How can market societies like our own best ensure that children get the circumstances they need to flourish? It turns out that there are two different reining visions of the role government should play when it comes to public policies that support families, each of which dominates the public policies in different countries. This essay considers which of these two systems does best at getting children the circumstances they need to develop well.
The first of these visions, which I call ‘free-market policy’, expects that families do best when they arrange for what they need privately through the market. The idea behind free-market policy is that families thrive when they provide what their members need on their own. In a free-market system, workers are supposed to bargain with employers privately about work hours. Parents are supposed to fund the material provision their children need. They must negotiate individually for family leave and other time off they need for caretaking of children and others. Parents are also supposed to provide caretaking themselves for kids or, alternatively, to arrange and pay for this caretaking. All this means that, under free-market policy, policymakers don’t focus on making sure children get what they need. Instead, they focus on creating strong markets and on increasing the size of the economic pie. This way, the rationale goes, every family will have a big enough slice of the pie to arrange privately for what their members need through market transactions …
Eichner, Maxine, The Free-Market Family and Children’s Caretaking (2019). 71 Florida Law Review Forum 45 (2019).