April 25, 2010

"The Pinch"

From a review in the UK Guardian by Richard Reeves (the British one, not the American one) of the Tory MP David Willetts' new book The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And Why They Should Give it Back.
Willetts might have done better to take as his main theme the links between family, education and social mobility, since on these issues he is on firmer ground. In fact, his title could just as easily have been The Big Grab: How the Rich Are Using Money and Marriage to Buy the Future for Their Kids. His ­opening ­chapter is a tour de force, a brief, brilliant history of England's social architecture. He shows that far from being a modern invention, the nuclear family is a long-standing feature of Anglophone societies. (We are, he says, "the first nuclear power".) The idea that we used to live in big, warm, noisy My Big Fat Greek Wedding-type families is a myth. "Think of England as being like this for at least 750 years," he writes. "We live in small families. We buy and sell houses. We go out to work for a wage."

That quote is worth remembering.
The English have a private, market-based idea of property, in contrast to the familial property forms of our continental neighbours. Over a 44-year period in Leighton Buzzard, more than 900 houses changed hands. Two-thirds were sold to someone outside the family, rather than being passed down. The years in question? 1464 to 1508.
 By contrast, the large familial networks of continental Europe act as the institutional anchor for property ownership and transmission, as well as for the formation of businesses and the provision of welfare. Willetts speculates that the property-managing function of French families may explain why romantic love there is more often associated with extramarital relationships. The orientation towards family-owned firms in Germany helps to explain the strength of the Mittelstand, the medium-sized, locally rooted layers of corporations.

Willetts does not at any point fall victim to the awful if-only-we-were-more-like-the-continentals lament. He does not want to alter our social DNA. But our particular social economy has two important consequences. First, the smallness of our families puts a greater emphasis on non-familial civic institutions. Small families need civil society more. This is why medieval guilds, trade unions and churches have played such an important role in our history.

Second, the welfare role of government is greater in a society marked by a highly privatised notion of property and small families. Breadwinning men are less likely to have family resources to fall back on, so need out-of-work benefits. This system worked reasonably well until the rise in divorce rates in 1970s and 1980s. Then, millions of women, many with dependent children, suddenly became reliant on the state. As Willetts puts it: "A welfare system that was ­originally designed to compensate men for loss of earnings is slowly and messily redesigned to compensate women for the loss of men." And everybody – but ­especially women – ends up poorer. This is why Willetts, certainly no reactionary, is so pro-marriage.

I would add that this "cultural DNA" -- nuclear families, home ownership, and supra-family employers -- makes Anglo-American societies particularly vulnerable to mass immigration.

Strong parental relationships also influence children's well-being, which in turn affects the chances of upward social mobility, another of Willetts's preoccupations. Drawing on the very latest and best research, Willetts shows how the middle classes are tightening their grip on the opportunities available for the next generation. The professions are all but sealed off from the poor: "The competition for jobs is like English tennis, a competitive game but largely one the middle classes play against each other."

In general, this is a remarkably non-political book; David Cameron is mentioned just once. But ­Willetts does argue strongly for a vouchers scheme in ­education, weighted in favour of the poor, in order to break the middle-class stranglehold on the state education ­system. And the explanation for the flat-lining of social mobility brings Willetts back to social structures and, in particular, the trade-off between gender equality and class equality. The principal beneficiaries of the expansion of higher education have been the daughters of the middle class. Six per cent of girls born into low-income families in both 1958 and 1970 went to university; for girls born into richer households, the rate rose from 21 per cent to 36 per cent.

"Educational upgrading" – the increase in the numbers of young ­people getting qualifications – accounts for 40 per cent of the fall in mobility for women between 1958 and 1970. This is, as Willetts says, a shocking statistic. The expansion of higher education, far from improving social mobility, has actually made it worse.

Women graduates marry male graduates and this trend towards "assortative mating" has increased in recent years, which means that on a household level, inequality is bound to rise. The narrowing of the gender gap seems to have widened the class gap. As Willetts puts it: "Feminism has trumped egalitarianism." And not just for one generation, either: just 5% of degree-­educated mothers split up from their partner before their child's third birthday, compared with 42% of mums with no qualifications.

36 comments:

agnostic said...

The mediating variable between Anglo cultural DNA and its susceptibility to invasion is social trust. We trust others more, so we're more willing to outsource a lot of tasks that would otherwise be done in-house, obviating the need for gigantic households. Ditto for relying on non-kin employers and relying on the market in general.

But more trusting people are more easily taken advantage of, which is why no group has only trusting people, and why levels of trust cycle over time.

stari_momak said...

Breadwinning men are less likely to have family resources to fall back on, so need out-of-work benefits.

Having not read the book, it seems the author misses the self-organizing of the English trading and working classes to provide such benefits. Take the 'International Order of Odd Fellows'. I, like I imagine 99% of the population in the US, thought this was some sort of joke. But no -- turns out in Victorian England (and before) various trades had organized to provide things like scholarships for promising children of their colleagues, death benefits, disability benefits and the like. 'Odd fellows' were chaps that didn't fall into one of the organized trades -- 'odd' in the sense of 'odd jobs'. Even these, by definition hard to self-organize, chaps organized themselves.

Gyan said...

I thought guilds were typical of medieval Europe generally and are not English specially.


Trade unions are just modern relics of medieval guilds.

SFG said...

Frickin' brilliant.

It's true, isn't it? The best way to marry a doctor these days is to go to medical school. ;)

Mr. Anon said...

"Women graduates marry male graduates and this trend towards "assortative mating" has increased in recent years, which means that on a household level, inequality is bound to rise."

I believe that Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein pointed this out sixteen years ago. Is this supposed to be new?

Anonymous said...

Should we be going to more clan-type family structures to survive? If we can't reverse current trends, then that would seem to be the only good option for our descendants.

Acilius said...

"remarkably non-political book; David Cameron is mentioned just once" It's horrifying that a book which mentions David Cameron even once should be considered "remarkably non-political," even if its author is a Tory MP.

Luke Lea said...

Where do the Scandinavian countries fit in?

Mercer said...

I think immigration is bad for white men in the US because so many employers have diversity policies favoring black and brown people. Are such policies common in the UK and other European countries?

Dutch Boy said...

"This is why medieval guilds, trade unions and churches have played such an important role in our history."

Really?: medieval guilds - long-gone
trade unions - on the ropes
church - Henry VIII and the British elite castrated it long ago

Anonymous said...

I believe that Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein pointed this out sixteen years ago. Is this supposed to be new?

And I believe that Jane Austen was obsessing about her Pianoforte skills and her Latin declensions 200 years ago.

And I can guaran-dad-gum-tee you that Livia Drusilla was worrying about exactly the same kinds of things 2000 years ago.

There's nothing new under the sun - plus ├ža change & whatnot.

David said...

>medieval guilds - long-gone

>trade unions - on the ropes

>church - Henry VIII and the British elite castrated it long ago<

These things worked well for our people, but were abandoned. Why?

Guess the mysterious "tide of history" is responsible. Nothing to see here, move along.

Anonymous said...

Are such policies common in the UK and other European countries?
the UK has become worse than us in this regard. Towns and cities were called 'dangerously white' in one report.
One of the most destructive things is arts funding - if you are not diverse you dont' get funding - so an all white ballet corp or church choir are not funded, however, an all islamic sufi chant group WILL get funded because they meet minority percentage requirements - 'diversity' is not the requirement (eg 30/30/ white/asian) having a certain threshhold of brown people is.

GreerThompson said...

Steve, love your work I am an avid reader just too busy to comment alot! LOL

Anyways, I was looking at some articles on race online and i came across this Abagond guy he wrote an article about you:
http://abagond.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/steve-sailer/

He is typical of many blacks, blames whites for everything and thinks he knows it all! LOL
He totally annoyed me with his "know it all" commentary on you, what do yu think of him?

bjdouble said...

"I think immigration is bad for white men in the US because so many employers have diversity policies favoring black and brown people."

I don't think this is true. It's true maybe in the military, foreign service, and other government jobs, and also in universities and some large and visible employers, like FoMoCo, which got sued by it's own employees for diversity policies. But 90% of the economy just wants competence and doesn't really care who it is.

Svigor said...

Whoops, wrong thread.

Svigor said...

That’s because any challenge to the Left’s post-1960s dominion over the past is going to arouse real passion.

The narrative IS leftism. Every useful idiot is ruled by the narrative. "Who? Whom?" is the leftism of the narrative's creators.

BamaGirl said...

"Women graduates marry male graduates and this trend towards "assortative mating" has increased in recent years, which means that on a household level, inequality is bound to rise."

And smart people marrying smart people is a bad thing exactly how?

Anonymous said...

"I believe that Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein pointed this out sixteen years ago. Is this supposed to be new?"

No, but it takes 16 years for Murray-Herrnstein radiation to fall to levels safe for Guardian readers.

Andrew said...

I clicked through the link, hoping for a better explanation of why the book's author seems to feel so sure that life in England is some sort of zero-sum-game between the classes. I have never seen any evidence that there is a some limited number of good jobs that people must fight for. Instead, most of the evidence I see suggests there are a limited number of productive people, who all earn something roughly akin to what they produce, less money for their employers and the government and the portion of the population that leaches off productive people.

Yes, if you double the number of good engineers in a two year period, the wages for engineers will plummet, but the market adapts in the long run as investors put more money into buying capital for all these new engineers and some of them move to other professions. In the long run, there is no limit to the number of people who can be prosperous. Everyone in Western Society today is incredibly prosperous by the standards of 18th century England. The only cap seems to be the incredible struggle of getting ever larger percentages of the population to adopt bourgeoisie lifestyles. (As for limits in talent, which is obviously a major theme of this blog, they certainly exist, but most of today's most self destructive poor have the mental wherewithal to do just fine, if they had self discipline.

Anonymous said...

The idea that we used to live in big, warm, noisy My Big Fat Greek Wedding-type families is a myth. "Think of England as being like this for at least 750 years," he writes. "We live in small families. We buy and sell houses. We go out to work for a wage."

As I pointed out a while back, there is a French sociologist, named Emmaneul Todd, who wrote about the effect of family structure on political orientation [or, if not "effect", then at least the very strong correlation between the two]:


Explanation of Ideology: Family Structures and Social Systems
(Family, sexuality, and social relations in past times)



And I just noticed that there's an Amazon review of Todd which touches on the Anglo-Saxon question.

Anonymous said...

"And not just for one generation, either: just 5% of degree-­educated mothers split up from their partner before their child's third birthday, compared with 42% of mums with no qualifications."

It doesn't mean they are not having sex. They just are more careful or have abortions to get rid of the baby before they are married. .

Anonymous said...

""I think immigration is bad for white men in the US because so many employers have diversity policies favoring black and brown people."

I don't think this is true. It's true maybe in the military, foreign service, and other government jobs, and also in universities and some large and visible employers, like FoMoCo, which got sued by it's own employees for diversity policies. But 90% of the economy just wants competence and doesn't really care who it is."

I think immigration is bad for white males,especially in large metro areas. There are so many Indians being hired it's a joke. I am so sick of corporate diversity.The Indians come to school here and then marry another Indian so they can stay.

Anonymous said...

How did the English in the past have small families without reliable birth control, while other countries had large families? Most people thought birth control was bad until the mid1900's.Even Goerge Orwell looked askance on birth control and he wasnt't religious. Did they marry in their late 20's? I read that the middle class men in England in the 1800's would go to prostitutes until they thought they could bring up a family.

There is no virtue in having a large family. If everyone did that the world would be a disaster. This is another reason the Catholic Church is a farce.

Maybe the Catholic Church is the reason why Aegentina and Brazil didn't do well, since they are Catholic countries,while the US is a Protestant country that was founded by the English.
On the other hand,England was a disaster for many working people during the Industrial Revolution. They were treated as machine parts that could be discarded when broken.

Dahlia said...

"I would add that this "cultural DNA" -- nuclear families, home ownership, and supra-family employers -- makes Anglo-American societies particularly vulnerable to mass immigration."

This seems to be a pretty good theory for why Continental Europeans seem to be more "people of the soil with strong roots". This rings true to me based on my family's experience (The German model) though at a micro-level exchanging "immigrant" for "outsider". There is less concentrated wealth, but it is much less risky.
For what it's worth, I grew up in a provincial German-American farming town where everyone adopted the same family business practices and it had more millionaires per-capita than any town in the U.S. back in the 1970s; I don't know how it is ranked today.

Agnostic said:
"But more trusting people are more easily taken advantage of, which is why no group has only trusting people, and why levels of trust cycle over time."

Perhaps the Continentals are a less trusting people of others, I don't know. They are less trusting of themselves, I think. The advantage of their system that I've had personal experience seeing up close is that it protects people from themselves as well as outsiders. A business owning man gets old and has a stroke. Or suffers a car accident that impairs his cognitive function. Or marries a bad woman who turns him against his children and family. Or suffers plain old dementia. And on and on and on. In such states, he is vulnerable to bad-decision making and being manipulated by people not looking out for his interests in the least.

The veto power of siblings in a handed-down family corporation is a beautiful thing.

The English system is more dynamic to be sure; they both have their good and bad qualities, but Steve's theory is a good one and certainly a good point in favor of the Continental model.

Dahlia said...

To be clearer, when I wrote the Continentals may trust themselves less, I don't really mean a man trusting himself less, but perhaps more wise to human fallibility. For example, a German man tends to find it more in his descendents' interest to hand down his business to all his children to tend to as insurance against the all-too-common human foibles and accidents that would be disastrous if they were visited upon a sole heir.

Cicero said...

A good overview on the family dynamics of Early Modern England would be Roy Porter's "English Society in the 18th Century." Working Class Englishmen of that era seemed to be unique among other nations in that they did put off marriage until they could afford it. Children almost always moved out of the house after they grew up, even if they inherited the family business. There was tremendous physical mobility as well, although that rarely translated into economic mobility. It still astounded travellers from the Continent however that the common folk were able to travel the country so freely. How much did that tie into marriage as well?

Porter's book is just an all around good read though. If you want to understand why the English broke ahead of the French in politics and commerce during the 1700's despite a smaller population and resource base, it's critical reading.

Bigbill said...

Speaking of family and tribe taking care of each other, I love this description of cradle-to-grave social services among the Syrian Jews, God bless'em. Race purity number one!

AlmostButNotDearime said...

"Really?: medieval guilds - long-gone
trade unions - on the ropes
church - Henry VIII and the British elite castrated it long ago"

That's why he said "have played such an important role in our history" note the words 'have' and 'history'. Perhaps I should not assume that history is a word in Americanish.

Anonymous said...

"How did the English in the past have small families without reliable birth control, while other countries had large families? ... Did they marry in their late 20's?"

Yes, they married later (in certain periods in their late 20s). They were probably also more willing to go sexless than modern people. And, of course, they did practice birth control, through the withdrawal method ("belly-painting" as it was called), which is actually a lot more effective than they told you in high-school sex ed.

Late Victorian and early 20c sexual morals were pretty strict (in the middle classes), but that's not true of every period.

David said...

>I don't think this is true. It's true maybe [?] in the military, foreign service, and other government jobs, and also in universities and some large and visible employers, like FoMoCo, which got sued by it's [sic] own employees for diversity policies. But 90% of the economy just wants competence and doesn't really care who it is.<

Wow.

1975 just called. It wants you to return and get back to work.

Government, military and large corporations are 10% of the economy?

I have worked in several industries for all sizes of employers. I have seen with my own eyes dozens of incidents in which perfectly good white men and women were passed over for a Protected and Valuable Minority. In every case, without exception, the Protected and Valuable Minority caused the employer to bitterly regret his or her choice. I personally have been the victim of outright racial discrimination at least six times. In one instance, a formal job offer to me was withdrawn after I accepted it because a black woman suddenly applied for the position. The explanation offered to me was "You are the wrong color." (I was too poor at the time to realistically bring suit alone.)

If you're going to argue that racial quotas don't have much effect, you're destroying your credibility with a great number of deeply pissed-off people in every business everywhere.

Get out more.

David said...

PS: That black woman lasted five months.

beowulf said...

I wonder if he cited Gregory Clark's "A Farewell To Alms":

Prior to 1790, Clark asserts, man faced a Malthusian trap: new technology enabled greater productivity and more food, but was quickly gobbled up by higher populations.

In Britain, however, as disease continually killed off poorer members of society, their positions in society were taken over by the sons of the wealthy, who were less violent, more literate, and more productive. This process of "downward social mobility" eventually enabled Britain to attain a rate of productivity that allowed it to break out of the Malthusian trap.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Clark_(economist)

Anonymous said...

Yes, if you double the number of good engineers in a two year period, the wages for engineers will plummet, but the market adapts in the long run as investors put more money into buying capital for all these new engineers and some of them move to other professions.


The market will adapt in the long run, but that is little help to the engineer whose wages plummeted or who had to find work as a non-engineer now.


most of the evidence I see suggests there are a limited number of productive people, who all earn something roughly akin to what they produce, less money for their employers and the government and the portion of the population that leaches off productive people.



Oh look, a Randian!

Svigor said...

Oh look, a Randian!

I think Steve's right about libertarianism as applied autism. You really can't communicate with these people, it's like you need punch-cards or something. I had a run-in with them recently and now I take them a loooooot less seriously than I used to.

Truth said...

"I have seen with my own eyes dozens of incidents in which perfectly good white men and women were passed over for a Protected and Valuable Minority."

Aren't women often the Protected and Valuable Minority? It's a little late to start with the PeeCee Bullshit now, Sport.