The Dream And The Nightmare

William Morrow & Co.

You watching: The dream and the nightmare

• 1993 • 256 pperiods • $20.00 In 1984, Charles Murray’s Losing Ground lugged the topic of welfare reform to the forefront of political consciousness. With impeccable research and meticulous logic, Murray marshaled a substantial variety of statistics to assistance his assertion that the huge growth of government welfare programs resulting from the Johnson Administration’s “War on Poverty” had actually actually hequipped those it had intfinished to help. By making welfare even more attrenergetic to single mothers than marital relationship or entry-level jobs, Murray suggested, the federal federal government produced “incentives for failure” which lured the bad, and especially negative blacks, off the financial ladder to success and also into an intergenerational cycle of dependence and illegitimacy.

Though controversial as soon as initially published, huge sections of Murray’s thesis have involved be embraced among the political establishment, also in such unmost likely locations as the Clinton White House. Manhattan Institute Fellow and also Fortune Editorial Board member Myron Magnet agrees via Murray, yet just to a suggest. In The Dream and the Nightmare, he argues that Murray’s pucount financial analysis gives an incomplete image of the true reasons of the underclass, that Murray and also other plan experts have actually left “a hole in the theory.” And in that hole, Magnet suggests, you’ll uncover “culture.”

He argues that it is culture, or rather its absence, that has mired the undercourse in perpetual poverty. Even challenged with the perverse incentives to fail that welfare provides, many world would certainly still pick occupational and marriage out of a fairtradeexpo.orgling of self-worth and respect for neighborhood criteria. The factors that the underclass has actually not done so, he suggests, is that the countersociety of the 1960s turned traditional values upside dvery own. Though this radvancement was one carded out greatly by the “Haves” in an effort to “liberate” themselves from what they regarded as the oppressive ethical constraints of their parents’ generation, Magnet argues that its long-term damage to the majority of of the “Haves” was subtle, while its impacts on the “Have-Nots” was destructive.

According to Magnet, it is this “poverty of spirit” which has actually turned huge parts of America’s cities into drug-infested, crime-ridden wastelands. Inner-city youngsters grow up in households of single welfare mothers who are inqualified of teaching them the social values of tough occupational, thrift, and also individual responsibility—the extremely values necessary to climb out of poverty. To support that thesis, he presents an exceptional range of statistical and anecdotal proof to paint a devastatingly bleak picture of undercourse life, and also that portrait is the strongest percentage of the book.

In painting that picture, Magnet defines the pathology of the undercourse via an unwavering eye, exploding many kind of myths in the process. In spite of liberal protestations to the contrary, the undercourse does exists, and is disproportionately composed of inner-city blacks. Lack of financial possibility does not describe the presence of the underclass, given that it initially showed up throughout one economic boom and also continued to grow during an additional.

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Furthermore, the harsh problems of the inner city haven’t prevented Asian entrepreneurs from flourishing tright here. The homeless are not down-on-their-hick functioning families, they’re mentally ill alcoholics and also drug addicts—and their numbers are closer to 300,000 than the three million number homemuch less “advocate” Mitch Snyder pulled out of the air at some point.

But describing the underclass is only part of The Dream and also the Nightmare, with a lot of the rest taken up by Magnet’s explanation of how the Have-Nots pertained to live in such a problem of self-perpetuating misery. In this he appears to be shadowboxing through Losing Ground, not because he fairtradeexpo.orgls Murray’s thesis is basically wrong, however bereason he’s the just worthy adversary on the scene. Undoubtedly, he calls the book “superb” and also Murray “the profound-est of all commentators on the underclass.” But ultimately Magnet does a less convincing job of presenting his case than Murray did of his. While Magnet’s judgment around the absence of worths among the underclass is fairly convincing, his disagreements around how they obtained that method are far less so. What’s more, his prescriptions for restoring those worths are either vague, nonexistent, or woecompletely misguided.

When Magnet speaks of the counterculture, he has in mind not Woodstock or anti-war protesters, however a shift in cultural opinions among certain Amerideserve to elites in the late 1950s and early on 1960s. Therefore, Magnet’s watch of the countersociety is both extremely selective and overbroad. We obtain no mention of Abbie Hoffguy, Jerry Rubin, or Paul Krassner, yet plenty of Norman Mailer, Michael Harrington, Paul de Man, William Ryan, and (even more improbably) Thomas Szasz. It is these and also other elite thinkers, Magnet suggests, that slowly shifted the society of the Haves toward belief in . . . . Well, there’s the trouble.