Thursday, July 7, 2011

Devaluing Marriage: Part III--Decay of Civilization

Today is the third in a three-part series on the results of Devaluing Marriage. Last Thursday we talked about historical examples of devaluing marriage in Part I, and on Friday current worldwide examples in Part II. Today Part III of Devaluating the Family shows what can happen in our own country, what society looks like when family no longer functions as the civilizing influence it is meant to be. 

Let’s say we have a US city, formerly thriving, some 40 years ago. With a high minority population, it used to have the highest rate of home ownership of any black urban population in the country, with an unemployment rate for blacks of just 3.4%. 

This city has a population of around 3/4 of a million people, about half of what it was during its thriving years; those who could get out have gotten out. Housing is surprisingly cheap. Many of those who left the decayed city were unable to sell their property, so they abandoned it. Houses average a mere $7,000 (let’s say as of March 2010, down from $98,000 in 2003) and continue to drop.  

In its previous thriving years, the city had a lot of industry. Much of it was concentrated in one market sector, but that is a sector that continues to grow worldwide, yet edges on bankruptcy in our study city.

Education in our city is disastrously poor. The high school graduation rate is a rock bottom 22%.  Public schools are known to be so bad that, even though the cost per student is nearly double the national average, and 27% of families live below the poverty line, only 38% are willing to subject their children to the public school district. The rest resort to charter schools (17%) or private schools (45%), no matter the cost. Only 11% of the population has a college degree. Combining this data with the brain drain of capable workers escaping to find work elsewhere, this means that in an increasingly technological world, this population is woefully inadequate to fill job needs.  

Without workers worth employing, it is unlikely that businesses will risk opening new facilities that could help remedy the high unemployment. Unemployment hovers about 11.6%, 2.5% higher than the national average, 1.3% higher than the state it is located in. 

Crime is rampant. With an annual rate of 20 violent crimes per 1000 people, and 366 murders a year, this is nearly double other high crime cities. Compared to cities twice its size, our city of decay has nearly 200 more cases of arson per year and 4,000 more stolen vehicles. 

The previous mayor finally resigned under pressure after 10 felony indictments on numerous corruption charges, bribery, obstruction of justice, political favors in government contracts, and prostitution among them. (He was recently paroled following a plea deal.) The current mayor ran on a more honest, transparent government platform, and may be an improvement. Following his appointment, he then had to face election, in an election where only 15% of registered voters turned out. 

Taxes are high. Per capita spending on social programs is astronomical. No amount of social spending seems capable of bringing about a recovery. For those who have work, their prosperity is moderated by the high taxes and crime.

What is the family makeup of our decaying city? It takes some looking to measure the data. There are 269,445 households, but many of these are single people, in other words not families. There are 162,924 family households; that’s 60% of the total. But these include many empty nest or so far childless couples—which also contribute to society by being married. But what we really want to know is the makeup of households currently raising children. There are 74,251 such households. Of these, 22,871 are headed by two married parents. That is 30.8%. The remaining 51,380 families raising children are headed by single mothers, single fathers, single parents cohabiting with a nonrelated person, or some other scenario that is less than ideal for the children. 

We know that there is a critical mass of intact families necessary to stabilize and civilize a population. We don’t know the exact point of critical mass, but it is probably around 75%. During the Great Depression, FDR had the luxury of depending on a high level of around 90% intact families to mitigate the damage caused by governmental economic interference. Our study city simply creates social problems, rather than solving them. There is no room for social engineering failures. 

If only I were making up this hypothetical city of decay! This is in fact a description of Detroit, Michigan. There are many causes for the decay in this city; the rules for political freedom, free-market economics, and civilization are intertwined, which this city exemplifies in the negative. We could blame labor unions, who have limited hiring and limited new business. We could blame corrupt politics that offer giveaways in exchange for votes. But we could also blame liberal social policies, which have promised to solve problems better solved by strong families: food, clothing, and shelter for children; education; passing along a strong work ethic and other civilizing teachings.  

You get more of what you subsidize. When you subsidize mistakes like bearing children outside of wedlock and raising them in mainly fatherless homes (also subsidizing the dissolving of marriages through no-fault divorce), you get more of that. Nationally, single motherhood is the common factor for 70% of juvenile murderers, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, dropouts, runaways, and suicides.

So the separation of parenting from marriage contributes to the decay in a way that will make recovery nigh unto impossible regardless of economic and political reforms. I don’t see recovery happening for Detroit, unless something huge changes the situation—something as huge as whole population religious conversion. (It happened in Nineveh, back in Jonah’s day, so let’s not assume it’s impossible, just unlikely.) 

After last week’s Part I and Part II, you may have been expecting an example of disaster hitting a city because of the imposition of “same-sex marriage.” We haven’t yet had an example of such a city or region in our country. But we do indeed have a number of areas where marriage has been devalued to something less than what it has meant for millennia. Instead of a permanent, exclusive commitment to society to establish a family, it becomes merely a vehicle to give benefits to two people in a current sexual relationship—something which has no innate benefit for society. 

Let’s imagine for a moment what is likely to happen in a marriage-devalued community. Children are raised without the benefit of their two parents—which results in more social problems: poverty, crime—which discourages business from locating there and increases unemployment. In other words, it could deteriorate into the very picture of Detroit. Areas within a number of US inner cities, where out-of-wedlock birth is the rule, indeed have social ills and economic failures to rival Detroit. Mostly these are pockets and not entire cities. 

If we’re looking for a remedy, it cannot be imposing a definition of marriage that prevents family from doing its civilizing duty; specifically, imposing “same-sex marriage” can only cause further harm. Such a social experiment is guaranteed to cause decay. Any remedy has to include strengthening families—encouraging marriage where children will be raised by their own parents, encouraging adoption as the expected result of out-of-wedlock births (instead of the current mere 1%), encouraging counseling for marriages in crisis so that no-fault divorce ceases to be an easy escape that then costs society as a whole.  

There is an additional sad result wherever “same-sex marriage” has been imposed: loss of religious freedom and freedom of expression for those who value marriage and family. That is a subject for an entire post another day.

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