Some interesting points raised by the author of Delusion Damage (here and here) regarding my proposal for freedom of contract as a potential replacement for the institution of marriage. My schedule this week is tight though, so I can only offer a concise response:
1) I agree that most people are fools, but I hope and expect voluntary social norms and private institutions (i.e, churches) to prevent people from signing on to bad contracts.
2) Even if such norms do not materialize, I am ambivalent about the effects of my proposal on the stupid and irrational. I think that by designing social structures that reward reason and punish stupidity, you wind up with a lot more of the former relative to the latter than you would otherwise. Give people absolute freedom, and those who are worthy can take advantage of it. Even the stupid are usually sharp enough to recognize their own mediocrity, and so willingly cede authority over their personal choices.
3) DD is correct that monogamy, till death do us part, is unrealistic in a world of 80+ year life spans. This will be even more true as time and technology march on, and the life-extension possibilities of nanotechnology, genetic engineering, etc. really become apparent. But I would expect most marriage contracts to reflect this reality, eventually, if not right away.
Personally, the kind of marriage contract I’d be looking for would be one in which I and my “wife” could commit to a 20-30 year partnership in which we could raise a litter to adulthood, at which point we could good-naturedly wind down the relationship, divide our assets, and go our separate ways. Or, if we desire, not.