David French insists we’ll never have smaller, less intrusive government unless we stand up for, and revitalize, traditional norms and mores:
[T] sexual revolution is sustained and empowered by government. While it’s fairly obvious that legalized abortion, no-fault divorce, and — to a lesser extent — the new contraception mandate, create the legal structures necessary to launch a more libertine, self-indulgent lifestyle, less obvious is the extent to which government moves to mitigate the rather dramatic negative cultural and economic effects of that same self-indulgence. …
So faced with rising illegitimacy and the resulting intractable poverty (the “stickiness” at the bottom of the income ladder isn’t due to greedy bankers — sorry #Occupy — but to shattered families), do we begin to roll back the “reforms” that facilitate the revolution that is bankrupting us? By no means. Our government pushes forward, full speed ahead, separating sex even further from marriage, separating marriage from procreation, and throwing trillions of dollars at the inevitable (and tragic) cultural consequences.
French is not wrong to argue that there are economic costs to family breakdown. They should be (as his Census Bureau statistics on the correlation between child poverty and single-parent households suggest) obvious.
But when people talk about income equality lately, “ ‘stickiness’ at the bottom of the income ladder,” as French puts it, is a separate conversation. No serious liberal, to my knowledge, argues that the plight of the poor is directly tied to the behavior of “greedy bankers.”
What The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It author Timothy Noah (to name one) does argue is that there’s a growing gap between the very rich and the middle class, and even the upper-middle class. In other words, ordinary, God-fearing, non-libertine-lifestyle-launching Americans who play by the rules are falling behind.
This began in 1979 and went off the charts starting in the 1990s. (One-percent-based inequality has thrived under both Democratic and Republican presidents.) We only really became aware of the 1 percent’s role in income inequality about a decade ago, thanks to the work of [Thomas] Piketty and [Emmanuel]Saez. Here the causes appear to be pretty straightforward: the financialization of the economy (greatly aided by financial deregulation) and a breakdown in accountability for nonfinancial executive compensation.
One may discount Noah’s thesis that we should worry about this new kind of inequality because it leads to societal alienation and violates traditional norms and mores of a different kind. But it does no good to bring up the sexual revolution in this context.
French is right. But he’s also missing the point.