The New Populism and Family Policy

Historical Reflections From March 29-31, 2019, participants in World Congress of Families XIII gathered in the beautiful medieval city of Verona, Italy, to discuss both the victories of and challenges facing the pro-family movement around the world. The League, one-half of the ruling coalition in the Italian government, participated heavily in the event. The media scrutiny leading up to the Congress was intense, and culminated in a march of some 30,000 protestors on the final day. The below essay, by Allan Carlson, sets the stage of current European politics. The feature essays following were adapted from talks given at WCF XIII. Many of the speakers note the media attention and subsequent protests. Also of significance: On the day after the protest march, an estimated 40,000 persons marched in support of the World Congress of Families. Near 1900, signs of a sharp decline in human fertility appeared in the nations of Western Europe and North America. Observers fretted over the cause. Those of a traditionalist, moralistic bent explained the development as a consequence of selfishness and hedonism, derived in turn from a move away from Christianity. Others, though, indicted the emerging economic system of industrial capitalism. In the pre-industrial order, they explained, children were commonly assets. By age three or four, a child could usefully participate in the family-scale enterprise of the peasant—or family—farm, the artisan’s shop, or the fisherman’s cottage. Accordingly, the birth of a new child would be welcomed as an economic—as well as a familial—blessing. Moreover, grown children would serve as the heirs and the “old age insurance” of aging parents, providing them a certain level of security. The industrial order, in contrast, was hostile to family unity and the presence of children. Factories ripped away task after task from the household, quickly eliminating home production. Active adults, whose cooperative labor had been home
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