In Time — which is careful to remind its delicate readers that “the views expressed are solely his own” — Charles Murray outlines some of the material in his new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010:
What makes the new upper class new is that its members not only have power and influence but also increasingly share a common culture that separates them from the rest of the country. Fifty years ago, the people who rose to the most influential positions overwhelmingly had Hank’s kind of background, thoroughly grounded in the American mainstream. Today, people of influence are characterized by college education, often from elite colleges. The men are married not to the girl next door but to highly educated women socialized at the same elite schools who are often as professionally successful as their husbands. They were admitted to this path by a combination of high IQ and personality strengths. They are often the children — and, increasingly, grandchildren — of the upper-middle class and have never known any other kind of life.
As adults, they have distinctive tastes and preferences and seek out enclaves of others who share them. Their culture incorporates little of the lifestyle or the popular culture of the rest of the nation; in fact, members of the new upper class increasingly look down on that mainstream lifestyle and culture. Meanwhile, their children are so sheltered from the rest of the nation that they barely know what life is like outside Georgetown, Scarsdale, Kenilworth or Atherton. If this divide continues to widen, it will completely destroy what has made America’s national civic culture exceptional: a fluid, mobile society where people from different backgrounds live side by side and come together for the common good.
Much truth in Murray’s diagnosis, but I can’t say much for his prescription for a cure though, as Kathy Shaidle writes, paraphrasing Murray’s solution. “Competent, responsible rich people should move next door to incompetent, irresponsible poor people, who will then supposedly be inspired by the former’s example to pull themselves up by their own Air Jordan laces:”
Murray’s startling reverse-Beverly Hillbillies “solution” to the great divide’s “problem” is his new book’s biggest “takeaway,” and not always in a good way.
Writing in The American Conservative, Rod Dreher remarked dryly:
But why, concretely, should a particular family choose to do that? Murray, a libertarian, suggests that it would make life more interesting for them. I bet it would….
(Naturally, The New York Times’ David Brooks thinks Murray’s idea is just dandy and would be even better if it was turned into a federal government program.)
Charles Murray has forgotten more about race, class, education, and intelligence than I could ever learn, so I feel deeply sheepish issuing the same challenge to him (and to David Brooks) that I would to any semi-anonymous, upper-class, bumper-stickered do-gooder preaching “zero population growth,” state-sponsored solar-powered homes, and a ban on the internal-combustion engine:
After you, sir.
Immediately after the 2004 election, Rush Limbaugh was fond of quoting this exchange between David Westin, then the president of ABC News (the initial reporting on 9/11 certainly proved a challenge to Westin, you may recall), and Tina Brown, now the editor of the Daily Beastweek, then the host of a long-since-canceled CNBC show.
RUSH: So, anyway, she’s got David Westin on the program, and she says, “David, would you have a reporter/producer live in any of these communities?” She’s talking about the red states of America here, folks. “Would you have a reporter/producer live in any of these communities and saturate themselves in these cultures so that they get more stories from those communities?”
WESTIN: I think we don’t do that enough, and I’m not just talking religious communities. I’m talking all sorts of communities across the country. I think that… You understand this, Tina, living in New York or in Los Angeles, we have busy jobs. We go into the office every day. We tend to socialize with the same people, or the same types of people, and I think it’s terribly important for journalists to get out whether it’s overseas or domestically and try to understand.
RUSH: We need more foreign correspondents in Alabama! We need more foreign correspondents north of Palm Beach County in Florida! We need embeds to go to church, find out what’s going on with these holy rollers! Ah, folks, you can’t know how much I love this.
Instead of dispatching foreign correspondents to red state Alabama, what Murray is calling for is wealthy coastal elites to “Occupy” less fortunate neighborhoods mostly in their own blue states. Living in Silicon Valley, adjacent to Palo Alto, Marin, and the aforementioned Atherton, I can’t see that happening, well, ever. Can you?
Update: “Mitt did it all wrong” Don Surber writes, in a very much related post:
No matter who you support this year, you have to admit Mitt Romney went about becoming president the wrong way. Instead of wasting his time learning how business works and building a multi-billion-dollar company that really did save or create hundreds of thousands of jobs, Mitt should have lived off his daddy’s fortune like Jack Kennedy. Chasing skirts and molesting teenage virgin is a lot more fun than figuring out how to revive an old business.
Instead, Mitt Romney gave his inheritance to charity. Who does that anymore?
The press loves the kids of privilege — Bobby Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and the rest of the trust fund babies — but only if they support huge government programs that transfer wealth from workers to non-workers. Remember, the press says liberals win despite their wealth while the press says conservatives win because of their wealth. The press never inquires into the manipulation of the tax code that allows wealth to transfer on to the fifth generation of a 19th century robber baron or 20th century bootlegger.
As the Professor writes, read the whole thing.™