My grandma was raised on a cotton farm in Arizona in the 1930′s and 40′s. Her parents worked hard on their land and in the home, not merely for wages but to directly provide for the needs of their six children. They mended clothes, prepared meals, and built fences for themselves without the need to exchange money or be counted in any economic statistics. We all have similar stories about grandparents and great-grandparents whose contribution to the common good wasn’t fully visible until their children and grandchildren grew up and became doctors, teachers, auto mechanics and computer programmers, ensuring that our civilization survives for another generation.
Traditional economics ignores all this and assumes that new people will magically appear into a country to replace those who pass away. When this process is going well, there is growth. When this is not happening, we see the Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen remarking as she did yesterday about “an aging labor force” and “low household formation” holding our nation back. All that means is that we haven’t had enough children for our nation to continue the same level of prosperity that it had in the past. As labor becomes scarce, we see services becoming expensive while material goods become cheap. And as Americans abandon the occupation of farming in astonishing numbers, we necessarily require immigration to do work that we’re no longer willing or able to do for ourselves.
One thing is for sure: every single farmer, doctor, construction worker, painter and burger flipper owes his or her existence to a man and woman who came together to bring new life into the world. For many years unselfish caretakers formed them into adults while getting nothing in return. We as a nation have a vested interest in ensuring that men and women continue to come together and form stable, fruitful relationships. Where families are flourishing and empowered, the nation will be strong. In the long run, both men and women contribute more to society at home than they can earning wages for a mega-corporation. We can’t all return to the farm, but we do need to find a way to bring that life-giving love of my great-grandparents into the 21st century.