Bouncing off a Washington Post series on the current plight of the white working class, David French suggests that America’s problem isn’t primarily one of lost jobs and inadequate safety nets, but of spiritual destitution:
Life has always been hard for the poor, but it has not always been quite so lonely. Part of this is the legacy of the welfare state, which allows and even encourages lives of quiet desperation, cut off from the communities that used to sustain the less fortunate in their struggles. Part of this is the legacy of the sexual revolution, which devalued marriage and irreversibly cast off the “shackles” of self-denial. And, yes, part of it is economics. Losing a job is among the most stressful of all human experiences.
The complex nature of the crisis should not be a license to avoid facing its ultimate truth head on: America’s working class is in the grips of a malady far more spiritual than material. We can spend trillions more, but safety nets won’t save the human soul.
Happiness, not a government metric for “poverty” or “well being,” should be the guide and goal for public policy, and improving it will mainly entail forcing government to withdraw its heavy hand and allow Americans to do what humans being do: interact, develop relationships, and help each other.