The Chaos Theory of Government

I have to chuckle whenever I here about new government programs because those in government often only see the short term effect of what they are doing. For instance, “cash for clunkers,” while supposedly great for the environment, was not great for the used car industry! The current debate between Greg and Dan is a similar example in that they  seem to be arguing over whether or not the destruction of marriage was intentional or not. While Greg and Dan continue to debate over whether or not Dan is a functionalist, I would argue that the death of marriage was not an intended result of the last forty or so years of government policies on marriage but it was the result.

Functionalism would  render what the government thought it was doing as irrelevant, but it is relevant. I’m not entirely sure that the government intended to kill marriage with lose policies anymore than they intended to reward marriage financially. What may have been well intentioned had unintended results. I have the same compassion for our government thinking it was helping that I do for natives who think dancing brings rain. What we need to be careful of is not becoming natives ourselves and assuming that government can bring marriage back. In the given climate, we might have a better chance dancing for rain.

And yet, given all that we have discussed on this blog, that does not mean that we can simply sit back and do nothing. Government policies should not be our only strategy for restoring marriage to its correct place. However, we cannot ignore government policies either. Government interaction should be part of our efforts, but we need to have reasonable expectations. It needs to be a piece, not the whole. As Greg said earlier, government is not culture, but it is a part of culture. Thus, it must be part of what we do.

Marriage may be dead, or at least in its death throes, but as Maggie Gallagher of the National Review has reminded us, we can’t stop trying to revive traditional marriage. We just need to remember that government policies are just part of a successful method of cultural change.


2 Thoughts.

  1. I entirely agree with Kyle that we cannot sit back and do nothing about the demise of traditional marriage. And I heartily applaud his comment that he has, “the same compassion for our government thinking it was helping that I do for natives who think dancing brings rain.”

    Where it is unclear to me whether or not Kyle and I have a different point of view with respect to whether government policies can, or ought to, be part of the solution. If Kyle means that in order to fix the problem, government and its policies must be completely removed from touching the institution of marriage, then he and I agree. If, however, he intends that, rather than a simple discontinuation of such government programs that touch marriage as currently exist, government take an active role in restoring traditional marriage via new policies and programs, then I must respectfully disagree.

    The law of unintended consequences will equally apply to any active program instituted by government to restore traditional marriage as resulted from those government programs that have worked to destroy it. If, then, we should not look to government for a solution to the problem, where should we look?

    To moral suasion; to ourselves. Take a page from the Tea Party Movement playbook. If enough people work hard enough, long enough, and smart enough; if enough people are willing to talk about the problem and think about solutions, instead of waiting for, or depending on, the government to solve it; if enough people are willing to accept personal responsibility for contributing to a voluntary communal effort, then the problem will be fixed–and fixed in a way much more effective than anything government could devise.

    Absent that kind of effort on the part of enough people to tip the balance and effect change, nothing the government attempts will result in an even half-effective solution.

    • My preference would be for government to stay out of it, given they unintentionally mess it up even more when they get involved, either with ‘rewards’ or ‘chaos.’ I can’t say I have much confidence in them restoring traditional marriage. However, given that the government has already stuck their foot in it, I’m willing to try and steer the ship by voting in favor of traditional marriage. It’s part of the strategy, but only because they are already involved.

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