America comes apart – social breakdown, and its consequences

In “Coming Apart”, Charles Murray describes the social breakdown among whites in America. He says the college-educated and wealthy are not too affected by this, but the rest of the white population is.

My [sixteen-year-old] daughter has been to six baby showers in the last four months.. There’s fifty-two pregnant kids in [the Catholic school]. Fifty-two. That’s bad. Not to mention the ones that already have kids…

or

…Then my younger sister, we were pregnant all at the same time, which was great, all three of us being pregnant. My mother didn’t believe any of us, that we were pregnant…We were all in competition. Me and my four sisters all had babies and only one did it the right way [only one was married].

Many pregnancies are welcomed as a way to get out of the house, either by moving in with a boyfriend or by going on welfare. That does not always work: one girl with five kids found that her boyfriend wasn’t ready for all those kids, so she moved back in with her mother, who had to raise the kids.

Not so long ago, most people in these communities had children in the context of marriage. And most had a job. And many were very civic minded, joining all sorts of associations.
This is not the case any more.
And what happens to the kids?

It’s just hopeless…If they’re being destructive to property or something like that, yeah, I can [jump on them]. But if they’re sitting there and smoking weed, or drinking booze, and I know they’re only 14 or 15 years old, there’s nothing I can do about that. Nothing…These parents know they’re not home but they don’t care.
So why should I go out and put an effort into it when I’m only going to get retaliation on my home, my vehicle, or my family?

The act of voting for a president or politician has also gone drastically down in these communities.

Things are much worse in the Black and Latino communities, but Charles Murray stays away from that topic, because he got burned in a previous book, where he said that average IQ is lower in the Black population, and he thought this was partly caused by different genes. He ran into much strong criticism for the book and was accused of being part of a campaign to spread racism.

And the truth is, as far as social cohesion goes, at one point, more blacks got married than whites.

Charles Murray is afraid we are coming like Europe. What is wrong with Europe?

there’s a lot to like about day-to-day life in the advanced welfare states of western Europe. They are great places to visit. But the view of life that has taken root in those same countries is problematic. It seems to go something like this: The purpose of life is to while away the time between birth and death as pleasantly as possible, and the purpose of government is to make it as easy as possible…The view of work as a necessary evil, interfering with the higher good of leisure, dominates. To have to go out to look for a job or to have to risk being fired from a job are seen as terrible impositions. The precipitous decline of marriage, far greater in Europe than in the United States, is another symptom. What is the point of a life-time commitment when the state will act as surrogate spouse when it comes to paying the bills?…Children are seen as a burden that the state must help shoulder, and even then they’re a lot of trouble that distracts from things that are more fun.

In fact the number of children being born (except for immigrants) in Europe is considerably less than the amount to maintain the population.

Murray also lams into the upper class in the U.S., but I won’t go into that here except to say that they are often oblivious to what is happening to their fellow citizens. If you are interested, his book is: Coming Apart – The State of White America (2012).

My own thoughts: there must be a reason for all this social breakdown. These communities used to be admirable. Now their families collapse, and their independence collapses, and their messed-up kids are let loose on the world (and soon on the workforce). Maybe if there were plentiful jobs, and if the government made a point of not taking care of people who have children out of marriage then there would be stronger incentives to be part of a family.
I remember hearing a Mexican woman saying about Mexico, that “if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” But in the U.S. we have a much more extensive welfare system. The result of all this largesse may explain that in the U.S. “half of all Hispanic households with children are headed by an unmarried woman, and 55 percent depend on welfare programs.” This isn’t true in the countries they come from.
And there are various reasons for a shortage of jobs, many of which are self-inflicted in my view, such as the large number of lawsuits against business of all sizes, and the recent financial collapse, which is often blamed on ‘Wall Street’, but was also due to government policies. In fact, I just talked with a person who works with many companies and she says that “Obamacare” is mandating all sorts of benefits that used to be optional, which are adding burdens to companies that are barely making it to being with, and so they are laying off people. So far, more than 13,000 pages of federal ObamaCare regulations have been issued. A romantic gleam in the eye of a starry-eyed liberal ends up with all sorts of bad consequences, in my view.

But some reasons for our social problems are not self-inflicted, and I just don’t see any solution that will bring us back to the family structure of the 50’s.

There’s a verse from a song by the Country song group “Big and Rich” that applies:

Some stupid video posted as a joke, somebody’s life gets ruined
Out of everything we can create
Where is the cure to keep the sick from losing
Babies having babies ’cause their parents are always gone
Somehow we have forgotten how to make a house a home
How to make a house a home

Murray makes the point that people often derive their happiness in life from their vocation, from their friends, from their family, and so forth. From his book, it seems that there is an increasing number of people who sit in front of their TVs for 35 hours a week, are moderately to extremely overweight, lack a steady job, lack a spouse, and are completely demoralized. And looking at the statistics (1/4 of non-Hispanic white children are born to women who are not married), they may never have known their dad.

Two notes: a September 2011 report by Deloitte LLP for the National Association of Manufacturers trade group said that there were 600,000 unfilled U.S. jobs in manufacturing, which indicates that lack of employment is sometimes due to lack of skills. Maybe we need more welders and less lawyers. Another note is that many people are choosing not to work at all, or to work just enough to qualify for unemployment benefits for a few months. Charles Murray talks about that too, and how people are claiming disability benefits when they don’t have disability, or giving their children the drug ritalin to qualify for other benefits, or using any other method they can think of to avoid working. He also says that the decline in marriage affects the decline in working, and vice versa. A woman is less likely to marry a man who does not work, and a man is more motivated to work if he’s married.
I had heard criticism of the welfare state, saying it destroyed the black family, etc. I never believed it completely, but it makes quite a lot of sense, when you read “Coming Apart.”

Charles Murray – author of “Coming Apart”

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