Right Wisdom

Right Wisdom

WEALTH AND POVERTY, by George Gilder. New
York: Basic Books. 306 pp. $16.95.

I know George Gilder as a likable chap, prey to surges of emotion that last long enough to translate themselves into entire books. In the wake of the 1964 Goldwater debacle, Gilder, then in his Ripon Society phase, wrote with Bruce Chapman The Party that Lost its Head, advancing an argument that Republicans for the sake of self-preservation should accept the welfare state and administer it with more efficiency but just as much compassion as chuckle-headed Democrats.

By 1978, Gilder had seen a different light. Visible Man, his revelation of that year, insisted that welfare was destroying the morale of black men. Young males, the story went, prefer grabbing the welfare checks from the women they prey upon to getting out and hustling at an honest job. Of course, male exploitation of women and associated patterns of violence, drunkenness, and crime also occur in such enlightened places as South Africa whose leaders are innocent of lavish
welfare spending upon blacks. For that matter, the same disheartening phenomena can be observed in our own South where welfare benefits remain
properly meager. Like any other enthusiast, Gilder is undeterred by niggling criticisms of this variety. Only reform welfare, and black men will go to work, bring back sustenance to their mates, and rejoin the proud company of nuclear family men.