In my mind these two books are going together. One of them is documenting in details the dramatic changes in American society at the beginning of XXI century while another one, interestingly enough written a few years earlier, provides an alternative solution to failing welfare state in America.
“Coming Apart” provides details of growing differentiation between well educated and effective in their dealings with live Americans who are quickly becoming an upper class and poorly educated, overwhelmed by complexity, and failing in their managing of contemporary life Americans who are becoming lower class.
Charles Murray is doing a great job in looking at details of this coming apart process in all areas of life – industriousness, honesty, religiosity, and marriage while demonstrating the growing difference between emerging upper and lower classes and how it threatens wellbeing of American society.
Being written before “Coming Apart”, “In Our Hands” does not directly addresses issues of failing society, but rather proposes a detailed suggestion of how to provide for failed individuals in very rich American society in more effective and efficient way then welfare state could possibly do. I believe Charles Murray has no illusions in regard to feasibility of his plan to become reality; he just needs to put it up for review and discussion.
In my opinion it is a great plan – to give everybody $10,000 per year per adult person as grant, link it to income so people with higher income would cover the grant for people with lower income, and rid of welfare state which is destroying American society. Too bad it was pretty much ignored by all parties of the great American discussion of our time.
I think that the reason for this quiet rejection is that in reality the main beneficiaries of welfare state are not poor and powerless 20% of population at the bottom. The real beneficiaries are all – middle class, plutocrats, and everybody else who has one of the giant number of meaningless jobs created by big government to produce goods and services that nobody needs and nobody would ever buy on the free market.
The contemporary society is so hugely productive that we have 2% of active people producing enough food for 100% to suffer from overeating. We have 8% of population manufacturing everything that we need. We have 0.01% of population producing all entertainment we can possibly consume. At this point we use a big government in all its forms – services, regulations, etc. to provide “jobs” and living to people either in form of salary for high-income regulation compliance specialist or meager social security disability payments for young man not capable to find meaningful application for his energy.
We need completely different way of creating and distributing goods and services and, even more important, providing everybody with a meaningful way to apply their energies and talents. If American society fails to find such way, we’ll be in trouble sooner then anybody expects.