Saturday, 14 February 2015

On Family Values and a Free Society

(Neil's Note: This was a reply to a podcast video by DJ (David) Webb on the subject of Family Values and a Free Society. You can find it at

First, I applaud your courage in experimenting with the audio/video format. It’s an important tool for outreach, now and in the future. It also seems to put over your message in a “softer” way than an essay does. Though personally, I still prefer the written (or blogged) word, since it allows me to read at my own (rather fast) pace, and it’s much easier to check details without having to go through the whole piece again.

Regarding Mr Strauss-Kahn, it’s always amusing to see the mighty fallen. But I agree that, according to the evidence we’re presented with, he has done nothing wrong. Thus suggests that either (1) someone in power is out to get him, or (2) as usual with today’s media, we aren’t being told anything like the whole story. Or both, of course.

On the family and the problems caused by its decay, you raise three issues: (1) old age, (2) bringing up children, (3) single mothers. I think these deserve separate treatment.

Historically, the change from the extended family or household to the smaller, nuclear family began long before the state got involved in pensions and the like. I’d guess this was a consequence partly of increased 19th-century wealth, and partly of the greater mobility required of individuals in a more dynamic economy. But even after the change, most people could – and did – still, as you say, fend for themselves financially, saving for their old age through institutions such as the friendly societies. So, I don’t think the blame for the problems older people face today can be laid on smaller families.

No; it’s clear to me that “it’s the state what done it.” Heavy taxation hasn’t just made it necessary for two parents to work rather than one; but it has also stopped very many people from building up a sufficient financial reserve to take care of themselves in old age. Add to that the state’s debauchment of the currency, with prices doubling about every 12½ years by my estimation; and low interest rates that make it all but impossible for investors to beat inflation. Not to mention what Old Labour did to pensioners, and to savers in general, in the 1970s. So, old age dependency is the state’s fault. It’s been the classic “break their legs, then they’ll praise you when you give them crutches” strategy.

On bringing up children, it looks as if you’re not so far away from my views after all. As I expressed in a comment on one of your essays about 2 months ago, I think the raising of children should be a contractual matter. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a secular family contract, or a religious marriage contract. A contract approach also has the advantage of making both parties think in advance about what might go wrong, and what to do about it.

I wouldn’t disagree that there has been a large increase in those that fail even to try to keep up to the commitments and promises they have made. This is particularly easy for women to get away with, because feminists have contrived to bring about a situation where – as I am sure Mr Strauss-Khan would attest – the “justice” system often treats men as sub-human simply because they are men.

All this, I think, is part of the huge expansion of dishonesty that has taken place over the last 50 years or so. Whatever you can get away with is seen as OK, regardless of right and wrong. And again, I think this is the fault of the politically active state, with a lot of help from their media cronies. That politicians routinely lie to and mislead us, that more and more bad laws are made that pervert justice, and that the media never tell us the full story, I think are not unrelated.

As to single mothers, I’m not quite as quick as you are to condemn them. Yes, there are cases where the mother seeks to use the state to rip the man off, and that’s a big problem. But there are also cases where the man simply doesn’t want to accept his share of the responsibility to bring up a child. (In a libertarian/contractual world, he would damn well have to!) In these cases, conservative attitudes to abortion – either in the mother’s family, or in “trusted” state functionaries – often block the obvious solution, leaving the single mother with little choice in the matter. All that said, though, the root causes of the single-mother problems are clear; dishonesty and state meddling.

Finally, you hanker for the laws of old England. Indeed, the English common law, before it got corrupted by political tampering (the introduction of strict liability in criminal law, and Blair’s abolition of double jeopardy, spring to mind as examples), was a decent basis for a workable and just legal system. In this, despite being no traditionalist, I am right with you; for I think it’s possible to make the English common law do that job again.

But we need to recognize that the past is gone, and you can never have it back just as it was. And, more importantly, we will first need to get rid of the meddling state and its dishonest politics. For which, as James R has suggested above, a necessary pre-requisite is a change in people’s mind-set. A “re-Enlightenment,” if you will.

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