The difficulty of talking about "Liberals" and the Family

Following up on last week's discussion on birth rates, we have two pieces from the New York Times (all archive links).

Thomas B. Edsall writes "Liberals Do Not Want to Destroy the Family"

, arguing that conservative belief in liberal "neo-paganism" and self-indulgence is overblown, educated liberal elites have declining divorce rates, left-wing scholarship has moved towards acknowledging the costs of the sexual revolution, and (most key) that right-trending constituencies like the white working class have experienced significantly larger losses in markers of social cohesion than left-trending constituencies.


Contrariwise, Ross Douthat writes "Are Liberals Against Marriage?"

commentating on Edsall's piece as well as Sussman's "The End of Babies".

Douthat opens by noting "The continued plunge in the American birthrate, amid prosperity and low unemployment, has finally made fertility a topic that’s O.K. to worry about even if you aren’t a deep-dyed reactionary. This is a very good thing, since the question of why the world’s wealthiest societies are failing to reproduce themselves is far too important to be left to weirdo Catholic columnists."

These pieces simply commit the fallacy of composition. "Liberal" is a catch-all term for the american left (that may be reaching the end of its useful life). As with all political coalitions, there are parts of it that do not agree with each other, and as with all people, their personal lives do not necessarily follow their ideologies. As the left has become less a labor movement and more the class marker of the upper and upper middle class, it should not be surprising that their self-control markers improved. There is a small, but influential and vocal segment of the left, mostly in feminist circles who really does want to destroy the family. A roundup can be found here.

Most of what some call the PMC would consider themselves feminists, but not necessarily the parts about destroying the family. Kind of how like christians will be very big on the old testament passages about gays, but not so much the cotton-poly blends. Their opponents will point to the very real and very obvious hostility to the family as proof that the whole left wants to destroy it, but that's not really the case. What is the case is that this small segment of elite hostility to family matters has shut off policy responses that the left might have taken in response to some of their other constituencies' problems, namely racial minorities disproportionately in the working, lower and under classes.

The more nuanced critique of the elite portions of the left is that they have failed to preach what they practice. So long as they continue to tell the black community that the reason they're poor and in prison is not that they're having kids out of wedlock and committing crime, but that it's all the fault of poor whites and their racism, and a racist system biased against them (ironically, the very system that the 'liberal' elites run), the policy responses are going to be ineffective, as we've seen. The anti-family hostility from the left has boxed them in with regard to policy, and led to a multitude of counter-productive decisions that have materially harmed the poor and marginal of society.