I recently completed Rick Santorum’s It Takes A Family. I quipped on Twitter that had I read this before the campaign started then Santorum would have been my top Rick pick before that other Rick entered the race (though I still maintain that Governor Perry would have been an outstanding nominee, but no need to go there). At times Santorum slips into politician speak – you know, those occasions when politicians feel compelled to tell stories of individual people in order to justify some larger agenda. And some of the book is a little plodding, especially when he gets into wonkish mode (which fortunately is not all that often). Those quibbles asides, there are large chunks of this book that could very well have been written by yours truly. That isn’t meant to be a commentary on my own genius, but rather a way of saying I agree with just about everything this man has to say.
The book title really says it all. The heart of Rick Santorum’s political philosophy is the family, meaning that to him strong families are the heart of any functioning society. The family has been undermined both by big government programs and by the culture at large. Santorum mocks the “village elders” who view more government programs as the solution to all problems. Santorum acknowledges that many of the problems we face don’t have quick and easy fixes, and often no legislative action can be taken. Santorum offers a series of small policy proposals that are aimed at giving parents and individuals in tough economic circumstances some tools to help, but he also emphasizes the doctrine of subsidiarity. Ultimately we must rely principally on local institutions, starting with the family.
Santorum understands what even some on the right fail to appreciate, and that is we can’t divorce social issues from economics. The breakdown of the family coincides directly with economic hardship. If we want a healthier economy, we need healthier families. It’s a central tenet of conservatism that is somehow ignored by large swathes of the political right.