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The Federal Bureau of Marriage?

This article originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of Liberty, PO Box 1181, Port Townsend, WA 98368. Annual subscription US$29.50.

Copyright 2003, Liberty, all rights reserved.


The Federal Bureau of Marriage?

by Stephen Baskerville

Following its resounding successes in stopping drug use and eliminating poverty, the government now sets out to save marriage.

All sorts of social pathologies, from violence, to substance abuse, to teen pregnancy, to suicide, can be traced to fatherless families. To deal with this, Congress is now preparing to enact Bush administration proposals to promote healthy marriages. This gives the impression that politicians are addressing a problem that has become too conspicuous to ignore. In fact, they are avoiding it. The very agencies asked to promote healthy marriages have for decades been entrenched in the divorce and child-support system, which depends on the breakup of marriages.

Thirty years ago, with no public discussion of consequences, no-fault divorce laws effectively ended marriage as a legal contract and precluded couples from entering binding agreements to raise children. Deception was involved from the start. Laws advertised as allowing divorce by mutual consent actually created unilateral divorce, permitting one spouse to dissolve a marriage without accepting any liability for the consequences.

It would have been different if the new laws had removed government from marriage altogether and rendered it a wholly private contract, as libertarian Wendy McElroy has proposed. Instead, government developed new instruments to intervene in families.

Three decades of unrestricted divorce have created a public-private complex of judges, lawyers, psychotherapists, mediators, counselors, social workers, child support agents, and others with a vested interest in perpetuating divorce. Whatever pieties these practitioners voice about the plight of fatherless, poor, abused, and violent children, the fact remains that their livelihood depends on a steady supply of such children. The children of divorce fill government coffers, fuel political patronage, expand police powers, justify surveillance of citizens, and create a host of problems for officials to solve — to which is now added the problem of creating more healthy marriages.

Next Part: It All Began With Welfare
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This article originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of Liberty, PO Box 1181, Port Townsend, WA 98368. Annual subscription US$29.50. Copyright 2003, Liberty, all rights reserved.

Index to more of Stephen Baskerville's articles

Stephen Baskerville's website

White RoseThe White Rose
Thoughts are Free

Posted 2003 07 08