Monday, February 6, 2012

Charles Murray in the WSJ

Charles Murray is in the news again because of his new book, Coming Apart.   This article gives a taste of the book I'm guessing.  A couple interesting quotes are below.

In explaining the growing gap between what he calls the new upper class and the new lower class Murray writes,  
As I've argued in much of my previous work, I think that the reforms of the 1960s jump-started the deterioration. Changes in social policy during the 1960s made it economically more feasible to have a child without having a husband if you were a woman or to get along without a job if you were a man; safer to commit crimes without suffering consequences; and easier to let the government deal with problems in your community that you and your neighbors formerly had to take care of.  
In talking about religious affiliation and its decline among the new lower class (i.e. Fishtown in this article) he says,
Whatever your personal religious views, you need to realize that about half of American philanthropy, volunteering and associational memberships is directly church-related, and that religious Americans also account for much more nonreligious social capital than their secular neighbors. In that context, it is worrisome for the culture that the U.S. as a whole has become markedly more secular since 1960, and especially worrisome that Fishtown has become much more secular than Belmont. It runs against the prevailing narrative of secular elites versus a working class still clinging to religion, but the evidence from the General Social Survey, the most widely used database on American attitudes and values, does not leave much room for argument.
His discussion of a remedy to the growing gap between the classes is directed toward the upper classes: 
Life sequestered from anybody not like yourself tends to be self-limiting. Places to live in which the people around you have no problems that need cooperative solutions tend to be sterile. America outside the enclaves of the new upper class is still a wonderful place, filled with smart, interesting, entertaining people. If you're not part of that America, you've stripped yourself of much of what makes being American special.

Such priorities can be expressed in any number of familiar decisions: the neighborhood where you buy your next home, the next school that you choose for your children, what you tell them about the value and virtues of physical labor and military service, whether you become an active member of a religious congregation (and what kind you choose) and whether you become involved in the life of your community at a more meaningful level than charity events. 
In conclusion Mr. Murray kind of plays devil's advocate to his own proposal and says,  "We're supposed to trust that large numbers of parents will spontaneously, voluntarily make the right choice for the country by making the right choice for themselves and their children?"  His answer to this is yes. 

Maybe that's his Libertarian side coming through--you don't need a lot of directives, plans and legislation; just leave people alone and good people will do the right thing.  The problem is that they don't, that the road to hell is often paved with the good intentions of good people and, anyway, there are plenty of bad people out there promoting bad things that destroy the efforts of the good people. 

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