Tuesday September 21, 2010

Full Interview with Dr. Baskerville: Government-Caused Family Breakdown Expands Government

By James Tillman

September 21, 2010 ( — According to Dr. Stephen Baskerville, professor of political science at Patrick Henry College and author of “Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family,” the government “is engaged in a direct assault on the family” that is causing its breakdown – which in turn allows government to reach into yet more areas of civil society under the pretext of solving the problems that the breakdown of the family creates.

LifeSiteNews: Last month, Governor David Paterson signed no-fault divorce into law in New York state; it was the last U.S. state to pass no-fault divorce laws. What are the effects of no-fault divorce on marriage?

Dr. Baskerville: No-fault divorce was deceptive from the beginning. Misleadingly, it was advertised as allowing divorce by mutual consent. What it in fact codified was unilateral and involuntary divorce. It not only allowed divorce to be imposed on an innocent spouse over his or her objections; it allowed the spouse breaking up the marriage and the court to force the innocent spouse to shoulder the burden of the consequences: The innocent spouse generally loses his children, his home and property, and his freedom for literally “no fault” of his own and for any failure to cooperate with the divorce. “No-fault” justice is a contradiction in terms and makes a mockery of the very concept of justice. For this reason, it has also seriously corrupted our judiciary.

LSN: How dangerous are lenient divorce laws compared to other threats to the family? Should people pay more attention to them than they currently do?

SB: Divorce is by far the greatest and most direct threat to the family, far more serious than same-sex marriage, which is a symptom of how debased marriage has already become, not a cause of it. Unlike cultural threats to the family, divorce is a government regime. It is not eroding the family; it is quite deliberately dismantling it. It is easily demonstrable that same-sex marriage would not even be an issue today were it not for the divorce revolution.

LSN: Are there any other often-ignored laws or cultural issues that work against the family?

SB: The divorce regime is in fact a panoply of destructive laws, not just no-fault. The massive federally funded machinery catering to the dishonest hysteria over “domestic violence” is almost all geared to facilitating divorce. Knowingly false accusations of domestic violence are now out of control, and almost all of it is generated to secure custody of children in divorce cases.

The same is largely true of the hysteria over “child abuse”. Child abuse is certainly real, but almost all of it takes place in single-parent homes, not intact families. In other words, there is a child abuse industry that actually creates the problem it professes to be addressing. By encouraging false accusations of child abuse to facilitate divorce and single-parent homes, the child abuse industry actually creates more child abuse. That is a shocking statement, I realize, but I have documented it in my book.

Child support is another facilitator of divorce. Too many people credulously accept feminist/government propaganda that child support is to provide for children who have been abandoned. Nothing is further from the truth. It is mostly extorted from fathers that have been evicted, again through “no fault” of their own. It is a subsidy on divorce and single-parent homes. If you pay people to divorce, they will do it more. That is precisely what child support does.

LSN: Many national conservative figures have called for a “truce” on divisive social issues in order to focus on fiscal issues and on shrinking the government. Is it possible to shrink the size of the state if the family is unhealthy? Why?

SB: Absolutely not. In fact I would go so far as to say that family breakdown is the major engine driving domestic government expansion and spending: crime, substance abuse, educational failure, law enforcement. All these costs are attributable to single-parent homes more than any other single factor. But what even most conservatives do not realize is how these problems themselves are created not by impersonal social forces or cultural decay alone but by government itself. In other words, government is not simply responding to problems created by the culture. By attacking the family, government is creating the very problems it claims to be solving. Government weakening the family is its principal mechanism for expanding its own power.

LSN: Does the trend of familial decline begin in the 60s, or does it stretch farther into the past? What were the earlier symptoms?

SB: It had roots much earlier. The feminists – and few people even realize it was the feminists who were behind this – were drafting no-fault divorce legislation in the 1940s. And no-fault divorce was already operating de facto by that time, though it greatly accelerated after the laws were enacted in the 1970s. But Carle Zimmerman, in his great book Family and Civilization (1947) traced family decline back well into the 19th century, as government was expanding and divorce was accelerating. Strikingly, he wrote that “law piled on law, and government agency upon government agency” until by 1900 “the state had become master of the family.” Writing in 1947, he declared that “the family is now truly the agent, the slave, the handmaiden of the state.” I find this historical perspective very sobering.

LSN: Are there any similar historical cases of nations that, as a culture, began to abandon the ideal of the family as the United States has done and had similar symptoms of its abandonment?

SB: Yes, again it was Zimmerman who described similar trends in Greece and Rome: sexual license, divorce, family decline. Christopher Dawson had also noticed this in his 1933 essay, “The Patriarchal Family in History.” Augustus saw the danger and tried to reverse it but was unsuccessful. Christianity stepped in to restore the family ideal after Rome disintegrated.

LSN: Did the decline of the family in such nations result in their overall decline? Why?

SB: Zimmerman essentially depicts the decline of Greece and Rome – and modern Western history as well – as a contest between the family and state. As the state has steadily increased in power over modern history, the family has declined in direct proportion, which in turn allows further empowerment of the state. Without the family as an intervening authority, government power becomes total. This is one of Zimmerman’s greatest insights and one that is missed even by modern social conservatives and family defenders, who in my opinion are much too quick to attribute the problem to “culture” alone (which is certainly part of it, but only part) rather than government power. The government is engaged in a direct assault on the family, beginning largely with its campaign to neuter fathers, who are both the weakest link in the family and the state’s principal rivals. Zimmerman’s other great insight was the central place he gave to divorce in this process.

LSN: What can be done to try to turn around these trends?

SB: We must widen the focus from just same-sex marriage to the larger threats to marriage and the family. Divorce laws and practices are by far the greatest neglect. Unless this machinery is brought under control it will continue spreading abuses elsewhere to threaten the rights of intact parents such as homeschoolers and others accused of “abuse” and “neglect.” The principles of divorce law are also spreading internationally with such measures as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Conservatives much see through feminist and government propaganda demonizing “deadbeat dads” and “abusive” fathers and scrutinize the bureaucratic apparat governing domestic violence, child abuse, and child support. I believe the initiative should lie with the Christian and conservative media. They should launch a systematic and exhaustive investigation to publicize the abuses of the divorce industry.

Stephen Baskerville, an assistant professor of Political Science at Patrick Henry College, is the author of Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family, a book that Phyllis Schlafly, president of the Eagle Forum, called a “tremenous and much-needed report on how family courts and government policies are harming children.” He served as the president of the American Coalitions for Fathers and Children from 2004 to 2007, and has written articles for a wide variety of publications, both scholarly and popular, including the Washington Times, the Washington Post, Chronicles, The American Conservative, and National Review.

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