We’ve talked here before about the formula for success in America (which I wrote about here and here):
1. Don’t have sex before age 20.
2. Don’t have sex until after marriage.
3. Stay married.
4. Obtain at least a high school diploma.
I first had this formula spelled out in a speech from Richard Wilkins in 2001, the first time I met him. While going through various tributes following his early death (this is a good one, from Sharon Slater, who worked with him for Family Watch International), I found a link to one of his last speeches (full speech here) Richard Wilkins was the keynote speaker at the June 2012 UN event Standing for the Family: The Family in the Context of Human Rights. The speech is called “The Family as the Cradle of International Human Rights,” and again he asserts that the necessary solution to poverty and other social and economic issues worldwide depends on strengthening marriage and family. As always, it is clearly laid out and well documented.
He points out the founding UN documents that validate the family as the basic unit of society, and then laments the failure to abide by those founding principles.
During the past 65 years there has been great (and laudable) progress in individual rights and freedom, particularly with regard to equality for women. But the family—and the associated civic virtues of hard work, tolerance, patience, kindness, forbearance and forgiveness that are taught to children by wise and loving parents—has been ignored. It is well past time for the international community to acknowledge the fundamental roles played by the family and to take appropriate action to strengthen and support the family.
He spends the body of the piece outlining the specific benefits to men, women, and children—and to society as a whole—provided by marriage and family, well-documented by mounting social research. He then outlines social problems stemming directly from family breakdown. And ends with a call to strengthen family:
Because families are the fundamental unit of society, governments and other social assistance actors should not bypass the unit that can best strengthen society. Fathers and mothers, by and large, love their children. Policies and assistance that permit fathers and mothers to work together to strengthen their families to improve the condition of their children will not only be more successful than other possible approaches, they will strengthen society itself. By building a healthy family, we build a healthy society and—ultimately—a healthy world.
In the shadow of some looming economic catastrophes in our own country, I think we need to make the connection to family breakdown as the root cause and stronger families as the ultimate only solution.
Photo from Uncommon Knowledge interview
While I was thinking this, I happened to be doing a little catch-up watching of things I got behind on, and tuned in to Glenn Beck’s November 30th show—last Friday. Glenn wasn’t there that day. BYU History Professor Paul Kerry hosted, and his main guest was Professor Paul Rahe of Hillsdale College (I recognized him from Week 3: “The Greek Miracle,” from Hillsdale’s free online History 101 course). Much of the hour talked about the need for a long-term view, and what perpetuates that view. Family is one of those things. Starting at about 21 minutes in, the discussion gets somewhat specific:
Paul Rahe: Let me give you some statistics that I think will shock you and surprise you. In 1940 what was the rate of out-of-wedlock births, in other words the percentage of children born who were not born to people who were already married? The answer is somewhere between 2 and 3%. That was true in 1950,2-3%. It went up to 5%, a shocking number, in 1960. And, among African-Americans, it went considerably higher than that, to about 12%, which caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was an assistant secretary of labor, to work on the so-called Moynihan report about the crisis of black families.
Paul Kerry: And a Democrat as well…
Paul Rahe: Yes. By 1980 it was 18.4%. Last year it was 39.6%. Now, think about that. We are approaching a situation in which half of the children born in the United States are born to young women who are not married. This is a very good example of a lack of long-term planning. Because they’re taking on heavy responsibilities that it’s hard enough for two parents to manage, especially with one working full time and the other at home (which was the old pattern) to manage. And they’re doing this without thinking.
Now, it’s even worse than I say. Because, if you go back to 1940, there’s almost no form of contraception available. So, in the absence of contraception, the out-of-wedlock birthrate was 2-3%. With the presence of contraception, it’s 39.6%. And I’ve left abortion out of the picture. In 1940 there are almost no abortions; last year in the United States there were three-quarters of a million abortions. There have been 50 million abortions since 1973.
So the pattern, which is among young people—because 50-year-olds aren’t having this problem, since they’re not giving birth—the problem is a lack of impulse control. The problem is a lack of long-term planning. The problem is that a moral revolution has taken place.
So a question you might want to ask yourself is, can a republic sustain itself in a world in which people are acting on impulse and irresponsibly—and I say irresponsibly, because there are other human being involved, not only the sexual partner but the offspring—can a republic be sustained in those circumstances? Because the women who have children out of wedlock are in fact going to be dependents on the state. And what they’re going to do is call upon other people to pay their bills, to take care of them. Not the father of the child, but welfare, food stamps, things along those lines.
It was a nice connecting of the dots. Who teaches impulse control and encourages a long-term outlook that helps individuals and communities? Families do that. Who does it in broken homes or single-parent households? No one. Especially if the broken family situation happened because of choosing short-term impulse over long-term perspective. In those cases the burden to teach the values falls on someone who does not hold those values.
The solution to economic problems is not to forcibly take income from successful people and hand it unearned to people whose behavior led to dire circumstances; the solution is to strengthen families, where the formula for success is taught. A backup is for churches and schools to also teach the values traditionally inculcated in families, rather than working against them. The social problems caused by an out-of-wedlock birthrate of 2-3% are much easier for society to solve than the overwhelming 39.6% rate. Too many problems, and too few successful society members to make up for the problems.
We know the formula for success. We know the path to take. Some of us will take that path no matter what. The question is, why isn’t that the direction followed by everyone who ever sought to be a leader? Because a leader moving people in any other direction cannot lead to success.