- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

You know your culture is decadent when it has become necessary to publicly justify truths that were universally accepted in wiser times. Take that old stalwart of civilized life, the family. While one cannot imagine George Washington encouraging his countrymen to marry and have strong families, the nature of our times compels our president to voice this message. For the big problems confronting Washington's America were practical in nature and, thereby, much clearer compared to the moral muddle of modernity.

Consider a new publication from the Heritage Foundation. As if human experience over millennia were not sufficient proof, Heritage has released a report vindicating the traditional family structure as the most wholesome living arrangement for women with children. (The findings are based on an analysis of data from the 1999 National Crime Victimization Survey, an annual project of the Justice Department.) Specifically, mothers and children are far less likely to be physically abused in a married family versus one of those hybrid varieties. The rates of child abuse are especially troubling. For example, children who live with their mother and a boyfriend who is not their father are 33 times more likely to be abused. The rate of abuse is six times higher in stepfamilies, 14 times higher in the single-mother family and 20 times higher in cohabiting-biological parent families. Lesbian-headed families did not figure in the study.

The breakdown of traditional families into haphazard arrangements may be traced to the sexual revolution, whose effects were exacerbated by government welfare programs. Its prophets, most of whom were white academics comfortably distanced from reality, exalted untrammeled sexuality as man's greatest good while deriding sexual repression along with the family life that contained and channeled sexuality. The effects of this warped utopianism have been disastrous, especially among the poor for whom strong families offer the greatest hope for emerging from poverty. On the one hand, popular culture applauds devious behavior; on the other, the government offers to pay people to live irresponsibly. This has resulted in the institutionalization of familial arrangements on a scale unprecedented in civilized societies.

While popular culture won't change its act sex really does sell government has attempted to do so. A welfare bill before the House Ways and Means subcommittee on resources would give $100 million a year in competitive grants to states for campaigns and programs that promote marriage. During a Thursday address, President Bush upped the ante to $300 million, saying "building and preserving families is not always possible … but it should always be a goal."

It is questionable whether building strong families is a legitimate concern of the federal government. Then again, much of what the government currently does has no constitutional justification. And because the government played a major part in eroding the institution of marriage through its welfare programs, it only seems proper for it to help clean up the mess.

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