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July 22, 2012 7:33 AM When I hear the word “culture” …

By Kathleen Geier

Yesterday I mentioned that attention-getting New York Times story from last week which blamed inequality on single mothers, which Katha Pollitt effectively demolished. The worst thing about that story is that it’s led to a new round of concern-trolling about single mothers. And right on schedule, at Concern Troll Central — sorry, I mean Slate magazine — here we have a piece noting, in that classic concern troll “I really hate to break it to you, I come more in sorrow than in anger” guise, that, oh my gosh, “The Kids Are Not Really Alright. It’s worse to be raised by a single mother even if you’re not poor.”

The piece is a response to an earlier Slate article by Katie Roiphe, which rightfully took the Times to task for its tedious moralizing. Now you know that anything that forces you to side with a despicable professional antifeminist like Katie Roiphe is going to be pretty bad, and sure enough, it is. The piece is by W. Bradford Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist and the director of something called the National Marriage Project. Just so we’re clear about where Wilcox is, ideologically, he’s a frequent contributor to the National Review and the Wall Street Journal. He’s also been affiliated with something called the Institute for American Values, which is a propaganda outfit that Maggie Gallagher, known for her anti-gay marriage advocacy, was associated with for many years.

The National Marriage Project, the organization with which Wilcox is currently affiliated, has a well-defined agenda to promote traditional marriage, and all of the research it reports always casts marriage in the best possible light and always puts the worst possible spin on divorce, single parenthood, and nontraditional families and gender relationships. Their research is not peer-reviewed and their methodology has frequently been taken to task; University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen has referred to their reports as “non-peer-reviewed essays with a lot of substantially misleading and erroneous content.” Here’s his critique of a particularly shoddy study the Project on Marriage produced, one that purported to show that that church-going is causally related to marital stability. Another critique of the Project on Marriage’s research, this time from a different source, can be found here.

Oh, and one more thing about W. Bradford Wilcox — he’s a big fan of Charles Murray. ‘Nuff said.

So are we clear about who this guy is? Good!

Now to the article. Wilcox claims that research shows that kids in single parent families have worse incomes, even after you control for independent variables like parental income and education, race, etc. I’m on deadline here and haven’t had time to look at the research he cites, but I’ve linked to evidence above that demonstrates that Wilcox is not an honest broker when it comes to reporting and analyzing the data about these subjects, so I don’t trust what he has to say. That said, there is certainly some reason to believe that, even when you control for income and everything else, a two-parent family would probably be better, all else equal. Among other things, just having an extra person around makes everything so much easier on a practical level. Having two people around to provide care, drive kids to soccer practice, etc., undoubtedly has its benefits.

But here’s the thing: in real life, it’s never ceterus paribus, and there’s the rub. The research on the effects of divorce and single parenthood, which I have looked at albeit not lately, is notoriously complex, because it’s pretty much impossible to sort out causation and correlation. You can’t determine whether how the kid turned out is the product of single parenthood or the product of the rest of the stuff that’s often attached to single parenthood, such as low incomes, or a high-stress marriage, or whatever. Nor can you conjure up an alternate reality to find out what would have happened to the kid if the mom and dad had never divorced, or had gotten married in the first place. So I am intensely skeptical of any research that claims that kids’ outcomes are the results of their parents’ marital status. The research I saw about this stuff was extremely ambivalent as to causal relationships, and in the cases where it did look like the relationship might be causal, the effects were small.

The other part of Wilcox’s argument that is highly problematic is the idea that declining marriage rates among working class Americans is what is driving inequality:

The retreat from marriage in America, a retreat that Roiphe seems keen to defend, has led to “diverging destinies” for children from less-educated and college-educated homes. Children from poor and working-class homes are now doubly disadvantaged by their parents’ economic meager resources and by the fact that their parents often break up. By contrast, children from more-educated and affluent homes are doubly advantaged by their parents’ substantial economic resources and by the fact that their parents usually get and stay married.

This is a dangerous argument, because he’s got the causality direction completely wrong here. Inequality is what is driving the decline in marriage rates among lower income folks, not the other way around. As Shawn Fremstad at the Center for Economic and Policy Research has pointed in this useful post, in the original Times article, Jason DeParle distorted the research about the relationship between family structure and inequality. The research suggests that it is earnings insecurity rather than family structure that is driving inequality. And indeed, in a follow-up post, Fremstad pointed to an additional piece of research that showed that high rates of teen births are associated with states where there are high rates of economic inequality.

Not only does the research strongly support the theory that low marriage rates among low-income people are the result and not the cause of inequality, it also makes a lot of sense on an intuitive level. The dream of marriage and a two-parent family dies hard for most people. I do think it is something that most people would like to have. However, the economic prospects of blue collar men have been in free fall for the past several decades, and this has made them much less desirable as marriage partners. Women want the men they marry to contribute something of value to the marriage; they don’t want their husband to be just one more burden, another person they have to support. But until working class folks see a significant improvement in their economic prospects, they are not going to be marching down that wedding aisle anytime soon.

That’s why, the sexism aside, the woman-blaming detour that our national conversation about inequality has taken is so dangerous. It is a huge distraction. More marriages for the single moms of America are not going to lead to anything more than a stampede to divorce court unless American families can regain the financial stability they once had. I don’t see any way of us getting there short of a mass political movement to demand change, combined with a huge organizing drive by the labor movement to unionize significant numbers of new workers. We have to make fundamental changes to our political system and our economic system, so that we once again have a functional democracy and an economy capable of providing a decent living for all. The right doesn’t want to have an honest debate about those changes, so it’s trying to change the subject by resorting to its time-honored tactics of woman-blaming and culture wars.

Didn’t somebody once say, “When I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun”? I know how he felt.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

  • Gretchen on July 22, 2012 10:11 AM:

    I find it maddening that it's always the single mother's fault that she's a single mother. She single because the guy left, often after they were married, and she didn't have any choice in the matter, or because he was a poor enough partner that she's better off without him. The woman who just thinks it would be a blast to raise a child alone and looks for a sperm donor is a fairly rare bird.
    Unfortunately, the people who would have to lead the revolution of working class people are working 3 minimum wage jobs and then falling into bed.

  • ArchTeryx on July 22, 2012 10:20 AM:

    I can give anecdotal evidence for the "inequality is driving the decline in marriage". I'm of the most privileged classes in America, supposedly - white male, PhD in a hard science. And yet, I cannot get a job that pays half of what it used to pay, and lasts more then a year. So my fiancee and I have put off marriage and combining households for YEARS. Were these any better times, we would have been married long ago. Now, the risks of homelessness for her are too great if we moved in together with my job ready to disappear on such short notice.

  • William Burns on July 22, 2012 10:24 AM:

    The quote about culture and guns is usually attributed to Hermann Goering, so you should probably be careful about identifying with it.

  • c u n d gulag on July 22, 2012 10:39 AM:

    As this country spirals into Fascism, with Corporate serfdom for the workers, male and female, we need to take a pause and at least give German Fascists of the early-to-late 1930's some credit:
    Sure, like our Conservatives, while they wanted the little ladies to stay at home, barefoot, pregnant, and taking care of "Kinder und Kuchen (children and the kitchen)" - the damn German Fascists at least provided the men with jobs that paid for the Frau's to stay home, and high-class, albeit propagandistic, educations for the Kinder.

    And they also wanted a physically fit citizenry, so, sitting around drinking boots of beer were fine for the men, as long as they could work the next day efficiently - but no sitting around and munching on pastries, tort's, and marzipan for the wives and kiddies - with the kiddies staying in the house playing "Dungeons and Jews" from the time they got back to school until they went to bed under their photo of Hitler.

    Now, I'm not advocating German Fascism bu any stretch of the imagination.
    It's just that their version of Fascism was geared for the long haul.
    Maybe it's because the leaders thought The Reich would last 1,000 years.

    Today's American Corporatist Fascists are too focused on what it takes to make their nice 7-figure bonus this year to even think about next year, the year after, or even a decade later, let alone what will happen in a generation or two or three.

    We are a nation of too many short-sighted leaders, leading too many people who are willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces as long as they're better off than the brown people, women, gays, and Agnostic's/Atheist's (oh, and probably Jew's, too, if you question them carefully enough) around them.

  • POed Lib on July 22, 2012 11:16 AM:

    While many of these comments are reasonable, there is NO reason to CHOOSE single motherhood. Single mothers produce statistically speaking less successful children. When you are a single mother, you must do 12 things, and helping with the homework comes last.

    When I lived in St Louis, I would often see mothers on the train, no ring, 3-4 kids, pregnant, under 23, black. This is a pathology in the black community. The community MUST get some MORAL CONTROL over single motherhood, and that means MAKING SINGLE MOTHERHOOD SHAMEFUL.

    It should be shameful to be a single mother. Two parents ARE BETTER than 1.

  • DAY on July 22, 2012 11:25 AM:

    Given that two parents are far better than one, then it stands to reason that three are better than two. Or four.
    I am currently having open casting calls for nubile maidens who want to Make America Better.
    (If you are not a nubile maiden, then sent a substantial check instead- feeding those extra mouths ain't cheap!)

  • g on July 22, 2012 11:28 AM:

    POed Lib - I suggest you go post your comment on Bristol Palin's Facebook page instead of here.

    I'd be interested in seeing some real statistics about race before accepting your notion that it's primarily a problem in the black community.

  • Rugosa on July 22, 2012 11:31 AM:

    Why should it be shameful to be a single mother? Shouldn't it be shameful to be a deadbeat dad? Shouldn't it be shameful that, in the richest country on the planet, working class jobs don't pay enough to support a family because all the profits they generate are going to the top .01%?

  • TCinLA on July 22, 2012 11:35 AM:

    The quote about culture and guns is usually attributed to Hermann Goering, so you should probably be careful about identifying with it.

    A common mistake. Goering may have stolen it, but it was not original with him.

    30 seconds with Wikipedia reveals:

    Hanns Johst (July 8, 1890 – November 23, 1978) was a German playwright and Nazi Poet Laureate.

    His early work is influenced by Expressionism. Examples include Der Anfang [The Beginning] (1917) and Der König [The King] (1920). Later, he turned to a naturalist philosophy in plays such as Wechsler und Händler [Money changers and Traders] (1923) and Thomas Paine (1927).

    Bertolt Brecht's first play Baal was written in response to Johst's play Der Einsame [The Lonely], a dramatization of the life of playwright Christian Dietrich Grabbe. In 1928 Johst joined Alfred Rosenberg's "Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur" (Militant League for German Culture) designed to combat "Jewish" influence in German culture. In 1932 he joined the Nazi party, explaining his agreement with Hitler's ideology in the essay "Standpunkt und Fortschritt" [Standpoint and Progress] in 1933.

    When the Nazis achieved power in 1933, Johst wrote the play Schlageter, an expression of Nazi ideology performed on Hitler's 44th birthday, April 20, 1933 to celebrate his victory. It was a heroic biography of the proto-Nazi martyr Albert Leo Schlageter. The famous line "when I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun", often associated with Nazi leaders, derives from this play. The actual original line from the play is slightly different: "Wenn ich Kultur höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning!" "Whenever I hear of culture... I release the safety catch of my Browning!" (Act 1, Scene 1). It is spoken by another character in conversation with the young Schlageter. In the scene Schlageter and his wartime comrade Friedrich Thiemann are studying for a college examination, but then start disputing whether it is worthwhile doing so when the nation is not free. Thiemann argues he would prefer to fight than to study.

    SCHLAGETER: Good old Fritz! (Laughing.) No paradise will entice you out of your barbed wire entanglement!

    THIEMANN: That's for damned sure! Barbed wire is barbed wire! I know what I'm up against.... No rose without a thorn!... And the last thing I'll stand for is ideas to get the better of me! I know that rubbish from '18..., fraternity, equality, ..., freedom..., beauty and dignity! You gotta use the right bait to hook 'em. And then, you're right in the middle of a parley and they say: Hands up! You're disarmed..., you republican voting swine! — No, let 'em keep their good distance with their whole ideological kettle of fish.... I shoot with live ammunition! When I hear the word culture..., I release the safety on my Browning!"

    SCHLAGETER: What a thing to say!

    THIEMANN: It hits the mark! You can be sure of that.

    - - - - -

    We now return you to our regularly-scheduled programming, having demonstrated that it is indeed possible to learn something new on a Sunday morning.

    SCHLAGETER: You've got a hair trigger.

  • TCinLA on July 22, 2012 11:38 AM:

    I realize re-reading the original posting and then my response above that I now know how W. Bradford Wilcox became an "academic" - the same way Johst became a "renowned playwright."

  • Rick B on July 22, 2012 11:53 AM:

    Good article. The "Decline in formal marriage causes worse outcomes for the children of those relationships" trolls clearly have an agenda to encourage greater practice of forcing opposite sex couples to undergo the ritual of formalizing marriages and recording them with the government. Somehow the piece of paper attached to the relationship is supposed to be a magic talisman that assures better outcomes for the children of those relationships.

    In fact American society advantages wealth, hereditary class and the fictional concept of race. The economy builds those preferences into a set of relatively predictable economic outcomes and pretends they are somehow the result of a fair game among equals. Then the politicians use these inequalities in order to gather power and wealth to themselves.

    Take a look at the horrible exploitations of people by corporations based on power and wealth which Chris Hedges tells on the Bill Moyers show - Sacrifice Zones. Single parents generally have less money to support children and live in the more exploited and damaged neighborhoods. Are the worse outcomes for their children then the result of the lack of a piece of government paper formalizing the mythical relationship between a socially-approved mother and father, then?

    These idiots are selling a load of crap. Thank you for exposing their garbage, Kathleen.

    @c u n d gulag - Excellent points. What Chris Hedges explains in the Moyers show I linked to above is that the so-called leaders of America don't have a damn about America, just their own wealth and power. They are destroying millions of people and the environment in order to enhance their lives in their gated communities, where they can simply ignore the damage they are doing to everyone else.

    The marriage concern trolls are ignoring the damage the greedy powerful slime are doing and trying to show that the problems is instead the failure to recognize the magic power of a piece of paper that certifies the government recognizes that a formal marriage exists. In fact the government is a major tool the powerful and wealthy are using to destroy society and the world. "Marriage" is a misdirection.

  • TCinLA on July 22, 2012 12:17 PM:

    Rick B: excellent, excellent post. Bravo!

  • beejeez on July 22, 2012 12:18 PM:


    Ceterus paribus? Really? I've had 2 years of Latin and never ran across that one.

  • PTate in MN on July 22, 2012 12:26 PM:

    I am a great supporter of marriage, a great institution! But until conservatives can specify what features of marriage result in these better outcomes for children, I'm going to think the biggest problem is a lack of resources, income in particular, but time, too.

    If conservatives actually supported marriage (rather than "marriage" being an excuse to control women's wombs) they would be advocating universal health insurance, a 40-hour work week, jobs that pay a liveable wage, and sustainable communities.

    At last a Captcha I could do on the first try: fieldrat 1865,

  • DAY on July 22, 2012 12:30 PM:

    On a slightly more serious note, they have discovered what causes pregnancy- and, hence, children.
    Thus, having a child is almost always a choice, albeit the choice often just involves having unprotected sex.
    Education- as always- is the key to a happy, healthy, and richly fulfilling life.

  • POed Lib on July 22, 2012 1:17 PM:

    "Another notable change during this period was the rise in births to unmarried women. In 2008, a record 41% of births in the United States were to unmarried women, up from 28% in 1990. The share of births that are non-marital is highest for black women (72%), followed by Hispanics (53%), whites (29%) and Asians (17%), but the increase over the past two decades has been greatest for whites — the share rose 69%."

    A comment above says that I said it was "primarily a black problem." I said no such thing.

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan identified this as a pathology back in the 1970s, when black unmarried births were much much lower. He was called a racist. He was no racist. He was a demographically honest person.

    As a parent of 3, my wife and I often note how difficult it is to raise a child or 2 or 3 with even 2 parents. So, I continue to STRONGLY oppose single motherhood. Only a true idiot would choose it. Murphy Brown was wrong, and Quayle was right. It is a pathology. I am not saying that some persons are better off without the spouse, but in general single parenthood is a very bad choice.

  • elisabth on July 22, 2012 1:18 PM:

    I think that even more dangerous than Slate on this issue anyway, is that the NY Times gives David Brooks room to make his backward causal relationship defense of marriage over and over again. Just the other day I was saying to my dear husband that Brooks keeps making variations on the argument that a marriage license increases employment, earnings, and education and all other good things instead of the other way around. I'm sure lots of single mothers would be happy to marry if they saw that it would immediately lead to a job and a safe neighborhood! But alas, that's not the way in works. Of course it is easy for conservatives of all stripes to argue that "personal responsibility" is all that is necessary -- that doesn't call on any of them to give up any of their resources to change the current environment. This is the same argument that one can build successful businesses without a government-supported infrastructure and other support systems.

  • POed Lib on July 22, 2012 1:26 PM:

    Sometimes I think that liberal ideology is a conspiracy of stupidity. Honestly, some of the comments here are idiotic.

    One person states that they are unable to figger out why marriage is so good for children. Again, what a truly stupid comment. There are 3 reasons: 1) time to do things by 2 persons is more than time from 1 person 2) children need stability and order 3) marriage is easier since society accepts marriage for couples.

    Again, this is not complex or sophisticated. This is obvious stuff.

    Ceterus paribus: All else being equal - usage indicates that user has had a statistics class - I use that term myself.

    And NONE of this is a MORAL argument. Marriage is only good for one thing - it makes people behave properly for children and property. If you are married, you are in most cases staying around. Not 100% as some idiotic comments will doubtless say - why is there always a need to take a simple comment and force it into a universal truth position which is obviously wrong? Obama turned out well NOT because of his single mom, but because he spent much of his youth in a house of his grandma and mom. 2 adults, and again, I don't care what color they are or what gender - 2 adults are better than 1. And sometimes it is 3 - when grandma is there. Again, another stupid comment about this implying that this is a call for plural marriage.

    Why is it so difficult for liberals to state the obvious and simply accept the notion that 2 parents are better?

  • Ron Byers on July 22, 2012 1:48 PM:

    POed Lib, you forgot Grandpa.

    My daughter is a single mother. When she discovered she was pregnant she chose to have the baby. We supported her decision. We have no idea where the father is. No support from him. My wife and I are doing our best to help and help alot. Every morning I go to my daughter's house and dress my grandson and take him out for breakfast on the way to pre-school. That gives her the chance to get ready for school and for her son to spend some time with Grandpa.

    By the way, it isn't easy for a young woman to "find a man" when she already has a kid. I have watched my daughter break up several times because the young man didn't want the responsiblity of an instant family.

    Is it better to have two parents. You betcha. Is that always possible. Not in this world. I just hope I live long enough and my health doesn't break to give my grandson the help he is going to need.

    Anyway I find all this young women choosing to be single moms crap amusing.

  • POed Lib on July 22, 2012 1:58 PM:

    Ron:

    Obviously you missed the part where I said "2 adults". You are working to perform the role of the second adult. Good for you. I am sure that you find a satisfaction in your role as well. I don't have grandchildren yet (that I know of), and am unlikely to get them for years (I hope).

    And yes, I am aware of the difficulties of finding a man when you have a kid. There is, of course, a very simple solution to that problem: Look for a single man who has kids. That way, he fulfills your need, you fulfill his. Does your daughter have contact with men who are single parents? This is the traditional approach, in years past. Marriage is an economic arrangement. In such cases such as your daughter's, an economic decision to form a mutually beneficial alliance with another man would be a sensible one.

  • Ron Byers on July 22, 2012 2:39 PM:

    If memory serves, Barack Obama's maternal grandparents were both active in his life.

    Obviously I misunderstood. Your comments were specifically directed at mother and grandmother or mother and father and grandmother. You seemed to have left grandfather out of the picture.

    I am not really pushing my daughter to look for anyone.

    One of the issues that is only rarely addressed is how difficult life has become for young men in our society. As work has changed and different skills are required young men have a more difficult time getting started than in past generations. We also do a very poor job of incorporating them into adult society. Young women have a slightly easier road than young men these days. Not an easy road, just a little easier, but we talk about the difficulties of young women, but we never mention how difficult starting off is for young men.

  • PTate in MN on July 22, 2012 5:09 PM:

    POed lib: "One person states that they are unable to figger out why marriage is so good for children. Again, what a truly stupid comment. There are 3 reasons: 1) time to do things by 2 persons is more than time from 1 person 2) children need stability and order 3) marriage is easier since society accepts marriage for couples."

    Was I the person who set you off? Don't get me wrong, I am a great believer in marriage, and I am appalled by the number of babies born out-of-wedlock. I totally agree that children benefit from attention from sensitive, caring adults, stability and order. But are these benefits caused by marriage? What you have offered here as "reasons" are actually a truism ("two people have more time than one person") a testable hypothesis ("children need stability and order") and a justification ("marriage is an accepted social arrangement").

    The real challenge, it seems to me, is explaining why fewer young men and women choose to marry, and why so many young women have babies out-of-wedlock. Most people adore their children and want the best for them. So why don't they marry if marriage has such obvious benefits for children?

    I think that if you look at the data, you'll find that people with resources are more likely to marry, stay married and have their children while married, and their kids do well not because their parents are married, per se, but because their parents have time, money and social network resources.

  • Ron Byers on July 22, 2012 7:08 PM:

    The real challenge, it seems to me, is explaining why fewer young men and women choose to marry, and why so many young women have babies out-of-wedlock. Most people adore their children and want the best for them. So why don't they marry if marriage has such obvious benefits for children?

    I suspect economics plays a large role as to why people aren't marrying. Hell it takes most couples until the are in their 40s just to reach the financial stability needed to sustain a marriage. I know most marriages fail for economic reasons. Divorcing couples might tell researchers something else, but divorce practitioners know that economic instability is the primary stressor. Husbands and wives who are frustrated economically often turn to any number of bad behaviors from verbal or physical abuse to cheating in response.

    For thousands or tens of thousands of years the economic benefits of marriage were very clear. They just aren't that clear any more.

    Women get pregnant for exactly the same reason they always have--they have unprotected sex. Young people don't always have the self control to just say no in the heat of passion. You might say why don't young women just abort. Abortion isn't as easy as many men believe. My daughter struggled with that option and chose to have our grandson. That was her choice. You might not like it but that wasn't your choice.

    My own view is marriage started to decline when wages started to stagnate. That started when productivity gains were disconnected from wages. If you want to blame somebody for the collapse of the family, blame the economists and business school types who think rewarding capital is more important than rewarding labor.

  • Doug on July 22, 2012 9:06 PM:

    Bad, or just uncertain, economic times have always shown a decrease in marriages. What many conservatives ignore (deliberately?) is that single motherhood began to become acceptable during the Reagan years.
    The very years that saw the commencement of forty years stagnation of wage stagnation...

  • PTate in MN on July 22, 2012 11:51 PM:

    Ron Byers: "Women get pregnant for exactly the same reason they always have--they have unprotected sex. Young people don't always have the self control to just say no in the heat of passion. You might say why don't young women just abort. Abortion isn't as easy as many men believe. My daughter struggled with that option and chose to have our grandson."

    In addition to a lack of resources, then, we should also note the Republican wars on contraception and sex education in increasing the number of babies born outside of marriage. Young people with access to birth control and acceptance of their sexuality are already protected if they are swept away in a moment of passion. Abortion would not be necessary.

    By the way, your grandson (and daughter) are very fortunate to have loving and involved grandparents. Based on what I have observed, maternal grandfathers play a special role in the lives of their grandsons.

  • paul on July 23, 2012 9:04 AM:

    Let's see: we make a long list of basic needs like healthcare conditional on the physical piece of paper that says you're married (to someone with a good job). Doesn't matter how long you've been together or how committed you are. Meanwhile, we push an economic model based on large amounts of short-term dead-end employment with a premium on job candidates who are will to leave their current residence on a few weeks' notice. Crazy is when you get exactly what you asked for, and you complain about it.

  • jackal on July 23, 2012 10:49 AM:

    ceterus paribus? If you're going to demonstrate how much you know by using foreign words, at least get the spelling right: ceteris paribus! Source: Merriam Webster Collegiate

  • jackal on July 23, 2012 12:31 PM:

    There's only so much wealth flowing down the river. Unionizing residents along the river isn't going to increase the water flow. It will only decrease available water because increased wages would chase a finite volume of water, thereby increases prices and making poverty even worse. But curbing waste upstream will increase the water volume. This means limiting upstream parasites (corporate, social, and government), and you get more affluence downstream. Of course, the same thing happens when it rains more. If government spending would be diverted to production -- not corporate and social welfare as is the case now -- you also increase what's in the river. But nature can't increase factory production, out of nothing as when it rains, any more than people can without capital investment. Personally, I'm more inclined to believe there's too much consumption in the world already. Ration consumption (similar to tobacco taxation) above a set threshold, which defines a person as a consumption hog, and you instantly increase supply and reduce prices. In this way you increase standards of living for more people without raising wages. Make the tax on excessive fuel consumption, for example, so painful that even Tom Cruise will park his jet and walk instead. Everything that is wrong in society today can be linked to inflation, which is a cleverly disguised mechanism of slavery, whereby elite parasites (government and corporate) perpetually confiscate the wealth of a diminishing number of producers. They can't do this without inflation. Unionizing all workers would only increase demand, and thereby increase inflation -- and the smiles on the faces of elites. So long as consumption is rewarded with pleasure, the rich will always grow richer and the poor, poorer. Finally, 80 percent of work forces in modern exchange economies no longer earn a living wage. Look around! You buy gas from these people, groceries, restaurant meals, hard goods, soft goods, it goes on and on. Little more than a generation ago, anyone who had a job, also had a living wage, because it was a time before inflation had upturned the balance between wages and costs of goods. Recall history: Up until the Reconstruction Carpetbaggers, it was illegal for corporations to fund political campaigns, the same as it has always been for churches. Imagine where we'd be if it was legal for churches to fund campaigns. We'd be another Iran, only we'd be ruled by evangelists and bishops, none of whom have ever actually held a real job or made anything tangible for consumers. Because corporations have highjacked our political process, we're ruled today by parasitic elites. And corporate influence has finally reached critical mass, which explains all the growing violence, which will only continue to get worse before it gets better. And it won't make a damn bit of difference who wins the next election, so long as we continue to allow corporate influence to ruin lives.