A while back Bill Whittle wrote this piece:
Let’s look at Western Civilization at its naked pinnacle, at the height of its sheer fabulousness: Oscar night! It’s almost time for the Best Supporting Actor award!
Let’s start with the obvious: The amazing set, the stunning lighting, the beautiful people, not just American stars, but world-wide phee-noms. This culture reaches around the world. It�s a fair bet that every other crazed Jihadi getting lathered up for a good round of beheadings in Iraq or Afghanistan or Malaysia is wearing a Spider-man T-shirt or a Miami Dolphins cap or a pair of shorts with a Nike slash or one of the millions of other little trinkets mass-produced as easily as skin cells falling off the body of a sleeping Goliath.
But let’s peel away layers, shall we? One by one?
What about the television network that allows us to watch such things in the comfort of our homes? How much work did that entail? I work in television; I know how television and computers work, in theory. I could no sooner build a television or a computer from scratch than I could walk to Hawaii. I would be utterly incapable of manufacturing the most simple, basic component of a computer � one of the keys, say, or the on-off switch. Completely, and totally beyond my ability.
How many people did it take to make just one plasma TV screen? Just one? Not just the people that assembled it; how many people made the components of that plasma set? How many people does it take to make just the little green power LED? That’s not done in a hut somewhere. And let’s not even begin to imagine the work needed to build the transmitters and fiber-optic lines, the satellites and launch systems, the local cable service, and their lines, and the repair technicians, and all of that.
I routinely have to enter a major communications ground center to arrange satellite uplinks to New York from L.A. Imagine a wall two stories tall and fifty feet wide, covered with perfect, brand-new color monitors, several hundred in all, on which is every show being broadcast over only a single satellite system. Hundreds of programs, in scores of languages, going up and down from satellites 22 thousand miles high, the entire world talking all at once, and those giant gold statuettes only one little window among hundreds, and thousands more unseen.
And the world… yawns.
Peel another layer: somewhere, a man is walking across a poured concrete floor, inspecting huge generators that power an electrical grid that simply boggles the mind. None of this lighting or TV happens without it. In much of the world, electricity is still non-existent, or rationed to a few hours a day. Not here. And this generating plant relies on water being pumped through likewise unnoticed underground arteries, being watched over 24 hours a day by anonymous men and women up along the 5 Freeway, not watching the show because if they did there would be no show.
And another layer: Outside, a man stands on the street talking into a radio. His job is to coordinate the few hundred limousines lined up like rail cars at a switching station. No show without them, or their drivers. Or the people who run the gas stations that keep them running. Or the mechanics that repair the engines. Or the people that deliver the ice to the 7-11 to fill the champagne holders. Or the people that delivered that champagne in trucks, moving through the city at 3 am. Or the people that made the tires for those trucks. Or the Portuguese Engineer’s Mate, 3rd class, who is attending to a potentially dangerous hydraulic leak on the container ship that brings the tires into Long Beach.
And another layer: That man, on the radio? He presses a switch, and inside that radio a connection closes. That connection is made with a very small amount of gold. That gold was mined by another man in South Africa. That miner was fed by a cook from Thailand. That cook’s mother was saved by medication developed by a pharmaceutical lab in Philadelphia. One of the biochemists who developed that medication is alive only because of a pacemaker made in North Miami. The man who empties the trash in that medical office is a big fan of Andy Garcia, and one of his favorite movies is The Mean Season. And one of the reporters in the Miami Herald Newsroom in The Mean Season was me.
And it never stops,ever. It just goes round and round. Any permanent break in the Web of Trust and the Oscars, go away.
But back to the show: Oh, look! George Clooney has won! Let’s see what he has to say? Uh-huh. He’s talking about how brave Hollywood is. For going out on a limb and speaking up against the repression machine. Yes, there he is, like all courageous dissidents: worth millions of dollars, his every utterance fawned over by armies of reporters and millions of admirers, telling us about the incredible courage it takes to speak up in Bushitler’s Police State. God, the sheer guts it must require to be a Liberal in Hollywood.
He’s just come off of two brave, brave adventures, you see: one where the heroes are pampered, high-powered television executives, who, in a time where they rigidly controlled all of the information going out to the vast majority of voting citizens, bravely stood up and refused to acknowledge that many of them were members of a foreign-controlled organization devoted to the destruction of their nation, and championed their unwillingness to take the same oath of loyalty required by the most destitute new citizen or the most simple farm-boy soldier. My God! What heroes!
But the award is for his moving and nuanced role as a representative of the American government, and it’s complicity in the illegal assassination of a kind and deeply moral Arab leader who only wants his wealth to be shared by his people, before being killed by rapacious, soulless American businessmen who only live for chaos and war because it helps line their pockets.
And the next day, this brave, brave man will wonder with a straight face why “liberal” has become a dirty word in America.
The fact is that civilization relies on trust. We trust that people will work to keep the lights on. And they do, even risking and losing their lives to make sure that the power gets delivered in the worst crisis. If you watch the movie Titanic, the lights stayed on almost to the end. That really happened and it was not by accident. The engineering staff stayed to make sure that the light stayed on. And none of the engineering staff survived. That’s despite the fact that the electrical generator room on the Titanic was on an upper deck, aft above the turbine and engine room, right next to the lifeboats. The engineers did not survive because they stayed at their posts until nothing could be done. The same thing happened at the WTC on 9/11. And countless other places, when disaster strikes.
There are people, who no matter what the job is, put their whole heart and soul into it. If they are a street sweeper, well you could eat of their street, it was so clean. These people define their jobs. These are the people that show up in Mike Rowe’s programs. Whatever they are doing, they pursue excellence. Whether it’s living on a barge, picking up the trash or climbing rock to make sure that nothing falls on traffic. Or the seemingly weird guy at the museum who makes the whole thing understandable and entertaining. For that matter, the Wal Mart greeter. You can always tell the good ones.
On the other side of the equation you get the people who essentially phone in their jobs. Seemingly they get through there lives without dedication to anything. Who care about nothing other than themselves. Yet somehow they always seem to end up at the top of the heap. perhaps because they tend to spend the time that you work doing the job maneuvering through office politics.
The power of credentials and their relationship to what we call rights is not always fully understood. Recently when Ed Schultz debated Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation on the question of the Indiana religious freedom restoration law during the debate Anderson indirectly raised the question of whether the special powers press organizations claimed — like Schultz’s own MSNBC — inhered in Schultz or MSNBC.
Were Schultz’s credibility his by right or merely loaned to him as a credential? Schultz cut Anderson off — using his credential. Judging by their debate performance, Anderson would make a pretty good journalist. Too bad he doesn’t have the liberal credentials, because one gets the feeling that sometimes, that’s all he lacks to get the same platform as Schultz.
It used to be that character was important. More important than, say what you did. If you had an obvious ability to do the work and the credibility of high character, then the actual credentials weren’t really that important. Consider Thomas Edison’s complete lack of any credential other than the skill of having a fast fist on a telegraph key. In the high trust society of the American 19th Century that was more than enough.
Being the best at something, no matter what it was, was something that mattered. Having a high moral standard was considered an important part of who you were, and your word was your bond. This was an important reason for the US’s remarkable growth in the 19th Century. Just read the contemporary literature.
Contrast that high trust environment with the way so much business is conducted today. Everything is based on rampant credentialism and licensing for just about every job out there. Every activity is surrounded by endless rules and regulations, with no sense of actual accountability. Frankly when I’m flying in a plane I don’t care about the pilot’s credentials. I do care about his log book and how many hours he’s logged. Because, in the end that’s what matters.
A society as huge and complex as the United States can run economically only on the basis of acceptance and trust. This has been true for so long it is no longer noticed, like the air. People accept the rules and generally follow them whether or not there is a policeman in attendance. They deposit money and trust it will be credited to their account. They mail letters and trust they will be delivered. They sleep in their beds and trust the president will protect them. All over the land people go about their business secure that arrangements will be honored and carried out.
A high-trust society is a low-cost society.
The breakdown of the speakership race following the withdrawal of Boehner’s heir-designate Kevin McCarthy is a sign that this happy state of affairs is eroding. It’s no longer business as usual in Capital City. Who do the Republicans represent? Maybe not the Republican voters. “Republicans may be forced to solicit Democratic help to break their Speaker stalemate, Rep. Charlie Dent (R) said Thursday.”
“The Pennsylvania centrist, who often serves as a mouthpiece for outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said there is only a small handful of Republicans who can win 218 GOP votes to fill Boehner’s shoes. The trouble is, none of them wants the job.
“We may need a bipartisan coalition to elect our next Speaker,” Dent told reporters after Thursday’s closed-door GOP meeting. “That’s a very real possibility right now, and I think anybody who’s honest about this knows it. They may not want to talk about it, but they know it.”
A low-trust society is a high-cost society. It creates a place where everything is governed by innumerable rules yet where things work very poorly. A cop behind every billboard means a lot of low-rent cops. That’s why low-trust societies are poor societies. By contrast a working democracy is cheap to run and its economic life is generally unfettered and creative. It is efficient because it does not have to carry the burden of an immense apparatus of propaganda and coercion to get from one day to the next.
What changed was the gradual evaporation of confidence. When the principals (the voters) no longer fully trust the agents (the politicians), what economists describe as agency costs become prohibitively high. Too much energy will be expended brokering transactions between parties that don’t trust each other. Unless trust is restored things will simply freeze up due to the costs of hesitation and mutual suspicion. Even supposing the president — or any president — can keep going without trust, it will be costly. There will not be enough lawsuits, executive orders or federal agents available to restore things to the former free and easy way.
What high trust societies have is a high level of social capital. Because everybody has a high level of investment in society they have good reasons to step in to keep things going. High trust societies are thus very antifragile.
What happens when self appointed elites want to collect that social capital and it’s perks for themselves? By making themselves the primary arbiters and stakeholders of society those elites diminish the stake of everybody else. They reduce the all important social mobility and ability to build social capital on their own. The question all too many people’s minds becomes; “what’s in it for me?” In that kind of culture, trust breaks down quickly any corruption becomes the norm rather than the exception.
What none of our elites seem to consider is what happens when the web of trust breaks down. The problem with low trust societies is that they are very fragile and vulnerable. they slide down to collapse because it requires ever more effort to keep things going that there’s no reserve of social capital left. If all the power and social capital is bound to a few stakeholders, what happens the things get really bad? Here’s an example.
Note how easily things break down because nobody steps in. While this this only a scenario set up for a game, it’s pretty frightening. It’s not going to happen because there’s still a deep well of good will and trust in this country. Honestly I think that this is unlikely here in the US because just like the engineers on the Titanic and at the WTC people would step up and try to keep things going, people would bring portable generators to keep essential power on and make sacrifices to keep things going.
These are the people who are being mocked viciously by the political establishment right now. From seemingly every corner the political establishment mocks the people upon whom their very lives depend. Apparently they have never concerned what happens if the lights go out and the communications shut down.
Does it make any sense to constantly mock those upon which you depend on to keep the very fabric of society working? The people they’ve been so blithely disenfranchising are the same people that keep things running, police their streets, serve in the military and make sure that society is liveable.
The fact is that the last twenty years or so have been an almost systematic stomping of the very people that do the dirty jobs we don’t like to think about.
Not so long ago, it used to be assumed that if you work hard you could advance into the upper echelons of society, that you could move up. Social mobility was part of the American fabric. Maybe you wouldn’t have to work as hard Hank here in the video below, but still you could do it and by being the best at what you do, move up and have a better life.
Sometime in the recent past much of that went away. The doors closed, the affordable became unaffordable and the sneering started. And most of us started to realize that we were being kicked in the face.
The people that make things work see that increasingly, there’s no place for them at the table anymore. That they are being excluded from the good part of American civilization.
There was a time that sneaking into an ivy league classroom would be something that was amusing rather than a scandal. That is if anybody noticed at all.
Here’s why what did was scandal.
But according to Dumas, one of the best perks of college that’s available for free is the networking. “I think more than anything it’s meeting people. It’s contacts. It’s social capital(emphasis added.) The kind of people I met in Berkeley or in Yale, I don’t know anywhere else in the world with so many smart, cool, open-minded, crazy people can be concentrated,” he says. “And when you think of all the dropouts right now that start companies and stuff, it’s all people that didn’t need a diploma, that didn’t need to pay anything. They went to school to open their minds and meet friends, or meet strategy partners, or something like that.”
Social capital is the key. The role of the elite Ivy Covered Snob factories is to be the gatekeepers to social capital. Social capital that give those that have it access to a stream of rents created by various government requirements and services that guarantees the good life.
The problem is that that good life comes at a cost that the rest of us has to pay. A dollar that has to be spent for compliance or lobbying is a dollar that isn’t employing somebody to make things or investing in new machinery. It’s dollar that means that other dollars have to work twice or three times as hard to support all those cloud people that live on those rents.
With all those dollars being soaked up by arbitrary and changing rents, small businesses and large businesses alike start living day to day rather than making the kinds of commitments to the future that they once made. With each passing day, week, moth and year it becomes easier and easier to just go along and keep things moving albeit at an ever declining rate until you close up.
Asked what they believed in, each would reply: only in myself or causes that were lost. The only safe ideals are those that are out of reach, which like the memory of first love, can never betray you. Feasible dreams, like attainable loves, are still perilous. What is your cause: to rebuild America the Lost? You can be hurt by that. Eduardo Porter, writing in the New York Times, warns, “America’s best days may be behind it”. Or maybe it’s safer to trust in Hope, Change and Hillary. Hillary Clinton writes glowingly about what she will accomplish in the Next Chapter.
On January 20, 2017, America will begin our next chapter. … Look where we are today. We’ve had 70 straight months of private-sector job growth. Our businesses have created 14.1 million jobs. The unemployment rate is the lowest in seven years. And the auto industry just had its best year ever.
But for those who have had it with “Next Chapters” the present will have to do. In that intermission, the present-day Blaines and Butlers find the willingness to do almost anything. People smuggling for instance, is booming. There’s a land office sale in fake and stolen passports. Smugglers — the blockade runners of today — provide the rice, drugs and sex toys that keep Venezuela afloat. The movie 13 Hours, according to US News, reveals that there are boots on the ground after all, despite denials, except that they belong to private military contractors. The arms industry was never better. The spiritual descendants of Harry Lime, yet another familiar character from fiction, were probably behind the factory in Turkey manufacturing fake life jackets for sale to refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Are Americans as corrupt as the Clintons? I don’t think so. But as the way to success is seen as being through rents and corrupt use of the system, as things like the highway robbery of civil seizures and excessive eminent domain go on, day to day corruption becomes easier and easier. Especially when it’s obvious that rules are for little people.
What the elites don’t seem to understand is that when they rig the game and then play by their own rules, people notice.
College campuses have been grooming a cadre of professional minority fakers and fraudsters for decades.
The notorious pretendians Ward Churchill and Elizabeth Warren faked their Native American status to bolster their faculty credentials at the University of Colorado and Harvard, respectively. It was a mutually beneficial racket for all poseur parties involved. Churchill and Warren basked in their tenured glory. The schools racked up politically correct points for adding the right flavors to their employment rolls.
Churchill was specifically granted a “special opportunity” position that his school created to increase “diversity” on the teaching staff. Warren falsely listed herself as a minority professor in a law school directory. Harvard officials eagerly touted Warren’s bogus background, the Boston Herald reported, to “bolster their diversity hiring record in the ’90s as the school came under heavy fire for a faculty that was then predominantly white and male.” Based solely on what Warren later admitted was unsubstantiated “family lore,” the Fordham Law Review called her the “first woman of color” at Harvard Law.
I’m not sure what delusion exists that can turn a blond blue eyed woman into a person of color, but apparently Harvard can. And look at what Warren got for troubles.
The problem is when everything is run by corrupt rent seekers every solution to the country’s ills looks like yet another program for dispersing rents.
The status quo “solution” to the decline of opportunities for meaningful work is predictably top-down: guaranteed income for all, a.k.a. “welfare for all.” This is of course a re-hash of the Keynesian Cargo Cult’s 1930 fix for the Great Depression, except on a far grander scale.There are three completely unsupported assumptions in every proposed “welfare for all” scheme:1. The trillions of dollars/ euros/ yen etc. required to fund “welfare for all” can be raised from taxing profits and wages. Yet wages and profits are both set to decline sharply in the near-term as the global recession tightens its grip and longer term from the unstoppable forces of automation.2. Paying people to do nothing will free people to become artists, entrepreneurs, etc. This is a noble ideal, but if we look at communities that have become dependent on top-down central-state welfare, we find despair, social depression and the collapse of real community.“Welfare for all” debilitates the community by stripping away the sources of meaningful work and positive social roles. I explain this further in my book A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All.3. Though few if any supporters of “welfare for all” schemes state this directly, the underlying assumption is that “welfare for all” is a temporary measure to get the unemployed/under-employed through a rough patch, and that the economy will magically heal itself and create millions of new jobs if given time.
The thing is that the disenfranchised don’t want rents taken from other people. That isn’t who we are. I think that most of us understand the consequences of forcing others to pay rent so that we might eat is not an optimal end for anybody. All we want is work. If there are no workplaces then we want to be able to create new ones without the petty overbearing interference of rent seeking, rule making bureaucrats. That’s who we are.
So here’s my rather immodest proposal for making America great again. We need a sea change in our attitudes toward work. Those of us who have easy jobs, let alone ones we love, better damn well remain grateful for the opportunities we have. And all of us, especially our elected representatives, ought to start showing one hell of a lot more appreciation and support for those among us who do the hard work necessary to provide the services and produce the goods that make America a safe, secure, and comfortable place.My rather immodest proposal for making America great again: We need a sea change in our attitudes toward work.
That this needs to be said is damning indictment of how debased American culture has become. (Mike Rowe is just about the lone significant cultural voice in America screaming into the void about the value of work.) Not that long ago, we were celebrated for our “Protestant work ethic,” although, as with a lot of theological concepts, most Americans no longer have any frame of reference for what that means.
Although often associated with Calvinism, it is was first rooted in Martin Luther’s doctrine of vocation, which posits that we serve God by accepting our callings and employing our God-given abilities to do the work that needs to be done. Not because we get to do what we love, but because we do what needs to be done out of love for others.
One does not need to even believe in God to see that an economic order that arises from a culture where naked self-interest is tempered by expressions of respect and gratitude for those who willingly accept responsibility to take care of others is preferable to every man for himself. It’s also vastly better than the other extreme of socialism, where the fruits of our individual labor are disproportionately seized and redistributed without regard to our families and the community members we care about most and are best positioned to take care of.
It’s said that the backbone of Trump’s support is 40-55 year old white males.
That doesn’t surprise me. These are the doers of society, the people who keep the light lit,the factories running and the streets safe. and for the last 20 years or so the rent takers in Washington have been bleeding the ability to make an honest living dry. The people who make things work have been sending signals to Washington that the bleeding needs to stop and have been mocked and smeared for that. Well it’s gotten to the point that it takes a wrecker like Trump to make the point, well then Trump gets in. Because there’s only so much that the burden can be carried and right now the alternative to stopping the bleeding is everything shutting down. The people who keep things running will do what we can, but there are limits and things are going to break. That’s the message the elites need to understand.
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