The other day, Tucker Carlson had Nicholas Eberstadt on to discuss his most recent column on the economic causes of the turmoil we see in the culture.
The column is well worth a read, as Eberstadt loads it up with facts and graphs to make his points. The shocking statistics on the un-working population should be a national scandal, but as he points out, the economic data fed to politicians disguises these realities. Relying on the unemployment rate, for example, hides the legions of people, particularly men, who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. If you are not looking for work, you are not counted in unemployment figures.
Again, it is a great piece and worth reading. He has a book on this topic as well. Eberstadt is a guy worth reading, mostly because he has one of the more impressive biographies you will see.
Eberstadt was born on December 20, 1955 in New York City. His father, Frederick Eberstadt, was an author and photographer. His mother, Isabel Nash, was a novelist. His paternal grandfather, Ferdinand Eberstadt, was an investment banker and co-founder of the Central Intelligence Agency; his maternal grandfather, Ogden Nash, was a poet. His sister, Fernanda Eberstadt, is a novelist.
Eberstadt graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1972. He then earned his A.B. magna cum laude in Economics from Harvard College in 1976, and his M.Sc. in Social Planning for Developing Countries from the London School of Economics in 1978. He completed his M.P.A. at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1979, and his Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government at Harvard University in 1995.
Anyway, one of the great mistakes made by conventional conservatism was to adopt the sterile, transactional view of culture favored by libertarians and Progressives. In fact, their view is often anti-cultural, as it treats humans as if they are moist robots. Culture is about tastes and preferences that are embedded to a great degree in human biology. Just as every person is the sum of decisions made by his ancestors, the culture of any society is the sum of all those individual sums. In other words, culture is tied to human biology.
Let’s pretend that, through some special magic, economics comes up with a way to put most everyone on welfare, at a rate that allows for a middle-class life. The robot revolution leads to a world where hardly anyone works, but everyone has access to all the goods and services we associate with the comfortable middle-class life. In other words, we have lurched into a version of the future imagined by H.G. Wells, where everyone spends their day in leisure, but no one is eaten by Morlocks after sundown.
While it is impossible to know how humans would respond to such a world, we do know something about how humans relate to one another. For instance, we know that men compete with one another for access to females. Not too long ago, men would engage in battle with one another to establish status within the group. Today, status is established by income, academic titles and profession. A lawyer has more status than a sewer worker, for example. A small business man has more status than a middle manager.
In a world without work, figuring out these relationships is impossible. It is not entirely ridiculous to think that in such a world, humans would bring back things like jousting and trial by combat, as a way to settle disputes and figure out the pecking order. In fairness to Eberstadt, he does seem to get that men without work prospects lose something essential to being a man. Men without purpose are men without a reason to live. They will also be men looking for a way to fill that void, be it drugs or some great cause.
The trouble with the economic explanation is that it assumes the current rumblings are only due to the want of material goods and social status. That people would embrace the multicultural paradise our betters plan for us, as long as we have meaningful work and lots of cheap goods. The men and women of the managerial class are incapable of viewing the world through any other lens but their own. They are blinkered to the fact that theirs is a culture now alien to the rest of us and as such they cannot see the world as we see it.
Further, underlying all of the recent analysis attempting to explain the Trump phenomenon, Brexit and the cultural rumbling across the West, is the conceit among the Cloud People that what is driving the revolt is something they would call shame, if they possessed such a quality. They imagine the unrest is the result of a great army of men ashamed of being losers in the new super wonderful global economy. That shame is turning to envy as they seek out causes and candidates to exact revenge on the Cloud People and their attendants in the managerial and political classes.
All of the analysis of Brexit, for example, was seasoned with this view. The savvy cosmopolitans of London voted against Brexit, of course, because they have long interesting lives ahead of them in the multicultural paradise. The people who voted for it are old country rubes being left behind. Similarly, the Trump voters are always described as white working class losers angry at having been left out of the new economy. You cannot help but get the sense that the analysis on offer is less about a search for truth than it is a justification for defending the status quo.
Men are not moist robots. The reason most white men don’t want to raise their kids next door to former tribesmen from Somalia is they don’t like Somalis. It is not personal, they just strongly prefer the choices of their ancestors over the choices made by the Somalis. They like their culture. They like remembering their ancestors by maintaining their traditions. They don’t want to toss what they are into the great blender of multiculturalism. It’s not about economic data or the tides of history. It is about preferences. They prefer their own over strangers.
That’s what our masters cannot comprehend because at their heart of what drives their thing is self-loathing. They hate their ancestors and the culture they built, because they hate themselves. Our betters want the featureless gray slurry of multiculturalism because it is the nullification of culture. Multiculturalism is no culture. It is the bland formality of rules and check lists. It is a world where no one remembers the past, because no one wants to be remembered. The great unrest is not about economics. It is about men not wanting to leap into the void. It’s about men not wanting their name erased from the book of life.
The reason the focus is on the white working class and the economic plight of men is the people doing these analysis cannot bring themselves to face this truth. They insist that anything that cannot be measured does not exist, because that eliminates any consideration of alternative viewpoints. There are lots of people who voted for Trump who have done quite well in the new economy. Lots of Brexit voters suspect that they will pay some price if England breaks from Europe. They voted the way they did for more than base economics. They did it for cultural reasons.
For a long time, the political battles in the West have revolved around an agreed upon goal. Fighting the Soviets or improving human rights. The coming battles are not about agreed about ends or transcendent truths. These are not battles over things that can be measured. They will be about preferences. What sort of society will be left to the next generation? How do we wish to be remembered and who will remember us? There are no right answers to these questions. In a war over preferences, it is not enough to be right. It is that everyone else must be made wrong.
One more time
Societies succeed because they’ve built up, usually over centuries, a widely accepted and practiced set of behaviors; social capital built up of predictable actions and attitudes and beliefs. The core of the culture.
Immigrants; who do not have that ingrained culture are likely to be destructive of social capital and destructive to the host society. Despite the gibberish of the lunatic left most people recognize this and quite rightly reject the attempt to destroy their society in pursuit of a crazed political fantasy.
Despite this rejection the fantasy continues to be foisted upon the people.
Brilliant analysis. Each individual is the culmination of a thousand generations. There is no blank slate, powerful instincts lie within the individual and when joined with similar others the rhyme intensifies.
The struggle is the life, removal of this leaves not inert passive robots but explosive fuel of mind that will find ignition and it own agency.
The progressives promise no work in Utopia? Now isn’t that the sweetest lie that leads to the gulag and the concentration camp.
The Cloud people will need the blood, sweat, and tears of all the useful idiots that brought the revolution to pass to maintain the lifestyle they have grown comfortable to. Almost worth to stand back and let everything fall apart to enjoy the surprise and shock when all the SJW’s freeloaders are suddenly impressed by force in manual labor projects to build and maintain the infrastructure of the Utopia they assumed would be magically self-perpetuating.
After a couple of generations pass, none of their descendants will ever know themselves as anything less than slaves, sold out by their parents who foolishly thought they could get something for nothing
The Ponzi scheme will fail eventually and whining will not serve as a success strategy to fill your belly and keep you safe. The crazed violence currently emerging from the Left is foreshadowing the chaos that will arise when promises are found to be a poor substitute for reality. If our government rewards dependence, we will get more dependence. If nature imposes robustness as a prerequisite for survival, we will get stronger in the long run.
Time to re-read Kaczynski.
His thesis was that Man needs a Challenge, something to accomplish, in order to have meaning in his life.
He also said that the degree of difficulty was of utmost importance; your challenge or goal must not be to easy to win, because you won’t be satisfied unless you work for it. But also, your challenge can’t be Impossible to achieve, because you will be frustrated and unhappy. Everyone needs a goal that is somewhat difficult, but not impossible, to achieve, in order to have a fulfilling life.
Kaczynski’s Luddism and anti-technology bent was because he saw that Man’s life was becoming too easy, and directionless. He thought a return to simpler technology would give people something to strive for.
His pleading for creating that society was marred by one sentence..
“In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.”
” The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster Tor the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, `but they hitvc destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering “
Yeah, but I got that message from Eric Hoffer, who beat him to that understanding by sixty years, said it with concision, and wasn’t a narcissistic serial killer. Fuck Ted. I got his message: he couldn’t get laid and nobody, but nobody wanted to be in the room with him.
Yes, Eric Hoffer, Wendell Berry, G.K. Chesterton and a whole bunch of other people who were not psychopaths.
life without work has already been tried. By mighty Rome of course 🙂 The whole bread and circuses thing.
Borders, language, culture.
I’d like to upvote that 100 times, please.
I think Michael Savage got that line from you!
” For instance, we know that men compete with one another for access to females.”
Back when the number of available females was limited. But that isn’t the case today. If the missus shuffles off this mortal coil before me, and I still have normal capabilities, I’m certain charm, wit, and a strong sense of romance will work its wonders satisfactorily.
are you Thor??
I’m tho thore I can hardly pith.
“The great line of demarcation in modern politics is not a division between [classical] liberals on one side and totalitarians on the other. No, on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.”
~~ Eric Voegelin
In Mouse Utopia, a colony of mice who were raised in an environment which provided all their needs, and which contained no predators, expired after 5.4 generations. The dysfunctional behaviors which caused them to go extinct are entirely familiar to humans. http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2016/12/mouse-utopia-and-dysfunction-and.html
Charlton, IMO, gives to much credit to mutational causes, but the result is stark on it’s own merits.
This supports my friend’s hypothesis that we are 2-3 generations removed from natural selection (if you consider the 40’s the last big die off of any sort in the West) and that we’ve accumulated too many bad genes (mutations are only one source… sexual selection, genetic drift, recessive traits are other candidates) for the species to keep propagating. This would tend to imply that high mortality rates are built into overall species survival strategies. To use a computer analogy, the code is so unstable that only constant maintenance and testing to destruction of multiple, parallel, close copies (death before majority of siblings) and constant reboots (death after reproduction) can maintain a stable code base.
I could also infer that some ways to avoid extinction after “utopian” conditions had been reached would be to stop fighting childhood disease (anti-vaxers), some highly fatal trial before marriage (say a walkabout with bears, tigers, and only wood and stone tools), or some sort of flowery wars like the Aztecs seemed to engage in.
Well, add another theory to the “why we haven’t found any intelligent life in the Universe” file!
Culture (and speech) are fast, very fast, evolution- dense, complex information transmission and adaption, much faster than physical DNA (breeding).
I retired in 2013, and was most disappointed. I do not see any difference between retirement and imprisonment. They both have the same day to day result. Boredom. Massive, unrelenting, boredom. Unless Bill Gates decides to gift me with massive funding, I do not see any change in the future.
The folks I’ve seen who retired from aerospace say after 30 or so years and were happy were men had developed outside interests and hobbies. One engineer had a passion for photography and was happier than a pig in mud when he retired since he could photography to his hearts content. Others learned new hobbies for the first time and were happy as well. Another, a test pilot and project manager moved to Florida, got a sailboat and took up flying for a regional airline part time.
The fact is people still need to challenge themselves and keep their minds and body busy after retirement. The whole notion of laying around the pool and playing golf later and then getting snackered afterwards is a recipe for early death.
It’s like the old saying – ‘use it or lose it’.
I retired last year, but spent the previous fifteen years developing outside interests and then worked part time for two years before finally quitting. No problems except they keep bugging me to work.
I’ll be a little more blunt Bill. What kind of engineer were you? Must not have required much imagination or curiosity!
Man, get out of your funk and use your noodle! You should know better than anyone, ain’t no one gonna do for you.
My husband and I (early 70s) have joined a ham radio class. We will be taking the “tech” exam next week after cramming as much learning about this subject as we can in our heads. No background in electrical engineering but we are responding to the stated need for amateur radio operators who can help out in emergencies when other communications are down and also have some fun building antennas and that sort of thing. I found out about this since I took my local Sheriff’s Citizens Academy course. Sixteen weeks of learning about what the Sheriff’s Office does, jail administration, ride-along with patrol deputy, shooting a pistol, cold case studies, all sorts of arcane topics. As a taxpayer you should know that this office has the second highest budget after the county schools! (At least where we are.) Our children and grandchildren are two states away. One learns to make the best contribution you can where you are, or as my late mother-in-law used to say, “Bloom where you are planted!” Best wishes, Bill.
There could hardly be a more unbearable – and more irrational – world than one in which the most eminent specialists in each field were allowed to proceed unchecked with the realization of their ideals. Friedrich Hayek
I used to think that perfection was death. Now I think it’s hell.
This is an appropriate place to re-post a link to Free Northerner’s article on culture loss. I think this might be the best post on the internet, ever.
Wow… great read. Thanks.
My Norton anti-virus flashes a warning when I try to go to that site. I have learned the hard way that when I click on something I’m not supposed to, I get viruses that shut down my computer and I end up having to spend $150 at the computer repair shop to get it working again.
“In a world without work, figuring out these relationships is impossible. It is not entirely ridiculous to think that in such a world, humans would bring back things like jousting and trial by combat, as a way to settle disputes and figure out the pecking order.”
Sounds like every welfare ghetto in America today.
Lorenzo, you just brought the point of this article home. Smash hit, home run.
J. G. Ballard wrote a book, High Rise, about that, now a major motion picture!
This is an important “must read” piece.
The only thing I would throw in there is that the Left has created its own cultural preferences around shared protest experiences, the whole “fight the man” thing, and the fruits and seeds and environmentalism bit. Sharing such preferences and experiences with like minded people, “shared misery”, perhaps? is a thing that is important to them.
The left/environmentalist facade is just reworked 1960 hippy cant. At the time, it made sense and so did
Edward Abbey, now however it’s just a cover for the socialist’s and communist’s lust for power. I think most of the hippies had higher motives than the current crop of protesters, however the power mad among them kept going like Bill Ayers.
The Vietnam war was so foolish and destructive on so many levels, including cultural ones. Sending drafted kids into Vietnam as cannon fodder and all. Once that was over, the protest culture that carried some measure of righteousness around it lost its reason to exist. After Vietnam was done, it all became empty posturing.
Yet look what the did to the guy who ended it: Nixon. After he bent over backwards trying to appease them.
It was the Democrats and the WP and the NYT who hated Nixon with a passion, more than great swaths of the public. The average American seemed more bewildered than angry, as the culture around him fell to pieces. Similar to today, in some respects, though Trump wil not roll over like Nixon did, from the look of things so far.
“…Vietnam war was so foolish and destructive on so many levels…”
I really get sick of hearing this. It’s not true at all. Vietnam had one of the best ports in Asia. The Commies had damn near 10,000 nuclear weapons aimed at us and were trying to take over the World. By fighting them in Vietnam it allowed the other countries in Asia a reprieve to fight off their Commie guerilla wars. Many of them won because we kept them occupied in Vietnam. If we hadn’t stopped them they would have taken over all the countries in the area.
We also hear the great lie,”We could have never won in Vietnam”, delivered in that whiny voice. Wrong it was WON. The South had completely defeated the Viet Cong in the South. All the fighting was from Northern invasion. The people who lost the Vietnam war was no other than the Democrat party. They spent so much time and effort saying it couldn’t be won if it actually was they would have looked bad so they made it so. When the North invaded the South it was the largest mass of tanks since Kursk in WWII. There were very few highways to go down. It was a COMPLETE turkey shoot and the Democrats told Ford if he used American planes they would Impeach him and they meant it. The Democrats cut off funding to the South. They ran out of bullets and ammunition. That the American people as a whole lost this war is one of the biggest damn lies ever.
Fred Reed used to go on about this, the blindness of the bookish. For all of us here, I’d imagine, if we wanted or needed to learn Italian, we’d just…. learn Italian. But most of the population isn’t like that. Either they can’t learn Italian, or, much more likely, they’ve been socialized to believe they can’t learn Italian (thanks, American public school system!). We here could “construct” a “culture” for ourselves if we so chose, given that we have the Internet and our boundless-yet-unexamined faith in our ability to learn. “They” can’t, so the culture of their fathers is all they’ve got…. and “they” will defend it, quite possibly to the death (stick around a few years and we’ll see). Whether “they” actually *like* their culture is an open question, but “we” are telling them they shouldn’t, and should get another… at the same time we’re telling them that’s impossible.
“The reason most white men don’t want to raise their kids next door to former tribesmen from Somalia is they don’t like Somalis. It is not personal, they just strongly prefer the choices of their ancestors over the choices made by the Somalis. They like their culture. They like remembering their ancestors by maintaining their traditions. They don’t want to toss what they are into the great blender of multiculturalism. It’s not about economic data or the tides of history. It is about preferences. They prefer their own over strangers.”
God’s blood, that’s so true!
I just came back from a business trip that was combined with a bit of sight seeing. We went into a couple of churches, and even though I’m something of an agnostic, I was moved by the architecture and the religious purpose that inspired the men who built those structures. Whether I myself believe any of it doesn’t matter. My great grandfather was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and those people were and are my people.
And the ongoing leftist program to destroy the validity of the Christian experience upon which our culture is based and to thwart even any reference to our origins by importing millions of Moslems so that our “diversity” undermines all reference to Christianity while God forbid we should say anything mean about the intruders… is just viscerally repellent.
If you ever get a chance, watch Trader Horn 1931 version.
“In a world without work, figuring out these relationships is impossible. It is not entirely ridiculous to think that in such a world, humans would bring back things like jousting and trial by combat, as a way to settle disputes and figure out the pecking order.”
Well, this guy has a whole theory about human relations and behavior that’s based precisely on the distinction between a society determined by a situation where there are limited resources, which makes people behave like wolves, and one determined by a situation where there are boundless resources, which makes them act like rabbits (including the humping part). He actually has a page devoted to the effects on competition.
Vox Dei has an ongoing shtick about the “herd” mentality of leftists, whom he also refers to a rabbits (given his literary bent, I think this is connected with an allusion to Watership Down, which gets around the fact that bunnies don’t actually live in herds).
I’m not sure whether I actually believe this “r/K” theory, but the bunny imagery does seem to be a good way of analyzing a lot of leftist behavior. Anyway, I thought of the theory when I read your comments about competition in resource-unlimited environment. Reminds me of the problems with the similar situation envisioned in the Star Trek world, where you can supposedly get whatever you want by pressing a button. I’ve always wondered what the “value” of those dilithium crystals was, and how did Spock get a hold of those antique eyeglasses that he gives Kirk in one of the movies (or do I have the characters wrong?). After all, back in the day people paid an arm and a leg just to get salt and pepper!
Oh, speaking of VD, I imagine you know he’s taken to citing you recently. Guess that means you’ve hit the “big leagues”!
Not only that, John Derbyshire mentioned me in his latest Diary column.
Soon, I will be able sound like John Kerry, “Do you know who I am?” whenever I’m stuck in a line at the airport.
“Do you know who I am?” Official motto of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!
Not to demean your accomplishments but I wouldn’t bet on folks at the airport knowing who Kerry is much less Derb. Don’t be surprised if you get a blank stare in response. It is still a big bad world out there with a lot of ignorant people. Have you ever seen “Watters World” on Fox News?” Jesse Watters … he is pretty funny with his man on the street interviews.
Men without purpose are men without a reason to live.
That’s what John Paul II said: “Work is for man, not man for work.”
There is nothing wrong or evil about a folk wanting to keep their culture. Part of the long march through the institutions is the idea that everyone’s culture but your own is worthwhile. It’s been spectacularly successful; so much so that it’s considered beyond evil to not eagerly accept the proposition that your little piece of the world must be absolutely open to accepting whoever, whenever, and any expectation that they will conform to your cultural norms is out and out racism. Thank you sir, may I have another.
Just finished the long article at Commentary. I find it left out some points that I think are relevant. Just as we kick off 2000, China is flush with their new found manufacturing buildup , esp in high tech , due to the Clinton administration initiatives. ( Job drain ). Also, NAFTA. Internet was up off it’s knees and walking.. Also during the second Clinton term, SSDI rules were changed up and it paid more money AND backpain was decided a claimable affliction.
Then under 43, push was started to measure the food stamp program success by people served… so initiatives were pushed to get more folks on snap.
” The 2002 Farm Bill expanded eligibility to noncitizens, increased benefits for families with more children, adjusted benefits for inflation and made it easier to enroll. Further easing of eligibility requirements followed in the 2008 Farm Bill, which contained more than 30 provisions relating to food stamps, including higher minimum benefits. As the data show, spending after changes in eligibility grew by $185 billion between 2002 and 2008.” https://mises.org/blog/thanks-bush-and-obama-1-7-americans-were-food-stamps-2015
So then Obama and his come in , post-financial crisis, and throw even more money and benefits at the unemployed or underemployed… extending bennies for years and years at a whack. And the next thing you know, 10 years have gone by and folks are adjusting to the way things work and how they can get by not working. Throw in Fed policy overreach from 1999 and zero interest rates, it made it easy to get into debt, punished savers, forced folks into the stock market, etc. I think it was pile upon pile or perverse incentives. Oh yeah… and immigration , legal and illegal on top of all of that.
But my Congressman, the great conservative Tim Huelskamp, got voted out of office by my fellow farmers, who were outraged that he voted against the Farm Bill. He voted against it precisely because of all the lard/pork in it — but the subsidies included subsidies to corn production for the damn Ethanol Scam, so farmers were up in arms. It exasperates me how people fail to look at the big picture. Tim was trying to save the country from impending financial implosion — which is going to victimize our kids even after me and my generation are gone — but, like everyone else, farmers are just trying to survive. Crop prices are the same as they were back in the 1910s when 50 cents could buy your daughter a new dress. Try living on that kind of income. No wonder farmers are desperate, even desperate enough to take those damn corn subsidies.
But if American consumers were forced to pay prices for their food reflecting the actual costs of it, there would be rioting in the streets that would make the Rodney King rioting look like a Sunday-school picnic. This, by the way, is one of the things I worry about with stricter immigration controls. I want the flood of immigrants to stop, and stop now — but I don’t know if many Americans realize that without migrant workers to pick all that produce and harvest all those fruit trees, everything from strawberries and broccoli to onions, potatoes and apples is going to go through the roof. Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than people of almost any other country, and they’re going to howl when that changes. And I’m not blaming them all for howling. The upper classes can afford it, but people on the edge, who are living paycheck to paycheck, or on fixed incomes, such as retirees, are going to get hit very hard. There just are no easy answers to this stuff.
Well said Kathy. Lots of vested interested got their lick in with all those “deals”. I don’t see riots from higher produce costs. I do see trouble ahead if someone goes after SNAP fraud or SNAP reduction and SSID reform. It’s gotta be addressed…. and there are a sizeable number that think it’s totally ok to defraud the Government b/c it’s free money and the rich got theirs. It’s gonna be a interesting next few years.
“pick all that produce and harvest all those fruit trees, everything from strawberries and broccoli to onions, potatoes and apples is going to go through the roof”
The average american has a shitty diet and doesn’t eat fresh fruits or vegetables. They won’t notice when fresh strawberries go to $10/lb because they don’t eat them now anyways.
Furthermore, once strawberries go to $10/lb, robots will become cost-effective for picking produce. This problem will go away after a few years of high prices thanks to automation. In fact, you could easily argue that all illegal immigration did was unnecessarily delay the implementation of robotic harvesting technologies.
“…but I don’t know if many Americans realize that without migrant workers to pick all that produce and harvest all those fruit trees, everything from strawberries and broccoli to onions, potatoes and apples is going to go through the roof…”
I don’t think this is true at all. I’ll bet with the power of a decent PC you could build a machine that would pick crops. If you get rid of the illegal aliens you’ll see one real fast.
prices will not “go through the roof”
If you tripled the wages of a lettuce picker it would add perhaps 5 cents paid in the store.
re: ” In other words, we have lurched into a version of the future imagined by H.G. Wells, where everyone spends their day in leisure, but no one is eaten by Morlocks after sundown.” The Z-Man
Here is a better literary allusion would be Gordon Dickson’s “An Honorable Death,” Galaxy, Feb. 1961, reprinted in The Book of Gordon Dickson, DAW, 1970. The trick is to find it free on the internet.
Putting Eberstadt’s book on the Kindle. Another, more of baseline read, would be Bob Gordon’s “Rise and Fall of American Productivity”. Gordon’s thesis is fundamentally simple…the current economy, despite the whiz bang appeal of things like iPhones has really not produced innovations that fundamentally shift productivity and real GDP growth in the way that water/sewer systems, internal combustion engines, electrification of factories, or breakthroughs like antibiotics did. There are those that argue that the current tools for productivity measurement fail to register certain aspects of technology. But I’m personally of the mind that spending hours “tuning” DCF models in Excel or producing version 48 of that Powerpoint with a slightly more punchy font, is not productivity. The former is just a version of the Doc’s “ratio thinking” and the latter a waste of time. I’m prejudiced, Gordon tried to teach me economics a long time ago as an undergrad, but part of the attraction was that he would talk about interesting things like this at a time when most of his colleagues were running down the blind alley of econometrics.
I got about 3/4ths of the way through Eberstadt’s column before the pay wall went up. Fascinating, and it answers the question you asked about what would happen in society if everybody had a basic, comfortable, middle-class income but no work: we’d quickly devolve into drug addiction and collapse.
A few years ago, my younger brother was very nearly another statistic on “middle aged white males between 25-55 no working, drunk, and dead”. I had to climb up the outside of a building to go get him when he finally hit the bottom and had to be rescued. He floated around for months after that, aimless, purposeless, etc. So, I brought him out here to live with my family and help me get my new business off the ground. Unlike a lot of that demo, he has a lot of technical skills and is a hard worker. But, like a lot of that demo, he’s a psychological wreck, is almost pathologically incapable of maintaining lasting bonds with other people (it’s all superficial and transactional, even with my family), drinks way too much, and bottles it all up until he pops.
We got him through that by giving him a purpose – helping start my new business. That gave him a little confidence, and being around my family all the time created something approaching “normal”. A lot of these guys have no clue what a normal, healthy, stable, family even looks like. We helped him move to a place with better job prospects, and he landed a job, did well, got promoted, and seems to have sorted through some of his issues.
I have no idea how long that will last. In fact, we are no longer on speaking terms. Why? He – and people like him – are almost 100% transactional. If you can’t give them something they want, they have no need for you. If you’re family, and you’re interested in deeper relationships, they want no part of you. “I want this. If you cannot give this to me, I have no need for you in my life.” That sort of thing. I remember his hilarious way of saying “thank you” for all that we did (when you factor in room and board, what I paid him, my parents helping him with child support/alimony/car payments, etc. we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars) was to send me an email asking if he could take us and our kids to the movies.
There’s something much deeper to this generation of men than just drugs and employment numbers. I’d love to think my younger brother is some sort of cultural oddity, but when I talk to people I find that our experience isn’t really uncommon today. I remember my wife asking, “He wants to say thank you? When’s he flying back to the East Coast to re-establish contact with his daughter?” Funny how men and women see through different lenses, but she was exactly right about his having abandoned his former family. I’ve heard that’s on the mend now, but like I said, we’re on the outs now because we can no longer give him stuff that he wants/needs.
I read these reports from the perspective of somebody with first-hand experience. We’re not raising boys to be men anymore.
Transactional, yes that’s it. I have an offspring like that. Relied heavily on us for her and her family’s support. When her last child hit school she dumped her husband who was her baby sitter. Found a “provider” and dumped her parents, literally. Now the grandkids are of age we again have contact with them. Sad thing this was and is. Our Other four offspring and families love us and are close. I guess it wasn’t us.
It’s hard to watch. My mom is ever the peacemaker, and she was visiting us for Thanksgiving. She started in on me to sort of mend-fences with my brother. I looked at her and said, “I’m not angry with him. I’m DONE with him.” Very patient with her because he’s her son, but I did my familial duty for him, and got left in the dust afterwards…so we’re done here. He still needs her because she has money, and he might need more money someday. He’ll always keep his options open because that’s what transactional people do.
That is an important insight. The great fear that I’ve sussed from my more transactional friends and acquaintances (in a couple of instances, they’ve just told me) is that they see Trump as the guy that is going to shut off the supply of crack, sex (with abortion just being back up in case something goes awry), anti-depressants, pot… whatever substance or behavior that they are addicted to. They lash out at Trump just like they would any other authority figure who is trying to get them to go straight.
Yeah, my millennial niece blurted out on social media the other day “He’s ruining everything!” in response to a report that Trump plans to enforce Federal marijuana laws.
Kids these days. Everybody freaking out because somebody’s gonna “take something away” from them like spoiled children. Same with the Government Party. They’re scared shitless that Trump is going to take away their power like he promised, and “give it back to the people”.
A world where they are literally, unnecessary, is terrifying to them.
And there you have it … the truth of the matter! “He’s runining everything,” or at least he intends to. He’s barely started and they have wee-wee’d themselves in their tantrum.
Absolutely true in my neck of the woods- assassinate him! Is the cry, before he ‘does something’ atwocious.
I heard it as that he wants to give it back to the states, where it belongs, along with numerous other 10th Amendment solutions (such as avoiding bloc grants, abortion/PP, etc)
“It is about men not wanting to leap into the void. It’s about men not wanting their name erased from the book of life.”
“and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Rev. 20:12 ASV)
Yes. We Christians have a citizenship in heaven, and live in preparation for it, but those who think they are leading purposeless lives are forgetting that God will require an answer from every man, and their idleness is not only fatal in this life, but especially in the next.
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
If I recall correctly Fred, you are not a champion of the Word, so I take it you are mocking Mike. Am I correct or would you care to provide a book-chapter-verse to go along with that bit of wisdom?
A couple of points parallel to yours: Before the fall, God gives Adam an easy job. After the fall He gives Adam a hard job. Solomon in Ecclesiastes finally is forced to conclude that doing the work God assigned and enjoying the fruits of it has meaning even if the rest of sensual and societal enjoyments do not.
So we can say that, for the believer, work, in general, is from God. If that’s so, it is no wonder that those who think they can live without some kind of work, even if they are able to do so physically, are so lost and alienated spiritually. This is among the important truths of human nature that our Scio-technocrats are ignorant and why our society is such a mess.
Believe me, I was living in East Los Angeles when the illegal immigration wave started. The second and third generation Mexican kids I grew up with were not happy living with their old-country compadres. They still aren’t.
People are waking up. I recommend that everyone watch Le Pen’s recent speech to the European Parliament. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ieKYwTFUV5Q
One of the great under-discussed aspects of immigration is the Mexican divide. The people on the East Coast who set policy simply have no idea that there are Mexican families in the Southwest who there long before English speakers showed up. The El Norte Mexicans really resent the wave of migrants from the south. They see themselves culturally distinct from the people south of the Rio Grand. They are different. The whole Tex-Mex thing is very real, but if you experience the world from your couch you can’t know these things.
Had a colleague whose mother was from one of those families in Texas. All the way be back to having fought with the Anglo Texans for independence. Two of his cousins had senior positions with the Border Patrol and simply loathed the illegals, loathed them. Use to tell me the stories when he’d visit a couple times a year. He also said, the only real discrimination his mother ever faced was when she moved to the Northeast with his father after the war.
Surely those Mexican mamas can’t be too happy about narcotraffickers coming up and picking off their kids like clay targets. But the narcocartels are also what drive some of the immigration, at least where I live (Kansas). I know beautiful families from Sinaloa, Chihuahua and even Jalisco who used to go back to Mexico every once in a while to visit their extended family in the home country — and no longer do so because it’s gotten too damn dangerous, even for them, who grew up there!!
The kids of the narcofamilies, in their twenties, buy fancy houses in parts of the San Diego area for cash, to stash the assets in US real estate and avoid the front lines of the narco-wars. Occasionally, one of them winds up dead in his front driveway or down the street in a “gang-style killing”. There are also the loud parties with all of the partygoers from outside the neighborhood, big wrought iron fences around the houses, and the fancy cars. The SUVs are discreetly armor plated and bulletproof, and there were a couple of businesses some years back in San Diego that did a terrific business in outfitting the cars, ripping apart brand new Suburbans and Range Rovers and then rebuilding them for big bucks.
“They insist that anything that cannot be measured does not exist”
This is ratio thinking. Anything that is real has to be able to be broken down into some kind of basic set of components and be analyzable.
You mentioned culture.
One of the examples I like to use is Jack Skellington in Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. He sees people celebrating Christmas and thinks he can understand what they are doing by doing chemical analysis of the Christmas tree ornaments.
I think that autism separates the ratio and intellectus minds and gives free rein to ratio. Many of the people we mistake for geniuses are people with such stunted minds. This is because our society has made the unconscious decision to prioritize ratio thinking.
Healthy societies do not do so.
I blame some of this on the army of social science majors popping out of college. They take statistics for liberal arts majors and suddenly they thing they can determine the future from basic probabilities and correlations.
Boy, putting together these two comments with the main post was like one of those moments in classic cartoons in which the main character experiences sudden realization and their eyes open wider.
Not that the ideas were new to me exactly. But that was a powerful synthesis.
You’ll never get the enemy to understand that reading of multiculturalism as a grey slurry, though. They can see in it nothing but vibrancy. And restaurants. Lots of restaurants. I like the restaurants too, but I don’t know I need Somali food or any more falafel stands.
Apropos of nothing, I increasingly notice younger people, even military people, talk and think that way. The window is closing. If you ever read posts by Angry Staff Officer, the military writers on Medium, warisboring, or the IR grad students and young military pop culture enthusiasts who used to produce Grand Blog Tarkin, you really have to control your reactions. A while back I read a 2015 post on Star Wars that addressed the strategic deficiencies of the Empire and included a lot of praise of the diverse rebel alliance. I believe one sentence used diverse, vibrant and cosmopolitan in the same sentence.
Someday I’m going to write a piece on how the Rebel Alliance is the Confederate States of America, or something like that.
I suppose, but the real problem with the multikulti slurry is that it doesn’t fucking work.
I presume a lot of Swedish womyn felt real bad for those poor refugees imported into their country- but I imagine many of them feel differently now that they can’t go out of doors. Not everywhere and not all the time, of course, but enough to notice. France has it bad enough to have spent the last year under martial law, with the female leader of a former fringe party now challenging the entire French establishment for the Presidency.
Sooner or later, these incipient conflicts will transition from mere temporary rioting that people can usually ignore, into ceaseless open war that they cannot, which will then continue until one side wins and one side loses, no matter what the dictates of political correctness may demand.
However all that turns out, I suspect that the survivors will have more important matters on their minds than the food choices that cloud people seem to obsess about so much.
As a teacher of that army of social science majors, I can tell you it’s worse than that — they really do feel, way deep down in their hearts, that if they don’t know it, it doesn’t **exist.** As their “statistics” are all of the “75% of Americans agree Republicans are big meanies” variety, they never bother to define “big meanies,” much less consider that there might be a rationale for those big meanies’ actions other than “they hate minorities and poor people.”
It’s an old story from my B-school days, but one of the most fun things I did while earning my degree was a kneecapping of the macroeconomics professor teaching the class. He made the laughable assertion that “This is a macroeconomics class, not a political science class” when I pointed out that ALL (not one or two, but ALL) of the macroeconomic policy levers attempted by the Obama Administration had failed.
The stimulus failed, TARP failed (unless you consider bailing out a few thousand irresponsible investment bankers and nationalizing the auto industry and banking industry good public policy), money printing did not generate jobs or get people to de-leverage, etc. etc. When he said this isn’t a poly-sci class, I just hammered him. TARP isn’t political? The “stimulus” isn’t political? Money printing isn’t political? I called him a fraud, and pointed out that he wouldn’t even have a job teaching in the university if his class wasn’t mandatory to get the degree. (I found out later that the university had decided to make his particular course an optional course.
These were all macroeconomic principles being taught in the class. Pull this lever, push that button, get unemployment rate to x.xx%. None of it worked, and it was probably the closest thing to a measurable test and evaluation of what everyone is told they have to sing-song along to in every B-school class in America as we’re ever likely to see again. When he started to argue that it hadn’t worked, I started producing readily available data on unemployment rates, government inflation, etc. and said, “I have a degree in physics. If my theories were off by that much, I’d be laughed out of the room. Unless it’s climate science, of course.” That last one got roars of laughter.
They’re like the sociology majors, dangerously irresponsible with data and statistical tools. They have no idea what they’re doing, and virtually zero understanding of the complexity of the universe, human nature, and math.
Back in my 1980 college days, much of the supply side economics was coming out of the Claremont Colleges. I could not wrap my head around all of the dry cause-effect stuff. It all just seemed too easy, pull a few levers and voilà. A couple of years later, I was interviewing for a junior position at the Federal Reserve. Their big project, at the time, was to use mainframe computing to model all of the worldwide economic behavior, at a granular level, essentially trying to convert transactional behavior into an understanding of how economies can be manipulated by central bank and fiscal policy. In a private moment, the person in charge of the project admitted that the whole thing was bullshit, and would never tell us anything meaningful. He was running out the string on the project, but in his opinion it was going nowhere.
Lol, if it had actually worked, we’d have heard about it by now. Great story!
What shocked me the most about the courses I’ve taken – at a Masters level – is how much of it is based on 8th grade math. Matters of huge import, national policy, monetary policy, national security, Big Econ…and the textbook reads like “Algebra 1 for Idiots”. Obviously, there’s heavier math out there, but I always found that pretty interesting coming at it from a physicist’s background.
Great comments Hokkoda, however, with all due respect to your math and physics prowess, it seems to me you would go after most problems as if they were a nail and use your smasher blaster hammer on all of them. I would posit that when it comes to the economy, more common sense is a better answer across the board. Higher math has it’s place in the sciences but econ, well, I still don’t consider it to be a hard science. Certainly not one that lends itself to finding grand solutions through modeling with super computers as Dutch mentions the Fed was trying to do. And you said it yourself, Global Warming anyone?
The Austrians claim that the Keynesians are completely off base in trying to use so much math to try quantify the economy. Since the Keynesians have completely failed to predict what has been happening with the economy – and the Austrians have called a lot of this stuff AHEAD OF TIME – I call that real world proof of who has the better theoretical understanding of human economic action.
Economists are some of the worst. They think all individual financial decisions are made ONLY from purely practical considerations. So they’re pretty clueless about real human nature and what makes us tick.