From reader Chris, of the USMC. Ties in well with prior discussions here of the need for cultural-educational-cognitive renovation in American society and the marked inadequacy of the current elite:
National Affairs -“Keeping America’s Edge” – Jim Manzi
….Reconciling these competing forces is America’s great challenge in the decades ahead, but will be made far more difficult by the growing bifurcation of American society. Of course, this is not a new dilemma: It has actually undergirded most of the key political-economy debates of the past 30 years. But a dysfunctional political dynamic has prevented the nation from addressing it well, and has instead given us the worst of both worlds: a ballooning welfare state that threatens future growth, along with growing socioeconomic disparities.
Both major political parties have internal factions that sit on each side of the divide between innovation and cohesion. But broadly speaking, Republicans since Ronald Reagan have been the party of innovation, and Democrats have been the party of cohesion.
Conservatives have correctly viewed the policy agenda of the left as an attempt to undo the economic reforms of the 1980s. They have therefore, as a rhetorical and political strategy, downplayed the problems of cohesion – problems like inequality, wage stagnation, worker displacement, and disparities in educational performance – to emphasize the importance of innovation and growth. Liberals, meanwhile, have correctly identified the problem of cohesion, but have generally proposed antediluvian solutions and downplayed the necessity of innovation in a competitive world. They have noted that America’s economy in the immediate wake of World War II was in many ways simultaneously more regulated, more successful, and more equitable than today’s economy, but mistakenly assume that by restoring greater regulation we could re-create both the equity and prosperity of that era.
The conservative view fails to acknowledge the social costs of unrestrained economic innovation – costs that have made themselves powerfully apparent in American politics throughout our history. The liberal view, meanwhile, betrays a misunderstanding of the global economic environment.
…. The level of family disruption in America is enormous compared to almost every other country in the developed world. Of course, out-of-wedlock births are as common in many European countries as they are in the United States. But the estimated percentage of 15-year-olds living with both of their biological parents is far lower in the United States than in Western Europe, because unmarried European parents are much more likely to raise children together. It is hard to exaggerate the chaotic conditions under which something like a third of American children are being raised – or to overstate the negative impact this disorder has on their academic achievement, social skills, and character formation. There are certainly heroic exceptions, but the sad fact is that most of these children could not possibly compete with their foreign counterparts.As the lower classes in America experience these alarming regressions, wealthier and better-educated Americans have managed to re-create a great deal of the lifestyle of the old WASP ascendancy – if with different justifications for it. Political correctness serves the same basic function for this cohort that “good manners” did for an earlier elite; environmentalism increasingly stands in for the ethic of controlling impulses so as to live within limits; and an expensive, competitive school culture – from pre-K play groups up through graduate school – socializes the new elite for constructive competition among peers. These Americans have even re-created the old WASP aesthetic preference for the antique, authentic, and pseudo-utilitarian at the expense of vulgar displays of wealth. In many cases, they live in literally the same homes as the previous upper class.
Read the rest here.