Alternative to Charles Murray
A thirtysomething Wal-Mart cashier cannot reasonably expect that his hard work will be rewarded with consistent raises and promotions, terminating, perhaps, in a solid management job. Thus the new lower class is deprived of opportunities for engaging in long-term (or even medium-term) cultural strategies. Understandably, then, they turn their attention to short-term strategies, competing for immediate rewards and ephemeral boosts in status and self esteem (Bageant, 2008; Pyszynski, Greenberg, Solomon, Arndt, and Schimel, 2004). Concurrently, those who can invest in long-term strategies battle each other for dominance of the cultural narrative (because this confers status), and their concerns become further removed from those of the average American.
Pointer from Tyler Cowen.
Their psychology may be insightful, but their economics is naive. They blame the problems of the lower class on the decline of unions. But I would argue that the decline of unions is endogenous to the changing nature of the economy, with more automation in the factory sector and more heterogeneity of skill requirements in the service sector.
Still, I really like the insight in the quoted paragraph. I think it is a more persuasive story than a sui generis decline in moral values in Middle America.