Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Finally: a Libertarian notices parents.

My old friend Cathy Young wrote a refreshingly honest column about the perils of the new parenting arrangements. While allowing that Americans typically refrain from passing judgements about personal lifestyles, Young observes that some of the modern lifestyle choices do have costs. Specifically, kids benefit from having both moms and dads, though, as Cathy notes, the direct evidence on heterosexual parents versus same sex parents is inconclusive so far. She goes beyond that to observe:
Of course, a child's well-being is a product of many complicated factors. But there is another issue here: Single parenthood by choice almost inherently reinforces gender inequality: because of biology, it is far less available to men. (Partly for the same reason, gay male couples are far less likely to raise children than lesbian couples.) Celebrated by some as an expression of female autonomy, solo motherhood actually enshrines the sexist stereotype of child-rearing and family as a female domain -- a modernized version of Victorian "separate spheres." It also radically alienates men from the family. (emphasis added.)

I am convinced that this has been the most important consequence of the trend toward normalizing single motherhood. Marginalizing men from the family is harmful to the kids, but it also hurts the adults. Men take longer to grow up than women do. Without the encouragement of marriage, and responsibilities of fatherhood, many men never will grow up. In the black family, the marginalization of men is almost complete.
Even legislative attempts to bar unmarried women from seeking artificial insemination have been quickly abandoned. True enough: Americans have an instinctive respect for individual freedom and privacy, and the majority will readily agree that discrimination and coercion are wrong. But, while respecting choices, can we also agree that some choices are less beneficial than others -- and that liberation often has its costs, some of them still unknown?
I have often argued that the legal rules that enable impregnation by anonymous sperm donors is bad public policy, so I wish she had not dismissed that point so quickly. Still, for a libertarian to take notice of these unknown costs is a breakthrough. I applaud Cathy.

No comments: