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The central question in Peg Brinig’s work is how the law can help intimate associations to raise healthy kids. She pursues this theme through a variety of inquiries, ranging from parochial schools in big-city neighborhoods to covenant-marriage laws in Louisiana. Her answers depend on context, varying with how close each social actor or institution is to the process of raising children. But nearly all her recommendations seek to foster permanent, loving, involved social environments. Following Brinig’s lead, I’ll celebrate her work by highlighting some of the answers she offers in three different social contexts. In Part I, I’ll explore her treatment of the nuclear family. The family is the base of society, the foundation of love on which everything else rests. Part II then addresses other mediating associations, ranging from extended families to churches and schools. These build bridges, connecting people and cultivating love in community. And in Part III, I’ll turn to the backstop of society, the state’s relationship to the family. The government is no substitute for healthy, loving families, but it can at least avoid harming them and in some ways offer support. Finally, in Part IV, I’ll show how Brinig’s work adroitly puts disciplines into perspective, revealing their limits. Economics casts light on important human phenomena. But it is incomplete and sometimes loses sight of deeper human ends. Brinig’s Christian faith is an important corrective, warning us against the ideological sirens that tempt us to oversimplify family life. Families succeed when they promote not just adult freedom or choice, but rich human flourishing in community. Autonomy alone is not enough; we need relationships and strong communal bonds to live together in community and rear the next generation.

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Notre Dame Law Review