Walter E. Williams

Yesteryear there was little tolerance for the kinds of crude behavior and language that are accepted today. To see a man sitting on a bus or trolley car while a woman is standing used to be unthinkable. Children didn't address adults by their first name. By the way, over the course of my nearly 45 years of teaching, on several occasions, students have addressed me by my first name. I have told them that I don't mind their addressing me by my first name but that my first name is Professor.

Much of what's accepted today would have been seen as bizarre and lowdown yesteryear. Out-of-wedlock childbirth was a disgrace and surely wouldn't have occasioned a baby shower. Popular TV shows such as "The Jerry Springer Show" and "Maury" feature guests who openly discuss despicable acts in their personal lives, often to the applause of the audience. Shame is going the way of the dinosaur.

You say, "Williams, you're just old-fashioned and out of touch with modern society." Maybe so, but I think that a society's first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions and moral values. These behavioral norms -- transmitted by example, word of mouth, religious teachings, rules of etiquette and manners -- represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important legal thou-shalt-nots -- such as shalt not murder, steal, lie or cheat -- but they also include all those civilities one might call ladylike or gentlemanly behavior. Police officers and courts can never replace these social restraints on personal conduct. At best, laws, police and the criminal justice system are a society's last desperate line of defense.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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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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