It’s not the economy, stupid, says former drug czar William Bennett. It’s values.

William J. Bennett is not the only prominent Republican to set his sights on the White House. But while he has admitted to “thinking about” a presidential bid in 1996, Bennett insists his main concern is working to revamp a society that has lost its hold on cultural and moral values.

In that arena, Bennett finds plenty to keep him busy. With conservative stalwarts Jack Kemp and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Bennett codirects Empower America, an organization dedicated to promoting conservative principles. He is also a Distinguished Fellow of Cultural Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., and a senior editor of National Review.

Bennett’s stints as education secretary and director of drug control policy under the Reagan and Bush administrations no doubt fueled his passion for a national recovery of moral values. In his latest book, The De-Valuing of America: The Fight for Our Culture and Our Children, Bennett further argues his case.

Bennett recently made headlines for spearheading a project he sees as even more significant: The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators. This booklet, says Bennett, provides “a statistical portrait … of the moral, social and behavioral conditions of modern American society.” The 19 cultural indicators show trends in such areas as crime, poverty, drug use, illegitimate births, and even average daily television viewing. The Index shows, says Bennett, that we are suffering from “cultural breakdown.”

A lifelong Catholic, Bennett here discusses what he learned from working on the Index, and what he believes Americans must do to reverse our cultural decline.

What prompted you to put together the Index?

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