Marriage is a tool to reduce poverty


The production of this week’s column was inspired by the latest episode of The Genius of Thomas Sowell podcast, hosted by the brilliant Alan Wolan. In this illuminating…


The production of this week’s column was inspired by the latest episode of The Genius of Thomas Sowell podcast, hosted by the brilliant Alan Wolan. In this illuminating episode, Alan applies the ideas of legendary economist Thomas Sowell, on matters of love and marriage.  

In the second part of the podcast, Alan sits down with Dovid Feldman. Dovid is an expert on matters of marriage. His Twitter biography, with the handle @DovidFeldman, reads “I wasn’t born into a great marriage. I built one. Let me show you how”. 

Dovid has published a book titled “52 Tweets to a Great Marriage”. I have not read the book and only learned about it this week. I had been ignorant enough not to know anything about Dovid till I listened to Wolan’s podcast.  

After familiarising myself with Dovid’s work, I am confident to say that Dovid must have saved many relationships in America. Every couple should follow Dovid on social media. In the short conversation that Alan had with Dovid, I learned a lot. Dovid opened my eyes on matters of marriage and relationships. 

And then this past week, I have been reflecting on the importance of the marriage institution and the challenges the institution has faced over the past centuries. 

One of the headlines you will find on the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) website written early this year and accompanied by the latest data on marriages and divorces, is titled “Marriages on the decline in South Africa”. At first sight of the headline, I was hurt. I would have been delighted to read that marriages are on the rise in South Africa as marriages, and children growing up with Moms and Dads, can address many of the socio-economic challenges we face in the country. Challenges ranging from teenage pregnancies to shocking, sky-high levels of violence.  

The decline in marriages is not unique to South Africa, as Stats SA says on its website. It’s a global phenomenon. A phenomenon that is harming societies. 

The main reason why marriages are on the decline is because the marriage institution has been under attack. The attacks are not new. They date back to the 19th century. The people who have attacked and assaulted the marriage institution in democracies are largely on the left-wing spectrum of political values.  

The left’s intellectual assault on the marriage institution can be traced back to communist Friedrich Engels’ first draft of the Communist Manifesto, in which he proposed the end of families. Karl Marx chose to remove the proclamation of the end of families in the second version of the Communist Manifesto. 

However, the assault on the family institution never stopped. When communist Bolsheviks came into power in Russia in 1917, amongst their first missions, was the destruction of the family institution.  

Over the past decades, the left has consistently attacked the family institution, and advocated for and enacted policies that dismantle families. These policies range from welfare to no-fault divorce laws. 

In South Africa, families are broken at a shocking rate, with sky-high fatherlessness rates.  

Marriages are crucial for economic development, and for the wellbeing of children. A child born within a marriage and grows up within the ambit of Mom and Dad has many advantages in life, in contrast to a child not growing up in such a setting.  

Marriage is a tool to reduce poverty. American radio talk show host Larry Elder has written about the benefits of the marriage institution.  

Larry has argued that at the root cause of criminality and other forms of pathologies in America, is absent fathers and the decline of marriages.  

Larry pointed readers to the research studies of Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation. One of the studies Larry cited is by Robert Rector, titled “Marriage: America’s greatest weapon against child poverty”. Rector’s study spotlights the significance of marriage in reducing poverty. It’s an accurate study that must be read worldwide. 

When I was invited to SABC 1’s Daily Thetha TV show three years ago, I was asked by a presenter about the drivers of poverty in South Africa. I pointed to the current startling unemployment rates, and, to the less obvious driver to many, and that is broken families.  

When a lady who was invited to the show told her story on growing up in abject poverty mentioned that she never grew up with her father, I was not surprised. Poverty hits very hard on poor, single parent-headed households.  

In older generations, it was disgraceful and unacceptable to have children outside of marriage. This was a time where there was more white racism than there is today. And there was more poverty than there is today. We now live in the most prosperous era in human history, with startling technological advancements that have transformed people’s lives for the better around the globe.   

Yet, we are witnessing a wave of societal degeneration in democracies. It’s sad to watch. 

I was home in KwaZulu-Natal last April. As usual, I visited my grandmother, with whom I had a fascinating conversation about the past. 

My grandmother told me that amongst her contemporaries, nobody had children outside of marriage. Her and her siblings had children within marriage. Interesting, isn’t it? These were poorer people with no education yet strongly believed in family values. We have chosen to destroy these values. It can’t be apartheid as some argue, because during the apartheid era these values were largely respected and preserved. Fatherlessness rates were also lower.  

Wealth and marriage

Bradford Wilcox has studied wealth inequality between unmarried people and married people in America. The inequality between these two groups is startling.

Married people are much more likely to hold greater wealth when “measured in terms of the assets they own (including homes, retirement savings, and bank accounts) minus their debts”. In South Africa, you find the same trends on the data by Stats SA. 

These are the facts that cannot be disputed. Marriages and families create a wealthier, stable society. The question I ask is, why are we dismantling the institution that contributes to socioeconomic development? Why allow politicians to destroy the marriage institution? 

Wolan’s brilliance in podcasting will change people’s lives for the better. We need podcasts that will tell facts to people all over the world.  

Love alone is not enough 

There is nothing as beautiful as a man loving his wife and a woman loving her husband, together sacrificing for their children.  

Love is the foundation of a healthy family structure and is found in all civilisations around the world. It’s a universal, natural thing.  

In one of his tweets this week, Dovid wrote that love is not enough when you want to, or plan to, get married to someone. You must not marry someone solely because you love them. You need more than love to marry someone.  You must “understand what marriage means, and are ready for, the responsibility of, commitment to, and sacrifice for your soulmate,”.  

Dovid says that the backbone to a relationship is not love, it’s commitment. Because “love waxes and wanes, like the moon”, Dovid wrote on Twitter. 

Judging by the higher rates of divorces in the 21st century, fuelled by the no-fault divorce laws, people no longer know what commitment is. This is having a huge negative impact on our societies. 

As we reject the universal family values and the marriage institution, we are paying a heavy price in our societies. We ought to protect and preserve the family. It’s not too late. We must push back.  

As for Alan Wolan, I wish his podcast rapid growth. It deserves to be listened by every civilisation around the world. PM


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