Putnam doubts the chances of “a reversal of long-established trends in private norms,” though they’re common in history:
The gin-soaked mobs of 18th-century London became the orderly Victorian masses. Like most high-education Americans, he doesn’t want to denounce people for breaking old moral rules even when that hurts their kids.
The libertarian Murray doubts that government can do much. But he thinks that high-education elites, with their strong family structures, can. They need to “preach what they practice.” Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle, agreeing, nominates Hollywood for a lead role. Midcentury America’s universal media — radio, movies, television — celebrated the old rules.
There are signs this is happening. Teenage birth and violent crime rates have been falling. Younger millennials may be learning delayed gratification and self-restraint. Maybe, as they grow older, divorce and single parenthood will become less common, too. Few kids in broken homes will read “Our Kids or Coming Apart.” But they already know the story.