Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting it wrong on the family

The Liberal Party does seem better at the moment than Labor on issues of immigration and population policy. That might be enough of a reason to give them our preferences.

But there is still much to dislike about the Libs. Take, for instance, their family policy. Tony Abbott wants to introduce a much more ambitious paid maternity scheme than the Labor Party. It would give mothers six months maternity leave funded by the Government at full replacement pay of up to $150,000.

Now I know that many of my own readers will benefit financially from this. What I'm about to write might not be a popular thing to point out.

But the purpose of such paid maternity leave schemes is not really to help out families. It is to integrate women into the paid workforce and to make women more independent of men.

In the Liberal Party's own policy document it is stated that,

The Coalition’s scheme will signal to the community that taking time out of the workforce to care for children is a normal part of the work-life cycle of parents.

It would also help promote increased female workforce participation because it creates a financial incentive for women to be engaged in paid work prior to childbirth and to return to the workforce after their period of leave. Greater female workforce participation will have positive impacts on the individual, families and society at large.

An effective paid parental leave scheme tackles head on the need to improve population, participation, and productivity – three key ingredients for stronger economic growth.

Australia should not go down the path of some Western countries where birth rates have fallen well below replacement levels. Today’s children are tomorrow’s workforce ...

Female participation in the workforce is important for our economic future as well as a robust birth rate. A study by Goldman Sachs published in November last year forecasts that Australia’s income would rise by up to 11 per cent if women’s workforce participation matched that of men. There is plenty of scope for improvement. According to the Productivity Commission, workforce participation by Australian women falls by a greater amount than for women in other OECD countries during child bearing years. Australia languishes 23rd out of 29 OECD countries in workforce participation rates of women aged 22-44 years of age.

The Coalition’s Paid Parental Leave policy could significantly ease re-entry to the workforce and encourage women to enter the job market in the first place. The Productivity Commission finds that longer parental leave (of six months or more) is likely to stimulate greater lifetime female workforce attachment. ("Paid Parental Leave: A New Approach" p.5)

It's that right-liberal obsession with Economic Man again. Women are to be measured by their labour force productivity. Our lives are to be organised not around families but around workforce participation. Women are to have time off to create future units of labour.

And what about the place of men within family life? Up to now, a woman did at least still need the support of a stable male provider during the period of her life when she was pregnant and looking after babies. Now it is the state which is to take over that role. The state is to guarantee a woman's income during this period of her life.

What effect is this likely to have? No doubt there will still be some women who will look to men to provide the "dual income" effect. But there will be other women who will feel less need to partner with men who are the stable provider types. And there will be more women who will think it viable to go it alone.

And will men have the same motivation to work if their efforts are less necessary for the financial security of their families?

Another effect: once family life is organised through the state, the state can then dictate patterns of parenting. The state can, for instance, decree that child care must be carried out on a unisex basis, with no distinction between the role of mothers and fathers, with each having to take the same amount of leave to perform the same duties.

It is not wise for the state to (artificially) make the male role within the family an optional rather than a necessary one. This might in the short term seem appealing to women as a promise of independence. But the longer term effect will be to undermine stable male commitments to both family and work.

There are better ways for governments to support families, such as tax breaks for families with children.

24 comments:

  1. The man should be responsible for the financing of the family unit irrespective of whether or not the wife works. That is an essential part of the marriage contract.

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  2. Excellent, excellent, excellent. You hit all of the points, and your post coincides completely with my own experiences with such programs (they started one in Germany during my second pregnancy).

    Female participation in the workforce is important for our economic future as well as a robust birth rate.

    Where is his proof of that? I hear this said regularly, but have never seen any evidence for it. Sweden, Germany, Norway, and France all have such programs and do not have a replacement-level fertility rate (1.91, 1.38, 1.96, 1.99 respectively). America, Ireland, and New Zealand do not have such programs and have higher fertility rates (2.1, 2.1, 2.2 respectively). Australia has 1.97, which puts it close to replacement-level birth rates.

    The only things proven to increase birth rates are religiosity, nationalism, and a lower cost-of-living. But I'm sure the left won't admit that.

    It's that right-liberal obsession with Economic Man again. Women are to be measured by their labour force productivity. Our lives are to be organised not around families but around workforce participation. Women are to have time off to create future units of labour.

    Although this is how these people think, it is actually a very short-sided view of macroeconomics. A country that instutites marriage-destroying policies will eventually face economic ruin. Furthermore, government coercion and bribery actually hamstrings Economic Man by reducing his ability to make choices in order to pursue his own interests. And such policies have to be financed by others, which increases their tax rates and reduces also their choices. So such policies actually go against the idea of the Economic Man.

    Furthermore, this depends upon the faulty assumption that producing and raising children is not productive labor, but merely a form of entertainment, or a hobby. This is clearly not true, or private citizens wouldn't pay others to bear and raise children for them. That they do, and that they fork over enormous sums for these services, proves that bearing and raising children is productive labor with a monetary value. And, as we all know, the monetary value of a mother's care is higher than that of a stranger's care. We know that because of the generally more successful life outcomes of children raised by their mothers.

    Economic Man would say that if a woman wants to have a child, she should be free to do so. But she must then find someone to support her when she and the child are most vulnerable. That's her problem, and Natural Law already has a solution: marriage. The government should keep itself out of the deliberation, otherwise it is trying to manipulate her decision, and reducing her liberty to make choices.

    In other words, political autonomy and personal autonomy are not the same thing, and can actually be mutually-exclusive. Generally they move in the opposite direction. The more politically autonomous a person is, the more they will have to rely on personal relationships to survive.

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  3. The man should be responsible for the financing of the family unit irrespective of whether or not the wife works. That is an essential part of the marriage contract.

    Yes, but working wives have a substantially higher divorce rate. So what is right in theory, is wrong in practice. Wives who don't depend on their husband for financial security tend to value him less.

    Besides, who do you think will be paying for this subsidy? They will have to raise taxes on the men, in order to finance this. So they will take money from husbands and hand it to their wives, so that the wife can view her husband as an expendable accessory who dirties up the house and produces copious amounts of laundry to be washed.

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  4. BTW, before someone writes indignantly that "Wives should be attracted to their husbands even if he isn't the main breadwinner", I'll throw out this: "Husbands should be attracted to their wives even if she is frigid."

    While true, it's sort of a pointless statement.

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  5. >>The man should be responsible for the financing of the family unit irrespective of whether or not the wife works. That is an essential part of the marriage contract.

    First, in most nations in the Anglosphere, there is no marriage contract. There are only divorce laws which retroactively negate any understanding between the man and women at marriage. The words "marriage contract" are mantras to get the man in chains for the benefit of women.

    This is not an idle statement. I did legal research for years, and no marriage contract exists. A man receives absolutely no benefits from marriage in the Anglosphere.

    Second, as in the US, when the government forces open discrimination against all men via affirmative action, and millions of men are unemployed by design, and many companies say in their employment policies, "No white men need apply" any such fantasy of men being responsible for financing the family is null and void.

    Anonymous age 68

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  6. "Yes, but working wives have a substantially higher divorce rate. So what is right in theory, is wrong in practice. Wives who don't depend on their husband for financial security tend to value him less."

    The dual professional family has the lowest divorce rate. And a man has to have more to offer than just a bit of cash in order to foster a long term socially constructed legal relationship.

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  7. "First, in most nations in the Anglosphere, there is no marriage contract. There are only divorce laws which retroactively negate any understanding between the man and women at marriage"

    One would not enter into a mortgage or any other long term legal committment without a formal contract and it is therefore an act of folly to enter into a marriage without one. The Anglosphere countries have a considerable body of Family Law which most people don't understand until they reach the point of divorce.

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  8. Mark,

    I think I agree on your proposal for tax breaks for women with children. Also income splitting. I totally don't want to have an argument on this but it could also be a generation and class thing. I mean most middle class men (younger especially I suppose) these days may not relish the idea of having to provide for their wives during the pregnancy and after. There would be the whole "pay the bills" pressure and it could act as a possible incentive to delay. It has been already noted that families have substantial financial pressures in the from of house prices and other things.

    I agree that the whole "units of labor" thing sounds brutal, but realistically is it that different from the past where a nation's population was also its workforce? The big difference now I suppose being that women are more formally members of the workforce.

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  9. That's true. There is no actual marriage contract, just marriage licenses and certificates. You can prove that you have a marriage, but not what rights or responsibilities that such a marriage entails. That is dependent upon the constantly-changing family laws.

    The dual professional family has the lowest divorce rate.

    No, the lowest divorce rate are wealthy families with homemakers. It is the wealth that keeps "professional" families together, not the dual-incomes. If the wife in such a family stays home, their statistical chances of divorcing drop.

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  10. Yes it's the wealth factor. The stat applies to dual professional degree couples. It doesn't really focus on whether both actually *work*, and in fact such couples have the highest level of stay-at-home mothers simply because they have more money to afford that option.

    What keeps these couples together is mostly the amount of money on the table. The arrangement is now being referred to as the "consumption marriage", where the glue that keeps things together is the raw consumptive power, something which would be dramatically less even in the case of a lucrative divorce settlement for the wives.

    Of course this scenario hasn't played itself out long enough in the culture, yet, to measure whether such wives will dump the husbands as empty-nesters, and collect lifetime alimony due to having stayed at home. They aren't old enough, yet, for that to begin to be tracked.

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  11. Excellent post Mark.

    My only comment is....What About Small Business Owners?

    I feel like this actually encourages people to be 'machine cogs' then start out on their own.

    Great post yet again.

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  12. "One would not enter into a mortgage or any other long term legal committment without a formal contract and it is therefore an act of folly to enter into a marriage without one."

    Go ahead and get one. The courts will set it aside. (Ha, ha, sucka!) So it is folly to enter into a marriage even if you have one.

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  13. Give a progressive tax cut to all families who have more than two children and themselves were both born in Australia. Every extra kid gives you a bigger tax cut.

    This would make it economically smart for rich people to have lots of kids, and poor people who cannot afford kids would not have the current "baby bonus" to tempt them into kids they can't pay for long term.

    You could cut immigration while maintaining domestic growth and ensuring better social cohesion while keeping the mix of backgrounds that give us our range of late night take-aways.

    Would you ever hear a pollie propose this policy? Hell no.

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  14. 'Productivity commission', Lenin smiles in his sarcophagus every time he hears it.

    I guess individual homes are a waste too, might as well bring in communal living for efficiency.

    Looks like the 'Humanist Manifesto' is slowly coming to fruition.

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  15. Has Allan Carlson of the Howard Institute for Family, Religion and Society been mentioned here before?

    He's done a lot of hard work on family policy and its history. Here he is on Social Conservatism and the New Deal:


    "the reactionary New Deal social project aimed at rebuilding American families, albeit on a distinct model: breadwinning men married to homemaking women in free-standing, child-rich homes. Every significant New Deal domestic program assumed and reinforced this family type. The New Dealers openly opposed working mothers, day care, equity feminism, and gender equality. They denounced the Equal Rights Amendment as a trick by industrialists to snatch mothers out of their homes and to lower wages. They favored marriage, motherhood, the home care of children, distinctive gender roles, family homesteads, and the “family wage.” In this regime, market forces would be channeled to deliver to each male householder an income sufficient to support a wife and their children at home."

    The American right makes a show of despising "big government," but I wonder whether that would still have appeal if government were not dedicated to feminist non-discriminatory principles and could sensibly favor the family.

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  16. This is a quite disconcerting proposal. When I heard it reported on the radio this morning, my spontaneous objection to it sprung from its use of artificial authority - the government - acting with usurped means - our voraciously pillaged taxes - to weaken what is a natural institution of society - the family.

    It's hinted that there are murmurs of discontent in the Liberal ranks about this overtly injurious proposal, but alas!, the dissenters cite the increase in corporations tax as their concern. The very real and proximate injury to the family is seemingly unnoticed.

    At university, a sneering leftist called support for the natural distinctions of the sexes, "a defence of determinism". That's right, to him observing and honouring the particular duties and abilities of each sex is a narrow-minded and obsolete pedantic doctrine.

    Even the Jacobins and Marx revered what Nature herself had estbalished.

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  17. The American right makes a show of despising "big government," but I wonder whether that would still have appeal if government were not dedicated to feminist non-discriminatory principles and could sensibly favor the family.

    I would hope they would still be against it. As the New Deal showed, Big Government is inherently anti-family because women end up attached to the government, rather than to their husbands, and their husbands are reduced to serfs for the government.

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  18. "As the New Deal showed, Big Government is inherently anti-family"

    Did you read the link? Carlson can contend that big govt. only went massively destructive in the U.S. with the triumph of feminism, starting after the 1950s. The New Deal Coalition broke down in the 1960s.

    Considering the poor prospects in the Anglosphere for actually reducing the size of government, perhaps pro-marriage maternalist policy changes would be a more achievable goal.

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  19. By creating a government income that could potentially circumvent husbands, they made the men financially irrelevant. It might not have been their official intention, but Big Government always ends up destroying families. It is the natural progression, especially where women have suffrage.

    Concerning the article, "homemaking" was actually part of the feminist agenda. Laura Grace has posted much documentation to prove that. The goal was to turn housewifery (the old name) into home economics (the new name). That moved it from an art dependent upon the wife's involvement, to a science that could be commoditised and farmed out to others. And once a wife had been relieved of her work inside of the home, she was free to work outside of the home.

    Centralization of the male role is anathema to families. Men are not supposed to freely abdicate their God-given responsibility to provide for their families to the government. If they do so, and their women no longer take them seriously, then they have no one to blame but themselves. Their women do not take them seriously because they are not serious men.

    Australian men now have a chance to prove just how serious they are. I truly see Oz as one of the last bastian of the traditional, Christian family. America has already succumbed, and it will have to resort to revolution (whether violent or not, remains to be seen) in order to get rid of feminism. But Oz still has a chance, which is why it's being so closely watched by all in the traditionalist sphere.

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  20. Considering the poor prospects in the Anglosphere for actually reducing the size of government, perhaps pro-marriage maternalist policy changes would be a more achievable goal.

    Small government is easier than anti-feminism, and it is a parallel goal. Going broke demands quick action. Societal decay can be ignored for much longer.

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  21. "Small government is easier than anti-feminism, and it is a parallel goal. Going broke demands quick action. Societal decay can be ignored for much longer."

    In this instance you are probably right, but their are limits to trying to control liberalism through fiscal austerity. For one thing it doesn't stop liberal immigration policies that make the cost of living higher (and thus birthrates lower) and it does nothing to contain the private-sector cultural Marxism of U.S. institutions like Hollywood and the Ivy League universities.

    Indeed, in many ways it was the excessive faith in economic containment of socialism that got the western world in the mess it is today. Nowadays nobody in the western world can switch on their TV without seeing an American TV espousing liberal propoganda.

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  22. That's true, which is why I don't watch TV.

    I agree on the limits of such a policy. But I'm afraid I'm going to have to be pragmatic on this one. First, starve the beast. Then, tame the beast. A starved beast is easier to tame.

    And don't let them take away the right to bear arms. Europeans think that's a stupid habit, but there's a reason why American politicians are a bit afraid of their own citizens. They know we could go balastic at any time.

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  23. Mike Courtman said,

    "Indeed, in many ways it was the excessive faith in economic containment of socialism that got the western world in the mess it is today."

    This is true we hitched everything virtually to the economic bandwagon and freedom motto to defeat communism.

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  24. Alte wrote "Australian men now have a chance to prove just how serious they are. I truly see Oz as one of the last bastian of the traditional, Christian family. America has already succumbed, and it will have to resort to revolution (whether violent or not, remains to be seen) in order to get rid of feminism. But Oz still has a chance, which is why it's being so closely watched by all in the traditionalist sphere."

    I share that point of view

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