Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Badges

One of the most solid and enlightening findings from modern psychology is the extent to which people are tribal. It does seem that 80% of human behavior is used for social signalling. Most of what we do and say has little rational content, and is mostly intended to signal belonging to a tribe or some subset of it. Even most linguistic behavior, and languages themselves, are little more than badges of tribal membership.

Not to say that’s a bad thing; you can’t make bricks without clay, evolution works with what’s available, and human brains were selected for sociability for a reason. But we happen to live in the post-Enlightenment, and the general assumption is that people are rational. Of course if people were rational they would agree in most issues, yet they don’t. That’s a priori very hard to understand. The typical answer to the paradox is that some people are evil. Which does explain some of it, but doesn’t really solve the problem, in fact it makes it worse by exacerbating conflict.

Everything makes much more sense when you understand that 99% of disagreement is due to people’s brains being tribal. The basic model is that people are hard-wired to choose a team, stick in it, and defend it no matter what. In the same way as there is a critical period for language learning (a vast majority of people are physically incapable of properly learning a foreign language after infancy), there probably is also a critical period for tribe-choosing. If you are a leftist after age 30, you will probably stay there no matter what. Ditto for everyone else. I just happened to stumble upon news of new Pope Francis I kissing the feet of some Muslim teen criminal in a detention center. Of course Catholics, some of which I’ve personally seen arguing for the nuking of Mecca and for expelling foreign criminals from the country, are defending the Pope’s “infinite charity” or whatever. Why do people even go all the way to Rome and cram into the Piazza di San Pietro just to cheer at a white blob the can’t even see in the distance? Well, they’re Catholic. That’s all that matters.

Every tribe (or “thede”, I still prefer tribe though)  has its own set of shibboleths that signal membership. The Catholic Church has a very smart structure, so they can adjust the shibboleths in a top down fashion. For all the talk of the Church as the quintessentially old and inflexible institution, its centralized structure means it can rapidly adapt to changing circumstances. See how quickly they turned left after 1962, denying everything they used to believe in for millennia, without altogether collapsing.

Most tribes though are more decentralized, and rely on consensus shibboleths, which makes it much harder to change and adapt. In the worst case you get an arms race of new shibboleths racing for supremacy, i.e. the leftist singularity. In most cases though you just get old, stale, rotten arguments repeated for decades without any further thought. See Libertarianism. They just go on sputtering the same old crap.

Say the talk about the minimum wage. Libertarians today are organized around three shibboleths: Minimum wage is bad, free trade is good, open borders are good. If you disagree with these, or try to analyze them with any level of detail, you get kicked out of the tribe. Which means you don’t get hired at George Mason University. And that’s bad. They pay pretty well at GMU. And they provide free bubbles where even borderline autists can get hot chicks and raise a bunch of children.

I understand the old argument against the minimum wage: some people just aren’t very productive, which means they won’t be hired for the minimum wage, which means they won’t get experience so they will never become productive. Fair enough. You know, abstract arguments can go on and on and on, and you can even argue that anal sex is cool because snails are hermaphrodite. But let’s come back to concrete reality for a moment. There’s tons of arguments for a minimum wage. First there’s the fact that some employers are just evil. Just read Wal Mart is losing revenue because they are having trouble staffing their supermarkets. And they are saving wages from present employees by make them work only the hours deemed necessary by management. How much money is Wal Mart making? How much money do the Waltons have? How much land does as person need?

Then there’s the argument that free competition doesn’t really exist, private exploitation does, it is very likely that people could be hired for peanuts, coerced/manipulated/brainwashed into going on forever in a semi-slavery situation. Anyone who has been in business for any amount of time knows that wages, like any other prices, have nothing to do with productivity or cost. Prices depend only on bargaining ability. The same way as there are rip-off prices everywhere in the market, employers could and would rip-off employees by any means they could get away with. In China the routinely kill annoying workers in the coal mines. In Japan they round up homeless bums, drug them with amphetamines and lock them in mountain camps to dig tunnels.

But I don’t think that’s the real rationale for a minimum wage. The fact is that having people work for peanuts does make economic sense, but from a societal standpoint, it’s unseemly. Inequality is a fact of life, in fact one of the most real and stable facts of life. But it’s unseemly. People don’t want to live in the same society as people who earn less than, say, 10 bucks an hour. Poor people suck for tons of reasons, they tend to be stupid, crass, dress badly, have bad hygiene, but beyond all, poor people remind you of where you come from, and where you might go to. People deny HBD because in some part of their brains, they know regression to the mean is true, and poor people remind you of the phantom of downward mobility. HBD-denial and the war on poverty aren’t about helping the poor. Eradicating poverty means you won’t become poor yourself.

Abolishing the minimum wage means that, in a worst-case scenario, you might be forced to work for less than a legal minimum for a not so unseemly lifestyle. And that’s fucking scary. Anxiety is bad for you.

Federico says that the minimum wage is an elite conspiracy against resilient (antifragile is a stupid word as is Taleb) communities autonomy. Well there’s something to it, but how much? Of course any government will try hard to disrupt any independent organizations in their jurisdiction. Government didn’t allow private corporations until 200 years ago. But anyway, any community wanting to train their people in any job aren’t having trouble with the minimum wage. Are the Amish paying minimum wage to their teenage carpenters? Are the Feds messing with Hasidic kids helping in the family store? There’s tons of loopholes. It’s not about that. The people like the minimum wage. It’s comforting.

I personally don’t see the benefit of having people working for peanuts. If someone really is incapable of producing more than 8 bucks an hour, and doesn’t have family or friends to give them a black market job, I’d rather not have him in the workplace. I just don’t want to see the guy. I don’t want to be taught of his existence. It’s unseemly. People don’t want to live in reality. They want to live in Lake Wobegon.

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22 responses to “Badges

  1. jamesd127 March 31, 2013 at 11:59

    If someone really is incapable of producing more than 8 bucks an hour, and doesn’t have family or friends to give them a black market job, I’d rather not have him in the workplace. I just don’t want to see the guy.

    So, put him on welfare? Well that would be OK if we shipped everyone on welfare to the ghetto and forbade them to vote and gave them a hard time should they wander out of the ghetto, or gave them amphetamines and made them dig makework tunnels in the mountains.

    What do you want to do with him? If you are against the libertarian solution, need another solution.

    • spandrell March 31, 2013 at 12:11

      Personally I’d put him on soma and sterilize the guy. I wasn’t making a rational case though, just channeling my gut feeling which is what I think most people feel inside.

      People in general don’t want to think deeply about it, they just want the guy out so they aren’t reminded of how nasty life can be. So on welfare he goes, or to jail trying to get some dough by dealing with crack or raping some sassy bitch.

      The tunnels aren’t makework btw.

    • tmp March 31, 2013 at 12:56

      Whatever the solution is to the “very low skilled people” problem we’re going to need it soon. I now routinely have to tell cashiers how much change I’m owed. They’ve got a digital cash register, but for some reason go into a panic. And these are the people who beat out the unemployed for the spot.

      This is why there are hordes of J1 visas working low end jobs around here. The native unemployed are just useless at any wage. It’s not a matter of driving down the price.

      • Anonymous March 31, 2013 at 19:05

        What, pray tell, do you do for humanity that is so fucking useful?

        Are you personally curing cancer or writing the next search engine algorithm that’s going to kill google? News flash: you’re very low skilled too.

      • Greying Wanderer April 6, 2013 at 21:18

        “Whatever the solution is to the “very low skilled people” problem we’re going to need it soon.”

        The first step is to stop importing more.

        .
        “The native unemployed are just useless at any wage.”

        The current native unemployed used to be able to do things they no longer can. This is the result of the dumbing down of education to close the black-white gap.

        .
        “It’s not a matter of driving down the price.”

        It plainly is.

        • Greying Wanderer April 6, 2013 at 21:20

          “This is the result of the dumbing down of education to close the black-white gap.”

          Should be dumbing down education to make it *seem* the gap had closed.

  2. Federico March 31, 2013 at 12:50

    It isn’t a conspiracy, but what Moldbug describes as distributed Machiavellianism.

    Also, it is telling that you chose as examples the Amish and Hasidic Jews. Tight-knit, ossified religious communities are able to withstand social engineering, but they are a small minority of Westerners.

    • spandrell March 31, 2013 at 13:03

      Is it that hard to help out your uncle for free? Are the Feds asking for papers for every single employee in the country?

      The US is swarming with weird cults of every kind and I don’t see the government doing much about it, besides the most egregious cases. The fact that people don’t work for free/peanuts is because they don’t want to.

      • Federico March 31, 2013 at 13:24

        The rest of your argument rests on the idea that minimum wages do cause unemployment and distort the market. So yes, informal and under-the-table employment does not entirely compensate for labour market interventions.

        • spandrell March 31, 2013 at 13:32

          Yes, and my point is that that’s a good thing.
          I get more hedons from being able to pretend that poor people don’t exist in my country, than I do when I read of some greedy old fuck working a bunch of bums to their deaths in some coal mine by promising money he never gave them.

          • Contemplationist April 2, 2013 at 22:18

            sp:[Let’s try to be civil]

            • Contemplationist April 3, 2013 at 22:19

              Lets try to be civil? Agreed, but as a regular reader of yours I really was shocked to see you slipping into extremely sloppy, folksy thinking. Its okay to describe what those rubes over there want. Its not cool to call yourself rational, while calling libertarians irrational while giving over to extremely sloppy ‘thinking’ full of emoting. Your standards are going down post by post. Your Burma posts were the best I think, and obviously no one gives a fuck what one reader thinks – you are turning into a non-thinking, fuck-em-all reactionary, which is great in a bar or in the backyard, but not in words.

              • spandrell April 4, 2013 at 06:05

                I guess it’s a sort of milestone for a blog when commenters start saying that the blog’s quality is going down. I’ll cherish this moment.

                I’ve been giving shit to libertarians since I started the blog, what hurt you this time? These posts are precisely about folksy thinking. Discussions on “what to do” are pointless, because we know what to do, but not how to get from here to there. And for that, getting to understand social psychology is important. You might think that everybody is a 150IQ engineer willing to be surrounded by dirt poor proles, because, hey, we gotta save the genepool. It doesn’t work like that. Sloppy thinkiing full of emoting is 90% of what goes on out there.

              • Contemplationist April 5, 2013 at 01:22

                Okay, then it appears that you are just _tired_ of thinking. I don’t blame you as thinking is very hard work and I’m a big fan of clear thinking no matter what conclusions the thinker reaches. In case you think its some blasphemy on a libertarian issue that got me, that would be wrong, as I regularly read and enjoy VoxDay and he has perhaps as many blasphemous positions as yours.

                Its the schizophrenia that is jarring – proclaiming most people as emoting idiots (true) and thus implicitly acknowledging your own IQ while also indulging in idiotic emoting without substance.
                Let’s take this sentence of yours – “Sloppy thinkiing full of emoting is 90% of what goes on out there.” Sure, but I didn’t come here to read Entertainment Weekly, did I? There’s dozens of ways to fix things, and I never asked gave you any mindless bullshit slogans for positivity, or optimism. I just care for clear and original thinking, and you are getting sloppier. It doesn’t have to do with “solutions.” But there’s lots more to the human condition that we need to know about. There’s hundreds of things to integrate between social psychology, economics, Cathedral workings, and specific instances of recent of earlier history.

                All that, I would understand if its getting hard as it is hard, and I’d like to thank you for your brilliant work on Burma. My closest friend’s grandparents emigrated from there and I’d always had some kind of a democratist gloss on that story. Its funny to think what reaction can make you accept – the horrible military junta of Burma!

                Ah well. To be hated more…

  3. John March 31, 2013 at 17:27

    All societies have people like this, the West has a lot more due to a combination of third world immigration and material abundance. The Christian values adds to the problem. What to do with them? There is only two thing to do, you either put them in welfare or you put them to work. I think putting them to work is the better solution. It reduces the free time on their hands and puts more pressure on their lives. They commit less crime and reproduce less. I think that is an outcome that we all are striving for, no?

  4. fnn March 31, 2013 at 17:39

    Create something like the old Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps but make it an auxiliary branch of the USMC so they don’t go around starting fires and other mischief. Similar to the Japanese solution. Anyone who gets eaten by a grizzly bear is a bonus.

  5. Anonymous March 31, 2013 at 19:02

    “Anyone who has been in business for any amount of time knows that wages, like any other prices, have nothing to do with productivity or cost. ”

    ” If someone really is incapable of producing more than 8 bucks an hour,”

    … sigh

  6. Greying Wanderer April 6, 2013 at 21:30

    Social cohesion is a public good. Back when conservatives were conservatives and not globalist vultures feasting on the corpse of what others built they understood that social cohesion requires full employment.

    “The devil makes work for idle hands” may be folksy but it’s also true, figuratively at least.

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