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The Priority of Strengthening Families

Is marriage an institution which should be supported by government? I have heard recently some folks in reaction to the gay marriage controversy say that government should get out of the marriage business altogether and leave it to religions to decide. So that way there's no official government sanction of gay marriage and each church can figure out what to do with it.

But doesn't government have a role to play here? Look, I'm a small government guy. I believe that the government which does the least is the best. But isn't marriage something which should be promoted and protected by government? Here's the thing, for me so much of society comes down to raising our children. So let's first look at some statistics from the Heritage Foundation.





So I think it's clear to see that intact marriages are best for children. But still many social libertarians feel it's not the government's business. But the government already has all sorts of laws concerning the well being of children from protecting them from sexual advances to ensuring that children are educated. And most social libertarians wouldn't argue with these yet they are clearly government laws which restrict adult behavior regarding children.

So the question is what should government do to support marriage. First, do no harm. Meaning, we should not approve gay marriage. Never mind for the moment gay marriage itself. The immediate legal effect of gay marriage is to legalize polygamy. This is not slippery slope argumentation. This is a logical cause and effect. Once the court labels marriage under the umbrella of "privacy," you can't say homosexuals are deserving of privacy but not polygamists. It will be up to each individual to decide what "marriage" means. Court mandated change will transform marriage into a weak contract between two, three, four, five assorted males and females. To some extent by creating a new "inclusive" definition of marriage the court would actually render the term meaningless.

But is marriage just a "privacy" issue? Isn't it connected with societal good? Of course it is. Look, many of the same people who argue for legal prohibitions of smoking due to the consequences smokers have on non-smokers are now arguing that we shouldn't worry about the consequences of a systemic marital breakdown. Are there no secondhand victims of the dissolution of marriage? The above charts dispute that.

The family structure is the basis of our society. We are now faced with the complete dissolution of marriage. It is an attack by the courts. Nothing less. When we defend marriage we are defending our families and the hope of our nation.

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13 comments:

crankycon said...

Great question. For starters, we at least have to encourage in tact families, and I suppose our tax policy is one way to do this. We can strengthen and expand family tax credits. Conversely, I suppose we can limit welfare payments, though this might be too harsh a reaction and would unfairly punish single mothers who have simply are in a bind. These are a couple of non-intrusive ways to promote family life. In fact, I'm sure if we sat down and hammered out a general program, we'd find that the general solution will involve getting the government out of the way rather than having it interfere further.

CatholicAudio said...

Matthew,

I just posted about marriage (and so-called gay marriage) last night -- I'd be interested in your take.

God Bless,
Ryan

Christopher Michael said...

Matthew,
I think the Libertarian response would be that we shouldn't worry about what percentage of kids in the whole society are doing drugs, going to jail, etc., but rather than we ought to concern ourselves only with whether our children are doing such things. The question essentially revolves around whether we have a responsibility as a society for all our children, or only on an individual responsibility for our own children. And it is a good question, really...
Honestly, if one espouses a truly Libertarian position, I do not see any reason why they would want the government "protecting them from sexual advances" (at least not beyond the point to which the government ought to be protecting all persons from unwanted sexual advances) or "ensuring that children are educated." Such positions compromise the basic Libertarian tenet that the existence of government is justified only insofar as it protects persons and property from malice. Libertarians only accept these positions because it would be utterly impossible for them to get elected otherwise.
One of the fundamental reasons for opposing gay marriage on a secular level is the premise that married couples provide a tremendous service to society by conceiving and rearing children, a service which gay couples cannot provide. A true Libertarian would deny the premise of "service to society" and therefore would see no reason for the government to recongnize marriages.

~cmpt

quigley said...

That's one reason why Christopher Michael, I am a conservative and not a libertarian.

Stan Lewinski said...

Christopher Michael said "married couples provide a tremendous service to society by conceiving and rearing children, a service which gay couples cannot provide." Not that I support gay marriage, but this is a poorly reasoned statement. Female couples can still conceive and rear children via IVF (again, not something I support) and while male couples are unable to conceive, they can still rear children (again, not something I would condone).

Matthew, does the Heritage report any data on same sex releationships rearing of children? How do those children fair? I think that would be of relevance in this discussion.

Christopher Michael said...

Quigley,
That's one reason why I am a monarchist and not a libertarian. ;-)

Stan,
Allow me to qualify: Married couples provide a tremendous service to society by conceiving and rearing children as they ought to be conceived and reared. I assumed that this was understood, at the very least by Catholic readers.

~cmpt

crankycon said...

Ditto what Quigley said.

That's one reason why I am a monarchist and not a libertarian. ;-)

I have a friend I need to get you acquainted with. He'll be glad to know he's not the only one.

Anonymous said...

Generally kids from intact homes fare better and stay out of trouble. Data supports this, and I won't argue with it. I think divorce is way too easy, in fact, I believe it is the ultimate selfish act when you have children, but you can't really say that if only their parents were married these kids would be fine. Has it occurred to anyone that the reasons parental marriages broke up (substance abuse, physical abuse, emotional dysfunction, etc.) are the reasons their kids are screwed up? And even if these parents stayed married, wouldn't their kids still be screwed up?

Anthony said...

I think that's perfectly logical to think that all divorces are because the people are "screwed up." And you know the adage "Screwed up folks beget screwed up kids." Wow! That's amazing logic.

j. christian said...

Actually, anon makes a good point. Correlation does not imply causation, so we need to be careful not to interpret causation where there might be other factors at work.

This doesn't mean that the conclusion is wrong, just that it can be made stronger with a different approach.

I agree 100% that we need to refute the same-sex marriage arguments without using religious arguments against it. The case for traditional marriage needs to be made on these grounds, and there's plenty of evidence to support it.

Anthony said...

Are you of your mind? Anon says that the cause of all these kids being messed up is not growing up in single parents houses but some other cause that must be the parents were screwed up to begin with. I understand his attempt at logic but its groundless and pathetic. What other causal link could be seen? He's simply saying that it "could be" something else. Well sure and monkeys might fly and the world might be flat but before I believe it your going to have to prove it. To say that people who get divorced are damaged and that's the reason the kids are screwed up.

j. christian said...

Anthony,

It's not groundless and pathetic at all. How do you know that divorce alone causes these outcomes? Correlation isn't good enough; what if couples who get divorced would've made bad parents to begin with? If people who are relatively more stable and secure tend to stay married, then doesn't it follow that they probably also make better parents (*on average*, of course - a caveat that applies to all such statistics)?

There are some causal studies that show divorce does have an effect on children, but you might be surprised to learn that there is a large amount of overlap between the two populations. In other words, some children of divorced parents actually fare better than children of married parents. To say that divorce is the only thing causing bad outcomes for children is nonsense.

Correlation is not the same as causation!

j. christian said...

I just remembered a favorite example from one of my statistics classes that drove home the point that correlation doesn't equal causation: Imagine a study that shows you are four times more likely to die at a hospital than at home. The clear conclusion? Hospitals cause death!

The obvious "duh" element is the omission of an important variable: sickness. Sick people go to hospitals, and sick people die more. Leave out the "sick" variable from your study, and voila -- Hospitals kill people! So it is with divorce and bad outcomes for children: if you want to demonstrate that divorce and divorce alone is the cause of these bad outcomes, you have to do better and make sure you're not omitting something important...

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