David Brooks on the new Charles Murray book

by on January 31, 2012 at 7:33 am in Books, History | Permalink

Roughly 7 percent of the white kids in the upper tribe are born out of wedlock, compared with roughly 45 percent of the kids in the lower tribe. In the upper tribe, nearly every man aged 30 to 49 is in the labor force. In the lower tribe, men in their prime working ages have been steadily dropping out of the labor force, in good times and bad.

People in the lower tribe are much less likely to get married, less likely to go to church, less likely to be active in their communities, more likely to watch TV excessively, more likely to be obese…

It’s wrong to describe an America in which the salt of the earth common people are preyed upon by this or that nefarious elite. It’s wrong to tell the familiar underdog morality tale in which the problems of the masses are caused by the elites.

The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.

Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.

Remember when “rage” used to mean “Radical Alternatives to Government Enterprise”?  Murray’s book will bring rage of a different kind, because it strikes rather directly at how political views are based on emotional feelings about the deserved status of various social groups (RH: “Politics isn’t about policy.”)  Here is more.  If you are wondering, my copy of the book arrives today.  Perhaps my review will consider whether economic forces are driving the social ones, or vice versa.

Stan January 31, 2012 at 7:56 am

We’re turning into London as seen by Charles Dickens due to our current class war, in which the Mitt Romney’s of this world enjoy a lower tax rate than their office assistants. While this is going on, apologists for the rich will wring their hands and point to the low morality and poor work habits of the working class.

Andrew' January 31, 2012 at 8:11 am

And Romney should pay more taxes so that the government can borrow double that and make 4 times the promises in handouts? That’s not working.

The Original D January 31, 2012 at 10:56 am

It’s not an “if this, then that” proposition. The tax code is objectively unfair regardless of spending policy.

Andrew' January 31, 2012 at 11:27 am

It is actually an if this then that proposition in my opinion.

Disagree January 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm

“objectively unfair”?

The tax policy center shows a progressive effective federal tax rate: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=456

I guess that could be unfair to the higher brackets, who pay at least double the lower brackets in percentage terms and much more in actual dollars.

ian January 31, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Why are people ignoring the corporate tax rate when they discuss the tax rates of Buffett and Romney?

Let’s say person A gives $1 million to a private equity firm (set up as a partnerships of some sort so as to avoid corporate taxes). They then buy struggling company (corporation) ABC using $80 million in debt and $20 million in equity. They do their private equity firm magic (or voodoo, depending on your perspective), make the company profitable and sell it for $100 million. In the meantime they racked up $5 million in debt, so they make a net profit of $15 million. They can then distribute that $15 million to their partners who will pay 15% in capital gains tax. However, assuming they made the company profitable they also paid corporate income tax while they owned ABC Corp. The incidence of corporate tax isn’t entirely on capital, of course, and a fair assumption may be that labor bears half.

Of course there are all sorts of ways for a company that had been losing money to hide income; their effective rate might be quite low. But that doesn’t change the fact that the tax rates the partners of the PE firm paid was likely much higher than 15%. If the PE firm made the company profitable during its ownership it may even be as high as 25% or 30%.

Also, if the PE firm or investment firm was a corporation and had to pay corporate tax the 15% capital gains would be woefully short, perhaps by as much as 30%.

Derek Scruggs January 31, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Everything you defined is true of common stockholders who receiv dividends. Further, there are so many what ifs that it’s ridiculous to speculate. Such as: what if their profits are overseas and not repatriated? What if the company is not profitable but still sold for a gain (Google buying DoubleClick comes to mind)? What if the company receives research tax credits and other subsidies? What if the “company” is rrally just a patent portfolio to litigate with? what if the company is a defense contractor kept afloat via lobbying?

The nky thing you can say with certainty is that the carried interest exception is a government handout like any other.

The subject is PE but this all also applies to VC.

AndrewL January 31, 2012 at 8:49 am

you have any proof of this? a working example perhaps?

Andrew' January 31, 2012 at 9:05 am

2010
Revenues: $2.1T
Spending: $3.5T
Entitlement Liabilities: $50T or so.

AndrewL January 31, 2012 at 11:18 am

I was talking about Stan’s office assisstant’s example.

CBBB January 31, 2012 at 9:17 am

And David Brooks is really nothing more then a latter day upperclass twit

Pshrnk January 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm

And I suppose refraining from Ad Hominem attacks is not sound logic, but an upper class plot to keep the lower classes in their place.

Edward Burke January 31, 2012 at 9:27 am

Is it too early (or too late?) to tell office assistants and secretaries about tax-free municipal bonds? What conspiracy kept the news from them prior to, say, 2007?

josh January 31, 2012 at 9:48 am

Two heroic assumptions you just made:
1. When you’re working on under 50k a year in wages per year you have enough left over from the tax man to save
2. When you have enough to save, you’re going to accept the returns from tax free municipal bonds on your meager pile of cash instead of seeking higher, and probably more significant, returns in equities

There’s a good reason the largest purchasers of money market funds and tax free bonds tend to have more savings than the average person

Dan Weber January 31, 2012 at 10:08 am

Simple arbitrage says that muni-bonds will be priced until only the most-taxed people buy them.

Ricardo January 31, 2012 at 11:19 am

Whatever happened to analyzing the incidence of a tax? The tax free status of muni bonds is effectively a federal subsidy of local borrowing; your risk-adjusted return as an investor will not on average be better than for any taxable asset as the yields on muni bonds are lower. Returns will be better on average for those with high marginal rates and worse on average for those with low marginal rates

Floccina January 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm

All that tax-free municipal bonds do is allow people in the top tax bracket (that exclude most office assistants) to opt to pay taxes, at a slight lower rate, to state and local governments rather than to the Federal Government.

Cliff January 31, 2012 at 10:02 am

Romney’s office assistant probably doesn’t pay any taxes

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Possibly no federal taxes, but I doubt it she likely makes enough to pay some, unless she has enormous deductions for a mortgage and charity and so on.

But she pays plenty of taxes: payroll, sales, property probably, etc.

Another annoying meme of the maniacally tax averse: those that pay no federal income tax don’t pay ‘no taxes’.

Cliff January 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Federal taxes are what we’re talking about, right?

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Not when someone types ‘…doesn’t pay ANY taxes’

Laserlight January 31, 2012 at 10:05 am

@Stan: Since you said “Romney” instead of “Buffet”, I assume you are just sniping at a political candidate you dislike.

If you are advocating for tax reform, you might sound more worthy of attention if you mentioned what reform you’d take.

Slocum January 31, 2012 at 11:22 am

Ridiculous. Not only do the lower classes in the U.S. live much better than Dickens’s characters, they enjoy much better material conditions than Dickens himself. Better food, better clothing, refrigeration, central heating and air-conditioning, much faster & safer travel, far more entertainment options, and infinitely better medical care. They are much less likely to experience the ultimate grief of having a child die — as Dickens himself did (and he was fortunate to lose only one). There are people in the world who do still live Dickensian lives, but they are found in the third world, and their progress is likely to be stunted by misguided protectionist, anti-globalization, anti-offshoring efforts by ‘progressives’ (who seem to have an aesthetic preference for rural poverty in the form of subsistence agriculture as long as it is ‘authentic’ and untainted by western materialism).

Floccina January 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm

+1 to Slocum

Yancey Ward January 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Ah, but they don’t live better than Stephen King.

Andrew' January 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm

It’s only because of the safety nets. Without those, you’d be sending your kids down coal tunnels.

bunker brown January 31, 2012 at 3:35 pm

+100

FYI January 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Jesus. You do understand that Romney had already paid taxes on the money he invested right?

mike January 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Actually this whole line of inquiry is silly because Romney’s “office assistant” probably makes 200k+ just like Warren Buffett’s famous secretary… not exactly someone to be shedding tears over.

Derek Scruggs January 31, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Not the carried interest he earned. That is ordinary income in every sense of the word except for how it’s taxed.

Benny Lava January 31, 2012 at 8:11 am

David Brooks tends to confuse correlation with causation.

Rahul January 31, 2012 at 8:32 am

That’s the cliche of the decade. I hear that so often; but so rarely does anyone offer data-based causation evidence.

Apparently, there are ways to rigorously demonstrate causation (Grainger?) but I’ve very never seen them used practically. Meanwhile the done thing seems to be to mock the other guys correlations while never offering any causation nor lack-of-causation evidence.

I’d be curious to hear of recent social studies which clearly demonstrated what they were seeing was causation and not correlation. Are there any?

Brooks indeed is probably wrong; but “correlation not causation” seems to carry very little value unless critics offer and use tests to distinguish between the two.

Benny Lava January 31, 2012 at 9:02 am

I don’t understand what you are asking. Do you want an example of causation? Or a method of proving causation? Are you David Brooks?

Paul January 31, 2012 at 9:38 am

I think the point is that making the comment “correlation is not causation” is a bit of a pointless statement. Almost everything we observe is correlation and not causation, and we would do well to think about this. But the notion that, in the absence of evidence of causation, we should ignore all correlation (as your post implies), is excessively nihilist.

Rahul January 31, 2012 at 10:30 am

My problem is I am not even clear what this mystical “evidence of causation” is in the social sciences?

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm

+1 to both Paul and Rahul.

“if you can’t prove causation, there must not be a problem” is the height of stupidity.

Benny Lava January 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm

So you are telling me that correlation is causation?

Benny Lava January 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm

So Rahul is saying that causation is impossible to prove in the social sciences?

msgkings that is definitely not what I wrote. You owe me a retraction.

Rahul January 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm

@Benny

I don’t know whether it is impossible; @urstoff below does say it is very hard. All I know is I don’t see much work attempting to go beyond correlation. I am open to being corrected. Which are important recent papers that rigorously prove both correlation and causation?

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm

@ Benny Lava

Why is that? I didn’t direct the comment to you. As you noted, that’s not what you wrote.

Claudia January 31, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I agree correlations…especially conditional on other factors…need to be studied. However, policy makers should tread carefully when they don’t have firm sense of the plausible sources of the correlation. It is extremely hard to identify causal factors in social patterns, but it important to keep trying. And at the very least we should ask ourselves if we are missing an obvious other variable driving the correlation.

Benny Lava January 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Rahul,

I am a bit confused by your query. You want both correlation and causation proved? I think what you are asking is for an example from the social sciences of proving causality without solely relying on correlation. Do you know what a correlation is and why it isn’t proof of causality? I don’t get from these exchanges that you.

Correlation is the relationship between one data set and another. For example, wealthy people have a low incidence of eating McDonalds. Poor people have a high incidence of eating McDonalds. This is a correlation. To say that McDonalds causes poverty, and to use as your evidence the above correlation would be to suggest that correlation is causation. Correlations may indicate a causal relationship, but not necessarily. One must isolate coincidence and exogenous factors. The first step is to have a hypothesis that is falsifiable. The next step is to setup an experiment (or in the case of social science collecting a data set) that includes a control mechanism. This is essential.

Here I feel the need to point out, because it was implied by you and Paul, that David Brooks is not a social scientist. He is a journalist that often editorializes. He tends to use correlation to prove causality, usually from a Weberian perspective.

As for an example of a social scientist arguing causality with more than simple correlation, try searching the website http://www.marginalrevolution.com for articles written by Tyler Cowen. They are usually – but not always – good about this. Another example, if you have the time and money, is this: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Making-and-Breaking-Governments/Michael-Laver/e/9780521438360?r=1&cm_mmc=Google%20Product%20Search-_-Q000000630-_-Making%20and%20Breaking%20Governments-_-9780521438360

I hope you learned something today. I did.

Floccina January 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Benny Lava,
I think that he wants you to say something like the evidence shows that women will not marry less stay married with a man with income well below average and that since the income difference has grown greater fewer below average income men can get and stay Married. Further women that cannot attract a higher income man but subject to baby lust end up single women.

I disagree that the above is the major reason but it does start a dialog.

Members of certain religious groups buck that trend (Notably Anabaptists and Hasidic Jews).

Benny Lava January 31, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Rereading the above statement I think he wants a detailed description of why David Brooks’ argument is incomplete at best. But I am busy during the day, so here goes: Brooks is making the correlation between “returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices” of the so called “upper tribe” (what an utterly silly description) and the economic successes of the upper tribe. The problem with this is that you can find all sorts of differences betwixt the two tribes. The upper tribe is also more likely to do yoga. But that doesn’t mean that 1950s traditionalist values cause economic success. Or at least it isn’t proven by this argument, because it is as shallow a correlation as doing yoga.

Anon. January 31, 2012 at 9:36 am

Granger causality isn’t causality.

Rahul January 31, 2012 at 10:04 am

You could be right.

What’s is “real” causality, then? And how does one demonstrate it in the social sciences?

Urstoff January 31, 2012 at 10:16 am

It’s very difficult, if not downright impossible, which is why genuine causal conclusions in the social science are much rarer than in the experimental sciences. This, of course, doesn’t stop social scientists and consumers of social science from incorrectly making causal conclusions anyway.

Just because science is hard doesn’t mean we can have low evidential standards.

NAME REDACTED February 1, 2012 at 5:24 am

Causality only exists in models and in minds. In the real world there is only observable correlation, there is no observable causality.

NAME REDACTED February 1, 2012 at 5:25 am

Urstoff:
that isn’t true just for social sciences. In the physical sciences its the same way. Causality simply doesn’t exist in observable form in nature. It is a property of models.

Rahul February 1, 2012 at 8:04 am

@NAME REDACTED

In which case how does one bolster or deny criticisms that cry “correlation not causality”.

Is causality only a subjective construct of a particular commentator’s mind?

Ken S January 31, 2012 at 10:03 am

Logical fallacies never really lose their meaning or value. That is why so many of them are still referred to in Latin.

clayton January 31, 2012 at 9:41 am

Nothing more needs to be said. Why this “analysis” is not only appearing in the NYT, but also is being replayed on this blog as though it’s interesting is very interesting.

The causal link is assumed by Brooks and by Cowen, because it fits their world view and justifies their ideologies.

Brandon T. January 31, 2012 at 11:04 am

Clearly, Tyler added his last sentence, explicitly questioning any causal link, because it fits his “world view.”

clayton January 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Thanks for pointing it out. I stand corrected. I had not read the last sentence of Tyler’s post.

Fred January 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

David Brooks tends to confuse is ass for his elbow.

Rahul January 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm

If he could only count he’d notice he doesn’t have 2 of each.

Engineer January 31, 2012 at 8:18 am

Dickens ?!?

Today’s class struggle is the technocratic “new class” (govt, academia, media, and govt-protected industries like finance and automotives) vs. the “productive class”.

Anyone who thinks sees the world in terms of proletariat and bourgeousie is stuck in the 20th century.

improbable January 31, 2012 at 8:49 am

Well I haven’t read the book of course, but from the reviews it sounds like he is talking about a different split to either of the ones you mention (“1% vs. 99%” and “proles vs. bourgeoisie”). He’s worrying about the bottom perhaps 30% forming a permanent underclass estranged from ideas like work, two-parent families, and faith.

Sounds like an interesting way to slice the world. Agree fully that “proles vs. bourgeoisie” is long long past its sell-by date.

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 7:23 pm

What confused me was dividing the entire population into the top 20% and the bottom 30% and pointing out that there is a huge gap between them.
What about the middle 50%? Wouldn’t they sort of fill that gap?

Ricardo January 31, 2012 at 9:47 am

The “new class” v. “productive class” view may or may not have some validity but it doesn’t appear at all to be what Murray and Brooks are talking about. Murray’s group of interest — low-income whites — have diminishing employment prospects and sometimes find themselves below the poverty line. Whatever you choose to call this group, I don’t see how they can be called the “productive class” unless there is something terribly wrong with American capitalism where workers no longer see the benefits of productivity gains.

Slocum January 31, 2012 at 8:22 am

I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

No, we don’t need a ‘National Service Program’ (for many reasons) and it wouldn’t have the intended effect anyway. Already there are many communities where the ‘tribes’ mix in public schools. We have decades of evidence that the values, habits, and work ethic of the ‘upper tribe’ do not transfer by osmosis simply by rubbing elbows in the same government-run program. There is invariably an ‘achievement gap’ that stubbornly refuses to yield to one well-intentioned initiative after another. The students go through school on different tracks (implicitly in the early grades, explicitly later) and then they go off on their separate ways.

Rahul January 31, 2012 at 8:43 am

Is there much mixing of the tribes in public schools? It seems they are quite segregated; not by mandate but voluntarily perhaps.

mk January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

I went to a very mixed tribe public school. The tribes (partly racially defined, part socioeconomic) mostly spent their days in different parts of the school. Perhaps that was partly a failure of the management of the school, but self-segregation is a powerful factor.

If you want people to intermix, you have to have an activity that forces them to intermix. To take an example I just made up, you could set up a problem solving activity/competition where there are teams of two, and the two are from different tribes. But it is not clear what it would take to actually get people to learn from each other in a sustained way. That’s much different.

I say “learn from each other” because unless you step down from the elitist pedestal that says we are trying to impart elite values to the lower-downs, I don’t think you’re being realistic. Any program with such a one-dimensional goal is starting from a fantasy and thus seems likely to fail. Programs aimed at mutual learning might have a better chance at success, because they better reflect the fact that everyone has something to learn from each other.

Laserlight January 31, 2012 at 10:17 am

“everyone has something to learn from each other”
Really? When I was in high school, I got up before first light, fed the cows, hauled in the firewood, went to school where I took the toughest courses available (French, math, chemistry, physics, etc) did my homework, then went to work a job until 10pm every night.
What exactly should I have learned from the kids who were only in school because they had to be, and whose goals were to get drunk, stoned, or pregnant?

eccdogg January 31, 2012 at 11:38 am

Agreed, I went to a very diverse high school and wrestled and played football (I also worked summers in a textile mill) so I had plenty of exposure to the “bottom 30%” and I can’t say there were alot I would want to learn from that group. I do think it gave me a better understanding of the mind set and the issues that group faces though.

IMO Murray is pretty much dead on. The two biggest issues facing that group are general low IQ and impulse control, the lack of a basic social structure that leads them into a default lifestyle of making good decisions, and absolutely awful parenting that reinforces the first two. Lack of resources are way down the list of problems

eccdogg January 31, 2012 at 11:41 am

edited (maybe proper grammar and spelling is one thing I could have learned, thought I doubt it)

Agreed, I went to a very diverse high school and wrestled and played football (I also worked summers in a textile mill) so I had plenty of exposure to the “bottom 30%” and I can’t say there was alot I would want to learn from that group. I do think it gave me a better understanding of the mind set and the issues that group faces though.

IMO Murray is pretty much dead on. The two biggest issues facing that group are general low IQ and impulse control, the lack of a basic social structure that leads them into a default lifestyle of making good decisions, and absolutely awful parenting that reinforces the first two. Lack of resources is way down the list of problems

Tim January 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm

How to relax.

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm

You would have learned that there is no way, NO WAY AT ALL, that they deserved any of your tax money to help pay for their 6 illegitimate children.

This may not be the lesson that was intended.

Tummler January 31, 2012 at 10:46 am

Football was the activity at my school that forced the tribes to mix.

The Original D January 31, 2012 at 11:02 am

+1. My high school (in rural Georgia) was roughly 30% black. I had plenty of black friends in band, sports and, yes, even in the honors program.

I graduated in 1986. At that time schools had only been desegregated for less than 15 years. My class was among the first that was integrated from 1st thru 12th grade. Unbeknownst to me (being a 6 year old at the time), bomb threats were common at the high school.

(Most people assume schools desegregated after the Brown ruling. But states like Georgia managed to drag their heals for more than a decade afterward.)

bunker brown January 31, 2012 at 3:37 pm

An activity that forces the tribes to intermix would be to get into futile, never ending wards, where children of all tribes are fed into the hamburger grinder. That would never happen in this enlightened age though…oh wait.

mrmandias January 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm

That’s something discussed in the book. Children of the elite tribe never ever ever join the military.

crankee January 31, 2012 at 10:20 am

The literature on forced busing shows few benefits from forced integration. Separation seems to make sense. Only the Catholic schools and the military seem to do well with the underclass. At least in terms of good habits.

Slocum January 31, 2012 at 11:26 am

Here they mix quite a lot in elementary school, less so in middle school, and much less in high school and the ‘upper tribes’ take advanced classes. They do mix somewhat in sports, but even there they often choose different sports (the main upper tribe sports here are lacrosse, tennis, soccer, hockey, field hockey, swimming, water polo, and crew while the other kids tend to play football, basketball, and baseball).

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Everyone is ignoring the real story which is that increasingly upper ‘tribe’ kids don’t even go to public school. So that mixing method is becoming less and less evident. It’s not even a problem of segregation within the school, it’s that the tribes go to completely different ones.

It used to be the military where the mixing occurred. There was a draft even in peacetime and everyone served for a time with all mixes of people next to you. Most nations still have that, and it’s hard to argue it doesn’t help those places achieve greater national cohesion.

I doubt we’d go back to a draft, but a similarly mandatory period of service AFTER high school but before college might work wonders. Some kind of domestic Peace Corps, (or heck just an expanded global one), or Teach For America, or both…

Their output would be a benefit in its own right, but the mixing I believe would have huge positive externalities. One would be that kids who didn’t really want to or couldn’t afford college might discover skills and a career path in their Service time that might translate to a better future for them.

Slocum January 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Everyone is ignoring the real story which is that increasingly upper ‘tribe’ kids don’t even go to public school.

Outside the North East, that’s not really true — elsewhere, most of the upper classes still send their kids to public schools (albeit very good public schools in wealthy areas with plenty of AP courses and high-achieving peers).

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I can assure you that is also true of any major metropolis outside the NE. If you live in the actual city, your kids go to private school.

My anecdotal point is from San Francisco, but it definitely applies to residents of any other big city (if you don’t live in the suburbs that is): Chicago, LA, Dallas, etc

Slocum January 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm

“I can assure you that is also true of any major metropolis outside the NE. If you live in the actual city, your kids go to private school”

Perhaps — but most wealthy (and most high income people — especially those with school-aged kids) don’t live the central cities. Near Chicago, they tend to live in the north shore suburbs and send their kids to ‘New Trier’ (you know, the high school in ‘Risky Business’).

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Agreed, I have family in Chicago…in the suburbs.

Still, the segregation is almost the same, the upper ‘tribe’ public schools aren’t usually the same as the lower tribe ones.

Zach January 31, 2012 at 8:41 am

What in the world is a disorganized, postmodern neighborhood?

Folks who I assume Brooks would place in the upper tribe have seen the biggest shift in living arrangements: 1950-2000… the invention and evolution of the suburb and planned communities. Rich (wait, upper-tribe) people moved to create affluent communities in the South in addition to building suburbs. What change was equally important for less wealthy, White people?

CBBB January 31, 2012 at 9:10 am

You have to realize David Brooks is full of crap, I wouldn’t even bother trying to make sense of this garbage.

Ken Rhodes January 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Alternatively, we might suspect that of CBBB, since at least Brooks explains his opinions, so we can decide whether we agree or not, unlike CBBB, who merely states them as though they were facts.

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm

And who (CBBB) has indicated on more than one occasion that he’s full of crap.

CBBB January 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm

What’s the difference between my opinion and facts? I don’t see one

Laserlight January 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm

“I don’t see one” /= “there isn’t one”

That’s just a general observation, not related to your opinion of Brooks.

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm

@CBBB,
You are being too subtle for them.

Zach January 31, 2012 at 5:01 pm

The opinion I was talking about is pretty clear. Brooks thinks that living arrangements of the lower tribe have changed more than those of the upper tribe. In the last 50 years, the upper tribe has fled cities and barricaded itself in suburban enclaves which provide many competitive advantages when it comes to economic and parenting success: better schooling (as they also lobby, with near-universal success, to keep school funding local), less influence from crime and poverty, networking through local organizations filled with other successful people, etc. Once these communities are established, they are artificially limited by anti-market zoning laws, 50-year-plans, and, in some cases, erecting physical barriers.

Where’s the support for Brooks’ argument that the lower tribe left the suburbs between 1960 and today for postmodern living? The fraction of the population living in suburbs has doubled since 1960; the fraction in cities has shrunk modestly. The rural fraction of the population plummeted. Are there two types of suburbs? I grew up in suburban Kansas City, KS. I don’t recall any obvious point where the neighborhoods became postmodern and disorganized.

tkehler January 31, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Look, I know you are angry and impossible to please (and have confessed to being indifferent to the truth, even of your own posted comments), but can’t you see that Murray (and presumably Brooks) is worried about the same things you are: the proletarianization of large members of society, who are losing themselves on a downhill spiral of drugs, booze, tattoos, UFC, crime, vacuous pop culture, and in general the perpetuation of the class divisions you lefties care about?

What is wrong with those on the perceived centre-right ALSO being concerned about an obvious phenomenon? They may not proffer a solution you favour, but shouldn’t you be open to other solutions, or is ideological purity your concern?

mrmandias January 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I imagine there’s more definition in the book. Murray may have some statistics that suggest radically lowered social ties (in a Putnam, Bowling Alone way) and less stability.

Bill Harshaw January 31, 2012 at 9:11 am

Looked at the incarceration rate yesterday, 6-fold increase since 1980. Almost leads to this politically incorrect statement: In this society, the winners take all (Robert Frank), the losers go to jail.

asdf January 31, 2012 at 9:13 am

Do we all forget what Charles Murray is all about? IQ!

Proles act like proles because they have low IQ. They don’t go to college because they aren’t smart enough. They don’t turn down drugs because they aren’t smart enough. They don’t have careers and plan ahead because people with their lack of ability don’t have careers and have no clue where the next paycheck is coming from.

Back in 1950 we didn’t have as good a mechanism for sorting by IQ, and the economy didn’t reward it as much. So you ended up with a lot of people that were part of the prole class but had high IQ. Annoyed that Harvard passed them over for some legacy with a WASP last name they ended up becomming union leaders or activists on behalf of the working man.

In the 1960s MLK was a smart person shut out of the power structure, so he tried to change it.

In the 2000s Barack Obama was a smart person welcomed in by the power structure, which made him president so he could go to wall street fundraisers.

The lower classes have gotten worse because we took all their smart people. They have nobody to lead them or advocate for them. The few that do are second rate shiesters looking to get rich themselves (think Palin).

Meanwhile, technological change has made them obsolete. Automation made a strong back obsolete. The pill, no fault divorce, and the welfare state made men obsolete. Immigrants and third world outsourcing made the entire concept of first world working class obsolete. Michele Obama sat next to Mrs. “those jobs aren’t coming back” Jobs at the State of the Union. That isn’t changing.

Either we find a purpose for the lower classes or we have a new underclass. Do these people deserve dignity? Or are they just deadweight in a global economy where elite compete with elite and the concept of national bonds is meaningless.

Henry January 31, 2012 at 10:14 am

Either we find a purpose for the lower classes or we have a new underclass

That is in my mind the most important question of our times. We are having an increasing number of people whose traditional occupations are disappearing but are not capable of competing in the new industries. Guaranteed Minimal Income anyone?

CBBB January 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Guaranteed Minimal Income

Absolutely

anonymous January 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Guaranteed minimal income would have severe unintended consequences. A lot of otherwise-employable, well-educated and qualified young men, in particular, would take advantage of it and simply drop out of the rat race. It doesn’t take much more than ramen noodles and an Internet connection to make some people happy.

And in today’s world of “only persons who already have jobs need apply”, where your resume or diploma becomes radioactive if you’ve been out of work in your field for more than a year or two, that means they would permanently exit the labor force.

CBBB January 31, 2012 at 4:27 pm

So? What’s the problem? Maybe in turn that would force employers to be more accommodating with their insane HR policies.

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm

That policy only holds until the job market tightens up. If there are no employed people looking to work for you, you have to hire the unemployed. When unemployment gets below 5 or 6% again this particular issue disappears.

Meanwhile, there is a market for “employers” who exist purely to give an existing “job” to job seekers. Of course you don’t hear about them, because that would miss the point.

anonymous January 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm

The problem, from your point of view anyway, is that legislation to implement this would have no chance of passing.

CBBB January 31, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Yeah of course it wouldn’t pass – are you kidding? Employers must have their vanguard of the unemployed to maintain their power

asdf February 1, 2012 at 7:48 am

Your point?

Smart driven people taking jobs they don’t like that don’t utilize their skills well simply because they need to make ends meat in the short term doesn’t do much good. People don’t make good decisions when they are at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Often they take jobs that stifle their skills growth and waste their youth, especially in a bad economy.

The threat of destitution removed people will do things they want to do, and those that do jobs that need to be done will need to be compensated enough to make it worth their while (rather then just accept anything rather then starve). Much of the new labor choices people make will take the form of entreprenurialism or volunteer service, which wouldn’t be the end of the world.

The Original D January 31, 2012 at 11:03 am

Excellent comment.

8 January 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Guaranteed minimum income has been proposed by Murray to replace all welfare programs. Main benefit is that the poor would then have a non-behavioral income: make bad decisions and your disposable income goes down.

tkehler January 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm

They have this in Scandinavia, but the problem is that the ceiling (or if you will, floor) is still so high that even when you’ve made a tonne of bad decisions, and lost income, you still get enough to pay for rent, food and your self-destructive substances of choice.

Floccina January 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Yes good comment. Replacing the minimum wage with a wage subsidy might help but even without it we may in 5 or 10 years see enough demand for low skill labor due to more retired people and rising wages in China Mexico etc.

On the other side, I know a lot of people at the lower end of the wage scale and they actually make enough money that if they lived like my parents did back in the 1950s and 1960s, they would have plenty of money but they are bad a finical management. Certain religious groups avoid all the noted problems with low levels of education and earnings. Also the lack of long marriages seems to be more the result of better options for women than of lack of income which would indicate sufficient income of single women.

asdf January 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm

The things that matter most to people are power, status, and sex. These things don’t change no matter the absolute level of material wealth. Even if the poor today have flatscreens and processed foods, they lack the fundamental things social creatures desire: power, status, and if men sex (low status males don’t get laid). They also often lack the means to change their class (education) and may still live a life of uncertainty (no medical insurance).

A more equal society is one in which everyone has some measure of power (over themselves and their circumstances), status (a respected place in society), and mating prospects.

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm

1. How is it possible, under any social arrangement, for everyone to have status? Even Lake Wobegon was restricted to the mild state of “above average” which isn’t going to impress many.
2. Is there any actual evidence that the males of the lower classes can’t get laid? Just where do all these illegitimate children come from anyway? Investment bankers sneaking into the slums at night?

asdf February 1, 2012 at 7:53 am

Let’s consider a small town with a factory. The workers all belong to a union, and they earn a living wage. They participate in the Elks Lodge, they are part of the veterans day march, they coach the kids softball team. Its a community of equals with shared goals and institutions that give everyone dignity, purpose, and mutual respect. Everyone shares status more equally. Rather then “winners” and “losers” its people who live togethor in a community that everyone has a stake in.

Yancey Ward January 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm

The lower classes have gotten worse because we took all their smart people.

If the lower classes have gotten worse because the smart lower class are gone, then it seems to prove Murray right, does it not? Surely the smart lower class no longer exist because they were smart enough to get out- or to put it another way, they weren’t taken away except by themselves.

asdf January 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Proves him right in what way? As I’ve stated, you don’t have to use your smarts to create value. Its actually much easier to transfer value. And the people you transfer it from are generally proles who aren’t smart enough to defend themselves. It used to be that smart people who were a part of the prole class were able to organize them politically, socially, and culturally so they could get their slice of the pie and limit how much rent seeking the dominant class could do. Since then the upper classes bought off those smart proles, so there is no one left to organize them. Its kind of like how in 1984 the upper party keeps close tabs on the outer party (who are smart enough to be a threat) but not the proles (who are too dumb, disorganized, and desperate to be a threat).

Ken Rhodes January 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Asdf, I grew up in the fifties, and my recollection is that my classmates from the lower [economic and social] stratum were, on average, less gifted than the ones from the upper stratum, but that they all tried about equally hard to achieve whatever potential they had. The “American Dream,” to me, was not just about getting rich. In great part, it was about achieving a good life even if you couldn’t get rich.

And Rich Berger’s response a little further down certainly reinforces this view.

asdf January 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Yes, that’s what my Dad’s world was like. But can you have that today even if you work hard and play by the rules?

My impression is low IQ people that do the right stuff and play by the rules have dramatically fallen behind in power, status, and mating prospects. They’ve also fallen behind in their ability for them or their children to join the upper tribe.

mrmandias January 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Status is relative. Its not so much that they’ve fallen behind the elites as that they are no longer dramatically ahead of the shiftless and dysfunctional. Partly because you were more valued but also partly because the shiftless and dysfunctional were much worse off. Now that’s changed.

Rich Berger January 31, 2012 at 9:14 am

One would think it obvious that being committed to hard work, discipline,and childbearing within marriage is a sound approach to life and love. This makes sense (maybe more sense) even if you are not wealthy.

” Truth is, staying above the poverty line is relatively simple. Basically, all that’s required is to finish high school, wait until at least age 20 to get married and not have a child out of wedlock. Now how hard is that? Not very, which is why I equate poverty (in most cases) with a conscious set of choices.

William Galston, a former adviser to President Clinton and scholar at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, devised that lucid, easy to follow anti-poverty formula, and the data back him up. Fewer than 10 percent of families that follow his blueprint live in poverty, while 79 percent of those who don’t follow the three-step plan end up poor.”

Note that he didn’t say, go to Harvard and work for a hedge fund.

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Nice post, Rich Berger.

The Original D January 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm

If you grow up in a single parent household, what is the likelihood you’ll follow this blueprint? Fish don’t know they live in water.

Tyler Cowen January 31, 2012 at 9:17 am

Lots of invective, not much in the way of substantive response. Robin is right.

Andrew' January 31, 2012 at 10:12 am

Why do they use words like “tribe”?

It’s not even like a tribe anyway.

CBBB January 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm

It’s another one of those ridiculous David Brooks terms – like “Bourgeois Bohemian”

Rahul January 31, 2012 at 10:13 am

Who is wise Robin and what did he say?

Floccina January 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm
asdf January 31, 2012 at 10:29 am

The response is a series of tough political changes the upper classes won’t like so they will never happen.

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Given that solving the problem would involve forcing the lower classes to work hard, study hard, save money, and stop sleeping around, I don’t think it’s the UPPER classes that are going to complain.

asdf February 1, 2012 at 8:00 am

The lower classes need certain rules and institutions in place to facilitate the kind of environment in which do those things. Those rules and institutions restrict upper class life. The upper classes do not want to be restricted.

Example:

The lower classes aren’t great at virtuous sexuality. In the past the church gave them strong guidelines and those norms were reinforced up and down the cultural ladder. The upper classes adopted and supported those same norms, even upper class people that deviated once in awhile tried to keep up appearances. However, upper class people realized they could handle a little more sexual freedom and still make the right choices in the end (Suzy can “experiment” in college and still marry in her late 20s). The proles, by contrast, just don’t seem to handle that freedom well. They can’t experiment without ending up with lots of illegitimate children and fucked up family lives. Elites, wanting more freedom, tore down the church as a cultural institution and praised peoples freedom of choice. Great for them, bad for the proles.

Rich Berger January 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm

So when are you going to close the site to comments and thus raise the average level of discourse?

NAME REDACTED February 1, 2012 at 5:27 am

Swiss politics on the other hand, does seem to be about policy.

Andrew Edwards January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

It strikes me that the word choice “tribe” in the quoted excerpt is probably not a helpful way to describe the facts. Nor is the modifier “upper” and “lower”. Highly likely to prod people into unproductive reactions.

Is this an accident? I doubt it.

It strikes me that the word choice is there to imply a view that these characteristics are essential and genetic, without coming out and saying it.

It reminds me of Marx using loaded words like “exploitation” as analytic concepts. A great tool to get your opponents to react strongly, and then fall back and claim you were presenting an analytic concept and they are the ones who freaked out.

Like Tyler just did. Nice troll, actually.

Andrew' January 31, 2012 at 10:33 am

If “tribe” is the right word, then tribalism is the correct paradigm. So, it can’t be both ways.

If you don’t want it to be viewed as tribalism, don’t use “tribe.” Simple enough?

Claudia January 31, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I agree with Andrew Edwards. Using emotionally loaded language is a recipe for an getting emotionally loaded debate. It makes me highly skeptical of the empirics (so I ordered the book). Also I am uncomfortable with people in the “upper tribe” or the elites being in charge of this discussion. As an economist, I have a lot of respect for differences in preferences, constraints, and initial conditions. My life now is very different than the life of my some high school classmates. I may look more productive, conservative on Murray’s measures, but so what? Some of them would not want to live my life. Maybe they do not want me as an example for their kids. I feel very uncomfortable “pushing” my life on others…I wish other elites did too. I am hoping when I read Murray’s book I will find serious qualitative/survey work asking the “lower tribe” how they feel about all this, but I did not get even a hint of it from Brooks piece.

CPV January 31, 2012 at 9:32 am

So, on the correlation/causation argument, how difficult could it be to do a study following behavior patterns of individuals born into the lower and upper tribes tribe and examine economic outcomes based on educational achievement, marital stability, etc, incarceration, controlled for say IQ?

I suspect the data would prove Brooks’ point. Has such studies been done? I believe they have.

If so, and the state believes it needs to “act” to modify bad behaviors then the question is how to socialize good behaviors into society at large, and I think that is the point Brooks is making. National Service may or may not be a good idea. How about having the state or charitable organizations offer to have successful families volunteer to raise the children of unsuccessful families?

Dan January 31, 2012 at 9:43 am

Much of the emotion that drove the Occupy movement was anger at the (perceived) undue high status of those at the top of the economic “system.” The bankers, the politicians who cater to them.

Murray’s thesis is that much of the working class is there due to poor behavior. Likewise, much of the upper class is there due to good behavior. This is not to say the working class is evil. Simply put, when someone doesn’t stay in school, doesn’t get married, doesn’t take part in the community through church and civics, his life outcomes will not be very good, even if he’s an amicable guy.

For much of the last half century, upper class liberals have refused to blame the working class. Instead they’ve blamed the socioeconomic structure for stifling the poor. Murray says this is exactly wrong. The upper class should be spreading their virtues instead of coddling the lower class.

That is what will cause the status uproar that Tyler mentioned. (And yes, I think Murray is largely correct.)

asdf January 31, 2012 at 10:28 am

Dan,

The changes liberals made basically destroyed the social institutions that made lower class life work.

Free trade and welfare destroyed industriousness. It didn’t effect the upper classes.

No fault divorce and looser sexual mores didn’t effect high IQ women with high time preference, but destroyed family formation at the low end.

Denigrating religion and religous institutions was ok for people with the IQ to figure out their own social mores, but devestating for those for whom tradition was their only decent guide.

Looser drug, gambling, and lending laws are ok for high IQ people that can understand this stuff, but bad for low IQ people that we know can’t.

The upper class made economic, social, and political decisions that were good for them but bad for the lower classes. Now they want the lower classes to act like them, but they aren’t like them. They are low IQ. That’s the whole point. Life is different for them. That’s why saying something like every kid should go to college is retarded. Every kid can’t go to college. Either you built a society in which both those that do and don’t go to college can live functional dignified lives, or you don’t.

Ricardo January 31, 2012 at 11:09 am

Leaving aside the question of whether IQ is an independent variable, what do free trade and looser gambling and lending laws have to do with “liberals”?

The Other Jim January 31, 2012 at 11:53 am

I have no clue why he threw “free trade” into an otherwise good post, but there is no question that liberals are the ones pushing expanded state gambling.

It is an excellent vehicle for transferring money from low- and middle-income people to the Government, which is the liberal wet dream defined. Even they don’t believe their own rhetoric about taxing “the rich” — very obviously, there just aren’t enough rich people. They’ve got their eyes on the wallets of the masses, and casinos are great way to seize them.

If it destroys lives, who cares? That’s what welfare is for.

Ken Rhodes January 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Apparently, Jim, you’ve discovered a previously unnoticed correlation between “liberals” and Republicans?

Ricardo January 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm

“but there is no question that liberals are the ones pushing expanded state gambling.”

State gambling is not the only form of gambling. Jack Abramoff paid off Ralph Reed to stir up conservative opposition to state gambling — so that his Indian gambling casino clients would not face competition.

RmDeep January 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Agree with all of what you said. (See my comment further down the thread.)

But life under the old system was stultifying for the high-IQ, especially for women. Is it really worth going back to that?

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Isn’t the argument that the upper 20% are still operating under this system? So they don’t have to “go back”, they’re already there.

Paul January 31, 2012 at 9:43 am

The editorial might be a little thin to generate substantive response. But I sure want to read the book.

Becky Hargrove January 31, 2012 at 9:44 am

A few days ago Karl Smith posted one of those odd fifties era ‘life of the times’. I told him that as a young child, the late fifties felt a little like a lower middle class utopia, also odd. Why? All these characteristics now associated with the upper classes, were a part of the other classes then as well. People weren’t getting divorced on a regular basis, hardly anyone was overweight, people weren’t so much in front of their TVs as they were out and about with everyone else in the community for activities of all kinds including church. So I would be hesitant to think that simply being lower middle class is the problem. What happened which caused the lower middle class to lose its bearings? The only good answer I can find is that the knowledge they were taught to value was never provided to them for their own use in terms of individual and community.

Ken Rhodes January 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Becky, I too grew up in the fifties (a little earlier than you), and my recollection is similar (see my comment above.) I haven’t read Murray’s book yet, but I think your answer is given in Brooks’ column — not in the snippet Tyler reproduced, but in the rest of it, which you can see via the link “more” near the end of Tyler’s post. In particular, here is Brooks’ short answer to your question:

Since then, America has polarized. The word “class” doesn’t even capture the divide Murray describes. You might say the country has bifurcated into different social tribes, with a tenuous common culture linking them. … The upper tribe is now segregated from the lower tribe. …etc.

crankee January 31, 2012 at 10:26 am

This is just like any post on politics. No desire to analyze; a lot to blame. Maybe the core of Murray is sufficiently true (whether 50% or 90% is irrelevant) that the first priority is absorbing the point and moving beyond social signalling. But it looks like that won’t happen anytime soon.

And a lot of what passes for polarization is basically the inability to get over this initial phase to one where people from both the Red and the Blue can have a coherent discussion.

Richard A. January 31, 2012 at 11:00 am

David Brooks writes:
“I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.”

This is an anti-libertarian position. It would also be costly. Do we want a government to dictate for a few years of your life who your employer will be? It would most likely be the US government at a tremendous cost to the US taxpayer. It would also have a cost on real output as those who are diverted to national service are prevented from being employed at a higher wage in more productive sectors of the economy.

The Original D January 31, 2012 at 11:06 am

The draft served a similar purpose. Once upon a time even Harvard grads did basic training.

GiT January 31, 2012 at 11:42 am

Brooks is a traditional social conservative. Why would you expect a libertarian position? What, exactly, is the point of trotting out your little opportunity cost hobby horse?

The Anti-Gnostic January 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm

we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years…We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

This is typical Blank Slate fluff, that bourgeois values are imparted by some sort of osmosis. The mere proximity of the upper class will cause the ghetto-dwellers and trailer-trash to become software engineers.

Memo to Mr. Brooks: I do not want my polite, contemplative, upper IQ daughter around other people’s high-time preference, trashy, low IQ rugrats. If you feel so inclined, then you can move your family to the ghetto or the trailer park.

Colin January 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm

We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years…We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

Except for the living together part, isn’t this basically a description of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?

The Anti-Gnostic January 31, 2012 at 11:46 am

Welfare, immigration, men placed in head-to-head economic competition with women, and Diana Moon Gompers supervising the whole contest.

There is no great mystery to unravel here.

Rich Berger January 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Dan Quayle was absolutely correct, but was just ahead of his time.

The Anti-Gnostic January 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Of course he was. That is the great irony of our age: the elites preach lifestyle choices that they astutely avoid, and spend large amounts of money making sure they don’t have to live around the consequences. Alternatively, just because Jodie Foster and Sandra Bullock make good unwed mothers doesn’t mean that Starr and LaQueshia should do it.

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 8:06 pm

The odds that any child brought up in the world of movie stars is going to avoid marriage breakups and drug problems isn’t as good as you seem to think.

MT January 31, 2012 at 9:47 pm

The problem is not as simple as that. The real problem is one of hypocrisy: elites tend to avoid the consequences of morally-associated (not necessarily moral) choices and positions that they would advocate for others. Take morally-associated attitudes towards patriotism and national service: Mitt Romney may advocate for a strong national defense, but not one of his five sons served in the military during a period of two wars. A second example comes out in drug use, arrests, and sentencing: elites, in general (and I think the statistics back this up), do not suffer the same legal consequences that non-elites suffer. The supposed virtues need to be demonstrated, not simply preached.

Ricardo February 1, 2012 at 12:31 am

But this narrative is simply false. It’s true that educated high-earners tend to form stable families but they also have a fair amount of pre-marital sex in their 20s and use contraceptives and practice safe sex.

Less educated people have slightly more sex with slightly more partners but then fail to use contraceptives and so wind up with higher rates of single motherhood. Surveys show that there is a higher rate of disapproval of young single motherhood among more educated people than less educated people. To the extent “elites” advocate single motherhood for anyone, they do so for women in their 30s and 40s who have stable income, not for women in their early 20s who work as waitresses.

asdf February 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm

They advocate it by supporting sexual mores that promote pre-marital and extra marital sex (even if they don’t do it, they support the CHOICE).

By not slut shaming.
By not single mother shaming.
By providing “support” both financial and social, from both the state and polite society.
By supporting a feminist pro-sex you go grrrl attitude where any decision a woman makes is empowering, no matter how retarded or selfish it is.

Society could use a little more shaming. People who make bad decisions could use more social ostracizing and less support.

Elites like the OPTION to do things that, generally, they don’t do, but they sure want to keep the option open. And for those that do excersize that option, they want full societal support. No choice anyone makes can ever be wrong, because there is no objective morality or standard. The professional woman that wants the option to be a single mother in her 30s can’t well go ahead and shame a single mother in her 20s, lest someone judge her decision also wrong (if less so).

JonF February 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Instead of blaming some vague “elites”, why not put the blame right where it belongs: the people themselves who are living in these ways? They aren’t young children or household pets. They are adults with as much free will as you and me. Blaming anyone but them is simply scapegoating.
As others have pointed out, the elites actually are living decently. But in other eras, the high and mighty didn’t: for centuries the upper classes (including church hierarchs) frequently lived quite dissolute lives. The position of “royal mistress” was practically as official as that of “queen”. And in some reigns royal “favorites” played the role. Some kings had so many girls on the side they might as well have had formal harems. Popes had bastard children (or sometimes simpering, nubile boyfriends). The lives of noted artistic and literary figures were as lurid as later rock stars and actors would be: Mozart had VD, Coleridge was on opium, Goethe slept with his housekeeper, Mme de Stael’s bedroom had a metphorical revolving door, Byron did his best to “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. And yet for all this somehow the peasants and other lower order folk did not go off the deep end.
As for shame, unless you have a mind control tool that isn’t going to happen. Sure you can run around wagging a finger in people’s faces, but they will tell you where to shove it. Why would anyone you don’t know give a hoot? Do you care what perfect strangers in parts distant think of you? The only opinions most of us heed are those of family and friends. And if they express themselves with narrow mean-spiritedness we will blow them off too.

asdf February 2, 2012 at 7:51 am

Low IQ people really are different then you and me. That’s something you’ve got to figure out at some point. We don’t hold a retard to the same standard of action as most people. Why should it all of a sudden change dramatically when someone falls in a little above that arbitrary cut off?

People on the left half of the bell curve have different incentives, capabilities, and options then the rest of us. That’s reality. You can either build institutions and norms that acknowledge that, or you can exploit them and blame it on their bad decision making (as if you expected anything different to happen).

RmDeep January 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm

This thread is hilarious as all the high-g atheistic libertarians belatedly realize that social conservativism is not for their benefit, but for the benefit of the left half of the bell curve.

maguro January 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm

+1

The Anti-Gnostic January 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

double +1

CBBB January 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm

It’s just a rehash of the old Victorian bullshit

The Anti-Gnostic January 31, 2012 at 4:47 pm

“Yeah, dad! We don’t need this rehash of the old Victorian bullshit!”

Konkvistador February 2, 2012 at 3:36 am

I have a crazy idea, maybe, just maybe we need to judge ideas by the coherence with which they explain available data rather than dismiss them because they where held by your dad. Maybe *some* of the social norms of our ancestors didn’t develop because they where pure evil. I know crazy.

Konkvistador February 2, 2012 at 3:30 am

+1

Greg Marquez January 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm

What’s odd about Murray’s argument is that these very disciplined, very smart, very productive people, are not taking advantage of what, as I understand Adam Smith & Milton Friedman, are the only two ways in which to earn an above average return in a market economy: limiting competition or hiding pricing information.

I guess that must be because they are also extra virtuous.

asdf January 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Love it.

The easiest way to get rich is value transferance, not value creation. Its way easier to trick fools out of their money then increase the pie for everyone. That’s why the biggest industries today are value transferance industries (law, finance) where people mastrubate to their own ‘g’ and assume being born with intellect means being a more deserving human being. Intelligence is a gift, a gift from God that comes with obligations. It is not a tool to be exploited to crass material gain or status climbing.

Ken Rhodes January 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Hmmm … bad news for Gates, Allen, Ellison, Jobs, et al.

Greg Marquez January 31, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Well…the number one ingredient of their success is a government enforced limit on competition through patent/copyright laws, without which they would have just earned a normal return on their easily duplicated contributions to the economy.

FYI January 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Fantastic. So who will be defining how this gift should be used? Where do we get these high IQ angels who can guide all the other high IQ demons to work towards society’s good?

asdf January 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm

It was done once. For example, people realized gambling was something low IQ people couldn’t control, so they severely limited lotteries, casinos, etc. But OMG, high IQ rich people couldn’t play craps and go to expensive nighclubs and feel like a big shot for a night, so we’ve got to dramatically increase legal gambling. And other high IQ people who were skilled at marketing and emotional manipulation couldn’t work for the casino and figure out that displaying the last few results of a roulette wheel would increase low IQ peoples confidence in being able to beat a game they can’t and thus gamble more then they should.

We can go piece by piece over the social and legal changes made over the last several decades whose purpose was to increase the freedom of high IQ people to exploit low IQ people.

Slocum January 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm

No. Lotteries and casino gambling were created / permitted by revenue hungry state governments. And it’s absolutely not ‘rich, high IQ people’ who are buying all the lottery tickets and standing around in the blue haze playing the slots (Indian casinos are exempted from state anti-smoking laws, which is a major draw for the blue-collar clientele that casinos tend to attract).

Rahul January 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm

The Indians got screwed in the 1800′s and to right this historic wrong we accord them contemporary legal “privileges” that screw them over again. The Indian reservation legal niches in American law are bizarre.

asdf January 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Government policy is made and driven by high IQ people. Or maybe you think governors, power brokers, and lobbyists come from the left side of the curve.

Rich high IQ people like the freedom to engage in sophisticated gambling and high end casinos. They have the money and time orientation to “enjoy gambling responsibly” as all those casino ads say quickly and quietly at the end. Other rich high IQ people realized it was a way they could cash in by exploiting poor people (who don’t understand gambling because, duh, they are too dumb to). So they got behind the state allowing and promoting casinos. So now if you want to wind down from your business conferance you can go play some craps and head to a hot club in Vegas, subsidized of course by the army of lower class people playing the one armed bandit with junoirs college fund.

FYI January 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

hahaha, that’s great! So these supposedly high IQ gamblers are more able to control themselves but they still went ahead and forced government (also run by high IQ people) to allow more gambling! That is some pretty dumb high IQ people if you ask me!

Btw, gambling is probably one of the worst examples you could have chosen. Just ask a casino owner which parts of it are more profitable.

mrmandias January 31, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Rich people don’t care about gambling. No, this was more a way high IQ people devised to fleece low IQ people of their money.

Nick Danger February 26, 2012 at 12:40 am

“as I understand Adam Smith & Milton Friedman, are the only two ways in which to earn an above average return in a market economy: limiting competition or hiding pricing information. ”

That should read, “As I misunderstand Adam Smith.”

CH January 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm

asdf and anti-gnostic have owned this thread, and that is why TCCC’s and Alex’s mood affiliations are butthurt.

efp January 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm

“More important, the income gaps did not lead to big behavior gaps.”

This conjures an image from 1950′s Harlem: all the men wearing suits & ties, all the women in nice dresses. And this in the face of more severe (at least, more direct) discrimination.

Welcome to the world of Code 46.

Floccina January 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm

So the question is:

Is it due to insufficient motivation or is it due to too few options for the less intelligent or the lower value of men or something else.

Stan January 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I’ll add my two cents again. The problem with low taxes on our investor class is that of opportunity costs. To state the obvious, if the government loses 100 billion a year in revenue due to tax cuts on capital gains, inheritances, and high incomes, it has to make it up or increase the deficit. To make it up requires higher taxes on people with lower incomes or inadequate spending on infrastructure maintenance, education, and scientific research. all of which we’ll need if we’re to compete in the world. I benefit personally from low taxes on capital gains. But I have yet to see an impartial study showing that low taxes on the wealthy helps the country as a whole.

Laserlight January 31, 2012 at 4:42 pm

>if the government loses 100 billion a year in revenue [snip] it has to make it up or increase the deficit.

It’s a bit disturbing that “OR REDUCE SPENDING” doesn’t even cross your mind.

Nick Danger February 26, 2012 at 12:41 am

“or inadequate spending on infrastructure maintenance, education, and scientific research.”

So it very explicitly crossed his mind!

EBL January 31, 2012 at 1:45 pm

http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/2012/01/david-brooks-deals-with-profound-issue.html David Brooks is wrong again. No David, you identify the problem and then come up with a bone headed solution.

anon January 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm

As a progressive, I refuse to believe that poor people have agency power, and I resent Charles Murray’s attempt to assign it to them. If they did have agency power, they would make the same decisions that you and I make…. Oh, except, if we allow poor people to choose the schools their children attend, millions of children will suffer needlessly as a result of their parents’ poor decisions.

…and politics is, too, about policy.

NAME REDACTED February 1, 2012 at 5:30 am

rofl. Nice parody.

eccdogg February 1, 2012 at 11:33 am

How did Murray claim they have agency?

As i read Murray, in earlier times there was a default lifestyle.

1) get married
2) don’t do drugs
3) don’t have kids out of wedlock
4) take a job at any wage, but work
5) don’t take handouts

this default lifestyle was reinforced by society, those that deviated from it recieved social scorn and negative feeback from your family, community, or church. If you were low IQ and you did not have agency you naturally fell into the default lifestyle. It required agency to rebel against the default. The somewhere along the way (probably the 60′s) society rejected the default and stopped reinforcing these choices.

Murray’s point is that the elite’s essentially still follow this formula even though it is no longer reinforced by society because they have agency and see the inherent advantages of it. Lower IQ folks don’t because there is now no default lifestyle.

mypostingcareer.com January 31, 2012 at 5:31 pm

im gay

JonF January 31, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I don’t think the poor and working class have gotten any stupider. There were always avenues by which bright and talented people could ascend out of the lower classes in the past, indeed a society that does not have ladders (and chutes) of social mobility is a society that’s on course for failure, and that does not describe America in past generations.
The problem is that we no longer have worthwhile jobs for people of lower intelligence (I refuse to use the silly term “IQ”; a single number does not describe intelligence). Fifty years ago we had plenty of work for the non-academically gifted. Today, only crap jobs (with, yes, some exceptions).
As for the social dysfunction it’s the result of the economic situation (though yes, there are feddback effects). It’s an old saying that Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop. People lacking work will get into mischief. And at the risk of annoying the feminists, men who cannot earn a family-supporting wage at reasonably stable jobs will not be accepted as marriage partners by women.
Want to fix the problem? Find a way to get work (not just money, work) to these people.

The Anti-Gnostic January 31, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Halt Third World immigration as driving the price of labor below a pretextual disability claim. End welfare as an incentive for single motherhood. Stop putting men and women in head-to-head economic competition with each other.

It ain’t rocket science.

msgkings January 31, 2012 at 7:08 pm

The first two ideas have some merit, and can be debated.

What is that third one about men vs women about? Are you saying don’t let men and women into the same professions?

doctorpat January 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm

That’s exactly right. Some jobs require physical strength such as nursing, waiting tables and childcare. Other jobs do not such as surgeons, truck driving and being a priest.
Clearly the first group should be reserved for men, and the second group for women. Anything else is ridiculous.

SirSpider February 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Good stuff

The Anti-Gnostic February 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm

It would be as simple as repealing Title VII, so nuclear-armed bureaucrats don’t get to engage in social engineering.

peter lawler January 31, 2012 at 9:25 pm
Rob Joswel February 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Charles Murray, professional sophist, round 1,000,000. Another reason not to take Tyler’s intellectual side very, very seriously, the Murray dude’s been debunked over and over:

Ned Block:
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/Heritability.html

Or this one
http://botc.tcf.org/2012/01/charles-murray-david-brooks-and-sophistry.html

Or for the mathematically curious, Cosma Shalizi:
http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/520.html

I hope I’m not repeating too much covered above, I was suprised that few seemed to realize where Murray was coming from.

TGGP February 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I see Block & Shalizi wrote before Deary’s GWAS study. Do either of them have a reaction to it?

kebko February 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I don’t think debunked means what you think it means.

Rob Joswel February 2, 2012 at 8:46 am

His facts were cherry picked, his statistics flawed, the conclusions he drew included leaps of faith. Overall, his work has always directed itself to the same conclusions, and many people have shown this.

What portion of Murray’s work do you believe remains bunked?

The Anti-Gnostic February 2, 2012 at 10:12 am

The part that shows rates of social pathology beginning to equal rates of black and Latino social pathology among lower IQ whites.

Endgame: the opposite of the Solow model. Haiti instead of Germany. Are you aware, for example, that there are a number of wealthy, intelligent Haitians in Haiti who don’t have to eat dirt-cakes, even while their country has NGO’s crawling all over it to keep lower-class Haitians from dying like flies? That is the kind of society the elite class is pushing the rest of us toward, and average IQ whites don’t have anywhere else to emigrate.

M Pearlstein February 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm

@ Rob Joswell,

Murray hasn’t been debunked. As Steven Pinker wrote in the New York Times article “My Genome, My Self” Jan 2009:

“To study something scientifically, you first have to measure it, and psychologists have developed tests for many mental traits. And contrary to popular opinion, the tests work pretty well: they give a similar measurement of a person every time they are administered, and they statistically predict life outcomes like school and job performance, psychiatric diagnoses and marital stability.”

In other words, the exact claims of Murray and Herrnstein. And do groups differ on average? Yes, that is in fact not controversial. (see Philip L Roth’s 2001 meta analysis in Personal Psychology, Volume 54, Issue 2, pages 297–330, June 2001).

The hard question is what causes these differences. When privately polled in the 1980′s relatively few academics seemed to think these were purely environmental, compared to those who thought they are due to both environmental and genetic variation (see Snyderman Rothman survey).

Also, see Robert Weinberg’s biology lecture at MIT. You can find this on Professor Steve Hsu’s website under “forbidden thoughts”.

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