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Does Marriage Matter?

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TJIC suggests that a rise in out-of-wedlock births correlates to a decline in civilization.

A commenter counters that marriage, which makes births “legitimate”, is a function of class and custom. Civilization has progressed even as legitimacy fluctuated, so the correlation does not mean what TJIC thinks it means.

I chimed in:

It’s not the state endorsement [of formal marriage] that matters. That endorsement, like the religious endorsement, strongly suggests that the parties have considered the depth of the obligation they are entering. The religious sanction still usually means the parties have deeply considered their choice. The underlying issue is personal integrity.

That the parties take an enduring vow—which to the Catholics is a singular and eternal vow—separates the act from mere whim. If marriage is little more considered than which t-shirt to wear, society has little reason to grant the parties any special consideration.

That the operation of the relationship is likely to create new (and helpless) life increases the significance of the commitment. The promise is not just to the spouse, but to all the potential offspring. Sure, you can create life without the promise of cooperative support, but that merely shifts the burden to family and/or society. Those who walk away from obligations or consequences are untrustable. Without trust, the gains from cooperative society are limited. Which appears to be the trend.

Those unwilling to make an eternal vow have suspect integrity. They may be fun at parties, but will they stand with you when the lead flies?

Trust is what allows mutually-beneficial exchange. Trust also makes it easier to save and store wealth. Saved wealth is capital, and capital is what makes labor more productive. Propserity is rooted in personal integrity.

A society or culture that is ordered by enduring commitments includes more people of integrity. And a greater degree of trust. That trust leads to wealth.

It becomes a circular argument to TJIC’s original point. We can’t say whether civilization advances when fewer bastard are born, or if having fewer bastards propels progress.

But each person has the choice for their own life. And massive statistical evidence suggests that people who raise children in marriage are better-off than baby-mommas and other-daddies.