PERSPECTIVEnFRIENDS OF THE FAMILYnE eryone wants to save the American family. Not a dayngoes by, it seems, without some pohtician or professornissuing a call to arms or an invitation to a congressionalnhearing. For a long time the family had been a conser’ative/nRepublican issue, but last fall both Mr. Mondale and Ms.nFerraro made a great show of their own w holesome domesticnlife—it worked better with the Mondales than with thenZacearos. What a world. We are back to the old politicalnslogans of mom and apple pie, and they have even lessnsubstance than they did back in the 1940’s.nWe were not always so unanimous in support for motherhoodnand the nuclear family. In the years between thenEisenhower Administration and the Reagan restoration,nmost of what we heard about the family was unpleasant.nPsychiatrists described it as the setting for Oedipal traumata;nleftist social critics spoke continually of the alienation andnloneliness which is the heritage of bourgeois domesticity;nwhile feminists and homosexuals complained of the ruthlessnindoctrination into the ideology of sex roles andnpatriarchy. The family was ailing, they all agreed, and thenkindest treatment was to bury the dead and erect new^ socialnstructures on the foundations of equality and sensitivity.nRadical feminists continue to cling to the 60’s goldenndreams—a society of hermaphrodites—but no one seemsnto be listening. Instead, the political remnants of thencommitted left are studying ways to save the family. SenatornChris Dodd can be seen practically joining hands withnSenator Denton in a common front, and reeentiy Harvardnwas haunted by one of its ghosts from the 60’s, PatnMoynihan, whose Godkin lectures are a replay of his 1965ndemand for a national policy that will “promote the stabilitynof the American family.”nBefore being overcome by this rush of good feeling,nAmerican families—that is to say, most Americans—neednto consider what it is the planners and politicians intend tonsae us from, since most of us see the government not as thensolution but as the main source of the problem. Predictably,nmost of the discussion centers around welfare issues: aid tonpregnant women, family assistance programs, and thenprevention of family violence. Obviously, these are all goodnthings. No decent person enjoys the idea of batterednchildren or starving expectant mothers, but not all problemsncry out for government solutions; the remedies, as Tacitusnsuggested, can be worse than the disease. Most Americansnfaored civil rights for Blacks and. women, but were lessnthan enthusiastic about busing and affirmative action. Whatnexactly do the friends of the family have in mind?nOne sure sign of danger in the family issue is the frequentnmention of rights: pregnant women have a right to adequatennutrition; children have a right to be reared in a wholesomennnenvironment and to receive a good education. As SenatornDodd explained to the New York Times, “There is a directnrelationship between a child’s educational performance andnnutrition.” Set aside the lack of evidence for the senator’snassertion and look at his overall commitments—to “humannrights” in El Salvador and to equality in the U.S. What henand the other equal rights advocates seem to be driving at isnthis: government, whether state or Federal, must undertakento guarantee a good start in life for all our citizens. Anmalnourished or abused child grows into a poor studentnwho grows up into an adult social problem, an unemployednilliterate, condemned to live on welfare and vote for ChrisnDodd. The goal is equality, and the only way to providenequality of opportunity, so they tell us, is to guarantee anroughly equal start for everyone. Here we come to the heartnof the matter. Some parents work hard, take their childrennto church, encourage them to read—in short, do their bestn(continued on page 34jnJULY 198515n