Reading to Your Children Is Unfair

Philosophers think you should question whether reading to your children is the right thing to do because it promotes inequality.

I guess the best way to introduce what a couple of Australian philosophers are arguing is to reproduce the headline from the Australian media: “Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?

The answer, provided by two philosophers in a recent book: yes.

“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,”

They begrudgingly admit that “the family” shouldn’t be abolished, and they dig up reasons for it to remain legal for parents to read to their children, but they promote separating biology from parenting and even question whether the family can be expanded to parents beside the couple. They outright condemn private schooling.

The power of the family to tilt equality hasn’t gone unnoticed, and academics and public commentators have been blowing the whistle for some time. Now, philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse have felt compelled to conduct a cool reassessment.

Swift in particular has been conflicted for some time over the curious situation that arises when a parent wants to do the best for her child but in the process makes the playing field for others even more lopsided.

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.

If you think this is some weird Australian thing, think again. If you go to the Wikipedia pages of Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse, you will see they have plenty of exposure and support in U.S. academia. This is an international poison.

And it is no accident that the two make a plug for same-sex marriage as well as polyamorous ones (as long as they don’t go up to ten people for the children’s sake). The entire framework for their thinking of “equality of opportunity” is a sterile world of forever-fixed resources that never change.

If they acknowledge a world that grows and becomes more prosperous, Swift and Brighouse could never get their argument off the ground.

Let me make this concrete. I read this article because a Facebook friend showed it to me in my Facebook feed. I then reposted it on my iPhone, typing an initial response with my thumbs. Now I am writing about it on a windows-driven laptop.

So there are three people we can think about: Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates—the founders of Facebook, Apple Computers, and Microsoft, respectively.

As far as I know all three of those men had drastic advantages growing up that my children never had. I don’t know about their family lives but in terms of their schooling and other educational opportunities, I am pretty sure of it.

So did that rob me?

Of course not! Just the opposite; it provided me with wealth and power that I would probably not have had without them.

Perhaps someone else might have developed social media and computers and smart phones… But, if so, that just shows that the real conflict of interest isn’t between people who are massively unequal but rather between people who are almost the same. There is no “economic class warfare” at all.

[See also, “‘Theodore Dalrymple’ Shows Us Where We are Being Led—Family Life, ‘Mental Health,’ and ‘Immigration Reform’]

Swift and Brighouse might think of themselves as “progressive,” but that is self-flattery. The only progress they can imagine is getting more equal in a static society. They think all inequality is an unfair advantage that robs others. The truth is that holding people down robs everyone. These guys assume that some parents reading to their kids is problematic for the kids whose parents don’t read to them. The truth is the opposite. The kids disadvantaged by not being read to are FURTHER disadvantaged if they are forced to live in a society where no parents read to their kids. The kids who get read to by their parents are not balls and chains to the rest but rocket packs.

We’re not stuck with limited resources we have to fight over; we’re creating a future together that is better for everyone. Forcing equality is like cutting the hamstrings of your horses. Every opportunity you strive to give your child is a gift to society—to the children of your neighbors—not an advantage in an alleged contest.

The two philosophers pretend a world where no parent read to their kids would have the same leadership and success that our society has, only it would be more random who attained to those positions. More people would have “equal opportunity.” No. Those positions would cease to exist. The world would qualitatively decline. They say they want to stop some people from reaching the top floor of the building in the name of equal access, but they are actually blowing up the top floor and leaving us with a ruin.

And the same is true of better education and private, elite schools.

So to the extent that Swift and Brighouse get others to take seriously their vision of a sterile society of no progress, they will succeed in creating such a society.

Finally, I recommend you read the entire article because it is quite educational. But as you do so, have this song from the seventies by the rock group Rush playing in the background:

I think this song may have been influenced by a story of the trees found in the Bible. It is found in Judges chapter 9, verses 9-15:

The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, “Reign over us.” But the olive tree said to them, “Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?” And the trees said to the fig tree, “You come and reign over us.” But the fig tree said to them, “Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?” And the trees said to the vine, “You come and reign over us.” But the vine said to them, “Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?” Then all the trees said to the bramble, “You come and reign over us.” And the bramble said to the trees, “If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”

So while this was not about “equality” or “fairness” as an ideal, it is a warning that political centralization ends up destroying the great—the productive private people—for the sake of the “public servants.” All the wine makers, oil producers, and fruit growers are reduced beneath the level of brambles.

This Bible story explains to us that an age given to massive political expansion would also be an age that would develop a rationalization for the processes that political expansion encourage. Totalitarianism intrinsically reduces society to a lowest common denominator, so naturally totalitarian states will reward sycophants who come up with reasons why we should want such a result.

Which brings me to one last thought for your consideration: these two men would not have a livelihood without the existence of a huge, public-debt-and-taxpayer-funded beast that is modern “higher” education. They are lifetime tax-feeders who have no other contribution to society to make than to justify further predations and plunders by the political class at the expense of everyone else. They are the first tumors of a further metastasizing state. We are taxed and our children’s futures are jeopardized by debt in order to provide for these people to come up with more rationalizations for slavery.

Wake up and smell the chains.