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Culture War Roundup for the week of May 22, 2023

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Germany is in a recession, and I paid 80 cents/kWh in December in Sweden. My gym still hasn't opened its sauna, and I got shamed for having 18 degrees in my apartment in the winter. Inflation is the highest it has been in decades, and there was a major shortage of firewood. The system didn't snap, instead there is a cost of living crisis combined with cities turning off their street lights and companies banned from expanding due to lack of power. I agree that people adapt. Covid didn't end the world, yet it created problems that will continue for years.

As for energy, the renewable hype died with cheap gas. The wind-hype only worked with cheap nat gas as a backup. Now we have almost free power some days, followed by extreme prices other days. Building a long term functioning electrical grid is different from just generating power. Cheap, bountiful wind power didn't alleviate the high prices when the wind wasn't blowing in the winter.

I got shamed for having 18 degrees in my apartment in the winter.

This is one of the things that I dislike about that favorite dream of social conservatives and communists alike, the tight-knit community with high social cohesion. I like the thought that if someone tried to shame me for having 18 degrees in my apartment in the winter, I could easily just tell them to go fuck themselves. Which you probably can too, of course, and it's one of the beautiful things about liberalism.

I find it funny that conservatives in the US seem to want to have their cakes and eat them too. They want both traditional social cohesiveness but also cowboy individualism.

That's why there's overwhelming demand for takes on gay and trans movement are top-down indoctrination and not an aspect of the true dominant ideology of our time, individualist consumerism.


But I would explain the tension between them, and I think people who believe in fusionism would explain it this way, by saying that for mainstream conservatives the social and economic spheres are different aspects of government policy that require very different solutions. They'd hold that government policy doing things like raising taxes on large businesses rarely produces good outcomes, while government policy providing tax cuts to incentivize marriage or religious practice or family formation often does.

The libertarian view of the government is a state that enforces economic contracts and the NAP; the conservative view of the government is a state that enforces contracts and the NAP and uses some level of power to incentivize or reinforce the importance of the family, the significance of religion to society, that sort of thing.

I would frame the fusionist consensus differently. Social conservatives and libertarians made common cause based on the belief that market forces foster traditional social norms and structures and that the breakdown of these norms and structures is driven by government interference in the market. Here's David Frum writing in 1994's "Dead Right":

If I am bearded, and I notice that my boss and the last four men in my section to win promotion are clean-shaven, I will find myself slowly nudged toward the barbershop. If the owner of the gas station across the road from mine smiles a lot, and I don’t, I will find myself forcing a cheerful manner myself, no matter how snarly I may inwardly feel. People who do not have to work for a living, however, can indulge themselves in a hundred little peculiarities of behavior – one reason that the English upper class is so famously odd. Millions of Americans now live as free from the pressure to conform as any English lord, thanks either to the direct receipt of welfare or to civil service employment where promotion is by seniority and firing is unheard of. The fact, as much as any fashion change, explains the sudden flaunting of ethnic difference in manner and dress that so distresses Patrick Buchanan in his native city. Relatively few vice presidents at Proctor & Gamble would dare wear a kente cloth or keffiyeh; nobody who intends to earn very much of a living in the polymer business can hope to get away with not learning English; but city hall employees and welfare mothers can do both.

So the cultural conservatives are simply deluding themselves when they hope for escape from the unpleasant task of resisting every enlargement of the ambit of government action and trying, when opportunity presents itself, to reduce that ambit.” (p. 196)

While Frum, like many fusionists, is now an anti-Trump exile, this idea that traditional values would win under market conditions and deviance is fostered outside of the market is still prevalent. Woke norms cannot be an effective social technology for managing large companies in an increasingly diverse and queer country, it must be a market failure driven by civil rights law, the tyranny of the managerial class, or indoctrination via academia. I'm not saying all those explanations are wrong, I'm just noting the tradition they're in and the unifying purpose they serve.

In the post-2016 breakdown of fusionism Conservative intellectuals have tried to push policies designed to subsidize the family such as Romney's Child Tax Credit or Oren Cass's wage subsidy. These have been met with tepid responses from the base. I don't think the issue is that Conservatives underestimate the size of the subsidy necessary it's that they still believe that the male breadwinner-led nuclear family would 'win' in the market if not for some sort of interference and balk at viewing it as a sort of endangered species requiring state protection. Trump has broken with libertarians by making the market interference trade policy rather than welfare, but this idea still upholds the male breadwinner family as something that would thrive if not for some form of state failure.

I was gonna write more but I ran out of time and didn't want to leave a high quality comment unanswered for >24hrs.

I don't think the high rates of gay and trans identification among Zoomers is at all the result of indoctrination (though I think at times policy can reinforce it), I think it's the result of teenagers being teenagers and doing the I'm trying to find myself, maaaaaan thing that many of the now-conservative Boomers did before them, which is what happens in a world focused on consooming and defining oneself.

There is a difference between teenagers now and the Boomers in their time.

As far as I can tell (though I haven't been a teenager for a while so I could of course simply be missing it), there's pretty much no real teenage rebellion. I don't see them doing much that the powers that be aren't supporting and encouraging. E.g. declaring yourself to be something LGBT-esque is supported and encouraged, becoming a climate activist is supported and encouraged, etc etc. It leads me to believe that if the establishment were supporting and encouraging different things, they'd be doing those things instead.

How much "real teenage rebellion" did the Boomers engage in? Rock music was just consooming product which your parents disapprove of, which was always the lamest kind of rebellion. White kids whose daddies could afford lawyers were even less likely to be punished for smoking marijuana then than they are now (the War on Drugs doesn't get going until the 1970's, and was pretty much a racist project from day one). And dodging the Vietnam Draft was pretty much expected if you were middle-class or above - look at the CV of any Boomer politician.

Compared to the Civil Rights movement (which mostly preceded it) and the Gay Liberation movement (which mostly followed it), the hippie counterculture drew far less heat from the Man - probably because it was seen as harmless by everyone except the Southern social conservatives who were already marked as losers. If you are old enough to have boomer parents, do they tell stories of getting into real trouble for hippie-adjacent activities? Or just of engaging in hippie-adjacent activities and feeling transgressive with no real risk (or the only real risk coming from within the counterculture, like being beaten up by the Hell's Angels at a rock concert)? There was definitely a vague sense of alliance between hippiedom and radical black and later gay activism, but not many hippies were going south of the Mason-Dixon line to do civil rights work, and even fewer were going to Pride parades before they were cool.

The only "rebel" community where people from middle-class backgrounds routinely turn up with origin stories involving being harshly punished by parents or authorities is the LGBT one.

How much "real teenage rebellion" did the Boomers engage in?

It depends on which Boomers. Most of them might have had a slightly long hair cut or bought Beatles/Rolling Stones records rather than Mozart/Sinatra records; more commonly, they bought a bit of both, as in the case of my parents.

On the other hand, if we're talking about the US in particular (e.g. France in late 1960s was much more radicalised, and many Czechoslovak Boomers found themselves face-to-face with Soviet invaders) there were plenty of Boomers who risked (and lost) their lives in the things like the anti-Vietnam war movement:

If you get shot by a National Guardsman, you must be doing something fairly transgressive. Of course, most Boomers didn't do anything like that.

the War on Drugs doesn't get going until the 1970's, and was pretty much a racist project from day one

Maybe by the Ibrahim Kendi definition of "racist". The black community explicitly asked for the war on drugs.

This shit's getting an AAQC from me.