|Table 1: Oh, dear. Heritability of IQ can't explain those international differences in economic mobility.|
F.H. Buckley, The American Conservative
"Table 1 reports on how countries rank on a measure of mobility, the correlation between the earnings of fathers and sons. With a ranking of zero there is perfect mobility, and perfect immobility with a ranking of one. It will come as a surprise to realize that the U.S. is one of the most immobile countries in the developed world, that children in other such countries are better able to climb [and fall from] the economic ladder. Through a broken educational system, insane immigration laws, a regulatory state on steroids, a disregard for the rule of law, we have created an aristocracy and betrayed the promise of America.
Our conservative elites would have us believe that none of this matters, that only socialists worry about income equality and mobility. That gives the issue away to the left, and is a good way to lose elections. The left would only make things worse, however. They want higher taxes, but we’re already one of the most highly taxed countries. When we compare our income, capital gains, and corporate tax rates with those of other countries, we have nowhere to go but down. As for our welfare policies, we’re among the most generous countries in the world. But that’s not to say that we have to leave things as they are. Instead, conservatives should begin by admitting that income mobility is the defining political issue of our time, that we lost the 2012 election because we ignored it, that anger at the class society we have become explains the rise of Donald Trump, and that the way back lies in the pursuit of socialist ends through capitalist means.
The New Class is apt to think it has earned its privileges through its merits, that America is still the kind of meritocracy that it was in Ragged Dick’s day, where anyone could rise from the very bottom through his talents and efforts. Today’s meritocracy is very different, however. Meritocratic parents raise meritocratic children in a highly immobile country, and the Ragged Dicks are going to stay where they are. We are meritocratic in name only. What we’ve become is Legacy Nation, a society of inherited privilege and frozen classes, and in The Way Back I explain how we got here and what we can do about it.
The most obvious barrier to mobility is a broken educational system. Our K–12 public schools perform poorly, relative to the rest of the advanced world. As for our universities, they’re great fun for the kids, but many students emerge on graduation no better educated than when they first walked in the classroom door. What should be an elevator to the upper class is stalled on the ground floor. Part of the fault for this may be laid at the feet of the system’s entrenched interests: the teachers’ unions and the higher-education professoriate. Our schools and universities are like the old Soviet department stores whose mission was to serve the interests of the sales clerks and not the customers. Why the sales clerks should want to keep things that way is perfectly understandable. The question, however, is why this is permitted to continue, why reform efforts meet with such opposition, especially from America’s elites. The answer is that aristocracy is society’s default position. For those who stand at America’s commanding heights, social and income mobility is precisely what must be opposed, and a broken educational system wonderfully serves the purpose. As such, the New Class will oppose school choice, vouchers and parochial schools, anything that smacks of competition to a broken system."