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Education Reporter

Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World, Jennifer Roback Morse, Spence Publishing Company, 2005, 260 pp., $27.95

Jennifer Roback Morse's life experience and expertise put her in a unique position to confront the ideas behind what she calls "consumer sex." Morse is a libertarian economist and author of Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-faire Family Doesn't Work. Her latest book explores the social importance of the family and the significance of sex.

More than just a private act, sex is actually an act with far-reaching societal consequences, Smart Sex argues. Morse is not proposing public policy, but rather attempting to persuade those who think differently that sex in the context of a lifelong commitment to marriage really is "Smart Sex."

She points out flaws in several influential modern assumptions, such as the idea that everyone is entitled to unlimited sex without sex ever resulting in the live birth of a baby. That assumption, although it drives many people's behavior and much public policy, does not stand up to close examination.

Morse also dismantles the idea that the government and the structure of marriage should guarantee equality of career outcome for men and women. According to that modern way of thinking, Morse explains, "new mothers are entitled to the same access to career advancement as men, in spite of the substantial, if temporary, demands on a mother's time." Thus, the government is at fault unless it provides low-cost, high-quality day care for young children.

Such child care arrangements free new mothers from financial dependence on their husbands, but replace that personal relationship with a relationship of dependence on an impersonal bureaucracy. "This creates an illusion of independence, but not a reality of independence," says Morse.

"Instead of strengthening the lifelong bonds between mothers and fathers that would support flexibility in moving in and out of the labor market, society has allowed the institution of marriage to be deconstructed into a non-binding, entirely private, contract." This arrangement doesn't work for marriages, and it definitely doesn't work for children.

The ideas in Smart Sex have immediate and personal consequences. Morse encourages young people to commit themselves fully in marriages, and encourages family members to help and support each other. "If family members do not serve each other, . . . the demands for the state to take up the slack will be almost irresistible," says Morse — and the consequences, for families and individuals, will be disastrous.

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