Moral Anarchy and Its Consequences

Moral Anarchy and Its Consequences

by George Liebmann

“Abroad, to show that everyone was passionate for peace
All children under seven joined the army or police
The babies studied musketry while mother filled a shell
And the Minister still wondered why the population fell”

This spoof by the British humorist and independent M.P. A.P. Herbert was directed at a cabinet minister bewildered by a low birth rate between the wars. Something like it is deserved by many writers and politicians now, including David Brooks of the New YorkTimes, who recently expressed bewilderment at “fraying of the social fabric” producing a 2019 study showing that “US Has World’s Highest Rate of Children Living in Single-Parent Households.”

There is a connection between authoritatively proclaimed values and individual behavior. In finding a right to abortion on demand in 1973, the Supreme Court expressly denied the relevance of moral and religious teachings, notwithstanding Justice Holmes’ proposition that “the law is the external deposit of our moral life.” Later, a former lobbyist from Sacramento found a further constitutional “right to define one’s own concept of existence,” his being an invincible marriage of the ideals of Hugh Hefner and Ayn Rand. The joinder of four other justices who thought of themselves as ‘liberals’ illustrates that justices will do anything for a fifth vote.

Gone was Learned Hand’s proposition that “while it is idle to find the soul of man outside society, it is idle to find society outside the soul of man.” As H. L. Mencken observed: “nor is the moral virtuoso made more prepossessing when he takes the Devil’s side and howls for license instead of for restraint. The birth controllers , for example, often carry on their indelicate crusade with the pious rancor of prohibitionists” “It is in fact simply impossible for [man] to think of himself as standing alone.” “The human being,” George Kennan observed in 1950, “who recognizes no moral restraints and has no sense of humility is worse than the foulest and cruelist beast.”

It was demonstrated in 1996 that not birth control but the “backup” of abortion produced an explosion of births out of wedlock among whites from 4.8% in 1965-9 to 5.7% in 1970 to 16.1% in 1985-9 (29% in 2019) and among blacks from 34.9% in 1965-9 to 61.8% in 1985-9 (71% in 2019). Legalized abortion was not, as the justices had assumed, a zero-sum game in which more abortions meant fewer out of wedlock births. Fetuses are not brought by the stork from Antarctica, they result when changed laws and mores induce more women to put themselves at risk. Young men were similarly induced to renounce parental responsibilities; where once in 1965-9 59.2% of unwanted pregnancies resulted in marriages, many enduring, the proportion fell to 42% in 1980-84 (9% in 2019)

This data came not from Bob Jones University but from a peer-reviewed study by the Nobel prizewinning economist George Akerlof and his wife, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and Brookings Review. While they were skeptical that much could be done about these numbers (a psychiatrist of my acquaintance proclaimed that ‘the cat is out of the bag’), subsequent experience with welfare reform suggests otherwise. When after 1996 an automatic right to 18 years of payments and an independent household was withheld from unwed mothers, pregnancies of unmarried teenagers fell from 213 per thousand in 1990 to 65 per thousand in 2016. Even the mild restrictions on abortion on demand enacted and permitted in some states produced falls in pregnancy rates according to another peer-reviewed study on The Power of Abortion Policy in the Journal of Political Economy in 2017 by Caitlin Myers of the Middlebury College Economics Department, not renowned as a bastion of religious fundamentalism. The Biden administration’s response has been to direct a “full court press” in support of abortion rights.

A not unrelated phenomenon is the upward trend in venereal disease rates since sodomy was found to be a constitutional right and ‘gay marriage’ constitutionalized. In 2015 the syphilis rate was 23.2 per 100,000, in 2019 39.7 per 100,000; the gonorrhea rate was 123.0 in 2015 and 188.4 in 2019.The enthusiasm of the Center for Disease Control for daily publication of statistics, testing, and contact tracing has not extended to this realm.

A similar disconnect is found between the imposition of federal controls on local policing by one of the few surviving provisions of the demagogic Clinton-Biden crime legislation of 1992 with a view to immunizing citizens from momentary stops by police and the ensuing homicide statistics in cities like Baltimore and Chicago subject to federal and state consent decrees. The response of both Isaiah Berlin and George Kennan to the 60s excesses in the name of black power was to analogize their apologists to the upper-class narodniki of 19th century Russia whose propagation of a gospel of self-pity and blurring of distinctions between ends and means gave rise to anarchism and Bolshevism

Utopian views of human nature inform recent changes, but we should not need to be reminded that if men were angels, governments would be unnecessary. Victorian self-restraint can be derided as excessive, but even the exempt upper classes had enough social responsibility to temper their excesses with concealment and hypocrisy. In the late 50s, legal academia was enlivened by the Hart-Devlin debate over so-called victimless crimes. Professor Hart carried the day among academics. The real world has now rendered its judgment in favor of his antagonist.

In the early 1970s a small North Carolina bank, aided by subsidies, mergers, and bail-outs, began to grow, shortly being re-christened as NCNB Bank. When it devoured the larger Bank of America, it adopted its name, NCNB, an unfortunate acronym, having been interpreted by some as meaning “Nobody Cares, Nobody Bothers.” A similar re-branding, in the opposite direction, should be the fate of the Biden federal government. “USA” can be forsworn in favor of the more descriptive “NCNB.”

The writer, President of the Library Company of the Baltimore Bar, is the author of numerous works on law and history, most recently Vox Clamantis In Deserto: An Iconoclast Looks At Four Failed Administrations

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