At First Things, an interesting essay by Joseph Knippenberg on income inequality, responding to President Obama’s 2011 speech on the subject in Osowatomie, Kansas. Here’s the point he makes that got my attention:
What I found most promising about the president’s speech is also what dismays me the most about his analysis. He framed the question in terms of the expectations people have for their families, the hope that they can live up to their responsibilities as parents. I strongly suspect that where families are intact, with two parents contributing to the welfare of the household (through some combination of work, “household management,” and attending to the education of the children), the inequality in the distribution of income that most troubles him is diminished. So why not talk about marriage, the culture and community that support it, and the character it begets? Would not reversing the decline of marriage and family formation ultimately do a great deal more to promote the human flourishing that sits at the heart of the president’s and our concerns?
I am persuaded that economics has a lot to do with family formation, but am also confident that talk about economics and about the distribution of income is no substitute for a proverbial focus on the family.
There’s an important conversation to be had here, but the point of departure has to be “the good life,” understood in traditional terms, not merely in terms of how much money we have or don’t have.
Yes. I think the great undiscussed issue when it comes to the rise of inequality and the endlessly invoked weakening of the “middle class” is the role of family fragmention. I’m not saying it’s the only thing, and it may not be the main thing, but it’s there and it matters, including to anyone who cares about social justice and a society in which we are more equal. Props to Amber Lapp for raising this same issue in her excellent post.