Assault on the lexicon

James Taranto notes an easy way to solve problems:

Amid all the gloomy economic news, the New York Times brings us an encouraging report on social trends:

The number of black children being raised by two parents appears to be edging higher than at any time in a generation, at nearly 40 percent, according to newly released census data. . . .

According to the bureau’s estimates, the number of black children living with two parents was 59 percent in 1970, falling to 42 percent in 1980, 38 percent in 1990 and 35 percent in 2004. In 2007, the latest year for which data is available, it was 40 percent.

What accounts for the turnaround? The Times explains:

Demographers said such a trend might be partly attributable to the growing proportion of immigrants in the nation’s black population. It may have been driven, too, by the values of an emerging black middle class, a trend that could be jeopardized by the current economic meltdown.

The Census Bureau attributed an indeterminate amount of the increase to revised definitions adopted in 2007, which identify as parents any man and woman living together, whether or not they are married or the child’s biological parents.

The problem of illegitimacy and broken families had seemed intractable for decades, but the Census Bureau has been able to make a significant dent in it, at virtually no cost to the taxpayer, merely by redefining the word parents.

(Via Instapundit.)

This is far from unprecedented, of course, but it’s a tragedy when we maim a word for political purposes.  This was one of George Orwell’s major themes in 1984.  On a less highbrow (but more entertaining) note, I’m also reminded of the Babylon 5 episode Voices of Authority, in which the Ministry of Peace’s political officer admits that Earth’s government has solved all its problems by rewriting the dictionary.

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