Beware Extended Family

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Beware Extended Family

#1  Postby Loren Michael » May 20, 2013 10:05 am

This is from a blog post I thought was pretty interesting: ... amily.html

In the last few weeks I’ve come across many sources emphasizing the same big theme that I hadn’t sufficiently appreciated: our industrial world was enabled and has become rich in large part because we’ve reduced the power and importance of extended families. This post ends with a long list of quotes, but I’ll summarize here.

In most farmer-era cultures extended families, or clans, were the main unit of social organization, for production, marriage, politics, war, law, and insurance. People trusted their clans, but not outsiders, and felt little obligation to treat outsiders fairly. Our industrial economy, in contrast, relies on our trusting and playing fair in new kinds of organizations: firms, cities, and nations, and on our changing our activities and locations to support them.

The first places where clans were weak, like northern Europe, had bigger stronger firms, cities, and nations, and are richer today. Today people with stronger family cultures are happier and healthier, all else equal, but are less willing to move or intermarry, and are nepotistical in firms and politics. Family firms do well worldwide, but by having a single family dominate, and by being smaller, younger, and less innovative.

Thus it seems that strong families tend to be good for people individually, but bad for the world as a whole. Family clans tend to bring personal benefits, but social harms, such as less sorting, specialization, agglomeration, innovation, trust, fairness, and rule of law.

This is also on of the major themes that tied together Francis Fukuyama's The Origins of Political Order, which I think is excellent.

I'd also be skeptical of the benefits to the individual of strong families. Paternal oppression can be as bad if not worse in many ways than oppression by a state (see: arranged marriages, female duties to procreate, etc).
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