Saturday, April 05, 2014

Explaining Marriage To An ALIEN

Someone must have written an explanation of how to explain marriage to an alien from another planet (my apologies for the tautology) but my cursory Google search gave me explanations for children and for idiots (their word, not mine).

No one seems to address the obvious question of why the Government gives benefits to persons who get married.... in an age of no-fault divorce, remarriage, dual incomes, single mothers, etc. They focus on the unfairness of the Government giving benefits to persons who are assumed to have penis-vagina sex from time to time.

Why does the Government do that? My alien thought process doesn't mean to ask for an historical account of how and why marriage came to be.

My romance-minded alien would understand that --presumably-- society benefits if persons who wish to cooperate to raise well-adjusted, healthy, sociable, useful members of the next generation, are encouraged to do so, or at least not penalized financially and socially for the unpaid amount of time and effort that goes into parenting and also making a lifelong commitment to take care of each other, and also of their aged parents.

But what about persons who have no interest in doing all of the above? Why does a government allocate status, respect, and rewards funded by taxpayers to people who shack up? suggests that "marriage" today means two different things, "marriage is merely the public recognition of a committed relationship between loving adults" and "marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union."

If procreation, childbearing, child-raising/parenting, permanence are no longer an essential part of the marriage contract, what benefit is it to a government or to a society?

My alien might suggest that sexual exclusivity ought to be encouraged, even if it is temporary, to slow the transmission of various epidemics. What, then would my alien suggest as a remedy for the concept of "open marriage", which he would see as surely a form of tax fraud.... if not a pyramid scheme.

Perhaps, an alien with Spock-like dispassionate logic might suggest that the tax code should be revised, so that every person --married or unmarried-- should be obliged to file their tax returns separately, excepting only cohabiting parents who can demonstrate that they are actively supporting and rearing children of school age (or younger) and that those children are meeting or exceeding academic goals.

That would benefit the Government and Society.

My alien's solution would not take care of issues of wills and inheritance, death taxes, visitation rights, next of kinship rights. He'd probably abolish the taxes, and suggest that marriage contracts should include Living Wills and limited Powers of Attorney. He would suggest that, if the Government values marriage, the Government should provide one-time, free legal services to draw up comprehensive marriage contracts for all citizens (optional, not compulsory.... but required reading, and mandatory for couples wishing to file joint tax returns.)

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting proposals. But -- "meeting or exceeding academic goals"? So many circumstances can place that result out of the parents' control.

    Your final paragraph reminds me of C. S. Lewis's comments about marriage in MERE CHRISTIANITY. He suggests that there should be a clear, visible distinction between couples who are married in "the Christian sense" and those who aren't. The church has no place in prescribing the conditions of marriage for the latter. Lewis, of course, wouldn't have approved of same-sex marriage or polygamy, even in the case of civil (non-religious) marriages, but IMO he's on the right track there. The civil contract should be open to any two or more consenting adults. (Though I don't personally believe in polygamy, it could be made to work and I can't see any legitimate civil objection to it for adults -- it presents financial difficulties such as tax and insurance issues, but if an insurance policy can handle multiple children, it should be able to handle multiple spouses.) In fact, I would like to see a form of "domestic partnership" that would be open to any two people not already otherwise committed, such as unmarried siblings or a widowed parent and child who want to merge their finances, to share Social Security, health benefits, etc. Whether or what kind of sex is involved should be irrelevant in the eyes of the state.

    Spouses in a "domestic partnership" or "civil marriage" should be called something else. I've always liked the term "freemates" from Bradley's Darkover series.