Saturday, January 21, 2012

Murray on Cultural Inequality

The conservative sociologist Charles Murray has written a new book on cultural inequality, and he's written about his main arguments here in the Wall Street Journal. There are two glaring problems with his argument, however. First, although I appreciate his attempts to examine cultural factors of the economy, he frequently conflates behaviors with culture (which consist of values, attitudes, beliefs, not behaviors arising from these symbolic constructs). This muddles his argument, and leads to a profusion of of ad hoc claims that are weakly supported by the data, if at all. Second, his
explanation for cultural inequality falls short: in particular, he ignores how lack of public investments and conservative economic policies (for example, lack of investment in public transportation, public spaces, universal welfare systems, and the growth of car-based urban sprawl based on the profit-making concerns of private developers, among other things) are leading causes of the cultural fragmentation he is concerned about.