Since the election of Barack Obama, right-wingers like Glenn Beck have made a concerted effort to craft a narrative in which whites are the new oppressed and reverse-racism, rather than actual racism, is the new great challenge of our times. CNN captured the zeitgeist last month, when it headlined a story, "Are whites racially oppressed?" (the actual article was far less hysterical).
Charles Murray, the libertarian scholar most famous for his book The Bell Curve, thankfully, did not go down that path in his "State of White America" address to the American Enterprise Institute last night. Instead, he focused on a set of social trends he believes "will end what has made America, America." Specifically, an ever-widening gap between what he calls "the new lower class" and "the new elite," which he attributes to the slow creep of the European-style welfare state.
He's offered a glimpse of this before, but he expanded on it at AEI: Essentially, he says, the four virtues that hold the key to American Exceptionalism—marriage, religiosity, work ethic, and honesty—are in steady decline among the white lower class, with destructive consequences. It's an age-old problem: the government gives you food stamps, and the next thing you know, your marriage has collapsed, you've quite your job, you've turned your back to God, and you're facing 5 to 10 for holding up a Piggly Wiggly.
"The parallel that keeps nagging at me is Rome," he explained, comparing the nation's current precipice to the classical civilization's conversion from a republic to an empire. We're not going to collapse, he says, but society will become a lot more stratified.