“Coming Apart” Book Review

the cover of the book entitled "coming apart"

“Coming Apart – The State of White America 1960-2010″ by Charles Murray  focuses on the increasing divergence of upper and lower classes in the United States.  Besides the economic inequality, the two classes are actually becoming different cultures.

There, I just summarized the first half of the book, and saved you untold hours of wading through demographic minutia.  And his conclusion makes sense, but what’s the point?

In the second half we find out, when the author veers from analysis to opinion presented as fact, such as:

1)      There is “no doubt” that America could not succeed without the “founding virtues” of “industriousness, honesty, marriage, religiosity.”

and

2)      “The answer is that there are just four” (domains of happiness), “family, vocation, community, and faith.”

In the last chapter (“Alternative Futures”), we finally get to some meaty discussions such as “the American Project vs. the European Model”.  Basically, the author feels that the Europe cripples its population by robbing them of self-respect and self-actualization.

Mr. Murray’s ultimate hope is that there will be a “Civic Great Awakening” in the response to the “collapse of the moral pillars of the welfare state” and leading the change will be the “new upper class”.

In the last few paragraphs, Mr. Murray invokes the popular concept of American Exceptionalism.

“Historically, Americans have been different as a people, even peculiar, and everyone around the world has recognized it. I am thinking of qualities such as American industriousness and neighborliness discussed in earlier chapters, but also American optimism even when there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for it, our striking lack of class envy, and the assumption by most Americans that they are in in control of their own destinies. Finally, there is the most lovable of exceptional American qualities: our tradition of insisting that we are part of the middle class, even if we aren’t, and of interacting with our fellow citizens as if we were all middle class.”

Really, is he serious? Continue reading ““Coming Apart” Book Review”

Charity in America – Surprising Insights

Charitable Giving in the United States
Who tops our “Shame Score”?

A report was released today by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, titled “How America Gives.”  The report maps charitable giving by state, city and neighborhood, by analyzing IRS personal income tax data at the zip code level.  Using the amount of charitable deductions, The Chronicle’s report showed which places gave the greatest (and least) portion of their income to charity.  (Actually, the report would be more accurately named “Where America Gives,” not “How.”)

I did a similar analysis about a year ago, using the same data, and I’m pleased to see we reached the same conclusions.  To summarize it simply, the poor give a greater percent of their income to charity than the wealthy, and people are more likely give more in states that vote Republican and are strongly religious.

The states with the highest percentage of claimed charitable contributions are Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina.  The least generous states are New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

I must admit, this is not what I had expected to find.

Continue reading “Charity in America – Surprising Insights”