Center for Family and Society Newsletter – March 1, 2012

1. The Promise of Conservatism: Economic Growth, But Not at All Costs

By William C. Duncan and Bryce Christensen

With an election year now well launched, Utahns can brace themselves for a barrage of glowing promises from politicians seeking our votes. Among those politicians who label themselvesconservative, no electoral promises are more predictable than those of economic growth.

Nor should voters ignore such promises: Only economic growth can deliver the housing, transportation, medical care, education and nutrition that all Utahns want. Without economic growth, tens of thousands of the state’s residents will find themselves trapped by poverty and debt, desperate just to satisfy basic needs. And because they understand how the free market generates wealth, conservative politicians do offer the policies most likely to foster economic growth. Because they refuse to recognize how heavy taxes and intrusive government regulations suffocate the free market, liberal politicians advocate policies that mean economic stagnation, not growth.

Still, wise conservatives recognize that society flourishes only when men and women devote much of their time to activities that will never appear on an economist’s balance sheet. No money changes hands when a father plays ball with his children in the yard or when one friend reminisces with another. Indeed, authentic conservatives rightly fear the consequences when men and women abandon these non-economic activities to pursue more dollars. Conservatives recognize that when – to take a dramatic example – men replace their noncommercial conjugal relations with their wives with the purchased satisfactions of the brothel, the resultant economic growth profoundly harms society.

And though not as obviously corrosive of social health, many other commercial displacements of non-economic behaviors may entail social losses of a sort that sober conservatives must question, even if these displacements seem to enlarge the economy.
When, for instance, the purchased services of the day-care center replace parental care, the economy appears to grow because this replacement triggers the flow of money. Indeed, while social scientists report that while child-care expenditures were “negligible” in 1960, the rise of maternal employment now means that the typical two-career couple is spending about $1800 annually for each young child (age 0 to 5) placed in day care.1 With millions of children now in day care, Americans have witnessed the emergence of a $36-billion-a-year industry2, one that scarcely even existed five decades ago. No wonder that business analysts now assure “savvy entrepreneurs” that they will “find great opportunities in the daycare business and will be well rewarded for their efforts.”3

But sober conservatives will recognize the social costs behind the profits realized by savvy day-care entrepreneurs. Child psychologist Burton White regards increasing use of day care as “a disaster,” because children in such settings do not receive the “large doses of custom-made love” a mother can give them at home.4 The love a mother can give her children is not for sale at any price. So when economic growth in the day-care industry signals the substitution of hired care – no matter how professional and conscientious – it means that an increasing number of children are growing up without priceless maternal love. It should come as no surprise that researchers find that children placed 35 and 40 hours per week in non-parental child care engage in significantly more “negative/aggressive behavior” than are children cared for at home by their mothers, even when the day care satisfies rigorous quality standards.5 Compared with children cared for at home, day-care children enter school disturbingly more likely to hit, kick, swear, tease and argue.6 Authentic conservatives will not welcome the kind of economic growth that brings such consequences.

Even the kind of economic growth evident in surging restaurant sales – especially fast-food restaurant sales7 – deserves to be scrutinized with a suspicious eye, especially since economists who have analyzed this trend have linked it to “not only a dramatic nationwide decline in time allocated to at-home meal preparation, but also a sharp decline in cooking knowledge, especially among young consumers.”8

The social costs of the kind of economic growth that replaces family dinners with burgers snatched at Burger King or McDonald’s are all too evident. For instance, studies show that when compared with peers who regularly eat meals with their families, adolescents of both sexes who seldom or never eat with their families are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol and marijuana; more likely to receive low grades in school; more likely to suffer from depression; and more likely to think about suicide.9 What conservatives want economic growth entailing these kinds of social costs?

Economic growth signaling dangerous erosion of home life is especially alarming when it reflects not merely unwise individual choices in the free market but active government intervention through legal coercion. Such coercion is evident in tax subsidies for day care,10 subsidies funded in part with taxes collected from young families who have made considerable economic sacrifice to keep a parent at home to care for their own children. Such coercion is even more problematic in driving the growth of the companies that now collect sizable bounties for collecting court-ordered child support. A single such company, Supportkids, has already claimed more than $40 million as its commission for collecting $120 million in child support.11 If conservatives are aware that no one needs the service these companies provide until marriages disintegrate and that marital failure predicts a host of economic, social, psychological and even medical ills,12 they will not favor the type of economic growth manifest in multiplication of such companies.

Intelligent conservatives recognize that as an economic system marvelously potent in generating wealth, capitalism inevitably involves what economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction,” a destruction that sweeps away economic inefficiencies and obstructive vested interests. However, because they recognize that only the family can nurture the fundamental moral impulses that sustain civic order, these conservatives must do all they can to keep this “creative destruction” outside of the family circle. Economic growth achieved by pushing family activities into what Carlyle called “the cash nexus” (which turns out to also be “the tax nexus”) ultimately proves toxic to the social unit upon which all economic and civic order ultimately depends. With good reason, Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin warned that family life would suffer in the process that emptied the home of its “main sociocultural functions” and so turned it into “merely an incidental parking place.”13

So as voters weigh the promises advanced by competing politicians, let them especially listen for those political leaders wise enough to advance policies that will indeed enlarge the economy – but not by cannibalizing the family. Let them listen for, and support, those leaders who offer measures – such as the enactment of tax breaks for families with young children and advocacy of policies favoring home-based employment and home schooling14 – that can prevent and even reverse the kind of economic growth that can only spell misery.

William C. Duncan, J.D., is director of the Marriage Law Foundation and is the director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society. He formerly served as acting director of the Marriage Law Project at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and as executive director of the Marriage and Family Law Research Grant at J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he was also a visiting professor.

Bryce J. Christensen, Ph.D., is associate professor of English at Southern Utah University and adjunct fellow of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society. He is a contributing editor to The Family in America and author of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America (Transaction, 2005). He has also published articles on family issues in Society, The Public Interest, Policy Review, Modern Age, and other journals. 


1. Mark Lino and Andrea Carlson, Expenditures on Children by Families, 2008, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 2009, Miscellaneous Publication No. 1528-2008, pp. 23, 27.

2. “Day Care in the US: Market Research Report,” IbisWorld, NAICS 6244,| Nov 2011.

3. Sienna Brown, “The Daycare Industry in the US,” Ezine Articles, 9 Apr. 2009.

4. White quoted in Don Feder, “Day Care Chops Family Bonds,” Chicago Sun-Times August 23, 1985: 39.

5. NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, “Child Care and Children’s Peer Interaction at 24 and 36 Months: The NICHD Study of Early Child Care,” Child Development 72(2001): 1478-1520.

6. Ron Haskins, “Public School Aggression among Children with Varying Day Care Experience,”Child Development 56(1985): 694-702.

7. “Restaurant Industry Set to Outpace National Job Growth, Reach Record Sales in 2012,”Social Media Releases, National Restaurant Association, 1 Feb. 2012. ; cf. also Robert Ebbin, “A Quarter Century of Growth,”Restaurants USA, National Restaurant Association, Feb 1999.

8. Mark D. Jekanowski, “Causes and Consequences of Fast Food Sales Growth,” FoodReviewJanuary-April 1999: 16.

9. Marla E. Eisenberg et al., “Correlations Between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-Being Among Adolescents,” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 158 (2004): 792-796.

10. Elaine Maag, “Taxation and the Family: How does the tax system subsidize child care expenses?” The Tax Policy Briefing Handbook, Tax Policy Center, the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, 4 Feb. 2010.

11. See Nadya Labi and Deirdre van Dyk, “Deadbeat Profiteers,” Time, September 2, 2002: 43-44.

12. See social-science appendix in Allan C. Carlson and Paul T. Mero, The Natural Family: A Manifesto (Dallas: Spence, 2007).

13. Pitirim Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics: A Study of Change in Major Systems of Art, Truth, Ethics, Law, and Social Relationships, rev. and abridged ed. (1957; rpt. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1985), 700.

14. See “Our Platform” in Carlson and Mero.


2. Capitol Daily Memo: Why It Pays to Reduce Divorce (HB 316)

By Dave Buer 

HB 316 passed the House on a 43-26 vote. The bill reinstates the 90-day divorce waiting period that had been state law until the 1990s, when the state decided to waive the waiting period for couples that took a divorce course.

Research has shown a “cooling off” period could help salvage many marriages, with some 40 percent of couples that were well into their divorce proceedings wishing they could develop a reconciliation plan.

To read more of this post on the Sutherland Daily blog, click here.


3. The Conflict Between Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty

By William C. Duncan 

In a recent Deseret News article describing the growing list of conflicts between religious liberty and attempts to redefine marriage, a prominent advocate of same-sex marriage is quoted regarding this trend. Here is the paragraph:

It’s a right-wing talking point to stoke up fears for something that’s not a problem,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a group dedicated to promoting same-sex marriage. “There’s only one or two isolated examples (of clashing) as to how this has even been an issue. We settled this question in the country decades ago when businesses were saying ‘We don’t want to serve blacks or Jews, Latinos, Mormons,’ and (the country) said ‘No, when you’re a business opening your doors to the public, you have to serve everyone. That’s (called) nondiscrimination in a democratic society.’

This is a very revealing passage, notwithstanding the obfuscation in the answer that Mr. Wolfson provides. …

To read more of this post on the Sutherland Daily blog, click here.


4. Capitol Daily Video: Waiting Period for Divorce

By Alexis Young

HB 316, a bill that would restore a 90-day waiting period for divorce, has been passed by the House. Watch this video to hear what the sponsor, Representative Val Peterson (R-Orem), and Sutherland Institute’s Bill Duncan had to say about the bill.

To see the video, click here.