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Charles Murray’s new book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” was the subject of his April 30th talk at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Wednesday Morning Club. The purpose of the book, Murray explained, was to set up a candid conversation on the overlooked existential crisis facing America: the formation of the new upper class and the formation of the new lower class in the United States along the lines of morality. Indeed, this candid conversation unfolded with alarming clarity throughout the lecture.
Murray asserted that the formation of this new class system in American society is primarily due to our increasing abandonment of traditional American values and our increasing embrace of secularism, which always engenders relativism. In such a world, there is no good, no evil, just a static government-imposed lackluster conformity masquerading as equality. We have lost, he said, the personal government of ourselves.
This loss has induced an acceptance of destructive trends as being normal. Full of alarming statistical data, Murray’s book points out that the marriage rate of upper middle-class white Americans is 83% while it is only 48% for white working-class Americans. The consequences of these statistics play out in a number of ways: Married men tend to be more productive than unmarried ones. This leads to a certain amount of cultural inequality, said Murray. Unmarried fathers, he notes, are unlikely to coach the little league and unmarried mothers are less likely to attend PTA meetings. Murray contended that we are not so much materially poor as we are spiritually poor, and that this stems from a lack of kinship with our family and neighbors. There is a far greater chance of gaining satisfaction from our lives when we interact with our families, within our vocations, with our respective faiths and with our community.
Books like “McGuffey’s Reader,” a six-volume primer of American values encouraging independence and self-reliance, which sold 120 million copies between 1836 and 1960, and which was used in a majority of classrooms during that period, has now virtually disappeared, along with the principles and values it sought to inculcate. This, Murray said, is how we ended up with a recent proposal to reduce the tax deduction for charitable donations, which reflects the government’s fundamental belief that only the government can or should help the poor. Private and community charity is now thought to be wrong. Only government welfare does not stigmatize its recipients, it is believed in some circles. In this way, people are able to buy off their conscience by telling themselves that they pay so much in taxes that it really is the government’s job to take care of those in need. However, it used to be thought that we should not do by legislation what properly belongs to charity.
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