Acton Institute Powerblog

Children and a Culture of Choice

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Benjamin West - Choice of Hercules between Virtue and Pleasure
The Choice of Hercules between Virtue and Pleasure
Eli Horowitz over at Rust Belt Philosophy takes up my post from earlier this week, “The Christ Child and a Culture of Birth.” For the moment we can leave aside the accusations of racism latent in my view, as my demographic concerns are related to replacement levels and not to the question of majority/minority demographic shifts.

I do want to address one claim from Horowitz about the nature of cultural privilege, though.

His basic complaint against my view is that my “idea for the culture is distinctly not one in which people get to choose between many options, none of which is privileged above any other.”

Some clarification is in order, I think. Privilege in terms of positive law and in terms of cultural norms are two distinct things (although not unrelated, of course). That is, permitting something legally is distinct from giving that thing moral approbation.

And this is precisely where many left-libertarians, who exult in the culture of naked choice, often run aground. On this view, only must there be protection of their “choices” in law, but there must also be an egalitarian culture of choice, so that there can be no moral disapproval expressed publicly about any of the panoply of choices that might be made. Anything like this is perceived as “taking women’s choices away and forcing them into a very narrow lifestyle.”

My blog post and the related commentary function exclusively at the level of cultural critique and commentary. Nothing in them should be construed as direct advocacy for a particular policy regarding family and childbirth (although particular policies would cohere to a greater or lesser extent with the views expressed).

I do, in fact, think that it is better for a society to have children rather than not, and as such it is not a sign of a healthy culture “wherein it’s equally acceptable to have kids and not to have kids.” Here I will simply reiterate Arthur Brooks’ point: “The future of a prosperous society depends on a lot of things, but the fundamental currency of the success of any society is people, is humans. When you stop having the humans, your life is limited and your prosperity is doomed.”

This is my basic point about a “culture of birth,” and in that sense I do think it can be seen as contrary to a “culture of choice” advocated by Horowitz.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.