Moral Flynn Effect?

What is causing the IQ increase over the generations?

It’s an important question, as the rise hasn’t been minor. I’m amazed every time I consider that the average IQ used to be what, by comparison to the present, would be considered extremely low intelligence, functionally retarded even if you go back a few generations from present living generations. If you have an average person today take an IQ test designed earlier last century, they would get results, relative to the results when the test was first given, that show them as being quite brilliant.

It makes one wonder what is measured by IQ tests.

This IQ increase is called the Flynn Effect. It was named after James Flynn who wrote a number of papers about it based on his international and cross-generational observations of testing, although Richard Zynn first observed it on a more limited scale in the Japanese population.

The Flynn Effect has been seen in both crystallized and fluid intelligence. The former is basically learned intelligence. This shows what you know and how well you are able to use it. The latter is more about how you are able to think, specifically abstract thinking and non-verbal problem-solving. It is the ability to deal with new and unique problems.

(As a side note, I realized how this applies to my own cognitive abilities. When I was youngr, I was delayed in my crystallized intelligence and precocious in my fluid intelligence. I was so delayed in the one that teachers initially thought I might have been retarded, but IQ testing showed that I measured high in pattern recognition and puzzle-solving. My strengths helped me compensate for my weaknesses. But if it had been reversed, compensation would have been much more challenging.)

The greatest and most consistent IQ increases have been measured in the fluid intelligence. No one exactly knows why, but explanations are diverse. Flynn sees it as primarily an increase in abstract thinking in line with the demands of modern industrialized society with all of its complexities: infrastructures, social systems, economies, technologies, visual media, video games, etc. Flynn points out how rural people even just a century ago didn’t demonstrate much predilection for abstractions (see Luria’s interviews with isolated rural Russians). With a different focus, others propose that the main change has been in terms of health standards and environmental conditions, that have allowed greater brain development.

The reasons interest me less at the moment. I wanted to note that the changes seen across the generations are quite real and significant, whatever they might mean. They are also continuing in many countries, including the United States, although the pattern doesn’t hold in all countries. We Americans haven’t yet hit the ceiling of IQ limits, and that applies to all demographic groups, although those on the lower end of the scale are rising faster and hence the IQ disparities are shrinking.

So, about this trend, what does it represent? Where is it heading?

There are some correlations that I find intriguing. Higher average IQ correlates to greater liberal-mindedness. Many studies have shown this. It seems related to corrleations found between other cognitive abilities and predispositions: openness to experience, thin boundaries, fantasy proneness, creativity, empathy, emotional sensitivity, social awareness, etc.

This probably connects to fluid intelligence, the ability to deal with new, unique, and unusual situations and problems. I’ve pointed out before that the strength and weakness of liberalism is its emphasis on abstractions, both critical thinking and wide-ranging empathy being dependent on this. There is a psychological fluidity with liberalism that appears to be linked to cognitive and intellectual fluidity. I’ve also noted this may be the reason that research has shown it easier to shift a liberal into a conservative mindset than a conservative into a liberal mindset. Liberals easily fall prey to contact highs, both psychological and ideological.

Unsurprisingly, liberalism (in particular, social liberalism) has increased in unison with rising IQ. Also, social democracy has spread and become more dominant following the wide-scale availability of knowledge because of movable type printing presses, mass publishing, public libraries, public education, etc; and is likely to spread further as all of these contributing factors spread further and are magnified by the internet and various new media technologies. Others have observed that the Axial Age began and came to fruition because of the development and popularization of alphabetic writing, scrolls and then bound books, and the formation of libraries. That beginning, uneven and shaky, did more fully take hold during the Enlightenment and greater still with industrialization.

Steven Pinker has made the argument that this corresponds to an impressive decrease of violence per capita across the centuries. This is what is called the “moral Flynn effect.” It’s not just an improvement of social and health conditions, but an actual change at the level of psychological and cognitive functioning, at least so the theory goes.

Fluid intelligence isn’t just about cold analysis, dry logic, and intellectual problem-solving. It’s more importantly about seeing patterns and connections and the ability to shift perspectives, such as ideological worldviews, ethnic cultures, and personal experiences. It’s not just abstract thinking, but it definitely involves abstract thinking. To empathize with someone far different from you requires an abstract capacity of universalizing human nature and seeking commonality in human experience. There is no way to go from concrete thinking to such inclusive extremes of empathy, to go from the known of one’s own experience and into the unknown of imagining other viewpoints.

You can see this mindset having struggled to take hold during the Enlightenment and early modern revolutionary era, and even well into the 19th century. One of the greatest debates at that time, including among the American founders, was whether all humans had a basic human nature. Did all people, even peasants and slaves, have a common experience of self-awareness, thought, and feeling? Did all people feel pain and suffering, desire happiness and freedom? Were all humans really the same on some fundamental level or were some populations more like animals?

These seem like silly questions to many modern people in modernized societies, but that wasn’t always the case. It has only been over this past century that psychological understanding has become common, and this has been in concert  with scientific thought becoming more widespread, the two being inextricably connected. To see the world through a stranger’s eyes requires a quite complex process of cognitive ability. It has to be learned and developed. No one is simply born with this capacity.

It’s amazing that we have advanced so far that we now take so much of this for granted. Still, we have much further to go. It does get me to wondering. Will we reach a tipping point when the American or global population reaches a certain level of IQ and education, specifically in terms of increasing ability of complex thought and perspective-taking? The average American today is smarter and more well educated than was the ruling elite from centuries ago. If you think the present generations of Americans are stupid, you should have seen their ancestors before most of the population was educated and literate.

On the other hand, some worry that increased abstract thought is causing a loss of concrete thought.But I doubt it is a zero sum game. By way of transcend and include, abstract thought moreso builds upon than replaces concrete thought. It’s that combining of cognitive abilities that allows for ever more complex thought. That is what I hope is the case. We are presently undergoing a massive social experiment to test this hypothesis.

* * *


Are We Becoming Morally Smarter?
The connection between increasing IQs, decreasing violence, and economic liberalism
by Michael Shermer

Swords into Syllogisms
by Randal R. Hendrickson

115 thoughts on “Moral Flynn Effect?

  1. As you may remember, there was the fact that racism was correlated with a low IQ.

    So yes, it would seem that way. Perhaps there are reasons why Europe, and Canada are more left wing than the US? Particularly in the Deep South, which typically does not do well education wise?

    Off topic, but I haven’t been in great health again (been on and off ill for the past while).

    • “As you may remember, there was the fact that racism was correlated with a low IQ.”

      Thanks for linking to the article again. I did have it in mind while I was writing this.

      Racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and other forms of group-mindedness seem primarily based in a generalized social conservative mindset. It makes sense when one realizes that lower IQ has a lot to do with lower fluid intelligence and lower ability of perspective-taking. Conservative-mindedness seems much harder to maintain as fluid intelligence (and all that goes with it) develops and becomes more dominant.

      The younger generations do have higher average IQs than previous generations. I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that they are also more socially liberal and that so many of them, including in the Deep South, were swayed by Obama’s socially liberal campaign rhetoric. As I recall, the majority of young voters in South Carolina voted for Obama the first time. South Carolina is the symbolic stronghold of the Deep South and of the hard core conservative worldview.

      “Off topic, but I haven’t been in great health again (been on and off ill for the past while).”

      I’m sorry to hear about that. The last time I was sick was because of food poisoning, never a pleasant experience. I was wondering what you were up to, as I was expecting you’d comment on this post. I hope you’re feeling better, especially as the weekend has begun, assuming you have weekends off..

      • Bernie sanders currently seems to be on fire as well, even with some areas you wouldn’t expect like New Hampshire. My coach, an old 60 something in West Virginia and a bit of a republican, is also going for Bernie.

      • I’ll be watching Sanders closely. I’m simply curious about what his popularity says about changing attitudes in the US. In the past, someone who called themselves a ‘socialist’ would not have gotten very far in their political career. It’s amazing that we are getting to the point where not only blacks and women can run for president, but even socialists.

        • There is no absolute and clear distinction between social democracy and democratic socialism. Part of the reason is that there is no absolute agreed upon definitions. They are often used loosely and sometimes almost interchangeably.

          Part of this has to do with the historical development of these ideas. Many socialists in American seem to have been fine with social democracy, either assuming it was a close enough approximation to socialism in a democratic society or else that in the long run it would lead to socialism.

          Many people have seen them as being closely linked or at least kissing cousins. As the article points out, even Sanders hasn’t used these terms in a consistent way.

  2. At the moment, I am currently looking for work, so in that regard, I do have time.

    It is a tough economic situation, especially for relatively recent graduates like myself.

    • Dealing with sickness and unemployment is not a great combination.

      That sounds similar to a close friend who lives in Portland, OR. She got in a car wreck, got a concussion, lost some of her physical energy and mental function, divorced her abusive husband, is now living on her own, and will eventually have to find work. She is getting some alimony for the time being, but that will only last for a certain amount of time.

      It’s hard when life gives you a double whammy, two problems at once that make dealing with each more difficult. I wish you luck.

      BTW what kind of work are you looking for? I forget if we’ve discussed before your education and desired career.

      If things get bad enough, you could do as I have done and become a parking ramp cashier, which allows for plenty of reading time, not such a bad deal. Or you could do as many of my college graduate friends have done. One friend who has a religious studies degree is now a baker. Another friend who has an architecture degree drives city buses.

      My Portland friend does have a degree as well, in computer graphics. Her problem is that she spent recent years as a housewife and mother. Her skills are a bit rusty, on top of her brain and body not working at previous levels.

      Obviously, life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes that isn’t a bad thing. My brother got a degree in Native American studies. He then took a AmeriCorps job and somehow ended up as a naturalist. That is now his career, even though he has no training or education in being a naturalist.

      One way or another, I hope something works out for you.

      • My friend is a guy, but I doubt he’ll be offended by your referring to him as female. He is my childhood friend, going all the way back to 3rd grade.

        He doesn’t own a bakery. Being a business owner wouldn’t fit his personality. He works for the local co-op. I don’t know why he applied for the job, but he has kept at it for many years now.

        He loves being a baker. It’s his favorite job he has ever had. He finds the physicality and practicality of it quite satisfying. He happened upon the work by accident and had no prior experience. It was all on-the-job training and it does require much skill to do well.

        Two other jobs he has enjoyed were both dealing with animals. He worked the front desk of veterinary clinic. He isn’t an extravert by any means, but for some reason he didn’t mind interacting with people with that job. His love of animals probably helped. The other job was at a doggy daycare. He found that fascinating. He liked to observe the dog’s personalities and behavior.

        Maybe he’d be happiest if he were a baker at a bakery that made pet treats.

    • My accounting requirements do specify that I need to work at certain places to fill up certain competencies though, so that will be difficult.

      • I was thinking we might’ve talked about accounting before, but I wasn’t quite sure. It was a while back when it came up in some other context.

        About gaining required competencies, have you considered moving somewhere with more opportunities? Or do you think it would be just as difficult no matter where you lived?

  3. I suspect that is why too the political right has fiercely attacked education so much. They see it as ak existential threat to their existence.

    It also gives them a distraction from another matter, scrutiny of the performance of the right-wing ideologues and the effectiveness of their policies.

    The majority of my generation seem to be heading towards the left, although there are some holdovers. I suspect that had young people made the decision, they would vote for a real socialistic state, with a very egalitarian distribution of the wealth.

    • Conservatives do seem to have a natural mistrust and wariness toward or even at times fear of education, knowledge, and intelligence, specifically in terms of the boogeyman they like to call the “intellectual elite.”

      They do dislike having their policies scrutinized according to actual data. They simply ‘know’ what is right and anything that disagrees with that therefore must be wrong, data be damned! But it goes much deeper than that. They feel threatened by the entire mindset and worldview that is represented by, in particular, fluid intelligence.

      Some of this is generational, though. Even younger conservatives seem more socially liberal. The division for the younger generations appear to be more on economic issues than social. The old culture war issues such as gay marriage aren’t going to be resurrected once Millennials gain power and influence.

      Still, even on economic issues, the debate has shifted. The Cold War fear-mongering doesn’t have the power to persuade that it once had. Red-baiting no longer has much sting. Calling someone a commie isn’t going to destroy someone’s career and lead them to suicide, as it did during the mid-twentieth century.

      In fact, socialism seems like a perfectly reasonable option to a large number of young Americans. I even know Tea Party libertarians who would be fine with some versions of socialism or, if you prefer, social democracy. My second cousin, for example, holds right-wing views on economics and yet would love to live in the future of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is a socialist paradise.

      It’s likely the case that certain kinds of rhetoric become less powerful with increasing average IQ. I was just thinking about this in terms of symbolic conflation, which maybe is the conflation of concrete and abstract thinking. Maybe there is something to greater development of abstract thinking that would make such conflations less effective.

      Chomsky talks about intellectual self defense. What might be as important or more important is intellectual inoculations that protect the mind from infectious ideologies and contagious rhetoric.

      • ”Even younger conservatives seem more socially liberal”

        Most young conservatives I know are pro-gay marriage. That’s quite a contrast from even 2008, where I remember being an outraged barely teenage kid seeign that prop 8 passed

      • Conservatives will always defend the status quo and the social norms, real or perceived.

        For younger conservatives, people being openly gay is simply a part of their social reality. It’s normal to them. They have no experience of a time when gays were hidden away in shame and fear. The status quo and social norm that young conservatives defend is quite different than that of older conservatives. It’s the same reason conservatives today defend classical liberalism rather than classical conservatism.

        Times change and along with it the social order. Conservatives love social order, no matter what it is. This is why, in communist countries, the communists are socially conservative. There is no inherent principle to conservatism. It’s just an attitude toward the social order.

  4. Not sure if WordPress ate my other comments, but yeah I am not in great health.

    At the moment, I am actually looking for work. It is a tough economic situation for relatively recent graduates.

    • When you post comments, it doesn’t show that they have been posted? I know I have to approve them before others can see them, but you should be able to see your own comments when they post. I know that is how it works when I post at other blogs that require comment approval.

  5. I think the political right’s hostility to education comes out of fear. It’s the same way the religious fear the implications of evolution. It means that their whole ideology is dis-proven, based on evidence. In many ways, the success of social democracy too can be that way.

    There are some key differences between socialism and social democracy though.

    I was looking at this post:

    The first Finnish poster reacted with anger at the idea that his nation was socialistic. The Finnish people tend to be very proud of their nationality, because they resisted the USSR, which they viewed as socialistic. They view themselves as capitalistic for that reason.

    In regards to the two, I suppose the big difference is:

    – Social democracy: Strong welfare state, progressive taxes, but the economy is run still by capitalistic firms, although more tightly regulated. The state has some presence in publicly owned companies, but not much. Cooperatives are not as common as they could be – corporations still dominate.

    – Socialism: Steeply progressive taxes and strong welfare state. Economy is run by the state itself, with far more limited private sector involvement, and private sector is mostly cooperatives.

    The anti-socialism rhetoric seems rather self-serving of the 1%.

    • Many right-wingers think that there is no fundamental distinction between socialism and social democracy. In many ways, I think they are correct, although they of course mean it as a criticism. The difference between the two is more of degree than of kind. Most left-leaning governments, such as Finland, are somewhere between the two or rather a mix of the two.

      Consider an American example. Were the Milwaukee sewer socialists actually socialists or were they just social democrats using socialist rhetoric? I’d say they were both. Their socialism was genuine. For more than a half century, they were one of the highly praised models of good governance and public good that became the basis for governments all across the US. They put public welfare before all else, but they also cleaned up political corruption, organized crime, and crony capitalism.

      Interestingly, capitalism was actually better able to operate as a free market under their rule. They promoted the interests of local small businesses. In doing so, they helped create a thriving local economy that genuinely lifted all boats. I guess it takes a socialist to do capitalism right and allow markets to operate as moral forces of public good.

      I saw this comment that reminded me of our discussion here. The commenter exemplifies how the old Cold War mentality has thawed to such an extent to hardly be an issue anymore. This relates to the polls showing that both favorable opinions among Americans are increasing toward both the labels of libertarian and socialist.

      “Like V8driver I’m registered libertarian but would vote for Bernie if he gets the nomination.

      “Unlike most liberal progressives he is against gun control. I’m not sure if he is pro gun because he believes self defense is a basic human right or because Vermont is full of gun toting hunters who vote.

      “I like his strong anti war stance and believe his idea of funding education ect by defunding the military industrial complex makes economic sense by avoiding deficits.

      “I’m not a socialist but don’t think he is going to get too far with wealth redistribution in an empire run by banks, corporations and wall street.”

    • Many socialists, especially in the US, don’t feel a need to attack capitalism. They assume that social democracy will naturally move the country in the direction of socialism.

      They also see that making the markets more free in a genuine sense for more people will end up undermining capitalism, rather than strengthening it. This is why the sewer socialists were the enemy of crony capitalists (along with corrupt politicians and organized crime) while being a friend to the small business owner.

      The “S” Word
      By John Nichols
      pp. 108-109

      While Lenin was dismissive of municipal socialism, he was not arguing for inaction. His was a tactical objection based at least in part on the distinct experiences of different countries, and the American Socialists tended to see it as such. Unperturbed, they read their Marx with an eye toward the sections that recognized the role of incremental progress while tending to reject suggestions that “the rigidity of the class structure prevented the achievement of meaningful reforms for the worker until the demise of capitalism.” Many of the most radical Americans, especially those associated with the Industrial Workers of the World’s “One Big Union,” objected to the whole idea of waiting for a right revolutionary moment, which they ridiculed as a “pie-in-the-sky” promise that had about as much meaning for hard-pressed working families as the preachers’ assurance that they would get their just deserts in the next life. […]

      The “sewer socialists” were not averse to heavenly rewards, but felt that serving up some deserts in the here and now might be necessary to advance the cause. This incrementalism put them at odds with more radical players, including old allies in the IWW at home and leading Communists abroad, over the question of whether it was ever appropriate to employ violence. To this end, many of the “sewer socialists” took counsel from the pragmatic German socialist Eduard Bernstein, who asserted that, while theory, plotting and preparation for the glorious revolution had appeal, a practical plan for putting food on the table might inspire the masses to mobilize. Among those who most highly regarded Bernstein’s view that it was possible to “[dispense] with the need for violence” was Victor Berger, the great proponent of american socialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Berger, the man who drew Debs to the cause, declared that “we do not care a [wit] whether our socialism is Marxian or otherwise, as long as we change the present system and emancipate the people.”

      Berger understood and respected America as a democracy, even if it was imperfect in his time and might remain so. “[It] is foolish,” he explained, “to expect results from riots and dynamite, from murderous attacks and conspiracies, in a country where we have the ballot, as long as the ballot has been given a full and fair trial.” Tthe point was to achieve “the revolutionizing of the mind” — something Berger sought to do as a newspaper editor, magazine writer and author of four decades’ worth of campaign pamphlets. “In the world’s history there are no sudden leaps, he preached […]

      pp. 110-11

      The immediate mission of the Socialists in Milwaukee—as it was in many of the other cities where they won control of local government, from Butte to Bridgeport—was to prove that government could operate honorably and as an extension of the people, rather than as a burden to them.

      Berger, the great philosopher and tactician of the “sewer socialist” movement, understood that socialists could only make the case for government ownership of power and gas plants, waterworks, transit systems and other services if they established a reputation for absolute honesty and “good burgher” management. While Democrats and Republicans held out the hope of honest governance as an end in itself, Berger said: “With us, this is the first and smallest requirement.” His acolyte Frank Zeidler would write that the “sewer socialists” were distinguished by “a passion for orderly government; and by a contempt for graft and boodling.”

      It was that contempt that opened the way for the first great Socialist Party victories in the United States.

      “Before the Socialists took charge, Milwaukee was just as corrupt as Chicago at its worst. Our mayor at the turn of the twentieth century was David Rose, a political prince of darkness who allowed prostitution, gambling dens, all-night saloons and influence-peddling to flourish on his watch. Grand juries returned 276 indictments against public officials of the Rose era. ‘All the Time Rosy’ escaped prosecution himself, but district attorney (and future governor) Francis McGovern called him ‘the self-elected, self-appointed attorney general of crime in this community,’ ” recalls Gurda. “In 1910, fed-up voters handed Socialists the keys to the city. Emil Seidel, a patternmaker by trade, won the mayor’s race in a landslide, and Socialists took a majority of seats on the Common Council.”

      pp. 125-127

      Amusingly, the socialists were also recognized for practicing what might today be referred to as “fiscal conservatism.” Because they feared “bondage to the banks,” Hoan and his fellow “sewer socialists” operated on a pay-as-you-go basis that eventually made Milwaukee the only major city in the United States that was debt free.

      Urban affairs writer Melvin Holli and a group of experts on local government would in 199 hail Hoan as one of the finest mayors in the nation’s history, with Holli observing: “Perhaps Hoan’s most important legacy was cleaning up the free-and-easy corruption that prevailed before he took office. Hoan’s quarter century in office made the change stick, and it seems to have elevated Milwaukee’s politics above that of other cities in honesty, efficiency and delivery of public services.”


      Democracy and capitalism are at odds. Democracy moves toward diffusion of and sharing of power. Capitalism, unlike a free market (a free market being a hypothetical that has never existed on the large scale, large corporations become bureaucracies and use centralized planning just like any socialist state), moves toward monopoly of power (by way of monopolizing capital: he who rules the capital rules capitalism). Democracy can only function when there is a functioning social democracy. Social democracy is simply the first and most basic manifestation of socialism. Democracy, social democracy and socialism are antithetical to capitalism, but they aren’t antithetical to any genuine free market.

      See the real world examples of socialism in the US. The Shakers and Harmonists, although failing because of their celibacy rules, were some of the most successful and innovative businesses in the US when they were operating, both societies having existed for about a century. The sewer socialist mayors of Milwaukee, social democracy at its finest, governed one of the most well run cities for decades which they did so by fighting corrupt big business and promoting local small businesses that contributed to the community (maybe closer to a genuine free market), a time during which the economy boomed in Milwaukee. The collectivist Eastwind Community (a living example of a commune) has operated a number of successful businesses for decades.

      The sad irony is that to fight against communism is to fight against democracy. Neither socialism nor democracy can exist without the other. Communist countries that undermine democracy will fail, just like democratic societies that undermine socialism/social-democracy will fail. It’s not an all or nothing scenario. It’s a balancing act of simultaneously seeking the common good, public freedom, and individual rights. […]

      At the time in the US, what the Milwaukee sewer socialists had been doing was radical socialism. They were collectivizing many aspects of society that had formerly been left private. The socialists made these things part of the government because the private sector was failing at it or not even attempting to do it. The private sector didn’t care about pollution, about clean air and clearn water, especially not in terms of the poor. The owners and operators of big businesses that were causing most of the pollution didn’t care that poor people were dying. They didn’t care because they could afford to live far away from the polluted areas and they could afford to have clean water brought to them.

      The Milwaukee sewer socialists were so successful that their brand of socialism has become the norm in the US. Also, it wasn’t that all of this was simply spending other people’s money to help the poor. As I’ve already pointed out, during their time of governing, their policies helped make the local economy boom. They did this by prosecuting corruption and regulating the crony capitalism that was rife among big businesses at the time.

  6. The political right’s mentality is fascinating:

    If there’s one belief that binds the disparate factions of the American right together, it’s the belief in American exceptionalism, both for the nation and for individuals. The mythology that conservatism is about promoting excellence and encouraging strivers is found throughout conservative media and literature, from the story of John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to Reagan’s description of America as a “shining city on a hill.” While it often manifests as contempt for the poor and the vulnerable, in the abstract this conservative enthusiasm for doing better could, in theory, be channeled productively toward actually pushing people to achieve.

    So why are so many conservatives abandoning this enthusiasm for the exceptional in favor of what can only be described as jealous sniping aimed at people who are actually trying to expand the world creatively and scientifically? There’s a lot of high-falutin’ talk on the right about supporting the strivers, but in practice, the conservative response to someone who tries to stick his head above the crowd is to beat it down with a hammer. Conservatives may think of themselves as lovers of excellence, but in reality, “Who do you think you are?” is swiftly becoming an unofficial right-wing motto.

    I think that it’s the exposure of the political right to the realities that has caused a lot of scrutiny.

    They fear the facts, they fear the evidence, because of it’s implications. Ironically too, despite their claim of meritocracy, they hate scientists. In a sane society, should the best and brightest not have a say in policy?

    • That was a pretty good article. It got to the point and used some clear examples.

      A lot of this is motivated by genuine fear, and research does show that conservatives have stronger fear responses along with stronger disgust responses. The world is changing and the future is uncertain, all reasons for concern and even worry. On some level, I think conservatives recognize the problems discussed by liberals are indeed real problems. They are reacting out of fear and trying to deny not just uncomfortable facts but overwhelming realities.

      There simply is nothing within conservative ideology that helps them come to terms with a problem like anthropogenic global warming. It challenges their entire worldview. I understand why they are so afraid. Reality is going to smack them silly one day and it is going to hurt like hell. They are paralyzed by their fear, like a deer in headlights.

      Many conservatives are probably hoping they will be dead before the pied piper comes for his due.

    • Then the issue becomes, what sense of responsibility does the right have.

      They are always accusing the left of taking entitlements and spending taxpayer money. Seldom do they mention the idea that they have a duty to future generations (save when they try to cut social benefits under the guise of debt reduction).

      They also are totally unwilling to discuss the military’s real budget and the true costs of invading other nations, which is far more than they were ever willing to admit, in both money and lives.

      It seems to me that modern conservatism is the greatest parasite ideology of all.

    • What the right can’t honestly and seriously face are the issues of externalized costs, free rider problem, moral hazard, and tragedy of the anti-commons. All of this combined is the Achille’s Heel of the entire political right, including conservative-minded liberals.

      The continuation of their social and economic order depends on their ability to shift all accountability away from themselves and those they see as part of their group. This means shifting all problems and costs onto hidden domestic underclasses (in ghettoes, isolated rural communities, prisons, etc), onto distant foreign populations (mostly poor dark-skinned people with little power to fight back, typically in oppressive undemocratic countries that are sometimes puppet governments and banana republics, often the old stomping grounds of the former colonial empires), and onto future generations (which of course will most heavily fall on the future generations of the underclasses and foreign populations).

      I’ve suspected that many transnational corporations would go bankrupt if they ever had to pay for all the externalized costs. Tale away the regulatory capture, revolving door between big biz and big gov, natural resources giveaways, government subsidies and bailouts, no-bid contracts, license to pollute and destroy environments, and power to exploit everything and everyone. Many of these massive corporate powers would be unable to function in an actual free market where real competition and accountability existed.

      For those who advocate free market capitalism, I say it sounds like a great idea. Let’s try it out and see what happens. But you’d first have to eliminate these corporate global superpowers that are presently making free market capitalism impossible.

  7. I’m not sure that social democracy will assuredly turn into socialism. It did not for the Nordic nations, who seem to be seeing rising inequality and more capitalistic than anything else right now.

    That may be due to the immense pressure they are under though. I think that there is pressure from the business and other interests to change. Perhaps also pressure from the US as well.

    I have noticed though how the political right does look at social democracy. They either:

    1. Try to deny that it is successful (witness how the universal healthcare debates have been shaped in the US)

    2. Deny that the living standards differences on average

    3. The business interests are trying to change the Nordic nations

    I think that at heart, the fact that Social Democracy has managed to get a better standard of living compared to the right wing preferred ideology (Gilded Age style capitalism), is why they deny it so much.

    But there’s another question, can a nation in this day and age remain egalitarian? It’s a huge question because corporations have too much power.

    • I suppose we could add “small homogenous” nation to the list of excuses the right loves to make.

      This implies their views on racial superiority and the idea that somehow, public policy has nothing to do with the relative successes?

    • “I’m not sure that social democracy will assuredly turn into socialism. It did not for the Nordic nations, who seem to be seeing rising inequality and more capitalistic than anything else right now.”

      I’m not sure either. Some socialists have felt more sure about this. My view is simply that the distinction between the two is a lot less clear than many acknowledge. It’s a blurry line. Both seek much of the same goals for a society, in their emphasis on the public good. I think labels often are arbitrary.

      Since even many Marxist support free markets and since even many unfree societies have capitalist economies, why does capitalism get conflated with free markets? Why is it often assumed that an economy in a socialist society couldn’t be ‘free’? Whose freedom are we talking about and whose freedom is being excluded?

      “That may be due to the immense pressure they are under though. I think that there is pressure from the business and other interests to change. Perhaps also pressure from the US as well.”

      Capitalism pretty much controls the entire world. The major global powers are capitalist (or more accurately corporatist) and through immense militaries they control the airspace, the oceans, the trade routes, and most of the natural resources. Either a country operates within that capitalist system or becomes entirely isolationist. Not much of a choice.

      “I think that at heart, the fact that Social Democracy has managed to get a better standard of living compared to the right wing preferred ideology (Gilded Age style capitalism), is why they deny it so much.”

      That does seem to be the reason.

      “But there’s another question, can a nation in this day and age remain egalitarian? It’s a huge question because corporations have too much power.”

      I doubt egalitarianism is possible anywhere to any significant extent, as long at the world is ruled by crony capitalists, corporatists, fascists, plutocrats, oligarchs, and theocrats. I’m not sure what could change that.

      The greatest hope might be developments in technology and scientific knowledge that could alter how society is structured and functions. The one thing that the powers that be can’t control are unforeseen consequences, as the monarchs and aristocrats of the old empires didn’t predict the transformation that would follow from the spread of movable type printing presses.

      “I suppose we could add “small homogenous” nation to the list of excuses the right loves to make.”

      If most on the political right believed that, they wouldn’t support most of the policies that they do. They promote a neoliberal corporatism of big gov and big biz that inevitably leads to multicultural globalization and the dependence on cheap labor from either immigrants or foreigners.

      None of this is conducive toward creating a small homogenous nation, assuming that is really what someone thought was what made these social democracies successful. Also, it wasn’t as if the South seceded from the Federal government to protect a sucessful homogenous white society, as they were the most mixed population in the country at that time, with states like South Carolina being majority black at the time.

      If conservatives didn’t have a large permanent underclass, then who would be exploited in their neoliberal corporatist dystopia? The one thing that the successful social democracies lack is large permanent underclasses, the very thing necessary for American-style capitalism.

  8. Capitalism was always dependent on having a large underclass. That and huge amounts of natural resources to exploit – land, minerals, etc. It flies in the face of the laws of physics, modern economics as well.

    I suppose the small homogenous part is to try to rationalize xenophobia.

    • I’ve never argued against capitalism on principle. I simply don’t have a dogmatically ideological mindset.

      All that I know is the reality doesn’t match the rhetoric. I agree with capitalist advocates that their rhetoric can sound great, but lots of rhetoric can sound great… in theory. I’m fine with speculating. Just don’t bullshit me that it is anything more than speculation based on unproven assumptions. If you think your beliefs are true, then prove it. That is the problem. Dogmatic ideologues don’t think they have to prove anything, because they simply ‘know’ they are right.

      Show me a capitalist society that can exist entirely without a large oppressed underclass, resource exploitation, political corruption, cronyism, and externalized costs. I’d love to see such a thing. That would be awesome. If I saw a real world example of that, I’d become the biggest true believer of capitalism. I’d be like one of those religious converts who go around proselytizing about the wonders and greatness of the one true faith.

      But I’m not going to wait around for the true believers to create a falsifiable hypothesis and test it. Going by the real world we live in, I’m forced to admit that the most well functioning societies are social democracies. They are forced to operate in a globalized capitalist order, but I doubt that the oppressive and corrupt corporatism that dominates the world is the reason for why these social democracies do so well. If anything, they do so well in spite of this dominant order.

    • Certainly, intelligence doesn’t inevitably lead to morality. Neither does the morality of good intentions necessarily lead to good results, intelligent or otherwise. But on a larger population and historical level, there does seem to be general correlation between increasing IQ and increasing moral results, even though it doesn’t apply in all individual cases.

  9. I suspect that an honest discussion about the impacts of a right-wing free market ideology would expose it as an unachievable ideal.

    In some ways, it resembles the flaws of Communism. The dominant interest will always tend to corrupt government and to use the influence of government to extract economic rent at the expense of society, simply because self-catering interest motivates corporations.

    There are other inherent problems. Free markets need perfect information for them to work. Otherwise, different parties can take advantage of the information asymmetry and profit off of that. In fact, that is a huge part of what investment banks do, arbitrage.

    I think that an honest discussion of capitalism would discredit it, the way that religion has in the face of the evidence for evolution.

    • I don’t think most ruling elites and most social conservatives necessarily care about the type of society they live in, just as long as it is a stable social order where everyone is kept in their place. There were ruling elites and social conservatives in communist USSR. There were and still are ruling elites and social conservatives in capitalist US.

      The only group that will challenge dogmatic ideologies and nationalistic propaganda are the radical left-wingers and social liberals. You can see that even with the American political right, where those that are the most challenging to the problems of the status quo are those that are the most socially liberal.

  10. Yeah I would agree that socially conservative people like it that way. They basically want a feudal system with no social mobility.

    It’s totally incompatible with prosperity for most people. They are basically an aristocracy in all but the name. In many ways, its like one has lived through a real life version of Animal Farm.

    As I said, I think the right has it’s reason for fearing education. They have historically opposed literacy too for similar reasons.

  11. There is one other problem – there has been a much more limited effect of “Moral Flynn” on the very wealthy.

    There was no reason why they could not have accepted the WWII prosperity of a more egalitarian society. Instead their greed got in the way.

    • Average IQ for the wealthy either is increasing more slowly or not increasing at all. I suspect at the very top it has stopped increasing, but I’m not sure how much data we have for the cross-generational change of IQ among the economic ruling elite. Maybe the moral Flynn effect has more to do with the decreasing IQ gap between populations, whether in terms of race, ethnicity, or class.

  12. If it were, we would expect that the concept of noblesse oblige would not only gain steam, but completely displace old plantation mentality. That has not happened.

    IN fact, to an extent, you could argue that the opposite has happened. We should not idealize the 1950s and 1960s, especially considered the McCarthyist Era, the racial tensions, the escalation to Vietnam, etc, but we should acknowledge that most Americans made real economic progress.

    Instead, if anything, the wealthy seem to care less about society as whole than in the past. This may, as you’ve noted, eventually reach a breaking point.

    • Many of these trends may only have significance in the long term of multiple generations or even centuries. It might not be overly relevant or particularly clear within a single lifetime.

      That said, I’m willing to bet we are going to see some massive changes soon, by which I mean in the coming decades. There are just too many important factors that are changing: public opinion, demographics, technology, etc.

      The IQ might be the biggest factor of all. Less smart people are maybe in some ways more content or fatalistic. To imagine other possibilities (and hence to create dissatisfaction with the status quo) requires extremely well developed fluid intelligence. So far, most people have lacked this ability to any great extent, but as that changes social unrest may increase.

      I also stand by another of my predictions. I think the younger generations of the upper classes, elites included, are going to be far different. The differences between generations in the near future might be greater in some ways than the differences between population divides: classes, races, ethnicities, regions, etc.

      I’m looking to the Millennials, across all demographics. If we are going to see change in my lifetime, it will most likely come as Millennials gain greater power and influence, both in politics and economics, but also more media presence. That will take a while longer to show itself.

  13. So far, young conservative Republicans have proven as conservative as their predecessors. That being said, it is true that on average, younger people are less conservative than in previous generations.

    There have also been studies showing that excess money makes one politically conservative.

    There will have to be massive changes:
    – The global warming crisis
    – Shortages of natural resources, water, arable farmland, and other crises
    – Depletion of top soil could be a crisis in farming
    – Inequality as you note

    Now this is the interesting one – will it reach the breaking point and what happens? I’ve noted in the past that a revolution could come from the left or the right (like Germany, Japan, and Italy in the 1920/30s).

    • Yes, young Republicans are conservatives. But fewer in the young generation are choosing to be Republican. Young Republican are a small minority. But it is true that this remaining small demographic is quite conservative.

      A revolution could come from the left or the right. Also, even a left-leaning revolution could be socially conservative. All of the major communist revolutions were in countries that at the time had socially conservative majorities. Communism as statist authoritarianism seems to require social conservatism.

      As there is an emerging socially liberal majority, it could express itself in either left-wing or right-wing ideologies. If right-wing, we could simply have a gay friendly fascism or a race neutral theocratic populism.

  14. The other question is, do we have a moral Flynn effect going on right now in the US?

    Evidence for:
    – It seems to be growing in some ways, particularly amongst the young.
    – Support for things like gay marriage have gone up.
    – Over the past few decades, there have been steady improvements in things like racial tolerance

    Evidence against:
    – Rising inequality
    – The surviving and aging conservatives seem to be doubling down and at times, becoming worse
    – Most importantly, the rich show no signs of relenting.

    It’s not all clear.

    • I’m not sure. I started reading the books by Pinker and Shermer. They both discuss the Moral Flynn Effect. I’ll have to see what evidence they have to offer.

      A central problem is that, on a societal level, there are always generational delays. Some of these are just 20 year lag times, as with lead exposure increases and decreases. Other generational shifts will require multiple generations to entirely vacate the scene before some new pattern becomes apparent.

      The kind of data that the Moral Flynn effect is based on is long term data. It’s looking at patterns across generations, but also across centuries (or, with historical and archaeological evidence, even across millennia). All of the trends aren’t continuous, for there are regular blips. The entire crime wave of the past decades apparently was just a blip, but it sure didn’t feel like a blip to many people at the time who thought it spelled the decline of civilization or something.

      What is happening at any particular moment in history isn’t all that important. We have too look outside or our brief moment in time. Even within our lifetimes, the near future will likely surprise us in many ways. So, yeah, it’s not all clear.

  15. Over the past 40 years, the effect has not been very good with the Silents and Boomers in charge at least. They did not get a Moral Flynn over time effect. If anything they reversed many of the decisions of prior generations.

    Things are looking better with generation Y though.

    • The Moral Flynn Effect apparently is not observed within generations. It happens across generations. A new factor is that people live longer and so generations have longer lasting influences. In the past, an older generation like the Silents would have been almost entirely out of the picture decades ago.

      So, we may see more of a delayed response to the Moral Flynn Effect. We won’t be able to sense the actual direction society is going until most of the Boomers are dead. That will be about when Generation Y will be turning into a greater force.

      Still, I would give the older generations credit where it is due. The Civil Rights movement was largely the product of the Silent Generation or at least came to fruition as the last wave was reaching adulthood. That was no small accomplishment for a generation. It would have been impossible for previous generations to have imagined such a possibility.

    • Maye it is a delayed response. I would agree the Silent Generation does deserve some credit for the Civil Rights, although perhaps more should be awarded to the Generation Before.

      Perhaps we should say then that the effects of the Moral Flynn are not standard.
      – In the Southern US and Appalachia at least, there has been a much more limited Moral Flynn Effect. IN some cases there were reversals. They resisted the Civil Rights movement (conservative whites) and have basically helped the Republican Party become it’s current state.

      – The very rich too have, despite their wealth not become more moral.

      – Again, my generation is more encouraging. Even in the South we are seeing Generation Y become more socially liberal. The growing Hispanic population in those areas also helps things.

      I guess we could say that it’s complex.

  16. Increasingly I think that simply letting the South and the more conservative states of the West go would help the rest of the nation. I know you’ve discussed splitting into 7 or 8 pieces, but simply letting the South and West go may be enough.

    • I like to fantasize about that. My inner (left-)libertarian loves to envision such alternative worlds. My inner anarchist (anarcho-syndicalist or whatever) has even crazier dreams. But nothing will change, except through the present system failing and becoming dysfunctional or even outright collapsing (civil war? revolution? environmental disaster? imperial overreach?). Even though I’m capable of imagining much, the one thing that is hard for me to imagine is a peaceful transition to smaller local governments, however one wishes to divide it.

  17. Something along the lines of Jesusland versus the Blue states, which might join Canada (or form some type of close integration pact) would be a reasonable start.

    For the Blue States, let’s consider their position:
    – For the most part, the Blue States have been subsidizing the Red States, giving more money than they get back from the Federal government.

    – This means of course that with the Blue States now in control, they can use that money more effectively. Some things are possible like a universal healthcare system, or perhaps a more generous welfare state. With the spare money, it would be possible with a modest tax raise.

    – With the political scene different, there is the possibility for a real Progressive Party and progressive change. The current Democratic Party would end up being a centrist party, and the remains of the Republican Party would be forced to move left, but remain a less significant movement. It would also open up the possibility of something like Canada.

    – Other major investments such as infrastructure, education, and scientific research are likely to be far more politically acceptable to just the Blue States. Basically, the major problems of society could be addressed.

    In the South:
    – The right wing types constantly attacking the “big” government and peddling “rugged individualism” ideologies are going to have a lot of explaining to do. The sad irony is that the Deep South is far more dependent on the government, despite their attacks as Blue States as leechers.

    – The wars would stop. Simply because the Blue states don’t want them and with the Federal money gone, the Red States will struggle to afford it.

    – The only sad part is that the many who are poor in the South will end up far, far worse. I suspect there will be an economic apartheid by the Southern Whites, desperate to hold onto power against a growing minority population.

    – There may well be some sort of theocracy in the South as well. Christian Taliban style government will make life very unpleasant. I suspect that the living standards in many cases will be like the developing world.

    The question is, I suppose, how many nations should it be? I think that the 2 nations are a good starting point. If the Midwest for example wants to secede from the Northeast (and New England), it’s an option, but I think that politically, it is a workable situation. The West Coast too politically has more in common with the Northeast so I think it is workable.

    The Blue states will not be heaven, but it will be a much more workable situation politically, and I suspect, a higher quality of life as well.

    • The North seems more predictable in this scenario. The demographics are more stable. But it would be different in the South, as both demographically and politically there is less certainty in the implications.

      Instantly, the South would become a minority-majority. Even if whites tried to oppress all the dark-skinned people, they might find it doesn’t work as well as it did when they had a white majority North and the force of the Federal government. The blacks might start to really get uppity.

      Plus, there was always a lot more mixed politics in the South. Alternative politics and genuine populism wasn’t just suppressed by Southern governments but also with the help of the Federal government, such as Cold War suppression of the organizing of poor workers and communists, especially when they were black. The South found itself always in reaction toward the North, which never allowed progressivism to fully develop there.

      All those Southerners with their anti-government rhetoric would suddenly find that their new central government was in the South. The irony of the Civil War was that the Confederate government acted as oppressively as Southerners claimed the Federal government acted. There was even the State of Jones that sought to secede from the Confederate government, but hypocritically they wouldn’t allow it and so they violently put down their assertion of independence.

      It would finally force Southerners to come to terms with their own internal divisions.

  18. There is that – the growing minority populations will not take it well. The question is whether they have the power to fight back.

    The reason why I say that is because in South Africa for example, the white to black ratio is like 1:4, but despite this, the whites still were able to maintain a very oppressive system.

    Another consideration is “letting the South go”, the question will be on what terms. So far I’ve tried to keep in on, it was good times, lets shake hands and go. But if it’s on bad terms then everything else changes.

    – If the Red and Blue states agree to voluntarily split in good economic times, then perhaps there is a lot more hope for reform.
    – The Blue States would be able to change as I’ve described.
    – The Red States would likely bar any real reforms and end up going to an economic plutocracy, with a lot of religion mixed in.

    – If it happens because the US went bankrupt, due to the wars, the rich not paying taxes, and economic mismanagement, then even in the North until there is a recovery, there will be a difficult situation.
    – There might be not a recovery at all in the South. The situation may remain very grim for a very long time until some new development happens. Fascism is a very real possibility in that case.

    There are of course some things that are relatively predictable:
    – Financial challenges due to the mismanagement of the economy for so long
    – Environmental catastrophe from global warming, water shortages, and natural disasters
    – Loss of scientific leadership in the US
    – Falling apart infrastructure that has been neglected
    – Increasing levels of inequality

    These are all predictable alas, and the right is in denial about them.

  19. Increasingly I wonder if the South ever progressed from a feudal society.

    The cities are becoming more centrist, even leaning left at times, but the rural regions if anything, are becoming more right wing.

    • “Increasingly I wonder if the South ever progressed from a feudal society.”

      Definitely, a more rigid hierarchical social order survives there moreso than other parts of the country.

      “The cities are becoming more centrist, even leaning left at times, but the rural regions if anything, are becoming more right wing.”

      Yeah. I don’t know how relevant that will be going into the future. Rural areas have been in a continuous process of depopulation since the late 1800s. That process has quickened to an even greater extent with the past young generation.

      The rural vote still has disproportionate influence because of how the US political system is designed. At some point, the force of urban areas will force changes, as the population will become so concentrated. Urban areas have always been the center of political power, even when rural populations are manipulated to counter that power.

      Whatever will happen is dependent on Millennials and GenY.

  20. Some things I think should be changed – the Senate I would support abolishing outright and going to a unicameral system, if not replacing with some type of proportional representation system.

    But it is Southern values that make me disturbed. There seems to be a built in degree of racism, anti-rationalism, and misplaced pride that is not easy to change.

    • My conservative father described the South as having a plantation mentality. He is a conservative, but a Midwestern conservative. While living in the Deep South, some of his friends would joke that he was a secret liberal, I guess because he wasn’t a batshit crazy right-winger. What goes for normal conservatism in other parts of the country is unrecognizable in the hardcore racist and theocratic South.

      Things are changing, though. It is hard to see, as power shifts slowly. It’s amazing how ignorant the older generations are compared to the younger. Though there is still plenty of ignorance to go around, some of the most blatant varieties are becoming less common. But sometime it can feel like an insurmountable mountain of bullshit we face in this country. I’m constantly shocked by new example of obliviousness and cluelessness.

      I was just reading a book written by a Boomer from New England. She discusses how ignorant she was and how ignorant her parents were. She notes, however, that her kids are being taught things that she only recently became aware of. I was almost shocked by how ignorant was this upper middle class, well-educated lady. But it was refreshing that she was able to admit to it. The knowledge gap might be greater across generations than across regions.

      There is some hope. Certainly, the growing majority-minority in the South is a lot less ignorant of racial issues and such.

  21. Even the more well educated classes are not well informed at times, as you’ve noted.

    I fear that abroad, Americans have gotten a reputation as an ignorant and arrogant people. Even as a Canadian, I have seen such behaviour – there are some Americans who really do regard themselves as “better”. A buddy of mine used to work at a tourist office in the UK and he noted that many of the American tourists would often remark things like “you owe us for WWII” and similar remarks.

    Granted, many Canadians do regard themselves as better as well in living conditions than in the US, although I suppose when challenged, many do back up their arguments with facts (most notably the universal healthcare and the higher standards of living on average).

    From my personal experiences, I have seen unpleasant people from every culture. But I think the percentage of people who do fill the negative American stereotype is much higher.

    • It’s the side effect of having been a global superpower in recent history. Americans are just the most recent example in a long line of arrogant imperial subjects. Power tends to go to one’s head, even when one is just a minion at the bottom of a powerful society.

    • Maybe. The difference is that many blacks returned to the South from living in the North for a few generations. Those blacks got the taste for a different kind of culture and politics. They aren’t likely to be as satisfied with the status quo of the Southern hierarchy. Either way, I think there will be interesting clashes of worldviews and interests. It isn’t a stable situation.

  22. IF the nations do split, perhaps we’ll see something like the boycott of South Africa. Not saying that was perfect (look at the inequality rates there even today), but I suspect that is what will have to happen.

    It’s all about the power I am afraid. It will be about moral power and numbers versus who has the wealth, weapons, and control over society.

    What’s sad is that many poorer Southern Whites tend to defend their system despite what it means for them.

  23. The other question is, will the arrogance go away with the decline of the US?

    It may be already with generation Y.

    Sadly enough, Chinese tourists have apparently gained a bad reputation.

      • The third article made a good point.

        “Not every Chinese tourist is a rude one, and educated people are usually better behaved than those who have had a lower standard of education, said Chen.”

        In the college town I live in, there are many Chinese nationals. I rarely notice rude behavior from them, certainly not more than I experience from all the drunk Americans I regularly come across working downtown. But of course these are highly educated Chinese. One difference with China right now is a far lower percentage of its population is well educated compared to Western countries.

        Other countries have gone through this process of maturing as a population. The same thing happened to the US not too long ago.

        Aug 10th 2013
        “There is nothing new about this. Years ago, in the post WW2 era, when “rich Americans” were flooding into Europe as tourists, we used to talk about “Ugly Americans” . . . that is, ugly in behavior. And it is true – they WERE. But times change and eras pass.
        “The problem with “Ugly Chinese” is that they are new on the tourism scene. It is NOT a result of racial differences. Chinese are no more (and no less) rude or polite or intelligent or sincere or kind (or any other adjective you may try) than any other ethnic group. They are just inexperienced in how to be a GOOD tourist.
        “This, too, shall pass. And then, in 40 or 50 years the Chinese can complain about the horribly rude tourists of, well, whatever emerging nation exists at that time.”

        Jun 10th 2013
        “I recently watched a documentary about the London Underground transport system. (It is their 150th anniversary). Showing footage of a train being boarded about 50-60 years ago, I was struck by how badly behaved the passengers were as they struggled to board before the passengers had got out. The had to be retrained by LT staff. They all seemed well dressed with the men in jackets and ties and presumably reasonably educated clerical staff. I can recall seeing signs on buses in Spain in the 70s forbidding spitting. Nowadays London passengers need no restraining and are very polite if a little glum and Spaniards would not dream of spitting on a bus.
        “I think poor behaviour by “uncooth Mainlanders will soon disappear. We just have to be tolerant and wait.”

        • Perhaps so.

          We will have to see in the coming years.

          The issue is that even with a high level of education, from my experiences, the percentage of what I call “arrogant” tourists from the US compares not so well with other nations, at least from the people I’ve talked to. Anecdotal advice is of course not the final word, but it’s still very interesting to see. Looking online, I have found I’m not the only one with such thoughts.

        • There is also the factor of power and privilege breeding unawareness. Research has shown that the wealthy are less able to read the emotions of strangers than are the poor. As Americans are on average wealthier than many people in the world, that would play a factor.

          This is particularly true as those who travel the most tend to be the wealthiest. It was new wealth in the early 20th century that led more Americans to travel to other countries. It is the same dynamic of new wealth that is causing Chinese to travel more.

          It’s possible that some Western countries, especially the former empires, had long established populations that were more widely traveled and hence worldly. The empires like that of the British created some of the earliest cosmopolitan societies. I suspect that a number of countries developed a middle class before the US, as the US was slow to urbanize because of the agricultural base of the economy. China also has been slow to urbanize.

          The uneducated may be rude for obvious reasons of being “low class,” uncouth and uncultured, while the well-educated in a global superpower like the US or China would tend to be rude for other reasons. It would be interesting to look at the oldest multicultural and cosmopolitan countries and see how class plays a role in behavior toward others. Spain might be an interesting example to consider, as they have a unique location within diverse modernity.

          The US is rather new to its role as a global superpower. We are a young and naive society. The former empires have been dealing with issues like these for centuries before the US gained significant influence in the world. It reminds me of Fukuyama’s recent books on the difficulty and long term effort it takes to create a civil society.

  24. I’m not sure it is always wealth, although that could be a big factor. It seems to be cultural.

    We have our nasty people here in Canada too. But this widespread contempt for the poor is unheard of. Talking to the UK, they say that there has been a lot of concern because of the increase in “poor bashing”, especially as the inequality has risen.

    In the Nordic nations, I once had a Dane tell me that she found America’s mentality a bit repulsive. The Swedes and the Finns do as well.

    The other reason why is it is often middle class Americans that poor bash as well or bash other nations.

    • It’s a combination of factors. Not just any single thing.

      Concentrated wealth along with concentrated power, based on an entrenched elite that has its origins in British aristocracy. High inequality and low mobility with a racialized rigid social order and class hierarchy. A legacy of colonialism, imperialism, genocide, slavery, revolts, revolution, and civil war. A vast population in a vast country with old divisions of ethnicities, races, and regions.

      The US is simply too large, too diverse, and with too many problems. No other country has a comparable set of issues. On top of that, we have so little consensus or shared traditions to lessen the conflicts. We have few of the positives that other Western countries have and many of the negatives that Western countries lack.

      The US is more of a post-colonial country, more in line with South and Central America. The European empires had the advantage of being stable ethnic nation-states which gave them stability. The US plays the role of a European empire, but without any of the advantages that made those old empires function reasonably well.

      I’m sometimes surprised that Americans aren’t even more dysfunctional. It’s a small miracle that this country doesn’t collapse. Americans have tons of problems and only ever seem to be able to react to whatever problems can’t be ignored, and yet the country somehow muddles along. Most Americans are simply clueless and act accordingly.

      As for bashing of other groups, Americans are equal opportunity. The rich bash the middle class and the poor. The rich and the middle class bash the poor. The poor bash the middle class and the rich. Whites bash minorities. Minorities bash whites. Everyone bashes the recent immigrant groups, the newest evil enemy of the state, and the government. Bashing is an American pasttime. It’s how we let off steam and so avoid another revolution or civil war.

      Americans have always been known as rude and crude, since before the US was a country. A lot of that had to do with the respectable people of the English and Northern European monarchies. America was built on criminals (more criminals sent to the American colonies than to Australia) and the poorest and most despised of ethnics (Irish, Scots-Irish, Palatine Germans, etc). The US was built on the dregs of Britain and Europe, those despised as much by the ruling elites in America as by the ruling elites in the Old World..

      Even Americans don’t really understand Americans. So, I don’t blame anyone else for not understanding. We are a conflicted and hypocritical people. But it does make for a dynamic society compared to other Western countries. Dynamic isn’t necessarily good, as it can simply mean unstable and imbalanced, along with being prone to reactionary politics and social resltlessness, but it keeps things interesting. Maybe the rest of the world is tired of the US keeping things interesting. I also understand that perspective.

      Hopefully, the US will eventually mature as a country and escape it’s post-colonial problems.

    • The more I think about it, the more I think that it will have to split. Whether a blue-red split is enough or if more pieces are needed (ex: until they are the size of the European nations) is the part that is open to debate.

    • I do think the US has some unique problems, a dysfunctional exceptionalism. But in other ways, I don’t think the US is all that different from past empires.

      It’s the same old patterns repeating. I’m sure every new empire experienced the same kind of patriotic arrogance, especially when abroad. It’s simply the nature of being an imperial subject. Many Americans have the disadvantage of not even realizing they are imperial subjects, which adds a layer of cluelessness.

      Still, the differences between American imperialism and, for example, British imperialism might be a lot less than it first appears. I’m sure the early British imperialists were complete assholes, considering they went around conquering, enslaving, and committing genocide.

    • Two cognitive biases rule the roost: “now is forever,” and “we live in a just world.”

      In the middle ages, “noble blood” justified inequity and social stratification and misery. Now “genes” do the same.

      Consider that behavior genetics proponents are certain despite there having been zero replicated genes linked to human behavior. Consider that modern psychological diagnosis are steadily increasing despite having little, if any validity. Consider that “mental illness” prevalence increases as a function of income inequality.

      Inequity, etc. are not bad per se. The problem is when people ignore suffering and believe that inequity that does not make everyone better off is still “good.” “Those people DESERVE X for arbitrary reason Y.” Groupist concepts facilitate this kind of dehumanization; the latest and dominant one is race.

      Europe has a certain approach to the problem — admit defeat on these biases and ensure general homogeneity. This fosters less “those people” thinking and more goodwill. It can’t be denied.

      The United States of America’s approach ensures that a voice telling you you’re wrong about everything is never too far. Further, the U.S. offers incentives to those who contribute good ideas to the American experience and culture — jus soli, or birthright citizenship, is an example. No idea or way of life is sacred in the realm of ideas.

      Europe is far different than the U.S. with re: free speech, and Europe is far different with re: jus soli.

      A substantial chunk of racist working class whites voted a black guy in as President less than 50 years after blacks had formally received federal backing of their right to vote and civil rights generally. I don’t care what anyone says — Europe couldn’t have done it.

    • Hello, swank. I generally agree with you. But I still don’t see the US as much of a success story. Everything that this country has achieved has come at great costs to others. I’m not overly impressed that a century and a half after the ending of slavery Americans ‘elected’ a half African with a white mother. Many other countries elected minorities as presidents long before the US, including women.

      That said, I do think there are some advantages to American dysfunction. We are used to messy politics and ugly social realities in America. It bothers us less, which can be good or bad. There is a grudging tolerance in this that is lacking in most Western countries. Diversity and disagreement aren’t as much of a threat to the American social order as they are to European countries.

      The US is less a leader than it is a drunk man stumbling where the more sober would be cautious. This could lead America in interesting directions or it could lead us off a cliff. But no doubt America is going somewhere.

    • Swank – I wanted to respond further. I get the point you are making, but I also wonder about the larger perspective. For example, you state that:

      “Europe has a certain approach to the problem — admit defeat on these biases and ensure general homogeneity. This fosters less “those people” thinking and more goodwill. It can’t be denied.”

      I think that is too simplistic. Many of the countries of the Americas, the United States included, inherited traditions of diversity from Europe. The main reason for this is because the Americas specifically inherited the traditions of empires. The one thing all empires excel at is diversity.

      This makes sense when you look at the empires of Spain, France, and Britain. Before they were conquerors of other people, they had long histories of being repeatedly conquered by diverse other cultures. They learned to assimilate differences and deal with conflicts. That is particularly clear with the British Isles which includes not just a diversity of nations but also of cultures, languages, and genetics (Celts, Basque, Scandinavians, Germans, and French).

      It is also clear with a place like Spain which has a unique position in relation to the larger world. Spain is the ancient stronghold of Europeans during Ice Age. It’s always played a key role because of location. There were various indigenous people who made it their home, but also many invaders as well, from the Romans to the Moors. In some ways, Spain does diversity better than the US. Americans have a long history of destroying diversity in order to enforce a “melting pot” monoculture, whether or not ethnic groups want to give up their independent cultures and identities. It’s different in Spain where populations like the Basque and Romani are allowed to have their own autonomous communities:

      The closest example in the US would be Native Americans. But their limited autonomy only came about because total genocide became too difficult and so isolation was used instead. German-Americans, my people, are the largest ancestral group in the US and they used to have their own independent communities, but they were forcibly assimilated, both by law and threat of violence. This is sad, as German-Americans were among the most tolerant of Americans and the first to protest slavery, among other injustices. Even blacks who have never been allowed to assimilate fully into the rest of society had their entire African cultures, religions, and languages destroyed; and so they neither could assimilate nor remain independent.

      Europe hasn’t admitted defeat. No doubt they have their issues and conflicts. But they have been dealing with these problems for far longer than the United States has existed. A young nation such as ours shouldn’t get too arrogant. What ability to deal with diversity the US came from Britain and Europe. We should be grateful for what we inherited, even as we develop it in our own unique way.

      This is something that has fascinated me for a long time. Our foreign inheritance is made most clear in the regional cultures of America. New York City, for example, has a long history of tolerance that goes back to it being a colony of Netherlands. The one thing Netherlands was known for was tolerance. It was where many Englishmen and other Europeans fleed to seek refuge and freedom, including such people as Spinoza’s family and John Locke. William Penn brought another model of tolerance, before him Roger Williams had his own vision, and before both of them was the Samuel de Champlain (although of Canada, he had great influence on all of North America, including Penn’s ability to have good relations with the local Native Americans).

      I’ve written much about this in the past. Americans owe much to other countries. That is what it means to be an immigrant nation. Our culture and traditions is a hodgepodge of origins. This is even true of our bastard language, English, one of the most mixed up languages in the world. Everything that is American was first British and European. Our ideals and practices of freedom and liberty, including the words themselves, have their roots in the Old World.

    • Here is Ta-Nehisi Coates overtly writing to his son but obviously speaking to a larger audience (Between the World and Me):

      “There is nothing extreme in this statement. Americans deify democracy in a way that allows for a dim awareness that they have, from time to time, stood in defiance of their God. This defiance is not to be much dwelled upon. Democracy is a forgiving God and America’s heresies—torture, theft, enslavement—are specimens of sin, so common among individuals and nations that none can declare themselves immune. In fact, Americans, in a real sense, have never betrayed their God. When Abraham Lincoln declared, in 1863, that the battle of Gettysburg must ensure “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” he was not merely being aspirational. At the onset of the Civil War, the United States of America had one of the highest rates of suffrage in the world. The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term people to actually mean. In 1863 it did not mean your mother or your grandmother, and it did not mean you and me. As for now, it must be said that the elevation of the belief in being white was not achieved through wine tastings and ice-cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land.”

    • Besides Coates’ book, another one I’m reading is “Moral Imagination: Essays” by David Bromwich. They are maybe a good balance for each other.

      Coates portrays unadulterated reality along with searing insight and judgment. He simply lays it out as it is and offers nothing in its place. Rather than comfort or solutions, he offers a moral awakening. It’s not a work for the faint of heart.

      Bromwich, on the other hand, is not coming from that black tradition of righteous anger. His vantage point is that of the upper middle class white academic, not that of a historical outsider. Bromwich is a Burkean liberal and staunch anti-imperialist, a bit confusing to mainstream American politics but still no radical voice from the wilderness.

      Here are a few choice quotes from Bromwhich’s collection:

      “The United States has at times sought to be exemplary. We have unfortunately become evangelical; and part of the reason is the wish to stand unopposed at the center of the world. This ambition is conventional, not particularly democratic, and in no way imaginative. It is driven by energetic fantasies.”
      (pp. xi-xii)

      “Self-absorption and uninhibited aggrandizement are familiar extremes of character in the United States. They have also marked the character of the nation as a whole. “The Self-Deceptions of Empire” is an appreciation of a theologian and social critic, Reinhold Niebuhr, who saw more searchingly than others at mid-century the combined effects of the belief in America’s uniqueness and a commitment to worldwide expansion. Niebuhr wrote to chasten the assumption that we are good (uniquely good) and that we are therefore situated to punish our enemies, enlighten our friends, and mobilize the diffusive benefits of the global market. Many readers who believe they are following Niebuhr’s wisdom have gotten his emphasis wrong. They think he said, “There’s evil out there in the world, and we must act correspondingly with a practical sense of the limits of our ability to correct it.” On the contrary: he said that we harbor in ourselves both good and evil, just as other people do. I admire him as an iconoclast of the jargon of exceptionalism.”
      (p. xv)

      “Every nation is subject to a massive complacency: no group, therefore, which “does not stand partly outside of the nation” will ever “criticise the nation as severely as the nation ought to be criticised.” Niebuhr was at most a contingent nationalist, and American history as he saw it was to be judged without giving the benefit of the doubt to national good intentions. On the contrary, the United States, in The Irony of American History, is presented as a nation possessing the usual attributes of nations. It is the ascendant power in 1952, and the world could do far worse, Niebuhr implies; but it shows the characteristic deformations of every proud and aggrandizing country.”
      (pp. 256-257)

      “What Americans have construed as our goodness was always, to an embarrassing extent, the result of good fortune and the advice of prudent framers. Nothing about the nature of the United States will guard Americans from the self-deceptions of empire; these are an evil incident to the conquests of war, and every nation “is caught in the moral paradox of refusing to go to war unless it can be proved that the national interest is imperiled, and of continuing in the war only by proving that something much more than national interest is at stake.” The process of exaggerated reason-giving breeds a popular susceptibility to new threats where none exist. “Perhaps the most deleterious consequences of imperialism,” Niebuhr concludes, occur in “the spiritual rather than the economic realm.” He means what imperialism does to the colonizer as much as to the colonized.”
      (p. 261)

      ““Irony” is a word that grows more elusive and complex as this argument advances. In the irony of American history (sense one), the United States was rescued from the evils of individualism by the excesses of individualism, which created the necessity for large-scale economic reforms in the 1930s. Americans were thereby saved from the illusion that their way of life was so good that it ought to spread everywhere; yet what saved them was the emergence of an idealism opposed to theirs. Communism, on this view, is a monstrous growth of the utopian germ in democracy itself; and America now confronts a system exhibiting “evils which were distilled from illusions, not generically different from our own.” A steady theme of the book is that the kinship between liberalism and Communism may help us to forgive the development by which Communism became the greater evil, and make us less self-congratulatory about the crossing of fate with character by which America was spared the success of the Communists. But they are never alien, for Niebuhr. Their idealism, without distortion, would be an extension of recognizable American beliefs. That your enemy resembles yourself is the primary lesson to be extracted from the irony of the Cold War. Besides, America, in the behaviorist ideology of the social sciences, and in the rationalizing theory of the rational market, has produced its own version of bad utopianism.”
      (p. 263)

      “One thing the shorthand “9/ 11” inclines us to forget is that the 1990s incubated a powerful sect of strategists who regarded the fall of Communism as a letdown for the United States. Great powers need great enemies. The moment an empire contracts the scope of its ambitions is the moment it ceases to think itself an empire. It may then revert to a more modest condition: that of a free republic, or one power among others. The essence of empire, by contrast, is the spirit of militarism embodied in a policy of endless expansion.”
      (pp. 330-331)

    • Conservatism has become a near meaningless label at this point, at least in American politics. It can mean almost anything. American ‘conservatives’ have little interest in tradition. They are ignorant even of American history, much less any larger view of history, even English history. An American ‘conservative’ wouldn’t recognize a tradition if it punched them in the face. They aren’t seeking to conserve the past, but to conserve their vision of the present status quo, whether or not it connects to the past or even connects to reality.

  25. You may be right that the typical American does not even recognize that they are an imperial subject of sorts being used.

    I think though that a large number recognize that they are being exploited. It is that the political right has become skillful at redirecting that anger towards the left, academics, and other convenient targets rather than the rich. The left meanwhile, has very limited power.

    The Democrats like the Republicans are bought and paid for. Sure there are a few like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, but they are the exception. The progressive caucus is fighting against a rising tide of corporate money here.

    But I do believe that voter apathy plays a huge role in the current situation.

    • The issue of corporatism goes to a whole other level.

      In one sense, the US isn’t a country and America isn’t a continent. Taken in the form of a new kind of corporatism, the United States of America is simply the regional headquarters for a global lobbyist group of corporations that happens to have a military to enforce its demands.

      This is where the US deviates from the old European empires. Something entirely new is forming and it is ultimately beyond any local citizenry or government. It’s a transnational plutocratic ruling elite.

      I don’t know how many people understand this, both Americans and non-Americans.

  26. I think that outside of the US, more people have a clue.

    Inequality has become much more contentious outside of the US than in the US for example. There is also greater anti-corporate sentiment.

    The US prefers propaganda rather than outright force it would seem.

    • Propaganda is what the US has always done better than any other previous empire. All empires are forced to use rhetoric, civil religion, etc; but the US takes it to new heights. It is because of the age in which the US came to global power, the precise moment when propaganda became a scientific area of study and implementation.

      In its earliest use, propaganda simply meant manipulating public perception and so public behavior, whether done by corporations or governments. In the US, corporations and governments found a new way to work closely together to gain more power and reach than ever before possible. There are two great products of the American Empire, modern propaganda and eugenics. That is what we gave to the world.

      There is something about the polarization of the American mind. There is a secret link between American’s love of freedom and our tolerance of unfreedom and outright oppression. The Civil Rights movement wouldn’t have had its power if not for how vicious were the authoritarian responses by government.

      It’s the clash of values and shameless hypocrisy that makes American society such a mesmerizing drama for all to watch. Other countries could peacefully abolish slavery, but America had to have a civil war. Even our everyday politics is filled with endless drama. Americans are the drama queens of the world. We are the train wreck that no one can look away from. We Americans apparently are good at entertainment, if nothing else.

  27. Maybe. The rapid rise of Trump is certainly not an encouraging sign of things either.

    I think that the US will have to learn things the hard way. Either that or to just let the nation go its own separate ways. The Red States in particular would learn the “hard way”.

    • It does seem that, at this point, the US presidential campaign season has become a nearly endless and absurd spectacle. One does have to wonder how far it can go on like this. How much will Americans tolerate? The ruling elite are getting brazen in how far they are willing to insult the intelligences of Americans. It is embarsasing. I fear that Americans will be remembered by future generations as a joke.

    • There is a sense of repeating patterns from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The era when the plutocracy of the Gilded Age transitioned into the rise of fascism and other new forms of authoritarian public and private power.

  28. The thing is, large parts of the population are buying it. Hitler and the Nazis were elected with well under 50% of the vote. The Republican Party, particularly the more extreme conservative and Tea Party types are quite open to the rise of fascism and they have a large enough part of the population that it could happen.

    I think that when we look at history, there’s a pretty big danger there. On one hand, we do have generation Y to give reason for hope. On the other end, we have this …

    • I’m of the opinion that we live in such uncertain times that prediction, beyond broad trends, is a fool’s errand. There are too many factors in play. It could as easily tip one way as the other, depending on how the wind happens to blowing on a particular day.

      I read some reviews of a book about WWI. It’s Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark. From what I was able to gather, the author argues that there was nothing inevitable about it. Those in power let it go so far because they didn’t realize how far it would end up going.

      Maybe that is where we are at now. So many people can’t imagine how far any of these problems and conflicts can go. They can’t viscerally comprehend the real world results if global warming continues or a WWIII erupts. Like before WWI, life seems so good right now and everything seems to be getting better for most, especially those in power.

      On the other hand, there are other forces such as generational that could shift the flow of events. I wonder if the younger generation will have enough foresight and determination to make a differenece.

      I was thinking along another line the other day. I was considering the early ancient civilizations. They apparently were highly dependent on specific social and environmental conditions. Within those conditions, they were extremely stable. People within those societies couldn’t imagine it being any other way.

      Then almost all of the major civilizations collapsed one after the other in a short period of time. Relatively speaking, it was a minor shift that caused the mass chaos. It was just enough to cause some changes in weather patterns and a few significant disasters in key locations. That was it. Humans had seen far worse before, but not since the rise of civilization.

      I see our present society as not being so different. Everything we know is built on and necessitates precise conditions. Modern civilization was made possible because we are living in a brief period of ecological stability, the kind that doesn’t tend to last very long. We take these abnormal conditions as normal. Our societies require immense resources and efforts just to keep running on a daily basis. The entire system could collapse within days or slowly crumble over years. Either way, few if any would see it coming or maybe even understand what was happening once it had begun.

      We have observed what happens to societies when they breakdown. We saw it on the small scale in New Orleans. and on the large scale in Haiti. Think what a global catastrophe would be like, whether natural or man-made.

      • The data does make one curious about its meaning. I noticed there was much debate in the comments section. I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion about Russia. But I found these comments relevant to my own views:

        Cheryl • a year ago
        “I find it confusing that one even wonders why the Russians are so willing to die. Look at the US states that have experienced massive population declines. PA lost 40% of it’s population when the steel mills closed and the oil companies left. Not only did the jobs leave but the young people left looking for better opportunities. What you have left is a population making no money and seeing absolutely no opportunities for improvement. Look at Detroit, look at West Virginia’s coal mining areas. Look at the Indian reservations. All have incredible high suicide rates, drug addiction problems and social stagnation. Their social services are poor, their schools are poor their communities are poor. And when I say “poor” I mean bereft of hope, opportunities and cash. Everyone needs hope. Everyone needs to believe there is a reason for the pain one suffers in everyday life. You can get past a debilitating illness or injury if you know you are loved and you are an asset to society, that people will miss you and what you offer. In the US we are always talking about our rights…well the most basic of those are hope and the need to be needed.”

        smacarol • a year ago
        “I wonder if this means that the same fate is in the cards for our population statistics. Inequality, poverty, poor education, little access to little comforts–all seem to combine to make us a less hopeful people.”

        ISardamov • a year ago
        “This is a qiuote from p.73 of Polanyi’s “Great Transformation” – where he describes what happens when people are exposed unprotected to market forces: “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation.””

        jessica • a year ago
        “I’m not surprised by any of these figures. The US birth rate has dropped, too and its life expectancy has declined dramatically. Nearly 20% of the population never reaches 50. It’s called poverty, poor diet, and stress whether from overwork or running around trying to scurry for money or just from periods of hunger. I have no children, because I can’t even afford to feed myself. I have neighbors I’ve seen die in their 30’s. Big strapping men. Why? Poisoned GMO food, healthy food so expensive its a luxury, intermittent employment, and of course depression from not earning enough. What is the point of living if you can’t enjoy life? Work til you die. what is the point of having children if you can’t raise them and barely see them because you are working like a slave? The rich don’t care. as far as they are concerned 90% of us could die and they would still make obscene profit, so why not have us work to death like slaves If we allow it?”

      • In the comments, there was much discussion of the data. There was a slight uptick in the population in 2009 and 2013, but it was from immigrants, rather than native-born ethnic Russians.

        That is similar to the US. American whites are always complaining that the white population is on decline. The entirety of Generation X is the smallest native-born generation, but it is as large as the other generations because of the immigration boom.

        “Contrary to Parsons’s argument, moreover, Eberstadt shows that the current trend is not largely a problem of middle-aged Russians. While the graphs seem to indicate this, he notes, if one takes into account the fact that mortality rates normally rise with age, it is the younger generation that is staring down the most terrifying void. According to 2006 figures, he writes, “overall life expectancy at age fifteen in the Russian Federation appears in fact to be lower than for some of the countries the UN designates to be least developed (as opposed to less developed), among these, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Yemen.” Male life expectancy at age fifteen in Russia compares unfavorably to that in Ethiopia, Gambia, and Somalia.”

        Like the US, it is also the youngest generations that are getting hit the hardest. I don’t know about Russia. Here in the US, GenX experienced economic decline before any other generation: high childhood poverty rates, high child suicide and homicide rates, high unemployment rates once adulthood was reached, etc; and it of course hit poor minorities the worst.

        “If this is true—if Russians are dying for lack of hope, as they seem to be—then the question that is still looking for its researcher is, Why haven’t Russians experienced hope in the last quarter century? Or, more precisely in light of the grim continuity of Russian death, What happened to Russians over the course of the Soviet century that has rendered them incapable of hope? In The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt argues that totalitarian rule is truly possible only in countries that are large enough to be able to afford depopulation. The Soviet Union proved itself to be just such a country on at least three occasions in the twentieth century—teaching its citizens in the process that their lives are worthless. Is it possible that this knowledge has been passed from generation to generation enough times that most Russians are now born with it and this is why they are born with a Bangladesh-level life expectancy? Is it also possible that other post-Soviet states, by breaking off from Moscow, have reclaimed some of their ability to hope, and this is why even Russia’s closest cultural and geographic cousins, such as Belarus and Ukraine, aren’t dying off as fast? If so, Russia is dying of a broken heart—also known as cardiovascular disease.”

        The US definitely is large enough to be able to afford depopulation. That is what left-wingers talk about in terms of surplus workers, which are used to undermine union bargaining power in order to drive down wages and eliminate benefits. It’s what some call the permanent underclass. Many poor communities in the US, both minorities in inner cities and whites in rural places like Appalachia, have average lifespans that are shorter than many developing countries. There is no doubt that cardiovascular disease is a major problem in the US, and it’s increase probably follows closely the increase of poverty and inequality along with loss of economic mobility.

  29. Russia after the collapse of the USSR experienced some pretty terrible declines in their standard of living. For males, I think it was on the order of 7 years. Fertility rates fell below replacement rate, although they have since rebounded.

    Anyways, the reason why Putin is very popular in Russia, is because after he gained power, he did restore some semblance of order and did improve living standards somewhat. It may be still well short of what we have in the West, but it’s still much better than what the 1990s were like in Russia.

    As far as Appalachia, this may be of interest:

    It would make one wonder about the US too. That’s going to be an issue especially if things get worse, which is likely.

    • Yes, that is of interest. I knew it was bad in particular Appalachian communities. I also knew that many rural places were experiencing hard times. Loss of mining work, factories, small family farms, local public schools, small towns with thriving downtowns, and of course loss of young people and young families. Those left behind are having a tough time.

  30. Has rural Iowa been like that?

    Rural Ontario has been hit very hard by the decline in the manufacturing sector over the past couple of decades. The automotive sector was very bad. It’s not as bad as say, Michigan, but it’s not a good situation to be in either.

    The weak Canadian dollar will hopefully make things better for manufacturing, but in the long run, we’ll see. Natural resources plays a huge role in Canada’s economy but prices are down.

    ON a personal note, still looking for work here. I feel like my generation, Y, has been hit the worst.

    • Iowa hasn’t been hit as bad as some places. But all rural areas of the country have been hit hard. People think of Iowa as a farming state. It is that and more. There are the former thriving small farming towns in Iowa like Olin and Boone that also had some factory jobs.

      There are towns like Centerville, IA, which I’ve written about. It used to be a major coal town that was as ethnically diverse as any major city. The population there shrunk from 8,000 to 5,000.

      There is also Newton, IA. It is where Charles Murray grew up. His father was a manager at the Maytag plant that was there. Since then, it has been shut down and the jobs went to Mexico. The predictable unemployment, poverty, and inequality followed in Newton.

      Another interesting example that received a lot of attention is Postville, IA. There was an immigration raid on a meatpacking plant. It was devastating to the town. Trying to survive as a small town in a globalized economy is nearly impossible.

      There used to be tons of small factories all around the rural Midwest. My father grew up in Alexandria, Indiana. It was known as “Small Town, America” because of a WWII propaganda campaign. It was and is a stereotypical Midwestern small town. It used have everything going for it, from small family farms to factories. Now it is extremely impoverished and the downtown is all but dead. Unemployment used to be almost non-existent there, but it has risen to high levels.

      On top of that, there is the devastation that Meth has had on small rural towns, especially in the Midwest. One book from a few years ago detailed the impact of Meth on one particular small town in Iowa, Oelwein.

      These trends are probably international. It isn’t likely good to be in any rural community anywhere in the world. I know in China that the rural areas are quite bad off. Americans like to think of the Chinese stealing our jobs, but poverty there is worse than it is here. People are desperate all over. That is what gives international corporations so much power. The world is overflowing with surplus workers who will do almost anything to avoid the worst poverty with the threats of homelessness and hunger.

      As for generations, it has been a trend downward. GenX had it worse than the generations immediately before it. And I have no doubt that GenY has it worse than GenX. Quite possibly, the generation following yours will have it even worse still. It is unclear that conditions will improve until some entirely new social, political, and economic order is established. Until then, globalization along with mechanization and computerization of work will continue to take its toll.

  31. It would appear that the rural US is generally doing worse than rural Canada. We do have economic problems, but nothing quite nearly as bad.

    I think that our generation will be the equal of the Depression generation. It’s another Lost Generation.

    I don’t think the Baby Boom generation gets the level of resentment that is starting to build. Generation X, Y, and I think it is looking like Z, all got screwed. Z might be in even worse shape.

  32. I was talking to someone online. Apparently they say that things are in some ways better in the developing world for students and recent graduates.

    Although the salaries are lower, they are in general rising. It is much easier to get a job too in some cases an there is hope, above all else. That is not to say things are perfect – they have issues like pollution, overpopulation, environmental damage, etc. But there is more hope.

    • I could see that. This is a time of immense development. For a developing country, the transformation in short periods of time could inspire immense optimism. I hope global stability maintains itself long enough for some of these countries to prepare and better position themselves in relation to more powerful countries. It might get ugly at some point.

  33. Yeah I think that life will be very bad for the coming generations. Things may even get worse for Z than Y, into a worse than Depression situation.

    Plus in a few decades there will be the rap from global warming.

  34. Well it looks like I “might” have an interview. We’ll see how that goes. They have yet to get back to me though.

    Health-wise, I’m not too great, but not terrible either.

  35. I have wondered about this.

    Perhaps the South is immune to the moral Flynn effect? At least rural areas? Younger people are waking up though, so I suppose that’s a counterargument.

    What do you think about the rise of Trump as of late?

    • That probably isn’t the case. It’s more likely just that the conditions that increase intelligence have been harder to change in the South.

      Southerners (or at least the Southern political ruling elite) don’t have as much concern for public and environmental health. For example, they are constantly attacking women’s health clinics, which are among the greatest factors for increasing the health of lower class infants and children. Health problems have always been far worse in the South and health of course determines brain development.

      I try not to think too much about Trump. I don’t think he is all that significant in the big picture. He is just part of a backlash. It is no different than when the Tea Party was getting all that attention. It didn’t really amount to anything and now the Tea Party shows low support in public polls.

    • BTW I noticed this comment was in the spam box. I just so happened to look there and noticed it. There were some other comments identified as spam. I approved all the non-spam comments that were there. But I lost track of which posts they were too. They don’t show up as recent comments.

      It is a good article. And it is depressing, because it will be ignored by most Americans and especially by those in power.

      Pinker’s recent book is about the civilizing process. To my mind, it is clear that the US needs more of that civilizing process. We have a ways to go. I was reminded of this because I came across another book, The American Civilizing Process by Stephen Mennell. He discusses what makes the US different and why it hasn’t followed the same trajectory of civilizing process as has most of Western society.

      I’m sure I’ll write about some of this in the future.

    • Yeah WordPress seems to be less than ideal in that regard.

      There hasn’t been a real review of disaster preparation. I suspect that if another big hurricane hits, then there will be more problems once again.

      They say that Bloomberg’s New York didn’t do nearly as well as he is commonly portrayed as well. Tough talk versus what really happened has a huge gap.

  36. I wrote a couple of comments at the post that linked to my post here. Here is that other post, the same as the pingback above:

    But the person then didn’t approve my comments, as they are still waiting moderation. That is strange. If they didn’t want my thoughts on their post, then why did they use my thoughts from this post as the main link to what they were writing about? Whatever!

    Here are my unapproved comments:

    * * * *

    Studies also show a positive correlation between IQ and liberalism and a negative correlation between IQ and racism. Will AI evolve to be not only atheist but also liberal and anti-racist?

    * * * *

    I left a comment earlier. I thought I saw it posted earlier, but now it is missing. Maybe it is waiting to be approved.

    I wanted to continue my thought.

    In my previous comment, I mentioned that higher iQ correlates to liberalism and anti-racism. As you point out, it also correlates to atheism. Basically, all of that is talking about social liberalism, whether in terms of mainstream liberalism, radical left-liberalism, socially liberal anarchism, or even libertarianism (especially liberaltarianism).

    Here is my further thought. Liberalism both has strengths and weaknesses. I’ve written about this before:

    Would AI that mimics human high IQ and related cognitive abilities follow the pattern of liberalism in humans? Would AI have both the same strengths and weaknesses?

    It’s an interesting thought experiment. I bet Philip K. Dick could have written an interesting story around that idea.

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