Thinking again to my recent reading of “Breakfast with the Dirt Cult,” it reminded me of the feeling of heartbreak, because it’s one of the novel’s underlying themes: falling in love with the wrong girl, the two fooling themselves that it could work, and then finding themselves broken apart by circumstances and some measure of personal weakness.
The modern experiment has encouraged people to go through rapid cycles of romantic relationships, even at the higher social strata. People are both encouraged to become sentimentally attached to unsuitable partners, and to also drop them when the relationship ceases to be supportable, even when there is a marriage to dissolve.
In statistically noticeable ways, this cultural strain leaves plenty of people alone and unhappy. The opposing argument would be that, before, people were pressured together and had themselves left even more unhappy.
The individual can make romantic decisions, but the surrounding society, society writ small, society in the form of the family, circles of friends, neighbors, fellow parishioners, also bear many of the consequences of those individually-made decisions. When the individual makes a capricious decision in love, it frequently does damage others, especially when there are children involved.
Even from a J.S. Mill ‘harm principle’ perspective, this gives the group, which may or may not be formal, a stake in the romantic decisions of its members. Instinctively, this is known, because unless someone is friendless, everyone knows that their friends, fellows, and rivals frequently feel the need to interfere in one another’s romantic lives. There are reasons motivating that behavior, even if those reasons aren’t always entirely well-reasoned themselves.
The motivation behind this is because the group has a stake in the success or failure of its members, subjectively determined. The group interests may be an abstraction, but it is a useful abstraction.
The family, taken as an economic unit, can reduce various costs for its members. The family name acts as a common reputation (good or bad) for its members. The family, much like a corporation, contains within itself lore and other forms of knowledge of differing levels of utility to its members. Its members are genetically predisposed to treat one another differently as compared to those outside the family.
The family also reduces the overall costs to the state of law enforcement — at least when those families are well-run, and are capable of exercising authority over its own members. The adage ‘every man’s home is his castle’ — con-notating political subsidiarity — also means that it is the responsibility of every head of household to govern itself according to his best interpretation of the law.
If you were trying to order a civilization, you would look to do that in an efficient way, so that the sovereign only needs to respond to egregious violations of the law, which is all the sovereign is really capable of doing in any case. By breaking apart families, treating them as legally expendable, you are thereby increasing the number of incidences to which the sovereign must respond to at the sovereign’s expense.
Whereas before, even in popular culture, when one boy broke the window of the neighbor boy’s house playing baseball, the two fathers would work it out.
In today’s culture, “broken windows” are instead theoretically the responsibility of the state, and there is even a “broken window theory” stating that when police punish minor infractions against property & aesthetics, more severe crimes are deterred.
Whereas before, the fathers were working for the interests of the state without a stipend, the fathers are no longer fathers as they once were, and the agents of the state must be paid enormous sums of money to provision order.
Whereas the patriarchal household addressed disorders of aesthetics and morality both, providing an order rich in texture and symbolism, the superstate retracts to only enforcing the law when egregious, actionable crimes can be punished.
Coming to agreement about what makes a just order in an enormous country is impossible. Such agreement has never occurred.
What we have seen, previously, in our history, albeit unevenly distributed, was a distributed household system based on privacy and property, in which small uncrowned sovereigns exercised authority in idiosyncratic ways, according to the differing characters of their members, none of them being homogeneous, but still providing unusually high levels of order and social cooperation.
Instead, we encourage the breaking of hearts and the breaking of windows, trusting in the central state to perform an obligation that it is neither suited to nor capable of satisfying.