Affirmative action is back in the news and likely to become an issue in the presidential race.
I wonder what Charles Murray would think of the Supreme Court’s decision to once again reopen affirmative action at universities. I wonder because I’ve been reading the latest book of this controversial author, “Coming Apart.”
Murray achieved fame in conservative circles — and infamy in liberal ones — for two books he wrote called, “Losing Ground” and the “Bell Curve.” In the former, he argued that social programs had helped foster and maintain a permanent underclass of dependency. In the latter, he wrote that intelligence is genetically determined; therefore, affirmative action is hopeless. (Here Murray and his co-author mused about whether genetic intelligence differences were, in fact, racial, earning him enmity.
Now his new book. It focuses on only whites and details the striking differences between the richest white Americans — about 5 percent — and the rest of whites. He says that these wealthy Americans, who exclusively rule our politics by the way, have become completely isolated from their fellow citizens, culturally, educationally and geographically. In ways small — what TV shows they watch and food they like — and large — levels of educational achievement and divorce rates — the two groups are literally coming apart. The top group is richer, happier and better educated, and these advantages self-perpetuate. The opposite is true for the vast majority of whites: they are falling further and further behind on most measures of human achievement and happiness.
Murray, who admits to not having answers for this social and economic crisis, does suggest, as he always does, that the answers lie not in government actions, but in private virtues. The successful, who lead industrious and virtuous lives, need to preach what they practice, according to Murray. And the less successful need to work harder, stay married, be more responsible. (You can see why Murray drives liberals crazy.)
Back to the Supreme Court and affirmative action. Many observers believe the court will tighten restrictions on college admissions policies that try to ensure diversity. Affirmative action has been focused on race; Murray makes the case, perhaps inadvertently, that class should also be a consideration.