Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sandel 2: The Altered Marriage Contract

Michael Sandel, in Democracy's Discontent, describes the Supreme Court's change of philosophy from the state trying to form individuals into a particular kind of good citizen, to the state trying to uphold neutral procedures by which all kinds of citizens could do what they want.

Sandel then outlines the way in which this procedural view spread from Court judgments to other government actions, and then to how private citizens treat one another. A crucial moment in this spread was the invention of no-fault divorce laws. Prior to no-fault, the state had an explicit interest in marriage and therefore supported the party who wanted to keep the marriage together. No-fault law changed from a right to stay married if you upheld your part of the marriage bargain, to a right to divorce if you no longer wished to uphold your part of the marriage bargain.


peter hoh said...

If it all hinges on No-fault, does this mean we can blame Reagan?

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Gruntled said...

Public philosophies are a large, joint effort. Though Governor Reagan, who later appeared to be a social conservative, might have been expected to repent of signing that bill.