Libertarian Culture

Families and time preferences: Should a libertarian society be childfree and polyamorous?

Usually when libertarians talk about marriage, it’s about how the government shouldn’t be involved. When we talk about children, we debate whether or not we can sell them. Rarely do we ever talk about the role of the family in a free society. The US is experiencing a huge decline in the nuclear family, and with it, some very clear economic costs. Fewer people are getting married and the ones who do are waiting longer to take the leap. The average number of children per family is down to .9 from 1.3 in 1970, causing some people to refer to our current period as the “baby bust.” In the face of these statistics and the popularity of social experimentation among young libertarians, it is essential to take another look at the role of the nuclear family in relation to both the well-being of society and the individual.

At first glance, it’s easy to look at these statistics and sing the praises of human progress and individualism. In his article, Capitalism and the Family, Steve Horwitz argues it was capitalism that pulled women out of the household and into the workforce, while simultaneously reducing the demand for child labor. In other words, the birth rate declined and women were able to focus on building their careers before getting married.

While I admire independent women (and men, for that matter) and respect a couple’s personal decision to have fewer or no children, I think my generation is going to experience a huge amount of non-buyer’s remorse for choosing the #singlelyfe or the increasingly popular DINK life. To be clear, I think that less child labor and more working women is likely a good thing; I just think that the pendulum may have swung too far to the other side in an attempt to rebel against the “shackles” of traditionalism.

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