Why is an icon for virtue like the family universally dysfunctional? Every family is dysfunctional on some level, and it is nothing new. It’s easy to imagine, three million years ago, cavemen occasionally clubbing their wives and worse. In the Bible, the first parents saw their son Cain slay his brother Abel.
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.
In an American Experiment symposium released last fall, 20 writers grappled with the question of what it would take for them to start or expand a business in a low-income neighborhood. A main rationale for that exercise was the economic fact of life that unless commerce in a neighborhood, or at least in its vicinity, is healthy, chances are that little else will be healthy either, including poverty rates, crime rates, and graduation rates, to pick just three gauges. The not-unrelated new question, considered here by 23 participants, is how we might better encourage and reinforce the most talented and entrepreneurial among us; a core motivation this time being the pivotal importance of creating many more jobs and much more wealth so as to enable the nation to make it through the coming decades of aging-boomer and entitlement-skewed exigencies.
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.
How Can Conservatism Better Allay the Economic Fears of Working-Class and Middle-Class Americans? is the third in a current series of American Experiment symposia aimed at vitalizing conservatism in Minnesota and the nation.
Principle and Pragmatism: Getting the Balance Right is part of year-long series of Center activities aimed at re-energizing conservatism in Minnesota and the nation. In this symposium, writers responded to subtle questions about principle and pragmatism with commensurately nuanced answers.