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Jewish World Review / June 22, 1998 / 29 Sivan, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Sixties sentimentalism

SO MANY TRAGIC SOCIAL TRENDS from which we are still suffering in the nineties began in the sixties that it is painful to realize how many people today still think of the sixties as a wonderful time for themselves and for American society. In a recent rhapsody, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen referred to "the heroic sixties."

Richard Cohen,

There were some heroes in the sixties, as there have been in other decades, for no society can survive with only timidity and expediency. But, by and large, the sixties marked the beginning of many social disasters and we are still picking up the pieces.

Take the "war on poverty" -- please. Its vast expansions of social programs were not intended simply to throw money at the poor. It was proclaimed by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson alike to be the way to end dependency on government by "investing" in upgrading skills and other social adventures with the taxpayers' money.

Dependency had been going down for years before the "war on poverty" began -- but now it began to go up.

Then there was the 1960s approach to crime. As of 1960, the total number of murders in the United States was lower than in 1950, 1940 or 1930. Even though the population of the country was growing and two new states were added, fewer people were being murdered.

Enter the grand new liberal theories of the "root causes" of crime and the criminals' new "rights" that were created out of thin air by judges, under the pretense of finding these rights in the constitution.

During this wonderful decade of the 1960s, the murder rate doubled and other rates of violent crime also began to skyrocket.

It was much the same story with sex. Both venereal diseases and unwed teenage pregnancy were going down before "the heroic sixties" dawned. Gonorrhea declined in every year of the 1950s from what it was the year before. There were only half as many cases of syphilis in 1960 as in 1950.

Enter the modern, "enlightened" and "healthy" view of sex that was to be spread throughout the schools of the land under the dishonest title of "sex education." It was not education about biology but propaganda designed to replace the values that children had absorbed from their families, from "society" and other sources disdained by the anointed.

Downward trends in both venereal disease and teenage pregnancy reversed during this "heroic" decade and headed skyward. Other things that started a long downward trend during the 1960s included the test scores of school children.

In every census from 1890 to 1950, black labor force participation rates were higher than those of whites. Only since the 1960s has that reversed. The marriage rates of black males was never as much as 5 percentage points different from those of white males until the 1960s. Now fatherless families have become a ghetto norm.

Liberals love to point to the civil rights advances of the 1960s as their trump card. But the desegregation of schools and other institutions began in the 1950s. The fact that the trend continued in the 1960s is hardly surprising.

Nor was the economic rise of blacks a product of 1960s legislation. That rise was faster in the 1940s and 1950s than in the 1960s or afterward.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were important pieces of legislation. But a higher percentage of Republicans than of Democrats voted for these bills in both Houses of Congress.

Even if we give 1960s liberals the credit they think they deserve, if they were single-handedly responsible for all civil rights advances, how could that compensate for their undermining of such basic institutions as the family, law enforcement and education?

Food stamps are no substitute for a father, busing is no substitute for a decent education and racial breast-beating is no substitute for being able to walk the streets without fear of hoodlums and murderers.

They used to say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating but apparently that isn't fashionable any more. Today, the proof of the pudding is in how good it made you feel to cook it. That is why liberals are so nostalgic about the 1960s.

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5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
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5/20/98: Smart but silent
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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
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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?
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2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.