Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What Does Divorce Cost?

What Does Divorce Cost?

When I was young, there was a joke to the effect that marriage cost $10 and divorce cost $10,000--it would be better if it was the other way around. Since then, no fault divorce laws mean that divorce is often not dramatically more expensive than getting married. Red Ink In Texas points to some of the social costs of having reduced the individual cost:
$112 Billion

That is a really big big number. That is almost as much as the combined fortunes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. That would pay for nearly half the cost of the return to the moon through 2025 at current funding levels. That number is the conservative estimate of how much divorce and unwed parenting costs taxpayers PER YEAR according to the Institute for American Values. This study does not include the costs of abortion, which in 2006, the US government paid out over $305 million dollars to Planned Parenthood alone. Nor does it include the costs of cervical cancer treatment, STD treatment, condoms, birth control pills, and IUD giveaways, and all the other hidden costs of the sexual revolution. Our society has forgotten what society exists to do. Society exists, in all it's forms, to promote the one common thread of human existence. The family. The family is the one common feature of every human society from time immemorial. It took three and a half million years to get to where we are and to build up human society, it has taken less than 50 years to damned near destroy it. How did we manage to do that? Liberalism in it's many guises. Birth control freed people to have sex without consequence (usually). But since birth control was imperfect, accidents happened. Some of those women having sex without consequence did so outside of their marriage, or with men who were married to others. Men and women felt more comfortable exploring "alternative lifestyles" and "non-traditional families". People started thinking that "if it felt good, DO IT!" was the order of the day. They no longer felt any need to think about the consequences of their actions, either on a personal level or on a societal level. And then LBJ's "great society" programs took away all of the personal economic consequences and put them onto the back of the taxpayer.

As a result we have an entire generation of kids that grew up in single parent households, or worse, in the households of their grandparents. In many instances those grandparents raising grandkids are second or third generation single parent households.
The costs aren't just money, either. I fear that in some weird metaphysical sense, easy divorce and its associated baggage has cost our society a bit of its soul as well. When my wife taught at a Christian school in California, we had a chance to see the enormous damage that divorce was doing to kids.

Maybe we can't get the genie back into the lamp. I think that pursuing a restoration of traditional divorce laws, with the current state of our society, would be more destructive than helpful. Some of the problems are economic: a lot of workers can't afford to raise a family on one income anymore.

Some of the problem is consumerism: an unwillingness to say, "We don't need that. And that. And that. And that." And without all those things that require money to support, perhaps one income is enough--or perhaps one and a half incomes is enough.

Some of the problem is selfishness: couples that are too focused on their own wants, and not enough on each other's needs. To fix this is just beyond the capacity of government.

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