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The New York Times Channels Charles Murray

As blizzards sweep across Hell, words come of something really surprising: The New York Times is agreeing with Charles Murray—at least on some things.

Two recent stories examine the death of marriage among lower income whites as well as many minorities, and the writers appear to accept the idea that children benefit from stable, two parent families.

The shift is affecting children’s lives. Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.

Murray himself blames much of the disaster on the social changes of the Sixties and the subsequent mainstreaming of these values. Many critics are roasting him for understating the influence of economic factors that have made it harder for young people generally and young men especially to get jobs that can support families.

Via Meadia sees both factors at work, and both as signs of the collapse of America’s 20th century social order.  Our economic model isn’t providing the kind of jobs it was supposed to provide, and our social and cultural systems aren’t reproducing the values and attitudes that can help people succeed — and hold the country together.  Those aren’t, in our view, competing theories of what has gone wrong; they are complementary analyses of the troubles we face.

There is plenty of blame to go around. A society that is failing to equip the next generation for marriage and parenthood is failing the most basic test. Elites have been amusing themselves with grand global carbon treaties, duties to protect, the abolition of nuclear weapons and other frivolities and unicorn hunts even as the foundations of life for millions of Americans were washing away. It’s time for us all to get much more serious about preserving what’s left of our national cultural capital and think about how to rebuild it.

Gay marriage is an important question in its way, but the failure of the heterosexual family among those who need it most is a much bigger issue and has much more importance for the future of this country. Typically, we talk about the former almost incessantly, and the latter rarely if at all. But if even the New York Times is coming to understand that the creation of stable, two parent families united in wedlock is vital to the future of children and to the future of the nation, we may be at the start of a substantive, productive conversation that could lead to serious efforts to repair the gaping hole at the center of our social fabric before the damage is past all human hope of repair.

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  • Anthony

    “our economic model isn’t providing the kind of jobs it was suppose to provide, and our social and cultural systems aren’t reproducing the values and attention that can help people succeed – and hold the country together.” Nothing new there, Daniel P. Moynihan described as much in 1965 (The Case For National Action). Now, which comes first jobs or values. I concur with WRM and think they are symbiotic. Nevertheless, substantive, productive conversation long overdue (seriously).

  • http://knownofold.blogspot.com J R Yankovic

    “Murray himself blames much of the disaster on the social changes of the Sixties and the subsequent mainstreaming of these values.”

    Any thoughts on how this mainstreaming of ’60s values may not only have UNDERMINED the fabric of “Blue” society? (Assuming, of course, that those same values weren’t rather the culmination, or logical unfolding, of moral assumptions imbedded in the Blue Model from the start).

    Any thoughts on how that same Sixties mainstreaming, so far as it actually eroded the moral foundations of the Blue Model, may also have prepared the seeding-ground for just such a post-Blue moral culture as we see emerging today?

    On second thought, better not to peer too closely into possibilities like these. It might take us away from the familiar and reassuring focus on what it is we’re coming out of, and how (whatever its moral strengths) it can never come back. Thereby drawing us onto the more unfamiliar and disquieting terrain of what it is we’re getting into, and how its already flourishing moral weaknesses may get worse the deeper – and more heedlessly (optimistically?) – we go in.

    As I believe one credible witness put it very succinctly:

    “The weaker the hold of virtue on a people, the stronger the state needs to be.”

  • David

    ” Our economic model isn’t providing the kind of jobs it was supposed to provide…” and this has what to do with marriage rates? Marriage as an institution is orders of magnitude older than both the modern industrial age and mass democracy, but the drop in marriage rates is more recent than that right? Did marriage rates dramatically drop between say 1865 and 1914, or 1919 and 1945? Both were periods of economic change when the nature of work was changing.

  • SteveMG

    As the saying goes, “Self government requires the governing of the self.”

    And stable two parent families – with a mom and a dad – are vital in producing a populace that can govern themselves. History shows that. My history at least.

    For some reason proponents of gay marriage can’t see that much – not all of course but much – of the opposition to SSM is based on the simple view that a man and a man or a woman and a woman are fundamentally different than a man and a woman. It doesn’t matter what the sexual orientation (if any) of the couples are.

    As Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed decades ago (he was called a racist for doing so): “A society that raises a generation of males without a father is a generation that is asking for trouble.”

    Although it does raise again the question: Why are crime rates so low?

  • http://knownofold.blogspot.com J R Yankovic

    “And stable two parent families – with a mom and a dad – are vital in producing a populace that can govern themselves. History shows that. My history at least.”

    I must be looking through the same lens. Anyhow, thanks for the badly-needed reminder. (Right, like anyone in the Future’s really going to care whether or how we govern ourselves. Wo

    Indeed I wonder too if we’re not ALREADY experiencing many seminal features of the coming Post-Blue Era. Time – and only lots of it – will tell, of course. But wouldn’t it be something if the consensus among historians 75 yrs hence was that the better part of the Blue Model was already dead on arrival c. 2000?

    Interesting, too, that our emerging era, already creatively bursting at the seams with every promise of alternative employment, work, contracting and entrepreneurship, should also be fraying at the edges with every kind of take-your-pick sexual identity, sexual (dis)union, marital/cohabitational pattern, and family structure. I mean, I’m nothing if not lacking in imagination. So naturally I can’t wait to see how our NON-Asian families of today – esp. those blessed with multiple sets of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc – will maintain the stability and solidarity necessary to run firms. Or even half as well as their predecessors ran farms. As opposed to our present 3-ring-circus households with every member pulling in at least 2 directions (“Hurry, hurry, hurry, step right up – first time ever on a live stage: EVERY man, woman and child a consumer! a producer! an ENTREPRENEUR?!”). I can even picture a few enterprising young dictators-in-training scattered among the audience – on the lookout for new opportunities, of course.

  • http://knownofold.blogspot.com J R Yankovic

    Sorry, BADLY chopped off that 2nd paragraph. As it came out, it reads a bit too snide even for my debased standards. The last sentences should read:

    “Right, like anyone in the Future’s really going to care whether or how we govern ourselves. Won’t we all be too busy making money?”

    And no derision was meant of #4, whose comments from where I stand are absolutely on target.

  • BillH

    I’m afraid the cultural decay genie is out of the bottle. Was there ever a culture that became as decayed as our present U.S. culture and recovered? I can’t think of one. If perchance there has been one, perhaps we should study what turned it around.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    I see race riots in the mosh pits,
    and the prince of darness just grins.

  • Fred

    BillH is profoundly right. Entropy only goes in one direction. If you want to see America’s future, look at the recently published photographs of what’s left of Detroit.

  • Eurydice

    If marriage is a desirable state, then it seems to me that we have to come up with some new reasons why people should want to be married. Today, even if our economy was producing the jobs it was supposed to, that doesn’t mean people will suddenly start wanting to get married. Also, the culture and values that equated marriage with success and good citizenship came with a lot of other baggage which is no longer feasible or acceptable.

    And then there’s the disconnect of predicting the need for new forms of social organization while, at the same time, longing for a social order that only grandparents remember. If we’re on the cusp of change – changing how we work, how we educate ourselves, how we worship, how we govern ourselves, then why wouldn’t there be a similar evolution in how we raise children? It’s not a pleasant thing to contemplate, because change creates pain and dislocation and we don’t want to hurt children – but they’re going to be affected anyway, so why not consider a place for them when contemplating the new social orgainization?

  • Corlyss

    “Gay marriage is an important question in its way, but the failure of the heterosexual family among those who need it most is a much bigger issue and has much more importance for the future of this country.”

    A-freakin’-men! I’m all for gay marriage so the resulting couples can adopt the kids abandoned by their parents as more and more traditional marriages fail.

  • Stacy

    “Although it does raise again the question: Why are crime rates so low”

    Two reasons:

    Because of welfare reform in the 90’s, abortion rates significantly increased.

    Also, incarceration rates have sky-rocketed.

    Abortion and jail.

  • Jack

    Just as someone can’t have his cake and eat it, a society can’t have a robust institution of marriage and no-fault divorce. Major legal reform of the divorce regime is a necessary precondition to strengthening the institution of marriage.

  • Jim.

    @BillH-

    The more’s of Regency England were similar to the more’s of today. That era was immediately followed by the Victorian Era.

    All it takes to effect the change is a couple of people who are devoted to each other, powerful, and have great influence over the social world around them. (This is why the slime machine goes to work to undermine such people; the slime knows the risks if the cheers can ever be heard over the mockery.)

    Leadership is necessary, but so is a large number of people who, like those leaders (read about the childhood family lives of Victoria and Albert sometime) have had terrible experiences with the drawbacks of the old anything-goes system.

    (Obama had such potential; under pressure from the Murphy Brown feminists, he has largely failed.)

    If you want more examples than just the Victorians, look at Cavalier vs. Roundhead England. There is no inevitable end state of public morals. The pendulum goes back and forth. The only question is, how much damage does it do when it’s a wrecking ball at the foundations of society? Mead himself deplores the extremes, preferring a constant mix of Rationalism, Tradition, and Puritanism. It always surprises me that he isn’t trying much, much harder right now to join the forces of Tradition to the forces of Puritanism lest hyper-Rationalism sweeps away the balance that made the Anglo-American world the dread and envy of the world. (And to save some souls while he’s at it.)

    Gay “marriage” is an interesting case, important in its own way, as Mead said. To exist, it must destroy the strongest institutions (churches) that support traditional marriage. Those institutions support traditional morality; the foundation of those institutions (and that morality) is Scripture, which is clear on the subject of homosexuality. It’s a sin, no question about it. To destroy these institutions is a bad thing for anyone who agrees with Murray’s premise that there is a problem.

    Even worse, right now, you’re taking your job into your hands (HR serving as the Political Correctness Gestapo) if you use your freedom of speech to declare that marriage is only between one man and one woman. Further, churches and religiously-affiliated institutions are under direct attack, being forced — against their consciences — to treat gay “marriage” as equivalent to real marriage. This is wrong, and again severely counterproductive if you agree that Murray is pointing out real dangers.

    @Corlyss-

    For those who think that those unions will help raise kids, I point you to a radio snippet I heard on a San Francisco news station (very left-leaning and homosexual-friendly.) They theorized that homosexuals could teach straight people something about marriage; asking a representative of that culture what their advice was, the answer came back, “Once the magic is gone, leave”.

    One of my high school friends, who identifies himself as gay, talked about calculating relationships in “gay years”, at a three-to-one ratio. That is, if a gay couple has been together for two calendar years, that’s equivalent to six years in “gay years”, since their relationships are typically so much shorter.

    This is not the foundation of stable human relationships, much less a stable human society. Period.

    @Eurydice:

    “Also, the culture and values that equated marriage with success and good citizenship came with a lot of other baggage which is no longer feasible or acceptable.”

    I take issue with the idea that it is not feasible — just difficult. Peer and social pressure to do the right thing (instead of the wrong thing) would help immensely. What is “acceptable” is really what we’re talking about changing.

    @WRM:

    You seem to have taken your light out from under the bushel-basket, and volunteered to be a watcher on Zion’s wall. Remember the duties of such watchers. If you see that someone is going astray — going against the clear teachings of the Bible, teachings in both the New Testament and Old Testament — you are responsible for telling them that they are going astray. If you fail in that, you put your own soul at risk as well as theirs.

    If that doesn’t mean anything to you, how can you call yourself a Christian?

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