Actions have consequences? Not according to liberals.
Most people would say the answer's obviously yes. But it appears that many liberals and "progressives" disagree. At least the policies they push--relentlessly--suggest they think results and outcomes are totally unrelated to choices/actions. Or at least that poor choices shouldn't cause negative consequences.
Example: For most people there doesn't seem to be much correlation between moderate use of, say, alcohol and future prospects of success. But is there an obvious causal relationship if we change the drug to heroin or cocaine or meth or crack? Most rational adults agree that there is.
Most non-liberals conclude--rather effortlessly--that if you want to succeed in life, avoid those drugs.
But to liberals and "progressives" this simply isn't fair. Thus they will instantly try to drag the argument to the fact that alcohol is legal while the other drugs listed above aren't, and that this must be caused by...wait for it...racism. Thus the obvious idea that bad choices produce bad outcomes is lost in the charges of racism.
Or take fathering kids outside of marriage. Despite endless studies showing that children raised by single mothers have far greater chances of dropping out of school, joining gangs, using drugs and becoming unwed mothers themselves, virtually no one in the "progressive" camp actually voices any criticism of this. After all, both biological parents are consenting adults, so what makes you think you have any right to criticize their free choices? You obviously hate freedom--you get to make choices but you deny others the same right!
And once again the obvious lesson--that certain choices produce...we'll avoid "bad outcomes" and instead say "personally difficult outcomes"...is lost in charges of racism. Even though every one of the numerous studies show the same negative statistics apply to fatherless kids of all races.
But the government's official numbers show that the incidence of these choices is far higher among certain groups. For example, the most recent figures available (ironically, from the CDC) show that the percentage of births to unwed mothers. For 2012 unwed mothers accounted for 40.7% of all births in the U.S. But as the CDC drily notes, the percentages vary widely by race: 72 percent of all births to black mothers were to single mothers, compared to 29 percent for whites. [page 9 at the link, 3rd 'graf]
It's hard to find anyone who thinks births to single mothers is more likely to produce children with solid moral values and a good work ethic. But it's hard to find a liberal who will speak out against the current situation, other than to claim that racism is somehow to blame.
Of course it's hard to see how racism causes the 29% of white births to be to unmarried mothers, but that never makes it into the debate. Instead the race card stops all discussion.
This is not an indictment of sex, including sex outside of marriage. As a young, single jet pilot I was fortunate enough to enjoy--immensely--the charms of lovely girls. So this isn't a moralistic screed. But innumerable careful studies show that statistically, children of unwed mothers have a much smaller chance of achieving a good outcome in life.
The problem was expertly summarized by a British doctor writing under the pen name Theodore Dalrymple. Dalyrymple had spent 14 years working as a psychologist, part of this counseling prisoners and part counseling troubled patients in the UK's government health service. Writing a decade ago he noted that crime in the U.K had risen 12-fold between 1941 and 2011. He noted that in 1921 there was one crime reported for every 370 inhabitants of England and Wales; 80 years later, it had skyrocketed to one reported crime for every ten residents.
His work with both abusers and multitudes of depressed young women gave him a pretty good idea of the cause of this disaster. Surprisingly, it wasn't poverty:
I believe having children by men without considering even for a second whether the men have any qualities that might make them good fathers is a huge evil. Mistakes are possible, of course: a man may turn out not to be as expected. But not even to consider the question is to act as irresponsibly as it is possible for a human being to act. It is a thoroughly bad thing. And sooner or later it will have consequences.
My patient [a young woman who had had three children with three different men without ever marrying] did not start out with the intention of abetting, much less of committing, evil. And yet her refusal to take seriously and act on the signs she saw and the knowledge she had was not due to ignorance. It was utterly willful. She knew from her own experience--and that of most of the women around her--that her choices, based on the desire of the moment, would lead to the misery and suffering not only for her, but also for the children she would have with these men.
This is not so much the banality as the frivolity of evil: choosing brief pleasure for oneself at the cost of long-term misery for one's own child. What better phrase than the frivolity of evil describes the conduct of a mother who turns her own 14-year-old child out because her latest boyfriend does not want him or her in the house?
And what better phrase describes the attitude of those intellectuals who see in this conduct nothing but an extension of human freedom and choice, just another thread in life's rich tapestry?
The men in these situations also know perfectly well the meaning and consequences of what they are doing. The same day that I saw the patient just described, a man of 25 came into our ward, needing an operation to remove foil-wrapped packets of cocaine he had swallowed in order to evade being caught by the police in possession of them. As it happened, he had just left his latest girlfriend--one week after she had given birth to their child. They weren't getting along, he said; he needed his space. Of the child, he thought not for an instant.
I asked him whether he had any other children.
"Four," he said.
"How many mothers?"
"Do you see any of your children?" He shook his head.
It is supposedly the duty of the doctor not to pass judgment on how patients have chosen to live, but perhaps I raised an eyebrow slightly. At any rate the patient caught a whiff of my disapproval.
"I know," he said. "I know. Don't tell me."
These words were a complete confession of guilt. I've had hundreds of conversations with men who had abandoned their children like this, and they all knew perfectly well the consequences for both the mother--and more important, for the children. They all know that they are condemning their children to lives of brutality, poverty, abuse, and hopelessness. They tell me they know this. And yet they do it over and over again.
The result is a rising tide of neglect, cruelty, sadism, and willful malignity.
Where does this evil come from? Clearly something is flawed in the heart of man that he should behave in this depraved fashion. But if there was a time--not that long ago--when such conduct was far more rare than it is now (and in a time of much less prosperity, which must be remembered by those who think poverty explains everything), then something more is needed to explain it.
It seems to me one obvious root of this problem is the welfare state, which makes it possible--often advantageous--to behave like this. The state, guided by the seemingly humane philosophy that no child should be deprived, gives assistance to the mothers. In matters of public housing it is actually advantageous for a mother to be single and have no support from her child's father, as this exempts her from local taxes, rent, and utility bills.
As for the fathers, the state absolves them of all responsibility for their children. The biological father is therefore free to use whatever income he has for his own pleasure. He becomes petulant, demanding, querulous, self-centered, and violent if he doesn't get his own way. The violence escalates and becomes a habit. A spoiled brat becomes an evil tyrant.
But the welfare state is only part of the cause of the spread of evil. To produce our rates of social pathology--the rates of public drunkenness, drug-taking, teenage pregnancy and crime in the U.K. are the highest in the world--requires something more than just the welfare state.
The answer lies in the realm of culture and ideas. For it is necessary not only that it be economically feasible to behave irresponsibly and selfishly, but also that people believe it's *morally permissible* to live this way. And this idea has been peddled by the intellectual elite in Britain for many years, more assiduously than anywhere else, to the extent that it is now off limits to question it.
Many of those on the Left claim man is endowed with rights but no duties. If this is true, people have the right to have children outside of marriage, and the children have the right not to be deprived of anything, at least anything material. How men and women choose to associate and have children is then merely a matter of consumer choice, of no moral consequence.
The Left claims the state must not discriminate among different forms of association and child rearing, even if the result is shown to be catastrophic.
The Left has convinced us that we are not allowed even to consider the consequences of such choices--to the children, and ultimately to society. Instead it becomes the task of the state to redistribute wealth (via taxes) to minimize the material costs of individual irresponsibility to the adults involved, and to ameliorate its inevitable emotional, educational, and spiritual effects by employing an army of social workers, psychologists, educators, counselors and the like.
Significantly, this army have themselves come to form a powerful vested interest in continuing the pattern of dependence on the government.
So while my patients know in their hearts that what they are doing is terribly wrong, they are encouraged by the Left to do it anyway--that they have the right to do it--because everything is merely a matter of value-free choice, with no consequences to themselves for making poor choices.
Almost no one in Britain publicly challenges this belief, nor has any politician had the courage to demand a withdrawal of the public subsidy that allows the intensifying evil I have seen over the past 14 years-- violence, rape, intimidation, cruelty, drug addiction, neglect--to flourish so exuberantly.To this insight I can only add that when Dalrymple wrote the above article in 2004, 40 percent of all births in the U.K were to unmarried women. In the U.S. we've now reached 40.7 percent--and a horrific 70 percent for blacks.
With 40 percent of children in Britain now being born out of wedlock--a number that continues to rise--soon it will no longer be possible to reverse these policies by electoral means. Even now politicians consider advocating any change along these lines to be electoral suicide.
My only cause for optimism during the past 14 years has been the fact that most of my patients can be brought to see the truth of what I say: that they are not depressed but just unhappy--because they have chosen to live in a way that makes it impossible to be happy. Without exception they say they wouldn't want their children to live as they have lived, but the role model they provide makes it likely that their children's choices will be as bad as theirs.
The greatest factor in the continuing social disaster that has overtaken Britain--a disaster whose full social and economic consequences have yet to be seen--is the moral cowardice of the intellectual and political elites. The elites cannot even acknowledge that we *have* a disaster--obvious as it is--for to do so would open the door to recognizing their responsibility for it, and that would make them feel bad.
Better that millions should live in wretchedness than that the elites should feel bad about themselves--yet another aspect of the frivolity of evil.
The figures are even worse when you look at births to teenage girls, since these girls are arguably the least-prepared to undertake single motherhood. According to the CDC a stunning 90 percent of all births to teenage girls were to unmarried girls.
But don't worry, citizen: The emperor has everything under control.