I normally don’t read David Brooks anymore since his slide to the left, but Dennis Prager mentioned this article from the radically leftist New York Times, and I thought it was worth a look.
When foreign visitors used to describe American culture, they generally settled on different versions of one trait: energy. Whether driven by crass motivations or spiritual ones, Americans, visitors agreed, worked more frantically, moved more and switched jobs more than just about anybody else on earth.
That’s changing. In the past 60 years, for example, Americans have become steadily less mobile. In 1950, 20 percent of Americans moved in a given year. Now, it’s around 12 percent. In the 1950s and 1960s, people lived in the same house for an average of five years; now people live in the same house for an average of 8.6 years. When it comes to geographic mobility, we are now at historic lows, no more mobile than people in Denmark or Finland.
Why is that? Here is his hypothesis:
[A] big factor here is a loss in self-confidence. It takes faith to move. You are putting yourself through temporary expense and hardship because you have faith that over the long run you will slingshot forward. Many highly educated people, who are still moving in high numbers, have that long-term faith. Less-educated people often do not.
One of the oddities of the mobility that does exist is that people are not moving to low-unemployment/high-income areas. Instead they are moving to lower-income areas with cheap housing. That is to say, they are less likely to endure temporary housing hardship for the sake of future opportunity. They are more likely to move to places that offer immediate comfort even if the long-term income prospects are lower.
This loss of faith is evident in other areas of life. Fertility rates, a good marker of confidence, are down. Even accounting for cyclical changes, people are less likely to voluntarily vacate a job in search of a better one. Only 46 percent of white Americans believe they have a good chance of improving their standard of living, the lowest levels in the history of the General Social Survey.
[Leftist] Peter Beinart wrote a fascinating piece for [Leftist] National Journal, arguing that Americans used to have much more faith in capitalism, a classless society, America’s role in the world and organized religion than people from Europe. But now American attitudes resemble European attitudes, and when you just look at young people, American exceptionalism is basically gone.
Fifty percent of Americans over 65 believe America stands above all others as the greatest nation on earth. Only 27 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 believe that. As late as 2003, Americans were more likely than Italians, Brits and Germans to say the “free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world.” By 2010, they were slightly less likely than those Europeans to embrace capitalism.
Thirty years ago, a vast majority of Americans identified as members of the middle class. But since 1988, the percentage of Americans who call themselves members of the “have-nots” has doubled. Today’s young people are more likely to believe success is a matter of luck, not effort, than earlier generations.
The funny thing about this story is that the young people themselves are voting for the very things that are destroying their hopes and dreams. They vote for the Democrat Party, the champions of social liberalism and fiscal liberalism.
What do young people need to get ahead? They need a stable family with a mother and father. Young people vote for the pro-no-fault-divorce Democrat Party. They vote for the pro-gay-marriage Democrat Party. They vote to call any family arrangement marriage, and any collection of people with kids a family. They are the ones who are the strongest opponents of the nuclear family that used to be the norm in America. Maybe they are doing it out of ignorance, but they are still responsible – they are voting for it. They are voting for more adult selfishness, and they are the victims of it.
What else to young people need to get ahead? They need a good education and a job. What do they vote for? They vote for the Democrat Party. The party that opposes school choice. The party of teacher unions. They party that undermines free market capitalism with taxes, regulations and nationalization of the private sector. They vote for judicial activism instead of the rule of law. They vote for redistribution of wealth instead of private property. And what’s more they are anti-corporations! Who exactly do they expect to work for? They keep voting for more and more government spending on adults, and they are the ones who are going to be stuck with the bill.
This will go on until the United States ends up like France and Greece, when there is no more money left to borrow, and then it will stop. But one thing is for sure – these young people will never have the standard of living their grandparents had. Either you believe in America, and what America represents, or you devolve into Greece, and live at home, unemployed, with your parents for your whole life.