Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Freedom's Orphans: Contemporary Liberalism and the Fate of American Children

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Freedom's Orphans: Contemporary Liberalism and the Fate of American Children

Article excerpt

FREEDOM'S ORPHANS: CONTEMPORARY LIBERALISM AND THE FATE OF AMERICAN CHILDREN by David L. Tubbs Princeton University Press, 248 pages, $27.95

Freedom's Orphans is alternately an insightful and frustrating book. David L. Tubbs seeks to document the extent to which liberalism has neglected the interests of children in the pursuit of individual autonomy. He largely succeeds, and his treatment of thinkers from John Rawls to Ronald Dworkin is broad and sympathetic. Traditionalists inclined to agree with his thesis will certainly benefit from the deference Tubbs shows in presenting modern liberal theory as it understands itself.

Unfortunately, his insistence on engaging his interlocutors on their own terms robs his argument of its force. Tubbs has his finger on a central tension in any liberal political order: Because a free society requires morally responsible citizens who won't abuse their liberties, that same society must take serious interest in the development of children. Thus, he argues, the state has a right to legislate in a manner that encourages the formation of traditional two-parent families-largely by reinforcing the natural connection between sex and child rearing-even where such legislation might run afoul of a strictly individualist conception of liberty. …

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