June 14, 2014 §
I’m presently involved in a discussion at donalgraeme about the risks of modern marriage.
One aspect of the discussion addresses the naive libertarian hope that it is possible for the State to get out of the marriage business – to be metaphysically neutral on marriage contracts – which we’ve discussed here before. Short version: it isn’t a coherent possibility, and many people only cling to it because the full reality of the situation is so stark.
The other aspect of the discussion involves assessing the risks of marriage in the modern world.
We can classify risk factors in getting married into general risks and particular risks. The general risks are risks associated with getting married at all. The particular risks are the risks associated with marrying that person in particular.
I would contend that, even in the context of legal “Marriage 2.0″ or whatever, the particular risks are dominant by orders of magnitude. Even legitimate marriage in more traditional societies carried tremendous particular risk. You might be less likely to go to jail, but you are just as likely to see jail as a pleasant alternative to your home life if you’ve made a bad choice of mate.
I’ve argued as a business executive that by the time you have to unholster the gun of formal authority you have already lost, and are just trying to limit the damage. The same thing applies to marriage, and anyone considering marriage needs to keep their eye on the real risks – the particular risks.
Now the problem is that the current social and legal environment produces people who are not suitable for marriage; and it empowers their unsuitability via structures like the threatpoint. So it is easier than ever to make a poor choice, and the real world options for many become remaining alone or marrying someone unsuitable. Many people who worry about the general risks are probably themselves unsuitable for marriage. Warning them about the tiny-in-comparison general risks for those rare situations when people call the cops or make a court filing is all well and good. But it shouldn’t distract a man or woman from the source of almost all of the risks in marriage, which arise from themselves and the spouse they choose.
Flying airplanes is inherently risky, but it is proven that good training and prudent choices can reduce the risk by orders of magnitude. Almost all of the practical risk in flying is between the ears of the pilot. And almost all of the practical risk in marriage is between the ears of the spouses.