Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The high cost of sexual freedom

Chuck Colson jokingly raises the question: if we can tax some undesirable behaviors that cost the public, such as smoking or junk food purchases, why can't we tax illicit sex? For example:

In a recent column, marriage expert Mike McManus explores the high cost of out-of-wedlock sex. For instance, over 7 million American couples live together. Four out of five of those couples will break up without ever tying the knot. But, McManus writes, if they’ve had a baby, many of those mothers and children will be eligible for Medicaid, housing and day-care subsidies, and food stamps.

Second, even when co-habiting couples DO marry, according to a Penn State study, they suffer a higher divorce rate than couples who don’t live together first. On average, each divorce involves one child. And like the never-married mother, the divorced mom is often eligible for many government benefits. According to the Heritage Foundation, McManus writes, “13 million single parents with children cost taxpayers $20,000 each, or $260 billion in the year 2004.” The total probably comes to $300 billion today, McManus says.

And that’s just the beginning.

A child born out of wedlock is seven times more likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent, and end up in prison. They are 33 times more likely to be seriously abused.

And we’ve all heard of the high rates of STDs affecting America’s teenagers—diseases that cost billions of dollars to treat.

So maybe we SHOULD consider a tax on non-marital sex—everything from one-night stands to living together arrangements. It’s costing us a lot of money. And such a tax might indeed pay off the national debt.

Underneath the somewhat tongue-in-cheek question lies a serious point: non-marital sexual activity, and especially non-marital parenthood, costs society a lot of money.

But any hint that the government ought to encourage marriage in the public sphere, by, for instance, teaching high school students about the statistics that show that children raised by their own parents in stable, lifelong marriages have the best outcomes of all children, or by toughening divorce laws to end so-called "no fault" divorces whenever children are present, gets dismissed out of hand as promoting "religion." Because only "religious" people actually care whether people having procreative sex are married or not.

Of course, marriage conveniently becomes a non-religious civil right when society insists on extending it to same-sex couples, to polygamists, or to the incestuous (all of which will happen once the same-sex couples get their way). After all, if marriage helps children, then shouldn't polygamists especially have access to it? They have a lot more kids than gay couples do--and they don't even have to pay someone to manufacture offspring for them.

So, insisting that Jim and Jane should quit shacking up and get married so their kids will do better is religious bigotry; but saying that Bill and Bob don't need marriage in order to help raise Bob's children on weekends when Bob's ex-wife Betty shares custody with Bob is also religious bigotry. Confused yet? Imagine how the kids feel.

The truth is that the little minds on the left are threatened by anything that promotes traditional sexual morality, with its emphasis on chastity, traditional marriage, and the promise of lifelong fidelity. It's why the Apple Corporation feels free to tell all the Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians and others that our beliefs are "harmful" to others, while most companies (and most people) ignore the harm done to children raised in a sexual free-for-all.

Because, quite frankly, the only freedom a lot of Americans still believe in is sexual freedom. But as Chuck Colson points out in his essay, that so-called "freedom" may be costing our society a lot more than we think it is.


L. said...

The opposite of marriage isn't necessarily a "sexual free for all."

I have always personally scorned traditional marriage, but I have come to acknowlege that it does have significant legal benefits for families, which is why I support giving it to anyone who wants it -- including same-sex couples. (I also support polygamy in principle for this reason, although I realize it would wreak havoc on social services, insurance, etc. if suddenly permitted, so I realize it's unlike to be legalized anytime soon.)

While I have nothing against pre-marital sex, or children born out of wedlock, I do agree that teens should be encouraged to delay childbearing until they are truly ready to support children.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

The problem with taxing illicit sex is how to meter the commodity, or at what check-point the tax will be collected. Merchants collect sales taxes, employers withhold income taxes, customs duties are collected by port inspectors... who is going to collect the sex taxes?

Barbara C. said...

Yeah, the whole point of traditional marriage is to get "significant legal benefits". (Insert eye roll.)

Anywho, don't you know, Red, that the solution to this problem is just to encourage more abortions and maybe forced sterilization before you can receive benefits?? (Insert another eye roll.)

c matt said...

One might be able to, for instance, put a vice tax on sexually oriented businesses, publications, movies with R ratings for sexual content, etc. Would not be a direct tax on the extra marital activity mentioned, but it would at least be more practically feasible and help clean up the culture a bit while providing a revenue stream. Much like the tobacco taxes.

Patrick said...

This is a specious argument. Like many things that cost "us" money, the real remedy is to repeal the cost part, not police and tax other peoples' behavior.

By the way: you know what's *way* worse than fornication? Covering up the Watergate burglary.

Anonymous said...

Oh for heaven's sakes. Regulating private sexual conduct? Please refer yourself to recent USSC decisions re same for an understanding of the REASONING behind our country's progress to a place where such interference is as limited as possible in accordance with our understanding of what it means to be a citizen of this fine country. Those who want the government to regulate what their next door neighbors do in bed should move to Saudi Arabia.

Red Cardigan said...

Anonymous at 11:50, that's a terribly lazy argument. What if your next-door neighbor has a five-year-old boy in his bed? Are you okay with the government regulating "private sexual conduct" in that case? Sure you are.

It's all about a culture's vision of morality. Our culture's idea of morality is: don't have sex with children (but let's work on lowering the age of consent!). Cultures like ours are usually replaced in a few generations by people whose sexual mores are a little less whorish.

c matt said...

the real remedy is to repeal the cost part

How? Introducing a bill to hereby declare all sexually transmitted diseases to be illegal? Fine and imprison the viruses? Declare them not to exist?

L. said...

My mores are quite "whorish" [evil giggle -- nice word choice, Red!], but even I think sex should be between consenting adults.

I would gladly pay a "sin tax" to see my dirty, R-rated movies. But I don't think any attempt to tax my fornication would work out well for the government -- I'd just lie about it. How would they know? Would they really have detectives following us sinners around, the way they did in the old days when they tried to remove children from the custody of women with "whorish" mores?

Hector said...

Re: While I have nothing against pre-marital sex, or children born out of wedlock, I do agree that teens should be encouraged to delay childbearing until they are truly ready to support children.

I'd pretty much agree with that- I have nothing against premarital sex in principle (though I do oppose casual sex), but I don't think legal minors should be sexually active.

L. said...

Hector, if you don't think legal minors should be sexually active, how do you propose to prevent this? I am all for encouraging kids to wait, but I would not support criminalizing any sexual activity above the age of consent.

Anonymous said...


Fine. I left out 3 words from my argument: "between consenting adults." Frankly, I assumed that was implied, as I've certainly never ever ever EVER seen anyone advocate nonconsensual sex with a minor, but fine, point taken, and argument refined. Does that make you acquiesce to my point? It should.

c matt said...

What do you have against casual sex? If sex isn't important enough to be reserved for marriage, why the arbitrary restriction?

c matt said...

Regulating private sexual conduct?

You mean like rape?

Even you admit there should be some regulation - consent and adulthood. So when do you move to S.A.?

L. said...

C Matt, last time I checked, rape, by definition, was not between consenting adults.

Anonymous said...

@ c matt:

I second L's statement. Rape isn't sex. It's a violent assault.

To the point though, let me ask you: do you think the government should be able to prohibit a couple from certain consensual sexual acts in the privacy of their bedroom?

bathilda said...

No, anonymous, the GOVERNMENT should NOT even give one iota of a care to what consentual adults do in their homes. married or not, same gender, or not. If people want to preach about what adults should be doing or not doing in their bedrooms, they are free to do that, but in this country, it is unlikely that there will ever be further legislature on legal sexual positions, partners, or anything else sexual (among consenting adults). In fact, "Sodomy" laws are being removed from books. I equate those with "sundown" laws aimed at racial minorities. What you may or may not know is that in some states, "sodomy" is defined pretty much as any sexual contact that isn't straight sex (penis and vagina). Oral sex of any kind, even between married heteros is technically illegal, I won't go into any more details...some of you may have to wear a hairshirt for a couple of days for even thinking such thoughts.

The morality police are limited in passing laws. All you can do is preach, get the word out, and lead by example in our free society. People are allowed to be moral, and we are also allowed to be immoral (according to your religious definition) It's all part of the separation between church and state. we are not a theocracy.

c matt said...

My point exactly - rape lacks consent, but it can still occur in private between two adults. So you do agree that some interference is necessary (when consent and adulthood are lacking). No one in their right mind would believe there are no conditions under which the gov't should interfere. So your actual position is not that the Gov't shouldn't interfere, it's that the gov't should only interfere under the conditions you believe are necessary. In other words, we are haggling about the price.

L. said...

C. Matt, that's exactly what we're doing. I don't think you would be able to find a civil liberatian anywhere so extreme that he/she believed the state had absolutely NO right or responsibility to protect its citizens from harm. We are quibbling about degrees, as you say.

And that is exactly why the abortion issue is so contentious. Do we protect the babies from harm, or do we allow women to make free decisions about how they want to use their own bodies? Do we criminalize the attitudes of people like me, who want lots and and lots of sex without the curse of lots and lots babies?

On the other hand, you have people -- like leaders in Saudi Arabia -- who believe laws restricting women are for the overal good of society, and therefore are justified in protecting society from harm. It is always just a matter of degree.

bathilda said...

Yes! L. and I think Hector... Context is everything. I do think that the people who attribute the beginning of the Pill with the downfall of society are really just saying that the women's revolution that caused it. It's right about the same time, after all. Every generation since at least the beginning of the written word has moaned about "kids these days" and how the world is coming to an end because of a depraved changing society. Yes, the Pill empowered women. YEA! Yes, it allows many women to be able to work outside the home without the continual cycles of pregnancy, postpartum and lactation interferring with careers.
I think that calling the pill a cause of our society slipping is really a misogynistic way blaming women for societal issues. Next, we'll tell women to stop exercising and being fit, because that threatens men. A fit woman is a powerful woman. A fit woman on the pill might take your job. Powerful women do indeed threaten many men, some who don't see it that way, but it's true. Powerful women also threaten women who either don't want that power, or who are too afraid to assume it.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

cmatt, we are not haggling about the price. It is fundamental to our constitutional form of government that government should restrain the choices and personal decisions of free adult citizens only when there is an infringement upon the freedom of other citizens, or when authority has been specifically granted to the government.

It is not a free-for-all about what I think government should do or what you think government should do. The consistent question is, has the act done harm to another, unconsenting, party? There is plenty of debate as to whether an actionable harm has been done of course, but some matters are obvious. Rape infringes on the freedom of the one raped. Children are not legally capable of granting consent.