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OPINION

Children Are Our Future — So Why Don’t We Make Policy With Them in Mind?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Ron Harris

Most of our policy debates factor in “consenting adults.” That’s often true whether it’s policies concerning marriage, drug use or the economy — but every one of these policies have an outsized effect on our children.

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These policies don’t exist in a vacuum, and they never did. The laws we enact will eventually harm or help every one of our children, and often in foreseeable (and disproportionate) ways. Importantly, they harm children by harming the family.

Take the decriminalization of drugs, for instance. Advocates for mainstream marijuana use tend to argue along two lines: Firstly, they contend, the “war on drugs” fills our prisons with people who don’t belong there and has no real deterrent effect in practice. Secondly, they argue that criminalization makes it harder for addicts to get the help they need in order to recover. 

Neither of these arguments consider anything other than the adults abusing substances. What about the children under their care? 

There is a demonstrable link between substance abuse in parents and the likelihood children will suffer abuse, neglect, maltreatment — and eventually enter the foster care system. Getting high might seem to some like a victimless crime, but it harms children if the adults getting high are supposed to be leading a family. 

It’s also the case that policies which undermine traditional marriage end up weakening families and harming children. Research has amply documented the fact that children need healthy, regular interaction with a man and a woman during early developmental stages. 

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We take the benefits of mothers for granted, but fathers contribute to child wellbeing across the board: Emotional, intellectual, social and long-term economic outcomes are all improved by the full presence of a male and female parent during childhood.

Families are the social unit underlying all of politics, and they are one of the most important lines of defense we have against child suffering and adult malaise. The purpose of the government, in fact, is to support the nuclear family. 

The Founders knew this. James Wilson wrote that the family was “the true origin of society,” the fertile ground out of which all of civilization would spring. Thomas Jefferson wrote to his brother that “no society is so precious as that of one’s family.” 

Our children are our future. We must develop policy which allows for children to thrive, and for that reason we must develop policy which strengthens the family — and considers the future.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward,” reads Psalm 127. “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” 

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There will be a day when we are feeble, a day when we are forced to speak with our enemies at the gate. It is not a uniquely Christian insight that children are our only recourse when our brief youth is past. 

A society which thinks only of itself is doomed to ruin. A society which refuses to account for children in its political decisions doesn’t just harm children in present-day America, but weakens the coming generation before it is their time to lead. 

Self-centered policies do nothing but ensure a bleak future for ourselves and for generations to come. Do not let yourself be put to shame because your children suffered in order to afford your license in youth.

Editor's note: This column has been updated.

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