London: The Unheavenly City

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One of the most illuminating and powerful books I have ever read, one which I have been championing for four decades, is Edward Banfield’s The Unheavenly City.

Murray Rothbard loved this book. It featured significantly in his analysis in For a New Liberty.

While Banfield had many brilliant observations on race, crime, and other hot button topics in his book, it was his innovative redefinition of the concept of social class that is most memorable and which has drawn the most controversy.

Banfield carefully defined class membership, not in terms of income status, such as government statistical poverty levels, but in terms of orientation toward the future, or time preference.

The more pronounced one’s “future orientation,” the higher one’s social class. Multicultural critics of this idea now claim it is “cultural racism” to value or promote “future time orientation.”

Known to economists and other social scientists as “low time-preference,” this is what is called setting goals or encouraging purposeful “middle class values” such as punctuality, thrift, foresight, deferred self-gratification of needs or wants, and self-discipline as opposed to “underclass values” or “high time-preference” behaviors such as improvidence, hedonism, purposelessness, immediate self-gratification of needs or wants, and capricious spontaneity or irresponsibility.

If more persons (especially legislators and policy makers) would have read this amazing book and adopted its common sense yet scholarly solutions to America’s ills, we would not be in the catastrophic mess that we are in.

In light of the explosive developments in London, I especially want to call everyone’s attention to the insightful chapter: “Rioting Mainly For Fun and Profit,” beginning on page 211. You will not find a more precise explanation for these kinds of actions, or one that the mainstream media will more decisively seek to avoid presenting to the public.

5:32 pm on August 9, 2011