The economic consequences of changing family structure are beginning to emerge, and as they do, it can be tempting to focus only on the more tangible, perceivable dangers. For example: “How many new babies are needed to keep Entitlements X, Y, and Z sweet and juicy for the rest of us?”
Such concerns are valid, particularly as we observe the lemming-like march of the spending class. But as harsh as the more immediate shocks of family collapse may be, we’d do well to consider the longer view of how we got here and how we might go about shifting things going forward.
As Nick Schulz points out in his latest book, the family serves a deeper, more formative function when it comes to cultivating human and social capital. “The family is the first institution within which we learn about empathy,” Schulz writes. “A healthy, well-functioning family is an extended exercise in self-control” — “the ability to put immediate needs aside for longer-run interests.” Indeed, without a properly grounded citizenry, economic prosperity and social stability will soon be squandered at the altars of blind hedonism and rash consumerism.
Writing over a century prior, Herman Bavinck strikes at something similar, focusing on how the family serves as the best teacher for relating rightly to one another. Society is fundamentally “a complex composite of moral relationships,” Bavinck writes. Whether we form such relationships based on spiritual and moral interests (science, art, charity) or material interests (mining, farming, basic trade), “these always involve people who are in a particular relationship with each other, who respect each other as people, and who are subject to a common law for all their thinking and acting.”
Thus, if the family is central to forming the most basic of human relationships, the family is indispensable in cultivating a flourishing society…