City Journal Spring 2014

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Spring 2014
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Dalibor Rohac
A Complex World and Its Discontents « Back to Story

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Liz, I believe you are more than merely factually correct regarding your observation America’s population is much less homogenous than Europe’s – and, despite all the “melting pot” myths we share regarding our country, a lack of homogenous cultural values will always pose serious political problems, as you point out. Yet, even within the UK's more ethnic homogeneity, there are a growing number of households where none of the resident adults have worked at a job for many years. The state supplies their daily bread and their only task is learning to live on the state’s somewhat austere charity. We’re rapidly going in that direction as well and in for a very bumpy ride.

And, along those same lines, we’ve been experiencing a bloodless revolution since the early 60’s. People who couldn’t legally vote or were not entitled to own property when our Constitution was drafted now form the majority of our voting populace. Considering that not so subtle change, it’s understandable our politics would divide sharply along racial, ethnic and gender lines. Obama himself along with Hilary Clinton couldn’t have voted, let alone run for office, in 1800 and their constituency is drawn from among all those who would have been automatically disenfranchised within that earlier age - but who now realize the political power they wield and the resulting effect of that power upon our government and our laws.

It isn’t necessary to hear Romney debate Obama, just one look at the candidates standing side by side thoroughly illustrates our political divide. However, we’re still wealthy enough as a country to tolerate much foolishness within our national policies. The danger lies within what will happen when our collective - and immense - wealth begins to dwindle. Will the revolution remain bloodless or will that latent hostility previously bought off through forced government charity erupt into a chaotic chain of tragic events?
Pat,

What I mean by valuing hard work is valuing work that is within reach of the uneducated- janitorial, lawn care, ditch digging, flipping burgers, etc. That you are a valuable person because you make a contribution and pull your own weight. That what you can do is more important than what you own. That living a decent life is your best legacy. That everyone in a metaphysical sense is inherently equally valuable and created in God's image. That God loves me even though my net worth will never rival Donald Trump's.

Otherwise, the class warfare will never end - and unlike Europe we'll distruct faster because we are not a monolithic culture.

One thing does set us apart from Europe - the lack of a truly entrenched multigenerational elite. Our two combatants for the Presidency, in terms of background, are prime examples of how "democratic" we are. In fact, the labeling on both sides of elitism is really funny.

I am (cautiously) more optimistic about our future. Even though we have certain branches of the elites pushing us toward Europe, we also are a draw for the restless, entrepreneurial spirit of those from Latin America, Asia, Europe, etc. Also, outside Manhattan and the Beltway, we have a county where a majority thinks and acts quite differently.

Jefrey Asher

Oh dear, are men now mindless beasts without the ability to say No or to use preventative measures? Blaming it all on the women is not only specious but infantilizes men and absolves them of having any reasoning power whatsoever.
Liz, difficult to dispute your logic but also difficult to see what logic brings to the problem. The only power the poor have over us is what we give to them. But realizing that fact and using such a realization to form logically defined policies for sustaining the poor is far beyond our present capabilities.

Like Europe, we will gradually become a nation of marginally productive citizens living in small houses furnished with barely adequate appliances while daily driving our fuel efficient compact cars to our Spartan office complexes. No nation can lavishly finance the welfare of its have-nots solely through the efforts of hard working citizens. However, that impossible dream is firmly embedded within our American psyche: Yet, once we awaken from that dream, we will abruptly realize we have become Europeans. Today, we enthusiastically embrace the European philosophy that the state’s prime directive is the welfare of its citizens, meaning all of its citizens. Should Romney the Conservative be elected, Obamacare won’t disappear, it may be slightly pared down but, as in Europe, socialized medicine will find its own place within our society, just one additional step in our desire to become Europe across the ocean.

And as far as valuing hard work goes, most middle class couples are likely candidates for sainthood in that regard, or perhaps they should be. Young Americans marry later with both husband and wife working hard within respective careers for their entire adult lives. Children are voluntarily limited to one or two, or perhaps none at all, to adequately provide for the material rewards of modern life. But we also demand an end to poverty through sharing our individual wealth with the poor under our government’s strict supervision. As the feminists would say, we want to have it all. A middle class existence financed through life-long hard work by both fathers and mothers, plus a nation which cares deeply for the “helpless”.

And as Europe has done, we will cede more and more power to the “helpless”, constantly re-defining the concept of poor to become anyone who wishes to live off the efforts of others. Like the UK has experienced in its recent past, our current recession will become permanent with an increasing number of Americans out of work for more than a decade and with little or no desire to get off the dole. Europe is presently discovering that equality of life for everyone means diminished lifestyles for all and yet they seem content, even eager, to accept that condition as permanent. And given our own emotional confusion within America, it’s likely we will eventually come to accept that permanent condition as well.
Reply to Liz & Toady,

Two may be required to tango, but only a girl or woman can become pregnant. Only she can decide to have a child, not the male to whom she offered sex.
Almost all teenage girls know about the 'birds and the bees.'
If she had warned him that she would insist on an unintended child and twenty years of alimony, she would not have become pregnant.
Jeffrey;

Perhaps "selfish and disruptive" should also apply to the men, since those women are not making those children by themselves.
Mea Culpa! Forgive my spelling.
The problem with the attempts to help the "helpless" are that they are value free, or even worse, uphold the disfunctional cultures that propogate intergenerational hopelessness. The concepts of "judgement", "shame" and "worthy poor" are anethma to the cosseted pseudo intellectuals who know they couldn't survive weithout a trust fund.

We need to bring back respect for all kinds of legitimate work, and respect for those who try to lead honorable, moral lives regardless of income, edcuation or IQ. But that would involve elevating a certain set of values over others - individualism over tribalism, Judeo-Christian over materialism.
Dalibor Rohac waits until his final sentence to make the only meaningful statement within this entire book review. Yes, unless the poor change themselves nothing much will change for them. Much the same can be said for the non-poor, the “better off” or whatever term describes the rest of us Americans who work to support both our families and the poor. Because, like the Republican Party, social thinkers rely exclusively on intellectual gimmicks, fuzzy abstractions and plain old fashioned wishful thinking to solve problems related to the poor. However, unless we can fundamentally change how we respond to the poor, nothing will change for us either.

Republicans will invariably offer some new or revised income tax formula every election cycle as the universal cure for what divides the middle class from the poor. Negative Income Taxes, flat tax schemes, targeted exemptions, plus exotic tax credits ranging from employer credits for creating jobs to plant and facility investment credits. In like fashion, social thinkers loyally rely on their own time tested social engineering “fixes” much as the Republicans rely on new and improved taxation schemes. Revamping the welfare system, revising the nation’s K-12 education system, programs for building self-esteem are recurring themes endlessly repeated and celebrated each and every time as “new wisdom for a new age”.

But the poor, whether owning an IQ of 80 or 160, possess a special wisdom of their own which counteracts all attempts to change them. They understand society imposes no penalty for being “helpless” and, in fact, being perpetually “helpless” entitles one to social charity surpassing any previously known efforts to rescue the poor from themselves. It’s been estimated that some 30,000 young children roamed the streets of New York City in the 1870’s; without protective parents, malnourished, barely clothed, begging for pennies on the street, abused, raped and frequently murdered. But the middle class, thinking of these helpless children, created New York’s famous Workhouses for the Poor; crude, underfunded, understaffed but providing food, clothing, medical care, minimal wages for drudge work as well as offering a safe haven from the streets.

As the decades passed in New York City and elsewhere, attempting to help the “helpless”, even day dreaming of permanent social reform became a growth industry culminating in today’s vast web of government and private agencies all responding to the cry of “we’re helpless, come and rescue us”. We can’t stop ourselves though, we must always respond emotionally and financially when we see someone who can’t help themselves. The poor know this fact and understand the power they hold over us. However, it’s passing strange we can’t give up these absurd, pie in the sky schemes for permanent reform and admit that simple fact to ourselves.
Jeffrey, Jefffrey, Jeffrey - while I agree that cultural trends have had a significant negative effect on American society, I can't help but point out that you have made a very good argument for the feminist movement.
It's not culture, it's genetics. The people being left behind simply do not have the intellectual capacity to learn the skills required in a modern economy.

As recently as the 1970s, unskilled, semi-literate individual could earn a satisfactory living doing manual labor and assembly line work. Automation has eliminated those jobs. It has also cut into some knowledge-based jobs such as finance and engineering.
Jeffrey is correct that the return of shame and ostracism for antisocial behavior might be a good thing, and that one can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, anyway. Ike is correct that one can't help those who won't be helped. This might be one of those intractable problems which plague and define our species (at this time).
Omitted from my comments earlier:

The pervasive feminist assumption of intellectual equality of men and women contradicts extensive evidence. Women’s IQ scores (also SAT, GRE, etc.), fall from 3.6 to 8.4 IQ points below men at the mean.

In “Why g Matters,” Linda Gottfredson estimates that a minimum of IQ 120 is needed to be competitive in “high-level” jobs “… [and] the probability is that only 37% of the workforce at that level will be female”. At IQ 130 (+2SD), males comprise 82%; IQ 145 (+3SD), 88% and at IQ 160 (+4SD), associated with genius, males comprise 97%.

Feminist equity quotas and preferences mean that the West will increasingly fall behind increasing Asian competition and excellence. Again, democracies must return to rely on equality of opportunity and before the law, with preference only granted to merit.

Jeffrey Asher
Adopting Charles Murray’s summation (WSJ 16 March 2012 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304692804577281582403394206.html),
and some of his phrases:

Simplifying somewhat, because of feminist politics, girls and women have benefitted immensely from support from the state, through quotas for females, from entrance into college, to graduation, including entry into the professions, to hiring to promotion and equity benefits for female income.

Further, feminist antagonism to the family, added to unearned income, permits women to incite over 80% of divorces, which further impoverishes alienated fathers, undermining their potential contributions to the economy. Single mother families cause widespread social dysfunction, including crime and terminated education, regardless of social class.

As feminism increasingly alienated women from men and the two-parent family, the social status that working-class men enjoyed if they supported families, was diminished and ridiculed.

Further, despite the Flynn Effect, those with IQs below 85, increasingly cannot cope with the information and skill demands of a cybernetic-dominated economy. The political left condemn ‘exploitation,’ while politically correct commentators blame ‘cultural norms’. Few analysts dare examine group differences in IQ, which largely lead to 'class' differences, nationally and internationally, for fear of lifelong ostracism from their social and professional groups.

In conclusion, again paralleling Murray: It must once again be understood that a woman who is married with children and capriciously or selfishly divorces, should be regarded by family, friends and fellow citizens as irresponsible and immoral. Girls and women who deliberately conceive children without the prerequisite of marriage, should be deprived of state support, according to the successful ‘broken windows’ models. Whatever their class, those girls and women should be regarded as selfish and socially disruptive.

Social benefit programs which dump billions of dollars on futile mainstream pedagogy gimmicks, must be replaced with trades and skill education, to provide jobs to those in the lower IQ scores. Preferences and quotas, founded on marxist presumptions of inequity, based on sex, race or other group membership, must be abandoned.

America must be returned to equality of opportunity and equality before the law. Then, all citizens will be offered opportunities to prosper.

Jeffrey Asher
I doubt the view of the psychologists regarding the IQ tests. If you gently peruse the Junior and Senior High School textbooks of that earlier era with ours, I would submit that our generation is woefully behind, not light-years ahead.
Attempts by any government or other all-encompassing authority to 'help' people or to 'improve' their lives will fail. Why? Authority is not the tool to use for that. When people are once again required to experience the consquences for poor choices in their own lives and are allowed to keep what they earn without wondering who will demand and be given the products of their work, then and only then will people help themselves. No one in authority can produce the conditions necessary and sufficient to give that result. Political factors - crony capitalism and 'buy the vote' programs for two - will always and forever defeat any attempts to help people. People must learn to change their own behavior, for that behavior is the cause and their success or failure - or some combination of each, most likely - is the consequence of their actions.