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Saturday, 8 December 2012

Reflections on “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray

I mentioned this great observer of American society in an earlier post. Read him and listen to him on YouTube.

His message is somewhat bleak. Over the past couple of generations the top and bottom strata in the US (he focuses on “white America”) have been diverging. Fifty years ago the majority of white Americans in whichever stratum went regularly to church, the vast majority worked and most over the age 25 were married.

[In an earlier book, in which Murray gave us the term “underclass”, he observed that to stay out of the underclass an American had to do three things:
1.      Finish High School.
2.      Stay in first job for a year.
3.      Get married.]

In the 21st Century the overwhelming majority of white Americans in the top economic stratum still do these things. In the bottom stratum they don’t.

The top stratum understands well that to achieve happiness, what Arthur Brooks calls “earned success”, three things are important: Faith, Family and Work.

My first reflection is that there is a huge gulf between the USA and Europe. The better off (and better educated) in America are likely to be believers, whereas, our “educated” classes aren’t. Alexis de Tocqueville has a lot to say about American religiosity and what it has contributed to American success.

The second is that there is a strong prima facie case for behaving like an upper-class American, in ways that do not require you to have money.

But upper-class Americans don’t preach what they practice: many, including a majority of Jews (big on Faith, Family and Work) vote for Democrat (and Republican) entitlement policies which have been demonstrated to blight the lives of Americans below them in the socio-political order.

One of my grandfather’s brothers bought 1000 bricks, some sand and a couple of bags of cement, not because he needed a garage but because he wanted to teach himself to lay bricks. Having done so, he went to America and did well. Went without beer, took a risk and lived the dream.

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