At NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Mitch Pearlstein of the Center for the American Experiment about his recent book, From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation:
…LOPEZ: You…write: “The more I’ve learned and pondered about the breakdown of marriage, both in America and elsewhere, the more I’ve come to increasingly appreciate just how deeply embedded and complex its causes are and how unlikely more than marginal progress in turning matters around will be made in any near term. More than a sobering thought, it’s a depressing one.” So why do you bother writing about it? What, honestly, can be done?
PEARLSTEIN: When I first read (about 35 years ago) the 1965 “Moynihan Report” about what were then considered high rates of out-of-wedlock births in African-American families, the problem he described seemed manifestly obvious and severe to me. And when I learned how Moynihan had been pilloried as a racist, largely by the Left, and how questions of family breakdown were essentially removed from public discussion for many years — which, of course, exacerbated the calamity — my anti-P.C. juices took over, and I’ve been occupied by such matters ever since. It needs to be understood that, far from being a racist and a victim-blamer, Moynihan attributed family breakdown in the black community entirely to white racism. There wasn’t a racist punctuation mark in the report, which was written while Moynihan was an official in LBJ’s Department of Labor.
As for what can be done, the quickest and shortest answer is, let’s see where things stand a generation from now. Will we have made any progress? I can conceive of making a fair number of men, for instance, more marriageable by helping them clear their names after arrests and incarcerations, therefore helping them get good jobs and build decent careers. But will we be able to get the toothpaste back in the tube, as some people like to put it? I really don’t know. But it’s not as if our culture hasn’t changed in fundamental ways over the last two generations, often for the better. Think of racial and religious tolerance…