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Culture War Roundup for the week of March 4, 2024

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American Elites

I found this recent Rasmussen presentation, it focuses on subsections of the elite. It was funded by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, a libertarian thinktank. One might consider them elite heretics or counter-elites (and sure enough they have a slide at the end saying ‘oh there are some elites who are good and trustworthy'). Us non-Gold Circle normies only get the slides, so it's a little unclear what they mean.

Anyway, they define elite as postgrad urbanite with 150K per year income. They further split elites into those who went to 12 top colleges and the ‘politically obsessed’ (definition unclear but I imagine it means they spend a certain number of hours reading/watching/discussing political media). For instance, I imagine we would be considered ‘politically obsessed’.

As you might expect, the elite are the ones who approve of Biden and Congress. They trust the government to do the right thing. I imagine that even if they don’t think the government’s doing a great job they’re friends with high ranking officials and feel a certain amity for them. In my experience, their brother might be an ambassador, they might have an AI regulator over for lunch. Even if they’ve been astonished by the stupid questions journalists ask them, they’ve still got fairly positive impressions of the prestige press and read at least two or three newspapers.

Elites are also much more likely to say ‘there’s too much individual freedom in the US’ than voters, especially the politically obsessed elites. Likewise, they favour strict restrictions on private usage of gas, vehicles, meat and electricity. It’s bizarre that 55% oppose non-essential air travel since this class is the most likely to go on overseas holidays, I don’t understand how this works. Anyway, they want restrictions on everything except border security, which they couldn’t care less about. Plebs hold the opposite beliefs.

I was most surprised by how 29% of the elite thinks that China is an ally, compared to 9% of ordinary voters. I would’ve thought the elites were the hawks! Maybe some of them have commercial interests in China or they want to work with China on climate change or they’re ethnically Chinese, anyway this is really odd to me. The hawk faction may be in control but the doves haven’t been totally eviscerated. Does anyone have any explanations or observations on this matter?

35% of the elite would rather cheat than lose a close election, rising to 69% of the ‘politically obsessed’. Only 7% of pleb voters would cheat. That seems like an underestimate to me – who goes and says ‘I would rather cheat than lose an election’ on a poll? Wouldn’t people be embarrassed (or tactical) and lie – they’re cheats after all! Again, I don’t know the exact definition of cheat but I imagine many more would do something subversive like hold back successful COVID vaccine results until after the election or engage in various procedural manipulations. Edit for an example of what I mean for 'non-cheating' manipulation:

I think it’s clear that these are the people with actual power and influence, the ones who set the agenda, the key actors in tech, media, government and law. They create outcomes, or lack thereof. Just about every judge would be elite by this definition, along with nearly all AI workers (OK maybe not the work-from-home guys in the Colorado mountains). All lobbyists, the heads of most NGOs, the most important lawyers – everyone except the right-wing politicians who seem unable to achieve any of their goals.

It’s not like it’s hard to close the US border. The US is a global power after all. The US seems to think it can defend Ukraine’s borders against the Russian army from the other side of the world and secure Taiwan’s borders against the PLA, it must be at least 1000x easier to defend the US border against stateless, unarmed mobs. They just don’t care, indeed their energy seems to swing the other way – see the recent US-Texas standoff over barbed wire and the border. The survey said not one respondent cared about the border as a priority, presumably some think immigration is quite a good thing and want more, illegal or otherwise.

On other fronts, we observe these creeping changes – everyone seems to need a college degree if they want to do anything. That’s not the will of the majority but it is what the elite want. You can see these articles that go ‘relax nobody’s coming to take your gas stove’, how they struck down the federal bill. But the state legislation in New York and other cities is proceeding, it’s clear that this is the path that the US is on. Likewise, the disputes over the 2020 election. I'm suspicious but can't prove that the election was rigged, or that Epstein didn't kill himself. Nevertheless, US democracy doesn't seem in very good shape if its elites are so willing to win by fraud.

As a dirty dozen but not politically obsessed elite, I unironically believe most voters are just uninformed and not really equipped to think about certain important issues like climate change or immigration. The typical voter can’t articulate what an externality is or reliably identify one in nature. The typical voter has empirically incorrect ideas about immigration and its connection to crime and the economy. I’m not in the politically obsessed “we should cheat at elections” camp but I do firmly believe the current US government is doing an outstanding job all things considered and people who disagree either have incoherent ideas about what’s going on or are politically motivated and think that because Trump isn’t president, the economy must be bad. I think Biden is old but I don’t care because the deep state is benign and competent, so I hope he and his crew win.

The typical voter has empirically incorrect ideas about immigration and its connection to crime and the economy.

The typical voter's view on immigration and the economic consequences of it are substantially more accurate than those of the elite. The American working class has actually collapsed, and immigration was one of the biggest forces contributing to that collapse (outsourcing being the second). While it might not be noticeable if you're living in elite enclave, illegal immigration (and regular immigration) have substantially immiserated vast swathes of the country. People don't think that the economy is bad simply because Trump isn't president, they think the economy is bad because the prices they pay for food and other basic necessities have increased out of pace with the compensation they're receiving to the point that it is having a noticeable impact on their quality of life despite what Paul Krugman is saying.

I do firmly believe the current US government is doing an outstanding job all things considered

Where exactly are they doing an outstanding job? They're losing the proxy war in Ukraine, public trust in government is at an all time low, family formation and other non-gamed metrics reflecting attainment of meaningful lifegoals are in the toilet and the nation's infrastructure has been neglected to an almost comical degree.

I don’t care because the deep state is benign and competent,

Have you read any of the leaked documents that came out of the deep state? I just can't believe that they're "benign and competent" when I've actually looked at the work they're doing, or the SMS messages they send to each other. At least the NSA got that cool control room inspired by Star Trek, I suppose...

This comment kind of perfectly encapsulates what I’m saying. Everything you’re saying about the state of the economy, for example, is just wrong and easily disprovable from tons of independent data sources.

  • -18

Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

The data is either incomplete or wrongly, often willfully wrongly interpreted. I’m literally one of those people he’s talking about; Despite posting in this rarefied little forum full of PMC types, I’m roughly working class in lifestyle and lifetime earning capability.

Instead of going to get an advanced degree, I worked for a living and got married and started a family. I’m an extremely skilled worker with an extremely strong resume, and I’ve been working 40-60 hours a week for the last 15 odd years at decent and respectable enterprises. By all accounts I shouldn’t have to struggle this hard just to keep my head above water.

All I have to do is take a look at my refrigerator to tell you you’re wrong. From 2016 to 2020, if I had friends over I’d always have something special for entertaining; olives, cheeses, charcuterie, pate, maybe some nice liquor or craft beer, high quality meat, a wide variety of fresh fruits, maybe some fun desserts like sorbet or crème brûlée. You name it, it wasn’t extravagant but I always had something I could put together to entertain a few guests.

And that was all on one income, which was a good income but not spectacular by any means. And I managed to save a good amount of money. I could afford to take my wife out to a nice dinner in occasion, we could go on very modest vacations without worrying about it too much.

All that shit is gone now, my family had spaghetti for dinner twice last week. It’s brown bag lunch for me. I don’t keep liquor in the house anymore, too expensive. We’ve basically stopped eating beef because it’s too expensive. For the first time in my entire life I’ve been late on payments on a semi regular basis; I’m quite financially literate but there’s only so much you can do.

And that’s all with my wife working again.

What that people touting these great economic numbers don’t understand is that all the pain and hardship doesn’t end the second the numbers start to get better, the effects of economic stress have long tails that bleed into everything. Just because the earthquake stopped and the house is still standing doesn’t mean it is not still in the process of falling over.

I’m making more money than I ever had but my lifestyle has been severely downgraded since 2020, probably permanently, of which nearly none of the blame can be reasonably laid at the feet of Donald Trump or the republican party.

I live in a deep blue state, in a blue area. And every working class person I know hates the government and the Biden administration. What’s more interesting is my social circle is incredibly diverse.

of which nearly none of the blame can be reasonably laid at the feet of Donald Trump or the republican party.

Well Trump was the President who signed off on the first 2.2 trillion dollar CARES act in 2020, so if you believe the arguments that this contributed to inflation, then Trump at least is somewhat responsible. Biden then also signed a 1.9 trillion dollar rescue plan as well of course.

Sure, but two things were abundantly clear even to the political novice; trump wanted the vaccines approved asap and trump wanted the lockdowns lifted as soon as the vaccine became available to let the economy recover, even if it was just to save his own political skin.

If the CARES act was the only major spending bill related to COVID and we got more or less back to business as usual by fall 2020, it would have caused an inflationary period but the damage would have been limited and mitigated by a quick recovery.

There’s a big difference between taking 2000mg of Tylenol and taking 4000mg of Tylenol and four shots of whiskey.

The vast, disparate effects of what you might call the “lockdown political culture” deepened and accelerated this inflationary pressure by absolutely skull-fucking normal supply and demand. And that shit was 1000% on the heads of democrats.

All inflation is just too much money chasing too little goods. The absolutely psychotic extended lockdowns and the hair trigger response we had throughout the administrative state, which was in open rebellion against the Trump administration, caused a ton of problems both on the supply side and the demand side.

I saw this personally as I was privy to the cost increase in my industry which were largely a result of all these collective policies on both the federal level, and on the state and local level, all of which are heavily blue.

So my intuition is that trump might be responsible for like 15% of the inflation surrounding COVID, tops. And the super tight labor market that we had pre-COVID more than makes up for that, and the Trump administration can take at least partial credit for that.