The Outstater

June 23, 2020

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

— 1919, Rudyard Kipling, “The Gods of the Copy Book Headings”

WHEN THE MOYNIHAN REPORT first raised concern about government incentives creating fatherless homes, they told us not to worry. The century was coming to a close. Alternative family models — better ones — would emerge.

Rudyard Kipling is dead, they laughed. There were no absolutes in their brave new world, including a man and a woman in a Christian marriage. And a ruling class, having grown unsure about either God or man, had nothing useful to say.

That was 55 years ago. We should have been terrified. For as it turned out, the age-old model of a father who goes to work every day, comes home for dinner every evening and tries as best he can to protect and care for his wife and children, was essential. His absence in the new family-assistance formulas resulted in disaster, especially for young men left without guiding souls.

Most important, neither income nor race was the simple predictor that politicians claimed it to be. Studies cited by James Q. Wilson in his groundbreaking 1975 work “Thinking About Crime” suggested something else. They found that “the most critical factor affecting the prospect that a male youth (of any race) will encounter the criminal justice system is the presence of a father in the home.”

Dr. Thomas Sowell added detail 18 years later in his “The Economics and Politics of Race.” And eight years ago, Charles Murray in “Coming Apart” showed that fatherless families were not limited to a single group.

“Racism is not dead, but it is on life support,” Sowell concluded last year, “kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as ‘racists.'”

The curious thing today is nobody wants to know whether these thinkers were right or wrong, whether their predictions bore out. Despite the myriad dysfunctions buried in the crime data, family makeup is rarely studied any more as a predominate, independent factor.

There is a related issue. It is hopelessness. Do you notice something common about the people on those streets, throwing bricks at shop windows, indiscriminately toppling statutes and categorizing people by physiognomy? Here is Charles Kesler writing last week in the New York Post under the headline, “Let’s Call Them the 1619 Riots.”

“There is a kind of despair, both angry and frightened, haunting the public mind today. After all, if the problem’s in our DNA, there’s precious little we can do about it. Let’s not kid ourselves. The rioters who commit the violence drew one conclusion from that premise: If justice is out of the question, the next best thing is payback, snatching from the oppressor’s hand whatever loot they can.”

It’s visual in the crowds. They wear it as clothes— palpable. History has nothing to offer them. Capitalism certainly makes no sense. Nor do the checks and balances of a democratic republic. They feel they have nothing to lose.

They think it’s too late to gain the social or personal skills to make it in this society. “OK, Boomer,” they mock. But to bend a truism of Ronald Reagan, we have taught them everything they don’t know. That which would save them sits unread on bookshelves, never refuted only ignored.

— Craig Ladwig


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