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Jewish World Review Jan. 8, 1999 /19 Teves, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Rays of hope

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) THOSE OF US WHO ARE PESSIMISTIC about the decline of American standards and apprehensive about the future of this country certainly had enough reasons to become more pessimistic during 1998. W.H. Auden called the 1930s "a low, dishonest decade." The year just past was perhaps the most low and dishonest year in this century.

The most visible example was of course the White House scandals that led to impeachment. But it was not just these scandals themselves. It was also the army of White House liars deployed throughout the media around the clock, day in and day out, in an unremitting campaign to confuse and deceive.

It was the shrill and shameless lies of oily Ivy League law professors and the double-talk of feminists who used to go ballistic over little remarks that pale in comparison with Bill Clinton's behavior. Perhaps more than anything else, 1998 was the year when everyone who brought the truth about this scandal was targeted for organized and sustained character assassination, while the biggest liar of them all ended up high in the public opinion polls.

Fortunately, this was not the only thing going on in this country and some of the other things present a very different picture. Teenage births are down. So are abortion rates. So are divorce rates, violent crimes and the number of welfare recipients. Teenage suicides, which had been rising steadily for 20 years, is now dropping. Teenage drinking in 1995 was less than half of what it was 20 years earlier.

The amount of time that children spending watching television is lower now. Poverty among blacks has gone down. The marriage rate has had a recent upturn, after years of declining.

These trends are all plotted in the January/February issue of "The American Enterprise" magazine, published by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Such trends offer a much-needed ray of hope at a time when it would be all too easy to give up in despair.

We haven't gotten back to where we once were, before the corrosive ideas and reckless practices that began in the 1960s created social disaster in the midst of economic prosperity. Still, there are too many signs of a turnaround to be just isolated coincidences.

The most important turnaround has been in people's minds. Most working mothers today do not buy the "quality time" argument, as they did back in 1979. Most Americans today say that we are spending too much on welfare, while most did not say that just a few years ago. Premarital sex is no longer accepted among a majority of college freshmen, as it once was.

Internationally, the trends have swung around also. For the better part of this century -- actually, the worst part of this century -- socialism of one sort or another has been the goal of countries on every inhabited continent. In Germany it was National Socialism for a dozen hellish years. Communism was another form of socialism that grew to reign unchallenged from Central Europe all the way across Asia to the Pacific Ocean.

Fabian socialism in postwar Britain and various kinds of socialism in newly independent African nations, as well as socialism in India and in parts of Latin America, helped complete the picture. In all these places, socialism began with a bang and ended with a whimper.

In democratic Western nations, socialism led to runaway inflation or soaring unemployment or both. In some African nations, there was an absolute decline in national output, while population continued to grow. Countries that used to export food began to experience hunger. In communist countries, there were deaths in the millions from starvation and government killings.

All this started turning around in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United States were the big names in this process, but even left-wing political parties in places like New Zealand and France began moving toward privatization and the market. Communist China moved toward the market after Mao's death -- and then doubled and redoubled its income per capita as a result.

With so many signs of both degeneration and regeneration, how is it all going to turn out? We don't know. We have never known. That battle has never been won, once and for all. But now it is at least a contest in which we have a fighting chance, economically and morally, as well as politically.

01/04/99: Random thoughts
12/31/98: The President versus the presidency
12/29/98: The time is now!
12/23/98: World-class hypocrisy
12/21/98: The spreading corruption
12/17/98: Politically "contrite"
12/16/98: Polls and partisanship
12/14/98: The "non-profit" halo
12/11/98: Corruption and confusion
12/03/98: The health care "crisis"
11/30/98: Knowing what you are talking about
11/23/98: The impeachment legacy
11/23/98: Random thoughts
11/19/98: Tales out of bureaucracies
11/16/98: Scholarships based on scholarship
11/12/98: Forward march
11/09/98: Moral outrage
11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.