Big Questions

Q Caring for children and others is widely accepted as a moral good. Why do public policies often work against caregiving instead of supporting it?

A Good question! As an advocate for children I have long puzzled over this. Every religion preaches caregiving. The United States is often considered the most “religious” nation; yet it ranks low among nations for policies that support and encourage caregiving.

Research and common sense show that policies such as parental leaves at childbirth, more flexibility in hours of work, leave time to care for sick relatives, and affordable community health services support the development of caring families and communities.

Nations that support care for children with policies like these, including Canada, Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia, do well economically. So one common reason for not offering these policies—a lack of resources—is not an adequate explanation. It would take more space than this column to explore the deeper values that might explain it. Further discussion in our churches would be helpful.

But for now I prefer to look forward because I see signs of hope. New movements to build an economy of care show promise. Current leaders in the women’s movement, including Anne-Marie Slaughter in her book Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, are focusing on equitable treatment for caregiving, whether it is done by women or men.

If Christians spoke up as loudly in support of caregiving as they do in opposition to some other moral issues, more workplaces and governments at all levels would adopt policies that recognize and support the caregiving roles of all men and women.

About the Author

Kathy Vandergrift teaches public ethics to university students and advocates for the rights of children.

See comments (1)


Or the answer might be that the population of the United States is still somewhat less inclined to find all solutions to all problems in federal and/or state legislation.  The question lacks specificity, of course, so one can only suggest a general answer.

It is also a moral good to refrain from adultery, or from coveting, or from taking God's name in vain; and to love God above all, and to love your neighbor as yourself -- but the US has no laws that compel the refraining from, or the doing of, these.  Thankfully, I would suggest.

Just because something is a moral good does not mean government must or should create laws to do it, support it, or refrain from doing it.  To suggest otherwise, again generally speaking, is to suggest diminishing political freedom, or to use a term others may more appreciate, political pluralism.