In an otherwise routine speech in May, 1992, Vice-President Dan Quayle criticized Murphy Brown, the TV character played by Candice Bergen, for bearing an out-of-wedlock child, emphasizing that it “ignored the importance of fathers.” He was subsequently skewered by the elitists of the cultural left. How, they asked, could he make such a big deal about a fictional character? The culture warriors insisted that there was nothing wrong with a woman having a child that she would raise alone. Of course, the left always believed that Quayle was an idiot, so they abruptly dismissed his comments as idiotic. That lack of concern has led us to a point where our country – the American Experiment – is going to hell in a hand basket.
I say this because I’ve just finished reading Coming Apart by Charles Murray. With the recent passing of James Q. Wilson, Mr. Murray is our foremost social scientist still living. He has written several books, but the two most prominent – Losing Ground and The Bell Curve – have both had a significant impact on our society. His latest work is a wake-up call for America that, hopefully, is not too late.
Murray’s book, which at times reads as well as a Mike Connelly novel, describes the changes in white America between the years 1960 and 2010. It differentiates between the “new upper class” and the “new lower class,” and highlights the growing disparity between the two.
The new upper class is defined more by education than by wealth, and their neighborhoods and work places have become segregated from the rest of society. They seek a similar existence for their children, and the likelihood of success for their offspring is far better than for most other kids. And as Murray shows throughout the book, this group suffers very few societal problems – at least if you disregard the penchant for those centered in New York and Washington, DC, to control every aspect of our lives through their highly developed sense of being.
The frightening part is where Murray describes what is happening throughout the rest of white America. The pathologies that we used to believe were centered only in low-income, minority communities are now rampant in the new lower class, and these challenges could potentially overwhelm the fundamental values of our entire society.
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