Marriage and Family Reform

Marriage-and-Family
Reform
for the Frugal Centuries

Working paper” {c} Davd , 2011

1.The Predicament:

With the decline of the United States economy and several European economies, the notion that nation-states and populations can have universal affluence is showing its failure clearly. Through much of the second half of the 20th Century, universal affluence was a goal that retreated when pursued, like a carrot dangled in front of a jackass to keep him pulling the wagon. Today its image is rapidly transforming into the more evident form of wishful thinking.

Children often wish they could fly, could become invisible—even make mud pies that are edible, or change iced tea into beer and apple juice into Pinot Chardonnay, and drink like grown-ups. As they grow up, they come to realize that such magical thinking is reliable only as to its falsity—they can rely on the magic not happening.

The double recession of 2008 and 2011, coming as it does after the decades-long decline of the lifelong job and along-with “Peak Oil”, “Global Warming”, and food shortages; could wisely be read as a warning that endless economic growth is no more feasible than turning oneself invisible or turning iced tea into beer—it has just taken rather longer to show its falsity clearly. By plundering the forests and the seas—and the stored energy of ancient sunlight in the form of petroleum and coal—European and then North American, Australian, Chinese and Japanese civilizations have managed to “grow economically” for more than two centuries1.


Technological inventions have helped the plundering to produce a dazzling array of consumer goods and productive machinery—but they have not caused the Earth to grow larger, nor have they renewed “nonrenewable resources”. In many ways they have damaged the renewability of forests, fisheries, and even farmland (Catton, 1980, Komarov, 1980; Martin, 1985, Pimentel et al, 1976).

It was the “Industrial Revolution” combination of inventions and plundering, that made possible large suburbs full of medium-sized houses most of which contained very small families. Those suburban conditions, and very similar conditions in “single-family detached housing neighbourhoods” inside city boundaries, are a major cause, perhaps the largest single cause, of “the high cost of childrearing”. They catered to the typical woman’s desires for a home of her own with her own babies to raise in it (cf. Morgan, 1973). Most women would rather have their own homes, than live in a home whose female-head is someone else. Most women adore babies—more than they adore us men (Morgan, 1973)—and want to have babies of their own.

In 1945-75, that’s just what Euro-American, European (and indigenous American) women did: They set up housekeeping and had babies. Japanese women did so to a lesser extent, but most of them, too, married and had at least one child. For-profit commerce exploited their natural desires and sold them things they needed and then, to keep the sales and the profits high, sold them things they didn’t need. Housewives became the chief shoppers and television programming catered to them—because they were the ones who spent the most money. (“The Jackass Formula”, in which husbands were portrayed as bumbling fools and wives as smarter and wiser, became common—and the obvious reason why television programming followed it, was that the advertisers wanted to please
the main household spenders—who were women.)

About the same time as the purchasing power of skilled working-class jobs began to decline and sexual restraint “norms” began to weaken, some articulate women who had been involved in radical activism began applying Marxist “class analysis” to gender relations. Few, probably, had read Djilas (1955) who exposed the realities of Soviet-bloc bureaucracy and its tendency to become just another ruling class. Some may have read “The Moynihan report” (Anonymous, 196x) which deplored the matriarchal tendencies that were more common in Afro-American than in other families. At least, “the Second Wave of Feminism”, which those women began, made non-Afro-American families much more matriarchal than they had been before (cf. Martin, 2011).

The chief mechanism was “family law reforms” which could more accurately have been named “Family Dissolution
[Divorce-Facilitation] Laws”. They varied somewhat from state to state and province to province; but in general, they

  • ended legal support of lifetime marriage promises,
  • condoned adultery,

  • encouraged divorce for selfish reasons,

  • and “blessed” [if secular blessing is not an oxymoron] the fatherless household;

  • while continuing to order sires to pay child-support as if they were fathers2.

(There are even dozens of documented cases of men being ordered to pay child-support after demonstrating that they were not the sire. These have been reported often enough on men’s websites that i expect readers here to consider the point common-knowledge.)

Those legal changes gave selfish women an incentive to marry as “gold-diggers”, and to lie about adultery, contraception, paternity, and violence. The accompanying ideology was a subtly contradictory combination of pseudo-chivalry, downplaying of female violence and the good effects of fathers, and exaggeration of male violence. For a hopeful recent example, the current debate in the US over whether to renew the “Violence Against Women Act” is finally airing in public, some of the many research studies indicating that women are at least as prone to domestic violence as are men (Picket, 2011, see also Fiebert, 2011). At last, a generation or longer of official falsehood may be ending.

As social policy, the legal changes were a disaster. The best impulses and potentials of women were given no new encouragement, the worst were given great incentive.

Mid-20th-Century American and European men, working hard to please their wives and provide for the children those wives wanted at least as much as they did, made marriage and the nuclear-family home commoner than it had been before in history—and then, along with many of our sons, suffered immensely for our generosity. By the end of the 20th Century, men were understandably becoming disillusioned with marriage. Today there are many more unmarried men and many fewer married men per thousand, than in 1950-1975—and especially so among the younger men of childrearing age—which demonstrates that the Jackass Formula “got it wrong”. Men are not so stupid after all.

The transformation of marriage from the good fortune of a minority of women—of less than two-thirds of all women at most—to the normal adult condition of most women and most men—did not work out well3.

The transformation of motherhood from a 30-40 year career in a large-family setting to a 10-20 year hobby4  subsidized first by commuting husbands and recently by absent sires and public “welfare”, has not benefited children [nor men]; and if it has benefited women, they are not showing magnanimity, nor even how happy they are.

It has definitely cost more than the nation-states where it has occurred are willing to pay.

The loud and public wrangling over the national debts and deficits of Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United States should teach us at least two important facts:

  • Socioeconomic efficiency is important, and

  • Most governments, arguably all, cannot afford to give the public everything it wants5.

The latter-20th-Century “tryouts” first of suburban nuclear families and then of immense numbers of fatherless households, were immensely expensive. They did no demonstrable net good for children and by some studies they did significant average harm. They caused immense misery and de-motivation among men of average to high intelligence and vigour—the kind of men whose skilled labour built industrial civilization. In the interest of socioeconomic efficiency and also in the interest of societal well-being, marriage reform is urgently needed.

Going back to the marriage rules of the 1950s” would be an improvement; but we can do better than that. The 1950s were the peak years of the Baby Boom—based on abundant well-paid jobs and the pent-up desire of women who had remained unmarried or childless during the war and the Great Depression, to have their babies. The suburban house-building boom was “in full swing” in North America and beginning in Europe…. and the worldwide resource endowment was far larger than it is today, while the world’s human population was far smaller. (Arguably, the world was already overpopulated by 1950, relative to sustainable rates of energy production [cf. Ehrlich, 1968; Catton, 1980]; today, there are few if any sane and educated people who affirm that the world’s population can double again and be decently provided with the necessities of life.)

We need a more frugal and a more diverse set of marriage and family rules than those of the 1950s, to be even close to optimal. The need for frugality derives from ecological scarcity. The need for diversity derives from scarcity to some extent, and from the “marriage-strike” (which i doubt even non-Lesbian Feminists would call a success) to a significant extent also.

Scarcity “demands” efficiency, and the socially most efficient households for childrearing are not nuclear families with one to three children, nor even less single-parent households, but large family households with more than two adults and many children. The “marriage-strike” means that only a minority of young men are both capable of marriage and childrearing, and willing to undertake it. Fortunately, they will be enough to rear the next generation—given those socially efficient, large households.

The diversity derives from there being only a minority of young men and young women becoming parents: Their parenthood calls for lifelong marriage, which many other young adults will not and perhaps cannot accept (as Zelinsky [2006] observed). To adapt a phrase that has become an ironic cliché, one size of marriage no longer fits all; perhaps no one size even fits a majority. If government serves the public interest, then in the area of marriage, government must somehow allow for, and help to enforce, multiple forms6. The Government need not specify those forms; and Crane (2006) and Zelinsky (2006) argue that Government should not; but Government must respect them, to the minimum extent of enforcing the promises made, when a marriage “winds up in court”.

More diverse, more frugal rules will result in men (and women) having more genuine choices than they had in 1950. If it turns out that men make better use of the greater range of choice, that could well be because Morgan (1973) was right in writing that most women’s greatest desire is for babies. Success in reducing infant, child, and maternal mortality has made that strong reproductive urge into a social problem; and the solution turns out to be reducing the number of mothers, rather than the number of children per mother.

 

2. The Old Days and the Old Homestead:

Let’s begin our journey to marriage reform by visiting the stereotypical family home of the years when more people farmed than lived in cities7. It was a big house, even though children often shared bedrooms and many bedrooms were smaller than in 1955 middle-class suburbia. Not only did it contain a married couple and more than three children, it also contained one or more parents and probably one or more unmarried siblings of the current childrearing couple. It often contained unmarried siblings of the grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents and great-great aunts and uncles. As a rough but credible estimate, it held between 10 and 25 people of all ages from infancy to late old age8.

Nearly all, perhaps all of these people worked at home. A rural family almost certainly farmed between 40 and 400 acres of land, and managed a “woodlot” that large or larger (e.g. Angus, 2000). The men of the family may also have hunted and fished for food and perhaps fished and trapped for income9; and one or more of them may have “plied a trade” such as blacksmithing, butchering, carpentry, leathermaking, sawmilling, or wagon building. Women usually baked, cooked, did laundry, spun yarn from wool and perhaps flax, and tended milk animals—as well as their distinctive work of infant care, since men do not produce milk.  Men, women, or both gardened, wove, and made clothing. (Electricians and welders ply trades of more recent times.)

We still see such phrases and words as “bachelor uncle”, “maiden aunt”, and “spinster”, as well as “single[s]”; and in Finnish vanha poika [“old boy”] still means an unmarried man over the age of 25-30. These unmarried kinfolk, some unmarried by choice and others unmarried because never chosen, were important and often essential contributors to the work of the farmstead. They contributed to field work, barn work, firewood, child care, cleaning, cooking—all the shared chores—with the usual male-female divisions of labour observed generally rather than rigidly. As they grew old and enfeebled, they took up work that was less physically demanding, such as knitting, mending clothing, tool sharpening and whittling. They usually died at home not only because the family could ill afford commercial “care”, but also because the family did not need to afford it: There was always someone home to look after the needs of the most feeble, and there was always useful work to be done—from sock darning to story telling—even by the half-blind and the crippled.

Children benefited from being reared in large families. They had more adults to teach them, with more time and more knowledge than two parents could have had—just as two parents inevitably have more than only one. They had siblings to socialize with, and all but the eldest had older siblings to teach them many of the routine facts and techniques of childhood. This meant both more attention for the children, and less attention demanded of the parents.

Children share many of the resources they use in the process of growing up; and the more children share a resource, the more benefit it provides.  Children’s bicycles, books, clothing and shoes, garden tools, skates, skis and toys—to name a few of many categories—have age-size sequences to them. They are often outgrown rather than worn out—clothing and shoes to a lesser degree, books and skis to a greater degree—and can be used by several children in sequence.  This means that a six-child family spending $2000 per child for such equipment provides each child with more, not less, than a one-child family spending $4000 per child or a two-child family spending $3000 per child—perhaps more even than a two-child family spending $4000 per child.

There are many good things that money cannot buy and many more that money need not buy. A grandfather or bachelor uncle can whittle a top for one child or for eleven to spin—depending how many children come along to play with it in their turns. If he whittles two tops for eleven children, that may be a richer endowment for each of  them than one top for two children is for each of them—and the same principle applies if he builds rowboats with their help, as my grandfather built an 8-foot sailing punt with me. Five children listening to a grandparent or uncle telling stories may each get more out of the experience than one child would listening alone.

Given equally decent people, a large family is better for the children—and the adults—than a small one; and while i can cite no definitive research, i am convinced that a large family encourages decency more than it undermines it (while easy divorce undermines far more than encourages it.)

Readers who are familiar with animal ecology will probably recognize the principle that animals of territorial species are seldom ill-fed, while animals of non-territorial species often suffer starvation.  The “suicidal” behaviour of arctic and sub-arctic lemmings, for instance, seems on recent study to be a desperate search for food after a population has grown larger than their range can support, degraded the range, and run out of forage (Catton, 1980: 255-7). The territoriality of many bird species and of many predators such as wolves, limits their breeding rate and thus protects them from destroying their food supply.

The stereotypical Old Homestead did much the same thing via a pattern anthropologists call the stem family. Its central rule was that, in each generation, one child may marry and rear children. Many of those bachelor uncles and maiden aunts would gladly have married and could have found partners—but not partners with a territory. The population of the household might rise into the twenties, even exceed thirty occasionally, but the one-breeding-couple-per-generation rule prevented exponential population growth. Ambitious young non-inheritors of permission to breed, could Go West to find land and claim themselves a territory, and many did—that is the main way the “American West” was settled. (In Canada, many of the Prairie settlers came from eastern provinces, but a larger proportion than in the USA came as immigrants from Europe and occasionally from Asia and the US.)

Some ambitious young non-inheritors (and very plausibly, some lazy ones) migrated to the cities. This migration gradually came to outnumber the “Go West” migration—the West had a large area of land to be settled, but not an infinite area, while the impossibility of enlarging cities without limit has only become obvious quite recently. Most people who “went West”, especially as married or engaged couples, found territories. Before World Wat II, many, perhaps a majority who went to cities, did not.

If the stereotypical home of frontier times was rural (as was the majority of the population in those times) there were large households in cities as well. A significant proportion of those large city households were boarding-houses. Readers older than 50 may recall the famous cartoon “Our Boarding House” featuring Major Hoople and his wife and commanding officer Martha. It was perhaps the classic “henpecked-husband” cartoon of the mid-20th Century; and it displayed the fact that most such boarding-houses were run by women—because housework and cooking were usually [though not necessarily] women’s work. Many of the women who ran them were widows, spinsters, teams of mother and daughter or of spinster sisters. Keeping a boarding-house was an honourable way for a woman on her own to make a good living.

Equally important, as recently as the first four decades of the 20th Century, boarding-houses were the homes of a large fraction of the urban population, a phenomenon that the cartoon outlasted10.  Many city jobs did not pay well enough to support a family, before World War II; and the men and women who had these lower-income jobs lived decently, comfortably, but unmarried, in boarding-houses. For approximately the cost of renting an apartment of their own, these lower-income workers could rent a bedroom, shared use of a sitting room—and meals. Boarding-houses are socially efficient—and by other names, they persist today.

Over half the educated men in Canada and the USA today, have lived in boarding-houses—usually under the names “dormitory” and “fraternity house”. Some have rented large houses near the campus with 5-10 others, shared the chores, and in effect, operated the co-operative equivalent of boarding-houses.

In the 20th Century, most young men and many young women who lived in boarding-house circumstances attending university, gained well-paid jobs on graduation, married, and established homes—until, toward the end of the century, Feminist lobbying had transformed marriage (and the early stages of ecological exhaustion of resources had begun to degrade real wages) so greatly that many young men and more than a few young women rejected marriage. 

There are two obvious “ways for such young people to go”, based on this brief historical survey: Back to the farm, or back to the boarding-house. There will be other possibilities (but they will probably provide for rather fewer people than farming {including forestry} and the efficiency of commercial or co-operative boarding-house living.) For instance, co-operative enterprises can often develop a viable, sustainable “territory” for a household to subsist and rear children. In a fishing village, there could be a cannery and smokehouse; in a forested village, a furniture shop and a “pellet mill” processing low-quality conifer wood into pellet-stove fuel; in a grain-farming village, a flour mill and brewery.

Lifetime marriage is “the time-tested right way” for the people who gain such territories. (It can be argued in principle that other forms of marriage might be satisfactory; and if the interest and the wealth to “test-pilot” them combine in the same person or group, a small scale trial might be worth making.) After the disaster of “family law reforms” that might more accurately have been called “… deforms”, prudence dictates lifelong marriage for the vast majority of childrearing couples in the present and next generations.

The who do not have the means to rear “up to a dozen children, with the possibility of even more”; are surplus population ecologically—in particular, surplus to the number who should reproduce—as their like were before 1945. The warnings of Catton (e.g. 1980), Ehrlich (1968), Meadows et al (1972), and and Ehrlich et al (1973) can no longer be ignored. If boarding-house life can give the urban surplus population a better life than the misery of the early Industrial Revolution’s cities, it will have succeeded. To return to the Major-and-Martha-Hoople cartoon, the boarders—usually we saw Twiggs and Shorty—were rather content, one could even say happy men. No wild parties that we ever saw; no [or perhaps few] sexual adventures—but contentment, and relative to lemmings running desperately after non-existent food, happiness11.

Many childless adults, upon a successful marriage reform, will remain in the [mostly rural] Stem Families where they were born. An unknown number will marry but not have children. Lifelong marriage, once it is again supported by law, is likely to prove increasingly attractive even to the childless as SDT rates rise—and as more former “swingers” reach old age and the comparison between old marrieds, old unmarrried members of Stem Families, and old ex-swingers becomes more visible.

 

3. Some Features of a Frugal Marriage Reform:

The first major implication of our ecological and historico-political predicament, with its demands for efficiency, for acceptance of diversity, and for support of lifelong marriage, is fewer childbearing couples rearing more children per couple.  In the stereotypical Old Homestead, there was one childbearing couple at any given time—no more. (There might be intervals of a few years between the end of a mother’s childbearing years and the first baby born to her daughter or daughter-in-law.) There might be one to several women in that childbearing mother’s same generation, who were spinsters [or rarely, widows] and not married. There might be one to several daughters of that household who had moved to town and not married, and—since the Old Homestead existed in a time of economic growth—there might be one to several daughters of that household who had gone to town and married a man capable of supporting a family, or who had gone West and secured territories of their own. One or two daughters might have become nuns [or a Protestant equivalent].

Parallel to those daughters, since boys and girls were born in roughly equal numbers, there were sons who had gone West and secured territories of their own, sons who had moved to town and not married (like Twiggs and Shorty), and sons who had gone to town, become capable of supporting a family, and married. There might be sons who had gone to sea or into the Army, which in those days girls didn’t do, or who had joined the clergy or the circus, which girls did much less often.  (Joining the Orthodox or Protestant clergy usually but not always entailed gaining a breeding territory in the form of a [parsonage or “manse”], which territory could be held for decades but not left as an inheritance.) And a few sons became monks, as a few daughters became nuns.

The purpose of this somewhat vague-and-general summary, is to emphasize that between the start of the Industrial Revolution and World War II, many children grew up to be decent and contributing adults but not to be able to rear children of their own. The years between World War II and the destructive “family law reforms” of 1975-2000, have separated us from the reality of pre-Industrial and early Industrial demography.12  They have allowed women whose minds, as the Buddha is quoted to have said, “always want more”, to believe that any decent healthy woman should be allowed and even subsidized to enjoy motherhood.

History has a different lesson to teach us; and ecology supports history.  Socially-efficient, “stem” families are large—there are 4-20 children of one mother and one father, plus the father, mother, and other adults—and large families provide children with more resources both material and human, for the same social effort. The efficient large family size is also the size that is best for the children—which may have great political as well as moral importance given the widespread use of “the best interests of the children” as a slogan for awarding custody during the [divorce binge?] of the late 20th Century.

By relatively simple arithmetic, given population decline (which the Earth needs today) or even given neither growth nor decline, and low death rates (which only a masochistic or a murderous fool would oppose); more children will grow up to be non-reproducing adults than will have children of their own. This applies to both boys and girls13.  The inference is clear: Less than half of all women should become mothers. Women who do become mothers should have at least four children each.14  The one- or two-child family is neither efficient nor “better for the child”.

It may be that as few as one-fifth of women maturing between now and 2050, and fewer than that fraction in places which are badly overpopulated, should marry and reproduce. Acadian men have told me of two women in their grandparents’ generation who each bore 21 children and lived to rear them. An Anglo-Canadian master-welder some ten years younger than i, who i meet socially about once a month, was one of 14 children of the same mother and father. I’ve met two of his brothers and one of his sisters, and they’re all competent, likeable people. Hutterite mothers in the mid-20th Century averaged more than ten children apiece.

The implication that many more adults will be childless than will be parents may well turn out to be more tolerable for men than for women, especially if Morgan (1973) is as correct about women’s fascination with infants, as my own observations seem to confirm.  However, we should also keep in mind that many women enjoyed participation in the rearing of their sisters’ and other women’s children: In the traditional Stem Family, even with some adults leaving the household other than to marry, there were normally adult men and women other than father and mother, contributing to the rearing of the current generation of children.

Extended family participation in childrearing is a second major feature of the vision of marriage reform which comes from combining fewer childbearing marriages, vanishingly few “single mothers”, and the need for social and economic efficiency. It is efficient for adults who are competent, decent people but by luck or the presence of siblings even more qualified, do not find themselves blessed with a childbearing territory. It is a good life, arguably better than living in an urban boarding house.

The third major implication of our predicament, is: Marriage for life should be the only or at least, the principal15
legitimate childbearing and childrearing form of marriage
.  Children do better with two parents than with only one (e.g. Corry, 2002; Men’s Health America, n.d., Sandford and Sandford, 1986). They do better with stable family composition, such that departures occur only by death and migration and arrivals only by birth and marriage. Large families include more adults than “husband and wife” who have interests both emotional and material in stable family composition and in the tenure of the homestead.

It seems clearly to follow that Divorce must not be allowed to force the sale or abandonment of a family “breeding territory” nor the eviction of any innocent family member from it. One evident move toward accomplishing this is to revert, in the case of marriages which will be procreative, to the rule of allowing divorce only as a remedy for grievous fault. Along with this, it seems very desirable to provide legal forms and social encouragement for family and co-operative tenure in land and productive [“works”].

Lifelong marriage, extended family participation in childrearing, and “territoriality” with its implication of a minority of women [and of men] being parents, are the three key features of my vision of 21st Century, frugal, technologically advanced marriage reform—and obviously, marriage in this perspective involves more than the couple who marry. Childbearing marriage affects and thus involves the children and the extended family which has a strong interest in them, and is no longer a “just we two” phenomenon. Marriage to raise children raises issues of fitness for childbearing marriages, of supporting childbearing marriages—and of reforming the social and legal milieux available to those who are childless.

The Stem Family is one social pattern that has demonstrated its ability to support generations of children in their turns. Perhaps when it was the commonest family form, it was obvious to those involved, what qualities a childbearing wife and her husband should have. After some two generations of “marriage deform and decline”, we might be prudent to explicate them.

Those who reproduce should be those who can enter into a lifelong commitment to their children, to their co-parents—and to those other kin and neighbours who share in the children’s upbringing. In formal words, fidelity is a requisite quality all parents should have. Indications that someone is not likely capable of lifelong fidelity are indications that person is unfit for childbearing as well as for traditional marriage.

Fidelity tends to go along-with self-discipline16—and self-discipline is in itself a positive quality for parenthood.
Accidental pregnancy indicates lack of self-discipline. So in what some might think of as a paradox, unmarried pregnancy is a negative indicator of good potential for parenthood. In times that demand efficiency (and more specifically, that doubtful prospective parents not procreate), unmarried pregnancy should again be a shameful condition. This is now a matter of ecological and economic morality, and of the principle that children should have capable and motivated parents, quite apart from what religion the woman [or the sire] might profess.

The shame should not automatically entail nor even justify abortion: It is deceitful to regard a foetus as other than human by species; a foetus is obviously alive; ergo, a foetus is a human life whose value is greater than the bother-cost of carrying it to term17.  Public policy discussion should at least consider the possibility that a woman who becomes pregnant without even the expectation of marriage18  should be sterilized after the baby is born; and if she lacks family support to rear it, the baby should be “put up for adoption”, with first preference given to the sire where he has family support to rear the child, second to the mother’s family, and third to the sire’s family.

The Dowry should again be a respectable practice: When a woman marries, she receives a social license to bear children, and the support of a husband [plus perhaps several of his kin] to enable her to afford to rear them. A Dowry serves to contribute to the costs.

A woman who is guaranteed the inheritance of a farm has about the best dowry a man could ask—if he has an aptitude and a liking for farming.

Alternatives to lifelong marriage can be made available to couples, whether same-sex or heterosexual, who cannot produce or should not rear children. There may turn out to be beneficial effects if people who are not willing [or are not able] to make and keep lifelong commitments, can still have the reassurance and predictability value of a contract for a shorter time span, with more provisions for termination, or both. While i personally believe that lifelong marriage is superior to contractual cohabitation, i also perceive that in this century, many European and North American adults have shown themselves apparently incapable of lifelong marriage. Crane (2006) and Zelinsky (2006) advocate allowing churches and other non-profit organizations to write their own contractual forms for marriage. Probably Government should determine as best it can the public interest, and in the public interest
specify, generally rather than in detail, what forms of marriage it will “deem contractually valid” and enforce when they “wind up in court”.

(The fact that a large majority of those seeking divorce are women could indicate that men are more capable of lifelong commitment without legal sanctions to pressure them. However, it might also be that women have been tempted into divorce by child custody and support rules that give them favourable treatment relative to men19.)


Benefits to Men and to Society-in-General:

One feature of this “sketch” or “vision-statement” is larger household size. Its efficiency implications are not widely appreciated today, and they can be immense. While my attention above was given mostly to childrearing, brief mention was made of the ease with which a large household can care for feeble members, who especially include the very old. Conventional social planning, it seems, fails to consider the value of large households, to the extent that Governments routinely anticipate that most people will spend a significant number of months being cared for by commercial or charitable “assisted living” and “Nursing Home” facilities.

In anticipating a need for skilled immigrants, Statistics-Canada recently mentioned the aging of “Baby Boomers” (CBC News, 2011). One might ask how many of the workers the government statistics forecast will be needed, are forecast to be caring for aged “Boomers”; and how many fewer would be needed if the great majority of those “aged Boomers” could live in large households, especially co-operative boardinghouses and extended families.

If social efficiency is a need whose time is now upon us, larger households constitute a reform whose time has come.

While the interests of men may seem to stand lower in urgency than do ecological and economic influences toward marriage reform, men are both an important cause and an important beneficiary of the changes sketched here. The “marriage strike” by young men leaves many young women, some of whom are worthy potential mothers in the traditional patterns, without husbands; and this will motivate women of good character and goodwill to consider marriage reform “seriously” rather than try to perpetuate the excess advantages of the “turn of the century”. The restoration of lifelong marriage supported by the law (as contrasted with laws in Canada and the US now undermining lifelong marriage) can be expected to bring some of the best young men to again consider marriage, and thus the young women most qualified for motherhood stand to benefit by an improved “pool” of prospective husbands.

On our male side, men will have much to gain from a reduction in the proportion of women who have children and from the stigmatization of unwed pregnancy—and especially, from a greater assurance that lifelong marriage promises will be kept. When motherhood is something for the chosen minority of women rather than the right some Feminists claimed it to be [but ecologically and economically, it could not be]; men willing to invest resources and hard work in fatherhood will be more valued. It also seems likely mothers will be more grateful for, more honoured in, and more appreciative of their condition. Many will enjoy motherhood a little more, knowing that they are among a chosen and favoured minority and not just “abortion decliners”.

Men who have refused to marry on disadvantageous terms, whether their motivation was selfish or principled, have set the conditions for a marriage-and-family reform which can benefit children, good mothers—and men. The small two-parent family is not wrong in itself, but the large family is preferable; and “the marriage strike” has made its restoration as the normal setting for childrearing, somewhat easier. As for deliberate choices to have children “alone”, the false sense of entitlement that single mothers in particular have acquired is false in at least three aspects: Ecologically, economically, and sociologically. The sooner its falsity is exposed and enters the context of public policy, the sooner the present trend toward social disintegration can be slowed, stopped, and reversed.

References:

Angus, Karl, 2000. Personal interviews in which Mr. Angus, President of the Port Alberni Métis Association and a
historian of Québec as well as Prairie Métis subsistence practices, described his mother’s family’s land holdings and work .

Anonymous, 1965. The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. United States Government Printing Office. ..this
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1The disruptions between late 1929 and mid-1945 are generally treated as an aberration. Former European colonies, especially Australia, some of “Latin America”, and New Zealand, have managed fairly long runs of economic growth as well, though perhaps not “more than two centuries”; and one might question whether they are independent civilizations. Japan seems to merit mention because of its very different history and racial make-up, and its impressive performance both after being forced to admit foreigners, and again after being defeated in World War II.

It might well be argued that Canada is not a civilization on its own; and while it is mentioned above as linked to the USA, recent monarchist moves by current Prime Minister Harper would seem to hark back to and perhaps be meant to revive, a colonial subordinate relationship to Britain or England.

2A sire is a male biological progenitor. A father is a man who raises his natural child. A stepfather is a man who raises a child whose sire is someone else.

3Since history only happens once, it isn’t possible to clearly separate-out the effects of “family dissolution laws” from those of allowing more than 60% of all women to marry and bear children.

4The wide acceptance of “day care” for pre-school children is good evidence that motherhood is a hobby rather than a career. One might hire hobby work, like the firing of one’s ceramics or the services of a fishing guide. One does not hire-out a true career.

5Buddhists may think at this moment of a saying, “The mind always wants more”, which [a Buddhist friend told me] the Buddha both affirmed and denied—affirmed as to undisciplined human nature and denied for himself and his true followers.

6Whether all the forms be called “marriage” or not [and if not, which ones get to use the M-word] is important emotionally to some people; more important for family reform is what forms are enforceable at law. The disaster began, we should keep in mind, when lifelong marriage promises were no longer enforced by the
courts.

7The very mention of “frontier times” indicates that this is not a mid-European visioning process—in central and western Europe, frontier times were many, many centuries ago; while in most of North America, they were 100-300 years ago (and until more recently than that in Western Canada). Most of North America’s frontiers were settled during, not before, the Industrial Revolution. Wells (1961: 791-2) observed that had the United States not expanded during the Industrial Revolution but earlier, the country could not have achieved its large size and relative cultural homogeneity.

8“out on the frontier,” the great-grandparents and perhaps the grandparents would not be present and the house would be smaller—for a time. As the pioneers who homesteaded the land grew old and their children and grandchildren became the childbearing generation, the house was enlarged and the family’s size grew—but as long as there was land available for settlement in the area, there would be few unmarried adult siblings.

9Hunting for income was fairly common in the Prairie Provinces at the height of the Fur Trade, but seems to have been rare elsewhere. However, 20th Century game laws (and refusal to recognize Métis hunting rights) may have biased some reports on this point.

10The work-camp, which housed remote railway building and maintenance crews, loggers, miners, etc., was a rural boardinghouse but often for a larger number of men. (cf. Bradwin, 1972)

11We need not require abstinence from “sex” [coitus or alleged equivalent] of all unmarried adults. It may well be a wise social policy to require sterilization of some and encourage many others to volunteer for sterilization. This may lead to an interesting dilemma: Young adults may face a choice between being reproductively entire and abstinent, in hopes of marriage and children, or sterile and sexually active.

12 The family disruptions of World War II and the Depression years of the 1930s further separate us from times when family life was “normal”; though farm families may have been less affected. The relative self-sufficiency of farms and the recognition that farming counted as part of the “war effort” helped reduce the disruptions; but did not eliminate them.

13(with rare exceptions called polyandrous societies. I don’t foresee many men wanting to share a wife with two or more other men, so i will not discuss that rarity.)

14Most likely, there will be a minority of mothers who for one reason or another, cannot bear four or more children—but with assessment of girls’ reproductive potential at puberty, and early marriage, that minority should be quite small.

15Small-scale trials of alternative marriage [or non-marital childrearing] patterns should not be utterly ruled-out, but should be well funded and supported, and studied at least as diligengly as one would test
a new apple or wheat cultivar.

16Self-discipline is more than merely “doing what you are told”, however dutifully and reliably. Compliant primary school children are not necessarily going to become self-disciplined adults. It is the boy who sticks-to-it through a boat-building project (never a quick piece of work!) or the establishment of an orchard, and the girl who successfully trains a young horse, who are the promising future parents, more-so than the most compliant.

17One could speculate that if abortion were legally and culturally disparaged, women [and men] might be more disciplined about sex, both as to impulsive coitus and as to contraception.

18In pre-Industrial peasant cultures, sexually active betrothal was often blessed, and marriage sometimes deferred until the young woman was pregnant [and thus had demonstrated her fertility].

19 Recently, a friend told me that he had applied for “Welfare” while waiting for a job he had been promised, to start. He received money enough to eat and give a little to another friend whose spare room he was using, and thought the terms acceptable until a woman he knew, in similar plight, was given much more. He went to ask why he had received less and was told “We only do …. for women”.

It is not only in divorce court that women are privileged.

 

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About Davd

Davd Martin (Ph.D., 1966, Sociology) has been a professor, a single parent on a low income from a small commercial herb garden, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. His men’s-interest essays and blogs have appeared on “The Spearhead” “A Voice for Men”, and “False Rape Society”, as well as this site.

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