David Frum Savages Charles Murray — And Rightly So

David Frum was excommunicated from the Righties Club a few years back because he insisted on occasionally saying sane and accurate things.

He continues that aberrational behavior today in his review of AEI uber-zealot Charles Murray’s new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (which I will not link to here — no Google love from me).

Frum’s takedown is so good that I won’t try to recap it. I’ll just comment on one quote that he provides from Murray (paragraph break and emphasis added):

Recall figure 2.1 at the beginning of the book, showing stagnant incomes for people below the 50th income percentile.** High-paying unionized jobs have become scarce and real wages for all kinds of blue-collar jobs have been stagnant or falling since the 1970s.

But these trends don’t explain why [working-class white] men in the 2000s worked fewer jobs, found it harder to get jobs than other Americans did, and more often dropped out of the labor market than they had in the 1960s.

It doesn’t?  Doesn’t “textbook economics” — not to mention common sense — tell us that if you pay people less, they’ll have less incentive to work?

But Murray knows better — they’ve got plenty of incentive:

Insofar as men need to work to survive – an important proviso – falling hourly income does not discourage work.

As long people are reduced to the level of  survival — so they have to take any available job, no matter how shitty or badly compensated, or die (along with their families and children) — it’s no problem getting them to work.

That takes a big load off my mind.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.








8 responses to “David Frum Savages Charles Murray — And Rightly So”

  1. Foppe Avatar

    Another amusing response to the book can be found here: http://alicublog.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html#543371258847688070

  2. vimothy Avatar

    It doesn’t? Doesn’t “textbook economics” — not to mention common sense — tell us that if you pay people less, they’ll have less incentive to work?

    I think textbook econ tells you that people might work more or that they might work less.

  3. Asymptosis Avatar


    Yeah, income vs substitution effect. But since these guys refuse to acknowledge that the income effect exists

  4. Luke Avatar

    Murray, while good at coming across as a grumpy old conservative, is more in favour of government aid for the poor (in the form of a minimum income guarantee) than Frum, who tends to be more focused on using government money to win middle class votes. And while there is nothing new about a conservative complaining about the decline in social norms, sometimes some of these norms matter a lot (and others end up not mattering at all).

  5. beowulf Avatar

    Frum is even better when he comes back to kick Murray again today.

    “What the Founders Would Tell Charles Murray
    The Founding Fathers were strongly opposed to high concentrations of wealth.”

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