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by Anne L. Alstott

Having a child, it has been said, is the greatest risk one can take. Marriages may come and go but parenthood endures. There is simply no escape--no exit--from the emotional and practical responsibilities of parenting. Nor should there be. While certain questions swirling around children--What constitutes a "good" parent? What is the role of the state in ensuring the welfare of the child?--are endlessly debated, consistency and continuity of care incontrovertibly play a foundational role in the developmental years of a child's life. Children, everyone agrees, need strong, reliable parenting. Parenting today, however, also involves something else: unprecedented economic peril. Over time, our society's demands on parents have skyrocketed, while the economic rewards of child-rearing have diminished. Once, children provided financial benefit, as workers on the farm and as security in old age. For today's parents, however, having a child is a one-way obligation, one which narrows paths and saps resources. Much of the economic burden falls on mothers, who work less, earn less, and achieve less than their childless peers. Low-income parents often struggle day-to-day to care for their children, hold down a job, and somehow find decent but affordable child care. Parents with severely ill or disabled children may find the course especially precarious. In order to create a more secure world for children and their parents, Anne Alstott argues, we must fundamentally change the way we think about parents' obligations to children--and about society's obligations to parents. Drawing on the same innovative thinking that propelled her and Bruce Ackerman's influential work The Stakeholder Society, Alstott proposes a solution both pragmatic and controversial. She outlines two unsentimental proposals intended to improve parents' economic options while respecting every individual's own choices about how best to combine paid work and child-rearing. Rejecting both state paternalism and easy libertarianism, Alstott's proposals are bold and unapologetic in their implications. At the heart of No Exit lie two basic beliefs: For the good of all, there should be no opt-out clause from parenting. And yet child-rearing should be a life stage, not a life sentence. Take care of your child, Alstott demands, and we-the societal we-will in turn take care of you. In this fearless, compassionate book, she shows us how.
Download No Exit: What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents epub
ISBN: 0195162366
ISBN13: 978-0195162363
Category: Politics
Subcategory: Sociology
Author: Anne L. Alstott
Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (May 27, 2004)
Pages: 272 pages
ePUB size: 1695 kb
FB2 size: 1772 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 748
Other Formats: docx lrf txt docx

Anne Alstott is an clear, thoughtful writer and this book is fascinating.
She is unusually skillful at making incisive arguments of two different kinds:
- moral arguments, in this case arguments about what society owes parents (given what parents do for society), and
- practical policy arguments about how her new policy initiatives should be shaped to help parents the most without being overly paternalistic.
This book links those two kinds of arguments, and the result is a convincing moral case for some major policy changes. They may not be quite the ones you expect. Alstott is hard to pigeonhole as either a traditional feminist or a traditional economic liberal. Her proposals have their own logic. I think they're worth reading whatever your political/philosophical views.
An interesting book, especially for illustrating the issues, but I just can't buy the author's argument that one parent must put the child's needs first for 18 years. I am not sure this idea of one primary parent is in the child's interest. Many parents nowadays share this commitment, in time scales of one night to one year to the child's entire childhood. This is perhaps less efficient in some ways but it is more efficient in the sense that it creates a "whole child" who reaches adulthood without psychological distortions from a separate spheres approach of his/her parents.

This bias the author has for one primary parent seems to cloud thinking on many other issues?

I do agree with the author that parental leave and work flexibility programs that are designed around one primary parent won't work, and will create a pink ghetto, but she curiously retains this fallacy of "one primary parent" and just takes that parent out of the workforce, making things worse.

Perhaps she has too much romance with the families of the 1950s. I grew up in a family set up that way and it was a nightmare.