Jennifer Roback Morse s Love and Economics puts our notions of individual natural rights back into the Natural Law from whence they emerged some three and a half centuries ago. Instead of treating familial and societal relations of human beings as given, that is, as background no more significant than land and other resources she focuses on how and why intact families are an essential precondition to stable, free societies as well as to greater human happiness. It says a great deal about our times that such a book should be necessary. An economist, Morse remarks that her thoughts on these matters stem from her own experience as a mother. She employs language and arguments meant to enlighten people whose main frames of reference are free-market economics and limited-government philosophy. She sketches out the irreplaceable social function of the family in civilizing and socializing the young. Absent such families, we shall have violence and chaos and increased statism to combat them. Morse finds it odd that an ethic of individual self-absorption as regards family matters rules the political Left and part of the Right. But even Randian superheroes were once helpless infants who required care, love, and physical maintenance. The nonobjective, nonscientific aspects of child-rearing are actually the most important ones. Government nutritionists might well keep the next generation breathing, but they could never turn out individuals who have internalized certain rules necessary for living with others. Babies and children need to learn to trust others so that they can be trustworthy themselves. They learn cooperation and behavioral norms best from those whom they have come to trust. None of this takes place overnight. This leads Morse into a discussion of marriage as a partnership, based on commitment to a specific unique person and sustained in the face of radical uncertainty about the future and the lack of a substitute partner with the same qualities. Thus, it is in people s long-term interests, properly understood, to stick with what they have agreed to. Marriage brings one into close contact, not just with one s own children, but with the partner s blood relations; such relations cannot be brought under the heading of voluntary or involuntary. They are an implication of the marriage itself. Trust, cooperation, generosity, and love itself become possible in committed families and wider social groupings based on them. Morse treats various proposed alternatives single-parent families, the state as moral instructor, universal socialist daycare, and the like and finds them wanting. The problem with making individual mothers independent with other people s money via tax-based bureaucratic programs is that they are in fact still dependent, but in a less natural and socially beneficial way. If the state itself isn t up to raising our children, how about strangers hired to do so? After all, Morse notes, we believe that markets do everything more efficiently. She deflates this alternative with a survey of recent studies on the degree of social attachment and trust found in children in daycare versus those with a mother at home. Universal state-provided or state-run daycare seems even less promising on that evidence. People who think that anyone can raise children because children are, empirically, more or less interchangeable have not thought things through. She suggests that properly rearing a child involves dealing with that child, daily, in a way for which there is no adequate substitute. Feminists in particular will hate this book. Morse is saying that they have sold women a bill of goods about the joys of employment, when in fact the most important work women do is the rearing of their children. --Joseph Stromberg, The Mises Institute
About the Author
Jennifer Roback Morse is a renowned marriage and family scholar. She is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-up World and of numerous major academic and public policy articles for journals ranging from the Journal of Economic History to Forbes, Fortune, and the Wall Street Journal.