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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Charles Murray, Coming Apart, and the 2016 Election

At AEI, James Pethokoukis interviews Charles Murray:
Now, I know that we have the cottages in Newport that were palaces back in the late 19th century and other great displays of wealth, but those were fairly isolated to a couple of places in the northeast United States. What we see now is large enclaves of really affluent people forming these large communities in which they live conspicuously different lifestyles than everybody else — that’s new in the United States. The extent to which the upper class rather openly disdains ordinary Americans, that’s also really, really new. A part of being an American 50 years ago that you celebrates your own middle-class or working-class roots and you took great pride in saying “Hey I’m just another guy like anybody else even though I have a net worth of $20 million.” No, this behavior by the upper class has stoked a lot of that.
I don’t think that it’s the difference of wealth per se; I think it’s the separation. If you go to towns where you have a guy who started a chain of transmission repair shops and has several million dollars and has built a really nice house but he also is obviously still one of the guys, he’s still in the community where he grew up and everybody knows him, and yeah he’s made a lot of money —I don’t think that that kind of wealth generates a lot of resentment. I think it’s these people living in New York, Washington, San Francisco, L.A. — these big glitzy centers — acting as if they can lord it over the rest of us, that generates a lot of this anger.
Another problem with the experts — and I think that this gets to a lot of the visceral anger that people have — is that the experts have been recommending policies for other people for which they do not have to bear the consequences. The case of immigration is a classic case where I can sit down with economists on both the left and the right, and we with great self-satisfaction talk about all of our wonderful analyses that show that this idea that immigrants are driving down wages of native-born Americans is way over-exaggerated; that immigration is essentially a net plus, so forth and so on…  Those analyses may be right, but that does not change the fact that we aren’t the people who are like the carpenter who used to make $16 an hour, and he is losing work because contractors are hiring immigrant carpenters for $12.
As far as the “Coming Apart” phenomenon is concerned, it is going absolutely nowhere, no matter what happens with the election results. I think that the truth that has been exposed over the last eight months is that the Republican Party has a lot fewer people who believe in traditional conservative principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility and so forth than we thought we did.