W. Bradford Wilcox: Salt Lake City is an economic success for children
Still, the Salt Lake City metro success story suggests, as William Galston noted in his classic "Liberal Purposes" (1991), a certain paradox for our day: namely, the success of liberalism may depend in part on thriving non-liberal institutions, including family and civil society. Galston, a noted Democratic political philosopher who now serves as a fellow at the Brookings Institution, was particularly attentive in this book to the importance of the family in cultivating such liberal virtues as self-mastery, independence, moral responsibility and law abidingness. He wrote: “From the standpoint of economic well-being and sound psychological development, the evidence indicates that the intact, two-parent family is generally preferable to the available alternatives.”
For Galston, it followed that family life could not be governed by liberal principles such as “individual freedom and choice” but, rather, families with children needed to be attentive to traditional moral categories such as duty and responsibility. In other words, realizing the Rawlsian vision of justice for the least among us, and giving poor kids a shot at the American dream, may depend on the nation’s capacity to revive communitarian virtues and institutions. Judging by the new Harvard-Berkeley study, the Salt Lake City metro area may offer some lessons to those of us trying to revive the American dream across this great land of ours.
W. Bradford Wilcox, Ph.D. is a senior fellow for the Institute for Family Studies, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. This article is adapted from an earlier piece that appeared on www.family-studies.org.
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