This assumption of rather than to promote good institutions,rnauthorih’ creates an obvious confusion.rnWith so many fingers in the pie of “family policy,” it is easyrnto see why the meaning of “family” is often missing.rnAt the end of the 19th centur}’, France basically pursuedrnpro-natalist policies based largely on argimients deyelopedrnby demographers, who were interested in the living conditionsrnof large families. The assistance that was provided had the objectrnof restimulating fecundity. On the other hand, none of thernmeasures put into place made reference to a precise conceptionrnof the family. Even in the 1930’s, the “birth dearth” andrnaging of the French population influenced public officials torntake a certain number of concrete measures that resulted in thernla\- of July 29, 1939, called the “Family Code.” The scale ofrnfamily allowances became strongly progressive; couples werernencouraged to have their children early; there was a real commitmentrnto assist the formadon of large families.rnAnother ideal to be seen in the French experience is the desirernto promote the family as the basic social unit or “cellule dernbase,” which became the dominant idea after World War II.rnFrom that point on, the family was explicidy regarded as thernnatural basis of individual happiness. This recognition originallyrnmeant that business leaders regarded grants to families asrna genuine family wage, These employers thought that a workerrnwith responsibility for a family, should be paid more than arnbachelor whose income served only his personal needs. . . . Itrnwas only later (in 1932) that these family grants were generalizedrnto include all salaried workers.rnThe Family Code gives privileges to a specific type of family;rnone with three children and a stay-at-home mother. Morerngenerally, the promotion of marriage or of stay-at-home mothersrn(in recognition of their contribution to the formation of humanrncapital) is based on the ver}’ specific role played by the institutionrnof the family in the development of society. A fiscalrnarrangement such as the quotient familial (family allowance),rnestablished in France in 1945, is a concrete realization of thisrnnew attitude toward the family. Contrary’ to what a superficialrnanalysis might lead one to believe, this arrangement was not arnsimple measure designed to provide fiscal incentives but a fundamentallyrnoriginal approach. In the first place, it is the family,rnand not the individual, which is in contact with the fiscal administration.rnUnder such a program, family functions receivernsocial recognition, and the existence of the family as an autonomousrnentity is, in some fashion, made official. The samernapproach emphasizes the family’s rights to social security (forrnexample, health insurance for stay-at-home mothers, and inheritablernpensions).rnElsewhere, family policy concentrates on very specific situations,rnwhether they are peculiar to the institution of the familyrnor not. In Germany, for example, family policy is treated as anrnaspect of social planning, and the object is to maintain equilibriumrnin the different phases of family life. But in the Netherlands,rnthere are measures designed to ensure the emancipationrnof women or the integration of at-risk groups into society. InrnFrance, as we have seen, only certain families benefited fromrnthe system of compensation designed to reimburse families forrntheir responsibilities. But from the beginning of the 1970’s, arnfundamental shift in perspective took place, from paying familiesrnfor the cost of rearing a child (the policy inaugurated afterrnWorld War II) to advocating the rights of the child. In the formerrnsystem, the birth of a child —of whatever class—was notrnsupposed to impose a lower standard of living on the family,rnwhatever its resources might be; while the latter system mayrnjustify the setting of income restrictions on the amount ofrngrants for which a family is eligible.rnThis change is a tangible illustration of the gradual slidernfrom a policy that supports the family toward a policy that triesrnto remedy social inequalities. This tendency is increasingly accentuated,rnparticularly in Sweden and Denmark, where pronatalistrnconcerns and encouragement of the family as a modernof social life are completely absent: The primary goal is to makernsure that maternity does not get in the way of women’s liberation.rnPro-family legislation can also be passed in order to benefitrnthe national economy. This is the case when a government decidesrnto jump-start the economy by distributing buying power,rnor to redirect economic activity’ through fiscal incentives, or tornstimulate employment by creating and subsidizing family businesses,rnor to develop certain business sectors, such as housing,rnby easing access to property or making the levels of rent paymentrnattractive to investors.rnTo complete this little survey, we should consider that inrncertain countries there is an almost total absence of family policy.rnIn this category, one can put Spain, Ireland (even thoughrnthe existence of a family code shows that the family is consideredrnin law), or the United Kingdom (despite certain declarationsrnrecognizing the fundamental importance of the family’srnwell-being as the basis of a stable, responsible, and free society).rnThis category includes both nations where the state refuses tornget involved in what is regarded as an essentially private domainrnor where the term “family” is banished from official texts,rnas it is in the Netherlands, in the name of neutrality.rnIn short, there is no unity of motive or method that can berntraced in the varieties of family policy, and European unificationrnwill not make up for the absence of pro-family provisionsrnin the Maastricht Treaty. On the contrary, the effect will be arnreduction to the lowest common denominator—a family policyrnbrought down to its simplest expression.rnSuch an evolution is not good news for families living inrncountries that have preserved a system of family allowances.rnTo understand the consequences, some thought must be givenrnto possibly high opportunity’ costs that are inflicted when a familyrnpolicy is absent or disappears.rnResponsible politicians who wish to act intelligentiy must bernshown what might be the interest of managing time and moneyrnin support of a specifically family-oriented policy. It is essentialrnto demonstrate that, on the level of basic principles, therndistinction between social policy and family policy is dernrigueur. On this point, the recommendations made in 1996 byrnthe Steering Committee in charge of preparing a French NationalrnConference on the Family are ver)’ precise:rnThe first question to be clarified concerns the conceptionrnof the family. .. . If the expression “basic unit of society”rnis almost naturally applied to the family, thisrnshould not cause us to forget that it refers back to a veryrnprecise conception of the social order resting upon thernexistence of communities of stable persons that onernshould recognize at all institutional levels. From thisrnperspective, the family is the first human community becausernit assures reproduction and supplies the first elementsrnof education. It is the kernel of society in thernsense that it alone could assure its continuity and its fu-rn18/CHRONICLESrnrnrn