Family Issues

There's Something About Marriage

Is the institution of marriage dying out or simply readjusting?

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When an actress—no, an artist—the caliber of Cameron Diaz weighs in on the future of social institutions, America has an obligation to listen.

And listen we did. In a widely discussed interview with Maxim magazine, Diaz offered America a peek at her body, her relationship with Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez (which, needless to say, is "awesome"), and her views on the future of matrimony. Does she think marriage is a dying institution? "I do," she explained. "I think we have to make our own rules. I don't think we should live our lives in relationships based off of old traditions that don't suit our world any longer."

Let's for a moment pretend that we share a world with Cameron Diaz. Does marriage suit this domain? It should be noted that this ancient ritual is at the center of an emotional national debate. There is one side claiming that exclusion from it is discrimination and another claiming that the very sanctity of the institution is at stake. I'd say lots of folks are expending a ton of energy and angst arguing over a ritual that's on its last legs.

We all know why men marry. Love, yes. I've been married to a wonderful woman for, like, 10—or maybe it's 11 or 12 (somewhere in that area)—years. But men are irresponsible and forgetful. The evolutionary need for companionship is a need to moderate childishness and bring a basic moral order to lives that would otherwise revolve around sports highlight shows. Women? Love, of course. But historically, as Diaz implies, it's also been somewhat of a necessity.

Things are changing. A new Pew study says that Americans are postponing marriage and that fewer of us are getting hitched. But those who do marry stay together longer. "Three in four couples who married after 1990 celebrated a 10-year anniversary," according to a Washington Post story on census statistics. "That was a rise of three percentage points compared with couples who married in the early 1980s, when the nation's divorce rate was at its highest." Researchers are also finding a connection between marriage and education. In 1996, only 21 percent of brides had a college degree, but by 2009, it was 31 percent. It seems to be growing.

Women with higher education levels are increasingly marrying. These are also presumably women who are likelier to have the economic freedom not to be married. So why do they do it?

I found studies and stories claiming that married Americans are healthier—less likely to get pneumonia or develop cancer or have heart attacks or dementia—than non-married Americans. According to other studies, married people live more content lives and are less likely to commit suicide (granted, a pretty low bar of happiness, but still) or worry. Married couples are financially better off, and their children are usually more successful.

Why are couples staying together? Like Diaz, we can hypothesize. Perhaps the rise of connective technology has created marriages based more on compatibility than immediacy or luck. Perhaps we have readjusted to our life expectancy and marry later and thus more smartly. Whatever the reasons, marriage can bring a healthier life.

This is not a moral observation of a traditionalist, but indisputable. There is innate need pulling us to marriage. It's been around from prehistory, and it has taken many forms—polygamy, polyandry, and my historical favorite, polyfidelity—but it's never been close to passing on. Today we've settled on monogamy, and it has brought great stability and structure to society. It's probably busy readjusting rather than dying.

I'd prove this firsthand to doubters, but alas, Cameron, I am spoken for.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Blaze. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.

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  1. Marriage will never die as long as the state continues to subsidize it and encourage it with extra benefits. It’s so sacred, so precious, that even many libertarians here cast aside their natural inclinations and clamor for that entitlement class to expand. (You know who you are!)

    So marriage, fragile an institution as it is, will live on as long as there’s a bureaucrat to license it.

    1. So marriage, fragile an institution as it is, will live on as long as there’s a bureaucrat to license it.

      That fact that marriage didn’t even exist prior to state subsidies and support is proof.

      1. What are these benefits I keep hearing about, anyway? The tax brackets are designed to even out – you might win a little, you might lose a little. Welfare in all its forms is much easier to obtain for single parents. There are some benefits for divorced mothers but those are obviously one sided, and potentially devastating for divorced fathers. (That’s probably one of the real reasons fewer men are willing to get married, btw.)

        1. If there are no real legal or financial benefits to state recognition, that might suggest the sole reason for pushing same-sex marriage licensing is as stamped proof of societal acceptance. I don’t know if that would make libertarian support for it less puzzling or more.

          1. No really it’s just about equal rights under the law. I doubt advocates are naive enough to think that they can force people to change their prejudices. That’s happening organically anyway.

            1. A heterosexual male is barred from marrying another male.

              A homosexual male is barred from marrying another male.

              Seems like equal protection of the laws is quite obviously present. No if you wanna make it about the right to contract, an acknowledge that Lochner was solid case law, then we can start talking.

              1. We can start talking once you pull your head out of your ass. You know good and well that allowing gays the right to marry only those people they by definition have no interest in marrying is not equal rights.

                1. Take the state out of marriage, and then it should not matter who marries who. The real question should be, why should people who get married have special rights granted to them, over those that do not ?

                  If you stop worshiping the state to, then this is a non issue.

                  1. Whether the state is involved in marriage as a philosophical issue doesn’t matter to me. I don’t personally endorse marriage. But since it’s unlikely that the state will get out of marriage in the near future, our concern should be equal rights under present law, should it not?

                2. No, I don’t. Because from a literal perspective, it’s identical. The state has no threshold for identifying whether a marriage is truly rooted in love or if it is merely a financial relationship to exploit the benefits attached to marriage in codified law. Two heterosexual men who are themselves avowed bachelors could choose that their financial interests are best served by marrying. But current law restricts that. I’d say it shouldn’t, but it is nonetheless illustrative that they are barred from forming the same contractual bond that two homosexual males motivated through love would choose. Interestingly enough, there are no restrictions on two homosexual men pooling finances, sleeping together and spooning on a nightly basis, having a wedding ceremony, nor identifying themselves to their friends and relatives as husband and husband. All that is at stake here is the specific financial incentives attached to marriage, and those are denied to heterosexuals wishing to enter into a same-sex marriage in order to qualify the same way they are denied to two homosexuals wishing to enter into a same sex marriage in order to qualify.

                  1. All that is at stake here is the specific financial incentives attached to marriage, and those are denied to heterosexuals wishing to enter into a same-sex marriage in order to qualify the same way they are denied to two homosexuals wishing to enter into a same sex marriage in order to qualify.

                    But they’re not denied to heterosexual couples! What is with the assumption that people who pair up to exploit tax law are always going to be in same-sex arrangements?

                    You’re coming at this from a completely obtuse and irrelevant angle, and you have to know that. “The right to marry a person of the opposite sex” is a right that gay people by definition get no benefit from. The only way their rights are equal to heterosexuals is for them to have the right to marry the people they want.

              2. If you weren’t arguing with a liberal, someone would point out that YOU HAVE NO FUCKING RIGHT TO BAR ADULTS FROM ENTERING INTO VOLUNTARY CONTRACTS WITH OTHER ADULTS.

                1. @sudden

                2. I bet Clarence Thomas is chomping at the bit to right that as a concurrance in the relevant case should it ever be granted cert.

                  1. I’m not sure what you mean. I’m saying that not only should you not be able to bar a gay man from marrying another man but you should not be able to bar a straight man from marrying another man. It’s simply none of your business. And if the government makes it your business by passing laws that give married people legal rights that they didn’t have as individuals and that come at the expense of other people, you should oppose those laws.

                    1. That is what I’m getting at. I’m essentially stating that Thomas would join the liberal wing of the court in decision, with a concurrance specifying that his rationale is the right to contract and reassert Lochner v NY.

                      My point is, and my position has always been, that the only acceptable legal rationale for same sex marriage is the right to contract. I don’t see it as an equal protection issue, and thats not because of any animosity towards the 14th, but rather from a strictly literal interpretation of it.

                      Of course, were the issue presented to the court on behalf of same-sex marriage, the court would not have standing to address the broader panopoly of priviledges that result from marriage. An equal protection case could be made by an individual against the state due to unequal treatment resulting from avowed bachelor status.

                    2. A heterosexual male is barred from marrying another male.

                      A homosexual male is barred from marrying another male.

                      I would just like to point out that technically they’re not barred, the marriage just isn’t recognized by the state. I don’t think the distinction takes away from your point but it’s a necessary part of mine.

                    3. I’m just a simple cave-man so I don’t know much about all your fancy laws. I’m saying that I know of no principled basis for arguing that any individual rights are violated by a marriage between two men which are not also violated by a marriage between a man and a woman.

                    4. @sudden again

          2. As Col. Angus points out below, there are a few legal benefits.

            However, tax law is not necessarily one of them. At least as far as tax brackets and many of the credits and exemptions, they do NOT just double the amount of money you can make and still qualify. It is usually about 50% more IIRC.

          3. There are some benefits, like conjugal visits in prison, access to critically-ill patients in hospitals, and legally-mandated health insurance coverage of spouses. Shouldn’t that be spice?

            But I think that “stamped proof of societal acceptance” is a huge factor in pushing for same-sec marriage licensing. Perhaps it’s the driving factor.

            A libertarian approach would be to eliminate marriage licenses altogether, as well as any laws that refer to “married” people. Would the culture eliminate marriage? I doubt it. But the culture, not the government, could define it freely. Individuals and subcultures could define it for themselves.

          4. There are some benefits, like conjugal visits in prison, access to critically-ill patients in hospitals, and legally-mandated health insurance coverage of spouses. Shouldn’t that be spice?

            But I think that “stamped proof of societal acceptance” is a huge factor in pushing for same-sec marriage licensing. Perhaps it’s the driving factor.

            A libertarian approach would be to eliminate marriage licenses altogether, as well as any laws that refer to “married” people. Would the culture eliminate marriage? I doubt it. But the culture, not the government, could define it freely. Individuals and subcultures could define it for themselves.

          5. that might suggest the sole reason for pushing same-sex marriage licensing is as stamped proof of societal acceptance

            Of course, if a “libertarian” claims opposition to equal recognition of all sorts of marriages by government (including same-gender ones) is “protecting society,” that’s a pretty collectivist notion as well.

            I think of it more simply — when it comes to the liabilities I’m expected to shoulder, I’m sure as hell “equal.” None of the condemnatory elements of society, including anti-gay “libertarians,” seems to argue that I’m too immoral to pay taxes or too destructive to family life to have my assets subject to government levies. Yet here I am, being told that the value I’m supposedly paying for is “rightly closed off” due to my supposed motivations for wanting access to it.

            Last time I checked, that was called “stealing,” and libs are supposed to be against that.

        2. There is insurance laws that skew in favor of marriage. And a whole property system that benefits married people for inheritance.

          1. It seems that most marriage benefits involve forcing private companies to treat you differently because you’re married rather than redistribution of wealth through the IRS. Hospitals should be free, but not forced, to give special spousal visitor rights. Insurance companies should be free, but not forced, to give special prices for married couples.

            1. True. Whether or not married people benefit from the IRS, there should not be different tax treatment for married people.

    2. “…even many libertarians here cast aside their natural inclinations and clamor for that entitlement class to expand. (You know who you are!)”

      Go marry yourself! I haven’t even been able to figure out how to cash in on all these bennies I’m supposed to be getting yet.

      1. I’ve pre-consummated that marriage.

  2. Consider that for most of human history arranged marriages were the norm. In many places it still is. The western concept of romantic love marriage is only a couple of hundred years old. So it’s really not that old of a tradition.

  3. “The evolutionary need for companionship is a need to moderate childishness and bring a basic moral order to lives that would otherwise revolve around sports highlight shows.”

    Is this Cosmo or Reason?

    1. Besides, this stereotype is bullshit. In the age of streaming video on a 4G network, who the hell is still watching highlight shows? You can get ESPN on your phone, for Christ’s sake.

      1. Assuming you have the patience to watch a whole game. I enjoy the occasional highlight show, but the rest of it is boring as hell.

        1. Depends on the game and the person, I s’pose. It’s not about patience but about having a shitload of free time on your hands.

    2. I can see the next headlines….

      “Rand Paul: Too Sexy For Government Waste?”

      “How to please your man with seven sinful pages of Adam Smith”

      “Socialism works during our special time of the month!”

      1. How about “David Harsanyi discovers balls in wife-master’s purse”.

      2. “23 entitlement programs to drive your man crazy… in bed!

  4. But men are irresponsible and forgetful.
    Speak for yourself Brian.

    The evolutionary need for companionship is a need to moderate childishness and bring a basic moral order to lives that would otherwise revolve around sports highlight shows.
    Disgusting. This statement pretty much sums it up. You’re saying that if a man chooses to be single and let his life revolve around “sports highlight shows” that he is somehow immoral? and childish?? Why is it that the family guy get’s get claim the moral high-ground?

    1. *I meant David. My apologies Brian.

      1. Ha! You irresponsibly forgot who wrote the article.

    2. You’re saying that if a man chooses to be single and let his life revolve around “sports highlight shows” that he is somehow immoral? and childish??

      I, for one, wouldn’t say he was immoral.

    3. I’m single, and I revolve my life around video games. I’ve found them to be easier to beat than having a good relationship. Plus, if things get too hard, I can always put in a cheat code. Try that with a relationship!

      1. i tried that, but she caught me with the other woman

      2. You’re trying to beat a good relationship? Try using the infidelity power-pack.

        1. beating a video game vs having a good relationship

          not “beating a video game vs beating a good relationship”

          1. Try beating your girlfriend instead of beating a video game.

            1. Well, it worked for my former step-father… I guess I could give it a go.

              1. ‘Atta boy!

  5. I agree with Harsanyi. Marriage seems more likely to mutate than go extinct.

  6. Um, I don’t think Cameron Diaz was suggesting that we abolish marriage. What she wants to do in her relationships is of very little concern to me. I can’t imagine how this has any bearing on libertarian thought, whatsoever.

    A discussion of government benefits related to marriage, or whether the government should be in the marriage licensing business at all could have been relevant to the readers here.

    1. Spoken like a true libertarian. It reminds me of my youthful dating days. In particular, I recall the weekend when my then girlfriend staying in my apartment. I prepared for it by laying a trail of rose petals from the front door to my bed. On the bed, I placed … a rough draft of a marriage contract I had written up.

      1. I’m curious: how did she react to that?

  7. I found studies and stories claiming that married Americans are healthier?less likely to get pneumonia or develop cancer or have heart attacks or dementia?than non-married Americans. According to other studies, married people live more content lives and are less likely to commit suicide (granted, a pretty low bar of happiness, but still) or worry. Married couples are financially better off, and their children are usually more successful.

    All of those can be cause or effect.

    1. It’s not that they live long… it just SEEMS longer. You know, time flies when you’re having fun. Married people don’t have fun, so time crawls by while they wallow in agony.

      1. like the old joke

        why do husbands die on average six years before their wives? BECAUSE THEY WANT TO!

        1. I heard it was: married men die sooner than married women because married women aren’t married to women.

          1. classic. Got any more Team Misandry one-liners?

            1. Never trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.

              1. Hey, you took my line!

                Get him, Mr. Hat!

            2. What is the smartest thing to ever come out of a woman’s mouth?

              Einstein’s cock.

            3. Misandry, not Misogyny.

              1. What do you say to a Sy with two black eyes?

                Nothing you haven’t already told Sy twice.

      2. What do all wife beaters have in common? A wife that JUST WON’T DO WHAT SHE’S TOLD!!!

  8. I’d love to marry* Cameron Diaz.

    *(marry = A2M)

  9. Why are couples staying together?

    I think that is a totally different question than “why get married?” When the topic comes up among my friends, the general consensus seems to be there is no pressing need to have one’s relationship validated in the eyes of the state or religion. Unless there are financial/legal benefits (and, when there are 2 roughly similar incomes, you’ll most likely end up paying more in taxes on 1 MFJ return vs. 2 single returns), I really don’t see why a rational person would bother. But the question of whether to enter into this particular institution has nothing to do with whether or not one has a long term, committed relationship.

    1. Cuz one of the partners is a govt employee and marriage qualifies the other partner for the sweet, sweet govt bennies.

    2. I know a buttload of women who want to get married. It’s usually about wanting that tangible sign of commitment, though a bit of gold-digging can enter into it, too.

      Of course, a ceremony and a piece of paper doesn’t guarantee commitment — wanting to BE with her is what causes commitment — but that is how many women think anyway.

      1. Not to mention the whole allure of the wedding spectacle, where women live out their princess-for-a-day dream.

  10. the better pic would be the bride of franken-steen (sic)…madeline kahn!

  11. “A new Pew study says that Americans are postponing marriage and that fewer of us are getting hitched..”

    Think this has anything to do with the likelihood that a divorced father winds up having his wages garnished for child support and alimony much more often than mothers?

    If I’m not dead fucking sure some fem-nazi family judge somewhere isn’t going to fuck me into a studio apartment and top ramen after 10+ years of marriage, I’d be less inclined to settle down and stop being “irresponsible and forgetful”

    1. Or you cannot rush into marriage and thus decrease the likelihood of that happening.

      1. Which.. is exactly my point.

      2. Or compose a pre-nup.

        1. That’s a very good point, and one that I don’t think gets enough attention among young couples looking to get married. I suspect, however, that since the subject requires both parties to be on the defensive in the event things don’t work out, it’s pretty off-putting at the dinner table.

    2. If a cohabitating couple with kids breaks up, the baby daddy is still going to get nailed for child support, though the point about alimony is a good one. My understanding is that alimony is declining as more divorces involve dual-income couples.

      1. In cohabitation OR a legal marriage, the point is that men are much less likely to be awarded custody than women, and are much more likely to be forced to pay child support in no-fault divorce cases. And the point is that if women are the ones initiating a divorce in most of the cases, why are the fathers being penalized?

        1. Sure, but the point is that it is the fatherhood that’s at issue, not the existence of the marriage certificate. A guy who doesn’t want to risk all that stuff should worry less about whether to get married and more about making sure he has a ready supply of condoms.

          1. “A guy who doesn’t want to risk all that stuff should worry less about whether to get married and more about making sure he has a ready supply of condoms.”

            That’s a really silly non-sequitur to make here and doesn’t even address the point that a divorced father, statistically speaking, wasn’t the initiator of the divorce.

            So unless a man is willing to pay child support for kids he is likely to have very little custody over he shouldn’t get married?

            1. You do know you can married and not have children, right? And also that you can have children and not be married. Marriage and child support are not inherently related concepts.

              If a man doesn’t want to risk punitive child support payments, he shouldn’t have children. Marriage has nothing to do with it.

              Your fiendish ex-wife would still have soaked you for child support even if you had knocked her up and then split before you got married.

              1. Christ, you are dense. At least you admit the court system is skewed in favor of the mother.

                1. You: “Think this has anything to do with the likelihood that a divorced father winds up having his wages garnished for child support and alimony much more often than mothers?”

                  No, actually I don’t think that has fuck-all to do with it. In reality, it’s nothing more complicated than the facts that “30 is the new 20” and that society is more mobile and affluent for both sexes now than it was 50 or 60 years ago. In a society like that, marriage (and certainly early marriage) is less of an imperative.

                  1. There you go. And it only took you 4 tries to get it! Now was that so hard?

                  2. There you go. And it only took you 4 tries to get it! Now was that so hard?

                  3. There you go. And it only took you 4 tries to get it! Now was that so hard?

  12. Observing my friends, it seems that marriage is mostly about women demanding a shiny finger bauble and the biggest of all “ME” days. I have great sympathy for you straight guys.

    1. Yeah that’s pretty much all it’s about for Teh Womenz. A pretty rock, a $3,000 dress, and all the attention in the world for about six months.

      1. No, it’s really about women’s fear of abandonment. That’s what drives the whole thing now that the whole “women as chattel” thing has been gone for a couple centuries or so.

        1. Really? Might want to check out divorce statistics. In the U.S., women overwhelmingly are the party initiating a divorce.

          Pretty rock worth a down payment on a McMansion.. White dress.. Photographer.. “ME! ME! ME!”

          1. Just because they are unrealistic about the chances of divorce doesn’t mean they don’t want tangible expression that they won’t be abandoned.

            Basically, if a guy is willing to put up with all the crap that planning a wedding involves, it is a sign he might like you enough to stick around after the baby is born.

            1. I got no problem with the headache, it’s the expenses involved. And I think at heart, that’s what most women want: some type of reassurance a man can financially provide for her lifestyle.

              1. Considering how much that costs, it might not be that way by the time they say, “I do.”

                (Interesting side story: way back in the day (like 1920s), a man would want to have a house and car before proposing, as a sign of financial security).

                A better thing would be a guided tour of his bank account.

                1. Which brings up a very good point. Why should a man or woman have any obligation to support the other. Both are adults and in today’s world, both have the ability to go make their own money. If a woman shows any sign of wanting a piece of my bank account they are promptly dismissed…because they are lazy!

          2. And I’m guessing the bulk of those women-initiated divorces are caused by infidelity, which strikes at the heart of why many women want to get married in the first place.

            Sure, there are gold diggers out there or shallow women who merely want the big rock on the finger. But I suspect that is a very small minority of married women. It doesn’t seem like you know women very well, or at least only hang around a certain type.

            1. “And I’m guessing the bulk of those women-initiated divorces are caused by infidelity”
              Glad to see you’re admitting you don’t have a clue.

              “Sure, there are gold diggers out there or shallow women who merely want the big rock on the finger.”

              Which has nothing to do with my agreeing with Tony that the marriage ceremony is in the eyes of the bride “My Day!”

              “It doesn’t seem like you know women very well, or at least only hang around a certain type”

              Married, then divorced. And glad to see you once again are claiming to know shit you still don’t have a fucking clue about.

              1. Aight, I’ll marry your ass, just tell me the day before and I’ll be there.

              2. Well, I’m married and NOT divorced, so perhaps I really do know something you don’t…

                1. “Well, I’m married and NOT divorced, so perhaps I really do know something you don’t…”

                  The personal attacks aside, you still can’t even fucking address the fucking issues. Try harder.

                  1. I’m not sure what the fucking issues are, at least as related to your posts.

                    The article contrasts Cameron Diaz’s view that marriage is an outdated concept with Harsanyi’s idea that marriage is simply readjusting itself to fit with the times.

                    In Diaz’s world of glamor and multi-millionaires, casual relationships and serial monogamy are no problem because everybody has enough money to get by in style (and provide for the children) when the thing inevitably blows up or fades away.

                    Harsanyi essentially is saying that Diaz and A-Rod are effectively “married”, whether or not they want to admit it. A not-unreasonable point. A world of more flexible marital relationships seems to be at hand.

                    You, apparently, are against the idea of marriage based on your belief that women are inherently shallow creatures seeking only bling and a life of leisure at their man’s expense. I’ve certainly met women like that, but not many. Maybe I just have better luck.

                    In my experience, women are deeply insecure in a way that most of us men will never understand. They’re looking for reassurance and stability more than anything else. I’ve always found it pretty obvious when a woman is more interested in your wallet than in you. I didn’t find that to be the case very often.

                    1. “You, apparently, are against the idea of marriage based on your belief that women are inherently shallow creatures seeking only bling and a life of leisure at their man’s expense.”

                      No, I’m against the idea of marriage when most state courts are heavily biased to awarding mothers custody, alimony, and child support in no-fault divorce filings which are more likely initiated by the woman.

                      Might want to read that again.

                    2. FTR I was just being misogynistic. I know and enjoy the company of many women. I am just really, really glad I don’t have to live with one.

    2. Observing my friends, it seems that marriage is mostly about women demanding a shiny finger bauble and the biggest of all “ME” days. I have great sympathy for you straight guys.

      I have more sympathy (and confusion) about you gay guys.

      I know a boatload of gay men, and to the last, they’re all high-earning professionals. Gay divorce is going to be a bloodbath.

      And lesbians? Don’t even get me started. A family member of mine who’s a lesbian postulated that divorce rates amongst the l-word couples was going to be sky high. Her reason: Lesbians do tend to rent the U-Haul after the second date.

      1. It’s a future statistic I’m curious about too. It will be quite a marathon for gays to outpace straights at divorce rates.

  13. As long as there are Christians in this country that believe in the present institution of marriage, marriage will endure since it’s a sacrament. The majority of people in this country are raised in religious backgrounds, so even if they become non-religious later in life they will still most likely value the concept of marriage.

    1. trying being a Jewish bachelor… oy vey!

      1. Give me your number. I’ve got a great Jewish woman to set you up with. You can both come over to my place for Shabbas diner this Friday.

        1. exactly what I’m talking about!

  14. Some articles have “deadline” written all over them.

  15. Perhaps we have readjusted to our life expectancy and marry later and thus more smartly.
    I blame delayed marriage on degree inflation and inflated housing costs.

    1. Inflated housing costs are one of the things that drive cohabitation sooner I’d think. It’s more expensive to rock a bachelor pad than to have DINKs cohabitating a one bedroom.

      1. True. It turns couples into roommates with benefits instead of spouses having procreative sex.

  16. Leaving aside the massive debt a marriage ceremony can bring – which is a different argument – marriage is about more than sexual union.

    It’s about loyalty and commitment. It’s a choice to sacrifice all for the love of one. In fact true marital commitment breeds love over time. Entering into marriage with one eye on the exit is the main factor in high divorce rates.

    Scoffing at marriage, be it religious or secular institution, is just another symptom of society at large scoffing at any other covenant, religious or secular.

    On this very website people cry about the American citizen who doesn’t care about the Executive breaking the law of the land or Congress’ dereliction of duty in calling him on it. At almost every turn, reason.com readers bemoan the lack of duty that citizens have to upholding the Constitution.

    The ‘rule of law’ that keeps the republic together is fading away. The flippancy in attitudes on marital matters is just another symptom, not the cause, but another symptom of this brave new world.

    1. Or, maybe people (men in particular) are wising up to what a shitty proposition marriage is in this country. They’re in no hurry to enter into a contract that can result with them losing 3/4 of their net worth, and being nothing more than an ATM machine for the next 20+ years if there are children involved.

    2. It’s about loyalty and commitment. It’s a choice to sacrifice all for the love of one. In fact true marital commitment breeds love over time.

      I find this curious. What does any kind of emotional commitement have to do with a state-imposed financial contract that says if either party gets cold feet at any time down the line, half your stuff goes to the other person? Is that the incentive to “stay together” and try harder on commitment?

      The state has no business in the marriage business.

      1. Nor does it have any business imposing child support obligations upon parents.

        1. I never said the state should be in the marriage business.

          What I said was that marriage is a contract/covenant (whether or not state is involved) to support the other person and stay committed to them for better or for worse. IF you can’t handle the terms, don’t enter into the contract.

          My point is that the flippancy with which marriage contracts are entered into shows an overall disregard on the part of the average citizen towards any contract or law. I was theorizing that it is a symptom of civil regression. Another symptom being that there is a disregard for the supreme law of this land, and even when you point out breaches people in general don’t care.

          I for one am married almost 10 years and have had no problem committing myself to one woman. It’s only a bum deal if you don’t actually know the intentions of the other party.

  17. Once there’s a kid involved, the difference between marriage and cohabitation is negligible, I’d say.

  18. The biggest beneficiaries of marriage are children, having two parents around growing up is nice. Unless they’re assholes but that is unrelated to marriage.

    1. I’d say even kids with two assholes for parents are better off than being raised by one really stressed out asshole, unless the one leaving is beating on them or something.

      Single parenting is hard.

  19. Has anyone ever made a study of how many low income single parents do not get married so that they can take advantage of federal income tax refunds? In a two parent household (unmarried), at least one of them will claim Head of Household (The other might also claim Head of Household. This is not necessarily legal but it is done anyway). Either way the unmarried status reduces taxable income by more than married filing jointly when added to whatever the other partner claims. Also, the low income partner stand an excellent chance of collecting the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). EITC frequently adds several thousand dollars more to a refund than the taxpayer actually paid in. Check the EITC table at http://www.irs.gov to make your eyeballs pop out.

    1. Oh, I know. EITC is basically more welfare. I think it is sickening.

  20. “Today we’ve settled on monogamy”
    Well, serial monogamy anyway.

    Re the life claims: Actually, the studies show that while married men live longer than single men, single women live longer than married women. I guess women prevent men from abusing themselves, but men suck the life out of women.

    Money ? Divorce is expensive and creates two homes, thus doubling expenses for one family; marriage allows for the division of labor and the use of comparative advantage and typically encourages in both men and women behaviors that lead to more frugality and therefore greater accumulation of wealth; thus, married people tend to be better off financially.

    Why people stay married? In order, I believe – (1) They want stability for their children. (2) They can’t afford to divorce. (3) They still like or love each other enough to stay together even without incentives 1 and/or 2.

    On gay marriage “rights” ? Marriage as a legal, state institution has never been a right. It is a privilege. And it is arbitrarily defined by the state, which puts restrictions on age, degree of family relationship (first cousins can marry in some states, but not in others), and number of spouses. By what rationale can the state have the right to decide how old you have to be when you marry, whether or not you can marry your sister, and how many people you can marry, and yet not also have the right to decide what gender you can marry? This, I suppose, is why many libertarians would like there to be no legal, state institution of marriage at all and only private contracts. I believe marriage was initially only a religious institution with no state paperwork, so I think it could work, but it would require some practical adjustments in the way we do business, so to speak, as a nation.

    1. While I’m one of the people who supports getting the state out of the marriage business, the fact is that the “religious institutions” that handled marriage in The Old Days were an arm of the state. Separation of church and state is a recent development.

      In the modern era, inheritance law is the only area I can think of off-hand where I can defend state involvement with marriage, and even that could be modified.

  21. Women are driven to marriage for evolutionary reasons – offspring have better survival rates w a male protecting/providing for them. Men get the benefit of ‘true’ inheritance to their heirs, also a survival advantage for their offspring, and fewer disputes for the govt to handle. We no longer need ‘marriage’ for this, since simple contracts will do. So get rid of marriage!

  22. As an evolutionist, I believe that the major long term trends in marriage will be towards what ever system maximizes the breeding rate.

    1. Doubtful. Most of our other habits are not trending as adaptive behavior. Assuming that this country is able to have more widespread prosperity again, with that comes more fluid marriages and lower birthrates. Evolution doesn’t guarantee adaptive behavior, it just rewards the rare instances of it.

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  24. Marriage does not make men more healthy.

    Single, healthy and well adjusted men are lumped in with thugs, gangsters and the mentall ill. Thugs, gangsters and the mentally ill are unhealthly and die early.

    Healthy men marry far more often than unhealthly men.

  25. “I found studies and stories claiming that married Americans are healthier”, and I would like to see those studies.

    “The evolutionary need for companionship is a need to moderate childishness and bring a basic moral order to lives that …”, you’re assuming that morality is objective.

    “marriage can bring a healthier life”, once again, opinion, not fact.

    “Researchers are also finding a connection between marriage and education. In 1996, only 21 percent of brides had a college degree, but by 2009, it was 31 percent. It seems to be growing.”, how is this a connection?

    “This is not a moral observation of a traditionalist, but indisputable”; No, this is just that, a “moral observation”, and because morality is subjective so is your “observation”. This is simply the opinion of an individual trying to validate a decision made 10 to 12 years ago by spouting unverifiable statistics and empty arguments. If I wanted to listen to the condemnations of a narrow minded fool I would go to the nearest church and listen to the pathetic mewling of its denizens for an hour, not come to Reason.
    If you wish to enter into a civil contract with another person, then by all means go right ahead. If you want to make that contract legally binding and create strict rules around it, it’s no concern of mine. Want to impose harsh punishments for breaking those rules? Why not? If both parties agree to the terms and know what they’re getting into then good on them. Want to go around and wave it everyones face and claim “moral superiority”? It’s your prerogative, just be prepared for some harsh words from people who don’t appreciate that sort of thing. Want to prevent anyone else from entering to a similar contract? Now we have a problem.
    It’s the role of the state to maintain records of legally binding contracts, and to ensure that either party gets the “justice” they are deserved on the contract if another party breaks it. Marriage is a contract between two (or more) people, it is not some club open to only heterosexual couples that gets sweet benefits from the government, although that seems to be what it has devolved to.

  26. Mr. Harsanyi:
    From a sociological point of view marriage is being delegitimated as a cultural norm in a pluralist society, it is not re-adapting. And marriage, meaning the nuclear family, is not “traditional” in the way that conservative religiionists use that term. The form of marriage we have today has only been around since the Steam Engine was invented. It is not the same form of marriage found in the Bible or in Confucianism. There will be consequences, however, from de-norming marriage and redefining it to whatever anyone wants it to mean.

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