Why the philosophically incoherent should never speak of marriage

Really, they shouldn’t speak of anything, but this post happens to specifically be about marriage. So let’s get to it. Keith Ablow, an alleged psychiatrist and certain member of FOX Noise, has recently said some horrifically incoherent things about the government, marriage, and liberty:

Among those aged 18 to 29, only 20 percent are now married, compared to 59 percent in 1960. Just 51 percent of all those over the age of 18 are now married, compared with 72 percent in 1960.

The trend away from marriage is now accelerating, rather than slowing down, and I believe that by 2020, marriage will be a road taken by a minority of adults.

I believe the reasons for marriage falling out of favor with Americans are many, including my own clinical observations that the vast majority of married people consider their unions a source of pain, not pleasure, and that too few of them are equipped with the psychological and behavioral tools to achieve true intimacy or maintain real passion. When the architecture of a relationship is airless and seemingly without exit (without bankrupting your family by hiring lawyers and having your kids pack overnight bags every week), people will eventually learn to steer clear of it.

When I started reading this article I didn’t think about the gender of the author. I didn’t happen to glance at his name, nor was it particularly a concern of mine. However, once I got to the given reasons for why marriage is on the decline, I just knew it was a man. A woman would be far less likely to neglect to mention the difference in women’s lives between 1960 and 2011. First, 50 years ago the income gap was much more than it is today. It was virtually unsustainable for a woman to live well on her own then, through no fault of her own. It only made sense to attach one’s self to a man in order to do well. Men would do the same thing if roles were reversed. Second, it was less socially acceptable to be a single woman too far into one’s 20’s than it is today. That’s a strong motivating force to tie the knot. Moreover, if a woman was single and had a child, that was another good reason for getting hitched in the 60’s. That isn’t the case today. Third, religion has historically been a strong force in marriage. With fewer and fewer people claiming a religion today, that force is dissipating.

Perhaps no factor, however, is more responsible for the decline of marriage in America than government participation in it. The fact is that getting a marriage license means, essentially, signing a Draconian contract with the state to manage the division of your estate in the event of a divorce, without ever having read that contract.

Oh, I wasn’t aware there was no government participation in marriage in 1960.

The contract, if it included all the relevant laws pertaining to divorce, child custody, spousal support and other relevant matters, would probably run hundreds of pages. And what’s more, the contract, once signed, may be changed by the state legislature at any time, leaving the parties to it with no recourse.

Weird. I thought that democracy was a type of recourse. I must be mistaken.

This all means that getting married in America is—in the current scheme—an act of self-abandonment which subjugates one to government in a more infantilizing fashion than nearly any other voluntary action you could take.

This is plain wrong. If people didn’t want government involvement in their marriages, they simply would not get married in the eyes of their state. They would just go to their church or mosque or hippie in the woods. The fact that they aren’t tells me that even if they don’t like everything the government does in regards to marriage, they like enough of what it does. It sounds to me like a choice made freely by consenting, mature adults.

Actions have consequences. So it is no surprise that volunteering to be lorded over by the state would result in feelings of confinement while married.

Yes, because that’s why married couples feel confined. “Damn it, Mary, I need my space! Let’s get away from these damn tax returns!” And, again, maybe it’s just that I’m an ig’nint youngin’, but I could have sworn the government “lorded” over marriages in 1960.

Nor is it any surprise that signing over one’s rights to self-determination to the state…

Apparently Ablow defines “self-determination” in terms of things he thinks people should do. Someone who freely signs a contract is obviously a right-less slave.

And it is also predictable that people would eventually find this distasteful, because human beings instinctively love liberty, especially in matters as personal as love and the raising of families.

He’s hinting at something…what could it be…

The solution is obvious: Get the state entirely out of the marriage business. No more marriage licenses. No more special treatment of married couples by the IRS or any other facet of government. No state ever had a legitimate claim to issue marriage licenses, to begin with, since marriage is a spiritual commitment and quite often, a religious one. And it is, fundamentally, an intensely personal one based in autonomy—until city hall gets involved and messes everything up.

Oh, I get it now. “Self-determination”, “liberty”, “autonomy”. I remember when I first read an introductory philosophy of ethics book, too. Cute.

So where to start on this one. First, married couples act as distinct entities from individuals, ergo, their treatment is inherently “special”. And it should be. Second, no state has a legitimate claim to issue marriage licenses? Really? Which constitution prohibits that? Which populace passed a law saying as much? Last time I checked, so long as what it does not violate a given constitution or human rights, a state can have whatever law it pleases so long as that law is passed democratically. Third, so what if marriage has historically been “spiritual” or religious? I care about the fact that it does not violate human rights and has been approved democratically. Besides, does Ablow approve of government-endorsed marriage for atheists and agnostics? I’m neither spiritual nor religious, so it must be okay for me to get a marriage license from the government. Furthermore, if he wants to appeal to the historical roots of marriage, why stop at religion? Go back far enough and it will be common to find contracts entered into which were governed by various laws, whether highly organized or simply tribal.

In the new paradigm I suggest, every couple wishing to get married would state that intention to their house of worship or their community of family and friends.

This isn’t new. In fact, just about everyone does this. Then they also get married in the state’s eyes.

They would take meaningful vows in front of gatherings of loved ones. Then they would—like knowledgeable and competent adults, rather than state-dependent, incompetent children—sign financial documents they generate together (while represented by attorneys or knowledgably waiving that right) which would govern how their assets should be pooled during the term of the contract and how they should be divided in the event they decide to end the contract.

If there’s anything I want to do as competent and independent adult, it’s enter into lengthy legal contracts of dubious quality, which cost me a lot of money, and which are my only choice. Thank goodness Keith Ablow is here to take away my options. Christ. Maybe for his next article he will read past chapter one in his ethics textbook.

The state’s interest would be limited to enforcing laws about fair amounts of child support and fair visitation rights which must be included in such documents when children are born.

So the government can be involved in dictating what is fair child support and visitation rights, but not marriage contracts. Interesting. Apparently Ablow approves of the government being involved in something which necessarily must happen – reproduction – but when it comes to something voluntary – entering into a marriage – it needs to butt out.

That’s it. The state would protect kids financially and emotionally from parents who fail to protect them. Otherwise, they would have no business getting involved in people’s marriages at all. They never had any business getting involved in them, to begin with.

I think, Ablow never had any business, writing an article which addresses philosophical, and now apparently grammatical, issues, which he never understood in the first place. Random comma.

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One Response

  1. […] man ‘Dr.’ Keith Ablow. He’s an alleged psychiatrist who works for FOX Noise, and he’s no stranger to writing really stupid things, but his latest garbage is pretty […]

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