Thursday, June 30, 2011

Devaluing Marriage and Family = Decay of Civilization: Part I--Vico and Unwin

Once I get started talking about the power of families to bring about civilization, more thoughts just keep coming. As Inigo Montoya says in The Princess Bride: “Let me esplain. No, there is too much; let me sum up.” Even if I sum up, there is more than I can say in a single blog post.  

So I’m turning this into a three-part piece, starting today, specifically on how devaluing marriage and family shows up as civilization decay. Part I will be on evidence from world history. Part II will be evidence from around the world. Part III will be evidence from closer to home.  

Expect to see all three pieces within a week, although not necessarily consecutive days. Monday is the 4th of July, so that already has another purpose.  

Part I—Vico and Unwin 

Giambattista Vico was an Italian scholar/philosopher/scientist born in the mid-17th Century. His writings are receiving something of a renaissance in our day. Although he was respected, and often considered ahead of his time, he was never highly renowned in his day, possibly because he spent some effort critiquing Descartes, and that wasn’t very welcome. 

His most famous work was Principles of New Science of Giambattista Vico concerning the Common Nature of Nations (often referred to in brief as The New Science), first published in 1725, and then updated with new editions in 1930 and again in 1944 shortly before his death at age 76. These weren’t translated from Italian into English until around the end of WWII, so there have only been a few decades for his ideas to become more widespread here. 

In The New Science, Vico concluded that there are “divine institutions” from which spring all “human institutions.” He wrote that the first of these is marriage, because “marriage, as all statesmen agree, is the seed-plot of the family, as the family is the seed-plot of the commonwealth” (NS paragraph 10-11). He went on to say, “All nations of the world have branded as false” the “opinion that the sexual unions which…take place between free men and free women without solemn matrimony are free of natural wickedness.” In other words, it was obvious that sexual unions without matrimony were indeed wicked. 

Also, according to Vico, why have all civilizations recognized, encouraged, and enforced marital vows? Because, without those vows, parents “are held together by no necessary bond of law, [and] will proceed to cast off their natural children. Since their parents may separate at any time, the children, abandoned by both, must lie exposed to be devoured by dogs. If humanity, public or private, does not bring them up, they will have to grow up with no one to teach them religion, language, or any other human custom.”  

Religious people (and apparently all statesmen, or any educated thinking person in Vico’s day) recognized that sex outside of marriage was an evil against all of society. Vico is just explaining the reasoning behind it. 

It may be difficult for us to believe that anyone would abandon a child, which Vico predicts as the outcome. As it says in the Old Testament book of Isaiah (49:15), “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” In other words, as unthinkable as it is for a mother to forget her beloved infant, that is more possible than that God will forget us—to emphasize how sure that is. 

And yet the reason Vico gives is that parents, without the promise to each other and society, the marriage vow, they will not feel their obligation to their children. If that is so, we must see it in examples where people in measurable populations without marriage. We will indeed look at that in Part II. 

And what happens when parents don’t keep their vows to each other and to their children? Society must bear the cost of bringing them up—either through public (government services) or private means (adoption services, charitable orphanages, foster care). Otherwise, without those children being taught “religion, language, or any other human custom,” society as a whole decays. Vico puts this rather poetically as, “they [the abandoned, unlearned children] are bound to cause this world of nations, enriched and adorned by so many fine arts of humanity, to revert to the great ancient forest through with in their nefarious feral wanderings once roamed the foul beasts of Orpheus [incest, or perversion]…for such relationships are abhorred naturally by all nations, nor were they ever practiced by any save in their last stage of corruption” (NS paragraph 336). 

Vico was a long time ago, and not even that well known. What we learn from him is what thinking people in his day believed, not necessarily what is true. Is there empirical evidence? I think so. 

About 80 years ago renowned anthropologist and progressive thinker Joseph Daniel Unwin set out to prove his theory that marriage was an irrelevant, possibly even harmful cultural institution. He went about this by setting up charts of known information on every society that he could find sufficient data for in the history of the world. The evidence did not show what he expected. In fact, he ended up concluding that only marriage—including fidelity, what he called absolute monogamy—would lead to cultural prosperity for society. Anything short of absolute monogamy (domestic partnerships, cohabitation, etc.) would cause societal decay. 

Here are his words:

The evidence was such as to demand a complete revision of my personal philosophy; for the relationship between the factors seemed to be so close, that, if we know what sexual regulations a society has adopted, we can prophesy accurately the pattern of its cultural behavior….

Now it is an extraordinary fact that in the past sexual opportunity has only been reduced to a minimum by the fortuitous adoption of an institution I call absolute monogamy. This type of marriage has been adopted by different societies, in different places, and at different times. Thousands of years and thousands of miles separate the events; and there is no apparent connection between them. In human records, there is no case of an absolutely monogamous society failing to display great [cultural] energy. I do not know of a case on which great energy has been displayed by a society that has not been absolutely monogamous…. 

If, during or just after a period of [cultural] expansion, a society modifies its sexual regulations, and a new generation is born into a less rigorous [less monogamous] tradition, its energy decreases…. If it comes into contact with a more vigorous society, it is deprived of its sovereignty, and possibly conquered in its turn. 

It seems to follow that we can make a society behave in any manner we like if we are permitted to give it such sexual regulations as will produce the behavior we desire. The results should begin to emerge in the third generation.—Joseph Daniel Unwin, Ph.D., “Sexual Regulations and Cultural Behavior,” address given to the Medical Section of the British Psychological Society. (Library of Congress No., HQ12.U52) 

I’ve read Unwin’s presentation in full, along with the charts. I’m not an anthropologist, but it is understandable and clear how he concludes what he does. If he is right, then a society that devalues marriage and family will inevitably (unless it reverts to absolute monogamy) weaken and become susceptible to political and cultural takeover by stronger forces, within three generations, or roughly 75-100 years. 

If there are societies within the world today that have weakened their support for marriage and family earlier than we have, we can measure whether Unwin’s predictions are accurate. That will come in Part II.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mostly Economics

I have a large quote file that I add to several times a week—nearly every time I read Thomas Sowell, plus whenever something strikes me as relevant to this discussion of the interrelationships of the political, economic, and social/civilization spheres. Some days I just like to share a few. Most of today’s I gathered just in the past week or so. 

This first is a “liberal version” of the preamble to the Constitution, written by a facebook friend with a sense of humor. I should note that this friend is one of the principals of an online group called Not On This Watch—a clearinghouse of conservative ideas from around the country. I joined it the original day, when we were all frustrated at the passage of Obamacare the night before. You can find the page on facebook and “like” it to get frequent commentary and updates. Anyway, here’s the quote: 

We the liberals, in order to form a progressive utopia, establish social justice, promote economic disparity, undermine the common defense, promote perpetual welfare, and secure the entitlement of elite sovereignty to ourselves and our bureaucracy, do disdain and extinguish the Constitution of the United States of America.—Shawn Rogers, satirical thought of the day, 6-25-2011 

Here are a couple from my favorite economist, Thomas Sowell: 

We don’t need to send the country into bankruptcy, in the name of the poor, by spending trillions of dollars on people who are not poor, and who could take care of themselves. The poor have been used as human shields behind which the expanding welfare state can advance. 

The goal is not to keep the poor from starving but to create dependency, because dependency translates into votes for politicians who play Santa Claus. 

We have all heard the old saying about how giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, while teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime. Independence makes for a healthier society, but dependency is what gets votes for politicians. 

For politicians, giving a man a fish every day of his life is the way to keep getting his vote. “Entitlement” is just a fancy word for dependency. 

As for the scary stories politicians tell, in order to keep the entitlement programs going, as long as wee keep buying it, they will keep selling it.—Thomas Sowell, 5-24-2011

The American Revolution was not simply a rebellion against the King of England, it was a rebellion against being ruled by kings in general. That is why the opening salvo of the American Revolution was called “the shot heard round the world.—Thomas Sowell, 6-28-2011 

And one more for today: 

They can steal wealth that has been created. But they cannot force people to keep generating wealth to steal in the future…. 

U.S. politicians may rail against the ungrateful and unpatriotic rich, but the real enemies of America are those who achieve power by demonizing the successful while producing nothing useful themselves.—Doug Bandow, “Will Atlas Shrug?” American Spectator Blog, 6-25-2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Capitalism--We're Born That Way

A few days ago, my son Political Sphere sent me a link to something about an experiment that shows children may be born with the concept of property rights. They have the idea stronger at very young ages (2-5) than their parents do. And they have it likely too early to have learned it from parents. 

The Science News article describing two experiments with preschoolers that show inherent understanding of ownership can be read here. I first saw it on The Blaze, here, which references a blog post (, scroll down to Wednesday, June 22, 2011) talking about it. (I know this a complicated reference, but I’m not talking about it in detail, so I’m offering you the background if you’re interested.)  

The blog post starts with this apt Bastiat quote, which I have in my file of favorites: “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” 

Baby Political Sphere understands ownership already
The science article shows that toddlers/preschoolers understand the difference between owning and using. They believe that when the owner wants something back, the person using it is obliged to return it to them. (Not all adults in the comparison grasped this.) The second experiment showed that small children understand concepts like larger entity ownership. The scenario they are given is that the crayons are owned by the school. The children believed that the crayons, then, should be used as long as the child needed them in the situation, but then should be returned. 

If only all our problems could be simply understood using crayons! 

Because I am Spherical Model, this has me wondering: If property ownership (and by extension, then, free-enterprise) is something we are inherently capable of understanding, and since there is a strong interrelationship among things economic, political (freedom), and social (civilization)—is it also probable that children have an inherent understanding of freedom rights and the understanding of right vs. wrong necessary for civilization? 

I don’t know that experiments are being done on these questions. Any social scientists out there, please feel free to find answers. The above experiment summary did say, “a concept of property rights may automatically grow out of 2- to 3-year-olds’ ideas about bodily rights, such as assuming that another person can’t touch or control one’s body for no reason.” So I think that is a basic seed of understanding about freedom rights.  

I took Grandbaby Political Sphere (not quite two) to the doctor last week, when a flu wasn’t clearing up after three days (and her mother was down with said flu). It turned out she had developed strep, and because she wasn’t keeping things down, the doctor suggested an antibiotic shot. I can hardly express how she looked at me, feeling betrayed, as I held her down while the nurse administered the shot in her leg. Eventually she forgave me, but clearly she knew that such a thing should not be done to a person without good reason—and she wasn’t aware of the good reason. 

What about right and wrong? I think little children do need a fair amount of guidance to become civilized. Growing involves coming to care about others rather than just self. But already Grandbaby understands a lot of direction. She loves her doggies in ways the doggies do not like, for example—sometimes very roughly. So I say, “No, we don’t hit them; that hurts. Be gentle.” And she understands, for that time, to stop hitting and pet gently instead—which the doggies tolerate much better. 

She knows it is naughty to climb on the table. But sometimes her drives, both to climb whatever she can and to get to whatever she wants, overcome her memory of Grandma saying, “No, we don’t climb on the table.” So fully civilizing her may take more time. And it’s easier to accomplish when she is both well fed and well rested. Yet most of the time she looks so innocent and adorable, it’s hard to imagine her ever doing anything purposely wrong. 

She is very sensitive to atmosphere. We have a large and rather chaotic household right now (temporarily, we’re hoping). But it is very loving and respectful. She has no fears here. She feels free to explore and try things—so much so that she is rather put out whenever there are barriers put up to thwart her. But if she is in another atmosphere, where things seem strange, or where parents haven’t assured her that strangers are acceptable people, she holds back and clings to the safe harbor of one of us beloved tall people. 

In other words, much that she needs to know about freedom, ownership, and the harmony of civilization she understands even before there are words. (She does frequently use the word “mine,” I might add; sharing will come in a future lesson.) And it may be that the concepts will grow stronger because she is in a loving, civilizing home, where we don’t disrespect her rights and we continue to demonstrate loving one another.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New York--If You'd Only Asked, We Have Answers

“Same-sex marriage” passed in New York on Friday, by one vote more than needed. Republican Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie announced on the floor his intention to vote in favor, being the needed 32nd vote; he said it was about fairness to all Americans, although he had voted against it in 2009. Republican Mark Grisanti of Buffalo added the additional 33rd vote. Despite his Catholicism and his campaign promise last year to uphold marriage, he said “I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage.” Really? Let me help. 

Marriage, real marriage, is societal approval and legal endorsement of a specific sexual act, the act that can and does produce offspring, and when this happens within marriage—which is committed to be permanent and exclusive—then the children will be raised by their own mother and father, which is something society has an interest in promoting. 

Homosexuals do not—cannot—engage in that sexual act with one another; it isn’t physiologically possible. It isn’t infertility that makes them unable to reproduce in their sexual relationship; it is that they cannot in that coupling do what nature requires in order for humans to reproduce. No, I am not providing a footnote for this obvious point; any human biology text will provide ample detail. 

Since this point is so obvious, and since National Organization for Marriage and various other pro-civilization groups lobbied on this issue prior to the final vote on Friday, it can hardly be possible that the senators weren’t aware of the physiological differences. It must be that they do not care about the differences. 

The issue gets rephrased to appear as though a bunch of bigots are keeping homosexuals from enjoying the freedoms that other people enjoy. Again, this is obfuscating the basic facts. No one prevents a person with same-sex attraction from marrying in the same way that a heterosexual person can. They can choose a partner of the opposite sex, promise to remain faithful, have the requisite sexual act with that spouse, and enjoy the possible offspring that may result—and receive not only the respect of society as a whole, but the legal encouragements of that relationship from the many laws related to protecting families. Biologically and legally there is no impediment or unfairness. 

What they claim is unfair is that they cannot “marry” the person of their choice. Isn’t that a basic right of all human beings? Actually, no. I mentioned a number of the limitations on Friday. Society doesn’t grant the honor of marriage to anyone, heterosexual or homosexual, who chooses someone already married, someone who is a close relative, someone who is too young, etc. Why? Because society doesn’t benefit from those sexual relationships in the same way it benefits from marriage. Confusing parenthood and lineage, introducing genetic disorders through too close relationships, etc., bring about more societal problems, rather than solving them the way intact, functional families do. 

So the question is not, shouldn’t homosexuals be allowed to marry the same as heterosexuals do? The question should be, why should homosexuals get special privileges? At the very least, we should be asking, what is it about homosexual sex that so benefits society that we should honor it with the same legal and societal benefits as married father/mother relationships? 

Comments started coming in within a day on news and blog sites. I’m not too concerned about liberal comments; I don’t consider liberals persuadable until they have undergone a serious conversion to freedom and civilization. But I am bothered by various conservative commentators, mostly styling themselves as fiscal conservatives, who don’t understand the connections between freedom, free-enterprise, and civilization. If you've read the Spherical Model, you know that without civilization, you just don’t get the other two. 

These self-described open-minded conservatives usually ask, “How is this gay couple’s marriage possibly going to affect my marriage?” So, I’d like to answer that. 

Let’s say I lived in New York; I have been married for nearly 30 years. Neither of us has had sex with anyone else and intend, by keeping our marriage covenant, to continue to be faithful. (We are not unusual; the majority of married couples remain faithful throughout their lives with one another.) We have three children we have raised to adulthood. We have seen to their food, clothing, shelter, and education, and continue to guide them. Two are married so far; one has blessed us with our lovely grandchild.  

Up until now, in the state of New York, our marriage has meant that society and the state recognize the benefits we have offered by committing to a permanent, exclusive relationship that could produce offspring, whom we were committed to raise to be contributing members of the next generation. We have kept our commitment. But as of Friday midnight (when it was signed; it will become the law in a month) the state of New York declared that society no longer values our commitment as anything but an acknowledgment that my spouse and I are engaged in some kind of sexual relationship at this time. They have thrown out the definition of marriage as it has been understood by the billions of people who have lived on the earth, for millennia, in every civilization that has ever flourished on the earth, and decided that the real purpose of marriage is irrelevant, because it is nothing more than just an acknowledgment of any sexual coupling. 

Despite this New York denunciation of our relationship, we are likely to remain as committed as a couple as ever—on personal principle. Society will continue to benefit from us. But we are no longer honored for our commitment nor thanked with legal encouragements for our contributions. Our marriage has been belittled to something no more meaningful to society than a high school couple going steady the week of prom. Yes, we still have the right to see each other in a hospital and inherit each other's property upon death--privileges homosexuals also enjoyed up till now simply by filing forms with a lawyer. But we may not even mention that we think our relationship is superior--cannot teach it in schools, cannot make preferences for real married people in hiring practices. We are stripped from being allowed to publicly acknowledge the superiority of our relationship. 

I can go into the expected costs to society (because there is a great deal of evidence worldwide and historically) of what happens when a society degrades marriage. But I’ll do that another day. I can also go into how this affects me in Texas, where I actually live—or any other of the states that have protected marriage at the state level; that threat is real and worth understanding. 

For now, the question is, what can we do in the face of this additional travesty against the will of a free people? (In a recent poll, a solid 57% of New Yorkers supported traditional marriage, so the legislation was indeed against the will of the people.) In two of the six states where “same-sex marriage” has been imposed on the people, the people have put the issue on the ballot and rescinded the decision. These two are California (you remember Prop 8, I’m assuming), and Maine. So getting the decision before the people as soon as possible is the next step for New York. If you have money, time, connections, or any other resources—or just want to find out what’s happening and see if you can help—a good starting place is National Organization for Marriage 

One last word of thanks to Senator Ruben Diaz, a Democrat from the Bronx, also a Pentecostal Minister, who was the only Democrat among the 29 voting against the bill, and the most vocal opponent from the floor of the state senate. He expressed his disappointment that there were Republicans who failed to keep their word, and failed to protect the will of the people. We need more people like him, whatever their party.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Rational Belief in Traditional Marriage

It’s possible that a vote will come up today in the New York State Senate regarding changing the definition of marriage in that state to include homosexual couples. As of this hour, the discarding of the millennia-old definition of marriage has passed the state assembly, and as time runs out on the legislative session, 26 senators have declared in favor of the change, and 28 have declared against, with 8 remaining undeclared (whether they’ve decided or not). The bill requires 32 to pass. The measure was defeated in New York when it came up in 2009. 

If New York indeed passes this legislation, it would join a handful of other states who offer similar honor to homosexual relationships as to committed heterosexual couples. Because of its size, such a change in New York would double the populations so affected. None of the states who have redefined marriage has done so by the will of the people—only by either courts or legislatures. Every time a state’s people have the opportunity to vote on the issue, they vote to keep the traditional definition of marriage. (The only exception was the first time it came up in Arizona, when opponents erroneously convinced the public that it would affect insurance benefits for cohabiting couples; the second time it came up in Arizona, the people sustained traditional marriage.) Thirty-two states have upheld traditional marriage by the voice of the people, many by significant majorities. 

If you’ve read my posts on family in the last week (Thursday, June 16; Friday, June 17; Monday, June 20; Thursday, June 23), then you’re aware that I highly value the traditional family—married husband and wife parenting their own children—as the basic unit of civilization, and the only family form that can bring about civilization. So it should be no surprise that I would be against redefining marriage to be something that does not have the power to civilize. 

What does the other side believe? What must be the beliefs of people who insist that marriage is worth redefining to honor any couple in a sexual relationship, rather than to honor the permanent formation of a family starting with a man and a woman exclusively committed to each other with the possibility of conceiving and rearing children? One must believe that homosexual sex is as valuable to society as heterosexual sex, even though there is no possibility of offspring. One must believe that it is irrational to value permanence when making a lifetime-length contract. One must believe that it is irrational to value exclusivity when making a contract requiring exclusivity. One must believe that homosexuality is inborn and immutable—despite voluminous evidence to the contrary.[1]

It was the Goodrich decision in Massachusetts, November 2003, where the state supreme court decided that any of the billions of us who have valued marriage during the history of the world have “no rational reason”[2] for our belief in traditional marriage’s value. But since a strong majority of citizens has and still does value marriage—for the rational reasons that committed husband and can wife bring children into the world and raise them to adulthood, instilling in them the values that will likely help them become the next generation of civilized, productive adults—we might have reason to suppose it was that court that was irrational. 

Do we hate people or fear them (the meaning of homophobia) because they are different? No. We respect people. But we do not have to honor all behaviors. Not all behaviors are equivalent. Among heterosexuals we do not honor adultery, fornication, or incest. We do not honor sexual relationships with multiple partners or close relatives. We do not condone sexual relationships with minors, or sexual relationships where one person wields great power over the other. We don’t honor sexual relationships that are purchased. The honor is given only where there is power to civilize—within a husband and wife legally married, permanently and exclusively committed. 

So, if there are limitations to which heterosexual behaviors are honored, why would homosexuals insist on forcing society to honor a sexual behavior that has no benefit for society as a whole? In other words, why are they insisting on special privileges? Even when they say they are making a commitment, evidence shows that the average length of a “same-sex marriage” is 18 months to 5 years[3] (70% of heterosexuals remain married for life—the 50% divorce rate statistic is related to serial divorcers). Even when they say they are making an exclusive commitment, evidence shows “same-sex married couples” have on average 8 sexual partners per year[4] (75% of heterosexual married men and 85% of heterosexual married women never have sex with anyone but their spouse).  

Is it irrational to notice things that are? Is it irrational to value things that bring about civilization? No, and no. So maybe those judges are really the irrational ones. Maybe there are a lot of people afraid of being called names by loud bullies, so they keep quiet and hope the issue won’t affect them.  

But it does have an effect. More on the volumes of evidence another day. In the mean time, this is a call to stand up and proclaim that we will not allow ourselves to be deprived of the time-honored institution that alone leads to civilization in the next generation.


[1] See, e.g., Joseph Nicolosi, A. Dean Byrd, Richard W. Potts, “Retrospective Self-Reports of Changes in Homosexual Orientation:  A Consumer Survey of Conversion Therapy Clients,” 86 Psychological Reports 1071, 1083 (June 2000).  Study concludes that “20%-30% of the participants [in voluntary conversion therapy] said they shifted from a homosexual orientation to an exclusively or almost exclusively heterosexual orientation,” belying any assertion that homosexual orientation is “immutable.”
[2] Goodridge v. Department of Health, SJC-08860 (Mass. Supreme Judicial Court November 18, 2003) (legislative “refusal to recognize save-sex marriages ‘works a deep and scarring hardship’ on same-sex families ‘for no rational reason’” (Reporter’s Synopsis at page one).
[3] McWhirter, David P., and Andrew M. Mattison, The Male Couple:  How Relationships Develop (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:  Prentice-Hall, 1984), pp. 252, 3.  They reported that in a study of 156 males in homosexual relationships lasting from one to 37 years, only 7 couples have a totally exclusive sexual relationship, and these men all have been together for less than five years.  Stated another way, all couples with a relationship lasting more than five years have incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity in their relationships.  No “monogamous” relationship among men longer than the ones set out in this book have been documented.
[4] See e.g., Xiridou, Maria, et al, “The Contribution of Steady and Casual Partnerships to the Incidence of HIV infection among Homosexual Men in Amsterdam,” 1029-1038 AIDS, 17 (7) May 2, 2003.  “Those with a steady partner and those without reported having an average of 8 and 22 casual partners per year, respectively.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mounting Data on Families

In case you doubted the data I used in last Friday’s blog post, coming from a few years ago, it has been updated in a recent report: “Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4) Report to Congress.” It comes down to this: “Children living with their married father and mother are significantly safer from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse than children living with single or cohabiting parents,” which continues to verify similar findings from the last such report in 2006. 

The results show that children living with a single parent and the parent’s live-in partner were “eight times more likely to suffer any form of maltreatment, ten times more likely to suffer abuse, and nearly eight times more likely to suffer from neglect, than children living with their married, biological parents.” It isn’t a matter of how many adults are present in the child’s household; it is a matter of who those adults are in relation to the child. 

Another interesting data point is that children living with their biological but unmarried parents are less well off than those living with their married biological parents—four times more likely to be physically, emotionally or sexually abused, three times more likely to be neglected physically, emotionally, or educationally. Marriage status of the parents significantly affects the well-being of the child. 

According to analysis by University of Virginia Professor W. Bradford Wilcox, executive of the National Marriage Project, the benefits are seen with both biological and adoptive fathers, but not so with stepfathers or other unrelated males. Stepfathers do provide security better than cohabiting males, so the married state of the parents is always a factor. 

So, the evidence continues to mount, to support what common sense has told humanity for millennia, that married parents are best equipped to love and nurture their own children into adulthood. It’s time the “progressive” agenda people stopped trying to throw out what has always worked and regressively replace it with what has never worked for a community. 

If adults care about their own health and happiness, a stable married relationship with their children is preferable to all other household forms. If adults care about providing a world where their children can enjoy equivalent or better health and happiness, then a stable married relationship throughout their childhood is the most likely path to that outcome. If civilized society is preferred over savagery, then society as a whole must value and support stable married relationships with children. Every percentage point decrease from the critical mass required for civilization sinks the whole of society further into savagery, with added difficulty of climbing back up. 

So people’s private decisions related to sex and marriage do indeed affect others beyond themselves. They are free to choose unwisely and suffer the consequences. But when they do, not just their immediate family feels the loss of civilization in the aggregate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Perry--Not Totally Honored in His Own Texas

In the New Testament there’s the saying, “A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country” (Mark 6:4). I thought of that as I began writing about Governor Rick Perry. He is not hated here in Texas; I’d say he is mostly appreciated. But he is not every conservative’s favorite. We know too much to give a resounding endorsement. (For mostly good words about him, look at yesterday's post. Today is the follow-up.) 

Baby Political Sphere gets to know Governor Perry
It may be that it is necessary for any elected executive leader to be checked by constituents who don’t totally trust him. Maybe that mix makes for the generally conservative principles at play in the Texas economy. 

Lest we make the rest of the US too envious, Texas’s unemployment hangs steady at around 8%. That’s a lot less than the national rate of 9.1%, but it’s not exactly full employment either. There are plenty of us who feel the difficulty of job hunting and underemployment. So, while a lot is going comparatively right, we’re not what I’d call booming right now either. (Not necessarily Texas’s fault—probably more federal policy affecting everyone.) Overall, though, the Texas economy is a plus that Perry, as governor, has not ruined—which is a lot to say for any politician. 

As I said yesterday, every time I hear Perry talk, it’s all conservative. I was excited to have him as governor when he replaced George W. Bush at the end of 2000. I even thought, maybe down the line he will become a viable presidential candidate. Then somewhere around 2003-2005, the VLT issue came up (I wrote about video lottery terminals on March 22nd). It may be that his position was actually just exploring what the people felt about the issue. But it appeared that the lobbying of the gambling industry was persuading him to support this plague. People uprising against the issue took it off the table—which happened again this legislative session as it has every two years since. But that was the first time I felt I couldn’t quite trust Perry. 

The Trans-Texas Corridor is an issue where many people part ways with Perry. This was to be a network of 4000 miles connecting major metro centers of the state (and in some views attempting to make easy access from Mexico to Canada). Lanes were to be extremely wide, including trucking lanes and railway lines. Eminent domain would have seized hundreds of thousands of acres of private land, and rendered within a mile either way uninhabitable because of noise and traffic. Cost was to be partially handled by private investment and partially recouped by making them toll roads. Now, infrastructure does indeed fit into the proper role of government, but the people of Texas did not want this monstrous project. In 2006 both Republican and Democrat party platforms expressed their disapproval of the TTC. Yet Perry still supported it. In 2009 the project was downsized to a simpler road-only network, and in 2011 the project was stopped for good by the legislature—against Perry’s will. He hasn’t said much about it for some time, but this is another example of the people holding Perry to do their will. 

There was a problem with the business franchise tax in 2006. Granted, Texas is a state with no income tax (one of our best features), so that means other means must be used to raise revenue for government use. We understand that, but we’re not going to give in to any tax without a fight. This tax was a change that was intended to stop businesses from forming as various types of limited partnerships that weren’t subject to the tax—it now included LLCs, and also changed the structure. There were dire predictions about the huge burden this placed on some businesses, but since 2007 I have heard very little about it. I was at the state convention the year this was an issue, and there was a huge backlash against the governor and those in the legislature who supported this bill. I would have preferred that it had not passed, or that it had been immediately repealed. Still, it’s hard for someone like me to know just how wrong (or right) this tax change was. But it is one of the items often listed along with accusations that Governor Perry is a RINO. 

The biggest issue marking him as a big-government interferer was the mandate to vaccinate all girls 12 and up with Gardasil, for HPV (human papilloma virus). He had listened to the pharmaceutical lobby. They essentially convinced him this was the way to protect young women from cervical cancer. Making such a vaccine available, maybe with discounts for the indigent, might have been a tolerable approach—mandate was not. The drug only deals with a couple of the various viruses that cause HPV (a couple of the most common ones, but certainly not all of them), so there was no guarantee that the drug would fully protect young women as ads often implied. Also, the drug had been tested on 16-26-year-olds, so there was question about the safety for 12-year-olds. In addition, this is a sexually transmitted disease—so a young woman who is not sexually active is simply not at risk. Plenty of mothers would opt to keep their daughters safe from the disease by teaching them sexual purity before marriage, rather than risking the side effects (which had included a few deaths) of a drug that would only give partial protection and would do nothing about the disease in the males who were spreading it. In addition, the disease is easily prevented with an annual pap smear with follow-up for any positive result. So the state mandate was a huge overreach of intrusive government. The people of Texas spoke up—in loud voice. And the governor removed the mandate pretty quickly. 

Do I think Governor Perry is a RINO? No, I think he believes he is truly conservative. And here in Texas, where we have large numbers of vocal conservatives, we have been able to keep him in check. 

Perry has been a good friend to homeschoolers. He has been a friend of social conservatives—those of us against abortion and in favor of protecting marriage. And he understands states rights enough that nullification of ObamaCare is a possibility here. He has put an anti-groping bill (against TSA intrusive airport screenings) and a freedom of lightbulb choice bill on the agenda for the current special session—where nothing but the budget and anything the governor insists on gets put on the agenda.  

I don’t know yet whether he will run. If he does, he’s still on my list of possibles (the long list all of whom pretty much entirely outshine the Obama/Biden ticket in every way). Perry isn’t perfect, and I have reservations. But the flaws aren’t what I call disqualifying. You can decide for yourself.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Governor Perry Speaks

The first time I heard that Texas Governor Rick Perry was considering a run for the White House, my gut reaction was—NO! But after that, I have moderated somewhat and have allowed him onto the list of possibles. 

The thing is, I live in Texas, so I know the flaws. But if I were from some other state, and I looked at the comparative success of Texas, and I heard him talk the way he does about conservative principles, I’d be hoping he’d run. 

There is a list of questionable actions that I wish he hadn’t done. But I think I’ll save that list for another day and let this post just be an introduction of the good side. (And I'd like to add, yesterday he placed the TSA anti-groping bill on the agenda for the special session of the legislature now underway. I may be able to fly again. I wrote about this on May 13th.)

I have heard Rick Perry speak many times. I met him in person once as a guest at the capitol along with a busload invited by my state representative. So we got to shake hands and get our photos taken. Another time we were doing a lobbying day at the capitol for homeschoolers, and my daughter, Social Sphere, got her picture taken with him. I’ve heard him speak at state GOP conventions all four times I’ve been a delegate. And once, as a field trip, I took my daughter to hear him on a nearby campaign stop. Always his language is conservative. And I very much like his Texas straight-shooting style.  

There was a time (before moving to this state) that I thought—“Oh, no! Not another Texas accent!” when some Texan was considering getting into the presidential race. I grew up prejudiced against the Texas twang, because it sounds, well…uneducated. But after more than a decade here, I’m overcoming that prejudice. In this large city, most people speak standard American, like you hear on the news or TV. But the natives are mixed in among us. And I’ve come to find that there’s not much corollary between accent and brains. And some people have a milder accent that isn’t such a strain to listen to; it just sounds straight-forward and honest. Perry has that brand of accent. And as you’ll see below, his style includes some very nice parallel structure, good strong verbs, and a number of other details that let me know he’s thinking clearly about what he’s saying. 

This past Friday Governor Perry spoke, as President of the Republican Governors, at a Conservative Leadership Conference in New Orleans, which got some good reviews. So I listened to it online last night. There were some memorable things in the speech I thought I’d share (times into the video are approximate): 

6:00 in
Will future generations of Americans … wonder, why didn’t somebody do something?

7:00 in
I stand before you today a disciplined, conservative Texan, a committed Republican, and a proud American, united with you in the desire to restore our nation and revive the American Dream.” 

8:00 in
47.8% of all jobs created in American in the last two years were created in Texas. 

I’ve got to brag on Texas conservative values just a bit. We’re the number one exporting state in the nation. We got a balanced budget to boot. And let me tell you that’s what happens when conservative leadership that is willing to take a beating from the liberal left and their friends in the media—we happen to be a bunch of happy warriors. We’ve been working together, we’ve stuck to our guns, and these conservative values.

9:00 in
I distill my economic agenda down to a few guiding principles:
1.      Don’t spend all the money.
2.      Keep the taxes low and under control.
3.      Have regulations that are fair and predictable so that business owners know what to expect from one quarter to the next.
4.      Reform the legal system so that frivolous lawsuits don’t paralyze employers that are trying to create real wealth.
That’s what we’ve done. 

15:00 in
Our loudest opponents on the left are never gonna like us, so let’s stop trying to curry favor with ‘em. Let’s stand up. Let’s speak with pride about our morals and our values and redouble our efforts to elect more conservative Republicans. Let’s stop this American downward spiral. It’s happening because of too much spending, too much interfering, and too much apologizing. 

There’ve always been two kinds of politicians: those who seek office to gain personal power, and those who seek office to give power back to the people.

16:45 in
They will never willingly give up an ounce of power in Washington, DC, until the American people stand up and demand that we adopt reform. Never will they do that. 

17:00 in
He reminds us that his book, Fed Up, is about the 10th Amendment, which he quotes, about states rights. Then he says this:

It’s simple, it’s elegant, and to the point. The framers of our Constitution knew all too well what happens when distant, too-powerful governments hold sway over a nation. And that’s why they decentralized power out of Washington, DC, into the hands of the states. 

When states lead the way, and they compete for ideas and resourced and jobs, free-market principles are allowed to act and great things happen. 

The states are proof that the best leadership is closest to the people, not holed up in Washington, DC, using their one-size-fits-all mandates that try to fit the entire country. Our goal is to displace the entrenched power in Washington, restore the rightful balance between state and federal government. 

In November of 2008 there were too many Americans who voted for some vague promises about hope and change. And they ended up with unprecedented deficits, unrestrained spending, and unacceptable unemployment. America voted for hope and got nothing but greater economic misery. 

20:00 in
In November of 2010 Americans expressed their frustration with that misery, and they voted for conservative Republicans. In the United States Congress and state houses all across this country we have seen Republican leaders turning the tide. November 2012 is not very far away. But we’ve got to be ready to elect Republican leaders up and down that ballot who will make government smaller so that opportunity can get bigger. 

I’m preaching to the choir here; I understand that. But America’s greatness in not found in the size of its government. America’s greatness resides in the hearts and the minds of our people, their innovative approaches to solving problems, and their ability to endure even in the toughest times.

I'm considering listing the flaws tomorrow, because there are things about him as a possible candidate that concern me. But whoever we get to replace Obama, I hope it's someone who talks like Perry just did--and means it through and through. Then there's hope that we'll get change.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Building Better Families

In Church yesterday we had something of a Father’s Day theme going. The children sang (which gets to me even now when my children are all beyond those years). The talks were about good fathers. And in our women’s auxiliary meeting we talked about the importance of families. 

In my Church, we often talk about families and get down to the nitty gritty of how to make them better. It’s one of the reasons I have declared that my Church has a civilizing influence, and that if everyone believed the same—or lived their own religion according to these principles—the result would be worldwide civilization.  

Our teacher yesterday quoted from a talk given by Bruce D. Porter at a “Stand for the Family” conference at Brigham Young University, March 2010. I thought I’d share some of the quotes. 

The family is intended by God as the great entryway into mortal life. It is central to the salvation of the human race, the perpetuation of civilization, and the birth and rearing of each new generation.   

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one saying that. 

So vital is the family to the cycle of human life and the renewal of each generation that it is fair to say that if the family breaks down, everything breaks down. 

Porter quotes James Lincoln Collier, from the book The Rise of Selfishness in America 

We have abandoned our children. Between a soaring divorce rate and an equally soaring rate of children born to unwed mothers, it is now the case that the majority of our children will spend at least a portion of their childhoods in single parent homes—in effect being raised without fathers. A large minority will spend their entire childhoods essentially without fathers, and a considerable number will not even know who their fathers are. 

This is an extremely unusual circumstance—perhaps unique in human experience. In no known human society, past or present, have children generally been raised outside of an intact nuclear family. The nuclear family is one of the most basic of all human institutions, a system of doing things so fundamental that until this century it occurred to very few people that life could exist without it. (p. 246) 

Here’s Porter again:  

To some the very idea of a strait and narrow path will seem intolerant of those who choose different paths. By holding up a divine ideal of what family ought to be, they claim we are guilty of intolerance toward those who choose other paths, other standards, other definitions of right and wrong. 

And one more: “All virtue requires saying no firmly and courageously to all that is morally bankrupt.” 

We’re in a world where right and wrong are often confused, and selfishness is often cultivated. But if we want to live happy and fulfilled lives, the way there is within a family. Job satisfaction and career goals won’t get us there. Getting things and going places won’t get us there. Having a loving spouse who helps you raise civilized children—that is the way there. Nothing teaches a person patience, long-suffering, kindness, and the other virtues listed in the Bible in I Corinthians 13, than becoming a parent and wanting a good life for your children. You might think you understand love already, but once you become a parent, then you say, "Oh, now I understand."

What are some of the ways to make a family more successful? Here are some of the ideas from yesterday’s lesson: 

  • Pray together daily as a family.
  • Study scriptures together as a family, and teach your children your religious beliefs.
  • Do things together as a family—recreation, work.
  • Have family meal times and hold family councils.
  • Attend church meetings together regularly.
  • Keep a family history; share stories about elderly family members and ancestors.
Some years ago I had a lesson to give in our children’s auxiliary on Father’s Day. I wanted to be sensitive to any child that day who didn’t have a father, because if we made something to give to fathers and they didn’t have one, they could feel excluded. So I looked at the list of 60 or so children—and there was not a single child not living in an intact two-parent household. In our world today I know that’s rare. I know it’s rare even within my church. It was a snapshot. But it was telling. In that little community parents were doing many things right. The odds continue to build up against us, but the solutions to stopping and correcting the decay are known. They just have to be chosen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Honoring Fathers

“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”—17th Century English Proverb

In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday, I thought it might be worth mentioning just how important fathers are in nurturing civilization. 

In the United Families International Blog today, there’s an article on Fathers that includes this quote from the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: 

From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of the Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future—that community asks for and gets chaos. 

This was back in the 1960s, and the fatherless problem was mostly a black problem, with some 20% of black children born to unmarried mothers. But today (or according to 2009 census data), that’s the statistic for white children, but blacks now have above 60% born to single mothers—with the assumption the rate would be even higher if the data included children living with two unmarried parents. 

According to the Spherical Model for Civilization, you get out of the chaos of savagery and rise into the security of civilization in two ways: have a religious people living essentially the Ten Commandments, and honor family as the basic unit of society. Family in its basic form consists of married father and mother with their children. Is a single-parent family still a family? Yes, but it lacks the civilizing power of a two-parent family. Only a critical mass of two-parent families can compensate for the deficiencies of inevitable single-parent households. 

There’s a summary of family research I often turn to for data, called Why Marriage Matters. I’m going to list some of the conclusions here, to show how important it is to children and to civilization for fathers to be present in the family. (Please go to the original for sources and more details, available through 

  1. Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers have good relationships with their children. (Children of divorce report having much worse relationships with fathers.)
  2. Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage. (Outcomes for children are equivalent to single-parent households, with higher incidents of abuse.)
  3. Growing up outside an intact marriage increases the likelihood that children will themselves divorce or become unwed parents.
  4. Marriage is a virtually universal human institution. (It is a significant factor in every civilization in history.)
  5. Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers.
  6. Married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples.
  7. Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.
  8. Parental divorce (or failure to marry) appears to increase children’s risk of school failure.
  9. Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs.
  10. Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms.
  11. Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality.
  12. Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens.
  13. Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.
  14. Marriage is associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women.
  15. Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.
  16. Divorce appears significantly to increase the risk of suicide.
  17. Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers.
  18. Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior.
  19. Marriage appears to reduce the risk that adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime.
  20. Married women appear to have a lower risk of experiencing domestic violence than do cohabiting or dating women.
  21. A child who is not living with his or her own two married parents is at greater risk of child abuse.
The study summary ends with this conclusion: 

Marriage is more than a private emotional relationship. It is also a social good. Not every person can or should marry. And not every child raised outside of marriage is damaged as a result. But communities where good-enough marriages are common have better outcomes for children, women, and men than do communities suffering from high rates of divorce, unmarried childbearing, and high-conflict or violent marriages.  

So, marriage, which puts fathers in the home, is essential for civilization. Now, here are more specifics about fathers, from United Families International’s “Fatherhood Fact Sheet.” (I saved this from their blog last year for Father’s Day; I can’t find it in the same form now, but the site has a wealth of information.)

  • High-crime neighborhoods are characterized by high concentrations of families abandoned by fathers, and youths in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families.
  • The weight of evidence increasingly supports the conclusion that fatherlessness is a primary generator of violence among young men.
  • Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. The lack of fathers is a key factor in child poverty worldwide.
  • Higher father involvement with their children leads to fewer child behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and higher levels of academic performance in children and adolescents.
  • Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school. But father involvement in schools is associated with higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. (This was true for biological parent families and also for stepfathers and single-parent fathers.)
  • Teens without fathers were twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity and seven times more likely to get pregnant as an adolescent. Girls with strong biological father relationships reported fewer depressive symptoms than peers and were less likely to suffer from sexual abuse or early sexual activity.
So there’s plenty of scientific evidence in favor of fathers. I also have personal evidence. I grew up with a good father. And my husband, Mr. Spherical Model, is an exemplary father, which is a major reason we so proudly enjoy our children, Political Sphere, Economic Sphere, and Social Sphere.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Demographic Winter

Have we talked about Demographic Winter? There are two videos, one by that name and a second, Demographic Bomb, by the same producers, about the worldwide worry that we don’t have enough children being born. The video trailers are worth seeing. 

Here are the basics, if you’re not up to speed. Replacement rate is 2.1 children per female. Most of the industrialized countries in the world (and also many of the less advanced countries as well) have below replacement levels. The US is approximately right at replacement rates—but only because of immigrants with larger families. The non-immigrant population is at about 1.7. 

I reread an article recently (it’s from United Families International, from May 2010) that did the math, using Greece’s 2008 population of 11,237.074. If you consider that a generation is about 27 year, and you have a fertility rate of 1.4 (Greece’s is actually 1.37), then you’ll lose a third of the population every generation: 

Generation 1               11,237,094 – 3,745,698 = 7.491,396

Generation 2                 7,491,396 – 2,497,132 = 4,994,264

Generation 3                 4,994,264 – 1,664,755 – 3, 329,509 

So in a little over half a century the population is likely to declined to under 30% of it’s current population. Without disease or war. Voluntarily. 

The cutoff seems to be a fertility rate of 1.4. In the history of the world, no population has ever recovered once hitting that level. Right now the following are at, near, or below that level: 

United Kingdom         1.66
Portugal                      1.49
Austria                        1.42
Russia                         1.34
Spain                          1.31
Japan                          1.27
Czech Rep.                 1.24
South Korea               1.21
Hong Kong                0.97 

There’s a graphic I need to show you, about how this involves economics. [I'm using my trusty white board, just like homeschool.] The population as a whole consists of producers and nonproducers. Typically these are related to generation. Children are nonproducers that must be supported by producers. The elderly and infirm are nonproducers that must be supported by producers insofar as they can’t support themselves from income left over from their producing period.

A healthy growing population is shaped like the diagram below. Producers are plentiful to take care of the elderly, and there are enough children to replace the producers as they age.

But the typical population shape for a declining population looks like this below. The elderly is the most sizable demographic. Producers are hard-pressed to take care of them. And the even smaller population of children is going to find it even harder to take care of not only themselves but that growing aging population.

A friend of mine who has been involved in family issues worldwide since the mid-1990s first let me know about this issue. He was with his family on a trip to Italy at one point, and they went to, I think, Disney World there. There was an exhibit that talked about the demographic problems in that country, and some of the solutions. Italy isn’t on the list above, but I believe it’s under 1.4, like many EU countries, and parts of it are significantly lower—where they pay people to have babies or give people bonuses to come there following their education to live. The presentation talked about the difficulty of producers supplying the needs of the elderly, and my friend was thinking—the obvious solution is to encourage more births. But that’s not what they said—instead they encouraged more women to join the workforce. Women in the workforce must, of necessity (with very few exceptions) have fewer children than they would or could have as stay-at-home mothers. 

So is the problem likely to solve itself when people wake up and realize they have a problem and then start having more children? Historically no.  

One of the hallmarks of a thriving civilization is valuing the family and prizing children. If that is not where we are, then we need to change—before it’s too late.