Britons love a good wedding – hence the wildly popular 1994 comedy “Four Weddings and a Funeral” as well as the Charles-Dianna “Wedding of the Century.” Of course as we know it’s a different story when it comes to marriage as an institution. In the UK as in other countries the traditional man-woman monogamous relationship once hailed as the unbreakable bond forged by God has been tarnished by divorce, apathy, and constantly shifting values. And in an ironic twist, most of that death-spiral when it comes to marriage emanates from the “Free-Love” of the 60’s and 70’s, followed by the straight-forward hedonism and promiscuity of the 80’s.
As it turns out though, a public debate has been quietly taking place on the unlikely subject of whether governments should do more to encourage and preserve marriage as a means of increasing and preserving the wealth of nations. In other words, ought the law, the government, and public institutions like the media, do more to venerate marriage as the nucleus of culture (if it is); preserve its central place in western civilization (if it has one); and bring back national productive (if a stable domestic life is really part of what makes people productive).
What accounts for the pending nosedive in our collective futures? The culprit appears to be the record rate of divorce in western countries over the last 25 years. In that same period the rate of marriage and the formation of new families has declined. Is it any wonder when the children of broken homes shun marriage and want fewer children than their parents?
British conservative leader David Cameron for instance takes the position (popular on both sides of the Pond) that the children of married parents fare better socially and that troubled kids tend to come from broken homes. In other words, he subscribes to the common-sense position that there is a connection between marriage, family, and social behavior – including economic behavior. Cameron’s chief spokesman says the party has “always supported marriage” and believes it’s “what’s best for the child” of the marriage that counts. Hard to argue with that; but what is best for the children of a strained marriage? Should they bear the brunt of their parents’ disintegrating relationship while nominally remaining a family unit, or rough it with a single parent?
One thing is certain: for growth to continue in economic terms there must be concomitant population growth. Yet western nations suffer from a negative birth rate. And if you factor out immigration and the children of immigrants (including illegals) the United States is very nearly negative as well. Unless that demographic trend can be reversed, the economies of Western nations have seen their peak and are currently in decline.
So what is to blame for this apparent nosedive in our collective futures? The culprit appears to be the rate of divorce in western societies. As the divorce rate went up over the last 25 years the marriage rate and formation of new families has been declining. Is it any wonder that the children of broken homes tend to shun marriage as evidenced by this story out of England. There is a lag time of many years between an increase in divorce and the eventual by-product which is less marriage and therefore less children being born.
Since western culture’s backbone of economic development was the family unit is it any wonder that the United States portion of global GDP has dropped from 52% in 1982 to 28% currently. Back in 1982 the USA savings rate was 10% now it’s been negative for the past 16 months, this hasn’t happened since the great depression. In 1982 the USA went from being the worlds largest creditor to the worlds largest debtor.
As long as the Chinese and Japanese are willing to give us ‘stuff’ in return for paper money the game goes on, but this game has a limited shelf life as I don’t believe they will stay stupid forever. The kicker is Asia developing a Pan-Asia economy not dependent on USA deficit spending. When that happens they don’t need the USA anymore and the USA finance-driven economy that builds NO REAL wealth but only moves money from one pocket to another will suffer.
It’s a sad trend indeed but unless things change we are headed to mediocrity at best. As a person that has had first hand experience of money taken from the productive sector and moved to the non-productive sector. Is it any wonder I no longer wish to participate in this game. Real wealth is not produced by a finance-debt driven economy that is only temporarily holding up spending via debt accumulation. Packaging debt and selling it does not produce wealth but merely extends the end of the game further out into time. Am I the only one who knows this, hardly, the global community is well aware of it as indicated by the US dollars drop of 50% of global buying power. Some would say but look at the stock market making new highs isn’t that proof that everything is fine. Actually adjusting for inflation we are still below the 2000 stock market highs but people who count nominal dollars think they are better off. What we are looking at is an illusion of wealth build-up that is mostly due to simple inflation.
A few stats to ponder, China stock market up 5 fold since 2002, other emerging markets also up 4 fold but the USA market as evidenced by the S&P 500 is flat for the last 7 years. The Dow which is only 30 stocks is up 20% over the 2000 highs but there again the dollars global buying power over that same length of time is down 30%.