Cousins, and Their First World Problems
This is rather fascinating. It is a comparison of Charles Murray’s, an American Libertarian, book: Coming Apart, and the comparable effort of Rod Liddle, a British Laborite (and former Troskyite) and his book: Selfish, Whining Monkeys.
As you read through it, you will find that they find similar problems in our societies, which is reasonable, almost any honest person will but, the differences begin when they start trying to come up with answers. It nearly comes to the point that Reagan/Thatcher was the greatest thing since sliced bread, or the worst thing since Henry the Eighth. I know my answer but, I suppose your mileage may vary.
Anyway enjoy, from David Conway:
Two years ago, Charles Murray published a book entitled Coming Apart about the main socioeconomic changes that have swept America over the last half century and the impact they have had on the happiness of its citizens. Not surprisingly, the major economic changes Murray identified were the vastly increased levels of personal affluence of Americans accompanied by exponentially increasing consumer choice.
He highlighted four major social changes:
• declining marriage and marital stability, especially among lower income whites;
• much greater female participation in the labor market accompanied by declining male participation in it particularly at the lower-paid end of the job market;
• growing disparities of income between a largely married middle class and the largely unmarried least well-off; and
• declining religiosity and religious observance, plus a concomitant decline in communal activity proportionate to the decline in religiosity (again, more prevalent among the lower income groups)
Murray argued these four social trends mattered profoundly because of a strong positive correlation among marriage, vocation (as reflected by industriousness), and religiosity, on the one hand, and happiness on the other, suggesting the former three factors strongly contributed to the latter. While a similar positive correlation obtains between affluence and happiness, longitudinal studies have shown it is not a particularly strong one above the level of abject poverty which practically all Americans now are.
The trends Murray identified, therefore, seem to reveal an America that is increasingly starting to come apart along the seams of class. A largely married and still (at least residually) religiously engaged middle class is drawing ever farther apart in affluence, lifestyle, and personal happiness from a largely unmarried and wholly religiously disengaged lower class, bereft of the consolations and social capital that family ties and religious engagement typically bring.
Rod Liddle is a highly prolific and widely read British journalist who has just published a similar study about the major socioeconomic changes in his country in the last half century and their impact on the happiness of Britons. In Selfish, Whining Monkeys he reaches conclusions that are strikingly similar to Murray’s.
Compare the following extracts from their respective books. Here is what Murray has to say about socioeconomic change in America this past half century:
One of the things that struck me forcibly is that neither of the authors would have any interest in going back. Here’s Murray:
[i]f a time machine could transport me back to 1960, I would have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming. In many aspects of day-to-day life, America today is incomparably superior to the America of 1960… Go back to 1960? I wouldn’t dream of it.
It would be easy to be nostalgic about my childhood… But when I look back… the primary emotion I feel… is one of immense guilt: that I do not do things as well as my parents… Again, this isn’t nostalgia… It is hard to argue against longer life expectancy, greater affluence, safer workplaces, the freedom to escape a hopeless marriage, the rights of women to be treated equally, and so on. But a certain moral code has been lost along the way, which has contributed lately to our country becoming close to bankrupt, a nation of broken families clamouring about their entitlements, siring ill-educated and undisciplined kids unfamiliar with the concept of right and wrong, where there is a diminishing sense of community and belonging.
You know, while I certainly understand what they are saying, and there are things I would miss immensely, like the instant (and free) communication with my British friends, and the likely case that I would never have met them, in many ways, that world (I grew up in the 60s) was a much better place, and I’m not so sure. In fact, I would be very drawn to going back to that world, and I suspect a lot of us would be.
Via Coming Apart in the UK | Online Library of Law & Liberty.
In any case, a fascinating study, that I recommend.