Why People Fail

Success-Failure-SignThe hysterical responses to Amy “Tiger Mom” Chua’s book discussing why some cultures succeed and others fail are revealing. Even though Chua was talking about cultural elements, rather than genetic ones, the accusations of racism are entirely predictable.

Chua’s thesis, like most similar arguments, is plausible in some areas and implausible in others. Any explanation that tackles as big a subject as that is bound to have as many hits as misses.

And yet it’s undeniable that some cultures succeed where others fail.

The left refuses to distinguish between culture and race; denouncing everything from criticism of Islam to complaints about gang culture as racist. It treats culture as equivalent to race because it doesn’t believe that people are capable of change.

The cast of successful cultures in Chua’s book is more than racially diverse enough, but it’s the idea that people succeed or fail because of their attitude toward life, rather than because of their privilege or lack of privilege that infuriates the left.

No one succeeds on their own, Elizabeth Warren and Obama insisted. They succeed only through the grace of state institutions. It’s not family or culture that matters; only the state.

But the support of the state isn’t enough for individuals or for businesses. Obama lavishly doled out government money to Green Energy companies only to see them fail. With corporate welfare, as with social welfare, the need for government money is a reliable predictor of failure.

Those who cannot succeed on their own, will not succeed through the government.

Government money could not compensate for what was wrong with companies like Solyndra, Fisker or A123. It also can’t compensate for what is wrong with individuals and communities that are prone to failure, not because of someone else’s privilege, but because they have never learned how to try.

The left does not want to deal with the question of why some people succeed and others fail since its entire ideological infrastructure is built around the argument of unequal access.

Individuals don’t fail, progressives from Obama to Bill de Blasio insist, social institutions fail them.

The New York Times trotted out a young black girl named Dasani living in a dilapidated homeless shelter as its argument that the city had been subdivided between the rich and the poor. Dasani made another appearance at Bill de Blasio’s inauguration as a prop for class warfare.

But the city didn’t fail a girl whose parents are criminals and junkies and have burned through tens of thousands of dollars. Dasani isn’t living on the margins because Mayor Bloomberg or the institutions of the city failed her. On the contrary those institutions have lavished huge amounts of money and resources on her schooling and on every aspect of her life.

If Dasani fails, it’s not because the larger society failed her, but because her parents failed her. And the roots of their failure lie in communities where drug use and delinquency have become accepted and commonplace.

The left insists that people are interchangeable. They are not. It insists that their failures and successes belong to the guiding hand of the state. They do not.

Institutional determinism is why the Great Society measures failed. The progressive response to these failures has been to discover new and more abstract forms of racism culminating in white privilege to explain why the lack of access is holding some groups back.

There is an entire academic industry dedicated to turning out proofs of racism to explain failure and yet there are indisputable studies out there documenting things such as the diminished grade levels and higher crime rates for students from single parent homes on a worldwide scale.

While the left pushes harder for its post-family world of powerful institutions, there are reams of data showing how destructive trading the family for the state is. And there is no group of people that embodies that better than African-Americans whose lives have been taken over by the state.

Black families have fallen apart while state intervention in their lives has dramatically increased. It was a bad bargain and its consequences can be seen in every major city and in the lives of little girls like Dasani who are used as props by activists calling for more welfare from a government that can spend millions, but can’t fix the lack of responsibility of her family members.

Welfare not only correlates with social failures, it causes them. And it doesn’t just cause them in our own country.

Third World activists complain that Western aid destroys local capabilities and cripples domestic economies while promoting a culture of corruption and violence. The best evidence of that may be in the world’s biggest welfare state in the Palestinian Authority where the locals know how to do little except make demands and threaten to kill everyone if they don’t get their way.

Institutional determinism promotes learned helplessness. It teaches people that their failures can only be remedied by blaming someone else. Without individual responsibility, all that’s left are institutional subsidies for failure and there are only so many companies that can be bailed out and only so many individuals who can live off the welfare state.

Many of the cultures that Chua lists are refugees. That distrust of government may be a powerful antidote to Hillary Clinton’s village of the state.

And all of the cultures on the list are family oriented.

A basic difference between Asian-Americans and African-Americans is that the former are most likely to be married and the latter are least likely to be married. That may be why Asian students succeed in the same “bad” urban schools that are supposedly failing the other minority students.

The magic ingredient is a stable family and parental involvement. It is the difference between Dasani and a Chinese girl who is already working toward getting into Stuyvesant High School; that elite city institution of high-performing students that Bill de Blasio wants to “diversify”.

Despite the best efforts of the left, Dasani and her family are not typical of African-Americans. If they were, the city and the country would be uninhabitable and there would be no black middle class. But it is the mission of the New York Times and the rest of the left to convince their white readers that if not for their social justice campaigns, every black little girl would be a Dasani.

There are black parents who push their children to succeed every bit as hard as Amy Chua does. I have met some of them over the years. The problem is that there aren’t nearly as many of them as there were before the wheels of the Great Society began to turn and African-Americans were told that they should accept failure and even welcome it as proof of their persecution.

Culture is just another way of saying that it isn’t the state that makes success possible, but the individual and the family.

We are more than the sum of our institutions, we are our parents and our grandparents, we are the things we read and the things we believe, we are the sense of mission that brought our ancestors through thousands of years of trouble and we are their strengths and their weaknesses.

It’s not institutions that make our successes possible. It is our beliefs that make all the difference.

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  • veeper

    There is no magic set of circumstances, situations, rule or anything else that determines whether a person fails or not.

    Some people succeed and some people fail doing exactly the same thing…..

    Karma is as good of a reason as culture or state…..

    • objectivefactsmatter

      “Karma is as good of a reason as culture or state…..”

      That’s as lazy an answer as anything anyone else can suggest. Maybe it’s black magic that causes failure?

      People need to believe in success (their goals) in order to work towards it or them. If you don’t believe a map and refuse to follow it, the world doesn’t change but you have a lot more difficulty finding things. There are “success maps” that cultures carry and teach, though “success” is more flexible than geography, hopefully you understand from my illustration that it’s harder to find something when you believe that it doesn’t exist or that it’s much farther away than in reality it could be if you had a workable plan to get there and that you could plausibly believe in.

      • justquitnow

        What’s success?

        • motherofbeaver

          If you have to ask then you will never have it. Every life needs some purpose and meaning to be worth living and sitting around in a vegetative state living off the labours of others makes you a parasite not a human. And of the 92 million Americans on unemployment insurance today, those who have stopped looking for work are nothing more than slugs.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            Success is getting people to revolt against capitalism because they’re too damn lazy to work.

          • veeper

            and yet….some…

            have made very successful careers out of doing that…..

          • objectivefactsmatter

            Successful as individuals while working to destroy society in the name of altruism. Indeed they have.

          • justquitnow

            It was rhetorical. I just wanted to see what he considered success. Do you walk around thinking about the injustice being done to hardworking people by all the parasites around you? You waste energy hating people you don’t know, will never see, and don’t really understand?

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “I just wanted to see what he considered success.”

            That’s not how you framed your question.

        • objectivefactsmatter


          suc·cess noun sək-ˈses

          : the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame

          : the correct or desired result of an attempt

          : someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds

          Full Definition of SUCCESS

          1 obsolete : outcome, result

          2a : degree or measure of succeeding
          b : favorable or desired outcome; also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence

          3: one that succeeds

          See success defined for English-language learners »

          See success defined for kids »

          Examples of SUCCESS

          Success came easily to him.

          She is country music’s most recent success.

          The growth of the tourism industry is one of the city’s great successes.

          An enormous popular and critical success, The Liars’ Clubwas credited with (or blamed for) launching a new wave of memoir-writing. (Karr deflects this accusation: “I think memoir started with St. Augustine,” she told Salon in 1997.) —Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, Commonweal, 23 Oct. 2009

          • justquitnow

            Thanks Siri

        • truebearing

          Why am I not surprised you asked that question?

      • Sheik Yerbouti

        I see the use of “Karma” distorted all over the web. I’m amazed how many confuse it for “payback”. But payback can be a powerful incentive. Even if the true cause of your grief died decades or centuries ago, payback can still be implemented. These days we call it “The Knock-Out Game”. It’s just as mindless and destructive and each incident sets white/black relations back a notch. And yet, we’re expected to make the grand gesture and capitulate. In their dreams.

      • veeper

        the point is “lazy” poster….is…..

        picking one general cover-all label to explain failure or success is just as silly as picking any other general label…..

        • objectivefactsmatter

          Failing to discern between useful and useless is pretty lazy.

    • PharmDoc61

      The difference is how you treat failure – do you learn from those mistakes and improve or just give up?

    • truebearing

      If Karma is the operant factor, then the efforts of the Marxists are futile. Or are you suggesting that Marxism, in all of its manifestations, is Karma’s tool for inflicting punishment on those who deserve it? But then, what about those elites who enjoy the benefits of running the Marxist regimes that are inflicting pain and suffering, even death, on all of those under their oppressive regimes? Shouldn’t such evil people suffer some kind of instant Karma? And what about Karma’s Karma for employing them to implement Karma?

      • veeper

        the point is generalities don’t work out…

        they just make for a lot of discussion and articles…..

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

    You correctly point out the importance of the family. One could add the importance of what traditional conservatives used to call the “middle institutions” of church, schools, fraternal organizations, friends, etc. And you point out the harm the state can cause. There is no doubt that environmental factors have an influence.

    What needs to be challenged is the idea that people don’t have free will. The left holds the doctrine of determinism. According to them we are not the masters of our soul. The is the antithesis of our classical heritage. In the classical liberal tradition, the family played an important role nurturing and educating a child to prepare them to flourish as a free man. They were given a “liberal” education, i.e. learning the knowledge appropriate to a life as a free man. They were taught ethics, to make the right choices as a free man.

    “Cultural racism,” as it is now called in Europe, is just the notion that one’s character is determined by society and one can’t be blamed or discriminated against because of one’s identity. It is contrasted with “physical racism.” The leading term is then dropped from the phrase. The nature versus nurture debate is a false alternative: are we determined by our genes or our environment? We have free will. Both genes and environment can make our challenges harder or easier, but we are the master of our soul and character.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      That’s a very important point.

    • Judahlevi

      Whether one believes in determinism or free will, the actions of any individual will not change because of it. The left holds a view which is condescending to those it considers minorities. Without the assistance of the superior leftist mind, these ‘minorities’ would not be able to succeed on their own.

      I agree that families matter and any child has a greater probability of success with a stable family. Ultimately, however, free will enters into the equation and we are all accountable for our own actions and behaviors no matter where we come from. Each individual is responsible for his or her own actions, no one else.

      From an essay I wrote:

      We all come from other human beings – no one has been cloned yet. But how much does that matter as to who we are as human beings? Is it our lineage that defines us or our own individual acts and behaviors? Do we have free will or are we just a determined collection of ancestor’s DNA? Does it really matter who we came from?

      Individualism would argue that each human being is unique and sovereign. They are to be judged by their actions alone, not by their ancestors. Since Individualism denies the existence of collective guilt or pride, each individual is judged by his or her own mistakes and achievements. They should never be judged as part of a group.

      This does not deny the influence of genetics, family or culture. There are almost an infinite amount of types of influence which will affect the behavior of individuals. Nonetheless, each individual decides which actions to take and ultimately what their character will be. Since we have free will, these decisions are our own to make and are not forced upon us.

    • truebearing

      Well said.

      There seems to be two aspects to the Left’s doctrine of determinism. We, the people, are the ones subjected to the determinism. The elite Left does the totalitarian determining. In their deterministic caste system, the determiners rise to the top by anti-virtue of their ruthlessness, rapacity for power, and dishonesty. The determinated are the masses that weren’t aware or resolute enough to throw off the yoke of totalitarian, ie. deterministic, rule.

      Since the Left’s leadership comes from both wealthy and poor families, how exactly does that fact fit their theory? It doesn’t, of course, but their blaming all failures on others sounds good to the malcontented, lazy, gullible, and vindictive fools who are always the first to join the cause.

  • T-Rex

    The seeds of entitlement were planted in 1964 and nurtured with the constant dousing of victim-hood. The result is a strain that can not survive anywhere but in a controlled environment that provides all the necessities of life.

    • Seth

      “Historians debate the exact contours, but generally date the “Progressive Era” from the 1890s to either World War I or the onset of the Great Depression.”

      It did not start with LBJ.

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

    On second thought, I don’t think I’ve given you the full credit you deserve for an excellent article. The left believes in paternalistic government: i.e. society as family writ large As you point out, the state is no substitute for a solid nurturing family and never will be. That’s a damn good point and I didn’t emphasis it above. … It must be my naturally contrary nature.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      The left believes in the advanced “modern” artificial institution over natural organic biological human institutions.

      • carpe diem 36

        and the Life of Julia is what we should all lead, right?

        • Daniel Greenfield

          A genderless Julia with more volunteerism

  • Marcus

    “No one succeeds on their own, Elizabeth Warren and Obama insisted. They succeed only through the grace of state institutions.”

    Let’s take this argument to an example that most people can see why House “Flipper” Elizabeth Warren is wrong.

    Most people should be able to relate to it except for those in the worst public schools.

    What about Marco Polo? There were no government roads for him to travel on for most of his journey. For months on end there was not government security. To capitalize their trip they gathered money from family and friends. that makes them capitalists.

    Marco Polo and company did build a successful caravan. No Italian government helped him.

    • justquitnow

      Except you put in quotes and the blogger doesn’t. That’s because it isn’t a quote. It’s what he imagines his “enemies” to think and say.

      Marco Polo?

    • carpe diem 36

      what about Edison, whose wonderful invention, without anything from the gov’t we are now not allowed to buy, but for over 100 years lit our homes and made possible for us to have good light by which to read books that the left does not like us to read, books about other inventors and also rich people who did not become rich by gov’t handouts.

    • carpe diem 36

      no one succeeds on his own, according to Flipper. how do you explain all those like Jobs, R Lauren, C Klein? how much money did they get from gov’t? why not say if they could do it why not I? there are so many such examples, and I know a few of them personally, none of which got one penny from Govt. they are preaching lies so that hey can win elections by the low info voters, and they just whip up the envious to vote for them. they would do so for a cell phone, as we have seen so many times by that wonderful woman on TV

      • bigjulie

        FLIPPER is a perfect example of what happens when the voting base becomes totally bereft of intellectual ability. But, will she be able to afford the PR Firm that hoisted one of her most useless predecessors to “Lion of the Senate”? The co-inventor of the “waitress sandwich”? With her already demonstrated lack of any intellectual ability or reasoning ability or even speaking ability, she’ll need one helluva good one to be elected to another term…even in Massachusetts!

    • philbest

      Another thing that is so stupid and wrong about Elizabeth Warren’s rant against successful entrepreneurs who “didn’t build that”, is that she portrays them as reaping the benefit of infrastructure and institutions “paid for by the rest of us”.

      This is so morally inverted it is scandalous.

      If anyone has paid for everything for everyone else, it is the top few percent.

      One of the basic realities that everyone is missing in these arguments about income distribution and redistribution, I learned from a brilliant New Zealand politician named Roger Douglas decades ago. That is, low income earners who are paying little or no tax, are already getting tens of thousands of dollars worth of government institutions and infrastructure per year paid for on their behalf by payers of large amounts of tax. It is a bit over-the-top to accuse the payers of large amounts of tax of “not doing their fair share” just because they are not paying in to actual income redistribution schemes on top of what they ARE already doing. Where’s the gratitude?

      Everyone who pays little or no tax, has had an education paid for; they will have had some health care paid for (and in countries with fully socialised medicine, a LOT of health care), they have had the roads they travel on paid for; they have a police force who keeps their daily existence safer, paid for; and so on. The way the Left talks, the only difference between a welfare beneficiary in the USA and a Sudanese villager, is the small welfare payment received by the poor person in the USA. Even this welfare payment is a significant difference versus the world’s poor, but there is tens of thousands of dollars per year of spending per person on things the USA’s poor “receive in kind, not in cash”, that the Sudanese does not.

      Douglas’ suggestion decades ago, was to switch the role of the State to cash transfers, and leave the actual provision of services to the private sector. The poor could actually do a lot better for themselves if they were given the money to provide for themselves, rather than fat, self-interested bureaucracies being given the money, allegedly to provide the services efficiently to all.

      Then the poor might have some idea of just how much “rich people” actually ARE already paying in on their behalf. They also might get realistic about the value of the freedom to choose which provider to spend the money on, in contrast to the current Lada service they are getting for which “rich people” pay Rolls-Royce prices on their behalf.

  • Marcus

    Please refer to the speculator Elizabeth Warran the House Flipper as FLIPPER

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Cherokee flipper?

  • bigjulie

    Another beautiful piece of common-sense logic from Daniel Greenfield and a great summation of what people who believe in responsibility for their personal actions have been outlining for decades. Of course, the “intellectuals” on the Left have been trying just as hard to convince us that, except for the “excellent” institutions they have been trying to create since the time of Woodrow Wilson, America would be mired in irresponsible and selfish struggles to get nowhere.
    The Left’s “perfect plans” inevitably culminate in results such as we are now seeing from the “Bridgegate” fiasco in New Jersey. The Left believes that an all-powerful government can simply legislate against elements of being human and actually make them work! Unfortunately, such legislation only “works” by brute force, if it works at all, as Christie’s hilarious staffers tried to do and which the Mayor of Ft. Lee demonstrated can be easily resisted, possibly to the downfall of the New Jersey Governor himself.
    Thanks, Daniel, for hitting another one out of the park!

    • philbest

      Agree, Daniel Greenfield is up there with Theodore Dalrymple as an incisive observer of leftwing folly.

      “Culture is NOT race”….!!!! ……should be the stock response to the hackneyed charges against conservatives, of “racism”. I have been responding like this for years. Far too few people have even thought of this, but it is so self evident that only the looniest lefty won’t get the point.

      Thomas Sowell’s autobiographical writing gives constant credit to the culture in which he was brought up, even though his biological parents did fail him, extended family were dedicated to knowing what is right and wrong and doing the right thing.

      The chapter “Carolina in the Morning” in the book “A Personal Odyssey” (and in “The Thomas Sowell Reader”) is very poignant and telling.

      • bigjulie

        Thanks for the lead, philbest…Thomas Sowell is one of my heroes!

      • Seek

        I’m a longtime fan of Thomas Sowell, but the idea that race and culture should be seen as separate is absurd. Race is very much a part of culture, a point, ironically, that Sowell himself has made many times. Read him a little more carefully.

        • philbest

          Criticising a “culture” is not “racism”. For example, when someone criticises a Christian Sudanese because according to the critic, Christianity is unenlightened and irrational, that is not “racist”.

          So why does the left perpetually get away with it, in Europe, when smearing anyone who criticises Islam, as “a racist”? They could be criticising a Muslim Arab, a Muslim Persian, a Muslim Pashtun, a Muslim Indonesian, a Muslim Chechen, or a Muslim Celt. An Arab is an Arab. If I said something derogatory about “Arabs”, I accept that that is “racist”.

          If I criticise Islam, I expect people to engage with my arguments about Islam, not write me off as beyond the pale because it is “racist” to do so.

          I am unaware of anyone criticising Christianity, who is immediately written off as “racist”, nor do I think it logical to expect it.

          I have used religion as an example; however, national or regional “culture” could be used too. The one thing I do not accept as interchangeable with “culture”, is race. No-one can change their race. Anyone can choose to switch to another culture. Inter-cultural competition is good, like inter-municipality competition. It shows up “best practice”.

          You might say there is an British culture, and that this is synonymous with being Anglo-Saxon by race. This would be nonsense. There are Anglo-Saxon Buddhists and there are many people of different races who are proudly “British”. A recent Serbian immigrant to Australia wrote to Quadrant Magazine saying how proud he was to “be an Australian” now, contrasting his pride with certain cringing multi-culturalists in Australian Universities.

          Asians, especially Chinese, have a term, “Banana” – meaning “yellow on the outside, white on the inside”. It is used either to criticize Asians who have “westernized”, or by those westernized Asians themselves as a matter of pride.

          If I make derogatory remarks about “Chinese”, that is racist. If I say what a disaster Communism/Buddhism/Confucianism has been for the Chinese, that is anti-racist. If I say the same about Islam for the Arabs, that is anti-racist. It is people on the Left, conflating race and culture, who are the real racists.

          All the more bitterly ironic, because those Leftists have expected Anglo-Saxons to march forwards into the age of reason, science and atheism – why not other races too? And when “indigenous” people anywhere have predominantly converted to Christianity (a perfectly rational decision), the Left’s white ants work industriously to get them to revert to pre-christian paganism – or at least manipulate public policy to conflate the indigenous race and the pagan values in terms of “respect” being demanded in all manner of socio-economic policy areas.

          The Left are the pathological racists in these issues. Conservatives are actually “culturists” and anti-racists, for which the truly racist Left smears THEM as “racists”. Entirely typical of the Orwellian nature of the Left.

        • philbest

          I fail to see what you are ascribing to Sowell. He was not raised as an African pagan.

          “Conservative” American culture in which African-Americans were immersed when Sowell was growing up was far superior to modern relativist culture and its effect on African-Americans, as Sowell demonstrates.

  • UCSPanther

    One good way to destroy a culture without firing a shot is to make the people dependent on handouts.

  • Aizeta

    Species in fission-fusion societies.
    This form of social organization occurs in several species of primates, some
    humans and fish such as guppies.
    In a fission-fusion society, the main parent group can fracture
    (fission) into smaller stable subgroups (gangs) or individuals to adapt to environmental or social circumstances (quick escape from police). For example, a number of males may break off from the main group in order to hunt or forage for food (steal) during the day, but at night they may return to join (fusion) the primary group to share food and partake in other activities (doing drugs). If they copulate, the female may stay with the male for several days and come into contact with his parent group, temporarily “fusing” into the male’s community. In
    some cases, animals may leave one parent group in favor of associating
    themselves with another, usually for reproductively motivated reasons.
    Source wikipedia. Parenthesis are mine.

  • truebearing

    Yet another great article, Daniel.

    It is fair to say that one either works at determining one’s own future, or circumstances will. Individual determination is the choice to take responsibility for the outcome of one’s life. The failure to choose self-determination necessarily means a person is choosing to be subject to the consequences of unpreparedness, financial or otherwise. Choices all have direct consequences.

    The Left has made it their mission to be the determining circumstance for all people, promising to legislate risk right out of reality, but first they have to remove choice as an option for everyone. Nothing makes determinism look worse than comparisons to the lives of those who had the freedom to choose, and chose well.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Indeed. We either choose or the choice is made for us

  • Marlin B. Newburn

    “Chinese Girl in the Ghetto” by Ying Ma strongly supports Greenfield’s article.

    Ms. Ma endured hideous harassment and abuse by black people while attending American schools right after immigrating from China. She had very little grasp of English yet in spite of the near constant threats and ethnic insults, she succeeded and achieved beyond belief.

    It’s a wonderful read, and destroys just about every liberal argument about government interference and necessity to succeed. It also speaks volumes about the sadism of many blacks in the ghetto. Ms. Ma is a true spiritual heroin.

    Liberals hate the book.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      It’s also a common story. Asian students keep succeeding in the inner city showing that it’s not the schools that are broken, it’s the students

      • Marlin B. Newburn

        I’ve worked and socialized with Asian folks as well as attended university with them (the latter, years ago), and to an individual, they’re wonderful people. Their industriousness is standard trait for them as is there sociability and kindness.

  • Jeff Ludwig

    I believe there was discrimination to some degree when I attended college and graduate school in the late fifties and early sixties. At the University of Pennsylvania, there were very few African-American students, and only one African-American professor, Dr. Fontaine in philosophy. There were very few students from homes of blue-collar workers (my father was a municipal bus driver). The same held true when I went for graduate study at Harvard. I was the only person from a blue collar background that I met in six years. All other students were solidly middle class or quite affluent and were part of the Saltonstalls or the Auchincloss families, etc. It seemed to me then, and still does, that there must have been more qualified guys or gals from blue collar families or from families of color than I saw on those campuses. The problem is that the pendulum has swung too far. We’re still blaming the institutions too much, and now we have so much racial division that when I attended a reunion at Penn a few years ago, there is an entire dormitory for black students which I was told they had requested. The doors opened wide to them, and now they are keeping the non-black students at arms length. Too much Stokeley Carmichael and not enough M.L. King. I know I’m straying a bit from Mr. Greenfield’s theme, but I still think it’s related albeit somewhat tangentially.

  • darnellecheri

    This article is so full of excellent points, I would have to cut and paste it in its entirety here. If I had choose one point to highlight, I will choose: “Institutional determinism promotes learned helplessness. It teaches people that their failures can only be remedied by blaming someone else. Without individual responsibility, all that’s left are institutional subsidies for failure and there are only so many companies that can be bailed out and only so many individuals who can live off the welfare state. Many of the cultures that Chua lists are refugees. That distrust of government may be a powerful antidote to Hillary Clinton’s village of the state. And all of the cultures on the list are family oriented.”

    Back in the 1980s, I worked with refugees from the Soviet orbit of Eastern Europe, and I can attest that very rarely did I find anyone willing to rest on the American welfare system. They were frightened and unfamiliar to the American system of self-initiative, but once they were enlightened and psychologically unburdened from Communism/Socialism, it was amazing to see them bloom into independent workers and independent humans.

    I think of my grandparents as well. They came from the European slums and worked hard here and became business owners. The American story is so opposite of learned helplessness that I wonder how many generations does it take to unlearn the example of our own ancestors. With that being said, I have to post the author’s last statement, as it is very inspiring to me:

    “We are more than the sum of our institutions, we are our parents and our grandparents, we are the things we read and the things we believe, we are the sense of mission that brought our ancestors through thousands of years of trouble and we are their strengths and their weaknesses. It’s not institutions that make our successes possible. It is our beliefs that make all the difference.” A difference indeed. Thank you for a well-written piece!

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Often people who come from genuinely oppressive, rather than merely corrupt societies are less trusting of institutional determinism

  • physicsnut

    MSNBC says “it is cool to be a liberal again”
    yup – and Bill DeBlasio eats pizza with a freakin FORK.
    That sandinista worshipping clown would never have been elected if anyone knew.
    The Left always seeks to destroy the family – that is how values are transmitted, and that is what they seek to destroy. Of course they don’t come out and tell you that up front.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      William Wilhelm jr

  • 11bravo

    If you took out the test scores of all NON-Asian minorities; US schools, and the US would rank right up at the top of global rankings. Instead we hover around what – 26th?
    It is the students that are pressured to NOT act white, that are broken. Sad to the core, but true!

  • Fairfield CT

    The author could also have noted the effect on urban-centers of giving these “communities” the economic means to sustain their dysfunctional (violent, anti-education, anti-family, pro-gang, Al Capone, The Wire) cultures with the lucrative (~$100 billion tax free, roughly the size of the U.S. mutual fund industry) proceeds from drug trafficking and human trafficking (aka, prostitution). This is perhaps an even more powerful (albeit indirect) institutional influence as direct government dependency programs.

  • Matt Dickinson

    Does charity keep people down too? I’ve always seen welfare as a collective, forced charity, although in the Bible it mentions the Israelites are commanded to give up a portion of their wealth to the needy among them.

    • Debbie G

      In ancient times, it would have been virtually impossible for a widow with several children to feed her family. The same would have been true for a severely disabled person with no family. Nowadays,I still have no problem with people who go to their church to ask for help, with the understanding they must also help themselves (even if it’s a miniumum wage job).
      But I get your point. Welfare has become a bloated, fraudulent, controlling system