Why Don't the Poor Marry?
In the past nearly everyone married, even the very poor. Today in the Third World it remains as it was in the First World only decades ago. Most people marry, the rich, the poor and nearly everyone in between. Of course there were exceptions but still roughly 90% of adults married. Today that is not true in the First World, why is that?
When I first started thinking about this I was thinking about men, about why I knew so many men who were not married, but then I realised that women who are poor also do not marry. But only in the First World and it is something that largely goes unmentioned. Because it feeds into that idea that we all have more options and that people are not marrying because they now have the option not too. But as I wrote in Liberalism, More Options, Less Choice more options do not really mean more choice and I think that is what we have here. People are finding it harder to marry and I think there are six basic reasons that all interplay with each other that explain why
1) Free love and being forever young
5) Society and meeting up
Let me go through each and try to explain why they contribute to the poor not marrying.
Free Love and being forever young
Since the 1960's an idea has gained currency, it certainly didn't start in the 1960's, no the idea was old when Moses was a boy. The idea was that life shouldn't have consequences, it's an old idea because it is so appealing. No mistakes, no regrets, I've made mistakes and I have regrets, wouldn't it be wonderful if we lived in a world were that didn't happen, a world were it is in fact impossible. The idea that life should have no consequences is all around us, you don't have to look too hard to find it. Free love and being young forever are very much a part of this philosophy. Sex without consequences, sex just for fun, sex just to pass the time, no pregnancies, no sexual diseases, no emotions that make everything awkward and embarrassing. And as the old saying goes "Youth is wasted on the young", maybe it is but what if you could be young forever? Would you take it? Many do or at least they try to be young forever. The problem with both is sex does have consequences and being young forever is impossible and any attempt to do so is like repairing an old tire, the repair won't last forever. If it won't last forever then it's a trick and either your fooling yourself or your trying to fool someone else, but at all times it's still a trick. What does this have to do with marriage or the lack of marriage? These ideas discourage people from thinking about their future, it stops them from making plans or decisions. If life has no consequences then it lacks meaning. Which is a strange thought at first. How can one mean the other? Because all your decisions are so small and trivial that your entire life loses it lustre. When you think of a person who is jaded with life you don't think of a virgin, no you think of someone who has had so much sex that even that natural high means nothing, it has lost it's lustre. If life has no consequences then you can delay everything, there is no hurry because there are no consequences. You cannot make a mistake and you should have no regrets. Marriage is just one option and a distant one at that.
People have always been selfish, but in the past it was regarded as a bad thing, something to try and avoid or push away, to fight against. Today people still talk about selfishness being bad, but we know that it is at one and the same time encouraged. Buy things with credit, pay it back at some distant future time, have sex without consequences with as many partners as your genitals can handle. This isn't by any means a complete list, no that would take too long. The problem with selfishness is that it concentrates our attention on only one person. Everyone else is present but unimportant. How do I feel? What do I want? Why can't I have that now? Why should I only have one girlfriend at a time? It's all about me, all about the self. Where does another person fit into this life? There is no room and secondly it discourages people from changing to accommodate another person. Take me as I am or get lost. Sadly as we get older that selfishness becomes part of us and it becomes harder to fit another person into your life. How do you marry when you have learnt to be so selfish and to do it so well?
We all need money to live thats a given. But money means more than just numbers and more than just it's buying power. Of course those things are important but money is also important because we earnt it, because it belongs to us and because it gives us stability. For most of us that money will come from a wage and you earn a wage by working in a job. But when jobs are scarce or you are unable to work then your pile of money doesn't grow. You have lost the number, you have lost that buying power, you have also lost the pride of earning that money and finally the stability that a wage provides. Hardly any man cares how much money a women makes, some do but most don't. They care about how a women looks, her personality and her intelligence, but not her money. For a women thats not true, she cares very much about a mans money, some women are gold diggers, but most women care because they want to be able to rely on her man to look after her, even if she doesn't need it. When a women becomes a mother that is a very important consideration. But the economy has changed and steady employment, something common for recent generations has largely disappeared. There was once an idea that a man would have a wife, children and a job, a single job for his entire life. That is now gone, hardly any workers at any level have that security anymore. Jobs are casual, even if your a full time employee. Security is a very important thing, it allows people to take risks and to prepare for the future. But when jobs are not secure then all of that is gone. A man without regular employment will never marry, it is simply impossible.
Another issue is that the more money a women earns means that any man who courts her must make at minimum the same as her. Of course it's better if he earns more money, but when women are given preference in both employment and promotions, that puts both men and women in an impossible position. A women wants a man who is more successful than her, but each step up the ladder means there are less men available. Secondly those men who are successful now have a large number of women to choose from, much larger than they would normally have available to them. Non of this supports marriage.
Nor does single parents benefits, it replaces a husband with the Government, but the Government cannot love them, nor can it help take the load of parenting. What it encourages is to split families, a truly evil thing.
Money not only provides income but it provides prestige, as do things like job titles. I recently heard someone say men don't like fancy cars, but women do so men have learnt to like fancy cars. I don't agree that men don't like fancy cars, but behind that is the idea that even if men hated fancy cars they would still like to drive them because of the effect it has on women, maybe. But why do women like fancy cars? Because they are not only a sign of how much money a man has but a prestige item. What is prestige? It is anything that signals how much wealth, power or influence a person has. But marriage has lost prestige and the reason is a part of everything in this article.
Society and meeting up
We all accept that society has changed and continues to change, accepting that fact doesn't mean we like or approve of it. Once people knew their neighbours, they knew their names and their jobs, they knew where they worked and they knew their family. Of course there have always been loners but it was harder, much harder in the past, even only a few decades ago to be nearly invisible as it is now. But part of that society was that people met alot of other people just like them. Neighbours, neighbours family, neighbours friends, shopkeepers and their staff and clubs and other social organisations. But today, and for decades all of those things, those connections have been vanishing. How do you meet people when there are so few chances to really meet people? At nightclubs, on dating websites? Well people have and do meet people through those methods. But how many people do you know who have married after they met in a nightclub? What about internet dating? In 2012 I was the bestman at a friends wedding, he met a real and quite attractive women on World of Warcraft!
That is not a dating strategy, that is just stupid blind luck.... all I can say is thank God for stupid blind luck. Sadly stupid blind luck is not a reliable business partner. If that wasn't the case we could all just lay back and relax. The internet gives us a false idea of the world, because it allows us to think that we have unlimited options, another case of more options less choice. But in reality we don't have more options because it is far to easy to dismiss people. Your unlikely to run into them while shopping, or get an earful about what a bad person you are from your neighbour. Because people on the internet are disposable, they are not flesh and blood people. Of course in reality they are but the internet is not reality it is a distortion of reality and it is as part of that distortion that they are a part of our life. Of course just as they are disposable, so are you and in no way does that encourage real connections.
Nothing has harmed marriage more than no fault divorce, it has attacked the idea that marriage is a sacred union of one man and one women for life. That only God, a supernatural being has the power to undo this sacred union. Now it is only an artificial union between two contractors, it's a business arrangement. A contract between two autonomous individuals and nothing to do with God, or tradition, or family, or community, or permanence. If you want to get out no worries, you can get out. Those who gave us no fault divorce said they were giving us options, making us free. But we never asked for that option and loneliness is not freedom. Divorce not only destroys existing families, it also stops new families from coming into existence as it destroys the security that marriage once provided. No matter how loving, no matter how rich, no matter what you do there is no defence against no fault divorce. The permanence of marriage is gone, it can be rebuilt but first we must understand how evil no fault divorce is.
If marriage is to recover than the casual connections that allowed real people to meet other real people in a natural setting needs to be rebuild. No fault divorce needs to be destroyed. Jobs need to be made more secure and male employment needs to be a priority. And the idea that we can live a life without consequences needs to put back into the box it came out of. It is not possible to change human nature, but it is possible to change everything else that I've written about here.
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11 of 20 The Principle of Defence
Removing the stigma attached to illegitimacy was the step that doomed marriage. At the time people were convinced it was a just and humane change, but it turned out to be one of those ideas that sounds great in theory but has catastrophic unintended consequences.ReplyDelete
At least the consequences were not intended by well-meaning conservatives who failed to oppose the change. The Leftists who supported the change certainly intended it to be a step on the path to the destruction of marriage.
I understand your position I'm just not sure if I agree with it or not. You may be right and the stigma of illegitimacy is such a vital part of providing marriage with legitimacy that the two are linked and any breaking of that link weakens marriage.
But the stigma of illegitimacy means that an innocent party, the child who through no fault of their own is stigmatized. When the shame should be the parents.
I'm afraid I don't have the answer to this one.
A very detailed and well-thought out essay. I do think however it is slightly mistitled. It is originally focussed on the poor but quickly begins to summarise why ALL people in Western countries are choosing not to marry.ReplyDelete
A few more points I would like to add. The greater emphasis on women attending university and putting off family for their "career" has left thousands of Australian women with fewer options once they decide to marry. In their 30s, professional woman are shocked to discover that the men of similar age and economic status are not interested in them, rather their 20-something interns. These days meeting a single woman in her 30s means soon finding out she has had more than 10 sexual partners and quite possibly an abortion. For men, this thought is never far from his mind.
The removal of arranged marriage from society has sent the number of "never to be marrieds" skyward - especially in Asia.
While this system never officially existed in Australia, in small to medium sized towns where everybody knew everybody, a single woman approaching 30 would not go unnoticed and men of her age would be pushed in her direction by parents, the church, employers and friends. These things took care of themselves in time. Today however, women have left these towns in search better opportunities in terms of both jobs and men. The modern city is a great study in hypergamy where women are constantly in search of high-status men who are rich, funny, cool, loyal and attractive. The problem though, is that men like this are extremely rare and they themselves have no interest in settling down. It then goes back to my original point of when women in their 30s realise they are running out of time and they are being pushed out of the market place by women 10 years younger, their options are few, if any.
Good to see a comment from you!
"I do think however it is slightly mistitled. It is originally focussed on the poor but quickly begins to summarise why ALL people in Western countries are choosing not to marry."
Guilty as charged your Honour!
I started on a narrower theme and then it branched out. But in my defence, nothing I said is not applicable to the poor.
In Asia they have gone from a very traditional marriage pattern to modern Liberal marriage in one generation. It is a disaster in the West when we had generations of easing into it. But in one generation thats just too much and I think we are seeing the consequences now. Japan is simply the first Asian domino to fall but it won't be the last.
I think everything else you've said is correct, but I would like to make a further comment on your comments. You said that men who are in demand don't settle down and I think for those in the "buffet lounge" were women are plentiful that is the case. But I would warn them that it is a false happiness as it doesn't last. Men want to achieve and when you've had sex with 1000 women it can seem like a real achievement, something hardly any man will achieve. But where is your wife? Where are your children? Where is your companion? What is your legacy? When compared to those things it is a pretty pale imitation of a real achievement.
Agreed re the hollow achievement of another notch on the bedpost. It is difficult to convince men that marriage is worth it these days. Marriage is presented as a raw deal for men and it is hard to disagree. You discussed the lack of job security directly affecting a commitment to marriage, well lack of security in marriage would also be a factor for men.Delete
Lower class just returned to their default position before the 20th century experiment of creating a broad middle class, as for middle and upper class, in my country they still do marry.ReplyDelete
I have to disagree with you I'm afraid, before our generation the lower classes married, just as regularly as any other class. I look at my own ancestry and for two hundred years (the furthest I've gone back so far) they were all married.
And there's the problem, you're being selective in both time and (apparently) cohort. Throughout human history, marriage is something that even few of Western Christendom could afford – hence why families traditionally sent children off to both war and the Church, as well as why most of the feudal poor actually historically died both single and virginal (made easier of course by the dearth of calories; our modern conceit of poverty in the West isn't what our ancestors understood). The Black Death's removal of so much of the "surplus" peasant population let enough of the survivors have a marriage market, but those same social forces of individuation helped spurn on the Reformation from what would otherwise been one of a hundred other doctrinal tiffs.Delete
Likewise, over the past century in the West overall and the past sesquicentury in the US, total warfare has killed off enough young men that we've artificially held down the number of singletons – along with marital ages grossly lowered post-WWII by the GI Bill (our "late" marriage ages now are still actually lower than prior to WWI, and that's which life expectancy nearly doubled). With 2-3 generations of men NOT being murdered in trenches en masse now, we're back in the direction of normal humanity, where marriage is rarer, albeit the conservative community structures like churches and extended families have opted to ignore their role in helping the young build a social role for themselves.
Instead, we cherry-pick anecdotes – too often from ancient biblical accounts of royalty – and assume that all moderns should be falling into predictive patterns. However, we fail to take into account that we live in grossly-distorted post-industrial economics (not even to take into account what industrial economics did to marital dynamics), where families are nucleating and moving around constantly and the young are being forced to gain new credentials that they can't afford so as to artificially lower the unemployment rate while no jobs exist for them in a structure that has yet to congeal (I mentioned the lengthened life expectancy – that's why the industrial age propitiated retirement, but the end of that concept means that those at work's end aren't leaving, so there's no "moving up the ladder" to allow for new workers to move in, so they're forced into the pretense of new degrees instead.
It's easy to presume that the media image of the Hookup Culture is everywhere rather than just in the wealthy – as surely as the image we have of the 18th-19th centuries (and the medieval world) now are fallacies of the wealthy, and the disastrous images their own media presented of themselves contemporaneously were likewise. We need to stop considering, as conservatives, that Jane Austin and the Old Testament are the start-and-stop of depicting the past and start considering a broader range of sources...
[I say all of this as someone who degreed in History (specialized in European Studies) and Anthropology and has worked extensively in oral history of multiple generations of veterans regarding wartime and pre/post-war lives.]
I don't know where to begin!
First off people didn't send their sons off to die in war, they sent them to be victorious. Death was a byproduct of war, not the intended result. People sent their children into the Church, for the rich, too many claimants to a title lead to violence and for the poor the Church offered a better life. But I think you make a common mistake, while the average life expectancy might have been low, most people died either as young children or in their fifties's and sixties's. In other words if you lived to be 5 you had a good chance of living into your fifties.
In all ages in nearly all cultures marriage has been important. I think your arguing that that isn't the case.
Only in very rare cases is war so disastrous that marriage is damaged. That was true of WWI for most European Countries (including Australia, Canada and New Zealand) and for some in WWII. But you just cannot argue that for the United States, in WWII America lost 0.34% of its population in the war. Marriage in America was affected much more by the great depression than by WWII, although WWII did extend the effects.
"Instead, we cherry-pick anecdotes – too often from ancient biblical accounts of royalty – and assume that all moderns should be falling into predictive patterns."
You must hang out with very different Conservatives than I do!
The fact remains that todays culture of marriage is unhistorical and doomed.
They kinda do now still, only after the birth of the second child:) Do you remember Eliza Doolittle from "My Fair Lady"? If I'm not mistaken, her father inherited some money and decided to marry his live-in mistress because he now became a gentleman. Lower classes used to marry, but they also used to live together much more than middle and upper class, and that's what we see now, too. Well, at least, over here where I live, it may very well be different in Australia!ReplyDelete
Family and marriage law are now so slanted in favor of women that many men who would otherwise be inclined to marry simply opt out - or shack-up (live together) in perpetuity. I myself am lucky-enough to be in a wonderful marriage of more than twenty years duration, but I know many single/divorced men who - having been once-burned by a legal system slanted against them - prefer loneliness and single life to the risk of being hammered again.ReplyDelete
Sadly, I agree with you.Delete
The baby boomers and their intellectual courtiers glorified selfishness, and largely ruined GenX and Y. But the present generation of young adults are different. They want to be good people, leading good lives. They volunteer, and are more serious about themselves and their relationships. I have high hopes they will be better than us.ReplyDelete
The baby boomers get a bad rap but I'm not convinced they always deserve it. They didn't create the sixties, they had to try and live in it and make sense of it. They didn't always do a good job of it. I'll give just one example, no-fault divorce, this was introduced in the 60's and 70's when most baby boomers were only teenagers or in their twenties. They didn't get to choose it, they like the rest of us just had to live with it.Delete
I hope your right and the next generation are good people.