Thursday, March 13, 2008

Love and Economics in paperback

I had several students at Notre Dame tell me that they had read or were about to read Love and Economics for class projects. Now is a good time to let the whole world know what I recently revealed to my newsletter subscribers: the hard cover version of Love and Economics will be going out of print. But, not to worry: the rights to the book have reverted to me. I am going to bring out Love and Economics in paperback. Here is the new forward to the Paperback edition:
Forward to the Paperback Edition.

I wrote Love and Economics in the late 1990's. My experience of raising a badly neglected adopted orphan son together with a birth daughter taught me that we economists had been taking the family far too much for granted. I intended the book as a conversation-opener with my libertarian and free market friends. They appeared then, and still appear to be, uninterested. Perhaps the original subtitle, Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn’t Work, put them off.

In any case, I continue to be convinced that when families fall apart, the Hillary Clinton’s of the world are standing by, ready to promote ever larger and more intrusive government to pick up the pieces. Fiscal conservatives and libertarians simply can not be indifferent to the fate of the family. I believe we have a responsibility to inform the public about the public consequences of the private choices people make within their families. The reader will not find a single word in this book, or in any of my other writings, advocating government support programs or regulatory schemes to promote my views of the family. I believe we can change the world by changing our own values and actions.

When Love and Economics was published in 2001, I was in the labor force part-time. I had left my tenured position at George Mason University because I couldn’t in good conscience continue working full-time. We had one very needy child, one child of average neediness, and in 2001, my husband’s mother was dying. I could only promote the book by doing radio shows on the telephone from home.

I was extremely gratified by the response the book generated from the talk show audiences across the country. I discovered a whole new audience out there: the religious defenders of the family. These Evangelical Christian, Catholic, Mormon and traditional Jewish women and men appreciated the defense I offered of their private choices. Many of these families make significant sacrifices to keep the mother at home, at least part-time. They know in their hearts they are doing the right thing for their children, their families and their communities, but they feel beleaguered and battered by the culture around them. The media, academia, business and government are filled with career women. These professional women have a significant voice in shaping the tone of public policy and debate. No one speaks for the stay at home mothers. Often, they are too busy taking care of their families to speak for themselves. And many of the legions of stay at home mothers are not as educated or articulate as the typical “expert” women featured on the news as spokeswomen for our entire sex.

The stay at home mothers, their husbands and sometimes even their parents, came to see me as their champion. They were grateful to me for Love and Economics. I am grateful to them, too, for their contributions to creating a better world, one child at a time.

In late 2007, my dear friend and publisher Tom Spence informed me that he had made the decision to let Love and Economics go out of print. My subsequent book, Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World was selling much better. The paperback rights to Love and Economics reverted to me.

I had just started to get back into academic circulation around the same time. I learned that professors have been using Love and Economics in the classroom. Economics classes, psychology classes, even seminary ethics classes have used all or part of Love and Economics. My colleagues told me how much their students loved the book. I met some of those young people, who told me how much the book had meant to them. They were so thrilled to meet me, I felt like a minor celebrity.

I decided the book deserved a second chance. I devised a new subtitle: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village, as well as a new, more contemporary cover. This subtitle gives a better idea of the overall argument of the book.

I do not attack Mrs. Clinton by name. Nor do I offer arguments against specific policies under consideration in the current election cycle. We can spend all our time scampering around, responding to the latest intrusive proposal, claiming to be family-friendly. I believe instead, that we need to understand the general principles involved, so we have a framework for evaluating such proposals. In that spirit, Love and Economics makes a foundational argument that the family is an irreplaceable social institution. We can not replace the married couple family with a series of contracts among adults, as some libertarians and economists might argue. Nor can we replace the family with a series of government programs. Mrs. Clinton is a symbol of the view that we can. I do hope my libertarian friends will come to see the connection between their indifference to the family, and the progress of welfare state advocates such as Mrs. Clinton. And I hope that everyone who values the personal over the political and the family over the bureaucratic, will take the arguments of Love and Economics seriously.

I am pleased by how well the book has held up. I have not changed a word of the original text. I hope the next generation of readers continues to find Love and Economics as challenging and inspiring as their predecessors.

San Marcos, California
February 2008

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