Saturday, March 10, 2012

Murray Wants Betters to Lead by Example


Put down that remote. Your HD mind rot can wait while you do your duty and digest some Charles Murray.

The libertarian social scientist continues to be the darling of the conservatives who don't really read his stuff. He annoys the crap out of wingers and lefties alike.

His lunch with the FT this week (free reg for limited hits per month) is a good start. You may first admire his gourmet flair (black-truffle pasta and $105 bottle of Cortese di Gavi). For your background consumption though, try his half-crazy Losing Ground, the 1984 book that fantasized that welfare made a nation of bums, or his new Coming Apart. The latter offers his interpretation of how the rich and super-rich fail their own families as well as the larger public through what he calls ecumenical niceness. The poor and middle class as not inspired by their superiors, in his mind, who no longer are industrious, righteous, religious, and like that.

Salon's Joan Walsh debated him and picks at his substance. At the NYT, Ross Douthat thinks 15% of the book is hooey, but 85% is worth considering and maybe right. The Daily Beast's David Frum finds him quintuply delusional and wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong (plus conclusion and a sidebar rebuttal).

I confess that I enjoy the weekly lunch-with feature. I tend to read even LITE ones, with trivial people like self-absorbed fashion designers. I suppose it's the candid nature of egotists gossiping about themselves.

Enjoying his martini before the wine arrived, Murray got into the error of the elite types, particularly, "There's a big difference between being good and being nice." That is, "Being good involves tough choices — tough love. Ecumenical niceness is just pablum. It's as if, in all our interactions, parents are trying to stop our kids eating food off the floor, when that is what would inoculate them against far costlier things later on in life."

He says such risk aversion cuts off the top dogs and their pups from the larger American culture. Oddly, he would like the rich folk to exhibit the work ethic and morality of 19th Century England...and preach it to their inferiors (my term) in the rest of the country.

Moreover, he has nothing good to say about the POTUS and his policies. He also despairs at the entire GOP set of candidates for the office.

To many, including me, he is oblivious to the cause-and-effect patterns of income disparity that the laws and regulations that enable them. He offers and astonishing expectation that the middle and lower classes will, of course, emulate the virtues of the rich, should that group find and display those.

By the bye, Murray does have some economic perspective. Knowing the FT would pick up the lunch, he verified with interviewer Edward Luce that a $350 bottle would e out of range before picking the $105 wash.

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