Tucker Carlson is Half Right
The big problem isn't a free market, but the state's war on men and human nature.
Tucker Carlson’s cry from the heart on Fox News about the breakdown of the family and the misplaced priorities of conservatives has ignited a firestorm. And rightly so. He stabs to the heart of the tension in the “fusionist” brand of conservatism that still prevails in America. That “fusion,” invented by the brilliant Frank Meyer, goes like this:
We as conservatives support tradition, virtue, prudence, and stability. But we don’t see the state as the active producer of these goods. Instead, we trace them to free, voluntary action by citizens, singly or in groups. That is, virtuous single people, parents, members of churches, workers, investors.
So American conservatives renounce the paternalistic policies of European rightists. We won’t impose religious truths via the state, but simply keep churches free. And we won’t rig the laws to favor intact families, but will humbly stay out of their way. We won’t mandate that employers pay a “family wage,” so mothers can stay home with children. That’s too much tinkering. It represses human freedom. Wage coercion slows and distorts economic growth. It uses the violent force of the State where free choice should prevail.
Fusion’s Growing Cold
Carlson stepped forth to boldly say that this fusion isn’t working. And he’s right. It isn’t. But not entirely for the reasons which he offers. I admire Carlson, and wish him a bright political future. So I’m not blaming him for holding back on the unpalatable truths I’m about to lay out here.
There is nothing free about the market in America. And there hasn’t been since 1964.
But I think Carlson is indeed being political (rather than accurate) by blaming “the free market,” “capitalism” and “libertarians” for the problems he points to.
Carlson’s central complaint is serious. The family is collapsing in America, except among the upper and upper middle class. Marriage rates, birth rates, you name it — they’re all trending badly. The crisis of single parenthood that Daniel Patrick Moynihan identified in 1965 among black Americans? Working class white Americans now repeat the same pathology, and it’s far, far worse among blacks.
Kudos to Carlson for speaking truth to power.
The End of Fatherhood
As a rule, boys raised without fathers don’t do well. Many end up in prison. Neither do fatherless girls thrive, in fact. Much of the sexual abuse in America stems from stepfathers and transient boyfriends. Girls without stable father figures get pregnant much younger, and often end up trapped in the welfare system.
The decline of marriage is real. And one of the factors is the decline in male income relative to female. Survey after survey shows that women don’t tend to marry men who earn less (or even the same) as they do. Why? Part of it’s surely grounded in that horror, mammalian biology. Women far more than men are willing to sacrifice career advancement to spend time raising their children. Imagine that, giving up valuable hours spent in a cubicle to ensure your children’s safety, happiness, and avoid the lifelong, IQ-dimming effects of dismal daycare.
But if men can’t earn more to take up the slack, will women feel safe doing that? Since they can’t, lower-income men get locked out of the one institution that makes men healthier, happier, more virtuous and productive: marriage.
Instead they sow seed to the wind, producing more fatherless kids primed for social dysfunction. The welfare system, as George Gilder noticed back in the 1970s, has stepped in and replaced male providers. That makes it “safe” for young girls to get pregnant and bear children while still young, unmarried teens.
What Carlson’s Too Smart to Say (But I’m Not)
Defenders of the free market such as Ben Shapiro and David French have chimed in to criticize Carlson for blaming these phenomena on the free market, and proposing government action. J.D. Vance offered an eloquent, qualified defense. But I don’t think many commentators are cutting to the dark heart of the issue. And for good reason: it’s radioactive.
The problem isn’t a genuinely free market, but the unfree market that now prevails in America. That’s been a problem at least since 1964. That’s when Southern Democrats, trying to kill the Civil Rights Act, added “sex” to “race” discrimination as part of what we were outlawing. But Republicans went ahead and championed the bill, and it passed. Suddenly, private businesses that used to routinely pay more to attract that desirable quantity — a stable, reliable married man with mouths to feed — could no longer do so.
Social conservative Alan Carlson’s book, The American Way, shows what a departure this was. For centuries, churches, reformers, and even women’s groups had backed a “family wage” that would benefit stay-at-home wives and children. The New Deal, much of it conceived by socially conservative Catholic Democrats, aimed at helping families stay together.
Quite rightly, defenders of the free market opposed laws mandating a “family wage.” But if private businesses, churches, or others concerned about family stability and promoting marriage wanted to offer it, the state wouldn’t prosecute them. And many did offer it. Beyond social concern, many saw the advantage in hiring and keeping “established” fathers of families rather than rootless single men or women.
Outlawing the American Family
In 1964, that private market choice became illegal sex discrimination. The explosion of radical feminism, of course, went much further, and effectively declared war on “male privilege,” wherever it existed.
The heavy hand of the state now mandates that we treat the sexes as interchangeable. We must remedy “historic imbalances” between them by affirmative action, harming men. Schools now routinely treat ordinary masculine behavior as dysfunctional. Boys get heavily medicated for proving unruly when female teachers want them to sit still, just like the girls. Big surprise, now significantly more women enroll in college than men.
Meanwhile, we outsource many jobs traditionally appealing to blue collar men to foreign countries. Or replace such men with cheaper, more docile immigrants. And the jobs for women who are good at filling out forms and policing people’s behavior just keep multiplying, most of them because of government policies and laws.
In the wake of centuries of slavery and a century of Jim Crow laws, it was clearly justified for the U.S. government to outlaw racial discrimination. This government intervention in the market overrode freedom of contract and association. But given the massive previous state intervention in favor of racist norms, the Civil Rights Act was justified.
Masculinity as a Disease
We cannot say the same for laws that try to erase or wish away the difference between the sexes. Nor can we pretend that “free competition” or “market efficiencies” are the culprit in the disappearance of male breadwinners.
As men get beaten down more and more, the psychiatric profession starts casting traditional masculinity as a kind of disorder. And in one sense they have a point. Practicing masculinity makes you unsuited to survive in today’s society. (So does practicing Christianity, but that’s another article.)
As moderate feminist Christina Hoff Sommers observes:
40 years of agenda-driven pseudo scholarship—and voilà: Masculinity becomes a pathology in need of a cure. https://t.co/c99kypzWEW
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) January 7, 2019
Our government, laws, and culture declared war on men long ago. That war is reaching its final stage, of unconditional surrender.
The peace terms on offer are toxic to men, to wives, to children. They don’t even seem to be making women, generally, happy. Maybe it’s time to tear up this wretched Treaty of Versailles. Get the government out of the business of obliterating the sexes. Renounce sexual sameness or economic “equality” as legitimate goals of public policy. Reduce low-skill immigration that undercuts wages. And let human nature again take its course.