Social scientists have long been in agreement that there is a strong relationship between economic opportunity and marriage. Read sociologist William Julius Wilson, for example. With increased female employment and job opportunities, the obvious advantages of two earners in a family are well understood by the public.
This new American Experiment symposium grows out of a book of mine published just about a year ago, From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation, which examined many of the problems and shortcomings resulting from very high rates of nonmarital births, very high rates of divorce, and routinely short-lived cohabiting relationships. One of the book’s central themes is how such family churning—more specifically, the extent to which it hurts great numbers of children—is leading, and can only lead, to stunted mobility and deeper class divisions in a nation that has never viewed itself in such splintered ways.
A reasonable reading of the following 34 brief essays in American Experiment’s newest symposium—What Governmental Services and Benefits Are You Personally Willing to Give Up?—suggests that more Americans than generally assumed may be seriously willing to sacrifice when it comes to major entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. In the interest of balancing the nation’s skewed books, the columns similarly suggest that more people than routinely thought may be willing to forgo various exemptions and other tax breaks, including near-sacred deductions on home mortgage payments.
Why this new American Experiment symposium? For a variety of reasons, starting with the assumption that unless commerce in a neighborhood—or at least in its vicinity—is vibrant, chances are little else will be either, including income levels, public safety, and graduation rates, to pick just three gauges.
In 1929 Robert Graves was 33 when he wrote his bestselling book, Goodbye to All That. In biographical form it describes his boyhood in English public school and the heady experience of being a member of the British Foreign Service in Cairo.
In light of the continuing financial crisis, a week ago I invited think tank and other colleagues from around Minnesota and the nation to take on the question: “What’s a free marketeer to think?” Here are four new columns, bringing the running total to 18.