This poignant Ben Stein article about fatherlessness is worth your time to read and digest in its entirety. However, I have a specific snippet in mind that struck me with unusual force:
What happened? Blacks used to live lives not that different from whites in terms of law and order and family and then it all fell apart starting in the early sixties.
Was it drugs? Maybe. Drugs are poison to morals. Maybe it was the welfare system that paid women to be pregnant and unmarried. In many states in America, a single mother with three children and no husband gets paid as much in welfare as a starting computer programmer or teacher. You usually get what you pay for. [Emphasis added by FWP]
In its most common applications, “You get what you pay for” is an observation that quality often correlates extremely strongly with price: that the item that costs twice as much will provide so much more satisfaction and durability than its cheaper competitor that over time it will prove to be the better bargain. Going for the lowest price, apart from all other considerations, often constitutes a self-wounding error.
That’s not what Stein is saying in the above. Rather, he’s reminding us that when a price is offered for some good, service, or behavior, that item, regardless of its intrinsic properties, becomes marketable – saleable. Damon Knight’s satirical 1963 short story “The Big Pat Boom” provides a humorous lesson about that effect.
Since 1935, the United States has paid women to have illegitimate children. That wasn’t the intent of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), but it was the effect. Indeed, the inducement was so strong that it shattered a great many existing families, driving the father out of the home in the quest for increased AFDC payments.
Children, especially boys, who grow up in an environment devoid of a father are especially prone to violent and otherwise antisocial behavior. Today, more than 70% of black children grow up in such homes. Given the relativistic non-standards for behavior that prevail, is it any wonder that young black men are the perpetrators of so much violent crime?
However, I must note that roughly 30% of white children grow up fatherless, as well. That figure produces roughly twice as many fatherless white children as fatherless black children, allowing for differences in fertility rates. However, public statistics don’t yet show a comparable increase in violent crimes perpetrated by young white men. So there’s probably more going on here than the economic incentives can account for.