The Telos of Liberalism: Your Children’s Bedtime Stories

The largest source of inequality today is the family, so it is not surprising that liberals obsessed with inequality have to control family life eventually, either by nationalizing children (Plato’s idea, only he was kidding), or by extending regulation to family matters.

Think this is far-fetched? The Australian Broadcasting Company has found a philosopher named Adam Swift who thinks parents reading to their children helps increase inequality, and therefore we might have to think about regulating the reading of bedtime stories.

Swift in particular has been conflicted for some time over the curious situation that arises when a parent wants to do the best for her child but in the process makes the playing field for others even more lopsided.

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.

‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’ . . .

‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’. . .

‘The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,’ he says.

This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion—that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted.

Swift later draws back from this insanity, but only after allowing it to do the dirty work of saying that private schooling should be prohibited. And also that he has no earthly idea of what a “family” actually is any more:

‘We think that although in practice it makes sense to parent your biological offspring, that is not the same as saying that in virtue of having produced the child the biological parent has the right to parent.’

‘Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,’ says Swift.

But as usual there is no coherent principle at work. Not-So-Swift adds:

‘If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.’

Is that a bug or a feature?  And will bedtime stories be okay again if the government mandates that we read Heather Has Two Mommies to the kids?