Happy Families = a Healthy Economy

Babette Francis - ONLINE Opinion, 2 May 2013

One of the problems which has bedeviled the conservative or "right wing" side of politics is the split between social conservatives, i.e. pro-life and pro-family activists, and the fiscal conservatives who are dedicated to the free market and small government. It has been the vision of Mary-Louise Fowler of the Australian Family Association to bring the two sides together and she is doing this as Chair of the local organising committee of the World Congress of Families which will be held in Sydney from 15 - 18 May. The World Congresses are an initiative of the Howard Centre in Rockford, Illinois, and the one in Sydney will be the seventh - previous ones were held in Prague, Geneva, Mexico, Warsaw, Amsterdam, and Madrid. WCF 7 brings together an impressive line-up of speakers, international and Australian, including experts in business, economics, education, law, healthcare, politicians and the media.

There are hopeful signs that Mary-Louise's vision may be realised, not the least of which is the editorial in The Australian, 25/4/13 "The more people the merrier", which extols the benefits of a "big Australia" and mentions the moribund economies of Europe and Japan with their shrinking or stagnant populations. This is something pro-life and pro-family activists have been highlighting for years - that babies are a blessing, that nations benefit from the energy, creativity and initiatives of the young and that a greying population is not a recipe for prosperity. How can the Japanese economy flourish when the country is selling more nappies for the elderly than for babies?

Organisations such as the Australian Family Association, Endeavour Forum Inc. and the various Right to Life groups have asserted that babies are a blessing with little support from the media and against constant background noise from the Greens and population-control lobbies with their relentless promotion of abortion, contraception and now RU 486. In Switzerland pro-lifers have launched an initiative to ban abortions in the country for economic reasons, saying the practice costs hundreds of billions in lost tax revenue.

The "Protect life to remedy the loss of billions" initiative says on its website that if the more than 100,000 fetuses aborted in Switzerland over the past decade had been born, grown up and worked for 45 years, they would have contributed nearly 334 billion Swiss francs ($A350.6 billion) to the country's GDP. And, as consumers, the same 100,000 people would over 80 years pump more than 324 billion francs into the country's economy".

A Melbourne-based free-market think-tank that has woken up to the implications of unfettered "abortion rights" is the media release titled "Freedom of speech threatened by Tasmanian [Abortion] Bill", issued by Simon Breheny, Director, Legal Rights Project, Institute of Public Affairs. "Proposed changes contained in the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 threaten freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. The bill has passed the Tasmanian House of Assembly and is now set to be debated by the Tasmanian Legislative Council.

The bill proposes a fine of $65,000 or a 12 month jail term for the newly created crime ofprotesting in an area within a radius of 150 metres from an abortion clinic. This is an inappropriate limitation on freedom of speech. General laws against intimidation already exist in the law and they are appropriate restraints on unacceptable behaviour. "Singling out particular premises for special treatment undermines equality before the law.This bill does not make it illegal to distribute material outside supermarkets or sports grounds, for instance. The Tasmanian government should not ban protests, whether they occur outside an abortion clinic or a timber mill.

The bill also threatens freedom of conscience by forcing doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion to refer patients to another doctor who does not have such objections. A fine of $32,500 applies to counselors who refuse to contradict their beliefs. This is a clear and unacceptable infringement of freedom of conscience.

Another omen that the gulf is being bridged between fiscal and social conservatives was a 28th March 2013 article in Investors Business Daily, a national newspaper in the USA which covers international business, finance, and the global economy, providing detailed information about stocks, mutual funds, commodities, and other financial instruments. The article headed "Is the Traditional Family Dead?" stated that the disintegration of the nuclear family - particularly in the African-American community - and the rise in fatherless homes have greater societal implications than homosexual marriage.

Investors Business Daily says that the civil purpose of marriage is not and never has been to reaffirm the love of two people for one another, nor is marriage primarily a businessarrangement: "This country and healthy societies around the world and throughout historyhave given marriage between a man and a woman special legal protection because of therecognition that it is the one institution that ensures the society's stable future through theorderly procreation and upbringing of children.

In this context, we find the decline in marriage and the rise in illegitimacy, prime factors in crime, poverty and societal decay, being virtually ignored as the Supreme Court looks at the penumbras and emanations from the Constitution to decide whether Adam and Steve can legally tie the knot. We should be more concerned about that than about gay rights and free contraceptives. As traditional marriage breaks down, so does society.

Investors Business Daily points out that the alarm sounded by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965 about the decline of the African-American family now afflicts white families in the USA. In 1965 25% of black children were born out of wedlock, now it is 72%, while 53 % of Hispanic children and 36% of white children are now born outside of marriage.

The single mothers' lobby won't like this, but Investors Business Daily asserts that "The consequences of fatherlessness are staggering. In such homes there is no role model who gets up every morning, shaves and gets dressed and goes to work, coming home to have dinner with his family. There is no male role model to restrain a young man's masculine impulses and guide him into adulthood."

Moynihan wrote that "A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken homes, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future - that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure - that is not only to be expected, it is very near to inevitable."

We are seeing some of this in the Australian indigenous population, but also in white society. Investors Business Daily quotes columnist Larry Elder: "The solution to both crime and poverty is simple: 'Finish high school; don't have a child before the age of 20; and get married before having the child.'"

The middle and upper classes in Australia and those who are tertiary educated, more or less follow this formula but many in the lower socio-economic groups seem trapped in a cycle of poverty fuelled by the absence of stable marriages, a revolving door of serial de facto relationships and out of wedlock births.

How to break this cycle will be addressed at the World Congress of Families 7 and academics and the Australian government should take note. Already there is much angst about the cut to single-mothers' benefits but our economy would find it difficult to sustain a budget if our single-parenthood rate approached the current 72% level of the African-American community.

However, there really is no such thing as a "single" mother. There is another parent out there - the absent father. Where are the government efforts to re-integrate the father into the lives of his children - not only in terms of maintenance payments but as a role model and authority figure?

Investors Business Daily highlights that countless studies have shown that children raised in two-parent traditional families are less likely to be raised in poverty, less likely to do drugs, less likely to be criminals later in life, and more likely to graduate from and do well in school and that the evidence on this is overwhelming: "The traditional family is still the best department of health, education and welfare ever invented."