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.
Murray concentrates on four aspects of life – industriousness, marriage, honesty, and religiosity – which he believes create a uniquely American culture and distinguish us from Europeans. The embrace of these four virtues has created a society where neighbor helps neighbor, where people take care of each other and their own, and where men are responsible for and responsible to their wives and children. In the new lower class, these qualities have broken down almost entirely.
This has manifested itself in many ways. First and foremost is the exploding number of children born out of wedlock (along with the societal challenge of children having children). While this rarely occurs in the new upper class, it is now grudgingly considered acceptable and not to be looked down upon. That outlook changed, however, with the explosion of out-of-wedlock births. The result of the dubious trend is that fathers have become mere accessories.
This striking change has resulted in a rampant decay of the white male working class population, including a stunning and underpublicized side-effect: the number of working-age men who are on disability. Murray points out that during the last fifty years, the rationale for employment-related disability has decreased because of the mechanization of our workplaces, yet the percentage of “disabled” working-age white men has exploded from less than 1% to 5%. That just boggles the mind and saps moral character, not to mention the public coffers of the society.
Because many of these men don’t marry, neither do they actually “settle down”; and, thus, they have no core purpose. As Murray shows in a series of charts that would scare any red-blooded American, they meander for years without even seeking work. The entire community has collapsed, as they have deserted critical values such as honesty, marriage, and religion. Murray suggests that these values are tied directly to personal happiness and self-worth – both of which are at historically low levels.
Murray arrives at his own conclusions, but I came to my own long before the end of this book – and it just reinforced what many of us already believe: the degradation of our society is directly related to the growth of government. The size and scope of government has exploded as these values continue to collapse and the character of our people declines. The correlation is unmistakable.
The fault does not rest totally at the hands of the party of government – just largely. At least Republicans are talking about these issues. Credit must be given to Rick Santorum for making this a focal point of his campaign, even though he was repeatedly excoriated by Democratic hatchet men and their puppets in the liberal media. Wouldn’t it be nice if just one prominent liberal would stand up and say, “You know that Rick Santorum is a real crank, but he’s right about how our families and values are coming apart. He’s correct when he says that to be successful in life, you need to graduate high school, get a job, and wait until you’re married to have children, and I wholeheartedly agree with him.” But you never hear that from the left; they just keep insisting that we have to throw more money at the problem. Folks, more money is not going to solve this problem. Only a good dose of basic values will.
Coming Apart is a truly chilling book because it documents what we know. The educated are isolating themselves from the new lower class. Elected leaders just want to throw money at moral problems, as if that will solve them. The only people running to get married are gays. People want to have indiscriminate sex without regard for the ramifications. And the media tells us that religion, along with the principles it represents, is hopelessly antiquated.
Our values as a society are falling apart. We need to redirect where we are heading – and fast.