It is a truism of sociology that the family is the cornerstone of social life. Families are the principal agencies for socialising the young; they are the crucial units for economic cooperation and self-reliance; and they create bonds of affection and a sense of belonging. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that as family life has weakened over the last 50 years, social problems have multiplied.
More than 2 centuries ago, Edmund Burke noted that a vibrant and confident society rests on the activity of 'little platoons' of family, church and neighbourhood organisation. Left to themselves, people cooperate to resolve common problems. But a strong civil society will only arise when people have things to do for themselves, and therefore have reasons to cooperate. As the state has taken more responsibility for organising our lives, the need for voluntarism and mutual activity has fallen away, and the ethic of personal responsibility has been attenuated. One result has been a worrying erosion of civility in public life.
Left: My grandfather and grandmother (right of picture, with baby) at VE Day street party, Croydon, 1945
TALKS & DEBATES
2012: Father Figures: How absent fathers on welfare could pay meaningful child support Policy Exchange Report, London, March
2009: Reforming the UK family tax and benefits system Policy Exchange report, London, June
2009: Supping with the devil: government contracts and the non-profit sector (with Martin Stewart-Weeks), Centre for Independent Studies report, April
Buy from CIS
2007: 'Why capitalism is good for the soul' Policy vol.23, no 4, Summer (reprinted in The Insider Heritage Foundation, Washington DC, April 2008; translated and reprinted as 'Kapitalismus essen Seele auf', Merkur: Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Europaisches Denken, No.708, May 2008, 389-98)
2007: 'Does capitalism threaten the family? Policy vol.23 no.1, Autumn
2002: Six questions about civility CIS Occasional Paper No.82 (with Nicole Billante)
2000: 'Family research and family policy since 1992' - afterword to Norman Dennis, Families without Fatherhood 3rd edn, Institute for the Study of Civil Society (Civitas)
1999: 'What is a fair divorce settlement?' Family Matters, no. 53
1999: 'Families, welfare and social policy' Family Matters no.54
1999: 'The New Right, New Labour and the problem of social cohesion' In G. Andrews, R. Cockett, A. Hooper and M. Williams (eds) New Left, New Right and Beyond Macmillan
1993: 'Citizenship in a liberal society' in Bryan Turner (ed), Citizenship and social theory Sage (republished in 2006 in Hans-Peter Mueller and Juergen Mackert (eds) Citizenship. Institutionen und Dynamiken moderner Staatsbürgerschaft).
Read on Google Books
The MacPherson Report's fallacious claims of 'institutional racism' have undermined faith in UK institutions
Comment on BBC-TV news, 3 January 2012
Asylum seekers and social cohesion
Short contribution to ABC Radio National debate, 12 September 2011
How Britain became a yob country
Interview on Australian Radio 4BC, 18 August 2011
Why didn't everyone join in the London riots?
The Australian, 15 August 2011
Is civility declining, and does it matter?
ABC National, Australia Talks, 16 March 2011
Listen to extracts
Why there should be a married couple's tax allowance.
Published on politics.co.uk, the UK's leading political news website, 3 February 2010.
Australians are living off the public teat more today than ever before
Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 2009
Price of money for nothing (the Karen Matthews affair)
The Australian 13 December 2008
DVD on sexual manners shows society is in trouble
The West Australian, 29 February 2008
'The writing is on the wall when officialdom overlooks profanity'
Sydney Morning Herald 12 January, 2008
Paying idle parents is bad for our kids
The Australian, 20 February 2007
Don't blame Howard for loss of civility
The Australian, 3 February 2006
A civil tongue is still crucial in politics
Canberra Times, 10 October 2002
'Towards a Fair Tax Policy for Families.'
Presentation to the Iona Institute conference on Women, Home and Work at the Davenport Hotel, Dublin, 26 May 2011
'Should the state support marriage through the tax/benefit system?'
Debate sponsored by Policy Exchange, 4 February 2010. Other speakers were Stephen Brien (Centre for Social Justice), Andrew Haldenby (Reform) and Richard Reeves (DEMOS).
View edited clip
'Impact of Government Services on Responsibility and Passivity'
Presentation to Cape York Institute conference on Rebuilding norms in Indigenous communities, Cairns, June 2007
'The power of community and the limits of government' Presentation to Maxim Institute conference on Pursuing Social Justice in New Zealand, Auckland, March 2007