Spain: Setting a Trap for Families

Steven Mosher
by Carlos Beltramo
PRI Weekly Briefing
01 June 2010
Vol. 12 / No. 14
Reproduced with Permission

Here in Spain, the government has tried to compensate for the lack of demographic growth by huge government subsidies borrowed from largely foreign lenders. Now the loans are coming due and the prospects for repaying them are dim. There is no real wealth being created in Spain today. There are fewer business start-ups and new hires. And there are far fewer families willing and able to invest in any country's real long-term, wealth: its children.

The short-term problem of debt repayment pales before the long-term problem of too few people.

Socialism in Spain seeks to establish a state of what it calls "solidarity." Underlying this nebulous concept - which looks good at first glance - are policies that promote contraception and abortion and, in practice, punish large families. If left in place for a generation, these policies will destroy the unborn, the family and, ultimately, the entire society.

We expect our leaders to behave rationally, whether they are creatures of the left or the right. But if their model state is one which attempts to eliminate all differences between individuals in terms of wealth and power, as Spain's currently does, watch out.

A social-welfare system, where the government is involved in distributing benefits and burdens among the citizens, must never undermine the twin supports of all societies: fertility and freedom. It must promote an adequate rate of population replacement so the population does not age and die, and it must promote sufficient economic freedom that the economy continues to expand and jobs continue to be created.

For the first, marriage and parenthood must be encouraged and, if necessary, immigration as well. For the second, an entrepreneurially minded private sector must be protected and promoted so that human beings can exercise their natural God-given creativity. This enables, in turn, the creation of new wealth, which make it possible to provide jobs for these new members of society.

Fertility and freedom. If either of these two fundamentals is missing, a country will have serious problems. If both are missing, a country is poised to collapse. Such is the case with Spain today.

Last week a report was published by the Institute for Family Policies which documents the current crisis. The main points of "Evolution of the Family in Spain 2010" are:

If one wants to maintain a thriving democratic society, these figures are a debacle. A society that cannot rely on its families because it has systematically destroyed them is a society that is moribund, and may not survive the difficult times ahead of it.

Zapatero is not to blame for the international economic crisis. At the same time, his policies have crippled Spain in ways that make it hard for her to overcome it. One of the first things that he took away was the "baby bonus," a government payment to a couple upon the birth of a child. Spain now has the unhappy distinction of being the least family-friendly country in Europe. Immigration is her last hope to offset a declining population, but with unemployment running at 5 million and a stagnant economy only the low-skilled and less-productive are willing to augment her ranks.

Zapatero's government must cut unnecessary spending, encourage private enterprise, and shelter young couples from taxes. If the government encourages family formation and private enterprise, the new family-run businesses that will spring up will help to move the economy forward.

But this is like asking a tiger to change his stripes. The Zapateroistas are, after all, committed socialists who have no love for either family or free enterprise.

Next stop: Greece.

Carlos Beltramo is PRI's Correspondent in Spain.