Charles Murray has been a keen observer of American society for nearly 30 years. He unraveled the welfare state in 1984 with his book Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980.
The book that rocked the establishment was The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994). Murray wrote it with the late Harvard professor Richard J. Herrnstein.
“Its central point is that intelligence is a better predictor of many factors including financial income, job performance, unwed pregnancy, and crime than one’s parents’ socio-economic status or education level. Also, the book argued that those with high intelligence (the ‘cognitive elite’) are becoming separated from the general population of those with average and below-average intelligence, and that this was a dangerous social trend.”
The book’s well-documented 845 pages created a storm of criticism from those who had been arguing that social and economic conditions were the prime indicators of success. Any other answer would mean that wealth redistribution was not the answer. It’s not what liberals wanted to hear. You didn’t have to agree with everything Murray and Herrnstein were saying to dismiss the entire thesis.
Murray’s latest book is sure to ruffle feathers. But when someone like David Brooks gives it high marks, we need to take notice:
I’ll be shocked if there’s another book this year as important as Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart.” I’ll be shocked if there’s another book that so compellingly describes the most important trends in American society.
Murray argues that we are turning into a two-tribe nation. Like all of Murray’s works, he backs up his conclusions with impressive data. Don’t think the data will convince ideological liberals. They are rarely swayed by facts. If they were, they wouldn’t be liberals.
This statement by Brooks lays the tracks of Murray’s thesis:
The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.
Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.
In the end, it all comes down to values. In the 1950s there was still a basis for values. The majority of people believed in God and a body of laws that were a reflection of His character. It’s taken 60 years, but the theism has been squeezed out of three generations and it’s beginning to show, and Murray shows in exacting detail the inevitable results.