(The opinions expressed in guest op-eds are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.)
All too often the news is filled with examples of anti-social, isolated young males resorting to gun violence in numbers disproportionate to any other demographic in America.
There are no two ways about it, our nation has a genuine social crisis on its hands as once more we are confronted with the horrific fact that our civil society is broken as another evil act confronts us. This time by an 18-year-old male in Texas committing the unspeakable, indeed, the unthinkable.
Sociologists, in addition to blaming fatherless homes, point to an alienation these young men feel from a variety of our once-ubiquitous social and civil institutions. The pandemic only contributed to this by locking down millions of kids and isolating them from their peers for a year or more. Where is the accountability for such an irresponsible decision?
On a macro level, and on a broader scale, membership in local service clubs is on the decline. Even church attendance where young men fellowship with other young men is almost nonexistent in many communities throughout our country. Membership in the Boy Scouts is down by nearly 50%. There are other examples too numerous to cite here. Too many young men increasingly feel alone, cut off, ignored, and in some cases feel increasingly on the defensive.
It should worry all of us that the only “community” many young males appear to have available to them are online communities where extremist views are shared, encouraged, and ultimately fester to the boiling point where they become radicalized, and anti-social behavior is normalized.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while both as a father of a son and three daughters and as a concerned citizen. And as I often do, I’ve sought answers, and looked for solutions. I’ve discussed it with the men I respect in my life. And there is no shortage of opinions on the subject. Maybe our young men today lack the benefits of brotherhood that have historically connected men to civil society.
For example, and this might be a curious thought coming from a manic-contrarian, and committed free-market capitalist like me, but might the fact that America’s labor unions have been on the decline for over 40 years have something to do with the steady, downward social and economic decline of males in America?
With the hollowing out of America’s manufacturing base beginning with Bush 41’s presidency, the blue-collar jobs these young men’s fathers, uncles, and grandfathers had that could support a family are gone. And they didn’t disappear — they were exported to other countries where cheaper labor could be had so Americans could buy cheap plastic stuff from Europe, Japan, and China. Cheap, but at what cost?
This supposed irreversible phenomenon is what economists call the gales of creative destruction. I’ve referred to it this way more than a few times myself, and I’m not against it. But it came at a profound cost, obviously.
Perhaps, today, the fact that so many unskilled jobs filled by males in our economy lack a value-added sense of solidarity (brotherhood) with other young males, has led to a generation (actually a second-generation) of males disconnected from the camaraderie and a real sense of meaning in what they do. Because there is real virtue in work — especially in work that has value to others. As a result of these macro forces of what look a lot like economic determinism, our boys are lacking purpose in this new creative world of social destruction…
I am an American first, an economic conservative second, and a Republican a very distant third. And while an unapologetic advocate for free markets, lower taxes, and deregulation wherever, and whenever possible, in light of the increasing dysfunction that is unfolding around us, maybe it is time private industry rethink some things, including its attitude toward organized labor and consider embracing this once very American institution as a civil and societal good, and even as a moral and economic positive.
Perhaps our society is in serious need of a paradigm shift in the relationship between “capital” and “labor.” There should be no dispute that entrepreneurial capitalism is the best hope for working families to enjoy the morality of prosperity — and that no other economic system or arrangement comes close. However, in light of the increasing dysfunction that is unfolding around us, we can’t ignore the fact that something is seriously wrong. Civil society is broken. We cannot continue the way things are going.
Some things are more important than the bottom line of a ledger sheet. The positive possibilities that could occur by reintroducing this generation of males to a brotherhood organized around meaningful work, purposefulness, the intrinsic value of male friendship, teamwork, as well as the indispensable benefits of mentorship, are all things that should inspire and motivate every one of us.
Labor unions provided this for many of our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and great grandfathers. Maybe it’s time we consider resurrecting this once bedrock American institution that helped us forge a more civil, ordered, and organized society. And modernize it so that it reflects the realities of today’s information based, decentralized digital economy, not yesterday’s industrial based, centralized, top down economy.
What I am proposing is a more ethical economic and social construct that understands we are all on each other’s side and in a moral fight for the very soul of America. And as Americans, we all have a stake in each other’s success. It cannot be us against them, or to each his own.
The future must be all of us working together to achieve an unparalleled level of economic prosperity. We need more doors opened and level playing fields that allows this and future generations of men to enter into a stronger, growing economy that create jobs with meaning, purpose, and hope, with better opportunities, and less isolation and despair.
Joe Armendariz is Director of Government Affairs for Armendariz Partners, LLC. He is also Chairman of the California Center for Public Policy, a public policy institute focusing on economic and education development issues in Santa Barbara County. He can be reached at: 805.990.2494 or by emailing him at: [email protected]