by Patrick T. Brown

Progressives’ vision for family policy tends to be heavy on the policy, and light on the family. Instead of understanding the family as an integral social and economic unit, their policy prescriptions too often see households as a collection of individuals that happen to share a roof. Rather than using public policy to protect and strengthen the family unit, progressives tend to see individuals as in desperate need of government action to relieve them of their obligations to each other. 

The essays in this section demonstrate how this tendency leads the Left astray. Heavy-handed programs like Build Back Better (BBB) see the government as needing to step in as caretaker, through universal pre-kindergarten and child care, so that parents can be pushed into the labor force. Additionally, BBB would have treated marriage as an afterthought, implicitly penalizing it by providing more tax benefits to low-income cohabiting couples than married ones. Instead of strengthening the institutions of civil society that help families raise their children in the values and environment they deem best, progressives bills like the Equality Act would have a chilling effect on everything from churches to girls’ sports. 

It is vital to understand the discrete threats these bills would pose to family life. But it is equally important to recognize the long-term consequences this mindset would bring, and where progressives go wrong. The left’s misguided approach to family policy stems from misunderstanding the role and purpose of the single social institution oriented towards the procreation and raising of children. 

Reams of social science data back up what many of us know from experience — that the safest place for a child to be raised is by married, biological parents. The family offers stability, purpose, and others-centeredness in a culture often seduced by individualism, careerism, and consumerism. It is the place where character is formed and values handed down, which explains why some far-left radicals want to “disrupt the family” and use the state to indoctrinate children into everything from critical race theory to gender ideology.

In order to defend the family as the key, fundamental unit of society, it will be essential to point out the flaws in the left’s expansive proposals for social re-engineering. From there, the next step will be building up an arsenal of proposals which expand parents’ choice in education, help families deal with the cost of living, compensate parents for the hard work of having and raising kids, and build up the social environments in which more children can safely thrive. Placing the family as the center of a social and economic policy agenda will showcase the inadequacy of the leftist approach to family policy, and protect families for years to come.

  • Patrick T. Brown

    Patrick T. Brown is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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