Coming apart

Posted: 6 February 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

We all knew this one was coming.

We all knew that, as issues of inequality and class became increasingly apparent, some right-wing thinker would come along and write a book declaring that the problem was really one of cultural differences. And then one or another right-wing columnist would jump on the bandwagon and announce to the world how important the book was.

And so Charles Murray published Coming Apart. And David Brooks declared it to be the most important book of the year.

What do we get from these two? Basically that the elite continue to hold to “America’s four ‘founding virtues’—marriage, industriousness, community and faith”—and that, among everyone else, those virtues have all but collapsed. Even more, they blame the 1960s, and by extension the Left, for challenging the values they hold so dear, thus leading to the economic and social ruin of the vast majority of the population.

On one thing they’re right: we are coming apart as a society. But the blame lies with the members of the elite, who are the ones that have destroyed marriage, industriousness, community, and faith.

Marriage for them is not an expression of love but a way of keeping the wealth they have all in the family. And the only reason they’re concerned about marriage for everyone else is so that future workers can be raised to continue to produce the wealth the elite has come to rely on.

As for industriousness, they’ve proven the only hard work that matters is to find ways to generate even higher incomes, especially in banking and financial derivatives, and to shelter those incomes from taxation. But they don’t need to do any of the work themselves; all they need to do is hire bankers, lawyers, and accountants (and share with them a cut of the incomes they’ve made).

Their communities are only for other members of the elite, who live in the same neighborhoods and buildings, send their kids to the same schools, belong to the same clubs, own second (and third and fourth) homes in the same areas, and most importantly work in and own pieces of the same corporations. Their notion of community is for the select few, not to share with others.

And, finally, they’ve shown their only faith is in the almighty dollar, with which they buy and sell everything available in the world.

Yes, indeed, we’re coming apart as a society but not because working people don’t share the elite’s cherished values. They’re the ones who have taken all they say they hold holy and made it profane—which means (as the hoary German philosopher once wrote) that the rest of us now have to face with sober senses the real conditions of our lives, and our relations with our kind.

Comments
  1. […] exact same story has now been transferred to the white working-class. Anyone who’s read Charles Murray and J. D. Vance will recognize the “the pejorative Moynihan report on the black family in […]

  2. […] exact same story has now been transferred to the white working-class. Anyone who’s read Charles Murray and J. D. Vance will recognize the “the pejorative Moynihan report on the black family in […]

  3. […] Original sin? | Real-World Economics Review Blog on Coming apart […]

  4. […] And the serial killer? Case and Deaton have a much more difficult time working in this area. That’s because they follow the headlines and emphasize the differences in the long-term trend rates and lose sight of the larger picture. So, they discount the role played by income inequality and, instead, endorse Charles Murray’s story about the decline in traditional American virtues among working-class whites (which I wrote about back in 2012). […]

  5. […] decline of the white working-class was, of course, the overriding theme of Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, which would have sunk into much-deserved obscurity had it not been for conservative commentators […]

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