After reading Camerin Courtney’s article “Caring for the Poor,” I was motivated to pick up Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion. Going through the book, I am convinced that the work is very well-researched and well-written, but strangely, the forward by Charles Murray really stuck with me and left me with some reality check:

This is a book of hope at a time when just about everyone but Marvin Olasky has lost hope. The topic is poverty and the underclass.

The reasons for hopelessness are everywhere, but they are most obvious and most depressing in the inner city. There, in every large city in America, the family as we have known it throughout Western history seems terminal. The who fills the most ordinary of traditional roles–lives with the mother, goes to work every morning, brings home a paycheck every week, and shows his children by example how a responsible male adult is supposed to behave–has nearly vanished. It is harder to put numbers to the situation regarding mothers, but the reports from case works and a few clear-eyed journalists reveal a world in which substantial proportion of women play their role of mother appallingly badly, leaving the children unnurtured, undisciplined, sometimes unfed and unwashed. Children grow in a world where cause and effect are meaningless–where, for the same behavior, they are on one occasion ignored, on another laughed at indulgently, and on yet another cursed and beaten. Nor is that the only way in which cause and effect, praise and blame, can be turned topsy-turvy in the inner city. The drug dealer is lionized, the man who mops floors is scorned. The school girl who gets pregnant is envied, the school girl who studies hard is taunted.

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