A National Family Policy Proposal

Two principles recognize and support the existence of key mediating or bridging structures in society, such as families and voluntary associations. First, public policy should protect and foster marriage and family; and, secondly, wherever possible, public policy should utilize the family and community organizations, rather than displacing them. These principles arise from a belief that public policy and social programs should support civil society, and that the institutions of civil society, primarily the family, have priority over the political. This is opposed to the view that family policy is what government does to and for families. The institutions of civil society—including the family and charitable, religious, and service agencies—are important precisely because they are neither created nor controlled by the State. A blending of the role of government and the civil sector risks the domination of the government sphere over all others, because when the State directs the activity of civil society, it enfeebles citizens’ ability to take responsibility for their own community and society. The practical outcome is all too familiar: a one-size-fits-all approach to social problems, ensnared by contractual obligations with service agencies, designed to fit governmental pigeon holes, which rob much of the individual initiative that should motivate charity. Worse, this approach endangers the vibrancy of institutions that help to form virtuous citizens. The act of giving—whether finances, services or counsel—becomes a professional activity and function of the State, rather than an act of charity and love directed to fellow human beings. To support the family, four policy goals are proposed: Nations should have an explicit marriage and family policy.They should seek to maintain at least a replacement birthrate.National policy should proclaim the ideal of marital permanence and affirm marriage as the optimal environment for the raising of children.Th
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