Sen. Marco Rubio writes that the most important measure of American strength is her people and her families. The economy is a way to measure the health of American’s people, but it is not useful in and of itself as a measure of prosperity. If this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s because accountants and bureaucrats have captured the positions of political and economic power:
There are many factors that contribute to children’s well-being, but none is more important than strong families. We know this because it’s in our DNA, of course; stable, two-parent families have been the bedrock of all successful civilizations throughout all of history. …
But a true cultural revival requires us to also recognize the inextricable connection between culture and the economy. Shifts in American trade and fiscal policy have profoundly affected American family formation and child-rearing. The growth of capital-light sectors means that companies earn more profits off of less physical investment — which in turn means that short-term profits are quickly directed to shareholders, with fewer middle- and working-class jobs.
America’s shift to a post-industrial, services-based economy also means that jobs that do exist increasingly require expensive training and education. For many working-class, would-be parents, pursuing them means spending years and financial resources to acquire a credential — resources that in a more productive economy could be devoted to spending time with family. On top of this, the more recent rise of the gig economy means even less consistent wages, benefits, and schedules.
Americans routinely report wanting more kids than they have. It’s no surprise that, lacking stable employment opportunities, our marriage and childbirth rates have fallen.
Instead of an economy based on financial and intangible assets, we can shift economic incentives to the number-one driver of dignified work: more domestic business investment. By developing productive, long-life capital assets like new machinery, equipment, and assembly lines, we create enduring work opportunities for Americans.
More stable, productive work means more stable, productive families — and better outcomes for children.
And even if one is skeptical about this line of reasoning, there is a more practical cause for concern about how we structure the American economy and what it means for children’s welfare: the United States cannot compete against China’s 1.3 billion people if we condemn 73 million American children to the sidelines of the future economy.
We want more than we have—not economically, and not even really materially, but socially and culturally. We sense our poverty in critical aspects of our lives, and too many alleged thought leaders believe that economic solutions are the answer to a spiritual malaise of the sort that Jimmy Carter diagnosed and to which Ronald Reagan turned out to be a cure.
I increasingly think we need a new Great Awakening to renew America’s sense of itself as a people with a future.