Charles Murray, the author of the controversial Bell Curve, is back with Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, which focuses on growing inequality in the US. I can only imagine that he is trying to avoid the backlash of the earlier book by focusing on whites, although there are plenty of (not pleasant) comments about race in this book, despite the subtitle.
The book starts well, highlighting the emergence of a class of educated, wealthy, decision-making elites alongside but totally separated from an underclass of poor, poorly educated people with few prospects.The definitions are quite peculiar, however. The author describes the elite as individuals with the top 5% of revenue (so far, so good) but only those working as managers, professionals, or in the media. Apparently the prosperous small business person needs not apply to the elite, as least not in the first chapter — since there is a dearth of statistics about this peculiar upper-class subsequent chapters happily rely on statistics based on different samples, presented without warnings or explanations.
But the most infuriating part of the book is the explanation for the split. The author believes, and wants us to believe, that it’s all the fault of the underclass, who stopped following the customs of the past, and especially stopped going to church and stopped getting married. Not one word about the abysmal quality of schools available in poor areas, for instance, let alone how an underclass member may reach college level and, perhaps, one day, vault into the upper class. In fact, it would be counterproductive to help underclass members to educate themselves because (the author says) they have lower IQs than the children of the upper class. apparently he cannot admit that even if a group as a while has lower performance than another, individual members may not follow that same rule (not to mention that IQ is only one of the requirements, and a rather weak one at that, for educational success).
So forget trying to build a bridge between the two classes. Just send the lower class to church and all will be well. Argh!