In its Declaration of Independence,
the United States commits itself to “the pursuit of happiness,” by which the
nation’s founders meant “domestic happiness,” the joys of marriage and home
life. This was wise, for modern social scientists
affirm that the bonds of marriage and the presence of children are the surest
predictors of good health and happiness.
They conclude: “[T]he very
happiest people” are “enmeshed” with others in families while “[m]arriage is
robustly related to happiness.”
In the recent past, ideologies tried
to re-engineer human nature. The
Communists, for example, sought to eliminate the private family by abolishing
marriage and putting children in collective care. They failed. I predict that
contemporary dreams of using science to create “new human types” will also
One great truth will govern the future
of the family: Only those nations that reward, support, and encourage
marriage and child birth will have a future. Society must ease the new tensions between work and home and actively
support young couples willing to commit themselves to bearing and rearing
Between 1945 and 1965, the United
States accomplished this through good public policy, with the result being the
“marriage” and “baby booms” of that era. However, disorder followed. Between
1965 and 1980, the U.S. marriage rate fell, the divorce rate soared, and
marital fertility was cut in half while births outside of marriage nearly
tripled in number, creating many fatherless homes.
These changes brought renewed
attention to family policy in America. Recent innovations have included:
Reforms that double the income tax exemption for children, create a new $1,000
per child tax credit, and reduce the tax code’s “marriage penalty,” all of
which encourage parents to invest in children;
Fatherhood Initiative, which provides grants to states and voluntary organizations
(NGOs) for programs to help men improve their fathering skills and to reconnect
unmarried fathers with their children;
Marriage Initiative, which offers federal grants to states and NGOs for
improved pre-marital counseling, and “marriage saving” strategies;
reforms that eliminate incentives to births-out of-wedlock and allow states to
experiment with benefit packages that reward marriage;
Educational reforms that expand parental choices in schooling, ranging from
“charter schools” to the legal recognition of “home schools” (now involving
nearly 2 million American children).
Have these ideas succeeded? The
record shows that pro-family tax reforms have had a positive effect, with the
U.S. Fertility Rate rising 17 percent over the last 20 years to 2.04, the
highest level found in the developed world. Welfare reforms have sharply
reduced governmental expenditures and slowed the rise in out-of-wedlock births.
Fatherhood and Marriage initiatives are still new, but the early results are encouraging.
Indeed, the U.S. divorce rate is falling. New reports show that children in
home schools now outperform all other children in measures of creativity.
For the future, I recommend:
of stronger benefits for all families
with pre-school children, both those using day care and those caring for
children full-time at home;
credits against payroll taxes for families bearing children and so investing in
their nation’s future social capital;
policies to encourage home businesses, telecommuting, and related strategies,
so making it easier for the parents of young children to work in their homes.
My key points are these: (1) Human nature remains irrevocably family
centered; (2) happiness still comes through natural family bonds; and (3) the
future of any nation shall be by way of the family.