Monday, August 13, 2007

Buy Low, Divorce High.

“After home prices rise, unhappy couples realize they can afford to split.” This was the subtitle of one of the two top stories on page 1 of the New York Times “SundayLifestyles” section, the “little-noted side effect of the property boom of the past decade [is the] real-estate-enabled divorce.” According to the article, “A spouse who has not worked…might decide that with a divorce settlement enriched by real estate, it is possible to maintain a comfortable standard of living. Or a breadwinning spouse might recognize that even after dividing community property, it will be possible to live well as a single person.”

Now, you are expecting me to bemoan the banality of America’s views of divorce, after all, this is a vow people have taken, most of them before God almighty. But I’m not. I like this article. It’s down to earth. It’s real. Divorce is expensive. Not only does it increase the number of violent crimes, drug use, unwed mothers (not among former spouses, but their children), it is the numero uno cause of poverty in America (ahead of race, lack of education etc.). The divorce itself is often cheap—under $500 depending on where you live—but the after effects, if not the litigation and settlement, are financially crippling. Next time you hear about how hard it is for a two-income family to make ends meet, double their expenses. That’s what divorce means. Two houses, two electric bills, two of everything instead of one.

And who pays for this when it drives someone below the poverty line? We the taxpayers. Historically, the fact that the Government has to foot the bill for so many things has been an excuse to regulate things closely. I say we model regulation of marriage after our regulation of smoking. The cost of caring for smokers is leading us to a smoking ban. And, we had a “War on Poverty”—or do we still have it? (I can’t keep up with all the wars we declare). But anyway, let’s win the war on poverty. Here’s the plan: we begin with heavy taxes. The tobacco in a pack of cigarettes costs $.25 and then there is about $4.75 in taxes. That takes the cost of the tobacco and multiplies it by 20. We’ll do the same with divorce. $500 times 20 equals $100,000. While, like the tax on tobacco, this bit of regulation will not compensate for the financial burden divorcees will put on society, it will save us millions since it will be a significant deterrent. Then we’ll work our way to a ban.


Anonymous said...

Great proposition once you build in a safety net for victims of abuse. A smoker is hardly in the same position as a child held virtually captive by an abusive parent.

Civis said...

Hey Anonymous,

Thank you for commenting. So you are saying there needs to be a way for a good parent to leave an abusive parent? I would say my solution for people who abuse their spouse or child should be sent to a work camp to produce enough capital to send home such that the innocent spouse can maintain a healthy standard of living without working two jobs and never spending time with the children.

Anonymous said...

Another anonymous said...

Great idea, Civis,and I would add that if that "innocent" spouse is Catholic (or hey, let's throw the Protestants in there, too, for fun), he or she can separate and spend a life in prayer and sacrifice for the other spouse, rather than divorce. Of course, in our materialistic, selfish modern culture, that idea is absurd. As those great philosphers "Loverboy" said in the 1980s, "Everybody's workin' for the weekend. Everybody wants a new romance, hey ya, ya ya."

Civis said...

You mean if the one person the innocent spouse picked out of all the people in the world turns out to be a complete loser, we shouldn't let they have a second bite at the apple?

Anonymous said...

Another anonymous replied...

Yeah, I say one bite per customer.

Brad said...


Hey, thanks for commenting on COAS! I wanted to let you know that we love the idea, and responded in detail on our blog. This is just the kind of thing that we want to do.

Also, I noticed in your profile that you were a veteran. Which branch of service? I'm a Chaplain Candidate (was an MP until last month) in the MO National Guard.

I'm very much looking forward to future conversation.

God Bless.

Civis said...


That sounds good. I need to run over to your blog and see what you said. I'm on a business trip at the moment, so I'll be able to talk more in the next few days.

J said...


I'm from Confessions of a Seminarian. I was told you wanted to speak with one of us regarding Catholicism and Protestantism. I was told I should contact you. So here I am! Drop me a line whenever you like.

Matthew said...

I think if you increase the cost of divorce so much that people will stop getting divorced, at least legally. However people who don't want to stay married will still be free to move out and live as though they were divorced regardless of whether the government recognizes it or not.

I don't think the problem lies in the legal means of getting a divorce, the problem lies in the cultural acceptance of divorce.

Civis said...


Thanks for posting and good point.

You are correct that we have a cultural problem. In the immortal words of Sting "There is no political solution to our troubled evolution."

Nevertheless, we currently have laws that encourage the cultural problem to continue and deepen: prime example no fault divorce.

Conversely, we can enact laws (admittedly mine is extreme and I suggest it tongue-in-cheek) that can help to reverse the cultural trend.

Here is the bottom line: divorce, like abortion, occurs more frequently when you make it easy. If you put the slightest roadblock or speedbump in the way, it is amazing how many people have wonderful marriages where they would have divorced had they not had the speed bump.

Marriage is like running a race or lifting weights. It is easy to throw in the towel. I'll use a military example: you are running your fifth mile in combat boots and you can't go one more mile, so you quit. Then the next thing you know you have a drill sergent screaming in your ear, shaking you and saying things about your mother. Lo and behold, you CAN keep running. The drill sergeant shows you what you are capable of: You can run in combat boots for as long as it takes; it gets easier and easier. The words "I can't" are anathema to a drill sergeant; you learn to say "I can". If the military allowed the words "I can't" you would have never heard the names "Audie Murphey" or "Alvin York", and we would have lost Bastogne.

It's amazing what we can do: things as difficult as getting along with someone who "doesn't make us feel loved" and other feats of wonder.