Societal Structure (Including Boys and Men) and Societal Health

Writing from a politically conservative perspective about the (presumably intentional) controversy generated when Georgetown student Sandra Fluke appeared before some members of Congress to express her need for no-copay contraceptives, Mark Steyn opines that the episode “is a useful reminder that the distinction between fiscal and social conservatism is generally false.”  His meaning is that traditional values and an institutional society that strengthens them are a prerequisite for limited government and broader freedoms, like those of association and property.

Related notions appeared in a post over the weekend on the Futurist blog titled “Why Baby Boomers Will Have a Troubled Retirement.”  The author notes that the Obama Administration and the Congresses that have accompanied him have already borrowed all of the space out of the budget that might have been used to prop up poorly funded public retirement entitlements and that the housing boom and bust, coupled with the mortgaged-sized debts of new college graduates, have erased the real estate equity that might have helped to finance the winter years of those who don’t have the resources in liquid assets.  But then he adds in this consideration:

On top of the student loan burden postponing their home purchases, there are more sinister cultural forces that are moving this upcoming generation towards apartments and condos, and away from the single-family homes that Boomers will seek to sell.  The US legal system severely disincentivizes young men from family formation by subjecting them to preposterously unfair laws if they enter a modern marital contract, and while those who profit from this status quo have done their best to conceal the risks of marriage and family from young men, the anti-misandry sphere continues to expose the truth, particularly to these younger generations of men.  Fewer young men are willing to take on the risk of entering such a lopsided contract.

This is the tails side of a coin more often viewed from the head, whether the feminist question of marriage’s lack of benefits for women or the difficulty for professional women of finding suitable husbands.  Men may, as the quotation suggests, enter marriage at a legal disadvantage, but they increasingly enter it from a position of economic disadvantage, as well.  On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a release reporting the following findings from a 13-year-running longitudinal study:

While nearly 28 percent of women had received a bachelor’s degree by the October when they were age 24, only 19 percent of men had done so, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Additionally, nearly the same percentage of men and women (12 and 13 percent, respectively) were enrolled in college at age 24, so it is unlikely the gap in educational attainment will close.

Experience with working-to-middle-class private schools suggests that more parents enroll their daughters in such institutions, and a look at the demographics of the Star Kids program, which is designed to propel disadvantaged children outside of their circumstances, shows girls outnumbering boys three to one.  We can certainly discuss the apparent imbalance in favor of men among the super-successful, but looking at the broad cut of American society, marriage leading toward the young, stable families on which our economy and social programs rely is a waning institution.

As the Fluke controversy also illustrates, the problem goes even more deeply than education disparities and marriage law.  A full decade into a “hook-up culture” that might make even the graduating class of 1999 shake their heads, with contraceptives on the cusp of unfettered, free access, the sexual drive that society heretofore has harnessed to perpetuate itself and its steady, healthy economic growth is all but through the gate of free rein.