David Brooks: Reversing Decline of Family Requires More Government Intervention

by W.F. Price on November 17, 2012

Although I probably shouldn’t be, I’m still surprised by how dedicated so many pundits are to using government and law to fix the problems they created in the first place. David Brooks wrote an opinion piece yesterday extolling the virtues of family and lamenting its decline, then closing with a call for more government encouragement of family.

At some point over the past generation, people around the world entered what you might call the age of possibility. They became intolerant of any arrangement that might close off their personal options.

The transformation has been liberating, and it’s leading to some pretty astounding changes. For example, for centuries, most human societies forcefully guided people into two-parent families. Today that sort of family is increasingly seen as just one option among many.

The number of Americans who are living alone has shot up from 9 percent in 1950 to 28 percent today. In 1990, 65 percent of Americans said that children are very important to a successful marriage. Now, only 41 percent of Americans say they believe that. There are now more American houses with dogs than with children.

[...]

The 2012 election results illustrate the gradual transition we are making from one sort of demography (the current Republican coalition) toward another sort of demography (the Democratic coalition). The rise of post-familialism is a piece of that shift.

My view is that the age of possibility is based on a misconception. People are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice — commitments to family, God, craft and country.

The surest way people bind themselves is through the family. As a practical matter, the traditional family is an effective way to induce people to care about others, become active in their communities and devote themselves to the long-term future of their nation and their kind. Therefore, our laws and attitudes should be biased toward family formation and fertility, including child tax credits, generous family leave policies and the like.

How quickly we forget the “pro-family” crusades of the past. No-fault divorce was supposed to lead to better marriages. VAWA to better family environments. Draconian child support enforcement to more paternal responsibility.

Have any of these measures, all of which received bipartisan support, led to stronger, healthier families? Quite the opposite. Every single time in the past 50 years that the government has intervened in family and marriage it has weakened the institution. Why on earth does Brooks think more of the same will have a different effect this time?

The most destructive force in the contemporary family is government and law. Nothing more effectively tears families apart than introducing lawyers, policemen and social workers into the intimate domestic environment. And with government involvement in “family policy,” they will most assuredly come.

Maybe I’m a little old fashioned, but I think the best solution would be to simply leave people alone. Let the people define family as it suits them, and don’t provide incentives either way. Incentives will only give cynical opportunists (like feminists) more leverage to manipulate policy for their own ends. Special interest groups will inevitably dominate when the complexities of law and bureaucracy intrude upon the common people’s private lives. It will just be more of the same mess, and people will inevitably avoid it, which means the disintegration of the family will continue apace.

While I share some of David Brooks’ sentiments, I disagree strongly with the proposed solutions. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that those who would promote the family through a carrot and stick approach are the biggest threat to the family of all.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron November 17, 2012 at 16:29

He doesnt care one way or the pther. The imperative is more gov because that goves more control to the gov, which in turn gives more control to those who control the gov.

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Justinian November 17, 2012 at 16:34

Here comes the bachelor tax?

What other measue would they consider to force family formation?

We all know they wont put any burdens on women

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piercedhead November 17, 2012 at 16:41

One of our most basic tendencies is to sort people into groups of diminishing intimacy. We all admit family first, friends second, then workmates/neighbours/casual acquaintances, then strangers of our likeness, and finally strangers unlike us.

We all do it without thinking. It’s as natural as the tide. It is so pervasive, that it would be unnatural to believe that we should do otherwise. There may well be a good reason, but do we really need to know it to keep doing it? Must we understand the role of oxygen in our metabolism to continue breathing?

And yet government, which is overwhelmingly a force of strangers unlike us, is continually touted as the very body to invest our trust in. How contrary to our own instincts could this be?

There can be no wonder that it fails so absolutely to deliver when it is, by its very own nature, so contrary to our fundamental natures. Only fools would place their trust in it -and usually for the same reason some innocents think of celebrities as friends or family.

The best any of us can do with government, is to ignore it completely, and never, ever, ever grant it any reason to come into our personal lives.

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Laguna Beach Fogey November 17, 2012 at 17:10

The State itself is not the problem, a mistake made by many conservatives, paleocons, Republicans, and libertards.

The issue is, not only who has power, i.e., who controls the State, but what kind of goals that power is used to achieve.

A government that limits universal suffrage, eliminates no-fault divorce, fines and/or detains feminists, and encourages (White) birthrates, amongst other ends, is one many of us would support.

If conservatives, paleocons, Republicans, and libertards had not been handicapped over the last few decades by their antipathy to State power, perhaps they would not be in the position in which they now find themselves.

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keyster November 17, 2012 at 17:30

David Brooks is not the brightest bulb.
Do you think the NYTimes would actually keep a brilliant conservative on it’s editorial staff?

At some point over the past generation, women around the world entered what you might call the age of feminism. They became intolerant of any arrangement that might close off their personal options; that allowed them to be more like men.

Do you see how these pop culture analysts dare not broach the 800 pound gorilla in the room? They tippy-toe around it, as if being totally oblivious to it’s effects on our culture and the state of the family. They took Mother out of Woman and gave her Man without a penis.

Regardless of how much conservatives lament about the good ‘ol days of the nuclear family, they can’t ever bring it back. We’ve reached the tipping point. Feminism is as institutionalized as death and taxes. More women have drivers licenses in the US than men. More women are graduating college than men. More women are employed than men. And it’s barely noticed only in passing, and no one seems to care that their daughters will have no one to marry. Well perhaps David Brooks, if the government has it’s way.

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Joeb November 17, 2012 at 17:34

What!Leave people alone . That’s called freedom ( sacasm ). I had an Epiphany this election period . After being berated by hundreds of negative ads I realized that all of them were true and the two-party system was just playing two sides against the middle .
Both reinforcing the rule of the state . The two choices are freedom from a two devils so we picked the devil we know .

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Jimbo November 17, 2012 at 19:12

“The most destructive force in the contemporary family is government and law. Nothing more effectively tears families apart than introducing lawyers, policemen and social workers into the intimate domestic environment. ” At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I respectfully disagree. Mr. Price is right that post 19th amendment laws and policies are extremely destructive, but nothing more effectively tears families apart than having men and women believe that authority in the family or society in general should be absolutely and positively shared equally between men and women and that includes husbands and wives. The results are marital and societal anarchy, dysfunctional marriages and societies, warfare in families and society. Naturally, the results are anything but happy ones. I would be interested in knowing what fellow readers think about this. The wall of political correctness that has made us so ignorant needs to start coming down, but tack hammers aren’t going to get it done. Look at what is at stake!!! If we believe it, we need to say it! And if we can’t say it here, we can’t say it anywhere! I’ve said it on the streets, at parties (no, I did not get laid) and I’m saying it here. Failure to repeal the 19th guarantees nothing but the most miserable form societal suicide. Let’s have the debate.

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Rebel November 17, 2012 at 20:57

As soon as the govarmin puts its dirty pows into people life, the only thing being “produced” is poop.
In fact, govmt is by far the most productive manufacture of fesces.

Leaving people alone will ensure the continuation of the family: governenenement intervention will most certainly destroy it.
We can all rest assured: the bov varmin will surely destroy whatever little is left from the family.
With our powerful varmins around we can be assured that our collective lights will go out, along with the rest of the living beings on this planet. (6th extinction)

If the vermint is taking something under its wings, the foul smell emanating will suffice to suffocate everyting that breathes.
Need I say that I’m not really an active supporter…

In passing, I am also using the very little bit of freedom I have left and expressing the last remains of free speech. Who knows: maybe in two or three years, the same messae will end me in jail for 25o years.

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Gilgamesh November 17, 2012 at 21:17

David Brooks is taking advantage of male discontent to call for even more government intervention. This is statist propaganda written in bad faith.

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Michael November 18, 2012 at 00:15

These people think they can build an ecosystem like human society from scratch by disregarding the fact that our every human endeavor is a mere mockery of the intricacy of emerging order in the universe. We are simply not capable of fixing all the parameters. We are not God, so we cannot run his simulation of our universe. What arrogance and ignorance speaks out of people like Brooks! One might think that if they don’t utter such nonsense out of ignorance than they must surely have a malicious agenda.

Compare our situation to a natural ecosystem. Every ecological niche is a dimension in an n-dimensional continuum. Ever counted how many ecological niches there are for any given habitat? How can we possibly control the outcome of the ecosystem by changing just one parameter forcefully? It’s the same folly as introducing foreign species to a local ecosystem to make up for the loss of those we eradicated. Yes there will always be a result, even a positive one, but we do not have the capacity to predict it.

Our human nature is what really guides us and what is the real fundament for our civilization. We cannot change our society without running afoul of the incalculable but most likely unpleasant consequences of disregarding our nature.

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John November 18, 2012 at 00:37

’nuff said.

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Sun November 18, 2012 at 00:48

You can’t reverse.

All you can do is ride the tiger.

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Gilgamesh November 18, 2012 at 01:04

Of course they have a malicious agenda, otherwise they would have given up before i was even born (1980s)

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Anonymous November 18, 2012 at 02:51

This is David Brooks, a prominent RINO. I’m not at all surprised that the man who came up with the idea of “National Greatness Conservatism” thinks government is the answer to the problems that government created . Of course, government is not the solution to problems. It is the cause of almost every problem, as real conservatives know.

When the Republican Party actually listened to this sort of RINO back in the Bush years, they basically handed the Democrats huge majorities because the country resoundingly rejected me-too Republicans. In 2012, the so-cons became a major liability for the GOP and Mitt Romney was a weak candidate who didn’t have the guts to reveal the real Obama or to actually run as a conservative. If the Mitt Romney of the 47% video and the gifts comment had been the Mitt Romney that everybody saw and if that Mitt Romney had actually spent money on ads exposing the real Obama, he wouldn’t have done worse than McCain. He would have crushed Obama and won a huge landslide victory. Romney let Obama smear him by telling lie after lie and then campaigned as a moderate while letting Obama get away with appearing as a “nice guy” to much of the country. The base didn’t turn out because voters were suspicious that the Republicans were actually serious about reining in government and doing something about the “victims” that think it is their “right” to loot the rest of us.

If Republicans want to win nationally, they need to be the party that consistently opposes government intervention in all areas. By tolerating big government elements in their party, they weaken their brand. As we all know, feminism is a nasty form of socialism that, under the guise of advocating equality, pushes for the oppression of men and the supremacy of women. Feminists think that they are “victims” and that it is their “right” to loot and oppress men because men are “oppressing” them. Since a direct attack on feminism seems to be impossible, the only way to destroy it is to attack the idea that certain people that think they are “victims” are entitled to special “rights” that come at the expense of others. The real issue is not men’s rights VS feminism. It is capitalism (men’s rights) VS socialism (feminism). It is about the makers VS the takers. It is the real victims VS the designated “victims” that think it is their “right” to oppress others. At its core, the issue is liberty VS government.

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djc November 18, 2012 at 06:27

Our culture is such that dogs love you more than children do. So why bother with them?

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Tam the Bam November 18, 2012 at 07:07

“Unfortunately, I have to conclude that those who would promote the family through a carrot and stick approach are the biggest threat to the family of all. “
Having observed repeatedly that that “family” incentive for men consists solely of the carrot being jammed up their asses, followed by the stick, I fail to see why the funny little man is so bewildered.
What is it that he can’t understand about men’s being spooked by the constant retort of the captive bolt in the shed marked “family”?

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Wilson November 18, 2012 at 08:05

I agree that less government is better , but government does need to do something: eliminate anti-male and anti-father policies. Brooks’s “pro-family” suggestions sound like more rewards for single mothers, paid for by men in money and in the alienation from their children. The “pay gap” myth is getting tired, and it will be harder to hide the facts when women start getting paid more than men, so the next “women’s cause” is to pass regulations so that they can get paid for not working while they stay at home with their kids. Conservative white knights will go along with this after a few traditionalists are clawed apart for questioning women’s “right” to free money and free babies.

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Eric J Schlegel November 18, 2012 at 09:04

The word is out amoung the men of this age that they have NO authority in their home, and NO say-so over their family. None. The wonderful marriage ceremony that says “she is yours” rapidly changes into a bargain with Darth Vader. As the author of the “No Ma’me” website brilliantly laid out, marriage is SUPPOSED to be where a woman trades her reproductive ability for a man’s support. BUT SURPRISE! “I get to default on my part and hold a gun to your head and make you keep yours.” What man in his right mind would sign that contract? And you know what really Grinds My Gears these days? These women (always women) who put on their FB pages cute little sayings about how “Real Men do X”. Really? well you can keep that shit. Real Men wise up and say “No thanks.”

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keyster November 18, 2012 at 09:37

There was a movie awhile back that had a sub-plot of a student election. The candidates were a kind of nerdy boy, member of the chess team, advanced math…and a very pretty girl, head cheerleader, homecoming queen, very popular.

The boy ran on things like working with the school board on grade and testing policies, and the principle with extending time between classes so students who had longer walks didn’t have rush as much…and several other things students wanted to see changed.

The girl ran on one thing; Free Ice Cream for Everyone!

She never said how she was going to pay for it, or who would provide it. She just promised free ice cream. She won the election for student council president in a landslide victory, something like 10 to 1 of the votes cast. She was pretty and very popular among the student body, and told them what they wanted to hear.

This is America today.

Drop the federallly mandated work rule for Welfare.
Amnesty for illegal “dreamers”.
Free contraception and health care for women.
Lower student loan interest for the young.
Gay marriage support and dropping “Don’t ask don’t tell”.

“Free” health care is our promise of ice cream.

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American November 18, 2012 at 09:46

America has developed an interesting phenomena called “Entrepreneurial bureaucracies”.
I forget who coined the term, maybe it was Brooks, as he’s one of the greatest wordsmiths in modern America.

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American November 18, 2012 at 09:47

Some folks regurgitate others terms, and some craft them. Brooks has a high rating in the crafting Dept.

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American November 18, 2012 at 09:52

Im sure Mr Brooks has heard about the mens/fathers rights movement by now, as i E-mailed him some links years ago.
I’m wicked curious to see his analysis, and folks if you pay attention, In some of his writings, he does skirt very close to what we are talking about here , without actually going there”.

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FDR's ghost November 18, 2012 at 10:15

“Every single time in the past 50 years that the government has intervened in family and marriage it has weakened the institution. Why on earth does Brooks think more of the same will have a different effect this time?”

Brooks in part may be proposing we go back to the family policy in effect over 50 years ago, put in place by the New Deal.

See Allan Carlson’s work, including his short essay “THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR THE NEW DEAL.”

Feminism is largely an attack on the New Deal consensus. If it’s a choice between feminist policy and that old consensus, I think the old consensus is best.

Anti-government rhetoric doesn’t work. It only keeps your side from taking over the government and gives a monopoly on power to your enemies.

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American November 18, 2012 at 11:48

why would American law enforcement want to give up the fat “pork Bloating Alliance” with the federal government, If they don’t have to.
???
Maybe the final downfall of the perversion and “manufactured statistics Alliance” between American law enforcement and federal pork bloating dollars…will be the complete breakdown of the family, and the thousands of years of “hetero-dominance”.

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keyster November 18, 2012 at 11:52

Anti-government rhetoric doesn’t work. It only keeps your side from taking over the government and gives a monopoly on power to your enemies.

“Republicans run for office by saying that govt doesn’t work. Then they get elected…..and prove it!” – – P.J. O’Rourke

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minuteman November 18, 2012 at 15:37

The US is facing total economic collapse. When that happens neither the state or private industry will be able to afford to hire millions of women to do make work projects. Women will not be able to afford to hire other women to look after their children. The state will not have the ability to white knight on behalf of women . Women will go back to having to trade what they do have to men for protection. This is the way the world has always worked. A rich socialist state is required for feminism to exist. The first thing to go will be the rich part, the next thing to go will be the socialist part and then feminism will die. All human relationships are based on economics. Reality is going to be a bitch for the feminists.

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bobsutan November 20, 2012 at 07:51

More government my ass. What we need is a dismantling of government as the surrogate father and husband. Currently the gov does a lot for women, hence the sloganeering by women that they need a man as much as a fish needs a bicycle. Revoke the govt subsidies for single mothers, gut the mechanisms women use to divorce with cash & prizes, then sit back and watch family structures are rebuilt and stabilize. Good luck ever seeing that happen though so long as politicians pander to women for their vote. Whenever something that would effect these kinds of changes are mentioned the women’s groups retaliate, with help by the Democrats, as framing it as a war on women or some other stupidity.

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MaMu1977 November 21, 2012 at 12:36

Autumn Pasquale, anyone?
The father of her suspected killers was interviewed recently. During the interview, he mentioned that he hadn’t been allowed to see his children in five years. If he had been “allowed” to be a fixture in his sons’ lives (instead of their shiftless stepfather), their victim may still be alive today.

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bruno November 25, 2012 at 05:34

“Anti-government rhetoric doesn’t work. It only keeps your side from taking over the government and gives a monopoly on power to your enemies.”

Exactly.

Feminists love nothing more than men being anti-government and slaving away in private industrial jobs, to create the wealth and to pay the taxes that the feminists and other government parasites then can suck back out of government.

And by the government debt, even today already suck out your future taxes.

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