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Patricia Morgan: ‘The war between the State and the Family’

I recommend the Institute of Economic Affairs latest publication, Patricia Morgan’s ‘The war between the State and the Family: How government divides and impoverishes’.

This is a work in the tradition of such writers as Charles Murray showing how the combination of various government benefits and schemes (rather than any one benefit) have helped undermine the traditional family and increased welfare dependency and poverty, both in Britain and in other countries.

One of the important elements of this little work is that it shows that many of the very people who denounce the increase in inequality (for whilst there has been no great increase in absolute poverty, as the income of a person on benefits today is at least as high as that of many working people in the 1940’s, there has been an increase in inequality) in various Western nations have supported the policies that have undermined families and increased inequality.

Also the work shows how the targeting of the ‘truly needy’, something done by Conservative governments from the start of the 1980’s onwards by, contrary to media reports, increasing government support for such people, had very bad consequences.

Many libertarians may be wary of someone like Patricia Morgan who clearly supports the old style family of wife looking after the children and husband bringing home the money: the dream of the Victorian working class which, by the end of the century, they had largely achieved, and this suspicion may be increased by Dr Morgan’s support for favourable treatment of the traditional family by the tax system; which was something that was only important in a few decades after the World War II – as before the war the majority of families did not pay income tax. But her arguments should not be dismissed out of hand simply because she is a “reactionary”.

Patricia Morgan argues that what has happened over the last few decades in Britain and some other nations (the vast increased in the percentage of births out of wedlock, the growth in one parent households, and the vast growth of dependency on money from the government) is not some ‘natural’ example of ‘social evolution’, but has been driven by government policies – policies of governments of parties of both “left” and “right”.

Certainly Dr Morgan may be attacked for implying that everything was O.K. with the family before the state became involved (as I have stated above the situation where the vast majority of families earned a decent income and were free of government support and abject poverty was an achievement of economic and social development over the Victorian period, it was not always so).

Also Patricia Morgan can be attacked for a Chicago school style ‘economic man’ approach where human beings react to monetary incentives almost (although not quite) to the exclusion of other factors.

However, one does not have to believe that the growth in government support has caused all the negative developments, in Britain and other lands, over the last few decades to believe that it has helped cause them.

With the advance of technology and economic development over the last few decades families should be stronger and poverty should be much less. Just as family life was vastly better in 1901 than it had been in, for example, 1837. Yet who would argue that families are stronger now than they were in say 1960?

Also the changes in behaviour (not just in Britain, but in such nations as the United States, Australia and New Zealand) can often be dated back to the specific years in which there were changes in the benefit structure, and (in the case of the United States) certain changes in benefit structure can be argued to have achieved the ‘impossible’ task of, in certain respects, turning the clock back.

Whilst this does not prove Patricia Morgan’s case beyond all doubt, it does mean that the case of this lady is worth a look.

8 comments to Patricia Morgan: ‘The war between the State and the Family’

  • nick g.

    Unfortunately, the state thinks of Big Brother as a role model, not something to avoid. This does, though, confirm my earlier statement, about ‘War and the rise of the State’, that democracies intrude into people’s lives and paypackets more in times of war, and they never get around to giving back any powers that have accrued to the center. We can see now that a ‘War on Poverty’, or a War on Drugs’ is essential to the state- like a drug-addict, it needs more power! Wars centralize; even losers of wars adopt the centrall characteristics of their conquerors! Once you realise that power is an addiction, you realise that the addict won’t give it up peacefully….

  • not the Alex above

    i think it’s more to do with social diaproval. In the past if you got pregnant before marrage your family used social pressure to force you to get married/get rid now no one gives a shit so you don’t.

  • Yea in the past they forced you to get married or they forced you leave your town and have the baby in secret and then give it away to strangers.

    I think we have moved on from that……..

  • What you fail to understand is that unless literal force is involved, no matter how much social opprobrium is involved, in the final analysis you can tell people to mind their own fucking business.

    Try doing that to the state, eshop600.

    Resisting social pressures may or may not be the right thing to do (many social pressures are an entirely good thing) but in the end, all you need is the courage of your convictions that you are correct the the people criticising you are wrong.

    Resisting the state tends to require guns.

  • Yea in the past they forced you to … give [the baby] away to strangers.

    I think we have moved on from that……..

    And that is a bad thing how? I think the statistical differences evident between the results from adoptive parenting and single-parenting in poverty are more than sufficient to put to rest the “child is best with their natural mother/father” bunk.

  • Paul Marks

    eshop600 is taking the position that J.S. Mill takes in “On Liberty”.

    J.S. Mill rejected the old non aggression principle (for example of the common law) and held to the much vaguer “harm” principle instead.

    People should not be allowed to “parade” their disapproval of other people’s actions.

    J.S. Mill did not say (but, I believe, had in mind) the reaction of many people to his long and close friendship with Mrs Taylor (who eventually became his wife).

    No mob came waving pitchforks and torches saying “get out of town”. But there where whispers, people going silent when the couple got close, and other things of this sort.

    Very hurtful and petty no doubt – but not a violation of the nonaggression principle.

    Ditto with births out of wedlock. Many people were, no doubt, unkind and hurtful – but using violence against mother or child was not a common British practice.

    Besides which there is a great difference in saying to people “it is unkind not to be a friend to an unmarried mother – you are a petty person if you are unkind in this way” and saying “you must pay us a lot of money in tax, out of which we will give them some, or we will put you in prison”.

  • Daniel Martinez

    You might want to check out my most recent book, CINICA: Delusions in American Culture, wherein I summarize about 704 categories of delusions and stupidities in America’s left and right political spectrum. More power to the individual !

  • Resisting the state tends to require guns.

    Not here in the uk, I remember I joined the protest against the war in Iraq, I million people hit the streets in protest, no guns, no violence. The government still went to war, and now we were proved right, shame on those war mongers who agreed with the whole thing.

    I don’t want the state or the man telling me what I can and can’t do – fuck them – Make up your own mind, do your own thing.