Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Stupid Does One Have to Be to Write Opinion Pieces for the New York Times? –

Don't Know, But Ross Douthat Tests The Limits

What is it with conservatives and marriage?  They are obsessed by the idea, obsessed by the fact that married couples seem to lead better lives both economically and socially than unmarried couples or single people, and hence conclude causality where there is none.  They take the position that marriage causes improvement in one’s life.  And so their public policy is based on this obviously false premise.

This leads to nonsensical positions, like this one from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat on the subject of government and marriage.

Meanwhile, no-fault divorce probably contributed to the unexpected “social contagion” effect of the divorce revolution, in which the example of a marital split undermines marriages across a social network. And it created new reasons to delay marriage in the first place, given the risk of investing in a venture that could be unilaterally dissolved.

Many marriages, especially in the upper-middle class, were strengthened by caution and delay. But for couples with more limited resources, and more to lose from failure, no-fault divorce may have reduced the value of the institution and the sacrifices embraced on its behalf.

His point in this tortured rhetoric, no-fault divorce laws and easing the ability to get a divorce reduced marriages.  What an idiot!  By making divorce easier and more available marriages are increased not decreased.  When it was difficult to end a marriage, the incentive was not to get married in the first place.  When it became easier to end an unhappy and unsuccessful marriage, couples became much more likely to enter into marriage. 

This is an obvious position to anyone other than conservatives.  As an example, note how cell phone and TV provides are moving away from locking people into contracts.  They know that one deterrent to signing up for their service is the long term commitment, ease that and more people will come on board.  The same is true for marriage.

Even worse is the policy prescription that people like Mr. Douthat would advocate.

When liberals claim social conservatives don’t have any policy ideas for marriage promotion, then, they’re somewhat self-deceived. A sustained conservative shift on abortion policy and marriage law probably would, over the long term, increase the rate at which couples take vows and stay together, and improve the life prospects of their children.

So one hypothetical middle ground on marriage promotion might involve wage subsidies and modest limits on unilateral divorce, or a jobs programand a second-trimester abortion ban.

Yes, Mr. Douthat and conservatives would use the power of government to force people to say in marriages they wish to dissolve.  This is of course in total violation of the principles of conservatism which says that government should allow people to lead their lives as free as possible of government constraints.  But of course since conservatives have no principles, the utter idiocy, the total hypocrisy and the comprehensive stupidity of this position is lost on them.

And the fact that these same conservatives oppose same sex marriage and the two parent families that children in those marriages would live in just adds additional evidence that when it comes to policy, conservatives would use government to force their beliefs on others.  Conservatives are now just conservative in name only.


  1. Douthat also operates from the false premise that no-fault divorce is an easy process. It is only easy if the couple separate amicably and have few assets, few liabilities, and no children. Otherwise it is often an expensive, bitterly fought, and time-consuming process.

    I doubt Douthat even knows what no-fault divorce is. No-fault divorce means that a spouse can commence an action for divorce without having to satisfy an arbitrary requirement, such as the spouses living apart for a full year. It does not simply let an unhappy spouse walk away from a marriage. It requires court approval and there are still a host of statutory prerequisites. It is easier than it used to be, but it is not easy.

  2. Fun additional reading: http://www.interfluidity.com/v2/4938.html