In a program moderated by William Kristol, he discussed and then took audience questions concerning his 2013 book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
A full video of this terrific event (running 68 minutes) is available on Harvard’s website.
The following 11 videos gather highlights, broken out by topic, to facilitate browsing. To watch all the videos in chronological order, or browse using the playlist menu, click here.
Video 1: Introduction
With his characteristic candor, Professor Mansfield observes that the event is being co-sponsored by Harvard’s Program on Constitutional Government, which invites “to Harvard those who would otherwise not be invited,” to “try to do something to challenge the sickening conformity of political correctness that prevails at Harvard.”
Video 2: Summary of “Coming Apart”
If you watch only one video, watch this one. Dr. Murray summarizes the basic thesis of “Coming Apart,” concerning how over the past 50 years we’ve seen the development of classes in America such that there is now a divergence between the classes which has never existed before.
Video 3: Causation not his focus
Dr. Murray explains why he made a conscious decision not to address in his book the causes of the problems he describes.
Video 4: Elites have a different culture
Dr. Murray introduces how different the culture of upper-class elites is from that of other Americans.
Video 5: Elites clustered in bubbles
Dr. Murray summarizes his findings concerning how upper-class elites are clustered in bubbles, especially in the large cities.
Video 6: Elites think they’re better than rest
If you watch only two videos, watch this one, too. Dr. Murray explains that unlike a half century ago, when most powerful governmental officials had grown up in modest circumstances, now many of them have no empathy for ordinary people, having grown up in an elite bubble.
It used to be that people in power declined to show off their wealth, because that was “un-American”; now, the upper class “is perfectly happy” to think of itself as an upper class. It thinks of itself as “smarter than the rest of America, able to make decisions on behalf of the rest of America, for their own good. And that is a fundamental betrayal of what this country is all about.”
Video 7: Cultural changes needed
Asked by Kristol “what is to be done,” Dr. Murray explains that he doesn’t have any public-policy solution, and he points to the need for cultural changes — for the kind of cultural reawakening that America has experienced in the past, for example, religious movements and the civil rights movement.
Video 8: Clueless “government class”
Asked about “the government class,” Dr. Murray explains that the high-level elites who run regulatory agencies are imposing many regulations concerning economic and other behavior with which they’ve had no personal experience — for example, regulations on ranchers and farmers, when they haven’t a clue what the lives of ranchers and farmers are like.
Video 9: Elites and “faux empathy”
If you watch only three videos, watch this one, too. Dr. Murray elaborates on why the typical elites of today have so little empathy for ordinary people, having not been exposed to them while growing up.
That elite children volunteer to help poor people, with many problems, living in large cities, creates only “faux empathy,” because these children get little if any exposure to ordinary, middle-class people — “people who don’t have a lot of problems, who are taking care of their own lives, have functional communities.”
This leads elites to incorrectly perceive “American society in terms of the one percent, the elites, and the oppressed and the disadvantaged.” They are oblivious “to the very large chunk of the American population that is neither disadvantaged, nor is it elite and powerful.”
Video 10: Demonize unmarried dads!
Reflecting on the problem of fatherless children, Dr. Murray observes that understandably one should not demonize unmarried mothers (given all the problems they face), but he’s in favor of demonizing unmarried dads who neglect their children, by calling them “bums and a lot worse.”
Video 11: Social investment in kids bears little fruit
Answering a question from a law student who was raised by a single black mother in Washington, D.C., Dr. Murray acknowledges that many children raised in such difficult circumstances do just fine, but that there is little evidence that social investments in young children — even intensive pre-K programs — accomplish much in terms of making up for the assets that are lacking in the family structure.
He also opines that good outcomes in several European welfare states may have more to do with the cultural values of their populations than the higher level of social investment in children, as the same populations also do quite well in the United States.