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The Institution Called “Marriage”

This is perhaps not true of orangutans, chimpanzees, and Japanese macaques. They prefer older females.

Marriage is a contract. Governments in many parts of the world sets the default contractual agreement. This does not disprove the fact that marriage is a contract. The government plays a huge role in the employment contract too, but no one argues that employment is a superstition or that a relic of our barbaric past, except perhaps, well, socialists. This is not ideal, but there is nothing unusual about a marriage contract.

Why is this complex? Heterosexual men and women like companionship. They also love to have children. They conjugally pool resources. In the US, for instance, nearly 50% of the marriages end in a divorce. It makes sense to have a contract. I have heard people argue that they are soul mates and they live as if they have but one heart and one purse between then. If this is true, I envy them, but I think that they are lying.

There is a tendency among people who had paid obeisance to traditional social mores for long to now bend the stick the other way, and ask, “Surely you don’t believe in marriage, do you?”  This is nonsense. This is a fraud. This is a revolt against human nature, against common sense. I do not know whether anyone takes the feminist slogan seriously, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” But, when they do, I suppose it just prolongs single-hood. There are of course, variants of this, as Amit Varma said in “To Hell With Family Values . This worldview is perhaps taken seriously by a few:

Rising divorce rates are “the single best statistical indicator we have of the empowerment of women. If divorce was easy and socially acceptable, and if every father in the country brought up his daughter to be independent, we’d have far fewer housewives committing suicide. Indeed, we’d have far fewer men taking their wives for granted. Marriage would not, then, be the prison it is for so many women. Not having kids should be the default. Of course, this will never be the case as natural selection has programmed us to be procreating machines, and too many of my friends go oooh, how cuuuute when they see a noisy, messy baby I would be glad to deposit inside a mixie.”

The facts:

  • Men can sire children well into their 80s. Female fertility is close to 0% when they are 50. There is no bodily function of women that declines as fast as fertility. Sadly, as Hewlett says in High-Achieving Women, 2001, “89% of young high-achieving women believe they can get pregnant into their 40s. In reality, only 3-5% of women in their early 40s are able to have a live birth using in vitro fertilization.”
  • 49% of the ultra-achieving women in the US are childless. But, only 14% of them had decided when they were young that they do not need children. Only 1% of them had a child after 39. As Sylvia Ann Hewlett said, “None of these women had children. None of these women had chosen to be childless.” In short, this is a major regret of many ultra-achieving women. Many of them still wanted to have children, in their 40’s and 50’s.  If you do not like children, no one can talk you into this, but, if you are not being true to yourself, self-deception is fatal. And your time is running out.
  • Low fertility among older women is a major cause of divorce, next to infidelity. This is perhaps not true of orangutans, chimpanzees, and Japanese macaques. They prefer older females because adolescent females have low fertility.  But, this is true of human beings.
  • Since the 80’s, the American elite are more happily married than ever. As Bryan Caplan summarizes Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, “The working class marriage rates were way down, their divorce rates were way up, their kids growing up in broken homes. What I didn’t realize was that college grads have been almost completely immune to these changes. American elites still embody the Founding Virtues. American elites’ resistance to the Founding Virtues is largely a fraud.  They’re Puritans in Unitarian garb. The Founding Virtues continue to work. Traditionalists need to forget populism.  Their “cultural differences” with the elite are largely cosmetic.  Elites are the answer to traditionalists’ prayers.  They work hard, avoid trouble, get married, and give their kids a good home.  The sooner everyone realizes this, the better.” Rising divorce rates is not “necessarily” a sign of progress, or of women empowerment.
  • The ultra-achieving women in Hewlett’s study decided not to have children because they wrongly believed that children need more care. But, as behavioral genetics has proven, Genes are almost the whole story. These sacrifices were unnecessary. They could have had kids without harming their careers much. The world lost many high IQ babies, unnecessarily so.

If this is true, ignorance of elementary social science and genetics has done the most harm to the best women. These are the hard-working and talented women who decided not to have children because they have better moral standards. But, I think this is a fair price to pay for ignorance. Carlyle’s admonition, “Egad, madam, you’d better”, had science on its side.

One Comment

  1. Sumirti

    It is indeed insightful and original. Personally, it is quite relieving to know that a woman can achieve greater heights in her career without ever sacrificing motherhood.

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