Charles Murray argues in his new book, Coming Apart, The State of White America, 1960-2012, that American exceptionalism is threatened by our policy-makers living in an elitist bubble.
As the new upper class increasingly consists of people who were born into upper-middle-class families and have never lived outside the upper-middle-class bubble, the danger increases that the people who have so much influence on the course of the nation have little direct experience with the lives of ordinary Americans, and make their judgments about what’s good for other people based on their own highly atypical lives.
Basically, he’s saying that Barack Obama, Harry Reid, John Boehner, and the rest of them don’t have a clue as to the ordinary goings-on of us average people. That’s probably why they do things like require us to buy toilets that don’t work and light bulbs full of poisonous mercury.
Those in Washington may have the best intentions when they do things like require Americans to purchase health insurance for the very act of breathing, but they fail to see how that will affect the lives of ordinary Americans. Ensconced in their bubbles, they like the idea of ‘helping’ people, so they pass legislation without any idea as to how the majority of us tick.
Curious as to how thick my bubble is, I took the quiz and scored a decently dense 37, which Murray describes as, “A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents.” That sounds about right; my parents both came from working class families and went on to become lawyers. My husband is a VP at a software development firm, our kids go to private school, and I’m typing this on a Macbook Pro, with my beloved iPhone by my side.
For all intents and purposes, I live a blessed, privileged life. Which leads me to conclude that the bubble is irrelevant when you recognize that it exists. No, I don’t know what it’s like to be a single mom, or work the night shift on the factory floor, or drive a cab, or drive cattle on the ranch, or any number of things that many Americans do every day.
What I do know is that you can’t legislate prosperity. I know how to manage a budget, how to work my hiney off to provide for my family, and that sometimes life isn’t fair. I know that people are incredibly capable of making their own decisions and that if they fail, they will pick themselves back up and try again.
I don’t pretend to know what others want or even need, and take care to listen to them. Maybe congress should try listening to mainstream America instead of lobbyists. Just because they live in a bubble doesn’t mean that it’s impenetrable.
How thick is your bubble? Take the quiz.