Welfare and Morality

Published in The Arizona Daily Star on April 25, 1994

In your April 14 editorial "Unacceptable Risk", you lament the growing number of broken homes in the United States, and cite a growing body of evidence linking early childhood neglect with intellectual and behavioral problems later in life. You state that "There is no point in trying to deny this neglect and dysfunction any longer."

Hmm. It seems as if, about two years ago, some guy named Quayle said something quite similar in a speech criticizing a famous TV show whose main character bore a child out of wedlock. At the time, however, liberals and media types treated this speech as if it were the keynote address at the annual convention of the Flat Earth Society.

Recently, though, President Clinton has made casual mention of the importance of strong families, so it is no longer taboo to broach the subject in polite society. Yet, while your editorial rightfully deplores the growing rate of divorce, single parent households, and births to unwed mothers, it calls for a continuation of the same social policies which created this mess.

To begin with, the American welfare state too often makes it economically attractive for single women to have children. Contrary to liberal rantings about the 1980s, we are spending more on these programs now that at any time in history. Additionally, we have taken the age-old truth that the state cannot police the bedroom to mean that there is nothing anyone can do to stop people from having sex. Just saying no may not work 100 percent of the time, but no one has yet found a more effective way to teach people to control their sexual appetites.

While illegitimacy has been with us since time immemorial, the incidence of illegitimate births has grown geometrically over the last three decades. This trend is not inevitable. We can reverse this trend if we rediscover the economic policies and, more importantly, the moral attitudes which kept illegitimacy to a minimum for thousands of years.

Douglas F. Newman

Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman

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