Though the national turmoil in family life has unquestionably opened new divides in political life (on the questions of abortion and gay marriage, for instance), this analysis explores the bewildering cross-cutting tensions surrounding these fissures. The search for ways to bridge such fissures takes on particular urgency because of the mounting costs of family disintegration--social and legal, cultural and psychological. Because they recognize the often-desperate plight of single mothers and their children, policymakers have often worked together in bipartisan fashion to intensify government efforts to collect child support from non-custodial fathers, to place abused children in foster care, and to provide shelter for the family fragments on the street.
But these pragmatic government responses to pressing social needs are no substitute for deeper probing into the cultural causes of these needs. Indeed, as the author probes those causes--including the erosion of the home economy, of restraints on sexual conduct, and of the traditional family wage--he warns that continued reliance on government to compensate for family failure will make matters worse in the long run. While family failure puts ever more burdens on government, this investigation shows how such failure withers the selfless civic impulses that sustain any healthy government.