By Jennifer Roback Morse, Ruth Institute
Celebrity therapist and “life coach” Dr. Keith Ablow just jumped on the “let’s get the government out of the marriage business” bandwagon. I have been writing against the “privatizing marriage” mantra, going all the way back to 2005. (See also here and here.) I do not wish to rehearse those arguments here. But Dr. Ablow’s contribution to this unfortunate genre is doubly regrettable. He is, first of all, deeply mistaken about the government’s role in discouraging people from marriage. As a psychiatrist, he has no particular expertise in policy analysis, and I am sorry to say, it shows. My second regret about his foray into policy analysis is that he forsakes the area of his greatest expertise, namely, helping people live happier lives. His proposal to “get the government out of the marriage business” substitutes an easy exit strategy for the genuine work of building up marriage and family relationships.
Dr. Ablow claims that government intrusion is the cause of marriage decline because marriage amounts to signing a “draconian contract with the state to manage the division of your estate in the event of a divorce.” Now he is certainly correct that under the current divorce regime, the family court micro-manages people’s private lives. But his argument is completely backwards. He has no explanation for why people are less inclined to marry now, and why government is more intrusive now than in say, 1960. I can answer that: no-fault divorce.
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