When Your Favorite Bloggers Fight

The two bloggers I most frequently read are Rod Dreher at American Conservative and Kevin D. Williamson at National Review. Dreher represents the localist, particularist side of Conservatism, Williamson the libertarian. Dreher is inventive and high strung, Williamson cold-blooded and analytical. Both men are converts, Dreher to Orthodoxy, Williamson to Catholicism, but while Dreher’s main preoccupation is living a Christian life in an increasingly impoverished civilization, Williamson concentrates on economic themes.

One thing they are both concerned about is the plight of the poor: their growing desperation, their drug and welfare dependency, and their increasingly delusional politics (Trump). While Dreher tries to understand Trump supporters and wishes for a political solution along the lines economic protectionism, Williamson’s wants poor white communities to simply die.


The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs… The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.


There is among a lot of Republicans a contempt for the working poor and working class — a contempt of which that the people who hold it are unaware — that says people not smart enough to be self-contained, successful individualist libertarians kind of deserve what they get. Too stupid to figure out how to invest your Social Security allotment? Sucks to be you.

That’s part of what I hear in KDW’s essay, that attitude. Having trouble reaching your bootstraps because you were born with arms too short, or you threw your back out permanently? Sucks to be you.

Williamson then accuses Dreher of sentimentality:

Sentimentality about our backwards communities, and circumlocution regarding their problems, isn’t mercy at all, nor is it — I hate the word — “empathy.” It’s cowardice, a refusal to look at the thing squarely as it is and to do what it is necessary to do.

Dreher’s commentators mostly accuse Williamson of country-club Republicanism, saying that he does not know what it is like to be poor, except Williamson grew up in exactly the sort of environment he criticizes and knows it better than they do.


Here is how I see it: I think right now in America we are starting to come to grips with old truths that our grandparents knew, and that somewhere we forgot.

The first truth is that there is nothing easy about becoming a member of the middle class. A middle class income, for most people, is the result of years of labor and delayed gratification. It implies, at minimum, being a good worker. It helps to be willing to learn skills and to be good at them. No one is going to pay you for being a nice person, they will pay you for what they think your skills are worth.

This is why you can give someone the trappings of a middle class lifestyle, such as a college scholarship or a mortgage, and he will squander the opportunity, because he does not have a middle class work ethic.

The second truth is that once in or on your way to the middle class it is easy as pie to become poor again: just get a divorce or start popping pills. If you are young and born into a middle class family, you can spoil the advantage by doing drugs or having children out of wedlock.

It is OK for rich people have bastard children and get themselves addicted to drugs because they have farther to fall. They have trust funds and lawyers to save them. If you are not rich, it will spoil any chances you have of achieving economic security.

The reason why our grandparents frowned on people who are “of no account”, and heaped condemnation on addiction, unemployment, divorce and illegitimacy is because they knew very clearly that the line between being middle class and being poor was a matter of behavior and culture. We removed the stigma from these behaviors not because we are so much more merciful than they, but because we got fat and lazy and forgot what it took to rise out of poverty.

And here is the horrible thing, and here is where Dreher is right: the culture of self-destruction is expanding. More and more people who should have inherited from their parents and grandparents a middle-class attitude of work and delayed gratification are in fact choosing to impoverish themselves. They are choosing to act poor, that is, drug addled, sexually incontinent, lazy and just plain stupid.

The fact is they should know better, having had examples of proper behavior set all around them, but they instead choose stupidity, poverty, and an early death. The chose it for themselves and then condemn their children to not ever knowing that another choice exists.






  1. Harsh from all angles- but interesting.
    What seems to be a new American phenomena is a sense of entitlement in the white underclasses. The “anger” is socio political theatre. Fact of the matter is people in the developed west have never lived as long as now, had as much to eat as now, been as dry and warm as now + amazing technology, good transportation, general safety…

    1. Statistically you are right, but people feel like they are losing ground. When you look at chronic unemployment and drug addiction, things seem to be worse for people who used to be called “working class” but who in reality are in the welfare class.
      White resentment and identity politics are growing movements.

      1. My question is: are things genuinely worse, or are the standards just much higher now?
        I’ll give you an example, when I was a boy in the 80’s, a large tv was a luxury. By large I mean 36″. I knew people who still had black and white sets. Now there are people living in huts who own flatscreens.
        Don’t you think much of the dissatisfaction comes from the knowledge of how certain parts of the elite live? Maybe we could call it Facebook envy/anger?

      2. Don’t know. The trappings of middle class lifestyle carry on, but not the attitudes that make that lifestyle sustainable. I think that might be the source of angst. People feel the instability.
        Poor people in America have many luxury goods – iphones and huge TVs and the such (things I don’t have because I feel like I can’t afford them, even though I’m not poor) but not decent jobs or large investments like homes, at least not homes they can realistically afford – the government STILL pushes banks to make impossible loans to poor people in the belief that home ownership = middle class membership when it really just = poverty with massive debt and housing bubbles.
        I think class is more a matter of attitude towards work and deferment of pleasure than actual income. In that sense the middle class is shrinking. People chose stupid, chaotic lives, or they see their children chose stupid chaotic lives, and they want to blame someone for the chaos. If you are a Democrat you blame the rich and vote Sanders, if you are a Republican you blame foreigners and vote Trump.
        Now, there may be an argument there, there are less low-end manufacturing jobs around (gone to Asia) and politicians have been encouraging illegal immigration to drive down labor costs in the service sector (the real reason your pols in Europe love migrants, that and keeping up the birthrate).
        But ask anyone (like me) who actually works in a manufacturing plant and we will say we are desperate for reliable workers and just can’t find them. For every hardworking kid we hire we fire five or six drug-addled knuckleheads.
        So, for this chicken and egg problem I don’t have a solution.

      3. Oh, Williamson’s article has this to say about your twitter pal:

        Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart London has done more to put homosexual camp in the service of right-wing authoritarianism than any man has since the fellows at Hugo Boss sewed all those nifty SS uniforms.

        Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/432876/donald-trump-white-working-class-dysfunction-real-opportunity-needed-not-trump?target=author&tid=903320

      4. Impressive analysis. That’s not an uncommon phenomena.

        Yiannopoulos is a mess. His media “success” seems to be very much a fabrication. His #jesuismilo affair which was supposed to have trended on twitter (that’s how he got traction for the story) generated less than 60 total comments in the outlets that picked up the story.
        Conservatives need to realize that thinning the herd isn’t elitism, it’s a matter of survival.

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