Monday, 24 May 2010

Family Friendly Freedom

I'm pro-family, you're pro-family, every bozo running for second assistant dog-catcher is pro-family - but what does the silly phrase mean, really?

To a social conservative or radical reactionary, there is only one real type of family - that being the form that was 'normal' in their old Grandad's day, at least according to Grandad or his self-appointed spokespersons in the mass mediums. In the West at least, this is the nuclear man-woman-children household, plus certain local assumptions about how it should behave.

Pro-family policies then translate as rewarding all households that fit this cookie-cutter pattern, and punishing all others. Within the bounds of the cookie-cutter, however, outside interference for good or ill is generally deprecated - after all, the point of valuing the shape is that it is supposed to be one of the sacred foundations of society.

Progressives and many self-described liberals rightly reject the wickedness of applying a cookie-cutter to other people's families, even if it goes no further than separating 'misshapes' from some of their surplus dough. A family-friendly progressive policy instead offers a large and elaborate menu of options, so that a great diversity of lifestyles can be supported and celebrated.

In fact, just about anything is possible, so long of course as it conforms to the current Eighteen-Year Plan For Healthy Personal Development (deviance from which would be a form of child abuse); diligently goes through appropriate tax-credit, welfare, and other formalities for deciding exactly how much each branch of government ought to allocate you in consideration of your present or proposed cohabitation arrangements (failure to report which would be a form of theft, planning violation, or other naughtiness); and refrains from giving any family administration professional plausible cause for concern (which justifies any 'emergency action' whatsoever).

In the progressive's world, cookie-cutters are anathema. The family is simply that diverse set of domestic arrangements which officials approve at any given time, and may be crammed together or torn apart only according to impartial considerations of the general welfare. Indeed, so general are these considerations that it is often conveniently illegal to report any specifics of enforcement. According to the progressive view, then, family-friendly policies are those which best allow the State to individually optimize the state of every family, with the least collateral damage along the way.

This is, if anything, a more evil principle than the other. It still allows for group-based witch-hunts, and in its zealous utilitarianism it admits no boundaries or sanctuaries at all.

No, I really cannot pass either the conservative claim - State enforcement of a family form legislated by God or Nature - or the progressive claim - the family as a subsidiary of the State. I don't think either is very family-friendly at all.

You didn't invent the family, chaps, and you don't speak for God either.

Whenever one or more adults join themselves in the sight of all as family, and accept the bonds of kindred amongst themselves and zero or more children - that is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.

It is true that there are really rotten things that happen in families. It is also true that few or none of those which ought to be crimes, are not already crimes anyway and anywhere. You do not need a Ministry of Families to arrange this!

The new UK Government has just dropped New Labour's recent pretence to having one. Purely nominal change though it be, I do so hope this is a good sign for the future.


  1. Then there's me. I have longed to ask these "family-friendly" people (only I'm too lazy to track them down) am I a family? The government considers me a "household" but does that equal "family"? If not, why am I being discriminated against?

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  2. Yes: I'm also on the very minimalist end of my "one or more adults, zero or more children" definition. Therefore, in the Republic of Woodland, we both get all the friendliness too. The Empire of Pokenose has a lamentably different take on the matter.

    This post was originally meant to be about attempts to influence marriage and birth rates, but I found I had some work to do on the framing of the question first.

  3. Some work, indeed. If you need to define marriage first, you'll be at it a while.
    [pretty: my WV was "enverb"; I must go enverb something at once!]

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  4. I was hoping to put that off until I got to my conclusion. That ought to render the definition of marriage somewhat academic, at which point I would just sloth it off.


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