medieval families, and even in the ancient world Greeks, Romans,rnand Jews practiced differing marriage customs and pursuedrnsomewhat different styles in rearing children, but one ofrnAristophanes’ characters—Strepsiades in the Clouds, for examplern—could have swapped stories with the patriarchs or with thernfather of the Prodigal Son, and both might come to appreciate,rnafter a few weeks of observation, the affection that lies beneathrnthe bizarre rituals of family life in New Guinea or New Jersey.rnThere is, in fact, a wealth of solid information, from historiansrnand anthropologists, on non-Western cultures, and despiternthe creative richness and ingenuity men and women have displayedrnin devising exotic forms of marriage and family, thevrnconverge upon a human norm of a monogamous pair matedrnmore or less for life and dedicated to the happiness and well-beingrnof their children.rnThe keys to understanding this universal phenomenon arernnot hard to find. Human children require prolonged care andrnsocialization, which necessitates a degree of parental commitmentrnnot required even of chimpanzees. Although the contoursrnof the male/female division of labor may vary slightlyrnfrom age to age and tribe to tribe, they are far from arbitrar)’:rnMen, being bigger, stronger, and more aggressive, are universallyrnhunters, warriors, and statesmen; women, who are hormonallyrnand neurologically programmed for nurturing andrncompassion, have charge of the softer side of life (which oftenrninvolves the harder work).rnThere may be specific biological differences in human beingsrnthat nudge us in the direction of marriage, but even ifrnthere were not, the sexual dimorphism of our species, whenrncombined with the extended care needed by our children,rnwould make the institution inevitable in all but the most desperatelyrnsick societies. I know there are voung men and womenrnwho have concluded that ours is one of those sick societies,rnbut cheer up. If they are right, we shall simply disappear, andrngood riddance.rnThe family is universal, an inevitable institution created outrnof our ver’ nature. Governments did not invent it, and most, ifrnnot all, state inters’entions into the family are destructive. Thisrnis clear not just from policies that undermine family autonomyrn—compulsory schooling, laws on delinquency and childrnabuse, no-fault divorce—but even more from tax policies thatrnconfiscate (in my case) over half the family’s household incomernto waste on pernicious follies like “Star Wars” defensernsystems, free intinticide, and the subsidies for drugs, crime,rnand illegitimacy which, in polite usage, are called “welfare.”rnWe have to quit talking about what governments can do to savernthe family and concentrate on undoing all their massive effortsrnto impoverish families and undermine their autonomy.rnThe family is not some rare exotic art form, like stained glass,rnwhose secrets must be preserved and drilled into generation afterrngeneration of human beings. Two dmnb kids stranded on arndesert island would reinvent marriage and family without anyrnprompting. Marriage and family are natural institutions, andrnalthough they can be corrupted, distorted, and damaged by humanrnarrogance and follv, the results will alwavs be the same: socialrncollapse followed by a renewal of all the ancient and beautifulrnthings without which human life is impossible. If werncould ever succeed in lifting the dead hand of governmentrnfrom our everyday lives—cutting taxes and rolling back virtuallyrnall the social legislation of the past 100 vears—we should notrnhave to worr)’ about the family. American frmilies would takerncare of themselves, as they have alwavs done. ^rnDICTATIONSrnValues Clarificationrnii Family values” is one of thosernthat promises much and deliv<rna first cousin of such eciuallv nrnpolitical slogansrnlivers nothing. It isrnequaJly meaningless Billbennctismsrnas “Western values” and “Great Books.” Thernprimar’ problem with such expressions is that thev arc,rnwell, value-free.rnAt least in the case of “Great Books,” there arc actualrnbooks to lie about. When we come to the word “alues,”rnhowever, it is generally a lie from stiirt to finish. The primaryrnand legitimate meaning of “value” in English isrnprice or vorth. I don’t know how “values” came to bernused as a vaguer synonym for words like “principles” andrn”beliefs.” Perhaps tlie origin lies in the use of values as anrnaesthefic term, e.g., as in the color values of a jxiinting, orrnit may have descended the slippery slope from 19th-centuiyrneconomics to Max Weber’s social theories to Nietzsche’srn”transvaluation of every value.” Isaiah Berlinrnseems to have popularized tiie use of “values” in the dishonestrnmodern sense. Berlin claims to have believed inrn”objective values”—wliich, logically speaking, should berna contradiction in terms: As any Misesian can tell vou,rnvalue is the subjective importance you attach to somethingrnor, in crude terms, what vou arc willing to pay. ButrnBerlin, playing upon the subjective and objective meanings,rngoes on to talk about the incompatibility of valuesrnand opens uj) the whole debate on “values.”rnTo understand the difference between a value and arnprinciple, consider “family values.” When we speak ofrnvarious moral j^rinciples of famih’ life, we know what wernmean: tliat, for example, abortion is homicide or that arnman who divorces one woman and marries another isrnguilh’ of adulten. Wlien, however, we speak of “familyrnvalues,” we mean only that families are good things, thatrnchildren arc nice, and that stable marriages arc worth having-rnI’here is nothing judgmental about values. You havernyour values, I have mine, and so long as each of us sficksrnto his set of values, ever-thing is—as we used lo sav—”copacetic”rn(another meaningless word). In the global market})rnlace of prices and values, there is room for Westernrnvalues and Eastern values, family values and rugged individualistrnvalues, and when vvc go down into that marketplace,rnwe exchange ideas and presumably swap values. Itrnis no doubt very convenient for politicians and undersecretariesrnof education v^ho want to base their campaignsrnon “Ghristian values” without ever letting on what theyrnactually stand for, but anyone who seriously uses “values”rnwithout the quotation marks is probably trying to passrncounterfeit mone’ in the marketplace of ideas.rn— Jlumpt)’ Dumptyrn12/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn