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.