If You Ask for Chaos, You Get Chaos

GEORGE F. WILL

November 18, 1993|By GEORGE F. WILL

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- President Clinton's passionate philippic in a black church in Memphis last Saturday demonstrated that, regarding inner-city violence, the range of the discussable is expanding, but we still are a far cry from candor.

Mr. Clinton, a government man, instinctively believes that the underclass, which he says might better be called the outer class, principally lacks what governments can provide -- services, work. His instinct is reinforced by reading sociologist William Julius Wilson's analysis of how, in Mr. Clinton's words, the inner cities ''have crumbled as work has disappeared.''

That ''as'' is an artful equivocation. To a significant extent, work, and willing workers, were driven from the inner city by multiplying pathologies not caused by scarcity of work. And millions of Asian and other immigrants have recently traveled not just beyond neighborhoods but across oceans in search of work and found it in American cities. Clearly there is a poverty of inner resources on the part of many persons whose desperate conditions derive from various kinds of destructive behavior.

Mr. Clinton knows this. He told the Memphis congregation that there are changes that government can make ''from the outside in'' -- more police, job training and so on -- but ''there's some changes that we're going to have to make from the inside out, or the others won't matter.'' So he sidled up to the edge of the issue.

Martin Luther King, he says, did not fight for ''the freedom of children to have children and the fathers of the children walk away from them.'' He referred to ''the breakdown of the family,'' the need for ''coherent families,'' the fact that there is chaos ''where there are no families.''

Yes, but Pat Moynihan moved the discussion further 28 years ago when he wrote: ''A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future -- that community asks for and gets chaos.''

That community gets what we have got, what the social scientist Charles Murray calls an inner-city culture of '' 'Lord of the Flies' writ large, the values of unsocialized male adolescents made norms -- physical violence, immediate gratification and predatory sex.''

Thirteen days before the president spoke, Mr. Murray spoke via The values of unsocialized male adolescents -- violence, gratification and predatory sex -- are made norms.

the Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His thesis is as clear as his prescription is stern. Bringing a child into the world when one is neither emotionally nor financially prepared for parenthood is a grievous wrong. When it occurs, ''the child deserves society's support. The parent does not.''

Throughout history a single woman with a small child has not been a viable economic entity. To prevent this, societies have channeled elemental forces of sexuality between embankments of rewards and penalties to buttress marriage. In just 30 years the embankments have crumbled. In 1991 there were 1.2 million illegitimate births, an illegitimacy rate of 22 percent for whites, 68 percent for blacks, 30 percent for the nation, over 80 percent in some inner cities.

Government now subsidizes such behavior. It should, Mr. Murray says, end all economic support for single mothers. Marriage should be the sole legal institution through which parental rights and responsibilities are defined and exercised.

This, he thinks, would force young women who should not be mothers to seek the support of more mature adults, and would help to regenerate the deterring stigma of illegitimacy. Furthermore, it would lead many young women to place their babies for adoption.

zTC Lift all restrictions on interracial adoptions, Mr. Murray urges, and restore the traditional legal principle that placing a child for adoption means irrevocably relinquishing all legal rights to the child. For children not adopted the government should spend lavishly on orphanages. ''I am not,'' Mr. Murray says, ''recommending Dickensian barracks. In 1993 we know a lot about how to provide a warm, nurturing environment for children, and getting rid of the welfare system frees up lots of money to do it.''

Democracy, he says, depends on virtues which depend on socialization of children in the matrix of care and resources fostered by marriage. This is no longer a ''black issue.'' The title of Mr. Murray's Journal essay was ''The Coming White Underclass.'' The clock is ticking. The white rate is now just 4 points behind what the black rate was in 1965 when Mr. Moynihan sounded the alarm about the crisis of the black family.

The rising illegitimacy rate may make America unrecognizable before political institutions recognize the necessity of measures as bold -- as boldly traditional -- as Charles Murray recommends.

9- George F. Will is a syndicated columnist.

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