So I’ve always liked Jonathan Rauch and regarded him as sometimes singularly in touch with the facts. Here’s one example: For the most obvious reason, he’s all for same-sex marriage, but he knows it’s better for everyone if the courts stay out of the struggle.
Here’s another —the best summary around of the bad and getting-worse situation for working-class men (men who do predominately physical—as opposed to mental—labor).
A Marxist would say that what we have here is a problem of capitalism. Everything that follows is an exaggeration, but it still is all about issues that Republicans are going to have to become more attuned to:
1. Mental labor is getting worth more, physical labor less.
2. Those who excel at mental labor are disconnecting themselves progressively more thoroughly from those who don’t.
4. The wages of the working class are moving toward mere subsistence. And so (this is not so Marxist) the incentive to work is diminishing. Our “capitalists” allow “the proletariat” not to work through keeping them alive with minimalist entitlements—which, of course, cleverly fend off revolution by keeping them from hating too much the existing division of labor. Still, it’s obvious that the benefits of our relative prosperity are trickling down less well all the time.
5. So the conditions that sustain ordinary families are imploding. Say what you will about UNIONS, they were about protecting a “family wage.” But, for reasons a Marxist could easily explain, UNIONS are toast, victims of globalization, the imperatives of the division of labor, and our (predictable) lack of “economic patriotism.” The disappearance of UNIONS is pretty darn ambiguous as a new birth of freedom. It’s true that the result might be more jobs, but at lower wages.
6. Men are especially hard hit. Their work has been dishonored. Broken families make fatherhood increasingly superfluous. Men still have “traditional values,” but they are finding it harder to live according to who they think they are. Meanwhile, those who excel at mental labor are flourishing in relatively traditional families. Their lives are better than their “bourgeois bohemian” values.
7. The various solutions Rauch puts forward all seem pretty lame. Eliminating entitlements would hardly address the big problem. Neither would some scheme that would give everyone (an increasingly worthless) college degree. Both LOVE and WORK, the keys to living well, need to be more honored and more sustainable. And the most repulsive trend might be the condescending NONJUDGMENTALISM of those who excel at mental labor toward ordinary people and their struggles. I’m not a Marxist because I’m not an economic determinist, and I don’t think the world “capitalism” is all that empirical. Nonetheless, there are things to think about here.