Does America Hate the Poor? The Other American Dilemma: Lessons for the 21st Century from the 1960s and the 1970s

By John E. Tropman | Go to book overview

This paradox is worth some thought. It continues the line developed throughout this book, that values and conditions do not relate well together. At least we are not able to explain much about how people feel from what people are. Even interests seemed washed away in the tsunami of dominant values.

What this particular package of findings suggests, then, is that one of the reasons we hate the poor is because we are suspicious of what is required to help the poor when that instrumentality is government. Private charity is fine, but government charity, in a society that was founded by people who fled from government, is to be suspected.

There are, of course, some areas in which they do differ, and emphasis upon larger families is one such area. However, even here they are part of an overall downward trend in family size preference. The public seems to be in more agreement in their views than we might have thought. And if one looks at the data for the 1960s, one does not get a sense of youth alienation either. While it may have been good sense not to trust anyone over thirty, those over thirty were less trusting of the government in the 1960s than younger people (see Table 9.1). Older people, too, were much more likely to think that the government was run by a few big interests than younger people (see Table 9.2). What shows up here is not the radicalism of youth, but, if anything, its idealism.


CONCLUSION

W. F. Ogburn ( 1928) suggested the concept of "cultural lag." It occurs when an invention forces adjustments in beliefs and values which do not occur immediately ( Jaffee 1968, Vol. 11, 279). In cultural lag, values need to catch up to social structure. We would like to introduce the concept of "social lag," in which beliefs and values change but it takes a while for social structure to bring itself into adjustment. Changes in attitudes toward government in a conservative direction occurred long before we actually got such a government. One may then always look for not only a gap among values at any point in time, but a gap between values and social structure. Since both cultural lag and social lag are likely to exist at the same time, there may be a situation of "two-way lag." While such a situation is not neat, it does give policy makers and politicians room for both maneuver and mistake. What does seem likely is that both social lag and cultural lag will compete for policy attention.


NOTE
1.
The proportion of "don't knows" has remained fairly steady, as has the proportion of "other, depends" responses. The elderly were slightly more likely, by a percentage point or two, to have no opinion.

-123-

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