Paid family leave—meaning the government paying or forcing businesses to pay for one or more parents taking time off to spend with a newborn—seems like a slam dunk idea to the Christian Left. According to a recent article in Christianity Today, “Christians Shouldn’t Need a Mandate to Provide Paid Family Leave,” “We should provide the best family leave possible. Christians who own or manage businesses ought to lead the way on family leave.” The article lists three benefits of parents taking time off to be with newborns:
Parental leave could save lives. “There is clearly a link—even if indirect—between maternity leave and babies surviving.”Old Testament purification rules, “which in practice gave new mothers a rest after birth,” are similar.Men need to spend time with their children in the initial weeks after birth or adoption. “Research has shown ‘fathers who take paternity leave are more likely, a year or so down the road, to change diapers, bathe their children, read them bedtime stories, and get up at night to tend to them.’”
Point one is debatable, point two is irrelevant, but point three is a post hoc fallacy. Paid parental leave doesn’t cause men to become better fathers; good fathers take parental leave.
Common sense tells us that it’s good for mothers and fathers to spend as much time as possible with new babies. However, the conclusion that businesses or the government must pay for this time is another fallacy—a non sequitur, or a logical leap across the Grand Canyon. Fathers and mothers should save and pay for the leave themselves.
Americans should keep in mind that many Christians promoted a forty-hour workweek in the early twentieth century so that fathers could spend more time with their families. How has that worked out? Paid family leave will no doubt suffer similar abuse. Parents will leave babies with grandma and take off for Cancun. Fathers will play golf with his buddies. It will become just another paid vacation.
The Christian Left must give up on the socialist nonsense that government policies can make people good or bad. These policies don’t have that power. Christianity teaches that people are born with a strong tendency to evil that only Christ can change, so paid family leave will not turn deadbeat dads into fabulous fathers.
Historically, mothers worked at home and spent all their time with their kids. Fathers always worked outside the home. How did families raise the “greatest generation” without paid family leave for fathers? Only after World War II did mothers decide they needed to work outside the home away from their children. Today, parents want someone else to pay them to stay with newborns for months. Most could likely afford to pay for it themselves since the United States is one of the wealthiest societies in the history of the world.
Paid family leave is not profamily, as so many claim. Paying for it will require higher taxes, either now or later, to pay off the debt the state must borrow to pay for it. The government could tax the rich more as socialists want. However, every dollar taken from the rich reduces investments in new jobs and, in the long run, results in lower wages. Requiring businesses to finance this leave has a similar impact—fewer jobs and lower pay. Socialists can’t recognize those antifamily effects because they can only see the immediate effect: family leave is good so the state must pay for it. Good economic thinking requires people to consider the long-term effects.
The author appeals to “the Bible’s frequent injunctions to help one another in love (Rom. 12:13)” as a reason to promote paid parental leave financed by the government or businesses. Yet, in context, the Bible encourages people to give their own money to help others, not use the government’s money. Everyone bears the responsibility for charity, not just business owners.
American socialists envy the paid family leave that many European countries have. These same socialists argue that the US, being much wealthier, can and should have the government pay for this leave as well. Yet it should be obvious that if Americans are wealthier than Europeans, then the US government or employers don’t need to finance the paid family leave; Americans can save and pay for it themselves. If the poorest workers can’t, that creates an opportunity for churches and charities to step in and help. There is no need for the state to force it on others.
The most profamily policy is to lower taxes for all families so that they can take home more of what they earn.