I know a few other IYc-ers have been writing on the size of government in some way or shape (see here and here) but I would like to re-approach it with its interaction with value of the nuclear family.

Now there is this line from The West Wing, wherein Ainsely, a republican who was hired by the democrat administration, spouts out how she thinks government should perform:

“I believe that every time the Federal Government hands down a new law, it leaves for the rest of us a little less freedom. So I say let’s stick to the ones we absolutely need in order to have water come out of the faucet and our cars not stolen.”

I just love this quote. Although it is an incomplete theory on the operations and purpose of government through the lens of modern western conservatism, it is a neat and simplified view as to what small government ought to look like on the federal level.

At a certain point the institution of the family, which is primary, must interact with the government, which is a secondary institution. But these intersections ought to be handled cautiously and continually in favor of the family and its dignity.

In Rerum Novarum, the Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII this idea is addressed:

“The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth.”

In later encyclicals this letter is further built on by St. John Paul II. This advice in particular should have a greater grasp on our modern politics. I understand this criticism is a prevalent one, yet it is something to have in mind while considering all sorts of social services and the public education system. There must be a balance struck between the two levels of authority.

In fact, Pope Leo XIII continues to say that if and only if individual and mutual rights are disturbed should authorities step in, “for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop.”

The natural division between family and government becomes clear.

And I would be at a loss if I didn’t put in his comments on socialism, “The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home.”