Monday, January 22, 2007

Dysfunctional in LA

Heather MacDonald wrote the following in yesterday's LA Times:

THE LOS ANGELES City Council recently paid $593,000 for a report on how to end the city's rising gang violence. The taxpayers didn't get their money's worth. The much-ballyhooed study, directed by civil rights attorney Connie Rice, makes a whopping 100 recommendations yet can't bring itself to mention the most important driver of gang involvement — family breakdown.

"A Call to Action: A Case for a Comprehensive Solution to L.A.'s Gang Violence Epidemic" recycles all the failed nostrums from the war on poverty, such as government-created jobs, "life-skills training," "parenting education and support" and "crisis intervention." Since the 1960s, trillions of dollars have been spent on such programs without so much as making a dent in the underclass culture that gives rise to gangs. And these initiatives will never make a significant difference in that culture as long as the vast majority of young males in inner-city neighborhoods are raised without their fathers.

To be sure, plenty of heroic single mothers are bringing up law-abiding young men. But the evidence by now is overwhelming: Boys raised in fatherless homes, on average, are disproportionately likely to get involved in crime and fail in school. Without a strong paternal role model, these boys are vulnerable to the lure of macho gang culture as a surrogate for a father's authority. When the norm of marriage disappears from a community, furthermore, the pressure for young males to become socialized evaporates as well. Boys in South Los Angeles and other gang-plagued neighborhoods grow up with little expectation that they will have to woo and marry the mother of their children. The standard assumption is that girls and women will raise their children by themselves, resulting in an out-of-wedlock birthrate of greater than 70%. Freed from the necessity of marriage, boys have little incentive to develop the bourgeois habits of selfdiscipline and deferred gratification that would make them an attractive prospect as a husband.

Compared to this overwhelming reality, Rice's jargon-ridden recommendations border on irrelevancy. For instance, Proposal 4.21, addressed to no one in particular, holds: "Acquire expert assistance to provide culturally competent, linguistically fluent, developmentally appropriate services that improve program performance, facilitate communication and improve access to services for immigrant and/or isolated and alienated communities."

Big city government in America is mostly dysfunctional. So are serious people who pen such gibberish. Leaving the big cities is the only logical response -- and people continue to do just that. People who can, vote with their feet. All the rest are stuck and at the mercy of their advocates.