The Erosion of the Family

Before there were governments or organized, complex societies, there were families.  The family is the fundamental building block of society.  The first unit upon which every other social structure is built upon.  Strong families directly translate into stronger social institutions.  One might ask, how exactly does the family relate to Libertarian/Conservative philosophy?  Rather than a direct philosophical factor of politics, weak and fractured families result in a much larger and powerful central government–notably in the form of an entrenched welfare state–and higher crime.

The family serves a critical role in the development of civilization, especially with men.  Ample scientific evidence shows that men experience reduced testosterone levels after marriage and again after having children.  Family life not only has a profound physiological effect on women, but also makes men provably more docile.  An institution developed from thousands of years of evolution, family obligations makes perfect biological sense.  Marriage reigns in and controls men’s sexual impulsive energy and commits them to proper care of their children.  In hunter/gatherer and agricultural societies, sex and pregnancy went hand in hand.  Scientific birth control in the grand scheme of human evolution is an extremely new phenomenon.  This basic biological reality pressured women to choose good and virtuous men as their sexual partners, as they were functionally disabled during pregnancy. The trade off for sexual access to women was lifelong commitment  and heavy resource investment into child-rearing from the men.

What does any of this have to do with government?  Single-motherhood, the welfare state, and crime each complement each other to varying degrees.  Traditionally, a woman who chose an unreliable man suffered disastrous consequences.  Firstly, she lacked adequate resources to provide for her child. Secondly, she likely underwent significant social ostracism.  Women, and men alike, who made poor character judgments in their sexual partners directly suffered the costs of such decisions. The welfare state completely transformed the outcome and paradigm of sexuality and family life.

Arising from a genuine desire to assist the needy, the modern welfare state simply fails miserably in terms of adequate support for the poor.  Nearly 40% of single parent households live in poverty, compared to 7% of married couples, most obviously because single parent households lack the support of a committed partner for financial and child raising obligations. Single-parent households have a direct link to poverty and welfare consumption, compared to married households, further, about 80% of single-parent households are single mothers.  These are rather shocking statistics, especially since children suffer guiltless hardship.  These social problems are much more complex and cannot simply be solved by throwing money at them.

The data on single motherhood is clear.  Children living in a single mother household have a poverty rate of 48%, four times higher than married couples, they drop out of high school at a rate of 71%, and they commit crimes at higher rate than children of married couples.  These results are disastrous.  Anyone who honestly cares about helping the poor, helping children, and defending the family will take an honest look at the negative effects of single motherhood.  These negative effects are much more pronounced in the black community where an astonishing 72% of children are born out of wedlock.  To fill the void of extreme poverty generated from fatherlessness, the welfare state steps in.

The number of children born out of wedlock before the national War on Poverty of the 1960s was around 7%, but now hovers around 40%.  Walter Williams, an economist from George Mason University, contends that the modern welfare state has done what slavery and Jim Crow could not do: destroy the black family.  With a relatively basic understanding of economics, one can easily see potential pitfalls of welfare programs.  Behaviors that are taxed decrease and behaviors that are subsidized increase.  Essentially, through its generations resource redistribution, the modern welfare state socializes the cost and subsidizes the behavior of single motherhood, thus increasing its frequency.  People respond to incentives.  In the short run for many individuals, the welfare state nullifies personal responsibility and allows single parenthood to survive in a manner utterly impossible in a free society.

The forceful transfer of resources through the welfare state is not only immoral, it simply does not work.  Children of the poor do not need another government program; they need fathers. They need a stable family life with two parents.  Rather than helping those in need, the welfare state created an environment conducive to the growth of social dysfunction.  Decaying families not only negatively effect children, but lead to a continuous expansion of state power.  The misguided War on Poverty produces results more akin to a War on Families.  The welfare state incentivizes and rewards behaviors destructive to the foundational building block of any civilized society, the family.  This is only one reason among many why the welfare state must end.

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