Book Review: By the People

ByThePeopleby Anniel5/13/15
Latest: Page 2: Coming to Terms With Where We Stand  •  By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission by Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve and The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead Published by Crown Forum, New York, Available on Kindle.

I find Charles Murray to be a very refreshing person, a clear writer, honest and unafraid of telling the truth as he sees it. He is listed as being a paleoconservative or paleolibertarian leaning social scientist, whatever one can make of those designations. He has also been declared an official dangerous radical byThe Southern Poverty Law Center, which means he must be doing something right.

I do not agree with much that Dr. Murray proposes on race theory. Presuming that I rightly understand his ideas, or that he, himself, still believes them. There are too many great black men to accept that they are in any way inferior to whites. In my opinion, Thomas Sowell and Justice Clarence Thomas are two of the most intelligent gentlemen of any race anywhere in the world, and outdo even most Finns in their Sisu Quotient.

I am also aware of Murray’s libertarian leanings, but much has changed since he has accepted Christianity and he now seems to agree that religion and adherence to law are necessary to an ordered society. So when Charles Murray writes about restoring Liberty I want to know his plan, not some demonization of it.

In his Introduction Murray defines his terms clearly. He says what he calls the American Project is “the effort to demonstrate that human beings can be left free as individuals, families and communities to live their lives as they see fit as long as they accord the same privilege to everyone else, with government safeguarding a peaceful setting for these endeavors but otherwise standing aside.” Sounds like a reasonable definition of the idea of America to me, but Murray thinks we are past that time and need to preserve the best qualities we can but in a new “incarnation.” He says “We still have remnants of that America, but not for the EVERYONE as intended in our founding documents.”

In Part I of this book Murray tells how we have lost our battle for freedom
and why the normal political process cannot save us.

Part II is to show how to restore certain aspects of American freedom based on Truth. It contains practical strategies for using government weaknesses to advance freedom.

Part III sets out more indefinite but potentially transforming possibilities for what can be done.

Murray spends a few thoughts on what to call our government, Jeffersonian or Madisonian in nature. He decided to refer to libertarians, classical liberals, and many conservatives as Madisonian because they are devoted to the Constitutional principals Madison fought so hard for. Murray thinks his readers will be those who agree with him so “By The People focuses on how to rebuild liberty, not on why.”

There follows a Prologue discussing the resurgence of Madisonian thought in the United States which began in the 1930’s, even as the New Deal was also being implemented. It is interesting to follow the history of who did what, from Lionel Trilling, Ludwig Von Mises, Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Milton Friedman,and Ronald Reagan, among others, to revive the political doctrines of James Madison and the Federalists as they intended in the Constitution.

Even the founding of the Tea Party in 2009 Murray sees as new breath for Madisonian thought. It certainly has changed the political landscape.
And yet the government has expanded dramatically, even while small government advocates attempt to hold the bureaucracy in check. According to Murray, “We have won battles, but are losing the war.”

Part I – COMING TO TERMS WITH WHERE WE STAND

The 5 chapters in this Part are to convince us of the TRUTH of where we stand, and are summarized as follows:

• “The Founders’ Constitution has been discarded and cannot be restored, for reasons that are inextricably embedded in Constitutional jurisprudence.
• Aspects of America’s legal system have become lawless, for reasons that are inextricably embedded in use of the law for social agendas.
• Congress and the administrative state have become systemically corrupt, for reasons that are inextricably embedded in the market for Government favors.
• The Federal government is in a state of advanced sclerosis for reasons that are inextricably embedded in the nature of advanced Democracies.

“Inextricably embedded means that solutions are beyond the reach of the electoral process and legislative process. The citizenry must create new counterweights.”

I think Part I, Chapter 1, which deals with the history of progressives, the Supreme Court and the cases which have changed the Constitution, are very crucial, interesting and well worth your time to read, but can best be summarized by the following explanations:

From Charles Murray: “Three intellectual themes of progressivism would be implemented, not through the ballot box but through the judicial system. They ultimately transformed the nation. . . The one that applies here is the progressives’ belief that modernity had made the Constitution obsolete.” One theorist said that the Constitution “was doing more harm than good.”

Apparently progressives had been preaching that the United States was no longer a small agrarian society and needed to be modernized. Woodrow Wilson wrote and spoke of the need to update the Constitution. Mr. Murray says of Wilson that he was the “first president critical of the Constitution.” Wilson wrote a paper called “On Progress” in which he said that the founders were Newtonians who made a mechanical government with three separate branches and separation of powers. But now science had progressed. “Blessed with the superior knowledge of Wilson’s era, it was now understood that:

government is not a machine but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live. On the contrary, its life is dependent on their quick cooperation, their ready response to the commands of instinct or intelligence, their amicable community of purpose. . . . All that progressives ask or desire is permission- in an era of “development”, “evolution” is the scientific word – to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle.

Now you know where the term “living Constitution”‘comes from. As I recall it wasn’t long before Freud and Marx showed up to join Darwin, and the unholy trinity began their work of rotting our sacred founding documents from within.

Note: I had thought to go swiftly over the Parts of this book that lead to the “How To” Section. It was not meant to be that easy. What I have read so far is both extremely clarifying, and also very (so far) disenheartening about the nation. I hope his solutions are more hopeful.

COMING UP NEXT: Part I, Chapter 2. In which Murray argues that the legal system operates in ways indistinguishable from lawlessness for reasons authorized by Judges and Congress.

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29 Responses to Book Review: By the People

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    The Bell Curve doesn’t argue that all blacks are inferior to all whites in intelligence. Rather, it says that they have separate bell curves of intelligence, and the black bell curve is centered lower than the white one. Thus, there are some very smart blacks and very stupid whites — but the average IQ of blacks is about 15 points less than for whites. Of course, this presumes that IQ measures anything more than the ability to take IQ tests. Many social scientists think it does.

    An interesting kicker raised by Thomas Sowell is that the results of a test are normalized to average out overall at 100. He claims that the actual hard score before normalization has in fact increased, so that the blacks today have higher scores than the whites of several decades ago, though less than whites today.

    You will probably get to this later, but I presume this is the book in which Murray recommends civil disobedience as at least a partial solution to the problem of an overbearing statist Behemoth. If so, I suspect we will all have much to say when that comes up.

    • Anniel says:

      Timothy – The use of IQ tests have always been a turn off for me. But for some people they have become the gold standard for judging capabilities. Charles Murray has been so maligned by the left, and some on the right, that it’s good to have him defended.

      His take on civil disobedience and the reasons for it might open some possibilities we all can agree upon. I’m hoping I can finish this Review in one more try, but it may have to be two. Murray’s writing style is deceptively simple and I have to read some things two or three times to appreciate their import.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      For my money, cultures, not races, make people dumb. And black culture has many dumbing-down elements, as does white culture.

      Whether one race is a little smarter than another, Who cares? And even if it was true, it’s almost always a matter of the size of the fight in the dog and not the size of the dog in the fight. 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. Where you fit on the bell curve matters diddly squat compared to effort, attitude, ethics, and perseverance.

      That, at least, is the traditional Western or American ideal. And this is an ideal being wallpapered over and forgotten because of the race/class/gender emphasis of Cultural Marxism. In today’s world, there is very little judging going on by the content of character. Race is king. And Martin Luther King Jr. is rolling over in his grave.

      • faba calculo says:

        “Where you fit on the bell curve matters diddly squat compared to effort, attitude, ethics, and perseverance.”

        Unless where you are on the bell curve affects how quickly and how totally you realize the above.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Unless where you are on the bell curve affects how quickly and how totally you realize the above.

          I must be low on the bell curve, Faba, because I’m not sure what you mean. In my view, the attributes needed for general success — hard work, a solid eduction in the basic academic subjects, perseverance, avoidance of drugs and lawless behavior, faithful marriage (as opposed to leaving litters of children around), personal integrity and honesty, a dose of constructive optimism, and 99 parts perspiration — is not something beyond most people’s IQ. It may be beyond what they are taught in the culture. That much is obvious. But to fail, as so many blacks have, required specifically distancing people from these values of success. They had to be “freed” from this in order to become long-term clients of the Democrat Party.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I am also aware of Murray’s libertarian leanings, but much has changed since he has accepted Christianity and he now seems to agree that religion and adherence to law are necessary to an ordered society.

    I would think it would be difficult to be an authentic libertarian and an authentic Christian. Libertarians tend to be an amoral lot.

    He says what he calls the American Project is “the effort to demonstrate that human beings can be left free as individuals, families and communities to live their lives as they see fit as long as they accord the same privilege to everyone else, with government safeguarding a peaceful setting for these endeavors but otherwise standing aside.” Sounds like a reasonable definition of the idea of America to me, but Murray thinks we are past that time and need to preserve the best qualities we can but in a new “incarnation.” He says “We still have remnants of that America, but not for the EVERYONE as intended in our founding documents.”

    Yes, I agree. That’s a reasonable definition of America. Score one for Mr. Murray’s clarity.

    Part III sets out more indefinite but potentially transforming possibilities for what can be done.

    It’s going to be very difficult to walk it back from the precipice. What we see happening is the re-engineering of the human heart, mind, and soul into something more resembling a mob of ne’er-do-well consumers and leeches as opposed to bold producers and innovators. We are becoming the type of place that the original Colonists specifically wished to escape from. More and more one’s class (as defined by the Left) determines how you are perceived, not the content of your own character.

    I won’t abandon America. But I really don’t see what can be done except endless descriptions, eloquent as many may be, of the reasons for the destruction.

    “By The People focuses on how to rebuild liberty, not on why.”

    That should be interesting to read.

    Even the founding of the Tea Party in 2009 Murray sees as new breath for Madisonian thought. It certainly has changed the political landscape. And yet the government has expanded dramatically, even while small government advocates attempt to hold the bureaucracy in check. According to Murray, “We have won battles, but are losing the war.”

    This is true. And I commend Murray for being “honest and unafraid of telling the truth” as Annie said. Those hoping for some type of Reaganesque political Messiah, although understandable, are whistling past the graveyard. For every Sarah Palin being produced in the rarified air of normal America there are a thousand zombie-like “Progressives” being shaped and formed by government schools, the media, the entertainment industry, and the culture at large.

    Liberty (let alone financial sanity) cannot be restored until most people can answer the question correctly: Why shouldn’t government do something?

    As long as government inaction is defined as “uncaring” (or worse), liberty is impossible and we will more and more become a regulatory state where the assumption is that something cannot be done unless it is specifically permitted. Already many people have this mindset. I can’t imagine there are many Europeans, for example, whose first reaction is, “It’s my bleedin’ unalienable right to do such-and-such and it doesn’t even cross my mind whether it is allowed by the government or not.”

    As our population becomes increasing mis- and mal-educated, and devolves from at least the useful Homo economicus to the wasteland of Homo distracticus (or Homo pierced-lobe-icus), there is no longer the mental or moral capital left to conceive of a nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

    And if such words are given any attention, it is a bastardized reading where “liberty” simply means “libertine…no restraints on one’s appetites” and “equal” means “equal outcomes…enforced by the government.”

    When you see the character of this nation so degraded, you know there isn’t much left to rebuild with.

    • “The Founders’ Constitution has been discarded and cannot be restored, for reasons that are inextricably embedded in Constitutional jurisprudence.
    
• Aspects of America’s legal system have become lawless, for reasons that are inextricably embedded in use of the law for social agendas.
    
• Congress and the administrative state have become systemically corrupt, for reasons that are inextricably embedded in the market for Government favors.
    
• The Federal government is in a state of advanced sclerosis for reasons that are inextricably embedded in the nature of advanced Democracies.

    I think those are all terrific points by Murray. And I hope he points out somewhere that these points are so crucial because they corrupt the individual and keep him corrupt. It’s a tough job even in the best of times to create an honest, hard-working human being. But Big Government and the perverse incentive system embedded in it are insults (and drags) on the hard-working just as they reward sloth, begging, treachery, thievery, and grievance. To my mind, there is no solution that can work — inside or outside of government — unless central to it is the healing of the American character.

    • Anniel says:

      I have been reading most of the day and I see where he’s going on Phase 1 of his plan and am now where his philosophical hopes COULD take us. He has had legal scholars tell him he’s whistling Dixie to begin with, and much of what I have read sounds very iffy, at best. I’m not even sure what the time table for such an enterprise might be.

      One thing I do agree with so far is that the Regulatory State is evil and needs to be destroyed. Healing of the American character, as you say, is central.

      I should have a new section ready in a few days. Hopefully I can reach the “how tos” without getting bogged down. I hope people will want to read this book, but we’ll see.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Well, I can’t read everything, but I do have some other works by Murray, so this will at least be a possibility. I will study reviews, both here and probably elsewhere. And if it sounds promising enough, I’ll put in on my growing list of books to look for (many of which come from this site).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Annie, I think I sort of reflect Timothy’s attitude on this…if just a bit. I can’t read everything (thus your reviews are a Godsend…Marxssend, perhaps). Perhaps few people are better at analyzing this cultural move to the Left than Mr. Murray, Theodore Dalrymple, Dennis Prager, Rush Limbaugh, and a few others (including more than a few members here).

        And all I see is futility in this as I see what passes for humanity at the local Walmart or see yutes seemingly morphing to New Guinea natives with the various things in their lobes and noses and their bodies covered in cartoon art.

        More and more StubbornThings becomes part of my refuge from a world that is going insane. But I don’t necessarily want to read about it anymore. I think I understand it pretty well…perhaps as well as anyone.

        You and I and Timothy and others can talk about these things and understand one another. Even if we do not agree on certain points, it’s certain that we can understand where we differ and probably why we differ. That, to me, is part of the Refuge of the Sane. I may not, for instance, believe all the theological points that most do here, but I can understand that. You can understand that. And we can go from there. Everything is out in the open, spelled out, understood. There are no creepy ulterior motives. No games being played.

        Again, this is why StubbornThings, as least for me, is a Refuge of the Sane. And we could certainly include Mr. Murray in that company. But, at least for now, I’m so fortunate to know people such as you who will read these books and condense them down, getting to the gist of them. I just don’t have the inclination anymore, at least to delve as deeply into the cesspool of the Left as I once did.

        Looking forward to Chapter 2.

  3. Annie — wonderful review — the book is now on my Amazon wish list (the I-wish-I-had-more-reading-time list). It’s good to see people thinking outside the box on any issue and this looks promising.

    I do want to comment on the IQ issue. I’ve done a lot of research on this issue and the studies that make the most sense to me and my decades of teaching experience are connected to Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences. I think what we see in racial intelligent differences is more a difference in kinds of intelligence rather than a difference in brain power in general. Inner-city culture destroys any impetus to enhance one’s logical-mathmatical thinking to say nothing of one’s linguistic intelligence – the main things tested on an IQ exam, but such a culture naturally polishes one’s street smarts, one’s McGiver thinking, which is, according to Gardner, one of the legitimate types of intelligence.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ditto.

      Without human exceptionalism, you’re just a crop grown by the government and weeded when necessary.

      There are numerous articles at Evolution News and Views about the Left’s de-valuing of human life, including this one: Ethicist Peter Singer Says Don’t Pay to Treat Disabled Babies

      Atheism = Darwinism = eugenics in one form or another. Intelligence is a tool or capability obviously of varied types, as Deana said. And specific kinds can rightly be valued for one use or another. I wouldn’t want my brain surgeon to be dumb, for example. But there is a reason conservatives don’t obsess on intelligence, least of all because “smart” people are often the dumbest. There is no replacement for common sense, experience, good judgment, and just plain good character.

      Plus, conservatives (heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian ethics and worldview) do not view people as disposable, to be measured via this attribute or that and then discarded like so much chaff if they don’t measure up. This is why (or one reason) conservatives abhor abortion. We understand not only that every human life has value and is a gift (however burdensome at times) but that as soon as you start treating people like cogs in a machine, this leads to human rights horrors.

      Note that the “smartest” people are on the Left, or so they say. But, again, even if this were true regarding raw intelligence the “intellectuals” typically are the bane of society.

      Granted, it’s a worthy pursuit to be intelligent, to gain knowledge, wisdom, and experience. No one here should think I’m glorifying stupidity or sloth. But the worldview of the Left is intrinsically monstrous because of the way humans are ultimately a mere crop grown by government to be weeded when certain varieties are of no use. And far beyond utilitarian impulses, which do come into play, this is fueled by a driving need to feel superior to everyone else.

    • Anniel says:

      One day I will have to write an article on the Parents Program for “Gifted” students I attended. I wish I could have kept track of some of the children just to see what happened to them, and their dazzled parents who thought their children had “no peers,” as one mother was fond of whining. Hard work and good character win every time.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Oh, goodness. I so look forward to that story. It sounds as if there is many a case of parental expectations run amok. Children should be encouraged and given, to the reasonable best of one’s ability, the tools to succeed, grow, and learn (especially the tools of pedagogy combined with discipline and perhaps a few ruler whacks). But not every kid is a young Mozart prodigy. Or needs to be.

  4. I have a slightly different take on the issue of gifted students. I taught AP high school classes for 20 years and my eldest grandson is incredibly gifted — he taught himself how to read when he was three. As a result, I have two observations:
    1. In most school districts TAG (talented and gifted) students are identified and then ignored. Their teachers are informed, but with 30 other kids in the class little can be done to help them make the most of what God has given them. Many end up unbearably arrogant. Many are bullied because they take learning and thinking seriously. We are not taking advantage of the brain power that’s out there.
    2. My grandson had a different option. He grew up in the physics geek capital of the west, Richland, Washington, and their school district provided from 2nd grade through 5th a special school for kids who tested high enough. I believe this saved Ben from arrogance, from boredom, from being bullied. These kids need our attention as much as do the handicapped kids.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I gather that schools used to have tracking, so that subpar and superior students could both be among others operating at roughly their same levels. But, of course, that was treating them unequally and stigmatizing them, which is more important in the Age of Unconditional Self-Esteem than actually educating them to the best of their ability (whatever it might be).

      • M Farrell says:

        Sometimes I can’t believe how much in the way of common sense has been lost over the last 50 years in education– I went to a lower middle class, largely blue-collar, catholic school in the 60’s and early 70’s — As Timothy stated, there was tracking from about the 3rd/4th grade forward (“A”- those who needed the most help, B, C,D, through “E”- the most capable students)– By the middle of sophomore year of high school, the E group students were mostly off campus taking most of their classes at a college/university– The D group was at this point by senior year– I don’t remember having enough time to be stigmatized or bullied– The overall ambition/purpose was that everyone do their best and graduate– One advantage of the system was that with the D/E students off at college, the Nuns had the time to make sure the A/B groups got the extra attention they needed to succeed and graduate (a number of the B, C, and some D students were also taking classes at trade schools which also involved summer apprenticeships for credit)– When on campus, D/E students were expected to regularly tutor A/B students during free periods– Say what you will about the Nuns being hard taskmasters (they were), but it was genuinely out of the desire to see all of their students progress– As for discipline, every student knew that his teachers and the Princpal were in regular contact with his parents– In other words, act up and Mom would know about it before you got home that day–

        It wasn’t perfect, and yes, there was the occasional egomaniac parent and arrogant ass youngster– I think some of the student arrogance was tempered by the college experience– It was easy to be an arrogant big fish when you were one of the smart kids in the very small high school pond– But, reality set in when you were taking college courses in a much bigger (huge) university pond with some much (much, much) smarter, older and more experienced students and you were cut off from the high school environment insulation– You (at least I did) learned humility fast–

        Anyway, those days were long ago, but I am still very grateful that those teachers, administrators and parents took the time to construct programs for all of us; whether it was the standard high school fare, remedial help where needed, vocational training where there was interest, or advanced college entrance. It was an environment where very few tended to fall through the cracks.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Although I read about such things, I never encountered any such tracking in school, including my 2 years (4th and 5th grades) at Ursuline in Athens. The closest I came was when my 6th grade teacher sent me and another student to audit the 7th grade math class. (She later promoted me and 2 other students, but it was on the basis of age — I was a bit older due to the vagaries of Texas public school law.)

          • M Farrell says:

            Timothy– It was a fairly small, immigrant based parochial school in a pretty insular immigrant neighborhood– Myself and many of my fellow students were/are 1st generation Americans whose parents came over from the old country in the 1920’s as infants or young children– Most of our grandparents spoke a foreign language at home (Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, even Gaelic)– All of our parents were “depression/WW II babies”– There was the universal belief that an education was the only way out of poverty and between the parents and the Church, enormous energy was put into the parish school–Parents were involved in everything from cafeteria cooking, playground monitors, teachers aids, chaperones, to sports coaches, not to mention the never ending fundraising– Given how little money there was, my parent’s generation did an incredible job. We had a sister school (Yeshiva) two blocks away where all the Jewish kids went that seemed to have much the same philosophy and methods (predominantly immigrants there also)– What is striking is how independent people were– No one waited for the public school to accommodate them– There was also a somewhat unspoken prejudice, that Catholic or Jewish kids that were in the public school were there because their parents probably didn’t care– (a reverse snobbery of sorts against the predominantly WASP environment that wasn’t overly fond of the hyper ambitious immigrant newcomers)– The one thing I will always remember is the huge fuss that was made when you took your first college course, especially if you were the first one in your family to get to college– The only bigger event was if you were the first one in the family to graduate college– My father went to first grade not speaking a word of English– His firstborn has two law degrees– America may be the only place in the world where that is possible in one generation–It was part of what being an American was all about– They were very serious about their children’s education and they were very proud– It was a large part of what they came here for–

    • Anniel says:

      Deanna: I agree about the kids. I just hated the arrogance of the mothers who came to our group. There were 2 in particular who dominated absolutely EVERYTHING. One mother told us every meeting that she had her child tested in Seattle before moving here because she knew no one here would know what kind of child they were dealing with. No one was as smart as her child. Since I had a 5 year old who was reading the full version of the “The Return of the King” I didn’t feel like I needed to play the game.
      I still wish I knew what some of these kids are doing now that they’re grown. It was their parents who drove me nuts.

      Just a funny story about a friend’s 5 year old. They had been to church one Sunday, and when they got home the boy said, “Dad, Sometimes I disagree doctrinally with things that are said at church. I know if you say ‘Amen’ it means that you agree, and it’s bothered me, so now I just say ‘Amend’ instead. I feel better.” All I can say is, Wow, what a neat kid!

      • That’s hilarious. Kids are just so amazing. And I agree — I ran across a lot of those helicopter parents when I was teaching high school. I felt so sorry for the kids, who were usually nervous wrecks.

        • Anniel says:

          I was late in hearing the term “helicopter parenting,” but knew exactly what it meant because I’ve seen it in action around certain grandchildren. It’s an easy trap for parents, mostly women if I had to guess, to fall into. It’s daunting raising free range children today. No wonder some people think it takes a village, and they want to be both chief and shaman.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I’d never heard of that term. Very funny. “Like helicopters, they hover overhead.”

            Well, beats neglectful parents, I suppose. Maybe.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Too much of a good thing. You don’t want to neglect children, but you also don’t want to smother them with too much attention.

  5. Timothy Lane says:

    Having just read page 2 (fighting the computer every step of the way — it’s been very bad tonight — I have a few comments. The Madison Fund can be organized as something like GoFundMe, but not bending down when the Lavender Thought Police come calling. The use of civil disobedience may be unavoidable, given a totally corrupt, lawless system. Government exists to reward the favored at the expense of the unfavored, at least as far as the political class is concerned.

    And, of course, I have other comments on Dean’s later article dealing with this subject (“How Do We Rebuild Liberty?”).

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A fantastic summary of those sections and chapters, Annie. I feel that I’ve read the book.

    So far I feel like I’m up to my neck in corruption. My only thinking so far is that Murray is much more generous than I in refusing to attribute bad intent to the corruptocrats of both parties.

    Again, it seems that you’ve run upon the technocratic predilection of Murray. He’s a good analyst…obviously. But like so many people in the political culture, the idea of just right and wrong doesn’t seem to occur, the idea that there are people doing bad things inside the system and it’s not just the system that is to blame, that measuring via the political lens is not the only way to understand what motivates people.

    It has become a standard part of the culture to be embarrassed at even suggesting that there is a right and wrong, a moral sphere to human lives and societies, that the real problem, Brutus, lies not in our bureaucracies but in ourselves.

    I can sense this in Murray, a type of blindness in a man who otherwise has high-beam vision.

    • Anniel says:

      Brad – Your comments here are helping me understand better the disjointedness (is that even a word?) of what I’ve been struggling to understand about Murray.

      I listened once to a talk He gave at Harvard on the anniversary of the publication of “The Bell Curve” and was almost more fascinated with the moderator of the program. He twitched and jerked and was obviously embarrassed to be asking questions of Murray, to be even on the same venue with him. He would scarcely look at him. When Murray mentioned becoming a Christian the moderator looked as though he wanted to flee. Then a question came from an audience member about what Murray expected his children to do about the Church. Murray’s answer struck me as odd when he laughed and said, “I can always hope it makes them better people.” Nothing about them accepting any church or doctrine. From his talk I was left with the impression that Murray’s wife was the driving force behind his church going.

      At any rate I do feel that Murray has blind spots in his political views.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Brad – Your comments here are helping me understand better the disjointedness (is that even a word?) of what I’ve been struggling to understand about Murray.

        Annie, I consider your thoughts/review on the book to be clear and concise. You seem to have distilled the relevant bits. And I can’t think of a higher compliment that I can give.

        Therefore I feel a little more confident swinging wildly with my impressions of Murray. Many a book I’ve read where the author (none of us is omniscient) is good in certain aspects but misses a few elephants in the living room.

        Still, this is the guy who wrote “The Bell Curve,” so I wouldn’t put him in the category of the shrinking violet. And yet I do admit to tiring of the somewhat materialist/technocratic approach. The Left is winning because they are winning the moral argument. The laws, bureaucracy, and regulations then follow from that. We must assert a moral argument, and clearly do so. And morals predate any kind of regulations or bureaucracy.

        Then a question came from an audience member about what Murray expected his children to do about the Church. Murray’s answer struck me as odd when he laughed and said, “I can always hope it makes them better people.” Nothing about them accepting any church or doctrine. From his talk I was left with the impression that Murray’s wife was the driving force behind his church going.

        It’s not easy answering questions from a hostile press (or even a frank audience member) who may be looking to misrepresent anything you say. But that’s a pretty weak answer. At the very least you say something like, “I do not believe the universe is random, that our lives are ultimately purposeless. My faith has certain faith propositions that you may or may not agree with. But at the very least, I want my children’s lives to be deeper than just the chase for material gain, for ego gratification, and for fame or power. I want them to find a deeper meaning. And I want to instill in them morals that are more solid and tried-and-true than you will find on primetime TV which, to be kind, is worse than a sewer in that regard. My children are not playthings. They are real people with real souls that should be nurtured. My religion is extremely important in this regard, for what is the alternative? Let Jon Stewart of Geraldo Rivera raise them by proxy? There is more to this life than can be found in pop culture, especially media culture.”

      • Timothy Lane says:

        One wonders if that moderator knew anything about The Bell Curve (most of which is NOT about race at all) other than the rote liberal smears. Certainly it’s a reminder that a university like Harvard lacks (and doesn’t even desire) intellectual diversity, thus leaving most of the intelligentsia with totally closed minds, ignorant of the basis for any contrary opinion.

  7. Anniel says:

    “Diversity” has become my least favorite political word in the United States lexicon. It is used improperly in every context.

    I intend to cleanse my palate, read a good mystery or maybe two, then try Mike Lee’s new book on the Constitution.

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