Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Divorce Industrial Complex

Having spent the past few weeks insisting that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's paranoid style has absolutely no place in American politics, Townhall's columnists can now return to more pressing concerns, like the War on Fatherhood.

Albert Mohler interviews Stephen Baskerville, who has written a book about this problem. You can tell that it's very serious, because it has a military metaphor right in the title, and deals with the victimization of men.

The root of this crisis is no-fault divorce, an invention of the "Divorce Industrial Complex" which allows one partner to get a divorce even when the other partner doesn't want one:

It really is unilateral divorce — involuntary divorce. It allows one spouse to force divorce on the other without the involuntary spouse having done anything wrong. In other words, your spouse can divorce you without you having done anything legally wrong or agreeing to the divorce.
Lest you think this complaint is directed at the very concept of female autonomy, rest assured that although "the overwhelming victims of this are happens to mothers as well." In order to save this minority of wives from the shame of being cast aside like a cigarette butt, it's right and natural that we should imprison the rest of them in miserable or even dangerous marriages until their husbands grow tired of the arrangement.

Legally speaking, Baskerville's claim is that marriage is a contract, and should accordingly remain in effect unless its terms are broken by one or both parties. You'd think that not loving someone anymore would easily qualify as nonperformance. But Baskerville, who's on the faculty at Patrick Henry College, and is therefore competent to "shape our culture with timeless biblical values," answers to a higher authority and expects women to do the same.

Arguing that women must stay married until their husbands say otherwise isn't very popular, so Baskerville switches gears and asks us to think of the precious little moppets who are growing up without the benefit of having their parents trapped in a loveless sham of a marriage.
[T]he father’s contact with the children when it is not authorized by the government becomes a crime. He can be arrested for trying to see his own children without having done anything legally wrong.
Again taking this argument at face value, if marriage is a legally binding contract, then it's a matter for the courts by definition. And one thing the courts are going to decide is who gets custody of any children, and under what terms. Baskerville knows his audience well, which is why he uses the terrifying phrase "authorized by the government." But to the extent that this is accurate, it was at least as accurate back in those dear dead days before no-fault divorce came along, as the laziest perusal of 1950s melodrama will demonstrate.

Still, libertarianism is all the rage, so the problem has to be presented as one of government tyranny:
[W]hat’s most important about it is this huge machine is government based. It’s not just private entrepreneurs in this case, it is government officials. It's lawyers, it's judges and it’s the huge social services bureaucracies … it’s a huge entourage that is not only profiting from divorce, but increasing government power over private lives in very dangerous ways.
One old-school option, as we know, was for the government to force you to stay married to a person you can't stand. That's not good enough for Baskerville, though, who says that "simply repealing 'no fault divorce' and reinstating fault in divorce would not solve the problem."

He doesn't specify what would solve the problem, but it's not too hard to guess. Given that his first aim is to stoke male rage and self-pity, you can bet that his second is to preach of the coming kingdom in which legal rights and men's rights will be synonymous. Like the rest of his crowd, he believes that once he's stirred up enough hatred of government and hatred of women, and extorted enough faith in God The Father, generations of long-suffering men will rise up and force our nation's self-centered bitches back into line. At which point, "the government" can get back to its proper business of rubberstamping the natural order.

Even without reading between the lines, Baskerville's rhetoric is as offensive as it is dangerous. But it'll never seem as outrageous as Rev. Wright's remarks. Invoking conspiracies and nursing grievances always seems worse, somehow, when minorities do it...perhaps because it's so obvious that they're mere puppets of the international neo-Marxist conspiracy, which would like nothing better than to see White America laid low.


res ipsa loquitur said...

Hey: who agitated for no-fault divorce in the first place?

Hint: it wasn't women.

Anonymous said...

Baskerville knows his audience well, which is why he uses the terrifying phrase "authorized by the government."

I always use that phrase when talking to schmibertarians about same sex marriage. "You want some government functionary to say who you can and can't marry?" It's amazing how many of them clamor for government interference if they get a mental image of two penises together.

Anonymous said...



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