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The Big Answer


To link to this article from your blog or webpage, copy and paste the url below into your blog or homepage.

The Age of Possibility

an article in The New York Times by David Brooks

(our site's article review)

Brooks says that attachments and commitments and the two-parent family are the best way to build a society and a nation. His opinion is that "People are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice — commitments to family, God, craft and country."

However, many people would rather keep their options open, since once you commit to the values just mentioned, and once there are kids, the only options available are more kids, divorce, separation, open marriage, and one spouse abandoning the family. Brooks cites the fact that birth rates are down around the world. People often see kids more as liabilities than assets, and they cost so much that many people feel they cannot afford them. Others value money and what it buys more than the joys of parenthood. So, many people are either living alone or finding new ways of attaching. Brooks admits that "it’s probably a good idea to investigate these emerging commitment devices."

41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce

He seems to think that people trying to keep their options open is the opposite of commitment. That is surely true for most people. Opportunities are not real if you're so tied down by kids and spouse that you cannot avail yourself of these new possibilities. So you'd better be really sure of the person you choose for a lifelong commitment. The relationship has a 50% chance of ending in divorce. But then again, since the only sure things are death and taxes, we agree with Brooks that attachments and commitments and the two-parent family are the best building blocks for building a society and a nation. But if he is assuming that this means an isolated nuclear family with only the parents caring for the kids then we have to take issue with that. However well it seemed to work (mostly for white males) in the 1950s, it most certainly will not work in this century.

An isolated nuclear family with only the parents caring for the kids is a lame building block for building a society
An isolated nuclear family with only the parents caring for the kids is a lame building block for building a society

Happily, social science and parenting science research has determined the best way to raise kids and these parenting methods epitomize this knowledge. Sociological science has determined that inadequate social resources is the main reason relationships, parenting, families, and marriages fail, so their advice is to find a way to incur adequate social resources, and no, we do not mean Facebook. We mean f2f irl people. This social resources advice would have done wonders in the 1950s (if the white male paternalism and authoritarianism would have been set aside long enough to let these adequate social resources have an effect).

Ironically MC living represents the family-centered living which is "the best way to build a society and a nation" at the same time that there is Brooks' dreaded "maximum personal freedom to do what they want." We disagree with Brooks about people not being better off when they are given maximum personal freedom, but we agree they’re better off having commitments, connections, and family and civic responsibilities. Can they have lots of freedom and commitments at the same time? Yes—in an MC such things are not only not incompatible, they are integrated together. See how and why this is important—see Why Register for an MC?.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

Brooks brings in politics, as he is kind of a creature of politics. He is part of a longstanding conservative tradition that has to do with Edmund Burke, which is be cautious, don't think you can do all things by government planning. (Edmund Burke said "all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.") The liberals often think of Brooks as their favorite conservative, since he doesn't just spew the conservative agenda and tow the party line, he actually thinks as well—even disagreeing with some current conservative and Republican agendas. He sees the Republican demography being replaced, slowly, by the Democratic demography, and it seems to mean less commitment and more choice, in Brook's eyes. We prefer more commitment and more choice at the same time—the MC way.

Brooks says that "the traditional family is an effective way to induce people to care about others, become active in their communities and devote themselves to the long-term future of their nation and their kind." Ideally, yes, but the average "traditional family" is not quite what the fantasies in his mind are painting it to be. The authoritarian parenting that the traditional family employs fails in many ways which are documented in many of the parenting methods discussed on this website. The inadequate social resources take a huge toll as well, and this adds insult to the injury inflicted by the authoritarian parenting.

Parents purchase forgiveness (for inadequate caregiving) and affection from their kids by giving them lots of things
Parents purchase forgiveness (for inadequate caregiving) and affection from their kids by giving them lots of things

The result rarely will induce people to care about others, become active in their communities and devote themselves to the long-term future of their nation and their kind, since the inadequate caregiving causes guilt trips in the parents, who hope to purchase forgiveness and affection from their kids by giving them lots and lots of stuff. So the kids become selfish and learn to care mostly about themselves, which lowers motivation to become active in their communities and devote themselves to the long-term future of their nation and their kind. The kids become geniuses at guilting and manipulating, but do not learn how to love and care for others and the community and the nation. Their attitudes center upon a context of "what's in it for me?" They do not form the type of character Brooks believes they do. Most conservatives share this delusion. However, MC living is the only way we know to induce people to care about others, become active in their communities and devote themselves to the long-term future of their nation and their kind. It creates the type of character Brooks and the other conservative love to dream about.