Those of us of a certain age have strolled the green long enough to recognize that the country has changed in fundamental ways from the one that we were born into, and that not all of those changes have been beneficent. Things that would have shocked the conscience of nearly all Americans fifty years ago are now commonplace. Shared assumptions about what it meant to be a part of the American way of life no longer obtain. We have gone from the congenial myth of “E pluribus unum” to a state of acknowledged and de facto cultural Balkanization, one that divides us into semi-permanent economic classes in a way that threatens the social mobility which used to separate us from the lands we’d fled. In doing so we have created politically reliable victim classes whose only hope at economic betterment is plundering their distant and unknown neighbors.
In the WSJ, Charles Murray creates two fictional American villages using actual demographic information from the 1960s to the present day, and comes to some conclusions about our increasing trend towards the cultural isolation of our wealthiest class from their working class brethren that tend to be more sobering than they are shocking:
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…
Once the deterioration was under way, a self-reinforcing loop took hold as traditionally powerful social norms broke down. Because the process has become self-reinforcing, repealing the reforms of the 1960s (something that’s not going to happen) would change the trends slowly at best.
Meanwhile, the formation of the new upper class has been driven by forces that are nobody’s fault and resist manipulation. The economic value of brains in the marketplace will continue to increase no matter what, and the most successful of each generation will tend to marry each other no matter what. As a result, the most successful Americans will continue to trend toward consolidation and isolation as a class. Changes in marginal tax rates on the wealthy won’t make a difference. Increasing scholarships for working-class children won’t make a difference.
He has some prescriptions that are equally unlikely to happen as unraveling well-meant but disastrously effected social policies: The super-elites in the upper class ought to reject their tacit custom of “non-judgmentalism” on the social mores of the working class – shaming, in other words – and sell down from their expensive cloisters to go and live among the unwashed.
You first, Charles.