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View Full Version : General Politics Charles Murray on the class divide among white America


Cave Johnson
02-07-2012, 11:02 AM
Heard this on NPR yesterday, thought it might be an interesting topic to discuss, especially Murray's prescription for the problem.

http://www.npr.org/2012/02/06/146463384/is-white-working-class-america-coming-apart

According to the libertarian social scientist Charles Murray, America is "coming apart at the seams." Class strain has cleaved society into two groups, he argues in his new book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010: an upper class, defined by educational attainment, and a new lower class, characterized by the lack of it. Murray also posits that the new "lower class" is less industrious, less likely to marry and raise children in a two-parent household, and more politically and socially disengaged

By focusing solely on whites, Murray says, he is trying to correct the assumption that these are markers of the American racial divide. The class divisions transcend race.

By Murray's calculations, the upper class is 20 percent of the white population. The working class is 30 percent. Over the past 50 years the two groups have branched away from each other culturally and geographically. The "educated class," Murray tells NPR's Robert Siegel, has developed distinctive tastes and preferences in a way that is new in America, evinced in everything from the alcohol they drink and the cars they buy to how they raise their children and take care of themselves physically.

Added to that, spatial segregation has resulted in "ZIP codes that have levels of affluence and education that are so much higher than the rest of the population that they constitute a different kind of world," he says.

The economic and social balkanization is potentially very pernicious.

"The people who run the country have enormous influence over the culture, politics, and the economics of the country. And increasingly, they haven't a clue about how most of America lives. They have never experienced it. They don't watch the same movies, they don't watch the same television shows — they don't watch television at all, in many cases — and when that happens, you get some policies that are pretty far out of whack."

Murray's findings proved counterintuitive, at least to the political narrative that characterizes the affluent classes as liberal and secular. It turns out that they are actually the group most likely to get and stay married. They go to church and synagogue more often and feel more strongly affiliated with their religion than the white working class. They are the keepers of "traditional" American values.

Nor are they overwhelmingly liberal. The upper middle class in Murray's findings only "tilt" leftward, no more than that.

There used to be many more points of connection between the upper and lower classes, Murray maintains. Consider the lodges, so important in the late 19th and early 20th century. "The Elks and the Moose took people in from all social classes, and people were proud of that," he says.

"And also you have the 1800s, and Alexis de Tocqueville saying that the funny thing about America is that the opulent classes take great care in talking to the members of the lower classes every day and keep in close touch with them."

Even in 1923, a time of great social and religious division, there was still more class intermingling, for the simple reason that most successful people had working- or middle-class roots.

"When you get to Eisenhower's Cabinet in 1952, it was called nine millionaires and a plumber in the popular press," he says. "But those nine millionaires were the sons of farmers and merchants."

Murray calls for more interaction between the classes; specifically, he'd like upper-middle-class Americans to "drop their nonjudgmentalism and start preaching what they're practicing."

They "are getting married and staying married. They work like crazy. They do better going to church. [They should] just say that, 'These are not choices we've made for ourselves. ... These are rich, rewarding ways of living.' "

loochy
02-07-2012, 11:15 AM
So I guess I'm in the upper?

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 11:22 AM
You mean people are not united?

vailpass
02-07-2012, 11:23 AM
Can't decide which is worse, the fact that someone would consume resources to write drivel like this or the fact that someone would waste time reading it.

SNR
02-07-2012, 11:34 AM
Murray also posits that the new "lower class" is less industrious, less likely to marry and raise children in a two-parent household, and more politically and socially disengagedSounds like another worthless bitch session about white 20-somethings from the social media generation.

WHERE DID WORK ETHIC GO? YOUNG PEOPLE DON'T HAVE NO RESPECT!!

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 11:35 AM
Well we need to divide all we can. We need po white folk to hate them rich white folk.

La literatura
02-07-2012, 12:04 PM
"More interaction between classes." That's not much of a prescription, in my opinion. Or at least, it has no teeth, and amounts to mere hope and wishing. It's not like the lower classes are going to start reading the New York Times, attend operas, go to charity galas.

I think the more likely prescription for this very real problem lies somewhere in wealth redistribution through the tax code and in fiscal policy, which is viewed as completely unacceptable today.

blaise
02-07-2012, 12:29 PM
There's plenty of opportunity for interaction between classes.

loochy
02-07-2012, 12:46 PM
There's plenty of opportunity for interaction between classes.

For example, the classes may interact at Walmart. People like myself go to Walmart on occasion to buy various goods and gaze upon the miscreants of society.

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 12:48 PM
For example, the classes may interact at Walmart. People like myself go to Walmart on occasion to buy various goods and gaze upon the miscreants of society.

Cool. We go to the plaza and watch rich white liberals.

blaise
02-07-2012, 12:48 PM
For example, the classes may interact at Walmart. People like myself go to Walmart on occasion to buy various goods and gaze upon the miscreants of society.

Exactly. It's almost like taking a vacation to a third world bazaar. But with more Rascals.

loochy
02-07-2012, 12:49 PM
Cool. We go to the plaza and watch rich white liberals.

We can combine forces and go to Church's Chicken and watch...other groups. See! Interaction...right there!

Cave Johnson
02-07-2012, 12:50 PM
Sounds like another worthless bitch session about white 20-somethings from the social media generation.

WHERE DID WORK ETHIC GO? YOUNG PEOPLE DON'T HAVE NO RESPECT!!

My guess is he controlled, or should have controlled, for the aspirationally upper class (e.g., 28, newly married, no kids, educated) and the aspirationally lower class (28, divorced, 2+ kids, not educated).

Cave Johnson
02-07-2012, 12:55 PM
Exactly. It's almost like taking a vacation to a third world bazaar. But with more Rascals.

And 'beetus.

blaise
02-07-2012, 12:56 PM
And 'beetus.

Yes, that too. Equal amounts of B.O.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 12:57 PM
"More interaction between classes." That's not much of a prescription, in my opinion. Or at least, it has no teeth, and amounts to mere hope and wishing. It's not like the lower classes are going to start reading the New York Times, attend operas, go to charity galas.

I think the more likely prescription for this very real problem lies somewhere in wealth redistribution through the tax code and in fiscal policy, which is viewed as completely unacceptable today.

The way I read the prescription is that well-off people (esp. liberals) who recognize that marriage is a positive part of their own lives (either their own marriage or the two parent family that raised them) should stop treating poor people who live alternative lifestyles (esp. single motherhood) as if it's equally OK and should stop trying to fix such poor lifestyle choices through wealth redistribution instead of through better lifestyle education.

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 01:03 PM
I wonder who is in the "lower classes"? What do they read? What defines the "lower classes" to a liberal? Do the "lower classes" have different views? Do they exist in a way that defines them as "lower class"? Or is it more an issue of some people looking down on people who labor or have less in a way that its their definition of something they don't understand.

Cave Johnson
02-07-2012, 01:11 PM
I wonder who is in the "lower classes"? What do they read? What defines the "lower classes" to a liberal? Do the "lower classes" have different views? Do they exist in a way that defines them as "lower class"? Or is it more an issue of some people looking down on people who labor or have less in a way that its their definition of something they don't understand.

It's the same thing that defines lower class to a conservative (e.g., Charles Murray). Income.

La literatura
02-07-2012, 01:17 PM
The way I read the prescription is that well-off people (esp. liberals) who recognize that marriage is a positive part of their own lives (either their own marriage or the two parent family that raised them) should stop treating poor people who live alternative lifestyles (esp. single motherhood) as if it's equally OK and should stop trying to fix such poor lifestyle choices through wealth redistribution instead of through better lifestyle education.

So what practical steps do you have in mind? I think showing and telling people about the benefits of marriage, two parents, and self-sufficiency is a very acceptable thing. Do we have a mandatory high school class called Life 101, where students read Sean Covey and have guest lectures from a) successful people and b) bums and hobos?

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 01:26 PM
It's the same thing that defines lower class to a conservative (e.g., Charles Murray). Income.



I tend to see the term "lower classes" used far more by the left.

Cave Johnson
02-07-2012, 01:31 PM
I tend to see the term "lower classes" used far more by the left.

Yes, it's just us liberal elites looking down our noses at the rabble, clinging to their guns and religion. ;)

La literatura
02-07-2012, 01:32 PM
I wonder who is in the "lower classes"? What do they read? What defines the "lower classes" to a liberal? Do the "lower classes" have different views? Do they exist in a way that defines them as "lower class"? Or is it more an issue of some people looking down on people who labor or have less in a way that its their definition of something they don't understand.

It's defined by income, but I think there are some consistent, measurable qualities that characterize classes.

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 01:36 PM
It's defined by income, but I think there are some consistent, measurable qualities that characterize classes.


What would those be

La literatura
02-07-2012, 01:40 PM
What would those be

Education, home ownership, vacations, family connections. Even something like having a will or a home library.

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 02:33 PM
Education, home ownership, vacations, family connections. Even something like having a will or a home library.


Yes thats probably right. People who rent. And if they vacation it would be to like Six Flags or some low brow sort of venue. And they wouldn't real know the right people. I suppose the y may use a public library or get magazines.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 02:53 PM
So what practical steps do you have in mind? I think showing and telling people about the benefits of marriage, two parents, and self-sufficiency is a very acceptable thing. Do we have a mandatory high school class called Life 101, where students read Sean Covey and have guest lectures from a) successful people and b) bums and hobos?

No, I don't think we need a centralized solution to the problem. We should just individually speak out in favor of success-fostering lifestyles and we shouldn't criticize those who do even if the basis for their position is religious.

La literatura
02-07-2012, 02:57 PM
No, I don't think we need a centralized solution to the problem. We should just individually speak out in favor of success-fostering lifestyles and we shouldn't criticize those who do even if the basis for their position is religious.

People already do speak out in favor of success-fostering lifestyles.

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 03:07 PM
People already do speak out in favor of success-fostering lifestyles.


what is that? A "success fostering lifestyle"?

La literatura
02-07-2012, 03:12 PM
what is that? A "success fostering lifestyle"?

I take it to mean things like going to school, showing up on time, doing your homework, volunteering for things. Perhaps patteeu means something else.

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 03:15 PM
I take it to mean things like going to school, showing up on time, doing your homework, volunteering for things. Perhaps patteeu means something else.


Pretty much upper class traits then I suppose.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 03:16 PM
what is that? A "success fostering lifestyle"?

Marriage as opposed to single parenthood is the example I'm using. Others would include relative sobriety as opposed to drug addiction or alcoholism and putting a job or an education ahead of partying.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 03:17 PM
I take it to mean things like going to school, showing up on time, doing your homework, volunteering for things. Perhaps patteeu means something else.

Nope, those are good examples.

La literatura
02-07-2012, 03:19 PM
Pretty much upper class traits then I suppose.

I wouldn't characterize them as that, because I think those traits are as prevalent in middle class and working class families as they are in upper class.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 03:23 PM
People already do speak out in favor of success-fostering lifestyles.

Most people would probably say that dual parent households are better for kids than single parent households if all else is equal, but a lot of those people would refuse to go beyond that and support measures that make divorce more difficult (a return to fault-based divorce) or single-parenthood less attractive (a reformation of our welfare system or our child support system to make support for single parents harder to come by).

whoman69
02-07-2012, 03:24 PM
"More interaction between classes." That's not much of a prescription, in my opinion. Or at least, it has no teeth, and amounts to mere hope and wishing. It's not like the lower classes are going to start reading the New York Times, attend operas, go to charity galas.

I think the more likely prescription for this very real problem lies somewhere in wealth redistribution through the tax code and in fiscal policy, which is viewed as completely unacceptable today.

Certainly works out closer to the truth than this crap article. I don't think that rich and poor hanging out together is going to bring them closer together. It would probably make any problems worse.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 03:25 PM
I wouldn't characterize them as that, because I think those traits are as prevalent in middle class and working class families as they are in upper class.

That seems to be at odds with the OP thesis.

whoman69
02-07-2012, 03:31 PM
Most people would probably say that dual parent households are better for kids than single parent households if all else is equal, but a lot of those people would refuse to go beyond that and support measures that make divorce more difficult (a return to fault-based divorce) or single-parenthood less attractive (a reformation of our welfare system or our child support system to make support for single parents harder to come by).

I don't think keeping unhappy people together is the answer. It's not the job of the courts to try to keep marriages going.

I think probably a combination of the child support and welfare system need to be looked at though.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 03:35 PM
I don't think keeping unhappy people together is the answer. It's not the job of the courts to try to keep marriages going.

See what I mean, Literature. Here's a guy who will use any excuse he can think of to avoid discouraging success-stifling lifestyles.

Cave Johnson
02-07-2012, 03:36 PM
Most people would probably say that dual parent households are better for kids than single parent households if all else is equal, but a lot of those people would refuse to go beyond that and support measures that make divorce more difficult (a return to fault-based divorce) or single-parenthood less attractive (a reformation of our welfare system or our child support system to make support for single parents harder to come by).

Or, conversely, less pressure to marry early (since it's a big predictor of poverty for women) or promotion of birth control over abstinence. But your team doesn't like those suggestions either.

La literatura
02-07-2012, 03:36 PM
That seems to be at odds with the OP thesis.

I don't think so, and more over, I don't think the traits are inherently different depending on class.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 03:42 PM
Or, conversely, less pressure to marry early (since it's a big predictor of poverty for women) or promotion of birth control over abstinence. But your team doesn't like those suggestions either.

I like the first suggestion quite a bit. I think my team can get behind it too.

patteeu
02-07-2012, 03:45 PM
I don't think so, and more over, I don't think the traits are inherently different depending on class.

You don't think a larger percentage of upper middle class families encourage their kids to get a higher education than lower middle class families? Or to focus on good money management skills? Do you think there's just as high a rate of drug addiction among upper middle class parents as there is among lower middle class parents?

La literatura
02-07-2012, 08:22 PM
You don't think a larger percentage of upper middle class families encourage their kids to get a higher education than lower middle class families? Or to focus on good money management skills? Do you think there's just as high a rate of drug addiction among upper middle class parents as there is among lower middle class parents?

1) I do on your statement: The lower and lower middle class seems less encouragement on higher education. But I suspect that upper and middle class rates are similar in making their kids do their homework, showing up on time, doing hard work.
2) Same. I think the lower classes won't focus on good money management skills with their children because they don't really have much money to manage.
3) I don't know about drug and alcohol abuse problems and where that ranks, but I suspect that lower classes are disproportionately affected.

I mostly take issue with that idea that what I traits I mentioned are considered "upper class" traits. I don't think they can be characterized that way. Maybe I'm being arbitrary, but it doesn't sit well with me. I know quite a few working class families that value hard work, education, and responsibility, while also knowing too many suburban wives relaxing at the country club, or trust funded families.

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 08:36 PM
lower class people have so many issues.

Pioli Zombie
02-07-2012, 08:55 PM
Our society can be divided into two groups. One that's into Auto-Erotica Asphyxiation and Hangings and the other that's not and its always been that way.

HonestChieffan
02-07-2012, 09:03 PM
http://images.t-nation.com/forum_images/mytphotos/fullSize/2/a/2a0ca-Good_Good_Let_the_Butt_hurt_flow_through.jpg

Bob Dole
02-08-2012, 08:53 AM
2) Same. I think the lower classes won't focus on good money management skills with their children because they don't really have much money to manage.


Which is odd, since that is when it is most important.

HonestChieffan
02-08-2012, 09:16 AM
Wouldn't "poor" or some other word be more accurate than "lower classes"?

BucEyedPea
02-08-2012, 09:20 AM
So Murray is now a libertarian 'huh? Wonder when he got that label? I understand he was a left progressive aka liberal but moved over to some conservativism during the Reagan era. I read his book Losing Ground on how the social programs didn't result in what was promoted. It was pretty good. But it seems here he's not willing to live and let live. He's preachy. Some libertarian.


"America is supposed to be a democracy in which we're all in it together. Part of that ethos, which has been so essential to the country in times of crisis, is a common understanding that we all pay a share of the costs .... (through) taxes"~ Charles Murray

whoman69
02-08-2012, 02:40 PM
See what I mean, Literature. Here's a guy who will use any excuse he can think of to avoid discouraging success-stifling lifestyles.

You make it sound like I'm the anti-marriage gestapo. I have been married 18 years now. Its hard work keeping it together. I actually came halfway on this issue to you and you act like I'm the fringe.

RJ
02-08-2012, 08:57 PM
What's normal is what's normal to you.