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Murray told how the new upper class gets married later, has children later and are even generally thinner than their new lower class contemporaries. They work out and practice yoga. They watch television less than the new lower class, but they are also more ignorant of the rest of America because they simply have no contact with it. Educational homogeneity has increased amongst the new upper middle class, he went on to say, and so talent as well as money gets passed on from one generation to another, further increasing the gulf between the new lower class (most of whom have not attended college). Murray made the point that if you have never had a job where, by the end of the day, one or more body parts is not hurting or if you have never lived in an area where most of the residents do not have a degree, then you are out of touch with a large segment of your fellow Americans.
Murray asserted that a successful society needs a “confident elite” of the kind that existed in America and Great Britain during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The ruling forces in America now push an agenda that is not in the country’s best interests in order to demonstrate a lack of stuffiness and the ability to be non-judgmental, while burnishing secular credentials and casting aside the moral authority that made America a great and powerful country. With codes of behavior destroyed, it is just easier to pay our taxes and let the government do the work than it is to become involved, let alone to be committed to American exceptionalism or the virtues on which it is based.
On the brighter side, Murray noted that the impending collapse of failed European socialist states may be a sharp warning for America, a country he believes is still capable of re-inventing itself, as demonstrated by the enormous political reawakening that has taken place via the Tea Party. His book is not one filled with solutions, but it is more of a call for the reestablishment of our American national values. In part, it illustrates what happens when “Starbucks socialism” leaves the faculty lounge and collides with reality. However, Murray was optimistic and believes that not only the American spirit, but also the human spirit, will prevail.
Towards the end of Murray’s talk, I was reminded of a joke I recently read in which an Oxford professor meets an American former graduate student and asks him what he’s working on these days. “My thesis is on the survival of the class system in America,” he answered. “Oh really,” said his old professor, “I didn’t think there was a class system in the United States.” “Nobody does,” replied the former student, “that’s how it survives!” With the publication of Charles Murray’s new book and the startling revelations it conveys, one can only hope that the survival of this covert — and hence, even more dangerous — system is not long for this world.
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