Charles Murray recently wrote Coming Apart about growing class differences in white Americans. Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor of government or something, has a new popular book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. They apparently say much the same thing (I haven’t read Putnam’s yet). They appear together at the Aspen Institute, whatever that is, in an excellent Youtube video. They are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum yet they have no disagreements about substance.
When the audience asks about policy implications, Murray has little to say because, he says, he is a libertarian. Putnam’s response, on the other hand, is chilling. We need more pre-K education and we need to train our teachers to fill the role of inadequate parents for our children. Scary: I hope that he will leave our children alone.
One wonders how Putnam thinks about these issues. While we are on the topic I quote a review of a previous famous Putnam paper by the great John Derbyshire from his book We are Doomed.
PROFESSOR PUTNAM LAYS AN EGG
In September 2006, political scientist Robert Putnam was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize, one of the most prestigious in his field. The prize is awarded in Uppsala, Sweden, by a Scandinavian scholarly association. (Skytte was a seventeenth-century Swedish grandee.)
As usual with such events in the academic world, Putnam presented a research paper to commemorate the event. The paper is titled “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century,” and can easily be found on the Internet. I’ll refer to it in what follows as “the Uppsala paper.”
That paper has a very curious structure. After a brief introduction (two pages), there are three main sections, headed as follows:
The Prospects and Benefits of Immigration and Ethnic Diversity (three pages)
Immigration and Diversity Foster Social Isolation (nineteen pages)
Becoming Comfortable with Diversity (seven pages)
I’ve had some mild amusement here at my desk trying to think up imaginary research papers similarly structured. One for publication in a health journal, perhaps, with three sections titled:
Health benefits of drinking green tea
Green tea causes intestinal cancer
Making the switch to green tea
Social science research in our universities cries out for a modern Jonathan Swift to lampoon its absurdities.