How Goes the ‘American Project’? I. Background


The main topic of this blog is U.S. fiscal and economic policies and especially, how, and to what extent, they are lacking. But every so often I take a broader perspective.
For example, the Swedish economist, Johan Norberg, has described in detail the remarkable human progress of the past 200 years, starting with the industrial revolution.  The British scholar, Matt Ridley, has given a cogent explanation of what brought about all of this progress.  Conclusion: human life, overall, has improved dramatically in the last 200 years and most likely will continue to improve well into the future.
How are things going in the U.S.?  Not so well, relatively speaking, according to the economist, Tyler Cowen.  He thinks that too many Americans are so self-satisfied with enjoying the fruits of prosperity that as a society we have become complacent about many hidden, but very serious, problems, such as debt, deteriorating life conditions for blue-collar workers, and a huge buildup of internet crime.  This complacency is likely to make America less dynamic in the future.

The eminent political scientist, Charles Murray, has weighed in on this issue with his tour-de-force tome, “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960 – 2010.”   Mr. Murray describes a new kind of segregation which has developed in the U.S. based on socio-economic class, largely fueled by educational attainment and professional status.  The new Upper Class (20% of all Americans) are largely separated from the rest of society not only by the neighborhoods where they live and their professional employment but also because they are more likely to be married, hardworking and engaged in society.  The new Lower Class (30% of all Americans) has just the opposite characteristics of the Upper Class.
Mr. Murray argues that the four sources of deepest satisfaction in life are: family, vocation, community and faith and that these four main sources of satisfaction have become enfeebled for the Lower Class over the past 50 years.  But the Upper Class is also being hollowed out in other ways.
Conclusion. “Great nations eventually cease to be great,” observes Mr. Murray.  Is America doomed to moral deterioration and decay?  Stay tuned!