The Upside Down World

Friday, February 24, 2006

Anti-family government policies

I mentioned the Crunchy Conservatives blog/book club going on at National Review Online based on the new book by the same name in a previous post. I wanted to share part of a post put up there yesterday which made me think, "somebody gets it!" A guy named Bruce Frohen writes:
"this is a good time to point out how radically unnatural, anti-family and anti-community many of our public policies are today. In defending permanent things, and families and communities in particular, I'm not saying that people should be forced to live my way. But I am saying that societies and governments are definitely not neutral. For example, our current tax structure punishes families for having children and for making the choice of relying on a single income, along with a stay at home mom. And I do mean punishes. The tax structure assumes that all of us are atomistic individuals who may happen to choose consumption items, like children, for which we will give them some tax relief, because we claim to like kids. A system based on the family as a fundamental, natural basis of society would start from the presumption that the family is the unit taxed. That means income splitting (lowering taxes for single income families) and far more generous dependent deductions. This would show concern for and valuation of families, make it easier for more people to make family-friendly choices, and encourage employers, neighbors, and others to show more respect for families."
I completely agree with this. As a society, we often view having children as a consumerist choice. We talk about having a kids as being a privilege or a right. Does anyone else realize how completely and utterly insane such notions would have seemed to our ancestors? How about children as a way to ensure the continuance of a society and culture and parenting as a service to the world?
A couple months back The Weekly Standard ran an article called "The Party of Sam's Club" which talked about ways the Republican party could work to really support families. Some of it's specific policy suggestions were the sort of nonsense they do in Europe. However, this excerpt got me thinking:
"Yet the decision to raise children continues to be treated as something akin to the decision to buy an expensive automobile--a perfectly fine thing to do, but don't expect any sympathy or support when you can't afford a tune-up or an oil change. Having a large family used to be a sign that you had faith in the future. Today, outside the family-friendly exurbs that played a crucial role in reelecting President Bush, it's become a form of conspicuous consumption--or, for the poor, a mark of irresponsibility.
Crafting pro-family policies that stand against this trend is not a question of turning back the clock to some lost Ozzie-and-Harriet golden age, as critics of social conservatism often assert. Quite the opposite: Precisely because the world has changed, with the demise of lifetime employment and increasing returns to education, strong families are growing ever more important, and policies that encourage people to form them and keep them together are ever more necessary."
As I said elsewhere in this blog, I do not think it is the job of government to make be people be virtuous, but I do think that the government should create a situation where it is easy to choose to be virtuous (or at the very least not do things which make being virtuous any more difficult than it has to be). So, how would our government policies change if we were to make family formation and maintenance a priority? I've been thinking about this for a while and have some ideas which I may share later. If you have any, please post them in the comments section.
Of course, the real question is why an at-home mom in Western Wisconsin is thinking about these things while the boneheads we elect to run our government (including the so-called "family values" ones) really don't give a hoot about them?


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