The Roots of Indulgence

James Q. Wilson, the esteemed social scientist, should be loved by liberals: He is deeply concerned with root causes.  While the title of his latest work, The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families, suggests otherwise, the book is not just another screed about how the 60’s destroyed the family.  In fact, Wilson says, the 60’s in this respect were but the culmination of centuries of developments.

The tragic state of the black family in America (more than half of American black children are reared by an unmarried mother) and the frightening speed at which white families are catching up (one in five white children lives without a father) are well documented.  Wilson lists every social pathology believed to result from single-parent families: higher school drop-out rates, greater risk of drug abuse, teen sex, illegitimate children, increased delinquency.  Few people still deny the effects family life has on a child’s well-being, but seemingly even fewer can agree on the cause of this social disaster, which, as Wilson notes, has resulted in “two nations” living in one country.

Those interested in historical background and explanations will find this book compelling.  Wilson digs deep, going back as far as the Magna Carta, and readers will learn more than perhaps they ever wished to know about old English marriage customs and the role of the hoe...

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