17 July 2008

comes a time

Here is the post that should've been 600, an article by Andrew Sullivan in the Times (via Bookforum) on the conservative response to societal breakdown.

The Chateau must be getting more centrist by the second, I broadly agree very much with Sullivan's tale. You can't go on squeezing people by giving them no alternatives to both parents working two jobs with the mother returning to work as soon as possible after a baby's birth.

Of course, in any discussion such as this you need to talk only in generalisations - there will always be individual choices and in some cases this will be two parents working regardless of any inducement that government might offer.

For others, well whether it's seen as top-down dirigisme or a "nudge", the challenge facing government is how to send a message that will, over time, change the culture.

I was taken by Sullivan's relating the squeeze - fast, widespread liberalisation of social norms in the 60s (well, it happened, you don't need to put the former Deputy PM John Anderson's particular pejorative interpretation on it) - alongside the reality of a globalised economy and how that has translated into our current working and home lives.

While my mother chose to be a stay at home mum (although she ran her own business until her marriage), I couldn't have imagined that Mrs VVB would be anything other than a working mum. Although that doesn't explain why I chose a job which then precluded her from being one, until we returned to Australia.

Individual choices. Government sends its messages, some respond, some don't, you get a sort of result. How to structure an inducement for people to have a stay-at-home parent without that inducement resulting in lots more babies. Cardinal Pell's imprecations aside (we need more white Catholics and fewer brown Muslims is what I imagine he's saying), sooner or later we are going to have to get serious about population growth.

Let's leave aside the whole "growth" model for the moment.

Providing assistance in kind would prevent inducements being misspent on plasma TVs, but would mean more public servants, or you contract private providers to help out home parents. The service society.

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