Charles Murray on the role of economic forces

This has been debated by Brooks, Krugman, and around the blogosphere, so let us hear from the man himself:

“OK, let’s try this,” he said. “If you get a rising economy, for example, if Barack Obama could say we are going to bring on seven years of incredibly low unemployment, then he would argue that this would do a lot of good to the working class, wouldn’t he?” I agree. “But we already had that in the 1990s, and yet the dropout from the labour force continued to go up, people on social disability went up. Divorce went up. We have no evidence that a robust economy has much to do with these problems at all.”

I point out that many employers complain of a shortage of skills – a large chunk of America’s workforce is not as well equipped as it used to be relative to the rest of the world. If you don’t have the skills to make a living, how can you feel pride in your situation? “Well, that’s a different problem,” says Murray, looking suddenly uninterested. “If you are arguing that 22-year-old men are saying to their girlfriends, ‘I just need a job and then I’ll behave responsibly …’ Well, that’s just bullshit. If you ask women in working class communities, they will say, ‘Why should I marry these losers? It’s like taking another child into the household.’ ”

That is from his FT interview, I am not sure if it is gated for you.  The closing paragraph is this:

I feel mildly guilty at having spoiled Murray’s jovial mood but he quickly bounces back. The bill arrives. I disguise my shock at its size. As we get up to leave, Murray says: “Here is an interesting commentary: I was willing to talk to the Financial Times under the influence of alcohol but I’m not willing to play poker under the influence. What does that say?” Don’t worry, I reply, you won’t lose your shirt. Murray laughs. As we are shaking hands, he adds, “I really enjoyed that. We must do it again some time.” Then he strides off in what looks to me like a straight line.


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