The New Dark Age, Part Two
In the short run, European Americans have been the losers, and government--not blacks or women--has been the big winner in the minority privilege sweepstakes. This will be true, even if the concept of reparations is, as seems inevitable, accepted as the logical conclusion, which it is, of the civil rights movement. If you are looking for someone to blame for the riots that destroy American cities, you might start with President Eisenhower, and his cadre of smug Republicans, who were willing to violate constitutional law and common sense in order to promote policies that made them proud of themselves. Without their high-minded social reforms, the concept of reparations would be laughed out of court and off the continent.
There is, of course, no valid “legal” claim to historical reparations, in the sense of Anglo-American or Roman law. The Promises made after the War by Union officials were, in effect, so much meat dangled before the noses of hungry creatures. General Sherman, who actually wanted to own slaves after the war, had no legal or constitutional right to promise ex-slaves either land or mules, and his illegal acts were overturned (as he knew they would be) after the war. He was no more competent to make a guarantee of reparations than I would be today.
The historical and legal claims against corporations that benefited (whether in fantasy or reality) from slavery are no better, but it is a wonderful sign of the times that guiltless people can be held responsible for the presumed crimes of their ancestors and predecessors. The fathers have drunk sour wine, and the teeth of the sons have been set on edge. As a moral and ethical principle, this saying was rejected by the prophets and by Christ. As a fact of life, it cannot be entirely eliminated. Men and women who swap mates or take drugs have children who will pay the price for the parents' sins. And there was a time, even in America, when the children of robber barons and gangsters could not pay their way into decent society.
Consider the hypothetical case of a crooked Chicago lawyer who begins his career by doing business for the Capone mob, goes on to use his connections to get his hooks into the Teamsters pension funds, and then invests his low-interest loans into legitimate business activities. His children inherit, let us say, a business empire based on resort properties, but the money reeks of blood and crime, no matter how many times it is laundered. Donations to the Chicago Symphony or the Art Institute would not alter the case. To be moral human beings, the children would have to give at least some of their money to the children of the cheated teamsters.
In modern America, such a moral concept sounds absurd, precisely because we are incapable of any moral reasoning that does not reduce all ethical and political questions to individuals and the state. Neither Marxists nor Misesians can consider the moral significance of families and kin-groups. We have “liberated” married women from their husbands and children from their parents, and we wonder why the institution of the family is crumbling. We even liberate retired people from their children and grandchildren by sending them the social security checks that enable them to move to a dreary trailer park where the sun shines bright, even in January, deep in the heart of Texas, Arizona, or Florida. The children owe nothing to the parents who put them on this earth, and the parents are free to squander their children's inheritance. If we can owe nothing o earlier generations of our own family, how can we owe something to the descendants of masters and slaves who have no connection with us?
The only conservative response to the collapse of “family values” has been to propose tax remedies to strengthen the nuclear family. The proposals, some of which may be good in themselves, do not address the problem. The nuclear family is an artificial and hypothetical construct based on the very concept of the individual that has destroyed family life. A family, according to the ideology of conservative individualists, consists of the more or less permanent bond between man and wife, parents and children. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles are welcome additions to a family gathering, but they are not included in the essential definition. If the family of 3 and one half individuals gets into trouble, either because the children run wild or because some government busybody disapproves of spanking or homeschooling, the only recourse is to hire a lawyer or call upon a pro-family organization to take up the case. A grandfather or uncle who attempted to lend a hand, would quickly find himself in serious difficulties.
The nuclear family is a highly fragile social construction. Parents who wish to bring up Christian children in an anti-Christian world soon realize that the odds are against them. The anti-Christian American regime can mobilize all the vast forces of schooling (public and private), the media, and popular culture--to say nothing of the law and the police--in service of its ideology. Parents faced with a child running bad, once upon a time, might have sent him out to granddaddy’s farm to work off his energy or locked him in his room at night or, failing all else, give up the foolish project of sparing the rod. Any of these strategies, if applied today, could land the parents in jail.
A husband and wife, even if they are heroic parents who have kicked in their television set and moved to the country, and even if they spend their available time teaching their children Latin at home and dragging them to church twice a week, begin to realize that, if they rely strictly on their own resources, they are going to lose a certain number of their kids, if only temporarily, to the mass culture. So they form home-schooling groups or even start a school in conjunction with their church. These are excellent things to do, but I have watched with my own eyes as well brought-up teenage girls, although their parents have deeply involved them wholesome and instructive activities, who begin painting their faces and hitching up their skirts to show off their legs. Before long they are meeting 30 year old men on the internet and, still worse, asserting their rights to privacy and the delusion that, in rebelling against who and what they are, they are becoming their "own person."
A couple of dozen grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins might be able to surround such a child with the affection, ridicule, and discipline that will preserve her from harm until she reaches the age of reason, which in America these days is some time after 30, though that figure may be an impossible dream..