Imagine, if you will, that every family functions a kind of cooperative where individuals pool their practical and emotional assets, such as timeenergylaborskillsmoneymobility, leisurelove, and empathy. Needless to say, family members big and small inevitably pool their needs as well. Some— young children, frail elderly, the disabled— may have more urgent needs than others, but every person in a family has irreducible needs. As a baseline, we all need shelter, food, water, emotional connection, rest and care. In complex, economically developed societies, most families depend on a lot of other things to get by— jobs, health care, transportation, education, public utilities, communication technology, clean laundry, and various household appliances, for example. And wherever they happen to live, parents are expected to contribute a sizable portion of their practical and emotional inventory to transmitting life skills, social customs and cultural values to the next generation.

Some shared assets, such as love and affection, are renewable and, ideally, limitless. Others, like money and energy, can expand or contract depending on the vagaries of circumstance. And some resources may be exchanged to get more of others, such as paying someone to provide housecleaning services or child care to allow some family members to allocate their labor differently or enjoy more leisure.

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