"The Family in America"    Online Edition    [SwanSearch] 

 Volume 15  Number 02

 

February 2001 

 

  

Family, Faith, and Freedom

By Janet Lynn Salomon

Janet Lynn Salomon is a member of The Board of Advisors for The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society. As a young figure skater, she won five U.S. National Championships and the Bronze Medal at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan (and in doing so set the Olympic record score for free skating). Turning professional in 1973, she became the "highest paid female athlete in the world." Yet some years later, she chose to leave skating to focus on her home, her marriage, and her children (she is the mother of five boys). She is author of the book Peace and Love.

This essay is adapted from a speech given to a Rockford, Illinois audience in July, 2000, marking the dedication of The Janet Lynn Ice Arena by the city. It is a more personal statement than normally found in The Family in America. These are also the words of a mother and patriot, who understands the vital connection between "family, faith, and freedom." – The Editor

Speaking is not my favorite past time and preparing to speak is more difficult for me than you can imagine. You may not know this, but my parents introduced me to skating hoping it would help cure my extreme shyness and timidity around people. I liked to skate because I could express myself without talking to anyone! Somehow I think the joke was on me when I find myself invited to speak.

I grew up in Rockford starting at the age of eight. My memories include my time at home, at the Wagon Wheel skating complex, and at church and school, and my many opportunities to travel. It is here that foundations were built into my life. Skating was such an incredible vehicle by which I learned about many areas of life. I would like to share with you what I learned from the foundations of my skating and relate them to the foundations of our nation; specifically, family, faith, and freedom.

Understanding how to live in a free and civilized nation has become a great passion for me. Over the years, even in the time that I have been raising my family, I have given deep thought to our freedom, where it comes from, and why it is important. The skills and priorities I have developed from my job as wife, mother of five sons, and homemaker have strengthened my belief in the power and importance of strong foundations. Those historically provided by family and faith were the inspiration for our nation’s beginning. I believe strongly that in order to continue to enjoy freedom in a civilized nation, we must rebuild our foundations.

God has placed in each and every human spirit the desire to be free. I think that skating is a very powerful metaphor of that hope of freedom.

It is my belief that one of the things that makes skating so very popular is that it looks free. People who skate well seem to fly. There is great exhilaration in watching skaters flow across the ice and then into the air with such beauty and grace! It touches something deep in the soul of many who watch.

I can tell you that when I was skating well, it did indeed seem like I was soaring; and I felt free to attempt anything I wanted to on the ice. It was so much fun to let God and beautiful music inspire my spirit on the ice, to the point that I could express what was in my soul–without talking. The freedom I had to skate was built upon foundations. I learned about liberty not only by being free on the ice, but also from my experience of observing nations that were not free.

While young, I had the rare opportunity to visit nations that were not free and to experience, in a small way, the oppression and fear of expression under which so many wonderful people had to live. I have seen people so afraid of being caught socializing with people from other nations that they hid in a closet. I was sobered when our suspicions were confirmed that some "officials" who closely monitored and traveled with my skating peers from unfree nations were actually secret police.

On one occasion in an unfree nation, we were assigned an interpreter for our entire stay with whom I innocently spoke to about God. He must have been immediately reassigned because we never saw him again. I did not realize how serious that kind of conversation was in an unfree nation.

I have vivid memories of being a young lady who saw the Stars and Stripes with an emotional and grateful heart upon returning to the United States. I had a new awareness of what that flag has meant to many millions who have sought the privilege to live under its freedom and protection. I remember wanting to kiss the ground of my country, the most free country on the face of the earth.

Even at a young age, I knew there was an important difference between what I experienced in nations that were not free and the freedom I knew in our great nation. I believe the difference is found in the substance of foundations.

On Foundations

I learned about foundations from my skating. My brilliant coach, Miss Kohout constantly emphasized the foundational skills. The manner in which I executed a single jump was as important as how I executed a double or triple. I once had a three hour lesson on just one simple turn. Our challenging weekly Saturday night workout sessions mostly emphasized the foundations of skating. Plain stroking to music, as our muscles burned, was something I think we all dreaded. As Miss Kohout’s students, we were especially challenged the day we had to stroke to music in rental hockey skates on very bad and chewed up ice. In the face of these challenges, our skills had to be strong and the technique proper. If the simple skills were not perfected, the advanced skills would become difficult, if not impossible, and certainly much more dangerous.

Mastering those foundations required four to ten hours a day, six days a week, of training, learning, and practicing. The discipline of school figures was an essential part of my training. Only when the foundational skills were mastered did I have the freedom to use those skills to express myself without fear of getting hurt. The training in those foundations of my skating continued for all the years that I skated. If I started having trouble with a jump, spin, turn, or edge, it could always be traced back to the loss or incorrect execution of foundational skills.

For seventeen years, I did not skate at all while I worked to build and raise my family. When I began to skate again for physical fitness purposes, it became immediately clear that I had lost most of my freedom to express myself on the ice without fear of getting hurt. The foundations of my freedom on the ice were still somewhere in my memory, but I had to start reteaching myself and fighting with my body, which did not want to do those foundational skills in the way that gave me the freedom I once had. I could no longer enjoy the delightful feeling of flying across the ice and doing jumps, spins, and footwork. To regain that freedom, I need to pay the price of rebuilding the foundations on the ice. Only when those foundations have again become second nature and I have the self-government of each muscle will I have earned the freedom to express myself without fear of getting hurt.

As with the techniques and skills of skating, I learned that in order to have civilized freedom, our country must remain on its solid foundations. With all my heart, I believe that these thoughts about my skating are a metaphor about what is happening in our nation. Our nation’s freedom came at a great price. It was built upon certain foundations, including those of the natural family and personal faith in God Almighty. Today we have altered, or ignored, or perhaps forgotten the foundations of our nation’s freedom, and I believe we are in great danger of losing our freedom to express ourselves without fear, as I have lost my freedom to skate without fear.

There is a price to relearn the foundations of our freedom. We can do it–and we must! I am concerned about the direction of our country. What kind of nation will my children, and yours, inherit? A lack of self-control is omnipresent. Our culture seems to exist to satisfy the senses, and we have forgotten or deadened our souls. It is true that if we are not governed from within, we will have to be controlled with outside regulation, restrictions, and force. If we relearn our self-government, there will be no need for excessive restrictions.

Peter Marshall put it best: "James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution of the United States, once explained the nature of the American Republic in these words: ‘We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.’"1

I do not want the next generation to inherit a nation where children are killing children, as we have seen in the recent past and where mothers and fathers are neglecting, abandoning, or killing their own children. I want my children to inherit a nation that is relearning and applying the foundations of self-government, civility, and freedom. This work is hard, especially when parents have a hard time finding healthy opportunities for their children’s growth that are not influenced by our degrading culture. That is why it is so important to make available wholesome activities, like ice skating, which preserve the innocence of childhood.

I agree with William Bennett, as he spoke about "The Leading Cultural Indicators," concluding: "the last 3-1/2 decades...have ‘fractured’ many of the pillars American civilization stands on, and the nation remains ‘more violent and vulgar, coarse and cynical, rude and remorseless, deviant and depressed,’ than the one we once inhabited." He continued, "America’s ‘capacity for self-renewal is rare and real. We have relied on it in the past….We must call on it again.’"2

The foundations of my skating were supported by the foundations of our free nation. This profoundly impacted my ability to learn to skate and to share my skill with others. In the United States of America I was free to express on the ice, without fear, what God put in my soul. The foundations of our free nation are within reach of every person in this land. They include family, faith, and the great gift of living in a free country.

On the Natural Family

The important foundation of my family was essential as my skating developed and started to grow beyond anyone’s expectations. As I mentioned earlier, there is a price to learning and sustaining foundations. In my case, my family often found themselves sacrificing for my success. They always did so with great grace, love, and encouragement to me. It is hard to adequately express my thoughts and gratitude for the big and little things they did. I could not have accomplished what I did in skating without my father and mother, my brothers and sister, and my grandfather. They gave me an honorable place to belong and a strong assurance that I was loved–whether I won or lost, because my worth did not come from skating. They taught me how to laugh at myself and they let me know I was a part of my natural family no matter what part of the world I was in, or how many hours I spent training. They gave me a perspective on life that went far beyond what I did on the ice. They are part of the reason that I know what I have been doing as a homemaker is the most important job in the world.

The natural family is committed to one another and draws lessons, knowledge, love, and a place of belonging from each other. It is a part of the foundation of our freedom. We need mothers who are devoted to their children and who are willing to spend quantity time loving and teaching them right and wrong. They must be willing to forgo immediate personal fulfillment for long term family rewards. We need faithful fathers who work with all their might to take moral responsibility for their families and provide a model for them. Fathers and mothers need to grow in the ability to give strong, loving guidance. We need parents who are willing to make their children and homes a priority each day, providing them with security and safety, protecting, the innocence of childhood.

Though material wealth may have to be sacrificed, the wealth of spirit can hold the family foundation steady. Taking the time to learn and then to teach our children, the morals and virtues that sustain freedom only costs our time, effort, and a healthy balance of love and discipline. These foundations of our freedom are available to anyone.

On Faith

Faith was another deep foundation of my skating. Even now, as I look back on my skating, it is continually apparent to me–even more than when I skated–that God had a plan for me to skate. I made that statement in an interview as a shy fourteen-year-old girl right after I made the Olympic Team in 1968. The next day the headlines in the local paper read: "God has plan for Janet to skate." I have wondered if that sincere statement would make headlines today?

I did not choose the circumstances that surrounded my ability to skate., nor did I choose my ability, nor the love that I developed for skating. It had to be a Providential plan.

My skating gave me many incredible, enriching opportunities and joyful experiences for which I am deeply thankful. In life, the bitter often comes with the sweet. There were hard parts: getting up early every day, being so cold so often, having muscle aches, and being away from family. It was difficult to have motion sickness since age eight and to travel very uncomfortably. I had strep throat during the the 1968 Olympics and was not able to take the medicine because of drug testing. I was determined to be in the Olympics. I ended up very sick and delirious with fever after the event. It was hard skating on intense exhibition tours with what was thought to be severe bronchitis, though I wanted so much to skate and was not about to go home. The emotional lows that corresponded to the extreme emotional highs were a part of training and competition. I did not enjoy developing exercise-induced asthma at the height of my career after suffering from strep throat, pneumonia, and pleurisy. I felt crushed when I realized that the medical treatment for my induced asthma caused more of a negative reaction from my body than the condition itself. When I came home from the Ice Follies to get my condition addressed so I could skate, I had no idea my body would not respond as I wanted.

Through the joys and difficulties, Jesus Christ has been my stability. He has a plan for my life and it certainly included skating. The faith that my family introduced me to through regular church attendance ultimately enabled me to focus on the good and persevere through the unpleasant things. My faith in Christ, knowing that the loving God can take even broken dreams and make something beautiful in His time, has been the hope of my life. This faith was a foundation of my skating.

A few weeks before I competed in the 1972 Olympics, I appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine as a Gold medal hopeful. My life to this point, including all the effort and sacrifice of my family and coach, as well as my personal dreams and ambitions for self, country, and God, were wrapped up in this competition. I was devastated when I found myself in fourth place after the school figures with no possibility to win the Gold medal. That day I argued with God as I lay weeping in my Olympic village apartment.

Somehow, through my broken dreams, a thought came into my mind: if I could not win, then all I could do was to finish the competition and decide to dedicate my free skating to show God’s love to all who watched. A medal no longer mattered. Somehow, God heard my cries and answered a girl’s prayers in ways I could not have imagined.

In my free skate performance, I fell on a flying sit spin, which I had never missed before, even in practice. Because of the way I had been trained, and the purpose that was in my heart, I was still smiling when I was sitting on the ice. That performance did earn me the Bronze medal, but even more, that night I began an incredible relationship with the nation of Japan that has lasted 27 years. I was able to go back to Japan to talk about my faith soon after the Olympics. "How could I keep smiling when I fell in the Olympics?," is a question that has always been asked of me in Japan. Fifteen years after I spoke in Japan of my faith, I went back to Japan to skate. A young woman approached me and gave me a note. In the note she told me that before I had spoken of my faith fifteen years earlier, she had wanted to take her own life. After hearing about the hope I had in Christ when I fell in the Olympics, she decided to take that hope for her own and continue her life. That reward is one that is eternal a reward that was given by a very powerful God.

On the Place of God

One of the foundations of our free nation is faith in this Almighty God, who is bigger than ourselves, or any situation. He is the One who put the yearning for freedom into the human spirit, and it is He who directs us towards the loving path of discipline and self-control–or–self-government that allows us to live in that freedom.

I have the gift of being born a free citizen in the United States of America, upon which my success in skating was built. I did not have to flee my country to gain freedom or artistic expression, as some had to do during the era in which I skated; I did not have to fear because I spoke of God.

I had the opportunity to visit some nations which did not allow their people to believe in God or to express that belief publicly. As a young lady, I was amazed, and even depressed, when I was taken on tours of old and beautiful churches which were empty, unused, and explained away merely as great architectural works. God had been shut out, made unwelcome, even unspeakable. I was even more depressed when we were taken on an Easter Sunday tour of a place where a bloody revolution had been started. One of the results of that revolution was the expulsion of God from a people rich in heart.

Because of that perspective, it disturbs me greatly to see instances in our nation where people try to exclude God or create fear of talking about God in public. He has blessed this nation so richly; why would anyone want to shut Him out? It is upon the principles of this God that this nation’s foundation rests.

One of those principles of God is charity. I believe that our nation has been the most charitable nation in the history of the world, and I believe that is because of our foundation of faith and freedom. We have been able to choose how we will earn a living with honor and honesty. We have been able to freely choose, according to our conscience, how to spend what we earn.

I was not beholden to a government or its ideals that provided my training. My family did not believe that freedom was having everything provided. Indeed, we all worked very hard, and my family was very frugal. At a point in my skating when I was going to have to quit, the charity of Mr. Walter Williamson as the sponsor of my skating allowed me to continue working, to become the best I could. This kind of charity one can never repay, nor did Mr. Williamson ever expect me to repay his charity to me, though I can pass on what I learned from it. He never exploited me or my name, nor did he keep me beholden in any way. His charity remained a quiet, unassuming foundation of my ability to learn to be free in my skating.

In this great nation, hard work and charity have often been the unnamed foundation that has helped develop hopes and dreams.

The freedom of our nation allowed my parents to choose a coach who valued discipline and hard work. Miss Kohout, with incredible charity, freely chose to stop sending bills for lessons as my skating started to blossom.

By God’s grace I was the beneficiary of the free and charitable spirit of my coach and sponsor. Besides the generosity of Mr. Williamson and Miss Kohout, there were a man and wife, whom we had never met, who freely offered to pay for my skates. Some generous people in New York helped me with costumes, as well as street clothes and hair cuts, in order to present myself properly. Professional secretaries freely gave of their time and energy to help with my mail when it became too overwhelming, and my mother tells of her friends and neighbors who would each take a part of my costume to bead. Friends, family, and neighbors often traveled to my competitions for quiet moral support. My ballet teacher, Helen Olson, patiently worked with me for many years, though I had no flexibility and no promise of dancing. There was a woman from Rockford who donated cowboy hats to go with choreography to the music of Rodeo. An American soldier on leave in Davos, Switzerland, volunteered to shovel snow from the ice a few hours a day so I could practice school figures while training for a World Championship, though the snow did not stop for three weeks. The stories of help and charity are endless: all made possible by freedom.

This freedom is to give and receive and to work hard and have the choice of how to use what we earn through our hard work. This freedom, based on self-control and self-government, was a foundation of my skating. Without this freedom and charitable spirit. I would not have had the opportunity to develop my skating talent for God and for all those that took part. Ultimately it was God who gave me this freedom–it was His plan for my life.

Family, faith, and freedom…the three deep foundations that supported my skating. The foundational skills of skating allowed me to gain freedom to express the joy God put in my soul. My desire to express God’s love on the ice changed the destiny of one young woman in Japan. God’s power and love is all about changed lives and nations that are renewed, free, and civilized.

The foundations of these United States of America have allowed, and can again allow, the greatest nation on earth to continue to express what God has put into our national soul and spread that freedom for others to enjoy.

As I learned to gain the foundations of my skating, I hope you will join me in learning again the foundations of family, faith, and freedom, starting in our own homes, hearts, and minds. I want all of our children to inherit a nation where God is not shut out, a nation that is strong, free, and civilized. I hope we can rise above the desire to just do things that appeal to our senses and rebuild a nation that fulfills the yearning of the soul.

May God grant us the will to do so.

Endnotes

1 From The Glory of America by Peter Marshall and David Manuel.

2 The Washington Times, October 12, 1999.

 

by Maria Sophia Aguirre and Cecilia Hadley*

* Maria Sophia Aguirre is associate professor of economics and business at The Catholic University of America; Cecilia Hadley is a graduate student at the same university.

In recent years, the international community has devoted increasing attention to population issues. The large and growing sums of money funneled into population assistance, as well as the motivations for focusing on this aspect of development as often the primary development goal, are cause for scrutiny. This essay on the effectiveness of population assistance will examine the role of the United Nations in the formulation and implementation of modern "population assistance" as a developmental priority. The Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-III) and a High-Level Intergovernmental Event on Financing for Development, both scheduled in 2001, relate directly to issues of population funding, making a critical evaluation of the rationale for "population assistance" necessary.

The international community has spent massive amounts of money on "population assistance" in the last decade. In principle, these population policies are people-centered. In reality, the policies have been twisted in such a way as to foster control over people and have become the foundation of all development and "population activities"–terms more and more being reduced to population control. Increasing sums of money are not only being spent to provide access to contraception and reproductive "health services," but also in an attempt to change cultures to prefer small families. Behind these population control policies lies, among other motives, is a distinct feminist agenda in the name of "reproductive rights." These arguments, however, overlook the fact that, despite the large population increases in the twentieth century, no relationship has been found between population growth and economic development or population growth and quality of the environment. The international community has poured money into "population assistance" to the detriment and relative neglect of real economic growth and social development.

An analysis of the gradually increasing focus on population control must begin with the United Nations, the primary forum for the international development debate. Through the evolving language of the UN’s population and development related conferences, the face of the underlying agenda has been slowly altered, toward the amplified concentration of population control and cultural change.

Bucharest and the "Plan of Action"

The first UN conference to develop a plan of action for population and development was at Bucharest in 1974, producing the World Population Plan of Action (WPPA). Delegates to this conference stressed population control as a means to meet the needs of resource problems together with the right of couples to freely determine the number and spacing of their children. While endorsed by the majority of delegates, some of the developing countries objected to what was seen as an undue emphasis on population control at the cost of economic development. Overall, while no demographic goals were set, the groundwork was laid for population policy as primarily an international issue rather than a national issue, within the realm of national sovereignty. Paragraph 99 of the WPPA states,

The effect of national action/inaction in the fields of population may extend boundaries; such international implications are particularly evident with regard to aspects of morbidity, population concentration and international migration, but may also apply to other aspects of population concern.

Mexico City and "Reproductive Rights"

The 1984 Mexico City conference reflected both a step back from the push for definitive population goals and a turning point in the language of population policy. By the time of this conference, coercive population policy in China had been implemented, resulting in the US delegation’s reversal of position, where it would no longer support force in achieving population goals. Also due to the Chinese policy scare, the Mexico City document did not outline quantitative population goals, but did recommend population policies if population became a hindrance to national goals. Although the Chinese policy did cause some anxiety, the international community would not publicly denounce it, for the situation could not help but undermine their claim to the commitment to human rights. Instead, it became apparent that the "basic human right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children" outlined in the WPPA only existed if the government judged these decisions to be reasonable. Essentially, if a government deemed otherwise, the couple could be overruled. Nevertheless, the Chinese scare did create a generally negative feeling regarding target population rates, subsequently leading to a change in language from "population control" to "sustainable development" and "reproductive and sexual rights."

Rio de Janeiro and "Sustainable Development"

Expanding on the concept of sustainable development, the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro in 1992 made, a distinct link between population growth, development, and the environment. This reflected the neo-Malthusian concept that the Earth had an absolute limit to population capacity and that current population growth rates could not be supported within these environmental constraints. This occurred despite the fact that a report issued five years earlier by the World Commission on Environment and Development had not included population stabilization among the necessary elements of sustainable development. This earlier report explained that sustainable limits did exist, but were "not absolute limits but limitations imposed by the present state of technology and social organization on environmental resources and by the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities." Contrary to this, the Rio de Janeiro document speaks in terms of absolute limits and developed policies on this basis. Point 3.2 of Agenda 21 states that "an effective strategy for tackling the problems of poverty, development, and environment simultaneously should begin by focusing on resources, production, and people." Point 5.17 of the same agenda continues to address the implementation of such a strategy, stating: "policies should be designed to address the consequences of population growth built into population momentum, while at the same time incorporating measures to bring about demographic transition." Thus, the term "sustainable development" could now be used to include the population control agenda while obfuscating the negative connotations.

Cairo and "Women’s Empowerment"

The next major step in the UN implementation and formulation of population control policies occurred at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. Producing not just a new set of recommendations, this conference constructed a Programme of Action, including new arguments for population control and the projected means to implement it. Rarely mentioning economic development (except within the context of "sustainable development" or the population and development relationship), the Programme establishes population stabilization as the required element without which economic growth, reduction of poverty, environmental protection, and the solution to other developmental problems cannot occur. Point 3.14 states:

Slower population growth...has increased...countries’ ability to attack poverty, protect and repair the environment, and build the base for future sustainable development...Sustained economic growth within the context of sustainable development is essential to eradicate poverty...Investment in fields important to the eradication of poverty, such as basic education, sanitation, drinking water, housing, adequate food supply, and infrastructure for rapidly growing populations, continue to strain already weak economies and limit development options.

Implementing these changes includes generating what are referred to initially as "appropriate demographic policies" in paragraph 3.19. Chapter three clarifies these as policies that control fertility and limit population growth. The Cairo conference also connected population control (and therefore sustainable development) to "women’s empowerment" by emphasizing access to contraception and reproductive health and reproductive rights. "Reproductive health" was recognized as a human right, also making access to contraception a human right. This important connection changed the discussion from one of national development to an international issue, where policies were no longer merely advisable, but absolutely necessary, such that other countries would provide the means for implementation in developing countries that could not afford it themselves.

These policies are outlined in paragraph 7.3 of the Programme, describing reproductive rights as part of a responsibility to the community as determined by the government. In developing countries, this is almost invariably translated into a "responsibility" to limit family size. In this framework, governments not only supply contraceptives, but subtly force a need for them as well as a need for international population assistance. Generally, the Programme of Action places great emphasis on reproductive health to the exclusion of other resources. Indeed, in paragraph 13.14, it outlines a $77.7 billion "costed population package" consisting of family planning services, basic reproductive health services, STD and HIV/AIDS prevention, and research, data, and policy analysis, by the year 2015, two-thirds of which is expected to be domestically funded. Overall, the Programme of Action centers international population and development financial assistance solely on reproductive health.

In the end, the UN has firmly rooted all development concerns in the language and arguments of population control. This myopic approach has in turn caused the serious neglect of any real economic development issues, hurting the very nations most in need of growth.

Endnotes

Hadley, Cecilia A. and Maria Sophia Aguirre. "Hindered Growth: The Ideology and Implications of Population Assistance." http://arts-sciences.cua.edu/econ/faculty/aguirre/FundingUN.doc, 2000.

Report of the International Conference on Population (Mexico City 1984) No. E.84.XIII.8.

Report of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo 1994) A/CONF.171/13.

Report of the United Nations World Population Conference (Bucharest 1974) No. E.75.XIII.3.

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro 1992) A/CONF.151/4.

 

by Allan Carlson

"Urban sprawl" promises to return in 2001 as a pressing "American issue." A majority of local "anti-sprawl" initiatives claimed victory in the November California vote. A campaign against new suburban subdivisions and malls has gained force in North Carolina, where C.A.U.S.E. (Citizens Against Urban Sprawl Everywhere) battles "overzealous" development. In Arizona, anti-sprawl forces point to the "pursuit of greed" and "the free market" as the sources of social and environmental degradation. In Minnesota, the Pioneer Press labels Minneapolis-St. Paul "the third most sprawled region" in America and the legislature considers a plan to limit future growth to a 200,000 acre circle. Everywhere, fingers point at developers who "buy" local officials with campaign contributions, to "outsiders" moving in, and to "overpopulation" as the causes of environmental stress.

Now, I actually agree that sprawl despoils good farm land and the open countryside, relies excessively on asphalt and gasoline, and commonly results in architectural eyesores. For good conservative reasons, I too would like to see less rapid, more intelligent development. Yet it is wrong to blame "developers" and "outsiders" for the worst features of sprawl. Rather, I suggest that anti-sprawl advocates look within for the real source of their problem.

"Sprawl," we need remember, is primarily a function of demand for housing, driven by the growth in the number of distinct households seeking shelter through the marketplace. Now it is true that the overall American population grew from 179.3 million in 1960 to 281.4 million in 2000, an increase of approximately 57 percent. With all else equal, this would have required an equivalent increase in housing stock: namely, 57 percent. However, the number of American households needing separate shelter actually grew by 100 percent, from 52.8 million in 1960 to an estimated 105 million in 2000. Why the great discrepancy?

The answer lies in a radical change in the nature of American living patterns. In 1960, 75 percent of all American households were "married-couple families" and average household size was 3.4 persons. By 1998, though, married-couple families comprised only 53 percent of American households, and average household size had fallen to 2.6.

Instead, ever more Americans have been living in households without marriage or children or, indeed, "significant others" of any kind. In 1960, there were only 6.9 million "one person households" in this country, 13 percent of the total. By 1998, this count of persons living alone had soared to 26.3 million, or 26 percent. In the earlier year, there were only one million households with two-or-more unmarried adults, without children, living together. By 1998, their number had soared to 5.3 million, primarily childless "cohabitating" couples.

How does this relate to sprawl? When Minnesotans fret about the decline in population density in Minneapolis-St. Paul from 2,451 persons per square mile in 1960 to 1,956 in 1990, they probably imagine abandoned houses. In fact, the real culprit is fewer people per structure, due to family change. If the American social order in 2001 was still built around marriage and children as it had been in 1960, the U.S. as a whole would actually need 25,500,000 fewer dwelling units than it has. Nearly half of the demand for new housing and shopping opportunities over the last four decades would not have been present, and American urban areas would have known much more limited, measured, and (probably) attractive growth.

In sum, we can add "urban sprawl" to the already long list of negative consequences derived from the deterioration of the family in America. The retreat from marriage and children–seen in lower marriage rates, higher divorce rates, and a steady fall in marital fertility–dates from the 1960’s and has broadly disordered our national life, including our living patterns.

If "anti-sprawl" activists were serious about their goal, they would focus on reversing those public policy measures that have contributed to the decline of marriage. For example, they would seek repeal of those "no fault" divorce statutes that helped create America’s "culture of divorce." They would rally to support the Republican plan in Congress to eliminate the "marriage penalty" in the income tax. They would gird up for entry into the "culture wars," combating a popular media that belittles marriage and traditional home life and that celebrates the unattached single life and "living together" without promises and consequences.

Yet I expect that little of this will occur. Profiles of "anti-sprawl" environmental activists tend to show persons fairly avante garde in their social views. They are more likely to be living alone or in some "informal" relationship and less likely to have children than the average lot of Americans. The irony is that these very "lifestyle" decisions to live outside of marriage are, in a sense, a primary cause of the sprawl problem. Perhaps the "anti-sprawl" forces would better contemplate that famous line from "Pogo": "we have met the enemy, and he is us."

 

 

 

 

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