It is still a reality of contemporary life that when anyone can get a divorce for any reason, the lower classes seem to get far more of the divorces, and that when anyone can get an abortion for any reason, the poor end up having more abortions and more children out of wedlock both. And it is still a fact that if you tallied up winners and losers from the sexual revolution, the obvious winners would tend to cluster at one end of 1975’s income distribution, the obvious losers at the other.
In a limited sense this is accurate, but it is far too facile to be useful. Douthat carefully dodges the question of why the well-off have done better with looser official, state-sponsored moral codes than have the poor.
There are two aspects to the answer: the first is cultural. The same heritage culture that leads to wealth also leads to social rejection of unwed parents and of the sort of sexual practices that lead to abortions, and an understanding of the benefits of delayed gratification and the potential pitfalls of immediate gratification. Further, these cultural values are passed on by cultural institutions the wealthy use for themselves: Private schools, churches, and parental expectations for their children and themselves.
The second is structural. Not only do most of the poor regard these cultural precepts as too white, too restrictive, and too “racist,” they are encouraged in this by the structural messages of the welfare state. “We will pay for your unwed children, so much per head. We will provide you a minimum income and housing good enough to keep the rain off your head. We will give you food stamps in sufficient amounts to buy all the cheap, unhealthy food you can eat. And when you get sick, we will give you whatever marginal medical care we can afford.
Further, we will give your children something that looks like an education, but actually is a cultural indoctrination of no use in actually helping you to escape your poverty. And we will cap it off by making sure that the single most important economic endeavor in your neighborhoods is the trade in drugs we have made illegal.
In short, the wealthy are that way because they are self-directed according to principles that have worked for the wealthy for generations.
The poor, on the other hand, are other-directed, and that director is the state carrying out left-wing precepts that always result in misery and destruction for those who find themselves trapped in them.
Douthat excuses all this by saying he does not question the “sincerity” of liberals, but the obvious response to that is that there were slave owners in America who sincerely believed that black people could not survive without the mechanism of slavery to make sure they were fed, clothed, and sheltered.
And that is what the current leftist overseers of the ethnic plantations have become: People who send their own kids to private schools and tell those kids that unwanted, unmarried pregnancies are shameful, and who would never, ever think of raising their own children under the cultural precepts they have established for the recipients of their beneficial welfare efforts.