Tag: Charles Murray

American Inventors


Edwin Armstrong on the beach with his wife and his portable superheterodyne radio 1923

Yesterday, @richardeaston wrote a post Affirmative Action in Inventions in which he noted that in recent years a black female, Dr. Gladys West, has been given credit for inventions associated with GPS for which the credit belongs to others. I was going to comment on Richard’s post; but, my comment got too long and I think this post can stand on its own.

Charles Murray


Like most people, I’ve spent my life traveling in modest circles. As far as I know, I’ve met only two significantly famous people.

In 1979, shortly before he became President, I met Ronald Reagan. I intended to vote for him but knew little about him at the time, and the briefest real-world encounter with him following a campaign speech in Albuquerque made no particular impression on me, though the speech itself was positive and uplifting — typically Reaganesque. I was impressed, of course, but more by his stature and importance than by any quality I discerned in the few seconds I spent in his company. Only later did I grow to appreciate the depth and quality of the man.

In this AEI Events Podcast, Charles Murray offers a retrospective of his career from a personal point of view.

Murray opens by discussing two places that had a lasting impact on his worldview: Newton, Iowa, where he was born and raised, and rural Thailand, where he spent five years as a Peace Corps volunteer and researcher. In different ways, both places taught him about the intimate relationship between local community and a meaningful, happy life.

The Great Sort and the Rise of Populism


Over the course of a generation, American politics has increasingly been shaped by a series of forces which are only now beginning to be understood. This phenomenon has created effects as divergent and seemingly disconnected from each other as the inflation of real estate prices in California’s Silicon Valley to the election of Donald Trump and the rise of populism. Trying to understand the underlying forces which animate these disparate occurrences requires traveling back in time to track both their origins and how they’ve progressed over time.

Let’s start in 1976 with Jimmy Carter winning the Presidential election with 50.1% of the popular vote. He does so with just 26.8% of counties voting for him with a margin in excess of 20%. After Carter’s inauguration in 1977, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs found the Apple Computer Corporation in April. Later that year, Paul Allen and Bill Gates found Microsoft. The median price of a home in the US is $33,000. The median price of a home in Cupertino, CA — where Apple will ultimately place its headquarters — is slightly higher, as California Real Estate tends to be.

I’ve picked this moment in time as a baseline. There was it seems, a much greater sense of interconnectedness between people throughout the country at the local level. The numbers bear this out. The still relatively small number of people who attended college mainly returned home and went to work, married a high school acquaintance (the even smaller number of women who attended college then practically guaranteed this) and lived their lives. People were far more likely to live next to a person of differing ideological persuasion or even a different income stratum.

Lonesome Purple Hearts and Angry Red Ones: Love and Contempt in a Divided Red Tribe


Red America, blue America. It’s a crude categorization, but useful. According to Rachel Lu, the red tribe is the tribe of traditional, transcendent bourgeois values, while the blue tribe is the tribe of neo-Epicureanism, which by its nature is shallow and tepid. According to Charles Murray, the red tribe professes traditional values while struggling to practice them, while the blue tribe, for the most part, lives out these values while failing to profess them. According to Mark Regnerus, when it comes to the specific traditional values of chastity and stable family formation, while both tribes are far from paragons, on average the red tribe fails a lot harder than the blue tribe does, even though it’s the red tribe, not the blue, which promulgates language like “chastity” and “family values”. If you stop looking at averages though, something interesting happens: the red tribe splits. Red-tribe children who inherit exceptional amounts of social capital (which arises from networks of shared social norms, including trust and reciprocity) are more sexually virtuous than their blue peers, while red-tribe children with low social capital are so much less sexually virtuous than their blue peers that it drags the whole red average down below that of the blue.

This sexual split points to a more general split among conservatives: the red tribe can be crudely divided into two tribes, both of whom profess a zeal for cultural capital, but only one of which has secure access to cultural capital. (There’s not complete agreement on what social and cultural capital are, but for this essay, cultural capital includes social capital, along with other accumulated cultural riches.) As much as blue-tribe language tends to denigrate the value of the West’s cultural capital, blue-tribe children enjoy better access to that capital than many red-tribe children do. However, there’s a class of purple children – typically red-tribe children raised in blue milieus – who achieve cultural-capital royalty: whatever struggles they face, access to cultural goods, whether moral, intellectual, or aesthetic, isn’t really one of them. They inherit not just the red-tribe zeal for cultural capital, but blue-tribe access to it, an access which differs not only in quantity (more of it) from average red access, but also in kind (probably less NASCAR and more Shakespeare – brows a little higher rather than lower).

Blue-tribe access to it. How does the blue tribe maintain good access to something it publicly professes not to value much? Evidently, it must be by doing rather than saying. Culture isn’t just something you have worthy or unworthy opinions about, it’s also something you do. And a lot of blues still do it, even if their opinions about why it’s worth doing are unworthy. To be too much in enmity with the blues is to put yourself at odds with many of the vehicles still left for passing on the great achievements of our culture. Reds routinely decry the corruption of academic and arts organizations, for example, but so far have had scanty success forming organizations of their own to pass down the treasure of Western knowledge and beauty. For all the nonsense on college campuses, for all the schlock modern arts organizations promote, colleges still harbor teachers with genuine love for whatever little corner of Western heritage is their expertise and arts organizations still exhibit works of transcendent beauty. These dreaded blue, “elitists” milieus might make piss-poor advocates of the traditions they enjoy, but many in these milieus still enjoy aspects of those traditions, and in enjoying them, keep them going, at least for another generation.

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I recently purchased Herrnstein and Murray’s delightful little tome at our local Half Price Books. I was busy corralling my 6-year-old out of the children’s section and toward the checkout counter while my wife was making our purchase, so I didn’t get to see the look on the face of cashier as xhe rang it up. […]

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Sympathizing: Must Loving Fishtown Equal Hating Belmont?


We have plenty of folks on Ricochet who inhabit Belmont, more or less, but identify with Fishtown. It seems the easiest way to signal this sympathy is to be a self-hating Belmontonian. But what if you don’t hate everything about Belmont? Is it possible to sympathize with Fishtown even then? I would say yes. Though I would not, at this point, expect to be believed.

I recently reviewed Dreamland, a reporter’s magnum opus on the opiate addiction epidemic. My interest in its devastation isn’t academic. After all, I, too, have known chronic pain, death-wish despair, and repeated exposure to opioids through injury and surgery. Nor am I the only one in my family to have had these problems. Yet we’ve been spared from narcotics addiction, and the buffer of Belmont customs is at least partly to thank for this. Growing up, I hadn’t thought of myself as “Belmont.” My parents’ one sacrifice to dwarf all others was buying us a precarious perch in a Belmont neighborhood so we could attend its famed Belmont schools. It meant money was always tight. We dressed in the kind of secondhand clothes that made other kids point and laugh. In Belmont, we were at the bottom of the food chain, and that, plus my family’s right-leaning distaste for Belmont smugness, left us thinking of ourselves as outsiders, crypto-Fishtowners. It took leaving Belmont to find out how Belmont we’d become.

Being Belmont isn’t such a bad thing. There’s much more to Belmont than smugly looking down on the rubes. We rely on Belmont to support much of the finest flower of Western civilization – the arts, the sciences. As Charles Murray noted, Belmont neglects to preach the morals it still practices, while Fishtown struggles to practice what it preaches. But practice is not nothing, especially for youngsters who get to grow up surrounded by the practice. In my teens, I began attending about the Belmontiest church you could imagine – folks way richer than us, socialites on the “in” when I was “out,” with everybody reluctant to preach what they practiced. But among the things they practiced was traditional worship music (it’s why I went) and, as Lutherans like to say, music is its own sermon. You can get a pretty good Christian formation in one of those churches by ignoring what’s spoken and taking to heart what’s sung. And oh, the music!

The Southern Poverty Law Center Helps Spark Political Violence


The recent attack on Charles Murray at Middlebury College was no exception. Progressives quickly jumped from saying it’s fine to “punch Nazis” to calling all conservatives and libertarians Nazis. And the Southern Poverty Law Center is all too eager to promote the view that to anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton is a hate-filled extremist.

Founded to take on the KKK and remnants of Jim Crow, the SPLC dramatically changed course in the ’80s to equate most of the right with a backwoods Grand Dragon. In this weekend’s op-ed for the Arizona Republic, I show what their new focus has wrought:

In 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II entered the D.C. headquarters of the Family Research Council carrying a pistol, nearly 100 rounds of ammo and several Chick-fil-A sandwiches. The FRC (and the fast food company’s CEO) opposed same-sex marriage — just as President Barack Obama did that year.

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Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a proposal to replace most or all existing wealth transfer (welfare) programs with a flat grant of cash per month.  UBI has gained a following across the political spectrum.  See, for instance, this Cato Institute discussion between libertarian policy wonk Charles Murray and retired union boss Andy Stern, where they […]

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Last night I attended a book club on the campus of the University of Michigan. I go rarely, so it was a treat to join in a thoughtful discussion of a work of literary fantasy (Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant: don’t read it; it’s a turkey). Nevertheless, this university-centric group is an excellent sample from the […]

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I’ve written on the politics of science recently, starting from one of Feynman’s letters, which includes an appeal to humanism against democratic crassness. He identifies the Renaissance as the origin of humanism & points out that since then, the most enduring popular speeches–poetry–have been either the enemy of science or at best indifferent to science, even […]

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Trump or #NeverTrump? Haley Barbour and Charles Murray Disagree


On the podcast today, Rob and I interviewed two genuinely brilliant men. Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi, has dedicated the better part of his life to the Republican Party. He helped transform the South into a central component — perhaps the central component — of the GOP base, then served in the Reagan administration (where he and I became fast friends), and then as chairman of the Republican National Committee. Charles Murray has written half a dozen books, including two of the most important works the conservative movement has ever produced. His 1984 masterpiece, Losing Ground, detailed the case that the expansion of welfare did more harm than good to the very people it was intended to help; twenty-eight years later, Coming Apart chronicled in heartbreaking detail the growing gulf between a prosperous new class and those beset by wage stagnation and dissolving families.

Although Haley and Charles joined us at different points in the podcast, Rob and I asked each man the same question: If Donald Trump were to capture the Republican nomination, should we vote for him or support an independent candidate instead? Rather than paraphrase, I’ll let each explain, in his own words, how he answers the most important question conservatives may face this year.

Is It Bad to Come Apart?


shutterstock_108684296At one time in my life, Charles Murray’s Coming Apart influenced my thinking quite a bit. That’s not necessarily a gold-star testament to the book (though it’s pretty good) since other authors or books could have acquainted me with the same trends. But since I learned it from Murray, his perspective was disproportionately influential in my early reflections about the sociological trends that are causing so much angst in America today.

I’ve now come to think, though, that Charles Murray has one thing rather wrong. Like so many others, he’s too attached to “together” America.

Murray presents the “coming apart” of America as a kind of crisis. I think most Americans share that feeling, and our politics reflects it: we keep looking for ways to come back together as a country, and regain our sense of purpose and our thriving middle class. What if we’re getting the wrong end of the stick here? What if the goal at this juncture should be more to arrange an amicable divorce?

Virtue: More Than Its Own Reward


shevekI recently read the Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, an excellent novel that I highly recommend. The dialogue to the right got me thinking. The first speaker is from a decadent, stratified society, while the latter is from an extremely egalitarian, quasi-utopian one.

That the latter speaker — the protagonist, Shevek — is overstating his case is not lost on Le Guin, who’s quite honest about the shortcomings of Annarian society. But it suggests an important truth we often miss: Being virtuous isn’t just right; it’s usually smart, too.

I’m not saying that humans are inherently good and that we should all follow our instincts and the whims of our hearts. The best of us are broken, selfish, and prone to sin and vice. (The rest of us are far worse.) Temptation is a constant and inseparable part of the human condition, both in individuals and societies.

Charles Murray is the famous public-policy analyst whose books include “Losing Ground” (1984) and “Coming Apart” (2012). His new book is “By the People: Rebuilding Liberty without Permission.”

In this “Q&A,” Jay invites him to talk about some of the biggest issues. What is libertarianism? What is conservatism? What is Barack Obama? What is Hillary Clinton? How are race relations faring? Is America one big meth house? Are colleges worth sending your kids to these days? Do you err on the side of national security or civil liberties? Is America biting the dust?