Acton Institute Powerblog

Are Our Relationships Threatening The State?

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Could our strong marriages and great interpersonal relationships be a threat to the state? Stella Morabito thinks so. In a piece at The Federalist, Morabito says the State has something to lose when culture promotes traditional marriage, strong families and ties to the community. She examines a Slate article in which Lily and Carl (a fictional couple) are facing an unexpected pregnancy. They aren’t married, don’t care to be, and Lily (who has few community relationships outside of work) sees no advantages to marrying. Corabito says that the Slate article, which claims that women want and need their “freedom” and that few marriageable men are to be found, needs a strong second look.

Let’s start by looking at Lily as a real person. She is in need of relationships, intimacy, and a life  not overwhelmingly dominated by 9-to-5 drudgery.  Let’s consider Carl a real human being also.  Yes he needs a job, but he also needs the same things as Lily: to feel respected, connected, and useful to others.  They both need to feel anchored to something worthwhile, not like displaced persons wandering about life. How does such anchoring happen?  Through strong relationships with real people.

Most telling in the Slate piece is this throwaway line about Lily: “She has very few friends, married or unmarried, in strong relationships.”   That is a statement worthy of deep exploration.

Corabito cites the Slate piece as saying that Lily would be better off not marrying so as to avoid divorce and child custody issues later on (as if this is inevitable): all messy, expensive and draining. Plus, courts will likely grant equal custody to dad, even if he is a “schlub” like Carl. We women can’t stand for that, can we?

Corabito says this all about isolation and separation. Keep marriage off the table, keep kids away from dad, keep the woman from seeking out a suitable marriage partner.

It’s another example of how children are the pawns and political footballs in just about every so-called “progressive” agenda.  Ironically, the argument also seems to cultivate a view of children born of casual sex as less deserving of intact families than children born to “elites.”  They are barely an afterthought in this picture, in which men are a hindrance to be avoided.

Most troubling is that it seems the authors at Slate are happy to keep women like Lily separated from potential husbands.  Why such eagerness to discourage the coming together of people by ties of family and kinship?  Why tell single working mothers en masse that it’s best to “just say no” to marriage?

The past few years, the press has been infatuated with the topic of “inequality.” Corabito strongly suggests that social isolation is the real inequality, and the state is not only okay with that, they’re promoting it:

All the statistics are against you and resistance is futile.   But we have this nice isolation chamber for you.  We’ll put food and drink out for you. We’ll assign you work and school and ‘communitarian’ opportunities as long as you don’t get married.  We’ve got pre-K programs for your babies and toddlers. (Contrary to popular belief, we are just itching to be the hand that rocks the cradle.)  And we’ll provide you with plenty of free contraceptives to further encourage you to have lots of loveless sex. That way you’ll continue to enable those ne’er-do-wells you like to hang out with.  We know you want intimacy.  But our policies are aimed at modifying your behavior so that you’ll never catch on and cultivate the habits that encourage real intimacy. Honey, you’re a great poster child for us at the moment.

Human beings are made for love. We are meant for strong relationships: between husband and wife, parent and child, family and community. When we strip these away, we not only get a lot of lonely people seeking out relationships in all the wrong places (isolation is the very heart of a lot of social media), we get a very over-reaching, overly intrusive state. And that’s not good for anybody.

Read “How Personal Relationships Threaten The Power of the State” at The Federalist.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.


  • Don Schenk

    Of course. That’s why traditional libertarians valued churches and synagogues as a buffer against the need for, and control by, the state. Modern libertarians , however, want the state to eradicate churches and synagogues.

  • H. Kirk Rainer

    Do I beleive that that The State and social strength are at odds? Absolutely! For as Carle Zimmerman (and others) have examined historical cause(s) for the decline of social strength (to includie marriage & family), the condtions prevail that as social strength wanes, The State grows….

  • Michael

    I have pondered this post and Ms. Morabito’s original post for a couple of days. Is it actually possible that the government is “actively” working against families in order to enhance its size and reach? I don’t think so. I do believe, however, that when the government provides support through government structures which are necessarily outside the purview of the family it encourages people to be less accepting of one another because they do not need to be in relationship in order to obtain the benefits of having a supportive structure outside themselves. The ready availability of sexual outlets outside of a familial relationship just starts the ball rolling downhill. The Catechism (CCC 1869) says it best, “Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness.”