I haven’t yet read Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, but fellow Minnesotan Eric Falkenstein has. The self-described son of Beatnik parents, he pens not so much a review as an appreciation, and couples it with a nice skewering of the New Class:
Murray argues the well-off should set a better example by not apologizing for their squareness, but rather, by advocating their lifestyle and scorning those who fail to live up to it—we need more of what is usually called ‘blaming the victim’. Murray singles out the modern welfare state as the key instigator for our moral squalor, but I rather think our lack of faith in bourgeois values in general was the first mover here. Surely enlarging the dole increases the size of its patronage pool, but I still think policy is more symptomatic than causal. …
Scribes have always been jealous of the wealthy and powerful, thinking that an elite set of navel-gazing intellectuals such as themselves would be more efficient, as if they wouldn’t turn into illiberal tyrants in short order (see what became of young intellectuals Trotsky, Mao, Ho Chi Min, and Mugabe). They convince themselves prior attempts along these lines were co-opted, but that’s purely self-serving confabulation. Unfortunately, these same people dominate the media and academia by their very nature (wordsmiths), so it will be hard for modern mores to change because people wise enough to see it’s wrong will tend to simply succeed off the grid, without reconciling their success theoretically in a treatise.
Currently there existis a dominant coalition of the lumpen-proletariat and their patronizing, indulgent, but highly status-oriented advocates who aspire to lead the new reverse dominance hierarchy. The leaders will argue that we should expropriate if not imprison the rich and their like because 1) mass redistribution will always win a referendum and 2) such a process needs leaders, and who better than those most articulate and faithful to the hive? …
Currently, [the lower classes] simply hear about how great it is to be a victim, how noble it is to be poor, powerless, or discriminated [against]; to be wronged is the ultimate in righteousness. This simply isn’t true and the poor know it. Suffering does have meaning when it cannot be controlled, and in such times a stoic attitude is truly heroic, often taken out of a higher duty to one’s neighbors and family. But simply suffering low status because one does not have a job, stopped paying their mortgage, is in jail, or did not learn a trade, is usually the result of simple sloth and shortsightedness, and all their friends and family know it.
Alas, successful people are ashamed to assert they have better genetics, values, and habits–even though they quietly believe it to be true–and so are content to let the media and intellectuals push the delusional idea that success is like when Paris Hilton had sex on a digital camera and built a career out of it: luck, connections, and chutzpah, but no discipline, ingenuity, and perseverence. With such examples it becomes defensible to suggest most of the rich are like that–mere lucky hacks in the game of life. The flip side is that those who are unsuccessful are suffering for no fault of their own.
Thus, every day we see people championing the pathetic in journalistic essays: a scared mother of four on food stamps, or her selfless Community Activist advocate. No one champions the simple strivers, those who take care of themselves and in the process alleviate society of one more charity case, and along the way create wealth via ‘gains from trade’ implicit in market transactions. A simple prosperous mensch who does not hypocritically claim he primarily works for others is off the radar, implicitly insulting to any intellectual making considerably less than him.
Bracing stuff. Falkenstein even invokes Horatio Alger, whom I also praised in a speech last weekend–about which I intend to write when my day job allows me a few moments.