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Whenever I hear stories like this about Muslims condemning free speech, I'm stunned at the utter hypocrisy of their actions. They're against free speech, but they use avenues of free speech to protest it. They seek freedom from Western influence, but not freedom from the dogma of their own religion. There seems to be a sense that Muslims like this cleric would gladly trade one form of tyranny for another, provided they're the ones doing the oppressing. It is hypocrisy, plain and simple. Many religions have zealots. Many religions have gone through periods in history where they become extremely reactionary in that they favor oppressive ideology. Those periods never last. Eventually, rational human beings grow tired of being routinely oppressed and held back by clerics, priests, and dictators. Like Newton's third law, there's always a reaction and it often drives believers away. We've seen that with Christianity to some extent in recent decades, but Islam is way behind the curve. There is a lot more violent rhetoric in Islam and while the vast majority of Muslims don't act on it, the mere presence of that rhetoric is a problem.
Those incentives you mentioned are enshrined in the law. That's why stigma has so little impact. No fault divorce, a very recent invention mind you, makes it easy for a couple to split up and for one spouse to take half the assets of another. There's no need for infidelity or proof of abuse. The whims of an individual are all it takes. For some, it's an appealing choice. And so long as the law is there to protect that choice through alimony and child custody, no amount of stigma will change that.
I don't think welfare policy has nearly as much impact as no fault divorce laws. It's very easy to opt out of a marriage contract. And in doing so, that means someone is going to take half the assets of their spouse. I think that's a much bigger driver than welfare. Tax laws, on the other hand, probably have a slightly larger incentive as well. But I would still argue that no fault divorce laws are the biggest contributor.
Aside from the fact that stigmatizing people in difficult situations directly conflicts with basic human compassion, there is one reason to consider. The laws make marriage very unappealing, especially to those who have little to lose. And the laws are also very unequal when it comes to gender roles. An unwed mother can have the courts forcibly take money from the father. There's no law that allows a smoker to forcibly take money from cigarette producers. Think of it in terms of incentives. When the laws start reinforcing certain behaviors, they're harder to stigmatize. When you have the law on your side, that stigma doesn't really have the same impact.
This is the second article written about family fragmentation this week. Mike Adams wrote one yesterday, but this one addressed the main issue (albeit briefly) that I think is key to understanding this problem. It's not hard to see why people don't marry as much anymore. Think about it from a purely pragmatic point of view for a moment. You're sitting in a lawyer's office with a partner. That partner presents you a contract. In that contract, it stipulates that your assets will be shared for an indefinite period of time. And if at any time that partner wishes to terminate that contract, they don't just half your assets. They might also get a good chunk of your future assets as well through alimony. Who in their right mind would sign that contract? This says nothing about the inequality in child custody cases. The sad fact is that people respond to incentives. Scandinavian countries were mentioned briefly. While their marriage rate is low, they do have incentives that encourage couples to stay together and raise children in two-parent households. There are no such incentives here in America. So it shouldn't surprise anybody to see a decline in two-parent households, especially among disadvantaged minorities in economically depressed areas. As it stands right now, marriage has very little incentive for reasonable people. It shows in how taxes, debt, and legal protections are distributed. It also shows in changing economic factors. It's no longer possible to support a family on one income anymore. It's also much harder to get a college education without incurring massive debt. I think divorce and single parenthood is largely an effect of incentives. This is what happens when the law and the courts coordinate to reinforce those incentives. Because of that, stigma really isn't much of an issue anymore. Why is stigma even necessary when we know the law enforces these provisions? There are clear problems with the way marriage laws are handled with no fault divorce, alimony, and child custody. But nobody seems to be willing to address them. And so long as this continues, the bad incentives for marriage will continue. Anyone who has ever studied economics will tell you that people respond to incentives, regardless of stigma. And that continues for as long as those incentives remain in place.
You're missing one important element in this scenario, Stan. This doesn't just involve a person's choice. There are actual laws on the books that enforce these notions. If a man signs a marriage contract, the state can actually force him to give up his assets and keep paying a chunk of those assets to his spouse. How is that fair? Who in their right mind would agree to such an arrangement? It's not just about someone not wanting to give up their stuff. It's about basically being on the hook, under the penalty of the law, for a contract that can be broken at any time for any reason without fault.
You say the word commitment, but you're missing one key point about marriage. It's an unequal institution at the moment. Say you were given a contract to sign by a partner. In that contract, it states that your partner could terminate it at any time for any reason and automatically be granted half your assets and would likely gain custody of your children. Would you sign that contract? Most men wouldn't, but that's the deal most men face when they are confronted by marriage. The commitment is important, but the inequality in the institution itself are just as important as well.
I would advise that you research a bit more history. For most of human civilization, the most common form of marriage was one man and multiple women. It had to be this way because for most of human history, women died in childbirth and children often died before they reached the age of two. The one man/one woman marriage didn't become more prevalent until recent centuries. It has little to do with God and more to do with the structure of civilization as a whole. Marriage will continue, regardless of how people view God. But like any institution, it responds to incentives.
These are all interesting questions to ask and I'd be very interested to know the answers. But I would add one other question to that list. What is the divorce rate among couples who marry with significant student debt attached to them? That's another factor that's affecting a lot more young unmarried individuals throughout this country, much more so than those of other industrialized nations. Under certain laws, marrying someone with significant student debt could negatively impact that couple's ability to get a loan of any kind, be it for a car or a home. It's just another bad incentive and one that isn't talked about as much as it should be in the context of marriage.
That is a good question to ask and one few bother to ask until it's too late. I agree that there's this cultural assumption that men and women are going to behave a certain way in the context of a marriage. Real people and real society is not like that. It's a sad truth that people often get married for the wrong reasons or don't fully understand the scope of marriage. For some, it's not a commitment. It's just something people do or something they do to keep someone from leaving them. These create the kinds of marriages that often fail and so long as the laws on the books encourage them, then they'll continue.
That's an interesting idea. There are still some states with common law statues on the books, but they don't apply to marriage. It might not be too hard to modify these laws to provide some of the protections for marriage. But again, the incentives have to be right and the law has to be equitable. So long as divorce laws remain horribly unequal, people of all ages will find a reason not to get married.
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