Bill Murchison

This was before the uproars and disruptions that followed, the consequence of which was the exaltation of individual appetites over any cultural factors that restrained those appetites -- the longing for divorce, let's say; hostility or indifference toward "the products of conception," also known as unborn babies; the shrugging-off of responsibility for children actually born. Government actually conspired to satisfy these appetites by, among other things, authorizing no-fault divorce and daring defenders of unborn life to try and stop a woman bent on having an abortion. Pure grants of taxpayer money -- Aid to Families with Dependent Children comes to mind, a poverty-war artillery piece that overheated and blew up -- encouraged the very opposite of initiative. A client of government not always but too often comes to enjoy that status. And, in consequence, remains poor.

No human problem is older, or more tenacious, than poverty. Or more complex. Ages before Lyndon Johnson, haggard beggars squatted or slept in the streets of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The great mistake of "war on poverty" programs, except being tools to win votes, was the assumption that poverty equates to too little money. We may be learning that poverty of mind and of spirit can be as damaging a factor as an empty wallet or an overdue mortgage.

Murray's point about the family and its modern deterioration is urgent. "No matter what the outcome being examined," he writes -- including bad behavior, school problems and sexual attitudes -- "the family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remain married."

No television Bible-swatter is talking here; a sociologist speaks -- an observer of behaviors, a sorter-outer of competing human claims. He isn't pleased by what he sees; and neither should the rest of us be. Fifty years into the all-out assault on economic dejection, the battlefield is distinguished mostly by shell holes. A few more birds sing now -- barely enough to be heard.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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