In the old model of Southern society (which flourished from the beginning of the Colonial era and even survived the devastation and foreign conquest of the 1860s and 70s to some extent) the church and family were the central institutions of society. Together with the natural elites and upper class in general, who were held to a very high standard of morality and lived along side the other classes, they protected the lower classes and provided an example to them of how to live an excellent life. Men such as Wade Hampton and Robert E Lee are examples of the sort of leadership that Southern society produced. These were not simply wealthy business men or military leaders, they were moral and social leaders as well. Illegitimacy was extremely rare. Crime in general was uncommon. Small communities of homogeneous populations led by strong, moral leaders was the norm. This was the same model of civilisation that had prevailed throughout most of Western Civilisation. It was a classical model unlike the ‘progressive’ model of New England.
Today, after decades of having the ‘progressive’ model of the North (and the USA in general we could say now) forced upon us, we can see what a dismal failure it is. One of the many indicators of this failure can be seen in the state of the family – which is dying like society as a whole. It’s no longer only minority groups where illegitimacy is common and accepted, it now permeates the lower and middle classes of White society as reported by Caroline May for The Daily Caller:
Just as the AP Stylebook advised journalists against using the term “illegitimate child,” illegitimacy is becoming more widespread in the United States.
Now more than half of all births to American women under 30 are born out of wedlock, and the trend in marriage-less birth is becoming an accepted reality of American life.
According to an analysis of government data, conducted by the research group Child Trends and reported by The New York Times, the last 20 years has seen illegitimacy among white women in their 20s with some college — but not a full four year degree — rise more quickly than in other groups.
While the middle class is seeing a rise in illegitimacy, 59 percent of all American births are within marriage. Indeed, it is college graduates and the upper class which have been able to stay within the bounds of tradition and marry prior to reproducing, The Times reported.
A number of factors has led the the rising numbers of illegitimacy — which most researchers agree increases a child’s risk of emotional problems and falling into poverty — including, as The Times noted, economic factors that have thinned the number of available, marriageable men; a larger social safety net; and a more promiscuous society.
Outside of the educational differences, there are distinct differences in the marriage rates between different races: 29 percent of white children are born to unmarried women, 53 percent of Latinos and 73 percent of black children.
Author Charles Murray’s new book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 tackles the massive divide that now appears in the United States. His book points to the failure of the new model of society which replaced the old Southern model where the lower and middle classes were protected and provided with moral and social leadership by an upper class which lived along side them and was itself held to a very high standard. Adam’s book was recently reviewed for The New York Times by Jennifer Schuessler:
But “Coming Apart,” which depicts members of white elites as hypocrites living in a bubble and the white working class as succumbing to moral decay, is hardly a flattering portrait of white people, let alone, Mr. Murray insists, a partisan barnburner.
“It’s not a brief for the right,” Mr. Murray said in a recent interview at the American Enterprise Institute here, where he has been a scholar since 1990. “The problem I describe isn’t a conservative-versus-liberal problem. It’s a cultural problem the whole country has.”
“Coming Apart,” which shot to No. 5 at Amazon.com immediately upon publication last week, has certainly prompted much conversation, if little in the way of consensus. David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, pre-emptively declared it the most important book of the year, saying, “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book that so compellingly describes the most important trends in American society.”
But to critics on the left Mr. Murray’s arguments are just an effort to change the subject. Defining the problem as one of cultural inequality instead of economic inequality, as the New York Magazine blogger Jonathan Chait put it, allows one to start talking about marriage and industriousness and “steer the debate back onto comfortable conservative terrain.”
Looking at America Mr. Murray sees a country increasingly polarized into two culturally and geographically isolated demographics. In Belmont, the fictional name Mr. Murray gives to the part of America where the top 20 percent live, divorce is low, the work ethic is strong, religious observance is high, and out-of-wedlock births are all but unheard of. Meanwhile in Fishtown, where the bottom 30 percent live, what Mr. Murray calls America’s four “founding virtues” — marriage, industriousness, community and faith — have all but collapsed.
The book says little about the roots of Fishtown’s problems, but in conversation Mr. Murray doesn’t hesitate to name the villain. “The ’60s were a disaster in terms of social policy,” he said. “The elites put in place a whole set of reforms which I think fundamentally changed the signals and the incentives facing low-income people and encouraged a variety of trends that soon became self-reinforcing.”
It’s an argument familiar from Mr. Murray’s 1984 book, “Losing Ground,” which established him overnight as a major policy intellectual and helped lay the groundwork for the 1996 law overhauling welfare. But in “Coming Apart” Mr. Murray’s recommendations are both more vague and far more ambitious. The first step, he writes, is for the people of Belmont to drop their “nonjudgmentalism” and lecture Fishtown on the importance of marriage and nondependence: to “preach what they practice,” as Mr. Murray puts it.
Next they need to leave their upper-middle-class enclaves and move closer to Fishtown.