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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Some things the technocrats haven't considered

Lion of the Blogosphere, on Ross Douthat:
Ross Douthat had an op-ed column about leaving work behind in which he points out that Keynes, in 1930, predicted a future 15-hour work week. And he takes issue with other conservatives who reflexively criticized Obamacare because there was a prediction that some people would take advantage of Obamacare to quit their jobs (because they can now obtain health insurance without having a job).
But it’s also possible to argue that as a rich, post-scarcity society, we shouldn’t really care that much about whether the poor choose to work. The important thing is just making sure they have a decent standard of living, full stop, and if they choose Keynesian leisure over a low-paying job, that’s their business.
The fact that he understand there’s a good argument there shows that Douthat is a much smarter thinker than most conservatives. Note that he uses the phrase “post-scarcity economy.” That sounds like something I would write. It’s like I’m reading my own ideas in the mainstream media.
Douthat and Lion are smart, conservative thinkers but this is where they show their technocratic blind spots.

First, I'm not sure how or why K-selected net producers will decide to keep working 40 to 60 hours per week to support r-selected net consumers and their preference for Keynesian leisure. The r-selected will use their free stuff to breed to the Malthusian limits. When that happens, the K-selected start withdrawing to their upper-caste suburbs and in-town redoubts. When they can no longer withdraw, they shut down. In either event, the idealistic, K-selected civilization that enables this free ride disappears. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.

That's what has been happening in the Middle East for many decades: the K-selected have been leaving; now, they're shutting down. Same thing with Honduras, Peru, Libya, Somalia, Egypt. Or, closer to home, Camden, Detroit, Birmingham. There's no longer a sufficient Smart Fraction to maintain civilization. When the oil runs out, much of the Middle East will revert to nomadic tribes and banditry. When the EBT cards don't work, places like Detroit will be full of starving people. Since there won't be anybody to steal from, they'll die or become itinerant beggars. Detroit will revert to prairie like it's already doing in a lot of areas.

Second, something that Keynes himself overlooked is that inflationary monetary policy leverages future production for present consumption. So when we arrive at the future, we’re still just hustling to maintain our living standards instead of enjoying the fruits of increased productivity. Eventually, we'll run out of future like we did in 2008. The Fed's economists responded by printing up a couple of trillion dollars and handing them out to their friends. Next time they'll have to print up even more. This can't go on forever.

10 comments:

Northern Refugee said...

This is a very insightful post. I try to explain this to my libertarian friends, but usually run up against a brick wall. Typical libertarian dogma is that Malthus was wrong, and we can science our way out of any problem. I try and counter that there are hard limits on human population, but that these limits vary by culture. Advanced western and asian societies can support MUCH higher population densities than backward cultures; the evidence is post-colonial African countries, which are dependent on western aid and have lower life expectancy than under colonial rule. At this point the conversation shuts down over accusations of racism.

I think California will be a test case for your theories. The white population, sans oligarchs, is fleeing, leaving a massive, low IQ brown underclass. Despite all the advantages of climate and technological advancement, much of the state resembles a 3rd world slum. I am curious as to whether the new 3rd world population will be able to even maintain the appearance of a 1st world society. The problem is even more interesting since we rely on this state for so much of our food.

lannes said...

Among Californians with their smug
inflated housing, everything one could want is HERE. There is no
"there" there, as Gertrude Stein
put it.

lannes said...

What food do we rely on that silly state for? Avocados? We can get bread and meat from the Midwest and citrus from Florida.

Northern Refugee said...

We need California for vegetables, fruits and nuts. I think California will be an interesting test case since it will be our first majority r-selected state.

Bob Wallace said...

Many people I know have moved into rural areas and live as cheaply as possible. The states, of course, are overwhelmingly white.

Look up the Missouri Ozarks to see what I mean.

Rev. Right said...

"The important thing is just making sure they have a decent standard of living, full stop, and if they choose Keynesian leisure over a low-paying job, that’s their business."

If I am paying for this, isn't it my business too? What might the non-leisure class be entitled to for their largesse?

It might be worth it if:

1. The right to vote is contingent on not being on government assistance. Once you have been on government assistance, you have to pay taxes for five years before you can vote. Retired people who have worked (or at least not been on welfare) a minimum number of years retain the right to vote for life.

2. Any children conceived while on government assistance are entirely on you.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

@Bob - yes. Whites are withdrawing. My parents have selected a town surrounded by water on three sides. There's no room for more development, and no schools nearby.

@Rev Right - no. You are the subsidizor, not the subsidizee.

Alexandros HoMegas said...

The Lebanese Christians who descendants of the Phoenicians are ALL in Brazil and other Latij countries where they're the elite, Carlos Slim, Carlos Ghosn, the Phoenican merchants live on... But not in Lebanon.

SFG said...

It is interesting to note that mostly white countries like Scandinavia seem to get away with it, which makes HBD crucial to the question of why we can't have a bigger welfare state.

SFG said...

Er, mostly white countries like those in Scandinavia. My bad.