It is possible that America — fed up with economic stagnation and worried about international disorder — will turn, in the end, to a solid, competent Republican stereotype. But that raises another issue concerning the video — a matter of governing, not politics. Is this Romney’s view of the nature of our social crisis? Romney was appealing to a common Republican belief that the expansion of government has produced a class of citizens who live off the sweat of others, regard themselves as victims and refuse to accept responsibility. …

This crisis has a number of causes, including the collapse of working-class families, the flight of blue-collar jobs and the decay of working-class neighborhoods, which used to offer stronger networks of mentors outside the home. Perverse incentives in some government programs may have contributed to these changes, but this does not mean that shifting incentives can easily undo the damage. Removing a knife from a patient does not automatically return him to health. Whatever the economic and cultural causes, the current problem is dysfunctional institutions, which routinely betray children and young adults. Restoring a semblance of equal opportunity — promoting family commitment, educational attainment and economic advancement — will take tremendous effort and creative policy.

Yet a Republican ideology pitting the “makers” against the “takers” offers nothing. No sympathy for our fellow citizens. No insight into our social challenge. No hope of change. This approach involves a relentless reductionism. Human worth is reduced to economic production. Social problems are reduced to personal vices. Politics is reduced to class warfare on behalf of the upper class.