One Last Word on Values
by Jan Baughman

People keep talking about them and I'm still struggling to understand. A recent Wall Street Journal poll (12/13/96) helped.

Now, let's start by noting that 51% of you believe that the most serious problems in our society stem from a decline in moral values (or, conversely, an increase in amoral values). At the same time, 57% of you have pretty much the same approach to raising your children as your parents did. When rating yourselves on the morality/values scale, with 100 being perfect, 21% are 96-100, 29% are 90-95, 26% are 80-89, 11% are 75-79 and 11% are 0-74 % perfect. In summary, 76% of you are at least 80% moral.

This is where I start getting lost. Over half of you attribute social ills and crime to a decline in moral values, over half of you raise your kids the way your parents did, and three-quarters of you are over 80% perfect. Either your other 20% is really bad, or it's the 24% who are less than 80% perfect who are wreaking all the havoc.

It gets more complicated. 82% of you think that the morals and values of the 1950's were higher than today's; 70% believe the 60's values were higher, and 56% even believe that the 70's were superior. Morals took a dive in the 80's, though 47% still believe they were higher than today. (I wonder if 47% of you still believe that Reagan was a great President?) Now, if you are an adult today (i.e., 18 or older), then you would have been born before 1978. I'm going to be fair here and let some of you youngsters off the hook. I believe that our values are well-formulated by the first decade of life, so I'll say that anyone born in or before 1970 could still maintain the superior morals and values of the pre-eighties era. Approximately 80% of the population is over 18, and more than half is over 30. So, if morals were so much higher until the 80's, what good came of it? Raising your children in an environment of the good old-fashioned family values that you were raised in won't make a difference. Or, perhaps it is the 20% of the population under the age of 18 who are wreaking all the havoc...

How do we adjust the slope of this path to moral decline? When asked which area would make the biggest difference if Americans would make an effort to improve in, they selected strengthening the family (27%), independence and personal responsibility (19%), religion and faith (16%), service to others (11%), traditional values (9%) and work ethic (6%). No overwhelming support for traditional values (like those of the 50's) and, most interestingly, personal responsibility is unimportant. You can't even blame the politicians, because you voted for them...

So, keep complaining about the violence on television, sex on the Internet and drugs in the streets. Whine about everyone else's declining morals. Reminisce about the Good Old Days, but remember one thing: In the end, it all comes down to Supply and Demand.

Published December 29, 1996
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Main Page]