May 16, 2017

WELL, OUR RULING CLASS HAS BEEN DELIBERATELY PULLING OUT THREADS FOR 50 YEARS: The Social Fabric Frays. The Patches Aren’t Obvious.

“In Washington,” says Utah senator Mike Lee, “we measure GDP, we measure government outlays and revenues — all kind of things that are quantifiable and monitored like vital signs, blood pressure and heart rate. But we don’t always take the time to measure other things that are just as important to our life as a country.” One of those things is the state of America’s “associational life,” which is the topic of a new report from the senator’s staff on the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.

The report sets the scene by invoking the titles of some high-profile books by Robert Putnam, Charles Murray and Yuval Levin: “There is a sense that our social fabric has seen better days. Leading thinkers have issued warnings that we are increasingly ‘bowling alone,’ ‘coming apart,’ and inhabiting a ‘fractured republic.’ At the heart of those warnings is a view that what happens in the middle layers of our society is vital to sustaining a free, prosperous, democratic, and pluralistic country.”

What Lee is concerned about documenting is that this middle layer is thinning. Fewer Americans are getting married or living in families. We are going to religious services less often, and are less likely to consider ourselves members of a religious organization. We’re spending less time socializing with neighbors and co-workers, too. Voting rates have declined, and we’ve grown less likely to pay attention to news about government. We trust one another less: The percentage of Americans who thought most people could be trusted fell to 31 percent in 2016 from 46 percent in 1972, the report says, citing the General Social Survey.

When you make war on bourgeois sentiments and behavior for half a century — and that’s what’s been going on, both openly and otherwise — you shouldn’t be surprised to find less of both.