I wasn’t persuaded by Charles Murray’s proposal for reducing cultural inequality, but David Brooks’ answer to the division Murray describes is ghastly:

I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

If we could jam the tribes together, we’d have a better elite and a better mass.

It’s not surprising that Brooks’ solution would involve a mandatory government program. How exactly is conscription the remedy for any of the things Murray identifies as problems? How does he imagine that values are going to be “spread”? If this works the way most national service programs elsewhere do, the people in the program will have already picked up the habits and values of their respective “tribes.” Does Brooks suppose that a one or two-year service program is going to have a significant impact on the habits of the people in it? If the country keeps becoming more socially and economically stratified, “jamming” people from different classes together is probably a good way to heighten tensions between them. All of this seems like a deliberate effort to avoid addressing problems of wage stagnation, rising cost of living, and other factors that prevent stable family formation.

Update: Via Rod, Brad Wilcox’s review of Coming Apart includes an acknowledgment that there is a bit more to Murray’s argument:

There are at least two ways to close this cultural divide and renew the cultural foundations of the American experiment. First, policy makers and business leaders need to shore up the economic foundations of working- and middle-class life. Globalization has paid huge dividends for the upper class, but it has undercut the earnings and job security of men (and their families) lower down the social ladder [bold mine-DL]. Public policies designed to strengthen the educational opportunities (e.g., better vocational programs) and economic security (portable health-care plans) of ordinary Americans could help in renewing the economic foundations of the nation’s virtues.

The policies proposed here are underwhelming and they sound a lot like the answers that neoliberals were giving back in the ’90s when challenged on the disruptions caused by globalization, but at least there is some acknowledgment of economic insecurity as a significant factor in all of this.