Monday, August 17, 2009

A modest thought experiment: eldercare needs may encourage "artificial" families to form

The growing need for personal eldercare, along with the exploding costs of nursing homes and facilities, could lead to new attempts at “creative” family formation, especially involving childless or single adult children.

Single mothers could offer to become live-in caregivers in exchange for help with supporting and raising their children, creating “artificial” families. The adult children involved might feel a loss of autonomy but might find the arrangement economically compelling. Such developments would comport with Phillip Longman’s idea of a new “social contract” that encourages all people to be involved in childrearing and intergenerational responsibilities, and indirectly providing an incentive for people to have more children again. Longman is known for his promotion of the idea that everyone share responsibility for OPC, "other people's children", because everyone eventually benefits from them. (I had discussed this earlier on the Issue Blog here.)

I don’t know how state departments of child services would view such developments. In some cases, marriages might occur only for the economic benefits (not attraction or love), and I can imagine arguments (both ways) about how such developments could affect the institution of marriage. It all gets pretty existential.

But the demographics of what is going on might very well compel people to look at such arrangements. Utilitarianism, the way you study it in Philosophy 101, cuts both ways.

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