Author (or Editor): Morse, Jennifer Roback
Title: Love & Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn't Work
Publisher: Spence (Dallas)
Physical description: hardbound
Relevance to doaskdotell:
Review: Jennifer Roback Morse. Love & Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn't Work (Spence Publishing, 2001). ISBN 1890626952
From one review: example “Basing family life on the political and economic philosophy of individual autonomy rather than the personal philosophy of self-giving love, …, is a prescription for individual unhappiness and social turmoil.”
Well, finally, after all these years, conservative writers have discovered that they can question regarding family and human relationships as akin to economic transactions. Souls could not a make a stock market or profit wars. Anyone remember the transactional analysis of the 70s – “I’m OK, You’re OK” – and the swing to open relationships?
Morse provides a cogent and welcome discussion of the proper attitudes we ought to take towards our own families. The main point of her book is that libertarianism, as a political theory, really is not a recipe for superficial self-autonomy to the point that family relationships (especially marriage itself) are to be regarded coldly as “contracts” or “partnerships.” Human relationships do stem from long-run self-interest but in a free society involves paradox and self-restraint, as demonstrated by her discussion of “The Prisoners’ Dilemma” and later even her discussion of “suspicion” as a “cost: of love. She provides a lucid account of how libertarianism (and classical liberalism) arose from earlier totalitarian or authoritarian ideologies. But earlier moral thinking had always been tempered by the unstated postulate that “family values” would be beyond question.
That parents should make their children first in their lives seems hardly controversial, nor that married couples should remain faithful and that “serial monogamy” is harmful to children. But more important is the idea that all people are helpless at some times in their lives, at least as children and often enough when elderly. A free society must depend upon deeper love, in which dependent people will be valued in family contexts and not simply be judged as would be totally autonomous adults. No quarrel there.
Again, the millionaire’s question centers around that little conjunction “if,” the conditional. What about the self-driven, self-absorbed person who simply never enters into total commitment (however post-adolescent and morally compelling as evidence of “adulthood”) but continues to use the handkerchief of potential love as a vehicle for self-expression? This seems to be the case, in my opinion, with a lot of the gay community, and she never gets around to saying that (or to discussing homosexuality), although she does discuss the self-absorbed person (“me”) as an outlier in the spectrum of psychological health. Indeed, however, she points out social security and welfare programs grant a false sense of freedom, allowing adult children to believe that they have no further responsibility for their parents when making what they believe to be totally valid choices in a “self ownership” context. Although she does not try to provide public policy solutions, the implication is that all adults should recognize that the right to choose or refuse to ”love” is not absolute, and that everyone owes some psychological risk-taking to be regarded as a credible adult. (Her “distinction with a difference” between “risk” and “uncertainty” is interesting, particularly in the context of deciding to postpone having children or to have fewer children.) The question then is what kinds of restraint ought to be practiced by currently unattached people in all kinds of areas (entertainment, Internet speech, self-promotion) for the general welfare of children even when one does not have children of one’s own. We could take this discussion into the areas of gay marriage and parenting, too (she doesn’t) and deal with the biological arguments.
Jennifer Roback Morse:
“Love and Marriage and the Meaning of Sex,” National Review,
In 2008, Morse authored updated "Collegiate" and "Streetfighter" versions of this book, called "Love & Economics: Why It Takes a Family to Raise a Village". (San Marcos, Ruth Institute, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9816059-1-3. 306 pages, paper, endnotes but not index. 4 Parts. 12 Chapters, Introduction and Conclusion. Indeed, there is a "problem that has no name."
Blogger review of 2008 book.
David Blankenhorn. The Future of Marriage. Encounter Books, 2007, ISBN 1-59403-081-2, 325 pages, hardcover, with appendices and index. (Mr. Blankenhorn's previous book was Fatherless America.) The founder and president of the Institute for American Values says that he is a mainstream Democrat, and here he presents, in an Introduction and eight long chapters, his argument against recognizing gay marriage, on the grounds of institutionalism (a term I was once asked to define on a high school government test). Marriage is a social institution that, first, provides a context or environment for socially approved sexual intercourse between a woman and man (that's not necessarily the same as the socially approved mode for all expression of sexuality, and that could become part of the moral debate), in order that children (in most cases) are born and when they are born, the children are (and understood by others) to be emotionally, morally, practically, and legally affiliated with both parents.
Columnist Maggie Gallagher wrote about this book recently in The Washington Times and pointed out that the crucial component is sex, or its management. Blankenhorn does provide plenty of biological evidence that human beings evolved in such a way that an extended two-parent environment for the child would occur. Human women conceal estrus, whereas most other female mammals advertise it. He examines various ancient societies, with both patriarchal and matriarchal lineage and different views of women's roles (his discussion of the marital culture of the Trobriand Islands is particularly interesting) and shows that the complex social rituals and dowries tend to tie the men and women together so that they will remain attached parents.
Eventually, he does get back to the discussion of individual rights, when considered against collective good. On p. 20 he writes:
"In the case of same-sex marriage, one priority is the particular rights and needs of same-sex couples--the right to equal respect, the right to form loving, stable partnerships and families, and the need for greater social acceptance. Another priority is the collective rights and needs of children--the right to know and be loved by a mother and a father, and the need for as many children as possible to grow up under a strong shelter of marriage, our society's most pro-child institution. To the degree that these two priorities can be in harmony, or at least exist together in peace, I want to embrace them both. To the degree that I must choose, with some anguish I will choose children's collective rights and needs--I will choose marriage as a public good--over the rights and needs of gay and lesbian adults and those same-sex couples who are raising children."
He admits, even brags, that this is all about how people behave in large numbers. (Most liberal Democrats say they worry about that.) His favorite buzzword for the threat posed by gay marriage is de-institutionalized marriage for male-female couples with kids.
He does go into the analysis of rights in some places. At one point, he criticizes, all too briefly and dismissively, society's sometimes cruel attitude toward those who don't marry at all (or even attempt same-sex marriage). His main theory of rights has to do with compound rights and tensions among rights, with the most important good provided by marriage being a birthright of a child to a biological mother and biological father, when possible, attached to the child. Even though the numbers of people who would actually use gay marriage is proportionally small, the main damage is done to the expectation that marriage has for society as a whole. He does make the point that marriage is designed to provide for children, and is, on its face, is neutral about the relationships among adults that do not produce children.
Of course, that is the rub. Society has real tensions between people with childrearing responsibilities and the childless, and these spread out into all kinds of issues about how burdens are shared. Ultimately, people get stepped on. But it is worse that that. By his own admission, marital sexual attraction -- the kind celebrated in the Song of Solomon -- is addictive, even biochemically with socially reinforced behaviors, and some people are more brain-wired than others to become receptive to the "rewards" long term. But marital sexual attraction -- with all of the social ideas leading up to it, including abstinence outside of marriage, and all the pampering of people in the marital process -- is vulnerable to distraction from the outside culture, which single people (and sometimes married but less psychologically focuses) people enjoy. That observation helps generates some of the anti-homosexual attitudes, and I wish Blankenhorn had paid more attention to these. More details at this blogger entry.
One way to look at this is to admit, quite blatantly, that many parents (in traditionally married monogamous couples with children) that they could not make the wedding vows "till death do us part" and remain sexually interested in one person for life as they both aged, unless that had confidence that their own children would do the same for "the family name" -- that their own kids would show the same reverence for the marital sexual intercourse of their parents in return for the expectation that the same reverence will be shown to them by society. Do parents have such a psychological lien on the lives of their adult children? A similar debate exists over filial responsibility laws. It could even be argued, in theory, that if an adult child says that he is gay, he is defaming his parents or his "family" by implying they are less worthy of reproductive competition than other families. That sounds like a patriarchal notion that would not get much traction in the United States, hopefully. But when the gay lobby insists that homosexuality is a biological variation and not chosen, one wonders if it is trying to fend off just such a legal argument in the future.
Kay S. Hymowitz. Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age. Chicago, Ivan R. Dee, 2007; ISBN 1-56663-709-0, 179 pages, hardbound, indexed. The title tells all here, but her basic thesis is that the "sexual revolution" is definitely waning in middle and upper classes, which value two-parent marriage and pass that "script" on to their kids, where as the "revolution" left the lower classes, especially African Americans, with a role model that marginalizes married fathers. There are more details at this blogger entry. Here is an interesting quote:
"The difficult truth is that the very economy that stirs the imaginations and ambitions of young people -- that makes them work eighty hours a week in a start-up business, that makes them want to learn new skills or take on extra duties so they can get promoted or start their own businesses -- is the same economy that will never be especially family friendly, and that often leaves even ambitious working mothers behind." p 145.
She speaks of "ecstatic capitalism" and "republican marriage." She, at the end, gives a cogent review of CWTV's "The Gilmore Girls" (which I never reviewed despite often watching -- pp 165-165), and the film "American Wedding." Her book is written from a secular (that is , not religious, maybe even giving a nod to the albatross of "secular humanism") perspective, and right off the start she says that she is agnostic.
Kay S. Hymowitz. Ready or Not: Why Treating Children as Small Adults Endangers Their Future -- and Ours. New York: The Free Press, 1999 ISBN 0-684-83264-6, 292 pages incl. endnotes and index; with an introduction, seven chapters, and conclusion. The author believes that, since the mid 20th Century, a cultural change has taken place in child rearing that distances parents from their kids and regards them as "autonomous beings" before they learn how to parse the themselves with the meaning of the culture (and moral sense) around them. Very early, she defines a concept that she calls anticulturalism, as "the belief that the child should develop independent of the prevailing culture and even in opposition to it." She traces the growth of "republican childhood" before the 1950s, and its breakdown since. She talks a lot about education, and is critical of the way we over-correlate materials before kids can master the fundamental separate skills. She also feels that parents do not demonstrate the emotional attachment (particularly, mothers who work outside the home and put their kids in day care) that kids really need. She mentions the disdain that our legal culture has for letting teachers touch or hug children, and the insistence that babies have their own cribs and rooms. Of course, media reports (like ABC 20/20) have often discussed "the family bed" and "attachment parenting."
In the later part of the book, she gets into some of the student free speech cases in public schools (Tinker), some of which she sees a phony because students are not mature enough to have fully informed views on things. She talks about how false independence led to many of the problems of the sexual revolution, and finally about how a culture of "adult-like children" promotes "child-like adults" (or, as Rosenfels wrote, permanently adolescent adults sequestered into communities fostering their own personal growth) who often delay marriage and openness to having children themselves, or often do not marry at all. (She does not get into whether homosexuals avoid conventional heterosexual attraction and procreation because of biology and brain-wiring, or because of disruption of the socialization of children as she describes it, although most responsible science today seems to point to the former.) In this guise, she points out that many other cultures do not consider adults grown up and deserving of respect until they marry and have kids, whereas our culture has encourage personal autonomy of young people before marriage to a historically unprecedented extent. She also points out that globalization and extreme capitalism, forcing adults to be in a perpetual state of individually competitive adaptation to change, is discouraging familial formation and attachment. Curiously, for all their intellectual independence, young adults, she thinks, have become politically immature, not voting, and tending to respond to lobbyists' political appeals in a simplistic, polarized "me first" fashion.
Here are a few good quotes:
On p. 25, when discussing the older notion that children should be seen and not heard, she explains the paradigm with:
"Individuals were not supposed to have a self, esteemed or not -- at least, they were not supposed to have a self independent of the existing requirements of their family and community."
"The paradox of the new work order is that security is founded on mobility and that stability is built on the ability to change." (p 212)
"Gloria Steinem, alluding to the ever-growing adult, once said, 'We can choose not to give birth to a child in order to give birth to ourselves.' Though few people are willing to make her either-or choice, at least Steinem has recognized the unresolvable conflict of interest between nurturing the fragile and unknowable potential of a young life to the full self-expression of adulthood. It is this conflict that anticulturalism's myth of the rational, self-sufficient child has tried to wish away." p 215. (Steinem from Alexander Astin et al, The American Freshman: Thirty Year Trends (Los Angeles: Higher Education Institute, 1997), pp. 28-29. )
Dr. Phil McGraw. Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family. New York: Free Press, 2004. ISBN 0-7432-6493-2. 286 pages, paper. 13 Chapters, 2 Parts. It isn't hard to guess that this book deals with the bonding of individuals in a family into a motivationally cohesive unit, with all the steps for good parenting along the way. Dr. Phil starts the book with a summary of how he felt about his parents during his own boyhood.
The book has many graybar "survey facts," the first of which is that one-third of all parents surveyed say they wouldn't start a family if they could get into a time machine and start over. Dr. Phil is critical of the media influences that disrupt family cohesion. He talks about parenting styles (authoritarian, egalitarian, permissive) as to how the match up to child styles. In the second half, he talks about socialization, as learning the Copernicus-like notion that no one person is the center of the universe. He does advocate volunteering, working on political campaigns (to learn the responsibilities of democracy), and introduction to major service efforts like the Peace Corps, the Red Cross, etc.
The book is targeted for married adults with children. It does not directly take on the existential question of fairness between families and the childless, although one could imagine how he would feel about these questions from what he writes. Blogger discussion is here.
Suze Orman. Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny. 2007: Spiegel & Grau, 254 pages, hardcover. ISBN 0385519311. The pdf for this book was made downloadable free on the Oprah Winfrey show on Feb 13, 2008 for 24 hours. Suze is the "intervention" specialist for the Oprah show in those Dr. Phil-like situations. Here she takes up the issue of married women keeping control of their own name and own finances, and work skills, for their own benefit and for their children. She as a trademarked "Save Yourself Plan" that is partly spiritual and partly a rehearsal of good common financial planning. Blogger discussion is here.
Harry R. Jackson, Jr. & Tony Perkins. Personal Faith, Public Policy. Front Line. 2008/ ISNB 978-1-59979-261-3. The book reinvents "the religious right," lays out its place in public policy making, and takes up seven core issues: The Value of Life (2 chapter), Immigration, Poverty and Justice (2 chapters), Racial injustice, Religious liberties, Rebuilding the families (2 chapters with the second focused more on fatherhood and education) and The Environment and Global Warming.
In the marriage section, it makes interesting points about the nature of marital commitment, as if to suggest that such a commitment can be easily disrupted if not supported externally. This refers back to the way he discusses our difficulties with eldercare in the context of utilitarian cultural values. Blogger review.
Michael Lewis: Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood. New York: Norton, 2009. ISBN 978-0-593-06901-5. 188 pages, hardcover. In three parts, Quinn, Dixie, Walker. A heterosexual writer talks about his double plays as becoming a father. Even his tastes for the movies are affected, and fatherhood is a bit of a con job put on when women tame men. Blogger.
Paula Span: When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share their Struggles and Solutions. Boston: Springboard, 2009. ISBN 978-0-446-58113-4. 276 pages, hardcover. The author, who writes about eldercare and caregiving issues for The Washington Post, covers five different options for eldercare: staying at home, moving in with adult children, assisted living, nursing homes, and hospice. Blogger.
Rebecca Hagelin: “Home Invasion: Protecting You Family In a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad,” Thomas Nelson Curret, ISBN 978-1-59555-283-9, 266 pages, paper. Blogger. Also note “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family” from Regnery
Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. “Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture”. Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-19-537217-5, 288 pages, hardcover. Does cover “respecting autonomy.” Blogger.
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