wealth changes the rules

We have all been taught rules. Many of the rules still apply.
However, not all of the rules that we have been taught are relevant now. There were rules that applied to me as a child that do not apply to me now. There are rules that apply to me only in certain activities, like whenever I drive, but I am not driving in this moment, so those driving rules do not apply to me now either.
Among the rules that we have been taught are rules of morality. It is valuable to learn to avoid certain actions that are dangerous, such as crossing boundaries that are dangerous to cross, like boundaries defended by violence. Rules of morality teach us to avoid danger, such as the danger of being attacked as an intruder. Moral rules teach us that it is morally wrong (discouraged) to do certain things which are widely recognized as risky. For instance, beware of trespassing to where you are unwelcome. Beware of crossing the boundaries set by a society or influential group. Those boundaries could be physical boundaries like a fence or procedural boundaries like the best way to approach a private dwelling, such as going directly to the main entrance and promptly knocking on the door.
There are a variety of possible consequences for violating moral boundaries. The consequences may include warnings, condemning, ridiculing, shaming, humiliating, exclusion and banishment.
Whatever groups or societies fear, they condemn and otherwise discourage. That promotes the thriving of the group or society. Societies thrive and grow by adapting, as in refining what they discourage or punish (and what they encourage or reward).
Moral rules tend to focus on what not to do. Ethics, in contrast, tends to focus on the standard procedures of the practice of a particular profession. Morality applies to most everyone. Ethical standards only apply to those specific individuals who gain entrance in to an exclusive privileged professional group. For instance, the ethics for law enforcement officers are quite different than the ethics for medical doctors or for certified teachers or for restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol.
Many of the moral (and even ethical) boundaries of a group or society are enforced systematically by formal court operations. These courts direct armed mercenaries (court deputies or law enforcement officers) to implement the orders created by the officials who rule in court.
Just as moral rules change over time to promote the thriving of a group or society, so do standards of ethics and law. In societies with thriving economic growth, many standards are relaxed, such as sexual morals that allow for easy divorces. A rich society is not so troubled by single-parent families or orphans, for rich societies can support them with liberal socialist programs.
However, when a society (or socio-economic group) is challenged with dense populations and scarce resources, strict rules to encourage lifelong marriage may arise. There may even be strict rules for qualifying to be married, such as bloodtests that prove health and recommendations from a religious official that vouch for moral discipline. In some societies, “common law marriage” does not require any official procedural approval. In other cases, only licensed marriages are recognized as valid by courts.
These legal standards not only change with time, but from state to state (in the United States). In the US, there are more than 10 states that recognize common law marriages. These are actually NOT the wealthiest states. However, they are some states that have rather low population density. It may simply be impractical for those states to try to restrict couples to formal marriage.
“Common-law marriage can still be contracted in the following jurisdictions: AlabamaColorado, the District of ColumbiaIowa,KansasMontanaNew Hampshire (posthumously), Oklahoma,Rhode IslandSouth CarolinaTexas, and Utah.”
Further, the US has been the most prosperous large nation in human history. There are no formal legal penalties for the “immorality” of unwed couples living together or otherwise engaging in sexual activity. There may be tax advantages to marriage, of course.
Similarly, we can review moral and legal standards regarding homosexuality. While it is rare for a state to criminally prosecute homosexuality, many states still have laws that formally penalize at least certain forms of consensual homosexual activity.
The states that formally recognize homosexual unions tend to be among the richest: the pacific states, the industrial midwest and New England. Notice the blue areas in the below map, which are the states that offer the most legal protections to homosexual couples.

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in the United States


Same-sex marriage laws in California are complicated; please see the article onsame-sex marriage in California.

Some cultural conservatives consider the expansion of legal rights relating to homosexuality to be culturally threatening. Obviously, a higher rate of homosexuality tends to correspond to lower rates of heterosexual marriage and of procreation.
What does the rise of same-sex political protections signal? Are parts of society recognizing that a lower birth rate would allow for a tax base that has less children to support (per working adult)? As nations like Japan and the US face the retiring of the baby boom and project massive government deficits just to maintain programs to support the unproductive elderly, such as social security, it may be that an unconscious valuing of non-procreative adults is favored.

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5 Responses to “wealth changes the rules”

  1. Russ Otter Says:

    Thank You, most sincerely for reviewing my thoughts on values, and our species in the article: It Only Takes One Thing. As well thanks for the compilation of data, you have compiled regarding this subject matter. Again, if we evaluate history, the ebb and flow of cultures are a mixed bag of morality. As I contend to do no harm, is the ultimate tenant, of morality, others will disagree. But I can find no more common denominator in life, than the “Golden Rule” to strike a common sense balance to live by. Ideologues, outside this premise, hinge upon mythology, wishful thinking, and harm to others, in many cases. So goes the way of the world, for me. Thanks again for your writing, Russ

    • jrfibonacci Says:

      Hi Russ,

      I remember a few decades ago when I read a translation of the Buddha’s “Essence of the Essence:”

      Be helpful. Helping anyone in any way is helping.
      Be harmless. Harming anyone in any way is harming.
      Be clear. Confusion is optional.

      When clear, one will always help.

      A spiritual teacher named Mooji, who I like very much, says that the Golden Rule is not meant as a moral prohibition. That destroys the meaning of it to use it as a standard by which to shame others. That is the ultimate violation of it.

      Do not use any standard to shame others unless that is what you would wish that they would do to you. So, what is the meaning of the Golden rule?

      The one who is completely clear naturally and spontaneously does what is helpful- and not just a little helpful- but precisely and elegantly the most helpful possible. That is the function of the teaching of the Golden Rule: to specify the possibility of that pattern, which is the natural fruit of Awakening or Enlightenment or Salvation or whatever we might call it in whatever language we might use, if any.

      The Golden Rule is NOT something we should strive to ATTAIN, according to Mooji, and then use as a point of guilt and shame toward ourselves (or self-righteous pride). Speaking of the Golden Rule is a defining of one possible pattern. If there are other patterns that we might have been experiencing as possible or prevalent, then it might be valuable for spiritual teachers to occasionally reference an alternative possible pattern- or even to demonstrate it.

  2. arthurdobrin Says:

    There may be no relation between the acceptance of homosexuality through the expansion of legal rights and marriage as it has been traditionally defined. Homosexuals have always existed in society. Legal rights simply makes them less fearful of being visible. In the past, many homosexuals simply didn’t marry. It was common for families to have the bachelor uncle and the maiden aunt. Many such bachelors and maidens were homosexuals who were fearful of being found out.
    Now there may turn out to be a relationship. That is an empirical question that someone will study. But I’m not aware of such studies, so I am presenting an alternative view to your assertion.

    • jrfibonacci Says:

      Which assertion was that? (to which your reply is an alternate assertion)

      I see nothing in your reply that is in any way contrary to my recollection of this recent blog entry of mine. I concur completely.

      Further, the basic point I made as I recall was about lifelong monogamous companionship as distinct from serial monogamy (which apparently has always been popular among gay men and in recent decades has become more the norm for heterosexuals as well), as distinct from the various non-monogamies. To me, the historical record is clear that marriage has been about sexual reproduction and wombs.

      Indeed, the very origin of the word matrimony is matrix, which is related to matriarch and, ultimately, the womb of a phsyically mature female organism:

      Origin:
      1325–75; Middle English matris, matrix < Latin mātrix female animal kept for breeding ( Late Latin: register, orig. of such beasts), parent stem (of plants), derivative of māter mother

      matrix
      1373, from O.Fr. matrice, from L. matrix (gen. matricis) “pregnant animal,” in L.L. “womb,” also “source, origin,” from mater (gen. matris) “mother.” Sense of “place or medium where something is developed” is first recorded 1555; sense of “embedding or enclosing mass” first recorded 1641. Logical sense

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/%20matrix

    • jrfibonacci Says:

      oops- I got over 400 views to my blog today (my highest ever) and a lot of comments. I have NO IDEA which assertion you were referencing because I was actually thinking of a different blog article completely:

      https://jrfibonacci.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/is-monogamy-best-is-polyamory-wrong/

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