who puts her husband through professional school, sacrificingnher own educational ambitions, and bears severalnchildren, only to find herself abandoned in favor of a trophynwife, once her husband has a well-established career. Innresponding to the uncertain market situation presented bynno-fault divorces, a spouse may choose to “invest less in thisnmarriage or in being married,” as Lloyd Cohen has stated.nThe result is a tendency toward fewer children and a greaterninvestment in the wife’s earning capacity.nIn most of this discussion I have used “spouse” orn”husband and wife” as if their situations were equal. In fact,nthey are not. In a modern society, all the advantages lie withnthe husband.. The wife typically (although not always) isnmore concerned with the children and is more likely to benawarded exclusive or primary custody. The husband may benrequired to pay child-support (he may or may not comply)nbut not alimony, which is excluded by the doctrine of sexualnequality. The liberalized divorce laws of the 1960’s, therefore,nplunged large numbers of women and their childrenninto poverty, and the “feminization of poverty” became onenof the cant terms of the 1980’s.nSo far the only response has been a largely rhetoricalnattack on defaulHng fathers and a call for further socializationnof domestic life along the lines of European familynassistance plans that pay households a monthly stipendnbased on the number of dependent children.nThere are problems with both plans. Defaulting fathersnare immoral and irresponsible, and it would be veryngratifying if we could round them up and squeeze thenmoney out of them. However, it is not clear how many ofnthem actually can afford to make the child-support paymentsnstipulated in their divorce settlements nor what thencollection costs would be to taxpayers. There is also a moralnproblem that has been created by the Supreme Court’sndecisions on abortion. Under current law, a husband andnpotential father has absolutely no say in whether or not anbaby is born. The decision is made by a wife in consultationnwith her physician. Until this inequity is remedied, divorcednfathers can make an excellent bad-faith case that they werenonly tangential to the child’s existence.nFamily assistance plans seem, on the surface, attractive,nbut setting aside the vast expense and social distortions thatnhave accompanied the Swedish experiment in socializednchildrearing (read my colleague Allan Carlson’s recent booknon this subject), the inevitable result of all such plans is tonlessen, not increase, the sense of individual responsibility feltnby parents. Even if such plans proved to be the only possiblenremedies in the postmodern world, they should only benconsidered as a desperate, final resort for a society beyondnredemption.nA more practical approach to the problem would be tonfind a way to discourage husbands from walking out on theirnfamilies. If marriage is only a contract, as it is so often said,nthen it ought to be no less than a contract.nThere are two ways in which the marriage contract mightnbe made more enforceable. The most obvious is thenconservative proposal to strengthen the states’ laws onndivorce, especially since it is apparent that no-fault divorcenlaws serve to increase the rate of divorce. The strongestnargument for repealing no-fault divorce is the fact that thencosts are already socialized. As Judge Richard Neely pointsn16/CHRONICLESnnnout in his book on divorce, “the loss inherent in thendissolution of a marriage is borne by others.” By loweringnthe standard of living for women and children, a divorcenmakes them more likely to ask for public assistance. Childrenndeprived of a mother or father are more likely tonbecome delinquent or depressed. They do worse in schoolnand are less likely to attend college. If and when they marry,nthe children of divorced parents are more likely to getndivorced. Doesn’t the community that pays the bills have anmanifest right to enforce the contract?nBut contract enforcement is not the same thing, necessarily,nas state regulation. Historically, marriage and divorcenhave only occasionally been regulated by government. Inndemocratic Athens and in the Roman republic, marriagenwas a bargain between families. There was no governmentnauthority to ratify or even record the bargain. Since thenarrangements often involved dowries, a husband who divorcednhis wife might attempt to hold on to some of thenmoney or property and his former wife (more likely hernfamily) might have to sue to recover. But the governmentnhad no say in the actual divorce. Throughout much of thenMiddle Ages, marriage and dissolution were regulated bynthe Church, rather than the state, and a survey of thenvarieties of marriage customs that have existed around thenworld would not support the conclusion that politicalnauthority is the only or even the best vehicle for regulatingnmarriage.nBut, in the absence of government regulation, wives stillnenjoyed some measure of protection against the abuses ofnvicious or irresponsible husbands. Since marriage was ancontract between families, a woman’s male relatives took anninterest in her well-being and that of her offspring. Inncomparatively small-scale societies, the community mightndisplay its approval or disapproval in various informal ways,nranging from gossip to shunning to violence. Colin Turnbullndescribes a sort of shivaree among the Mbuti pygmies:ndisapproving of an incestuous liaison in their camp, thenMbuti men talked themselves into an angry, quasi-religiousndemonstration in which they drove the male offender intonthe woods. In Europe and the United States, similarndemonstrations might be arranged to show disapproval ofninappropriate marriages, abusive husbands, and adultery.nSuch informal devices have been used to express communitynsentiment all over the world. In a wholesome andnorganic society, it is by communal sanctions, rather thannpolitical enforcement, that the rules on marriage are maintained.nWhether they are more or less eifective than formalnlegal procedures is open to dispute. Individuals are notncalled upon to settle these questions of history and law; theynmust do what they can within the circumstances they findnthemselves. We cannot, by our individual efforts, changensociety, its laws, or its institutions. We can, however, live upnto what we believe.nIf the ideal remains a stable marriage that is the basis of annautonomous family, how is it possible to realize that idealnunder the terms of “late capitalism,” when even thenconsumption functions of the household — eating, housecleaning,nlaundry — are routinely handled by outside providers,nand when all the functions of intellectual instruction,nmoral guidance, and even such things as entertainment cannbe discharged by public officials and paid professionals? Butn