Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss


Charles Murray argues that controlling the data for just for whites in America, a gap has opened up between working-class ‘Fishtown’ and professional-class ‘Belmont.’ Fishtowners have increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, more isolation from churches, civic organizations and the kinds of voluntary associations that Murray suggests can make a life more fulfilling, regardless of income beyond certain basic needs. Fishtowners have higher incidences of drug and alcohol use and intermittent work.

Belmonters, on the other hand, are mostly college-educated and beyond, still tend to court, marry, engage in family planning and tend to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Folks in Belmont are still living more moderate personal lives and working to stay ahead in the changing economy through academia, the professions, government, tech, business and global business.

Being a social scientist with a more limited government/small ‘c’ conservative/libertarian worldview, Murray likely sees a smaller role for government and limited ways in which some people acting through government can actually solve problems in other people’s lives. As a contrarian social scientist in a small minority, then, he disagrees with many basic assumptions often found amongst a majority of social scientists.

Murray thus advocates for people in ‘Belmont’ to increasingly preach what they practice, to look outside the bubble of their daily lives and wealthier enclaves, and perhaps reconstitute the kinds of family and civic associations, moral virtues and opportunities for independence and success he’d like to see more broadly.

What this would look like in practice, exactly, is unclear.


Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Murray about what much of what the data highlights: Working-class whites are behaving more like working-class non-whites, and college-educated non-whites are behaving more like college-educated whites.

Putnam also focuses more on economic factors, the decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of working-class jobs that has without question affected large parts of America and small-town life. Globalization has opened American firms to global competition, global capital markets and mobile labor. Whatever your thoughts on race, Putnam creates some daylight between the data and strictly race based interpretations (often aligned with ideology, especially in academia nowadays) and focuses more on ‘class’ in a way slightly differently than does Murray.

An interesting discussion, in which the empirics of social science can highlight important differences in political philosophy and try and transcend the inevitable political and ideological battles of the day.

Also On This Site: Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

Race and IQ: Malcolm Gladwell On The Flynn Effect

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working. Check out his series at The American Interest. Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs. Even so, we can’t cling to the past. This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly.

The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’


Likely worth your time.

Thanks to Malcolm Greenhill for pointing this out.   In response to Megan McArdle’s post “America’s New Mandarins,” it might be worth revisiting Charles Murray’s Coming Apart.

Murray argues that since 1963, America’s civic culture, one that prized marriage, one that was more religious and more influenced by organized religion, and one that created a network of civic associations, clubs and shared expectations and obligations has sharply declined (Murray does not advocate a return to 1963).

He tells a tale of two cities: Belmont & Fishtown.  Belmonters are upper-middle class folks, and however much they followed the 60’s zeitgeist (however radical or not radical they were), they could afford to bounce back.  They’ve since come to run many of our institutions and are doing ok for themselves in the professions albeit with less religion in their lives (NPR’s mainstreaming of institutionalized feminism, environmentalism, moral relativism etc. might be a good example).  The upper 20%, and a professional class of lawyers, doctors, professors has held together pretty well.

Fishtowners, on the other hand, haven’t rebounded according to Murray. Working-class whites in Fishtown now have marriage rates of 48% (to 84% in Belmont).  They have much higher out-of-wedlock births, and 1 out of 8 males are not even looking for work alongside only 1 out of 8 people going to church regularly.  Religion has declined in both areas, but much more so in Fishtown.  The social fabric that once held these two groups together, and formed the core of pre-1960’s society, has weakened considerably.

In lieu of Murray’s lost civic culture, the clubs and associations that once bound us together, perhaps we could think of McArdle’s mandarins and meritocrats having been born of the newer, more self-selecting, Belmont. Perhaps some there are more open to government uniting us, or open to more European-style governance.

***Murray also addresses the rise of technology and technological dislocation (brains, STEM training, the rise of the quants) as well.  There are many other moving parts here.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

The point of this post:  The mandarins are us!  Egads!

Related On This Site:   Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People…Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…

The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Don’t get Borked, at least if you’re openly religious and aiming for higher office:  Bork had his own view of the 1960′s: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  He has a big vision with some holes in it, but it’s one that embraces change boldly.

Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’

Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest-‘The Two Europes’

Full post here.

Fukuyama writes:

‘There has been plenty of talk about two Europes, which evolved from being a story about the peripheral PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) to being one about the EU’s north and south, because it was clear that Italy and potentially France also faced large debt and bank problems. This is often portrayed as a contrast between a hard-working, Protestant, disciplined northern Europe (Germany, Holland, and Scandinavia) against a lazy, profligate Catholic-Orthodox south. But the real division is not a cultural one; it is between a clientelistic and non-clientelistic Europe.

Clientelism occurs when political parties use public resources, and particularly government offices, as a means of rewarding political supporters. Politicians provide not programmatic public policies, but individual benefits like a job in the post office, an intervention on behalf of a relative in trouble with the government, or sometimes an outright payment of money or goods.

In my view, clientelism should be distinguished from corruption proper because of the relationship of reciprocity that exists between politicians and voters’

On this view, there are progressive stages to achieving modern democracy and Greece is just stuck in one of the lower, less advanced stages, where clientelism (not always open corruption) is but a symptom:

‘Clientelism is not the product of a cultural proclivity or a failure of politicians to understand how a modern democratic political system is supposed to operate. Rather, it is often the most efficient way to mobilize relatively poor and uneducated voters and get them into the polling place.’

For Fukuyama, The PIGS and Italy simply haven’t gotten where they’re going yet:  to the ideal of the modern democratic state.  They hang suspended in various stages of progress: their old traditional Catholic and Orthodox cultural mores and traditions, family structures and loyalties welded to economic policies and political models of post-Enlightenment progress in various stages of completion/decay.

In fact:

‘Germany, Scandinavia, Britain, and the Netherlands have never been dominated by clientelistic parties, while Italy, Greece, Spain, and Austria have been. As Martin Shefter pointed out in his 1993 book Political Parties and the State, the reason for this difference had to do with the relative timing of the consolidation of a modern Weberian bureaucratic state and the onset of democracy.’

So, in order to get where they ought to go, the PIGS need to focus on a next stage which would presumably require a more moral political and bureaucratic class of people to develop and thus better administer public policy, overcoming the clientelism and corruption.  Incidentally, this may not involve the Eurozone, which as Fukuyama notes may have always been a bit of fantasy.

In fact, he extends his thinking to the U.S., too:

“In the United States, clientelism was overcome eventually as a result of economic modernization. Industrialization of the country in the late 19th century produced new social groups like businessmen, professionals, and urban reformers who united in a Progressive Movement to push for civil service reform and merit-based bureaucracy.”

Eventually, businessmen and reformers will rise from the dislocations of the industrial revolution and begin to focus on Statecraft and administration, securing the blessings of liberty and true riches of the Enlightenment.  Apparently we too in the U.S. can aspire to have the next stage of modern democracy and progress.

***This blog remains skeptical of progressive visions for democracy and government and generally skeptical of Fukuyama’s current project of public administration at Stanford.  Corruption and clientelism are problems to be battled and overcome, but on Fukuyama’s thinking this is to be done within a conception of the modern State which is positively Hegelian, and not may be fiscally nor morally sustainable especially in a country as large and diverse as the U.S.    In the long run it’s not clear that a perpetually perfectible public sector necessarily leads to less corruption or clientelism either.

Addition:  Fukuyama hasn’t really convinced me that the 2 Europes arguments shouldn’t carry more weight in explaining the differences between the corruption of Berlusconi and Italian politics, and say, Merkel’s current coalition.  His analysis seems useful and profound, but the case he makes involves a much more Statist, progressive vision for where Europe (and by extension, the U.S.) really ought to be heading.

Related On This Site:  Just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’.…it’d be interesting to imagine a conversation between Eric Hoffer and Fukuyama, now that Fukuyama is near San Francisco: Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest: ‘Mexico And The Drug Wars’…Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’……Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

Have you downloaded the apps…and the concepts of Enlightenment and post Enlightenment liberty that can lead to runtime errors and fiscal failure? Sachs and Niall Ferguson duke it out: CNN-Fareed Zakaria Via Youtube: ‘Jeff Sachs and Niall Ferguson’

The West is less violent?  I’m not sure I’m convinced by Pinker, anyways: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘

Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have plans for America and India, and it involves much more state involvement here in America:  Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly.  Repost-Via Youtube: Conversations With History – Walter Russell Mead

Add to Technorati Favorites

From Edge: ‘Re: What Makes People Republican? By Jonathan Haidt’

Full post here.

It’s good to be suspicious of the attempt by social scientists to theorize about politics (more theory into politics, more loaded questions).  Some profound silliness and interesting thoughts at the link:

‘Democrats use the language of universal entitlement, when they talk about state-supported preschool or childcare, or the language of individual autonomy, when they talk about choice or contraception, or the language of investment, when they talk about the long-term benefits of healthy and well-educated children. But none of these ways of talking about children really capture our everyday intuitions.  Of course, there isn’t a good alternative conservative language for these intuitions either. The Republican language of traditional religion also doesn’t get it, which is why the celebration of Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter’s pregnancy seemed so paradoxical.’

Points taken (most people have a box to put you in, though the people around you and their political beliefs can deeply shape your thinking and your life).  I don’t quite buy the moral equivalence.  As for Palin, I suspect part of her appeal is the fear and contempt she draws out in her political opponents.  To some, she is a representative for the Christian faith and Christian values in action;  a politician who believes in limited government and who fights corruption, but is villified by many, some of whom are quite illiberal and who attack her personally.  Of course, Palin is still a politician, regardless of her abilities.

And whence morality?  Still a matter of deep debate.

Related On This Site:   Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Using J.S. Mill, moving away from religion? Rationalism and Utilitarianism On The Rise?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

Jesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.Repost-Is Psychology A Science? From Richard Feynman’s ‘Cargo Cult Science’

Add to Technorati Favorites

Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

Full piece here.

Fukuyama discusses how Huntington’s Political Order In Changing Societies remains relevant:

‘Something like this Huntingtonian process has unfolded in recent months in both Tunisia and Egypt. In both cases, anti-government protests were led not by the urban poor or by an Islamist underground, but by relatively well-educated middle-class young people used to communicating with each other via Facebook and Twitter.’

and on modernization theory, which was dominant at the time the book was published:

‘By pointing out that the good things of modernity did not necessarily go together, Huntington played a key role in killing off modernization theory. Political development was a separate process from socioeconomic development, he argued, and needed to be understood in its own terms.’

Fukuyama laments the lack of broad and deep synthesizers like Huntington:

‘On a policy level, we need far more mutual understanding between those who promote socioeconomic development and those who work on democracy promotion and governance. Traditional development agencies like USAID already think politically to the extent that their aid projects are designed to support U.S. foreign policy.’

It takes humility and understanding to understand what the social sciences can do:

‘The aspiration of social science to replicate the predictability and formality of certain natural sciences is, in the end, a hopeless endeavor. Human societies, as Friedrich Hayek, Karl Popper and others understood, are far too complex to model at an aggregate level.’

But that won’t stop people from trying, and potentially producing being a lasting, useful map:

‘The part of social change that is the hardest to understand in a positivistic way is the moral dimension—that is, the ideas that people carry around in their heads regarding legitimacy, justice, dignity and community.’

Likely worth your time.

Related On This Site:  Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom CSIS: ‘Turmoil In The Middle-East’From The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Add to Technorati Favorites

David Brooks At The New Yorker: ‘Social Animal’

Full essay here.

“Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others have made great strides in understanding the inner working of the human mind. Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows. They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has least to say. Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.”

Brooks, aside from being termed moderately conservative, is deeply interested in the social sciences, and I think that last sentence in the quotation displays one of the deeper underlying currents at play.  The piece, while thoughtful, seems a bit overdone in places.   Theology is not necessarily in vogue, and I’m not sure what he means by philosophy not filling the hole, other than that he thinks it is not a major influence on the public mind.  Is there a larger move afoot now, away from organized religion, and does it inexorably pull people away from religious morality and toward social liberalism?

Related On This Site:  Repost-From The NY Times: David Brooks On Simon Schama’s New Book-’Mirror On America’

-Leo Strauss argues that this value free hedonism was a from of gentle nihilsim inherent in waves of modernity in Western thought, and we need anchors against it:  Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss?

-Jesse Prinz argues that morals too, have roots in emotions, and argues that evo-psy/cog-sci should get back to British Empiricism, with some Nietzsche thrown in, among other things-More On Jesse Prinz. A Review Of “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” At Notre DameJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”

Natural Law philosophy has another take on individual responsibility, economic liberty and morality: From Bloggingheads: Robert Wright And Robert P George Discuss Natural Law

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’