By Erik Dolson
The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U. S. Supreme Court has ignited commentary across our society, from Fox News to the Washington Post.
My favorite conservative writer, Ross Douthat of the New York Times, is Catholic, brilliant, and meticulous in his arguments. Douthat, who feels feels society lost its equilibrium as it embraced liberal values, wrote a piece grandly titled “The Meaning of Amy Coney Barrett.”
In “Meaning…” he tries to describe what a “conservative prescription” might look like:
“…professional women across the country (and, by extension, many husbands in their dual-earner homes) whose life courses generally resemble the rest of their class, but with certain choices that seem somewhat more eccentric or askew. That means shorter dating lives and earlier marriages, four or five children instead of two or fewer, and other more traditionally coded choices — more frequent churchgoing, denser social networks, living closer to extended family, work lives designed more around home life than the reverse.”
I know families like those Douthat describes, and my love and envy for them are both deep. But there’s more to think about in Douthat’s ideal than I have thought about, though a few ideas float immediately to the surface.
First, different women want different things, and there would have to be some form of coercion — legal, social, or economic — to arrive societally at the place he describes. Telling a woman she should have five children instead of two would result in some interesting conversations, at least with the women I know.
Second, there would be an absolute irony, if not outright contradiction, for those on the right who favor individual responsibility and self direction in almost every other facet of personal, political and economic interaction to coerce — call it what you will — a particular form of behavior in a free society.
Third, Douthat’s argument is about “professional women.” The vast majority of women in today’s world find themselves without many of his “eccentric choices,” but overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control in an internet society that does not or can not reenforce these choices (see first point).
So even if I did not disagree with Douthat’s “conservative prescription,” I am uncertain we could ever get there from here.