4 – SOCIAL/CULTURAL TRENDS: ON THE MEND

4 – SOCIAL/CULTURAL TRENDS: ON THE MEND

Improvements are visible in the vast majority of social indicators, write Peter Wehner and Yuval Levin in Commentary. In some areas, like crime and welfare, the progress has the dimensions of a sea-change. In a number of key categories the amount of ground gained or regained since the early 1990s is truly stunning. Crime, welfare dependency, abortion, teenage births, smoking, drug and alcohol use – all are down, some dramatically so.

The gains made are not yet secure, and could easily be lost. And some of the most vital social indicators of all – those regarding the condition and strength of the American family – have so far refused to turn upward (for example, out-ofwedlock births reached an all-time high of 37% of all births in 2005). But the progress we have witnessed over the last 15 years is impressive, undeniable, and beyond what most people thought possible. It is fair to say, the authors write, that there was no one in the early 1990s who predicted it.

[That’s incorrect: as we wrote in our November 1992 issue and many times since, such trends tend to be cyclical. And that’s the conclusion Wehner and Levin reach themselves: “Culture itself exhibits an ebb and flow as surely as economies pass through cycles of ups and downs. In The Great Disruption (1999), Francis Fukuyama argued, the aftermath of the cultural breakdown of the 1960s had already triggered and was now giving way to a reassessment and recovery of social and moral norms. Despite persistent anomalies and backslidings, some species of cultural re-norming certainly seems to have been occurring in this country over the past decade-and-a-half.”]

Michael Medved agrees. In a recent column, “Gloom-and-Doomers Wrong on US Moral Collapse,” he writes, “America remains, as always and in all things, on the move. Those who have already written off this great and good society as the victim of inevitable moral disintegration or unstoppable degeneracy don’t understand the unfailing national capacity for fresh starts and new life.”

Copyright FutureScan Dec 2007

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