My RSS feed is full of reactionary goodness, as it should. But most of us are only part-time thinkers, and good stuff takes time to come by, so reactionary blogs don’t update very often. For those quick fixes where I need something to read on my phone while waiting for public transport, I have a new feed which updates almost as often as Business Insider: Via Meadia.
I admit I only started reading Walter R Mead very recently, but he’s good. I particularly like his foreign policy commentary, the guy really seems to know what he’s talking about. Of course he’s in full communion with the Cathedral. In fact 3/4s of every article of his are all long expositions of how strong his faith is and how he still fights for the creed; then he proceeds to talk sense and cite some real data. See this article on the developments on Myanmar . He first says that it’s a great victory for the USG, how fortunate the Burmese people are for finally getting human rights, blablabla, but then advises to avoid gloating about it and antagonizing China. Which is a very grown-up thing to say.
But his domestic commentary is also interesting. For the last month or so he has been talking about the crisis of what the calls the ‘blue model’, that is the welfare state. It’s a funny thing when the leftists are the blue ones. The US media had this stroke of genius by which they changed the color codes of the parties, so the Republicans are ‘red’ and the Democrats ‘blue’. The purpose of course to dissociate Democrats from ‘red’, i.e. communism. Of course in a sense it’s fair to do so, as Republicans, as far as reactionaries are concerned, are no less communist than Democrats.
But anyway. Mead has been writing long (very long) posts on how the welfare state based on the manufacturing industry is dead, that we can’t do anything about it, and that we shouldn’t. Instead we should welcome it as much as welcomed the death of the agricultural economy with the Industrial revolution. Industry is gone, IT and China killed it, and with it easy employment for the low-skilled. It’s not coming back.
I think we can all agree with that. The problem is what to do. Of course human nature dislikes change, and the actors that claim to rule us are going around promising to the electorate that they will stop time and bring those jobs back real soon. Mead sees through the BS and notes that those jobs sucked anyway. And we aren’t producing less, we are just producing the same with less human labor. What we must do is fix the inefficiencies of our government to encourage the evolution of a new economy which assigns goods to everyone in an efficient way. Of course he defines ‘efficient’ in a way congenial to the Cathedral’s creed. See his latest essay on how we must fix the education and healthcare bureaucracy’s to help the poor.
Letting aside the naiveté of thinking that bureaucracies are fixable at all, the High School-like assumption that politics is about policy and the government is all about good intentions, Mead has a big problem. His ideas are good, the new economy is happening, and dismantling the welfare bureaucracies would do a lot to increase the overall productivity of the economy. But it won’t help the poor. The poor are screwed, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Nor we should.
He rests his case in two points:
The development of a good $10,000 bachelor program would do more for low and lower middle income families than doubling the size of all student loan programs. Generally speaking, anything that makes education cheaper and easier — shifting from a “time served” model to a skills learned model for awarding qualifications and degrees, breaking the guild monopolies through accreditation and other systems so that more institutions can compete in the market — will make society less blue, but make the poor better off.
A leaner, more effective government will promote economic growth and employment in other ways. If American cities could reduce the time spent obtaining permits by 50% while reducing their bureaucratic headcount, for example, we would see more jobs available for inner city residents.
He is right in that modern education is meaningless, an awful scam which costs way too much money and time and teaches little to no skills. And government does take way too much taxes and meddles too much in the labor market. But that’s not why the poor are poor. The poor today are, in the great majority, simply people with not enough cognitive power to learn any marketable skills, or people with personality problems which make them unable to hold a steady job. After the IT revolution, a few lines of code typed by a smart programmer are often more productive than anyone south of a 90 IQ. That’s simply how it is. Of course low IQ people have been around forever, and they used to be productive. But they were usually taught a craft since age 5, were drilled on it day after day, year after year, and only after decades of training they could earn a living for themselves. That kind of training today would be called torture. And it only taught you to make shoes. Not to use an industrial robot.
Society today has no use for “the poor”. And the relationship of the elites to them has changed too. Ever since the advent of agriculture, the idea of charity has always been a part of any ethical system. Hunter-gatherer bands were more or less equalitarian, but agriculture created a surplus of food which was there for the taking. That’s the origin of hierarchy, of elites. Elites got the surplus by force, and did a lot of nice things with it. I have argued myself that hierarchy itself is the way human culture has of producing selection by cultural means; artificial evolution. Ergo it’s a good thing. But still the objective fact is that taxation is theft, and elites everywhere have always had an uneasy conscience. The guilt over grain taxes evolved into the Marxist sin of the Plus-value, the surplus that the capitalists steals from the worker. All societies have had charity as a requirement to heaven.
But with the new economy perhaps they shouldn’t. After all the IT society doesn’t stand on the surplus taken from the poor laborers. On the contrary, letting aside the banksta/government/media leeches, the elite today mostly provides for itself. The poor are not the laborers, nor the unlucky fellow who has been maimed through excessive labor since childhood. The poor today are the unproductive, the genuinely useless. What’s the meaning of charity after hbd? There isn’t one. And even in economic terms, it’s getting hard to afford it. It’s one thing to give food to the 5% of medieval society who were sick or maimed. But we can’t possibly give a middle class, ‘dignified’ living to 30% of society who can’t do basic algebra.
Mead argues for the government to go to rest and let society evolve by its own means. But that means more evolution than he is ready to accept. Or perhaps he knows about eugenics and is just trying to sell it in a palatable way to the Cathedral. If so, kudos to him. But I doubt it.
Perhaps he should read Cochran’s latest thoughts on genetic spellchecking. He could translate that for the faithful, and try to do some actual good. Who knows, it might even work.