Fox political talking-head Tucker Carlson threw a fit on TV in his first monologue of the new year. He introduced Mitt Romney’s editorial to launch his bid to replace President Trump as the GOP nominee in 2020, but only so that he can attack Romney as representative of the world’s insensitive leaders who have failed to make us happy. Along the way he rounds up the evils of pay day lenders, marijuana, banking, taxes, corporations, failing families and environmentalism, blaming all of them on Romney and free markets.
Somewhere in the middle Carlson states, “The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would want if they cared.”
Carlson misses the most important point about happiness – it’s founded on expectations. People can choose to be happy by making their expectations fit their reality, that is, be content with what you have. Most poor Christians in Africa are happy. We don’t need the government to make us happy.
But is the main goal of government to make us happy? A lot of happiness “research” implies that, but few political philosophers have made that point. Thomas Jefferson mentioned in the Declaration of Independence that we have a right to pursue happiness, but the reason for the new republic had something to do with freedom from tyranny as I recall.
Eventually, Carlson gets to the breakdown of families. It has been happening for over 50 years but he seems to have just noticed. He is appalled that rates of unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse and single parent families in rural areas are as bad as in inner city ghettos. Rural areas have been that way for centuries. Carlson should read Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals to see why. Churches have sent missionaries to the Appalachians since the middle of the 19th century trying to improve their culture, but Carlson has apparently just learned about it.
Finally, he gets to his thesis: markets destroyed manufacturing jobs, which led to male unemployment and lower wages, which caused families to break up and guys to never marry.
Study after study has shown that when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them...Over big populations, this causes a drop in marriage, a spike in out-of-wedlock birth, and all of the familiar disasters that inevitably follow – more drug and alcohol abuse, higher incarceration rates, fewer families formed in the next generation.
And he blames it on our “worship” of markets:
Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society...Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and very soon unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people.
The episode generated some media attention so he followed up with two more on the same theme that the American dream is dying. In one of those, Carlson cited a Brookings Institute study reporting that lower pay and unemployment explained about a quarter of the decline in marriage. He stated this as a fact, even though his guest, Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, said we have to consider cultural factors as well. He should have read the report more closely. Here is the relevant quote:
The drop in employment among men has also been associated with a decline in marriage rates. However, the size of this effect has been a matter of some dispute. In a paper reviewing this research, Sawhill and Venator show that lower economic prospects among men (particularly black and less-educated white men) can explain a portion of the decline in marriage, though the size of the effect is very sensitive to the model and data used. They suggest that changes in men’s earnings and employment explain about one-quarter of the decline in marriage rates since 1980, though different model specifications produce estimates ranging from almost zero to nearly half of the decline.
I other words, it’s not a fact. The idea that an economic system makes people good or evil comes from the earliest socialists. The fact that Carlson espouses it demonstrates how deeply socialist principles have penetrated society. In fact, Carlson’s entire monologue is nothing but a warmed-over version of the old socialist anthem: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
The problems Carlson laments are real problems, but they’re not ones that any government has ever solved or can solve. Governments don’t have that kind of power regardless of what politicians tell you. If Carlson would quit listening to other talking heads and read a book, especially any of Thomas Sowell’s, he would know that those are cultural problems. Culture creates the institutions and behaviors that generate economic realities. Economics can’t create culture; to say it does is pure Marxism.
What creates culture? Religion. The breakdown of the family is a direct result of the decline of Christianity which has produced a non-Christian culture. The state cannot make people repent and return to the God of Christianity. That’s something every individual has to decide for himself. It’s Christian individualism, the foundation of capitalism, free markets and our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.