“Red” vs “blue” families and social control

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the supposed paradox that those parts of the country that explicitly value chastity and fidelity have, on average, higher rates of teen birth than those states whose sexual creed consists only of contraception, hygeine, and autonomy.  Does this prove that Christian sexual morality is somehow self-defeating, and the utilitarian animality of the liberals is all that human beings are capable of?  If that were so, one might have expected the spread of contraception, abortion, and easy divorce last century to have reduced divorce and illigitimacy, which is obviously not what happened.

In fact, what’s going on here is very simple.  What we have is a difference in the strength of social control.  Every community employs social controls of some sort to get people to behave in accepted ways.  These controls include both indoctrination (schools, art, the press, public exhortations) and sactions (legal punishments or loss of status for disobedience).  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this–I for one am glad that we are all taught from a young age not to murder people and that everyone knows that one murder will result in serious punishment.  Social control is only bad when the orthodoxy being enforced is untrue or the means of enforcing it are immoral.

The intensity of indoctrination and sanctions will necesarily vary from community to community.  In America, the densely-populated urban centers obviously have much stronger social controls than the sparsely-populated countryside.  The cities have more people who have attended university (which involves years of intensive indoctrination) and regularly read newspapers (daily doses of indoctrination).  They are more likely to be subjected to mandatory “sensitivity training” at work and to be exhorted or bullied by “community organizers” or other agitators in their neighborhoods.  The main defenders of public orthodoxy (politicians, NGO leaders, journalists, university professors) are all located and exert their influence most keenly in these urban centers.

From the difference in social control, we can expect two results.  First, people in the urban regions will conform more wholeheartedly to the estabished orthodoxy.  In America, that orthodoxy is political liberalism, the belief system I have elsewhere called atheist androgynist utilitarianism.  This is the official belief system everywhere in the U.S.A., including the “red” states.  The difference in the latter is that with weak controls, the adherence to this orthodoxy is much less perfect, so imperfect that one even occasionally meets with unpunished outright defiance.  Denizens of “blue” states, being unused to ever hearing the established ideology challenged, naturally tend to think that the residents of “red” states are fascists or religious fanatics.  The second difference is that expected norms of behavior will be much better observed in the urban centers than the rural background.  Also, status will be less keenly sought or more multidimensionally defined.  The established ideology associates status primarily with career success and consumerism, so we would expect members of “blue” states to more assiduously avoid actions, such as teen motherhood or divorce, that threaten their ability to get or keep these status markers.

Everything is exactly as we would expect.

2 Responses

  1. Another problem with the liberal argument outlined in the first paragraph is that it assumes that everyone shares its conseqentialist prejudices. I, for one, don’t believe in sexual chastity and abstinence simply because they provide an optimally practical way of avoiding STDs and out-of-wedlock births — though, as a fringe benefit, they arguably also do that –, but because they’re the only morally acceptable options we have. If condoms and autonomy provided a perfect protection against these things, that would still only make them more practical, not less morally repugnant.

  2. That’s an very good and important point. In fact, it’s *the* important point. I do find it irritating the way Douthat goes on about what “works”, thus surrendering to the consequentialists right off the bat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: