‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.
‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’
‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’
‘It’s the children’s interest in family life that is the most important,’ says Swift. ‘From all we now know, it is in the child’s interest to be parented, and to be parented well. Meanwhile, from the adult point of view it looks as if there is something very valuable in being a parent.’ [So instead of abolishing the family...]
‘We could prevent elite private schooling without any real hit to healthy family relationships, whereas if we say that you can’t read bedtime stories to your kids because it’s not fair that some kids get them and others don’t, then that would be too big a hit at the core of family life.’
‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’ quips Swift.
‘It’s true that in the societies in which we live, biological origins do tend to form an important part of people’s identities, but that is largely a social and cultural construction. [TB: Care to give an argument for that?] So you could imagine societies in which the parent-child relationship could go really well even without there being this biological link.’
‘Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,’ says Swift.
‘We do want to defend the family against complete fragmentation and dissolution,’ he says. ‘If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.’ [TB: Oh, good, seems we're in excellent hands. Thanks for pulling us back from the ledge of lunacy. The rational cutoff, according to our family expert, isn't two but nine.]