Arnold Kling  

David Brooks on Charles Murray

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He writes,


The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.

Why not just call them Vickies?

Brooks concludes,


I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

Sounds like an argument for the Vietnam war, but without college deferments.

By the time you read this, I hope to have gotten through a decent amount of Murray's book, assuming it's available for download.


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COMMENTS (11 to date)
Glen S. McGhee writes:

Even the WSJ ran a book review on this yesterday.

The review stressed the virtue=prosperity connection -- but, other than Max Weber, where is the evidence? Even in Weber, it was more a matter of "elective affinity," and causality ran both ways.

Matt writes:

"We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement."

It seems to me, Mr. Brooks, that we need to resist the tendency of elites (like you) to draw up, in your elite wisdom, programs forcing other people to do things they're not otherwise inclined to do.

Yancey Ward writes:

I think putting David Brooks in a National Service Program digging ditches for about 10 years would be appropriate. I think he should even volunteer to make a good example.

I suspect he would think otherwise.

Harrison Searles writes:

"I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement."
This sounds much like what many think public schooling is supposed to do. However, it is clear that in public schools, students are quick to self-discriminate into culturally homogeneous groups. Attempts to force individuals from these groups to socialize together usually fails and often results in nothing other than spite among people who do not want to be with each other. Brook's program essentially consists of government bureaucrats doing on a national scale what occurs on the scale of a single school when teachers try to have students from different lunch tables interact via simply putting them close together. Genius.

mark writes:

I don't get how the ideas laid out in the Murray book leads to a National Service Program but I do understand NYT columnists have to write under deadlines so crisp logic is often a casualty. Nonetheless, I think a National Service Program would be a good idea so long as it took the place of some of the years unnecessarily spent in education - that is, if the secondary school and college curriculums were radically reformed to be significantly shorter and less expensive. If we did the latter, then there would be a lot of graduates coming on the job market sooner and to manage the transition, a National Service Program would help absorb the jobseekers. As well, if it provided lower-paid labor pool to do government work, it would have significant fiscal benefits too. At the end of the day, young adults would wind up in more or less the same place they are today but with less debt and more work on their resumes.

PrometheeFeu writes:

And then maybe when people refuse to participate in the National Service Program because they have other plans for their lives, we could send them to farms where they could be reeducated in the virtues of social justice and cohesion. I'm always amazed by the way people are so quick to praise slavery as long as some sort of government is the master.

Jeremy, Alabama writes:

For a so-called conservative, David Brooks finds abundant excuses for the use of force.

Jim writes:

Sounds like every young person being sent to the
countryside under Mao. I once knew a Chinese lady
at a place I worked whose older brothers were sent
to the countryside. Just before the time she was to be sent to the countryside Mao died and Deng Xiaoping ended this policy. She told me that whatever else Deng did during his rule she would
always feel that he had saved her life.

Greeneyeshade writes:

[Comment removed pending confirmation of email address and for rudeness. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring your comment privileges. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog and EconTalk.--Econlib Ed.]

Doug writes:

Whole-heartedly agree. While we're at it let's require that all elected congress members, the president and all cabinet appointees also spend 2 years doing "national service" for minimum wage.

After all who's more out of touch with the common man then our national lawmakers

Alistair writes:

The hypocrisy of the elites has led to the destruction of the working classes. The media (which is populated by elites) preach libertinism, glorify sloth and criminality, excoriate religion, and excuse single motherhood. The lower classes are less resistant to this messaging, while the upper classes practice what they don't preach.

Someone ought to study why the elites are so resistant to their own anti-puritanism while the lower classes are not. I suspect it may have something to do with relative IQs, fewer resources, and more competition from low-skilled immigrants.

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