Growth with a Purpose: Why Policymakers Should Grow the Family, Not Just GDP

Robert W. Patterson of The Family in America has a fantastic, thought-provoking article up about how we cannot grow the economy without restoring marriage and the family first. Families produce wealth and grow nations.

[W]hat does it mean to “grow” the economy? The growth that the typical American family wants to see is the kind that gives the economy a human or family purpose. It is the kind of growth that allows a breadwinner to earn a “family wage” sufficiently high enough to support and provide benefits for a spouse and children. But as currently constituted, measurements of GDP tell us nothing about the presence or absence of such an economy. As currently constituted, the GDP captures a rather limited range of activities, counting only financial transactions in the “public” and “private” sectors of society, regardless of their impact on the family. Moreover, the GDP only adds things up—it never subtracts—meaning that all monetary exchanges in these two sectors of society are treated the same whether or not they actually build a healthy economy or serve the family….

While most economists treat the family as an adjunct to the market, there would be no social capital, no private sector, and no public sector without the family. There would be no economy without the social sector. In reality, the private and public sectors are adjuncts to the social sector. Yet the activities of marrying as well as bearing children, which Adam Smith considered among factors of lasting economic growth and true wealth in capitalist societies like the United States, are not counted in the GDP. In fact, many economists look at children, although surely not their own children, as a special kind of consumer good. Likewise, all the vital production of a full-time, at-home mother—caring for and rearing children, food preparation, household management, volunteering, and even homeschooling—does not count in the GDP because it does not involve a financial transaction….

All this raises doubts about “growing the economy” in ways measured by the GDP, a metric that fools Americans into believing that the nation is moving forward when in fact the country may be moving backwards. If all the country is doing economically is the equivalent of digging holes in the ground and refilling them with dirt, the last thing America needs is a preoccupation with economic indicators that fail to capture what really matters.

Read the entire piece at THIS LINK.

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