Douthat on Marriage

A helpful inquiry.
The first counterargument is about men: It concedes that there is a modest upward post-’60s trend in household income, rather than a steep decline, but it argues that focusing on the general trend ignores a collapse in earnings for low-skilled men.... As I said in the column, a modest version of this argument makes sense to me. Less-educated men haven’t seen the same gains as their female peers in recent decades, male-dominated sectors of the economy have declined relative to the female-friendly sectors, and so some lower-income men clearly do look relatively less appealing as partners, less “marriagable” in strictly economic terms than they would have in 1960.

At the same time, though, even in a world where women are earning more on their own, the strictly-economic advantages of the two-parent family and the potential costs of single parenthood are still very significant, and they get more significant, not less, as you go down the ladder of income and education.

...the issue is this: The men dragging down the overall low-skilled wage average since the ’60s are primarily recent immigrants, whose numbers have dramatically increased relative to mid-century, and whose wages are low by American standards but obviously much higher than the wages earned by their fathers and grandparents in their countries of origin.
I think that's right. Marriage is still very beneficial for those who can keep its disciplines. The working class is being damaged by both a collapse in public morality, and also by an immigration-heavy policy that makes American workers compete with immigrants who are willing to accept much less (as well as by globalization, which allows companies to hire non-American workers in the cheapest parts of the world).

Currently the politics are such that there's no possibility of controlling immigration or reducing globalization. Those who control the political class in our country are completely in favor of both of those things, as they benefit financially from them. The one thing we can really do to help the poor and working classes, then, is to encourage public morality.

That society should find ways to support the development of virtues in its citizens has been a commonplace idea since Plato. That it remains a perennial issue doesn't imply, I think, that there's no solution to it: it implies that something about human nature always requires a focus on developing virtue and avoiding vice.

How to do that, though? The working class is unlikely to take lessons from the government, because it is manifestly obvious that the government isn't concerned about their good: the policies of both political parties are dead-set on opposing the good of the working class in immigration and globalization, and dead-set on pursuing the good of their donor class instead. The Republican politician's game of pretending to oppose amnesty only makes them less credible with everyone. Similarly, the implementation of Obamacare has been a disaster for the workers of America, as we've often discussed: the only jobs available in much of the country are 24-hour-a-week part-time gigs, or temporary/seasonal labor, that avoid the law's mandates. The government has presented this as "help" for the worker, but it's clearly the opposite in effect.

You can make the argument in the hope of persuading people, but the working class is less likely to read political blogs (or the New York Times, for that matter). Churches are a good option in some places, less in others. In any case, they need more than persuasion: virtue development is hard. In many cases a young, poorer, married couple lacks models for success -- their parents may well have been divorced -- and therefore doesn't know what skills they need or how to develop them. We don't teach them in schools, instead handing them condoms and telling them to be 'safe' while working it out for themselves.


Texan99 said...

"The working class is unlikely to take lessons from the government, because it is manifestly obvious that the government isn't concerned about their good"--If only all classes would absorb that truth.

douglas said...

Clearly you are correct, and it's fairly obvious that the left has done all it can to tear down our common institutions of ethical standards (anti-religion, 'diversity' instead of unity, promotion of 'non-judementalism', etc.). I'd hope for help from the churches for the poor, but when is the last time you heard a black preacher publicly speaking to the necessity for moral behavior and Godliness- or do you hear them speaking to 'community' issues and victimization instead?

I think this also speaks to your issues with capitalism- I see economies as means not ends- and therefore, what those means are deemed to be used for is of central importance. A country living with a common Judeo-Christian ethic has restraints and guidance built into it's use of capitalism as a system that prevent or at least mitigate the worst of your fears. A society un-moored from that is free to accommodate the worst inclinations of human nature, and will. So, in short, capitalism isn't the problem, Grim.

I suppose that also, those people who said 'Rock and Roll is the Devil's music' were probably more correct than they knew. It lead the switch in control of the popular culture from adults to teens (and now the extended 'teen' twenty-somthings), and that in turn has lead to a culture that values more the self-satisfaction so natural to teens, and de-values the belief in the laws of God, hard work and sacrifice adults used to value.

Grim said...

Sure, Douglas, capitalism is not very problematic at all in a fully Christian society that lives according to its values.

On the other hand, government might not be a problem in such a society either. Loyalty is a two-way street. The government certainly has no problem demanding obedience -- in the form of laws, taxes, and "mandates" of variou kinds -- which it expects the worker to loyally obey. That it shows them no loyalty in return is a severe problem from my perspective.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Actually, small-church black pastors talk about personal moral decisions a lot. We don't get to hear that so much, as the white media doesn't elevate them and quote them.

We stole jobs from black fellow-citizens (and some working-class whites) by refusing to shut down illegal immigration. And we called that moral and generous.

E Hines said...

We also price fellow black citizens out of the labor market with our oh-so-necessary and good minimum wage laws.

Which were designed to do exactly that by FDR and his minions in order to keep those black fellows down south and not migrating north to undercut union wages.

Eric Hines

douglas said...

"Sure, Douglas, capitalism is not very problematic at all in a fully Christian society that lives according to its values."

Now, while you did couch that statement in the absolute ideal of "a fully Christian society that lives according to it's values", I take that as a pretty big concession from you, Grim, given your stance on several economic issues from a moral perspective- it seems you agree then that those problems aren't economic really, but moral, and so addressing them by passing laws designed to make the economic system work better is at best Band-aids on a hemorrhage...

I think even a mostly Christian society that at least makes an honest effort to live according to it's values would be good enough. Perfection is for another place.

Texan99 said...

An interesting question is whether capitalism or other systems do a better job of taking into account the evident reality that people will not, on average, live up to Christian values.

Grim said...

...and so addressing them by passing laws designed to make the economic system work better is at best Band-aids on a hemorrhage...

I agree, and think I have said many times, that economics is properly subordinate to morality. There are two mistakes people on our side of the political divide tend to make about this:

1) Thinking that economics isn't really subordinate to morality, but rather that economics are something like a force of nature that human beings shouldn't meddle with.

2) Thinking that morality is an individual decision in which others should not interfere, such that we shouldn't pass laws or use government to try to pursue public morality.

Out of the first position you get shoulder-shrugging about massive unemployment among fellow citizens and/or sweeping cultural changes prompted by mass immigration while we chase cheap labor.

Out of the second, we get the idea that, because we respect a man's right to choose his own church or faith, we ought also to respect every other moral choice he makes. Many, though, do not choose to join this church or that faith: they choose to privilege getting rich over worrying about what is right or moral at all. The law is a proper tool for controlling such men.