John Zmirak at The Stream writes in Tucker Carlson is Half Right that Carlson is right about the destruction of the family:
Carlson’s central complaint is serious. The family is collapsing in America, except among the upper and upper middle class. Marriage rates, birth rates, you name it — they’re all trending badly. The crisis of single parenthood that Daniel Patrick Moynihan identified in 1965 among black Americans? Working class white Americans now repeat the same pathology, and it’s far, far worse among blacks.
Kudos to Carlson for speaking truth to power.
The End of Fatherhood
As a rule, boys raised without fathers don’t do well. Many end up in prison. Neither do fatherless girls thrive, in fact. Much of the sexual abuse in America stems from stepfathers and transient boyfriends. Girls without stable father figures get pregnant much younger, and often end up trapped in the welfare system.
The decline of marriage is real. And one of the factors is the decline in male income relative to female. Survey after survey shows that women don’t tend to marry men who earn less (or even the same) as they do. Why? Part of it’s surely grounded in that horror, mammalian biology. Women far more than men are willing to sacrifice career advancement to spend time raising their children. Imagine that, giving up valuable hours spent in a cubicle to ensure your children’s safety, happiness, and avoid the lifelong, IQ-dimming effects of dismal daycare.
But if men can’t earn more to take up the slack, will women feel safe doing that? Since they can’t, lower-income men get locked out of the one institution that makes men healthier, happier, more virtuous and productive: marriage.
Instead they sow seed to the wind, producing more fatherless kids primed for social dysfunction. The welfare system, as George Gilder noticed back in the 1970s, has stepped in and replaced male providers. That makes it “safe” for young girls to get pregnant and bear children while still young, unmarried teens.
This conversation is a catastrophe for our conservative elites, who until Carlson upset the balance had clung to the liberal party line that nothing serious was wrong with our new family policy. Compare Zmirak’s assertion that we have a serious problem to the 2014 NY Times article complaining about misguided “hand wringing” regarding the state of marriage. From The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On
Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.
But it wasn’t just liberals at the NY Times trumpeting the “all is well” message. Conservative Christians were in lock step. The Christian Post declared in Author Debunks Myths About Divorce Rates, Including of Churchgoers
Many of the most demoralizing beliefs about marriage, especially when it comes to discouraging statistics commonly passed around, are just not true, says social researcher and best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn.
“A subconscious sense of futility about marriage is everywhere, as everything we hear says marriage is ‘in trouble,'” states Feldhahn. “And while some of the bad news is accurate (for example, 41% of children are born out of wedlock), many of the most demoralizing beliefs just aren’t true. For example, the notion that half of all marriages end in divorce or that the divorce rate is the same in the church… neither are anywhere close to true.”
Moreover, Feldhan and the Christian Post were merely following in Glenn Stanton’s footsteps in this regard.
Carlson has dramatically changed the very nature of the discussion, from one of condescension for the “hand wringers” who are supposedly misinformed about the real state of the American family, to a conversation about the dire threat the destruction of marriage poses to our social fabric. Under the pre-Carlson regime, conservatives were free to focus on blaming men for not manning up and reaping the wondrous benefits of our new family model. Now we have conservatives openly speaking dangerous truths.
Yet while Zmirak is boldly laying out the problem, his analysis isn’t entirely correct. Zmirak argues that the 1964 Equal Pay Act* is at the root of the problem:
What Carlson’s Too Smart to Say (But I’m Not)
Defenders of the free market such as Ben Shapiro and David French have chimed in to criticize Carlson for blaming these phenomena on the free market, and proposing government action. J.D. Vance offered an eloquent, qualified defense. But I don’t think many commentators are cutting to the dark heart of the issue. And for good reason: it’s radioactive.
The problem isn’t a genuinely free market, but the unfree market that now prevails in America. That’s been a problem at least since 1964. That’s when Southern Democrats, trying to kill the Civil Rights Act, added “sex” to “race” discrimination as part of what we were outlawing. But Republicans went ahead and championed the bill, and it passed. Suddenly, private businesses that used to routinely pay more to attract that desirable quantity — a stable, reliable married man with mouths to feed — could no longer do so.
Quite rightly, defenders of the free market opposed laws mandating a “family wage.” But if private businesses, churches, or others concerned about family stability and promoting marriage wanted to offer it, the state wouldn’t prosecute them. And many did offer it. Beyond social concern, many saw the advantage in hiring and keeping “established” fathers of families rather than rootless single men or women.
Outlawing the American Family
In 1964, that private market choice became illegal sex discrimination. The explosion of radical feminism, of course, went much further, and effectively declared war on “male privilege,” wherever it existed.
The problem with this claim is that after the law was passed, 17 years went by before women’s wages as a percentage of men’s started to climb. Ironically what the feminist law ended up proving was not that businesses were favoring married men, but that businesses were claiming to favor married men in an altruistic effort to help families but were in fact paying individual men and women based on the value they brought to the table:
Something clearly did change the balance between men’s and women’s earnings, but whatever happened didn’t start until the early 1980s. Yet the destruction of the family started much earlier:
Divorce rates only show a partial picture. What we’ve seen is a combination of delayed marriage, a decline in the percentage of the population that ever marries, increased divorce rates, and a reduction in remarriage following divorce. Fortunately there is a single metric that captures the impact of all of these changes combined:
This doesn’t mean that Carlson and Zmirak are incorrect in asserting that men’s falling relative wages is an important factor in the destruction of the American family. I’m convinced they are correct in this regard. But it does mean that the Equal Pay Act of 1964* can’t have been what kicked the problem off.
At any rate, the most important thing is the genie is out of the bottle. Our conservative elites will have a very difficult time getting back to the good old days when they could ignore the destruction of the family and pretend that if men would merely put a ring on it everything would be just fine. Like Carlson, Zmirak is bravely telling the truth, and is to be commended for his courage.
*The act was passed in June of 1963 but did not come into effect until 1964.