Marriage Rights of Consumers
Historically marriage was a right reserved for citizens. Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and many others did not extend the right to slaves, serfs or foreigners. In fact that right often came with privilege and was only given those who were of the ruling classes.
Even those citizens granted the right, were not able to marry without permission. Soldiers have not been able to marry without the approval of superior officers. The official sanction of parents, clergy, existing wives, local nobility, or party officials have often been required before a couple could wed. It has rarely been available to everyone all of the time. Various nations and faiths have put numerous restrictions, including, but not limited to age, class, clan affiliation, wealth, status, race, creed, existing marital status, gender, health, and dozens of others.
In many cases being a citizen has been a basic requirement to marry.
Citizenship has been defined differently in many cultures, and it has changed over time.
As a modern democratic citizen one must vote, serve on a jury, pay taxes, obey civil and criminal laws. A citizen is expected to look out for the community; take an interest in the welfare of other citizens. The good of the whole is part and parcel of citizenship. That is not to say that good citizens seek the equal welfare of everyone in the community – years of Jim Crow, anti-gay and other laws of bigotry have made that clear. Misbegotten attempts to “protect” a portion of the citizenry from other parts have often proved costly, painful and unwise. Still even imperfect citizens have made an attempt to look out for the community in some way.
In the United States, the last forty years has seen the fundamental notion of citizenship shift away from one of social rights and duties. Where the social discourse used to use the word citizen it has been replaced with the word consumer.
How do the rights and duties of consumers differ from those of citizens? Is marriage a fundamental consumer right? As long as the consumer can afford – or put onto credit cards - the ceremony there is very little stopping the modern consumer from partaking in the right to marry. (With the notable exception of being closely related or already married.)
In the old agrarian model the family is the economic unit, the economic driver. Getting married and having children gave the family more labor. In an industrial or post-industrial civilization the individual is the economic driver. “Traditional” families where one spouse works and the other stays home with children are an impediment to capitalist model. A worker is useful. His family is a burden to capital who over the years has found itself having to house, insure, move, baby sit or in some other way help care for those who are not on their payroll.
Does consumerism help promote marriage? Does marriage do anything to promote capitalism? In feudal days powerful families could cement alliances, join factions, or increase land holdings via marriage. While that may still be the case at the very top of the heap, the marriage of workers doesn’t do more than either increase their buying power or give them another way to start out hopelessly in debt.
What is the role of marriage in a consumer society?