John Stuart Mill’s ideal of marriage as “a private, bargained-for exchange between husband and wife about all their rights, goods, and interests” has become a legal reality in contemporary America…But John Locke’s warning, echoing Thomas Aquinas, that the private contractualization of marriage will bring injustice and sometimes ruin to many women and children has also become a reality in America. Premarital, marital, separation, and divorce agreements too often are not arm’s-length transactions, and too often are not driven by rational-calculus alone, however much courts and mediators insist that they are. In the heady romance of budding nuptials, parties are often blind to the full consequences of their bargain. In the emotional anguish of separation and divorce, parties can be driven more by the desire for short-term relief from the other spouse than by the concern for their own long-term welfare or that of their children. The economically stronger and more calculating spouse triumphs in these contexts. And in the majority of cases today, that party is still the man, despite the loud egalitarian rhetoric to the contrary.

“Underneath the mantle of equality [and freedom] that has been draped over the ongoing family, the state of nature flourishes,” Mary Ann Glendon writes ominously. In this state of nature, contractual freedom and sexual privacy reign supreme, with no real role for the state, church, or broader civil society to play. In this state of nature, married life has become increasingly “brutish, nasty, and short,” with women and children bearing the primary costs. The very contractarian gospel that first promised salvation from the abuses of earlier Christian models of marriage now threatens with even graver abuse.

Recall the statistics we recounted in the preface to this volume. Since 1975, roughly one-quarter of all pregnancies in America were aborted. One-third of all children were born to single mothers. One-half of all marriages ended in divorce. Two-thirds of all African American children were raised without fathers in their homes. Single mothers faced four times the rates of poverty, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. Children from broken homes were much more likely to have behavioral and learning problems, and suffered four times the rate of serious sexual or physical abuse. More than two-thirds of all juveniles and young adults convicted of major felonies since 1975 have come from single- or no-parent homes. While these numbers have improved somewhat in the past decade – owing in part to a strong new family-education movement and new family-policy initiatives – the burden of the modern family’s breakdown falls disproportionately on women and children.  

The modern welfare state has softened and spread out the costs of marital and family breakdown over the past two generations by supplying nonmarital children, single mothers, abandoned spouses, and aged parents with resources and services traditionally supplied principally by their own natural kin. These are valuable advances that promote social justice and greater happiness for all. But the modern welfare state remains an expensive and risky modern experiment: it is not clear that it is a sustainable long-term solution even for the affluent West, let alone for underdeveloped or developing countries. In America today, those who depend on state social welfare often face bitter financial and emotional hardship and endless bureaucratic wrangling, and basic health insurance and decent public education are still beyond the reach of tens of millions. Better social welfare and health insurance systems are in place in Europe today. But these, too, depend on high median wealth in the population, all of which can disappear quickly, as the threats and realities of national bankruptcy in Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Spain, and italy have recently reminded the world.

Perhaps we are simply witnessing today the birth pangs of a new marriage order that will feature the final removal of sexual stereotyping and exploitation; the real achievement of distributive justice to women, children, and the poor; the sensible pluralization of Western marriage laws to accommodate new global patterns of sexuality, kinship, and bonding. These are goals to which the Western legal tradition of marriage must surely aspire. And as Harold Berman reminds us, great legal revolutions always pass through radical phases before they reach and accommodation with the tradition that they had set out to destroy.

It is hard to see the promise of these future benefits, however, in the current phase of the legal revolution in America. The rudimentary disquisitions on equality, privacy, and freedom offered by courts and commentators today seem altogether too lean to nourish the legal revolution of marriage and the family that is now taking place. The elementary deconstructions and dismissals of a millenium-long tradition of marriage and family law and life seem altogether too glib to be taken so seriously. The growing academic calls for the abolition of marriage seem so blind to the needs of children and to the dangers of depending on the benevolence of the state to carry on the work traditionally left to natural kinship networks.

John Witte Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition, 2nd edition (2012)


It’s not that the world of work is closed to women. The problem is that women can’t seem to change the world of work. Either you accept its rules, its rhythms, and its hours or you’re out. […]

Every time the issue of flexibility for working moms is discussed in newspaper articles or in public debate, the talk is always of building more preschools, never about real flexibility in work practices. Building even more preschools to leave your three-month-old baby is not the kind of help working mothers need. Equal opportunities would really be promoted by allowing a mother to stay off work to look after her young children rather than killing herself both in the home and outside the home, leaving her hungry baby in the hands of someone else.

It seems clear to me, therefore, that women cannot work the same way that men do; they have to find their own way, one that is designed around them and fits their needs. It’s not right to force people to choose all the time – you need to accept the rules, the timetable, and the ways of male colleagues and forget everything that’s happening at home. If not, you’re out!

My friend tells me that in many offices, the amount of time they spend in front of the computer is the main consideration, even if they are surfing the Internet, playing solitaire, reading horoscopes, writing distant relatives and unlikely friends, or taking endless trips to the vending machine…A woman with a thousand things to do at home will always try, where possible, to concentrate on her work and cut out any time-wasting activities so she can get home earlier. It’s just that for some perverse reason that my poor mind is incapable of comprehending, this ability to do the same amount of work in a shorter space of time is not considered an attribute but a limitation. With that logic, prevailing women are always going to suffer.

As long as working arrangements continue as they are, failing to integrate family life and working life, lacking in flexibility and intelligence, and ignoring the interests of those very children that they are always boasting that they want to protect but that they really don’t care about, women will be obliged to pay a very high price on the altar of work sacrifice or give up and walk away.

Costanza Miriano, Marry Him and Be Submissive (2016)

The preference for regarding Jesus primarily as “our brother” or “my friend” has some warrant in the devotional traditions of Christianity but little warrant in the New Testament. However Jesus Christ is ultimately understood, the Scriptures clearly portray Him as an authoritative and even authoritarian figure. His preaching focused heavily on sin and the need for repentance. He seemed to attach immense importance to His own person and to Himself as the only way to the Father, and never seems to have entered into relationships of equality with anyone. He warned His followers against disobedience and never engaged in “dialogue” with people except for the pedagogical purpose of eliciting from them the responses He wanted. Nowhere did He encourage anyone to disagree with, challenge, or contradict Him. There were apparently no multiple roads to truth.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)

Such, then, was the daily existence of some typical medieval women. If medieval civilization is to be judged by it, it must be admitted that it comes well out of the test. It is true that the prevalent dogma of the subjection of women, becoming embedded in the common law and in the marriage laws, left to future generations a legacy which was an unconscionable time in dying. It is true that woman was not legally ‘a free and lawful person’, that she had no lot or share then, or indeed until the twentieth century, in what may be called public as distinct from private rights and duties, and that the higher grades of education were closed to her.

On the other hand, she had a full share in the private rights and duties arising out of the possession of land and played a considerable part in industry, in spite of the handicap of low wages and sometimes of masculine exclusiveness. The education of the average laywoman compared very favourably with that of her husband, and some ladies of rank were leaders of culture, like the royal patronesses of the troubadours, and occasionally blue-stockings, like Christine de Pisan. Although there was small place in the society of the upper classes for the independent unmarried woman, she found an honourable occupation for her activities in monasticism. In every class of the community the life of the married woman gave her a great deal of scope, since, as has already been indicated, the home of this period was a very wide sphere; social and economic conditions demanded that a wife should always be ready to perform her husband’s duties as well as her own, and that a large range of activities should be carried on inside the home under her direction.

Finally, while the Middle Ages inherited the doctrine of the subjection of women, in some degree at least, from the past, in evolved for itself and handed down to the modern world a conception of chivalry which has had its share in the inspiration of poets, the softening of manners, and the advance of civilization. Taking the rough with the smooth and balancing theory against practice, the medieval woman played an active and dignified part in the society of her age.

C. G. Crump & E.F. Jacob, The Legacy of the Middle Ages (1951)

Since this book is written by a Christian let us first deal with the well-known cliche according to which, even though we are neither identical nor equal physically or intellectually, we are at least “equal in the eyes of God.” This, however, is by no means the case. None of the Christian faiths teaches that we are all equally loved by God. We have it from Scriptures that Christ loved some of his disciples more than others. Nor does any Christian religion maintain that grace is given in equal amount to all men. Catholic doctrine, which takes a more optimistic view than either Luther or Calvin, merely says that everybody is given sufficient grace to be able to save himself, though not to the same extent. The Reformers who were determinists did not even grant that minimum. It is obvious that the Marquis de Sade and, let us say, St. Jean Vianney or Pastor von Bodelschwingh were not “equals in the eyes of God.” If they had been, Christianity no longer would make any sense, because then the sinner would equal the saint and to be bad would be the same as to be good.

Erik Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse (1974)

But let us conjure up the memory of a late medieval feast. The guests have arrived in a great variety of clothes, and even the costumes of the males show the most adventurous diversity. But they all would have belonged to one faith and one basic ideology. Based on this common denominator, they would have uttered a whole score of views. Yet we can very well imagine a dinner given in a “modern democracy” – and not only a so-called “people’s democracy” of the Eastern pattern! – in which all the men arrive in a black uniform (the tuxedo or “tails”), all of them with clean-shaven faces, all of them uttering in unison with parrot-like monotony the same identical political and social cliches. After some questioning and investigation one would nevertheless find that this monotony stems from a chaotic cauldron of the most variegated religions and philosophies.

If a deist Mason, a Catholic, a Barthian, a vegetarian with Hinduist notions, and a “Freethinker” consider it as natural that they all believe in equality, majority rule, compulsory education and “progress” – then we have to doubt sincerely not only the logicality of their capacity to think, but also their real freedom of thinking! And it is also self-evident that a society with different premises, but bent upon achieving the same results from its “thinking” process, has to exercise a far greater pressure than one with a uniform religious basis. In its stark irrationalism such a society must be strictly anti-intellectual, and arrive at the very rejection of methodic thought.

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)

The functions of individual parts have importance for the whole and ideologically their functions may be “equal,” but to all practical purposes their hierarchy is evident. A chimney sweep is a valuable as well as necessary member of society, but his function in earthly relation is to sweep chimneys, to beget children, to pay taxes, to lead with charity and authority his family as well as his apprentices, and to raise his voice in these few public matters which by his education, knowledge, and wisdom he is able to judge. His function is not to operate upon cancer patients, to drive locomotives, or to direct the foreign policy of the country. All these functional divisions are matters of reason and prudence. If we need new clothes we will go to a tailor, if we have a bodily ailment we will call upon a doctor, if the country needs a military or a budgetary reform it is reasonable and prudent to enlist the aid of a military or financial expert for this purpose; it would certainly be sheer nonsense to ask a tailor or a doctor to remedy such situations.

Yet ochlocrats who never tired of accusing conservatives and Catholics of superstition, illogical traditionalism, and “unscientific” procedure make an act of faith in the inner illumination of the individual and the infallibility of numerical majorities. Phrases like “forty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong” display, nevertheless, a gross misunderstanding of logic; never in history has there been a more farcical and insipid amalgamation of Lutheran and Rousseauan confusion than in the interpretations underlying elections and the general franchise. Luther already was certain that everybody ought to be his own Pope by making use of his own wits in a private interpretation of the bible after dispensing with expert theological judgment; every interpretation was more or less right and had to be tolerated provided it did not conflict with the general line of the Reformers’ intention, and provided — last not least — that it did not lead back to Rome. The ochlocratic “liberal” is indeed in a difficult position toward the followers of terroristic heresies and his belief that “truth stands by itself” has often proved to be suicidal. He is therefore inclined to abandon his liberalism and to turn ochlocracy into a brutal totalitarianism. Luther with his ducal and baronial disciples was followed by terrorists of the type of Calvin, Thomas Münzer or Jan van Leyden, just as Robespierre succeeded Mirabeau and Noailles

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

Collectivism implies egalitarianism. An ideal mass is homogenous and consists therefore of equal atoms. Egalitarianism as well as collectivism are thus incompatible with liberty. Force must not only be used for the leveling process in the initial stage — it becomes necessarily a permanent factor in order to maintain the unorganic “symmetrical order.” This brutal force is necessary for any and every egalitarian effort. It is even more necessary in the case of a frantic identitarianism. The desire for more equality and identity becomes finally a mania and the use of more force a sadistic delight. Gynaecocracy and pedocracy, so familiar to ochlocratic cultures, become a part of the great program and even the animals rise to the level of human equality.102 From there it is only a short step to a terroristic pantheism bordering on madness.* Yet even in the urban life a truly inhuman equality can be achieved only by sheer force and the more logical a people will be by nature, the more brutally will this equality be realized. A comparison between America, England, France, Germany, Russia, and Spain demonstrate to us the various methods of handling the problem of equality. French egalitarianism was comparatively mild — yet it was far more ferocious than for instance American egalitarianism. But for modern ochlocracies at least fictional equality is essential; as a tendency it is basic for the creation of mere masses. Masses or mobs consist necessarily of identical or similar atoms in order to function as great irresistible units which, confident in their homogeneity and quantity, are not only able to smother all obstacles but also to transmit in the shortest time emotional and “electric” shocks to the remotest parts of the whole. The French philosophers had prepared the advent of the “individual” and the French Revolution completed their work. “The philosophy of the French Revolution” quotes Stapleton in his Life of Canning, “reduced the nation to individuals so as to, later on, congregate them into mobs” And these mobs on account of their strong inferiority complex shouted loudly for equality and demanded the elimination of everybody who dared to be different. The proposition of the elders of Strasbourg was actually carried out with human beings who defied the iron law of similarity and identity; they were shortened — beheaded by the progressive medical machinery of Docteur Guillotin.

Equality, identity, and uniformity have since been the backbone of every ochlocratic movement and the only liberty compatible with the true spirit of ochlocracy is the collective liberty — the liberty of a class or a nation state. The element of equality has never succeeded in getting a foothold in international politics — not even in the League of Nations, where the position of the Great Powers was legally different from that of the smaller states.103 Modern nationalism appealed less to the “democratic” demand of equality than to the worship of majorities which is not less in the ochlocratic tradition. It does not recognize the fact, that each nation is an entity in itself, having its own life and its intransferable destiny, and, independently of its size, an inalienable right for existence.* This conception would resemble too much a personalistic, medieval point of view. Modern nationalism prefers to count the noses of the inhabitants by national groups in a given geographical sector and then let the majority rule. A German Empire in Central Europe with eighty million Germans and 79,999,999 non-Germans is a thoroughly “democratic” proposition in the new style of 1942.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

It must be stated again in all candor that equality presupposes force on account of its unnaturalness. Force is the end of liberty as well as of fraternity. In order to level a landscape full of mountains and valleys one needs dynamite, tractors, picks, and shovels. By filling the valleys with the mountaintops a level with a uniform altitude could be established. Thus there is only liberty or equality. The fact that the ochlocratic Utopia of the year A.D. 3000 contains both elements is hardly able to contradict this truism effectively. Yet the more sinister aspect of the problem lies in the circumstance that democratism and its allied herd movements, while remaining loyal to the principle of equality and identity, will never hesitate to sacrifice liberty.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

The great struggle of our time is the twofold assault to which Christian doctrine is exposed from both groups of identitarian herdists. There are first of all the universal herdists clamoring for the absolute equality of all human beings, provided they accept “proletarian” standards of wealth, behavior, and morals, which Communists insist upon. This involves logically the denial of the existence of morals and the acceptance of determinism as preached by Teachers College, Columbia, and now gradually conquering the youth of the United States.

Needless to say that every successful attack against the concept of free will results in an almost total degradation of human dignity. It puts us beyond good and evil and fosters a fantastic quietism or an even more fantastic irresponsibility. It is nevertheless amusing to see determinists of all heretical denominations – Calvinists, Marxists, Behaviorists – flocking to clubs and leagues defending civil liberties. Liberties to be enjoyed without free will! One sees how far the prostitution of logic has led many of us.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)