Liberalism and the Family

with Scott Yenor,
hosted by Richard M. Reinsch II

Richard Reinsch (00:18):

Welcome to Liberty Law Talk. I’m Richard Reinsch. Today, we’re talking with Scott Yenor about his new book, The Recovery of Family Life. Scott Yenor is a professor of political science at Boise State University, and he is the Washington fellow at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life. He’s the author of several books on the family, and is also a frequent contributor to Law & Liberty. So Scott, we’re glad to have you on the program.

Scott Yenor (00:50):

Thanks for having me, Richard. It’s my pleasure.

Richard Reinsch (00:52):

So The Recovery of Family Life, the full title, Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies. What’s going on in The Recovery of Family Life?

Scott Yenor (01:02):

Well, the book is divided into three sections. The first section is really on what those powerful modern ideologies are that are undermining family life. I identify modern feminism, contemporary liberalism, and sexual liberation theories as really powerful ideologies that are shaping the way young people, and even now by the time we are middle-aged people, think about their lives, about themselves, about sex. The attitudes that are cultivated by those ideologies make it very difficult for people to imagine married life, to live responsible family life, to cultivate character in their children, sometimes even to have children. All of these basic things that we took for granted that a civilization needs can no longer be taken for granted. These ideologies are the reason for that, I would say.

Richard Reinsch (02:03):

We think about the modern liberal state, which under its official ideology, it’s going to leave us alone, largely, to pursue our own different visions or things we want to do or what we think is good. It’s going to leave us alone. Why should the modern liberal state concern itself with the family? Isn’t that just something private? I mean, does the law really care about family? Should it?

Scott Yenor (02:29):

Yeah. I mean, I think that no matter what happens, the state is in someway concerned about the family. It takes an official stance of neutrality, but it’s always legislating a kind of morality. Let me try to illustrate that with an example. I think the best example of that is obscenity law. It used to be that the state prevented the circulation of obscenity because it was worried about how exposure to obscenity would cultivate kinds of character, or kinds of states of mind in people, point them away from marital life, and that was the justification for limiting the circulation of obscenity. But, now that we’ve gotten rid of all of those limits, the state is officially neutral. You can watch pornography, or you can choose not to watch pornography. But, the circulation, the mass circulation of pornography makes it more desirable, more available. It appeals to something that’s deep within us. Therefore, the removal of restraints and the official stance of neutrality has done a lot to pornify, if you want to say that, the culture and to shape the minds of men and women when it comes to how their relationships will go. So it’s true that you can choose not to watch pornography, but it’s also true that by removing those restraints, the official stance of the culture has become much more open to it. There is ever increasing venues for both making and viewing it. There is more public acceptance of it. You could use other examples in the same way.

Richard Reinsch (04:18):

But now, with regard to the family, I’m trying to think about things that developed 40, 50, 60 years ago. I mean, I had a conversation with a older lawyer when I was just starting practicing. He had actually had been involved in marriage cases under the old fault-based standard for divorce, and had defended people against becoming divorced and trying to prove that fault had not occurred. But my understanding is that was thrown out, because the courts were flubbing it because they had so many people who wanted divorces. And so, basically, the people largely wanted this in terms of maybe the first wave of how America changed the public law regarding marriage. That this was a response to the democratic demand. I guess, one question to you is, was there just something about the way we did things in the past that people found oppressive?

Scott Yenor (05:22):

Yeah, I think they found it oppressive. However, their view of what was oppressive was shaped itself by the culture that they were in. I think, what the example that you’re using of divorce is an excellent example of that, because I think it’s a two-way street. If you change the law, you’re doing that partly in response to popular demand in a democracy for changing the law. Then once you change the law, you shape the way people think about those experiences. So no doubt, many more people wanted to get out of marriages by the 1970s. This was, perhaps, a reflection of a change made 50 years earlier in marriage law, and which unsettled marriage. And that change in the law rebounded, and then shaped the way people approached marriage and approached their experience within marriage. We often just focus on that first angle, or that first part of the relationship, the way that our laws reflect popular opinion, and we neglect the ways in which law shapes public opinion. That’s really what I try to emphasize in the book. I think it’s the classical approach to understanding how the laws shape the minds, the culture, our view of advantageous, good and just on family matters.

Richard Reinsch (06:54):

I was thinking about the descriptions that you have in the book of these different, you say ideologies, and I think about also anthropology as well. Talk about this, you call it the rolling revolution. Does the rolling revolution, does it necessarily aim at the destruction of the family, or what’s going on there?

Scott Yenor (07:10):

First of all, what is the rolling revolution? What I try to do is show how each of these three ideologies, but especially the ideology of feminism and sexual liberation theory, have posited for themselves a goal. The goal of feminism is to get beyond gender, so that no one’s life is affected by their sex, and no expectations about how you live would be determined by your being a man or a woman. Sexual liberation theory wants to get us beyond repression. Repression is a reflection of our desire to have somethings about our lives, our sexual lives, be private and pointed toward love and community. The changes that have been wrought by these ideologies have been toward those goals. Feminism and sexual liberation theory are trying to erase really important parts of human nature that are very difficult to erase, so that they have to keep doing more and more reforms. It’s an endless, almost infinite aspiration that they have set for themselves. Since it can’t be achieved, it always has more work to do. The family, I would say, is collateral damage on the way toward achieving those goals. Married life and family life really have a lot to do with sexual restraint. And if you’re going to achieve a culture that is beyond repression, you’re going to have to get rid of expectations that men and women will be faithful to one another in marriage, that they will produce children, that sex is related to procreation. You’re going to have to roll over those expectation. So that the family and married life are collateral damage in the achievement of the goals that these ideologies have set for themselves.

How do we account for the fact that marriage has really been destroyed in communities among the lower, more than half of the population?

Richard Reinsch (09:11):

Many people, women who call themselves feminists, would, I think listening to your description would say, “I don’t know if that’s what I’m aiming at. I just want opportunities in the workplace, to be treated according to my work, to not have double standards.” It is the case, they can look back and point to history where women were treated not just differently, but oppressed under quote, “the old regime.” How do you respond to that?

Scott Yenor (09:38):

I do think that those things are true. Many women just think of feminist as simply in terms of expanding opportunities or ending discrimination. The general ideology of feminism wants to sell their ideology on a level that is acceptable to many people. What I call that in the book is retail feminism. The goal is choice, they say, or opportunity, they say, but the difficulty is when you get down to brass tacks. How do you know when choice has been accomplished? The deeper feminist thinkers deal with these questions. They say that you can only know that women are freely choosing when they choose exactly the same as men, that the world has to be 50-50, so we would consider it to be an injustice if there were not 50% of the women being CEOs. They never say 50% of the plumbers have to be women, but 50% of the engineers need to be women. So these high status jobs need to be divided equally among the sexes. Choice is something that can be justified on liberal grounds. If understanding when choice, so-called, is achieved takes the feminist beyond liberalism towards a social engineering angle that becomes really necessary for feminism. So I think it’s one of the greatest successes of feminism that they sold their ideology in terms that are broader than their actual aims, and they’ve achieved a great political success as a result of that way of framing it. But, when you get underneath it, you realize that it’s a much deeper, more radical agenda that requires the remaking of an entire culture.

Richard Reinsch (11:30):

Yeah. I mean, as I was listening and thinking about your argument, the Scandinavian countries comes to mind. Sweden comes to mind where, to my knowledge, I think it’s Sweden where parliament, I think, their legislative chamber has to have a certain number of women. I think they mandated representation on boards. It has to have a certain number of women, corporate boards. And that seems to be what the situation you’re describing. When I think about this ideology working in American life, do we see it that way and do we see it impacting, say, the state and the family in an ideological way? I’m thinking about also family dissolution. Is that feminist ideology working in a lot of these cases, or is it something else, a lot of other things going on? What do you say?

Scott Yenor (12:20):

I think feminism works itself out more in the failure of families to form than it does in compromising families that do form. So I think it does have effects there. So I think the way I would respond to that is that feminism teaches women that a career oriented life is the most fulfilling life. It recognizes, or I’d say it stigmatizes those who would be, quote, “near mothers,” or “only mothers,” or “just a mother.” Therefore, it judges itself based on the extent to which women are career oriented. I should say, therefore, again, it valuates institutions based on whether or not they have achieved a balance between men and women. We see that the more career oriented women are, the less likely they are to enter into marriage early and to enter into marriage at all. The younger generations we see, the predictions are, that about 40% of the people who are now under 40 will never married. I think feminism considers that a great achievement, because people are prioritizing other aspects of their identity over being mothers or wives or fathers and husbands. And that is precisely where the rolling revolution, as feminists articulate it, want to take human beings. So I think the Swedish example was a good example, because there you have fewer families forming and a great career orientation among the women.

Richard Reinsch (14:02):

Within the modern liberal state, because I don’t see an America… You can correct and I know you know public policy better than I do. I don’t see the government so much directing outcomes according to this particular ideology. And if, in fact, it is the case that women are making these choices, I mean, isn’t that just something we live with?

Scott Yenor (14:21):

I do think the government is really involved in that. The way we treat education is a governmental matter. The emphasis in all of our education toward career orientation as opposed to what it looked like probably 60, 70 years ago, where there were some assumed sex differences in education, because there was assumed sex differences in future life roles. After you do that for a few generations, there is actually no one left who will sit there and talk about how there is an expectation that men and women will do different things in their lives in order to live complimentary lives with one another. There is also anti-discrimination laws. One of the rages right now on universities is trying to increase the number of women in STEM fields, because they’re thought to be underrepresented. There is a lot of, I think, violations of anti-discrimination laws in those scholarships and recruitment programs, because there is an aim toward getting 30% women in engineering. Then after 30%, it will be 35% to try to ratchet it up. So I think there are a lot of ways in which government promotes careerism, but the broader point that you’re making that I think I agree with is that there is a reflection of culture in all of this. The feminist way of thinking, the way of imaging what a woman and a man should be has been very successful in cultivating the attitudes and the state-of-mind of young people, and as I say, now middle-aged people, at this point. And because of that, whenever there is a disparity between men and women in a particular institution, people are embarrassed by it. Whenever there is not a woman on the faculty, it’s thought to be a problem just in itself. So there is no doubt, it’s a powerful culture, but I want to always emphasize that I think the culture has been built, at least in part, through laws, intensions in order to reshape it.

Richard Reinsch (16:25):

One of the interesting things about Charles Murray’s book, Coming Apart, and has been a source of a lot of interesting commentary, is how put together upper middle class families are. I would just mentioned, many of those are going to be two-earner households. Then Murray points out, but family life gets less stable, less married the more you go down the income distribution scale, so middle class and then working class, things really start to drop off. But, I would just take my experience in higher education working with a lot of academics, to the extent you’re going to have women who really think of themselves in this capacity. They actually maybe have, maybe are working and having strong families, stable families. Have you thought about that, that interesting disconnect?

Scott Yenor (17:17):

Yeah. I mean, there is two Americas when it comes to marriage. And so, the upper class marriage that Murray describes in the Belmont of America, it’s what Robert Putnam calls the neo-traditional marriage. The neo-traditional marriage, there is probably a lot of sex before marriage, which happens later. It happens after careers have been established for men and women. But after they are married to one another, they stay married, they raise children. The children are responsible. It’s almost the exact same stats when you look at the extent to which marriages stay together now as it was in 1980 among the upper 20%. And then when you look at the lower 80% in America, and I imagine this as the problem of rural America and the problem of urban America, where you see the marriage rates are a third of what they were in 1980. About 25% of people will get and stay married in the rural whites and urban blacks in America, and this is the failure to form problem. So how do we account for that? How do we account for the fact that marriage has really been destroyed in communities among the lower, more than half of the population?

My answer to that is that the upper class doesn’t enforce any kind of morality or sex roles for the lower classes. No one is prepared to be a wife or a husband in their education, in the expectations that people have for them and therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised that no one is actually fit for it. The examples have been erased. The education that one would expect to point people toward family life no longer does. There is no official teaching of what the proper role of a man is, and what a proper role of a woman is. Without those proper roles being taught, men and women are lost at sea, especially in the lower classes. So these people are not genuinely feminist. The women of the lower classes are not feminists. They don’t study Susan Moller Okin and Betty Friedan. But, they live downstream from feminism. Living downstream from feminism means that they live in a culture without expectations for what men and women should be. As religious practice declines among the lower classes, as the idea of sex roles decline among the lower classes, what we’re getting is two different kinds of men, either hyper masculine gang members or men who retreat into themselves and spend a lot of time playing video games and watching pornography. We’re getting women who want to be independent, but therefore don’t know how to attract and keep men around. And so, it’s a huge problem in the lower class, but I would say it’s caused by our official ideology.

Richard Reinsch (20:22):

The men is interesting. The data that I’ve read, 25% of prime working age men in this country do not work, which is a depression, Great Depression type statistic. There is not a lot of thought about that. I mean, there are people who write about it. But, that is a striking number. What do you make of that?

Scott Yenor (20:41):

Yeah. What I make of it is that when you don’t expect men to be providers, if you don’t give men a purpose for their ambition, for their work, if you don’t give them something to sacrifice toward, they are purposeless people. One of the things that over the course of human life that people have always aspired to do is marry, have children, be responsible for them. If you destroy that particular ambition, well, what are the men supposed to provide for? What are they supposed to channel their ambition for? How are they supposed to understand the sacrifices that they’re willing to make for something outside of themselves? So I think one of the great crimes of feminism is to stigmatize the idea that the most loving expression of male life, the desire to provide, is actually an expression of tyranny. And that has just effects downstream of feminism. That’s the problem we see in both rural and urban America.

The investigation that Tocqueville undertook is, well, why did America not fall for the idea that individuals are better off alone? His answer to that was I think had several aspects to it, but one was that Americans were almost all raised in families in an environment where that was expected and honored and there were strong roles for men and women. Another aspect of it was that Americans would get together for civil activity, but they were prepared for that because they already learned the sacrificed and lived beyond themselves in families.

Richard Reinsch (21:46):

One of the reasons why I’ve wanted to interview you is, looking at virtually every country in the West, it’s striking to me, I know it’s striking to you, that I don’t think there is one that actually has a replacement level birthrate. There might be one or two.

Scott Yenor (21:59):

Israel is the only one.

Richard Reinsch (22:01):

Israel has above, right? I mean, they’re like three.

Scott Yenor (22:03):


Richard Reinsch (22:04):

Yeah, three children per family. Jonathan Last, formerly of the Weekly Standard, now editor of The Bulwark, wrote a book about this maybe six or seven years ago, and describing it not just as a Western, but a worldwide phenomenon of flagging birthrates. When we think about the flagging birthrates, to me, that’s just a big signal that there’s problems in the moral ecology, social, cultural ecology of Western countries. But to the extent there is reflection and thinking about it, well, government should give people more money and more resources. He wrote a piece on this recently for Law & Liberty, in which he didn’t think that was necessarily going to do much. What do we know about those policies, just in terms of trying to deal with this problem, which to me indicates you’re onto something in thinking about the lack of family formation?

Scott Yenor (22:54):

Yeah. I mean, many countries have these policies now. They seem to have a marginal, short term benefit. Hungary has adopted, I think, the most generous policy on these matters, and its birthrate skyrocketed from something like 1.2 to 1.35. Conservatives all across America took this as evidence that we need a family policy and rallied behind Mitt Romney’s child assistance program. I’m not opposed to the child assistance program, but I just think we have to have genuine expectations for what any of these programs can do. The decision to have children is not an economic decision. It’s a decision that is shaped by what is honored in a political community and how much hope the human beings have for the health of their political community and their own lives. If people have no faith in the future, if people do not trust any of the institutions of government, if they don’t trust churches or schools, if they think the country is headed in the wrong direction, all of these things are just indicators that they don’t have hope for the future of their country and therefore, they are less likely to have children. Another point is, if a political community doesn’t honor having children, it doesn’t consider it part of a good life, the genuine narrative of what contributes to a good life, there is going to be fewer people marrying and staying married. These factors are much more crucial than the marginal economic benefits that you can get from child assistance programs. When I wrote that piece for you, I got a picture from someone sent to me by email, which was of a very impoverished Nebraska family living in a dirt hut with cornstalks as their roof. They were standing outside of this and there were 13 children and a mother and a father. I don’t think they were asking for the child assistance program. They weren’t, because the family life was honored and there was a lot of hope in the country, and this was probably something like 1880, that the best days of the country were in front of it. So I think the birthrates are genuinely a crisis of confidence in civilization and an indication that marriage and family life are not honored in that civilization.

Richard Reinsch (25:24):

Something that I think about is just prosperity itself and how that changes community, because community is hard. I mean, I’m an advocate. I mean, Robert Nisbet is a significant thinker in my life, but I recognize how hard they are, how hard family life can be, how the people closest to us can be hard to deal with. People have those experiences. Another way of thinking about this, and get your reaction, prosperity, a welfare state that it underwrites, makes individualism fun. We can have community on the cheap when we want it.

Scott Yenor (26:02):

So let’s think about that for a little bit. I mean, so the great thinker of individualism that I turn to when I think about this stuff is Alexis de Tocqueville. He saw America as one of the… There is no inherited ranks in America. The idea that the individual heart is a standard of justice and where the good life will be lived, “self-interest rightly understood,” he called it, but it’s a moral center, though he recognized the individualism of America. The investigation that he undertook is, well, why did America not fall for the idea that individuals are better off alone? His answer to that was I think had several aspects to it, but one was that Americans were almost all raised in families in an environment where that was expected and honored and there were strong roles for men and women. Another aspect of it was that Americans would get together for civil activity, but they were prepared for that because they already learned the sacrificed and lived beyond themselves in families. But they would get together in civil associations to accomplish great things. It was more powerful when people banded together and therefore, government didn’t have to become very powerful. And so, I think, really at the root of the whole way of teaching individualism or enhancing the purview of the individual for Tocqueville was family life. I think Americans understood that for the longest time. Really, only until the powerful ideologies that we’re talking about here became prominent in the American landscape gives a Tocquevillian synthesis, or the way of improving individualism fall apart. The argument was that community is hard. Family can be oppressive. Family can be the source of great disappointment. There is something true about that. So let’s throw out the bathwater and the baby went with it. Oh, and the babies went with it. I’m going to have to use that somehow in the future as a tagline.

Richard Reinsch (28:11):

And what I think too. I mean, I think about that a lot. Family can be oppressive. It can be a source of disappointment as you say. But then the question is, what are you going to replace it with? Because as we look to, say, countries in Europe, which I think socially are a generation typically ahead of America, the answer is not much. I mean, a large welfare state. Individualism, creature comforts, and things like that, it seems to me that’s not the most satisfying way to live and yet, there it is. A question for you too, you mentioned Tocqueville, I mean, that was something I was going to bring up, is this… You’ve got these ideologies in your book that you describe. Is it that or is it just something, maybe this isn’t opposed to it, but is it just democracy itself leads us towards egalitarianism, leads us away from these sorts of arrangements where people are marked out to do particular things and it just, democracy over time, just flattens us? You’re right, Tocqueville pointed to things he thought that would make America stand out. But it’s just this slow process that we’re going through and I don’t know how it ends.

Scott Yenor (29:23):

Yeah, I mean, that’s something I think deeply about too, Richard, because the whole decline of family life and marriage do seem in some way to be the working out of the liberal principles of liberty and equality, which are right there at the beginning, and is there no stopping point for these particular principles? We can understand equal protection of the laws or equal treatment of the laws, but feminism takes that same principle and says that there needs to be equal outcomes between men and women if there is going to be a just society, but it’s still the principle of equality. How can we find a limit on equality, stop it from becoming equal protection and becoming equality of resolve? Do those qualifications on equality have to come from outside of liberalism? I think the answer to that is yes. They have to come from outside of liberalism. So liberalism is friendly to those things that come from outside of it. It’s friendly to the idea that some limits on equality will make human beings happy, will make them better, will make for a self governing community better, will make people more civilized. So liberalism is open to those qualifications. So what I try to spend a lot of time doing is showing ways in which we can leverage the resources within human nature, within public opinion still, so that we can ratchet back some of the aspects of the rolling revolution. But whether or not I’m hopeful that those things will be accomplished is another matter.

Richard Reinsch (31:01):

When we think about immigration policy in Western countries, I mean, we roll off this statement that, well, we need it. We need more immigration because of demographics, aging demographics, not enough children and so, we’ll have to have immigration. Well, one, I understand that argument, I guess. I always tend to think in the back of mind, well, what does that mean about us thought, that we need people, in many cases? In Europe’s case, you’ve got people from a different civilization coming in, which is going to inherently bring problems. But I think that’s a question I have. Isn’t there something wrong with us profoundly?

Scott Yenor (31:37):

I think about that question a lot too. One of the things I went and wrote for Law & Liberty about a year ago was an analysis of an old book, Christianity and Classical Culture. I looked at what was happening in the Roman Empire, because people recognized it was falling apart. The things that characterized that falling apart were steadily declining birthrates, the desire to integrate whole classes of people from outside of the empire within in the empire, that is to become Roman citizens, the Barbarians, in this particular cases. I think all of these thing go together, declining birthrates, failure to marry and live for beyond the short term, decadence, political decadence. We call it progress, because it’s progress in the rolling revolution. But, I think all of these things are ultimately signs that civilization is teetering on the edge of collapse, and that the society has become decadent. It’s really hard to image. I mean, people send me a lot of articles, because I write a lot in public these days. Just in the last two days, I’ve gotten articles like, “Father Wants to Marry Daughter, Adult Daughter,” from The New York Post. There was an expose about a new kind of pornography. I can’t remember its name, but you can own your own pornography and become your own agent instead of having to use something like PornHub as a middle man. These things are all really celebrated. It’s really hard to imagine that any healthy political community would celebrate what we celebrate. We can only really understand what’s going on there in terms of this next roll in this revolution that’s been going on. But, as a civilizational principle, something that you can imagine lasting 100 years or 50 years, it’s difficult to see these ideologies as very fruitful. I think, one of the leading edges in our understanding of political decadence is this collapse of family life. Another indication of it is the fact that we’re willing to make up for it by importing new people into the political community. Historically, that’s never led to health. Luckily, no one knows anything about history anymore, so they can’t talk about Rome.

Richard Reinsch (34:03):

The point has been made too, America was… Up until I think 2008, from things that I’ve read, we had a positive birthrate, largely I think because of new immigrants, and now we don’t. Part of that, the pandemic is working and then the financial crisis in 2008. I don’t think they’ve ever really recovered though in the last decade. Something people will say is, “Well, people who are newly arrived to this country aren’t having children the way that we expected.” I tend to think to myself, “I guess, we have a faster acculturation process maybe than we thought.” The modern liberal state as you think of it… I mean, there are a lot people, conservatives turning against liberalism broadly. Do you see the modern liberal state being the problem necessarily, or is it not necessarily that, it’s… I mean, and I guess maybe this question answers itself with your idea of the rolling revolution. So if we did have a classic liberal state, could we just put these things to the side and say, well, the state is not really going to be concerned either way. It’s just going to focus on basic tasks. Would that be a better way to go and just try and get out of all of these cultural war scenarios and let private institutions work?

Scott Yenor (35:15):

Yeah. I mean, there is good solutions and there is less bad solutions. And so, the way I would rank them is that a state that’s actively trying to break up the family is worse than one that actually takes a night watchman’s approach and doesn’t do that much damage. I still think there is a real limit on what can be accomplished under such a state, but the situation to be in is one where the state favors a kind of indirect support for an enduring marital form between a man and a woman. So perhaps, we’d want to work toward limits on divorce. There would also be a culture that would be shaped through regulations that would limit things that are hostile to married life. So once again, we’d talk about limits on pornography, but also things like limits on maybe adultery can be a crime instead of just a civil matter. This was the old way of approaching these matters. I think there is wisdom in these old ways. I don’t think they can be accomplished in the same way, but the general tenets of the liberal state are that the state should favor a particular kind of marital form and the state should be interested in cultivating an environment where people are more likely to marry and stay married. Those are things that can’t be really thought of in terms of just retreating. But retreating is obviously better than active hostility.

Richard Reinsch (36:53):

If we think about states and localities had through most of American history a very strong moral police power. And so, things like adultery were, in many cases, illegal. I mean, many things are proscribed that if people knew about it, or if they’re told about it, they can’t believe it. The idea being that it would undermine the family and that would undermine community and social, political order. I guess, that’s not something people now are going to agree with. A libertarian idea is well, let’s just get the state completely out of all of this stuff. Easier said than done. I asked that question too as a, do I see… I mean, we have people to point to. We have a government that just recently passed policies that the Biden administration for the next year, I think, is going to pay every family with a combined income under $150,000 a year a monthly payment per child. Can you confidently say that a federal government and state governments undermine family life, or is it more of just a cultural and social choices people are making?

Scott Yenor (38:01):

Yeah. I mean, I think I can confidently say both.

Richard Reinsch (38:03):


Scott Yenor (38:04):

So I mean, when you look at things like sex ed, which is now a pre-K thing in some states. Certainly, there is pretty radical agendas in all states. We’re just actually having some of that come up here in Idaho where there is a pretty radical sex ed curriculum in the public schools for first through third grades where… It’s a family show, so I won’t discuss exactly what’s going on in that curriculum. But, I will say that one of the representatives was going to read from the state’s House floor what was in the curriculum and she was ruled out of order because it was indecent.

Richard Reinsch (38:40):


Scott Yenor (38:41):

Which is a great irony. Basically, that’s just the next roll in the revolution is the sexualization of children. Now, that is happening in the culture. There is no doubt about it. You can see that in commercials and television shows and probably teen magazines and things like that. But, it’s also an intentional government ambition. It’s happening all over the country. They’re moving in tandem, so they’re probably even coordinating their actions. And so, I don’t think that either of them exist in the absence of the other. But, the important thing that you’re talking about there is that just limiting what government does, it’s probably not going to save as much as you’d help. But, it does give parents more space to operate if government isn’t actively undermining things. So as I say, the first thing is, do no harm. And then see if you can do good. And so, just removing government from sex ed would be a kind of neutrality. It’s interesting that no matter how much we confess that we’re a liberally neutral political community, we haven’t gotten government out of the sex ed business. It’s gotten more and more into it, trying to do a sex ed in a neutral way. But obviously, peddling a morality to the youngsters who are in there, and parents have to do a lot of counteracting. So I think the framework you’re setting up is a good one and we should recognize that both of these, of the elements of the law and culture, are working in tandem in the same direction.

Richard Reinsch (40:13):

It’s interesting to think about there. Indiana proscribes any sexual education in the government schools here. I mean, think about the homeschooling rising. There is an interesting article I was reading on these hybrid home schools too that have spontaneously formed, classical schools that have formed. I mean, is it the case too, I think people have already just… Many people are trying to exit and have exited and are just trying to build again. I mean, that seems to me also a solution. I guess, in my mind, the political battles have really gone nowhere. Maybe, it’s just the best you can build new institutions might be a much more, or a part of a more effective response.

Scott Yenor (41:00):

Yeah, no, I agree with that with one qualification, that is even these carve outs that people are seeking to build are a part of America. Therefore, they’re infected with the same aspects of the rolling revolution that the rest of America is. I mean, what I’m hoping to do is, through the book, describe the various ways in which these powerful ideologies are shaping our lives unwittingly, even the enemies, to some extent, of these ideology accept some of their premises. And so, that building new communities or trying to find ways out, first, it’s never going to be enough. It’s a short term strategy, but it’s also difficult because of the hegemonic nature of American culture to find a way out. So it’s necessary, I think in the long term, to gain back ground to try to win back institutions, try to identify institutions that are teetering and try to make them more solid. A retreat is obviously a losing strategy, so there needs to be selective offensiveness in order to win one’s own space to live a life.

Richard Reinsch (42:11):

Scott, I think that’s a good way to conclude. We’ve been talking with Scott Yenor, the author of The Recovery of Family Life. Thank you so much for joining us.

Scott Yenor (42:20):

Thanks for having me, Richard.


Aristotle statue

A More Perfect Tyranny

Daniel Klein and Michael Munger are right to worry about tyranny. But reforming the system that oligarchic tyrants control is a fool's errand.