(links and images still need to prettify’d, but the text is set)

“Family Values” is neither about family nor about values. Discuss. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/paid-maternity-leave-us-worst-countres-world-donald-trump-family-leave-plan-women-republican-social-a7606036.html independent.co.uk For a Family, Unfair Like many fields before it, economics branched off of philosophy (https://fee.org/articles/economics-a-branch-of-moral-philosophy/) . This offshoot had initially to do in part with morality. Over time and in an effort to make the field more precise and less subjective, a bit of physics envy really (https://youtu.be/oqPuYQW_cqY?t=8m55s) , the morality aspect was minimized or dropped altogether. The focus turned to measurable factors. The moral component was believed to either not play a crucial part, not be necessary to consider, irrelevant to the matter at hand, or something that would take care of itself. This simplification, used to isolate and improve mathematical elements, would in time be conveniently forgotten.

This simplification of the field lead to a simplification of modeling humans, talk soon came of a certain Homo economicus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_economicus) , stripped of all resemblance to the social and emotional beings we are. This bastardization has come under increased attack lately. As with other ideas that challenge accepted wisdom this push back of idealized economic behavior was first ignored, then attacked, and is now in the process of being granted as obvious and of no real importance. However, having and using a fuller representation of humans and their social proclivities should allow us to move into both a more sophisticated and more compassionate set of models for how to operate economics and (perhaps) benignly influence ourselves towards behaviors we desire as a society.

As with people that claim not to be political, but by that very statement having made/taken a political stance, so it is with economics and its outsized influence. Outsized for the narrow responsibility it admits to. Economists make claim not to be making ethical decisions or conclusions but their wishful thinking/naïve approach does not disqualify the reality; their impact extends into the moral sphere.

The economic policies implemented and supported by government touch the lives of all of its citizens. This impact filters through wages, jobs, regulations of businesses, etc. To ignore the moral implications is itself a moral act, a cowardly and dishonest one. Naturally we live in a world of scarcity and trade-offs must be made. This is the first thing taught in Econ 101. But let us be honest about the trade-offs we are making and their moral implications. It means something that we cut taxes for one group and services for another. These are not solely economic choices, especially when the math, theory, history, and eventual results do not support the lip service and bullshit evidence put forth. The dance of putting an acceptable spin on the policies belies the ethical sphere.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/76194031@N03/ sammagfunk “Family values” is one of those magnificent phrases no sane person could possibly oppose. What sort of monster could be against either, or even more unthinkably, both? However, it is just a phrase, just words made up of squiggly black lines on a light background. The meaning is what counts and the moment you dig into what people believe these words represent you uncover inconsistencies, disagreements, and vague notions. With just two noble words we are able to tap into universal feelings of righteousness, wholesomeness, and proper living but that is only because these words work like an empty vessel into which the listener or reader deposit the meanings they choose and/or find most appropriate. As such, the phrase may be adopted by all with little agreement on the details. It is a masterful bit of marketing used by politicians as a smokescreen for a litany of policy initiatives that may not be entirely in line with what their constituents necessarily had in mind.

One political party has made use of this term more often than another and as such what the phrase has come to mean, regardless of its fluid nature, when associated with this group (https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=republican+%2B+family+values%2C+democrat+%2B+family+values&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2C%28republican%20%2B%20family%20values%29%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2C%28democrat%20%2B%20family%20values%29%3B%2Cc0) is related to issues of women’s reproductive rights and limitations on support for poor families. In each instance what is put forth as concern for families and values is nothing more than an imposition of some specific (monetary) values over other’s families, the (purported) morals of the people in power over those without.

Let us naively consider what might be considered under the phrase, family values. Perhaps it would have to do, above all else, with supporting and sustaining the family structure. When we think of families we commonly think of several generations together, chief among its members being children. With children we think of parents, especially mothers.

To engender the best circumstances of the family we should look to see how these most vulnerable groups, mothers and children, are treated. One would hope and assume that there would exist pre- and postnatal care, covered doctor and hospital visits, a couple of unscheduled days/weeks for recovery as needed, maternity leave at a minimum, paternity leave not far behind, accessible neighborhood healthcare, and cheap childcare options.

https://ourworldindata.org/ Our World in Data Instead, what we find is the US is one of the few developed countries to not mandate maternity leave by law (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/paid-maternity-leave-us-worst-countres-world-donald-trump-family-leave-plan-women-republican-social-a7606036.html) . This among other shortcomings sheds further light on the spoon fed myth that economics is about supply, demand, goods, services, prices, jobs, and any number of practical things that have to do with putting dinner on the table but is somehow disentangled from moral issues. Economic policies are argued for and often solely justified by their impact on the bottom line. We look to the economic indicators as a sort of scoreboard, which they are in away, but fail to remind ourselves that they only capture a part of what matters. Whether or not other things that matter, the things that make life tolerable, enjoyable, or allow for flourishing are tracked, they will be impacted. When we do get around to measuring the collected damage of our bottom line approach we are faced with damning evidence. What does it say about a society that is the richest to have ever existed where one out of five children live in relative poverty (chart above)? What does it say that as a society we force new mothers to get back to work as soon as possible, even when this is not physically advisable and a disadvantage to the child’s development? What morals are we exhibiting, negligently at least and callously chosen at worst, when we restrict the access of poor mothers and their children to support?

We chant the words “family values” as a way to protect ourselves from the evil inclinations of who? And what? In our self righteous proclamations we see it as more worthy to restrict the access of those deemed undeserving (parsimony) rather than widening the net and ensuring no one falls through the cracks (generosity). No system is likely to be perfect. There will be those who take advantage, but to that can we not be farsighted and honest enough in our bounty to just say “so what”?

We can afford to take care of those in need while tagging on the negligible expense of the few who maybe do not “deserve” it. Is not the restriction of support and services to those we can absolutely be certain require it not only a distraction and unnecessary cost but also placing a price tag on how cheaply we value and treat one another? These myths presented as a sympathetic world clearing phrase that do one thing best, ease our unease but not the problem.