Coming Apart at the Seams

by John Derbyshire

I have just started in listening to the 2011 Bradley Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, delivered by Charles Murray. A video has been posted online here, and that’s where I’m watching it.

You have to see this. Murray is not merely a datanaut, he’s one of the wise men of our day.

Some samples from the first few minutes of the lecture. Murray is talking about his forthcoming new book.

The thesis of this book is simple. Over the last half-century the United States has developed a new lower class and a new upper class that are different in kind from anything America has ever known. The second contention of the book is that the divergence of America into these separate classes, if it continues, will end what has made America America …

It’s not the existence of classes that is new, but the emergence of classes that diverge on core behaviors and values …

The American project consists of the continuing effort, begun with the founding, to demonstrate that human beings can be left free as individuals and families to live their lives as they see fit. They can come together voluntarily to solve their joint problems. The polity based on that idea led to a civic culture that was seen as exceptional by all the world. That culture was so widely shared among Americans that it amounted to a civil religion: “the American way of life” — a phrase that we actually don’t hear much any more, but used to be taken for granted. That culture is unraveling …

America is coming apart at the seams: not seams of race or ethnicity, but of class. And that leads to the title of tonight’s lecture: “The State of White America, 1960-2010.” …