Posted by: secretperson | April 5, 2008

Family Breakdown – Big Threat

A leading judge, Mr Justice Coleridge, claims family breakdown is as big a threat as global warming. Probably true, if you look at many of the countries problems, such as crime, poor education and poor health, they are all linked in to families. A strong family can provide the support needed for children at home, in order for them to be fit and healthy and to do well at school. Children who do well at school are less likely to turn to crime as kids, which in turn leads on to adult crime.

The problem is, what can be done? Although the Judge has some suggestions, there are no easy answers.

How do you encourage the traditional family (which I believe is normally the best environment for kids) without punishing other families (single parents, unmarried etc), many of which will do a good job?

Does child benefit help the poorest, most in need, families, or does it encourage the sort of irresponsible young mothers who are least able to support kids to have even more?

Is childcare important, or should we not push mothers into work, when they could be spending valuable time with their children in the early years?

Should divorce be harder, to keep families together, or is forcing unhappy marriages together counter-productive and in fact easier divorces may save on the painful wrangling over money and access that can really hurt children?

What is the state’s real role in all this?

You know what, I don’t know what the answer to any of these questions really is. All my instincts support traditional, two parent families, probably because that is how I grew up and I had a happy childhood, and am doing ok now. My political instincts are against too much state inteference and being told what is the best way to live our lives. I suspect New Labour’s instinct is that if families break down the state can run children’s lives for them, and I strongly reject this.

Another problem is that this has a feedback mechanism. The children of broken homes are more likely to cause more broken homes in the future. How are young men to learn about fatherhood growing up without a father? I know when I have kids, I’ll be basing my actions on what my parents did. Maybe one thing I think would help would be to make parents legally responsible for their children’s actions, therefore encouraging them to discipline them.

In one of the most mis-understood quotes of all time Margeret Thatcher said:

They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.

This was a cry, I believe, not for selfishness, but for personal responsibility. Many blame Thatcher’s messages of selfishness for the social problems of today, and there is an element of truth in that.
But that is because a combination of letigious blame culture and intefering nanny state has removed personal responsibility. If we take Thatcher’s quote in that light, then I believe it offers a positive message.



  1. I know lots of people whose parents’ marriage ended in the 80s because of the stress of dad being on unemployed for years…

    A return to full employment might stop family breakdown – we have millions of young people out of work, not in education or training…

  2. Yes I think we’d all like to see full(ish) employment, give or take people in between work, students and parents raising children.

    How do we achieve this though?

  3. I’ll answer using lyrics from the song, “hallelujah, I’m a bum”

    “Why do you work eight hours or more?
    If you only worked half we could both work for four!”

  4. Limited working hours? The 35 hour week didn’t cut unemployment in France.

    How about reducing immigration


    Clinton style Welfare reform?


    I’ve heard some bad consequences, people forced into all sorts of work, but it would raise employment, and might be of long term benefit.

    But hey, if it was easy they’d have done something by now wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t they?

  5. France is a capitalist country – capitalism requires unemployment, a reserve army of labour to hold down wages…

    I don’t favour unlimited and unplanned migration – a tool of the capitalists to hold down wages.

    “Why don’t you save the money you earn?
    If I didn’t eat, I’d have money to burn!”

    Man, I love that song…

  6. Ah yes I was forgetting your namesake and thinking only in terms of capitalism. After all, to slightly paraphrase Churchill on democracy, capitalism is the worst system, apart from all the others we have tried.

  7. Capitalism is a system, yes, but a system of class rule – so it’s not as if there’s been any other socio-economic system in this country for the last few hundred years. I might remind you that only in the last ninety years has there been a full democracy – so let’s not confuse capitalism and democracy!

  8. Don’t worry, I am not confusing capitalism with democracy! China is an example that you can have one without the other, although I don’t know if there are many democratic but highly socialist societies?

    I’m afraid I might be confusing capitalism as class rule, with some kind of free market (with some small help for the needy) meritocracy which would be my favoured system.

    I have to admit I am not exactly up on my economics! Generally I prefer the government as a small tool of collective action which generally doesn’t affect day-to-day life too much, as opposed to a feudal landlord we all owe allegiance to if we want anything back, which seems to be the danger of too much statism. I might do a post sometime on why Gordon Brown wishes he was William the Conqueror.

  9. I look forward to that post!

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