By Dean Kalahar
History has shown that nations go through an evolutionary process and either flourish or die. The people of
Charles Murray, who holds a B.A. in history from Harvard and a Ph.D. in political science from M.I.T., may hold the key. He recently gave a speech to The American Enterprise Institute, titled Europe Syndrome, which was both intellectual in its depth and poignant in its content. It serves as the perfect backdrop for guiding
“To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important. You have to have put a lot of effort into it. And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.” What qualifies as meeting these requirements? Having been a good parent, a good husband/wife, a good neighbor, a good friend, and having been really good at something that drew the most from your abilities. Family, community, vocation and faith are the institutions through which human beings achieve “the stuff of life” and find happiness. They make up “the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one's personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships--coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness.”
By these definition,
The reason Socialist governments enfeeble is that they promote government policies that “take some of the trouble out of things.” And “every time the government takes some of the trouble out of performing the functions of family, community, vocation and faith, it also strips those institutions of some of their vitality.”
Families are not vital because the day-to-day tasks of raising children and being a good spouse are so much fun, but because the family has responsibility for doing important things that won't get done unless the family does them. Communities are not vital because it's so much fun to respond to our neighbors' needs, but because the community has the responsibility for doing important things that won't get done unless the community does them. Once that imperative has been met--family and community really do have the action--then an elaborate web of social norms, expectations, rewards and punishments evolves over time that supports families and communities in performing their functions. When the government says it will take some of the trouble out of doing the things that families and communities evolved to do, it inevitably takes some of the action away from families and communities, and the web frays, and eventually disintegrates.
Look at any one of many “American neighborhoods where, once, working at a menial job to provide for his family made a man proud and gave him status in his community, and where now it doesn't.” Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum as
If that's the purpose of life, then work is not a vocation, but something that interferes with the higher good of leisure. If that's the purpose of life, why have a child, when children are so much trouble--and, after all, what good are they, really? If that's the purpose of life, why spend it worrying about neighbors? If that's the purpose of life, what could possibly be the attraction of a religion that says otherwise?
The same self-absorption in whiling away life as pleasantly as possible explains why
Those who have fallen prey to cultural emptiness see no voids in their lives that need filling and have lost the ability to demand of government the right to capture deep satisfaction through appropriate policy decisions.
Sadly, every element of the Europe Syndrome is infiltrating American life and there is every reason to believe that when Americans embrace the European model, they begin to behave like Europeans.
These findings will fundamentally alter two premises about human beings are at the heart of the social democratic agenda: what
The equality premise says that, in a fair society, different groups of people--men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays, the children of poor people and the children of rich people--will naturally have the same distributions of outcomes in life--the same mean income, the same mean educational attainment, the same proportions who become janitors and CEOs. When that doesn't happen, it is because of bad human behavior and an unfair society. For the last 40 years, this premise has justified thousands of pages of government regulations and legislation that has reached into everything from the paperwork required to fire someone to the funding of high school wrestling teams. Everything that we associate with the phrase "politically correct" eventually comes back to the equality premise. Every form of affirmative action derives from it. Much of the Democratic Party's proposed domestic legislation assumes that it is true.
He believes within a decade, no one will try to defend the equality premise because research will show that “groups of people will turn out to be different from each other, on average, and those differences will also produce group differences in outcomes in life, on average, that everyone knows are not the product of discrimination and inadequate government regulation.” Because of this, “the success of social policy will be measured not by equality of outcomes for groups, but by open, abundant opportunity for individuals. It will be measured by the freedom of individuals, acting upon their personal abilities, aspirations and values, to seek the kind of life that best suits them.”
The second bedrock premise of the social democratic agenda is the “New Man premise” which says that “human beings are malleable through the right government interventions.” This leads us back to the idea that the socialist agenda can fix or perfect man’s negative nature by “taking some of the trouble out of things.”
There is a blind lack of insight among the socialist mindset that “human nature tightly constrains what is politically or culturally possible,” and
Social democrats will simply have to stop making glib claims that the traditional family is just one of many equally valid alternatives. They will have to acknowledge that the traditional family plays a special, indispensable role in human flourishing and that social policy must be based on that truth. The same concrete effects of the new knowledge will make us rethink every domain in which the central government has imposed its judgment on how people ought to live their lives--in schools, workplaces, the courts, social services, as well as the family.
The 20th century was “the adolescence of Homo sapiens,” according to
American exceptionalism has “come from the cultural capital generated by the system that the Founders laid down, a system that says people must be free to live life as they see fit and to be responsible for the consequences of their actions; that it is not the government's job to protect people from themselves; that it is not the government's job to stage-manage how people interact with each other. Discard the system that created the cultural capital, and the qualities we love about Americans can go away. In some circles, they are going away.”
Not so long ago, the overwhelming majority of the elites in each generation were drawn from the children of farmers, shopkeepers and factory workers--and could still remember those worlds after they left them. Over the last half century, it can be demonstrated empirically that the new generation of elites have increasingly spent their entire lives in the upper-middle-class bubble, never even having seen a factory floor, let alone worked on one, never having gone to a grocery store and bought the cheap ketchup instead of the expensive ketchup to meet a budget, never having had a boring job where their feet hurt at the end of the day, and never having had a close friend who hadn't gotten at least 600 on her SAT verbal. There's nobody to blame for any of this. These are the natural consequences of successful people looking for pleasant places to live and trying to do the best thing for their children.
This disconnect within the elite American mindset will create an
He says it won't happen by appealing to people on the basis of lower marginal tax rates or keeping a health care system that lets them choose their own doctor. The drift toward the European model can be slowed by piecemeal victories on specific items of legislation, but only slowed. To save