Random Family and Inequality
By Arnold Kling
Greg Mankiw posts a video of Harvard colleagues discussing the issue of inequality. It’s very long, so I did not watch all of it, but I skipped around. The one person on the panel who was new to me was Kathryn Edyn. She rattled off some powerful statistics concerning the class divide in terms of families. At the low end of the class distribution, children are likely to grow up not just with single parents, but with single parents who have serial partners, resulting in multiple step-siblings. She calls these chaotic families.*
What is striking is that these facts about family breakdown are viewed so differently by liberals and by conservatives.
1. Conservatives are judgmental, and liberals are not.
2. Liberals are inclined to see progressive policies as the solution to family breakdown. Conservatives are inclined to see progressive policies as the cause of family breakdown.
I think that the reaction of libertarians is to squirm with discomfort. You think that the liberals are in a bad position intellectually, but you are reluctant to affiliate with conservatives on an issue where they are so. . .umm. . .conservative.
* I am reminded of the book Random Family, which I strongly recommend. My favorite passage is on page 124, with its off-hand description of someone killing his best friend.
Mighty had a habit of stepping in front of Cesar whenever they got into shootouts; he was shorter, and Cesar fired over his head. Cesar had repeatedly warned Mighty about this habit, but it was also a testament to the trust between them; Mighty would tease Cesar, saying that Cesar always had his back. But this time, Cesar slipped. He doesn’t remember pulling the trigger, but he remembers his best friend going down, his chin lifting toward the sky as the bullet tore through the back of his head.