Marriage/Social Conformity Propaganda at FrontPageMag

The site mostly does political commentary. I like them quite a lot and read them regularly. But they had a cultural/social commentary type thing recently which i thought was quite bad and wanted to comment on.

Love and Marriage: Putting the Horse before the Carriage.
December 30, 2015 Dennis Prager

Part I in a series of widely held beliefs that are either untrue or meaningless:

In every age, people say and believe things that aren’t true but somehow become accepted as “conventional wisdom.”

Note btw, he’s posing as a challenger of conventional wisdom up front, but his basic message in his article is: get married young. Don’t wait. Just do it and it will probably work out fine. Ladies, if you don’t marry young, no good men will want you. Gents, grow up, and stop being so self-involved.

Lots of people agree with large parts of this. Even the people he’s criticizing, which seems to include people getting married in their early 30s, are typically just haggling a bit over specific timelines while accepting basic conventional premises regarding marriage, romance, etc. Even lots of self-described feminists worry about things like becoming undesirable as they age, etc.

The statement “I’m not ready to get married” is a current example. Said by more and more Americans between the ages of 21 and 40 (and some who are older than that), it usually qualifies as both meaningless

The statement conveys a meaning. It may not do so very precisely, but there’s meaning behind it.

Often I think the meaning is something like: I feel some pressure to get married but don’t wanna rush into it, want to wait for the right person.

and untrue. And it is one reason a smaller percentage of Americans are marrying than ever before.

So, here’s a truth that young Americans need to hear:

Most people become “ready to get married” when they get married. Throughout history most people got married at a much younger age than people today. They were hardly “ready.” They got married because society and/or their religion expected them to. And then, once married, people tended to rise to the occasion.

So Prager says that people used to make lifelong commitments to live with/have children with/share resources with someone at very young ages due to social pressure from one’s coreligionists or society at large. His attitude is basically that this was fine and produced overall good results as “people tended to rise to the occasion.”

Except stuff like generally unhappy marriages, feeling trapped in a role, or like you’ve “wasted your life”, or cheating, or financial hardship due to divorce, or even stuff like domestic violence, are well known problems that come up with marriage (and some of these come up in other long term relationships too). These issues weren’t invented by lefties as a false narrative. Lots of them have been issues for long time.

Some have become more of an issue recently due to stuff like: people are wealthier, and not so grindingly poor that they don’t have the time or energy to worry about wanting more out of life. Or, laws liberalized in the direction of more freedom, including allowing divorce. Or, being unmarried past a certain age, or divorced, does not make one a social pariah anymore. So in other words, not stuff we’d want to roll back…

I suspect what’s behind this “people tended to rise to the occasion” stuff is incredibly low standards.

The same holds true for becoming a parent. Very few people are “ready” to become a parent. They become ready … once they become a parent.

This is really dumb.

Parents would benefit ENORMOUSLY from preparing and thinking carefully about whether they want a kid, and engaging with good ideas on parenting like TCS. Most don’t think about it, just have kids, and then do a very bad job of it.

So yeah this guy has low standards.

In fact, the same holds true for any difficult job. What new lawyer was “ready” to take on his or her first clients?

I think the idea is that they will be prepared after the four years of undergraduate education, three years of law school, mandatory bar examination covering both state and federal law, mandatory ethics examination, and (rather intrusive) character and fitness assessment required of new lawyers in most states.

I don’t think we’ve got a great system for lawyers at all, but like, this guy should maybe pick his examples better if he wants to make out a case for the virtues of “just doing stuff” without being prepared. Judging by the way our social institutions are structured, it seems that quite a lot of people think lawyers need quite a lot of preparation. But he’s appealing to his lawyer example like it will be super obvious for any reader.

The only worse example he could have picked for his case that I can think of off the top of my head is doctors….

What new teacher, policeman, firefighter is “ready?”

Again, there’s various certifications/examinations/etc for these professions as well…

You get ready to do something by doing it.

Lots of people try “JUST DO IT” and fail.

Going back to lawyers example, lots of people say “I’M GONNA GO SOLO!” (i.e. set up their own one person law firm) by getting pumped up over a solo success story they read, and then they fail…

And people tend to be much *less* irrational about how they run their business than about stuff like romance.

In addition, at least two bad things happen the longer you wait to get “ready” to be married.

One is that, if you are a woman, the number of quality single men declines. Among deniers of unpleasant realities — people known as progressives, leftists, and feminists — this truth is denied and labelled “sexist.” But, as Susan Patton, a Princeton graduate, wrote in an article titled “Advice for the young women of Princeton,” published in Princeton’s student newspaper: “Find a husband on campus before you graduate. … From a sheer numbers perspective, the odds will never be as good to be surrounded by all of these extraordinary men.”

Now, I think if you have conventional goals and are on conventional life track, this is true.

But why be on that track? WHERE IS ARG?

And if someone’s doing something like a deviation from life track by not getting married, why try to push them back on that track? Maybe take the hint they want something a bit different than life, and stop being pushy towards people trying to live their own lives?

The other bad thing that happens when people wait until they are “ready” to get married is that they often end up waiting longer and longer. After a certain point, being single becomes the norm and the thought of marrying becomes less, not more, appealing. So over time you can actually become less “ready” to get married.

So basically here he’s saying, if you wait, you might realize marriage isn’t so great or important. SO BETTER GET LOCKED IN NOW!!

And one more thing: If you’re 25 and not ready to commit to another person, in most cases — even if you are a kind person, and a responsible worker or serious student — “I’m not ready to get married” means “I’m not ready to stop being preoccupied with myself,” or to put it as directly as possible, “I’m not ready to grow up.” (No job on earth makes you grow up like getting married does.)

If you get married, you can more fully adopt the grown-up social role, and condescend with authority at younger people with different ideas about life!

People didn’t marry in the past only because they fell in love.

Right, as he said earlier, people married cuz of social or religious pressure. Which he thinks is good…

And people can fall in love and not marry — as happens frequently today. People married because it was a primary societal value. People understood that it was better for society and for the vast majority of its members that as many individuals as possible commit to someone and take care of that person. Among other things, when people stop taking care of one another, the state usually ends up doing so. Just compare the percentage of single people receiving welfare versus the percentage of married people.

What does he mean by “take care”?

He mentions welfare. So like, financial help in tough times?

I don’t really see the argument here. Like, I guess if one spouse loses their job, another working spouse could take care of the bills for a while (does Prager approve of two-income households btw?)

But there could be a variety of ways of solving this issue that don’t involve the state or marriage. Like private charity, or help from family members, or real (private) unemployment or other kinda hardship insurance, or a cultural shift towards people being more thrifty and thus being able to weather unexpected stuff better, etc.

I don’t really see the necessity of having this sort of financial arrangement be packaged in the form of a purportedly lifelong cohabitation/sexual/coparenting relationship with big problems and potential MASSIVE financial liability if the arrangement fails.

Notice by the way the structure of the argument here. He mentions this argument after “[a]mong other things.” So if he gets rekt on this argument, he can say “oh that was only a tiny incidental thing which came to mind in addition to all the big obvious stuff.” He’s pretending he’s appealing to some big body of well-known and well-understood args, but really what is being appealed to is the social authority/approval of his position, which he is masking as an appeal to some unspecified rational arguments.

If you know that tons of people are rejecting marriage, and you think this is a problem, and you want to persuade them with REASON about why it’s good to take care of other people, you don’t hide your arguments under a bushel. But he does, cuz he’s not really very interested in reason. He’s not making THE CASE for marriage to skeptics. He’s trying to pressure/bully them, and topping this pressure off with some incidental attempts at argument.

Also, what about individual responsibility? People taking care of themselves?

Nor is the argument that the older people are when they marry, the less likely they are to divorce. This only applies in any significant way to those who marry as teenagers versus those who marry later. Moreover, the latest data are that those who marry in their early 30s are more likely to divorce than those who marry on their late 20s.

I totally buy that people who marry as teens are more likely to have buyers’ remorse and people who marry in their 30s are more likely to be extra picky.

And then there is the economic argument. Many single men, for example, say they are not ready to get married because they don’t have the income they would like to have prior to getting married. As responsible as this may sound, however, this is not a particularly rational argument. Why is marrying while at a low income a bad idea?

I bet some of this is low-income bros rationalizing their inability to find the mates they want, honestly…

In fact, marriage may be the best way to increase one’s income. Men’s income rises after marriage.

Citation needed, at least if he’s trying to link these causally… (like, the likelihood of getting married and of having more job experience/skill both go up with age…)

They have less time to waste,


and someone to help support — two spurs to hard work and ambition,

Heh I guess he doesn’t approve of two income marriage…

Also lots of guys don’t feel this “spur” is a very positive/nice thing…and can be resentful of their stay-at-home wife.

not to mention that most employers prefer men who are married.

So this means “it’s easier to navigate common employment-related social situations when married, and this can lead to higher income”?

And can’t two people live on less money than each would need if they lived on their own, paying for two apartments?

Yeah, though roommates can have big drawbacks too … wait this is an argument for marriage? <_<

In addition to economic benefits, the vast majority of human beings do better when they have someone to come home to, someone to care for, and someone to care for them. And, no matter how much feminists and other progressives deny it, children do best when raised by a married couple.

Lots of single parents have bad values and are thus on stuff like welfare cuz they can’t support themselves. I think the bad values are big driver here in whatever bad outcomes he’s thinking of.

Also you can have parental helpers without marriage.

There are, most certainly, superb single parents. But every superb single parent I have ever spoken to wishes they had had a spouse with whom to raise their children.

I not really impressed with his anecdata.

Throughout history, and in every society, people married not when they were “ready” to marry, but when they reached marriageable age and were expected to assume adult responsibilities.

Finally, this statement reflects another negative trend in society — that of people being guided by feelings rather than by standards or obligations.
We live in an Age of Feelings. Aside from the rational and moral problems that derive from being guided by feelings rather than by reason and values, there is one other problem. In life, behavior shapes feelings. Act happy, you’ll feel happy. Act single, you’ll feel single. Act married, you’ll feel married.

If you don’t have some plan to avoid the common, KNOWN pitfalls of some project, and just DO IT, you are acting irresponsibly and giving into cultural pressure. You’re hurting yourself, will hurt people engaged in the project with you, and in the context of marriage, will likely hurt children.

Do it, in other words. Then you’ll be “ready.”

In summary: submit. Conform. Give in.

In a recent post I wrote (replying to an Anon, who is quoted with two quote levels here, me one)

Can early crit potentially derail the process a bit?  Especially compared to a situation where a person has gotten the idea to a place where it WAS worked out with sufficient thoroughness and detail.  Are early ideas fragile in this way?

Well, consider if someone was gonna work on the idea of figuring out induction or arguing for marriage. Even if there were something there to figure out (so let’s assume it’s not totally a bad problem for the sake of argument), wouldn’t it be hugely beneficial to them to know FI crits on these issues in order to be able to address them, instead of spending a bunch of time thinking about and writing up already-refuted args?

This Prager guy does a bad job of addressing even pretty conventional concerns. Like someone in the FPM article comments points out the huge financial risks involved in marriage, which he doesn’t address. Forget about addressing the relevant stuff at

I don’t think his efforts to work out his ideas with sufficient thoroughness and detail have yielded much fruit. And he puts effort into it. He’s like a noted author, columnist, speaker. What’s the issue, then? Well, I think he’s probably not very interested in getting crit on his stuff. He wants to lecture others with his wisdom and grown-up role, not improve his own ideas.

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