Sunday, March 18, 2012

Charles Murray is at it again

In the WSJ Charles Murray is at it again. In an attempt to deflect the criticisms he's received because of his book, "Coming Apart". He attempts to claim that he is right and his critics that say there are more causes than just cultural changes, including numerous changes in our economic infrastructure, are just plain wrong. It seems to me, though, that his arguments can be described at best as sloppy. Consider this excerpt.

It is true that unionized jobs at the major manufacturers provided generous wages in 1960. But they didn't drive the overall wage level in the working class. In the 1960 census, the mean annual earnings of white males ages 30 to 49 who were in working-class occupations (expressed in 2010 dollars) was $33,302. In 2010, the parallel figure from the Current Population Survey was $36,966—more than $3,000 higher than the 1960 mean, using the identical definition of working-class occupations. 
Large numbers of well paying jobs in unionized industries didn't affect the wages that non-unionized employers were offering? Whatever happened to competition? What is an identical definition of working-class occupations? Murray doesn't say and apparently expects us to take his word for it. Another interesting omission is the question of how many of those jobs still exist. He states that he uses an identical definition of working-class occupations. How relevant is an identical definition that was used in 1960 to the job market in 2012 when the overall number of manufacturing jobs has dropped like a rock and millions of women have entered the workforce?

Murray attempted to make a claim that many changes over the last half century were purely cultural and could be reversed by "easy" cultural changes such as denigrating and shaming the white males who have purposefully abandoned the responsible path of marriage and hard work at jobs that still exist if they would only look for them. These changes had nothing to do with jobs being shipped overseas and new technologies that drastically reduce the number of people needed in manufacturing jobs. It has nothing to do with an almost complete collapse of the construction trades after the housing bubble burst several years ago. The fact that we aren't building out new infrastructure like the highway systems or doing a good enough job of maintaining our existing infrastructure is in no way related to these problems.

Then Mr. Murray wonders why there are so many critics of his work. If this article reflects the book, which I admit that I haven't read, then I'm surprised there aren't even more critics.