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Murder, Divorce, and Rock & Roll: The True History of the 1960s

Murder, Divorce, and Rock & Roll: The True History of the 1960s

When many Americans think of the 1960s, cute hippie girls and great rock music come to mind. What gets left out is the breakdown of American society: Between 1960 and 1970, the violent crime rate more than doubled and divorces skyrocketed. Here are just a few reasons that the 1960s deserve to be remembered as one of the darkest decades in American history.

When the ’60s started, Americans were still enjoying the post-WWII boom. The 1950s had seen an explosion of productivity and American family life was strong. In fact, the divorce rate fell substantially between 1950 and 1960. Homicide rates were similarly low—over 15 percent lower than today.

But during the 1960s, all of that changed. It was in the ’60s that the murder rate and the divorce rate jumped by over 50 percent. Overall, violent crime increased by a whopping 124 percent. Moreover, the nation limped into the 1970s in the midst of an economic crisis caused by rising inflation and a stagnating economy. It was rather a mess.

What happened? Though it may seem like a mystery to modern Americans, conservatives in the 1960s predicted many of these results when fundamental changes were made in American life.

The picture becomes clearer when we zoom in on the data. While deaths by homicide grew over the course of the 1960s, the biggest increase in the homicide rate started in 1964. In fact, between 1964 and 1974, the murder rate doubled! This indicates that we should look for our answer between 1960 and 1964.

A number of important court cases reshaped American life in those years. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, held that school prayer was unconstitutional in Engel v. Vitale in 1962, and again in Abington School District v. Schempp in 1963. Apparently, American public schools had been violating the Constitution for nearly 200 years without anyone knowing it!

Conservatives reacted to the rulings with disbelief. They reminded us of George Washington’s claim that “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” And sure enough, the moral fabric of America quickly started fraying in the newly secular era.

Many of the changes started in the home: Divorce rates increased by 50 percent between 1960 and 1970. Interestingly, this change cannot be attributed to the rise of no-fault divorce laws, as the first of such laws was only enacted in 1969 in California. Rather, it seems to have been the result of a moral decline in the culture as a whole.

Simply put, when America turned against traditional morality in the 1960s, they ended up with poorer public morality. And as homes crumbled, the streets also plunged into madness.

This aspect of the degradation of America started in 1963 with Gideon v. Wainwright. In that case, the Warren Court freed a man convicted of larceny because the man could not afford legal counsel at his trial.

According to the Warren Court, the fact that the Sixth Amendment protects the right to counsel meant that if someone could not afford an attorney, the state had an obligation to provide him one. In other words, the state was to both prosecute and defend criminals—a clear conflict of interest and a serious drain on taxpayers.

In effect, the Court’s ruling made it harder to convict criminals. As Dr. Clarence Carson argues, when you lower the cost of committing crime, you should expect the quantity of crime to rise. And rise it did.

But the Court was not content to stop there. In 1964, it held that suspects have a right to an attorney before a trial; in fact, before even being interrogated by police. Just two years later, it created new rules for police to follow before they question arrestees. Those rules are now known as “Miranda rights.”

It’s important to note that the Supreme Court didn’t consult the text of the Constitution or any other law as it drew up new rules for every police officer in the country to follow. Instead, it created the new law out of thin air. This practice is known as “legislating from the bench,” and it substitutes the judgment of nine unelected justices for the will of the American people as legislated by Congress.

Throughout the 1960s, the Warren Court overturned lower court decisions and allowed guilty criminals to go free because their Miranda rights had been violated. The Chief of Police of Los Angeles, W. H. Parker, observed, “I fail to see how the guilty criminal freed constitutes a personal loss to the police officer who has merely attempted to bring a criminal to justice.” However, the Court disagreed.

Miranda rights are now deeply embedded in American culture. It’s hard to imagine life without them. We’ve all heard, “You have the right to remain silent.…” Yet though it is important to preserve the rights of the accused, it is at least equally important to protect the rights of the victim.

Whether the Court’s rulings were justified or not, they had an undeniable tendency to reduce the costs of committing crime for the criminal while raising the costs of convicting those criminals for the state. When combined with the Warren Court’s assault on America’s moral foundations, they made for a poisonous cocktail.

During the 1960s, changes in American legal life left the average resident of an American city with a higher chance of being shot and killed than was an American soldier in active duty in the European theater of World War II. Meanwhile, the moral and familial fiber of the nation deteriorated. By the time the ’60s finally came to an end, America had been thoroughly weakened. So much for peace, love, and rock & roll.

Image credit: “Woodstock-kids” by Ric Manning on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0. Image cropped.

Adam De Gree
Adam De Gree

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  • Avatar
    July 8, 2024, 9:10 am

    As someone who lived in that era, I can attest to the accurate assertion that this was the most disgusting, immoral and destructive era in America.

    After Kennedy's assassination ,there was this change in America's outlook.

    Barry Goldwater(presidential candidate in 1964) warned us about what was going to happen if government was not curtailed , but between the new music introducing political idealism and negativity, combined with the civil rights act, and in general idealistic ideas,
    the country started in a spiral, that has not slowed down even today.
    For history buffs : if there was ever a period where humanity reached it's peak, it's the 1950's in the USA. That should be our goal: the return of that era.

  • Avatar
    July 8, 2024, 12:14 pm

    The ungrateful, filthy, spoiled, revolutionary Boomers were the worst nightmare this nation has ever experienced, with the possible exception of today's 21st century woke imbeciles. America was booming in the 50s with good will and prosperity, and this entitled dirtbag trash from California, NY, and other coastal cities began growing their hair, listening to bands that sang the praises of Lucifer, smoking dope, and dissing work. The one good thing this gen did was to resist the institutionalized murder foisted on them by the warmongering Democrats, who wanted to draft them to die in yet another one of their forever wars, this time in Vietnam.

    When I have to listen to my hippie dippy freak of a mother in law, speaking and behaving with that ridiculous revolutionary mindset as if she were still in her twenties while nearly age 80, I feel absolutely ecstatic that I missed being a disrupting, indulgent, self-important Boomer by a single year (proud Gen X'er here!).

    My mom bought that Womens' Lib shit in the '70s and torpedoed her marriage of 14 years, which instantly plunged our family of six into chaos and poverty. Once my dad was forced out of the Levitt-built house he'd bought with his $33k salary, the selfish woman tried to find a job, but quickly realized she'd first have to go to community college for training, having been a mother and housewife since she married. Meanwhile, we four youngsters were forced to live without Dad and now too poor for haircuts, clothes/sneakers that fit us, once a month movie nights, summer camp, even tampons! (My 14-yr-old sister was told to buy her own.)

    This Boomer spawn begot the woke jerks we see snowflaking about today. Boomers were indoctrinated by the fashionable fascists and commmies that had fled to America after the war, and in turn spread that poopy propaganda to their kids, and so on and so on. As a Gen-X parent of one, I made sure my Gen-Z kid had my full attention while growing up. This child is now late twenties, with a full-time job. He saved and bought a building, which he renovated and now rents to two others, putting an affordable and secure roof over their heads.

    When the Boomers are mostly dead, we may have a chance to right this fantastic ship we call America. But as long as members of this infantile gen still plaque us (who do you think mostly runs those NGOs, universities, and other radical woke entities?), our United States struggles mightily to regain its fruitful majesty.

    • Avatar
      July 9, 2024, 7:02 pm

      You nailed it. Thanks for seeing it for what it really was rather than through the colored pot warped lenses of your in-laws and mom. I actually cry when I see a photo of some 18ish stoned out face of a girl at Woodstock. We thought we could do this freedom and liberty thing without God. It hasn't worked out so well. Darwinian evolution was beginning to be taught as fact in the schools in the 60s and 70s and teachers were telling their students that the Bible could not longer be accepted as true. Today advances in genetics and molecular biology have totally debunked Darwinian evolution proving there is no real evidence for it but not after decades of teaching kids there was ultimately no real meaning or purpose in life. We thought we could trust the media to be truth tellers but all along they have been actively manipulating public opinion and spreading propaganda and have been doing so for decades. The internet has broken their stranglehold on information and the world is waking up to their manipulations and lies. I hope its not too late. The corrupting influence of money has run far and deep.

    • Avatar
      July 15, 2024, 12:20 am

      Their's only one problem here: the people who led the revolution the 60s were, like your 80 year old MiL, born before or during the war and are not baby boomers. The real failure was caused by the generation who had lived through the Depression and the War. They were the true leaders of the rebellion in the 60s. And those who weren't didn't help by being over-indulgent parents.

  • Avatar
    Diana Wheaton
    July 8, 2024, 4:16 pm

    It's called tossing out the baby with the bathwater.

  • Avatar
    July 9, 2024, 7:08 pm

    As a fellow Classicist and Educator, let me congratulate the author on his research and analysis.

    I was a Goldwater Conservative in high school and college in the 1960's.

    Your essay delineates some of the main problems and causes of our present-day problems, but there were many other mistakes, of course, and one needs a book to explain everything.

    Other main causes were the Great Society, Vietnam, loss of the Gold Standard, the rise of the bureaucracy, and the rise of inflation because of those events, although one can also say that inflation began with the creation of the Federal Reserve.

    The creation of the R-rated and X-rated movies, thanks again to a Supreme Court giving Freedom of Speech to things obscene, coarsened the "kulcher" very quickly. Vatican II in the Catholic Church and "reform" movements among other churches had the effect of emptying out the churches, instead of drawing people into them.

    I am about to write that book mentioned above! 😇

    Many thanks!

  • Avatar
    Theophilus Ghoststone
    July 9, 2024, 8:43 pm

    I call them the 66 sixties.
    You completely omitted the most damaging court case to America.
    The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
    That's what caused the crime and murder rates to skyrocket and the rotting of the fabric of society that continues to this day.


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