Family Leave and Family Values

FamilyValuesby John Kirke9/4/15
A few weeks back on social media, a high-school friend approvingly posted the following quote by self-described socialist Bernie Sanders:

Sanders

As I wrote in my brief reply, I actually agree with the sentiment – in retrospect, I do object to some of the phrasing – but my bet is that a lot of people would nod their heads in approval even as they strongly disagree with his likely proposal.

It’s a question of means and ends:  I believe in the goal of promoting family values, but I believe that there are more moral and more effective methods than what statists like Sanders would propose.

I think it’s worthwhile to make another point here.

I believe economic hardship is never ideal, but unless it causes starvation and other forms of real deprivation, it’s not really “an attack” on family values.  I don’t believe hardship is incompatible with either a close-knit family or the virtues that such bonds inculcate.

(Or should we claim that, because the children of the 80’s and 90’s were reared in households that were more prosperous by any objective measure, they were raised better than the so-called “Greatest Generation” who came of age during the Depression?  Should we claim that Paris Hilton experienced more and better family values than Abraham Lincoln did?  Should we condemn God, as the Bible describes Him, for requiring idolatrous Israel to raise an entirely new generation while wandering in the wilderness?)

But, certainly, all things being equal, prosperity is better than poverty.

Sanders seeks to address a particular kind of economic hardship with an agenda that is entirely predictable in its statism, and the details matter less than the two general approaches of the statist, where the government either coerces employers to implement its agenda or provides benefits directly from property taxed from other people.

(The Senator proposes both:  the federal government would require employers to provide seven days of paid sick leave, require employers to provide ten days of paid vacation, AND guarantee 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave through a government-run pseudo-insurance program like the already-bankrupt Ponzi scheme called Social Security. )

I believe that such federal interference in the economy, with or without the employer as the middleman, should be opposed as blatantly unconstitutional, immoral in its overreach, and economically counterproductive in exacerbating unemployment and dis-incentivizing productivity.

But suppose I’m wrong on all those counts.  Suppose the government really should compel business owners and taxpayers to provide certain benefits and fund new government programs for the sake of family values.

Is there anything else that the government could do that’s less intrusive, less coercive, less expensive, and more likely to be effective?  Is there a policy that makes for a more organic fit with society as it already exists?

There is, and it’s rooted in the traditional conceptions of marriage and the division of labor between the sexes:  a man and a woman make a lifelong commitment to each other, they raise their children in a single home as father and mother, and the husband works as the breadwinner while the wife works as the homemaker.

The intact marriage has long been denigrated as nothing special – and as patriarchal oppression by radical feminists – and stay-at-home motherhood has been given even worse treatment, stigmatized as a betrayal of the movement for equal rights and a waste of an adult life.

Still, the single best predictor of success in life isn’t how much paid leave one’s parents received, but whether one’s parents stay together; children without a father in the home are more likely to end up in poverty or in prison.  And Christina Hoff Sommers has pointed out that, in societies that are more free and prosperous, men and women are evidently more likely to embrace traditional gender roles.

The government need not – and indeed SHOULD NOT – require women to be homemakers within intact marriages, but I’m not sure I see anything wrong with its encouraging such arrangements by pointing out that they tend to benefit everyone involved, with the adults being happier now and the children growing up to be more successful later.  The government could and should give the union of man and woman the unique sanction of marriage, and at a minimum it should ensure that marriages and stay-at-home motherhood are not punished by the tax code.

Bernie Sanders laments when a mother cannot spend enough time with her newborn, but that would occur less frequently if more women were stay-at-home moms in families where the father was the primary source of income.

To my Facebook friend and his political allies on the left, I would ask:

In addition to enacting mandates on the employer and creating a new entitlement program, should the government gently encourage the traditional nuclear family, ideally with the father in the workforce and the mother at home?  If not, why not?  Is such encouragement an onerous imposition of one group’s moral views while additional regulations and taxes are not?

I also notice that Sanders criticizes a very specific situation, where the mother works “because of a lack of money.”

I wonder if my friends think the motive really matters, if it’s somehow benign for the cause of family values if the mother neglects time with her kids, not because of financial need, but because of her own personal wants.  There are financially independent mothers who work because they want to, because they want to “have it all” or even put their career first.

If society should use government programs and regulations to ensure that mothers of young children need never choose to work because of financial difficulty, should we also criticize, however mildly, those who deliberately choose to work for less serious reasons? If not, why not?

I think the answers to these questions are obvious, albeit inconvenient, for many on the left.  Their answers would show that they want the government to dictate what a business owner must do while even the civil society should be entirely silent on what the family should consider doing.  They believe “family values” should be promoted only in ways that expand the state, tear down traditional institutions, or elevate the narcissistic focus on the self.

If that’s the case, then family values aren’t the focus, they’re just the excuse to do what they would do anyway.

For many Leftists, families aren’t the priority, they’re the pretext.


John R.W. Kirke is a pseudonym of a Christian husband, father, and engineer who has written elsewhere under other names, including “Lawrence” in the comments at National Review Online. He remains deeply moved by the unpublished memoirs of Professor D. Kirke (1888-1949). • (1033 views)

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John Kirke

About John Kirke

John R.W. Kirke is a pseudonym of a Christian husband, father, and engineer who has written elsewhere under other names, including "Lawrence" in the comments at National Review Online. He remains deeply moved by the unpublished memoirs of Professor D. Kirke (1888-1949).
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20 Responses to Family Leave and Family Values

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Very good questions. Note that the tax code benefits married families in some ways; in essence, a traditional married couple benefits, but a more modern one (with both working) would often be better off unmarried. It would be interesting to figure out some ways to further encourage traditional families.

    But one must always remember that everything has a cost (this is something liberals refuse to be aware of, since it represents an argument against any of their proposals, and thus leads to the emotionally unacceptable possibility that they’re wrong). All those regulations Sanders proposes make hiring more expensive, and thus make it less frequent. John Maynard Keynes, looking at the New Deal, agreed with many of FDR’s ideas — but also thought they should wait until the economy recovered.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    What a bunch of baloney: “…is forced back to work because of money.” Yeah, life sucks. You have to work if you want money, whether to support having a baby, to buy and operate a car, or just to have food. Somebody ought to do something about this travesty, this “social injustice.”

    Eat the rich. They should pay for it.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      The contention that to live today both parents must work, has long been a sore point with me. While it is true that life is more expensive, and wages today buy relatively less in staples than in the 1950-60’s, a family can still live on the 2014 median income in the USA.

      What one cannot do is have several TV sets, a number of smart phones, eat out all the time and drive a new car every three years. In other words, one cannot have it all. Choices must be made, but this fact of life is fading further from what were the normal demands of existence.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The assumption that women should be free from having to make choices is obnoxious to me and should be to anyone. Unless it hasn’t quite sunk in yet, we can’t afford Utopia.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce commodities, which means commodities for which the supply is less than the theoretically possible maximum demand. (Currently there is no market, at least on Earth, in air, aside from filling up tires and aqualungs — which tend to be free.) This means it’s all about trade-offs. One has to decide what one can afford to buy out of all the things one wants to buy. One also has to decide how to allocate time as well as money.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Currently there is no market, at least on Earth, in air, aside from filling up tires and aqualungs — which tend to be free.

            We had a discussion regarding the cost of air, in one of my economics classes many years ago. We came to the conclusion that given the, then, recent imposition of environmental laws even air was no longer free.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I’m okay with the idea that maintaining air quality has costs involved. But I’m not for fitting people with meters to see how much they breath so they can be charged accordingly. Nor am I for putting monitoring devices on cars to see how much they drive so that drivers can be charged proportionately for road use.

              This is what “equality” gets you. I’m not for equality, except under the law and as a metaphysical view of human beings. But if you want absolutist material equality, how long will it be until men whose manhood is too big or too small is equalized? (By cutting or lengthening, I don’t know.) Don’t laugh. I think Rush is right regarding his Undeniable Truth #24: “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of American life.”

              That’s right. The undercurrent of feminism is actually about equalizing looks. The rest is just window dressing (and certainly a benefit too if you are a good-looking woman who gets to take advantage of various freebies and privileges).

              Feminism needed to de-emphasize looks, thus you were not (and still are not) allowed to compliment a woman on her looks. This is deemed “sexist.” Why? What woman objects to a sincere compliment? Zero. Only those who don’t receive them as often (and are jealous of better-looking women) could object.

              Looks aren’t everything, of course, which is why most men understand the huge costs that come with marrying a stunningly gorgeous woman. They are going to tend to be high-maintenance. They know they have the goods. A less attractive woman just naturally has to work harder. And that is more likely to produce a pleasing and longer-lasting relationship.

              Same thing with a man to a certain extent. Length probably really doesn’t matter all that much because the shorter man will work harder. Your mileage may vary. But the point is, absolute equality is stifling. And the inequalities can add up to a useful and stable balance.

              Except where it intersects the law or a basic metaphysical valuation of human beings, I think all of those who stump for some form of “equality” are just trying to equalize things that they think nature has short-changed them on. Well, it’s not the job of society to fix everybody.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Equality in everything equals mindlessness and robotic behavior. Dull, dull, dull.

                It will also be very painful for many. You know the old saying about fitting a square peg into a round hole. Shaving off those corners hurt.

                Of course, those on top will not be held to the same dull standards.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Don’t laugh. I think Rush is right regarding his Undeniable Truth #24: “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of American life.”

                That’s right. The undercurrent of feminism is actually about equalizing looks. The rest is just window dressing (and certainly a benefit too if you are a good-looking woman who gets to take advantage of various freebies and privileges).

                Feminism needed to de-emphasize looks, thus you were not (and still are not) allowed to compliment a woman on her looks. This is deemed “sexist.” Why? What woman objects to a sincere compliment? Zero. Only those who don’t receive them as often (and are jealous of better-looking women) could object.

                Some caller on Rush who sounded like a transvestite or the recipient of a sex change operation just confirmed your theory about feminism being behind the leftist rot which is destroying the country. It was reveling in their success.

                It said the moment the public started using terms such as “gay marriage”, the Left had won. This is exactly why I refuse to use terms such as “gay” and “businessperson”.

                Words have meanings!!!

              • Timothy Lane says:

                “Never make a pretty woman your wife.”

    • David Ray says:

      When John’s wife had their 3rd child, his boss failed to rush forward to give him a raise.
      Tell me why welfare queens get an increase for every birth again????

      (I hear 71% of illegals are on the dole . . . that’s nice.)

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Nothing new. This sort of thing was an aspect of the game Public Assistance (which generally wasn’t carried by large game shops because of public pressure), a jaundiced and all-too-realistic look at the welfare state.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Also, a way to put this into perspective, should we give men special leave time to go on hunting trips? Babies are a woman thing. Hunting trips are a man thing. But fair’s fair.

    Of course, babies are being framed as a “family thing,” which they inherently are. But is this really so given that huge numbers of babies now who are born out of wedlock? Is it really the place for government or business to make it as easy as possible to dispense with men?

    That’s the end result. If individual companies want to have some kind of family leave policy, more power to them. Let them then honestly pass those cost onto the customer or via cutbacks. But it’s not the job of the Federal government, or state governments for that matter, to use businesses to implement intrusive fine-grained social policies that aim for Utopia — that is, that are guided by the mindset that things can be made perfect and there are no need to make choices or to have trade-offs.

    But as long as women (who are in the majority numerically) are viewed as a minority (aka “victims”), this idea will have a hard time gaining traction. In fact, the assumption that we should reorganize society to fit the mindset and desires of women is so throughly ingrained now that I think few have the guts simply to point this out. If you do they call it a “war on women.” See how that works?

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Some caller on Rush who sounded like a transvestite or the recipient of a sex change operation just confirmed your theory about feminism being behind the leftist rot which is destroying the country. It was reveling in their success.

    Well, Mr. Kung, you’ll be glad to know it’s “Healthy Masculinity Week” at Vanderbilt. Rick Moran has an article on this. The salient point is:

    “Healthy Masculinities Week” hopes to encourage men to “[e]xplore healthy masculinity through various lenses,” such as “American society, the gay and bisexual community, fraternities, and more.”

    Because nothing says “healthy masculinity” quite like emulating gays and bi’s.

    Men have been chick-i-fied, as Rush calls it, and wussified or ninnified, as I call it. We actually need a “war on women” but only against a subset of women: the kind of kooks and man-haters who are forwarding this baloney.

    On a side note, I just heard from Rush that Mark Levin has a new book that is aimed at younger readers. It is supposedly about telling them how they’re getting screwed by the people who profess great love and “compassion” for them. It’s called Plunder and Deceit. I hope it’s a good book and I hope he does well with it. This is exactly the kind of “talk” (if he has indeed written well) that we need. I’ll take a look at the Kindle sample portion of it tonight.

    How does this all intersect with the topic at hand? Well, I think we need to out some of these “pro-family” policies as being sometimes part of the larger “anti-man” campaign that they are. Is it unthinkable to say to women that if they want children, they should take care of them even if it means they can’t work full time?

    Instead, we have generations of children now raised by no dad and sometimes by a mother who is barely there, if you count the time kids spend in daycare. And, good golly, after those revelations in the Planned Parenthood videos, isn’t it a relevant question to ask whether or not children need not just a father but a mother? Must we move heaven and earth so that kids can eventually just be raised by the government? That’s where we’re heading. And the idiot Republican candidate for governor in the last election, Rob McKenna (who lost), was for “early childhood education.” These establishment Republicans don’t even blink when they are building another brick in the socialist utopian welfare state.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      “Healthy Masculinity Week”

      That simple fact that a school would have to set aside a special week for such a thing is proof of the defeat of Western Culture. The lens through which things are now viewed is completely out of focus.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Healthy Masculinity Week, in a normal universe, would include bagging a babe, shooting a deer, watching some football, and drinking a beer. Not necessarily in that order.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I’d trade you one deer shooting for an extra babe bagging. If necessary, I’ll chop some wood on the side.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          There’s an old story about a Texan who goes to Alaska and asks what it takes to be considered an Alaskan. He’s told he has to drink a bottle of whiskey all at once, screw an Eskimo, and kill a polar bear. So he drinks the whiskey, and then has a long and somewhat violent sexual encounter, after which he comes out and asks, “Okay, where’s this Eskimo I’m supposed to kill?”

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