I love Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. I find his writings to be quite entertaining. His interviews are interesting and almost always thought provoking.
That being said, I disagree with some of what he says. Today and specifically, I disagree with a recent post on his blog titled Marriage: Civilizations’s Biggest Mistake To be fair, part of me still thinks he might have only been trolling.
Still, because I cannot rest while someone is wrong on the internet, I thought I’d write up why I believe he is wrong. Everything in quotes with be from Mr. Adams’ article.
And 80% of your interactions [with your kids] can be unpleasant if you are the disciplinarian.
This presupposes that his made up statistic is both true and somehow a necessary product of marriage.
Mr. Adams continues on the subject of kids and says our modern public school system assigns too much homework. This homework causes stress. He then postulates a solution.
You know what would solve that?
Get rid of marriage.
The only reason the local school system can crap on kids with truckloads of useless homework is because they hand-off the problem to parents.
There are many examples of schools putting up with stressful mandates right now. For example standardized testing. Therefore I don’t think it’s fair to say they would just fix the problem.
Also, there are other, more effective, possible solutions to the homework problem like homeschooling, privatizing the school system, simply removing homework mandates, etc.
At this point in the article, Mr. Adams proposes a new marriage-less system that would raise children.
For the sake of comparison, imagine a system in which kids are raised by some sort of organized partnership of parents, teachers, and medical professionals. Parents can spend as much quality time as they want with their kids, but mostly for mentoring and social reasons. The jobs of discipline, healthcare, feeding, fitness, and education would be handled by the greater organization.
I will hereby refer to this as the Adams System.
When a kid is in school, one teacher controls 20-30 kids. That is an efficient system, and the teacher probably doesn’t mind the work. When two kids come home to one parent (often) you have a 2-1 disadvantage for the parent.
He claims that a parent is at a 2-1 disadvantage in the at home example. Isn’t 2-1 better than the 30-1 in the Adams System? Isn’t it easier to manage 2 kids than 30? Isn’t a child better off not having to compete against 29 other kids for love and attention?
Do you know why millions of Americans have no healthcare? it’s because of marriage.
I think this is a preposterous stretch. I doubt you could ever find a person who would say, “You know why I don’t have insurance or go to the doctor? Marriage.”
What is the real reason people don’t get insurance? It is expensive, and they can’t or won’t pay that much for it.
Marriage creates entities against which you can discriminate. If there were no marriages, all citizens would be equal, and my guess is that healthcare would be universally available.
Post hoc ergo proper hoc logical fallacy. There is no plain straightforward chain of events that leads to his conclusion.
But without marriage, there would be enough money for everything you want. Marriage is what is making us poor (compared to my hypothetical alternative of child-raising co-ops.)
Mr. Adams presents exactly zero evidence that marriage is keeping us poor. Also, he does not address the costs of inefficient bureaucracies. For this to be a valid point, he would need to describe how the Adams System could possibly be more cost-efficient.
Do you know why nearly every parent doesn’t eat right and doesn’t exercise enough? Answer: Marriage. Kids.
More post hoc ergo propter hoc. I know of many counter examples. I can also think of many more likely causes of bad diets and insufficient exercise. For example there are distractions like television and the internet that keep us from physical activity. The widespread availability of cheap, nutritionally void junk food means more people eat it.
Do you know why most adults are self-medicating with alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs? Answer: Because married life sucks and single life sucks just as much.
This presupposes that most adults self medicate, but provides no evidence. And what are the adults self-medicating against anyway? Depression maybe? Whatever the need for self medication, I submit that it could be managed far better through diet, exercise, proper counseling and possibly medication.
It also presupposes that married life both sucks and is necessarily sucky. I don’t think I’m cherry-picking to say there are enough happy, non-sucky marriages out there to disprove the presupposition.
Do you know why so many adults can’t get the training they need for a job? Answer: Marriage and kids. Not enough time or money left over.
It’s starting to look like Mr. Adams is really arguing against having and raising your own kids. Yes, I admit having kids is expensive both in time and money. But again, is that proof of why many adults don’t get training? Nope, it once again ignores many other probable causes. Also many adults that floundered through life don’t even seriously seek out training until they find out they’ll be parents. Now they have a reason to better their employability.
Now look around at your friends over thirty and ask yourself which ones have financial problems. Is it the divorced ones? Yes, it is. Marriage leads to divorce about half the time, which often leads to emotional and financial ruin.
This sounds like it should be a pro-marriage argument. “Stay married, peeps! Don’t double your living expenses!” Also, marriage is a necessary condition for divorce, not a cause. That’s like saying “Half of my tomato plants died, so I’d better not ever plant any again.”
I know people whose parents never mentioned college because they knew they couldn’t pay for it, or they didn’t recognize its value. Why did those kids get screwed? Answer: Marriage. If an organized collective raised kids, all of them would have the same options and information.
That’s not true. Do all public schools teach exactly the same things in the same way? Do police departments treat everybody in every neighborhood the same? Making it an organized collective just means different people make decisions about what to emphasize to the kids.
My best guess is that 75% of kids are damaged by bad parenting.
My best guess is that this statistic is bunk. Damage done by parenting mistakes is more than mitigated by parents trying hard and loving their kids.
Not to mention that it would impossible to design and implement a system that could reliably avoid the bad parenting mistakes.
Here again I am comparing it to some sort of co-op arrangement in which the kids are never the captive victims of a drunken parent, a stupid parent, a violent parent, a mentally disturbed parent, an unreasonable parent, a too-demanding parent, and so on.
Now the kids can be captive to an uncaring, inefficiant, damaging system instead of a parent! One wherein they can not get the close one on one relationship that is possible with a parent. Mr. Adams’ entire article totally ignores all of the positive benefits of having that type of relationship. And he ignores the fact that parents do not have a monopoly on abuse. All of the damaging behaviors mentioned could (and would) exist in the Adams System. In fact, many could be built into the system itself (by mistaken design or faulty implementation) and the child would have no advocate to protect them.
How about terrorism? That’s mostly a marriage problem in the Middle East. In this case, the powerful Muslim men marry multiple women and there are no other religion-approved outlets for male sexuality. That creates millions of young male zombies willing to die for a chance to get laid in heaven. Literally. That’s their best option.
That is ridiculous. Yet more post hoc ergo propter hoc. Do other religions that require celibacy have a terrorist issue? Do a lot of catholic priests blow themselves up? Do a lot of Mormon missionaries commit mass murders? Do you see a lot of Buddhist monks signing up in violent extremist organizations?
Even if ‘marriage’ is a compounding issue, terrorism is nowhere near “mostly a marriage problem.” Treating the actual causes would be far more effective.
I swear if a young man (and his friends and neighbors) had ready access to food, running water, air conditioning, safe (bomb-less) neighborhoods, productive work, a large screen TV, and a set of Arrested Development DVDs, he would not have a reason to turn to terrorism.
Those two are still with the kids, one text message after another. I call this situation dating a cyborg, because the person and the phone are one. How can you fix it?
Is that really how most people date? I don’t think that’s a fair assessment at all. When my wife and I leave kids with a sitter we have phones and almost never get nor send even one text message. So how do you fix it? I guess breaking your addiction to technology is right out?
Get rid of marriage. Marriage caused the family unit and then caused the broken family unit with no support.
Once again, marriage is a necessary condition for a broken family, not a cause. Also, removing the institution of family would then give kids many of the same issues that they get from a broken family.
Climate change? Totally a marriage problem. Marriage causes single family homes with too many cars, long commutes, and about 5X the wastefulness of a better-designed system.
This presupposes that suddenly people wouldn’t want space or a yard if they weren’t in a family. And that they would be more willing to share vehicles. And that they would obviously generate less waste. I do not believe these presuppositions have validity.
In my view – and I mean this literally, not satirically – marriage is the biggest contributor to mental health problems, crime, poverty, drug abuse, climate change, terrorism, violence, rape, incest, poor health, and ignorance. But you have been brainwashed to not see it.
In my view – and I mean this seriously, not in jest – the breakdown of marriage and the family is the biggest contributor to mental health problems, crime, poverty, drug abuse, climate change, terrorism, violence, rape, incest, poor health, and ignorance.
Anytime you weaken families, i.e. take responsibility away from parents and give kids to some bizarre bureaucracy, you cripple a child’s ability to succeed. You also cripple the parents’ growth.
No family is perfect, but family is the ideal vehicle for both parents and children to succeed, grow, and find fulfillment.
I know I have only mentioned a few of the benefits of family life. Maybe that’ll be a topic for another day.
Note on Mr. Adams’ note: I am VERY ANGRY about his article and Scott is an idiot. 😉
Also, the next day he posted something that essentially said, “If you disagree with me, then your brain isn’t functioning right.”