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.