a remedy for it, other than widespread recognition of the problem in a way that leads to changes in the way that parents raise their children, and in the educational system (in short: stop paying attention to feminist theory). At the least, government sponsored sexual preferences favoring women in education and hiring should be stopped immediately.

Will any politician dare to touch such issues? Few will. Maybe the best that we can hope for is gradual reform of our tax system and divorce laws. These are areas where Republicans might do some good. However, merely hectoring young people to get married for the good of the society, without changing the incentives to which they are rationally responding, is a sure loser.

22 thoughts on “Behind the Curve”

  1. Reducing the incentives (or subsidies) to single parenthood would also help. Of course, this may be the most emotional hot button of them all for bleeding hearts. We had legislation “ending welfare as we know it” passed in the Clinton Administration but Obama negated it with an executive order or regulation. Not sure if there are statistics to show how effective the legislation might have been.

    Improving public schools would also help. Parents help to fund them but the performance of our schools continues to deteriorate so the conscienious have to pay twice, once via taxes for the public schools and again for private schools and/or tutoring, camps, etc.

  2. “No-fault divorce and a backward legal system make divorce in many cases a good deal for women and a Damocles sword hanging over the heads of men who are married or considering marriage. Change the rules to shift more of the expected costs of divorce to women.”

    I’ve been divorced twice and walked away from everything I owned except my medical practice on each occasion. I regret that it happened and accept the blame for the first. I made great efforts to remain in my kids’ lives and am on very good terms with both women. In fact, we have a weird combined family where my daughter from the second marriage is quite close to my first wife and the other three kids. Several of my kids are close to my second wife even though she is not their mother. Quite a modern family.

    I would not want to be a young man in college right now. The legal system is heavily tilted against men and has been for 30 years. I was fortunate in my choice of a lawyer who handled both divorces and gave me good advice while he negotiated fair settlements. The court appointed psychologist in the second case was worse than useless. I was asking for custody of my six-year-old daughter as there were issues of alcohol and drugs. He denied my request and recommended my daughter stay with my ex-wife because he “did not think she could handle the loss.” I was very worried but it worked out all right even though my daughter does not talk about the years she spent with her mother until she was 18 and could live with me. Fortunately, my ex improved after she found a nice guy who married her.

    The present war on men, the “war on women” is a political fiction that appealed to enough ineffective females to win an election, has turned many young men toward single life. First, the sexual revolution makes marriage optional. Pornography offers yet another alternative. My two sons are married although the older did not marry until he was 45. One of my daughters is married. She has recently decided that she would like a child. Her decision was made after watching her sister-in-law with her three children and realizing the benefits of motherhood.

    I have no advice for young men. I was part of the older generation and married quite young. “The Pill” came along after we were married. I don’t know what I would have done had it been the other way. My first wife did very well in banking after our divorce and lives about a mile from me. We are friends and have talked about why we divorced. My second wife told her now-husband that I thought she was crazy, which I did. He told her his ex-wife was even crazier. They’ve been married about ten years. She finally stopped drinking. I could tell because she stopped calling me in the middle of the night.

    I have no advice for anyone.

  3. I do have advice for a young man:

    1. Get yourself sterilized, because you can’t trust any sex partner, but continue to profess a desire to breed, of course.

    2. Don’t marry. Women make great sex partners, occasionally good friends, and awful nagging wives.

    3. If you must marry, don’t even consider marrying a woman of your own country. Marrying a foreigner is way better: she gains residency rights in the USSA and you gain residency rights in hers, which could be a beautiful, peaceful, growing country like Brazil or Costa Rica. Or even Greece, giving you access to all of the EU.

    4. If you are a young professional with a promising career, marry a young foreigner from a poor country at age 21; she will be a very grateful, doting wife for 10 years. Divorce her then and repeat at 31, 41, 51, 61, and 71. Every one of those young, grateful, babes, who is so happy to satisfy your every whim on a daily basis, will come to enjoy her full share of your social security entitlement at taxpayer expense when she turns 62–an entitlement worth a great deal to the indolent, especially if she then leaves this sick land and returns to her home country.

    In the alternative, follow the advice of Ben Franklin. cf.

  4. I still don’t understand women – figure by the time I do I will have either died (and it will have been a revelation) – or the rules will have been changed yet again.

    I do believe – when it comes to “the opposite sex” – men – and women – have blinders on as to judging suitability. With all that men can lose (unless they have nothing and find a “sugar mama”) the reasons for marriage these days have to be pretty compelling.

    Although I have known of 2 instances where divorcing women have had to pay dearly to divorce low/non-earning husbands.

    And I think we are seeing the fruits of the “Great Society” today – almost 50 years later – with nearly half the babies born out of wedlock. Of course one can’t blame that entirely but through government aid, the need for an earning husband was reduced.

    When it comes to the relations of men and women I think things are just as messed up as ever ;-)

  5. My mistakes are legion. My advice is useless. I know few who frittered away more of life than I. But looking at classes full of people about to make mistakes or straighten out their lives, looking at my sons in law & grandsons . . . well it is hard not to become concerned. Given a broad array of topics, my students’ favorite topics this time were – gendercide in countries producing disproportionate males, women in combat, no fault divorce, and cohabitaton before marriage. Not surprisingly, they are intersted in relationships & male/female roles.

    They are disproportionately religious; most thought cohabitation was a bad idea – and stats (though some may be old) back that up. Most opposed women in combat (they are also disproportonately in the Corps – ROTC).

    But I began to see why the Democrat’s market themselves as “cool” – all listened when Murray’s argument, essentially a “class” one, was made (upper salary ranges talk sixties but live fifties). I guess one of the last 60’s myths was my belief we didn’t care about such distinctions – they certainly did. My cohort grew up in the 50’s & early 60s; we led the revolution of the late 60’s and 70’s. Many in my student’s generation live lives my parents would consider – well, vulgar would be a word they’d use. And we would have considered free. But with eyes to see, experience teaches. Those observations led those with more intellectual/emotional/material capital to notice what didn’t work – and did.

    Maybe this understanding will slowly filter through our society at large – but when the government enables such behavior and the judgemental is seen more critically than the action judged, well, I suspect we are pretty lost.
    Book TV had a panel on affirmative action; one of the panelists brought in the rate of unwed motherhood. He argued (I’m sure quite correctly) that it was pointless to assume differences were from prejudice when the correlation to not having fathers was clearly strong to problems in school (and in life). Well, yes. But how often do we hear that?

  6. I won’t pretend to be able to solve any of the myriad problems that young people will be facing in the decades ahead, but I will assert that it is better to be in an emotionally satisfying partnership with another person, and to experience the true, deep joy of raising children, than it is to live out one’s life alone, or with nothing more than a series of transitory relationships to help pass the time.

    Of course, any time a person opens their heart to another, they are vulnerable to pain, disappointment, and even betrayal. But the closed heart is also a terrible source of pain, with no opportunity for the possibility of finding a devoted relationship.

    I can’t imagine how difficult some of the new rules of social and inter-personal relationships must make things, and it certainly is the case that men and women have a vastly redefined landscape upon which to try to explore each other.

    Traditional marriage was a partnership which helped divide the enormous labor required in raising a family in pre-industrial times, when most things had to be done from scratch with human muscles. In our world, that kind of work has mostly been replaced by appliances and pre-made products.

    The modern emphasis on self-fulfillment would be mystifying to our ancestors, whose fulfillment was to succeed in the roles that were laid out for them, not choose one’s own path from among almost limitless possibilities. (I find it ironic that the expansion of individual choices should be so obvious and so important to the female side even as their alleged spokeswomen complain about the restrictions of western society)

    It is very clear that the future holds a complex mix of new possibilities in longevity and work, as well as social interactions, which may very well bring about new structures in relationships and family formats. As an old sci-fi fan, the idea that men and women might find new ways to define themselves, and relate to each other and their children, doesn’t bother me very much. It should be obvious and expected.

    I think that people will continue to seek a serious, long-term committed relationship, especially if they wish to have children. It is something so deeply ingrained in our human make up that most people long for the stability and companionship such an arrangement provides. I fear for the many, many lonely people I see about me every day. It is a modern scourge that so many people are so alone.

    As I have discussed with my own adult children over the years, they and their children will face questions and issues never before confronted by any human generations. The evolving relationships between men, women, and children are just part of an exciting and unknowable future.

    But isn’t that what life is for any of us?

  7. “don’t even consider marrying a woman of your own country. Marrying a foreigner is way better: she gains residency rights in the USSA and you gain residency rights in hers, which could be a beautiful, peaceful, Brazil or Costa Rica, or even Greece, giving you access to all of the EU.”

    A friend of mine, an Egyptian physician, decided to go back to the old country to find wife. He found a beautiful girl, had three children, and then she divorced him under California laws and went back to Egypt with the children. He had a heat attack and looked awful for a year. They learn too fast.

  8. The first thing republicans can do is to stop playing the Left’s little game of, “PERSONAL decisions aren’t political or cultural matters, ” and then defining “persona”l to only mean anything involving sex.

    Nobody likes the idea of the government poking around in personal relationships but once the Democrats signed on board for regulating everything down to the lightbulbs in our bedrooms, they kind of lost any claim to be about freedom.

    Moreover, sex isn’t a purely personal matter between consenting adults once children become involved. The Republicans need to stand up and point out that all the science of the last 30 years has shown that the very best environment for children to grow up is the traditional nuclear family and that if government has a compelling interest and obligation to foster a culture good for children then government has to do everything in its power to make the nuclear family economically viable and morally superior to all other choices.

    (It’s not trivial either. Children are 9 times more likely to suffer serious physical or sexual abuse from mom’s boyfriend than their biological father. There is no circumstance in which children are safer than living with their biological father and mother. Most abusive biological father’s are simply sociopaths that no cultural or legal institutions can protect from.)

    We also need to point out that the disintegration of the nuclear family is THE primary cause of entrenched poverty and class mobility stagnation in America today. Immigrant populations do so well in main part not only because they know how to really work like our grandparents did but because they also have the supported family structure our grandparents did.

    Leftism is the politics of the articulate intellectual and as Orwell pointed out, they are masters of mutilating the language. They have declared individual decisions sex, family and children to be off limits simply by continuos repetition but nne the Democrats demand that the rest of us subsidize unwed parents and divorced couples in anyway, they’ve made marriage a matter of public policy. If we can harass smokers and tobacco companies “for the children” with the government we can certainly make the government at least point out that the nuclear family is best for children and that therefore choosing any other family structure with a really, really, significant reason, is immoral.

    The destruction of the family was not an accident of changing times, at least not entirely so, Leftists have sought the destruction of the family and all other support for the individual beyond the state since the time of Marx. They benefit electorally if people are dysfunctional, alone and afraid so even if individually they do not wish that outcome, overtime all their policies will evolve to destroy all support in the individual’s life, especially for children.

    One need only look at African-Americans to see the grim outcome. Prior to the 60s, African-Americans had stronger families than middle-class whites and were rising economically prior to the “Civil Rights Movement” today, 70% of African-American children are born out of wedlock and African-American advancement has stalled. The same evolution is attacking hispanic, white and even asian families starting at the bottom with the most poor and the most government dependent and rising up income ladder. In 20 to 30 years most children in America will be born with only one caretaker and no extended family at all. They will be wards of the state from cradle grave.

    We need to get in their faces with this. Don’t talk about tradition or religion but pull out the unambiguous secular research. Point out that most of Leftwing ideas about the family in history are based on nonsense like Freudianism and the the contemporary theories are just as based on gibberish. Point out the incentive they have to destroy the family and atomize people. Point out that their ideas of freedom mean sex and nothing but sex. Point out that if government is smart enough to regulate every literally every other facet of our lives then it is smart enough to regulate our family structure as well, as least to the point of not subsidizing destructive family structure and poor individual choices.

    The Left has defined the playing field and the rule and we need to just walk away and define our own game. Relentlessly point out that freedom means more than the freedom to f*ck. Point out that “our bodies, our choice” means more than abortion. Point out the Democrats actively subsidize not nuclear families while relentlessly taxing married people. Remind people of the marriage penalty the Democrats supported for decades.

    Point out that when an individual votes Democrat, they are signing away their personal choice in every single areas of their lives except sex.

    Point out that children, the future generations, are in fact the ultimate reason we do everything. If the government is going to regulate anything serious, it should be care and upbringing of the future.

  9. Shannon Love needs to learn a few things:

    Sex is good; friendship is good; companionship is good; good conversation is great; travel is good.

    Anything that interferes with the good is bad, including: religion, marriage, children, cats, and dogs.

    And the worst is having having to pay in taxes for Shannon’s religion, marriage, breeding and the irritation caused by his kids, cats and dogs.

  10. Just for clarity, currently married for 31 years. One previous marriage. Ex-wife was/is not wrapped tight and abusive. My surviving daughter from that marriage will not talk to her and is grateful I fought for custody and won. I keep the divorce papers because the ex- lives near a coast, and if she falls in the ocean and drowns, I want to be able to prove to the EPA and Coast Guard that I am not liable for the oil slick. I am willing to forgive her for what she did to me, because I probably was not exactly a prime catch myself. But you hurt my children and I neither forgive nor forget.

    That said, I am glad that I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and not today. I have 3 grown daughters, one grown son, no grandchildren.

    If I were single, would I marry again? Hell no. It is a strange world out there, and being male makes you a target of the entire culture and legal system. How to change it? Just wait.

    The current system is based on a culture/economy that allows concerns about baseline Maslow Hierarchy levels through the second or third to be taken for granted. At least superficially.

    Veryretired said:

    Traditional marriage was a partnership which helped divide the enormous labor required in raising a family in pre-industrial times, when most things had to be done from scratch with human muscles. In our world, that kind of work has mostly been replaced by appliances and pre-made products.

    Already, we are in a depression masked by massive and unsustainable transfer payments. That which is unsustainable will come to an end. Reality is going to return in a big way, and Darwin will get his due. Probably starting within the next year. There will be real advantages again to being a devoted partner and member of a tight family, and downsides for losing those advantages.

    The transition is going to be extremely … untidy; and there are a large number of people of both genders who are not equipped to make it. The sense of absolute entitlement based on being the unique little snowflake that they have always been told that they are probably is not going to cut it. And the penalties for failing to make the transition are not going to be good for their self esteem.

    Subotai Bahadur

  11. “Traditional marriage was a partnership which helped divide the enormous labor required in raising a family in pre-industrial times, when most things had to be done from scratch with human muscles.”

    My second wife was much closer to my mother than my first. She was a great conversationalist. She was an ICU nurse when I met her and by the end of her shift she a;ways knew the patient’s entire life story.

    Anyway, she said my mother had once asked my grandmother, my father’s mother, if she had ever had any sexual problems. The answer was, “I have never even come close to losing a baby.” This from a woman who had ten children and fed them all plus a couple of “hired girls” and “hired men” for every meal. Her mother-in-law, my great grandmother, had 12 children, nine of them boys. I have the photo of my great grandfather’s funeral. There must have been 50 people; all family. He had a big white house in town and surgeons came from Chicago to operate on him for his cancer of the stomach, probably on the dining room table. It might even have been the table I still have.

  12. }}} Jimbino that is hilarious!

    On some levels, though, it is entirely accurate. I have a friend from Romania, fairly good looking, professional, and quite easily a ‘decent catch’ — he says he’d never bother with American women, because they’ve all been raised to believe their sh** doesn’t stink. They all believe themselves to be Cinderella, and are all expecting Prince Charming to come along, sweep them off their feet, and make certain they never, ever need want for anything ever again… and make certain that they have anything they want at all in their lives (including a high-paying, power job AND kids).

    Foreign women, on the other hand, find American males to be singularly decent and considerate, with very little of the macho crap so common around the rest of the world. They are attentive and caring, and actually treat women with respect and dignity.

    So #3 is close to spot-on. If you’re going to marry, look into situations which will allow you to meet foreign women.

  13. OTOH I know more than one friend who found one of those Russian (or Ukrainian) women and within a year/2 of getting over here, dumped him.

    I don’t think foreign women are necessarily the best road to take –

  14. Re: Shannon
    Yes. The government as provider of all health services & all procreation preventers and encouragers is not my idea of freedom. It may be the road to infantilization of its citizens; it may mean that misguided stupidities (of the Malthusian or Romanian kind) can make our time and our place a little petri dish for experiments. But it is Orwellian to see that as leaving the “personal” out of the political. And that’s not even getting into the Orwellian idea that such “freedom” is bought at the expense of freedom of conscience. But then, in an infantilized society, we may well not reach the kind of consciousness necessary for a conscience.

  15. “Jimbino” is not kidding. That’s reactionary “Game” he’s preaching. It’s revenge and counter-attack against the Feminist Wahabbism of our courts and society. Basically it preaches to manipulate and cheat women the way they are bought up to manipulate, cheat and rob us – which the courts support.

    And it’s wrong Jimbino. You can’t build a legacy on sterile bitterness.

    What small ambition, what petty revenge. Cowardly. Womanly. Bitchy shades of manhood.

    The correct answer is to seize back our posterity and restore sanity. By any means necessary. If you’re looking to politics you’re looking in the right direction. If you are thinking elections you might want to reflect that our elections are a sham, we are not governed by democracy for the last 69 years. Certainly the Republicans in governing do not represent anything approaching the Gadsen Banner on this page. All who would flock to that banner have no representation, we’ve been played as Charlie Brown, with the GOP as Lucy.

    So grow up and ask yourself: What is to be done?

    Before we “wed” ourselves to a democratic, electoral solution we might want to recognize that’s no solution there other than cover for a sham. Several millions apparently faced up to this fact last month, they stayed home.

    Now take heart: when the majority is openly not represented, indeed is legally discriminated against and economically ruined – there lies fallow POWER.

    So pray WHO or WHAT will grab that Brass Ring…the biggest one in America?

    Take more Heart: we remain a more or less virtuous people, we simply have Animata Anima Nero as our elites.

    More Heart: we remain blessed by geography, resources and power as no people in History.

    Now cease this coward Augustine of Hippo whining and decide what you’ll do…

  16. Bill: OTOH I know more than one friend who found one of those Russian (or Ukrainian) women and within a year/2 of getting over here, dumped him.

    I believe the issue here is how you find them. The method has to be one that excludes gold diggers looking for the US citizenship only. Not trivial, I grant.

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