Walter E. Williams

A society's first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions and moral values. These behavioral norms, mostly transmitted by example, word-of-mouth and religious teachings, represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. Policemen and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. This failure to fully transmit value norms to subsequent generations represents another failing of the greatest generation.

If there's an American generation that can justifiably be called the greatest generation, it's that generation responsible for the founding of our nation -- men such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington and millions of their fellow countrymen. This is the generation that threw off one form of oppression and laid the foundations for unprecedented human liberty. That is not a trivial achievement, for most often in mankind's history, one form of oppression has been replaced with another far worse, as we've seen in Russia, China and Africa.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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