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by Christopher Chantrill
March 17, 2015 at 12:00 am
BACK IN 2012 Charles Murray came out with Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010. He argued that in Obama’s America the top 20 percent was doing fine. Top 20 percenters get educated, get careers, get married, stay married; they live in wealthy suburbs like Belmont in Massachusetts. The middle 50 percent isn’t doing too good. But the bottom 30 percent of whites, that lives in places like Philadelphia’s Fishtown, isn’t doing very well at all. The women don’t get married and the men — about 30 percent of them — don’t work.
Now comes Robert D. Putnam with Our Kids:The American Dream in Crisis. Returning to his home town of Port Clinton, Ohio, Putnam tells the story of today’s kids, like these two black kids. One’s the child of married, educated parents and he’s doing fine. The other’s a child of the black working class, and he complains that his parents “couldn’t live together for nothing” and loves beating people up.
To the New York Times’ Jason DeParle it’s all about “income inequality.” And Putnam just proposes more of the same, according to W. Bradford Wilcox in The Wall Street Journal: more government, and of course, the ignis fatuus of Obama-era liberals, universal pre-school.
Putnam, you may recall, wrote Bowling Alone back in 2000. In it he mourned that Americans didn’t seem to be joining organizations (e.g., bowling leagues) any more. Golly, I wonder why that might be?
Here’s a clue. Back in the early 1970s I belonged to a couple of Toastmasters Clubs. They were great: you learned how to do public speaking and think on your feet. But even then, members were worrying that it was hard to get kids to join Toastmasters because it was easier to take a speech class at the local community college. Hello liberals!
OK, so the liberal welfare state is to blame for everything. But what about that bottom 30 percent? We have to do something.
It happens that I am confronting this issue at this very moment in the writing of “An American Manifesto.” I call for a “culture of involvement” and I sketch typical life trajectories, including a poor family that, with minimal skills, still manages to make it with hard work and get their kids out of the nest with a decent education. But, I realize, what happens if things go wrong? Do we just let that poor family starve?
I went downstairs and got out The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger, a book about life in England in the year 1000. On a page comfortably talking about the fact that Bristol and Dublin were major slave ports back then, they address the question of what happened to a poor person down on his luck.
[I]n the year 1000 the starving man had no other resort but to kneel before his lord or lady and place his head in their hands. No legal document was involved, and the new bondsman would be handed a bill-hook or ox-goad in token of his fresh start in servitude.
The idea was that you gave up to your lord your “head for food.”
Really, what has changed? Today the starving man gives up his vote to the Democratic Party and his local community organizer in return for SNAP, TANF, Section 8, and Medicaid, and he doesn’t have to work for his food, like the bondsman of old.
I will tell you what else has changed, and it has changed for the worse. In the old days the local lord was the economic, political, and cultural lord of all he surveyed. If he accepted the head of a new bondsman and got the benefit of his work and his loyalty, he also took on the cost of feeding that bondsman.
In our age the economic, political and cultural sectors are nominally separate, and the political class, assisted by the cultural class in the media, relieves the poor without taking on the responsibility of actually paying to feed the poor. The powerful political magnate receives the heads of the poor in his hands, and then pays for the benefits for its bondsmen not from his own estates, as of old, but from tax monies taken from the economic sector, from businesses and wage earners, by force.
The politician does not tell the the poor that, if it wants to know who to thank, it’s businessmen and wage earners. Not at all. They didn’t build that, and but for us community organizers the employers and the one percenters would let the poor starve.
So here is the challenge for the new age. How do we prevent “our kids” from “coming apart.” And how do we stop the political class from using their bondsmen as pawns in their contemptible power politics?
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up
rather than learns... Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois
We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.
E. G. West, Education and the State
When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of agesthey seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
When we received Christ, Phil added, all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh
A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is merely relative, is asking you not to believe him. So dont.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family.
Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says we should....
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism