Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Economics Behind the "Mommy Wars"

E.J. Dionne, Jr. has a great article on the economic realities behind the recent flap over Ann Romney's status as a stay-at-home-mom. Mr. Dionne is especially good when he calls out conservatives for appealing to the ideal of the 1950s family model while supporting policies that help to undermine stable family life among working Americans. Remember, labor unionization peaked in the mid-1950s, the decade that forms the image of the ideal America for most contemporary social conservatives.

Unfortunately for most people who vote Republican because of social issues, the GOP is in reality much more concerned with implementing the neoliberal economic policies most favored by the wealthy and the business community generally. Republican candidates will stump endlessly on "family values," but at the end of the day, the GOP's top priorities are economic, and neoliberal economics is profoundly anti-family.

As Richard Aleman points out in an excellent piece for The Distributist Review, individualism and free-market fundamentalism erode the institution of marriage, which is ultimately a social institution, as is the family generally. The philosophy of the American Right, with its emphasis on rugged individualism, is completely contrary to the traditionalist's proper understanding of the family as a social institution that must be safeguarded by public authority, even if it means passing legislation that upsets the Chamber of Commerce.


  1. Very interesting post, John!

    Once again, I am in complete agreement with you here - it struck me when I first listened to Ann Romney's (and Hilary Rosen's) commentary about working mothers that both were somewhat missing the point. If Rosen had been smart, she would have framed the argument in precisely the economic terms that Mr Dionne did, and given Ann Romney's statements enough charity to use them to question and criticise her husband's economic policies.

    Did Bain Capital ever give consideration to the 'external' costs to the families it was tossing into the cold, or was it merely a matter of the brute-force calculus of consolidation? How does Romney address these very real concerns of the mothers - whether working or staying at home - on whose behalf his wife claims to be speaking?

    ^ This would have been an interesting line of argument. Unfortunately, I don't think we could have expected to see such nuance on CNN...

  2. Hi Matthew, thanks for the comment! I agree, the "Mommy Wars" debate was rather disappointing. I think part of the problem is that the Democrats are also rather compromised by their own basic commitment to neoliberalism, even if their “version” is perhaps less virulent than that of the GOP.