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21.11.05

The Purpose Of Marriage

PG makes quick work of the claim that marriage is about procreation:

I am much in agreement with Gallagher that the state's interest in marriage is that legal recognition reinforces an arrangement that is beneficial to the state. What I disagree wildly about is that the only benefit to the state marriages creates is procreation. For one thing, our government policy clearly doesn't see procreation alone as beneficial, or we wouldn't have five year limits on welfare and discouragement of further procreation by recipients (in some cases going as far as rewarding people financially for sterilization, which always gives me a creepy memory of the depiction in Midnight's Children of the radios-for-sterilization tradeoff during the Emergency). Rather, what the state sees as beneficial is the creation of relationships that prevent people from becoming burdens on the state.

... This is why the state has reason to recognize the union of two people even before they start popping babies, and why it does even for couples that never do. As far as I know, our government accords no privileges to people merely for making babies, but reserves benefits like tax credits to people who are raising children.


The fact is, our current legal landscape does not privilege childbearing. Now, I can see how a committed inverse Malthusian might, in response to the horror of a fallling (white) birthrate, advocate substantial reforms that would reconfigure current marriage law into a birth-promotion program. But I don't see how someone working from a Burkean conservative point of view could look at the status quo and then claim to defend it on pro-procreation grounds.

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