Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Marriage is Doomed, We are Doomed

By the way, all of this is indirectly motivated by this Yglesias post (which I find silly) and this Douthat post (which I find much more compelling).

The reason I find the Yglesias post so silly is that his model of marriage seems utterly foolish. Are we to expect marriage rates to climb as men, desperate for wedding rings, offer to increase their share of the housework?

In this regard, I would analogize marriage to a regulated monopoly. You allow a monopoly to exist notwithstanding the antitrust laws. However, you regulate it heavily and impose a bunch of cross-subsidies on it. The result is that the monopoly becomes an important part of your public policy. But then it goes into decline. And all of the cross-subsidies that you have heaped on top of it actually hasten its decline. What can you do?

This is roughly the story of the USPS, and I'm sure there are a lot more examples. I think it may also be the story of marriage. In our society, we have put an enormous burden on the family as an institution. In most Western countries, the state provides much more support for things like maternity leave, education, childcare. As a result, marriage is collapsing under the weight of its cross-subsidies. It persists where those cross-subsidies are the most affordable (among the rich), but it is simply melting away everywhere else, like an ice company in Oklahoma at the dawn of widespread refrigeration.

Social democracy is the answer, but it is an impossible answer in the United States.

5 Comments:

Blogger Sarang said...

Well I guess I more or less buy the Yglesias line (at least, the part that claims there is no crisis) and think Douthat's post is crap, so there we are again. I do not think I need to address Douthat's comments in more detail b'se for the most part his post is at a Caitlin-Flanagan level empirically.

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