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They warned us.

For generations, right-thinking folks have been raising the alarm about how pop culture was warping young people's ideas about the right way to live.

All those songs, all those movies, even old fairy tales (as retold by Walt Disney) about the power of love, how people should follow their hearts, find their Prince (or Princess) Charming, refuse to go along with the expectations of society or their parents' efforts to arrange marriages for financial or political reasons.

Now we find out that somebody should have been commissioning composers — Berlin and Porter, Lennon and McCartney, BeyoncĂ© and Jay Z — to take a page from Chairman Mao's hottest opera-writing committees and use popular media to push young folks to do their patriotic duty.

To lie back, as old Lady Hillington is supposed to have said, and think of England.

We should have been writing songs, movies and novels about the socio-economic benefits of forming new household units and bringing forth quivers full of children that will ensure financial stability and upward mobility with a minimum of government safety net provisions.

Katy Perry and Enrique Iglesias, soaking wet, couldn't make that sexy.

Noodling around the Internet and publications of varying intellectual ambitions these days is like listening to your dotty old aunt at an awkward holiday dinner.

"So," say the rich and upright to the poor and struggling, "when are you getting married?"

It solves everything, you know. Married people are less likely to be poor, less likely to raise a generation that will be mired in that same poverty. Traditional marriage prevents everything from asthma and autism to bad breath and flat feet.

Says so right here, in the stunning bit of social engineering submitted under the guise of a brief in support of Utah's Amendment 3.

That tome, which cost Utah taxpayers $200,000 and established a beachhead inside the attorney generals' office for the Anti-Sex League, attempts to convince the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, thrown out recently by a district judge, is necessary because the state has an interest in pushing people away from the foolishness of the heart and toward their duty to be fruitful and multiply.

The argument differs from China's one-child policy in that its coercive tendencies are unlikely to result in any forced abortions or a flood of abandoned infant girls. But the hubris necessary to think that the state should guide, rather than accommodate, the romantic, marital and procreative choices of its people is the same.

As if withholding the state's imprimatur from same-sex unions would make resourceful women choose video-game-addled, beer-swilling, high-school-dropout young men over law school. Or over that job at Jimmy Johns.

Of course out-of-wedlock births are way up. Most babies are cute. Too many men are pigs.

The stats that suggest that marriage cures poverty can just as reasonably be interpreted as demonstrating that poverty ruins marriage.

Two poor, uneducated people with toxic family backgrounds and no good prospects don't rescue each other, and certainly don't create a positive environment for offspring, just by joining their meager fortunes together. Though it would be beyond cruel for the state to discourage, much less prevent, such lost souls from getting married if they think they love each other.

The trends show that marriage is still attractive to people who are educated, relatively secure financially and who enter into the martial bond with their eyes as wide open as love and passion have ever allowed.

Want marriage? Set people free from poverty — or artificial limits — first, and watch the licenses fly out of the clerk's office. Just as they did for those giddy weeks when same-sex marriage was legal in Utah.

Free people marry for love. And nothing else.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, sometimes finds it hard to trust people who have only been married once.

Twitter: @debatestate

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