It has become fashionable for politicians to extol the virtues of the family. Yet, in this economic analysis of family policy, Patricia Morgan shows how politicians have been at war with the family over at least the last 25 years. The family is an important vehicle for welfare provision and for income transfers to the most needy and dependent members of society. Yet the state, by providing extensive welfare provision, by financing child-care services and by taxing families on an ever-greater proportion of their income, provides strong incentives for families to break up rather than to hold together, and to form family relationships that are hidden from the authorities. Government policy has crowded out voluntary welfare within families and caused otherwise law-abiding people to commit fraud on a very extensive scale.
The author begins by showing the economic benefits of self-sustaining families. She then shows how government policy has increasingly taken over the role of the family in supporting children. It is clear from the evidence presented here that government policy has caused the breakdown of families: policy has not simply responded to autonomous changes in social behaviour. Patricia Morgan then examines changes to divorce laws and to tax and benefit systems that should help reverse the trend and once again make the family the building block of a welfare society.