Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Can liberalism do without the traditional family?

Can liberalism do without the traditional family? A great many liberals seem now to be answering "yes." They want the traditional family to be, at best, just one family option amongst many. For them, family can be defined as we wish, with no particular family type being preferable.

However, there does still seem to be some hesitation amongst the political class in accepting this shift. I'm not sure that everyone in the Western political class is convinced that you can transition to a "post-fatherhood" family and still have a high-functioning system.

There's enough doubt for the time being for voices defending the traditional family to be aired in the mainstream media. The latest such voice that I noticed is Kay Hymnowitz. She has a column in the New York Times under the heading "How single motherhood hurts kids".

She begins by noting that many voices in America on both the left and the right have accepted that single motherhood is associated with poverty. She points out, correctly, that there is a different response to this: the right wants to encourage stable marriage to alleviate the poverty, the left wants the welfare state to step in to raise living standards for single mothers.

Kay Hymnowitz has looked at some of the data relating to low-income, unmarried women in the U.S. and is concerned by what she discovered. For instance, only one third of these women will still be living with the partner they had a child with when the child is five. Furthermore, these women often have children with a variety of men: 70% of children born to lower-income women will have a half-sibling by the time they're five.

There is statistical evidence that this "domestic churn" isn't good for children:
this kind of domestic churn is really bad news for kids. The more “transitions” experienced by a child — the arrival of a stepparent, a parental boyfriend or girlfriend, or a step- or half sibling — the more children are likely to have either emotional or academic problems, or both. (My own research indicates that boys, especially, suffer from these transitions.)

Part of the problem is that a nonresident father tends to fade out of his children’s lives if there’s a new man in his ex’s house or if he has children with a new partner. For logistical, emotional and financial reasons, his loyalty to his previous children slackens once he has a child with a new girlfriend or wife. Nor is it likely, from the overlooked child’s point of view, that a mother’s new boyfriend or husband can fill the gap. There’s substantial research showing that stepfathers are sometimes worse than none at all.

Kay Hymnowitz points out that a problem with the leftist solution, namely that of providing a lot of state welfare to single mothers, is that it can then make single motherhood a more attractive and viable option for women:
Increasing government largess could actually incentivize, or at least enable, parental choices that everyone admits are damaging to kids.

So what is the liberal state going to do? At the level of ideas, the liberal political class seems to be turning decisively against the traditional family. But the countervailing pressures are:
  • popular resistance as in France
  • pressure on the welfare state in some European countries
  • a deteriorating situation amongst the lowest socio-economic groups clearly related to family decline
It's a question then of which factors kick in hardest and earliest.


  1. Traditional family will never come back. Get out and see what's happening. Or considering that men are being systematically exiled from many areas of employment, the upcoming new model of the "traditional" family will be in the form of polygamy and harems. IMO this will of course create much resentment.

    Problem for the political class is they're creating a whole lotta people out there with nothing to lose. On one end those in poverty and on the other, those who pay for it and are threatened with tax audits and imprisonment if they question it. I am an American citizen and to me, the ruling class here is no different than the Politburo of the old USSR. This is for all intents and purposes a tyrannical government where laws are only meant to create serfs and the pseudo-genocide of entire ethnic class by making it as hard as possible to form and pay for families. And not for any real progress but for ideology and power. Truly evil in my book.

    1. Jim, I don't think the traditional family is entirely gone yet. There are still many people marrying and staying married. It's true, though, that in some places and amongst some ethnicities/social classes, the culture of family life now either missing or on the way out. If the current trends continue, then I do think it's possible for your scenario to take shape.

  2. A candid article, but she fails to address the issue of Fatherhood's woeful status as a cornerstone of male identity. I think a lot of support for the plethora of single mother benefits comes from the cultural narrative that men are controlling, abusive and dangerous when a woman is tied to them through economic necessity. I believe that until there is a shift in this perception of economic dependence to a man being bad and dangerous, things will generally continue to stay the way they are now,


    Right-liberals at it again

    1. Tim, thanks, that's an excellent article to illustrate the profound differences between right-liberalism and a genuine conservatism.

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