Hot House Flowers

Steve Sailer had this up on his site with some comments. It’s short so I’ll post the whole thing below.

Two groups who I think share a lot of unappreciated similarities are liberal gentrification critics and conservative immigration critics. Both want to take a dynamic and free society and freeze it in time, because they like it how it is now. And both assume we have a high level of ownership over our neighborhoods and our country.

It’s true both neighborhoods and the country overall exist within democracies and so we have some legitimate say in what happens there, but it’s simply not the case that we own it. Both contain homes and property owned by others, which you don’t own. As a result, your neighbors are free to sell their homes to whoever they please, and for gentrification critics and immigration critics this can be a problem. The United States is not our shared property, but a free country and free society where we have various rights.

Perhaps all the existing residents could decide that to the best of their abilities they want to legally freeze everything in time and keep it just how it is. But remember that the country looks how it does today because past residents were willing to accept change. The desire to freeze it now, to block new entrants and stop change, is a selfish act that denies future generations the right to see their country and neighborhoods evolve, just as they have evolved to this point.

Imagine if every neighborhood from the 1950s remained frozen in place, and strict laws managed to mandate static relative socioeconomic status and ethnic and cultural makeup. In retrospect of course it seems silly and hubristic to pick a singular point in time, -say 1955- and declare that everything is perfected now compared to all prior states and all possible future states. Of course when we’re taking about now instead of then, many find the right to preserve current conditions to be obvious and not silly at all.

Maybe this message is wholly unneeded for the sophisticated readers of the blogosphere, but I think for sure it is broadly under-appreciated. The only reason we have have gotten to this current state that you wish to preserve forever is that past generations resisted that impulse. It’s a free country, and that means we don’t own it.

The bit of commentary that got my attention and made me laugh is this:

I’m always amused by how people congratulate themselves on how sophisticated their simplistic ideas are. The concept of diminishing marginal returns appears to be unknown to them, for example, but that doesn’t dent their self-confidence.

Sailer is not a wordsmith or a humorist, but sometimes his dry wit is pretty funny.

Modern times means you can Google the writer and learn a lot. Adam Ozimek, according to his LinkedIn profile, has spent most of his life in college. He has had a short tenure at a consulting firm that sells expert testimony to trial attorneys. That sounds terribly dodgy to me, but everything to do with civil litigation is dodgy. Otherwise, Adam Ozimek has spent his life either in school or doing school work for hire. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing that would strike a normal man as work.

That’s the thing you always see with economists. It is rare to see one with any experience in the practical world. Most are career academics. Others bounce around government and private think tanks. In some respects, economics has become a guild like the law. It has its own language, credentials and hierarchy. The law is the marshal profession of the managerial class. Economics is the priestly order of the managerial class. If your kid has an abrasive personality he goes into law. If he is socially awkward he goes into economics.

Years ago I was involved in a lawsuit. During discovery, the topic of billing consulting fees came up. I forget the details, but there was a question about fees billed to the other party. The attorneys were flabbergasted by the idea of marking up fees billed to a client. At first I thought it was some sort of lawyer gag, but I realized they were serious. They simply had no idea how a business makes a profit. In this case the business hired consultants and billed for their time.

Similarly, I had a discussion with a German doctoral student at Yale over beers about business topics. He was an interesting guy and his specialty was currency markets. I have an interest in the history of money so that’s how we fell into conversation. Once we moved to more mundane matters like balance sheets and financial statements, the guy was completely lost. He expected to leave college and head into finance. I could not help but wonder how he would manage without knowing something about how a business functions.

The political class now draws its members from the managerial class. Ted Cruz was a lawyer, for example. Jindal was a consultant for McKinsey. Tubby from New Jersey was a lawyer for the government. The staff in Washington is chock full of guys with resumes similar to Adam Ozimek. It is fair to say that the people who run the government have little in common with the rest of us. They are brimming with self-confidence as they look through the glass of the terrarium at us.

12 thoughts on “Hot House Flowers

  1. Dan Kurt

    Where did you get the idea I’m waiting for a White Knight?? Let me assure you that I am not that naive.

    Z: I loved Chris Hitchens too. Excellent debater as well as writer.

  2. They are brimming with self-confidence as they look through the glass of the terrarium at us

    I just really like that line.

  3. Pingback: Hot House Flowers, Robin Hood in Reverse, Midwest Agriculture is Screwed | IowaDawg Blogging Stuff

  4. re: Kathleen

    The is no White Knight coming to save America. We have had our two centuries of Glory. Read John Glubb’s Fate of Empires (easy to find on the web).

    Dan Kurt

    • I always thought Chris Hitchens was an amazingly talented writer. He had a head full of nutty ideas, but he could make his argument with a style and whit that few could match. Peter Hitchens is no slouch either. Mark Steyn is another extremely good writer. Steve Sailer is not an illiterate, just pedestrian. His copy often reads like an inter-office memo. That’s not intended as a criticism, just an observation. Sailer can also wander off point like in his current column. He gets lost in trivial details he has in his head. Steve has a head for trivia, but it makes for cluttered prose.

      It is about taste, of course.

  5. “Most politicans in the “Western World” are lawyers”

    True, but it is important to note that they are all lawyers because all they can deal with is making laws and relating to other people who think the same way: if it’s not broke, think about making a law for it one day but if it is broke, then make ten laws for it at once.

    As the political class don’t have any frame of reference for people other than a “thou shalt not, or else” mentality it follows that is all they can do. Like all lawyers, they are only motivated by judgement and can only be persuaded by pleas and appeals, not by reality. As the world grows daily more complex then regulating or limiting how the ordinary people behave in it is all that matters.

    It’s called democracy: you vote for more laws, not leadership or care.

  6. Freeze time? How about freeze spending?
    I would be more willing to agree to immigration if I didn’t have to support them all for the rest of their lives. It costs about $5000 a month for a refugee immigrant. Why should we pay for it? It costs nearly as much for an illegal immigrant when you factor in all costs. If immigration is so great they should be paying us. I say freeze all legal immigration and visas; find and deport all illegals and until the legal immigrants all learn English and how to take care of themselves no new immigration, period.

  7. People like to rail about those who would run for office, yet have spent not a day in any type of government, as somehow unqualified. I’m pretty sure the Founders would be appalled at today’s political class, the way they run in the same circles, give each other the wink and a nod while they sell us all down the river to the highest bidder. I would rather have someone like Ben Carson, with zero political experience, who actually can articulate the problems the country is facing. I’m not sure he has any concrete solutions at this stage of the game, but identifying the problems is half the battle.

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