Two Americas?

elitismIn Coming Apart, Charles Murray says that America is becoming two increasingly separate cultures. The upper culture, the elites, talk about the social revolution, individuality and non-judgementalism celebrated in the Forrest Gump movies of the 60’s but they live a healthy two-parent, highly motivated neo-puritanical lifestyle. It works out OK for them because their example overwhelms their ideals.

The lower classes, which increasingly include the middle, see the preaching and lack the example. They lack the philosophy 101 moral calculus, strong extended family networks and fatherly advice and protection.

But it is still the case that when we legalized abortion and instituted unilateral divorce, we helped usher in a sexual-marital-parental culture that seems to work roughly as well for people with lots of social capital as it did sixty years ago, while working pretty badly for the poor and lower middle class. It is still a reality of contemporary life that when anyone can get a divorce for any reason, the lower classes seem to get far more of the divorces, and that when anyone can get an abortion for any reason, the poor end up having more abortions and more children out of wedlock both. And it is still a fact that if you tallied up winners and losers from the sexual revolution, the obvious winners would tend to cluster at one end of 1975’s income distribution, the obvious losers at the other.

Takeaway aphorism: “preach what you practice!”

Ross Douthat adds that social liberals are contributing the stratification in two ways.

So again, if you were inclined to view all of this suspiciously, you might look at the culture industry — networks and production companies, magazines and music labels — and note that the messages it sends about sex are a kind of win-win for the class of people running it. They get to profit off various forms of exploitation directly, because sex sells and shock value attracts eyeballs. And then they also reap benefits indirectly – because the teaching they’re offering to the masses, the vision of the good life, is one that tends to ratify existing class hierarchies, by encouraging precisely the behaviors and choices that in the real world make it hard to rise and thrive.

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