Families Matter

Why Societal Origin and Family Structures
Are Important

Understand Societies Through Family Systems

Family at the Beach

My blog post, Society, Politics, Macroeconomics Parenting and Family Systems Therapy, looks at the mutually reinforcing mechanisms operating on parenting and family structures, whether Northwestern Europe individuating-focused or Southeastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, tribal-focused. I try to explore the societies that produced them. Another goal is to contrast these two types of societies in terms of economics and government. Below, is an introduction with links to read more if you find yourself interested in the dynamics at play between these types of societies, your children, your parenting patterns and family structures.

This page will usually feature ongoing examples of current events in the political, economic and publishing world that we consider of interest to citizens, parents and families. The comments here seek to underline the interactive effects of these currently separate spheres.

LATEST= 1/12/2017 9:02:06 AM

We believe that the family process is the mechanism that enforces pack principles. The pack's (historically the extended family) job has always been to funnel tribe compatible citizens into the "society". (Please see homepage, in menu.) A German pack 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 such as schools, police, and social or work relationships) of any society.


What are the most fun years as a parent?

In the western world, there are two really exciting periods FOR THE PARENTS in most children’s growing years. These are only rough approximations, with great variability, but;

The first is between age 18 and 36 months; the toddler years, or “terrible two’s”. The second period is roughly between 11 years and 22 years. You will never be bored if you have children in these two age-phases. Life will have almost daily excitement and challenge. No need for safari or mountain climbing.

But this is only true in the urban industrial or post-industrial west.

Thanks to "modernity" the age phase of 17 years to 25 years is the most exciting if your people are from the south and/or eastern parts of the globe. Especially if you find yourselves living in, or having access to, the industrial or modernity areas of the western world. 

What these three age phases share can be called “the egg shell shatters.” The newborns hatch and become ….”themselves.”

Birds hatch and leave the nest when they are ready to fly. Humans also gradually learn to spread their wings and fly.

(Different cultures define "flying" in diverse ways. Some birds only fly in flocks. Others fly solo.)

These age phases mark different points on the developmental scale of “individuality”. Physiologically and biologically the child achieves certain milestones at different chronological points.

In the western cultures, gradual separation from the mother and reduction of the "mother-child-bond intensity" is achieved, or rather encouraged, in the “terrible two’s”.

In the pre-industrial, village cultures, however, this readiness is not encouraged in the same way or to the same extent. “Think or choose for yourself” is a deal breaker in some cultures. Some birds only fly in flocks. Others fly solo.The eastern child is part of a larger whole and individuality can be dangerous.

Separation from the “pack” or family into a separately functioning, independent adult is the adolescent developmental challenge in the west.

Again, in the east, separation from family (individuation) is not encouraged as a developmental milestone. Achievement in a career, often mentored by a relative, and finding a spouse but remaining within the family hierarchic circle, is the adulthood model and goal in many pre-industrial village cultures.

However, for those preindustrial, non-modernity families who reside in the west, or who have the means to send their children to western educational opportunities, there occurs in junior an often-belated sense of freedom and behavioral opportunities for which the youngster is not prepared. A more indulgent society encourages freedoms of thought and behavior at odds with the life for which the youth was emotionally set.

Nor is the family prepared. The prior developmental-separation phases have not been resolved, in child or parent terms, so as to prepare the emerging spirit for such flight. Friction is almost universal; it can be very hurtful to all involved.

Thursday, Jan. 5, 2016

LATEST= 1/5/2017 11:48:15 AM

DATE OF ORIGIN:  Tuesday, jan.. 1, 2017

LATEST= 1/4/2017 12:00:26 PM

Please consider the following three examples of tribalism in journalism. We postulate that tribalism is current and common to many species. (canines, as well as primates). We consider it a pervasive influence everywhere in all human spheres including the communications industry. (www.parentingandsocieties.com).

The first example consists of two “LETTERS TO THE EDITOR” I found in the print edition of the WALL STREET JOURNAL (7/21/2016).

So, as introduction:

These two letters are in response to an article, in the WSJ, that is itself rooted in the post-industrial, bi-coastal, elite intellectual modernity framework that gained gradual societal power from the Kennedy presidency forward. (think McNamara, et al, “the best and brightest”).

Both letters are presented in their entirety after which I will cite relevant quotes from William A.Galston in the WSJ. .

For the full GALSTON article please copy/paste or click here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-so-many-missed-the-nationalist-surge-1467761219

(Please note the article and letters to the editor were written way before Trump was a real possibility, but they could easily have forecast the election result.)


July 12 2016

Letters to the editor #1 

“William A. Galston is mistaken. (“Why so many missed the nationalist surge”  Politics and Ideas, July 6th.) The difference in attitude between professionals and poor or working class folks concerning “diversity” is not fear of change.

It is fear of crime and discrimination. The correlation between professionals of any stripe, and street crime is low. Whereas the correlation between certain under-educated low-income groups and street crime is high. When “diversity” comes to poor or middle-class communities, crime usually follows.

Mr. Galston may be right that the elite get better food in their part of town, but the rest get more violence.

“They also get more discrimination. The school slots and jobs reserved for “minorities” do not much reduce the options of well to-do whites; their children perform better at school and have more connections and more money to go elsewhere.

It is the children of poor or working class whites who get shoved aside in service to “diversity.”

“Urban centers are no exception: Chicago is a “diverse” city, but you won’t find the elites living or dining in the places where 64 people were shot over the Independence Day weekend…

“Those neighborhoods are for poor people. Likewise, the countries of Germany and Sweden have experienced a surge in violent crimes committed by immigrants who are definitely not living in upper-income neighborhoods.

“Why welcome diversity for diversity’s sake when it brings discrimination?”

Martin Connor

Davenport, Iowa, USA


Letter to EDITOR #2:

“Yet again another elitist condescends to the masses. Despite the fact that I hold a college degree, live in a large city, and have travelled far and wide around the world, my political beliefs, according to Mr. Galston, label me as a member of the less-educated classes.

I am as he suggests older and white. But I am also female and educated to think. Sorry to break his stereotype. 

No need to wonder what he thinks of the politics of the inner city

Does he describe its Democratic Party trend as a product of “less-educated” young male minorities?

Why no, he doesn’t. These are “young people [with education] … drawn to urban centers as hubs of innovation.”

As with all elitists, he picks and chooses his victims with great self-pride and much congratulation.

Mary Hitchcock

Rockford, Ill.


These 2 letters are offered as an example of a group in the US Midwest and elsewhere (that could be described as the western, industrial, mini-urban, tradition-valuing tribe). This group is discernably different than the bi-coastal group (that could be referred to as the post-industrial mega-urban modernity tribe).

Whether you consider these two letters right or wrong, please note the following tribal qualities:

Short, precise, to the point.

No emphasis on exaggeration or on the emotional; but expressive nevertheless.

Please note the geographic disparities with Galston’s east coast location.

In general, many in this group would not necessarily be great fans of the WSJ, nor would their paying the subscription expense be a high probability. At the same time the Midwestern industrial group shares certain history and institutional foundations with the post-industrial modernity (Galston - like) groups.

They share focus on having incorporated the 17th and 18th century “enlightenment” approach to thought and behaviour. They have both signed on to, more or less, the use of logic over spirituality (superstition) or at least to keeping these two spheres separate. Religion often does not play a major role in “post-industrial modernity” legal, commercial or public lives. Separation of state and church is part of this democratic mosaic. They both adhere to institutionalized protection and elevation of the individual.

They differ from Galston’s bi-coastal tribe on many other dimensions: eg. family and religion as values, gender roles, parental authority and family structure. Many more, but not now, not here. (See home page)

For this comparison purpose, we must first remember that our western vocabulary suffers from a lack of clear succinct terminology and framework in which to define and clarify issues surrounding tribal phenomena. But let’s try.

Because of these limitations on clarity, instead of trying to define and explicate; I will introduce, give the examples, make some comments (in capital letters) and see where that takes us. Essentially, I will leave even tentative political conclusions to the thoughts and intuition of the reader. Perhaps that will be a beginning.

Here are some quotes from the Galston article referenced by these two letters: 




July 5, 2016 7:27 p.m. ET


“In this year of Brexit and Donald Trump and ethno-nationalism rising across Europe, it is time to take stock of what we have learned.

Here are some more quotes from his article and my comments in capital letters:

“Population flows matter in part because they affect national economies, but even more because they challenge national cultures. Some native-born citizens welcome increased variety; others resent it.”


“It is one thing when immigrants remain in ports of entry and capital cities, quite another when they spread out into smaller communities that have been demographically stable for generations if not centuries.” HENCE, THESE HICKS ARE BEHIND THE TIMES

 “Education shapes attitudes toward diversity. In most Western democracies, people with college and professional degrees tend to be comfortable with immigrants.  “LETTER *1,  TRUE CONDESCENSION

“Educated professionals’ easy acceptance of demographic diversity is part of a larger reality: They don’t fear change.” … “Not so for people with less education, many of whom see change as threatening” LETTER #1,   THERE’S THAT CONDESCENSION THING, AGAIN.

For thoughts by a very different writer who expresses a very different content and style please see below. While the two letters serve as editorial response to Galston's article, I have taken on the role of editorial critic for this NYT article.

This author represents a different tribe. The southeastern areas of the globe that are not part of the anglosphere have not been as influenced by the enlightenment, the western scientific revolution, or the industrial and post-industrial precision and accuracy revolutions. Nevertheless, you will note that intellectually she has a western education and is well versed in modern intellectual ideas. To illustrate tribalism’s power to influence our human thinking and behavior I have contrasted this article and its style with those above, that illustrate the other tribes of 1) western modernity and 2) western traditionalism.

I have also arrogantly edited my chosen quotes from Ms Lamini’s NYT article.  To me, these illustrate the eastern pre-enlightenment attitude and more emotional emphasis of the preindustrial groups when contrasted with the western rationalists. In order to illustrate these qualities you may note my comments typed in capital letters.

We see this article as pointing out worthy points on issues concerning racial and societal discrimination. These intellectually worthy points are colored by the more emotionally tinged exaggerations and as I see it, deviations from readily available facts.

I have presented excerpts from the article below.

For the full article from the NYT please copy/paste or click here: 


11/27/2016, NYT, magazine


By Laila Lamini

“... Identity” is a vexing word. It is racial or sexual or national or religious or all those things at once. Sometimes it is proudly claimed, other times hidden or denied. But the word is almost never applied to whiteness. Racial identity is taken to be exclusive to people of color:


“…When we speak about race, it is in connection with African-Americans or Latinos or Asians or Native People or some other group that has been designated a minority. “White” is seen as the default, the absence of race.


“...In school curriculums, one month is reserved for the study of black history, while the rest of the year is just plain history;”


“...people will tell you they are fans of black or Latin music, but few will claim they love white music.




This year’s election has disturbed that silence. The president-elect earned the votes of a majority of white people while running a campaign that explicitly and consistently appealed to white identity and anxiety.


“... At the heart of this anxiety is white people’s increasing awareness that they will become a statistical minority in this country within a generation.


“... The paradox is that they have no language to speak about their own identity. “White” is a category that has afforded them an evasion from race, rather than an opportunity to confront it.


“... In his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump regularly tied America’s problems to others. Immigration must be reformed, he told us, to stop the rapists and drug dealers coming here from Mexico. Terrorism could be stopped by banning Muslims from entering the country.


“…The big banks would not be held in check by his opponent, whose picture he tweeted alongside a Star of David.


“The only people that the president-elect never faulted for anything were whites.


“... These people he spoke of not as an indistinguishable mass but as a multitude of individuals, victims of a system that was increasingly rigged against them. TRUE

“... A common refrain in the days after the election was “Not all his voters are racist.” But this will not do, because those voters chose a candidate who promised them relief from their problems at the expense of other races.


“...They may claim innocence now, but it seems to me that when a leading chapter of the Ku Klux Klan announces plans to hold a victory parade for the president-elect, the time for innocence is long past.

“... Racism is a necessary explanation for what happened on Nov. 8, but it is not a sufficient one. Last February, when the subject of racial identity came up at the Democratic primary debate in Milwaukee, the moderator Gwen Ifill surprised many viewers by asking about white voters: “By the middle of this century, the nation is going to be majority nonwhite,” she said. “Our public schools are already there. If working-class white Americans are about to be outnumbered, are already underemployed in many cases, and one study found they are dying sooner, don’t they have a reason to be resentful?”


"... If whiteness is no longer the default and is to be treated as an identity — even, soon, a “minority” — then perhaps it is time white people considered the disadvantages of being a race. The next time a white man bombs an abortion clinic or goes on a shooting rampage on a college campus, white people might have to be lectured on religious tolerance and called upon to denounce the violent extremists in their midst.

“... The opioid epidemic in today’s white communities could be treated the way we once treated the crack epidemic in black ones — not as a failure of the government to take care of its people but as a failure of the race. The fact that this has not happened, nor is it likely to, only serves as evidence that white Americans can still escape race. TOO MANY QUESTIONABLE, OVERGENERALIZED, INACCURATE ASSUMPTIONS

“... Much has been made about privilege in this election. I will readily admit to many privileges. I have employer-provided health care. I live in a nice suburb. I am not dependent on government benefits. But I am also an immigrant and a person of color and a Muslim. On the night of the election, I was away from my family. Speaking to them on the phone, I could hear the terror in my daughter’s voice as the returns came in. The next morning, her friends at school, most of them Asian or Jewish or Hispanic, were in tears. My daughter called on the phone. “He can’t make us leave, right?” she asked. “We’re citizens.”


“My husband and I did our best to quiet her fears. No, we said. He cannot make us leave. But every time I have thought about this conversation — and I have thought about it dozens of times, in my sleepless nights since the election — I have felt less certain. For all the privileges I can pass on to my daughter, there is one I cannot: whiteness.  PLAYING TO, JUSTIFYING AND USING IRRATIONAL EMOTION.

Laila Lalami is the author, most recently, of “The Moor’s Account,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Please note: there are no bad guys here in any of these writers. No way. People are expressing their thoughts without any intent to injure anyone.  Although you might not know it from the content, remember that the letters and all the articles mentioned here are written by Americans in 2016 and have been edited by American newsmen.

No matter who you think has right and justice on their side, what I think everyone here is missing to one extent or another, is that in all human affairs, there is an experiential and tribal bias.

They are all describing one country in one turbulent time-frame but from very different experiences. I call them tribal because they share an absence of engagement. Mr. Galston assumes a lack of education is why someone would vote for Trump. Why else?

Galston is predictable in his assured condescension instead of being open-minded and truly empathetic as he is with other minorities. Populism (“deplorables”) is used as a denigrating term for Trump voters. Trump may indeed have many short-comings; why label his followers as idiots rather than seekers of change and then evaluate the changes sought?

Can they ever come to a shared agreement on diagnosis and solution using empathy rather than subtle denigration? Tribalism is defined by exclusion and denial of legitimacy. What would Mr. Galton’s tribe, (including friends and family) the bicoastal elite intelligentsia, think of him if he spouted the sentiments in the two letters? What would happen if he had a religious (tribal) conversion to Trumpism and said like the two letter writers “This is not ignorant populism. This is common sense”. Or what if the two letter writers suddenly said “we’ll hold on because we have faith in statisttics that globalization will eventually make life better for us and our children”? Where would they stand with their “support” groups? 

Has Ms Naimi considered an article that distinguishes violent Islamic positions and condemns them as against both legal and moral laws.? That indeed the US government is justified in seeking, selecting and punishing them. What would the consequences be to her from her tribal members?

We are all ethnocentric; "try to walk a mile in my shoes" is an example of this.

We are all geared to support our tribe and tribal experiences and to think it superior. We are, in that regard also hardwired to create “’non-us’es”: Tribes outside our own, whom we reject as “not us.”  We are territorial and keep outsiders out if we decide they are" not like us." My reading of Galston himself is that he’s trying to be helpful and bring people together. He is limited (as we all are) by his experiences, or lack thereof. I wish I knew his reactions to these 2 (of hundreds) letters quoted here. 

Hence “the ability to create “tribe surpassing communication” methods seems to me a worthy, even crucial goal.

 Wednesday, JAN. 4, 2017

george jonisch, phd

clinical psychologist, (ret.)

family therapy


DATE OF ORIGIN:  3/7/2016

Copy of my letter to the Financial Times of London, (FT.com)



Thank you for the bringing together Mr.’s Munchau, Luce and Summers on the same page. (3/7/16, ft.com.) 

The ECB and European disunity, President Obama and American racism, macroeconomic policy! Is it possible they all have something in common? I propose that Dr. Summers’ article contains the clearest example of what I wish to address. Regarding the challenge of the 1970’s inflation, “The first attempts to contain inflation were too timid to be effective and success was achieved only with highly determined policy.” While totally accurate, it is this sentence that leaves out a major dimension missing in all three. To have a highly determined policy one must have high conviction and high courage. I lived through those years and remember Chairman Volcker’s courage; both political and personal. The interplay between his (knowledge > conviction > courage > sustained transparent action) are fresh in my memory. They are also sorely lacking in many of today’s chauffeurs of cultural and economic institutions. Why? And why of all the things he lacks, is determination not lacking in Mr. Trump. For the answer I cite Mr. Luce. “The past is never dead”. Globalization is not the past. It may be the future. Or not. But globalization and its moral relativism, its assault on the religion and fabric of all societies has fudged all conviction and therefore courage in those most involved with global economics and politics. Is the racism posited to Trump’s minions greater now than the last fifty years? I think not. They’re anger is greater now. The leaders they once wanted to believe in, have greatly disappointed. When our president singles out a black murder victim, a possible example of racial violence, as “he could have been my son” he betrays his leadership of America as a whole nation. When he undermines the police uniform he betrays his leadership of America as a whole nation. Similarly, when Congress passes financial and brokerage laws they know can never be enforced and when courts overturn insider convictions because of these non-laws, it reveals a virus that eats courage and civic conviction. Trump is seen as the anti-virus. He promises justice not wealth. In a very human sense many have been sustained by justice. For decades now that promise of conviction and the justice it once was seen to enforce has been eroded and finally, taken away. Human needs are not exclusively described by economic data.

DATE OF ORIGIN: 03/01/2016

Date of origin: 160229, 2 pm

What started as a casual observation has burgeoned into a personal theoretical statement. The observation starting about 15-20 years ago, was what seemed to be an increase in entitlement feelings across the board in youngsters of all ages. Having raised 5 kids with a 15 year spread in age, I had been aware of an uphill battle whenever I tried to instill values of self-reliance, responsibility and reliability and such. I think it got done but it seemed easier in the older than the younger. Later I noticed that public behaviour of kids in general was much less disciplined and respectful than what I was used to. Recently, within the space of 2 or 3 weeks five excellent articles concerning this trend came to my attention from three very separate categories of sources. One was from what is a millennial (25 years of age) contribution to the online social internet “literature”. The second was a posting from a Pennsylvania pediatrician describing the changes in the behaviour and character of the patients in his practice over 25 years. The third and fourth articles are from respected economists, covering issues of the contemporary political economy. The fifth is a straightforward description of our economy in the WSJ and like many other news items, details the financial effects on the middle class saver and rule follower.

Please bear in mind that a major element in a systems outlook (besides the reciprocal influence dynamic of “ever larger circles”) is that power always flows downhill. Want to change a school’s culture? Don’t start looking for bad teachers or good teachers. Start with the local superintendent of schools or at the least, the principal of a particular school. Hold the principal responsible before the individual teachers. Thousands of years of maritime experience has taught that in order to save lives, and ships, we hold the captain responsible for what happens on his ship. Change the captain to change the ship’s work culture and success rate. Same for schools. Same for all systems. Start at the top to change the culture of a system.

This is the first of five articles, snippets of which (with my comments and highlights) I want to present for your consideration.

These 5 articles, when seen in a straight line concern what we refer to as the interactive dynamic of family, culture, history and macroeconomics. We will try to point out how they should be seen as an interrelated set of real phenomena that reciprocally influence and define each other.

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

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

2 - Kids, politicians feel increasingly comfortable ignoring long standing rules of appropriate conduct.

3 – Consequences for misbehaving in sports, schools, colleges, Wall St., Washington DC, state capitals, has diminished significantly.

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

The first article is a long rant online, by a twenty-five-year-old millennial employed by an internet company. She is unhappy because of low pay and non-recognition. So she writes the CEO of YELP and complains.

“…When I was a kid, back in the 90s when Spice Girls and owning a pager were #goals, I dreamed of having a car and a credit card and my own apartment. I told my 8-year old self, This is what it means to be an adult.

Now, seventeen years later, I have those things. But boy did I not anticipate a decade and a half ago that a car and a credit card and an apartment would all be symbols of stress, not success.

I left college, having majored in English literature, with a dream to work in media. It was either that or go to law school. Or become a teacher. But I didn’t want to become a cliche or drown in student loans, see. I also desperately needed to leave where I was living?—?I could get into the details of why, but to sum up: I wanted to die every single day of my life and it took me several years to realize it was because of the environment I was in….”

“… Then, after I had moved and got firmly stuck in this apartment with this debt, I was told I’d have to work in support for an entire year before I would be able to move to a different department. A whole year answering calls and talking to customers just for the hope that someday I’d be able to make memes and twitter jokes about food. If you follow me on twitter, which you don’t, you’d know that these are things I already do. But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s get back to the situation at hand, shall we? …”

“…I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job. Not because I’m lazy, but because I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can’t afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me, even though you’ve got a whole fridge full of it on the 8th floor. But we’re not allowed to take any of that home because it’s for at-work eating. Of which I do a lot. Because 80 percent of my income goes to paying my rent. Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right? …”

“…How about this: instead of telling you about all the ways I’m withering away from putting my all into a company that doesn’t have my back, I offer some solutions. I emailed Mike, Eat25’s CEO, about a few ideas to give back to our community for the holidays. He, along with someone named Patty, politely turned them down. But maybe you could repurpose them? …“

What to make of this? Clearly it is not made up!

Also clearly, her issues and pain go further and deeper than her financial limitations. Of course there are those who will see this rant in the context of the traditional diagnosis-pathology framework. And there may also be those who empathize and support her descriptions of multiple inconveniences and dilemmas and the legitimacy of bringing these inequities to the attention of the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation and then accusing the company “of not having (her) back”

What does the CEO owe this young lady? What does today’s society owe her? How much legitimacy would her rant have if published by “Dear Abby” thirty years ago? To me its issues reek of overentitlement among other dimensions.

We will withhold further comment for now.

To illustrate the interactivity between parenting and political economics, please read these excerpts from this 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.

Wsj.com, Dec. 17, 2015 7:05 p.m. ET


“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.

So far can you see the connection to our first article? They are both in keeping with our theory of ever larger cultural systems circles that constantly interact with each other. Could our millennial rantress have been one of the patients described by Dr. Sax? If there is a group of people whose consistently predictable behavior can be accurately described as “millennial”, can we also assume that cultural and changing parenting factors are in play?

Now please read these excerpts from the writings in different venues, from two serious and respected economists: neither 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 the national governmental and international rules of financial behavior (Please remember, influence and power flows downhill.) I think a careful reading, with the above articles kept in mind, will reveal interesting parallel lines that also are described as starting politically and economically 30-50 years ago.

(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 even tune out to the details of these financial elements in my presentation. Try not to do that. It’s important to understand this stuff. We wish to highlight its potential connection to treating patients. I have underlined phrases that relate to the recurring themes in our presentation.)

Now, please read this article from Barron’s followed by Stephen S. Roach in PROJECT SYNDICATE. They both despair about the political and economic featherbedding and the resulting malinvestment to which they lead.



“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…”


> 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 56-year low of 1% through June 2005, before being raised 17 times in small increments of 25 basis points per move over the two-year period from mid-2005 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. ….”

There is no mention in either of these articles that the most productive period of coping with inflation and our financial obligations was accomplished by Chairman Greenspan’s predecessor; William Volcker. Chairman Volcker, a economist and bureaucrat but 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. In the macroeconomic sphere, in order to pay for the war, 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. The war on poverty changed and created many American institutions. It helped many citizens, but created many challenges that showed up later and were not emphasized by the popular press. Instead of taking the unpopular courageous steps that Dr. Volcker eventually took, Johnson’s successor, President Nixon took the “politically easy path” of negating the Gold Standard of international economic rules that were in place 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 America’s world currency responsibility. The nonlinear larger system circles of Cowardice > Mistrust>Citizen Withdrawal>Corruption that took place in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s may be seen as having drilled down, through the multi-generation transmission process, to our own political, educational and family institutions. Johnson funded many worthy causes during his tenure. He changed the educational picture of American higher education through massive financial injections. He also started many Americans on the road to multi-generational welfare dependency that was only challenged by President Clinton a generation later. Did the magnified role of a ”care-taker”, overly-responsible government change the view of entitlements? Did the American “self-sufficient” identity begin to erode from this macro-political and economic change? Did Dr. Sax’s patients, once they are voters, influence the Fed to further lower interest rates? Does long-term featherbedding of interest rates contribute not only to mal-investment but to citizen's exaggerated expectations of government and authorities in general?



Dan Strumpf and Joe Light


“…Cathy Berger, a 55-year-old who lives in Nassau County, N.Y., and works as development director at the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said that in the years before the financial crisis she used to invest a large portion of her savings in certificates of deposit, earning an annual rate of as much as 8%. She moved a portion of her savings into high-dividend stocks after rates fell, but lately those stocks have been under pressure amid turbulence across the financial markets.“It’s so volatile,” said Ms. Berger. “Trying to reap any kind of income from your money, from your assets, is almost impossible now...”

 “…Low-rate stimulus increasingly is “offset by presumably weaker income growth, greater uncertainty and potentially tighter credit conditions,” said Michelle Meyer, a U.S. economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

To be sure, low rates remain a boon for companies like mortgage lenders and auto makers, who sold a record 17.5 million new cars in the U.S. last year. …”

 To me, these articles, as stated, portray the same scene but from different angles. they also illustrate the interactive push-pull between (family-parenting) - (economy) - (governance). Let me know what you think!

Date of origin:  01/30/16

Project Syndicate is an excellent source for article on politics, the economy and geopolitics. It rarely discusses family systems as connected to these subjects. here is an example of an interesting article that seeks to understand one aspect of the current dilemma for westernized Muslims.                                       

Please Click Here

Dr. Mahroum discusses the book The Lonely Crowd by David Reisman. 

"... (many westerners) have regarded themselves as the bearers of a righteous truth and moral vision that takes precedence over all others...

This has inevitably put religious revivalists in opposition to the second cultural type vying for preeminence in the Arab world: Western-educated, inner-directed modernists ... These Arabs – often the economic elite – read, admire, and consume products of a culture that, despite its proclaimed commitment to “universal values,” continues to be stingily Eurocentric and dominated by Christian intellectual tradition. As a result, they are increasingly likely to feel like exiles both at home and abroad.

The final, other-directed strand of Arab culture is arguably the most dominant: those whom Riesman would have called the “lonely Arab crowd.” Free of roots or tradition, they take refuge in superficiality from the conflicts that surround them, seeking fulfillment in consumerism, careers, and lifestyles. ...(their main concern) ...is the latest fad or fashion.

This cultural turbulence is due – at least in part – to the absence of a contemporary homegrown intellectual tradition capable of providing Arab societies with an inner compass based on local values and modern perspectives. This cultural vacuum is most evident in the mismatch between the region’s reading habits and the response of its publishing industry."

Read More Here

Please remember, the “multi-generational transmission process” of emotional and behavioral patterns proceeds outside our immediate awareness. (please see the SYSTEMS link)

As a clinical psychologist and the author of a website devoted to parenting and family function one would think I have no credentials to comment on issues currently affecting Europe, America and the other 3 quadrants of the globe as described in Dr. Sami Mahmoud’s article addressing the lonely Arab crowd. And you would be right. I don’t have those credentials. I don’t think those credentials are justifiably meaningful. I believe that there are several highly relevant dimensions when discussing Dr. Mahmoud’s excellent article. Such as, that there is a deep and intimate connection between the following four elements:

1 institutions and values of a society

2 family and parenting interaction patterns

3 the historical, political/economic pathways that reciprocally influenced those constantly evolving dimensions of 1 and 2 above

4 the dimension of the individual

It’s been my finding after 45 years of clinical work that none of these four dimensions can be meaningfully understood without the other three.

Dr. Mahmoud quoted David Reisman and his designation of the tradition vs inner directed vs outer directed man. I vividly remember, in college, being impressed by that concept. I was so moved by the validity of the distinctions Reisman made. At the same time, I remember thinking, “How did this come about?” I was curious about the timing, the mechanisms of transmission. As a psychology major with minors in education and history I was given answers that I thought were equally valid. Those answers consisted of the western developmental view of the individual at that time. Namely, if you had the right mothering and/or fathering as per Spock and Freud, you would become an inner (strong) directed adult. If you had problematic, troubled or “the wrong” mothering or fathering you would become outer (weak) directed. The “traditional” orientation was not really taken seriously in the 60’s urban America. Psychology at that time valued individuation and that meant a certain isolation from the crowd. That framework carried me roughly fifteen years through college, graduate school and the beginning of my career. I believed the first few years of the isolated nuclear family life, the mothering and later fathering, laid the irrevocable groundwork by age 6-7 for all future life endeavors. Strengths and personality problems even psychosis, back then, were thought to be based on those few 6-7 years and were due to the failure of “proper parenting.” I then became familiar with Dr. Murray Bowen’s “Family Systems Theory Therapy.” Even though by that time I had gone through post-doctoral training in traditional psychotherapy I enrolled in yet another post-doctoral program that focused exclusively and intensely on the family. As a result, I formed a very different view of development, family patterns and principles and remediation through family work, for children as well as adults. These techniques and principles are clearly described in the works of Bowen, Guerin, Carter, McGoldrick and others. Having digested and implemented that training and outlook I took yet another turn and this will soon bring me back to Dr. Mahmoud’s article. Many of my patients in the NYC area, were designated as “ethnic.” If you were from Finland, France, Denmark, Lichtenstein you were not called “ethnic.” If your roots were from the three quadrants of the globe outside North America and Northern Europe, you were called “ethnic”. This included Jews from Eastern Europe or the Middle East, Muslims from Asia or the Middle East, Italians, Greeks, Poles etc. In the course of treating those “ethnic” patients I realized I had to become familiar with the urban-agrarian disparity, world history, political economics, governance and geography in order to overcome the urban, western ethnocentric zeitgeist of mental health. I realized that I would never understand how families work without understanding the surrounding culture: both the current surrounding culture and the “cultures of origin” that were imbedded in these families. It took a while but in venturing down this road I came to see that even though our western universities cover a topic called “the social sciences” there is hardly any meaningful integration of content that this term would imply. As stated, in order to understand the bewildering roller coaster that the world of late seems to be on, one must understand in a multidimensional framework, the family functioning differences, political economy differences, historical differences going back at least hundreds of years. One is inevitably led to consider Dr. Mahmoud idea that the west in the 1600s "... began to think of themselves as observers whose scientific methods, morals, and ethics overrode those of other cultures."
Read More Here

The west is different today and was different back then. To be more specific I suggest a tripartite replacement of terms for the twenty first century “lonely crowd”. The term “tribal” and “tribalism” is a hard wired feature of all humanity and can replace the “traditional” man as well as “other directed” man. The eastern and southern tradition, not only religiously, is one of distinction and exclusion. Tribalism is a multi-dimensional societal concept that includes pre-industrial economy, nondemocratic  vertical legal and power structure and a very different pattern of family pattern and personal boundaries/identity. Tribalism remains current in the south and east because the western industrial revolution did not challenge it as happened in North Western Europe and America. The eastern and southern tradition is to a large extent incompatible with the transformative historical industrial progression of the west. Industrialism slowly but surely wipes away exclusion one inch at a time. The beginnings of that might be happening now in the south and east. Inner directedness is industrial. Post-industrialism has become “modernity” almost overnight and is a serious and out of hand challenge to all its practitioners. Perhaps the confused souls that are being bribed and manipulated by this secular modernity can be helped by more than books. Yes, they are free of cultural roots and cultural tradition but they were raised to be tribal by family roots and patterns that were in sync with the larger tribal cultural plotical/economy patterns. Personal boundaries and identity have cultural component. By underlining that their families didn’t have the western family experiences, patterns and values, one can perhaps address a source of inner turbulence that has yet to be articulated.  I could go on and on but I’ve already over imposed on your time and text space.

More to come in February 2016!!

The west is different today and was different back then. To be more specific I suggest a tripartite replacement of terms for the twenty first century “lonely crowd”. The term “tribal” and “tribalism” is a hard wired feature of all humanity and can replace the “traditional” man as well as “other directed” man. The eastern and southern tradition, not only religiously, is one of distinction and exclusion. Tribalism is a multi-dimensional societal concept that includes pre-industrial economy, nondemocratic  vertical legal and power structure and a very different pattern of family pattern and personal boundaries/identity.

Tribalism remains current in the south and east because the western industrial revolution did not challenge it as happened in North Western Europe and America. The eastern and southern tradition is to a large extent incompatible with the transformative historical industrial progression of the west. Industrialism slowly but surely wipes away exclusion one inch at a time. The beginnings of that might be happening now in the south and east. Inner directedness is industrial. Post-industrialism has become “modernity” almost overnight and is a serious and out of hand challenge to all its practitioners. Perhaps the confused souls that are being bribed and manipulated by this secular modernity can be helped by more than books.

Mother and Daughter

Yes, they are free of cultural roots and cultural tradition but they were raised to be tribal by family roots and patterns that were in sync with the larger tribal cultural plotical/economy patterns. Personal boundaries and identity have cultural component. By underlining that their families didn’t have the western family experiences, patterns and values, one can perhaps address a source of inner turbulence that has yet to be articulated.  I could go on and on but I’ve already over imposed on your time and text space.

More to come in February 2016!!