Nobody Has All the Answers

The message that I took away from Nicholas Kristof’s most recent column is that we need two major political parties, both of which are interested in governing. Neither side has all of the answers and the interplay between the parties is potentially a source of strength rather than a destructive one.

Unfortunately, I find some of his proposed preferred solutions to problems strike wide of the mark. Black families did not deteriorate because of the lack of availability of abortion services and greater availability of abortion has not strengthened black families despite black women receiving abortions on a wildly disproportionate basis. I think quite to the contrary that the reason for the deterioration of black families has been that black men have been shut out of the labor market due to racism, over time many women lose respect for men without jobs or, indeed, who earn less than they do, the nurturing sectors of the economy have prospered enormously over the last several decades which inevitably improves the job prospects for women, and for sixty years a perverse public policy actually discouraged family formation.

If your solution to problems as diverse as poverty, juvenile crime, and improving education in the inner city is stronger families, you would think that the strategies you prefer might actually strengthen families.

Meanwhile, Democrats were wrong about AFDC and are continuing to fight on the wrong side in that struggle. Republicans have been persistently wrong about racism.

Sometimes not only does no one person or party have all the answers but sometimes no one person or party has any answers. For wicked problems emergent solutions, while emotionally unsatisfying to those who demand problem solution in a single masterstroke, may be the best solutions available.

1 comment… add one

  • mike shupp

    I give Kristof a D grade. Strong families, many jobs — fine. School reform — no.

    Go off and hit some conservative web sites, especially conservative economist blog sites, and one thing comes through. American conservatives have really come to hate American schools. They see college as basically a waste, except for a small elite. (Google “Bryan Caplan” or go browse http://econlog.econlib.org for examples.)

    They like charter schools. What’s so great about charter schools? you ask. Charter schools can kick kids out, you’ll hear. Also charter schools tell teachers’ unions to go screw themselves. Nothing about better teaching methods, or better results. Just the idea of preserving discipline and screwing teacher unions. That’s what conservatives find attractive about “school reform.”

    My grandfather was a school teacher and superintendent. My Dad was a school teacher and superintendent. I heard school issues discussed at the breakfast and supper table much of my life.

    I’m unimpressed.

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