The often controversial and always interesting libertarian scholar Charles Murray has a new book. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. Murray's premise is:
America is coming apart. For most of our nation's history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world-for whites, anyway. "The more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, the great chronicler of American democracy, in the 1830s. "On the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms with the lower classes: They listen to them, they speak to them every day."
Americans love to see themselves this way. But there's a problem: It's not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s.
People are starting to notice the great divide. The tea party sees the aloofness in a political elite that thinks it knows best and orders the rest of America to fall in line. The Occupy movement sees it in an economic elite that lives in mansions and flies on private jets. Each is right about an aspect of the problem, but that problem is more pervasive than either political or economic inequality. What we now face is a problem of cultural inequality.
Murray uses two communities to illustrate the growing gap. The lower class community he calls Fishtown after a neighborhood in Philadelphia that has been white working class two hundred years. His example of the new upper class community he labels Belmont after what Murray calls "an archetypal upper-middle-class suburb near Boston." While one criteria for selecting these communities as his archetypes has to be that neither significantly changed in total population from 1960 to 2010, I have to wonder. Is it a coincidence that Mitt Romney is a long time resident of Belmont, Massachusetts?
If you follow this link and scroll down there is a 20 question quiz to see if you live in too thick of a bubble and need to broaden your experiences of American life.