Sunday, August 12, 2007

Political and demographic tides

The September issue of The Atlantic contains an article about political futures in the U.S. in which the author cites the increase incidence of divorce and fractured nuclear families as presaging greater political appetite for interventionist policies. The idea is that without as many close family members to provide non-market insurance, people might increasingly look to the state to provide insurance against economic and other vicissitudes.

This viewpoint is certainly not without historic parallel, even if it is a stretch to assume outright that children of divorcees are destined to be Democrats. As Gary Becker and other have described, the evolution of the family during the last several centuries went hand-in-hand with the rise of market-based substitutes for traditional family roles. One could also see the rise of the modern welfare state as an endogenous response to the declining role of the extended family.