February 11, 2012

Charles Murray is (half) right?

Nick Kristof says that Charles Murray's newest book, on the decline of social structure among working-class whites is half right, but misses the causes.
Krugman, less charitable, says Murray is one-quarter right, missing the causes, and only finding fault while overlooking positives such as lower crime. 
Krugman also goes on to note how some of this has been an ongoing trope among winger economists.
Indeed, I now await the black Bobbsey twins, Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, to warn that working-class whites are about to become blacks, and that the ultimate reason for all of this is because America has minimum-wage laws.
Both Krugman and Kristof note that it's legitimate to talk about a white "underclass." But, the way the politics of fear go, tea party types will blame:
1. That underclass itself;
2. Obama the socialist;
3. General liberalism.

None will look not just at big biz of today, but the structural problems of capitalism, especially a globalized capitalism with vast income differences around the world. None will look at how their success gospel beliefs or other types of social Darwinist thought are at best like ostriches burying their heads in the sand or at worst, being part of the problem.

And now, Ross Douthat has weighed in. He attacks Murray's libertarian-driven conclusions, but then sets up a liberal straw man, starting with blaming the regressive Social Security payroll tax while ignoring that many real liberals have called for applying it to all income.

But, Ross isn't all bad. He says:
Second, if we want lower-income Americans to have stable family lives, our political system should take family policy seriously, and look for ways to make it easier for parents to manage work-life balance when their kids are young. There are left-wing approaches to this issue (European-style family-leave requirements) and right-wing approaches (a larger child tax credit). Neither is currently on the national agenda; both should be.
Agreed there, as well as with his idea of reducing incarceration rates, something the libertarian Murray apparently ignores.

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