Star Parker

In 1993, then Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan published a paper in which he coined the phrase “defining deviancy down.”

He was ringing an alarm about what he saw as a dangerous social unraveling as result of our redefining deviant behavior as normal, rather than doubling down on traditional standards of behavior.

It’s through this lens that we should view the Obama administration mandate that employers provide free contraception and sterilization and its refusal to grant an exemption to morally opposed religious institutions.

Our audacious president, as part of his ongoing enterprise to transform America, has gone beyond defining deviancy down. Abortion, sterilization, and sexual promiscuity have not just been redefined as normal. They are considered “reproductive rights” for which we all should foot the bill.

Consider Rush Limbaugh’s much ballyhooed verbal assault on a Georgetown law student for testifying before Congress in favor of forcing her Jesuit university to provide students free contraception.

In a Gallup poll done in 1969, 68 percent said pre-marital sex is wrong and 21 percent said it is not wrong. Few young women in 1969 would have felt comfortable to publicly declare they sleep around and it’s doubtful that any politician or media personality would have condoned her behavior.

By 2009, in response to the same question, 32 percent said pre-marital sex is wrong and 60 percent said it is not wrong.

Are we a fairer and more progressive nation today, or have we defined deviancy down?

If you think we’re a better nation today because sexual promiscuity is viewed as normal and acceptable, so you must also be comfortable with the rest of the social developments that go along with this.

Most notably, the transformation and breakdown of the traditional American family.

In 1960, 72 percent of American adults were married. Today 51 percent are.

The most dramatic transformation here has taken place in those communities most likely to be supporting Democrats and Obama - blacks and Hispanics.

In 1960, 14 percent of white adults had never been married. The percentage of never married blacks and Hispanics then was not much different – 17 percent.

By 2008, the percentage of never married white adults had increased to 23 percent. But among blacks it grew to 44 percent and among Hispanics 34 percent.

If you see family breakdown as a negative development, so it is clear that defining deviancy down has had the most deleterious effects on those communities in which traditional institutions were weakest to begin with.


Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.