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The Abolition of Marriage 


A few excerpts from Maggie Gallagher's "The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love." (Regnery Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-89526-464-1, US$24.95)

"The spouse who leaves learns that love dies.  The spouse who is left learns that love betrays, that he or she has no control over the terms of marriage.  Neither the culture nor the courts will enforce any commitment.  The rule is, He who wants out, wins." [p.146]

"Try this thought experiment: What would happen if courts treated property and business contracts as we now treat the marriage contract?  What if American law refused to enforce business contracts and indeed systematically favored the party that wished to withdraw, on the grounds that "fault" was messy and irrelevant and exposed judges and attorneys to unpleasant acrimony [Elsewhere, Maggie Gallagher argues that the new divorce culture has wreaked social destruction and saves only judges and attorneys from acrimony. —WHS].  What if property were viewed, as marriage increasingly is, as a strictly private matter, so that when disputes arose, thieves and owners would be left to work things out among themselves, because after all, one cannot legislate morality?  If the corporation were required to operate under the same legal principle that govern our marriage laws, the economy would collapse.  It is not surprising that under the same regimen, marriage is on the verge of just doing that.

    Today all of us are children of divorce, however happy our own or our parents' marriage.  We have seen what happened to an aunt, a neighbor, a brother, or a friend.  People are afraid to invest in a relationship in which they know from hard experience what the law teaches: The one who leaves, wins." [p.149]

"    To recreate marriage we must rethink our approach to the law of marriage.  The old marriage contract, we are told, was oppressive. But imagine if today's marriage license set down the new contract state legislatures have written for us, warning that marriage is a strictly temporary relation that neither party can rely on.  If we were handed this new marriage contract, how many of us would sign?..." [p.151]

Maggie Gallagher has an even-handed and objective approach in dealing with the subject of marriage in our culture, the deliberate implementation of the destruction of that institution, by defining down of marriage, its devaluation to being no more than an "alternative lifestyle," and the passivity and the active participation of the general population and academe in making it possible to have all of that come about.  She explains that fatherlessness is the source of the increases in many of our social pathologies.  She also provides a few proposals for strengthening and reviving the institution of the traditional nuclear family.  However, she indicates that none of them are likely to see the light of day unless married people become a powerful lobbying group.

She states that:

"...public housing projects [should give] preference to low-income married couples." [p.255]

"...Congress should replace the earned-income tax credit with a "marriage bonus administered through the tax code for all married families with incomes of less than 50 percent of the average married family." [p. 256]

"To restore the protection that has been lost to inflation, the dependent exemption would have to be more than tripled, from about $2,500 to nearly $8,000 a year." [p. 256] "...and index it to inflation." [p.257]

"The question of fairness... is whether a family of five making $100,000 should be asked to pay the same taxes as a bachelor making $100,000 a year." [p. 256]

It is interesting to note that the C.D. Howe Institute, a Canadian think tank, expressed very similar sentiments in a study report released Feb. 25, 1999. The authors of that report too, just like Maggie Gallagher, express their concerns about the punitive taxation for families with children and propose generically similar solutions for addressing the need for tax relief for families with children.  The C.D. Howe report too calls for better alternatives to "no-fault" divorce, stating that neither Canadian divorce laws nor the Canadian Income Tax Act take into account the enormously important duty performed by families, a duty that should receive the recognition and respect by all of society, the duty to rear the next generation of citizens.

Maggie Gallagher explains that this will  be expensive (the C.D. Howe report states that it will cost from $3 - 6 billion in Canada) and make for some hard choices, but

"The returns come not in next year's revenues but in the long-range increase in productivity and social stability that will take place when a greater proportion of American children grow up under the protection that a good-enough marriage provides," thereby reducing "[t]he hidden crime tax, the ignorance tax, the drug tax, and the explicit taxes required to fund an ever-increasing welfare state," that "all take a toll on American civilization.

    For, above all, it is the collapse of marriage that has fueled the ever-increasing welfare state, and economic conservatives are fooling themselves if they believe they can do more than retard its political momentum in the long run, absent a revival of marriage." [p.257]

"...surely it is possible, as a first step, to achieve one simple goal: to create a society in which more marriages succeed than fail and in which each year more children (rather than fewer) are born into the relative safety of marriage."

That, of course requires boys that are raised "to be dependable men, reliable husbands, and responsible fathers," and that "we have to stop telling men that they are optional." [p.196]

Although Maggie Gallagher provides ample evidence that children in the care of intact families (two married biological parents) do much better than those without, and even though she identifies that the liberal divorce culture and free love* have created an enormous increase in the number of unhappy women in poverty, she also identifies that among unmarried men there are now three times more now who are blissfully happy.

I'm afraid that, for women to let men into "their" lives and "their" families, it will take much more of an effort by women than merely recognizing that women and "their" children are better off if they have a reliable provider.  It will take respect, love and binding promises.

Marriage, whether it is temporary or permanent, is a life-time commitment for men — as it should be for any other family member — something that they invest in far more than half of their emotional and financial assets for life.  Until men have assurances and guaranties that it is worth making that enormous investment men will be well off to take to heart the advice offered at advice_to_men.htm

Maggie Gallagher, although presenting generally well informed and objective statistics in her book appears to base much of her reasoning on the Lenore Weitzman fallacy (she mentions the Weitzman myth on page 242) that women's incomes drop 45% after divorce, without giving recognition that, emotionally and financially, divorce is equally, if not more, devastating to men.

The Weitzman myth has been thoroughly debunked by Richard Peterson of the Social Science Research Council.  Check "Lies, Damned Lies, and Lenore Weitzman" by Christopher Rapp, at http://www.acbr.com/biglie.htm.

The importance of the family with respect to rearing the next generation of citizens is covered to a great extent in "The Abolition of Marriage," but what has been virtually ignored in its entirety or has at best been mentioned only in passing is the importance of the role of the extended family in the well-being of traditional nuclear families and their children.  That omission is astounding.

Walter H. Schneider
Bruderheim, Feb. 27, 1999

_______________
Maggie Gallagher participated in the production of the 2008 study report: [US] Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: at least $112 billion a year


Additional Reading:

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Updates:
2000 12 23  (added list for additional reading)
2001 01 24  (format changes)
2001 07 26 (added reference to Free Love)