Category Archives: Opinion

Society and Tradition

America – the United States – is a nation of law. Each American – whether great or small – is equally its subject. Legislation is passed, after careful deliberation, in order to allow our society to function more peacefully and fairly. Law governs our day-to-day life. As much as we hate to admit it, law enforcement officers are our friends. Without them our society would degenerate into chaos.

And unicorns exist. Really!

The idea that laws govern our day-to-day lives is a myth. Most of our interactions with others are based on custom, on tradition. Shared customs are the glue that keep a society together. Traditions – rules that the vast majority know and obey – govern our daily actions. Customs keep society from degenerating into chaos.

Allow me to present an example.

You have, I’m sure, noticed the rectangular white signs that appear at intervals along the roads and highways. The signs have a printed legend, “Speed Limit,” and a number. Each of those signs is a posted law that everyone can see. They leave no room for pleading ignorance. But almost everyone routinely drives faster than the numbers “allow.” It’s a tradition.

Just yesterday I noticed a young lady driving a Ford Explorer. It was obvious to me that she was breaking at least two laws – she was exceeding the posted speed limit and tailgating. Both of that those activities, however, are customary on that particular highway. She was quite sure she was doing nothing worthy of punishment. The driver in front of her seemed to be of the same opinion. He was a deputy Sheriff in a marked police car.

To continue the example from a different point of view: the other day I read a blog post in which the writer claimed that he had found the worst drivers in the country. The reality is something different. Once again, custom trumps law. Traffic laws are pretty uniform throughout the United States – but if you drive from New York to New Orleans you’ll notice tremendous differences in behavior behind the wheel. The laws are the same – but people follow different driving customs in different areas. The more these customs differ from your own, the lower your opinion of the local drivers.

I’m not claiming that legislation has no effect on the way we live. But its primary effect is to change customs by forcing people (through fear) to change their behavior. I might go so far as to say that man-made written laws are, almost always, harmful.

The customs and traditions of a society develop gradually over time. What these customs are, or will become, depends on many factors. Among these are religion, population density, the ways in which people make a living, geography, climate, and the sorts of technologies in use.

As these factors change so will the traditions – but gradually, a little bit at a time. Changes in customs are usually slow and always tentative. After all, the old ways served well – most people will continue to use them. A behavioral innovator might influence his family, friends, and near neighbors but unless the new custom noticably outperforms the old custom it will be quietly forgotten.

Written laws are like new customs – except instantaneous and carved in stone. How often does a legislature repeal a law that it has passed? Like a new custom, the new law will be tried out. If it’s a complete and abject failure, as most are, more laws will be piled on top of the original law in an attempt to fix its shortcomings. Eventually a society finds itself in the situation we’re in today – a web of laws, passed with every good intention, that makes most human behavior illegal.

And so, for society to function, the law must be ignored and tradition obeyed.

But it isn’t that simple. People tend to confuse the laws and the customs and so lose respect for both. Most Americans tend to believe that the law is equal to the traditions – it’s the right way to order society. Because of this they come to believe that if a behavior isn’t illegal it must be suitable. This is probably a major factor in the disappearance of common (customary) courtesy. Discourteous behavior isn’t illegal so it must be moral! Written laws are often destructive of good customs.

Some argue that because society and technology are so advanced and complex today that more and more written laws are necessary. The converse is true. Customary laws are organic – they can change to suit changing conditions. Just as a person dropped into an unfamiliar environment can adapt and learn and survive, so can a society.

A society held rigid by a fossilized skeleton of legislation cannot adapt – and will die.

Symbols of America


It was about fifty years ago that I first saw this painting. I remember wooden floors and white plaster walls. Standing beside the painting was a docent, watching the visitors with grandfatherly pride. His job was to guard this treasure from grubby little fingers. My fingers.

Keeping us at a respectful distance was a red velvet rope suspended from heavy brass stands. They were much like the ones used in my church – I had the feeling that viewing this painting was a religious experience.

I turned to my mom and reverently asked, “did George Washington really stand up in the boat?”

“No,” she said with a smile. “That’s called ‘artistic license.'”

Throughout the 19th Century and into the twentieth this painting – and other works of art like it – symbolized America. When Americans thought about their country they pictured George Washington as the symbolic hero.

Washington, a wealthy landowner, risking his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor for the cause of liberty. Washington leading the rebel alliance against the imperial troops.

Washington on horseback; at Valley Forge; kneeling to pray; bloody footprints in the snow.

The painting I was viewing had been completed in 1851. Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” had it all – a band of ill-clad men braving the cold of a late December night and the hazards of an ice-choked river to attack the Empire’s mercenaries – and winning.

A brave General, willing to undergo the same hardships as his ill-equipped and shivering men; an army of citizen soldiers, underdogs against a mighty empire; an army of individuals putting their trust in the Almighty God because their own power was so tiny; this was the American hero – the symbol of the United States.

But during the 20th century this image began to be replaced by a new one in the hearts of Americans. Someone decided that we needed a new hero – one more relevant to our times.

The new symbol of America is the corporate lawyer. He sits far from the battlefield, risking neither discomfort nor injury. His army has no place for individuals. It is a machine, formed, trained, and equipped to be the most devastating implement of destruction ever seen.

Who is this man, this great symbol of America?

Picture him, if you will: A lobbyist, made wealthy by securing government favors for his clients. A man whose loyalty lies not with the citizens, but with the corporations and the government. He will see American citizens slaughtered by the thousands if he considers it necessary to achieve his goals.

Yes, he’s the new American icon, the one who symbolizes America worldwide. Few quote George Washington anymore – but this man’s name is on everyone’s lips.

Now imagine him, risen to political power. He does not brave the cold, or kneel in the snow to seek guidance from above. No, he has a comfortable armchair from which, with a quiet word, he dispenses oppression and death on his enemies, favor and fortune on his friends. He doesn’t pray but he’s not an atheist – he worships big government.

This is America. This is the face of the new empire, the American empire.

When inaugurated he had two major goals – goals so critical that he rammed them through in his first months in office.

First he raised an army, literally, of tax collectors. An army equipped with the finest weapons ever seen on earth. It’s purpose was to ensure that the government coffers remained full. His second goal was to fund an enormous corporate welfare project for his cronies, his political supporters. He had made careful arrangements to ensure that he shared in the pelf.

How fortuitous that he was assassinated! This allows him to replace – not just George Washington – but even Jesus Christ in the hearts of Americans.

In 1936 a pagan temple was consecrated to his worship. It contains a two-story tall idol—a statue of the new saviour. In the stone behind the statue are carved the words,




Should Girls Go to College?

Most parents today are encouraging their daughters to go to college. In 2012, 71.3% of young women went straight from H.S. To college.

This is probably a major mistake for many reasons. I’ll list a few.

Should Anyone?

First of all, the “going to college is a good investment” paradigm is pretty much over. I’ve noticed on a number of websites (written by women) that the BA degree is being referred to as a “Barista of Arts.” A high percentage of new college graduates are only being offered jobs for which they are “over-qualified.” That’s when they can find jobs. The real question for most young people today is, “should anyone go to college?”

If you have political ambitions then, by all means, go to college and law school. You’ll need that credential to be one of the ruling elite. College might also be for you if you have a talent for engineering, accounting, nursing, etc. Practical stuff. For everyone else, both boys and girls, college is probably not the best choice.

But coeds have problems all their own, ones they don’t share with the guys.

Money and Debt

If a girl wants to get married and start a family while she’s still young then college may be a complete waste of resources. For many women the arrival of children marks the end of her professional career. By the time she reenters the job market her degree and skills may be out of date.

That same girl will have a problem if she accumulates a large debt. First of all, it makes her less attractive for marriage. Honestly, what young man wouldn’t prefer a bride who doesn’t bring $30,000 (or more) of debt to the wedding? After the wedding, that same debt will force the young couple to delay having children – probably for a lot longer than they would like.

Career Women With Children

A career woman, just like a man, must work long hours and be dedicated to her profession. Pay raises and promotions depend on it. The average career woman with children, however, will decide to dedicate less time to her job and more to her family. She will fall behind her male peers – which will not make her happy.

Studies also indicate that a career woman is often extremely unhappy at having to leave her children every day. Her children may grow up thinking of their primary caregiver as “mom.” It’s kind of like putting the kids in foster care – and we’ve all heard stories about how well that turns out.

But Wait, There’s More!

So much for the minor objections. Now for the major problem concerning young ladies attending college away from home. It would still exist even if college were free and money grew on trees. This problem is an over-inflation of self-esteem. Yes, there is such a thing as too much self-esteem. It tends to cause young women to overestimate their value as marriage partners.

Boys and Girls and Intercourse

What happens when you toss a bunch of hormone driven boys and girls into an unsupervised environment? That really depends on social expectations. Historians have noted that back in colonial days the majority of first babies were born less than nine months after the wedding. The “problem” was ignored because there was a wedding. Both boys and girls back then understood that a pregnancy equaled a wedding. And they didn’t have birth-control.

Today we don’t have these restraints on behavior. Children are also raised with no real understanding of the differences between men and women. Boys and girls are propagandized from a very young age to believe that there is no difference between the male and the female. “Gender is a social construct.”

By the time youngsters reach high school they are in an Orwellian state of being able to believe two completely contradictory things at the same time. They know (they have eyes) that boys and girls are different. But they also believe the propaganda that boys and girls are the same. The second thought isn’t so much intellectual as emotional – they feel it should be true.

The facts, however, point to a major difference between the sexes – one that modern society ignores or denies. Warning! At this point feminists should put their fingers in their ears and start chanting, “I can’t hear you!”

The Sexes Choose Differently

Simply put, men tend to be polygamous and women tend to be hypergamous. Boys generally go for quantity and variety in sexual partners. Girls, on the other hand, tend to go for the “highest quality” men they can find.

Many guys will engage in hookups with any girl that meets their minimal standard for good looks (if they’ve been drinking, their standards get lower). They don’t care about social status, wealth, intelligence, or even personality. If she puts out, he’s in. They think of it all as just natural good fun. Because of their lifetime of indoctrination they expect that the girls see things the same way.

A girl who participates in the hookup culture sees things quite differently. She will only say “yes” to certain boys – those who project the appearance of being worthy of marriage. She thinks, consciously or not, that the one night stand is an indication that the boy sees her as marriage material. She’s been taught to believe that “boys and girls are the same.” The captain of the football team must have chosen her on the same basis that she chose him.

It’s been demonstrated that the hookup culture is psychologically damaging to both girls and boys. But it’s worse for girls. Not only do they suffer heartache and disappointment, but they are left with an over-inflated idea of the type of man they should be able to marry. Intercourse, especially in a long-term relationship, may also lead to serious future bonding issues. For both men and women, but especially women.

“But,” you might say, “I am [My daughter is] a good Christian girl. I [She] would never engage in the hookup culture.”

That may well be – I don’t know you or your daughter. I’m sure that Katy Perry’s parents had no qualms about tossing their good little Christian girl in among the bad boy wolves. Just saying.

Indoctrination and Social Pressure

There are a couple of factors working against the new coed on every college campus. Including the so-called Christian ones.

The entire campus culture – especially as promulgated by the professors and instructors – tells her that morality is for chumps. Everything is relative. Christianity is nothing but a religion made up by old white men to suppress women. It’s okay for women to “use” men in the same way that men “use” women. Of course, it won’t be presented this blatantly. It’s subtle, very subtle. “Did God really say…”

In addition, women tend to need a female social network and want to achieve status within it. A teenager away from home and friends for the first time is especially vulnerable. The quickest way to gain high female status is to attract a high-quality boyfriend. Unfortunately, at most college campuses the girls greatly outnumber the boys. To put it bluntly, the only way for a girl to have a chance of landing a good boyfriend is to say “yes.” That’s just the way it is.

The Curse of High Expectations

So the poor young woman graduates from college and bounces from relationship to relationship (practice marriages – practice divorces) for five or ten years. She never seems to find the “perfect” man. She labors under the delusion that her marriage value is equal to that of the highest status male she’s ever slept with. Even though his suitability is probably mostly in her imagination.

Suddenly she realizes that her biological clock is ticking. Time to find a husband. Marriage-minded men, however, place a high value on youth. The not-so-young woman suddenly realizes that her pool of available suitors has shrunk considerably.

Finally, she “settles” for whatever man will have her – and regrets it for the rest of her life. Or until she divorces him. Because, really, “he’s not good enough for her.”

Even worse off are the women who leave it too late. Their feminist mentors convinced them that they could have it all. They become career women who don’t marry until their late 30s or early 40s. And discover that they can no longer have children.

Note to ladies: feminist women aren’t trying to help you – their goal is to screw up your life as badly as they’ve screwed up their own.

In Conclusion – Get That Degree!

Hah! Didn’t see that one coming, did you? To be honest – I didn’t see it either when I started this post.

The beginnings of a revolution in University education are just starting to be seen. A lot of very bright and very practical people foresee an entirely new paradigm. And it’s coming soon. Internet universities will allow people to get accredited degrees from top quality schools from home. At a very reasonable price. MIT has already put all of its lecture classes online. For free.

If you’re a young lady who wants to make marriage and family the foundation of your future (rather than an afterthought), this is very good news. You don’t have to go to college and rack up debt. Find a hard-working young man with lots of potential and marry him. Help him settle into his career and get started towards his lifetime goals. Be sure to live as frugally as possible so you don’t put a strain on your relationship. Then, start your family while you’re still young, full of energy, and in peak health. You want to enjoy your youngsters! Side note: you also want your parents to enjoy their grandchildren while they’re still young enough to do so.

By the time the oldest is ready for school (and I do mean homeschool), Internet U will be up and running. You can work on your degree at whatever pace is comfortable for you and your family. By the time you’re ready to reenter the workforce – full or part-time – you can have an up-to-date degree in any subject you want.

And think how much it will inspire your children. “Look Billy, mommy is going to school, too! It must be important to study.”

Why Division?

Many decades ago two high school juniors, my best friend and I, went to a Unitarian Universalist church. We sat and watched and listened to the Sunday performance. After a while I whispered to Herb, “this is pretty weird shit.”

“I’m going to reserve judgment until they bring out the snake charmers,” Herb said.

The next act was performed by two young men – one reading a poem while the other balanced a plate on top of a broomstick on top of his forehead. Herb looked at me and raised one eyebrow. He could do a heck of a Mr. Spock impersonation.

We were two young men searching for truth. Herb had been raised atheist-Jewish while my family was strict Roman Catholic. We had attended Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches before stumbling upon the UUs. We kept looking. We went to various Bible studies and even Wednesday night prayer meetings.

One thing really bothered us – all of these churches claimed to be working from the same handbook, the Bible. Yet they had wildly different philosophies. Why are there so many  “Christian” denominations? They can’t all be right, can they?

It took a couple of years before I saw why the Christian church is so divided. In the meanwhile I was attempting to approach the Bible, the Word of God, with some humility.

One man stands out from those years; he absolutely believed that the Bible (as originally written) contains no contradictions. He taught me something that has stayed with me over the decades. He said that the vast majority of the verses in the Bible are very clear – they are easy to read and understand. He encouraged me to concentrate only on those at first. Once I had them firmly in mind I could look at the more difficult verses – always remembering that they couldn’t contradict the clear ones. Context, he emphasized, was also extremely important.

I realized that the denominations were taking the exact opposite approach. They were giving lip service to the majority of the Bible while concentrating on the less clear verses. And often taking them out of context. Each denomination – even each preacher – could have its own “brand” by interpreting these verses in different ways.

Why do this? It isn’t an effective way to bring the blessings of the gospel to the people. It seemed to me that it was intended to cater to people’s prejudices – to bring in as many bodies (and dollars) as possible. The preachers didn’t seem to care whether those people were, or ever became, Christians. (I also have serious doubts about the spiritual status of many preachers.)

These “Christian leaders” were not interested in the accuracy and integrity of the Bible. They were interested in a secure paycheck and in their egos.

That’s why I still read and research the Bible for myself, and refuse to reflexively believe what “everybody knows.” “Everybody” is frequently wrong.

The Bachelor Party

Yesterday I went to a bachelor party. I got to thinking about it – what’s the point? Do other cultures have bachelor parties? Why?

The one I attended was simply an excuse for a bunch of guys to get together. We ate barbecue, had a couple beers, and smoked cigars. Some guys watched the game on the TV but most of us just talked about general guy stuff. I think calling it a bachelor party was merely a gentle way for the guys to say, “no girls allowed.”

I’ve been to other bachelor parties that were about booze, strippers, and sexual humor. What was the point there? Was it supposed to be a last hurrah for the engaged man? A reminder of the things he’s going to have to give up? Or is it simply the only way most guys can get their wives’ permission to it go to a raunchy party?

I could understand its purpose if it were a rite of passage. You know, the old guys get together with the younger ones and share some of their wisdom. Taking a wife is a big deal – a huge change in one’s life. During the weeks and months leading up to the wedding the multitude of preparations can be rather distracting for the groom. The bachelor party could Help him focus on what his real job is going to be, post wedding. Of course, this rite of passage would still have to include beer, barbecue, and cigars.

So I’m still unclear. What social purpose is currently served by the bachelor party?

Too Many Options: Some Thoughts

This post continues where the last one left off – still looking at the idea of having too many options, of “overchoice.” At the end of the last post I made a few tongue-in-cheek comparisons between the marriage market and the Columbia/Stanford psych study.

As a side note: society in the USA is so wealthy that even poor people have an enormous number of options. Intellectuals and do-gooders have written many books and essays against the evils of “the consumer-driven lifestyle.” Isn’t it interesting, though, that these authors never target the college hookup market? Hmm…

Today I’d like to look at two of the ideas that were posited by the study’s authors (and Toffler): paralysis caused by overchoice and the advantages of having a large choice set when the consumer already has an idea what he wants.

That study examined choices that were of a minor, discretionary nature. The choice of buying jam, eating chocolates, or getting a little extra credit in class aren’t exactly critical. That’s part of what makes the social “sciences” less than scientific. To attempt a similar experiment regarding something of real significance – like choosing a mate – would be unethical. Can you imagine the uproar if researchers took hundreds of young men and women and forced them to marry, or even hook up with, choices from random sample groups? Shades of The Harrad Experiment.

Our desire to remain ethical forces us to use anecdotal evidence. Remember the young woman I mentioned at the beginning of this month? She had lots of options – “several” of her boyfriends proposed to her. But she dithered – she simply couldn’t bring herself to make a choice. Finally, at age 30, she latched onto the only boy who still seemed interested in her.

I’ve seen this same effect in my own life when making choices. When something is a “want,” I tend to spend months researching my options. On the other hand, I can make my selection very quickly once I’ve identified a need.

Choosing a new car is good illustration of this. We (guys) often dream about the perfect car for us – usually something way out of our price range. We’re such romantics! But, when a new (or new to us) car is needed, our practical side kicks in. First, we determine how much we can afford to spend (in time and money). With that price in mind we make a short list of suitable cars. Then we go out, do a couple of test drives, and make our purchase. The whole process generally takes less than a week – it’s often completed over a weekend.

The evidence seems to indicate that indecision – overchoice paralysis – can be overcome in two steps. First, decide that you have a need. Second, limit your choices ahead of time by deciding what will fulfill that need (in your price range).

Here is where a problem arises among young women picking a marriage mate.

No Need

Girls today are encouraged to think of marriage as something they might do someday. College is a need. Career is a need. Marriage is something you do after the needs are fulfilled.

Failure to Make a Short List

Young “ladies” are rarely taught to get realistic about what to look for in a marriage partner. Their lists of requirements for a future partner are parallel with a young man’s fantasy car: the speed of a Bugatti Veyron, the off-road capabilities of a Jeep Wrangler, and the practicality of a Toyota Corolla. Even a teenage boy recognizes that this car is a fantasy!

Unfortunately, girls in college get to “test drive” many different men. Because of the shallowness of their bedroom relationships they might even get the idea that the wealthy man, the wild rock star, the jock, the sensitive guy, and the intense revolutionary could all, somehow, be combined in one person.

This experience builds unrealistic and inherently contradictory expectations.

“Settling” for Reality

Then, sometime around 30, they notice that their biological clock is ticking. Marriage suddenly becomes a need. They take a quick glance around at the available young men and make a choice from the handful of available options. Pray God they still have enough looks and personality to have some options!

At this point in their life they finally achieved the two prerequisites to overcome indecision. They have a need. Their options are limited. That makes deciding much easier.

But what about the problem of girls in this age group being forced to “settle” for someone who is “beneath” them in marriage market value? This problem exists only in their minds; it’s based on their unrealistic expectations.

If these women had made an honest accounting of what was required to satisfy their marriage needs, these men would’ve been on the short list. These are men very much like those they friend-listed at age nineteen. Of course, the ones still unmarried by this time are not the ones from the top of the list!

I find it hard to blame the girls for this problem. I know the sort of families and society they grew up in. Their parents and churches failed them. Their schools and the various media deliberately misled them. Sunshine Mary just wrote a sympathetically post about their plight.

Too Many Options: Background

I’m still thinking about the rising age of first marriages. Could it simply be caused by the multitude of choices that modern girls have available to them?

I remember back in the 70s—in high school—when read Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. (Americans were consuming large numbers of anti-consumer books back then.)  Toffler was one of the pundits warning that consumers were being paralyzed into indecision by having too many choices: he coined the term, “overchoice.”

A bit of online research turned up an article from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2000, Vol. 79, No. 6, by Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark R. Lepper. It made for fascinating reading. I will attempt to summarize some of their findings and then I’ll extrapolate to the question of marriage choice.

Summary of “When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?”

In their summary of previous research Iyengar and Lepper point out that choice among relatively limited alternatives is more beneficial than no choice at all. Having some sort of choice is better than none from the point of view of being satisfied with the outcome.

They further noted that a large choice set could yield greater satisfaction if consumers already have strong preferences. Their example was a restaurant with an extensive menu. If each diner already has an idea of what he wants then a satisfactory choice is more likely.

Their research project was a study that compared a limited number of choices (6) and a large number of choices (24-30). They conducted three different experiments along these lines. A short summary of the results is rather interesting; please refer to the original article for more details.

In their first to study they set up a “tasting table” in a high-end grocery store. On different weekends their tables either displayed six choices of exotic jams or twenty-four choices (all from the same manufacturer). The shoppers who approached the table were offered the chance to sample as many of the different flavors as they liked and each person was given a one-dollar-off coupon toward the purchase of any flavor.

The results were quite interesting. When a large number of choices was offered, 60% of those who passed the table stopped to sample. The smaller display drew only 40% of the passers-by. By tracking the coupons, however, the researchers discovered that only 3% of the people who stopped at the large display purchased a jar of jam. Of those who stopped at the smaller display, 30% made a purchase!

The second study involved a lecture class of students offered an essay assignment for extra credit. The students were informed that the essays would not be graded – they would get the extra credit just for turning them in. About two thirds of the students were given a sheet with a choice of 30 different essay subjects. The rest of the students were given a sheet with only six choices.

The group given the larger number of choices had a 60% completion rate. Of those given six choices, fully 74% turned in their essays. For research purposes, the essays were graded by teaching assistants unaware of the experiment. The grades revealed that the students given fewer choices did higher-quality work.

The third experiment involved a taste-test of Godiva chocolates. The students involved were queried beforehand; only those inexperienced with this brand of chocolate were included in the test.

In this case there were three groups. One group was allowed to select one chocolate from among thirty different choices; the second could choose from among six samples, and the third was given no choice – a research assistant selected their sample from among the choices. This study involved the extensive use of questionnaires.

One objective measure of the process was the time required. The students with 30 choices needed an average of 24 seconds to make their decision. Those with only six choices made the decision in less than nine seconds. Not surprisingly, the thirty-sample group reported that the selection process was simultaneously more enjoyable, more difficult, and more frustrating. Both groups were equal in their perception (before tasting) that they had made a satisfactory choice.

After they had tasted their samples the no-choice group was the least satisfied, followed by the extensive-choice group. The limited-choice group, by a large margin, reported gaining the greatest enjoyment from their chocolate.

Each participant was to be paid five dollars. After the study they were offered either five dollars in cash or a five-dollar box of Godiva chocolates. 10% of the no-choice group chose the chocolates over the cash. Of the 30-sample group, 12% chose the candy. In the limited-selection group, 48% chose to take a box of chocolates rather than a $5 bill.

Spurious Correlations with Marriage (just for fun)

  1. Previous research and experiment #3 seem to indicate that having no choice doesn’t give the most satisfactory results. So much for “arranged marriages,” at least in the USA.
  2. Those given an extensive choice needed 2.7 times as long to reach a decision (experiment #3). If we assume that the majority of women (in earlier times) made their selection in four years (age 18 to 22), then “large choice” women of today would require 11 years – through age 29!
  3. A limited-choice display is much less attractive (experiment #1). 72% of female High School graduates immediately go on to college – the “large-choice display.”
  4. Of those who encountered a large-choice display, only 1.8% made a purchase. For the limited-choice display, 12% made a purchase: it was 6.7 times as effective (experiment #1). See #5, below.
  5. The small-choice sample was 4 times as effective in “making a sale” in experiment #3. U.S. women (ages 40-44) who have never had a child rose from 10% in 1976 to 18% in 2008.
  6. Having fewer choices lead to greater eating pleasure. Hmm. This would be difficult to correlate with divorce rate: how do we correct for no-fault and welfare?
  7. Having a large number of choices was more enjoyable, more difficult, and more frustrating. Sounds like hook-up culture.

I’ll post a little more analysis in a day or two.


Primitive Societies

Marriage, or something very much like it, is of critical importance in advanced societies. Sunshine Mary recently had a post pointing out the dangers of anthropological studies of primitive cultures. When I was a sophomore in high school – way back in the early 70s – I remember reading the same thing in Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape. He felt that studying the sexual habits of primitive societies was useless because their sexual habits might be why they remained primitive.

No wonder Feminists get so excited about this sort of study. They’re barbarians.

Are Marriage-Age Statistics Significant?

According to government statistics as reported by Dalrock, the age at which young people are getting married has been steadily rising. When I encounter government statistics a question always comes to mind: do these numbers have any significance in the real world?

I’m not, in this case, questioning the accuracy of the statistics. Let’s assume that the number of government marriage licenses is being reported with sufficient accuracy. But there’s no biblical commandment to get a marriage license. Do these colored lines really equate with the number of people becoming married?

The answer, of course, is yes and no.

In Western society it has become acceptable to have a pre-marriage relationship called “dating.” After a few “dates,” sexual intercourse is generally taken for granted. It’s also acceptable, even encouraged, for dating couples in a long term relationship (LTR) to move in together, to engage in cohabitation.

Cohabitation has many of the same benefits as marriage. In lots of ways it’s a satisfactory substitute. Many have noted that the breakup of a cohabiting couple is very like divorce. It seems that these couples actually do bond, physically and psychologically, just like marrieds. If we could somehow include LTR couples with those buying marriage licenses we might find that age-at-first-marriage has remained fairly constant over the years.

This would indicate that the statistics are not useful.

On the other hand…

Most Americans today, even Christians, think of government as being the final arbiter of right and wrong: a marriage isn’t a marriage unless a license says so. It’s rare to find a husband and wife who lack a marriage license (I’m personally aware of only one such couple). Their numbers are statistically insignificant.

And “living together” evades the major prerequisite for marriage, both biblical and secular. There is no conscious commitment – no contract or covenant between the partners. In our culture a marriage license has become functionally equivalent to commitment. In this light, cohabitation is almost never a “real” marriage.

This leads me to conclude that the statistics do have significance.


Courtship 2: Contemporary

Things have changed considerably from the old courtship days. Now, of course, parents, schools, and churches are not teaching reasonable expectations for marriage. The emphasis is on romantic love and finding the “perfect” mate. Not that I’m knocking romantic love—it sure beats booze for getting high! I just realize that it is an extreme example of eros.

Today young (and not-so-young) people are expected to date – which includes church socials, drunken parties, and making out in automobiles. Sometimes on the same day. Not all of these venues seem like especially good opportunities to spend quality one-on-one time with a young person of the opposite sex.

This modern version of courtship includes dating many, many people in a frantic search for “the one.” The kids are told that, when you find the right person, you’ll “just know.” But, honestly, the number of people that we get to know well through dating is probably no larger than in an old-fashioned courtship. Mostly, we date a new person once or twice and then move on without ever really getting to know them.

And we have no idea what they are really like back home in Cedar Rapids.

How well has this worked? Dalrock has several interesting posts on modern courtship: according to this one, almost 48% of women have never married before they turn 30!

I’ve also been reading Sunshine Mary’s blog regarding her take on a proper Christian marriage. This intrigues me; I have two sons in their early twenties and I would very much like for them to have healthy marriages.

My curiosity was piqued; how do young women today decide when (and who) to marry?

A Google search using the term, “who to marry christian,” led me to an article on the Christian Broadcasting Network website. It was the first article listed—after the ads.

The whole article is well worth reading (in a nausea-inducing way). The writer is Ms. Belinda Elliott. I’ve reproduced about half of the column here, the important bits:

I had dated several guys who wanted to become more serious, but when they would start talking about marriage I would start backing away – quickly. Marriage was a huge commitment, and I wasn’t about to take it lightly. In all of my relationships I had never felt like I knew for sure that the guy was the one.

So how do you know for sure? I would like to offer some ideas. These are things that helped me when I was facing the same decision.

In my case, I already knew Matt quite well. We had attended college together and had become good friends. We even went on a couple dates, but I was never interested in anything more than friendship. But eight years later that friendship had turned into something more, and we began dating. However, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to marry him.

What did it take to convince me? A lot of talking. I don’t mean that he spent hours trying to talk me into it. I mean that we had to discuss a lot of things. I wanted to know all about him, his hopes, his dreams, his fears, his expectations for marriage, and anything else I could think of. I wanted to talk about every possible situation that could arise in a marriage and find out how he would handle it.

The questions covered everything from how many kids we each wanted and where we would like to live to who would do the dishes and take out the trash. You can find many of the questions we used in the book, 1000 Questions for Couples by Michael Webb.

So how do you know for sure? I think my friends were partially right. In a sense, you do ”just know,” but it isn’t because of some magical feeling that all is right with the world. Just knowing comes from time spent contemplating your similarities, your differences, and how well you fit together. It comes from asking God in prayer if this is His will for you.

Let me interpret.

Ms. Elliott attended University where she was “friends” with Matt. That means he wasn’t “high-quality” enough to sleep with – she reserved that privilege for the jocks and jerks (with Beemers).

After college she got involved in her career – and riding the cock carousel. She “dated” several guys who proposed marriage to her but, because of her fear of not getting “Mr. Right,” she dumped them. She was in a number of relationships (practice marriages) so she’s had lots of experience at breaking up (practice divorces). Suddenly, at about 30, she came down with a bad case of “baby rabies.”

Frantically, she started running down the list of all the guys to whom she had ever said, “let’s just be friends.” She was smart enough not to marry a jerk; she knew that her LJBF list contained all of the steady, reliable men she had ever known. She discovered, to her horror, that all of them were married – except Matt, a guy she hadn’t seen much since college. But (thank God!) he was still available and still remembered her as a cute college girl. He hardly even noticed the wrinkles around her eyes.

So, after a couple of months of long-distance interrogation communication to ensure that he will allow her to run the marriage, she settles for him knows that “he’s the one!”

You might have noticed that she talks about praying, asking God if it was His will. I guess she didn’t do any praying about the situation in the twelve preceding years. Was she afraid God would say, “Yes?” She would have to give up partying!

She thoughtfully references an interrogation manual for prospective husbands. In it “[y]ou can find many of the questions we used…” Many of? 1000 weren’t enough?

My favorite quote is, “I wanted to talk about every possible situation that could arise in a marriage and find out how he would handle it.” She’s definitely going to be the captain of this boat.

This sad scenario is what CBN holds up as the standard for a Christian woman choosing a husband. I want better for my sons.