The Unmet Political Challenge of Family Breakdown

From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation Mitch PearlsteinRowman & Littlefield, 2011; 165 pages, $50.00 On January 12, 2012, CNN News ran a headline, “Forced To Wear Sign: Dynesha Lax ‘I Lie, I Steal, I Sell Drugs.’”The story leads off: The mother of a troubled 14-year-old boy, Dynesha Lax, has forced her son to a wear a sign and stand on a street corner for his crimes since the courts are not helping to make him straighten up. Lax said she doesn’t know what else to do and she is tired of her son’s unlawful behavior and multiple arrests. So the fed-up mother made a sign that read, “I Lie, I Steal, I Sell Drugs, I Don’t Follow The Law,” forced the boy wear it and walk down the street near their home in Indiana on Tuesday. Two aspects of the video version of this story jump out. First, this mother is desperate. She didn’t set out to humiliate her son for sport; she is at the end of her rope: I decided he broke the law and they only gave him a few hours community service. . . . What more can I do? They put him on probation and when they did probation they were quick to talk about the 300 some dollars you have to pay in fees, but nobody’s trying to help me fix my son. Second, the boy’s image chilled me to the bone: his eyes were dead. I have seen that dead look in a child’s eyes before. That is the look of the attachment-disordered child, the child without a conscience, the child who does whatever he can get away with, who has no connection with other people. I wrote about attachment disorder in Love and Economics in 2001 when I still harbored hope that fiscal conservatives and libertarians could be persuaded to take family issues seriously. The operation of the free market and the free society depends on citizens having a conscience and governing themselves. If Americans can’t control themselves, the government will have to control them, jus
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