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Marital.Bliss. Source: Little Reesor House

By Brendan Case, Tyler J. VanderWeele, Institute for Family Studies, Feb. 27, 2023

Brendan W. Case, Th.D. is the Associate Director for Research of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University and the author The Accountable Animal (T&T Clark, 2021). Tyler VanderWeele, Ph.D., is John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University. 


As Cole Porter taught us, when it comes to romantic love, “In Spain, the best upper sets do it / Lithuanians and Letts do it,” while across the pond, “some Argentines without means do it / People say in Boston even beans do it.” Legumes aside, Porter’s lyrics apply as well to marriage as to romance: in Lithuania, Argentina, and even puritanical Boston, men and women are still getting hitched. As the anthropologist Joseph Henrich notes, marriage is one of our species’ few near-universal cultural inheritances, perhaps standing as “the most primeval of human institutions.”1 If we peer over the horizon of human history, even our distant hominid ancestors seem to have engaged in long-term sexual pair-bonding.

But perhaps we liberated moderns can leave all that behind. Perhaps, as Marx and Engels famously proclaimed,2 and as Lily Sánchez argued last Fall in Current Affairs, “the family,” as a “conservative project that limits human flourishing,” must be “abolished.” …

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