Can we live without loyalty? James Q. Wilson argues that the decline of marriage and loyalty now threatens to undermine our social cohesiveness and to produce a generation that cares little about loyalty and prizes freedom over character.

Can we live without loyalty? James Q. Wilson argues that the decline of marriage and loyalty now threatens to undermine our social cohesiveness and to produce a generation that cares little about loyalty and prizes freedom over character.

James Q. Wilson is one of America’s foremost public intellectuals. His writings launched a revolution in our understanding of crime and social dysfunction and his insights into our cultural crisis provide some of the most insightful analysis and constructive arguments yet to be found. Now serving as the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, Wilson sees the decline of marriage as a central threat to civilization itself.

In “The Ties That Do Not Bind: The Decline of Marriage and Loyalty,” published in the Fall issue of In Character, Wilson address the decline of marriage within its larger social context–arguing that our current marriage crisis is rooted in a basic failure to reconcile the values of character and freedom.

“Of all of the relationships into which people enter, the family is the most important,” Wilson asserts. “We are raised by parents, confronted with siblings, and introduced to peers through our familial roots. Indeed, human character arises out of the very commitments people make to others in their family or outside of it. Marriage, of course, is the supreme form of that commitment.”

Thus, when marriage is marginalized, character suffers. Wilson knows the statistics. Married couples are happier, in the main, than unmarried persons, and married couples and their children are less likely to commit crimes. Of course, the virtues of marriage far exceed those statistical indicators. Nevertheless, the social fallout caused by the marginalization of marriage is easy to document.

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