There used to be two Daniel P. Moynihans. One wrote interesting essays on the foibles and pitfalls of crafting public policy. While seldom mistaken for a rigorous social scientist, this Moynihan had a gift for translating the esoteric findings of the research sociologists into the vernacular. He saw through the pretentions of political hubris and could always be counted on to acknowledge and work from raw reality, however distasteful it might be to progressive sentiments. At times, he even exhibited considerable moral courage, as his pursuit of the truth led him to unpopular conclusions (e.g., the famed “Moynihan report” on the breakdown of the “Negro family”).
The other Moynihan was a Democratic Senator from New York. This Moynihan regularly caved in to the standard pressure groups that bedevil the modern Politicus Democraticus. When not on a legislative binge, this Moynihan, with all the gloomy sincerity of a man with a hangover, would fall back on the pieties of moral relativism: judge not, lest ye be judged. This Moynihan turned with particular vehemence on social conservatives, who dared give moral and political preference to traditional institutions.
In Family and Nation, Mr. Hyde has won out over Dr. Jekyll; the political beast has triumphed over the moral, empirical man. Moynihan clearly acknowledges the ongoing tragedy of family disintegration in America and outlines the chilling consequences. In the end, though, he surrenders his soul to the behavioral and feminist harpies. Their victory is America’s loss.
[Family and Nation, by Daniel P. Moynihan (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich) $12.95]