The Politics of Delusion and Cultural Decay

Many Myron Magnet articles have been linked here over the years, but I’m not sure any of them were nearly 6,000 words long. In a post titled “The Politics of Delusion: Mayor Bill de Blasio’s radical dreams are leading straight to chaos,” Magnet packs in a lot of important information. For the sake of brevity I’m only excerpting four paragraphs, including his opening one which is terrific:

However we may yearn for a politician whose worldview springs straight from his reason, his grasp of history and human nature, and his sense that politics is the art of the possible, not the ideal, what we usually get is a mix of half-baked ideology, hungry ambition, weaselly opportunism, and some inner wound that only the roar of a crowd or the cooing of sycophants can soothe. Even for a politician, though, New York mayor Bill de Blasio is a rare specimen: a self-contrived person spouting an ideology unmoored in reality but inseparable from the man’s brittle sense of himself.

Actually, that’s one of the best paragraphs I’ve read on the topic — it describes well so many of the politicians I’ve known over the past twenty-five years.

Regarding two of Bill de Blasio’s proposals, Magnet writes

Taken together, these two measures unintentionally reveal who the poor in de Blasio’s inequality fairy tale really are, and why they are poor—which has nothing to do with why the rich are rich. They are the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who do the low-wage jobs that New Yorkers won’t do, along with the New Yorkers who won’t do them—a largely nonwhite, welfare-dependent, disproportionally lawless underclass. Hence de Blasio lumps racial and economic inequality together in his mind, as if the one caused the other. If de Blasio’s proposals were to succeed and get these underclass New Yorkers into jobs, what would happen to the illegals, with their little municipal IDs?

But don’t worry: they won’t work. The indigenous underclass, for all de Blasio’s efforts, will not troop into the industrious working or middle class. Much more likely, as Victor Davis Hanson, Heather Mac Donald, and Steven Malanga have shown in these pages, is the reverse: many of the illegals and their U.S.-born (and therefore legal) children will get sucked into the underclass, through school dropout, early unwed childbearing, and gang membership leading to crime.

One more paragraph:

Tectonic shifts in elite culture in the 1960s, I argued—a normalization of sexual experimentation, a devaluation of marriage (especially as the key to successful child rearing) and a destigmatization of illegitimacy, a fad for drugs and for dropping out of the workaday world, a disdain for authority, a belief that black criminality was a natural rebellion against racism and exclusion, and that, in reparation for 300 years of racial injustice, welfare payments ought to be raised and handed out freely, without any hint of disapproval—all these changes in morals, manners, and beliefs quickly filtered down to the inner-city poor and produced an explosion in drug use, crime, nonwork, welfare dependency, and illegitimacy. The housing projects teemed with families headed by teenage mothers, whose own meager education, multiple (and often abusive) boyfriends, drug use (crack, in those days), and chaotic households ensured that their children would miss out on cognitive and moral nurture, along with the sense of security and love, that promotes success in school and in later life. So the basic reality that perpetuated the underclass was culture: it wasn’t the welfare system, unemployment, deindustrialization, racism, job mismatch, or genetic inferiority.

Read more: City Journal

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