The riots that have wracked England in the last week should be a sober warning to the United States: This is what happens when a country breeds a generation of welfare dependents who are happy to bite the hand that feeds them. For days, roaming gangs of young people have engaged in looting, setting fires, intimidating citizens, even killing innocents.
Speaking to a special session of Parliament, Prime Minister David Cameron said, "This is not about poverty, it's about culture, a culture that glorifies violence, shows disrespect to authority, and says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities."
Liberals in England and the United States have tried to explain the riots by pointing to the Tory government's proposed austerity plans. But it's not the cutbacks in social services that are the problem but the welfare state itself that has taught generations that society owed them a living; that the government -- not parents -- were responsible for raising children; that those who worked hard were either suckers or exploiters; that those who didn't work were entitled to the fruits of other people's labor.
Cameron pledged his government would "address our broken society, we will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility -- in every town, in every street and in every estate." But it's a tall order.
In many respects, Britain is in worse moral decline than the United States. About half of all children in the U.K. are born out of wedlock -- a number that has been growing rapidly in recent years. When the Labor Party took control in 1997, the out-of-wedlock birthrate was at 37 percent. It has grown about 1 percent per year ever since and will exceed half of all births in the next couple of years.
In the U.S., out-of-wedlock births are now at 41 percent of overall births, but there is tremendous variation in illegitimate births by race. Such births now are the norm in both the black (72 percent) and Latino (53 percent) communities, but less than a third of white births (29 percent) are illegitimate. In England, however, race accounts for less of the difference in births outside of marriage, with whites having higher illegitimacy rates than some immigrant groups, most notably South Asians.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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