More on marriage

An op-ed in the NY Times criticizes the Times’s piece on marriage that ran a few days ago. They say that, contrary to the dire note struck by that article, in reality marriages are more stable, percentagewise, than any time since 1979. (But fewer people get married, which they also note.)

I had to pause when reading this paragraph, though:

Why has the great divorce myth persisted so powerfully? Reporting on our families is a lot like reporting on the economy: statistical tales of woe provide the foundation for reform proposals. The only difference is that conservatives use these data to make the case for greater government intervention in the marriage market, while liberals use them to promote deregulation of marriage.

This seems to reverse the conventional wisdom about conservatives and liberals: namely, that conservatives favor less “government intervention”, and liberals more.

“Deregulation” in the manner meant by the op-ed writers must mean increased government involvement in the lives of many people “unmarried” in the traditional sense, since the whole push is for the state to recognize and reward their various nontraditional household arrangements. And though conservatives here are depicted as wanting “government intervention” in marriage, it seems to me that as good a case (if not better) can be made that they want to limit government intervention: if the definition of marriage is thrown wide open, all manner of legal tangles are born.

I can also see, though, how the original paragraph might make sense: conservatives want the government to intrude into our bedrooms, whereas liberals want it to leave us alone, to do as we see fit. I don’t favor that characterization of the issue, but that seems to be the essence of it.

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