Classy Marriages

by: FireTag

April 13, 2013

Pending the birth of Princess Kate’s baby, Lady Cosima Rose Alexandra Windsor is currently 24th in line for the British throne. Lady Cosima is the nearly three-year-old great granddaughter of a grandfather of the current queen.

I didn’t know that, and I really wouldn’t care, but I did easily look it up, and I could do so because Western society has used marriage and lineage to arbitrate hierarchical standing for a long time.

US Supreme Court hearings on gay rights and changes in legal status of same sex marriage in several states recently have focused attention on the latter issue. However, in an article largely devoted to another topic (elite thought-policing), Mark Steyn nevertheless does some interesting stat dropping on the likely extent of gay marriage:

“Canada … has had gay marriage coast to coast for a decade. Statistically speaking, one-third of 1 percent of all Canadian nuptials are same-sex, and, of that nought-point-three-three, many this last decade have been American gays heading north for a marriage license they’re denied in their own country. So gay marriage will provide an important legal recognition for an extremely small number of persons who do not currently enjoy it.”

Which leads me to connect the dots to another phenomenon in the news the last week: the “Princeton Wives” kerfluffle. Susan A. Patton, one of the first women to attend the university, wrote:

“As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart as or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”

Now this is somewhat opposite of the horror movie of the 1970s where capable women were replaced by robots more amenable to their husbands’ image. However, Patton was making a point that is relevant: women (and men) who want families are going to be weighed down without access to choices “worthy of them”, at least in their eyes.

Ron Douthat explained why this comment was so infuriating to some in a New York Times piece:

“…But really she’s something much more interesting: a traitor to her class.

“Her betrayal consists of being gauche enough to acknowledge publicly a truth that everyone who’s come up through Ivy League culture knows intuitively — that elite universities are about connecting more than learning, that the social world matters far more than the classroom to undergraduates, and that rather than an escalator elevating the best and brightest from every walk of life, the meritocracy as we know it mostly works to perpetuate the existing upper class.

“…The intermarriage of elite collegians is only one of these mechanisms — but it’s an enormously important one. The outraged reaction to her comments notwithstanding, Patton wasn’t telling Princetonians anything they didn’t already understand. Of course Ivy League schools double as dating services. Of course members of elites — yes, gender egalitarians, the males as well as the females — have strong incentives to marry one another, or at the very least find a spouse from within the wider meritocratic circle. What better way to double down on our pre-existing advantages? What better way to minimize, in our descendants, the chances of the dread phenomenon known as ‘regression to the mean’?

“That the actual practice of meritocracy mostly involves a strenuous quest to avoid any kind of downward mobility, for oneself or for one’s kids, is something every upper-class American understands deep in his or her highly educated bones.”

I’m sure that I’ve heard LDS blogs speak of BYU as performing the same function. In the CofChrist, Graceland University fills the role; if you haven’t heard of that school, it’s only because our elites are smaller in number, I suspect.

This past summer, Jason DeParle noted in The New York Times that we are now seeing “two classes divided by ‘I do.'” And while people are going on and on about Wall Street and income inequality, it turns out that marriage inequality is one of the biggest things making people less equal, accounting for as much as 40% of the difference in incomes: “It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged.” [cited from here]

Mark Steyn notes as well:

“In the upper echelons of society, our elites practice what they don’t preach. Scrupulously nonjudgmental about everything except traditional Christian morality, they nevertheless lead lives in which, as Charles Murray documents in his book “Coming Apart,” marriage is still expected to be a lifelong commitment. It is easy to see moneyed gay newlyweds moving into such enclaves, and making a go of it. As the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said just before his enthronement the other day, ‘You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.’ …But, amongst the type of gay couple that gets to dine with the Archbishop of Canterbury, he’s probably right.

“Lower down the socioeconomic scale, the quality gets more variable. One reason why conservative appeals to protect the sacred procreative essence of marriage have gone nowhere is because Americans are rapidly joining the Scandinavians in doing most of their procreating without benefit of clergy. Seventy percent of black babies are born out of wedlock, so are 53 percent of Hispanics… and 70 percent of the offspring of poor white women. Over half the babies born to mothers under 30 are now “illegitimate” (to use a quaintly judgmental formulation). For the first three-and-a-half centuries of American settlement the bastardy rate (to be even quainter) was a flat line in the basement of the graph, stuck at 2 or 3 percent all the way to the eve of the Sixties.”

So, if gay marriage actually applies to so few couples, and mostly will be exercised by the kind of couples most likely to produce stable relationships, should we not be more concerned about the return of a more ancient pattern: the elite classes marry each other in economic alliances that perpetuate their privilege while less privileged classes just live together as long as economically convenient?

And economic convenience for the less privileged classes is a more-and-more tenuous concept, as noted in The Atlantic:

“Low-skill men have had a rough two generations. The evaporation of manufacturing work has gutted their main source of employment, while globalization has held down their wages. Marriage has declined the most among men whose wages have declined the most…

“In a dating pool where poor women are more likely to be surrounded by men with low and falling fortunes, more women have ditched a union for good economic reasons: it could be a financial drain. In The Truly Disadvantaged,  William Julius Wilson, argued that ‘high rates of unemployment and incarceration meant that the local dating pool was populated by unmarriageable men–and the result was that women chose to live independently.’

“That women find themselves drifting ‘unintentionally’ into parenthood with men they have no intent of marrying creates another generation of problems. Children raised in two-parent households are more likely to go to college, more likely to be employed, and more likely to earn a high wage. The rise of unwed mothers might be logical for many of these women. But there is too much evidence that it deepens the divide between the haves and have-nots in America.

Now, put that highlighted portion of The Atlantic quote together together with the notion above that the meritocracy, in practice, uses marriage to prevent downward mobility of its own, and you see social policy toward marriage in a different light. If you make it tolerable for people to remain unwed among your own children’s potential competitors, you can secure privilege for your offspring — simultaneously having an untroubled sleep at night — and it costs a lot less than significantly increasing the pool of marriageable men among the less privileged would cost. It is an evolutionary win for the meritocracy (even if unplanned), provided that you can continue to divert both genders in the poorer classes from noticing that they are becoming worse off with time.

And it is in this context that I want to consider what LDS theology ought, perhaps, to be contributing to this discussion.  Marriage is important in LDS theology to an extent that is uncommon in other versions of Christianity; try to imagine an LDS version of the afterlife exclusively for singles (who often find earthly life in LDS society a bit, shall we say, unfulfilling). By contrast, there is plenty of room for singles in the “heaven” of other faiths.

wedding ringsSo, I am suggesting that here we have a case where LDS theological imperatives for marriage coincide with a societal need that today’s elite classes, conservative or liberal, have absolutely no incentive to address, and every incentive to postpone as long as rioting doesn’t get too bad. (In the Community of Christ, I think we’d come at this from a worth-of-all-persons-concept of theology, but I think we’d end up in the same place.)  Mormon theology should be arguing for social policies that overcome obstacles to marriage. Preferences for the poor and marginalized that liberal Mormons claim should be a special concern ought then to be focused on social policies that make it more rational for the poor and the marginalized to marry. If marriage is materially good, let alone of Divine intent, we ought to be promoting it for anyone who would want it.

Instead, we get distracted into fights about keeping the unworthy — however defined — out of marriage, and there is a trap there. As Doug Gibson noted in a news article, the LDS April Conference was forced to address this issue in a talk by Apostle Bednar on chastity (reviewed more completely by our own Hawkgrrrl here). Gibson concluded:

“The LDS faith’s ‘Law of Chastity,’ which opposes fornication and regards marriage between a man and a woman as the preferred structure in which to raise children, used to have the implied consent of most Americans. That’s not so any more. Elder Bednar acknowledged as much, saying, ‘The doctrine I have described will seem to be archaic and outdated to many people in a world that increasingly mocks the sanctity of procreation and minimizes the worth of human life. But the Lord’s truth is not altered by fads, popularity or public opinion polls.’

“How this cultural change in the definition of morality affects younger members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, in my opinion, of more interest to LDSChurch leaders than gay marriage or whether women can hold the church’s priesthood. I think the biggest concern of church leaders is making sure that teenage members and young adults, as they embrace the independence of adulthood, remain active, faithful Mormons. The lowering of ages for missionaries for both sexes provides a quicker transition from high school, to a mission, and presumably, to a temple marriage and children.”

So, here are some questions to consider:

Does social policy to make men better candidates for marriage hold more promise for uplifting poor single women than policies to make single motherhood more bearable?

What would be examples of such policies?

Could church leadership support such policies independent of “worthiness” concerns, or of concerns about whether the marriages that resulted would have anything to do with ordinances within the church?

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39 Responses to Classy Marriages

  1. Hedgehog on April 13, 2013 at 2:48 AM

    Just a quick response, no doubt more will occur to me later..
    In Britain there used to be tax advantages for being married. Those are all gone. Worse still, benefits are structured such that it makes economic sense for underprivileged classes to remain unmarried (one of the things Cameron claims he is trying to address in the benefit reforms) – interestingly, as I understand it, it is the conservatives (party of the privileged classes that seem to favour making marriage pay), and the labour party (supposedly that of the lowly workers) whose benfit reforms have resulted in marriage being disadvangeous for that class.

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  2. Howard on April 13, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    Mormon theology should be arguing for social policies that overcome obstacles to marriage…social policies that make it more rational for the poor and the marginalized to marry. If marriage is materially good, let alone of Divine intent, we ought to be promoting it for anyone who would want it….Instead, we get distracted into fights about keeping the unworthy — however defined — out of marriage

    Yes! I strongly agree. This should be the goal, and not just overcoming obstacles but also providing meaningful incentives. Family values is a major strong point of church teaching and family is a much stronger and healthier societal unit than single mothers and wandering single men. We are living longer and have more permissions to grow, change and divorce but incentives should be designed to keep families together while having and raising children because two parents and two incomes under one roof are significantly better than one. An affair should not be considered a good reason for divorce and divorce should be considered an argument that didn’t go the distance.

    Aside from it’s occasional political activism the church’s marriage policies are aimed at committing and locking people into the church. One could argue either for the purpose of saving them and delivering them to the Celestial Kingdom or just to retain them as tithing paying members. But I believe the approach is seriously flawed. The idea that most 20 year olds are ready for marriage is as outdated as the narrowly defined gender roles they are expected live. Why? Because our brains are not fully formed until 25 so at 20 we are physiologically incomplete and therefore psychologically incomplete as well and because today we have more permissions and opportunities to grow than in past generations and because we live longer. A young LDS couple is locked into no growth or very slow growth marriage because people rarely if ever grow at similar rates and in similar directions simultaneously so significant growth threatens the marriage because it threatens the slower growth partner upsetting a fragile homeostasis. So if this is really about delivering married couples to the door of the CK then it is about delivering naive and immature couples to that door. What exactly is the point of your second estate if you learned very little from the experience?

    If we take a worldly look at lowering the missionary age we see that it supports a decline in missionary baptism efficiency just as global convert rate is slowing by offering a one time non reoccurring boost to the the number of male missionaries in the field but it also appears to offer an on-going boost to the number of female missionaries in the field. Unfortunately it will also encourage earlier marriage exacerbating the problem of incomplete immature people marring into no/slow growth marriages.

    If as a church if we care about the retention of late teens and early twenties, the growth of people and the quality of Mormon marriages we are headed in exactly the wrong direction! We should become more tolerant of fornication a victimless sin and a far lesser sin that adultery. The truth is they are doing it anyway in spite of President Packer and his ilk’s outdated jawboning and fear of church discipline. Downgrade fornication in the sin category and lighten up on stigma, enforcement and punishment. This will reduce the number of kids who marry for the wrong reasons, who marry for sex so they can also stay active in the church and it will help reduce the exodus of singles that occurs around that age. Teach communication and conflict resolution to those approaching marriage age. Encourage premarriage counseling to evaluate partner choice and fit. Be more tolerant of range of beliefs from simply wanting to believe to literal belief and stop requiring members to believe literally in the unbelievable as a pledge of allegiance and a badge of loyalty and honor. This would allow more questioning and personal growth withing the marriage without threatening the marriage or the social standing of the other partner within the church community by implication.

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  3. Howard on April 13, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Btw, I don’t think LDS marriage would be in a growth limiting box had polygamy continued because over several generations it refines it’s participants to a more selfless less jealous people. If you can happily accept and embrace your mate making love to someone else, their personal growth needn’t threaten your relationship and every one arrives at the CK door having grown a great deal!

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  4. Frank Pellett on April 13, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    Considering that sexual permissiveness is part of what has driven down the marriage rate, I’m pretty sure making fornication less of a sin would be a bad idea if we want to keep it high.

    Also, there’s no such thing as a victimless sin. At the least, the person committing the sin is a victim, suffering the effects of that sin.

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  5. Frank Pellett on April 13, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    to the OP – good analysis. Is there also a connection to integrity in there somewhere?

    Also, what solutions would you consider for this? it almost seems like we’re in an irreversible trend here, likely to be punctuated by ineffectual (but bloody) revolution.

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  6. Howard on April 13, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    So you want to save me from myself! Well I don’t know Frank, we could follow your logic and try to roll back permissiveness. Iran actually did it! How do you like their outcome?

    Apparently you prefer a high teen early twenty exodus rate and many of those who stay marring for the wrong reasons! I think we’re living in the past with that plan and that’s a mistake. We should learn to live successfully in the present permissive society because a roll back is highly unlikely and there would be a lot of push back from any significant church roll back.

    Fornication is clearly not as serious as adultery so we shouldn’t act like it is.

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  7. FireTag on April 13, 2013 at 11:24 AM


    I think you noted my cynicism creeping through in the OP about whether either party’s leadership actually is as concerned about improving the welfare of the less privileged as their political marketing would have us believe.

    In the US, up until the passage of Obamacare, there were sometimes marriage benefits and sometimes marriage penalties in the US income tax code. (Obamacare has scrambled the tax code and age relationships so drastically that no one quite understands what the tax bills are going to be.) You had choices of filing jointly or separately, and middle and upper class families found it necessary to analyze what was best for them on an individual basis. Lower paid individuals couldn’t afford the costs of doing the analysis, and their tax burden is predominantly non-federal sales taxes in most states anyway. I doubt even the government knows as much about what’s in the tax code that affects the poor’s marital status as do those interest groups that make their livings providing those benefits to the poor.

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  8. FireTag on April 13, 2013 at 11:53 AM


    I’m with you on the issue of the advantages of late marriage. The marriage age in our family has been around 30 plus/minus 2 for generations now. World War II delayed my parents. My wife and I had trouble finding each other, explained by the simple fact that RLDS girls are only 1/97th as common in the US as LDS girls (so hang in there all you LDS singles who want a temple marriage). And my daughter was finished with a doctorate and well established professionally before tying the knot. Marriage brings challenges, and all the maturity you can stock up in advance will be needed. In fact, I want God as part of the covenant-making to have our backs, but you probably figured that out already.

    On the issue of premarital intercourse, I’m not so much with you. On that part of it, I tend to go with Elder Bednar. I have never regretted that there are things I reserved to do for the first time with my wife, but I’ll leave a younger generation to figure out how to apply the standard of chastity with integrity to their own situation so that they best arrive at marriage neither with the ghosts of repressed desire nor the ghosts of comparative lovers. I’m most interested in getting people to realize THAT is the goal in their best interest, and the target for that message is broader than the church.

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  9. FireTag on April 13, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Howard and Frank:

    I think there is an assumption here that increasing permissiveness is a one way street that is not justified by any history in the English-speaking world. Eras of sexual repression and eras of sexual permissiveness tend to generate their own unique set of problems, so what tends to happen is more of a swinging back and forth of a pendulum.

    Another thing I considered as a topic this week was the “hook-up culture” as another example of how the collegiate elites deal with having the need for marital stability coexist with raging hormones. That can have its own issues, as noted, among other news articles this past week, here:

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  10. Howard on April 13, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    I’m most interested in getting people to realize THAT is the goal in their best interest, and the target for that message is broader than the church.

    How do you intend to do that?

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  11. Howard on April 13, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Well there’s a difference between having the permission to discover how far is to far, learning from it and pulling back vs living in a restrictive culture that never allows one to experience that self discovery and acquire that earned knowledge. College has been sexually permissive for a very long time, a place of sexual experimentation but few choose to continue that behavior later in their lives and often they are content in their later decision because they know what they are “missing” compared to the naive who don’t know and often wonder what they are missing.

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  12. Howard on April 13, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Btw, that permissive college experience is often helpful in sexually knowing yourself better allowing for better mate matches in marriage.

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  13. FireTag on April 13, 2013 at 1:53 PM


    But aren’t we again getting distracted away from the issue of the OP? My question was what social policies are likely to extend the benefits of marriage to the people who DO NOT go to college?

    College grads aren’t the problem in our society, either in terms of marital stability, being the undesirable side of the material inequality, or in producing single-parent homes that hobble the next generation. People who DON’T go to college are the “great unwed”.

    Knowing yourself before marriage and knowing your partner well enough to make a commitment simply is NOT all about the bedroom. It isn’t even mostly about the bedroom, although sexual compatibility is among the major issues. The issues won’t be the same when you’re 50 as they were when you are 30, anymore than, as you recognize, they aren’t the same when you’re 30 as they were when you’re 20.

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  14. Howard on April 13, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Sorry the college departure was unintentional I was just addressing your link to the college hookup culture.

    Well solving the “great unwed” unless you mean the “great never married” takes us beyond social obstacles and incentives and it heads very quickly and very deeply into dysfunction. That is addiction and psychological issues and I don’t just mean serious psych med treated problems, garden variety neurosis plays a huge part in the problem of reducing the divorce rate by keeping otherwise brief marriages together.

    In past strict societies neurotically mismatched couples suffered unhappily through while putting on airs. Permissive society does away with a lot of pretending to be some ideal instead allowing us to be and act out who we actually are. In this way neurosis is allowed out of the closet for public display. The neurosis issue is huge and is best addressed prophylactically in advance of marriage.

    Removing obstacles and adding incentives will increase marriage for some but that would probably mostly be seen in a lowering of the current age at marriage, in other words encouraging marriage sooner rather than later.

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  15. FireTag on April 13, 2013 at 4:46 PM


    I’m speaking more of the “great unwed” as those that don’t even bother to go through the motions of marriage although short-term marriages that don’t last the length of the pregnancy would be included as well. As I quoted Steyn above:

    “Seventy percent of black babies are born out of wedlock, so are 53 percent of Hispanics… and 70 percent of the offspring of poor white women.”

    What I hear you saying is that we need to provide more intensive psychological care/counseling for the missing fathers. Is that correct?

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  16. Howard on April 13, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    Healthy people are social, they connect with one another, they bond with one another, they strive for intimacy they are positively fed by being with one another.

    Seriously dysfunctional people do not, they are loners and social phobics. Moderately healthy/dysfunctional people are in between and attempt to bond and may even be successful for a time.

    Moderately healthy but somewhat dysfunctional people make up the majority of society. I generally avoid the term “normal” because it refers to a distribution curve of who is out there rather than suggesting how many are reasonably healthy and how many are dysfunctional.

    If you were born and raised in a fairly healthy and loving family, even though there were a few problems typically you have very little personal experience stored in your frame of reference with which to imagine or relate to those less healthy so you assume most people to be somewhat similar to you. but most people are not.

    I was born and raised in a moderately dysfunctional but not abusive LDS family. It was a long road of psychotherapy, repentance and spiritual journey that brought me to a place of health and love. Now I enjoy many close and a few intimate relationships with people who were raised in healthy loving families and that is how I came to understand both viewpoints. You cannot project your healthy view and assumptions onto this problem and make a meaningful dent in correcting it.

    “…don’t even bother to…marry” In order for this statement to be true *and* for the participants to be reasonably healthy it implies they are living together or their lives are somehow very intertwined on an ongoing basis. I doubt that is the majority of who isn’t bothering to get married. So no, I don’t just mean counseling for the missing fathers. These are people who aren’t bonding. Generally these are unhealthy people or perhaps sheeple who are are barely awake to life’s experiences and opportunities.

    So how could 70% of blacks, 53% of Hispanics and 70% of poor whites be dysfunctional? well i don’t know where these numbers come from but a lot of the problem is self perpetuating, if you were raised without a father that’s what you do. But these are not otherwise healthy bonding people who just need a tax credit as motivation to get hitched! So let’s pay them to get married! Sure, and they will too. But they won’t stay married they don’t have the skills or enough natural bonding desire to stay married because they were raised without.

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  17. el oso on April 13, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    Why are there many more “less desirable” young men who have lower chances of marriage? They do not have marriage as a goal because when they are young they do not need it because they have plenty of potential mates and can pick one with little commitment. Meanwhile their girlfriends are waiting for a better long-term relationship to come along if they can find him.
    The church’s answer is younger missionaries who go from direct supervision at home with their parents onto a high-commitment mission. Hopefully the mission culture will better prepare more men and women for the dedication needed for a stable marriage. Will it help the marriage stability in the lower classes in the church? I do not know.

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  18. FireTag on April 13, 2013 at 10:15 PM

    el oso:

    Let me make clear that the major focus of this post is not the lower economic classes of the church. The church simply isn’t large enough for its statistics to affect the kind of national statistics I cited. What I was trying to get at had more to do with the “Zionic enterprise” that has been one of the motivations of the Restoration since 1830, and looks for an approach that blesses the LARGER SOCIETY with stable marriages that the church finds so important in its theology for its own people.

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  19. hawkgrrrl on April 13, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Great topic! I work with a lot of folks in Australia. I had noticed that they refer to the person with whom they cohabitate and have children as their “partner,” which in the US has traditionally been used to refer to one’s gay partner. I finally asked why they used the term partner instead of spouse or husband or wife, and I was told that there are economic disincentives to marry, so people generally don’t. They just live fully committed lives, have and raise children, grow old together, etc., all without a marriage license.

    Whenever government gives more benefit than marriage, that creates a disincentive to marry. The core problem is that men below the poverty line tend to be terrible partners, a drain on finances rather than a boon, and often abusive to boot. IOW, Obama is a better husband than most men below the poverty line. Studies also show that women are a better investment for charities. If you invest in poor women, that money goes toward food and education. If you invest in poor men, the money goes toward alcohol, drugs, gambling and prostitution. Things like the PEF should be used to attract women below the poverty line and help them, but how to redeem the men from poverty is the real issue nobody has yet solved.

    The idea that most people who don’t marry are just seeking to fornicate for fun is a bit beside the point on this one. We should try to create incentives for men to be good partners in marriage and not take advantage of the women willing to marry them by gambling or drinking away their money.

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  20. FireTag on April 13, 2013 at 10:41 PM


    I will stipulate that psychologically “healthy” people do not produce these kind of national statistics on unwed births, but I will point out that this problem is not just self-perpetuating, but is multiplying. When racial strife in the 1960’s broke out, the Federal government produced major commission studies indicating that we were rapidly splintering into two societies separated by race. “Whites” of all classes were statistically identifiable as coming from more stable home environments than “Non-whites”. (The fractions of children being born to unwed mothers among whites have more than reversed.) Social policies have succeeded in switching the fault line of instability from race to class, but the fraction of the population on the unstable side is much larger. That is not progress.

    I agree that tax credits won’t do much except allowing stable homes to have marginally larger families. If you are right as to the need for serious therapy to make a dent in the problem — and I find your argument convincing — we have a huge resource hole to fill, don’t we?

    Perhaps it would help to understand how we got to this point as a nation to consider where the problem is concentrated and how policy decisions have combined to produce it:

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  21. Hedgehog on April 13, 2013 at 11:22 PM

    The LDS church does have a ‘Family Values Award’ that it gives to prominent persons working to promote and strengthen families, including politicians. First awarded in Britain in 2009 (, though according to one newsroom article it has been around since 1991 (

    hawkgrrrl #19
    The term ‘partner’ is used by cohabiting couples, and more generally in this country too. I have no idea whether my children’s friends’ parents are actually married, and its rude to ask.

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  22. Hedgehog on April 14, 2013 at 3:06 AM

    Further to my #21, even amongst professional graduates marriage doesn’t necessarily happen unless it becomes imperative. A colleague of my husband and his partner married quickly before he took an overseas posting, so that she would be eligible for a visa to go with him. Heaven is a foreign country then, at least in for LDS.

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  23. Howard on April 14, 2013 at 5:38 AM

    FireTag wrote: … this problem is not just self-perpetuating, but is multiplying… Yes I agree. The excess beyond self-perpetuating plus a little bit is the group that can be reached more quickly with incentives but the incentives must be cleverly crafted to avoid collecting them with the appearance of but without real change.

    A healthy growing economy with a healthy demand for jobs and a welfare safety net that catches one when they fall but quickly stands them up again with incentives to go back to work would have a much bigger impact! I think mid 1990s welfare reform attempted to do that. Was it successful or partially successful in practice? I haven’t studied it but I have the impression that it helped. Do you know?

    But how does the state have welfare compassion for children without creating a baby making career path for otherwise unmotivated mothers? Require sterilization? That would change things quickly.

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  24. FireTag on April 14, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    I am sorry to be so slow in getting back to the last few comments. Our tax accountant finally called Sunday afternoon with the information and paperwork we needed to submit our personal income tax forms on Monday, and that changed Sunday plans considerably.

    Hedgehog is noting that cohabiting couples are extensive in England as well as the US. I am unfamiliar with how either Britain or the EU countries in general break down their unemployment, incarceration, and birth statistics by class, sex, age, race, etc., but I wonder, particularly in the current economic conditions, if those countries are seeing a similar development of an un-marriageable pool of young males. I am almost certain that is the case in many undeveloped countries, and that pool contributes greatly to social instability.

    I also note the perception Hedgehog and Hawkgrrrl both report that even among middle and professional classes abroad, there is a perception that marriage is NOT an economic advantage. Is America so different in that respect as to there being actual economic advantage, or do people in other countries simply perceive the economic situation in their own countries differently?

    I see a connection between Hawkgrrrl’s comment and Howards’ — perhaps incorrectly, but I still find it interesting. If there is indeed evidence that trying to help adult males is wasted compared to helping single mothers, then are we saying that we have to develop policies/programs to help BOYS in order to break the cycle? Does that mean we have to get at-risk boys into the lives of good male adult role models? What are the implications of that for the biological fathers and the children?

    As to Howard’s questions, I do think that the 1990s welfare reform WAS successful in getting people off welfare and starting them on a path upward. I do think, however, that it hampered the upward mobility of people who made their living off of managing ever larger welfare programs and dispensing the patronage opportunities associated with that management. :D

    And I would point out that we do have a policy that stops baby making AFTER conception rather than before conception, and the country is still fighting over that.

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  25. Howard on April 15, 2013 at 5:46 AM

    The assumption that these males are defective is wrong. Generally the male anthropological drive is more polygamous the female more monogamous. Some more than others, obviously. This is what you’ll be attempting to overcome with male role models. So when you think about it it will take much more than just role models. This is precisely what conservative political philosophy is about; female chastity restricts sex limiting it to marriage so men marry to have sex.

    The problem you’re addressing is also a social cost of exporting jobs, fighting wars and a growing welfare state all of which place a tax or drag on the domestic economy reducing job availability. This results in fewer jobs and less incentive to compete for them. Why are jobs part of this? When one perceives the opportunity to move significantly ahead economically and when meaningful marriage incentives are in place they will team up to take advantage of it.

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  26. Hedgehog on April 15, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    The latest data on cohabitation for Britain:—Cohabitation
    Described as the fastest growing family type.
    The links at the side will give you the info for marriages, civil partnerships etc.

    Biggest %increase in cohabitation amongst over 65s:

    They don’t appear to have tried to tie up the data with level of education, that I can find (but I am a bit rushed).

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  27. Hedgehog on April 15, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    There’s a 2010 report here (see paage 23 onward of the pdf):
    But the study itself is cohort study of children born in 2000, and the marriage-cohabitation, parental education data is collected to reference influence on child outcomes.

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  28. Hedgehog on April 15, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    This study looks at education levels, marriages/cohabitation, but at 2004 is quite dated:

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  29. anonlds on April 15, 2013 at 9:31 AM


    I disagree with how you tie dysfunction so closely with sociability. There is some truth in what you say, but we need to be careful labeling introverts as dysfunctional. I don’t think that is healthy. Their are lots of perfectly healthy introverted people who most wouldn’t label as social. We all have different social needs, some only need 1 or two close relationships, others need much more. All need to feel apart of something greater than themselves.

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  30. Howard on April 15, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    You make a good point, and I didn’t mean to single out introverts but I suspect that you would agree being too introverted to marry is unhealthy. Certainly there are healthy introverts and unhealthy extroverts, narcissists for instance. But it has been my observation that an interesting thing happens when you put introverts through regressive psychotherapy or focus on shame, intimacy or their perceived lovability using other types psychotherapy they tend to move towards much more sociability! I found this with myself as well.

    I can approach this from a completely different perspective and arrive in the same place. There is oneness with God and others or there is separateness. Oneness is intimacy, it is merging together. You can’t get any closer. So where does that spiritually place introversion?

    As researcher story teller Berne’ Brown says: Connection is why we are here, shame unravels connection.

    The power of vulnerability (21 minutes):

    Listening to shame (20 minutes):

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  31. FireTag on April 15, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Howard and Hedgehog:

    Wow! That was research beyond the call of duty. I’ll try to read these links later today (although I can’t promise I’ll be able to load long videos back here in the Jurassic era of computing where I live. :D )


    I used the term “Un-marriageable” rather than “defective”. Unemployment is certainly a major factor in this, and I don’t know how much drugs and prostitution are cause or addictive effects. There is certainly a self-destructive feedback loop involved, and “shame destroying connection” is a good expression for this. That isn’t even limited to males.

    I think your point about the need for economic growth is well taken.


    There is a necessity for variation in introversion/extroversion scales as in all aspects of human personality. Theologically, I think God is interested in promoting both oneness AND separateness.

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  32. Howard on April 15, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    So if you watched Berne’ Brown and followed her research it’s easy to come to the conclusion that we need to unshame and unblock shame and bring it out of the closet because it stands between people and a meaningful connection with others. People tend to conflate shame and guilt but Berne’ gives us a useful definition: Guilt is I *made* a mistake! Shame is i am a mistake! There is a huge difference between the two. So society can unshame shame by unshaming people and embracing everyone as Christ might while still setting chaste standards and setting marriage standards and using guilt (not shame) as a motivator to achieve them in a love the sinner disagree with the sin kind of approach. Advertizing works or businesses wouldn’t spend their money there. How about showing blacks, Hispanics and poor whites in Public Service “I am happily married” videos similar to the I am Mormon campaign? Can’t you imagine young girls wanting the wedding and the happy marriage they see on the video for themselves? Teach theses girls not to just give “it” away but to encourage their boyfriends to want what they want. In a permissive society you will have to do a more creative sales job than the church does because it can’t be enforced with the threat of expulsion and shame.

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  33. FireTag on April 15, 2013 at 6:28 PM


    The process I’ve heard goes: starts with fear, progresses to guilt, then to shame, then to constructing a lie to hide the shame, then to defending the lie at all costs, then coming to love the lie more than reality. Hence to outer darkness.

    Your marketing campaign sounds interesting. I think it was New York a few weeks ago that had an ad campaign on the buses and/or subways that used young children to represent babies born out of wedlock to teen mothers. The basic theme was something along the lines of “Mom, what were you thinking?” and pointing out was was likely to those kids.

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  34. Howard on April 15, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    I’m not sure what you’re portraying in your from fear to outer darkness progression. But when young children perceive they are being shamed and/or feel unworthy and/or unlovable it is very hurtful to them and they are unable to defend themselves to the parent they are so dependent on, so they push it down into their subconscious and lay a psychological block over it as a defense so those painful concepts become somewhat opaque to their conscious mind. But some of this subconscious behavior bleeds into their conscious life as shyness, embarrassment and low self esteem. If they are aware of it they try to cover it or avoid social situations where it may be seen. In short they do not want the real them to be seen by others because they secretly feel unworthy. It is this early childhood block that must be removed by therapeutically introducing the early painful experience to the conscious mind freeing the person to make a new now autonomous decision about how they want to engage life. It is very similar to going through complete repentance.

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  35. FireTag on April 16, 2013 at 3:00 PM


    I think I was on board with you on this, but I was just taking it into more steps, including some that involve those who would (eventually) knowingly reject complete repentance.

    Starts with fear: the child is completely dependent on the care and approval of adults, and will show distress in the absence of mom or dad.

    Processes to guilt: Observes that approval is withdrawn when they make mistakes, and little kids can’t help making mistakes, so they adopt emotional anxiety over their mistakes in the form of guilt.

    If approval is still withheld despite guilt, and mistakes magnified by parental action into the “you ARE a mistake” mode, then they are in the shame mode.

    The healing process you describe ought to be what happens, but most people don’t get that, so one solution is to construct a block, as you put it, or a “lie” as I put it, that provides an alternative identity to let themselves see themselves as worthy of esteem throughout childhood and into adult life.

    Some people proceed further, being willing to hurt other people in order to defend their own position (e.g., shaming their own children for mistakes that may really be the parents’) I call that “defending the lie”.

    An even further stage occurs when there is an emotional high that comes from seeing others hurt. Really bad people can become addicted to that high; it doesn’t matter whether we call that phenomenon evil or a particular form of mental illness. Changing the name doesn’t make it any more easily treatable.

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  36. FireTag on April 16, 2013 at 3:30 PM


    The most fascinating thing I found in the links you provided was that London was the one place in England and Wales where cohabitation rates stayed basically the same, and were lower than elsewhere. Could this be because of the higher influx of non-British people from less-secular parts of the Commonwealth and the Middle East into the greater London area?

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  37. Howard on April 16, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I think our models are fairly parallel.

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  38. Hedgehog on April 17, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Also there is a tendancy for families to move out of London, as it is such an expensive place to live, and the schools are often not so great. London has a higher incidence of single people sharing flats and houses too.

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  39. FireTag on April 17, 2013 at 10:57 AM


    Thanks. That would make sense.

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