Free Market Family Values

“The innermost contradiction of the free market is that it works to weaken the traditional social institutions on which it has depended in the past – the family is a key a example. The fragility and decline of the traditional family increased throughout the Thatcherite period. The proportion of women aged eighteen to forty-nine who were married fell from 74 percent in 1979 to 61 percent, while the proportion cohabiting increased from 11 percent to 22 percent during the same period. Births outside of marriage more than doubled in the 1980s. One-parent families increased from 12 percent in 1979 to 21 percent in 1992, with the biggest single increase being in single mothers who had never been married.

By 1991 there was a divorce for every two marriages in Britain – the highest divorce rate of any EU country, and comparable only with that in the United States. Is it coincidental that no other EU country apart from Britain has imposed American-style deregulation on its labour market? In those British cities in which Thatcherite policies of labour market deregulation were most successful in lowering rates of unemployment, rates of divorce and family breakdown were correspondingly highest.”

John Gray in False Dawn. (It should be noted that Gray was initially supportive of Thatcher’s policies as pragmatic solutions for Britain’s miserable economic performance in the 1970s – his disillusionment with them now appears to be the result of their move from pragmatic solution to dogma.)