The Importance of Marriage in a Free Society
by D.J. Webb
There seems to be great confusion among libertarians on moral issues, including, most notably, the central importance of marriage in society. It is held by some that in a “free society” people may behave as they please, or even ought to do so, and that any attempt to uphold fundamental social values that underpin the fabric of society is simply equivalent to the imposition of an authoritarian conservative social agenda.
Such an approach mixes everything up. In a free society, people are at liberty to behave as they please, within (very restricted) boundaries. But this does not at all mean that all choices in terms of personal lifestyle should be approved of by everyone else. There are things that other people may legally do that I don’t approve of. I fail to understand why some libertarians insist that we should approve of all lifestyles. Should it be illegal for a women to have five children by five different fathers, none of whom she was married to? No. Should I have to approve of it? That is also a “no”. Should it be facilitated by being funded by the state? That is a very definite “no”. We are confusing liberty to behave in ways that are objectively downmarket with a very different cultural Marxist agenda, one that insists that the current attempt, very successful so far, to unpick the bonds of society should be welcomed by all.
Most such libertarians also gloss over the fact that the state is promoting novel lifestyles today. There is nothing radical or anti-authoritarian about approving of single motherhood: the officials of the state believe that this lifestyle should be funded by society in general, and that only “nasty” individuals could object. The key point for libertarians to understand is the way in which the state is promoting the dissolution of marriage by means of supposedly egalitarian laws and welfare provision: the individuation of the population supports state power in that it provides an issue for state intervention, creates social problems for the state to solve and dovetails with the state’s own attempts to force sex equality (a very jaundiced interpretation of sex equality) into every sphere. What may seem like the happy propagation of “bread and circuses” is, in fact, the destruction of a coherent society, thus facilitating the onward march of the managerial state.
This issue has come to the fore in my personal life recently, as a woman I know, a 39-year-old woman with a 10-year-old, a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old child has announced to everyone in her circle of acquaintance that she no longer loves her husband and is seeking to dissolve their 13-year-old marriage. Does he physically abuse her? No. Is he a bad husband? No. It merely seems that she overestimates her plain and frumpy looks and is seeking to find an 18- or 20-year-old replacement for her husband.
Should it be illegal for her to stop living with her husband? Clearly not. There is no concept of libertarianism whereby she would be forced to stay—and separation a mensa et a thoro has always been possible. But we are dealing with something very different here—and a certain mulishness on the part of some libertarians insists on overlooking this—and this is state intervention to enforce a rather lopsided supposed “equality of the sexes”. What has happened is that state intervention now ensures that she can take the house and nearly all of the other marital assets and the children—and turf out her husband.
This is very different to the situation in the 1930s, where a trollop like her would simply come home one day, find the locks changed and a bag packed for her on the pavement outside, with her husband instructing her to “sling her hook”. As her husband is the main breadwinner and she has not been in regular work—he has kindly agreed to stay in the marital home until she finds a job, so that she can afford to keep up payments on the house (on which there is still a mortgage outstanding) after he leaves—it is her husband who has paid for the house and everything else hitherto. Clearly the marriage arrangement provided some guarantee for him that by paying for everything or for most of the marital assets hitherto he was investing in a marriage “till death do us part”—and yet the wife can now take the lot. Can any supposed libertarian explain this to me? To support this sort of thing is not libertarian at all. This is is just state-mandated scrounging on the part of women.
I have told her to stop scrounging, and to ask her husband’s forgiveness and to seek to repair her marriage, for the sake of the children, if nothing else. She responded with hysterical outrage. Any marital problems can be worked through, as they were in the old days. I cannot and will not approve of this person’s behaviour—which I find unacceptable.
From a libertarian point of view, she is at liberty to leave the marital home and “hit the high road”. In a truly free society, that would be her only choice. She could find a job first so that she could afford to rent a tiny flat, and then move out, hoping to meet a future “partner” (as the lingo now goes) with whom she would hope to create a more substantial life. Libertarians cannot go further than this without ceasing to be libertarians. In a free society, the number of women choosing to do this would be strictly limited. I read of one woman recently, and I’ve been trying to remember who, who left her husband in the 1930s and managed to support herself and her child by giving piano lessons—such a choice could not be objected to by libertarians, whatever the morality of ending the marriage, as it would not be based on shaking down the husband or relying on state benefits. Support for immoral lifestyles that depend on shakedowns of a man who had reasonable grounds to believe he was investing financially in a “till death do us part” relationship or that depend on state benefits is simply unacceptable to genuine libertarians.
The financial impossibility of making it without a husband until recently kept women wedded to the marriage idea. Women supported the family and marriage even when their menfolk tired of it—because they sought to be able to give a good upbringing to their children. The insistence of full equality in wages—despite the fact that the consensual nature of the average woman generally means she is not a vital thinker or leader of any organisation, or, where she is, she merely repeats the rote formulations of others—individuals like Margaret Thatcher are exceptional women; there are many, many more women in managerial roles today who delight in persecuting others for “racism”, “sexism” and other alleged vices, and speak the insincere bureaucratic language of political correctness more fluently than men—has fuelled the idea that women don’t need men.
Most men would probably not oppose equal salaries for people of strictly equal abilities—although, once again, the personal qualities of the average women do not support the view that they will always occupy 50% of all available positions at each level of an organisation—but the feminists have gone much further than this. Because many women still prefer to man the hearth and look after the children, it is alleged, although entirely falsely, that their cooking and cleaning amounts to an equal contribution to the family’s finances, and so, where a housewife is married to a billionaire, upon divorce she is entitled to half the huge assets of her husband. This is a gold-digger’s charter, and has no connection with equality.
The availability of easy divorce is a further contribution to this agenda. It was once argued that divorce would impoverish women—that was the line taken by opponents of a referendum to legalise divorce in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s—but it seems that the contrary is so. The women will always corner almost the entirety of the marital assets—and a continuing income stream from a man she allegedly doesn’t need any more. If women don’t need men, then why is alimony even possible? I would look more sympathetically at the case of a woman who, in contrast to the example cited above, wanted to keep the marriage together and asserted her right to lifelong maintenance from a man who had vowed to be hers “till death do us part”: as the innocent party, and as someone with no intention to marry again herself, she might indeed have a moral right to upkeep, although not necessarily to millions and millions. This sort of thing ought to be capped at level of maintenance necessary to rent a semi-detached house and a non-humiliating standard of living—or a clean-break settlement that would cover only those things.
Another element in the equation is the no-questions-asked availability of child benefit, as well as income support, housing benefit and so on. Flats are also made available by the state on a priority basis to young girls with babies and no husbands. Once she has cornered the flat and the benefits package, she is home and dry, and only has to have a few more babies to make it quite worthwhile. Beyond a certain point, having borne enough children, she will be living a lifestyle a low-end job could not give her.
While women may be enjoying their state-mandated advances, there is an impact on society, not least the impact on the children. There is a strong connection between family breakdown and physical abuse and sexual abuse of children. Child poverty and a lack of discipline that leads to delinquency and crime are also strongly related to family breakdown. Oddly enough, socialists who aim to persuade the state to spend more on eliminating child poverty would achieve their aims better by supporting the family.
The number of children being brought up in children’s homes—or being fostered out or adopted out—reflects the collapse of normal family relationships. Interestingly, we have recently been told that Muslim gangs raped or otherwise preyed on at least 1,400 girls in Rochdale, with the tacit approval of the local police and council, and there are thought to be tens of thousands of similar cases across the country in other towns. This is generally raised to make a point regarding multiculturalism and immigration. However, there is an additional point that needs to be made: the girls preyed upon (I believe most of them were girls) were living in children’s homes, and the reason why the council allowed them to be abused was because they looked down on such girls, and may have presumed that girls from children’s homes were “like that”, or were somehow willing partakers in underage sex with the Muslim gangs.
Family breakdown has become normalised to the extent that the numbers of children being brought up in formerly typical two-parent families are falling rapidly. With many young men now no longer seeing any point in getting married only to later get divorced, it is likely that the numbers of children living in “normal” families twenty or thirty years hence will be much lower than they are today. I will ignore the synthetic outrage over the view that two-parent families are better—single-mothers do a great job, etc, etc, is what we are told, and we are being uncharitable by denying that—as it is my view that a family with a father and mother can provide discipline, love and material comforts to a child better than a single-parent household. Similarly, the notion that children do not need fathers is transformative socially, in a negative way, and probably related to the greater acceptance of lower standards of behaviour by young people than in the past.
Whatever may be thought on those subjects, there is an injustice being done to the men involved, who see the rug pulled from beneath them, both financially and in terms of their relationship with their children. The family provides an existential imperative: work and everything else a man does is done to facilitate family life. Without a wife and children, there is simply less to get up for in the morning. The ultimate outcome for both husband and wife upon family breakup may be unhappy retirements. In the days when the state did not claim the right to unpick the marriage vow, both parties to the marriage accepted from the outset and every day thereafter that they had to work at it, and work through any problems. The notion of “being cruel to be kind” sums up the promotion of morality and the way in which it served both the common social good and, ultimately, the happiness of most of the individual people it applied to.
The wrapping up of marriage is part of the march of the state. Without families, people exist in an individual and individuated relationship with the state. People who fall on hard times often have no family to rely on: the state is their family. Where society is a collection of individuals, the organs of the state are stronger, and can justify their strength. Where society is made up of families, most people have others to rely on before turning to the state.
It is quite wrong to suppose that the unpicking of morality is a libertarian triumph. Rather, a free society is based on a society with strong moral values. Strong moral values are the sine qua non of freedom. In the days when most people behaved well, relationships between the populace and the police were different. The “local bobby” was a friendly soul who knew everyone on the estate, and knew he only had one or two rascals to look out for. Now that standards of behaviour have genuinely fallen a long way, we see anti-social behaviour orders, intervention by social workers, monitoring by teachers and much else. Yet falling standards of discipline in the home are partly connected to the rarity of a father in the home.
Any attempt to fold up the welfare state would be impossible without stronger families. Who else would people turn to? If girls get pregnant without getting married, one option would be to require her family to bring up both the girl and her baby (thus providing a great incentive for parents to urge their daughters to “keep a penny between their legs”). The absurd hypertrophy of the benefits system is directly related to family breakdown.
Traditional moral values are simply the basis for an orderly society where people know how to conduct themselves, having regard, not just to their rights, but also to their duties to one another. Duty should not be a dirty word in libertarian circles, although it does contain four letters. I admire the women whose husbands are crippled in accidents, possibly requiring nursing every day for the rest of their lives, who get on with it, and accept it as their lot in life, and thus their duty. As for the women who jeopardise the lives of their children by breaking up marriages in the knowledge that they will shake down their husbands and gain every penny, I simply feel that such individuals should be publicly scolded by all who know them. This behaviour shouldn’t be facilitated by the state, aided by an army of harpies who shriek with confected outrage at each attempt to query this militant interpretation of “equal rights”.
Key points for a free society:
- Marriage should be for life.
- My conservative view is that couples who maintain a home together and bear children out of wedlock should be deemed “common-law spouses” and issued marriage certificates, whether they like it or not.
- Divorce should be abolished (and this should apply to kings too), although judicial separations could be used in extreme situations. There is nothing the state can or should do to remove the moral force of a vow so sternly worded as the marital vow.
- If divorce is permitted, it should not be until the youngest child is 16 years of age.
- In cases of separation (or divorce), the idea that a woman should get half of everything, even if it runs into millions, has to be rejected as absurd. We need to incentivise women to support the maintenance of their marriages.
- The spouse opposing the separation (or divorce) should, in nearly all cases, gain custody of the children.
- Child benefit should be paid only to traditional family units, to avoid subsidising social breakdown.
- It should be illegal for councils to give flats to unmarried mothers. In the days of contraception, there is no such thing as an “accidental pregnancy”.
- There should be no benefits for unmarried mothers. It shouldn’t be illegal to have illegitimate children, but the mothers would have to rely on private money or her family’s support in order to follow this course of action.
- Following the privatisation of healthcare and education, these services would be commercialised, possibly with vouchers or subsidies. It should be impressed on single mothers that without husbands, how could they afford healthcare and education for their children? This once again reflects the libertarian principle that novel family arrangements should not exist only because healthcare and education are provided by the taxpayer.
- The Child Support Agency should be closed. Unmarried mothers who do not fit within the definition of “common-law spouses” (chiefly because they’d never shared a home with the father) would have no right to seek child-support payments from the fathers of the offspring, as the failure of the mother to marry the father first would be held to show that no commitment had been entered into by the man. Once again, without private money, such girls would not be able to bear children out of wedlock.
- Unmarried mothers could try to reach a signed agreement with the father to support the child after birth, and in such limited cases the mother would have the confidence to proceed with the pregnancy knowing she had financial support available.
None of this equates to a full promotion of traditional morality. In particular, if people take steps to prevent the conception of children in frivolous relationships, they would be able to practice what has traditionally been known as “fornication”. What people do in a private room is private business. But the bearing of children whose upkeep, education, health and behavioural discipline are then a state matter is something else entirely.
What seems like a “free society” is merely the state promotion of the dissolution of the social fabric. Don’t mistake this for libertarianism. Legions of social workers, healthcare workers, teachers, and social-security advisers lie in wait for the greater opportunities social collapse offers them. There is simply no denying that a free society will not be created in England until behavioural standards improve. Women of England, stop behaving like trollops! Clean behind your fridges! Look after your menfolk! And stop behaving like entitled minxes!