Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is the Underclass the Major Threat to American Ideals?

Is the Underclass the Major Threat to American Ideals?
Yes: Charles Murray, from “And Now for the Bad News,” Society (November/December 1999)
No: Barry Schwartz, from “Capitalism, the Market, the ‘Underclass,’ and the Future, “Society (November/December 1999)
For what is happening to the nation as a whole is not happening to the sub-population that we have come to call the underclass. It is instructive to explore three indicators to make the case. They are criminality, dropout from the labor force among young men, and illegitimate births among young women. These are key outcroppings of what we mean by the underclass: people living outside the mainstream, often preying on the mainstream, in a world where the building blocks of a life--work, family and community--exist in fragmented and corrupt forms. Suppose we ask not how many crimes are committed, but how many Americans demonstrate chronic criminality. That number is larger than ever. It is not noticed because so many of the chronically criminal are in jail (Mruuay, p. 146)
As of 1997, more than 1.8 million people were in prisons, jails and juvenile facilities, because they have been a menace to their fellow citizens. It is a major accomplishment that crime has gone down. It has been achieved not by socializing the underclass, but by putting large numbers of its members behind bars. (Murray, pp. 146, 147)
Unemployment rates have dropped. Suppose we turn instead to a less-publicized statistic, but one of the most significant in trying to track the course of the underclass, the percentage of young males not in the labor force. When young men neither work nor look for work, most are living off the underground economy or on handouts, periodically, getting a job, then quitting or getting fired, consigning themselves to a life at the margins of the economy. (Murray, p. 147)
The increase in labor force dropout is largest among young black males. The proportion who are not working or looking for work averaged 17% during the 1980’s. As of 1997, it stood at 23%. That these increases in labor-force dropout have occurred despite a sustained period of high demand for workers at all skill levels is astonishing and troubling. Illegitimacy ratio is another factor. It is the percentage of babies who are born to unmarried women. The black illegitimacy ratio as of 1997 stood at a catastropohic 69%. (Murray, p. 147)
We know for sure that the underclass today is substantially larger than it was at any time in the 1980’s when the Reagan administration was being excoriated for ignoring the underclass. Yet the underclass is no longer aq political issue. The reason is that what bothered us was not that the underclass existed, but that it was in our face. Now it is not. So we can forget about it. The violence and misogyny that pervade certain forms of popular music reflect these values. So does the hooker look in fashion, and the flaunting of obscenity and vulgarity in comedy. The underclasses ethic has found approval: Take what you want. Respond violently to anyone who antagonizeds you. Despise courtesy as weakness. Take pride in cheating (stealing, lying, exploiting) successfully. These things are openly espoused in television, films and recordings than they used to be. Vulgarity, violence and the rest were part of mainstream America before the underclass came along. But these things always used to be universally condemned in public discourse. Now they are not. Inner-city street life has provided an alternative code and it is attracting converts. The converts are mainly adolescents. They are the ethics of male adolescents who have not been taught any better. (Murray, pp. 149, 150)
In the last decade white criminality has not only increased but gotten more violent, that white teenage males are increasingly dropping out of the labor force, and that white illegitimacy has increased rapidly. In white working-class neighborhoods there have been increases in drug use, worse school performance and a breakdown of neighborhood norms--as was the case among blacks decades ago. The white illegitimacy ratio has slowed but it stands at 26% and 22% for non-Latino whites. Juvenile crime is increasing rapidly across Europe, along with other indicators of social deterioration in low-income groups. (Murray, p. 150)
At this moment, elated by falling crime rates and shrinking welfare rolls, we have not had to acknowledge how far we have already traveled on the road to custodial democracy. Suppose that our new modus vivendi keeps working? We just increase the number of homeless shelters, restore the welfare guarantee, build more prison cells, and life for the rest of us goes on, pleasantly. At some point we will be unable to avoid recognizing that custodial democracy has arrived. This will make a fundamental change in how we conceive of America. Will anyone mind? (Murray, p. 151)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is Increasing Economic Inequality a Serious Problem/

Is Increasing Economic Inequality a Serious Problem?
YES: Christopher Jencks, from “Does Inequality Matter?” Daedalus (Winter 2002)NO: Christopher C. DeMuth, from “The New Wealth of Nations, “ Commentary (October 1997)
Does Inequality Matter?
The economic gap between rich and poor has grown over the past generation and is now considerably wider than in any other affluent nation. The gap has widened steadily since 1979. After tax -income going to the top 1 percent of American households almost doubled between 1979 and 1997. This included all households with after-tax incomes above $246,000 in 1997. Their purchasing power rose by 157 percent between 1979 and 1997, while the median household’s purchasing power rose only 10 percent. (Jencks, p. 130)
The big English speaking democracies are the most unequal, the Scandinavian democracies are the most equal, and Western European democracies fall in the middle. Within the English-speaking world the U.S. is the most unequal of all. But even the U.S. is not as unequal as Russia, Mexico, or many other Latin American countries. (Jencks, p. 131)
The differences between rich democracies is that their governments adopt different economic policies. A number of rich countires have centralized wage bargaining, which almost always compresses the distribution of earnings. Unionization tends to compress the wage distribution. The U.S. is unusuallly unequal partly because it makes little effort to limit wage inequality: the minimun wage is low, and American law makes unionization relatively difficult. The U.S. transfers less money to those who are not working than most other rich democracies. (Jencks, p. 132)
Americans are also far more hostile to government than the citizens of other rich democracies. Since egalitarian economic policies require governmental action, they win far less support in the U.S. than in most other rich democracies. The United States, unlike in Canada, Britain, Sweden, France, and Germany, poor American households worked far more hours per year than their counterparts in the other five countires. What distinquished the United States from the other rich democracies is not the idlness of the American poor but the anger that idleness inspires in more affluent Americnas, which helps explain the stinginess of the American welfare state. (Jencks 133)
The distribution of income may influence my children’s educational opportunities, my life expectancey, my chance of being robbed, the probability that I will vote, and perhpas even my overall happiness.
Educational opportunities are affected. Since 1979 tuition at America’s public colleges and universities has risen faster than most parents’ income. Higher tuition could easily reduce college attendance even when the long-run retruns of a college degree are rising. Among students from the most affluent families, the proportion entering a four-year college rose subtantially, according to David Ellwood at Harvard and Thomas Kane at UCLA. Students from middle-income fqmilies had attendance which rose more modestly. Students from the poorest families were no more likely to attend a four-year college in 1992 than in 1980-1982. (Jencks, pp. 133, 134)
Life expectancy is also affected. People live longer in richer counties than in poorer countries. Life expectancy is lower in the U.S. than in almost any other rich democracy. Within any given country people with higher incomes also live longer. Mortality was also lower in American states and metropolitan areas where incomes were more equal. Inequality kills because it affects public policy, altering the distribution of education, health care, environmental protection, and other material resources. (Jencks, p. 134)
The American does less than almost any other rich democracy to limit economic inequality. As a result, the rich can buy a lot more in America than in other affluent democracies, while the poor can buy a little less. (Jencks, p. 136)
I have looked at evidence on wheter economic inequality affects people’s lives independent of its effects on their material standart of living. At least in the United States, the growth of inequality appears to have made more people attend college but also made educational opportunities more unequal. Growing inequality may also have lowered life expectancy, but the evidence for such an effect is weak and the effect, if there was one, was probably small. There is some evidence that changes in equality affect happiness in Europe, but not much evidence that this is the case in the U.S. If inequality affects violent crime, these effects are swamped by other factors. There is no evidence that changes in economic inequality affect poitical participation, but declining political participation among the less affluent may help explain why American politicians remained so passive when inequality began to grow in 1980. The bottom line is that the social consequences of economic inequality are sometimes negative, sometimes neutral, but seldom--as far as I can discover--positive. (Jencks, p. 136)

The New Wealth of Nations
How can it be that societies so surpassingly wealthy have governments whose core domestic-welfare programs are on the verge of bankruptcy? It is our very wealth, freedom, and equality that are causing the welfare state to unravel. There has been reports in the media and political speeches about increasing income inequality: the rich, it is said, are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle and working classes are under the pressure of disappearing jobs in manufacturing and middle management . The increase in measured-income inequality is in part a result of the increase in real social equality. (DeMuth, pp. 138, 139)
Progress in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and other key sectors of economic production has made the material necessities of life--food, shelter, and clothing--available to essentially everyone. The problem of poverty, defined as material scarcity, has been solved. If poverty today remains a serious problem, it is a problem of individual behavior, social organization, and publlic policy. This was not so 50 years ago, or ever before. (DeMuth, p. 139)
Over 300 years the average human life span has doubled. There have been gains in stature, health, and longevity, which continue today. The critical source of social wealth has shifted over the last few hundred years from land to physical capital to, today , human capital--education and cognitive ability. The ability to acquire and deploy human capital is a function of intelligence,, and intelligence is unequally distributed and also, to a significant degree, heritable. An economy that rewards sheer brainpower replaces one old source of inequality, sociooeconomic advantage, with a new one, cognitive advantage. (DeMuth, pp. 139, 140)
For most people who inhabit the vast middle range of the bell curve, intelligence is more equally distributed than land or physical capital ever was. If in the past many were held back by lack of education and closed social institutions, the opportunities to use one’s human capital have blossomed with the advent of universal education and the erosion of social barriers. (DeMuth, p. 140)
Many of the newest industries, from fast food to finance, to communications, have succeeded in part by opening up employment opportunities for those of modest ability and training. These new industries have created enormous, widely shared economic benefits in consumption. (DeMuth, p. 140)
Recent decades have seen a dramatic reduction in inequality: the social and economic inequality of the sexes. Today, working men and women with comparable education and job tenure earn essentially the same incomes. (DeMuth, p. 140)
Wealthy Western democracies are seeking large-scale voluntary reductions in the amount of time spent at paid employment. There is earlier retirement despite longer life spans; and, many more hours devoted to leisure, recreation, entertainment, family, community and religious activities, charitable and other nonremunerative pursuits, and so forth. The time devoted to nonwork activities by the average male head of houshold has grown from 10.5 hours per week in 1880 to 40 hours today, while time per week at work has fallen from 61.6 hours to 33.6 hours. Time, and not material things, has become the scarce and valued commodity in modern society. (DeMuth, pp. 140, 141)
In very wealthy societies, income has become a less useful gauge of economic welfare and hence of economic equality. When incomes change from year to year comsumption becomes a better measure of material welfare. Welfare appears much more evenly distributed: people of higher income spend progressively smaller shares on consumption, while in the bottom ranges, annual consumption often exceeds income. In the bottom 20 percent of the income scale, average annual consumption is about twice annual income--probably a reflection of underreporting of earnings in this group. The distribution of comsumption, unlike the distribution of reported income, has become measurably more equal in recent decades. (DeMuth, p. 141)
Expenditures on recreation show that things are more equal as people of lower income have increased the amount of time and money they devote to entertainment, reading, sports, and related enjoyments. Most of the increase in earnings inequality among U.S. males since the mid-1970’s can be attributed not to changing labor-market opportunities but to voluntary choice-to the free pursuit of nonwork activities at the expense of income-producing work. (DeMuth, p. 141)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Are Communication Problems Between Men and Women Largely Due to Radically Different Converstion Styles?

Are Communication Problems Between Men and Women Largely Due to Radically Different Conversation Styles?

Yes: Philip Yancey, from “Do Men and Women Speak the Same Language?” Marriage Partnership (Fall 1993)

No: Mary Crawford, from “Talking Difference: On Gender and Language” (Sage Publications, 1995)

Deborah Tanner wrote an informative book entitled, “You Just Don’t Understand.” (William Morrow & Company, 1990). She explains that males are more competitive, aggressive, hierarchical and emotionally withdrawn. Females are quieter, more relational and mutually supportive. The key to effective relationships is to understand the vast “cultural” gap between male and female. However, men and women do not recognize these differences: they tend to repeat the same patterns of miscommunication. (Yancey, p. 79)

Research shows that boys and girls grow up learning different styles of communicating. Boys tend to play in large groups that are hierarchically structured, with a leader who tells the others what to do and how to do it. Boys reinforce status by giving orders and enforcing them; their games have winners and losers and are run by elaborate rules. In contrast, girls play in small groups or in pairs, with “best friends.” They strive for intimacy, not status. (Yancey, p. 80)

A man relates to the world as an individual within a hierarchy; he measures himself against others and judges success or failure by his movement up or down the ladder. .”For women, writes Deborah Tannen, “conversations are negotiations for closeness in which people try to seek and give confirmation and support, and to reach consensus.” (Yancey, p. 80)

In the battle of the sexes each couple had a Blamer and a Blamee. The Blamer was usually a perfectionist, very detail-and task-oriented, who expected unrealistically high standards of the spouse. “No matter what I do,” said one Blamee, “I can never measure up to my husband’s standard of cooking or housekeeping ore reading or sex, or anything. It’s like I’m constantly being graded on m performance. And it doesn’t motivate me to improve. I figure I’m not going to satisfy him anyway, so why try?” (Yancey, pp. 80, 81)

All of us would like to make a few changes in the person we live with, but those attempts to coax those changes often lead to conflict. In conflict, gender differences rise quickly to the surface. Men are accustomed to conflict. Women, concerned more with relationship and connection, prefer the role of peacemaker. (Yancey, p. 81)

What are the guidelines for conflict? First, identify your fighting style. We tend to learn fighting styles from the family we grow up in. Example: In Angie’s Italian family, the fighting style was obvious: yell, argue and, if necessary, punch your brother in the nose. When she married, her husband would clam up and walk away from an argument. Angie thought her husband was deliberately ignoring her, and their conflicts never got resolved until they sought counseling. There, they realized that her husband was walking away because he knew he had no chance against Angie’s well-honed fighting skills. Once they both realized the dynamics behind their conflicts, they made appropriate adjustments. (Yancey, p. 81)

Second, agree on rules of engagement. Negotiate what constitutes “fighting fair.” It is important to agree to avoid: fighting in public, straying from the topic at hand, bringing up old history, threatening divorced and using sex as a way to paper over conflict. Don’t pretend to go along with a decision and then bring it up later as a matter of blame; and don’t resort to guerilla warfare—getting revenge by taking cheap shots after an argument is over. (Yancey, p. 81)

Third, identify the real issue behind the conflict. For example women are sometimes accused of nagging; this may result from the interplay of men’s and women’s styles, whereby many women are inclined to do what is asked of them and many men are inclined to resist even the slightest hint that anyone, especially a woman, is telling them what to do. A woman will be inclined to repeat a request that doesn’t get a response because she is convinced that her husband would do what she asks if he only understood that she really wants him to do it. But a man who wants to avoid feeling that he is following orders may instinctively wait before doing what she asked in order to imagine that he is doing it of his own free will. Nagging is the result, because each time she repeats the request, he again puts off fulfilling it. Is taking out the garbage really the issue, or is it a husband’s crusty resistance to anything that infringes on his independence? (Yancey, p. 82)

Women use conversation primarily to form and solidify connections with other people. Men, on the other hand, tend to use words to navigate their way within the hierarchy. They do so by communicating their knowledge and skill, imparting information to others. Women excel at “private speaking” or “rapport-talk.” Men feel most comfortable in “public speaking” or “report talk.” Men feel comfortable giving reports to groups or interrupting a speaker with an objection—these are skills learned in the male hierarchy. Many women might perceive the same behavior as putting themselves on display. For example, at a party the men tell stories, share their expertise and tell jokes while the women usually converse in smaller groups about more personal subjects. They are busy connecting while the men are positioning themselves. (Yancey, p. 82)

Men often complain that women “bitch”. Tannen’s explanation is that women tend to bond in pain. Through griping, they reaffirm connections with each other. For men, the immediate response to complaint is to fix the problem. Otherwise, why complain? Women don’t necessarily want the problem solved—who can “fix” the weather, for example? They merely want to feel understood and sympathized with. (Yancey, p. 83)

Mary Crawford disagrees with Philip Yancey. She says that American women and men interact with each other for too much to be characterized as living in different subcultures. (Crawford, p. 89)

Lecturing, says Tannen, is part of a male style. And women let them get away with it, because women’s style includes listening attentively and not interrupting, they do not jump in, challenge, or attempt to deflect the lecturer. Men assume that if their partner had anything important to say, she would say it. The two styles interact to produce silent women and talkative men, who lecture at length though they themselves may be bored and frustrated by the lack of dialogue. (Crawford, p. 90)

Tannen’s stylistic interpretation discounts the possibility that the male academic in this example did not want to hear about his female dinner companion’s research because he did not care about it. That women and what they do are valued less than men and what they do is one of the fundamental insights of feminism. The history of women provides evidence of exclusion, discrimination, and marginalization. Methods vary; such as plagiarizing women’s work, denigrating them as unfeminine while stealing their ideas, denying them employment and recognition. What Tannen explains as mere stylistic differences have the effect of keeping women and their work invisible, and have had documented consequences on women’s hiring, promotion, and tenure. (Crawford, p. 90)

These types of books achieve to reassure women that their lot in heterosexual relationships is normal. It is stressed that no one is to blame, that miscommunication is inevitable, that unsatisfactory results may stem from the best of intentions. They provide one more pseudo-explanation and one more ingenious strategy for not tackling the root causes of women’s subordinate status. One kind of intention that is never imputed to any speaker is the intent to dominate. (Crawford, p. 91)

In summary author Philip Yancey argues that men and women have strikingly different communication styles because they grow up in different cultures. A man is usually concerned about enhancing or maintaining status as he communicates, while a woman will usually communicate in ways that gain or maintain closeness. (Finsterbusch, p. 76)

Professor of psychology Mary Crawford contends that the thesis that men and women have radically different communication styles is greatly exaggerated in the media and is based on simplistic stereotypes. (Finsterbusch, p.76

Finsterbusch, Kurt. “Taking Sides: Social Issues. McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, Iowa, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Do the New Sex Roles Burden Women More Than Men

Do the New Sex Roles Burden Women More Than Men?

Yes: Jeff Grabmeier, from “The Burden Women Bear: Why They Suffer More Distress Than Men,” USA Today Magazine (July 1995)

No: Susan Faludi, from “Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man” (William Morrow and Company, 1999)

Occupations and professions that were by tradition or law previously reserved for men only are now open to women. Women are found in increasing numbers among lawyers, judges, physicians, and elected officials. Women in the military participated in the US invasion of Panama In December 1989 and in the Persian Gulf War in 1990. Today most women of working age are either in school or the labor force. The problem for women today has less to do with occupational exclusion than with the stress of inclusion. (Finsterbusch, pp. 60, 61)

Do men really have it made? Men may experience less stress, but the die younger. Between the ages of 15 and 24, when sex roles take full hold, the death rate for men is over three times the death rate for women. Men die of heart disease at almost twice the age-adjusted death rate as women. (Finsterbusch, p.61) However, the death rate or stress rate may not indicate how the sex roles affect the differential rates. Therefore, the discussion should focus on what burdens sex roles create for women and men. Women sex roles give them responsibility for household and child care so they end up with a second work shift if they choose to have a career as will as a family. According to Grabmeier, women are not too happy about this. Half the women expressed anger, hostility, and resentment toward their husbands or partners for failing to share child care and household responsibilities. Women’s roles have changed due to the women’s movement and the financial need for two paychecks, and the opportunities of an expanding white-collar economy. However, sex roles for men have not changed very much. Men’s sex role problem is two-sided. One side is that men are still socialized to conform to masculine sex roles but are not given real opportunities for fulfilling these roles in today’s society. Susan Faludi states that men are made to feel like failures. Men experience expectations from women to be more feminine and to increasingly perform what many men think of as women’s tasks. On the one side they are failures in their own eyes and on the other side they are failures in women’s eyes. (Finsterbusch, p.61)

Grabmeier argues that women suffer a greater burden than men and uses data on stress to support his conclusions. Faludi’s analysis supports the conclusion that men are more burdened by modern sex roles than women. (Finsterbusch, p. 61)

The Burden Women Bear: Why They Suffer More Distress Than Men

Who suffers more in life, men or women? Evidence is growing that women, in fact, do suffer more than men. Blame it on biology, the stress of combining parenthood and career, living in a male-centered society, or all the above. Sociologist John Mirowsky and Catherine Ross show that females experience symptoms of psychological distress—including sadness, anger, anxiety, malaise, and physical aches and pains—about 30% more often than males. Women are twice as likely as men to experience major clinical depression. Women reported more days with symptoms of distress than men. In the past women’s surplus of suffering have been dismissed because they were thought to be more emotional than men. The belief is that females simply complained more than males. Mirowsky and Ross found that women did express their emotions more than men. About 68% of the males agreed that they kept their emotions to themselves, compared to 50% of the females. (Grabmeier, p. 62)

Scientists have discovered that imbalances of certain neurotransmitters in the brain are related to depression. Low levels of serotonin may lead to depression, anxiety, anger, eating disorders and impulsive behavior. Women may have less stable brain systems for regulating these neurotransmitters. Female hormones play a role in the regulation of neurotransmitters that may explain why females are more likely to experience clinical depression. Joust haw much of a role biology plays in women’s distress remains unclear. Blaming biology for distress can be a two-edged sword. It can help to mobilize medical resources and make physicians take such problems seriously, but also may take the focus off social factors that contribute to the situation. (Grabmeier, p. 63)

Many working mothers complain of not getting enough support from husbands and partners. Women saw their excessive worry and irritability as the inevitable result of trying to combine and balance the demands of a “second shift” of child care, housework, and a marriage with a paid job. The problem is that now women have more opportunities outside the home, but still do most of the household chores. Women are still expected to take care of the home and children. But women also have taken on the responsibility of work. They have added new roles without significant changes in their old ones. Men sometimes may help out, but there usually is not a true sharing of household and child care responsibilities in American society. When men care for a child it is seen as babysitting, but when women do it, that is seen as simply being a mother. (Grabmeier, p. 64)

In couples with a new child, mothers spend about 4.6 hours per day in infant care, compared to about 1.3 for fathers. The result is that women often feel overworked and underappreciated. That doe not men that full-time homemakers have it better; they actually have higher levels of psychological distress than employed women. Working women can derive satisfaction from multiple roles at home and in the workplace; stay-at-home moms have only their homemaker role. They may feel isolated and out of step with the rest of society because parenting apparently is not highly valued in American culture. Housewives are economically dependent on their husbands, which is a powerful cause of distress. Economic independence gives you status in the eyes of the community and a sense of security and self worth, Mirowswky explains. Women are psychologically better off if they are employed. Society’s expectations of mothers also can put a suffocating burden on women. It is expected that a new mother will be happy, overjoyed even, to put her baby’s needs above her own. But motherhood is difficult, and women can find that their feelings are out of syc with societal expectations. There negative feelings are proof that they are not being a good mother, which compounds their feelings of distress, depression, anger, anxiety, and guilt. (Grabmeier, pp. 64, 65)

What about single, childless females? They show less evidence of distress than other women, but more than men, according to Mirowsky. Women in the US are paid about 75% of what men receive, are more likely to live in poverty, face a greater threat of physical and sexual abuse, and live in a culture that often promotes near-unattainable ideals for physical perfection. (Grabmeier, p. 65)

When females are faced with problems, they are more likely than males to think continually about troubling issues. They also are more apt to blame themselves. Women can be caught in a cycle of worry and depression instead of working to find a way out. Men tend to take action in dealing with problems and are more likely to place the blame elsewhere and find activities such as hobbies to distract them. Female subjects actually experience anger about 29% more often than the males. Women were more angry and anxious than men. Females were more likely to express their anger through yelling at others. While women are getting angry and depressed, men are handling their distress another way- by drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Males are more likely than females to abuse alcohol and drugs. It seems clear that women suffer more psychological distress. Is there anything that can be done about it? Many of the problems require fundamental changes in how government, business, and society treat women. Women are organizing to make their voices heard. Some groups, such as the National Organization for Women, are well-known for their efforts to improve the lot of females. The leaders of these groups argue all the time in their speeches tat we need men to get more involved in parenting. Women are almost solely responsible for parenting. Men have to assume a larger role, and that is a societal problem that requires changing how we structure gender roles. The evidence suggests the quality of life is poorer for many women, and it is something that needs to be addressed. (Grabmeier, p. 66)

Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man

At the weekly meetings of a domestic-violence group it was observed that the men lost their compass in the world. They had lost or were losing jobs, homes, cars, families. They had been labeled outlaws but felt like castoffs. Their strongest desire was to be dutiful and to belong, to adhere respect, they were prototypical modern wife beaters, who are commonly ill equipped to fulfill the requirements of expected stereotypical sex roles, men who are socially isolated, afflicted with a sense of ineffectuality. They were so clearly dominated, done in by the world The men probably felt controlled—a feeling they had no way of expressing because to reveal lit was less than masculine, would make each of them, in fact, “no man at all.” For such men the desire to be in charge was what they felt they must do to survive in a nation that expected them to dominate. (Faludi, pp. 67, 68)

In contrast, women freed themselves from the box in which they were trapped. Women were able to take action, paradoxically, by understanding how they were acted upon. Women have been largely man-made. What had been made by others women themselves could unmake. Once their problems could be traced to external forces generated by a male society and culture, they could see them more clearly and so challenge them. Men feel the contours of a box, too, but they are told that box is of their own manufacture, designed to their specifications. Women’s basic grievances are seen as essentially reasonable. Men’s grievances, by contrast, seem hyperbolic, almost hysterical; so many men seem to be doing battle with phantoms and witches that exist only in their own overheated imaginations. Men do not see how they are influenced by the culture; they prefer not to. If they did, they would have to let go of the illusion of control. (Faludi, p. 69)

The very paradigm of modern masculinity—that it is all about being the master of your universe—prevents men from thinking their way out of their dilemma. If they are the makers of history, not the subjects of historical forces, then how can they rise up?
Yet clearly masculinity is shaped by society. Ideas of manhood vary and are contingent on the times and the culture. (Faludi p. 69)

Why are so many men so disturbed by the prospect of men’s independence? Why do so many men seem to begrudge it, resent it, fear it, fight it with an unholy passion? Men have lost useful role in public life, a way of earning a decent and reliable living, appreciation in the home, respectful treatment in the culture—they more it seems that men of the late twentieth century are falling into a status oddly similar to that of women at mid-century. Given the untenable and insulting nature of the demands placed on men to prove themselves in our culture, why don’t men revolt? Why haven’t men responded to the series of betrayals in their own lives? When the frontier that their fathers offered them proved to be a wasteland, when the enemy their fathers sent them to crush turned out often to be women and children trembling in thatched huts, when the institutions their fathers claimed would buoy them downsized them, when the women their fathers said wanted their support got their own jobs, when the whole deal turned out to be a crock and it was clear that they had been thoroughly stiffed, why did the sons do nothing? Women responded to their problem by founding a political movement. Why have not men done the same? Most men feel not the reins of power in their hands but its bit in their mouths. It is not just women who are bombarded by cultural messages about appropriate gender behavior. Mass media have operated relentlessly on men, too. The level of mockery, suspicion, and animosity directed at men who step out of line is profound. But haven’t women, the object of such commercial and political manipulation, kicked over these traces successfully? If men have feared to tread where women have rushed in, then maybe that is because women have had it easier in one very simple regard: women could frame their struggle as a battle against men. Culture has not offered an alternative vision of manhood. (Faludi, pp. 70, 71, 72) The male paradigm is peculiarly unsuited too mounting a challenge to men’s predicament. Men have no clearly defined enemy who is oppressing them. How can men be oppressed when the culture has already identified them as the oppressors, and when they see themselves that way? What new realms should they be gaining—the media, entertainment, and image making institutions of corporate America? But these are institutions, they are told, that are already run by men; how can men invade their own territory. Their masculinity lies in figuring out how to be human. Conceiving of masculinity as something to be turns manliness into a detachable entity. He can begin to conceive of other ways of being “human,” and hence, of being a man. An opportunity for men to forge a rebellion commensurate with women’s and, in the course of it, to created a new paradigm for human progress that will open doors for both sexes, to create a freer, more humane world. In the end, men are faced with a historic opportunity: to learn to wage a battle against no enemy, to own a frontier of human liberty, to act in the service of a brotherhood that includes us all. (Faludi, pp 72, 73)

Finsterbusch, Kurt. Taking Sides: Social Issues. McGraw-Hill/Duskin. Iowa, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Is Third World Immigration a Threat to America's Way of Life?

Is Third World Immigration a Threat to America’s Way of Life?

Yes: Patrick Buchanan, from “Shields Up!” The American Enterprise (March 2002)
No: Ben Wattenberg, from “Immigration is Good,” The American Enterprise (March 2002)

Is immigration good or bad for America? Many immigrants, both legal and illegal enter the US every year. The majority of immigrants come from
Third World countries and the largest percentage are from Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, and the Caribbean. European immigration has shrunk to about 10 percent. (Finsterbusch, p. 40)

The immigration act of 1965 put all immigrants on equal footing. It made it even easier for Third World immigrants to enter the country. The new law gave preference to those with a family member already living in the US. (Finsterbusch, p. 41)

Immigrants enter the US for various reasons. They may be fleeing tyranny and terrorism, to escape war, or join relatives already settled in the US. The question has arisen as to whether or not immigrants take jobs away from US citizens or do they just do jobs the US citizens do not want. The immigrants see the US as a place of affluence in a global sea of poverty. In the US they can earn many times what they could in their native countries. What will these new immigrants do to the United States—or for it?
(Finsterbusch, p. 41)

Buchanan contends that immigrants are harming the US both economically and culturally. He claims that the sheer number of immigrants threatens to overwhelm traditional safeguards against cultural disintegration. This foreign influx is transforming a “nation” into a collection of separate nationalities. However, Ben Wattenberg argues that immigration will benefit the US, by making it a “universal” nation that will be better able to compete in a future that is increasingly global. (Finsterbusch, p. 41)

In 1821, the new independent Mexico invited Americans to settle in the northern part of Texas—on two conditions. Americans must become Catholics and swear allegiance to Mexico. The Americans eventually outnumbered the Mexicans ten to one. In 1835 General Santa Anna seized power in Texas and being tired of the Americans making false oaths and fake conversions, sent them back across the Rio Grande. (Buchanan, p. 42)

Santa Anna led his army north to recapture his lost province. At the Alamo he massacred the first rebels who resisted. Then at Goliad he executed 400 Texans, who had surrendered. At San Jacinto he was ambushed. His army was butchered and he was captured. The Texans wanted him massacred, but Sam Houston made the dictator an offer: his life for Texas. Santa Anna signed. Andrew Jackson, on his last day in office, recognized the independence of the Lone Star Republic. (Buchanan, p. 42)

Eight years later, the US annexed the Texas republic. Mexico disputed the American claim to all land north of the Rio Grande. President Polk sent troops to the north band of the river. Mexican soldiers crossed the river and fired on a US patrol. Congress declared war. By 1848 Mexico lost the war and was forced to cede all of Texas, the Southwest, and California. In addition the US gave Mexico $15 million to ease the anguish of the amputation. (Buchanan, p. 42)

As a result of this history Mexico has an historic grievance against the US that is deeply felt by her people. Immigration today is different from the past. Today the number of people from Mexico is larger than any country ever before. In the 1990”s alone, the number of people of Mexican heritage living in the US grew by 50 percent to at least 21 million, which are highly concentrated in the Southwest. Mexicans are not just from another culture, but another race. Different races are more difficult to assimilate than different cultures. 60 million Americans of German ancestry are assimilated, but millions from Africa and Asia are not. Millions of Mexicans broke the law. Each year, 1.6 million illegal aliens are apprehended mostly at our southern border. Unlike old immigrants, Mexican immigrants did not break away from Mexico. They have no desire to learn English or become US citizens. They are here to earn money. Rather than assimilate, they created their own radio and TV stations, newspapers, films, and magazines. They are becoming a nation within a nation. (Buchanan, p.43)

Mexican immigration is a challenge to our cultural integrity, our national identity, and potentially to our future as a country. 72 percent of Americans want less immigration. The people want action. The elites disagree—and do nothing. The US lacks the fortitude to defend its borders and to demand that immigrants assimilate into its society. If assimilation fails our children will suffer. The US will become a cleft country with potential for internal strife. (Buchanan, p.43)

Mexican President Fox proposed a complete opening of borders between the US, Canada, and Mexico. Half of the Mexicans live in poverty. This situation will result in millions of Mexicans to enter the US within months. They will treat America as nothing more than an economic system. (Buchanan, p. 44)

Even the Mexican army shows contempt for the US along its 2,000 mile border. In 2000 Mexican soldiers barreled through a barbed-wire fence, fired shots and pursued two mounted officers and a US Border Patrol vehicle. Border Patrol agents believe that some Mexican army units collaborate with their county’s drug cartels. (Buchanan, p. 46)

The Mexican government supports illegal entry of its citizens into the US by providing them with “survival kits” of water, dry meat, granola, Tylenol, anti-diarrhea pills, bandages, and condoms. Some Anglo Americans have moved from California in search of cities like the one they grew up in. Others are moving into gated communities. Complaints about the radical change in America’s ethnic composition have been called un-American. However, Theodore Roosevelt warned that “The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.” Yet immigration has been deemed taboo by the forces of political correctness. (Buchanan, p. 46)

Harvard economist George Borjas has found no net economic benefit from mass migration from the Third World. The added costs of schooling, health care, welfare, prisons, plus the pressure on land, water and power resources, exceed the taxes that immigrants pay. A third of the legal immigrants have not finished high school. 22 percent do not even have ninth-grade education. 60 percent still do not earn $20,000 a year. Immigrant use of food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, and school lunch programs that run 50 to 100 % higher than use by the native born. By 1991 they accounted for 24 percent of all arrests in Los Angeles and 36 Percent of all arrest in Miami. In 1980, federal and state prisons housed 9,000 criminal aliens. (Buchanan, p.47)

Mass emigration from poor Third World countries is good for businesses that employ large numbers of workers at low wages. However, what is good for corporate America is no good for Middle America. Is the US government failing in its Constitutional duty to protect the rights of American citizens? (Buchanan, p. 47)

Immigrants arriving from cultures that have little in common with our own raise a question: What is a nation? Some define a nation as one people of common ancestry, language, literature, history, heritage, heroes, traditions, customs, mores and faith who have lived together over time in the same land under the same rulers. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams said, “They must cast off the European skin, never to resume it. They must look forward to their posterity rather than backward to their ancestors.” John Stuart Mill cautioned that unified public opinion is “necessary to the working of representative government.” We are about to find out if he was right. (Buchanan, p. 48)Immigration is Good

By the year 2050, we were told, America would be “majority non-white.” Hispanics will be “America’s largest minority.” Although most Americans of Hispanic heritage declare themselves “white,” they are inferentially counted as non-white. However, there lies a central truth: America is becoming a universal nation, with significant representation of nearly all human hues, creeds, ethnicities, and national ancestries. (Wattenberg, pp. 49, 50)

Absorbing many immigrants, Pat Buchanan and other critics believe, will “swamp” the American culture and bring Third World problems to America. However, 8.8 million immigrants who arrived in the US between 1901 and 1910 increased the total American population by 1 percent per year. In our most recent decade, the 10 million legal immigrants represented annual growth of only 0.36 percent, because the US population went from 249 million to 281 million. Overall, 15 percent of Americans were foreign-born in 1910. In 1999, our foreign-born were 10 percent of our total. Today, America’s “foreign-born” amounts to 21 percent of the population and heading up. However in 1910, the comparable figure was 34 percent—one third of the entire country—and the heavens did not collapse. We can take in more immigrants, if we want to. Should we? (Wattenberg, p.50)

The US population will go to 397 million in 2050 with expected immigration, but only 328 million should we choose a path of zero immigration. Is more population good for America? When it comes to potential global power and influence, numbers can matter a great deal. Taxpayers, many of them, pay for a fleet of aircraft carries. On the economic side it is better to have a customer boom than a customer bust. Japan’s stagnant demography is one cause of its decade-long slum. (Wattenberg, p. 51)

But will the current crop of immigrants acculturate? Even among Mexican-Americans, many second-and third-generation offspring speak no Spanish at all, often to the dismay of their elders (a familiar American story). Michael Barones book “The New Americans” theorizes that Mexican immigrants are following roughly the same course of earlier Italian and Irish immigrants. It took a hundred years until Irish-Americans reached full income parity with the rest of America. California recently repealed its bilingual education programs. Half of Latino voters supported the proposition. Latina mothers reportedly tell their children that “Spanish is the language of busboys”—stressing that in America you have to speak English to get ahead. (Wattenberg, p. 51)

Newcomers are always viewed with suspicion, but such views change over time. There are high rates of intermarriage. Most Americans lost their qualms about marriage between people of different European ethnicities. In 1990, 64 percent of Asian Americans married outside their heritage, as did 37 percent of Hispanics. Black-white intermarriage is much lower, but it climbed from 3 percent in 1980 to 9 percent in 1998. (One reason to do away with the race question of the census is that within a few decades we won’t be able to know who is what.) (Wattenberg, p.52)

Substantial numbers of people are necessary for a country to be globally influential. Will America have enough people to keep their ideas and principles alive? Birth rates in developed part of the world—Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan, nations where liberal Western values are rooted—had sunk so law that there is danger ahead. Women in these modern countries are bearing 1.5 children. It is 28 percent below the long-term population replacement level. The European rate is 1.34 children per woman—radically below replacement level. The nations of the Western world will soon be less populous, and a substantially smaller fraction of the world population. The modern countries of the world, the bearers of Western civilization, made up one third of the global population in 1950, and one fifth in 2000, and are projected to represent one eight by 2050. If we end up in a world with nine competing civilizations, will this make it that much harder for Western values to prevail in the cultural and political arenas. The good news is that fertility rates have also plunged in the less developed counties—from 6 children to 1970 to 2.9 today. By the middle to end of this century, there should be a rough global convergence of fertility rates and population growth. (Wattenberg, p. 53) America should not cut back immigration. America needs to keep growing, and we can fruitfully use both high and low-skill immigrants. Pluralism works here, as it does in Canada and Australia. America must be prepared to go it alone. If we keep admitting immigrants at our current levels there will be almost 400 million Americans by 2050. That can keep us strong enough to defend and perhaps extend our views and values. The civilization we will be advancing may not just be Western, but even more universal: American. (Wattenberg, p. 54)

The issue is based on what one thinks will happen as America becomes more diverse. Buchanan sees America as coming apart and Wattenberg sees America as leading the world. (Finsterbusch, p. 55)

Finsterbusch, Kurt. Taking Sides: Social Issues. McGraw-Hill/Duskin, 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Does the News Media Have a Liberal Bias ?

Does the News Media Have a Liberal Bias?

A small group of men, no more than a dozen anchormen, commentators and executive producers decide what forty to fifty million Americans will learn of the day’s events in the nation and the world. This information was given in a speech made my Spiro Agnew in 1969. He said that the television news media are controlled by liberals who foist their liberal opinions on viewers under the guise of news. A narrow and distorted picture of America often emerges from the televised news. Many Americans agreed with Agnew’s critique of the “liberal media.” (Finsterbusch, p.20)

Complaints go back much further. Thomas Jefferson could hardly contain his bitterness. He said “The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” (Finsterbusch, p. 21)

The press today is much different than in Jefferson’s day. Newspapers were located in many little shops around the country. Everything was local and decentralized. Today, newspaper chains, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, have taken over local newspapers. (Finsterbusch. P. 21)

A second important difference is today there is the ideal of “objectivity. In the past newspapers were partisan sheets. They made no distinction between “new” and “editorials.” Objective journalism is a recent development. Intellectual leaders urged that newspapers cultivate a core of professional who would concentrate on accurate reporting and who would leave their opinions to the editorial page. Journalism schools helped to promote the ideal of objectivity. Although some journalists now openly scoff at it, the ideal still commands the respect—in theory, if not always in practice—of working reporters. (Finsterbusch, p. 21)

Bias started to become an important question when newspapers became dominated by chains. Although these news outlets have been challenged in recent years they still remain powerful conveyer of news. (Finsterbusch, p. 21)

Is news reporting biased: Defenders of the media hold that although journalists have biases, their professionalism compels them to report news with objectivity. Media critics insist that journalists interject their biases into their news reports. The critics often disagree about whether such bias is liberal or conservative. William McGowan argues that the news media tilt to the left, while Robert W. McChesney and John Bellamy Foster contend that the slant of the news media supports a conservative status quo. (Finsterbusch, p. 21)

William McGowan, from “Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism” (Encounter Books, 2001 argues that political correctness pertaining to diversity issues has captured media newsrooms and exerts a constraining pressure on reporters. (Finsterbusch, p. 20)

Robert W. McChesney and John Bellamy Foster, from “The Left-Wing Media?” Monthly Review, June 2003 argues that news reporting is bent in the direction of the political and commercial requirements of media owners, and heavy reliance on government officials and powerful individuals as primary sources biases news toward the status quo. (Finsterbusch, p. 20)

Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism

In the 1990’s journalists made attempts to deal with the issue of diversity. It is important to see the impact that diversity is having on news coverage of “diversity issues” of immigration, race, gay rights, feminism, and affirmative action. Has diversity helped or hindered American journalism’s ability to make sense of them, and by extension, American society’s ability to come to terms with them? We need a press capable of framing essential questions and providing honest, candid and dependable answers. However the diversity-driven journalism has not done this. This causes consequences for our policy responses. (Finsterbusch, p. 22)

Conservatives are critical because they are offended by the reporting skewed against their values. . Liberals should also be concerned because diversity journalism runs at odds with the goal of assimilation and integration that progressives have historically championed. Journalism has a slant to it. The slant may not be good for our country. The public deserves unbiased information in order to make democratic decisions. Journalism needs to put aside its political biases. (Finsterbusch, p. 23

In December 1992, at the joint Diversity Summit Meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Newspaper Association of America. Diversity had become one of the most contentious issues in American society and in American journalism, responsible for polarizing newsrooms around the country. However only one side of the issue was present in this crowd. Each speaker declaimed in favor of diversity and warned of editorial sin and financial doom if this cause was not embraced. Diversity was the new religion, and anybody who wanted to be anybody in the news industry had to rally behind it. (Finsterbusch, p. 23)

During the 1980’s in South Asia, in one of the world’s most ethnically riven places there was much ethnic violence. It became understood that identity politics could be extraordinarily divisive, capable of polarizing a country’s political affairs, undermining its economic productivity, weakening its educational institutions, and straining the bonds that hold people together as one nation. It became clear that journalists can accelerate the process of ethnic fragmentation or contain it. (Finsterbusch, p.23)

There has been cultural and political fragmentation in the United States early in the 1990’s Nonwhite, Third World immigration were influenced by liberal cult of race, ethnicity and gender. It mounted a broad attack on a common American identity and the ideal of race-neutrality in public life. (Finsterbusch, p.24) While Americans viewed individuals as members of a nation relating to one another through a common culture in “the melting pot,” the multicultural vision saw America as a “nation of nations”—a mosaic of separate ethnic, racial and gender blocs, each with its won cultural view, each wanting to be judged by society by its own distinct values and standards. Multiculturalism reported grievances against the oppression borne of “white male hegemony,” and demanded compensatory preferences to help the aggrieved groups overcome their injury. (Finsterbusch, p. 24)

Whereas we once emphasized the melding of individuals into an American whole and tried to shun race and ethnicity, now we were stressing group identity as a legitimate consideration in making laws and shaping social policy. Once liberals were the champions of racial transcendence; now they were fast becoming the biggest exponents of racial determinism, which is the belief that race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation matter above all else. (Finsterbusch, p. 24)

At one time the press might have been expected to scrutinize the premises and assumptions of identity politics, and to point to its undesirable consequence, now give it a pass, or even worse, becoming a vehicle for it. (Finsterbusch, p. 24)Unpalatable facts got an airbrushing, while critical voices remained unsought or unacknowledged. The press ignored perspectives and contradictory information. On immigration journalists embraced a romantic, sentimental and historically distorted script that immigration was a blessing and minimizes its costs, even when the downside is obvious. In 1992, in New York’s Washington Heights, justified use of deadly force by a white undercover patrolman was labeled police racism bye the New York Times and a three-day riot is illegal immigrant Dominican drug dealers was portrayed as justified community outrage. There was also alien criminality, high rates of dependency on social services, impact on wages and the quality of life in areas where newcomers have concentrated. (Finsterbusch, p. 25)

The press has tended to side with gay and feminist interest groups, trimming its news-gathering zeal to filter out realities that might undercut the cause. No matter how grounded in constitutional, moral or institutions traditions, any objections to their causes is perceived as outright bigotry. Those journalists who may give a conservative perspective know they can expect criticism from gay activists in the community as from those within news organizations themselves. At some news organizations, having liberal values has become a condition of employment. People with conservative views are not usually hired, and if they are hired, they are wary of revealing their views. (Finsterbusch, p.26)

The cause of diversity is they moral successor to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Many top editors cut their teeth as young reporters covering civil rights in the South. They seem to still be fighting that war in their effort to reconfigure the newsroom, ignoring today’s more complicated ethnic and racial issues.
The ultimate goal is to have racial and ethnic fairness and harmony, but it is only possible if the press is ready to talk about it in full. (Finsterbusch, p. 28)

Taken from:
Finsterbusch, Kurt. Taking Sides: Social Issues. Mcgraw Hill/Duskin. 2006
What is Sociology? Taken from the work of Kurt Finsterbusch

The subject matter of sociology is ourselves. Sociology is concerned with people interacting with one another in groups and organizations. (Finsterbusch, p. xv)

Sociology, as a science of society, was developed in the nineteenth century. Auguste Comte (1798-1857), the French mathematician and philosopher who is considered to be the father of sociology, had a vision of a well-run society based on social science knowledge. Sociologists discover the law2s of social life and then determine how society should be structured and run. (Finsterbusch, p. xv)

Unfortunately, Comtes’s vision was extremely naïve. There is no one best way of structuring or doing things that sociologists can discover and recommend. Instead, sociologists debate more social issues than they resolve. (Finsterbusch, p. xv)

The purpose of sociology is to throw light on the social issues around us. It seeks to describe how society is organized and how individuals fit into it. But neither the organization of society nor the fit of individuals is perfect. Perfect harmony continues to elude us. Institutions, laws, and policies that produce benefits also produce unintended effects—unintended and undesirable. (Finsterbusch, p. xv)

Changes that please one sector of the society may displease another, or the changes that seem healthy at first turn out to have a dark underside to them. (Finsterbusch, p. xi)

In many respects the human condition has improved over the centuries and has improved as a result of conscious social policies. However, improvements are purchased at a price. It involves human discomfort and discontent. The job of policymakers is to balance the4 anticipated benefits against the probable costs. It can never hurt policymakers to know more about the society in which they work of the social issues they confront. (Finsterbusch, p. xvi)

Culture and Values

Finsterbusch argues that modern societies contain so many different groups with differing ideas and values that integration must be built as much on tolerance of differences as on common values. Furthermore, technology and social conditions change, so values must adjust to new situations, often weakening old values. Conservatives will defend the old values. Liberals will make concessions to allow for change, (Finsterbusch, p. xi)

Is America in Moral Decline?

Robert H. Bork, from “Slouching Toward Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline”. Regan Books, 1996, believes the answer is YES.

David Whitman, from “The Optimism Gap: The I’m OK—They’re Not Syndrome and the Myth of American Decline”. Walker & Company, 1998, believes the answer is NO.

Morality holds society together in relative tranquility and to their mutual benefit. Morality influences us both from outside social pressure and our inner conscience which is formed by the influences of parents, churches, schools and peers, who teach us their beliefs and values (their morals) and rules of society. Most of us want to do what is right. However, we also want to do things that are pleasurable. The right and the pleasurable are not too far apart, but no one lives up to moral standards perfectly. Deviance is common. When deviance becomes very common the standard changes. Some people interpret this as moral decline while others interpret it as simply a change in moral standards or even progress. (Finsterbusch, p. 2)

Cries of moral decline have been ringing out for centuries. Today the cries are often against various aspects of individualism. Parents are condemned for sacrificing their children for their own needs. These criticisms against individualism may have some validity. On the other hand individualism has positive aspects, including enterprise and inventiveness, which contribute to economic growth: individual responsibility: advocacy of human rights; reduced clannishness and reduced prejudice toward other groups; and an emphasis on self-development, which includes successful relations with others. (Finsterbusch, p. 3)

The morality debate is important because moral decline not only increases human suffering but weakens society. Few argue the thesis of the moral decline of America as thoroughly as Robert H. Bork. But is he reading the facts correctly? According to David Whitman the common viewpoint that a serious moral decline is in progress is a myth. Whitman believes that there has not been a deterioration of moral conduct. (Finsterbusch, p. 3)

This is an article about American decline. In the United States that decline and the mounting resistance to it have produced a culture war. It is not denied that there are aspects of almost every branch of our culture that are worse than ever before and that the rot is spreading. (Finsterbusch, p. 4)

Culture refers to all human behavior and institutions, including popular entertainment, art, religion, education, scholarship, economic activity, science, technology, law and morality. (Finsterbusch, p. 4)

When there is evidence of deterioration, we lament for a moment, and then become accustomed to it. The latest rap song calling for killing police3men or the sexual mutilation of women; a coercive left-wing political indoctrination at a prestigious university; the latest homicide figures for New York City, Los Angeles, or the District of Columbia; of the collapse of the criminal justice system, which displays an inability to punish adequately and an inability even to convict the clearly guilty; or the rising rate of illegitimate births; the uninhibited display of sexuality and popularization of violence in our entertainment; worsening racial tensions; the angry activists of feminism, homosexuality, environmentalism, animal rights etc. (Finsterbusch, p. 4)

The assault on our sensibilities causes us to grow numb. We find resignation to be the rational, adaptive response to an environment that is increasingly polluted and apparently beyond our control. As behavior worsens, the community adjusts its standards. The conduct that was once thought reprehensible is no longer deemed so. Emile Durkheim, a founder of sociology, posited that there is a limit to the amount of deviant behavior any community can “afford to recognize.” As behavior improves, the deviancy boundary moves up to encompass conduct previously thought normal. Therefore, a community of saints and a community of felons would display very different behavior, but about the same amount of recognized deviancy. (Finsterbusch, p.5)

While defining deviancy down with respect to crime, illegitimacy, drug use, our cultural elites are growing intensely moralistic and disapproving about what had always been thought normal behavior. We have redefined what we mean by such things as child abuse, rape, and racial or sexual discrimination so that behavior until recently thought quite normal, unremarkable, even benign, is now identified as blameworthy or even criminal. Middle-class life is portrayed as oppressive and shot through with pathologies. Krauthammer believes that in order to affect moral leveling there is a social project, which says that it is not enough for the deviant to be normalized. The normal must be found to be deviant. This situation is perverse. Underclass values become increasingly acceptable to the middle class, especially their young and middle-class values become increasingly contemptible to the cultural elites. (Finsterbusch, p.5)

The enemy is modern liberalism, which is different than classical or traditional liberalism. Modernity failed when it said that the good society cannot be achieved by unaided reason. Modern liberalism, turned away from religion, which modernity made irrelevant, and in addition they abandoned reason. Therefore philosophies claim that words can carry no definite meaning or that there is no reality other than one that is “socially constructed.” A reality so constructed, it is thought, can be decisively altered by social or cultural edict, which is a prescription for coercion. (Finsterbusch, p. 5)

The defining characteristics of modern liberalism are radical egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rater than of opportunities) and racial individualism (the drastic reduction of limits to personal gratification). (Finsterbusch, p. 5)

Men were dept from rootless hedonism, which is unconfined individualism, by religion, morality, and law. These constraints were progressively undermined by rising affluence. Liberalism has no corrective within itself; all it can do is endorse more liberty and demand more rights. The consequences of liberalism, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness pushed too far are now apparent. American life has been corrupted by the liberal ethos. It aims simultaneously at political and social collectivism on one hand, and moral anarchy on the other. (Finsterbusch, p. 6)

We can now see the tendency of the Enlightenment, the Declaration of Independence and On Liberty. Each insisted on the expanding liberty of the individual and each assumed that order was not a serious problem and could be left, pretty much, to take care of itself. However, that was because the institutions of family, church, school, neighborhood and inherited morality remained strong. There has been a continued pressure for more individual autonomy, which has weakened the restraints on individuals. The ideal became the autonomous individual which opposed any institution or group that attempted to set limits to acceptable thought and behavior. (Finsterbusch, p. 6)

Modern liberalism is one branch. The other branch is called conservatism. It in fact represents the older classical liberal tradition. Conservatism is simply liberalism that accepts the constraints that a clear view of reality, including a recognition of the nature of human beings, places upon the main thrusts of liberalism—liberty and equality. Finsterbusch, p. 7)

William Bennet writes, “During the past 30 years, we have witnessed a profound shift in public attitudes. Polls shows we Americans no place less value on what we owe others as a matter of moral obligation; less value on sacrifice as a moral good, on social conformity, respectability, and observing the rules; less value on correctness and restraint in matters of physical pleasure and sexuality—an correlatively greater value on things like self-expression, individualism, self-realization, and personal choice.” It is clear that our current set of values is inhospitable to the self-discipline required for such institutions as marriage and education and hospitable to no-fault divorce and self-esteem training. (Finsterbusch, p.7)

Our modern enthusiasm for liberty forgets that liberty can only be “the space between the walls,’ the walls of morality and law based upon morality. It is sensible to argue about how far apart the walls should be set, but it is cultural suicide to demand all space and no walls. (Finsterbusch, p. 7)

The recent decline in American morality can be seen by contrasting best-selling records between the 1930’s and now. The song “The Way You Look Tonight” sang these words to romantic music; “Oh, but you’re lovely/With your smile so warm,” Compare that to a present song by Snoop Doggy Dogg’s song “Horny” “Assume the position so I can f… you.” (Finsterbusch, p. 8)

The obscenity of thought and word is staggering... The music is little more than noise with a beat, the singing an unmelodic chant, the lyrics are perverse an unintelligible. America increasingly produces and distributes propaganda for every perversion and obscenity imaginable. This is what the liberal view of human nature has b brought us to. The idea that men are naturally rational, moral creatures without the need for strong external restraints has been exploded by experience. Unless there is a vigorous counterattack which must resort to legal as well as moral sanctions, the prospects are for a chaotic and unhappy society, followed, perhaps, by an authoritarian and unhappy society. (Finsterbusch, p. 8)

In addition there has been a rise of crime, illegitimacy and welfare. The U.S. has never before experienced the social chaos that has become routine today. These pathologies are recent, and it is now widely accepted that they are related to on another. The cause is the infatuation of modern liberalism with the individual’s right to self-gratification along with the kind of egalitarianism, largely based on guilt that inhibits judgment and reform. In 1920 illegitimate births were 3 percent of all births; in 1991 they were 30 percent. Crime displays the same pattern. The number of violent crimes in 1960 was 1,900 per 100,000 people and it reached 5,700 by 1992. It suggests a long-developing weakening of cultural constraint, which will be very hard to put back in place. (Finsterbusch, p. 9)

When physical safety becomes a major problem even for the middle classes, we must of necessity become a heavily policed, authoritarian society. A society in which the middle-classes live in gated and walled communities and make their places of work hardened targets. If these trends are not reversed America must become an unrecognizably authoritarian, socially segregated, centralized state. (Finsterbusch, p. 10)

In contrast to the beliefs of Robert H. Bork, David Whitman states that much of what everyone knows about the state of our nation is wrong. A large majority of Americans now believe that the nation is in decline. Conservatives blame family breakdown, crime, and spiritual sloth for our national atrophy. Liberals attribute the decline to modern-day capitalism, racism and greed. While liberals and conservatives disagree about first causes, they nonetheless agree that the nation has already been compromised and the American Dream is now endanged. (Finsterbusch. p. 11)

Sinclair Lewis once said, “The trouble with this country is that there are too many people going about saying “the trouble with this country is…” (Finsterbusch, p. 11)

To determine whether America is declining, it is necessary to determine if the nation today is better or worse off than in the past. What people presume about key social trends in America is wrong. (Finsterbusch, p. 12)


Violent crime in the United States appears to be at its lowest level in a quarter century. In 1996, violent crime rates were at their lowest levels since victimization surveys started in 1973. Property crime had also plummeted. In 1996, the rates of household theft and burglary were about half of what they had been in 1973. In 1996, the homicide rate of 7.4 murders per 100,000 inhabitants was well below the peak of 10.2 murders per 100,000 people in 1980. (Finsterbusch, p. 13)

Illicit drug use is at levels far below those of a decade ago. Drug use peaked in 1979, when the nation had 25 million users, almost twice the current number. (Finsterbusch, p. 13) Student use of marijuana remains well below the levels of the 1970’s and early 1980”s, as does the use of most hard drugs. In 1981, 21.7 percent of high school seniors reported using an illicit drug when they were surveyed. In 1997, half as many (10.7 percent) did so. (Finsterbusch, p. 14)

Scholastic Achievement

High school students today do as well as or slightly better than their predecessors of the mid-1970’s on both aptitude and achievement tests. (Finsterbusch, p. 14)


In 1996, black median family income, adjusted for inflation, was at an all-time high and black poverty and infant mortality rates had edged downward to an all time low. In 1970, about 1 out of every 17 blacks in the 25 to 34-year-old age group had earned a four-year college degree. By 1994, 1 in 8 had done so. White racism has dramatically declined since the 1960’s. Majorities of whites today support the principle of equal treatment for the races in schools, jobs, housing, and other public spheres. Interracial friendships and marriages have blossomed as well. In 1970, just 2.6 percent of all new marriages involving an African-American mate were interracial marriages; today, more than 12 percent ar5e interracial unions. In 1972, only a quarter of whites approved of marriages between blacks and whites. (In 1958, just 4 percent did so.) By 1997, however, over 60 percent of whites approved of interracial marriages… (Finsterbusch, pp. 14, 15)

The Myth of Moral Decline

Since 1970, divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing have skyrocketed in the United States. Many Americans, laypeople and scholars alike, exaggerate the consequences of family breakdown. It is believed that more kids born out of wedlock automatically equals higher crime rates, weaker moral standards, worse schools, sicker children, and so on. This has tendency has not been borne out in recent years. Crime rates have dropped, scholastic achievement has stabilized, and infant mortality had declined, even as the out-of –wedlock birth ratio has risen. Nor is it clear that the ethical standards of Americans have declined. (Finsterbusch, p. 15)

In 1996, “Wall Street Journal” poll, what kind of impact various social movements have had on today’s values, they almost invariable think they are beneficial. (Finsterbusch, p. 16)

Although three in four Americans believe the nation is in spiritual decline, the sway of organized religion is much greater in the United States today than in most Western nations, and the religiosity of Americans is at near record levels. (Finsterbusch, p. 16

Taken from

Finsterbusch, Kurt. “Taking Sides-Clashing views on Controversial Social Issues.” McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2006.