Moynihan’s scissors today

We are celebrating this year, if that is the word, the fiftieth anniversary of perhaps the most inconsequential sociological study ever published. That was, The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, by the brilliant American politician and thinker, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927–2003).

Working then in the U.S. Department of Labour, Moynihan focused his attention on a counter-intuitive statistical fact. Unemployment among black males was falling, in 1965. But rates of welfare enrolment for black families was rising. This did not make sense. The two lines on this chart had always fallen or risen together. But they had crossed over in 1962. He had put his finger in what came to be called, “Moynihan’s scissors.”

A Democrat, Moynihan was part of the “brain trust” that has been a feature of every “progressive” or “reforming” political party, going back not to F.D. Roosevelt as the Wikipaediasts believe, but to the eighteenth century, if not the Reformation. These are the “public intellectuals” who generate the theories and policies to which society must then be made to conform. They consider themselves to be the Smart Party — in contest with the Stupid Party, that is always resisting change.

John Stuart Mill, whom I consider a typical modern liberal brain truster, or “brain trustee,” displayed the bottomlessly smug attitude of his class and kind when he observed, “I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative,” by way of glossing a footnote in his book, Representative Government. (Compare the observation of John Foster Dulles, that, “If we’d had any more smart people at Yalta, we’d have given the Soviets England and France, too.”)

Moynihan was, however, an unusual smart man, or party theoretician, in three respects. First, he was genuinely intelligent and broadly learned. Second, he was not easily intimidated by trends or the consensus of his peers. Third, he actually cared what happened to the people and society for which they were legislating. And while his job was to contribute to the “let a hundred flowers bloom” of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, he had discovered something his smart contemporaries would not want to hear or know.

Verily, something they did not hear, and will never hear, thanks to the modern progressive intellectual’s formidable capacity for mental blockage. For while the “Moynihan Report” is famous, and at one time, everyone claimed to have read it, it contains something so obnoxious to enlightened post-modern thought as to remain invisible to all participants in the discussion.

This was Moynihan’s sociological and anthropological observation that the American black culture was becoming “matriarchal.” Whether without, or more likely with the help of welfare programmes, women were becoming the heads of households, and men were being removed from that station.

(The background: All of the higher civilizations have been unambiguously patriarchal; matriarchy is associated in the prehistoric and anthropological record with savage, gratuitously violent, self-destructive tribes.)

Already, in 1965, one in four black kids in the USA were born out of wedlock. Today it is more than three in four, and levels of bastardy among the other races have risen in course. By the end of the last century (1990s), white children were as likely to be raised in fatherless homes as black children had been in the 1960s. “Progress” has been progressing rapidly.

The Nanny State has replaced fathers as the principal source of income for such families (bankrupting itself in the process), and the feminist movement has supplied the arguments — or more precisely, misandronist slogans and vindictive clichés — for the overthrow of “patriarchy” and its systematic replacement with a shrewish matriarchy in all facets of social life. The movement has been, moreover, so successful in achieving its objects — the emasculation of men, and degradation or actual inversion of traditional morality — that it has now moved on. For with the defeat of masculinity, new horizons of “gender-bending” or “transgendering” have come into view.

Now, part of the reason people can’t get their little heads around what has actually happened — first to the black family, then to the brown, then to the white — is the surviving, basically modern (i.e. pre-post-modern) belief that eunuchs behave much like fairies; that they become docile and effeminate, harmless and nurturing, sensitive and sweet; that their previously reprehensible “masculine” traits will quietly disappear. Some men do indeed respond to emasculation by becoming the pathetic, contemptible wimps that all women, including feminists, instinctively abhor. But some do not.

As a well-read student of social sciences and history, Moynihan knew better than this. The masculine capacity for violence (at all levels, spiritual as much as physical) does not go away. From Spartan Laconia, backwards and forwards through history on all continents, we see that eunuchs and other “homosexual” (the word is inadequate) guards and soldiers have been employed by the great warrior despots. This is because they make the fiercest fighters. Having no families, no heritage to protect, no women and children to feed and shelter in safety, they become a purely destructive force. They become men who do not care even for their own lives, let alone for the lives of others.

In addition to the fatherless children of the new black matriarchy in the USA, Moynihan could see that the prisons were filling with young black men devoted to crime. They had nothing else to do with their time; were unneeded at home once the State began rewarding the women they had impregnated for getting rid of them. And the black kids now had before them not the rôle model of the breadwinning, rule-enforcing father, but instead the “cool” example of the street gang.

A parallel may be easily found in the Arab and Muslim world, where terrorism has been fuelled by a similar social dynamic: men with “nothing better to do,” in societies where men have no economic or paterfamilial function, thanks in that case partly to Islamic family structure, which keeps children in the women’s harem; but lethally compounded in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere by the new welfare state of (essentially unearned) oil money. We think that “sexual frustration” comes into this, but as we should know from the interview records, the Muslim terrorist has no more trouble appropriating sex than he has appropriating Jeeps and Humvees from the USAID sheds.

Moynihan largely foresaw what the Great Society’s welfare programmes, as then being constituted, would actually achieve: the complete breakdown of patriarchy and thus, of the black family both nuclear and extended. He foresaw the consequences of it, and in other writings, foresaw the spread of this social disintegration beyond black society in a new era of “defining deviancy down.” He also clarified that governments could benefit beleaguered minorities best through some species of “benign neglect.”

We might call him thus the original “neoconservative” — loathed with a particular vehemence by his fellow brain trustees for having exposed the holes in their brain pans. His warnings were not merely ignored; they were attacked with a livid, semantic fury. How dare he use words in their plain meanings? How dare he suggest that certain hard-wired facts of human nature are not, in truth, “social constructs”? How dare he patiently and elaborately demonstrate the reality of this in empirical ways? How dare he defend his positions with such scintillating wit and irrefutable logic? And finally, how dare he be proved so consistently right through the next half century?

By comparison, his being “Irish Catholic” was almost forgivable.

The response of the progressive party to Moynihan and his ilk has been, ever since: “Full speed ahead!” And to his arguments has been, “Shout them down!” Which is why I call the Moynihan Report (the polite expression of those determined to retire the once respectful term, “Negro”) the most inconsequential sociological publication of all time.