Thursday, 17 June 2010

Why paying women to have children will fail

According to Sharon Astyk and CNN, the northern Italian region of Lombardy is now paying women not to have abortions because its fertility rate is so low - according to some sources less than one child per woman. Roberto Formigoni, the long-term regional president and seen as an associate of the archconservative Communion and Liberation founded by priest Luigi Giussani, argues that people cannot choose “in favour of life”.

The trouble is that, whilst he might want to see Italy return to its traditional Catholic roots, and despite the fact that a look on Wikipedia suggested the politics of Lombardy is more “centrist” that I imagined it would be before reading and from the “bipolar” reputation of Catholic Europe (which as I see it really amounts to nothing more than an atheist nation ruled by a Catholic elite), there is little evidence that attempts to establish (or maintain) a high fertility have ever proved successful once the population comes to believe in uniform gender roles and the legitimacy of female power. In fact, even when the population does not believe in the legitimacy of female labour, children can become even more difficult to raise because fathers are so removed from them and women do not have the money to invest in them via the type of education expected in Europe. European men are also much more unwilling than American men to participate in family work: it is clear that men participating in family work has a strong positive impact on family life. This was actually true, as William Strauss and Neil Howe showed, even during the “baby boom”. By the late 1950s, child nurture became very free and unrestrictive. As I can testify from my own upbringing, this lack of restraint, self-discipline and requirement to do work was not good for children born during that period. Regarding fertility, it undoubtedly meant that the (relatively) strong and close families of the 1940s and early 1950s could not last forever. Because men were becoming increasingly distant and focused on their own interests, they had very little time for their families.

There is ample evidence a two-parent family is the best model; however, it requires something a little different form the simple working father/stay-at-home mother ideal. This is especially true when, for whatever reason, economics dictates that a single-income family cannot sustain what is considered to be an acceptable standard of living.

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