We must elect a pro-family president

my Trade Tripper column in the 29-30 April 2016 issue of BusinessWorld:

This election campaign season unfortunately neglected the family.

Distractions (some necessary, some not) prevented the nation from putting in the needed time to discuss two really important issues.

And while debates abounded on national security, crime, unemployment, and inequality, the most important issues, one that actually encompasses all others due to their fundamental nature, were never raised.

Am referring, of course, to human dignity and the traditional family.

Princeton professor Robert George famously said there are three pillars to a decent and dynamic society. The third was about having “fair and effective system of law and government.”

This is a matter commonly known to most Filipinos.

However, what we disastrously fail to realize is how important the first two pillars are to the rule of law. These are “respect for the human person” and “the family” (i.e., that based on the commitment of a husband and a wife).

Regarding the human person, George notes that a “society that does not nurture respect for the human person -- beginning with the child in the womb, and including the mentally and physically impaired and the frail elderly -- will sooner or later (probably sooner, rather than later) come to regard human beings as mere cogs in the larger social wheel whose dignity and well-being may legitimately be sacrificed for the sake of the collective.”

Measures such as euthanasia and abortion (as well as the extrajudicial killing of criminals) obviously do not help in advancing respect for the human person.

Regarding the family, without it “there is no transmission of the virtues which underpin society and which also ensure respect for human dignity. Political and legal institutions cannot function without people who respect the fundamental virtues that bind society.”

The importance of the family cannot be overestimated.

Research by Wilcox, Lerman, and Price for the Institute for Family Studies “shows that states with higher levels of married parenthood enjoy higher levels of growth, economic mobility for children growing up poor, and median family income, along with markedly lower levels of child poverty.”

The impact of the family on the economy is so strong, in fact, that it is a better predictor of economic health than the population’s “educational attainment.”

Harvard economist Raj Chetty backs this up, saying that “the strongest predictors of upward mobility are measures of family structure.”

Family Research Council’s Patrick Fagan was more direct: “No matter which way you look at it -- through the lens of income, savings, or poverty -- marriage is the great engine of the economy, with every household a building block that either contributes or takes away, millions of times over. Put all these families together, and we have the team that runs the American economy.”

Even more direct: “The foundation for a productive household begins with marriage”. “Cohabitation does not take the place of marriage, and there are very strong indications that cohabitation may rival single parenthood as the largest generator of child poverty, while divorce is the cause of most women and children entering poverty in any given year.”

Much was made this election season regarding crime. What was incredibly missed was how taking care of the traditional family structure could go a long way towards a solution.

The Atlantic’s Kay Hymowitz pointed out that 70% of youths in prison “did not grow up with both parents.” An even starker study found that only 13% of criminal juveniles “grew up with their married parents.”

Finally, referencing a study by Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan: “The bottom line is that there is a large body of literature showing that children of single mothers are more likely to commit crimes than children who grow up with their married parents. This is true not just in the United States, but wherever the issue has been researched.”

The desperation caused by the breakup of the traditional family structure was famously summed up -- ironically -- by Barack Obama:

“We know the statistics -- that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

More than corruption and more than any other issue, to protect the family is a matter of national survival.

Unfortunately, we have candidates who, unknown to many, have filed bills or advocated measures that experience taught are extremely damaging to the traditional family structure.

These involve contraceptives, euthanasia, same sex marriage, divorce, and the not so well thought through Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

In the remaining days of this campaign, Filipinos are urged to grab the opportunity to make its vote one that protects human dignity and the traditional family.

Now, more than any other time in our history, we desperately need a pro-family president.