Free Minds & Free Markets

Report from 'Alienated America': Podcast

For his new book, Timothy Carney toured parts of the country that are working and parts that are not. What he found is deeply disturbing.

"The American Dream is dead," declared Donald Trump in 2015 when he announced he was running for president. "If I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better than ever before."

One of the most interesting outcomes of the 2016 election is that about 10 percent of people who voted for Barack Obama ended up voting for Trump. Such switch voters, many of whom lived in rural parts of contested states in the Midwest, helped him eke out a victory. They voted for Obama in 2008 because they wanted change they could believe in. In 2016, they were still looking for change, this time from a New York billionaire.

In his new book Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse, Timothy P. Carney does a deep dive on many of the places that voted first for Obama and then for Trump. It's a powerful, provocative, and deeply reported look at a contemporary political and social landscape in which much of the traditional social fabric of marriage, family, and work has been worn away and replaced by distant, "overcentralized" bureaucrats and businesses.

For today's Reason Podcast, I talk with Carney, commentary editor for the Washington Examiner, about the causes of social breakdown, the policies that can help struggling people, and the limits of any president's power to revive the American dream.

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Photo Credit: Young America's Foundation

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • NashTiger||

    Fonzie and his jacket alienate me frequently these days

  • BigT||

    Rebels without cause.

  • FreeRadical||

    None of these problems can be understood fully without grappling with the issues brought up in The Bell Curve. It explains so much.

    If it bothers you, ignore the stuff about race in that book. The other 90% of it should be required reading in college.

  • SQRLSY One||

    I read that book cover to cover way back when. What I have never seen anyone (besides myself) comment on, about that book, is how they criticized the highly intelligent for setting up road-blocks for the poor (who are often less intelligent or at least less educated). They didn't mention licenses specifically (the authors didn't mention), but as I recall, they hammered lawyers pretty badly. Many liberals are lawyers (or at least vice versa), and, while they are SOOOO concerned about the poor, they will set up endless paperwork and regulations in the face of the poor, to prevent them from starting and running businesses. A majority of Congress-bastards are lawyers, don't forget.

    Then the lawyers SOOOO magnanny-mousely offer to "help" the poor by filling out the forms! For vast fees, the vast majority of the time, of course!!!!

  • BigT||

    You just now realized that those 75,000 pages of regulations is a Full Employment for Lawyers act?

    Remember when the lawyer fell in the ocean and the shark didn't eat him - professional courtesy is real.

    When a town has one lawyer, he starves. Add another lawyer and they both get rich fighting each other.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Good points / jokes, I LOLed on #2...

  • Cynical Asshole||

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yeah, we need a freer economy with fewer regulations so people with diverse nervous systems can find or create the niches where they can thrive. I read the first few pages of "The Bell Curve" but did not bother with the rest, because it's practically impossible to get reliable data to compare racial averages in any meaningful way. Let me put it this way, the solution to "ADHD" is to talk to a student and provide reasonable accommodations, not to tinker with his biochemistry. Humanity needs all types of minds to work together freely for the best outcome.

  • Ray McKigney||

    If it bothers you, ignore the stuff about race in that book.

    Or you could read Murray's Coming Apart, which is shorter and focuses only on whites. It further traces the effects of "assortative mating" noted in TBC and provides very interesting data on the congregation of the "cognitive elite" in Superzips (a large number of which branch out from D.C., surprise surprise).

    Both books are great, IMHO.

  • John||

    My problem with Murray is that by Murray's definition I am part of the "cognitive elite" and live among them. And frankly, most of them are not that fucking bright and many of them are downright stupid.

    There is more to intelligence than passing standardized tests and telling your teachers what they want to hear.

  • NoVaNick||

    Yep-I also live among them in a DC suburb super zip, and with an Ivy graduate degree, could be considered one of the cognitive elite too. What most of them will never admit is that they are where they are because of the sacrifices their parents made-like sending them to a good school. But while their parents may have really worked hard to earn their status, most of them make money as rent-seeking government contractors or lawyers, or by managing other people's money. They don't really do anything that adds value, despite their claims of saving the world. Now the kids they raised to think that they are something special can't find jobs or are working as baristas and dog walkers. That has to hurt!

  • granite state destroyer||

    Still, a dog walker or a (good) barista does add value to the world, more than most government contractors.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I know what you mean, my brother in Philadelphia could not get into an Ivy League school until his senior year of high school, and those Quakers will let practically anyone in. Not everyone is NYC material. :P

  • John||

    Maybe people are not interchangable units of labor? Perhaps the results given by the "market" have second order effects that are not always positive.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yeah, unpaid activities can have value too. We want to be happy. Wealth is one possible path to happiness, but it's not the only path. That's why it is so rare to send a lover a bill.

  • EscherEnigma||

    One of the most interesting outcomes of the 2016 election is that about 10 percent of people who voted for Barack Obama ended up voting for Trump. Such switch voters, many of whom lived in rural parts of contested states in the Midwest, helped him eke out a victory. They voted for Obama in 2008 because they wanted change they could believe in. In 2016, they were still looking for change, this time from a New York billionaire.
    And after Trump has had his eight, they'll go back to the Democrats because then Republicans will have spent eight years failing them. And then after another eight years they'll go back to Republicans. And so-on.

    Because there are no political solutions for those folk, no cure for what ails 'em. All we got is life-support. And neither political party is willing to just pull the plug and help the folks relocate.

  • SQRLSY One||

    "...pull the plug and help the folks relocate."

    Relocate to Libertopia, you mean, I hope! Libertopia is within our means, except for self-righteousness.

    "I would vote for Libertarians, except many of them are pro-abortion baby-killers."

    "I would vote for Libertarians, except many of them feel friendly to illegal sub-humans."

    "I would vote for Libertarians, except many of them are anti-Earth Gaia-Spirit and pro-technology."

    "I would vote for Libertarians, except many of them are in favor of greedy capitalists."

    "I would vote for Libertarians, except many of them don't believe in licensing MY profession." (And protecting those poor ignorant consumers = silently implied, if not loudly proclaimed).

    I could go on...

  • NashTiger||

    The most Libertarian politician in America is staunchly pro-Life.
    Kind of very basic Non-Aggression

  • SQRLSY One||

    And life = ??? Is an acorn worth as much as a tree?

    What do you propose as punishment for the killing of a fertilized egg cell? I propose a fine of $1.53!

    Punish-punish-punish! Personally, I think that punishment should be strictly reserved for only those who cannot otherwise be corrected, and then, "the punishment should fit the crime". What is needed, and then no more, as far as the severity of the punishment goes. Even criticism is punishment, and it, too, should be carefully rationed.

    What have very varied thinkers through the years said about this?

    "Beware of all those in whom the urge to punish is strong." - Friedrich Nietzsche

    "Mistrust all those in whom the desire to punish is imperative." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    "Let he who is without sin, throw the first stone." - Jesus

    "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." - Jesus

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It's written in the Torah that a man who causes a miscarriage when the mother wanted to keep the baby must pay restitution but is not guilty of murder. From this we learn that a fetus has value and abortion is something to morn, but it is not murder.

  • DenverJ||

    Why should they relocate? With a few, polluted exceptions (I'm looking at you, Flint, Michigan), there are few already habited places that people can't still live in, and love as their home town.
    Employment problems in these areas can be difficult, but that's almost always because of government meddling.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    The Midwest is affected by federal policies that neither Republicans nor Democrats want to address. The feds reward you for having a low income and punish you for having a high income. It's difficult to have a middle or low income in the winter up north if a carbon tax makes heating expensive, hence the depopulation of Upstate New York. Metropolitan New York City has the fame to attract global businesses and massive federal subsidies, but that strategy is a zero-sum game.

  • Ray McKigney||

    Why does Nick start the podcast off by asking the author whether he's pro or anti Trump? What the hell does that have to do with anything?

  • DenverJ||

    Dude, there are two types of people: the resistance and nazis.

  • ||

    Never, never been counted as one of the cognitive elite, being a poor Montana farm boy and a deplorable to boot. Kinda failed at everything, except taking those standardized tests, which was a consolation when I messed everything else up. However, when I lie down tonight, I am going to be grateful that I am not one of the lawyers on the Robert Mueller Russia Investigation. If an honest, complete history of this whole nasty business is ever written I am now certain it will reveal a disgraceful prosecutorial over-reach far beyond a witch hunt, immensely more evil, more insidious, and more morally, constitutionally, and intellectually damaging than the most audacious coup or hoax.

  • ||

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  • bsmith||

    Lots of pining for churches to come back on here. That's a lost cause, IMO. Need something with a similar function, without the belief in BS requirement.


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