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The Law of Lower Class Values

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Several discussions in media, global politics, entertainment and the world of finance and economy's remind me of Gresham’s Law which states that “bad money drives out good money.”

Applying Gresham’s law to American culture over the past 50 years, it seems to me that “bad values drive out good values.” What many of us have witnessed in conjunction with the growth of progressive politics, is the erosion of traditional American values and culture. Without a doubt their continues to be a disturbing increase in dysfunctional families, illegitimate births, crime rates, unemployment, etc. Given the increase in educational, political and economic opportunities, and general acceptance of the less fortunate into the American mainstream, I would have expected a better cultural result. Since society has become more tolerant of values and behavior outside of the mainstream over the past 50 years, I have to conclude that Gresham’s law applies not only to money, but to values as well. My parents, by constant example and conversation, reminded my siblings and me of the benefits of personal accountability and character. Character ultimately determines the fate and success of us all.

Call a spade a spade. There is an absolute lower class culture. The victimization values of this culture create behavior that keeps poor people poor. It is not bigotry or prejudiced, nor is it condescending to call them lower class. They have a culture that is antithetical to creating wealth and accomplishment. This culture blames problems on others as opposed to making accountability a priority. As a result, the victims are discouraged from improving themselves; they are discouraged from working hard for the “man.” It promotes a zero-sum mentality leading to crime, especially theft, and welfare dependence. It disparages educational excellence. It encourages misogyny which leads to the breakdown of the their family structure and contributes to the lack of traditionally successful male role models. I can go on and on. The vast majority of positive accomplishments from this culture revolve around sports and entertainment, especially popular music. Unfortunately even the popular music tends to extol the negative aspects of this culture.

What they need most is a check, a reality check. Lower class value systems do not believe in planning for the future. They do not believe in sacrificing today for your own benefit tomorrow. There is a conflict between delayed gratification and the high that comes from fulfilling fleeting desires. As a result, lower class culture suffers from an epidemic of immediate gratification regardless of future consequences. Prudence, patience, and planning are not lauded enough, if at all. And yet, these are the very facets of character that allow a person to grow, accomplish, and, should they persevere, achieve excellence.

Following Gresham’s law, the issue is that in lower class culture values such as prudence, patience, planning, and delayed gratification are undervalued while disvalues such as misogyny, crime, immediate gratification, and pretention are overvalued. What follows is that those choosing to espouse prudence, delayed gratification and the like flow out of the culture while those espousing disvalues flow in and only reinforce the negative.

Even America’s mainline religious institutions have contributed to the debasement of values. Think about the positions of various religious organizations on abortion, illegitimate births, marriage, homosexuality and the behavior of the clergy. Many of these positions would have been unthinkable only a generation ago.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. This permissive Cultural Revolution has many attractive aspects. People can do what they want, with whom they want and when they want. However it has created a moral hazard in our society of causing us to excuse irresponsible behavior and takes people off the hook for acting without personal responsibility. It has created a society where anything goes. It has changed America from a culture which venerated the values of individual responsibility, self sacrifice, hard work, accomplishment and savings to one which marginalizes these values. This culture blames people’s problems on society in general and, as a result, the victims of society are discouraged from improving themselves because the government will bail them out.

If you choose to call my comments condescending you are falling into the middle class trap of making excuses to avoid criticism from the liberal establishment that uses the lower class as a power base and a podium for its own agenda.

Become part of the solution to the problems of the poor by recognizing their plight and steering them towards the culture changes that lead to success in a market based world.

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