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August 29, 2014

Reality Bites Back

A little dose of reality for the Reality-Based Community:

In 1950, female-headed households were 18 percent of the black population. Today it's close to 70 percent. One study of 19th-century slave families found that in up to three-fourths of the families, all the children lived with the biological mother and father. In 1925 New York City, 85 percent of black households were two-parent households. Herbert Gutman, author of "The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925," reports, "Five in six children under the age of six lived with both parents." Also, both during slavery and as late as 1920, a teenage girl raising a child without a man present was rare among blacks.

A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia found that three-quarters of black families were nuclear families (composed of two parents and children). What is significant, given today's arguments that slavery and discrimination decimated the black family structure, is the fact that years ago, there were only slight differences in family structure among racial groups.

Coupled with the dramatic breakdown in the black family structure has been an astonishing growth in the rate of illegitimacy. The black illegitimacy rate in 1940 was about 14 percent; black illegitimacy today is over 70 percent, and in some cities, it is over 80 percent.

The point of bringing up these historical facts is to ask this question, with a bit of sarcasm: Is the reason the black family was far healthier in the late 1800s and 1900s that back then there was far less racial discrimination and there were greater opportunities? Or did what experts call the "legacy of slavery" wait several generations to victimize today's blacks?

The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 28.1 percent. A statistic that one never hears about is that the poverty rate among intact married black families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8.4 percent. Weak family structures not only spell poverty and dependency but also contribute to the social pathology seen in many black communities -- for example, violence and predatory sex. Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation's population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it's 22 times that of whites. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Coupled with being most of the nation's homicide victims, blacks are also major victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault, rape and robbery.

To put this violence in perspective, black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (about 8,200) come to about 18,500, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home. Young black males had a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities.

The black academic achievement gap is a disaster. Often, black 12th-graders can read, write and deal with scientific and math problems at only the level of white sixth-graders. This doesn't bode well for success in college or passing civil service exams.

If it is assumed that problems that have a devastating impact on black well-being are a result of racial discrimination and a "legacy of slavery" when they are not, resources spent pursuing a civil rights strategy will yield disappointing results.

These statistics are (or should be) deeply shocking.

Life is often hard. People get sick or have accidents, lose their jobs, struggle with alcohol or even drug abuse. Strong families provide a natural safety net in the form of multiple adults who can help earn a living, watch small children, care for ailing parents or relatives, provide advice or moral support during lean times.

What ails so many poor black families is precisely the same problem that causes so many single parent female homes to experience intractable poverty: single adults trying to do it all (care for children, earn a living, run a home) with no help from other adults.

It should be a no brainer that a home with two or more wage earners will (on average) be more prosperous than a household with only one. The economic benefits of sharing large expenses like rent, food, and utilities should be apparent to anyone with even a few functioning brain cells.

Strong families used to be this country's social safety net. Now, more and more young people aren't bothering to invest the time, work, and emotional capital necessary to form lifetime partnerships. Instead of looking honestly at the obvious differences between stable, secure households and vulnerable and dysfunctional ones, we hear a lot of blather about dealing with sexism and racism.

Sexism and racism don't cause men to father children they're not willing to support. They don't cause women to have children they can't afford. And it's not blaming the victim to point out that choices have consequences.

There is no credible argument to be made that racism or sexism are worse than they were in the 19th or early 20th centuries. The Editorial Staff have observed before that the prices of market goods act as signals, conveying important information to both buyers and sellers about the relative scarcity of various resources.

When government artificially tries to control prices rather than allowing them to adjust naturally to reflect the real world costs of production, that flow of information is distorted. The signaling mechanism is distorted in ways that cause unintended consequences:

Whether government officials who have demonstrated a stunning ignorance of basic economic principles should be formulating economic policy is a question no one seems to be asking. But then again, understanding that prices, supply and demand are interrelated is so fundamental a concept that anyone with common sense ought to be able to grasp it:

When there is a "shortage" of a product, there is not necessarily any less of it, either absolutely or relative to the number of consumers. During and immediately after the Second World War, for example, there was a very serious housing shortage in the United States, even though the population and the housing supply had both increased about 10 percent from their prewar levels and there was no shortage when the war began.

In other words, even though the ratio between housing and people had not changed, nevertheless many Americans looking for an apartment during this period had to spend weeks or months in an often vain search for a place to live, or else resorted to bribes to get landlords to move them to the top of waiting lists. Meanwhile, they doubled up with relatives, slept in garages or used other makeshift living arrangements.

Although there was no less housing space per person than before, the shortage was very real at existing prices, which were kept artificially lower than they would have been because of rent control laws that had been passed during the war. At these artificially low prices, more people had a demand for more housing space than before rent control laws were enacted. This is a practical consequence of the simple economic principle already noted in Chapter 2 that the quantity demanded varies with how high or low the price is.

Some people who would normally not be renting their own apartments, such as young adults still living with their parents or some single or widowed elderly people living with relatives, were enabled by the artificially low prices created by rent control to move out and into their own apartments. These artificially low prices also caused others to seek larger apartments than they would ordinarily be living in. More tenants seeking both more apartments and larger apartments created a shortage, not any greater physical scarcity of housing relative to the population. When rent control laws expired or were repealed, the housing shortage likewise quickly disappeared.

As rents rose in a free market, some childless couples living in four-bedroom apartments decided that they could live in two-bedroom apartments. Some late teenagers decided that they could continue living with mom and dad a little longer, until their pay rose enough for them to afford their own apartments, now that apartments were no longer artificially cheap. The net result was that families looking for a place to stay found more places available, now that rent-control laws were no longer keeping such places occupied by people with less urgent requirements.

None of this was peculiar to the United States. The same economic principles can be seen in operation around the world and down through history.

How's that whole "offering more services to more people for less money" thing going again?

Looking at the historical data on black poverty, educational achievement, and marriage, it becomes stunningly clear that in most ways that matter, blacks are worse off even though racism is better.

What we have now is a shortage of stable families who are able to lift themselves out of poverty. The cause isn't racism or sexism, but rather an obvious consequence of family structures with no redundancy. Prices are signals that convey valuable information that helps consumers make better choices. But so are consequences. Block the flow of information, and you get more people making uninformed choices that make it harder for them to succeed in life.

Posted by Cassandra at August 29, 2014 07:57 AM

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We have here evidence, long available now, of liberal on black crime. That the natural opponent of the liberal criminal enterprise (it extends far beyond just blacks) should so abjectly fail to make a point of it is suspicious. Most everyone has a price. Unfortunately, the non-liberals have decided not to make an issue of it for a mere thin skim of the top.

Posted by: George Pal at August 29, 2014 09:47 AM

It's an awful dilemma: if society supports unwed mothers and their unfortunate babies, we'll get lots more unwed mothers and fatherless babies. If we don't, we'll get hungry, desperate kids--perhaps fewer of them, but hungrier when they do happen. I honestly don't know a solution short of allowing the desperation to induce more mothers to put their fatherless children up for adoption. (Well, that and horsewhipping the father if he can be located.) I wish I could think of a way to ensure that the consequences of non-marital births were borne exclusively by the careless parents, but I think that's very nearly a contradiction in terms. Forced sterilization comes to mind, but that's a power I don't trust any society with. My thinking on this is all a muddle. All I know is that our helping has only hurt.

Posted by: Texan99 at August 29, 2014 10:09 AM

Once again, it's funny how you touch on a thought that was rambling along inside my head this morning. That of "why does the Left seem to think everything occurs in a vacuum." Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they're stupid, uneducated or willfully blind to the fact that actions taken (yes, even by government) have consequences that you may not have intended. And there were several sources for this.

One, minimum wage hikes. A commercial for Herman Cain's radio show came on where they had a sound bite of him saying "if you raise the minimum wage, those people will still be in poverty." And he's right, because simply increasing the labor costs across the board WILL increase the prices of goods and services at the same rate. Businesses pass those costs on to consumers. And if the consumers don't want to bear the costs, they cease buying those goods and services (leading to layoffs). It will follow as night follows day. Why? Because nothing happens in a vacuum.

Second, a writer on feministing.com complains that the makers of the date-rape drug detecting nail polish aren't giving it away for free (a friend posted a link to it). Well, duh... of course it's not being given away. It costs money to buy materials. It costs money to hire labor to make it. It costs money to package and ship it out... no one is going to do this for free. And if they tried, they'd rapidly be out of capital and then there would be no more of the product. This author had no awareness of the fact that things cannot simply be made free because she wants them to be.

And that lead me to think about all these people who want medical care to be free (or expensive pharmaceuticals to be free/cheap). "It's not FAIR that we pay so much for drugs in the US." You pay so much for drugs in the US because we're the only ones innovating in making new medicine! Because we're paying for it with other drugs that made it to market. Why else do you think that a cure for Ebola was made in the US? It's not like we've got an outbreak. Why wasn't this developed in Europe, or Asia? Because we're the ones footing the bill for drug development. We're the ones funding it. Of course it's made here, nowhere else wants to pay for it. And if you force drug companies to sell meds at Canadian/European prices? Well... I hope you're content with the current crop of pharmaceuticals, because no more innovation is going to occur if that happens.

Nothing can be ordered or willed into reality. The government can make regulations to "set a living wage", or "control product costs", but even the most basic knowledge of economy will tell you that doing so WILL have cascade effects. Increased wages (enforced from outside) WILL increase product costs. Price controls WILL create scarcity. It cannot be avoided. And frankly, I see too many of my friends on the left who simply do not either understand or seem to grasp that. Intentions are all well and good. But expecting there to be no consequences is just silly.

Posted by: MikeD at August 29, 2014 11:56 AM

Making it so it's not comfortable to have a lot of kids-- problem being that would require cutting the gov't "help," and making it so private parties can help without fear of a lawsuit if they go "...No, you're a drunk who sells the milk we give you for the kids and leaves them hungry."

There's a LOT of folks who make their living by going from food bank to food bank and picking up the "free" food. It's bad enough that my local St Vd'P requires a current photo ID with your address on it, or a current bill with an in-parish address and current photo ID. (...I won't vouch that some things don't walk out the back when someone is obviously in need of help, but I really saw nothing.)

One fix might be to make it so you can feed people without sinking a month's pay into just getting permission-- maybe some kind of a "health certification optional" thing, with heavy punishment for evidence of willfully doing something that threatens people. (Preparing food when you know you've got a nasty disease, poison, etc.)

Posted by: Foxfier at August 29, 2014 01:20 PM

Sheesh, I just went and checked out feministing.com. What a lot of nonsense. The top post right now asserts that advising a woman to protect herself just means proposing that some other woman be raped instead. Can there be any hope for people with this frame of mind?

Posted by: Texan99 at August 29, 2014 03:15 PM

Forced sterilization comes to mind, but that's a power I don't trust any society with. My thinking on this is all a muddle. All I know is that our helping has only hurt. - Texan99

Forced sterilization, abortion on demand (planned parenthood) etc. "Our helping has only hurt".

Hurt who? Not the politicians who dreamed this up to buy votes. Oh, you mean Real People. Yes, it has hurt them. The late Daniel Moynihan (Democrat) had tried to make this point for years, but his Party was not listening, and the Republicans were haltingly trying to stop some of this, while being called "racist" every step of the way.

So here we are, with a good portion of our society broken and dysfuntional, and we can only talk about it here, in the Snarkpit of Fascism, because in open society, you would be targeted as a racist.

Only Nixon could go to China, and frankly only a Democrat in the Whitehouse and a Democrat Majority in the Congress can fix this, because they caused it. Otherwise, more turmoil.

A terrible thing to watch, as this has been going on for years, and here it is Labor Day weekend.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at August 29, 2014 04:59 PM

This piece from Heritage Foundation popped up on my fb newsfeed. Same issues for the Hispanic community as with the African-American. He's just speaking on it with regard to conservative communicating with them to win them to the conservative side of politics....

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 30, 2014 09:40 PM

All of this is a side effect of the welfare rules that said you have to count the incomes of everyone in the household to determine eligibility for welfare. So the fathers didn't live in the household so the mothers could collect welfare. And after awhile, the mothers had more children so their welfare checks increased.

Meanwhile the liberals insisted people weren't stupid enough to think that the increase in welfare from additional children would pay for the actual costs of said children, but they were blind to the fact that people just don't think that way.

It's become a cultural thing established over several generations and unlikely to change back. The liberal welfare policies have done more to hurt black families than the worst of racism ever did.

Posted by: Rex at August 31, 2014 08:23 PM