R&L: What are the differences between the genders as articulated in your book Men and Marriage and what impact does this have on the social order?
Gilder: The key difference is that the woman holds in her very body a link to the long term future of the race. Her sexuality determines her long term goals. As a very physiological consciousness, she knows she can bear and nurture children. She has a central role in the very perpetuation of the species. The man is estranged from this process; his sexuality arises merely as a compulsive drive to pleasure. It’s short term by nature. It’s predatory and quickly gratified. The Women’s Movement tragically reduces female sexuality to the terms of male sexuality. When this happens, she reduces herself to the male level of recreational sex. Paradoxically, when that happens the woman loses all her power over men and the reverence and respect toward the procreative potential of woman is lost. And that really destroys the family. But if the power of “choice” is given up, the woman actually ascends to a higher level of sexuality and her body attains an almost mystical power over men.
R&L: What kind of contribution is someone like Camile Paglia making in this regard?
Gilder: She recognizes the difference between the sexes which is important. She rejects a lot of the garbage. She also spews some garbage of her own. But I think the net result is profit for truth because her insights are so rarely spoken. By professing lesbianism and promiscuity, she gains access to campuses where I could never speak. She is also willing to recognize what I have been saying, that men are inferior sexually–they are probably inferior morally–but they are superior in the workplace and in the great creative ventures outside the family circle. This has been true throughout human history and always will be true. The denial of it is perverse and destructive because men do have an absolutely central role in society that is commensurate with, yet different from, the familial role of women.
R&L: How do you approach immigration policy?
Gilder: Immigration is undermined when the welfare state grows too generous. Under such conditions, you effectively spurn the real poor in order to support special interest groups. The United States is approaching this point, particularly in California which has some of the most generous welfare “benefits” on the face of the earth. Immigration is becoming impossible there because the state actually lures in immigrants with welfare programs while punishing businessmen who employ them. So it’s legal in California to go on welfare if you are an illegal alien but it’s not legal to work. And we are creating this nightmarish, and really vicious, welfare system that not only destroys American families but now is reaching out to destroy immigrants as well.
R&L: How is the welfare state destroying the American family?
Gilder: Essentially, welfare benefits are far better than low wage, entry-level jobs. Welfare gives benefits far superior to entry level jobs because they yield valuable leisure time for the recipient. Thus it usurps the male role as chief provider and undermines the foundation of families. His provider role is absolutely central to the family; if the state replaces the male provider, you don’t have families. The welfare state cuckolds the man. That is why we have eighty percent illegitimacy rates in the inner cities. The welfare state has been far more destructive to the black family than slavery was.
R&L: Is there a difference between black and white poor families?
Gilder: No. The poor whites have the same kind of patterns as poor blacks. They aren’t concentrated in the urban centers in the same way. It is not as pathological a culture as is emerging in the inner cities because they are dispersed throughout the country. The fact is that the illegitimacy rate among white welfare recipients is close to black rates, around sixty percent.
R&L: What effect does the tax code have on family breakdown?
Gilder: Essentially, the progressive tax rates have impacted families the hardest. Intact families, where the man serves as the provider of his family, are the foundation of the economy. The driving force of economic growth is married men. Single men only make slightly over half as much as married men of the same age and credentials. Single men work far less productively and devotedly. The tax code punishes married men because they earn more.
R&L: How would you respond to statements by bureaucracies of religious institutions who defend the welfare state?
Gilder: They don’t believe in their own teachings. What the poor really need is morals. The welfare state destroys the morals of the poor. Poor people in America live better than the middle class in most other countries in the world. The official poor in America have higher incomes and purchasing power than the middle class in the United States in 1955 or the middle class in Japan today. The so-called “poor” are ruined by the overflow of American prosperity. What they need is Christian teaching from the churches. But these same churches are mostly inept at actually preaching to the poor. Instead, they support the welfare state as a sort of proxy.
R&L: Why is the poverty line, in your words, a “virtually useless measure” of real poverty?
Gilder: Because poverty is not a matter of income but a matter of prospects. College students are regarded as impoverished, as are all sorts of single people who live with their families. The poverty line in a rich country like the United States is a meaningless standard. We have no poverty problem strictly speaking, we have a desperate problem of family breakdown and moral decay.
R&L: How does the divorce rate affect economic life and the number of poor?
Gilder: The real source of poverty is not divorce, although it does spread poverty, and bitterness, and feminism, and other problems. The key culprit is illegitimacy. Among the poor, the welfare state has legitimized children born out of wedlock and de-legitimized marriage. Even conservatives who want workfare want to further enrich the welfare state. To them, it’s not enough to give mothers of illegitimate children all sorts of supports and special pregnancy services, housing, special educational and training programs. You now have to give them jobs and daycare centers on top of it.
This constant enrichment of the welfare state ignores the victims of the real problem who are not on welfare. They are unmarried men and they have rendered many of our big cities unlivable. They have reduced the real-estate values in American cities by trillions of dollars. It is single men who commit the violent crimes.
R&L: Elaborate on the importance of religion and the maintenance of Western civilization and in the free market in general.
Gilder: Religion is primary. Unless a culture is aspiring toward the good, the true, and the beautiful, and wants the good and the true, really worships God, it readily worships Satan. If we turn away from God, our culture becomes dominated by “Real Crime Stories” and rap music and other spew. This is the most fundamental point. When the culture becomes corrupt, then the businesses that serve the culture also become corrupt.
R&L: You have called parochial education a “precious national treasure.” Why do you say this?
Gilder: Secular culture is in general corrupt, and degraded, and depraved. Because I don’t believe in secular culture, I think parochial schools are the only real schools.
R&L: What has been the impact of environmentalism on American economic and spiritual life?
Gilder: The essential proposition of the environmental movement, that we should protect our environment, is positive. But it has been delivered over to an almost entirely dishonest, deceitful, and scientifically discreditable movement. It is amazing how any group could perpetrate so many preposterous howlers in a row and retain the respect and attention of the country and the press. And it really has become a kind of pseudo-religion, a new kind of paganism. It is accepted as the only religion in our public and most of our prestige private schools. They all worship nature in this perverted way.
Environmentalism is part of this multicultural vision which denies that any one culture is better than any other. Indian culture didn’t fail because it was virtuous. It failed because it was a corrupt and unsuccessful culture. These tribal cultures they are trying to import from Africa are tragic failures, too. To uphold these destructive cultures that have been virtual social suicide for the people who live in them is a terrible perversion. That is what multiculturalism is. And environmentalism is a kind of religious rite of the multiculturalists.
R&L: What is the relationship of capitalism to altruism?
Gilder: It is largely supposed that because of the centrality of Adam Smith and free-market economic theory that capitalism is based on selfishness and that this leads us to prosperity by an invisible hand. Some view capitalism as a Foustian pact, a deal with the devil, in which we gain wealth in exchange for giving in to the sin of avarice. So it has led to the belief that capitalism is somehow based on sin and this has lead to a kind of profound ambivalence about capitalism. Being productive is somehow seen as worship of mammon. I think it completely misunderstands the dynamic of enterprise.
Business investments are the most productive charitable gifts in any economy. Businessmen succeed by collaborating with others and by serving others. I think this is the heart of capitalism. It’s not based on taking. It’s based on giving. It is tantamount to gifts which are actually good for their recipients. It’s easy to simply spend money on someone, and actually hurt their morale and future. In most cases, the investments of businesses are better charity than the official charities because an investment depends on the recipient also serving others.
A charitable gift does not demand anything from its recipient. The recipient merely uses the gift. Capitalism results in ever-widening circles of service to others. The success of capitalism is a great triumph of Christian virtue. Capitalism is the opposite of greed. Greed is the desire for unearned benefits. Greed is a refusal to serve others. Greed leads to demands on government to give unearned goods. Greed leads to an ever expanding welfare state. It leads to socialism.