Sunday, January 01, 2006

Reading Rick: Conclusion

This post will focus on the conclusion (pp. 421-428) of Rick Santorum’s book It Takes a Family.

In the first part of the conclusion he reinforces his view that the poor have suffered more under liberal policies than the wealthy, who have the money and connections to get a second or third chance if there are consequences to what he calls “No-Fault Freedom,” while the poor have no such resources. I agree with him that the monied and connected can afford to clean up after their mistakes while those without cannot easily do so. I disagree with his views on liberals and public policy, but that has been obvious in previous posts.

In the next section he spells out what the terms “civic participation” and “community leadership” mean to liberals and conservatives. In his view, to liberals “those words mean left-wing activists working to bring more ‘government services’ (and government bureaucrats) to impoverished areas or filing lawsuits to make ‘them’ pay – whoever ‘them’ is.” (p. 425). For conservatives it means “fathers volunteering time to build ballparks, grandmothers sitting on front porches or stoops to keep an eye on neighborhood children….” (p. 425) and the list goes on. Now, where in the world does he get this stuff? I consider myself a liberal and I build things in my community, I sit on my porch and watch kids, I belong to local organizations, help with community activities, attend church and participate in activities there, and so on. Most of the people I see at these activities do not consider themselves conservatives, those some may vote Republican.

On page 427 he says “For liberals, public spirit and family spirit are thought somehow to conflict.” Does he really believe this?

On the last page (428) he says “Like every father, I want to pass on to my own children something more than I received.” As I mentioned earlier, many parents I know just hope to do as well as their own parents.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I did not think his list of sources was put together correctly (dates missing on many journal articles), nor was it sufficient to back up the claims, statistics or facts he presents in his book.

For closing remarks, let me say that I found his book thoughtful in a very few places and very shallow everywhere else. He focuses completely on households with young children, perhaps because this is where he is in life. His only mention of the older generation was the benefits of grandparents as babysitters. He never touches on the concerns of the sandwich generation, people with young children and elderly parents and trying to juggle both at the same time. He seems to have no use whatsoever for people who could not, or chose not, to have children. This is leaving out a lot of people. While he promotes the importance of social ties his focus on the nuclear family leaves little time for talking about community ties, other than very briefly in two places. His in-depth discussions of community groups are all faith-based and focused on social engineering – helping people get down payments for houses, marriage and fatherhood initiatives, and so on. He completely disregards parent groups, other than saying that parents should decide school curricula, something that would require a great deal of organization and structure unless you are going to have hundreds of different classes for every parental preference.

There is something else about the book that struck me. He mentions in the bibliographic essay that Jeffrey Rosenberg did many of the interviews used in the book. In the preface he mentions that Jeff Rosenberg did the first draft of many of the chapters. While many public figures use ghost writers it is customary to either ignore their existence or add them to the author credits, for instance, Rick Santorum and Jeff Rosenberg or Rick Santorum with Jeff Rosenberg or something like that. Santorum seems to have taken a middle road. There is a Jeffrey Rosenberg (or more than one person with that name) who has written on fatherhood and childrearing and Pennsylvania matters (search for a list). I also noted that the copyright is held by ISI Books, the publisher, instead of the author. If you check the back of the title page of most books you will see that most often the author holds copyright. There may be some special reason Santorum does not hold copyright. There may be rules about it for senators or tax reasons or something. But I noted it.

One of my readers, Ben, sent me the link to another review and an interview with the senator. Those links are given below and I have added the link to another review. One thing that bothers me about Santorum, and is mentioned in the New York Times Magazine article, is that his parents help out his family financially. For someone who has written a book on the need for strong nuclear families and mentions more than once that he wants to give his children more than he received, I find it odd that he is still receiving financial assistance from his parents. I wrote about this in one of my first posts on this blog. If his parents were contributing to his children’s college funds or putting money into a trust for the kids that would be one thing, but he is a U.S. Senator, and apparently he can’t make ends meet without a check now and then from his folks. I’m sorry but at his age the money should be going the other way, but that is a hot button issue for me and has nothing to do with his book.

For more information:

Washington Monthly review

National Catholic Reporter review

New York Times Magazine article

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