On Conservatism:
Family-First Conservatism

On Conservatism — By on January 10, 2008 at 8:44 am

[Note: This post is part of the “On Conservatism” series.]
In modern American there are almost as many brands of conservatism as there are conservatives. There are neo-cons and paleocons, theocons and crunchy cons. There are social conservative and fiscal conservatives. Conservatives who aim for National Greatness and others who strive to be Compassionate. There are the oxymoronic “Big Government conservatives” and “South Park Conservatives.” And some claims to conservatism that are simply moronic (i.e., Andrew Sullivan, Rudy Giuliani).
Unless you’re already familiar with the political taxonomy, such labels aren’t particularly useful. To truly understand what a conservative believes, it is often more instructive to simply ask what it is they want to conserve.
My own answer to that question would be the same as that of Russell Kirk: The institution most essential to conserve is the family.
I believe that while ultimate sovereignty belongs to God alone, He delegates authority throughout society to various institutional structures (i.e., churches, businesses, the state, etc.). Naturally, these institutions are not immune to the effects of sin or human depravity but they still retain the legitimate authority given to them by our Creator. Although each of these institutions is important, the most essential is the family. My political philosophy could be called “family-first conservatism” for I believe that the institution of the family should be given pride of place in decisions about public policy.
While family-first conservatism is rather limited in scope, I believe it is a robust enough to generate a core set of principles and policy prescriptions. The principles, which I have gleaned from the writings of better thinkers than myself, are outlined in the following manifesto:
1. We believe the family is the basic unit of society.
2. We believe that from birth we are initiated into the community structure of the family. We are not thrust into a state of radical individualism but rather into the most basic form of community. We are created to be both individuated persons and members of a community; neither can be reduced into the other.
3. We believe the heart of the family is the pre-political institution of marriage, a “one-flesh union” of sexually complementary spouses who cleave to each other in permanent commitment, loyalty, and fidelity and that this one-flesh communion is naturally ordered to the good of spousal unity, to procreation, and to the nurturing of children.
4. We believe it is a self-evident truth that all human beings are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of human flourishing.
5. We believe in protecting the intrinsic dignity of all members of the human family, at any and every stage of life, in any and every state of consciousness or self-awareness, of any and every race, color, ethnicity, level of intelligence, religion, language, gender, character, behavior, physical ability/disability, potential, class, social status, etc., and believe that they must be treated in a manner commensurate with this moral status.
6. We believe the interaction between people in community has lead naturally to societal pluriformity and the formation of various social structures. Families interact with other families to create distinct communities such as the tribe, the city, and the state and that the various tasks and requirements for living has lead to the formation of churches, schools, businesses, civic unions, etc.
7. We believe that each of these structures or spheres of influence has its own autonomy and responsibility and is sovereign within its own sphere. Each also has its locus of sovereignty which is derived not from another structure from God alone. This forms a non-hierarchical structure where all authority is ultimately derived from our Creator.
8. We believe that parents have the primary sphere of authority and influence over the upbringing of their children and that this role may not be usurped by other institutions unless necessary to prevent the child from suffering harm.
9. We believe that while parental authority is primary, other institutions have an interest and a duty in protecting the welfare of children and should do what they can to create and preserve a moral ecology that is conducive to creating virtuous citizens.
10. We believe that while social structures are non-hierarchical, the family should be considered “first among equals” and given special consideration in making decisions about public policy.



  • Ludwig

    “1. We believe the family is the basic unit of society.”
    wouldnt that be nice huh?…a society where individual has no legal standing unless hes part of an “acceptable” family unit…fortunately,the constitution makes it crystal clear that the INDIVIDUAL is the basic unit of society.
    “4. We believe it is a self-evident truth that all human beings are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of human flourishing. ”
    Ok i have to ask…just what is it with you cultists and this particular passage in the constitution that always makes you wanna change it into something else…do you death worshippers actually have an aversion to happines here on earth?

  • ucfengr

    wouldnt that be nice huh?…a society where individual has no legal standing unless hes part of an “acceptable” family unit…fortunately,the constitution makes it crystal clear that the INDIVIDUAL is the basic unit of society.
    Normally I don’t respond to Ludwig, but sometimes he posts something that is so inane, so poorly thought out, so slapdash, that somebody needs to raise the BS flag. The Constitution does place a lot of importance on the individual, but it also allows the needs of the family to be placed above the desires of the individual. For example, a parent cannot legally abandon a minor child by the side of the road, but they can abandon a stranger, or even a friend without legal repercussions. Also, a parent can’t refuse to pay child support. Unless you want to make the case that court mandated child support or a parent’s legal obligation to care for his child is unconstitutional, then you must acknowledge that the rights of the individual are not always primary in the Constitution.

  • Jeff Blogworthy

    Of course, all parties are going to lay claim to being the most “family friendly” and having the best policies. I can hardly wait for the abortion explanation.

  • http://emilysgrist.blogspot.com/ Emily Shaheen

    Well written. My main problem with the commentary from Republicans during this election is that they’re spending too much time looking at everyone’s tax record and not at their policies on the family. Doesn’t the family influence economics? I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

  • Jeff Blogworthy

    Emily,
    The family certainly does influence economics. There is no question that it is in society’s best economic interests to preserve the family, both from a productivity standpoint and to prevent drain on public services.
    Nevertheless, the influence of myriad public policies on the family can hardly be overstated. Who needs a father when you have government welfare? Financial stress promotes family conflict. High taxation is a double whammy, resulting in a higher cost of goods and services as well as a direct strain on families. Many mothers can no longer stay at home as it takes two working parents to maintain an acceptable standard of living. Good economic policies can help to alleviate this trend.

  • http://mdvoutlook.com Mike D’Virgilio

    Joe,
    How insulting that you would put Andrew Sullivan parenthetically next to Rudy Giuliani, and then make the claim that Rudy’s claim to conservatism is moronic. Why do you hate him so? Sullivan is a psycho case. Rudy may not be pure enough for you, or not family first enough for you (in his personal life), but to describe him as anything but conservative is ridiculous. Tell that to liberals in NYC and they’ll laugh at you.
    A political or governing philosophy is not an either/or, all or nothing proposition. It’s a continuum. Rudy is well to the right on this spectrum with most of what he believes, and on those areas he parts company with social conservatives he’s not close to where Democrats are on the spectrum. I’m afraid in this case it’s not Giuliani’s claim that is moronic.

  • Ludwig

    “Normally I don’t respond to Ludwig, but sometimes he posts something that is so inane, so poorly thought out, so slapdash, that somebody needs to raise the BS flag. The Constitution does place a lot of importance on the individual, but it also allows the needs of the family to be placed above the desires of the individual. For example, a parent cannot legally abandon a minor child by the side of the road, but they can abandon a stranger, or even a friend without legal repercussions. Also, a parent can’t refuse to pay child support. Unless you want to make the case that court mandated child support or a parent’s legal obligation to care for his child is unconstitutional, then you must acknowledge that the rights of the individual are not always primary in the Constitution.”
    Thats only because we have deemed it necessary to place a legal requirement on the parent of any child to provide for that child but that legal requirement ends the instant the child becomes a legal adult and the reverse is never true…no children have at any point in their lives any legal requirement to provide for their parents, meaning that unless we are talking about child rearing,individual trump family.

  • ucfengr

    no children have at any point in their lives any legal requirement to provide for their parents, meaning that unless we are talking about child rearing,individual trump family.
    No it doesn’t. Ever heard of alimony? So now we have two areas of law in which family trumps individual. Really, the whole area of family law is about balancing the rights of the family against the rights of the individual. Let’s look at your example. Suppose an unmarried adult dies and wills his entire estate to his best friend (assume the friends have no business partnership), how hard would it be for the adult’s parents to contest the will? Not very hard, and they would have a reasonable chance of success, but reverse the scenario and let the best friend contest a will leaving the estate to the parents; how far would he get? Not very. So here we have another scenario in which the rights of the family are advantaged over the individual.

  • Ludwig

    “No it doesn’t. Ever heard of alimony? So now we have two areas of law in which family trumps individual. Really, the whole area of family law is about balancing the rights of the family against the rights of the individual. Let’s look at your example. Suppose an unmarried adult dies and wills his entire estate to his best friend (assume the friends have no business partnership), how hard would it be for the adult’s parents to contest the will? Not very hard, and they would have a reasonable chance of success, but reverse the scenario and let the best friend contest a will leaving the estate to the parents; how far would he get? Not very. So here we have another scenario in which the rights of the family are advantaged over the individual.”
    Alimony is the result of a contract entered into by two individuals. the contract of marriage…i believe some laws even extend this to people who have been living together for a long time without being married but once again this falls under some sort of contractual obligation…but individuals have no such obligations towards people they have not entered in a contract with…you are not for instance required to pay a single penny to your siblings even though technically they should be considered to be more closely related to you than a spouse…why do you think that is? Because individual trumps family…to every rule there are exceptions….we have uncovered 2…there maybe be more but they remain exceptions to a rule,not the other way around.

  • http://www.purechurch.blogspot.com Thabiti

    Joe,
    I wonder if #9 might not need some additional commentary. I agree with what you’ve written, but the statement is also as useful in “divorcing” children and families in the name of protecting children.
    For several years, I worked in a liberal/progressive policy think tank in D.C. Sitting in various meetings and discussions, t was often the case that people would justify a number of policies I don’t think you’d support (not requiring parental consent for abortions or birth control, for example) by appealing to the notion that society and its institutions needed to protect children and that parents weren’t doing a “good enough job” (read, they weren’t taking their viewpoint). Some folks assumed that weaknesses in families or differences in opinion re: child rearing provided warrant for usurping or bypassing parental authority and advancing their own child-centered agenda or intervention. That effectively amounts to a rejection of what you’ve affirmed elsewhere in your post.
    With point #9, the list seems to lose its anchor in the first premise, “the family is the basic building block.”
    I wonder if the statement might not be tighter if it read something like:
    9. We believe that parental authority is primary, and that other institutions have an interest and a duty in protecting that authority, the welfare of parents and children, and should do what they can to create and preserve a moral ecology that is conducive to family strength and creating virtuous citizens.
    Thanks for the thoughtful post. Grace and peace.

  • ucfengr

    Alimony is the result of a contract entered into by two individuals. the contract of marriage.
    Which is the traditional basis for a family, you know a married couple, maybe with a couple of minor children. Then the kids grow up and start their own families and so on. Please stop me if this concept is foreign to you; I’d be happy to explain it.
    Because individual trumps family…to every rule there are exceptions….we have uncovered 2…there maybe be more but they remain exceptions to a rule,not the other way around.
    No, they are not exceptions to the rule, they are the rule. The whole basis of Family Law is that the needs of the family, specifically the nuclear family (as opposed to the extended family) trump the rights of the individuals in many cases.
    I wonder if you are not being deliberately obtuse here in an effort to validate you own prejudices against traditional families and belief systems. I will assume you are because nobody could really be this dense.

  • Vin

    Family is great. It is the only real community left, and source of moral character. But conservatives don’t always insist on its priority, or even that it exists in its own sovereign sphere ordained by God. When push comes to shove, when the people disapprove of how a kid is being raised by Christian or non-Christians for example, they will display their sovereignty by removing that child with force as if the child is more theirs than the mother’s. God allows this authority, or power, but is this the same as ordaining it? And whether he did or not, don’t Christians and conservatives always support the reigning governmental, legal authority – don’t they seek more to conserve the existing order than disrupt it in the name of ideals, principles, or even God’s own justice? I’m sure many would say no, but if God allows this authority and tells his people not to get caught up in this world by challenging or seizing this authority, it seems that Christians are stuck being conservative supporters of their government. They are not called to be patriots, but not enemies of the state either. After all, the world is the world and no authority is worthy of our devotion. This is clear to most Christians around the world and through the ages. The problem is that we live in a nice country, that is based on tolerating our religious practice. This seems to confuse many Christians, who, even if they don’t equate USA with Israel in their hearts, find it easy to support and often confuse its lack of persecution with divine providence and divine authority. I don’t think there is much basis for this faith in America. It is an exceptional nation, but just a nation like any other – of this world. That it sucks so many into the world through its toleration, easy-goingness, and lack of moral education or family formation makes the USA seem more a curse than a blessing. But Christians shouldn’t have to have their nation bashed to know it is not worthy of their devotion compared to He who has allowed it to flourish, for a time.
    I see nothing wrong with being Christian and having strong political views about the policies of the country, but what we should wisely support and realistically expect from politics is far from the glories or justice of God.
    So my question is why we are so insistent on the religious beliefs of our candidates? Isn’t it a bit unChristian to even run for office? When we care more than we should about politics, when we insist our governments aspire to God’s justice our own faith and rationality can become distorted. We become so impressed with the power of government power and its possibilities for good that we naturally begin to seek, and see, political heroes, as if the Messiah did not already come and put all worldly rule in perspective. We set ourselves up to be duped by any rhetor with ambitions for heroic glory and some familiarity with our doctrines. I think Huckabee is a sign that something has gone wrong among the Christian Right. When claiming vague Christian credentials, watered down just enough to unite us against the fear of being ruled by a non-Christian (as if that were not the norm) can move so many so easily, I question their faith and their motives. This is a very troubling phenomenon because it really does portray evangelicals as warm fuzzy Christians who have slowly moved away from doctrine and theology, toward feeling and passions; as insecure Christians and bad citizens, dedicated more to their own faction’s power (not their church’s holiness) than the good of the nation.
    While President Huck would support a marriage amendment (which would fail and only lead to greater hate for Christians), and maybe tax-breaks for kids (unlikely), the greater authority most of his policies will give to the government is likely only to endanger families in 4 years after his term. In those 4 years Huck will not strengthen the family through the power of government because it would take a much different sort of government to do so – a government with a clear moral agenda for educating and perfecting men. This is not quite what we have. The best we can expect is for the government not to disrupt or interfere in the family. The greatest respect for the private Christian american would be a support for vouchers and home-schooling where we can morally educate our kids the right way – to be good, and not simply responsible, PC, and environmental (the 3 R’s). But, as we know, Huckabee is no big supporter of family choice and authority in this area – he’d rather strengthen the government on this matter and have his Christian nation teach your kids (hope you subscribe to his version of mainstream Baptism and don’t insist on too many of the more controversial elements of Christianity).
    Of course Huck won’t win. Most Americans are as fearful of our government’s power as a moral agent as many evangelicals now seem to place hope in it. More likely he will signal the end of the currently conservative republican party and the end of any evangelical political influence or movement, at least as anything more than another ideological, self-interested faction.
    Perhaps I should be rooting for Huckabee for this reason alone. Maybe their political loss will be the evangelicals spiritual boon, turning them away from the imperfections and necessarily wicked ways (see Ed Rollins) of politics and back to the Word. But I am also an American and it would be sad to see my brethren join in the worsening and divisiveness of my nation. So I’m a little torn.
    I just don’t care that Huck says he is a Baptist (like Clinton says) though it is always annoying when people condescend to me in order to manipulate me on my deepest most strongly held beliefs. I know and deal with Christians every day and they are still human and flawed like everyone else. They are blessed, but to think this is necessarily a political qualification that will bless our nation with wise policy and choices smacks of paganism and superstition. It is a very human tendency, but not Christian. And not very American either.

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    7. We believe that each of these structures or spheres of influence has its own autonomy and responsibility and is sovereign within its own sphere. Each also has its locus of sovereignty which is derived not from another structure from God alone. This forms a non-hierarchical structure where all authority is ultimately derived from our Creator.
    Do you really think these separate spheres of authority can coexist autonomously without a hierarchical structure? A man cannot serve two masters, I’ve heard. What happens when the interests of the family conflict with the interests of the tribe? Or the interests of the individual conflict with the interests of the family? How are these matters to be adjudicated?
    And don’t tell me that God will adjudicate. If that is your answer then you are obviously a proponent of priestcraft. Who else to divine what God wants? Bring out the entrails.
    And if you hadn’t noticed, Western civilization has eliminated a whole sphere of community, the tribe. We don’t have tribes. Africans and Asians have them, but Americans (European Americans, at least) don’t. The rise of the nuclear family in the West came at the expense of the extended family/tribe. We left Hillary’s village behind. The village/tribe usurps the power of the married couple as head of household. Autonomy between such spheres is not possible.
    8. We believe that parents have the primary sphere of authority and influence over the upbringing of their children and that this role may not be usurped by other institutions unless necessary to prevent the child from suffering harm.
    So you agree with me that the state should not usurp the authority of the parent in the form of school prayer. If this is a bedrock principle of family first conservatism, then why are so many of your brethren so adamant about allowing the government to impose its own authority in the religious indoctrination of children?

  • Cloud William

    8. …unless necessary to prevent the child from suffering harm.
    You don’t want to make exceptions like this; such weasel words are all the opening the State needs to create this.

  • Kasper Hauser

    With this statement, you make it clear that you, a presumably Huckabee, stand against the very idea of “American”–that God gave rights to individuals and that they delegate these rights to the State. Thus the right of the State to rule comes not from God, but from the individual. you also seem to reject the notion of the separation of Church and State by claiming that God has delegated sovereignty to Churches!
    And if that was not ridiculous enough, you even through in “businesses” as having some divine sovereigny!
    This is so medieval, so retrograde that it makes the Taliban seem sane. I swear on my life, my honr and my possesions that I will fight forever to keep you maniacs from establishing a theocracy in this Country.
    I owe that to my family, my ancestors, to George Washington and to God!

  • Rob Ryan

    “Bring out the entrails.”
    Well spoken, Robert. Allusions to augury take a lot of guts.

  • Leslie

    #2 sounds like a defense for socialist educational system.
    #4 “the pursuit of human flourishing” LOL!
    #8, #9 and #10 leave the door open for the government to do whatever it thinks is necessary to “protect” children. I don’t believe that a government institution has as much right over my children as I do. My husband and I are not “first among equals” when it comes to our children.

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com/ Collin Brendemuehl

    Perhaps replace “pre-political” with “apolitical”.
    Also, “gender” is a grammatical term. Words have gender, people have sex. (Wonderful, isn’t it.) Maybe “biological sexual identity” would work better.

  • Mumon

    All forms of conservatism suffer from grave moral defects, because adherence to any of the principles listed above can be used to justify the most horrendous of atrocities, and indeed has been the case historically.
    It is trivial to parody this post into justifications for child abuse, wife-beating, and slavery. The only difference between the parody post and this post is that you would deign to separate yourself from the slavers and wife-beaters because it is no longer politically correct to adhere to those “institutions.”

  • Ludwig

    “Which is the traditional basis for a family, you know a married couple, maybe with a couple of minor children. Then the kids grow up and start their own families and so on. Please stop me if this concept is foreign to you; I’d be happy to explain it.”
    U, when you re trying to be patronising you just sound like an idiot so maybe you should stop doing that…just a fyi in passing. And the contract i speak of is the LEGAL contract that both people who enter in a marriage sign WITH THE STATE and it is a legally binding contract that leads to alimony in case of divorce. But aside from that and giving your children the care they require UNTIL THEY REACH ADULTHOOD, you have no legal responsibility towards any members of your family,no matter how immediate the sibbling or how dire their situation may be. It is of course highly desirable that you would find it in your heart to help a distressed family member to the best of your ability but from a legal stand point,that help is 100% voluntary and you can face no penality should you decide not to do so for whatever reason. So you never have tp pay anything for your brothers and sisters if you dont want to, your parents have no further legal responsibility towards you once you reached adulthood and you as a child are not legally required to care for your parents welfare at any point in your life…because individual rights are the foundation of our constitutional republic. this is how its always been ever since the constitution was written and it is how it must always remain.
    “No, they are not exceptions to the rule, they are the rule. The whole basis of Family Law is that the needs of the family, specifically the nuclear family (as opposed to the extended family) trump the rights of the individuals in many cases. ”
    once again,there is no part of family laws that require you to keep paying your children s bills once they are adults nor is there a provision that require children to pay for their parents retirement or their siblings hospital bills or rent or groceries. All those things MUST be done voluntarely and they cannot legally be imposed by the state.
    “I wonder if you are not being deliberately obtuse here in an effort to validate you own prejudices against traditional families and belief systems. I will assume you are because nobody could really be this dense.”
    I have absolutely no prejudice whatsoever against traditional family…i come from one such family and a happy one too…both my parents are still alive and kicking and i see them and my brother and 3 sisters as often as i can. What i am predjudiced against however are narrow minded people who say claim that there can only be ONE type of “acceptable” family in society to the exclusion of all others…i m also very heavily predjudiced against people who routinely take their narrow minded biggotry,wrap it up with their superstitious cult beliefs, call it “values” and try to impose it on society by and large. In other words,i am proudly predjudiced against predjudice. and you can quote me on that.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    I believe that while ultimate sovereignty belongs to God alone, He delegates authority throughout society to various institutional structures (i.e., churches, businesses, the state, etc.).
    And how do you propose to verify to which specific institutions God has delegated “authority” at any given time and situation? Do you have some objective means of measuring how much divine authority a given institution has? Or will you just assert that God has delegated “authority” to the people and institutions you agree with?
    You’re getting all the way back to “divine right of kings.” How much further backward can you folks go? Deifying heads of state? Time was, Christians were against that sort of thing (of course, that was back when they weren’t the ones doing the deifying).

  • Raging Bee

    Adding onto Ludwig’s common-sense points, I would like to belabor another obvious fact that the “family values” crowd keep on ignoring: as wonderful as their standard family template may be, family structures in the real world are MUCH messier and more diverse, simply because reality has ways of making things complicated. Parents die; other family members (aunts, uncles, etc.) play unusual roles in child-rearing, for better or worse; parents sometimes get divorced for PERFECTLY VALID reasons, such as abuse, neglect, endangerment, insanity, etc.; grandparents fill in for parents; older siblings assume parental roles; friends (or lovers) of parents play a role, again for better or worse…the list goes on. And the more you insist that “the family” has to be just-so, the less you have to offer those millions of people who, through no choice of their own, grow up in families that deviate from the standard ideal and cannot be made to match it.
    Oh, and by the way, the family is considered “the basic unit of society” because we observe that that is generally the most beneficial arrangement for the greatest number of INDIVIDUALS. We support “the family” in order to benefit individuals, not as an end or ideal in itself.

  • http://artempleton.com Ahmaud Templeton

    Mumon,
    Mumon, you stated:
    *It is trivial to parody this post into justifications for child abuse, wife-beating, and slavery. The only difference between the parody post and this post is that you would deign to separate yourself from the slavers and wife-beaters because it is no longer politically correct to adhere to those “institutions.”*
    Perhaps you did not read the same summation of family-first conservatism that I read. The following statement does so much to negate and summarily dismiss your claim that I believe it is unnecessary for me to add any comments of my own:
    “We believe in protecting the intrinsic dignity of _all_ members of the human family, at any and every stage of life, in any and every state of consciousness or self-awareness, of any and every race, color, ethnicity, level of intelligence, religion, language, gender, character, behavior, physical ability/disability, potential, class, social status, etc., and believe that they must be treated in a manner commensurate with this moral status.”

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Ludwig
    wouldnt that be nice huh?…a society where individual has no legal standing unless hes part of an “acceptable” family unit…fortunately,the constitution makes it crystal clear that the INDIVIDUAL is the basic unit of society.
    Indeed, Joe forgets there are societies where family does indeed trump the individual and the individual is required to subordinate themselves entirely to the needs of ‘the family’. Some monarchies have been like this as are societies that practice ‘honor killings’. Even Western culture was once like this, look at Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for an example of rejecting this mindset in favor of one where the individual is the basic unit.
    To be fair to Joe he said he was talking about institutions and one could quibble that an institution must be made of at least two people.
    No it doesn’t. Ever heard of alimony? So now we have two areas of law in which family trumps individual. Really, the whole area of family law is about balancing the rights of the family against the rights of the individual.
    Not really. Alimony is not owed to ‘the family’ but to an individual, ditto for child support. You’re describing a dispute between two individuals that the courts then judge.
    Suppose an unmarried adult dies and wills his entire estate to his best friend (assume the friends have no business partnership), how hard would it be for the adult’s parents to contest the will?
    I’m not sure what lawyer you’ve talked to but this is absurd. An unmarried adult is under no obligation to leave his parents anything in his will & it would be quite a challenge to contest such a will. Many states do have laws that grant spouses and children (not adult children) privileged status so one cannot so easily write one’s own wife out of a will. That too, though, can be viewed as a conflict between individuals which the law resolves in a particular manner.
    Jeff
    Nevertheless, the influence of myriad public policies on the family can hardly be overstated. Who needs a father when you have government welfare? Financial stress promotes family conflict. High taxation is a double whammy, resulting in a higher cost of goods and services as well as a direct strain on families. Many mothers can no longer stay at home as it takes two working parents to maintain an acceptable standard of living. Good economic policies can help to alleviate this trend.
    1. Actually if you look at taxes as a % of GDP we’ve been on an almost even keel since WWII. The Fed gov’t has been taken in between 17-19% (see http://www.gpoaccess.gov/eop/2007/B79.xls) since 1950.
    2. The rise of working women is almost certainly NOT related to taxes. In fact, in many respect taxes still favor non-working women. The hysteria about the marriage penalty, for example, applied mostly to two working spouses of nearly the same income.
    3. Working women is almost certainly about economics. Moving away from a heavy labor economy ended the advantage men had in the labor force. Since women are at about an even level with men in the labor force there’s no economic reason to force them back into the homes.
    4. It doesn’t take two working parents to maintain an ‘acceptable standard of living’. Incomes have indeed increased since 1950. A single income today is, if anything, worth more than a single income was 50 years ago. Our consumption patterns have increased dramatically since 1950 along with economic growth.
    5. You try to have it both ways. Financial stress causes families to break up therefore taxes are bad. But then welfare makes the father unnecessary so that causes family breakups too. Which one is it? Actual welfare is a trivial portion of modern gov’t spending. The bulk of social spending is on medical care for the aged, social security, and education for children. If anything this alleviates financial stress on young families.
    Jeff’s argument sounds a lot like the special pleading by various interest groups. Notice if you swap out famlies and put in “American farmers” you have an almost perfect lobbying plea for the current farm bill? (you will, of course, get bonus points for using “American family farmers”). What he misses is a helpful dose of marginal analysis. Families are strong (if they are) because there are hurdles that break up weak families so what is left are ‘strong’.
    For example, look at the debate about the ‘marriage penalty’. I certainly doubt any of you here were preparing to hit your wives with divorce papers but then stopped as soon as you realized the elimination of the penalty would net you $120 more per year (yea! 0.85 more Starbucks coffees per week! now I can put up with her harping about the garbage!). Seriously, though, if you were your marriage is pretty shabby and keeping it around is not doing anything to improve ‘families’. Likewise, any marriages that would form because tax laws changes slightly are probably a net minus to any grant metric you may have that measures ‘family strength’.
    If you guys really think that families are the building blocks of society then why do you act like they are so fickle. If there’s a minor burden on them they may fall apart. Gov’t must dole out pork to ‘keep them strong’. But if gov’t does too much then they will fall apart as well since ‘there’s no need for a father’ and so on. The foundation of a building is supposed to be able to withstand the most stress and weight, it’s the decoration that can support the least.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Almaud
    Perhaps you did not read the same summation of family-first conservatism that I read.
    Joe’s statement taken as a whole is incoherent. He tries to pump up the family as the culmination of society then swaps in individualism at the last minute. This is the value of our healthy culture, even bad ideas get influenced by good ideas so they become bad reasoning which is less dangerous.
    Joe’s statement is also a fine example of a distinction without a difference. Everyone essentially agrees with it so we flounder around trying to figure out what it is we are supposed to be arguing about. No one, for example, believes parents should not raise their kids. When was the last time you hear someone advocating something different other than in a sub-rate sci-fi novel?

  • http://artempleton.com Ahmaud Templeton

    In regard to Mumon’s statement, the quote regarding the protection of “the intrinsic dignity of all members of the human family” was perfectly valid. I was speaking to Mumon’s claim that certain societal systems that devalued members of humanity were abandoned because they were en passe or politically incorrect as opposed to invalid from an ethical or moral standpoint. I’m not exactly sure how any perceived incoherence regarding Joe’s statement goes against my rebuttal. I was pointing out a logical error in Mumon’s argument, and not necessarily expressing a value judgement about Joe’s statement as a whole.
    One last thing. When considering Joe’s effort to define characteristics of conservatism, I think it necessary to avoid framing said characteristics as a part of a deductive logical form. Doing so would almost definitely make it “incoherent;” in contrast, a proclivity to see–and employ–the characteristics as a part of an inductive logical form would be both advantageous and appropriate. It’s hard to argue for distinctiveness when the characteristics would be prefaced by terms such as ‘probably’ or ‘likely’ in any conclusion following a series of premise.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick Gryph

    “2. We believe that from birth we are initiated into the community structure of the family. We are not thrust into a state of radical individualism but rather into the most basic form of community. We are created to be both individuated persons and members of a community; neither can be reduced into the other.”
    Well that makes it clear. Joe’s a Communist.

  • http://inkan.blogspot.com pgepps

    This is . . . not conservative. Not under a European, nor under an American, not under a 19th-C, not under a 20th-C, not under a pre-Reagan, not under a post-Reagan, not under . . . with a fox, with a box, here, there, anywhere . . . this is not conservative.
    This, for example:

    do what they can to create and preserve a moral ecology that is conducive to creating virtuous citizens.

    is what we like to call “totalitarianism” in its most obvious form.
    Also, “moral ecology” is a pretty sort of nonsense phrase.
    And all of your nonsense about multiple sovereign, non-hierarchical “spheres” . . . Joe, uh, what on earth has happened? You used to talk sense even when I disagreed with you. This is just not working at all.
    I mean, how on earth would I go about making this sort of sentence into a policy guide?

    while social structures are non-hierarchical, the family should be considered “first among equals”

    So we have a “non-hierarchical” arrangement of “spheres” which nonetheless admits of “first among equals” treatement for a “social structure” which either is or is not internally “non-hierarchical” (the statements are incoherent on this point)….
    Sorry, Joe. This sort of thing leads to serious trouble, not to improved restraint of one person–whether a state or non-state actor–to use force or fraud against others. This fuzzy-wuzzy friendly-totalitarian stuff leads to “for your own good” chains and bondage.
    “Hi, we’re from the government, and we’re here to help.” It should still give you the horrors, my friend. Come back to us.