these extra-familial services are only available; they are notnmandatory.nIt is still possible to educate one’s children at home or innprivate schools. Such things are difficult and expensive,nbecause families are required to pay taxes to supportngovernment schools; the choice is, however, open to mostnpeople, and in a period of marked decline in the quality of allnschools, private as well as public, homeschooling becomesnever more attractive to more people. The same can be saidnof home production, which can include everything fromnpart-time typing and maid services to large mail-ordernbusinesses. At the simplest level, it is the home vegetablengarden. Where families work together, where the group’sneconomic success depends upon the contribution of all thenmembers, a cohesion is achieved that is otherwise veryndifficult.nThere is obviously no single formula to fit all circumstances.nMany families have passions for outdoornlife — camping, hunting, fishing — on which they spend angreat deal of time together. For others it may be music orntennis. Many might like the idea of teaching at home ornrunning a family business, but either their circumstances orntheir lack of aptitude are an obstacle. What is important isnnot the details but the main objective, a family that sees itselfnas an indissoluble mystical entity like the Trinity: multiplenpersons but fundamentally one.nFor those who take this deep view of family life andnunderstand the consequences of divorce, their commitmentnto family is more than a question of staying married, becausenwe are inevitably forced to deal with other people who donnot share our perspective. But even in the absence ofncommunity sancHons, it is still possible to act as if suchnsanctions existed and to communicate our sense of proprietynto family and friends.nDivorce was once viewed as shameful, and the divorcenhad to make a case for himself that he was an innocentnvictim. We can still act on that assumption. We can stillnavoid the company of men and women who have treatednmarriage as if it were a matter of no importance. Within thensmall communities in which most of us spend our lives —nchurch congregations, PTAs, and social clubs — we mightneven make some headway in getting our views acknowledged,nand if our church has hardened its heart, we cannalways find a congregation with a firmer commitment to thenmoral order.nWe can reasonably anticipate the results of the decisionsnand gestures we make in private life, but the consequencesnof new marriage regulations cannot easily be foreseen.nRadical feminists might succeed in writing laws that arenpunitive against husbands — providing, in effect, furtherndisincentives to marriage. Alternatively, family might becomenentirely an extension of government welfare programs,nsubject to unremitting scrutiny and regulation. Tonavoid these potentially dangerous consequences, it might benbetter to concentrate on the contract itself. Two states, atnleast, have introduced bills to legalize prenuptial contractsneliminating no-fault divorce for the parties that enter intonthem. In Illinois a proposed “Marriage Contract Act”ndeclares that “Two persons of the opposite sex may . . .nenter into a marriage contract providing that the maritalnrelationship will not be dissolved or otherwise modifiednexcept on a showing by a preponderance of the evidence bynone party of the fault of the other party that constitutesngrounds for the dissolution.”nAlthough the Illinois bill passed the state senate, it got lostnin the other house. Nonetheless, such measures are gainingnin popularity and might provide a general strategy fornsolving the problem of divorce. The terms for child custodynand support, alimony, and visitation could all be spelled out,nand a rich doctor who deserts the wife who put him throughnschool might find himself paying her half his income plusnchild-support payments. An adulterous wife might, on thenother hand, forfeit all claims to see her children and benrequired to pay for a housekeeper or nanny. A youngnwoman or young man would be ill-advised to enter intonsuch a contract lightiy and would very likely call upon thenwisdom and experience of his parents. This in itself wouldnhelp to restore some measure of the old family autonomynand move marriage back in the direction of a contractnbetween families. Of course, men and women would be freennot to make such contracts, but a party who refused wouldnfall under immediate suspicion.nThe old feminism of the past 150 years has representednthe penetration of rootless individualism into the domesticnsphere. Inevitably this has brought government into thenbedroom in ways undreamed of by the Moral Majority. Thennet effect of feminist legislation has been the destruction ofnfamily and community life and the empowerment ofngovernment at the expense of men and women, husbandsnand wives. That, at least, is how I read the important work ofnElizabeth Fox-Genovese.nThe wodd is changing, however, and shifting gears. Anfew years ago, the fatuities of Francis Fukuyama were beingnrepeated on prime-time television, and “the end of history”nwas all the rage among Americans too lazy to think fornthemselves. While the Blooming idiots of the Americannright were celebrating this new revolution, we here werenpredicting ethnic conflict and the repeal of the VersaillesnTreaty.nThe shift of gears I referred to has meant that for the timenbeing the centrifugal forces in Western societies are gainingnupon the centripetal forces of centralized and concentratednpower. Part of the shift has been a dawning awareness of thenindispensability of community for human life, and thenprimary community institution is the family. Whether wenhave called ourselves conservatives or Marxists, feminists ornpatriarchs, most sensible people have begun to realize thatnthe only alternatives to the family are the total state and,nincreasingly, the youth gang.nChildren without parents can never grow up to be fullynhuman, neither can men without women nor womennwithout men. The divorce revolution has been a rebellionnagainst the most basic terms of human life, but whatngovernment has done, it can never undo, except bynresigning the powers it has usurped. Reforming the lawnwould provide only marginal relief to the victims of divorce.nIn reconsidering marriage and divorce, our main objective,nas serious men and women, must be to teach ourselves, ournchildren, and our friends, that these things are up to us, notngovernment, to decide. To use the language of our libertariannfriends, it may be time to reprivatize private life. <^nnnMARCH 1992/17n