Slouching Towards Gomorrah:

Modern Liberalism and American Decline.

Selected Quotes:

Bork on Liberalism:
  • The defining characteristics of modern liberalism are radical egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rather than of opportunities) and radical individualism (the drastic reduction of limits to personal gratification). These may seem an odd pair, for individualism means liberty and liberty produces inequality, while equality of outcomes means coercion and coercion destroys liberty.

    Radical egalitarianism reigns in all areas of life and society where superior achievement is possible and would be rewarded but for coercion towards a state of equality. Quotas, affirmative action, and the more extreme versions of feminism are the most obvious examples but, as will be seen, radical egalitarianism is damaging much else in our culture.

    Radical egalitarianism necessarily presses us towards collectivism because a powerful state is required to suppress the differences that freedom produces. That raises the sinister and seemingly paradoxical possibility that radical individualism is the handmaiden of collective tyranny.

    Bork on Illegitimacy, Crime and Welfare:

  • National illegitimacy statistics were first gathered in the United States in 1920. Illegitimate births then constituted 3 percent of all births. The proportion slowly went up just over 5 percent in 1960, and then shot up to 11 percent in 1970, above 18 percent in 1980, and 30 percent by 1991.

    Crime displays the same pattern. National records about violent crime in the United States were first kept in 1960. The number of violent crimes in that year was just under 1,900 per 100,000 people; the number doubled within ten years, and more than tripled to almost 6,000 by 1980. After a brief decline, the crime rate began rising again and had reached almost 5,700 by 1992. It is thus apparent that crime and illegitimacy trends began rising at almost the same time and then rose together.

    There is no longer any doubt that communities with many single parents, whether because of divorce or out-of-wedlock births, display much higher rates of crime, drug use, school dropouts, voluntary unemployment, etc. Nor is there any doubt that the absence of a father is damaging not only to the unwed mother but to the prospects of the children.

    The correlation of illegitimate births and crime has been well documented. The birth rate for unmarried women aged 15 to 19 increased threefold between 1960 and 1992, while the percentage of all babies born to unmarried teenagers went from 15 to 70 percent. It is not surprising then that between 1985 and 1993, murders committed by 18- to 24-year-olds increased by 65 percent, and those committed by 14- to 17-year-olds increased by a staggering 165 percent.

    Sex education in the schools appears to operate more as an incitement to sexual activity than as a heeded caution. Chelmsford (Massachusetts) High School employed Suzanne Landolphi of Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions to give two performances for students in the ninth through twelfth grades in which she gave sexually explicit monologues and discussed penis and breast size and advocated oral sex, masturbation, and homosexual activity among minors. Parents were not told in advance and students were not permitted to opt out. Some parents and students sued, so far without success. Stories like this abound, but even when the advocacy is less open, the message that the students are expected to engage in sex is always there. Opportunities for teenagers to engage in sex are also more frequent than previously; much of it takes place in homes that are now empty because the mothers are working. The modern liberal devotion to sex education is an ideological commitment rather than a policy of prudence. But even if we could abolish that counterproductive policy, the other factors remain as stubborn facts.

    Whatever our dilemmas in these respects, it is clear that the welfare system makes matters far worse than they need to be. This is not a recent insight. I was startled to discover that the point was made in a 1971 article by Irving Kristol, and even more startled to learn from that article that Alexis de Tocqueville made the same point in his Essay on Pauperism in 1835. We appear to be slow learners.

    Crime rates in a number of areas have stopped rising and in some areas have begun to decline. This appears to be partially due to better policing, slightly higher rates of incarceration, and a decline in the number of young males, who are almost entirely responsible for violent crime though more and more women are taking up the practice. But as the Council on Crime report puts it: "Recent drops in serious crime are but the lull before the coming crime storm." That is because the population of young males in the age groups that commit violent crime is about to increase rapidly, producing more violence than we know at present.

    As the carnage continues, the public is offered such false panaceas as "midnight basketball" ... and gun control. Neither is a serious response. Both may be seen as following from the egalitarians' unwillingness to punish.

    As law professor Daniel Polsby demonstrates, "the conventional wisdom about guns and violence is mistaken. Guns don't increase national rates of crime and violence - the continued proliferation of gun control laws almost certainly does."

    Gun control shifts the equation in favor of the criminal. Gun control proposals are nothing more than a modern liberal suggestion that government, which is unable to protect its citizens, make sure that citizens cannot defend themselves.

    Violent crimes are almost entirely committed by young men. (This may be changing. In an unexpected development, the rate of growth of violent crime perpetrated by women now exceeds that of men.)

    "Either we reverse the current trends in illegitimacy - especially white illegitimacy - or America must, willy-nilly, become an unrecognizably authoritarian, socially segregated, centralized state."
    If we would avoid that, we must beat modern liberalism in elections and place the machinery of the state in the hands of people willing to reform welfare and punish crime.

    Bork on Radical Feminism:

  • Radical Feminism is the most destructive and fanatical movement to come down to us from the Sixties. This is a revolutionary, not a reformist, movement, and it is meeting with considerable success. Totalitarian in spirit, it is deeply antagonistic to traditional Western culture and proposes the complete restructuring of society, morality, and human nature.
    "Feminism rode into our cultural life on the coattails of the new left but by now it certainly deserves its own place in the halls of intellectual barbarisms."

    What the moderate academic feminists Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge write about radical feminism in the universities is true of the movement as a whole. Today's radical feminism is "not merely about equal rights for women...feminism aspires to be much more than this. It bids to be a totalizing scheme resting on a grand theory, one that is as all-inclusive as Marxism, as assured of its ability to unmask hidden meanings as Freudian psychology, and as fervent in its condemnation of apostates as evangelical fundamentalism. Feminist theory provides a doctrine of original sin: The world's evils originate in male supremacy."

    Like Marxism, feminism can explain everything from advertising to religion by following its single thread, the oppression of women.

    In feminist jargon, "sex" is merely biological while "gender" refers to roles and is claimed to be "socially constructed"...One of the major implications of this view is that human sexuality has no natural form but is culturally conditioned. Radical feminists concede that there are two sexes, but they usually claim there are five genders. Though the list varies somewhat, a common classification is men, women, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Thus, Heterosexuality, being socially constructed, is no more "natural" or desirable than homosexuality. It is not surprising, then, that one of the most active groups preparing for Beijing was the Lesbian Caucus.

    The gender perspective of radical feminism is easy to ridicule but it must be taken seriously. It attacks not only men but the institution of the family, it is hostile to traditional religion, it demands quotas in every field for women, and it engages in serious misrepresentations of facts. Worst of all, it inflicts great damage on persons and essential institutions in a reckless attempt to remake human beings and create a world that can never exist. As we will see, among the institutions being severely damaged by radical feminism are the American educational system and the American military.

    In The Hite Report on the Family, Shere Hite calls for a "democratic revolution in the family." That involves, among other things, "children brought up with the choice about whether to accept their parents' power." The extreme aggression in society is brought about, she says, by a family structure in which "in order to receive love, most children have to humiliate themselves, over and over again, before power." Most social scientists seem to have overlooked this cause of our crime wave. Giving children the choice of whether to accept their parents' power will move the crime wave off the streets and into the family. Hite claims that since the personal and political go together, political democracy cannot flourish without a democratic personal life. The family is a political institution created so that a man could "own" a woman and thus be sure that the children were "his".

    There is a great deal of reckless disregard for the truth in radical feminism. Some of it is so blatant that it certainly deserves to be called lying, but some of it appears to reflect the delusions of paranoia. What is worrisome is that so much serious misrepresentation passes into the realm of "truth." One might think that misrepresentations about checkable facts could not survive long in an open society, but they can and do, probably because the press and the academy are very pro-feminist. When a sensational report about the amount of domestic violence against women appears, newspapers, magazines, and even textbooks relay the news, and it quickly becomes established folklore. The attitudes formed as a result are embedded in the culture. Yet the facts, for those who care about them, indicate that these reports are wild exaggerations or flat misrepresentations.

    Feminists' ideology is a fantasy of persecution. It is breathtaking that so dishonest and intellectually vacuous a book as (Susan Faludi's) Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women could receive book awards, achieve a mass readership, and receive favorable reviews. That alone tells a very sad story about the politics of sex and the decline of rationality in our culture.

    Needless to say, there is so far not a single axiom or proposition of feminist science that explains or predicts anything or is capable of being tested empirically. When that unhappy fact is brought to a feminist's attention, the reply is often that the patriarchy has had over 3000 years to build its mathematics, logic, and science whereas women have just started.

    Nobody seems to have the faintest idea, for example, what a feminist physics would look like, but the total rejectionists are sure one is out there somewhere. It seems to be assumed that a feminist physics, though different, would work as well as the version we now have. Feminist rocket scientists, apparently, could place satellites in orbit without using any of the laws of motion that are now employed.

    Take women's studies themselves. On the evidence proffered by Sommers, Patai, and Koertge, and others, women's studies programs and courses are abysmal swamps of irrational dogma and hatred. The feminist classroom is an arena for emotions rather than intellect or analysis. Agreement with ideology is mandatory.

    Radical feminists' insistence upon seeing slights, harassment, and male victimization of women everywhere has made campuses, workplaces, and society less comfortable places. The eagerness of radical feminists to see insult in every male action, coupled (if one dare use that word) with the spinelessness of the supposedly oppressive patriarchy, has led to so much discomfort and loss of freedom.

    So ideologically crazed are some feminist academics that their seminars are now called "ovulars."

    While other students are studying history, mathematics, science, languages. and similarly useful disciplines, those in women's studies programs are working on acquiring belligerent attitudes and misinformation. Instead of preparing students for the world, the programs impose severe handicaps upon them.

    The extent to which the armed forces have been intimidated by feminists and their allies in Congress is made clear by the case of Lt. Commander Kenneth Carkhuff. On July 26, 1994, Carkhuff's superior officer recommended him for early promotion ahead of his peers because he was an "extraordinary department head," a "superior officer in charge" with "unlimited potential...destined for command and beyond."

    Six weeks later that same superior revised Carkhuff's fitness report to downgrade him in every category and to rate his "overall performance as unsatisfactory," so that he could not recommend him for promotion or even retention in the Navy. The intervening event that caused this drastic reevaluation was that Carkhuff, in a private conversation with his commanding officer, had said that his religious views made him doubtful about putting women in combat, though those views also required him to lead women into combat if ordered by his superiors. That remark led to the revised report, which criticized him for "His inability to fully employ and impartially judge the female members of his (helicopter) unit." ... The Navy's Separation Board voted to discharge the Lieutenant Commander. The Navy threw away a man of great ability and gained peace with the feminists.

    In physical fitness tests, very few women could do even one pull-up, so the Air Force Academy gave credit for the amount of time they could hang on the bar.

    Perhaps the most vicious aspect of radical feminism is that it necessarily criticizes and demeans women who choose to work primarily as mothers and homemakers. They are made to feel guilty and told that their lives are essentially worthless. But feminists are not concerned with the human suffering that they inflict. As Marie Gallagher put it: "America today is a nation full of ironies...(including a) female elite more fiercely committed to the good name of feminism than to the welfare of women."

    Radical feminism has a truly impressive capacity for moral intimidation. It is very difficult for men to counter its progress or point out its untruths and its manifold harms. To do so is to be exposed to heated accusations of being hostile to women and their rights, wanting to take away the gains women have made, and wishing to reduce them to subordinate positions. Most men, afraid of such allegations, choose circumspection. That is why Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor of National Review, said, "In the end, our girls are going to have to fight their girls." True, but after that, some males in the academic world, in the military, and in Congress are going to have to summon up the courage to begin to repair the damage feminism has done.

    Bork on the Court System:

  • Chapter Six discussed the manifold ways in which the Supreme Court, without authorization from any law, has changed our politics and our culture. That process continues as the lower federal courts and state courts are following the Supreme Court example. The courts, without authorization from law, are taking out of the hands of the American people the most basic moral and cultural decisions.

    The question is not only one of the illegitimacy of the Court's performance in usurping powers that belong to the people and their elected representatives. The judiciary is slowly disintegrating the basis for our social unity. Our cultural elites, the modern liberals, have contempt for democracy because it produces results and elects politicians they disapprove of. The courts have long since run out of ways to derive modern liberal results from even distortions of the original understanding of the Constitution. They, and the academic commentators who sustain them and urge them on, have, therefore, resorted to increasingly abstract and meaningless moralistic arguments and to lifeless legalisms.

    A variety of forces are destroying America's political and cultural unity, and judicial activism must surely be ranked among them.

    Perhaps, though it is highly unlikely, we will amend the Constitution to reassert ultimate democratic control. There does not seem to be a third choice except civil disobedience by legislatures and executives. The most likely outcome seems, at the moment, to be passive acceptance of the ukases (proclamations) of the Court.

    A society whose morality is egalitarian but whose structure is inevitably hierarchical, a society that feels there are unjustifiable inequalities throughout its social, political, and economic order, is a society that feels guilty. It may seem odd that people who understand that a complex, vital society is necessarily hierarchical, can simultaneously feel that the existence of hierarchies is somehow immoral. Yet it is plain that many of us do feel that way. Bad social conscience is taught to the young as dogma.

    A society whose members feel insecure and guilty seeks the antidotes of security and expiation by trying to legislate equality. Our legislatures, our bureaucracies, and our courts are attempting to guarantee every right, major or minor or merely symbolic, people think they ought ideally to possess. There is no reason to suppose that we will achieve equality of condition. We will not. In saying that we are necessarily a hierarchical society, I mean simply to state the obvious: any big, complex society must depend upon differential rewards of some kind to operate effectively. There is, as has been remarked, a "natural tyranny of the bell-shaped curve" in the distribution of the world's goods.

    As government spreads, bureaucracies get beyond the power of the elected representatives to control. Government is too big, too complicated, there are too many decisions continually to be made....Democratic processes become increasingly irrelevant....And there is increasing acceptance of this condition, in part because egalitarians do not care greatly about process.

    That was the reason for the Equal Rights Amendment which provided that it should be primarily the function of the judiciary to define and enforce equality between the sexes. The amendment, we were assured, did not mean that no distinctions whatever may be made between men and women...Yet it was proposed that the Supreme Court rather than the Congress or the state legislatures make the necessary detailed and sensitive political choices to write a detailed gender code for the nation.

    Had it not been for intense political activity by people like Phyllis Schlafly, the ERA would have been adopted. effective political leader like Schlafly can rally the electorate and their representatives to stop a departure from democratic governance.

    It is true that Congress can alter the decisions made by bureaucracies, but that is by no means an adequate answer. So much law is made non-democratically, by bureaucracies, that no legislature can focus on more than a small fraction of the choices made. Moreover, the bureaucracies develop rather small but intense constituencies, which often have more political influence than an electorate aggrieved by the total amount of regulation but rarely unified in opposition to any one regulation.

    The prospect, then, is the increasing irrelevance of domestic government. What replaces it is bureaucratic and judicial government, which may be benign and well-intentioned, and may respond somewhat to popular desires, though by no means always, but cannot by definition be democratic. Matters are not helped by the fact that the leadership of one of our political parties is not fully committed to the traditional American system of government. "There seems to be a rising undercurrent of discontent with the American system among elite Democratic supporters..."

    Modern liberals will continue to try to govern through the judiciary and the bureaucracies. To the degree they have already succeeded, democratic government has not survived. As the behavior of modern liberal politicians, the courts, and the bureaucrats demonstrates, they have no intention of relinquishing any of their power to the popular will.

    Bork on Abortion: Killing for Convenience:

  • Qualms about abortion began to arise when I first read about fetal pain. There is no doubt that, after its nervous system has developed to a degree, the fetus being dismembered or poisoned in the womb feels excruciating pain.

    Upon fertilization, a single cell results containing forty-six chromosomes, which is all that humans have, including, of course the mother and the father. But the new organism's forty-six chromosomes are in a different combination from those of either parent; the new organism is unique. It is not an organ of the mother's body but a different individual. This cell produced specifically human proteins and enzymes from the beginning.
    Such a creature is not a blob of tissue or, as the Roe opinion so infelicitously put it, a "potential life." As someone has said, it is a life with potential.
    It is impossible to say that the killing of the organism at any moment after it is originated is not the killing of a human being.

    It was argued that abortion on demand would guarantee that every child was a wanted child, would keep children from being born into poverty, reduce illegitimacy rates, and help end child abuse. Child poverty rates, illegitimacy rates, and child abuse have all soared.

    But it is clear, in any event, that the vast majority of all abortions are for convenience.

    ...the physician who is the best known practitioner of (partial birth) abortions stated in 1993 that 80 percent of them are "purely elective", not necessary to save the mother's life or health. Partial birth understates the matter. The baby is outside the mother except for its head, which is kept in the mother only to avoid a charge of infanticide. Full birth is inches away and could be easily accomplished.
    (President Clinton's veto of the PBA Ban) and the feminist demand for what is, in truth, infanticide underscore the casual brutality born of nihilism that is an ever more prominent feature of our culture.

    Abortion is seen as a way for women to escape the idea that biology is destiny, and from the tyranny of the family role.

    *** *** ***

    There is much more to this book and Judge Bork's crisp thinking that can only benefit anyone willing to buy and read it. It is an especially important work for Dads who have found themselves encountering the irrational environment of the Feminist- and Bureaucratically-driven Divorce Industry.

    "Irrationality is (merely) a form of tyranny."

    But the bottom line is this. As Dads, we are absolutely required to summon our courage and our energy to relentlessly prod our legislators to Do Their Job, and "begin the work of repairing the damage feminism has done."
    We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our children. - DA*DI.

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