Saturday, January 21, 2012

THE NAGGY STATE.  Shorter Charles Murray: Richer Americans can best help poorer Americans by lecturing them.

No, really:
The best thing that the new upper class can do to provide that reinforcement is to drop its condescending "nonjudgmentalism." Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.
Well, Murray's doing his part! The rest of you better man up in the nagging department.

This is his solution to income inequality -- which even Murray acknowledges exists between the "upper-middle class" and the "working class" (where are the lower- and middle-middle classes in this, I wonder?). You non-W.H. Brady Scholars may think it has something to do with inequality of opportunity. You're way off, Murray says; these days lower-class men choose to work less, out of perversity or something (oh, I forgot -- the Sixties™, they ruined everything).
It's not that white working class males can no longer make a "family wage" that enables them to marry. The average male employed in a working-class occupation earned as much in 2010 as he did in 1960.
It's not like prices haven't gone up since 1960, making "earned as much" a joke.
It's not that a bad job market led discouraged men to drop out of the labor force. Labor-force dropout increased just as fast during the boom years of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as it did during bad years.
Booms don't boom equally for everyone. Murray notices that upper-middle-class workers have seen their incomes rise at a higher rate than the lower-class workers', but it doesn't occur to him that their employers had to pay them that much to get them to work -- else the workers couldn't afford the middle-class stuff that made those jobs worth having. (Though their employers seem to have caught on that they too can make do with less.)

As for the lower-than-upper-middle-class workers, why would anyone boost their incomes? Those poor guys were stuck. "Working-class occupations" became increasingly less than they had been; "boom times" or no, jobs for less-educated Americans offering sustenance-or-better wages have been draining away for decades, largely replaced by gigs that a family can't live on. Try making a living in retail these days.

Every normal person sees this just walking around. But guys like Murray never notice. To them, lack of opportunity is something The Poors can shake off by taking Soulcraft lessons from their betters. Yet inexplicably they haven't done so, despite ever so many helpful editorials.

So Murray wishes to authorize a flying squad of upper-middle-class people to abandon their fancy beers and cable TV shows and go out among the less fortunate and tell them what bums they are. I would propose we call them the Gladstone Gangs, after the British PM who used to pull this act with prostitutes -- except that would be unfair, as Gladstone sometimes tried to intervene on behalf of working people with something other than yak. So let's just add that to Murray's general legacy, and leave it to the judgment of future generations, if we have any.

UPDATE. That crazy fucker Bryan Caplan has read a whole book of that Murray stuff, and he's excited:
I'm not kidding. If Murray is right, traditionalists need to forget populism. Their "cultural differences" with the elite are largely cosmetic. Elites are the answer to traditionalists' prayers. They work hard, avoid trouble, get married, and give their kids a good home. The sooner everyone realizes this, the better.
Newt Swingrich is a man of ideas. Maybe we can get him to spread this gospel. Then it's sure to catch fire, perhaps literally.

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