Preface: I frequently joke that progressives have developed a habit of turning todays’ satire into tomorrow’s policy.
Conservatives have long known that, no matter what a family’s income level, the best way to stack the odds in a kid’s favor is to:
- Have the kids in wedlock
- Stay together
- Actually raise the kids
Poor families that do this have kids who stand a decent chance of making it out of poverty. Rich families who don’t often have kids that slide right back down the economic ladder.
You’d think this’d be something that no “progressive” would, or could, mess with.
And you’d be wrong; a couple of (naturally) Ivy League philosophers are pondering the notion that a strong, loving family background is just unfair:
‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’
Once he got thinking, [philosopher Adam] Swift could see that the issue stretches well beyond the fact that some families can afford private schooling, nannies, tutors, and houses in good suburbs. Functional family interactions—from going to the cricket to reading bedtime stories—form a largely unseen but palpable fault line between families. The consequence is a gap in social mobility and equality that can last for generations.
So, what to do?
According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.
‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’
Quite a few conservative critics stop with that quote – Swift doesn’t advocate abolishing the family or the role of parents (which isn’t to say he doesn’t support a radical redefinition of “family”, either).
But the “philosophers” (and the ABC reporter who wrote the story, Joe Gelonese) had a choice of angles to take: either “intact, involved families have a positive effect”, or “intact, involved families are unfair”. And in the world, and with the media culture, we have today, the most depressing thing about this story is that it doesn’t surprise me they took the angle they did.