Hate him or love him — and I go back and forth — David Frum’s piece on Charles Murray’s latest is one of the best things I’ve read in a while (via). Read the whole thing, but here’s his take on strapping young bucks watching porn on their welfare Xboxes.
You are a white man aged 30 without a college degree. Your grandfather returned from World War II, got a cheap mortgage courtesy of the GI bill, married his sweetheart and went to work in a factory job that paid him something like $50,000 in today’s money plus health benefits and pension. Your father started at that same factory in 1972. He was laid off in 1981, and has never had anything like as good a job ever since. He’s working now at a big-box store, making $40,000 a year, and waiting for his Medicare to kick in.
Now look at you. Yes, unemployment is high right now. But if you keep pounding the pavements, you’ll eventually find a job that pays $28,000 a year. That’s not poverty! Yet you seem to waste a lot of time playing video games, watching porn, and sleeping in. You aren’t married, and you don’t go to church. I blame Frances Fox Piven.
I don’t know for sure why Bobo and (I’m guessing here but I’d be surprised if I’m wrong) a lot of other conservatives like this book so much, but I’m guessing that (1) it pissed off liberals and (2) they like “tote-baggers drive a car like this beep beep, Real Murkins drive a car like this BEEP BEEP BEEP” humor, especially when it’s dressed up with data-like factoids.
I think (2) plays a big role in the disconnect between Bobo Murray and the hoi polloi. Once you’ve reduced an entire population to a simple (yet noble) Foxworthian stereotype, you can easily miss that they might be depressed by the idea of earning minimum wage at Best Buy for the rest of their lives. So it’s hardly surprising that Murray himself has moved to a small Real Murkin town (population 170) where the local Galtians are shocked at the lack of ambition of the town’s young people. Because it wouldn’t occur to him that a lot of the kids in a middle-of-nowhere town who had some get up and go would get up and leave (to the extent that the codgers’ complaints about lazy kids are true). Didn’t NASCAR and Vince Gill and Applebee’s teach these funny native peoples anything?