Ed Driscoll

At the Corner of Cultural Disintegration and De-Industrialization

Charles Murray’s recent book Coming Apart is reviewed by William Tucker in the American Spectator, in an article titled, “The Coming Cultural Disintegration:”

But as much as Murray would like to hold the elite responsible for what is happening in blue-collar America, he can never explain exactly why. His best indictment is “an unwillingness on the part of any significant portion of the new upper class to preach what they practice.” That is certainly true. No one who has been through the American educational system can feel comfortable telling high school graduates that they should work hard, get married, and practice the virtues of thrift and honesty—even though they adhere to those values themselves.

Where I think Murray might discover some leverage is in looking at the adopted religion of the educated class—environmentalism. Nothing expressed more completely the credo of the New Elite than the conviction that our very existence offends Mother Nature, that we are ruining the earth by using fossil fuels, and that Industrial America is something we should all be willing to leave behind. Where do people without a college education fit into this society? Competition from China and India has played a part in hollowing out America, but an equally important factor has been the near impossibility of building any kind of industrial facility in the United States anymore. No one has built an oil refinery in this country for thirty years. As late as 1980 there were two auto manufacturing plants within 25 miles of New York City, in Tarrytown, New York, and Mahwah, New Jersey. Today you’d have trouble opening a dry cleaning store inside that perimeter. Environmental regulations have made it a seven-to-ten-year ordeal to build any manufacturing plant in the U.S., and the burden of proof is always on the provider. Just look at the Keystone pipeline.

Tucker’s conclusion dovetails absolutely perfectly with the lede of a post that appeared on Tuesday at the otherwise much more PC auto-blog, The Truth About Cars, titled, “Saddled With Social Costs, French Car Makers Bid Adieu To Domestic Manufacturing:”

A Financial Times report on the “de-industrialization” of France (sub. required), and the erosion of the country’s manufacturing base took a trip to a Peugeot factory, where the new 208 is leaving the lines and gearing up for a big launch. Peugeot has been suffering financially in recent years, amid a backdrop of a declining manufacturing industry, some employees are blaming the heavy burdens of France’s welfare state.

One employee alluded to the Financial Times that the additional costs of doing business in France related to social programs and benefits were making it difficult to maintain a competitive industry in the country.

For over a century, socialized Europe has been the model for “progressive” Democrats in the US, who believed that its future was America’s as well.It took a while, but at last, reality has caught up with that vision. Europe’s present — plunging birth rates, aging populations, spiraling welfare and pension costs hollowed-out manufacturing and energy production, and failed nationalized healthcare programs appears to be America’s as well, particularly if the Carter-esque current administration wins a second term in office.

All of which have been repeated themes of Walter Russell Mead’s blog over the past couple of years or so. His latest essay? “As Blue Dies, What Happens To the Jobs? Part One.”