Capitalism and the Family

Capitalism and the Family
Opening Thoughts
 A history of the evolution of the family in which
capitalism is the source of desirable changes in the
direction of more freedom
Left: family freedom good, but capitalism not
Right: capitalism good, but family freedom not
Why not celebrate both?
 Two opening claims:
 No such thing as the “traditional family”
 The multiple meanings of “normal family”
Function and form
The Modern and Pre-Modern Family
 The modern family
 Marital choice by consent and emotional/romantic attraction
 The family as a private, insulated space
 Children treated sentimentally and uniquely valued
 Legal equality and more economic equality between genders
 The pre-industrial family
 Family as the unit of production not consumption
 The household is the firm
 Family is also a political unit
Why was this “pre-modern?”
 Arranged marriages – and even where it was
consent, it was not about love
“Yoke mates rather than soul mates”
Production complementarities not consumption ones
 Women were effectively chattel
 Children were economic assets
 Large family size, high infant mortality rates
 Family was porous to the public and not private
 Church, state, and community involved in marriage, adoption,
and sexuality
 No divorce
Capitalism creates the modern family
 So what changed the pre-modern family?
 Capitalism:
 Industrialization and the advent of wage labor
 Higher incomes due to economic growth
 Separation of market and household production
 Higher wages mean child labor eventually disappears
 Children go from directly producing assets to investments
 This means they become expensive
 Childhood becomes the “sheltered childhood” we now know
 Family size begins to shrink even as infant mortality drops
Changes in marriage
 With families having more wealth:
 The state, the community, the church and even parents are
pushed back
 Marriage is a matter of choice and affection not economics
Consumption complementarities matter more than production
We get the “nuclear family” we now know
 The “separate spheres” of the Victorian Era
 By early 20th century, women begin to enter labor
force in clerical/service jobs
Higher incomes mean more education for boys AND girls
 We more or less now have the modern family
The 20th century
 Key event: the steady increase in women’s labor
force participation rates
Myth: the 60s “caused” married women to start working
If anything, women working caused the women’s movement!
The Pill is more important
Since the 60s: rise of working moms with very young kids
 What led to more women working?
 Higher wages that drew them out from the home
a consequence of more education that raised their human capital
 and higher demand for labor resulting from economic growth that
raised the value of that human capital
Women, Market Work, and the Family
 Changes in household production:
 Technological advances reduces time necessary
 Economic growth provides market substitutes for time
 Impact on the family
 Women are freer to create and leave marriages thanks to
greater wealth and reduction in specialization by gender
 Fewer kids and more wealth means child care is less time
consuming and more easily purchased on the market
 Family moves from an economic to psychological/emotional
 Children become increasingly “precious”
Some thoughts on divorce
 One effect of capitalism on the family is higher
divorce rates
Preferences have changed: the bar for being happy, especially
for women, is much higher. More easily disappointed.
Constraints have changed: unhappy people, particularly
women, can now leave in ways they couldn’t before
 Costs and benefits of divorce
 This is clearly a win for women, although no-fault has issues
 Divorce is not good for kids, but…
 Evidence is clear that a cooperative divorce is better than a
tension-filled marriage
 Finally: even if divorce hurts kids, adults matter too
Capitalism and Same-Sex Marriage
 Capitalism created gay and lesbian identity
 Wage labor eliminated the economic need for a family
 Capitalism produced anonymous urban centers
 Why same-sex marriage now?
 Classical liberalism’s tolerance for “anything that’s peaceful”
 Wealth and technology separated sex, marriage, and
reproduction for heterosexuals
 Capitalism transformed marriage from being economic and
reproductive to being based on emotion and affection
 Add it all up, and this seems like the logical next step
 Function, form, and family freedom
 It’s evolution not revolution
Marriage, Family, and the State
 Some questions to ponder:
 Should the state have a role in marriage at all?
 If the state does have a role, is there a libertarian case for
legalizing same-sex marriages?
If so, where would you find the constitutional argument?
How might libertarians deal with the tricky question of
children’s rights? Is the issue better thought of in terms of
“parental rights?”
Anyone know the constitutional law here?
 Final thought on capitalism, family, and
instrumental rationality.

similar documents