Saturday, November 30, 2019

Did Liberals Want to Destroy the Family?

In an especially wrong headed column Thomas Edsall assures us that liberals bear no responsibility for the breakdown in the American family. Ignoring the simple fact that the American left has been inveighing against the patriarchal family, against defined social roles, against the organized criminal conspiracy called the United States, Edsall fully absolves liberals for the consequences of their cultural policies.

Of course, it is not entirely fair to blame it on liberalism. The American left has long since taken its leave of liberal policies, and even of progressive policies. Calling it liberal or progressive is a misnomer. The American left has become radicalized. It was radicalized during the time of the Vietnam counterculture. The radical left attacked sexual morality. It attacked the family. It attacked the military for war crimes. It has and is still attacking men for being toxic male chauvinist pigs. It has taken over the educational system, degrading boys’ interests and elevating girls’ interests. It wanted to  uproot the social order. Now that its policies have been translated into real institutional chaos, Edsall believes that the left had nothing to do with it.

In truth, Edsall has nothing to say about any of these aspects of the Great American Cultural Revolution. Like all radical movements this revolution will never take responsibility for the mess it created.

Liberals, as he calls them, feel deeply about family dysfunction.

In practice, many, if not most, liberals are as deeply disturbed by familial dysfunction as conservatives, but they are not ranting about it. Instead of promoting the kind of anarchy described by Barr and others on the right, scholars on the left now acknowledge that the sexual revolution and the personal autonomy movement had significant costs as well as notable gains.

Again, not a word about the Vietnam counterculture or feminism. As for how deeply disturbed these people are, so what. Are they disturbed because things did not work out as they had hoped? Are they disturbed for being called out on their bad cultural policies.?

Among the bad results of the American Cultural Revolution is the large number of children raised in single parent households. We might ask how this came to be considered normal. We might recall when Vice President Dan Quayle was wildly excoriated for suggesting that single-parenting was not such a good idea. Edsall ignores it all. We might recall the feminists who argued that women do not really need men, should not function as wives, and so on. As for the fact that some of these households were formed because women delayed family formation too long and found themselves faced with the unenviable choice between single parenthood and childlessness, not a word. When certain women suggested that it would be a good idea to marry young, the feminist furies rose up to destroy them. This might be pure coincidence, but then again, perhaps it isn’t.

Edsall has no idea about how this all happened, but he sees the negative consequences:

Those negative consequences include the explosion of divorce, paternal absence and the growing legions of children raised in single parent households

In 2002, Sara McLanahan, a professor of sociology at Princeton, wrote “Life without Father: What Happens to the Children?” and found that:

Children raised apart from a biological parent are disadvantaged in numerous ways. They are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to attend college, and less likely to graduate from college than children raised by both biological parents. Girls from father-absent families are more likely to become sexually active at a younger age and to have a child outside of marriage. Boys who grow up without their fathers are more likely to have trouble finding (and keeping) a job in young adulthood. Young adult men and women from one-parent families tend to work at low-paying jobs.

True enough, as has been well known for some time now, elite liberal city dwellers are now more likely to get married and to stay married than are their lower class counterparts. Surely, they have escaped the consequences of their policy proposals. Good for them. Bad for the rest of the country, for people who still believe the swill they have been exposed to via the media.

For his part Edsall offers up a smorgasbord  of causes for the shredding of family structure. Allow him his word:

There is a complex set of interlocking factors that produce social and economic disruption, destabilizing to communities, individuals and families. Technological innovation, from the contraceptive pill to the global transmission of capital and goods; deunionization and automation; rising standards of living freeing human beings to seek self-expression and individual fulfillment; and hyperintensive international competition — are only some of the factors underlying the turbulence, even the disintegration, of traditional norms and practices.

Unfortunately, he does not understand that it is not just abut disintegrating norms. It’s about substituting a new set of norms for the old ones. Aside from the fact that he ignores the American Cultural Revolution in its entirety, he does suggest that freeing individuals to seek self-expression and individual fulfillment is a recipe for social disaggregation. Now if only he were present these ideas in a somewhat less favorable light.

But, Edsall does not recognize the importance of the new social codes. He does not seem to understand that the war on men, widely documented, taking place in the classroom and in the media might have had a negative effect on men. We should mention that it has obviously also had a negative impact on women.

He continues:

Melissa S. Kearney, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland, has developed a thought provoking argument on the interaction of economics and culture in rising dysfunction among working class men. In an email, she wrote:

My read of the evidence is that the declining economic position of less educated men (both in a relative and absolute sense) has probably been a key driver of the breakdown of the two-parent family among less educated populations for many decades.

But, she continued,

... now we are in a new social paradigm that has normalized nonmarital childbearing and child rearing among certain segments of the population, and it will take more than economic improvement to restore the stable two-parent family in the communities it which that norm has been steadily eroding.

Might it not be the case that classroom instruction today is designed to downplay the skills that boys possess. If we have decided to dumb down instruction in science and math, the better to push a touch-feely female centered approach, shouldn’t we also understand that it will have consequences in terms of workforce participation.

On the other side, one political scientist has questioned the notion that we are suffering through a period of rising social disorder. At a time when many families cannot sit down to Thanksgiving without dreading a political argument, and at a time when we now consider it acceptable to harass people at restaurants and to engage in Nazi Storm Trooper attacks on those who disagree with us, it is rich indeed for a Harvard professor to declare that all is well. Neither Edsall nor the professor have the least notion of the simple fact that Americans are suffering from an epidemic of loneliness, and that their everyday interactions are laced with constant rudeness.

Anyway, herewith, from the professor:

Looking at these trends from a broad perspective, Ryan Enos, a political scientist at Harvard, also wrote me by email:

We need to address the underlying premise that there is a rise in social disorder. That claim does not hold up to scrutiny, in both the long and short term. In the United States and many other parts of the world, the last two decades have seen a remarkable decline in many of the most visible signs of social disorder.

 Enos continued:

You can see that many of these improvements in the quality of life have coincided with the creation of the modern liberal welfare state and many of place that enjoy the least social disorder are, in fact, places with leftist political systems that provide for social welfare.

Perhaps Edsall and Enos should take a leisurely walk through the homeless encampments that are now invading some of America’s great liberal-run cities. And perhaps they should measure the importance of the simple fact that district attorneys in many of these cities are now reducing the crime statistics by decriminalizing crime.

Edsall says that liberals did not want to destroy the American family. This may or may not be true, but good intentions do not necessarily make good policy. If their cultural policies have produced the situation we are now facing, they should man up and accept responsibilty for the conditions their policies have wrought.


Anonymous said...

"There is a complex set of interlocking factors that produce social and economic disruption, destabilizing to communities, individuals and families. Technological innovation, from the contraceptive pill to the global transmission of capital and goods; deunionization and automation; rising standards of living freeing human beings to seek self-expression and individual fulfillment; and hyperintensive international competition — are only some of the factors underlying the turbulence, even the disintegration, of traditional norms and practices."

Someone in an aviation magazine observed that "If you do anything with your airplane that is not consistent with the Pilot's Operating Handbook, then you are a test pilot." In a society, the POH is the aggregate of customs, expectations, and formal laws that govern behavior. There is no question that some of the factors that the author mentions required ongoing revision of the societal POH; the problem is that the "progressives" wanted to not only throw out the whole thing but to substitute new ones written by people who (in terms of the analogy) knew nothing about aerodynamics and had in many cases never flown an airplane.

There are a lot of people who are perfectly good pilots but who do not want to be test pilots and wouldn't be very good at it. In both an aviation and a societal context.

whitney said...

This is the title of the Master's thesis of the guy that got killed on London Bridge yesterday.

"A critical analysis of the over-representation of black, Asian, and ethnic minority males ages 18 to 21 in the British prison system." MPhil in criminology, University of Cambridge

Everything that is happening is to get it to the point where whites are enough of a minority that there can be a wholesale Slaughter and the ones of us that notice beforehand are going to take these crazy white liberals and literally throw them in the path of the bullets and the knives so we can make our Escape and survive to fight. All the Chit Chat is just nonsense now.

sestamibi said...

"Perhaps Edsall and Enos should take a leisurely walk through the homeless encampments that are now invading some of America’s great liberal-run cities. And perhaps they should measure the importance of the simple fact that district attorneys in many of these cities are now reducing the crime statistics by decriminalizing crime."

Or a side trip to Malmo, Sweden.

Walt said...

Surely freeing people to pursue individual fuflfillment and freeing women, through contraception, from all that's entailed in having unwanted children (including bad shotgun marriages) was and still is a good thing. To oppose that is to say that only the suppression of individuals can lead to a stable society. The problem, initially and increasing, lies (and lay) in the ideological fashions and license imposed on those freedoms.

Christopher B said...

They are not just professional clueless. This attitude infuses the entire radical Left, top to bottom. I overheard at Thanksgiving a conversation between a female relative and a visiting friend, both of them famously feminists, discussing a mutual aquaintance whose son recently announced his engagement to be married at what they considered to be a shockingly young age (under thirty, from subsequent comments). Neither of these women have had stable long term relationships, much less marriages with children, in their forty plus years. One is from an intact family that so far has no third generation though both the woman and her brother are well over thirty. The other is from a family with multiple generations of divorces, children from multiple partners, and out of wedlock births. The vile comments about the political and religious beliefs of a woman who has been married almost three decades to the same man and raised two successful sons, and her son's sexuality were typical of the 'tolerant' Left and quite in line Edsall's refusal to see how feminism has caused many social issues to fester.

JPL17 said...

I'm still puzzled that anyone has to wonder whether, much less deny that, destruction of the family has been a goal of feminism and the left generally. Way back in 1969, when the first radical feminists were meeting in small groups in Greenwich Village and Boston to establish the philosophy and goals of their movement, they expressly proclaimed that the family, heterosexuality and capitalism are inherently tools of the patriarchy used to oppress and enslave women that are incapable of being reformed. They also expressly and proudly adopted goals that included complete eradication of family, heterosexuality and capitalism.

Although feminists no longer advertise these goals, nothing that's happened since 1969 makes me doubt for a second that their goals remain the same.