Holy Matrimony Plus Shipping and Handling: A Libertarian Perspective on the Mail-Order Bride Industry

By Merriman, Justin S. | Independent Review, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Holy Matrimony Plus Shipping and Handling: A Libertarian Perspective on the Mail-Order Bride Industry


Merriman, Justin S., Independent Review


While I am sure that it would take a lot of stamps to ship a Mail Order Bride I think you might have a problem with customs! Which would you like? Many men have found exactly what they desired in a woman from another country. How did they do this and what are the pitfalls involved in this process? This is where Goodwife.com can help out. This site along with our sister sites Planet Love and Russian Women Discussion are all about the search for this woman and how to have a happy and successful and long lasting marriage to a foreign woman. Are there any good women left in the West? Sure there are. Are they easy to find? Not on your life!

--Goodwife.com, home page (February 26, 2011)

In regard to mail-order brides, certain images and connotations--usually negative ones--have been etched in the American psyche. We are likely to think of eastern European women getting married to American men desperate enough to "purchase" a bride. Western society tends to look down on the use of the Internet or any other means to "purchase" a person to be one's spouse, presumably for the rest of one's life. Yet modern technologies have indeed made access to such opportunities widely available if one's bank account is adequate.

Today's mail-order bride industry is a complicated system, involving two countries, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), fiance visas, green cards, and--if everything else works--an actual marriage. Because of technology and globalization, this industry has become very profitable in the past two decades, with the Internet spurring the current success of placement agencies.

The industry has vociferous critics. Radical feminists assert that the practice of marriage brokerage, with poor women migrating to developed countries, is exploitative. They argue that capitalism allows Western men to use their financial advantage to dominate women in developing countries. However, this assertion falls short in several areas. The mail-order bride industry, although knowingly contributing to the immigration of women from poorer countries, is not exploitative because the migration offers opportunity for women. These female immigrants enjoy a higher standard of living and more rights for themselves because there are more rights for women-the very things that feminists purport to defend.

The mail-order bride industry dates back centuries, if not millennia. During the Middle Ages, marriage brokerage was the term most commonly used. The earliest known operations of marriage brokers occurred in Europe as far back as the thirteenth century in the Jewish community. The Jewish marriage broker, called a "Shadchan," put Jewish men in contact with Jewish women (and vice versa) for purposes of marriage. Men or women might act as initiators. The Shadchan would often bear the responsibility for finding suitable marches for eligible Jews. The trend of finding a bride in one's own ethnic group remained in place until the twentieth century (Peres, Meisels, and Frank 1980, 475).

Christians also practiced forms of long-distance marriage arrangements. Disparity in the number of women and men in the French colonies of Canada influenced King Louis XIV to take action. From 1663 to 1673, King Louis XIV subsidized the travel of nearly eight hundred marriage-age women to Canada. They were also given money to keep for themselves. The contractual agreement provided that they marry eligible Frenchmen upon their arrival. These women became known as the filles du roi, or "daughters of the king" (Library of Congress n.d.). A similar event occurred in the French colonies of Louisiana in 1719 and 1720. Louis XIV transported more than one hundred women volunteers to live and marry in Louisiana. These women came to be known as the "casket girls." Neither of these events involved for-profit business, and at first glance they may appear to pertain more to procreation than to monetary gain. However, Louis XIV's efforts to increase the French population in the colonies did generate revenue, intended or not. …

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