What drives free-market family policy is a fundamentally wrongheaded view about the economy and the ends it should serve. US policymakers equate the economy with markets alone, and then treat rising GDP as the sum total of economic success. But the economic system, properly conceived, is, simply yet more broadly, the system for getting people the resources they need to flourish—material, caretaking, educational, and leisure—individually and collectively. (This is the first post in a symposium.)
There's a widely accepted story that the US's reliance on markets and paid work over direct government provision in supporting families derives from the country’s unique, longstanding economic ideology supporting free enterprise. A close attention to the historical record shows that this story is a myth.