Moreover, marriage leads to the creation and preservation of intergenerational wealth. Even as far back as Shakespeare’s time, people recognized that parental legitimacy conferred social and economic benefits on children that even moral perfection could scarcely equal. In King Lear, Edgar, the Lust son of the Earl of Gloucester questioned society’s judgment of him, regaling the system of marriage and legitimate birth as a cruel joke. “Wherefore should I stand in the plague of custom and allow the curiosity of nations to deprive me [of my inheritance]?” he regaled. But the reality is that legitimacy confers a name, and a name becomes a legacy. Legacies, in turn create nations and empires.
Just ask the children of professional athletes and entertainers born within wedlock, and those born outside of it. While the law may compel the absent father to pay child support, it cannot force him to become a father. Those children, the ‘legitimate ones’ if you will, end up far better off than the babies born out of on-the-road romances.
In many ways social disintegration is the symptom of modernity. All of the trappings of modern life, the degrees, the jobs, mortgages and marital responsibilities lead many to view their lives as surrea l and lacking any real foundation. The individual, they feel, gets drowned out by notions of social status. In rejecting social institutions like marriage, they feel that they can only be authentic when divested of the cultural trappings that seem to shield them from the difficult truth about their existence. They want to perceive themselves as individuals who are free to choose any option that they might find appealing.
It is precisely at this point that we begin to fall apart as a society, and the true costs of naked individualism, the ‘if it feels good, do it’ mentality becomes clear. People like Nadia Suleyman, the infamous “Oct-Mom,” exemplify the effects of this mentality at its extreme. While it’s all well and good for her to go around having fourteen children octuplets, including octuplets, out of wedlock, it’s society that ends up paying the price. Although fre e to make an individual (and some would say selfish) choice, she must now rely on society to supply her children with medical care and housing.
The notion of individuality is based upon a vain aspiration to live independently of the transcendent moral laws. That people feel this way is not entirely their fault – we live in a society that has failed us in so many ways. Leaders have been shown to be hypocritical, and political concepts such as liberty and freedom have in many cases rung hollow in the face of discrimination and oppression. But this should not make us cynical about our own moral responsibilities. True freedom for the individual can only be achieved by living in harmony with a higher order th at governs the universe and everything in it. And that order requires that children be afforded the opportunity to grow up in a married household.