Loss of connection and loss of continuity
This reminds me of my favorite Arnold quote, “I believe that grandparents are the happiest people.” I love this vision of life.
As you imply here, religion used to be the medium of cultural preservation. Other than a religious revival, how can we get back to that vision?
As I mention in the linked post, "As an act of rebellion against technology, I try to be phone-free in the mornings. I defied our technological overlords..."
(Yes it's morning and the technological overlords won, but I was up a lot last night)
Exactly. What I think is that... wait, someone is texting me
1) The framing of "Two Parent Privilege" is godawful and possibly deliberately malicious. The word "privilege" implies an illegitimate right granted by society, and especially in today's context it implies that should be dismantled. Having sensible parents is definitely not that, and using the word "privilege" is, knowingly or not, an attack on what's left of the American nuclear family.
2) The decline in marriage (lower marriage rates, later marriage, less happy marriages) begins around 1970 and is basically linear until the present. I don't think this is consistent with the "modern media outcompetes marriage" hypothesis, but it is entirely consistent with the feminism + welfare hypothesis. In this model, no-fault divorce + child support greatly reduces men's incentive to marry - we don't get the major benefit of pre-70s marriage, which is a reasonably secure family to call our own. We instead have to hope our wives have enough foresight not to take our kids and money and leave us if they become unhappy for any reason, which of course rules out half of the time preference bell curve right off the bat. On women's side, the social stigma of single motherhood is basically gone, and women - particularly single mothers - collectively receive massive transfers from the state, paid for mostly by married fathers (who are by far the most productive of the married/unmarried men/women combinations). Being able to get men's money without having to give anything in return is of course an attractive deal, and so women's incentives to marry are also greatly reduced. And since fewer marriage-minded women makes life harder for marriage-minded men and vice-versa, this feeds on itself. Obvious solutions: welfare for children should go to married fathers (who pay the taxes), divorce should require fault, and we start "slut-shaming" again. I doubt this would restore the golden age of marriage from the 40s-60s (which was plausibly in part due to anomalously low female workforce participation), but it would probably be enough to return us to more historically normal late 19th/early 20th century norms.
“I believe that to marry and raise children requires a strong sense of connection and continuity. You have to feel, and to want to feel, like part of a historical chain that connects backward to your ancestors and forward to your descendants.”
“You are a link in a chain extending back generations and you are responsible for its future”
How many people get taught this? None of my peers from what I could tell. Growing up, all my friends hated their parents. I always felt awkward because I loved my family. My place in this chain has always been the most important thing in my life. I”m grateful for this.
There is also a distinction between urgency and impatience. Urgency involves a strong preference (or sentiment) for early *action*. Impatience involves a strong preference (or sentiment) for an early *outcome*.
Urgency is compatible with timely initiative to make prompt progress towards achievement of a long-term plan.
Impatience tends to work at cross-purposes with steady progress towards achievement of long-term plans.
Awareness of the problem, then a conscious and determined decision to push bask are both necessary but not sufficient. It is no easy thing to push back.
I know a couple who after getting married about ten years ago had six children in nine years. I continually tell them that they are doing more for the US economy than all of the US economists combined No offense Dr Kling).
Would be interesting to see a breakdown between two career married couples and whether their children married, and if so at what age, vs where there was a stay at home mom.
>>The decline in marriage among parents in the U.S. has not been replaced with a corresponding rise in unmarried parents stably living together for the long haul and essentially being married in all but name. In the U.S., cohabitation is a very fragile arrangement.
As a person being married in all but name in Sweden, I say that the choice between cohabitation and marriage is probably decided by laws and financial incentives to a large extent. There is exactly one legal reason for Swedes to get officially married: death. Spouses inherit each other, while people who cohabit don't. There can also be problems if a legally unmarried woman dies in childbirth, before she has had the opportunity to state the name of the father of her child. Otherwise, there are zero incentives for people in Sweden to get officially married. No tax incentives or other material benefits. Marriage just seems like another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. Typically, people get married after a number of years and children together, when they are getting a bit bored and want a reason to throw a big party.
Things seem drastically different in the US, where there are heavy material advantages in getting legally married. If nothing else, Americans share each other's health insurance. Most stable couples in Sweden would get legally married too if such things were at stake.
Perhaps to my discredit, the first thing that popped into my head reading this essay were some lyrics from a Neil Young ditty:
“Love is a rose,
you better not pick it.
It only grows when its on the vine.
Hand full of thorns and you’ll know you missed it.
You lose your love when you say the word ‘mine.’”
The problem of utilitarian religion seems similar. The inability to encourage religion as a social good while simultaneously rejecting faith in favor of reason has been discussed to death. Let religion flower on its own, top-down interventions won’t help.
And one imagines the reactions of one’s children should one tell them they need to reproduce for the welfare of their parents. No, the sheer joy of seeing one’s children thrive on their own and stand on their own two feet, finding partners and settling down is a greater gift than anyone really deserves. Those of us who’ve been so lucky must appreciate how blessed we are and not try to manipulate for even more blessings. Nothing seems more conducive to religious belief to me than the blessing of a happy, healthy child. And nobody deserves more sympathy and support than a parent trying to deal as best they can with children who have not been so blessed.
I’ll be returning to my wife’s hometown in the southern hemisphere shortly after an extended stay here in the states attending weddings, graduations, reunions, etc. And even more to my everlasting shame I will use her to illustrate another contradiction. We did one of those geneological genetic tests together and hers came back richly cosmopolitan – 40% West African, 40% Portuguese, 10% indigenous, and 3% Ashkenazi, and the rest from diverse North African and Middle Eastern locations – yet the test accurately identified the state of the country in which she was born. Her distinctive people have lived in the same location for many, many generations and love and cherish their localist traditions and customs. We will cheer the success of one of our local professional volleyball teams ecstatically and still cheer on the national team and be proud of the 6 players from our local team who are the national roster, yet we will still watch all the international games even when our national team has been eliminated.
International trade is the great foundation of peace and prosperity, yet, I will be welcomed and feel comfortable and accepted living in a home with three generations of family in it because I will be expected and permitted to do my share of housekeeping. I’ll fill the water filter in the morning, gather eggs, weed the garden, sweep the floor, hang the laundry, and be permitted to chop vegetables for meals. To my credit, I have mastered the complicated art of preparing rice and will be indulged in that as well. With luck and hard work I may advance to be permitted to attempt the beans. Autarky and trade must coexist on different levels. The housekeeping chores that I do are neither urgent nor important, but seem to be a part of the foundation of what is. Approaching the little things with respect and affording dignity to those who do them, is what seems to make the big, important things possible.
And one senses contradictions in the new internet distractions as well. To read free-thinkers like Derbyshire and Sailer, one must enter Unz Review which seems overall a dark world in which bigots are over-represented. But being blessed more than I deserve with family and friends, this will be the easiest distraction to forego. It does not seem overly optimistic to believe that the material world of flesh and blood humans will win out over the virtual world and that the balance will swing away from the distracted life. Perhaps the silver-lining to declining real household income levels will be that the inability to afford the expensive new green revolution appliances, cars, and technology, will help many to rediscover authentic participation in the mundane realities of family life, and to treasure them.
It's funny that a libertarian relies on structural arguments or tacit coercion when it is an issue one cares about going in the "wrong" direction.
What happened to rational choice theory or the primacy of individual freedoms? The most parsimonious explanation to declining birthrates is just that people are "choosing" and optimizing for their own individual welfares and not caring about abstract theoretics.
I'm sure the ease, and interest, in distracting ourselves with digital stuff is negative for In Real Life relationships, which is where marriage & kids will come from. But shared fun stuff, like hikes or even movies or TV together can allow bonding. "Doing it together" is more important than being inside or outside, tho outside active walks, bike rides, sports, all reduce phone use.
Kearny's interview included this great note on how economists are uncomfortable being honest about family importance: "this discomfort stems from a well-intentioned instinct to not want to come across as sounding judgmental or shaming certain types of families. And I'm very sympathetic to that instinct. The problem, though, is that avoiding this topic is counterproductive. Denying the importance of family structure and the role of families to children's outcomes and economic mobility is just dishonest, based on the preponderance of evidence."
Sluts need to be shamed, including the male slut-jerks (slut-cads). There's lots of "shame" today, against whites, against men, against Trump supporters (or Kavanaugh, or Clarence Thomas); some semi-secret shame against fat women. Promiscuity is shameful - BECAUSE it so often leads to unwed mothers raising kids, which is sub-optimal (= "immoral" insofar as religion substitutes morality for optimality).
The single biggest reason that so many US kids are poor (bottom 20% quintile) is because their mothers are sluts. This is a key reason among many so it is still less than 50%. Kearney notes that economic policy wonks don't have a good solution to this, but then gives weasel words about the issue: "receipt of benefits should not be conditioned on having an absent parent as U.S. welfare used to be, since that explicitly disincentivized marriage. But I do want to acknowledge the concern that insofar as transfer payments increase the economic viability of single-parent households, that might lead to some small increase in these types of households. My read of the evidence is that the behavioral effects there are likely to be small."
My read is that of moral hazard - the more welfare mothers get for kids, the more women have one or more kids w/o marrying their father.
Lifestyle coaches/ social workers should be assisting women to NOT have sex with men they're not married to. If men don't love them enough to marry them, they don't love them enough.
The gov't either gives benefits, or punishments. Right now the gov't rewards slut behavior.
It used to be that "reality would punish" the unwed mothers, which is maybe at the bottom 5% mal-nourishment level of poverty that no caring American wants for any kid. This did push many women to get in and stay in "bad marriages", as well as "lousy" and "not as good as expected/ hoped for" marriages. When Moynihan's report came out in the 60s, black unwed mothers had 30% of black kids.
The fact that so many black women are sluts, the mothers of some 75% of black kids, makes it easy to call those me a racist, because I favor shaming slut behavior. Also a sexist.
The truth is racist, the truth is sexist.
There are more white sluts raising kids w/o a married father - my own sister was one for awhile.
We don't get on the track of reducing the problem by denying the truth, even if it's uncomfortable. (It will likely never be solved, as long as we have the freedom to act like sluts, but it can be hugely reduced.)
Finally, Kearny notes the importance of local community, which she doesn't quite define but I would say the best real demarcation is the local gov't high school district boundaries. Giving targeted benefits to married women and men inside those districts with higher numbers of unmarried parents would be a non-racist way to get more benefits for good behavior.
Those with good behavior "need" gov't benefits less - but rewarding them for good behavior is the way to make a few more humans do the rewarding behavior.
We need a social safety net to avoid grinding poverty, and more gov't rewards for good behaving people living in those poor areas w/o kids, as well as more gov't rewards for being married.
I've become a bigger spending Republican - wanting the gov't to subsidize good behavior more than rewarding sub-optimal (/immoral) behavior. With gov't benefits based on behavior, not identity.
I read this because of receiving a notification on my telephone . I quickly read it (distraction mode) and have instantly forgotten anything of value if there was anything of value here. Next...
Well said. I think religion itself doesn't need to change, it just needs a good rebranding. Religion contains the secret recipe that gives meaning and purpose to existence. It's humanity's outlet for the spiritual dimension in life. Unfortunately it just has a bad rep because it so often gets passed down as an obligation instead of an opportunity, and is portrayed as oppressive instead of as an enhancement to life.
OMG. The answer is in front of you. We have spent decades discouraging marriage and childbearing - and now we're distressed that it worked?
Both men and women have noticed that there are enormous - and rising - costs to having children, and no material economic benefits. Both have taken notice. Both are much less enthusiastic about children than they used to be.
Women are now able to earn money income. Women are better off than they were: their time is worth more. That makes it more expensive to spend their time on child-raising. This is a global phenomenon: educate women, make their time more valuable, watch birthrates fall. It's not only true because education allows women to avoid childbirth; it's also true because their husbands would also rather see them spend less time raising children!
Meanwhile, culturally we have dramatically raised our standards for acceptable parenting, making it more expensive (in cash terms) and more time-consuming. So many things, from requiring bulky car seats (and therefore three-row vehicles for families with more than two children), to regulation of child care, to stranger-danger-panic leading to supervised playdates and soccer moms and helicopter parenting - often now enforced by child protective services - have increased the cost of children.
In an effort to draw women back to marriage and childbearing, legislatures have tried to increase the material benefits of marriage and motherhood. As a result, for much of the past 70 years men have been subject to frankly unconscionable treatment under family laws. This has partly worked: women are more interested in marriage and children today than men are. But, men are more willing than they used to be, to buck the cultural norm rather than continue to be mistreated this way - just as women had begun to do by the early 20th century, a time when family law treated women quite poorly (legislators seem incapable of crafting family law with any notion of fairness).
Even with this abusive treatment of husbands and fathers, the benefits to women have not been enough to produce the desired growth in birthrates. Partly that's because family law attached too much of the benefit for women to marriage rather than childbearing. But, more important is this: there simply isn't enough value available to transfer from men to women, to offset the cost of having women devote so much time to raising children.
The underlying problem is that children cost their parents too much. The rest of us want to see children, to provide for the future society we will depend on. We're going to have to stop assuming that punishing men for marrying and being fathers is going to work (why do we think it would?): we're going to have to pay for children. All the cultural angst and anti-screen panics and religious pining and pro-marriage BS are deflections.
Incentives matter. It's that simple.