PERSPECTIVErnUncle Sam’s Childrnby Allan CarlsonrnThe recent election season opened with hopes high forrnan intelligent debate of family issues. The 1991 FinalrnReport of the National Commission on Children (on which Irnserved) seemed to have broken the moral and political logjamsrnthat had long prevented this dialogue. The commissionersrnhad decided, after extensive argument, to avoid the mistake ofrnearlier children’s commissions, which had treated children asrnan independent constituency group needing its own governmentrnservices. Instead, we agreed to focus on children inrnfamilies and to find ways to strengthen the latter. On therngreat question of “whose children are the?” the official answer,rnat least, would be: they belong to their parents, not to therngovernment.rnAffirmed by a unanimous, bipartisan vote, the report emphasizedrnthat children’s well-being depends primarily on thernstatus of their fathers and mothers and that a stable maritalrnunion of self-sufficient adults is the superior setting in whichrnto raise children. The report gae notice to tlie ncgati’c effectsrnof government intervention on families and focused on therndramatic shift of the income and payroll tax burdens onto thernbacks of families. Its primary recommendation was a tax-cutrnfor families raising children, to be achieved through a newrn$1,000 per child tax credit. Given these dominant themes, thernmore traditionalist members of the panel took a certain pridernin winning over the support of liberal members like Jay Rockefeller,rnBill Clinton, and Marian Wright Edelman.rnBut the achievement was short-lived. Already on the day ofrnthe final vote, the Darman-Bush White House was franticallyrnworking to sabotage the report, worried that the endorsementrnof a tax-cut by Republican appointees to the commissionrnwould somehow upset the hallowed “budget agreement” withrnCongress. Soon after, the presidential electoral debate veeredrnback to distorted themes of the past. Mr. Quayle openedrnAllan Carlson is the president ofl’he Rockford Institute andrnthe publisher of Chronicles.rnwith the stale Republican canard that the “media elite” ofrnHolhwood is the cause of family miseries, a variation of neoconservativern”new class” theory. Ignoring the facts, Mr. Bushrnthen traced the family’s breakdown to the Creat Society programsrnof the 1960’s (another staple neoconscrvative theme).rnHe also transformed “family alues” into a metaphor for gaybashing,rnthe 1992 version of “San R’ancisco Democrats,” usedrnto good effect four years earlier. Mr. Clinton responded withrna sterile defense of single-motherhood as a lifestyle choicernand an open embrace of “gay rights.” His wife, meanwhile,rndefended her advocacy of children’s rights and of enhancedrnstate intervention in families.rnIt may be, though, that this deterioration of the 1992 “familyrnalues” debate derived from a deeper weakness in liberalrndemocratic theory. Since Thomas Hobbes first laid out thernideological premises for a society based on the status andrnrights of the individual, the family has had a tenuous foundationrnin Western political theory. For Hobbes, family relationsrnwere simply an exercise in power, where selfish parents claimedrn”dominion oer the infant” by their superior size and strength.rnRecoiling from this brutal frankness, John Locke tried to putrna human face on the Hobbesian scheme. He carved out “arnsort of rule or jurisdiction” for parents over children, and hernfound in childrearing a practical justification for marriage.rnYet the emancipation of the young should occur early on, herncontinued, and the marriage, its function gone, should “dissolvernitself.” John Stuart Mill was less positive. In his famedrnessay on women’s rights, he called the family system of hisrnday oppressive, the seedbed of despotism, and the source ofrnhuman misery, “which svells to something appalling.”rnRclati-e to family life, the genius of the American Constitutionrnof 1787 lay in its avoidance of ideology and its devotionrnto authentic federal principle. Family issues of marriage, divorce,rnchildren, inheritance, education, mutual support, andrnwelfare were not questions for the new federal goernment.rnThese were questions reserved to the states, where Christianrn12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn