Speaking casually with a psychoanalyst at a gathering, I was struck by how similar psychotherapy is to other leftist social theories. If I understand correctly, it presupposes that complex human mentality can be reduced to a number of factors, analyzed, reconstructed, and improved. Such erroneous belief about complex adaptive systems is a hallmark of leftism.

The idea of psychoanalysis, going back in time, is not new. An Indian meditation technique called prati prasav employed the same approach thousands of years ago. The goals, however, were much more narrow: to partly understand one’s fear of meditation.

Take, for example, child psychology. There are myriad contradictory opinions. Some suggest to touch the child frequently, others warn that touching creates sexual complexes in him. Some suggest to attend him when crying, others warn that this will cause him to cry to get attention. In psychology, like in society or economics, all policies seem to be wrong because they are rigid and long-playing. In the natural order of things there are no policies, but mostly ad hoc solutions. They always occur on a micro-level, and always adapt to imperceptible changes. In the above example, normal parents distinguish between different modes and causes of crying, and their reaction varies from demonstrative indifference to urgent care, with all shades in between. Policies and prescriptions necessarily tend to be more schematic.

The historical norm is always the best policy. Evolution of behavior is no less plausible than in biology. For ages, billions of couples raised their children; they looked around for the best examples, and adopted the best practices. Whatever behavioral norms persisted for millennia are certainly the best. They evolved by the same invisible hand which drives markets. Only in the nineteenth century did the notion of romantic companionship develop. Psychoanalysis in the twentieth century substituted academic theories for proven practical solutions.

The idea that parents are somehow obligated to their children is ridiculous. They gave their child the greatest gift of all—the gift of life. Children exist solely for their parents’ joy and use, and reverse obligations are extremely basic. Very little care for children is not parental neglect, but the historical norm. Attitudes have changed in our time due to romantic propaganda, but also for other important reasons. Work has become less exhaustive, and parents have time to look for transcendent values; failing to find any, they sublimate their unrealized longings on their children. In large cities with broken bonds of neighborhood people feel lonely, and cling to their children in an attempt to create family-based mini-neighborhoods. Such hysterical attitudes contrast markedly with the dignity of patriarchal families. Tellingly, the Torah does not urge parents to love their children; rather, children are commanded to respect their parents.

The historical norm is a powerful solution to perceived deviations. Child hyperactivity is a common parental complaint. And why not? Biology makes children sufficiently active and able by the age of four, but modern society refuses them work. Naturally, they launch into hysteria and hyperactivity. They expect meaningful orders from their parents, and cease to respect them when they receive none. Throughout history children have worked at that age. I don’t argue for sending five-year-olds to work in mines, but they are perfectly capable of doing household work. Incidentally, active participation of children in household work would solve a major argument against bearing them: working women today are reluctant to have more children because of the additional workload at home. They reasonably want to rest after finishing with their daytime jobs. But in normal families children must decrease their mother’s workload, rather than increase it; they are a solution rather than the problem. The child’s work need not be exhausting, but it has to be meaningful: children are perfectly capable of distinguishing between silly, Cinderella-type work and substantial help to their parents. Personality is formed before the age of five, and it is important to start some kind of home work at four to imbue the child with work ethics, learning skills, proper behavior, and respect for the parents, who give commands and disburse bonuses.

The modern education scheme is counterproductive. It is exceedingly wrong to encourage infantilism in seven-year-olds with a school curriculum which is 90% play and 10% study. Rather, as Jews used to do for millennia, children must be subjected to rigid education from the age of three, and certainly from five. Just like meaningful work, real education from an early age would solve all common behavioral troubles. Children can play games in their leisure time as a reward for sensible, productive work or learning, which they must do most of the time.

In terms of behavior, humans have not changed since the Torah was written, or else we wouldn’t honor that book. Slavery was common a century ago, and a billion Africans would gladly move to South Carolina plantations as slaves today. Virtual reality has been common throughout the ages: Internet now, church before; cartoons in place of troubadours, sports instead of public executions.

But aren’t historical norms outdated? Throughout human history it was common to marry very young girls, which is now considered pedophilia. Hardly anyone objects to such relations on biological grounds, which do not exist. Rather, thirteen-year-old girls are considered immature. True, but the problem is their immaturity rather than their age per se. They remain as immature at eighteen at school and often at twenty-five in universities. Society makes them infantile by refusing them adult responsibilities. Many factors converge: the government wants more years of propaganda through education, the educational bureaucracy wants more classes, however useless, and parents, no longer expecting children to reside with them after they reach adulthood, want to prolong their infancy.

Modern states destroyed nuclear families by creating welfare nets so that parents no longer depend on their children for sustenance. To their parents, children have become a source of increased housework in their young age, an irresponsible and troublesome crowd at school, an absentee household member in adulthood, and economically irrelevant when the parents retire. Not surprisingly, fewer families want children, and those who do generally just follow the traditional behavioral mold, which is by now devoid of sense. The government can still turn the tide. Children can be made useful to their parents, who will thus bear more of them.

The proper solution would be to cancel retirement welfare provisions, but instead tax the children specifically for their parents’ benefit, and reduce the tax significantly if the children reside at or near the parents’ home and help them with the household. True, bad children could skip the tax by moving abroad, but it is parental responsibility to bring them up as wine rather than vinegar. If the parents fail to rear their children properly, so they must suffer, as is the case with any error. A simple tax reform would immediately induce people to bear more children, educate them properly, and imbue them with work ethics early.