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Culture War Roundup for the week of February 13, 2023

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This assumes there is no such thing as a free market. Sure, a single company can suicide by keeping a significant dead weight in its workforce, but they'll just be outcompeted by companies who don't, or maybe even countries who don't. Markets are just entropy, and entropy always wins out.

Sure if you do enough bad policies for long enough then eventually society will collapse and the problem solves itself. I'm not yet nihilistic enough to throw up my hands and wait to be scooped into the dustbin of history when the alternative is to just stop hitting ourselves in the head with a hammer.

Society won't collapse because a few companies might lose out to French, Japanese or maybe Chinese companies, and then have to reform, create new organizations, or limp on as a second rate economy (like Europe has been doing for 50+ years without a sign of collapse). The gap between where the US is now and collapse is monumental. It is the most powerful, rich, and culturally dominant nation in human history. It basically has to conjure up boogiemen to create competitive incentives. Undoubtedly the US will collapse someday, just like every other civilization or nation ever, but woke won't be the cause.

Btw I'm not saying woke stuff is good. It's just an exaggerated threat to terminally online right leaning types. You could realistically go a month in a wealthy suburb living out your life and never have it affect you at work, home or your kids school's. One of the actual biggest issues in America right now is a huge gap between the perceived importance of a problem (Global warming, school shootings, woke, or whatever) and actual significant problems.

The counter-argument/most relevant argument I'd make is that nations can die not only when they lose resources to sustain themselves, but also a desire to.

This really was the crux of the Soviet crack-up. Economically, the Soviet Union was a basketcase, but it was a basketcase that could have held itself together if it wanted to. The post-Soviet states of North Korea, Cuba, or even Russia itself in the causcuses show that a very poor, very dysfunctional state can still hold itself together. Ultimately, suppression is relatively cheap, and rebellion is hard, and barring outside intervention no insurgency in history has thrown out an occupying army without the assistance of another army nearby to assist.

But politically... the deathknell of the Soviet Union wasn't the economy, but the internal sense of political legitimacy. There's a saying that goes along the lines the Soviet leaders wished to be social reformers, thought they were social reformers, pretended to be social reformers, and then finally wished to be social reformers. The ideological justifications and pretenses of the Soviet communist system withered over time in the face of available alternatives, the cyncism of the elites and the populace grew, and over time fewer people were willing to die, or even kill, in the name of authorities viewed as unjust and corrupt and failing. The more the Soviet Union became less a transformational project and more just a corrupt empire of a state, and a state that couldn't even deliver good results, the closer it got to the point where it was unable and unwilling to hold itself together by force.

The issue not just with wokeism in particular, but polarization in general, is that it arguably creates the same dynamics of distrust, disunity, and de-legitimization in the US in what is essentially an ideological state bound by buy-in, not blood-and-soil or religion or other common identities.

Take your pick of post-modernist critiques, but if racism/sexism/-insert-ism is the worst sins of the day, but your political opposition- and by proxy the other half of the country in a two-party system- are the worst sinners of the day and the government is fundamentally build upon, with, and for the worse sins of the era... why continue it, if you can't control it to fix it? If fixing it is even possible, which various critques basically amount to an impossibility? Believe in the good of the commons requires believe that the commons are, in fact, good. But if the commons are not good- and in this case the commons can be shared institutions, norms, or whatever- defecting is rational, even if it comes with long-term penalties. And when defections start occuring, the commons start to crumble.

We already have seen this in various back and forths. The borking of Robert Bork began a practice of practice of blocking / slowwalking judge appointments into the Bush years, which led to the retaliation in the Obama years, which led to the Democrats removing the judicial filibuster, which led to the loss of it to the Supreme Court, where now the organs of the Democratic Party actively discuss and lobby for court-packing or defanging the Supreme Court. The politicization of consolidated national media, which ostensibly strived for neutrality at the start of the era of national news television like CNN but then created ideological conformity that gave first to Fox News for underserved markets, and then to the Trump Russia hoax affair, has not only cratered trust in media in general but driven the development of information silos for much of the American population. Campus free speech issues didn't remain limited to college campuses, but went both up the employment chain and down into primary education, where considerable fractions of both the voting and non-voting publics don't feel safe voicing their own political opinions. The religious right was happy to muster it's social pressure power into politics, and reaped the whirlwind of an equally evangelical zealotry by people who also saw other believers as a problem to be fixed. When everything is political, and you hate your political rivals, you either burn the shared space down to deny it, or you use it against your hated political rivals.

Yes, a state like this can go on for quite some time... but who is going to want to fight and die and kill for it, if it comes to it? Especially if any interested outside party decides to help things along in a material way? And why would they want to? The Soviet Union had plenty of resources to pay for people to kill the people who didn't want to be with them anymore. That wasn't the issue- a desire to was.

Woke theory is just one of the discrediting ideologies that undermines that desire for their to be a shared nation. And without that desire, the US can absolutely fall apart even if it still has resources. It's far from impossible to see something that makes Brexit look like a wise and just solution.

Now, for the record, I don't think it will actually go that far. I view a number of the issues in US politics right now as within the scope of past political disruptions that were survived. There are dynamics that make this unique- namely this is the first major American political realignment since the invention of social media, and things that previously wouldn't have been publicized are now prevalent- but my own view is that between demographic changes, internal migrations, and the cycling of the American elites as part of both, the system is in the process of changing rather than collapsing, and more to the point is doing so in the context where a lot of its major alternatives are going to do worse.