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Culture War Roundup for the week of March 13, 2023

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I'm curious about how you're using "folklore" here. Do you consider any of the following to be folklore in the sense you've used here:

  • Fiat currency

  • The concept of debt

  • National borders

  • Adoptive parenthood

  • The line between a species and a subspecies

  • The line between a genus and a species

  • The concept of species

  • Laws

  • Rules of etiquette

  • Social hierarchies

  • Race

  • Skin color

  • Nationality

  • Citizenship

If you don't consider any of the above "folklore", do you consider them "real"? Until I understand exactly how you're using the term "folklore" here, I don't know if I can really say one thing or the other of the exercise you've done here. Do you believe that the "folkloric illusion" is stupid in other domains, or just in redneg? Do you believe that folklore requires evidence, or can cultures simply create castles in the sky that are locally relevant but seem strange to those outside those cultures? Do you think folklore can be important and useful, even if it isn't "real"?

Similarly, you make the assertion that "half the humans on this planet believe themselves to be the folkloric entity called 'namow'", but I'm curious how you would get to that assertion. Do you mean that if we properly map all folkloric entities in all cultures in some n-dimensional space, we would find a cluster somewhere that every culture would recognize they more or less have in common, and that in our field of redneg studies is called 'namow', and that each culture would independently identify the beliefs of 50% of humanity as being non-different from the proposition "I am a namow"?

Could we train a neural network for "namow" and "nam" and input empirical information we collect about individuals and train it to reliably classify people into these categories, in such a way that there would be broad agreement that the classifier accurately tracks namow-ness and nam-ness? Can a human brain be reliably trained to recognize namow-ness and nam-ness in at least some cultures?

Uh, I think the answers to the questions in your last few paragraphs are generally "yes".

I assume OP had something in mind they were trying to say with this new terminology, so I'm not taking for granted that that is the case. In fact, they make the claim that:

This division of illusory categories is not exactly precise, as confirmed by the abnormal illusion being suffered by that rare group of people who call themselves snart[^4]. The folkloric illusion may seem intelligent and real to many people, but it is stupid because no one can come up with any evidence for its reality beyond sexual dimorphism.

So we are told:

  • namow and nam are "folklore" and also that they are illusory categories without precise divisions (is being folklore the same as being "illusory" or is a distinction intended here?)

  • That being snart is an "abnormal illusion", which confirms that the illusory nature of namow and nam

  • That this "folkloric illusion" is "stupid" because no one can come up with any evidence for it beyond sexual dimorphism

I think one issue is that the referent of a few phrases is a little ambiguous in OP's short post. If the "folkloric illusion" does indeed refer to the redneg-related ideas of namow and nam, then I don't know if I agree that the only evidence for redneg is "sexual dimorphism." To me, the evidence for redneg is the same as the evidence for htog(!) or ome(!) fashion - sure, the exact boundaries of htog and ome are hard to define, but that doesn't mean they're not real enough for people to form a social identity around. They really need to connect the dots of why they think "sexual dimorphism" proves anything one way or the other about redneg, since it seems to be a term related to sex and not redneg?

And given their final statement, are we to understand that OP is a redneg abolitionist? That they want to eliminate the concepts of namow and nam? What would that mean in practice? How would we treat snart people in a redneg-less society? Are snart namow namow, in a society where namow exist? If redneg is a "religion" are other concepts like noihsaf(!) and swal(!) religions as well?

This seems to be your thing.

Unfortunately, you're still presenting it in a very low-effort and trollish way. Reversing letters to make your thesis sound clever is not clever.

"Gender is a delusion, trans doesn't exist."

Okay. And?

State your case plainly, and actually say something other than "This is stupid."

Not sure what you're trying to do by reversing the letters but it just makes this post hard to read. Anyways, I don't think it unreasonable to refer to more social aspects caused by sexual dimorphism with the word gender. For example, consider the following - Men do manly things. One reason for this is that male individuals on average are more predisposed to doing manly things, but actually some male individuals are individually not suited for this. As a society there is a benefit to using the heuristic of sex instead of measuring individual aptitude for tasks in order to tell people what to do.

So, what men do is downstream of average sex differences, but not downstream of individual biology of particular individuals. We can refer to this concept as "gender". In a perfect meritocracy maybe gender can be dead, but in a society, it's sort of real.

Sex is physical, gender is emotional. Both are based in physiology, and both are accounted for in science.

Sex is hardware, gender is software. Software can be misconfigured, and it can be reconfigured.

Sex is a fact, gender is an experience. Experiences are reactions to apprehended facts.

Sex is hardware, gender is software. Software can be misconfigured, and it can be reconfigured.

An interesting description. If hardware was roughly as easy to modify as software, would you be indifferent as to which was altered to create harmony?

If the hardware was able to be transformed and/or upgraded with minimal side effects, and without vivisection in the manner of The Island of Doctor Moreau, I’d probably save up my money and try something new myself. The immutability of the flesh is a barrier to a great many new experiences of self which might be more harmonious.

Wait, how would you inherently avoid the vivisection? The only way I can imagine would be cloning a person, but modifying for the opposite sex.

Off the top of my head?

  • stem cell reactivation/homeobox gene shenanigans

  • clone a groin alone (via homeobox gene shenanigans), graft it in

  • nanotechnology magic/grey goo

I know none of these are anywhere near ready. But I've read about the "pockets" created by MtF surgeries with the risk of a persistent smell of excrement. I've read about the need for sounding rods after FtM surgeries. The idea of transformation is much more appealing than the pale simulation we can now carry out, and it's no surprise to me that the suicide risk is not so highly reduced by the current surgeries as the impression their proponents try to create.

We need a better "control panel" or "configuration file" for the "software", in any case. What we need to teach children is how to deal with the disappointments of life, with a consistent model they can use to talk with their parents or guardians, their spiritual leaders, and/or their psychological counselors. And that means we need to find such a model and show that it works. The current "elevation to trauma/abandonment" model used for unpleasantness and disappointment in conjunction with medications is clearly not working.

I've waxed poetic here before about how useful I've found the Fourth Step of the Twelve Steps, how many of my own past issues have been resolved with it. If everyone were taught a simplified version of it, there might not even be a need for as many X Anonymous meetings in the first place. I accidentally used it to resolve my own species dysphoria, and I find myself far less enthusiastic about the furry fandom than I did in my twenties. I still prefer tales of nonhumans among humans as a metaphor for my autism, and I love animal and anthro animal tales as much as ever, but my fandom is no longer driven by a pathological need.

The science of gender belief is what now?

Observations, correlations, and hypotheses, all based on the subjective reality of gender. Because our brain hardware is relatively close to identical, our subjective realities will all be relatively close to identical. But not identical.

That’s a bit hand wavy. Also these observations are generally frowned upon these days by trans activists, who support affirmation only. If there was a science then we’d use it.

While I disagree with Freddie deBoer on a lot of things, especially his ongoing war with his commentariat about gender, his thoughts on education seem pretty solid. His new post https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/education-commentary-is-dominated is no exception, though he puts in a bit of boilerplate declaring on faith that of course groups can be equalized somehow, even if individuals can't, despite giving no reason to believe that of any particular group or groups. This seems a pretty paltry fig leaf, but oh well.

I suppose if I want to get more of his view on a way forward, I should read his book, The Cult of Smart, but I don't want to just now. Based on his blogging, he seems to think that moving money from smart, productive people to stupid, unproductive people is the best solution, but this doesn't solve the fundamental question of allowing people who can't contribute much economically to live in a worthwhile fashion that allows self respect.

My state legislature has been debating plans to fiddle about with small levers at the margins to make up for Covid losses and "improve education." The levers are very small indeed. An extra half hour in the day? More private bathroom stalls? The only topic that made some sort of sense was career and technical education. I've been thinking about one side of this, trying to help my husband fix a leak this morning, and reading some thoughts from Internaught at DSL lately about crumbling infrastructure. Every time I interact with a Trades produced physical object, I realize that they are made for the large, strong hands of a young man who has been working on manipulating physical objects with weight and mass for years and decades. This probably makes sense from a materials engineering perspective -- assume that a mechanic or tradesman will be interacting with the object, and it can be heavier, with a tighter seal, probably more durable. But it seems like something of a hard sell, getting people to work with these heavy, sturdy objects for decades at a time when they don't have to, and don't get much status out of it, and most people can't afford . Giving out money doesn't seem all that helpful when we're all living in a crumbling, unfixable physical environment, and the computers can do 80% of the writing, calculating, and art, but can't keep the utilities repaired.

I would like to see more emphasis on humans as embodied, physical, tool using beings, but am not sure what steps might lead in that direction. I was listening to a podcast the other day by a Waldorf kindergarten teacher who had started taking his classes on walks to the park all morning, every morning, and that it worked out very well for them, but this was a nice, safe forest park in a place with decent weather much of the year. I don't really know where to go with these thoughts, though. It seems like kids need more physical, sensory experiences, but it seems like a hard pitch, perhaps something to do with laptopping being high status and easy on the body, as is mentioned in the thread on class.

I suppose if I want to get more of his view on a way forward, I should read his book, The Cult of Smart, but I don't want to just now.

Read my review instead, my review is substantially better than his book, and that's not my way of saying that my review is especially good.

It seems like kids need more physical, sensory experiences, but it seems like a hard pitch, perhaps something to do with laptopping being high status and easy on the body, as is mentioned in the thread on class.

Something else deBoer wrote recently really resonated with me, and seems relevant:

like all political movements, the woke political movement is captured by the urge to occupy elevated status within it

Most educators don't give half a damn about genuinely improving the minds of the children they educate. Sure, they'll performatively care, they can talk a good game because that's the kind of signaling they are expected to deliver. But if you released, say, an adaptive computer program that could deliver a K-12 curriculum to a child at their own pace, with as good or better results than the average K-12 in-person education, without the need to leave their house or pay for school buildings or pay teachers--you would not change American public education in any perceptible way. K-12 school exist primarily to provide free daycare, and secondarily to give teachers government jobs. The movement to "educate children" is entirely captured by people who are extracting resources from the public for their own personal and political gain. That doesn't mean there aren't teachers involved who genuinely care about kids! But their care is largely incidental, except as it improves their ability to signal "cooperate" to the people running the show.

And the show in question is anti body. It has been this way from the beginning--read Socrates complaining about sex and tasty food as distractions from the really important stuff, like pure mathematics, and then check the latest memes on horny jail or eating bugs to save the planet and tell me how far we've really come, 25 centuries later. Once we were promised transcendence through death and salvation; today we are hoping for transcendence through mind uploads. "Disregard body, elevate mind" has certainly gotten occasional pushback (e.g. Epicurus, or more recently the free-love hippies) but attending to the well being of whole humans is not, and has not for most of history been, the goal of the greatest thinkers. In fact many of today's purportedly greatest thinkers will pretend to be deeply offended if you suggest e.g. that being born "into" a geno- and phenotypically female body is in any way pertinent to one's personal, human identity.

In that world, looking for ways to give kids more "physical, sensory experiences" isn't just low-status, it's downright subversive (and indeed: self-improvement through physical exercise is often negatively coded, especially when it arises in masculinity-building contexts).

Thank you for the links, the review was helpful.

I've recently become more aware of the extent to which school decisions are governed by things like bus schedules, physical infrastructure, and unwieldy scheduling -- elementary school lunch rooms that can only accommodate one grade level at a time, combined gym/auditorium/lunchroom set ups, so it's extremely difficult to have whole school assemblies, and everything is in tightly scheduled batches, five or six day specials rotations, complex pull-out schedules with mandatory blocks when they can't be pulled out, and so on. Within an existing school or district, almost everything is necessity, almost nothing possibility.

I was substitute teaching for a while at a high school with a culinary arts class that had a real, professional kitchen. The teens seemed genuinely very happy about it, and would bring me tasty fresh food sometimes, so I was also happy about it. It was the kinds of foods teens actually enjoy eating together -- beignets and omelettes and quesadillas. Even if not many of them ended up working in restaurants, I'm sure their families and friends were happy about it. At another school, we made ribbon skirts, and painted a culturally traditional mural. This was also lovely. If I were education czar, and it seemed likely I would probably include "make more beignets" as an initiative, even if the long term goal was Communism.

While we're discussing DeBoer, I want to briefly talk about his post immediately prior to this one, Of Course You Know What Woke Means.

In typical DeBoer fashion, he makes a lot of poignant points about the nature of the woke, but ultimately misses the forest for the trees. Woke isn't a 'school of social and cultural liberalism', nor is the 'woke approach to solutions to politics is relentlessly individualistic'. DeBoer does what virtually every old school anti-woke materialist socialist/Marxist does when talking about the woke - completely ignore the reality the woke/critical social justice is a leftist movement that shares some roots (even if it has developed distinctly) with the Marxism that DeBoer and people like him support. DeBoer obviously would rather incorrectly lay the blame squarely at the feet of 'liberalism' (the arch-nemesis of Marxism), then in anyway implicate Marxist concepts through association with the woke. While DeBoer does vaguely allude to the woke being 'leftist', it's pretty clear DeBoer believes that wokism is liberalism that has evolved into a quasi-leftist movement, rather than wokism genuinely descending from leftism and overtaking liberal sentiment.

Marcuse was not liberal. Angela Davis is not liberal. Bell Hooks was not liberal. Ibram Kendi is not liberal. The underlying ideology and philosophy of woke is not liberal. The fact that 'liberals' have been adopting this ideology while still (mis)labelling themselves liberal does not make woke liberal.

more emphasis on humans as embodied, physical, tool using beings, but am not sure what steps might lead in that direction.

Everyone wants this and everyone want to make sure their kids go to college and become symbol manipulators. Tragedy of the commons, ain’t it great?

I don't necessarily want my daughters to become symbol manipulators. Sure, I'm glad they're not growing up in a society where they have to be oyster shuckers at six, seamstresses at 12, bear, cook for, and clean for 8 children, and blind at 50.

But there's a lot of space between that and a laptop career, which doesn't seem like a great idea either.

I dunno why so many people, including especially college educated people in white collar jobs, are hostile to the idea that the trades are overrated. I have observed this on both sides of the aisle and especially over the past 2 years. Yeah, if the trades are great, then quit your office job and do trades. I don't see anyone taking up the offer. But the catch is, you have to downgrade your living standards accordingly (you cannot just do trades and live off your accumulated savings). There is this romanticized notion that people doing things with their hands is superior or more authentic to dealing with abstractions (although some trades work does require decent math aptitude).

If one cannot cut it in college, then the trades are probably a better alternative , although it's not like that is the only option, but the data still shows college is better, even . The biggest mistake is the college-for-everyone default, which can account for the high attrition rate, not that college itself is a bad deal.

It seems like PMC people have better lives in almost every way compared to trades people, college indoctrination notwithstanding, but yeah, let's choose the worse option instead because it's more pure.

Because white collar types have no idea how much it sucks to work a blue collar job.

A white collar worker pays $400 for a plumber and somehow thinks the plumber gets to keep all that. They don't realize the plumber is just an employee making $30/hour. In any case, the plumbing company has to pay for a million things including an office, someone to answer the phone, trucks, equipment, gas, driving to the job site, health insurance, social security, medicare, people who don't answer the door, people who don't pay, licensing, bonding, worker's comp, family medical leave, Yelp advertising, and all the dozens of fees imposed by city, county, state, and federal governments, etc... The owner of the plumbing company will probably get rich, but only at extreme personal cost. In the end a business making 500k in profit might sell for only 2-3x yearly earnings because everyone wants to collect a paycheck, not to be responsible for a giant hassle.

There's a reason almost anyone who has a choice chooses a white collar job.

It's not unheard of for the plumber to be the owner of the plumbing company ... but yeah, even in white-collar "guy sits at a desk working billable hours all day" jobs the overhead may be more than the salary, and I believe it's much worse for blue-collar non-desk jobs. I sometimes have contractors coming from 60 miles away, and the company may be billing me $400 for an hour's work but they're having to pay for the commute and the downtime too.

I'd also add "someone to do the accounting" to your list. Between tax issues (I just had to file an amended return, over a situation 5% as complicated as what a typical small business deals with...) and money management issues (wanna just trust Silicon Valley Bank to handle everything?) it seems like an indispensable skill for a small business owner to have access to.

IME tradesmen are mostly not ‘couldn’t cut it in college’ types, because the trades generally reward IQ even if there’s no requirement to formally prove your brainpower. Instead what really distinguishes tradesmen from their white collar counterparts is some combination of poor socialization/lack of patience for professional class niceties/general unwillingness to conform with the authorities of the day which prevents or retards academic success. That’s also where the stereotype of all being divorced alcoholics comes from- poor socialization and unwillingness to be polite or follow others’ arbitrary preferences is, well, exactly what I just said.

Personally, I'm probably thinking more of lower middle class, education sorts of people who can't maintain our houses, and also can't afford to hire anyone else to do it either, but this may be specific to my own experience.

In this context, I'm also thinking of Freddie's solution of "so give people money then," which seems like a recipe for more currency chasing less goods and services, since there doesn't seem to be any attempt at replacing symbol manipulation with anything communally useful. But as I've said, I haven't read The Cult of Smart, and there might be more about that there.

I think a big part of the debate is fundemental disagreement about what actually constitutes "the worse option"

I'll be very happy if my daughter learns a physical trade and makes a decent living by it, and rather the opposite if she decides to go to university to get a useless degree or to fail getting a useful one. So please specify who you mean by everyone.

I'll be very happy if my daughter learns a physical trade and makes a decent living by it

Would you, though?

Consider that jobs come with a physiognomy and a daughter who looks like "Barry, 63, Plumber" ain't gonna be fighting off suitors to give you grandchildren. Are you still very happy?

  • -10

Not the OP, but it she's happy, then yes, I'm happy too.

I have some doubts about that. Granted, women in trades are rare, but the few that I know or otherwise see appear normal, and not like old men. Low on make-up, rather tomboyish, somewhat more butch than the average woman but by no means extreme. Perhaps the sample size is too small, perhaps it's a regional peculiarity, maybe it's my perception that's off, but I don't see them as being substantially less attractive or lower-status than women in female-coded jobs.

Unless they all turn bad at some point and become literally indistinguishable from men, in which case ouch, but I have no anecdotal evidence for that.

Low on make-up, rather tomboyish

Note that you have to dress in a practical manner for these jobs. If you do any kind of physical work you can't dress up much, it'll just get ruined and get in the way of your work. You don't know what they look like when they're out on a date.

True. But I'd take that in favor of my observations that women in trades don't look terrible.

If we are pulling extremes - how does the chances of grandchildren compare to those of non binary, blue haired, rabid feminist with useless degree in gender studies writing for something even more two or three tiers below Jezebel?

I would be totally fine with my kid becoming an electrician or welder. I think if he's smart enough he would have a higher quality of life as a member of the laptop class, but in a trade it would still be a lot higher than you get delivering pizzas. I know a lot of people who didn't quite cut it in college and now work as cashiers or baristas or waiters in their early 30s. I think those are the type of people that should really be looking at trade school. They're easily smart enough to work in a skilled trade but are wasting their potential in totally unskilled work because the only paths they saw in life were white collar work like their parents or to just keep doing the part time jobs they had in school.

If you can be a doctor or an engineer or something then by all means do that, but mediocre students should be shunted towards trades instead of being sold a bill of goods that in college they will discover previously unknown academic talents once they take out $50k in student loans.

but mediocre students should be shunted towards trades instead of being sold a bill of goods that in college they will discover previously unknown academic talents once they take out $50k in student loans.

The thing is, people think trades are for slackers ..not really. You need good work ethic to succeed at it. You have to take instruction well, have respect for your own safety and those around you, and 'hustle'. Probably barista or cashier jobs is all these people can do, lacking the brains or the conscientiousness to succeed at college or the trades.

Also ,trades school is expensive too (google search shows a $5-15k, which is not insignificant and even close to college), buying tools, and certification . At least with college debt you have more payment options, lower interest rates, more forgiveness plans and so on, plus a valued credential. If you fail to graduate, then , yeah, the money is wasted.

I was listening to a podcast the other day by a Waldorf kindergarten teacher who had started taking his classes on walks to the park all morning, every morning, and that it worked out very well for them, but this was a nice, safe forest park in a place with decent weather much of the year.

I have a middle-schooler who, last year, was in a homeschool pod with, sort of accidentally, a lot of vaccine-wary Waldorf-defectors. They did the walk/bike to a park almost every day. We pulled her out of that pod this year because the plan was to spend essentially all day every day in the forest. The only math that was on the curriculum was in the spring when it was needed to plot out and build a big garden. All the reading was going to be nature-related non-fiction. No history at all. There's probably a healthy balance between intellectual and practical education, but it's easy to go too far in one direction.

Yes, the Waldorf style of education wherein there is a lot of walking in parks and very little actual education is fine for a five-year-old who basically just needs babysitting, but becomes more problematic for older kids who are actually capable of non-trivial learning.

Because of the risk of stunting children's intellectual development, I wouldn't recommend either for children old enough to attend primary school, but if you must, choose Montessori over Waldorf. Montessori is basically Waldorf without the bizarre pseudoscientific religion and occult agriculture.

Yes, that seems likely. I dropped an application to teach at a school like that once, because it involved a lot of storytelling and very little income.

I was homeschooled, and for several years my study of math consisted of being given a math textbook (not even Khan academy lessons or something!) and asked to study it. I was in my mid twenties when I realized that I wasn't just unusually bad at math, and that I probably could have gone into something tech adjacent if I had taken actual classes.

From the post

performance spectrum early in life, with remarkable consistency; that the most natural and simplest explanation for this tendency is that there is such a thing as individual academic potential; and that the most likely source of this individual academic potential is [edit] likely influenced by genes. When we look at academic performance, what we see again and again is that students perform at a given level relative to peers early in schooling and maintain that level throughout formal education. (I make that case at considerable length here.) A vast number of interventions thought to influence relative performance have been revealed to make no difference in rigorous research, including truly dramatic changes to schooling and environment. Meta-analyses and literature reviews that assess the strength of many different educational interventions find effect sizes in the range of .01 to .3 standard deviations, small by any standards and subject to all sorts of questions about research quality and randomization. Even the most optimistic reading of the research literature suggests that almost nothing moves the needle in academic outcomes. Almost nothing we try works.

Individualized tutoring shows promise (2-sigma problem), but does not scale well, I suppose. Nor does it ameliorate relative differences; if everyone is being tutored, innate differences of ability will still manifest.

Based on his blogging, he seems to think that moving money from smart, productive people to stupid, unproductive people is the best solution,

This is what any social welfare program does, but some like socialism do it more or worse than others.

Individualized tutoring shows promise (2-sigma problem), but does not scale well, I suppose.

A killer app for gpt 5?

Nor does it ameliorate relative differences; if everyone is being tutored, innate differences of ability will still manifest.

Another reason not to care about inequality - a world in which everyone is two standard deviations smarter is better, even if the variance doesn't change.

I find deBoer very frustrating.

He's a smart guy. He clearly articulates a lot of problems with leftist ideology, and he can speak to those problems more authentically than most critics because he is a leftist. An unapologetic, literal Marxist, not an "anti-woke ex-liberal" or a "disaffected gray triber" but someone who actually thinks most leftists aren't leftist enough.

And yet I feel like he circles around the truth and will sort of vaguely gesture in its general direction, but will not confront it because he cannot stand what he will see.

I say this as someone who has reluctantly concluded that HBD is largely true, and wishes it wasn't. I think that's where Freddie is at, except he can't make the leap from "It would be really unfortunate and sad if this were true" to "It's true."

A lot of his solutions are actually practicable even (especially) if HBD is true! He has a humane and realistic vision of a world where some kids just aren't ever going to be capable of doing higher math or engineering or much beyond basic literacy. But he cannot force himself to consider a gap beyond "individual differences," and we'll never be able to realistically adopt a model that accepts that some kids, by virtue of "individual differences," are just not college material, and also that by sheer unhappy coincidence most of those kids are non-white.

On the other hand, I don't see a realistic path towards acknowledging a reality - if it is reality - that not by coincidence, most non-white/Asian kids aren't cut out for higher education. So we are stuck. But Freddie seems particularly stuck. I wonder if in his heart of hearts, he doubts what he says publicly, or if he really is a true believer.

I think he's very similar on the trans issue. He can very accurately point out all the problems with trans ideology and the logical fallacies displayed by trans activists, except the central one. Maybe he really, truly believes TWAW, or maybe he just believes that the harm of denying TWAW is greater than the harm of admitting they are not.

In liberal countries, I am not sure that it really should matter much on the political level whether HBD is true. Even if it becomes widely accepted as true, in liberal societies that should not lead to any significantly different political policies. HBD being true would not justify race-based discrimination. Even support for affirmative action does not need to rely on the belief in racial equality. It can be supported on the grounds that certain groups of people were oppressed in the past, which leads to modern-day consequences for them.

As long as society stayed liberal, I think that probably little would change if tomorrow HBD being true became the dominant opinion. Now of course we have plenty of authoritarians here on The Motte who will be happy to argue that HBD being true is yet another good reason for why society should stop being liberal. I like living in a liberal society, though, so my ideal would be that people could argue about whether HBD is true or not while decoupling it from the idea of what political policies society should follow. Being a liberal, in my view the truth or falsity of HBD should have about zero impact on political policy. At most, if HBD became widely accepted as true, it would lessen the degree to which people would support race-baiting political programs which depend for their support on the notion of the white boogeyman. But I already do not support those programs, HBD being true or not changes nothing for me in that regard.

Let’s suppose in this theoretical scenario that an investigation reveals that despite making up 13% of the population, African-Americans comprised only 3% of all new hires at, say, IBM in the last fiscal year. When accused of racial discrimination, IBM rejects this and claims that their hiring practices are based on merit. They produce a bunch of paperwork to prove this etc. Since HBD is no longer tabooized in this scenario, a bunch of journalists, pundits etc. side with IBM and claim that their argument is sound. They provide a bunch of statistics, surveys etc. to prove this.

Then what? How do the supporters of liberal democracy react?

They react by saying "Oh, I guess you are not discriminating based on race, you are discriminating based on merit. Carry on then!".

Supporting liberal democracy is completely compatible with believing that HBD is true.

Only in theory.

The theory behind affirmative action is that the formerly oppressed group needs a helping hand to start but it isn’t permanent. The race (as in marathon) example is used. If someone starts on mile 5 it isn’t a fair race. But implicit in this analogy is that the racers are generally the same. If the racers aren’t identical, then it might not be that someone starts on mile 5. They just might be faster.

So instead of corrupting everything by hiring substandard talent maybe we just end affirmative action and make direct financial payments to the “disadvantaged.”

This was the justification for affirmative action 1.0, and is occasionally still evident as a first line of defense, but aa 2.0 is based on two completely different ideas:

  • That diversity makes organizations stronger in a variety of ways.

  • Proportional representation is required for organizations to be "democratic", in the somewhat novel sense of engaging the whole population.

The first one also falls under HBD. Only the last one, that diversity is necessary for race-based democratic representation, remains. Which makes affirmative action into a race based spoils system.

Even if it becomes widely accepted as true, in liberal societies that should not lead to any significantly different political policies.

The entire affirmative action policy regime depends on the assumption that group disparities are a problem that can be rectified. You say that affirmative action can be justified even with belief in HBD, because some of the disparities could be the result of discrimination. Disparities being the result of discrimination would be hard to falsify in a world of HBD-believers, but more importantly I think the same incentives to play the victim would exist as they currently do. I suspect few people will be satisfied accepting that they're innately less capable when they can easily and unfalsifiably claim to be victims of discrimination, systemic or otherwise.

You're also missing the most important policy that would change in a world of HBD-believers: immigration. Once you accept HBD, it seems to me to be straightforwardly horrifying and despair-inducing to witness what our society is doing to itself with its immigration policies, and to contemplate the implications of extrapolating these trends a century or two into the future.

The entire affirmative action policy regime depends on the assumption that group disparities are a problem that can be rectified.

I think there's a redistributive justification too, as well as a representational justification, as well as a justification premised on the purported instrumental organizational benefits of diversity. I happen not to find any of those justifications persuasive, but affirmative action supporters do not have all of their eggs in the remediation basket.

A liberal society that accepted HBD would not be arguing over whether or not to impose race-based immigration policies because such policies would be clearly illiberal. It would instead, just like it does now, be arguing over whether or not to impose immigration policies based on the prospective immigrants' level of intelligence and/or civilizedness. Arguing for race-based immigration policies is very unpopular in current Western society and in a liberal society that accepted HBD it would still be very unpopular because race-based immigration policies are clearly illiberal and unfair in the sense that they would discriminate based on group characteristics rather than individual characteristics. So in a liberal society that accepted HBD, the conversation would still revolve - much like it does in actual modern Western society - over whether or not society should make immigration policies that discriminate based on prospective immigrants' level of intelligence and/or civilizedness (roughly speaking, actual modern conservatives are in favor of such and actual modern progressives are opposed to such). HBD acceptance would not change immigration policies unless society as a whole significantly began to give up liberalism to an even greater degree than current anti-white policies represent an abandonment of liberalism. The anti-white policies at least pretend to be justified by liberalism, whereas a society in which immigration policies were being directly driven by HBD awareness would be a society in which there was not even the pretense of liberalism at least when it comes to this issue.

I don't see why restricting immigration based on group identity is antithetical to liberalism. People who are not lawful residents of a country are not owed the same treatment as that country's lawful residents. We discriminate amongst would-be immigrants all the time and in all manner of ways that liberalism would rightly demand we not treat our own lawful residents. For example, a categorical ban on immigration from people who believe in certain ideologies or who have illnesses likely to make them a public charge.

And while selecting based on individual characteristics rather than group characteristics is ideal in theory, in practice it runs up against the problem of regression to the mean - children of people at the high end of their group's bell curve end up closer to that group's mean than their parents' giftedness would predict.

There's also the additional problem of the possibility of HBD being applicable to group personality differences. We might not want a substantial portion of our population to belong to groups that, for whatever reason, differ in personality in ways that are at odds with our culture (e.g., individualism vs collectivism, work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and so on). It can be hard to test for this sort of thing, and it also probably involves some amount of regression to the mean. We may rightly decide that's just not a risk worth taking for a bit of a boost in GDP.

In the old model of striving for a colorblind meritocratic society, I would agree with you. Individuals would be judged as individuals, and if some individuals fall short, well, them's the breaks (but a robust social safety net should make sure nobody starves).

Unfortunately, the current model of racial justice is based on equity, not equality, and very broad and constantly expanding indictments of "whiteness." Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo are the most visible and oft-cited flagbearers of this model, but when people talk about "CRT" this is usually what they are talking about.

The problem with this model is that it excludes any possibility of differential outcomes except as a result of white supremacy. Thus, if blacks don't make up 13% of Harvard grads, 13% of doctors, 13% of Congressmen, 13% of company CEOs, etc., the cause cannot be anything other than racism.

Obviously, if HBD is true, this would present a problem, as such a model would be based on a false premise, and "equity" could only be achieved by artificially promoting less qualified people.

One could argue, as you do, that we should do that anyway, that AA isn't just about correcting systemic bias but also reparations for past injustices. (Incidentally, this isn't how AA was originally sold - the premise was the Ibram X. Kendi one, that everyone is equally talented and it's only white supremacy keeping black people down, and if you correct for racism, then black people will rise to their correct level.) But if HBD became widely accepted as true, I think you would have a growing problem of people Noticing what presently is impolitic to notice.

I actually do not support affirmative action, I was just pointing out that one could still make rational arguments in favor of affirmative action even if HBD was widely accepted as true.

I also dislike the equity model of racial justice. I am one of those liberals who wants the model of color-blindness, judging each individual by their individual characteristics, and free scientific inquiry unhampered by the fact that the discoveries might make some people feel uncomfortable.

that not by coincidence, most non-white/Asian kids aren't cut out for higher education.

You just went from "some" to "most" here.

There's a reason why HBD has bad associations and it's not all "progressives like to call people racist". You really need to avoid going any farther than you can support, because making mistakes has big consequences.

I have no idea whether it's some or most. That is why I do not embrace the Repugnant Conclusion as readily as hardcore HBDers do.

Most humans are not cut out for higher education. 120 IQ which I think is the minimum for a "real" degree is like 90th percentile of IQ.

Sorry for not counting gender studies and "entrpreneurship" majors.

I say this as someone who has reluctantly concluded that HBD is largely true, and wishes it wasn't. I think that's where Freddie is at, except he can't make the leap from "It would be really unfortunate and sad if this were true" to "It's true."

Every other page of his book is basically him insisting that believing in hereditarianism doesn't compel you to believe in the racial element of HBD.

At a certain point you just have to take him at his word or you'll drive yourself crazy trying to parse how much is just throat-clearing amongst lefties trying to redpill their fellows without alienating them (since you mentioned Jesse, I also often wonder just how much of his "charity" is tactical or not)

You might even be correctly detecting noble lies rather than just anxiety that Someone Could Reach The Wrong Conclusion(!!!) but it's still a crazymaking exercise.

He also is pretty stubbornly wrong about new construction raising rents in adjacent properties. The body of academic research in the last 5-10 years has produced results that range from “maybe only a little” to “not at all”. And the one study I know of that even attempted to use a control group backs this up. But “new development bad” is a DSA shibboleth he can’t seem to shake.

read between the lines. He makes so much, you think he is gonna piss that away to please people like us.

He makes so much, you think he is gonna piss that away to please people like us.

I don't think anyone would say they don't understand why he refuses to admit certain truths even if he believes them. But I also think it's fair to criticize him for it. Dissembling because the truth would get you in trouble is not the worst wrong ever, but it is still wrong.

It is fair to criticize, but he makes an argument in which the only explanation is HBD, but he cannot just say it outright. By excluding the other possibilities or solutions for academic and wealth inequality, then it logically follows it must be HBD. He's indirectly making Steve Hsu or Steve Sailer arguments but with leftism sprinkled in to please the right people. He is a leftist, who also believes in HBD, so this is a combination that is harder to cancel.

There is a lot of 'I also like Borscht' about his writing. I think he is writing for a lot of the heretics forced to wear masks in his readership.

Oh, I know he has a lot to lose if he came out pro-HBD or anti-trans. I just wonder to what degree he really is a true believer. Some people you can pretty much tell are skeptics even if they won't say so openly (example: Jesse Singal). Freddie I am not so sure about.

I can't see him not being a true believer in trans stuff, his pro-trans posts are very forceful and he's a consistent cultural progressive, but 'has suspicions but doesn't look into them' is plausible for HBD

Fair enough (aside from the piles of skulls). I don't know all that much about what lower productivity people do in moderately functional communist societies, but ideally it would be something other than overdosing on fentanyl. My understanding is that communist states are supposed to tell their people what to do with themselves, even if it's sometimes "you're bad at everything, accept this pension, move to the countryside, and keep a small orchard" or something.

I don't have a good sense of what Freddie would do if he were in charge of the communist city state of New York, but get the impression he's thinking of more than half the population when he refers to people who aren't academically inclined, so it can't just be "give everyone money, hope the trash doesn't pile up too high." Or is it?

My impression is that he genuinely thinks (or claims to think) that the moral thing to do is for all the other people to work extra hard to make sure that the uninclined get to enjoy happy, reasonably prosperous lives, with some magic pixie dust sprinkled on top to make it all work out. (and certainly no ordering anyone - except the people working to pay for everything - how to conduct their lives)

Bolsheviks learned quickly that ordering everyone was often the only solution. The Red Army was originally meant to be a democratic institution where the moral thing to do was to fight as hard as you can. What most people did instead was fight only when they felt safe. Trotsky had to use the power of friendship commissars and literal decimations to turn the Red Army into a literal army from a loose confederation of opportunistic partisans.

The Devil in the Definitions:

We talk about class a fair bit, but it's hard to define many of them. Most of these terms are relative, and the exceptions numerous. I've been thinking about what the "working class" is, and how to distinguish it from the middle classes. It can't just be money, a successful plumber might make four times what a librarian or a teacher makes, but he is working class and they are some sort of middle class. An artist might be much poorer than most working class, but they are not working class.

My current formulation is something like this: In the west, the Working Class are those workers whose jobs do not require any college, and which do not raise their social status among the educated middle classes.

What do you think separates the classes? Am I off base here?

No, it's just money.

Anything else is simply identity politics.

It doesn't matter how much money I have, I will never be middle class to born middle class people who know where I have come from, class wise, depsite all my credentials, accent, career, education, and extemely large personal library.

I will never be upper class and neither will any future children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, or great great grandchildren. Those who come after that might be able to sneak into the upper class by marriage if they are very very lucky and every single generation between me and them rises in status and wealth.

I live in England.

Born to doleys (benefits dependant), alcoholics, cripples, and drug addicts who themselves are the failed products of feeding in farm and factory labourers into the engine of liberalisation and corruption that was the 20th century.

Someone born middle class is higher class than my birth, and it has been made clear to me, over and over again in my life that no matter how high I rise and how far they fall, I will always be lesser than them. The only way to be seen as an equal is to make sure they never find out where I am from.

Class is about birth, it has nothing to do with money.

I was talking about the US - the UK is a weird country where mllionaires are considered upper middle class because their great-great-great-great grandmother didn't marry the right rich guy.

I don't think they are two different things. I think they're the same thing. Identity politics is distributed class warfare.

I think one of the more useful distinctions is the one laid out by John Michael Greer in this article of his https://www.resilience.org/stories/2016-01-21/donald-trump-and-the-politics-of-resentment/

Here’s a relevant example. It so happens that you can determine a huge amount about the economic and social prospects of people in America today by asking one remarkably simple question: how do they get most of their income? Broadly speaking—there are exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment—it’s from one of four sources: returns on investment, a monthly salary, an hourly wage, or a government welfare check. People who get most of their income from one of those four things have a great many interests in common, so much so that it’s meaningful to speak of the American people as divided into an investment class, a salary class, a wage class, and a welfare class.

It’s probably necessary to point out explicitly here that these classes aren’t identical to the divisions that Americans like to talk about. That is, there are plenty of people with light-colored skin in the welfare class, and plenty of people with darker skin in the wage class. Things tend to become a good deal more lily-white in the two wealthier classes, though even there you do find people of color. In the same way, women, gay people, disabled people, and so on are found in all four classes, and how they’re treated depends a great deal on which of these classes they’re in. If you’re a disabled person, for example, your chances of getting meaningful accommodations to help you deal with your disability are by and large considerably higher if you bring home a salary than they are if you work for a wage.

As noted above, there are people who don’t fall into those divisions. I’m one of them; as a writer, I get most of my income from royalties on book sales, which means that a dollar or so from every book of mine that sells via most channels, and rather less than that if it’s sold by Amazon—those big discounts come straight out of your favorite authors’ pockets—gets mailed to me twice a year. There are so few people who make their living this way that the royalty classlet isn’t a significant factor in American society. The same is true of most of the other ways of making a living in the US today. Even the once-mighty profit class, the people who get their income from the profit they make on their own business activities, is small enough these days that it lacks a significant collective presence.

Once again, everyone is focusing on the money, and while that is a part of it, I think it is not determinative.

Where people get their income is one facet, but there's a lot of overlap. The lower ranks of the working class are likely to be getting some form of assistance, even if it's Medicare. Social Security Disability is a common end for working class guys (both legitimate and as a con). On the other end, a bookshop employee might get paid hourly, but they are in a different intellectual, social and political milieu.

Indeed. The class divide runs down families in many cases.

I might be getting to granular, but doesn’t this need to extend beyond just occupation? One of my very good friends is a very financially successful tradesman with only a high school degree and hailing from a very poor neighborhood, who is a member of the same private club as my wife and I, and lives in a very nice home in our posh neighborhood that he restored, himself. His daughters attend a good private school, etc.

That is very much the point, yes. Economics is part of the story, but certainly not the whole one.

A theory that I've been kicking around in my own head is that at least part of the divide seems to be between people who primarily manipulate objects, and people who primarily manipulate symbols. Comments about "the PMC" or "laptop class" often get poo-pooed here but I think that one of the major inferential gaps between the classes (especially since 2020) comes from attitudes towards "remote" work. There seems to be this background radiation of "look at these idiots, if they were smart/educated they would have a job that could be conducted via email/zoom". See the kerfuffle on twitter around "learn to code", and the derision Ron DeSantis got for showing up to hurricane wrecked areas in a hard-hat and white Dunlops.

and the derision Ron DeSantis got for showing up to hurricane wrecked areas in a hard-hat and white Dunlops

Off-topic, but, while I don't know about the Dunlops(?), isn't it common for politicians and other government officials to show up to disaster areas wearing hard hats, in, say, Japan? Additionally, I imagine that part of whatever negativity cast onto DeSantis's name in relation to this has less to do with class perception and more to do with the fact of him being a Republican governor of a Gulf Coast state (see also Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz).

Probably one of those items whose name varies by region. Dunlops are oversize rubber boots with a non-stick coating. The idea being that they keep your regular shoes and pants clean and can be effectively washed off with a hose. IE the sort of thing one might wear if they expect to find themselves having to wade through a bunch of mud or sewage.

And you're right about politicians in (for example) Japan. Which IMO only emphasized the class/knowledge divide because you had a all these celebrities on twitter making fun of him for "cosplaying as a construction worker" and his "Nancy Sinatra go-go boots" with CNN covering the celebrity tweets as news, clearly trying to turn it into a Dukakis on the tank moment, but the message much of the gulf coast and republican electorate took from it was that the governor had shown up and was doing his job, leading to very silly articles in places like Slate and the Atlantic with titles like "DeSantis Approval Surges Despite Hurricane Response and Poor Fashion Sense". Despite? try "because of".

Annoyingly, in Australia when you are doing some manual labour and your boss tells you to bring some dunlops, he doesn't mean gumboots (which is what dunlops are called), he means these, the cheapest rubber soled shoes you can get your hands on. I was backpacking down the east coast and got a job helping build a greenhouse, and the only requirements were "some dunlops and a good attitude", paying quite a bit more than fruit picking (the Aussie itinerant's primary occupation). So I got me a pair of boots and rocked up, only to discover I was supposed to be running around the frame of this greenhouse, 5.5 metres off the ground hammering in plastic sheeting. So yeah, giant inflexible rubber boots weren't a great choice.

Ah, thanks, I associate the Dunlop name with tires and tennis rackets (and Arizona), so I figured it was shoes, but I was thinking like tennis shoes.

They make tires too ;-)

I've been trying to categorize the difference between Blue Collar and White Collar jobs for a while. The closest I've got is that Blue Collar jobs are clock-based while White Collar jobs are task-based.

With blue collar jobs, the work is never actually done. For example, a worker in a widget factory will never finish making widgets. No matter how fast or efficient he works, he's not leaving the factory a second before the whistle goes off, and he'll never stay extra to finish up the last couple widgets (of course overtime is a possibility, but it is just an extension of the same work he's doing, and he'll still have to be at his next shift. It's also not decided by him, but by his supervisor). This is part of the reason the going to the DMV is such a terrible experiences. The workers are just working a factory where you're the product. There is no incentive to be helpful or efficient, because the worker gains nothing out of it.

With White Collar Jobs, work is done until the task is done. A lawyer has to prep for a case, and if that means long hours and all-nighters, that's what he'll do. On the other hand, there will be days when he has less to do, and will leave early, or just lounge around the office.

This distinction fails in some cases. A plumber, for example, works by the task, but nobody would consider him a white collar worker. With your categorization, I think it all falls into place. A white collar working is someone whose task-based job involves primarily manipulating symbols. A job which does not meet both those criteria, is a blue collar job. So a plumber may be task-based, but it primarily involves manipulating objects, so it is blue collar.

I think this still fails in the case of a surgeon. Based on my categorization, a surgeon should be considered blue collar, because it is a task-based job that primarily involves manipulating objects. Perhaps one could argue that the surgeon is mainly using the knowledge he learned in medical school, and the physical surgery is just a physical manipulation of that knowledge.

The JM Greer breakdown is by source of primary income

-lower class= social assistance payments, food stamps, charity etc

-working class= hourly wages

-middle class= salary (including self-employment income)

-upper class= investment & inheritan e

Seems like 'blue collar' is a pretty good match for 'hourly wage earner' and 'white collar' to 'salaried worker', even though some skilled wage warners may make significantly more than low-status salaried employees.

I would say the difference between a knowledge worker and a skilled laborer is that a knowledge worker can physically execute an idea (i.e.- type it into the computer) as fast as they can think of it, while a skilled laborer can think of an idea and then take several hours to execute just a single idea. A skilled laborer can queue up ideas in his mind well in advance and have long periods of absent-mindedness (zuhandenheit) between the execution of one idea and the initiation of the next. A knowledge worker does not have this luxury because once they think of an idea, the execution is immediate, and now they must think of the next idea, or take a break from work.

So does that make the surgeon a skilled laborer?

What makes a surgeon not count as "manipulating objects" is not some technicality about using medical school knowledge--rather it's the fact that the physical effort and physical discomfort in manipulating the objects is a relatively small part of the job. A keyboard is an object, but using one doesn't count as "manipulating objects", for the same reason. A nurse who moves patients and changes bedpans would be blue collar.

Maybe non-administrative/dirty medical jobs could be called "teal-collar" (I know medical scrubs probably aren't commonly teal-colored, but bear with me), it still requires more knowledge and certification than some blue-collar jobs (since the costs of an accident or error are so much higher), but it is still fundamentally mechanistic to some degree.

I've heard some journalists use the term "pink collar" for the (mostly female) jobs like nursing and childcare that are primarily about bodies, rather than symbols or objects. They can require an associates or even a bachelors, and sometimes that translates to real skills they need (nurses need to have some idea if the medication they're giving out is plausible and not a typo or something), but is more a test of conscientiousness and conformity.

This isn't true. I've worked menial jobs and currently do a physical labor job, and there have been plenty of shifts that end when the work is done - whether that's closing the bar, loading the truck, or completing some other list of tasks. I probably only work 70% of the hours I get paid for.

Closing the bar and loading the truck are tasks, but they're tasks whose length is well known and/or predictable, and they are relatively more common and shorter than white collar tasks-they're tasks in the same way that making each individual widget in the factory is a task.

It's unlikely that closing the bar takes an hour today but five hours tomorrow. It's even more unlikely that closing the bar may not turn up at all for a few days, then it finally turns up, and you have to spend a week doing it.

It's unlikely that closing the bar takes an hour today but five hours tomorrow

I wouldn't say it's a certainty - but no, that wouldn't be unusual.

I think this still fails in the case of a surgeon. Based on my categorization, a surgeon should be considered blue collar, because it is a task-based job that primarily involves manipulating objects.

Perhaps, though ironically the stereotype of surgeons within the medical community is that they are a bunch of "dumb jocks" so you might still be onto something.

Perhaps one could argue that the surgeon is mainly using the knowledge he learned in medical school, and the physical surgery is just a physical manipulation of that knowledge.

The blacksmith is also mainly using the knowledge he learned from his master, and the physical smithing is just a physical manipulation of that knowledge.

Muscle memory? The surgeon also requires a lot of hands-on practice.

Physical strength? The worker assembling iPhones doesn't need more strength than the surgeon.

I don't think that this categorization works. For example, working at the DMV would generally be considered a white collar job, not a blue collar job. And furthermore, many white collar jobs aren't like you describe. I have worked in the IT field my entire career (a white collar job if ever there was one), and very few people stay until all the work is done. Because the reality is, no matter what the job: there's always more work. Even if you finish the task you're working on, there are more where that came from. Sure, you get the occasional doormat in a white collar job who insists that he has to stay until (current task) is done, no matter the hours. But most people recognize that there's no point, and tomorrow will be just fine.

You moved from the ultimate reason the Bennett’s were gentry (that is land ownership) to the proximate display of manners which you claim they needed to also display their class; but in fact this secondary display is perhaps an example of their class and (in the case of the women) gender insecurity. A male Earl, or Prince could follow whatever moral course they wanted, and would still be considered an aristocrat. Women were expected to follow the rules. The lower gentry were presumably on the edge of acceptance as well.

And, to be honest, I totally disagree that your sister is upper middle class if she is a low paid counsellor (presumably employed as such rather than self employed), and the ex waitress isn’t either. Both are proles. The plumber is petit bourgeois or bourgeois. What your sister and friend are both doing to reflecting upper class ideology, which is fairly common amongst the aspirational working classes.

In the Bennett’s case Liz was upping herself to the level of Darcy, who though having no title was clearly at the level of the Earl. Readers at the time would realise that she was over promoting herself - the British were very well aware of class distinctions within the gentry. The rest of society doesn’t exist in Austen, the “poor” have servants, the servants have no names, and never speak.

Your two sisters, if we were to replicate their position in the 19C would be on the level of governess (your sister), and a servant or maid who later moved onto being a secretary. And it’s pretty clear that governesses were expected to toe the ruling class line on manners alright, and largely did so themselves, consciously or unconsciously enforcing or replicating the rules of the day.

The plumber on the other hand, if he employs people, is the equivalent of a low level industrialist - often portrayed as boorish in the literature of the day, but radicals in many ways. Liberals(1), not conservatives. A governess might well earn more than the industrialist but she’s fooling herself if she thinks she’s a higher class. She’s fooling herself is she thinks she owns her own mind.

Jane Eyre was to be fair, aware of this, she was earning a salary of £30, which is above middle income at the time but is happy to describe herself as poor.

1: as in 19c liberals, classical liberals. Economically pro free market, socially liberal by the standards of the day.

I've long harbored the conspiracy theory that one of the reasons the middle class is so obsessed with safety (other than their natural neuroticism) is that it gives them the opportunity to adopt sumptuary laws that force the working class to publicly mark themselves, often with yellow vests or work uniforms.

Uniforms, hard hats, steel toed boots, work gloves, and yellow vests are safety precautions that originated within the working classes themselves and which were fought for by the working class through unions. They’re definitely not a sumptuary law imposition by the upper middle class.

hard hats, steel toed boots, work gloves,

Yes. The vests and uniforms? Not so much.

I would say you could mark the point at which unions were co-opted by the adoption of the yellow vest.

Hey, keep your facts and logic to yourself, it wouldn't be a conspiracy theory if I cared about that stuff! :P

That said, you're sort of supporting my argument. The safety clothing is to make the middle-class homeowners feel at ease by clearly marking who is the good working class and who must be suspicious. At least partially, at some level.

I meant that the guys in the most thorough, dorky-looking safety gear aren’t interacting much with the laptop class.

You mean other than their boss, HR and legal team?

Not a complete theory on class by any means but I think there is a distinction to be made between the 'working' class and the 'sitting' class, for lack of better terms.

Listening to talk radio and hearing some of the 'sitting class' people blabber about how 'fifty is the new thirty' made me think that there is a sort of quality of life difference between those who do any form of manual labour and those who primarily just sit inside doing wrist work. I've worked with guys whose bodies are done and they were just in their mid thirties.

I don't know if there is some clean break or boundary there but if you are 'sacrificing' your body, be it your back through lifting things or lungs through breathing in dust, or skin and comfort by working outside in all conditions, and you are not making significantly more than some guy answering the phone and transferring numbers into a spreadsheet... I think most people intuitively understand that one person is better off than the other.

There is definitely this aspect, though I suspect lots of exceptions. It is the case that almost all of the very dangerous/physically difficult professions are working class.

The classic definitions that matter is that the lower classes work for someone else, the middle classes work for themselves, and the upper classes don't work.

Such a definition describes political power rather than anything else, it is hard to run for office when your boss can fire you, and it is easy when you answer to passive income only.

I've not any other definitions that really describe how the differences matter other than cultural.

This is undercut by the fact that in modern society, a lot of working class people work for themselves, most middle class people don't (doctors in hospitals, lawyers in firms etc.), and the top classes of income most definitely work. Whatever your moral or political view of Bezons, Musk, Gates, Soros etc., they aren't lounging by the pool on their yacht (all that much).

Who is more powerful though?

An activist that lives off of 24k per year passive income, or a doctor working 80hr weeks up to his eyes in debt?

Income doesn't really factor in.

Depends radically on who the "activist" is.

https://www.cbsnews.com/minnesota/news/linwood-kaine-arrest/

Some activists are underclass, some are working class, many are middle class, and half are upper class. Odds are, if someone's actual profession is "activist", they have access to power and connections, even if they make relatively little money.

Now that "activism" is the path to political power, we can expect the ambitious children of the rich and powerful to be ever more involved in "activism".

That activist, by himself, isn't powerful at all. Maybe the movement he's is powerful, but its goals are set by the people at the top - who don't live off $24k a year. In fact, if the activist wants to remain in the movement, he has to make sure his opinions change when those of the leaders do.

The doctor is likely more powerful, albeit just a little, because he has more money to spend.

I think this has some explanatory power, but I disagree that it's the best way to see things.

I see a much looser collection of molehills, rather than a single pyramid. Or perhaps a mountain, with countless outcroppings, cliffs and crags. It might be the general structure of a pyramid, but it's furry and messy and non-directional.

This is because there is no unitary source of status. In terms of income, your pyramid works just fine. In terms of class society as a whole, I think it lacks nuance.

That said, this is a really good description of many parts, and I particularly like your conclusion. The function of class over time is perhaps the real class war, over exactly how porous those class divisions are, and how many generations it takes to move. ADD note: Chris Rock's recent special had an extended bit about this, talking about how his daughters fence.

Fencing is cheap though, what fencing indicates isn't high class, it's that you're not part of the the lower working class or underclass and live in a decently sized metropolitan area. The cost is similar to playing basketball.

I think you dismiss it too quickly. Think more deeply about what specific class(es) might learn fencing.

There aren't pickup games of fencing. Nobody but nobody is doing this for any reason other than scholarships, medaling in an obscure sport, or status in the group of people that would care about fencing. It's an athletic endeavor that is socially pointless, completely useless but references the nobility of olden tymes. Like dressage or opera.

This is for the aspirational middle class, or for someone like Rock, trying to shelve his kids into that upper-middle-class slot. They're auditioning for the upper class. If you medal in fencing, perhaps your children will be considered suitable matches for a fourth-cousin Kennedy. And Rock is famous and rich. That's how many generations it takes, when one talented, lucky guy can jump about six classes in one lifetime.

I would contest the assertion that fencing is "useless", though perhaps I am biased having grown up amongst reenactors, but I agree with everything else you've said here.

As a practical martial art, I think it is. Dressage evolved from cavalry charges, fencing from renaissance duelling. Both these skills are long past military or practical usefulness. See also: Kung Fu, karate etc. They've been stylized and gamified into irrelevance, plus martial technology and tactics have changed wildly.

Rapier, sure -- but skill with a sabre or epee is still a plausibly useful self-defense mechanism if you wanted to walk around with a cavalry sword or something. (proves your point I guess, but the picture is amusing -- surely it's indisputable that the 2A would apply to actual 18th century weapons?)

if you wanted to walk around with a cavalry sword or something

Oh man, if we can bring back wearing a sidearm and sword, I am so in. Come to think of it, aren't I authorized a couple of uniform swords?

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surely it's indisputable that the 2A would apply to actual 18th century weapons?

Yes it is very disputable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knife_legislation#Constitutional_protection

There is no NSKA (National Sword and Knife Association) and as a result, in many places where gun carry is fully legal even small knife can get you in trouble. As always, CYL before you get in knife fight ;-)

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It used to be clearer, and the American flattening of class structure makes it more difficult: everyone is middle-class now, from the plumbers to the President; see the difference between Bush Senior's patrician aura and Bush Junior's "aw shucks" persona, even though Barbara Bush had to do the traditional "what's your favourite recipe?" bit, as though she herself stood at the kitchen counter making biscuits with her own hands (a generation or two earlier it would have been "we have servants to do that") - Hillary was honest but like most things she does, did it in a brusque, impatient and dismissive way.

The Obamas were able to get away, without comment, that they got the White House chef (and not Michelle) to make Barack's favourites if he felt like a snack. But that's the idea - they may be rich and high-status but they're just folks. This fits in with the myth that America is a 'classless' society and Jack is as good as his master. Americans (so it is said) don't envy the rich or want to overthrow them because they believe they too can become 'one of those guys' with some luck/hard work/talent - America is the land of opportunity, after all, and doesn't have the same suppressive structures of class and hierarchy as the Old Countries that keep you locked into a rut.

Plumbers and skilled tradesmen would be lower middle-class (if they run their own business). You're right that it's not about money and that it is about education, but there's also the subtle Blue Tribe/Red Tribe division (not politics, but the way Scott originally defined it - you can have Democrat voters who are blue collar union workers). It's about culture and tastes and heritage, in other words; smart and talented members of the lower classes can climb the ladder and be accepted into the class above, but that generally means going to college and getting initiated into the customs of the upper-middle and upper classes. Learning how to fit in and be a 'good fit for the company culture'. That's what is behind a lot of the laments about "my kid went off to college and came back completely changed", and it's not just about political attitudes - you adapt and change now that you're on the path to the middle class, and if you don't, you'll never get the same opportunities even if you get the degree in the end, because you'll always stick out as 'not one of us'.

EDIT: See, for example, all the to-do about Trump not being a real billionaire, and this criticism wasn't confined to the simple charge of "he doesn't have that amount of money". All the nice Blue Tribe types who would claim to be against class on the grounds of it being systemic oppression, and that everyone is equal, and ordinary people are as good as anyone, and so forth to tedious length, wrote snobby little pieces about "ugh, he eats his steak well-done, that's not the proper way to eat steak, and goodness gracious me he wants ketchup? Ketchup? Could he be any more low-class?"

That kind of attitude then makes it harder to take you seriously that you love, adore, and want to represent and fight for the rights of the class of people who have a bottle of ketchup on the table as a condiment. That's a class judgement, and has nothing to do with "did you go to college, how much money have you?"

I think you’re conflating a whole bunch of different things here.

There isn’t really a flattened structure here. It’s more in flux than before, and it’s more possible for someone on the bottom with the right idea at the right time can move up quintiles of wealth rather quickly. However the differences in lifestyle and life expectations at different levels are widely different. On the bottom, people cannot afford regular medical care and can struggle to afford medications. They attend public schools and stay close to home. On the top, there’s concierge medical care, exclusive private schools, and international travel.

Second, there’s a distinction between social class and wealth. Just being rich doesn’t make you upper class, there are lots of unspoken rules of behavior, proper and improper interests, and proper and improper beliefs. Food especially is a big deal. You’re supposed to like to the subtle tastes of properly cooked food, preferably exotic and from places most people don’t go often (so not Mexican food or Chinese or Japanese), and strong sauces are to be avoided. You’re supposed to like international tv and movies. You’re supposed to be woke (more or less), liberal, and environmentalist. In fact you’re supposed to be highly anxious about those things.

This! But more!

Even what you describe is only one part, one subclass among many. The upper classes are as heterogenous as the middle and lower classes.

This is an aside, but I find that I really don't understand what a "McMansion" is supposed to be. I understand the general definition ("new money" house that is huge and expensive, but using a gaudy mis-match of different, usually faux-classical, styles and often cheap materials), and have a coherent image that pops into my head when I hear people use the term, but at least half the examples of "McMansions" I see people use just look like big houses to me. I don't see anything in that picture of Trump's childhood home that screams "McMansion." Is it literally any suburban mansion built after the Warren G. Harding administration? Or are my low-class tastes showing and the fact that I think it looks like a nice house is exactly what makes it a McMansion?

It has always been my thesis that the outsized reaction to Trump was class-based, not political or even ideological. Ideologically, Trump is the least consistent, least principled person to hold the office in quite some time. Politically, he wasn't even really on the right. Was there ever a less convincing* religious panderer than Trump? But he was a poor person's idea of a rich person. Plate everything gold, make up catchphrases, put your name on everything, marry a series of models, talk shit to everyone. Even the constant lying is no different from the more polished misinformation normal politicians use, it's just cruder. It's "Thirty-point buck" lying, not "Well, if you account for depreciation" lying.

*https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/the-time-trump-got-a-biblical-citation-very-wrong.html