Friday, June 12, 2009

In a perfect world, there are no divorces

On the 12th of last month, I said that in a perfect world, there are no abortions. This month, I continue the theme of perfect worlds: In a perfect world, there are no divorces. I suspect the reasons for this diverge substantially, so you'll have to take your pick, but I think I can convince you that a perfect world is divorce-free.

This is easy if you think that divorce is immoral. Marriage is a bond for life in the eyes of God, and should not be dissolved by anything short of death. So then, divorce is wrong, and a perfect world must therefore include no divorce.

It is also easy if you think that marriage is an unnatural institution that works against human nature - because then, in a perfect world, nobody gets married. If nobody gets married, nobody gets divorced. QED.

Where this becomes more difficult is when you are a moderate who understands the necessity of divorce in the real world. People do get married, and it is something that they wish to take seriously; at the same time, marriages turn out to be abusive. People change and grow apart, or have conflicting beliefs from the start.

And here, our perfect world must be more complex - one free of spousal abuse, one in which people only bind themselves in marriage wisely with rare, nearly precognitive foresight, one in which "for tax purposes" or "for social pressure" has no meaning. People whose relationships are destined to end instead select some other form of partnership than a permanent marriage; perhaps something with term limits, or something less formal, but accorded similar status and respect by others.

In fact, while we can see the perfect abortion-free world in the horizons of science and social engineering - even, in fact, can see it in some dystopian futures - this perfect divorce-free world of ours seems terribly unreal. But while the limiting case may seem impossible, we can see the virtues of incremental steps towards it. Thinking carefully before tying the knot, stamping out abusive behaviors - these are good things. But our real world is complex, and needs escape valves for when mistakes are made.

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