Guest Article — Men are “going Galt”. Marriage is dying. Will society survive?

By the Editor of the Fabius Maximus website

Summary: Gender roles are changing at a rate not seen since the invention of agriculture. Marriage, the institution most affected, must also change or wither away. Here are reports with facts about marriage today and speculation about their meaning. All we know is that the future of marriage will be different than what we think of as “traditional” marriage.

ContentsDeath of Marriage

  1. Marriage: an institution in flux.
  2. The facts about marriage.
  3. One theory about the cause: men are “going Galt”.
  4. Will it be the end of civilization?
  5. Clear thinking about the problem.
  6. The 1st shot in next phase of the gender revolution.
  7. Conclusions.
  8. For More Information.

(1)  Marriage: an institution in flux

Marriage Matters: Perspectives on the Private and Public Importance of Marriage (2012).

Marriage has been an institution in flux for centuries, but the rate of change accelerated after California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the revolutionary Family Law Act of 1969, retroactively abolishing the “traditional” binding contract of marriage and replacing it with no-fault divorce. This created our present system of serial monogamy (a series of monogamous pairings with the pretense of being for life). The feminist revolutions which followed forced further changes in marriage. Since then we’ve slid along the slippery slope, and still cannot see what lies at the end.

Let’s start this examination at an interview with Janice Shaw Crouse. She gives a status report on marriage today: “Bachelor Nation: 70% of Men Aged 20-34 Are Not Married“…

“Far too many young men have failed to make a normal progression into adult roles of responsibility and self-sufficiency, roles generally associated with marriage and fatherhood” … The high percentage of bachelors means bleak prospects for millions of young women who dream about a wedding day that may never come. “It’s very, very depressing … They’re not understanding how important it is for the culture, for society, for the strength of the nation to have strong families.”

Crouse sees the present but only in terms of yesterday’s norms. Today many young men reject the “normal progression into adult roles”. Many young women no longer “dream about a wedding day”, or are unwilling to make the compromises with a man to make that happen. As for the effect on society, it is just another of great experiments that we’re conducting — with our society as the lab rat.

Janice Shaw Crouse is a senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute at Concerned Women for America. She is the author of Marriage Matters: Perspectives on the Private and Public Importance of Marriage (2012),  Children at Risk: The Precarious State of Children’s Well-Being in America and The Strength of a Godly Woman: Finding Your Unique Place in God’s Plan.

(2)  The facts about marriage

For more about the facts Crouse describes, see the Pew Research report “Record Share of Americans Have Never Married As Values, Economics and Gender Patterns Change” (September 2014). It’s weak about the causes. For example, they don’t mention that increasing rates of obesity take many young people off the “market” for marriage, that the increased availability of sex outside marriage reduces men’s incentives to marry, or the increased “competition” of games and porn as alternatives to women.

Pew’s research shows that men’s weakening economic status vs. women renders many of them unmarriageable. The widening education gap guarantees that the economic gap will continue to widen. We already can see the effects rippling across society as women are moving on top of men in America.

But although the role of each of these factors remains obscure, the results are obvious and even predictable.

(a) More young people remain unmarried

PEW poll of the never married, September 2014PEW poll of the never married, September 2014

(b) More young people will never marry: a 5x increase between 1960 and 2030

PEW poll of the never married, September 2014

(3) One theory about the cause: men are “going Galt”

Men on Strike

In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged the wealthy “go Galt” and stepping away from the rat race to let the rest of society fend for itself. But now, in one of the most unanticipated turns of history, it appears that young men are doing so, preferring the easy enjoyments of porn and computer games instead of pursuit of career advancement and women.

Hundreds of websites for men espouse these new values. It’s described by psychologist Helen Smith in Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters (2013).

American society has become anti-male. Men are sensing the backlash and are consciously and unconsciously going “on strike.” They are dropping out of college, leaving the workforce and avoiding marriage and fatherhood at alarming rates. The trend is so pronounced that a number of books have been written about this “man-child” phenomenon, concluding that men have taken a vacation from responsibility simply because they can. But why should men participate in a system that seems to be increasingly stacked against them?

As Men on Strike demonstrates, men aren’t dropping out because they are stuck in arrested development. They are instead acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers. In addition, men are going on strike, either consciously or unconsciously, because they do not want to be injured by the myriad of laws, attitudes and hostility against them for the crime of happening to be male in the twenty-first century. Men are starting to fight back against the backlash. Men on Strike explains their battle cry.

For a more explicit version of this thinking see “Why men won’t marry you” by Suzanne Venker at Fox News and “Why You’re Not Married” by Tracy McMillan at the Huffington Post.

(4)  Will it be the end of civilization?Men and Marriage

Left and Right offer us competing visions of a post-marriage (traditional) society. The Left hopes for a more egalitarian society, with government assistance substituting for the family (as is happening in Scandinavia).

The Right fears that continued decay in the current family structure means the decay of civilization — as George Gilder explains in Sexual Suicide (1973). These trends continued for another decade without an apocalypse, so he reissued the book in 1986 as Men and Marriage. It’s time for a new edition! But we should not ignore Gilder’s warnings. Perhaps he was just early, not wrong.

Drug Addiction, lack of education, welfare, children in poverty, violence, unemployment, single-parent homes-these critical problems facing our country today. Many ideas have been presented regarding the cause of these problems, but only George Gilder speaks directly and with authority about their one undeniable source: the disintegration of the American family.

Men and Marriage examines the loss of the family and the well-defined sex roles it used to offer and how this loss has changed the focus of our society. Poverty, for instance, comes from the destruction of the family when single parents are abandoned by their lovers or older women are suddenly divorced because society approves of the husband’s new, younger girlfriend.

Gilder claims that men will only own up to their paternal obligations when the women lead them to do so and that this civilizing influence, balanced with, proper economic support, is the most important part of maintaining a productive, healthy, loving society.

(5)  One woman’s clear thinking about the problem

Unlike the above analysts, who see the decline of marriage as resulting from men’s weakening interest and ability to marry, here’s a woman warning that women are a cause of falling marriage rates.

When people complain of men not marrying (even they who are able), they forget how little women offer in exchange for all they get by marriage. Girls are seldom taught to be of any use whatever to a man, so that I am astonished only at the numbers of men who do marry! Many girls do not even try to be agreeable to look at, much less to live with. They forget how numerous they are, and the small absolute need men have of wives; but, nevertheless, men do still marry, and would oftener marry could they find mates — women who are either helpful to them, or amusing, or pleasing to their eye.

The Art of Beauty

This is from The Art of Beauty by Mary Eliza Joy Haweis (1883). Concerns about the state of marriage — like worries about the younger generation — are a commonplace of history. That doesn’t mean her worries were foolish. A stable functional society requires constant thought and effort about its basic institutions.

To see women building a post-marriage society, look to the Nordic nations with their high numbers of single mothers. For example, Denmark — with its strong government financial support for single mothers, where donated sperm to single mothers is a rapidly-growing trend because women don’t need men — or perhaps men don’t want to become fathers (expressed in that article with a feminist spin: many men are “not ready for parenthood”, at least on the terms women offer).

(6)  He fired the first shot in this next phase of the gender revolutionThe Myth of Male Power

To understand what’s happening I recommend the book that started the backlash to the feminist victory: The Myth of Male Power (1993).

The Myth of Male Power explains how almost all societies (American society in particular) are both matriarchal and patriarchal, how men’s and women’s roles provide unique benefits and limitations on each gender. Both men and women may be seen to be privileged and disadvantaged, each in different ways. The focus of the book, as the title suggests, is on the male role. This is done not to slight women’s issues, but rather to supplement the ever-growing body of literature and research on gender issues which tends to frame the problems from an essentially female perspective.

(7) Conclusions

Today every society grapples with these questions. Saudi Arabia, Japan, Denmark, America — there are scores of paths to new structures for the family. I recommend learning from the successes and failures of others, remaining open to new ideas, and only slowly making changes to the legal structure of our core institutions. But I predict that America will do none of these things, and instead drift thoughtlessly into the future.

It is too soon for predictions, other than that interesting times lie ahead.

How to Fight Daesh

paris-military-exercise-634x350Ever since Daesh first burst on the international scene back in the spring of 2014, a vast amount of ink has been spilt over its relationship with its parent organization, Al Qaeda; its objectives; its peculiar ability to attract Muslim volunteers from all over the world; as well as its methods—the latter, it turns out, taken straight from the days Mohammed and his followers first started their campaign of terror and conquest. Including beheadings, crucifixion, and the enslavement of both men and women. Let those who are interested consult the literature in question; here I want to focus on the most important problem of all, i.e. how to fight and win.

Four separate theaters of war must be distinguished, viz:

  1. Syria and Iraq. Daesh is essentially the product of the foolish American invasion of Iraq. As former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, drawing on a traditional Islamic image, predicted, it “opened the gates of hell.” It is in these countries that Daesh was formed and where most its fighters are concentrated. The essence of the problem is political. Let Presidents Obama, Putin and Arduan finally decide on who the main enemy is and start cooperating against him. Even if it means leaving President Assad in place, at least for the time being. Let the US, Russia, and Turkey mount a combined air offensive against Daesh, targeting its forces in Syria as well as the oilfields from which it draws its revenue in Iraq. However, as over a year of strikes by aircraft and drones has shown all too clearly, air operations on their own will not do the trick. For that the assistance of Syria’s ground forces is needed. To be sure, all this means teaming up with some pretty unsavory people and countries. But what other choice is there? As long as Daesh’s main forces and leadership are not smashed, terrorism will continue. If not here then there, and if not there then here.
  2. France and Europe. Stop shilly-shallying and start controlling immigration by every available means with the objective of bringing it to a halt. Also at sea to take care of Libya. Net install passive defenses. That means guards, metal detectors and surveillance cameras at every parking house, shopping center, theater, university, school, etc. If considered appropriate, arm them and train them in self-defense. Such measures need not be as expensive as they sound. Europe has plenty of unemployed. They should be happy to work, and their wages can be offset against the benefits they currently receive. At the most sensitive installations, such as airports, use profiling, i.e. separate people into various classes so as to identify those considered particularly dangerous and subject them to extra scrutiny. Profiling may not be very democratic. However, experience shows that it works. Set up volunteer neighborhood watches—no one knows neighborhoods better than the people who live in them. Provide them with good communications to call in reinforcements if necessary and have them cooperate closely with the local police. This method has the additional advantage of engaging people and make them feel they can do something to help. Repair any damage terrorists cause as quickly as possible so as to restore normal life and enable it to continue.
  3. The intelligence services. Passive measures on their own are insufficient. What is needed is a high-quality organization capable of identifying terrorists, tracking them, and foiling their plots ahead of time by arresting or killing them if necessary. Also, of tracing the financial flows on which they depend and making them dry up. So beef up your intelligence services. Provide them with the most modern surveillance equipment and pass the laws that will allow them to use it. Focus on communications; by making it hard for terrorists and their supporters to talk and work together, you will draw much of their sting. Inside the national borders, make sure the various departments work in tandem. Across such borders, make sure that the borders do not stand in the way of the information flow. In other words, that the services cooperate closely both with their counterparts in other countries and with the police. A Pan-European Intelligence Czar, responsible for overall coordination, would surely be useful. Do the political problems facing the establishment of such an office turn it into an impossible dream? If so, tant pis.
  4. The courts. An essential part of any anti-terrorist campaign is deterrence. So make sure judges have the necessary authority to do what has to be done. The establishment of special courts with augmented authority for the purpose should be considered. Punishments of the guilty should be appropriate and follow swiftly after terrorists are apprehended. They should also be well publicized.

The above are the main elements of any successful anti-terrorist campaign. Let me conclude by listing, in addition to the does, some of the don’ts:

  1. At all cost, don’t allow mobs to attack real and suspected terrorists and lynch them without due process of law. Uninformed and undirected, such attacks can mean gross injustices in the form of mistaken identities etc. Worse still, they will encourage the populations from which terrorists come to unite and fight back. You may end up with just what you want to prevent, i.e. civil war.
  2. For the same reason, do refrain from using collective punishments. There is a good chance that they will turn out to be counter-productive.
  3. Finally, the war on terror will not be won quickly. So do not expect quick results and do not allow yourself to be discouraged by possible setbacks. To be sure people are not, mount a sustained public relations campaign to explain why all those measures, as well as the inconveniences they inevitably cause, are needed.

Good luck.

The Clash of Civilizations and the End of History*

Each year at this time, I teach a course about the Future of War at Tel Aviv University. Each year for several years, I look for an alternative to the late Samuel Huntington’s 1994 essay, “The Clash of Civilizations.” And to its progenitor, Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay, “The End of History,” to which it was a response. Each year I fail to find anything as well written, as sweeping, as provocative, and as scintillating to make my students break their teeth on. And so it pleases me to devote today’s post to the question, where do those two pieces stand in the contemporary world?

To start with Fukuyama, the argument, following in the footsteps of Hegel, goes roughly as follows. History consists of man’s unceasing search for the best system of government as an indispensable step towards The Good Life. In 1776 (the American Revolution) and 1789 (the French one) that system, in the form of liberal democracy, was discovered. In October 1806, following Napoleon’s defeat of Prussia at Jena, it triumphantly asserted itself. Since then, in spite of many ups and downs, it had continued to make progress by overcoming the challenges, first of Fascism and then of Communism. Now that the latter had followed the former into the dustbin of history, it was poised to take over the entire earth. This is made evident by the spread of globalization and, with it, the invasion of McDonald, Coca-Cola, and Toshiba; nowadays, no doubt, Fukuyama would have added Google, Facebook, and Amazon.com. To be sure, the road ahead would be rough. There were still many islands of backwardness around, plenty of hurdles to overcome. But the shining goal, liberal democracy, had become clear to all or almost all. As it spread and asserted itself war would wane way, giving birth to a peaceful, if somewhat “sad” and boring, world.

clash_of_civilizations-755716Not so, answered Fukuyama’s former teacher at Harvard, Samuel Huntington. Globalization is at bottom a superficial phenomenon, unable to paper over what he calls differences in identity. By that he meant “history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion. The people of different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, he citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy. These differences are the products of centuries. They will not soon disappear. They are far more fundamental than differences among political ideologies and political regimes.” Such differences need not, but often will, lead to armed conflict and bloodshed. Particularly now that the influence of universal ideologies has been decisively weakened, “Conflicts between groups in different civilizations will be more frequent, more sustained and more violent than conflicts between groups in the same civilization; violent conflicts between groups in different civilizations are the most likely and most dangerous source of escalation that could lead to global wars; the paramount axis of world politics will be the relations between ‘the West and the Rest;’ the elites in some torn non-Western countries will try to make their countries part of the West, but in most cases face major obstacles to accomplishing this; a central focus of conflict for the immediate future will be between the West and several Islamic-Confucian states.”

Who was right, who was wrong, how and why? To proceed in reverse order, Huntington’s prediction that “a central focus of conflict for the immediate future will be between the West and several Islamic-Confucian states” has come to pass. Had he added Russia, he would have been spot-on. Nevertheless, these differences in civilization have not led to large-scale war. Let alone to “global wars” (an oxymoron, that; while a global war is possible, global wars are not). Instead, today’s largest and most bloody wars are fought within civilizations, often with foreign “help.” So in parts of Africa; so, even more, in the vast area that reaches from Latakia on the Mediterranean to Basra on the Persian Gulf. Not to mention Afghanistan and the surrounding countries. Huntington’s claim that states would array themselves according to their cultural preferences has not come true either. To the contrary; as China’s rise continues more of its neighbors, ignoring such considerations as much as they can, are seeking closer ties with the United States.

Another cardinal error Huntington committed was to make the Ukraine part of Christian-Orthodox civilization. To the contrary: with its population made up partly of westward-looking Catholics and partly of eastward-looking Orthodox, it is currently involved in civil war. The Ukraine, to use Huntington’s own terminology, is a torn, or split, state. As he himself pointed out, such states are particularly likely to witness a clash of civilizations within their borders. As, for example, is currently happening in Egypt; and as may still happen in Turkey.

And how about Fukuyama? Writing in 1989 he grossly, if understandably, underestimated the ability of “Islamic Confucian States” (in reality, Islamic fundamentalist movements and one paramount Confucian State) to challenge the West. As of 2015, the day when liberal democracy will triumph in places such as the Middle East, North Africa, Russia and China remains a long way off. Still in other ways he was not entirely off the mark. First, a quarter century since “The End of History” was published, neither Islam nor Confucianism—supposing that is what China is all about—is in any position to challenge the West on the ideological level. All around the world it is to Washington DC, not to Mecca or Beijing, that people seeking a political framework that will make The Good Life possible turn their face; when everything is said and done, neither Islam nor Confucianism have made broad inroads beyond their own adherents. If anything, in fact, Islam’s attempts to spread its message beyond those adherents have led to a sharp, at times paranoid, reaction. Second and perhaps even more important, no liberal democratic states have gone to war against one another. A fact which suggests that a war-less world and the end of history are, if not yet at hand, at any rate possible in principle.

So far the protagonists, their relationship, their differences, the points on which they were right, and the points on which they were wrong. But is there anything they have in common? I think there is. First, both assume that the end of the Cold War did in fact represent a critical turning point in history. Either such as marked the end of one kind of conflict and the beginning of another (Huntington); or that represented the beginning of a process which would eventually culminate in a world without war and thus to the End of History (Fukuyama).

Second and perhaps even more important, both focus on what, for lack of a better term, I shall call spiritual factors. For Fukuyama, the paramount one is ideology. For Huntington, it is identity. In doing so they leave out any other number of factors that have always led, and presumably will continue to lead, to war in the future too. Chief among them are technological developments; competition for economic resources in a world where such resources are said to become less and less plentiful; and, over-arching everything else, the “perpetual and restless desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death” (Thomas Hobbes). The least one can say is that, in any attempt to understand the future of war, these factors must take a paramount place side by side with those Fukuyama and Huntington have focused on.

Is anyone ready to take up the challenge?   

* Thanks to my students at the Program for Security and Diplomacy, Tel Aviv University, who stimulated me to write the present essay.

Last Week I Cleaned My House

Last week I cleaned my house. And tomorrow I shall clean it again. As I do every Friday morning.

When my wife goes to the pool, that is, so neither of us will get in the other’s way. I start by sweeping the steps in front of the house (a townhouse, incidentally) taking care not to touch the flower bed. Next I go upstairs, vacuum the carpets, shake them a few times, and leave them hanging out of the window. Having moved aside various objects—chairs, coat racks, dustbins, etc—I vacuum the floor and wipe it with a wet rag. To make sure the rag is clean, I periodically put it in a pail full of water, take it out, and squeeze it until it stops dripping. That done, I take up paper towels and dust the furniture with two different liquids. One for wood, the other for glass. Then I go downstairs and repeat the procedure, more or less.

{C721AB0D-2625-44AA-B159-333C1B95E73A}_450I have tried out some of the floor-sweeping robots available for sale today. None can do what I really need, which is to clean my rugs. Rugs that have tassels, mind you. Even if they could, I still would have to take the rugs out to the balcony so as to allow me to reach the stone tiles of the floor.

To be sure, I could vacuum the rugs first and take them out, leaving the robot to do the rest. Since the robot is rather slow, though, the entire operation would take considerably longer than it does today. I would find myself spending hours alternately getting up and sitting down to move rugs now here, now there. Furthermore, the robot could not wipe stains off the floor, as I do. Nor, that accomplished, could it take the rugs and put them back in their place.           

So what is the problem, someone would say? Throw away your rugs and install wall to wall carpeting. However, in a hot climate such as ours here in Israel carpets are hardly the ideal solution. Not to mention the fact that, compared with a carpeted room, a tiled one can be really cleaned.

There are plenty of other things around the house robots cannot do either. Such as cleaning bathrooms with their taps and showers. Or making a bed. Or laying a table. Or taking away the plates and the cutlery after the meal. Or putting them into their place after the dishwasher has finished cleaning them. Or disposing of leftovers by moving them into smaller containers (the refrigerator only has limited capacity, doesn’t it?). Let alone cook one percent as well as my wife does.

With the exception of the last, all these are simple tasks anyone could do, they say. Tasks that do not require thought, they say. That is true enough; actually the fact that they do not require thought is one reason why I like doing them as much as I do. Once you get used to the work it is done almost automatically, allowing thought to roam where it will. A bit like runners’ high for old professors, I suppose.

Work that proceeds almost automatically without requiring thought? If so, why can’t robots do it? Hardly a day passes without us being told, not once but a thousand times over, that super-intelligent robots are coming. They are going to take over from us, making us superfluous. Should we try to stand in their way, they may even gird their loins—imagine a robot doing that—make war on us, destroy our species, and inherit the earth. Yet the same robots cannot do what my eleven year old grandson does easily enough—lay a table the way it should be laid?

As the example of the dishwasher shows, the problem is not to build machines capable of taking the place of humans in this or that capacity. That has been done for thousands of years past; at least, say, since the first water- or wind driven mill took the place of the hand-operated grindstones of old. Nor do I doubt that machines will take over additional tasks in the future. The problem, rather, is to have machines sufficiently versatile to take on a number of different tasks; one, for example, which will lay the table, sweep the carpet, and clean the bathroom as well. And which will continue to do so even when I move house.

Robots in their present state of development cannot even do what my eleven years old grandson—a highly intelligent little guy, let me add, with a good sense of humor and excellent social skills a—does not only easily but gracefully. Rebus sic stantibus, such being the situation, will anyone please explain why I, and you, should fear the coming singularity?