Anderson Explains Why Government is in the Marriage Business


For the third part of his series for Ricochet, Ryan Anderson (co-author of What is Marriage?) explains why government has a rightful role in protecting and promoting marriage:

"...Getting government out of the civil marriage business would be a catastrophe for limited government. Abolishing civil marriage would weaken social support for its norms. Over time, the law shapes what people think marriage is—which in turn affects how current and future spouses act.  As countless studies show, absentee fathers and out-of-wedlock births bring a train of social pathologies, and greater demand for policing and social services. This was, after all, what inspired the original “marriage movement,” as my first post explained. 

A study by the Left-leaning Brookings Institution finds that $229 billion in welfare spending between 1970 and 1996 can be attributed to the breakdown of the marriage culture and the resulting exacerbation of social ills: teen pregnancy, poverty, crime, drug abuse and health problems. A 2008 study found that divorce and unwed childbearing cost taxpayers $112 billion each year. And Utah State University scholar David Schramm has estimated that divorce alone costs local, state and federal government $33 billion each year.

Civil marriage serves the ends of limited government more effectively, less intrusively, and at less cost than picking up the pieces from a shattered marriage culture.

Of course, it isn’t just the legal title of marriage that encourages adherence to marital norms. There is nothing magical about the word “marriage.” Instead, marriage laws work by embodying and promoting a true vision of what marriage is that makes sense of those norms as a coherent whole."

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