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Thursday, February 6, 2020


I recently read Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse by Timothy Carney (2019). 

In this book, TC dissects voting trends in both the primary and general elections of 2016 to try to make sense of why large collections of American voters felt/feel disenfranchised.  TC not only carefully disaggregated the numbers via statistical analysis, he also followed up with qualitative interviews/observations to delve more deeply into the causes and effects of political, social, and economic disparity. 

Some of my biggest takeaways:

Ø  Ease of mobility in America has had the effect of creating pockets of self-segregated “elites” (affluent and/or educated) from the “non-elites,” resulting in the polarization of worldviews. Those are not “merely differences of income, wealth, or education; they are differences of health, hope, and opportunity.” (p. 62)
Ø  When people are afflicted with “idleness” – nothing to do – traditional social institutions begin to collapse.
Ø  To truly understand others we must engage them where they are – in their communities.  Simply crunching data sets does not effectively tell the whole story.
Ø  Trust is a requirement of healthy community; it allows us to lower our defense shields.
Ø  The dissolution of family and houses of faith are at the root of America’s social and economic problems.
Ø  Loss of civility is directly proportional to the collapse of traditional social institutions (e.g., family, church, book clubs, bowling leagues, service organizations, etc.)
Ø  Secularization is the effort to force religion into being solely a private experience, depriving it of the self-actualizing effects of service for the greater good of the community.
Ø   A continuum:  Total regulation & low trust  <--->  Low regulation & high trust.  (Community health is low on the left end and high on the right end.)
Ø  Family strength is a powerful predictor of the potential for upward mobility for children.

My favorite quotes:
“Strong communities function not only as safety nets and sources of knowledge and wisdom, but also as the grounds on which people can exercise their social and political muscles. These are where we find our purpose.”  (p. 12) 

“Bad economics can help kill a community, but good economics cannot, alone, rebuild one. And if you’re not building community, you’re not getting close to fixing what ails us.” (p. 282) 

A very insightful examination of our national “health.”  Thanks for the recommendation, TM.

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