Kumar argued that government policies following the two world wars—the G.I. Bill, investments in infrastructure and education, the establishment of Social Security—made the middle class. It’s true, she noted, that “Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, and African Americans were excluded from that,” but the fact that the government did it, and that it worked, stands as proof of what is possible—and what kind of investment is required. “A lot of the issues that I hear about today about where are we are going this century, we’ve actually grappled with them last century—we doubled down with less knowledge, and less resources.”The G. I. Bill? No. (Ask yourself, dear reader, how well a government guarantee of college as a veterans' benefit would have worked in Soviet Russia or Great Britain or France.)
Investments in infrastructure and education? When so much of that went into military procurement and moon shots and urban renewal and interstate highways? And as early as 1960, John Hersey's The Child Buyer fretted about misplaced government emphasis on cultivating the best young minds?
Social Security? Might there be more childhood poverty today because the payroll tax reduced economic growth?
Including Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, African Americans? You'd think that expanding the pool of potential producers would produce a plethora of new products. And the logic of the early 1960s civil rights campaign was precisely, Let Us Compete.
What went wrong? My conjecture: policy makers assumed that the good times would continue to roll, and it was OK to celebrate diversity and authenticity. That error was compounded by a Radical Chic under which encouraging the Wretched of the Earth to opt out of bourgeois society rather than participate in it.
To borrow a line, reality tends to be biased toward social conservatism, because social conservatism is about conserving emerged and evolutionary stable behaviors. Deconstruct them at your peril.