Charles Murray of Bell Curve fame explains that if there is increasing inequality in the U.S., it’s the lower classes’ fault. Why? Because they aren’t getting married enough.

When Americans used to brag about “the American way of life”—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity.

I thought the American dream ca. 1960 was owning one’s own home and seeing the U.S.A. in our Chevrolet.

Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America’s core cultural institutions.

He then goes on to explain how two hypothetical neighborhoods of white people fall along the cultural divide based on rates of marriage, out-of-wedlock births, church attendance, crime, etc., and argues that these “lifestyle” changes lead a lack of “industriousness” and thereby to income inequality.

I think just about any social psychologist would argue that the real data show that economic instability is the cause of social instability, not the other way around. In other words, people aren’t poor — financially insecure — because they don’t get married; they don’t get married because they are poor. A man who doubts his ability to support a family is less likely to pursue marriage, for example.

Daniel Larison at the American Conservative points out that Murray’s arguments have no internal logic, never mind any connection to the real world.

I suppose the degree of racism one sees in Murray’s essay depends on how you read it. He says he is comparing populations of white people to argue that race isn’t a factor. Well, he could have just said, “race isn’t a factor.” He could have made his hypothetical population plaid, I suppose. But really, IMO what he’s saying here is that lower-class whites are getting to be just as lazy and shiftless as the Colored Folk.

In other class warfare news. William Tucker of the American Spectator dismisses “environmentalism” as an indulgent affectation of the leisure class. “Only in the highest echelons do we hear people say, ‘We don’t need to build any pipelines. We’ve already got enough energy. We can all sit around awaiting the day we live off wind and sunshine,'” he says. Real Americans, of course, want to drill, baby, drill.

I don’t know anybody who says that, of course; what some of us say is that we ought to be working our butts off developing alternate and sustainable energy sources instead of ripping our planet apart squeezing the last drop of fossil fuel out of it. This is less about the “leisure class” versus the “working class” than it is about “vested interests” versus “people who would like to believe there will be a habitable planet for our grandchildren to live on.”

19 thoughts on “Un-Freakin’-Believable

  1. I would love to write a pointed response to this, but as usual, this sort of thing just makes me so —– mad that I cannot put more than a couple of words together. Fortunately, Tucker and Murray are pretty much preaching to their choir. Sadly, many people already actually think these things.

  2. Wow. Severe reality-impairment.

    ““environmentalism” as an indulgent affectation of the leisure class. ”

    Seems to me, if there’s a toxic dump to site, it doesn’t get put in MacMansion-land; it goes where the lower classes live and breath. EVERYBODY deserves a healthful environment and a sustainable planet. NO– we DON’T need no STEENKING shale oil pipe–when we have barely BEGUN our national transformation to solar and wind. There are, without doubt, as many potential jobs to had building solar farms as dirty oil pipes over key aquifers. And what about all those job-creating high-speed rail projects that were obstructed for the SOLE reason that GOP state legislators wanted to keep our economy tamped down through til the November elections?

  3. Perhaps, it’s because of income inequality?
    White, black, yellow, brown, red, or whatever…

    For lack of a nail job, the woman sat at home.
    For the lack of going out, the opportunity to meet someone was lost.
    And for that lack of opportunity, a meeting was lost.
    And for the lack of a meeting, a date was lost.
    And for the lack of a date, further dates were lost.
    And for the lack of further and further dates, a fiancee was lost.
    And for the lack of a fiancee, an engagement was lost.
    And for the lack of an engagement, an engagement party was lost.
    And for lack of an engagement and a party, a marriage was lost.
    And for lack of a marriage, the marriage ceremony was lost.
    And for lack of the ceremony, there were no children, so they, too, were lost.
    And for the lack of marriage and children, a Kingdom was lost.

    And that’s why we can’t afford SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social safety net programs.

    Maybe the real message is, no matter what your economic circumstances you F’IN Beyotches, make sure you get your F’IN nails done!

    Or else, there, but for the grace of a simple nail-job, goes a Kingdom!!!

    I swear, I’d do better at drinking myself to death, if only I didn’t throw up from either laughter or disgust at our Conservative neighbors.

  4. I’ve been hearing Tucker’s line (“environmentalism is an elite affectation”) for a long time. It’s an incredibly old and outdated argument. Two points:

    It’s irrelevant who is saying this or that position about the environment; what’s important is who is right? Short term drill-baby-drill thinking – regardless of who’s saying it – has no future, and delays the inevitable time when we must transition to cleaner technologies.

    Poor people living in urban settings like Los Angeles don’t want to live next to polluting factories + businesses, freeways etc, because they know this adversely affects the health of their kids. And these areas are lower priced, and attract poor people precisely because they’re undesirable due to their proximity to polluting activities. Some of our best environmental advocates in LA are state representatives who come from these areas.

    Tucker’s words are just more tired, out of date, conservative pablum.

    • It’s an incredibly old and outdated argument.

      But it’s about the only argument they can make. And it’s worked well enough to maintain political support for the Koch Brothers.

  5. If you want a society with near-universal Leave it to Beaver middle-class values, you need a society with widespread middle-class economic opportunities, like stable, decent-paying jobs with advancement potential.

    People pursue thrift, diligence, education, long-term planning, etc. when there is a reasonable expectation that these sacrifices will pay off for them in the future. For too much of America today, working hard in the absence of inside connections and inherited privilege just makes you a chump, makes you easier to exploit.

    How very Republican that after ripping up the economic foundation of middle-class life, they then condemn the survivors “morality” for not continuing to sacrifice as if nothing has happened.

  6. More cowbell, eh?

    The reality is that the very policies that the progressives, Occupiers, and liberals push is increasing the inequality in our nation. The article clearly points out that the division got worse after 1960- which was the time period of Great Society and Democrat control of Congress (until 1994).

    We need less cowbell and a return to the nation that Tocqueville wrote about- limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and popular sovereignty. Let’s go back to our founding principles and restore the equality that used to exist in our great America Republic.

    • ACT — I do hope you are not teaching history. The era of American history with the least income inequality was from the 1940s into the early 1970s. It’s called the “great compression,” and it was largely made possible by New Deal reforms and progressive post World War II such as the GI bill and housing subsidies to returning veterans. Strong labor unions, progressive taxation, and Keyensian economic policies helped. Income inequality began rising in the 1970s and accelerated when Ronald Reagan became president. The increase in inequality slowed somewhat during the Clinton years but came back with a vengeance under George W. Bush.

      In other words, our current economic inequality is all directly the result of Reaganomics and conservative economic theories.

      When I read crap such as your comment, I do despair for the human species. We are supposed to be the intelligent creature. But there you are, obviously bright enough to learn a language, but not bright enough to think or do anything but regurgitate the propaganda that’s been dumped into your empty head. You are what’s wrong with America. Good bye.

  7. @Conservative Teacher: “The equality that used to exist in our great America (sp) Republic” is a figment of your nostalgic notions. Read some Howard Zinn. I think I may be responding to a troll, so I will stop here.

  8. A Conservative Teacher, apparently can’t be taught.

    maha, maybe you can let him back if he changes his name to Talking Point Code Talker?

  9. ACT: your list of principles seems to come strait out of a gov’t textbook, with a little research I could probably tell you which one you’re using. Not sure how getting back to popular sovereignty, checks and balances and separation of powers is going to, what, magically motivate people to be industrious and work for themselves?? Do we really want to get back to a time of elitism in this country because that’s who wrote the Constitution. The common man didn’t have any say in who was going to govern them at that point, not to even mention the slaves. The big switch that has occurred over the past 50 years has been the switch of the sense of patriotism by the wealthy. They don’t have a stake in this country, and believe that it is just here to be exploited. They will make money any way they can, and then hide their profits in some off shore account. They see nothing wrong with closing down a factory here in this country, and opening it in China so that they can make even more obscene profits. I look at that and say, “That’s un-American”. They then buy the politicians to continue the policies that allow them to do that; and with that it is absolutely both ways. Dems do that too. The Repugs are just more blatant in their support of the wealthy, and they then use propaganda to get people to vote for them even though it will hurt them to do so.

  10. The poor didn’t withdraw from America’s core institutions; America’s core institutions withdrew from the poor.

  11. We need less cowbell and a return to the nation that Tocqueville wrote about- limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and popular sovereignty. Let’s go back to our founding principles and restore the equality that used to exist in our great America Republic.

    Others have responded more directly to this, but the amount of fantasizing going on here, and willful disregard of the facts and the historical record boggles my mind. And yet I’ve heard other blind-to-reality conservatives voice the same utopian vision.

    These people get married to a fantasy and almost nothing, least of all facts or data, can shake them of it.

  12. More cowbell, eh?

    It’s only clever to use catchphrases when they actually have a referential meaning, Incompetent Teacher. Same general rule applies to words and punctuation marks.

    Grade: F.

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  14. I’ve read Howard Zinn. I find his work to be less convincing than Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People. In either case, I defer to the writings of Tocqueville, who did write about the equality of the American people. He described an America that was very equal, yet utterly lacking in the liberal policies which liberals support. You can post your critiques of him and call him a liar if you want?

    And I disagree with the Keynesian argument that FDR pulled us out of the Great Depression with his spending and taxing policies. I once thought like you did, then read Hayek and found his arguments more compelling and based on sounder economic principles. I even wrote about it in a blog post:

    I do enjoy the personal attacks though- I given to understand that those pass as ‘high wit’ with liberals and require a lot of thought to produce.

    • I defer to the writings of Tocqueville, who did write about the equality of the American people. He described an America that was very equal,

      Well, it was equal if you overlooked the institution of slavery. Oh, and women couldn’t vote and were barred from most professions. And also note that De la démocratie en Amérique was first published in 1935, which was after the passage of the Indian Removal Act. The Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, and Seminole) were forcibly evicted from their lands beginning in 1831, an episode that came to be called the Trail of Tears. You may have heard of it.

      In the southern states in those days, most white people were illiterate dirt farmers (“yeoman farmers” to sociologists) who could barely feed themselves and had little hope of upward mobility. The industrial revolution was beginning in the north, and soon large numbers of people, including children, would be working 12-hour days in abominable conditions in factories, for less than subsistence wages.

      In truth, there was much less equality in the U.S. in Tocqueville’s day than there is now. However, it was about the most equal place on the planet at the time; Toqueville saw in the U.S. what he hoped would be the future of Europe, with the old aristocracy disappearing. And the fact that you can’t read Tocqueville in any kind of historical context tells me you have the critical thinking skills of bread mold.

      We’re all already familiar with Hayek, I assure you. My question is, why do you persist in trying to comment here? Do you honestly think you’re going to change anyone’s mind? You never say anything original or even intelligent.

  15. Congratulations, ACT.
    They gave you the Kool Aid, you drank it, and you came back begging for more.

    I hope that you, if are indeed a teacher, do not propagandize your students, but instead let them know there’s another side, other than your own. Kid’s are susceptible to Kool Aid.

    What you advocate is what’s been tried for the last few decades, and especially over the last one. It has been the road to ruin and perdition. If you consider that victory, then I congratulate you. But it’s a Pyrrhic one.

    Oh, and since you don’t seem to mind:
    Listen f’in twit, did it ever occur to you that the country Tocqueville was describing in the 1830’s, he was describing in comparison to Europe, with it’s royalty and aristocracy?
    America at that time was not some Utopia, with its slaves, subjugated women, and debtors prisons. It just seemed more egalitarian and equal when compared to the European nations he was more familiar with.

    I’m sure if he could have come back in the 1960’s, he would have seen a far more equal country than the one he came to – considering race, gender, and economic equality.
    And if he could return today, a little over 40 years later, he would have asked, “What happened? You’re doing better in the first two areas, but what made you decide to go back economically to the time I was here, and the later Gilded Era?”

    And what happened is you, and people like you, who bow to authority, and kiss their asses for your scraps.
    I don’t care if that’s what you like. But I object that suckers and imbeciles like you have allowed the rest of us to be dragged down with you.

    You are an ignorant and uncaring fool – a rube.
    But you keep right on playing. Maybe they’ll let you find that ace often enough to make it worth your while. After all, grifters need fools – and sometimes you need to reward the fools, to make them tell others it’s a fair game.


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