The great conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet notes: “It is the nature of both family and state to struggle for the exclusive loyalty of their respective, and overlapping, members.” (Robert Nisbet, Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary 110 .) This struggle seems to be accelerating of late as an emboldened “progressive” presidential administration competes for the loyalty of family members at the expense of family autonomy.
Exhibit one is the justly derided “Life of Julia” presentation in which a government dependent is depicted through the life cycle. As has been much noted, her only serious relationship seems to be with the government until at age 31, “evidently by parthenogenesis” as National Review notes, she “decides to have a child” whose other parent we can only assume is the, by then, long-serving presidential administration.
Importantly, each of the government services the “ideal” government in Julia’s story provides were once family functions: early education, financial assistance for college, help in starting a business, care in old age, even a sense of purpose in life (her Social Security payments will eventually allow her to “volunteer at a community garden”). “Family” is vaguely mentioned in her story but only peripherally — her family qualifies for a tax credit to pay for college and the government is forcing her family health insurance to pay for her surgery until she’s 26 (the period formerly known as adulthood). What munificence!
Exhibit two is the recent kerfuffle over “child labor” regulations proposed by the Department of Labor to regulate youth working on farms. Under the proposed regulations, withdrawn after a firestorm of criticism, children would have been prohibited from working at “country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions” including on the farms of their extended families. Gathering eggs at grandpa’s farm or giving feed to the cows? Presumably off limits since the rules would prevent the “transporting of farm product raw materials.”
The proper response to this trend is a robust and function-rich family, but sustaining that against these kinds of incursions will require significant vigilance.