He notes a growing body of research suggesting that "the most effective strategy is to work early on children and education, and to try to encourage and sustain marriage." As in -- Kristof didn't say this; I'm saying it -- ye olden tyme, before the welfare lobby conspired with Congress to make welfare the solution of solutions to every human plight.
Kristof's insight, it is fair to note, has major antecedents. Charles Murray, in "Losing Ground," was first to make in sustained fashion the point that welfare, by fostering dependency, undermines social stability. Last January, Murray followed up, in "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1920-2010," with chilling confirmation that a "great divide" exists between new classes, upper and lower.
"Changes in social policy during the 1960s," he writes, "made it economically more feasible to have a child without having a husband if you were a woman or to get along without a job if you were a man..."
The old social norms have broken down. Who's to reconstruct them now? Conservatives? By themselves? What about conservatives, joined by liberals such as Kristof -- eyes on both sides of the philosophical spectrum bulging with horrified recognition of harm inflicted in the name of salvation.
Conservatives can do business with liberals who, so to speak, get it -- unlike the hierarchs of the new/old administration in Washington, where denial of plain facts seems to many the plainest proof of virtue. For now.