The Corner

Does Government Know Best About Fathers?

The American Enterprise Institute (where I am a visiting fellow) and the Brookings Institute have launched a joint project on paid family leave. The project has got several good people with differing political perspectives thinking about an issue that has been rising as a concern for politicians in both parties.

But I am less sure than those people that there ought to be a federal policy on paid family leave. And the latest post associated with the project—by Richard Reeves and Eleanor Krause—is not exactly allaying my small-government concerns.

They write that any paid-leave policy should include fathers as well as mothers, and they may well be right about that. Their rationales, though, include regret that “while the gender revolution has been largely successful at promoting women’s roles in the workplace, there has been less progress in nudging men toward traditionally female roles, like childcare.” It would be good, they add, to “shift social norms” by including men in these policies—and by making it impossible for them to transfer their leave time to their partner. The point, that is, is not to expand parents’ choices but to push them into making the approved ones.

It seems to me that how mothers and fathers divide the labor of child-rearing, and how they think about their roles, should not be the federal government’s business.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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