Families Matter

Why Societal Origin and Family Structures
Are Important


160829, 4:20 PM

Parenting, macro-economics, history and geopolitics are among the disciplines that have been digitized and bureaucratized to the exclusion of common sense and practical usefulness.

Doesn't that sound wierd?

How can geopolitics or economics possibly be connected to family and parenting?

Father and Child

This website and my experiences as a clinical psychologist postulate that they are intimately but mysteriously connected. There is much we don't know. That is where we should begin. Not with culturally determined, make-believe assumptions and solutions, but rather with reality based questions that reveal true ignorance but intellectual fortitude and hope. The whole of social science needs to be integrated and assimilated into a useful body of knowledge not a library of distinct but meaningless numbers. Getting grants and the digitized data that produce these grants has eroded our ability to ask questions and produce answers that make sense. Realistic parenting has, as a result, suffered the same fate.

Even though the family, is a universal civilizing institution that creates citizens out of new born human protoplasm, university training programs in these “non-therapeutic” fields such as “history”, “macro-economics” and “political science” do not show any reference to “family therapy”, “cultural anthropology”, “family systems”, “the multi-generational transmission process” or “the nonlinearity of all human endeavors.”

Conversely, the advanced training programs in psychology, psychiatry, social work and indeed family therapy, claim to know a great deal about parenting and families but  do not teach any courses in history, political science, macroeconomics, governance or general modern economic anthropology.

This lack of integration and cohesion in social sciences training is at least partially responsible for a lack of civilized, meaningful theory, vocabulary and framework from which to approach governance, macroeconomics and, most relevant here, to a view of the larger concentric circles influencing therapy, family structure and function. (Please Click Here For further details on Bowen’s family systems theories).

We are interested in understanding more about the parenting process and its relation to cultural patterns. On one hand we explore historical and political-economy factors that contribute to the structures of a society. On the other hand, we use family systems theory to connect societal and cultural dimensions to parenting. Finally, we show the circular self-perpetuating interactive patterns that parenting shares with all components of large systems. This requires serious changes in assumptions and outlook from the traditional psychotherapy and social science literature.

I believe that the family process is the mechanism that enforces societal principles. The extended family’s job has always been to funnel character compatible citizens into the "society".  A German family unit cannot develop citizens compatible with Somalian society. And visa-versa. To the extent that this is true, it follows that the family framework is a crucial and indeed powerful component in understanding the various elements (economy, institutions and laws, societal structures such as schools, police, and social or even work relationships) of a society.

Please read the following from wikipedia.com. It is one of the few descriptions of a concept that relate family patterns reciprocally to societal functioning.

The social character is the central basic concept of the analytic social psychology of Erich Fromm. It describes the formation of the shared character structure of the people of a society or a social class according to their way of life and the socially typical expectations and functional requirements regarding socially adaptive behavior. Social character is essentially adaptive to the dominant mode of production in a society. According to Fromm, the concept integrates Marx's theory concerning how the mode of production determines ideology with Freud's concept of character.

While individual character describes the richness of the character structure of an individual, the social character describes the emotional attitudes common to people in a social class or society. The social character is acquired substantially in the family as an agent of the society but also developed in other institutions of society such as schools and workplaces. The function of the social character is to motivate people to accomplish the expected social tasks concerning work and interaction, education and consuming. Arising in the interaction of the socio-economic social structure and the social libidinous structure the social character makes it possible to use human energies as a socially productive resource.

Please see the writings of Erich Fromm and Michael Maccoby for more details.

In keeping with our theory of ever-larger systems’ circles, we will try to illustrate the interactivity between parenting, political economics and societal values. Many economists bemoan the lack of recent progress in the Eurozone management, indeed the setbacks on the road to European integration. Was a 3000-plus year history of embattlement and strife really expected to disappear in 60 years?

Globalization (and European integration) was based on tolerance. Tolerance is not the same as an absence of valuing one's own identity and values. The perfect example of this over- reaching beyond common sense is our president’s assertion that Jihadi terrorists are not practicing the Islamic religion. To me there is a consistent disconnect in all human studies between labelling actions and initiating reasonable, appropriate consequences.

Please read these excerpts from an excellent article concerning a societal trend of “non-consequence enforcement” and tolerance of consistent rule breaking among modern children, from a Pennsylvania’s pediatrician’s viewpoint. Please note that he assumes it started 15-25 years ago.

Dec. 17, 2015 7:04 p.m. ET, WSJ.com

“Kyle was absorbed in a videogame on his cellphone, so I asked his mom, “How long has Kyle had a stomach ache?” Mom said, “I’m thinking it’s been about two days.” Then Kyle replied, “Shut up, mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” And he gave a snorty laugh, without looking up from his videogame. Kyle is 10 years old. I have been a physician for 29 years. This sort of language and behavior from a 10-year-old was very rare in the 1980s and 1990s. It would have been unusual a decade ago. It is common today. America’s children are immersed in a culture of disrespect: for parents, teachers, and one another. They learn it from television, even on the Disney Channel, where parents are portrayed as clueless, out-of-touch or absent. They learn it from celebrities or the Internet. They learn it from social media. They teach it to one another. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “I’m not shy. I just don’t like you.”

“… The challenge of raising children in America today is different from 30 or 50 years ago…”

“…If you’re going to make a change, don’t be subtle. New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to sit down with your children and explain that there are going to be some changes in this household: changes in how we talk, in how we behave, in how we treat one another. It is possible to create a culture of respect in the home while living in the U.S. today. It isn’t easy, but it can be done…”

Dr. Sax is a practicing physician in West Chester, Pa. and the author of “The Collapse of Parenting,” out this month from Basic Books.

He is describing a pattern of behavior in a particular context; his office observations. I propose that this pattern takes place in almost all western societal contexts.

Now please read these excerpts from the writings in two different venues, from two serious and respected economists: neither article has content that is in any way related to family systems, parenting or societal factors. However, they both represent concern about a consistent long term deviation from once agreed upon rules of national government and international rules of financial behavior. I think a careful reading, with the above parenting article kept in mind, will reveal interesting parallel lines that also are described as starting economically 30-40 years ago.

All three articles seem to share the following themes or elements in common:

1 – In America, respect for authority (parents or governmental economic authority) has significantly diminished.

2 – Kids as well as politicians feel increasingly comfortable ignoring long standing rules of appropriate conduct.

3 – Consequences for misbehaving kids, politicians CEO’s and bankers has diminished.

4 – “Entitlement” is out of control, politically, financially and in families

(I know there are many parents and members of the helping professions who are allergic to the details of international finance and economics. You might shortly tune out to these financial elements in my presentation. Try not to do that. It’s important to understand this stuff.)

Now, please read this article in BARRONS FEB15, 2016: THOMAS G. DONLAN,


The Federal Budget Mess Is Getting Worse Again

The U.S. is another year older and deeper in debt.

By Thomas G. Donlan

“...After adjusting for the 92% decline in the value of the dollar since World War II, the 1946 debt works out to be just $3.28 trillion. However, 1946 still holds another record at 118% of gross domestic product, compared with 101.8% now.

There is another important difference between 1946 and the present: After WW II, the borrowing all but stopped, and the country’s economy grew faster than federal spending. Today, nobody intends to stop the borrowing, and the economy is sluggish.

When a war ends, we don’t keep blowing things up. But there’s no end to spending on big programs for people—Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, and Medicaid. By the way, federal accounting does not deign to notice about $90 trillion worth of promises to present and future beneficiaries…”

“… Still, it would be a good idea for presidents and congressional budget committees to draft balanced budgets, showing what kind of spending cuts they would enact if they had to live within their means.

“It would be just for show, of course….”

“. …If, by some frightful miracle, the president’s budget is passed as written and remained law for 10 years, federal taxes would reach 20% of GDP for the first time since fiscal 2000, when the economy was unexpectedly booming. But it still wouldn’t balance…”

“…but posturing is all they’ve got in the modern era.

"...House Speaker Paul Ryan noted accurately that the new budget is the eighth one drafted by Obama that showed no path to a future in which revenues and expenditures could be balanced. How shocking….”

“…We also know that when the U.S. government gets more tax revenues, it spends like a college freshman with a new credit card. Democrats and Republicans are the two wings of the Something-for-Nothing Party…”

“…we know that members of Congress define an investment as anything that will make grateful constituents repay favors with votes. Whether it’s a new interchange out on the Interstate (making somebody’s nearby property more valuable) or charging stations for electric cars (adding to the demand for coal), the name of the game is still patronage. That’s what candidates do understand…”

The following article shares a similar concern about a destructive economic pattern deeply tied to a corrupt, unresponsive political system.


DEC 23, 2015

The Perils of Fed Gradualism

“…The problem arises because the Fed, like other major central banks, has now become a creature of financial markets rather than a steward of the real economy. This transformation has been under way since the late 1980s, when monetary discipline broke the back of inflation and the Fed was faced with new challenges….”

“…The challenges of the post-inflation era came to a head during Alan Greenspan’s 18-and-a-half-year tenure as Fed Chair. The stock-market crash of October 19, 1987 – occurring only 69 days after Greenspan had been sworn in – provided a hint of what was to come. In response to a one-day 23% plunge in US equity prices, the Fed moved aggressively to support the brokerage system and purchase government securities. ….”

“…In retrospect, this was the template for what became known as the “Greenspan put” – massive Fed liquidity injections aimed at stemming financial-market disruptions in the aftermath of a crisis. As the markets were battered repeatedly in the years to follow – from the savings-and-loan crisis (late 1980s) and the Gulf War (1990-1991) to the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-1998) and terrorist attacks (September 11, 2001) – the Greenspan put became an essential element of the Fed’s market-driven tactics. ….”

“…No longer was the Fed responding just to idiosyncratic crises and the market disruptions they spawned. It had also given asset markets a role as an important source of economic growth. The asset-dependent economy quickly assumed a position of commensurate prominence in framing the monetary-policy debate.

"...The Fed had, in effect, become beholden to the monster it had created. The corollary was that it had also become steadfast in protecting the financial-market-based underpinnings of the US economy...."

"...Largely for that reason, and fearful of “Japan Syndrome” in the aftermath of the collapse of the US equity bubble, the Fed remained overly accommodative during the 2003-2006 period. The federal funds rate was held at a 46-year low of 1% through June 2004, before being raised 17 times in small increments of 25 basis points per move over the two-year period from mid-2004 to mid-2006. Yet it was precisely during this period of gradual normalization and prolonged accommodation that unbridled risk-taking sowed the seeds of the Great Crisis that was soon to come. ….”

“…Over time, the Fed’s dilemma has become increasingly intractable. ….”

“…Today’s Fed inherits the deeply entrenched moral hazard of the Asset Economy. ….”“…The longer the Fed remains trapped in this mindset, the tougher its dilemma becomes – and the greater the systemic risks in financial markets and the asset-dependent US economy. It will take a fiercely independent central bank to wean the real economy from the markets…”

"…A Fed caught up in the political economy of the growth debate is incapable of performing that function. ….”

“…Only by shortening the normalization timeline can the Fed hope to reduce the build-up of systemic risks. The sooner the Fed takes on the markets, the less likely the markets will be to take on the economy. Yes, a steeper normalization path would produce an outcry. But that would be far preferable to another devastating crisis. ….”

Family Playing
There is no mention in any of the three articles that the most productive period of coping with our financial obligations was overseen by Chairman Greenspan’s predecessor; William Volcker. Chairman Volcker, a true Washington outsider, was responding to a period of runaway inflation that began in the 1970’s. This inflation followed two “large system circle” events. The Vietnam war did more than initiate a long term erosion of trust in our political system and its managers. President Johnson, ignoring long standing economic principles, decided to push through a “guns and butter” political-economic program that firmly set the nation on a destructive inflationary course. Instead of taking the unpopular courageous steps that Dr. Volcker eventually had to take, President Nixon took the “easy path” of negating the Gold Standard of international economic rules that were in place to provide economic stability since 1946. Rule abiding savers around the world were hurt by first the Johnson inflation, and next the Richard Nixon (known at the time as “tricky Dick”) abdication of world currency responsibility. Is it possible that the stabilizing and foundational monetary purpose of the gold standard that lasted, on and off, for thousands of years, had a broader effect? Monetary relativism took over from the gold standard. A nation’s currency was no longer measured by some concrete external and universally accepted definition. When we lost gold as a yardstick for currencies those currencies became “relative.” Is it a coincidence that what was permanently undermined was not just currency stability but also societal standards and stability?