social institutions

social institutions

The People-Forming Institutions: Preparing the Soil

children, church, education, family, MARRI, religion, social institutions No comments
By: Patrick Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
      Avery Pettway, MARRI Intern

Although there are five basic institutions in society, only three of them are what I call “person-forming”.  The marketplace and government function to protect individuals and to provide for goods and services, but they do not function to directly form the individual.  It is the family, the church, and the school that shape character, instill moral principles (which are universal and timeless), and which develop the person as a whole.  Thus these three institutions serve society in this, the most foundational and critical of its long range tasks.  They each play a direct role in the formation of a person as he moves toward adulthood—additionally, the marketplace and government rely on the primacy of these three person-forming institutions in order to have people capable of serving in their economic and citizen roles.

Why are the institutions of family, church, and school able to form an individual while the institutions of marketplace and government are not?  The answer profoundly impacts our national discussion about policies and their implications.  Even more importantly, as we delve deeply into this question, we can see more clearly what it means to be human.

There is something foundational to human life that the institutions of marketplace and government simply cannot provide: it is the intimate relational formation of a person.  People’s deepest need is relational—love, care, affection, and personalized guidance.  In the family, a child finds the nurturing intimacy he needs.  In the church, he finds the relational intimacy with the divine that speaks to his soul’s questions.  In the school, through good relationships with his teachers, he learns how to understand the world in which he will soon act.  The marketplace and the government are the institutions through which he can later exercise who he has become through the shaping of his family, church, and school.  When it comes to directly forming who he is, however, marketplace and government have significantly less direct impact—though, in their proper context, laws can teach a great deal, and services from the dark side of the economy can corrupt (e.g. pornography).

As we will explore in future blog postings, the consequences are grave if we misunderstand the distinct nature of the person-forming institutions.  To return to our farming analogy: it is ignorant and futile for a farmer to expect abundant crops and sustainable returns without first preparing the soil for harvest, planting good seeds, and caring for the land.  Failure to do so results in stunted crop growth and insufficient income for the farmer.

Similarly, we must protect the “three sacred spaces” of family, church and school to permit the harmonizing of the person-forming tasks:  the family, where the child most deeply develops as a relating and belonging person; the church, where he orients himself to life and its big issues; and the school, where he learns about the world around him and how to make sense of it.  As the farming analogy shows, a child’s future productivity and stability depend on the person-forming institutions’ foundational actions.  Giving improper weight to the instrumental institutions—or disconnecting the person-forming ones from each other—will lead to societal destabilization (indeed, this is already happening).  When families are treasured and intact, when those families worship God weekly, and when schools aid the work of parents in teaching children according to their worldviews: children from such families thrive, and a society made of these families grows in well-being.  Such is the task of each generation—of all societies, across the globe.  These are universal truths.

Will Our Concern for Health Eliminate our Moral Values?

Christianity, conscience, culture, pro-life, social institutions No comments

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern
 

On November 6, voters in Massachusetts and California decided – by a close margin in both states – not to legalize assisted suicide. This was a victory for life. But what if Massachusetts and California had followed the states of Washington, Oregon, and Montana, along with a number of countries in Europe, in legalizing assisted suicide?
I have to question the implications of the fact that these bills were even proposed to the voters. Why is our society pushing for the legalization of voluntary death, when there are so many advances in medicine?
For centuries pain was part of life, assumed, accepted, and never questioned; but now we can go to the hospital to prevent infections, cure a sickness, recover from an amputation, have a heart transplant…even eliminate a headache. So why are we concerned about ending life because of suffering when, supposedly, medicine gives us the power to relieve suffering?
The key to this discussion is to acknowledge that when we eliminate religion from a culture, when we deny moral values and human dignity, we’re left with our own self-preservation as our only ethical guiding light.
When justice and human dignity are no longer a priority, we go to every length we can to prevent suffering and to create comfort. As with numerous other areas of life, like education, sexuality, marriage, friendship, and leisure, our culture teaches us that it’s all about our personal satisfaction. When there is no ultimate respect for human dignity, it’s natural for men to elevate health to their highest goal in life.
But how is health related to death? A recent essay from First Things gives an explanation for the relation between the two: “When eliminating suffering becomes the overriding purpose of a society, people can easily come to perceive that it is proper to accomplish the goal by eliminating the sufferer.”
The author continues,
Elevating “health” to the ultimate purpose of society turns it into something other than health. The original definition of the term is elasticized to include a hedonistic sense of entitlement to obtain whatever our hearts desire. Health becomes understood as a prophylactic, if you will, against suffering.
With this mindset, it seems normal to want to end a life because it’s causing pain. But will this legalization turn into an open passage to suicide? What is the difference between someone who wants to die because his physical pain is too much to handle and someone who no longer wishes to live because life is too hard or the sadness of losing a loved one is too painful? Who will determine what level of suffering is necessary in order to apply for legal death?
Let’s take the question further. What if a person has the power to decide for someone else that his or her life is filled with pain or distress, as was the case with Terri Schiavo in Florida in 2005? Or to decide that someone else’s life is causing him or her to suffer, so he or she has the right to eliminate that suffering by eliminating the other person? (This is an argument used to support abortion, when an unborn baby causes financial or personal inconvenience to the mother.) Has our society drifted so far from ethical moorings that we would legalize murder on demand?
The author of the First Things essay describes our moral situation:
In such a milieu, ethics become transitory because we justify our behavior by feelings rather than robust principles of morality—which after all, sometimes require us to eschew what we want and what feels good in order to do what is right.
It is obvious that when there is no religion in a society there is no respect for life. MARRI research in 95 Social Science Reasons for Religious Worship and Practice explains many more consequences of the decline of religion. How long will we allow this decline and its consequences, all in the name of “health” and “freedom from suffering,” to go on?

What Kind of Man Do You Want?

children, culture, family, feminism, marriage, men, social institutions, women 2 comments
By Sharon Barrett, Intern
It’s an eternal question: What do women want?
 
Last week, I came across this blog post on manhoodthat offered a partial answer:
 
Men in American society seem to fluctuate between two extremes….It seems barbarians [à la Han Solo of Star Wars, or Tom Doniphon in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance] are the kind of men women fall for from a distance, and then despise when they get close – the “bad boy” image. Wimps [like tenderfoot Ranse Stoddard, opposing Doniphon’s gun-slinging version of justice] seem to be the kind of men women despise from a distance and then get to know and start to care for as good provider, “beta males.”

But neither barbarians nor wimps are fully men.

 
What barbarian and wimp alike are lacking, the writer argues, is balance: an Aristotelian “golden mean” between tough and tender. Where one man excels in physique, business savvy, or rugged individualism, another may have aesthetic sense, intelligence, or a reputation for being “good with kids.” By implication, the man who balances these traits not only will achieve manliness in the eyes of other men, but will increase his attractiveness to women.
 
Can a “golden mean” between barbarian and wimp give women what they want? Yes – with this addition. Manhood is more than a middle way that combines ruggedness and gentleness for the sake of balance; it is a third way that employs a man’s abilities in the pursuit of a goal outside himself. Masculine strength is best defined in one word: commitment, the decision to give one’s word to another and stand by for the long haul. Men who embody commitment to a wife, family, job, and community are the ones who can reverse the current trend of fatherless families, broken marriages, and child poverty.
 
Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has taught women they don’t need this kind of man. In the words of feminist writer Hanna Rosin (author of The End of Men), “Women no longer need men for financial security and social influence. They can achieve those things by themselves.” (Nor do they need a man for help in raising children, since full-time daycare is only a phone call away. With the advent of Artificial Reproductive Technology, they no longer even need a man – other than a sperm donor – to conceive children.)
 
According to Ms. Rosin, the sexual revolution gave us “the ability to have temporary, intimate relationships that don’t derail a career.” Because career is (in her estimation) most important to women in their 20s and 30s, she continues,
 
No one is in a hurry to get married, and sex is, by the terms of sexual economics, very cheap. When sex is cheap, more men turn into what the sociologist Mark Regnerus calls “free agents.” They sleep with as many women as possible basically, [sic] because they can.
 
Men don’t need to strive for a “golden mean” when women pursue them for short-term pleasure without asking for commitment. Women perpetuate the hookup culture by allowing men to expect to take any woman to bed, no strings attached, as long they take her out for “a nice time” first (as Maria Reig Teetor reported last week). Women may suffer emotional pangs, but men are taking the real hit: since the 1960s, a “persistent ‘gap’” in employment has existed between married and unmarried men. Employment rates for single, divorced, and cohabiting men consistently plummet faster than rates for married men – in or out of a recession. A culture of marriage, on the other hand, by demanding commitment, actually makes men more employable.
 
When sex is cheap, commitment has no value whatsoever. When women live as if they don’t need men, real men disappear. And the economy and the family suffer equally.
 
In the end, women’s expectations set the bar for manhood. The question is still before us: Women, what kind of man do you want? The men are waiting for your answer.

Failing Schools or Failing Families?

education, marriage, religion, social institutions No comments

By: Eileen Gallagher, Intern

On June 20 the Gallup Poll stated that only 29% of Americans have confidence in our public school system, a new low.
Meanwhile Pew Research Center reported that “In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.”
These two facts appear to be unrelated, but last year The Heritage Foundation published an article on education which pointed out that “In 2009, white public school eighth-graders outscored their black classmates by one standard deviation (equivalent to roughly two and a half years of learning) on the math portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test.”
Meanwhile, “according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, by the age of thirty nearly 81 percent of white women … will marry, but that only 52 percent of black women will marry by that age.”
Are these two facts also unrelated?
Confidence in public schools system is very low, and the marriage rate is also very low. African America students are, academically, far behind white students, and the African American marriage rate is very far behind the white marriage rate. The first rule of statistics is that correlation is not causation. While there may be a correlation between marriage rates and educational outcomes, it does not follow that one causes the other.
The family and the school are both institutions in society, and as such each has a specific role to play in the development of people in a society. Institutions are connected to one another, but each institution must fulfill its individual function for society as a whole to thrive.  The family is the most important institution because it is the first and the most natural. Children spend the first 5  years of their life participating mainly in that institution because all the others, such as education, government, the market, and even religion, have more of an impact later in life. Each family is responsible for the initial formation of a person, and if that formation does not take place, every other institution will struggle to fulfill its role in the formation of the same person. An analogy will make this more clear. Two sculptors are working on a statue. One is more capable of shaping the marble into the figure of a person, but the other sculptor is better at sculpting details. It is necessary for the first sculptor to shape the person well enough so that the second sculptor can begin where he left off. If the first does not shape the head of the statue, how can the second make a nose for the statue? In the same way, if the family does not lay the foundations well, the other institutions will have a very difficult, and perhaps impossible, task.
Social Science proves that an intact family structure is highly correlated with educational outcomes. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute found that children from intact families who worship weekly are more likely to receive a Bachelor’s Degree and to receive A’s in school.
The next Gallup Poll should assess confidence in the family. If families are doing well it is very likely that schools will start succeeding as well.

Unmarried Baby Boomers Face A Grim Future

divorce, family, marriage, social institutions 1 comment
MARRI Interns
A recent study on married and unmarried individuals of the baby boom generation paints a dark picture. Researchers at Bowling Green University found that “one in three baby boomers is unmarried.” The overwhelming majority were either divorced or never-married; only 10% were widowed. This is a steep increase of more than 50% since 1980, especially in light of the fact that less than 13% of Americans age 46-64 were unmarried in 1970. In addition to in the number of unmarried adults of the baby boom generation, the marital statuses of these individuals have also shifted over time. “In 1980, among unmarried adults aged 45-63, 45% of them were divorced, 33% were widowed, and 22% were never-married.” According to the most recent figures in 2009, “58% of unmarried boomers were divorced, 32% were never-married, and just 10% were widowed.”
 
As made evident in this study by Bowling Green University, the implications and effects of these figures are significant and dire. Unmarried baby boomers face greater economic, health, and social vulnerabilities compared to married individuals. The study found that unmarrieds were almost five times more likely to live in poverty than married individuals. “Nearly one in five unmarried boomers was poor” compared with just one in twenty of their married counterparts. The research conducted by Bowling Green University confirms much of the research we have already done on the effects of marital status on family outcome, especially on the effects upon children.
 
While the conclusions of this study are in fact significant, it should come as no surprise that unmarried middle age Americans have fewer resources to draw from than do married individuals. They do not have a spouse to offer support, and are less likely to have children to take care of them in their old age. Families are the fundamental foundation of any society; the stronger the couple the stronger the family. If a society is comprised of weak families, society falters. Even for the pragmatic this study has significant implications for our own nation in terms of social security, how we provide health care, and all other social services.

Individualism in Marriage

children, cohabitation, marriage, social institutions No comments
MARRI Interns
An increasingly disturbing trend in Americatoday is the growing emphasis and view that marriage is about personal and mutual fulfillment with no essential link to children. Much of this mindset is synonymous with a more individualistic outlook on life. Mercatornet describes the typical individual as believing that marriage is “being there for the other person and helping them when they’re down, helping them get through tough times, cheering them up when they’re sad.” Ricky says, “You know, just pretty much improving each other’s lives together.” In other words, marriage is about mutual help and companionship.
 
While part of marriage is in fact about relationship between two individuals, this definition leaves out the emphasis on children. Mercatornet further foundthat “young adults’ belief in marriage as commitment and permanence comes with an asterisk: so long as both spouses are happy and love each other.” The growing idea that marriage is simply a union between two people to make each other happy is incomplete. According to Amber and David Lapp, marriage is about something more than simply two separate individuals coming together.
 
According to the Survey of Consumer Finance, the net worth of cohabitating families with children was only $16,540, as opposed $120,250 for intact families (“Child’s Right to Marriage of Parents”).In addition, according to Robert Whelan, Broken Homes and Broken Children, children living in cohabiting homes are also 33 times more likely to suffer serious child abuse than children living with their biological parents (“Child’s Right to Marriage of Parents”).
 
If marriage could not possibly result in children, then it would be fine for individuals to only consider themselves in their future. However, that is clearly not the case. Marriage is not simply the union of two consenting individuals as long as they remain happy; marriage is a lasting bond and commitment that not only includes the man and the woman, but also the children, who together define the family.

Demography: The Russian Case Study

divorce, MARRI, social institutions, world population No comments
MARRI Interns
Studying the social effects of marriage is seldom without surprise for the researcher because those effects manifest themselves in some of the most unexpected locations.  This dynamic confirms that the family is the foundation of civilization, and a concurring case study of this dynamic is Russia’s declining demography and its significant geopolitical import.
Writing recently in Foreign Affairs magazine, Nicholas Eberstadt of the National Bureau of Asian Research argued: “Over the past two decades, Russia has been caught in the grip of a devastating and highly anomalous peacetime population crisis.”  Yearly deaths in Russia are exceeding new births by 800,000 per year, disease is ubiquitous, and life expectancy is below several developing sub-Saharan African countries. 
According to Eberstadt, one of the many factors contributing to Russia’s decline is “family formation trends,” including sub-replacement-level birth rates and a divorce rate of 56 percent. These family-related factors are substantial in themselves, but a body of research shows that familial stability also correlates to better performance on a number of indicators that are also problematic in Russian society.  A number of the other facts Eberstadt mentions as causes of concern – risky behaviors, educational performance, and public health – have correlatives with familial and marital stability, and the literature suggests that an increase in the strength and stability of familial ties in Russia might go far to ameliorate those problematic factors as well. Indeed, recent MARRI research on the social effects of marriage (and divorce) suggest that only an unfeasibly exorbitant amount of social spending would be able to rectify the social costs of fragmented families. 
While simple reduction of all of Russia’s ills to a function of family structure exclusively would be too myopic, the Russian Case Study confirms the correlation between familial instability and social weakness more broadly, and it demonstrates that MARRI’s research has applicability on both a domestic and an international scale.

Marriage as a Public Good

human capital, MARRI, marriage, social institutions No comments
Julia Polese, Intern
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute is running a series of articles on Public Discourse this week about the follies of a conception of marriage that is exclusively private. Answering slogans like “Get the government out of the marriage business” and “Leave it to the churches” that are popular in some libertarian circles, Morse outlines the public goods of marriage. It is in civil society’s best interest – even the smallest of government, night watchman state-touting libertarian’s interest – to maintain traditional marriage as a public good. As a primary mitigating institution between the citizen and the state, marriage provides a stopgap to the encroaching central government on civil society, maintains order in raising children with a mother and a father, and, moreover, Morse argues, is inextricably linked with the current societal involvement of the state. “The government is already deeply involved in many aspects of human life that affect people’s decisions of what kind of relationship to be in,” she writes. “For instance, government’s policies regarding welfare, health care, and housing have contributed to the near-disappearance of marriage from the lower classes, not only in America, but throughout the industrialized world.”
Despite the difficulties social contract libertarians following John Stuart Mill’s intellectual tradition may have in articulating a justification for the covenant-based institution of marriage, Morse’s argument from protection from encroaching government appeals to such a political theory. Jean Bethke Elshtain explains the role of the family in a democratic society in her article “The Family and Civic Life,” calling on totalitarianism’s interest in destroying the family, a particular, in favor of the state, a universal: “to destroy private life; and most of all, to require that individuals never allow their commitments to specific others – family, friends, comrades – to weaken their commitment to the state. To this idea, which can only be described as evil, the family stands in defiance.” Thus, it is a good sign the state is involved in the “marriage business,” encouraging a civil institution that has its own authoritative structure separate from legislatures and executive branches. Morse argues this point from the problem of parenthood: if marriage disintegrates, the state becomes the de facto parent, becoming literally paternalistic.
 
The Marriage And Religion Research Institute’s research and publications corroborate this theory of the family with social science research. A paper entitled “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage” points out the human capital provided by marriage that is essential to a flourishing society apart from the state. It is in the citizens’ best interest for the state to recognize the traditional intact married family and, thus, it should be promoted and upheld.

“Cootie Contagion” and choosing marriage

culture, MARRI, marriage, social institutions No comments

MARRI Interns

Nostalgia for the middle school years gone by rarely rushes into the mind unaccompanied by a twinge of regret birthed by memory of our regrettable social ineptitude.  Awkwardness abounded at school social events, when the hermetically isolated genders were thrust together onto the middle school dance floor.  Those are days to which few would happily return.  Yet recent polling of young singles in Americasuggests that many in their 20s have not yet overcome their fear of the “cootie contagion,” and are therefore worried about commitment to marriage and relationships.
USA Today reports that in a poll of 5,541 adults who are either never married, or widowed, divorced, or separated, only 34.5% of the respondents answered affirmatively when asked “Do you want to get married?”  27% answered no, and 38.6% were uncertain whether they wanted to enter into a marital commitment. 
These findings illustrate broader trends, as Americans tend to view marriage as a nonessential social institution, and consequently neither desire nor pursue it for themselves.  Instead, sexual activity is increasingly detached from marital fidelity, as 55% of respondents report having a one-night stand, and 56% of respondents report having suffered infidelity.
But apart from these issues of sexual exclusivity, marriage confers numerous salutary benefits upon those who choose to engage in it.  Indeed, these benefits are some of the most unassailable and verified findings in all of social science.  Drawing on an abundance of social science research, the Marriage and Religion Research Institute has compiled some of these benefits into the convenient 162 Reasons to Marry in order to educate the public about the desirability of marriage.  If the polls cited above confirm that marriage is on the decline among young Americans, the social science data from numerous sources confirms that those who flee from marriage forfeit its numerous benefits and do themselves a disservice.  If we would avoid this preventable development, it is worthwhile to reevaluate our analysis of the marital bond.  In short, marriage deserves another look.  

Gallup on Well-Being and Religion

culture, MARRI, religion, social institutions No comments
MARRI Interns
The incisive social critic H.L. Menken famously described Puritanism as “the haunting fearthat someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  In the eyes of a not insubstantial portion of the population, this sentiment has been mass-produced and broadbrushed across the entire landscape of religion.  Surely it is by now axiomatic that religious people are little more than repressed, uptight, morose discontents with personal vendettas to search out and destroy any wayward vestiges of amusement that might be illicitly had. 
But, as is often the case, a large body of research suggests otherwise.  A February 16, 2012, headline by the Gallup organization declares “Religious Americans Enjoy Higher Wellbeing.”  Gallup drew upon a massive sample of 676,000 interviews conducted over the course of two years to declare decisively that “the statistically significant relationship between religiousness and wellbeing holds up after controlling for numerous demographic variables.”  In six out of seven categories, including Life Evaluation Index, Emotional Health Index, Healthy Behaviors Index, Work Environment Index, and the Basic Access Index, very religious Americans score higher than nonreligious or moderately religious Americans (the exceptional category is the Physical Health Index). 
This research confirms earlier research conducted by MARRI, including studies detailing the Benefits of Religious Attendance and Religious Practice and Educational Attainment.  These and other studies demonstrate that the side effects of religious practice are unequivocally desirable and beneficial both to the wellbeing of the individual and the strength of the society.  Given this social science data, it would seem that the wit of Menken and the general suspicion against religion that his comments represent might be in need of revisitation and revision. Despite these popular misconceptions, the data demonstrate that religious people are undeniably, but perhaps not inexplicably, happy.