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.