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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Two out of Three aint Bad:

Conservative Americans generally are not inclined to do anything for prisoners. I think this is both a crime and a mistake, since unwillingness to help prisoners leads to recidivism. Oklahoma is a very conservative state but they are doing something for prisoners which I'm not even sure Sweden does.

In the Joseph Harp Correctional Center, sprawling across the tawny plains 40 miles south of Oklahoma City, officials are running a six-part course on maintaining a healthy marriage, available for the last year or so to inmates in good standing.

Now to be brutally frank, I am not sure if it is really a good idea to encourage women to stay married to convicts and I have even more doubts that it is a good idea to encourage them to marry men while they are in prison (yes some women do that). But, in the end, I think such women are willingly performing a great service to America and any help they are willing to accept is owed them.

One strong impression I got from reading the article is that finally people who talk about focusing on the family are focusing on the family. I strongly believe (with almost no evidence) that traditional values sexaphobia is an irrational response to the very real problems of divorse and irresponsible unmarried fathers. I don't have an explanation for why anger about these very real problems leads to religious fanaticism and homophobia and I certainly have no evidence, but I am unable to doubt that there is a causal connection.

This belief is part of why I am so upset that "family values" is so often used to mean "sexual-abstinence" and not "stand by your woman, the mother of your children." I sense a tiny glimmer of hope reading this "The Bush administration has proposed to spend several hundred million dollars a year for five years on marriage, fatherhood and sexual-abstinence initiatives". The money for sexual abstinence initiatives will be wasted at best. Worse the initiatives might be combined making the marriage and fatherhood initiatives programs for idiots and hypocrites. Still the fact that the Bush administration is willing to address the real issues too is relatively promising.

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A shred of evidence for the hypothesis that divorce causes sexaphobia is the fact that divorce is even more common in Republican than in Democratic states. For example from the same story "the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, in a state where the divorce rate was the second highest in the nation in 1994 and has continued to hover near the top, according to officials."
I have a firm guess about why that happens too. I suspect that conservatives are less willing to tolerate a bit of extramarital naughtiness so affairs are more likely to lead to divorce (note I live in Italy which has a very low divorce rate and a very high fooling around rate). It is also possible that traditional values make people marry too quickly to find out that they are wrong for each other. Anyway the pattern is clear. This means that say initiatives to make contraceptives more available might lead to later marriage less divorce and less panic about the family. A side benefit from an initiative which, for much of America, is a pipe dream.

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