Even greater participation could be achieved through the establishment of marital corporations (MCs), which could have hundreds or thousands of couples as shareholders, all sharing common values about marriage.
Couples getting married would subscribe to the shares of an existing marital corporation. Its charter documents would set forth the terms of the marriage to which the subscribing couples agree.
Here is where a plethora of choices would become available to prospective newlyweds.
A Catholic marital corporation would forbid its members from divorcing. Progressive marital corporations would allow gay marriage. Islamic or Mormon fundamentalist marital corporations could allow polygamy. Plain vanilla marital corporations would probably be popular among people who just want to get married without thinking about it too much. ~Colin P.A. Jones, San Francisco Chronicle
Via The Japery.
Fr. Jape has a great parody of these so-called marital corporations, but this will be a bit different. I’m not sure that it occurred to Mr. Jones that the “free market” system for marriage he is describing is similar in kind to the sort of legal arrangement that certain autocratic systems, particularly the Ottoman Empire, created for their several religious communities. Under the millet system, what we would call family law, along with most other ‘internal’ and ‘domestic’ matters, fell under the supervision of the head of the religious community (this is not because of any famed toleration, but simply because the Ottoman state did not have and did not want to create the apparatus for administering its subjects’ affairs to this degree, as this would diminish resources for the tax and military administration).
In the Ottoman case, the Greek patriarch, the Armenian catholicos, a chief rabbi and the shaykh al’islam were the authorities in charge–no different, in practice, from what these marital corporate boards would be. In that case, marriage followed the religious requirements of the different communities. The millets serve as a good example of what this “market” solution could create: an intensely fragmented and more segregated society, with the added bonus of an even more debased one in which “brand” or “company” loyalty replaces fidelity as the virtue to be practiced.
And what should occur if two shareholders in Catholic Marriages Inc. decide that they would really rather not abide by their agreement? (Maybe they also decide to change churches, or convert to a new religion all together?) Presumably, the corporation could sue them for breach of contract–the capitalist’s bull of excommunication. If it couldn’t, what would be the point of corporations “forbidding” or “allowing” anything? It would be like joining a society to which you owed no dues–a meaningless, superficial commitment (which is, I suspect, what marriage would quickly become if its requirements became entirely voluntary and possessed no public sanctions and regulations). In fact, legally recognised corporate bodies already exist in this country to meet this supposed “demand.” They are called churches.
But marriage, not to mention the assumed bearing of children that usually follows, is one of those things in which public authority really does have a compelling interest. We would not propose to have “driving corporations” in which drivers subscribe to different traffic laws–let us call them ‘driving style consumers’ instead of drivers–so why would any sane man argue for further privatising one of the fundamental social obligations in life? We need only look at the chaos wrought by a few decades of greater “choice” in the “market” of marriage to see where this would lead.
Forget about “the state” or government for a moment, and consider that the commonwealth or republic distinct from the government also has a natural and abiding interest in governing the norms and practices surrounding marriage and the upbringing of children. It is one of those things, like the common defense, that cannot be privatised if there is to be a res publica, because it does not involve only the couple and their families but the entire society that either benefits from a successful and fruitful marriage or suffers from its dissolution and bears the costs of broken homes.