Friday, November 25, 2016

Yes, What Should Democrats Do Now?

Helpful as ever, pundits all across the fruited plain are advising Democrats how they can win again. Ted van Dyk, in the Wall Street Journal, has a piece that manages to say nothing about what to do, except that Adlai Stevenson put a committee to work after his defeat in 1952, and so did most Democrats since.

Then there is Charles Krauthammer telling the Dems to lose the identity politics, whereas Michelle Goldberg writes that Democratic politics has to be identity politics.

But my advice to Democrats would be to go and read Charles Murray. Yes, Murray is a libertarian, but his whole life's work amounts to a critical analysis of the consequences of Democratic government programs.

Critical analysis. Remember that? It has what the left imagines it is all about, leveraging off Kant's three critiques at the end of the 18th century. That is what Marx's Das Kapital was supposed to be: a critique of capitalism using its own classical economics and subjecting it to Hegelian dialectics. That is what the Frankfurt School was all about: critical theory.

Are you up for a bit of critical theory, Democrats? Or is critical theory just a club with which to beat the bourgeoisie?

So let's go through the Murray oeuvre -- that's French for work. His first big book was Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980. Here is what the blurb on Amazon says.
This classic book... argues that the ambitious social programs of the 1960s and 1970s actually made matters worse for its supposed beneficiaries, the poor and minorities.
Murray makes the telling point that liberals instrumented their Great Society programs with social science studies to measure the inevitable success. But when the research showed that the programs hadn't helped, Democrats did nothing. Hey, Democrats! How is that welfare system doin' 50 years later in the 21st century, pal?

Murray's next big book was The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, written with Richard J. Herrnstein. Here's the Amazon blurb.
The controversial book linking intelligence to class and race in modern society, and what public policy can do to mitigate socioeconomic differences in IQ, birth rate, crime, fertility, welfare, and poverty.
Yeah. The controversy was about race. How dare racist Murray dare to write that blacks had a lower IQ and therefore were disadvantaged in a society and an economy that seemed to be self-segregating by education and IQ. Hey Democrats! Had any good ideas about race and IQ and identity lately? Oh yeah. Black Lives Matter. Rich black dudes ginning up a bit of street action.

Murray's third big book was Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010. After being sent into the dunce's corner after The Bell Curve, Murray decided to do the whole thing again, this time just talking about White America. No racism here; no Sir. This is just about racist, sexist, homophobe white people. Here's the Amazon blurb.
Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity. 
No kidding, Sherlock. So Murray shows that the top 25 percent of white America, that lives in "Belmont," is doing fine, getting educated, working at satisfying careers, getting married, having children, and not getting divorced. The middle 50 percent is doing OK, although nothing like as pretty-please as the top tier. The bottom 30 percent, that lives in "Fishtown," is a mess. The men don't work much and the women don't marry much. Hey, Democrats! You think this has something to do with the Trump phenomenon, pal?

In a more recent book, By the People: Building Liberty Without Permission, Murray suggests it is time for small government advocates to start a bit of what we might call "activism:" waging a peaceful guerrilla war against the administrative state by making life hell for mid-level government bureaucrats.

So my message to my Democratic friends is: what are you going to do about those folks in Fishtown, where the men don't work and the women don't marry? Since the science tells us that the children of such people tend to end up on welfare and in jail.

So seriously Democrats. What are you going to do about this social Armageddon for the folks in the inner city and in the bombed-out Rust Belt?

'Cos I don't see that your identity politics does a blind bit of good for those folks. I don't see that your administrative-state palliatives like a $15 minimum wage, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Clean Power Plan, and Renewable Energy, and Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley, and Obamacare, and all the other top-down expert-led administrative interventions have ever helped or will ever help the folks at the bottom to climb into a decent middle-class life.

And I reckon that the science backs me up.

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