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The Real Class War (americanaffairsjournal.org)
773 points by arcanus 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 607 comments



I've spent my career working in public policy circles, and this rings true to me.

> At most, working-class voters can cast their ballots for an “un­acceptable” candidate, but they can exercise no influence on policy formation or agency personnel, much less on governance areas that have been transferred to technocratic bodies.

> Unlike the work­ing class, the professional managerial class is still capable of, and re­quired for, wielding political power.

I've never seen actual grassroots activism accomplish much, if anything. Protests in DC are like rain; bring an umbrella, but no need to pay it much attention because it will blow over in no time. It's always insiders who make a career out of policy that ultimately shape it. Hill staff, think tank wonks, professional bureaucrats, etc--it's that professional Washingtonian class that really shapes the government's policy, because they are the ones that show up to do that work every day.


To +1 one this: Having spent a great deal of time consulting to government, in addition to working in media, but with a deep background in tech, the managerial class of people making policy have a revolving door to the universities, which are seized by faddish ideas as often as the elected representatives. Many of these policy people actually come to hate technologists because they find their more chauvinistic plans are thwarted by the privacy and security people who are at the table because of competence that can't be ignored, and not elite credentials.

As a result, the managerialists double down on what makes them different from techs, which means being extra airy, vague, political, and what most working people interpret as untrustworthy. It's practically a shibboleth, as if to say they don't need to seem honest because they are powerful. I don't think this managerial class is as necessary as people who are a part of it think.

The class disconnect is more pronounced in recent years because of the stark differences in physical competence and the precarious status of people who imagine themselves as "elite." What they deride as populism is much more complex than they perceive. Working people expect their elites to at least be somewhat noble, and when they aren't, history is the story we tell about what happens to them.


I wonder how this would relate to the Peter principle which states that every employee rises to their level of incompetence. The conclusion might be that the managerial class is not qualified to decide on what's good for others.

If you were to look at the individual histories of most senior corporate executives, most of them were in various middle management positions at some point before they became executives...

The kinds of people who were able to move above each layer of middle management were basically those who were the most skilled at manipulating others for their own personal benefit; the simple game of taking credit whilst deflecting blame. It's not surprising that the kinds of people who are able to traverse several levels of the management hierarchy to become executives completely lack any self-awareness. Thinking about themselves would distract them from their main activity which is fooling others.

I've worked in enough companies to know that those who get promoted are not those who care about others' (or even the company's) well being. This is provably true because the contrapositive statement would create a contradiction because in such case, the manager would help others to get promoted and thus they would never get promoted themselves.


There is a capability for abstraction we overlook.

Forget for a moment about what we might think about people who succeed in business, and look critically at the ones who fail. People who fail in business are the ones who want friends, honour, fame, validation, sympathy, justice, social good, and esteem. They personalize failures against these needs and stop dealing with the higher level abstraction of the success of the venture. The ones who succeed want something else, either because they already have or self-fulfill those other things, or just don't care. We can moralize and say it's the latter, but it's more often the former.

It's easier when an institution has given you the conceit that you are not morally accountable to the uninitiated or uneducated. The thing about class is that barring crime, there is no downside to betraying someone who isn't a part of your tribe, which is usually from a school. If you believe people get what they deserve, they call that the "just world fallacy," for a reason. It's a noble lie. If it weren't, you'd see more nurses and veterans in business class seats.

Anyway, long topic, but in spite of my opinions, I think it is difficult to accurately criticize management and class without the perspective of an elite education, as (perhaps horrifically) what can instruments know of their players?


My own experience is that the Peter principle is outdated. People don’t rise vertically anymore: they rise horizontally.

Instead of working their way up within a single institution, they make lots of “lateral” transfers.

The government/lobbyist revolving doors are a good example, but not the only one. How many tech workers go back and forth between big tech companies and startups, each time rising more than if they stayed put?

It creates an administrative class that has little commitment to the institutions they “serve”, and an overly valued senior class that is able to run out the door, taking the company with it.

Meanwhile people who stick with the same company - often for reasons beyond their control - end up in “lower management” positions at best.

BTW, my own experience with executives is that most have a sales or engineering background. Very few, of any, have a background in true middle management background (HR, accounting, governmental compliance, etc.)


My impression in recent years is that the middle class has real value in almost any society we had until now. They are the glue that brings stability to any organization, they are what keeps to energetic lower layer people from gaining power from crazy ideas, and they are the first to get blamed when a crazy idea from the top management layer fails. Do you see differences between that statement and your experience?

And the real question I want to ask: Do you feel that especially the middlest of managers have to fear AI the most, because AI could theoretically replace exactly that middle layer and do it even better than a human could?


AI will not replace the middle manager any time soon. Their job is too general and not specific enough to be solved by AI. Some of the tasks they do like scheduling can be aided by AI and have been aided by scheduling software but that doesn't mean AI could do their whole job. Stuff like talking to people about how they are getting along and helping develop and grow the people on the layer below them is something a good manager should be doing and something that would be foolish to replace with a system that has no humanity. See also defusing team conflicts and keeping up morale.

The problem is your reference is some kind of broken organisation where people are basically slave labour and managers only serve to dish out the work given from above. Sure bad managers of that description could be replaced by a good AI in the future but that would be awful because a good manager brings vitality to a team, helps individual team members and helps to filter and promote ideas up and down the organisation.


> My impression in recent years is that the middle class has real value in almost any society we had until now.

The middle class really isn't any less powerful today. Near as I can tell what happened isn't that the middle class became less powerful, but that journalists in particular no longer find themselves in the upper middle class so they spread the perception that the middle class has lost its power because they themselves feel like they have lost power, especially economic power.

I suspect that society is most likely perceived as most stable when those with megaphones and that buy ink by the barrel feel most stable.

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/06/th...


"journalists in particular no longer find themselves in the upper middle class"

For most of the history of journalism in the U.S., journalists were not in the "upper middle class". Journalism was a poorly paid working class job for most of the 20th century. Maybe a couple decades at the end of it different.


That low pay serves as a gatekeeping mechanism so poor people can't survive on that career. On the other hand, journalists have a disproportionate influence over public discourse, now tightly controlled by the elite class.

Or maybe it's the reverse, because the field has high prestige and impact, it attracts upper class children who don't need the salary, causing a downward pressure for journalist wages.


Eh, I don't think that's what was actually going on for most of the 20th century. Journalist was not a prestigious job, it was in fact done by working class people. I think. It's instead a new thing that journalism is dominated by "elites".

"How journalism became a middle class profession for university graduates": https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2009/jul/21/new...

"The death of the working class reporter": https://blog.usejournal.com/the-death-of-the-working-class-r...

The original claim I was challenging was "journalists in particular no longer find themselves in the upper middle class" -- I don't think they ever were, it's possible that MORE of them are now than previous -- as you say, even as salaries drop.


> "The death of the working class reporter"

This article is just standard journalistic myth-making. The journalists cited as examples of success without college degrees, Carl Bernstein and Walter Cronkite (who both went to college, just dropped out), came from privileged backgrounds just like the privileged kids who fill the industy today.


Idealistic professions done "for the greater good" typically struggle. These days, anyone with internet access can do low-paid writing through various services or publish their own thoughts via a blog or social media. There has been tremendous downward pressure on writing and many local papers have closed, among other things.


> public discourse, now tightly controlled by the elite class.

Maybe 10-15 years ago that was true, but today the control of public discourse is no longer controlled by the elite class. Blogging completely ended that control.


Lots of “journalists” are people who established themselves outside of journalism and then transferred in.


Journalists for the most prestigious outlets (NYTimes, WaPo, Newsweek, Time Magazine, etc) certainly did well for themselves. At secondary institutions it was a solid middle class job.

Now because of blogging and commodification of the news, the money is no longer in journalism but in clickbait and it's a race to the bottom.

This article about the decline of Newsweek does a good job chronicling what is happening at news media companies all over the world:

https://www.cjr.org/special_report/newsweek.php

Journalists now find themselves among the precariat, especially those in the long tail of journalism working at clickbait factories like Business Insider, HuffPo, Jezebel, etc. News media is now a gig industry job.


Are you suggesting that skyrocketing education, housing, and medical care costs in proportion to stagnant wages for most people resulting in less economic security and mobility for the next generation is not real?


Pretty much what I expected. Still concerning though that these insecurities don't seem to phase that many people.

I think colloquially it is called being severely butthurt. Not a phenomenon restricted to the US.


In the context of this article's framing, well-paid tech employees are part of the same managerial/professional class of lesser elites (as distinct from the true elites in the capitalist class, our owners).

It sounds to me like you're allowing aesthetic considerations distract you from your common interests.


Have you never heard of the labor movement? The grassroots activism by working class people that forced the federal government to develop an entire arm of federal law, with its own Cabinet-level agency, to protect them from the professional managerial class?

How have you spent your career working in public policy circles and come away with so little understanding of what grassroots activism is, and the impact it has historically had?


For the same reason that Hillary Clinton got nominated in 2016. Because too many politicians are completely out of touch with the movements, conditions and perspectives of working people.

Where I live, grassroots organizers are doing all the hard work. I'm not talking about protesters. I'm talking about people who are building and connecting organically, who are facilitating workshops and popular education sessions, who are raising awareness about what's going on in local government to enable democracy to happen. Democracy doesn't function without grassroots participation. This country would be a hell hole without the hard work of local organizers everywhere.


Hillary won working class voters in the 2016 primary by a comfortable margin. +28 with non-college-educated voters and +13 with voters under $50,000 in income.


The primary is not reflective of the general.


Against Trump, but I doubt that is a reliable metric to determine real support.


Trump was not a participant in the 2016 democratic primary, where HRC won by the indicated margins.


Not just the politicians. I recently overheard a conversation at the startup where I work where people were talking about the benefits of unionizing I’m front the executive team.

It was clear they wouldn’t do it and talked about it like it was a joke. Something poor people do.

Part of it is that unions badly need reforming.

The other part is that nobody cares enough to reform them.

Most folks at my company don’t care because they get paid too much to care. Not a bad reason.

Once the economy goes to crap that might change.


> This country would be a hell hole without the hard work

This country is not a hell hole? That's a tough argument to make for a lot of people!


Volunteer in Haiti for a month.


> Have you never heard of the labor movement? The grassroots activism by working class people that forced the federal government to develop an entire arm of federal law, with its own Cabinet-level agency, to protect them from the professional managerial class?

The irony, of course, being that government bureaucracies are inherently an instrumentality of the managerial class. It's not as if the Secretary of Labor is a line worker with no college degree.

So the agency becomes subject to regulatory capture the same as any other and private sector unions declined. Meanwhile the public sector unions remained because most government workers are themselves members of the managerial class, so the public sector unions, rather than representing line workers against a corporate bureaucracy that employs them, came to represent the bureaucracy itself against the elected representatives of the people.

Is it so surprising that it doesn't come first to mind as an instance of successful activism?


I think we're reading the parent comment in very different ways. I think the key word was seen, just like the quote from the article says the managerial class is still capable of wielding power.

Basically anyone in public policy circles, even on the right, should know some labor history. But America hasn't seen a major private-sector strike victory in 20 years, and the 1997 UPS strike was a rare exception: "traditional" mass strikes haven't been a major force since the 1980s at best. It's true that pattern bargaining and labor laws have decreased the need for mass strikes since the bad old days, and people sometimes forget that OSHA and the NLRB are not a replacement for labor power but a consequence of it. But it's also true that union membership, labor bargaining power, and the union 'edge' over nonunion labor have been in decline for decades. The heyday of the UAW, the AFL-CIO, and the UFW was over by the 1980s, and even where labor has made substantial gains since they've come through courts and legislation rather than grassroots action. Even for someone who's been in public policy for 30 years, grassroots labor action has basically been a historical topic, not an active concern.

Harlan County was the cradle of the modern labor movement, but for 30 years its only political relevance has been as a symbol of the Democrats losing their labor support. I only know how things used to feel from movies and songs, not from anything that's happened in my lifetime. Maybe that'll change, the miners struck just months ago, but they haven't won yet. I've never seen grassroots labor wield power either, but that's not the same question as asking whether I know what it used to be like, or whether I want it to come back.


Was the GM strike last month not a victory for the UAW? From what I've read they got most of what they demanded when they started out over the company's initial offer.


Wow, yes it is. You're right, I just hadn't seen the final outcome of that.

It's not a knockout victory, it looks like only 57% of members ratified the new contract, but it's an impressive show of solidarity given how tiered employment has weakened unions. Salaried workers got less overtime, hourly workers got better rates, and temp workers got PTO and full-time opportunities. Plus, post-08 hires will be brought up to pre-08 wages, which has been a concern ever since the bailout.

Even if it's not an overwhelming win, that's impressive news for UAW keeping its influence across a growing range of workers statuses.


M&P are workers also and any one who works in tech is by definition are in "the professional managerial class"

I think you are confusing stunts with long term sustained lobbying.

For example I got several k people a substantial improvement to their pensions, passed a motion at a union conference got it put on bargaining agenda and successfully changed the companies mind.


Do tell us more.


Not sarcasm, to be clear. I'd be very interested in this unionizing story.


> The grassroots activism by working class people that forced the federal government to develop an entire arm of federal law, with its own Cabinet-level agency, to protect them from the professional managerial class?

But didn't all that happen almost a century ago?


The working class has been satiated since the times of such strikes and accomplishments with tax breaks, easy access to credit and a booming economic growth rate that was long-term unsustainable. Keeping in mind both parties are at fault in that trade: the politicians for being willing to ply the electorate with unsustainable economic policies to ensure votes, and the voters for being so shortsighted and naive to think infinite growth was possible. Now those chickens are coming home to roost and most of those people most responsible will probably be dead and dust before the debts are paid.

I'm not one of those people who thinks the planet is actually going to kill us off. We're a clever bunch, we'll survive. That said our world in 100 years or so will look significantly different, and I don't think in any of the ways people wanted.


Do tell, how will the world look different without infinite growth? What is your vision?


Sustainable business practices. Recognition that YoY growth, every year in every business, is unreasonable. That in a world of limited resources, limited audience, limited funds and limited attention, expecting infinite growth is childishly naive.


Gay people can get married in America, which was completely unthinkable a generation ago. 100% due to activists, many who risked their lives to make it happen.


The gilettes jaunes are on the streets, nobody cares to make them cultural icons. Gays had very visible and generally disproportionate (compared to population) media coverage of their rights. Was it really 100% due to activists on the street, or very influential but high profile gay people who helped build one of the few successful rights movements of our times?


high profile gay people

When I read this the first person I thought of was Alan Turing [1]. His was the fate of high profile gay people until the grassroots movement sprang from the Stonewall riots [1]. It was these activists who took the first steps to even make it possible for a high profile gay person to come out in public.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots


Do you seriously believe that upper class gays/lesbians and lower class gays/lesbians was the same?

In order for Alan Turing to be charged with “gross indecency”, he had to go the police himself, inform them he was gay (without being asked or prompted), and affirm it in a statement signed under penalty of perjury.

The only reason he did that was because he was so accustomed to people not caring, he didn’t think he was in any danger.

Being privileged has its privileges.


I just had to look up that claim, and it seems that Turing admitted a homosexual relationship during a police investigation about his house being burgled, seeing as that relationship was with the accused burglar. That's slightly different to the implication that he walked into a police station of his own free will and promptly signed his own castration order.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing#Conviction_for_i...

(I'm aware of wikipedia fallibility but I'm on mobile and will generally trust in the citations for this particular individual)


My description of his conviction was incomplete. I wasn’t trying to give a comprehensive account. I was simply trying to explain the level of protection his privilege afforded him.

He was comfortable reporting one of his lovers to the police because he was used to people looking the other way.

Obviously, one of the many downsides to criminalizing harmless behavior is that it places people outside the protection of the law.


Was it really 100% due to activists on the street, or [high-profile insiders]

Okay, 90 percent activists on the street, 10 percent insiders (who generally only stepped in after the 90 percent had already laid their bodies on the tracks, and accomplished the hard part).


Was it really 90%?

Reason i m asking is thay certain countries had 0% activism and it all changed thanks to culture and osmosis. The fact that audiences were prepared for the changes was huge


Since we're all spouting bare assertions, I assert that it was 90% Frasier and Ellen DeGeneres and 10% activists.


I assert that it was 90% Frasier and Ellen DeGeneres

Who got into a Tardis and went back and organized the Stonewall riots, ACT UP and the Mattachine Society. Yeah, OK.


Gay people are distributed throughout the various ranks of American society. No one really gives a care at a broad level about the rights of a poor gay person.

What actually brought about the change was that due entirely to the fact that people in power had relatives that were gay, or were gay themselves. And these people turned the wheels of society toward making it accepted.


>What actually brought about the change was that due entirely to the fact that people in power had relatives that were gay, or were gay themselves.

The people in power had gay relatives or were gay themselves a century ago and yet nothing changed without activism.


A century ago those people were in the closet so nobody knew and those that did didn't say anything.

People had to come out in order for their acceptance to be possible. It's really easy to justify not caring when the group you don't care about seems other. When they're people you know it's much harder to justify not caring.


Activists, yes - but not really through marching. Money, judicial challenges and coordinated political action to promote marriage equality as a goal were the key. The debate was reframed, messaging was crafted carefully and the groups organizing and paying for it all were extremely organized and cohesive. The Proteus fund and specifically the CMC did a heck of a lot here.


Marching is the first necessary step to get people organized. It is the lowest bar for starting to organize and to participate. It is where people can drum up support, awareness and donations.


Is this demonstrably, empirically true, or is it something you are just telling yourself because you desperately want it to be true?


I listened to an hour-long podcast in which Chris Hayes interviewed Alicia Garza, who co-founded Black Lives Matter (BLM). They talked specifically about this question and since you're interested, perhaps it would be one place to go to hear informed organizers/activists discussing it. It aired on June 4.

Besides BLM, one other recent place in which this question of "are demonstrations enough" comes up is, of course, Occupy. (In that case: no, demonstrations were not enough.)

One thing I remember Garza saying is that the ability to organize a large, nationwide march on Washington showcases the scope and depth (down to the grassroots level) of a movement. If your movement isn't broad and organized, your nationwide march will not succeed.

But that's a necessary condition for political action, not a sufficient condition. A movement can't let marches be the endpoint, and in the interview, Garza emphasized this.

Clearly the organizers of the 1993 "March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation" (which I attended) did not view the march as an endpoint. Many of the roughly 600K (+/- 300K) people present had a lot at stake, including their jobs, at that time. The march was more of a focal point, a coming of age. A constituency made visible. But not an endpoint.

For more: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/how-black-li...


Other notable protests in the past 20-30 years, in the US and elsewhere:

- Anti Iraq War movement (2003-4), mostly US.

- Anti WTO movement (1999-2010) global (US, Canada, Japan, Europe). Eventually blended into / surpassed by the Occupy movement.

- ACT UP: Gay rights / HIV/AIDS awareness. (1987 - 2000)

Those are the major causes of which I'm aware.

Of the set, ACT UP was arguably the most successful, and probably deserves much of the credit for mainstreaming gay / nonbinary gender culture.

The WTO protests are more mixed, but put a damper on the Washington Concensus / Neoconservative Agenda movement. Global trade meetings are no longer casually-hosted affairs, and now tend to be in remote / secluded locations.

The Iraq War protests were arguably the least effective, though massive in many cities. They simply disappeared off news coverage though. Clearly they didn't stop the war or lessen the catastrophic impacts of it, though they did help cement a strong political divide over it in the US.

Whether or not more recent movements, particularly on the right, could be considered mass / popular uprisings is a fair question. I'd be inclined to say "no", but a case might be made for the Tea Party and alt-right movements.


I'll be the first one to sound the 'correlation is not causation' alarm over and over. After all, maybe the social issue is getting enough people to protest because society is already on the verge of change, rather than society changing because of the protests. Protesters may be getting the causation backwards. However, there's some evidence that protests are helpful in causing change.

My favorite study to establish a directional causal link looks at policies enacted after protests, accounting for the effect weather has on protests. The weather is presumably random enough to not be related to where society is, and it affects protest turnout, which lets you connect protest turnout to policy change causally. It's not definitive, but yeah, there's decent evidence.

I disagree with the other poster who is suggesting that marching is a necessary step for change, but it does seem to be a useful instrument for it.


Yep it is a solid way to meet people who might also have an inside track to influencing the institutions of a given government. It also gets eyes on your cause when it's not right in the front of society at large. A lot of it is just to get otherwise ignorant people becoming aware and seeing the activists are just people like them trying to make a fair go of it.


Perhaps it's necessary but not sufficient: if you have zero lawyers, press, or government officials on your side, marching is a great way to get thrown in jail for "rioting" and have your reputation destroyed.


The quilt spread across the National Mall was little but a march on Washington.


Which quilt? I agree, but I'm not certain what your point is.


The NAMES Project Quilt.


Gay marriage was also prevented in America for hundreds of years 100% due to activists. There is no money for or against gay marriage, it was always only activists on both sides so it isn't a good example of a class war.


I'm not so sure, gay rights intersects with the class war in at least a couple of ways:

- Dividing the working class on the issue of gay rights is an effective way for the elites to get the working class to ignore the class war.

- Control of reproduction offers some control over labor.


Can you elaborate on the second point? I don’t understand how banning gay marriage controls reproduction.


It's interesting (and sad to me) how popular this article is on here when it exclusively describes our current political climate in terms of economics.

It seems like social issues are front and center more than ever at the moment. I think economics can largely explain the divide, but it's interesting for the author to talk at length about the top 10% and leave this out -- as if the top 10% is filled with Econs who vote solely on what they think is best for them economically, and not based on how they feel about social issues.

I think the reason the current climate feels so "divided" is because it's more of a social divide than before.

I think it's easier when it's just a class war. But this is a human rights war. When your basic rights feel threatened, it gives you a little more skin in the game.


100% isn't quite right. I think the parent comment applies to gay marriage as well.

Federal recognition of gay marriage eventually occurred in America due to a gay widow who took the government to court over a $300k inheritance tax bill on her wife's estate [1]. Of course the changing cultural attitudes towards LGBT people is overwhelmingly due to grassroots activism, but this shouldn't be overlooked.

For LGBT rights, money has played a factor. If wealthy, upper-class Americans did not also suffer from anti-LGBT laws, I'm not sure we would have made the same progress. There are also financial incentives for LGBT acceptance [2]. A more cynical view might be that acceptance of gay marriage was accelerated due to increasing anti-capitalist sentiments within the LGBT community in the 20th century [3]. The continued oppression of gay people might have led to uprisings far worse than Stonewall. Legislative acceptance of LGBT rights has weakened the link between LGBT activism and anti-capitalist ideologies, to the point that nowadays gay pride parades are turning into a parade of adverts for corporations.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Windsor

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_money

[3] https://aeon.co/essays/the-radical-roots-of-gay-liberation-a...


Federal judges, not activists.

Federal judges care little about mass opinion, but a great deal about elite opinion.

Roe v. Wade had nothing to do with feminism, and everything to do with the positions of the American Medical Association, the Mayo Clinic (formerly represented by Blackmun), and academic researchers at elite universities.

Not a terribly important distinction if you’re pro-gay rights or pro-choice.

But give credit where credit is due.


I think a good litmus test for a political issue to gain brownie points on is this: Does it affect the politician, themselves?

If a politician is straight, what does two gay persons marrying have to do with him? It’s thus a brownie point issue, same goes with pot.

Once it start affecting their bottom line, i.e. there’s money involved, watch them and the media skirt around the issue carefully.


That’s ignorant. There was and still is for Republicans a very high cost for supporting romantic equality.


The elites have always tolerated homosexuality while the masses have always been creeped out by it. This particular change just looks like another case of the elites getting their way at the expense of the masses.


I used to diss protests that accomplish nothing but then I realized what their real use was: to connect people into doing actual stuff. To open a place for discussion on a specific issue, sometimes in the media, but at least in the street, for few hours, with like-minded people.

If you are rich serious people concerned over an issue, you create a forum or gather a summit. If you are poor, or rather, let's be realistic, middle-class, then you do a protest. It's rent-free, it filters out people who can't be bothered to move from the couch and the nay-sayers, it shows a wide range of groups with varied interests.

Protests are the first step in making policy change, but it takes several bounces before it affects people in DC.


Are there many examples of that happening?

The biggest counter example I can think of was Occupy Wall Street. AFAIK nothing ever came out of it, not even a small organised group.

Most protests I've seen have actually been the other way around. They were organised by pressure groups or unions and the protesters were already members of those groups. They existed primarily as a chest-beating exercise to show politicians their power. A few protests are more spontaneous especially the sort when democracies get overthrown or established. But in the west protests don't ever seem to create new organised movements.


That's how it worked for me (privacy advocacy protests in France). But now that I think about it, it makes sense that big protests are actually more of a recruiting tool for already established organization than a way to know each others. My example may be marginal in that it was on a small subject that did not bring a lot of big names.


You're missing the forest for the trees on Occupy. Loads of people and groups active today found each other through that or got their start there.


I want to believe it. Have any examples?


I've never seen actual grassroots activism accomplish much, if anything.... It's always insiders who make a career out of policy that ultimately shape it.

Did the Vietnam War end because the Washington insiders (who were, if you'll recall, the ones who started it) had a change of heart, got together one day and decided to stop it? Or because the country threatened to become ungovernable if they didn't?

Really, the blithe dismissal of the impact of public protest expressed in your statment is astounding.


I'm 50, and it'd be a stretch to say I "saw" that happen.

I was in high school before I realized that the Vietnam war had happened while I was alive.

I think the point is that grassroots activism has been effective once upon a time, but has not been effective for decades.


> because they are the ones that show up to do that work every day

Because someone is motivated enough to pay them every day to do that work


Look harder.

My friends have worked on marriage, marijuana, human trafficking, consumer protection, etc, etc.

(My own efforts weren't as potent. At the time. Though I'd like to think my cohort moved the needle on election integrity issues. All the "radical" stuff we pushed 10 years ago is now received wisdom.)

In fact, I'd argue that most progress is bottom up, happening locally.

I highly recommend Camp Wellstone training for activists. Of course there's many others. On the left.

The political right has no shortage of resources for their activists.


> because they are the ones that show up to do that work every day

As I used to say back when I was a programmer, often in the context of fads like "quality is free," nothing gets done unless you do that thing on purpose.


Hard to say this when the entire immigration and trade policy of the US veered into an extremely unlikely configuration on the back of a candidate universally loathed by the establishment on both the left and the right.


> I've never seen actual grassroots activism accomplish much

Eh... Martin Luther King Jr?


What are some good theories on how to break up these over-empowered groups?


If you want a policy proposal to be burned to the ground; organize grassroots support for it. The following PR disaster angry mob will set it on fire for you without you getting your hands dirty.


> I've never seen actual grassroots activism accomplish much, if anything.

> it's that professional ... class that really shapes the government's policy, because they are the ones that show up to do that work every day.

Yup.

"Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole." – Thomas Sowell


How about the end of apartheid in South Africa?


What a fantastic article; this might be the high point for my 2019 Hacker News reading. What clarity of vision.

It is remarkable reflecting after an article like that on the complete inability of the US political system to organise itself to reward work done rather than access to the super-elite social circles. I'd love to know if this Julius fellow has a take on what mechanisms the 0.1% are using to drive the growing wage gap.

I already have an opinion; I just think if he has one it will be more insightful.


what mechanisms the 0.1% are using to drive the growing wage gap

I don't think the 0.1% cares much about the wage gap. They don't take wages and the gap simply doesn't affect them.

They care about wages generally in that any wages growth has an effect on investment returns. So they oppose wages growth, and if that means an increasing wage gap that is fine.


> They care about wages generally in that any wages growth has an effect on investment returns. So they oppose wages growth, and if that means an increasing wage gap that is fine.

There is no reason to think that wage growth negatively impacts investment returns in general. It requires employers to pay more but it also means that customers have more money to buy your products. For legislation that applies to all employers, wage growth is generally a net positive for investment returns because it grows the overall economy. People buy more stuff when they have more money.

The real problem is when industries get specific carve outs, which they do have the incentive to lobby for because most of your customers are not your employees, and the business won't lose as many sales to their own employees as they benefit from paying lower wages, as long as their other customers' employers don't get to pay lower wages too.

Doing that actually harms investment returns on net, because the harm to businesses across all industries lost from your employees is more than that specific industry gains from paying lower wages. But it's the same problem as avoiding pork barrel spending -- one industry will fight much harder to take a billion dollars off the table than everybody else will collectively fight to avoid losing fifty dollars each, even if fifty dollars times everybody is significantly more than a billion. So then that happens over and over and adds up to real money.


If your country has a broken political system then it's unremarkable that it's unable to to organise itself. The forces that shape economic decisions come to shape political decisions too.


Economic growth increases the gap.

The only fix is working with other countries on inheritance tax and anti-tax evasion schemes.


Where is the growth? The Federal Reserve pumping easy money into the economy doesn’t count. The author completely missed the point as to why capital is misallocated. True growth is when productivity increases, prices fall, and capital investment increases.

It’s easy to sell 10 dollar bills for 8 dollars a piece. In what world is that considered growth?


>It’s easy to sell 10 dollar bills for 8 dollars a piece. In what world is that considered growth?

Silicon Valley.


When prices fall it is called deflation. The investment then decreases as well, because who in the sane mind would invest into something that is getting less valuable as time passes?


Someone who wants more stuff or anticipates change in the future. Best time to buy an asset is in the latter stages of a long price decline.

Speaking from a mining industry perspective, best time to invest might be after about 3-5 years of price deflation. If you invest in capital when prices rise sharply then you can lose a lot of money; as mining companies generally seem to do discover when there is a bull market :/. I've seen mining companies do a pretty good job of bankrupting themselves by not investing when prices have been dropping for a while then over-'investing' when the price rises.

So, in the real economy, sane people would invest when prices drop. On a sane timeframe. None of this millisecond knee jerk day trading business.

Basically, the argument is that investment depends on anticipated change over some time horizon. If someone has a long time horizon, best time to set up is in a deflationary period. It isn't a general rule but you'd certainly see some canny people getting their hands dirty if they anticipated a shortage of some good or service.


Far too many people apparently. New phones every year or more often. Apple products built with the intention to prevent their repair.

I was reflecting on the increasing gap recently between price and quality. If inflation were the cause of increased prices the expectation is that quality would stay the same. Quality is going down however.

Where is that difference going then? Shareholder pockets.

What is the value of hoarding all that cash? If the Fed didn't print more there would not be enough currency liquidity in the market.

This is what we see today. Deflation is staved off only through QE. It should be through incentives to spend, but there are too many incentives to hoard.


> Economic growth increases the gap.

Piketty et.al. showed the exact opposite, for the US and other countries. Economic growth seems to generate more opportunities for upwards social mobility.

But they and you (and me) agree that inheritance is a main driver for the growing inequality, and progressive taxation of capital was proposed as a solution in the book, too.


> Economic growth increases the gap.

Economic growth may or may not, but neoliberal trade regimes definitely do, for both more and less developed partners in such trade; they also tend to cement the position of economically advantages (and disadvantaged) ethnic groups by the same process.


> political system to organise itself to reward work done

How do you decide which work is valuable and which work isn’t?


General rule: work spent on getting better at a zero-sum game is valuable to the player doing it, but if all players do it, the result is waste.

Example 1: companies spending on advertising to increase their share of a fixed market.

Example 2: managers hiring more people for their team to look more important within the larger company.

Example 3: if social status is determined by looking tougher than others, everyone will spend resources to look tough.

I think such waste is the main reason for failure of groups, and coordinating to prevent it is the main reason for success of groups.


I like how this was stated, even if people can nitpick the examples.

Did this concept come from "Finite and Infinite Games" or your own reflections?


From reading textbooks and solving problems in game theory and econ.


Advertising encourages people to spend, even in some times to do it by going into debt. This in turn leads to more economic activity, more widgets ordered, which in theory should mean we can reap benefits of economies of scale, we can better amortize costs, etc. Which leads to R&D and innovation, which helps technological change, which leads to a more efficient economy, which leads to more surplus, which means more wealth created, etc.

Now, of course we could do this probably without spending so much on ads, but just saying ads are zero-sum is incorrect, because there's a bigger picture.

Social status is again not so simple. Because after a certain group size there will be value in being different. See also the classic equilibrium between strategies in any game (as in game theory).

That said, yes the race to the bottom is a real problem, see the oft cited Meditations on Moloch: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/


> which helps technological change, which leads to a more efficient economy

You made a leap of logic here. The technological innovations in finance directly contributed to a more volatile economy that crashed and inflicted massive losses on huge swaths of the global population, many of whom never recovered.


Singling out one causal chain in one period while ignoring the rest is not a good way to weigh "progress".

Yes the lack of oversight led to a crash, the lack of social safety net prolonged it, and the lack of effective adult education keeps people chasing low-income jobs and in poverty.

And lo and behold Basel III was signed, now systemic risk analysis is regular part of the financial sector checks, even if the current US administration tries to (and succeeded in) roll back some of these protections. That's the rent seeking regression. (And many people are happy for it, for they don't understand these processes, but they also don't trust "technological change" and economics, because it took their jobs - which is an understandable sentiment, even if incorrect.)


Not too mention, at least in America, the vast majority of American lives are far worst off than they were in the 70s, 80s, or 90s. Making smart phones and personal computers just made rich people richer.


Correlation, causation.

Smart phones and PCs both coincide with big shifts in global politics, the post 2001 War on Terror, Operation Iraqi/Afghan Freedom, etc. Trillions spent on insurgency control, that could have been spent a lot more effectively.

All the while the middle class shrinks. (David Autor's 'Why there are still jobs?' paper is open access and has striking graphs that show just how much happened/happening.)

Globalisation lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, while the financial benefits of this economic optimization were not distributed back to those who lost their old socioeconomic status. (They only got the lower prices, but that's not much considering most of those people affected were not living in a distortion-free "free market", they had no idea what to do, they were not used to chasing new skills-in-demand, not prepared to relocate, etc.)

That said comparing healthcare outcomes, civil rights to the 70s is worthwhile, and if you think it was better then, that is mighty strange.


> Making smart phones and personal computers just made rich people richer.

With some positive sides also. Having a free encyclopedia, cheap universal access to educative videos or detailed satellite photos of the whole planet in 70s would have been mind blowing. Being poor today is more frustrating, but the DIY part is much easier, as making connections, and this has also an economic value.

Knowledge is not protected in semi-secretive guilds anymore. The counterpart effect is the disparition of entire sets of steps in the social stair. You can not make a living anymore selling printed maps for example. Poor people could climb, a little, but there is no so many stairs to grasp.


The harsh truth is that your largest effects will always be local. What you do for your immediate family and friends will always dwarf anything you can do for society.

To expect your day to day to serve a larger social purpose is to subordinate either your lifestyle or your cognitive integrity to something you’ll never be able to completely convince yourself isn’t a lie you’re telling yourself.

If you can put your kids through college well-adjusted, you’re already doing better than most on that front. Beyond that, maybe maintain a few open source libraries for awhile?


The big ideological divide in families (usually between generations) is a serious symptom of our inability to really communicate and compromise. In large part these ideological groupings are meaningless and inconsequential. Mostly because it doesn't really matter, for most of the people the feedback is very much lost in the noise. (There's institutional inertia, states are big, changes are slow, Congress doesn't change that fast anyway, the Senate is entrenched; and similar situations exist in other countries too.)

And thus it's hard to reconcile how trivial it is that people don't see what's going on, yet they are the problem themselves.

This drives people mad on both/all levels.


"The big ideological divide in families (usually between generations) is a serious symptom of our inability to really communicate and compromise. In large part these ideological groupings are meaningless and inconsequential."

I think this is only true in very specific circumstances. Ideological divide can also mean disowning your child for being gay, which is why among homeless youth there's a disproportionate amount of LGBTQ children and why the concept of "found families" is very relevant to the LGBTQ community. Certain families also will disown or withdraw from any member who doesn't follow religious teachings.

Often times ideological differences is quite meaningful when it results in the abuse/neglect of vulnerable family members.


Excuse my wording, I probably should have said that exactly this "putting ideology before family and friends" leads to this divide and vicious cycle.


In that I 100% agree.


It’s illegal to disown children in the U.S.


Could you expand on this a bit? I’m not sure exactly what you are saying here, and on its face it doesn’t seem correct.


The emotional withdraw is the real problem, not the legal hurdle of being guilty of not giving food and shelter.


But it is different. You ( like the russians and the english ) live in a gerontocracy which I would guess is a effect of your personal power base focus with individuals driving political campaings for them self, instead of being pawns that are whipped if they step out of the party line on issues ( an effect based off having multiple small parties ).

Swedens demographic among the MPs. 18-29 år 10,6 % 30-49 år 49,0 % 50-64 år 37,8 % 65+ år 2,6 %

USA Congress Representatives Newly Elected Representatives Senators Newly Elected Senators 115th 57.8 years 50.8 years 61.8 years 54.8 years


Not OP, but my personal belief is that all work is valuable, otherwise it wouldn't be desired. I don't think it's a good exercise to decide how much it is worth, except to say that work that requires X unit of time should provide at a minimum an amount of compensation that allows a person to obtain a standard of living above the poverty line.


In my book, work has negative utility. It is something you tolerate to get the fruits of it, which may have positive utility. Being paid in exchange for work is the sign that otherwise the work won't be worth doing for you.

The less work you do to achieve a desired result, the better. This is why technical improvements are valuable: they allow you do less work.

There are activities that are rewarding by themselves, like playing games, watching the sunset, or otherwise having leisure. You are not paid for that, you sometimes pay for it yourself, and still it remains worth doing.


I fundamentally disagree with the separation of life into toil and leisure. That mentality debases both acts. It implies that the more miserable our job is, the greater the moral reward we have earned. And, conversely, our leisure must be maximally hedonistic and selfish to make that suffering worthwhile.

All of our waking day is a mixture of good and bad experiences, intertwined with all manner of internal and external rewards and punishments. A hobby is just a job that pays you more in fun than cash, and a job is a weird club you go to more than you want but that pays you dues in return.

Trying to separate them into strict binary options makes it hard to build a complete, balanced life that has all of the various kinds of rewards that are meaningful to you as an individual.


> A hobby is just a job that pays you more in fun than cash, and a job is a weird club you go to more than you want but that pays you dues in return.

That is beautifully expressed, and captures the non-dichotomous nature of life. Well-put!


You're describing the utility of work for the worker, and I agree with your description.

But work also has utility for the person who pays the worker, and this is extremely different from what you've described.

This difference in the utility functions for each party (one wants to maximise the return on work and minimize the work; the other wants to minimize the work and the cost on it) is what sets up most of the "classical" marxist class tension. This is despite their agreement that the less paid work that needs to be done, the better.


No, the work done by worker still has a negative utility — it's time spent and salary paid, a clear loss for the employer.

The fruit of the work done is what's valuable, thus is what the employer buys from the worker by paying wages, or a slave owner forcibly takes from a slave. This is why an employer is interested in technical improvements: they reduce the required amount of work per unit of the resulting valuables.

The tension between the worker and the employer is about the price paid for the fruits of the work. Definitely, with standardized industrial manufacturing, it's about the amount of time and work conditions, because a worker can't significantly influence the performance of the machines he's using, or could not at Marx's times. As the Japanese (e.g. Toyota) have shown, workers with right motivation and right education can influence performance of industrial manufacturing quite significantly, e.g. by spotting inefficiencies and by lowering the defect rate.


The way you are doing the accounting here, it's like the supplies used in manufacturing have negative utility -- they are a cost paid, "a clear loss for the manufacturer".

Work has positive utility when it creates something of value. Considering the money paid for it as coextensive with the work is a mistake because people can work to create value without getting paid, as sometimes happens to unfortunate people. It is no more reasonable to treat the work inputs into a good as having negative utility as it is to treat the money paid for it as having negative value.


> all work is valuable, otherwise it wouldn’t be desired.

Have you had such a good experience with managers that you

a) have never been assigned bullshit work that should have never been done, or

b) have never seen a manager invent work to make themselves seem important?


> my personal belief is that all work is valuable, otherwise it wouldn't be desired.

This rather begs the question. In the absence of a market mechanism for determining what work is desired, how do you determine what work is valuable?


I'm not making a distinction of how valuable a particular piece of work is, just that work in general is valuable and should be valued such that whoever is employed by it should be able to be sustained by it.

If a person desires work but doesn't value it high enough to sustain a person whose time is wholly consumed by it, I would question the necessity of that piece of work. If it's not critical to your business maybe it shouldn't be done. If it is critical then it sounds like it's worth the compensation.


> If it's not critical to your business maybe it shouldn't be done.

Careful what you wish for. This is awfully close to arguing that millions of people should lose their jobs.


Sometimes someone's valuation of work is questionable. It may have had value to them, i.e. they paid someone to waste time out of pity, or their valuation could be wrong. They could pay someone to pray their stock prices increase not realizing it's useless.

There are much more obscure ways in which work can be entirely useless without anyone noticing, and plenty of ways people can end up with jobs that are pretty obviously a waste of time.


I'd like to see what the market decides is worthwhile without capital ownership.


It's not about which specific categories of work are valuable, it's about treating labor in general as more valuable than capital. Currently in the US, income from capital is taxed at far lower rates than income from labor. Why?


Reading a book on that question right now; 'The Value of Everything'. Might be worth a look.


Excellent book, recommend it as well!


By giving out massively bloated defense contracts and subsidies to agri-corps.


> How do you decide which work is valuable and which work isn’t?

By viewing the profits generated. As profits are nothing more than unpaid wages.


I invent (at the cost of $500) a programming tool that improves your output by 50%. This enables you to earn $5000 more per year than previously. You purchase that software for $1000, providing me a profit of $500.

Who's wages are unpaid?


It's a company which makes the profit. If you started a company and sold the tool for $500 and the company paid you $500 then there is no more profit for the company. If the company paid you $250, only then can they claim to have made $250 profit.

Hence, profits are nothing more than unpaid wages.


A goes and buys flour for 100$ from farmer B. Then A goes and pay independent baker C 100$ to make bread from the flour. Then A goes and pay independent retailer D 100$ to sell the bread for $500.

Each cycle A makes $200 in profit, nobody loses out as everyone agreed to the terms.

This is enough margin for A to pay an independent manager $100 each time he repeats the process, ultimately netting A $100 without A doing anything. Is A taking advantage of everyone here? No, of course not, everyone still agreed to all the terms, A was just aware of a business opportunity the others were not, risked his own money paying for goods and labor he wasn't sure he could sell and now everyone is richer as a result.

This is how businesses works. Of course in practice sometimes businesses does scummy things, but that is why we have laws which are meant to ensure that all businesses are net positive for society. If a business is not net positive then we send the police to them and shut them down. That doesn't work when businesses have politicians in their pockets, but it works in parts of the world where workers have more political influence.


In reality most people are not sole traders and the market does not operate under conditions of perfect competition. Over-simplification is not helpful; I could describe a similar virtuous circle based on entirely different economic arrangements, and it would be just as facile.


There's a word for this in economics. The 'normal profit' is the 'wages' of the entrepreneur and risk-taker -> the return on the money invested or put at risk, and the time and effort of the entrepreneur to build the business. Nothing immoral about that.


You make a philosophical leap about rightful ownership when you say "unpaid wages". I don't agree with that leap.

Further, your definition doesn't include situations in which there is no employee (such as the one I gave).

It is more correct to say that the profit is the gains made to some agent in a market transaction.


I don't entirely agree either. I was just expanding on the idea. However, when there is no employee, such as in the example you gave, there is also no profit. What you have called profit is actually your wage. Do I make a profit when I go to work for a company? No, I earn a wage.


You can easily think of your wage minus your yearly expenditures as your profit, which, if you're doing things right, should be positive.


It's never positive as your life is worth far more than those wages in all cases. That's why no one can be considered overpaid, or we would limit payment to CEOs. Thus wages can only be considered at best, a trade.

That's why I asserted that profits are nothing more than unpaid wages. Since it's objectively a trade of your life for wages, paying others less than the value you produced is simply not valuing human life. The worst sort of theft.

For your example, it doesn't hold up because most people only make enough to live, there's nothing to optimize other than going "full ramen". While others have far more than necessary for basic food, shelter and medical care. Those who are just-surviving aren't doing anything wrong, when an economic ponzi scheme simply doesn't value their life by paying them less than the value they produce.


> That's why I asserted that profits are nothing more than unpaid wages. Since it's objectively a trade of your life for wages, paying others less than the value you produced is simply not valuing human life. The worst sort of theft.

This is ridiculous. As someone who has, in the past, run their own business, and now works for a living, the fact of the matter is that my employer does a lot of work I am unwilling / uninterested in doing, such as making sure there is money to pay me and advertising the product to others, as well as figuring out how to accept payments, get the requisite insurance etc.

The profit retained by the company is the share agreed upon in advance paid to those who, through their own labor, at some point made the company possible, whether it be by direct action, or by stored labor output from a previous position (i.e. capital).


>paying others less than the value you produced is simply not valuing human life. The worst sort of theft.

And yet, both the planet and individual people are far wealthier today than when they were producing and receiving "full value" for their labour.


That’s extremely loaded, and not true. I’ll unpack it all if someone is curious but in short your statement is only true if you define wealth in terms of faith-based fiat currency or define wealth as central bank issued scrip. There’s a reason credit is readily available. It’s a scheme that only works until it doesn’t, which is objective evidence that it makes for a very hollow definition of wealth.


It should be worth noting that this is a pretty strong (and I don't think defensible in the case given) claim to make - you're echoing the Marxist/socialist objection to profits (one which I may agree with) but Marx (nor anyone else) ever claimed that this happens without employing wage labour. For profits to be nothing more than unpaid wages, we need to be talking about at least one waged worker who applies labour, and his product is appropriated by his employer.


For what it's worth, the principle objection I have to the Marxist position on wage and profit is the redefinition of the term "exploitation".

It muddies the argument because it enables a circular argument whereby the transaction of employment can be labelled as exploitative, where it's easy to defend against the claim of exploitation if the original definition of the word is preserved.

In other words, profit generation as it comes from an employer/employee relationship is Exploitative but not exploitative.


The definition of "exploitation" is a technical one; even those who argue against the Marxist claim actually take this in stride, for instance, there is an objection to the Marxist idea of exploitation that Marx's selection of labour-power as the exploited commodity is arbitrary, thus we can say that any commodity (such as steel, peanuts or shoes) is "exploited" - the Marxist reply to this isn't to say "well, exploitation doesn't mean that, exploitation is evil and you can't be evil toward inanimate objects".

In other words, I think the definiton used by Marxists is somewhere between the two. It not only means to use something up (to exploit resources) but also the Marxist idea that exploitation relates to workers being forced (by man-made historically arisen structures, that is) to sell their labour-power.

Nevertheless, newer schools of Marxism (such as the ones from the 80s which attempted to use neoclassical economic models) have axiomatic definitions of exploitation. For some simplified models of a commodity economy, researchers such as Veneziani and Yoshihara (and Roemer on different grounds) prove that the axiomatic definition of exploitation is satisfied. Defined axiomatically, we can escape the talk about morality. But you can easily rephrase Marx without the word "exploitation" - the claim is, rather simply, that there is some amount of labour that is unpaid, this labour forms the substance of surplus value, which is appropriated. No judgement, no morality, no right or wrong - that's just the fact, and of course it may well be a good thing(!) that workers are "exploited" - Marx certainly said as much, when writing that the capitalist's point of view, his idea of "fairness" is just as worhless as anyone else's.


I could agree with almost everything in your last paragraph, but you're still using loaded words. "Appropriated", for instance. Even "unpaid" carries (perhaps just to me?) the implication that it should be paid.

I would describe the same thing like this: The workers plus tools (capital) create value. The workers don't get all the value produced; capital also gets a cut.

You can say that this is morally right. Or you can say that this is necessary, because the capital isn't invested out of the goodness of the capitalist's heart. We have to give them some payback if we want them to buy the tools. The alternative is to have only the tools that our in-house workers create, which is usually a sub-optimal situation.

Now, any given situation can still be exploitation of the workers (in the common rather than axiomatic sense), and still be morally wrong.


>that there is some amount of labour that is unpaid

What is unpaid labor? If I employ a carpenter, and pay him $10 for a chair I later sell for $15, is this labor paid?


The question is incomplete without knowing how the $15 and the $10 breaks down - if you paid, say $3 for the materials (C) and $10 for the labour (V), you'd sell at a $2 profit, Marx would say that assuming equivalent exchange of values on the market, neglecting the role of advertising and such, and assuming the chair is freely reproducible (i.e unencumbered by patents and trademarks, and not a one-of-a-kind item like a piece of artwork), the $2 is the monetary value of the surplus labour (S), also known as "unpaid" labour. This provides a rate of profit (or "rate of exploitation") r = S/(C+V) = 2/(3+10) = 0.153, the final product of course having a value of S+V+C, expressed, i.e 2+10+3 = $15.


> the $2 is the monetary value of the surplus labour (S), also known as "unpaid" labour

What about risks and decision making, investing in the future products and potential failures? How much is "paid risk" and "unpaid labor", how to objectively evaluate that?

I would argue that $2 is paid risk, not unpaid labor, how to prove that that's not the case?

Also, if I paid you a salary, and than the product failed in the market, is it just according to marxists to ask your salary back, or, if the product was net loss, to ask you to pay for it as an employee?


The proof follows from the labour theory of value (the proof of which is, I believe, more controversial, especially as Marx does the "proof"), which states that the magnitude of value of a commodity is objectively determined by labour-time, not by "risk", and I think that's shown in cases where many busniesses, no matter how risky (and it seems here you're only talking about the capitalist's risk, not that of the waged labourer), realize different rates of profit which don't align with what we consider to be the risk of production. More risky businesses, in general, simply don't generate more profit than non-risky ones. If it were the reward for decision making, the rate of profit would diminish the more you sell something the same way and in the same place, since there are fewer decisions to be made for each subsequent commodity. Investing in future products and protecting against potential failures are uses of the $2 profit, not explanations as to its origin.

Let's say that it is risk. The capitalist labours the monetary equivalent of $1, i.e he spends $1 on his labour power, producing a total of $2 worth of labour. When the product is sold he is still given $2, but not all of that is profit, only $1 is, since the $1 paid is now a cost, he only gets $1 "for free", not $2. Therefore it's clearly in the interest of every capitalist to minimize the amount of work he does himself and instead "exploit" a waged worker for it.

Marxists have never argued that the worker has a "right" to the surplus value, only that it would be, in the most non-moral sense possible, in the interests of labourers who have this surplus appropriated due to the structure of production to ensure it is no longer appropriated in this way - i.e. a socialist or communist society.


> The proof follows from the labour theory of value

But I'm asking you about the proof of the labor theory of value in fact. I didn't thought that there exist people who take it seriously after marginal revolution.

> and I think that's shown in cases where many busniesses, no matter how risky

Business shows exactly the opposite, the most risky (volatile) domains have the highest gains and highest losses: pharma, construction, fintech.

> value of a commodity is objectively determined by labour-time, not by "risk"

So when the value of a bottle of wine inflates with time, somebody is working on it?

> no matter how risky

Did you ever run a business? When you pay for a snack, you pay not only for a snack, but also for a stolen snack. When you pay for a Intel x86 processor, you also pay for failed Intel iAPX 432 which never appeared in the market.

Risks are pretty material, and should be payed for. When you are starting a project, you never know in advance whether it would be successful or not. If it fails, the only way to pay the salaries and costs is through revenues of other projects.

> If it were the reward for decision making, the rate of profit would diminish the more you sell something the same way and in the same place, since there are fewer decisions to be made for each subsequent commodity.

Strange inference. Not the number of decisions matter but their impact. If you sell something many time, it means that the first one decision was very clever and rewarding. Not to mention that revenues are falling with time and it requires new strategies and decisions to make your company competitive and profitable again.

> The capitalist labours the monetary equivalent of $1, i.e he spends $1 on his labour power, producing a total of $2 worth of labour

Again, I see no evidence that labor creates any objective value on its own. Goods have value, labor has value as a good evaluated by an employer, but it does not "create value". If you make a chair, you apply labor, but if nobody values it and nobody buys it, it has no value, hence your labor has no value.

How did you evaluate that capitalist labors $1? Maybe his decisions and ability to take risks cost $100, and his workers are just freeriding him? How exactly did you infer that he spends exactly $1 of labor power? What is a labor power, how could you measure it objectively?

Forget about capitalists, here is a simple though experiment: there are two workers living in a commune and owning the means of production. They do chairs and sell it to the outer capitalist world. One worker is a carpenter who does the woodwork. Another one make nails. They sell chairs for $1, which share of this $1 each of than created? How to measure that objectively?

After that add a capitalist who start the business, takes risks, credits, make decisions and devise strategy. How to evaluate the "value" of his activity?


>But I'm asking you about the proof of the labor theory of value in fact. I didn't thought that there exist people who take it seriously after marginal revolution.

The proof is "in the pudding" as it were; there are a few theorists (either heterodox economists or philosophers of economics) who argue that Marx himself did enough to "prove" the theory, either logical-deductively, or otherwise; see Elena Lange[0], Patrick Murray[1], Guido Starosta[2], Andrew Kliman[3], Chris Arthur[4] and a few others - though they approach the matter from different angles. Martha Campbell defends the objectivity of value in capitalist society as opposed to marginalist accounts and Veblen's "habitual action" account[5]. In general, those that hold to Marx's exposition with the "third thing" argument argue that the theory cannot apply to each commodity individually, though it would apply to an aliquot as taken as a sample of the lot of them.

>Business shows exactly the opposite, the most risky (volatile) domains have the highest gains and highest losses: pharma, construction, fintech.

These are not businesses, but fields of businesses, within them it is possible to find the greatest variation in risk. It is also not clear whether the risk is taken by the owner of the capital, or by the labourers themselves - in construction, a major risk falls on the safety of the workers. To say that they have the highest gains and the highest losses implies risk is a mere tautology (of course! that's what risk means, you win big or you lose big), but it says nothing about profitability.

>When you pay for a Intel x86 processor, you also pay for failed Intel iAPX 432 which never appeared in the market.

Again, offsetting the effects of failed developments and theft is what capitalists do with profit, it is not an explanation as to the origin of profit.

>Goods have value, labor has value as a good evaluated by an employer, but it does not "create value".

What you're saying is absolutely true, but it's an equivocation on "value". When you speak of the value to someone, from someone's perspective, that's not what Marx means by "value". Marginalist accounts of value are semi-compatible with the labour theory of value, so long as we're talking about different things when we say "value"; for example, it's clear that what the LTV means by "value" is not "artistic value" or "moral value" or any of a huge range of values. In the same way, it does not mean value as a subjective preference for one thing over another. That concept gets a look-in with the Marxist concept of use-value - but not exchange-value.

>If you make a chair, you apply labor, but if nobody values it and nobody buys it, it has no value, hence your labor has no value.

Only use-values count as values, because according to Marx, a commodity is a complex of a use-value and value (expressed in a given magnitude of exchange-value). Therefore it's meaningless to talk of something usunable and undesirable as having value. Even Ricardo knew this was the case. Wine is a more interesting matter; depending on how one looks at it, either the very act of storage is (objectively) highly valued, or the good is not entirely freely reproducible (i.e my wine aged for ten years will never sell as well as a brand name aged for five years), or along with Murray, the theory does not apply to this individual commodity, but if you were to take a sample of all capitalist commodities, you'd find that the identity of total value = total price holds in aggregate.

> They sell chairs for $1, which share of this $1 each of than created? How to measure that objectively?

There is no way to determine that; it is just as impossible as quantitatively determining "utility". Value is not sensible, it is a socially-determined supersensible aspect of commodities. In other words, the essence behind the appearance. See Murray on the neoclassical focus on capital's shadow forms[6]. In the same way, measuring skilled versus unskilled labour may not be possible quantitatively, but it clearly happens qualitatively - what the market rewards in wages on average to two groups of people with different skill sets means the abstraction and calculation is already quantitatively done for us in the real world. This is exactly the same with the neoclassical concept of utility, in which we can actually see prices, but not a drop of utility, no matter how we twist and turn an object.

[0] http://www.consecutio.org/2018/11/the-proof-is-in-the-puddin...

[1] https://philpapers.org/rec/PATIDO-2

[2] https://cicpint.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2008_Starosta...

[3] Kliman, A. 2008. The Fourth Thing on the Third Thing: A response to James Furner and Patrick Murray.

[4] Arthur, Christopher J Source: Capital & Class 15-39 no. 73 (Spring 2001): p. 15-39 https://libcom.org/library/value-labour-negativity-christoph...

[5] Campbell M. (2004) The Objectivity of Value versus the Idea of Habitual Action. In: Bellofiore R., Taylor N. (eds) The Constitution of Capital.

[6] http://crisiscritique.org/political11/Dennis%20Badeen%20and%...


> Again, offsetting the effects of failed developments and theft is what capitalists do with profit

Wait, what? I'm asking, how would you subsidize failed developments if you consider 100% of profitable development as wage.

If you consider net income as wage, should the net loss be paid by the workers?

> in construction, a major risk falls on the safety of the workers

Which is also payed by the employer in the form of insurance. And the investment risks also totally lie on the employer here, workers just get wages. If the construction is failed/not being profitable, workers get wages and insurance, employer and investors are paying bills and credits.

> what the market rewards in wages on average to two groups of people with different skill sets means the abstraction and calculation is already quantitatively done

But again, market rewards have nothing to do with created values, but rather the utility of labor. If your labor could be substituted with the machinery for the smaller price. It's based solely on marginal utility of labor.

No calculations based on value creation is done whatsoever, the wage is a result of a bargaining process.

> measuring skilled versus unskilled labour may not be possible quantitatively

> it is just as impossible as quantitatively determining "utility"

But you don't need to, that's why labor theory of value is dead and Marginalism has conquered the world. You don't need to quantify utility to evaluate wages, just let people bargain based on their subjective notion of utility, ability to find substitutions etc. Marginalism is suitable for modeling and planning here, all you need is gather statistical data other how the preferences and desires for the good change with the appearance of substitutes or changes in quantity.

You can't, however, evaluate wages based on labor theory of value, you can't measure the value one has added to the value of raw materials, if it's even the case.

You can't even solve a simple problem of two worker's shares of surplus value with the labor theory, it's totally useless for anything but being a justification for exploitation theory.

There are neither empirical nor deductive evidence that the value of commodity is proportional to the wages. Even if you exclude luxury goods (which is already a clear intellectual dishonesty, because the notion of luxury is vague, and differences between luxury and basic are impossible to be quantified of defined), you would still have a huge difference in prices of buckwheat and wheat, or water simply in different contexts (even if no labor is applied to extract it, as in the case of oasis, oasis water in the middle of desert would be evaluated more than the water being extracted from a deep shaft in a less severe conditions).

Value is inherently subjective, it stems in scarcity, utility, ease of finding a substitute etc. Even labor is such a good, evaluated subjectively.


Profits are the "wages of capital". No one pays companies wages. The owner or owners of a restaurant doesn't have anyone to pay them -- they have to arrange for their to be more in gross receipts than there are expenses or taxes; otherwise, they go under.


> Indeed the conspicuous embrace of “elite values” by journalists and academics is often little more than an aspi­rational attempt to remain connected to an economically distant elite—just as educated millennials’ conspicuous consumption of “ex­periences” often serves as a necessary distraction from the grim reality that most will never be able to own a home.

> An entire “creative class” ideology was constructed to explain this phenomenon, but its intensity simply concealed the desperation of second-tier elites to assuage their status anxiety.

The author doesn't pull any punch sent the bourgeoisie way.


It's refreshing really.


Agreed. Although, on a website made by a company that funds the bourgeoisie, i'd imagine most people here are frustrated.


> Although, on a website made by a company that funds the bourgeoisie

...in the hope that their venture,by some miracle, is the winning ticket to join the elite - usually by being "blessed" by an elite via a 6- or (preferbly) 9-figure acquisition


A cogent and well-written article.

My only possible contributions are the following:

1. The author perhaps underestimates the bottom 90%, who are written off as politically irrelevant (in terms of real power) near the start of the article.

I do think there's a good reason for this, but we are only one true crisis away from that changing. For example, suppose India and Pakistan only were to have a nuclear engagement and the outcome was a small global "winter" for a few years from the dust and rubble kicked into the atmosphere. When crops and supply chains fail and famine kicks in, who is going hungry?

That's about the point that true populist revolts happen.

2. The author discusses at length the phenomenon of "the 10%" elites who align themselves (in ideology) with the working class, perhaps blinded by not realizing that they are actually trying to support their own interests.

But I think some underestimate how soon the developers and programmers of the world will crater from "elite 10%/5%/1%" to something resembling median salary.

This is my own opinion, but it's clear to me that the tech industry (and it's associated venture capital scene) are in a state of irrational exuberance as the capitalist class is convinced that tech startups (or the word "tech" attached to non-tech startups) offers incredibly high ROI.

This paradigm will end as easy opportunities and low hanging fruit dry. Maybe we're already there, but nobody has acknowledged it yet. When this happens (and is widely recognized), venture capital will flee to safer vehicles. Meanwhile, the big tech of the world will consolidate and cut costs to grow shareholder value.

When this happens, we will all stop hopping jobs for 30% pay raises and instead we will start hopping jobs (post-layoff) for 30% pay cuts. And this will continue for decades.


> But I think some underestimate how soon the developers and programmers of the world will crater from "elite 10%/5%/1%" to something resembling median salary.

I generally agree with this. I think for the traditional programmer building apps and apis this begins to happen in 5-10 years. We'll essentially become mechanics. However, there is always the next front of technology that you can surf.

For millennia those on the forefront of technological progress have done well relative to the rest of people. This was due to having skills that were relatively rare, access to equipment that was uncommon or both. Blacksmiths, photographers, car mechanics, stock traders, etc. Programming in certain verticals will be added to that list.

But imo there is good news. Being able to create or deploy new technology in ways that creates or protects wealth will always be in demand. And the thing about programming is you are first-and-foremost a problem-solver. Couple that with technical math-based skills and you can bring immense value to most organizations.

If you are a "programmer"--I really don't like that term, but whatever. My advice would be to be trained in multiple disciplines across multiple verticals. Know how to look at a business or social problem and deduce it to its fundamental inputs/outputs so that you can then construct a solution that turns those inputs/outputs into the desired result.

Hand-wavy, but that really is the key to being valuable. Solve real problems.


>The author perhaps underestimates the bottom 90%, who are written off as politically irrelevant [...] but we are only one true crisis away from that changing. [...] When crops and supply chains fail and famine kicks in, who is going hungry?

Regarding the first point, some people have noticed that food price changes can lead to revolts [1], but I'm not sure that says anything about the political power of the bottom 90% nor whether those revolts would lead to meaningful change. I imagine any food revolt in the US would mirror the Revolutions of 1848 [2].

[1] https://arxiv.org/pdf/1108.2455v1.pdf [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutions_of_1848


Only due to wider adoption and commoditization of the skill set. It well always be hard to find the best. Home builders once milled their own lumber until the industry commodified the process. Homes didn't get cheaper but the corporations that formed and the knowledge workers who designed them took more of the cost for themselves. The highest paid software folks will be those who simplify the process of making software so more less skilled and and difficult to train people can do it.


Tech has always gone through boom and bust cycles. At the end of the day though, it's really hard to write good software and we're only going to see demand go up over time. There may be some bumps in the road, but there will always be new opportunities. I think programmers are one of the only professions not at risk of automation or disruption as all of that is powered by software which maybe 5%-10% of the population has the ability to write and maintain.


> software which maybe 5%-10% of the population has the ability to write and maintain

I sure hope you're right about this. I have no doubts on the rest of what you said, but given enough incentives (both push and pull), there may be a lot more latent ability out there than you think. Especially as the on-ramps from raw talent to real productivity keep improving.

From my direct personal experience, I suspect there are a bunch of current Uber and Lyft drivers who could definitely code if they had enough reasons to. A lot of them have better social skills than your average coder, too.


I used to think most people had the ability to code but ~20 years of managing development has made me reconsider. Most people just really can't deal very well with abstraction and complexity (not to mention things like recursion). I think a lot of people can write some code, but it won't be good and it will require someone more senior to extend, maintain and scale it. So basically the more people who write code, the more in demand those top 10% of people with natural coding ability will be.


I do think we are definitely in a state of rapidly declining relevance of need for programming work. Code is an Ouroboros that eats its own tail to grow. Especially with the ethics of open source free software development and the dismantling of moats and credentialism, we might be in an accelerating state of programming jobs vanishing.


No, I don't think it's even begun yet.


For your point 2, I think it's really interesting to think about creating value and capturing value.

There's currently only 1 measure of success for capitalism, and that's capturing value. Creating value without capturing it is seen as stupid and a waste of time.

I wonder if this is slowly changing due to the nature of "capturing value" having so many negative externalities that it really ruins the spirit of creating value.


I think this is too cynical.

Companies routinely crow about charitable work, community involvement, social justice advocacy, cultural benefits of their work, etc. Companies pull out of states with undesirable politics, funds divest from fossil fuels, wealthy capitalists give away wealth, others speak out for higher taxes.... Almost all have some foundation or the other supporting some social good.


>underestimates the bottom 90%, who are written off as politically irrelevant (in terms of real power)

Yeah, that disregards that they vote and could vote in a considerably different government which they did to an extent with Trump and could flip the other way to a Sanders or similar.


It makes sense that the top 10% to 2% become more active as blame and anger are re-routed toward them. For example, many people think the "elite" are the educated but not necessarily the wealthy. So for many, adjunct faculty are called "elites" while the Koch brothers are not.

Likewise, discussions of wealth inequality are becoming conflated with income inequality.

Yet the professional class has only marginal voting power and comparatively little to contribute to political funding, so it's not surprising that the astute ones are concerned.


> So for many, adjunct faculty are called "elites" while the Koch brothers are not.

I think this is an important point. Wealth in the West knew to stay out of the radar. The whole concept of "old wealth" has the key characteristic of not spending frivolously in public or making a scene. Even in the Instagram age, they largely keep it under control. Their wealth - while beneficial - is not their defining characteristic. Some even argue that the celebrity class exists in part to monopolize the headlines that would otherwise be taken by paparazzi hounding old wealth.

This contracts to the extreme with all the new wealth which spends flamboyantly and spends to get attention. We seem to see this thousand fold with the Chinese new rich and their children - hence the Fuerdai term emerging.

The resentment of the working class against the old wealth is minimal - they stay out of sight and out of mind. The resentment towards the new wealth is tremendous and I don't think it will end well.


Old wealth also spent lavishly, just on things more beneficial to the public. Imagine the costs with constructing an ornate art deco build today, vs. another 6 story wood frame box. At least with the pricey art deco building, the luxury is enjoyed by everyone who uses the space. Not to mention old wealth often donated huge fortunes to civic endeavors.

There was good reason why the working class resentment of old wealth was minimal, it was because they weren't only hoarding it for hedonism or a lust for power.


That's exactly my point earlier. It actually costs relatively more today to get a similar sized building as that high quality art deco building of yesteryear, while the quality has simultaneously declined. Buildings like that aren't built of stone today, rather twigs by comparison.

Prices have gone up and quality down.

It's not just the wealth gap that is increasing but the value gap even more so.


Being a declassee from "really old wealth" - thank you WWI and the collapse of Austria Hungary - culture was a veneer to hide the hedonism. My great-grandmother, born in 1890, had stories about who would fund the ballet vs the opera. And it had mostly to do with foot fetishism.


I've often suggested this to the chagrin of relatively equally wealthy people (people earning 0.5-2x what I earn) . We're all living the same life, just with different levels of shiny.

One drives a used corolla, the other a new one, the 3rd a lexus (made by toyota still). Each has a house with varying levels of pretty etc.

The 0.01% is living in an existence far removed from us. They dont play games of wondering which car has the lowest TCO or signals a little status etc. Instead they're playing power games and games of access to things that go beyond the ability to pay for them.


Different levels of shiny perfectly captures how I feel after taking a 66% paycut. Now I mostly buy food at Costco instead of Whole Foods and wear uniqlo. But I’m much happier having more time and less stress. I couldn’t buy a decent 2br house/apt in my big city before, still can’t. Unless you are trying to pay for kids college or something making an extra 100K in a major metro area mostly just raises your taxes.


I'm sorry you received a pay cut, and I'm glad you are happy with more free time.

However, making an extra $100k puts an extra $65k in your bank account. It's basic math. Now, psychologically, I can see it being not so clear cut, especially if one lets their standard of living and spending habits rise up as their paycheck increases.


In SF/Peninsula that's not even enough marginal income to go from renter to home owner. Eg: Single bedroom apartment is ~4k and mortgage on a 1.6M home is almost 12K a month unless you have 350K down payment.

IMO the only option in the bay area is FAANG or live as frugal as possible and take the wealth to a lower CoL area.

EDIT: or improbably be a highly paid Cofounder / Executive and earn >400K per year.


The professional class has contributed the most to the wealth gap. We blame the wealthy, but it's not they who are performing the task of wealth extraction. The banks owners don't sign mortgages or repossess homes. The shareholders aren't doing the actual labor that increases page views or patents doodads worth negative value to the poor who buy them and funnel the money up. Owners don't do the taxes that rob society of its own worth.

No. It's the professionals who do that immoral work. They are to blame. Not the wealthy. They just pay for it.

The professionals, most all of us here are the cause of the wealth gap. It is we who exacerbate the divide and decline of civilization by sacrificing our moral duty to those less fortunate to get a little more cash for ourselves.

Listen to us all here now. We know this, yet we continue.


> the professionals [...] are to blame. Not the wealthy. They just pay for it.

This brought to my mind on old Chomsky comment about civilian casualties in war:

"Evidently, a crucial case is omitted, which is far more depraved than massacring civilians intentionally. Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don’t regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don’t even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I’ll probably kill lots of ants, but I don’t intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters. There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others."

-- https://formicidaefantasy.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/chomsky-o...


Work widens inequality whether or not it’s extractive. Any time you’re creating value, someone else is not, and the difference between the two of you grows.


That's not true. We can both be better if I work for you and you pay me right. It's not a negative sum game and can be positive and equal value for both. The value of your cash to me and my product for you.


Someone off to the side who did not participate in that exchange benefits from it less than you and I did.


I see your point. I still disagree and have more counterpoints. I also don't appreciate that perspective, nor do I believe I'll change your opinion on it, so I'll stop here.


I wonder if the typical adjunct faculty is more or less 'educated' than someone with a masters in engineering from MIT.


Presumably adjunct faculty could be more current and active in their respective field than someone who got their degree but spent the bulk of their efforts working on unrelated projects.


Don't you have to have a PhD to teach at most universities in the US? Not to mention someone with a masters in engineering from MIT could very well be an adjunct faculty themselves.


It turns out that both of the Koch brothers that people are talking about when they say that have masters degrees from MIT.


I don't understand what this has to do with the original question.


> Yet the professional class has only marginal voting power and comparatively little to contribute to political funding, so it's not surprising that the astute ones are concerned.

Likelihood of voting is highly correlated with education. I wouldn’t be surprised if the top ten percent are three or four times more likely to vote than the bottom decile. Money is also far less important in politics than many think. If money won elections Michael Bloomberg would have been president long ago, Eric Cantor would still be a Congressman, rather than having been beaten by Dave Brat[1]. Joe Crowley would still be a Congressman rather than having been beaten by AOC[2].

> Add up all US spending on candidates, PACs, lobbying, think tanks, and advocacy organizations – liberal and conservative combined – and we’re still $2 billion short of what we spend on almonds each year. In fact, we’re still less than Elon Musk’s personal fortune; Musk could personally fund the entire US political ecosystem on both sides for a whole two-year election cycle.

https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/18/too-much-dark-money-in...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Brat

In his challenge of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for the Republican nomination, Brat was outspent by Cantor 40 to 1: Cantor spent over $5 million, while Brat raised $200,000 and did not spend all of it.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez

She was outspent by a margin of 18 to 1 ($1.5 million to $83,000)


I think this is a somewhat recent (6-7~ years ish?) development. In the early 2000's, money was much more important than it is now.


> If money won elections Michael Bloomberg would have been president long ago,

Mike Bloomberg has won every election he's run in, which is exactly 3 elections. Not the best example.


> If money won elections [Steve Forbes] would have been president long ago,

More appropriate example then. You can add Perot to that pile as well.


Better example. Of course, I think Perot could have had a shot if he hadn't dropped out to drop back in. He could have easily have gotten 2nd place or 1st place in more states than UT and ME if he was less impulsive.


Recently, I have a friend group who all graduated from Stanford, with relatively upper middle class(but not suburb/NY upper middle class) roots, and you might even describe as "woke" who belonged to a fb messenger group called "Anti Asian Asian Group".

I felt like I had to call them out on it. Though they made the group as a play on "anti social social club" and to counter conservative sentiments their upper class counterparts might've had, I too thought it might've just been punching down on working/middle class Asians who had traditional values and almost can't help but have those values.

I guess that's the real class war; when people punch down on those who almost don't have the opportunity to decide who to become. Not that people completely lack agency in this country but I think a lot of people forget how much your environment can shape individuals and their values.


What a bizarre world these people live in where identity is both arbitrary and inescapable.


> those who almost don't have the opportunity to decide who to become

That's an interesting phrase. Can you say what you mean by it?


It’s a reference to the sociological concept of marked versus unmarked identities. If you think of an American you probably think first of a white man of Christian heritage. If you think of a Chinese person you picture someone of Han ethnicity, not Miao or Manchu. If you think of a nurse you picture a woman. All of the people who fit that identity but are different from the unmarked version are marked by their difference from the unmarked version that springs to mind unbidden when the concept is named.


> The company I now work for started as a parking app. . . . We were growing sustainably as the result of having a superior product based on a great understanding of consumer needs.

> But sustainable growth isn’t what VCs (or the execs that they install in the firms they have stakes in) are looking for. So we pivoted.

> Without going into too much detail, we are now exclusively focused on getting acquired by a big tech firm. Meetings with low-level product managers at a few of the world’s largest com­panies dictate every decision about which projects we pursue. We’re no longer building a company. We’re not even building a product. We’re building a feature that we hope will end up getting included in an app owned by a mega-corporation.

> When I talk to my friends and peers at other tech startups, they tell me that it’s pretty much the same story at their compa­nies. Everyone is building to the specifications set by Google or Amazon or Apple. This “competitive” industry, supposedly a shining example of the power of the free market, is really just a massive risk-free R&D department for the faang companies.40

ooph.


As someone who works at those very companies, I have to say that the code itself isn’t worth that much - everything that’s not a utility package will definitely get rebuilt. Nor is the idea, the only value proposition is existing customers and potential patents for software startups.


Sounds like automotive suppliers.

It works though


I disagree that the working class is not going to radicalize itself. They too are out here on the internet, talking to each other and culturally evolving at an unprecedented rate, like everyone else. For the first time they have the power to publish and think in public uncoupled from professional barrier. Better believe it’s being used, and that they will assert their awareness.


Agreed. The author is looking through slightly blue tinted glasses.

The "working class" put "their guy" in a certain colored house in the US and got together to tell the EU to screw off in the UK. They might not be using their political power for things we all agree with or you could argue they're all being duped but they certainly aren't powerless.

Furthermore, I think the author is over stating the homogeneity of white collar political professionals. Tech and academia are very homogeneously blue/left leaning (relatively speaking) but other industries less so.

The author seems to be very confident in his predictions of where politics will move over the next decade or two but I see some massive variables that are not controlled for. Things could go any which way.


American Affairs Journal was actually founded by a conservative nationalist as a pro-Trump journal, designed to "to give the Trump movement some intellectual heft." The editor changed his mind (and his political position) 6 months after the election, after Charlottesville.

I think that what you see here may be some amount of bitterness after watching how events play out and what actually changes. The working class he decries as powerless were his people (he grew up in a small town in South Dakota); it's just that now that we've had 3 years of Trump he sees just how ineffective it's been.


The author explicitly acknowledged that the deplorable majority can pull the lever once every four years, “At most, working-class voters can cast their ballots for an “un­acceptable” candidate, but they can exercise no influence on policy formation or agency personnel, much less on governance areas that have been transferred to technocratic bodies”

But once in office their guy maintains the status quo even though populist rhetoric got him into office.

So far this theory appears to be true. Historical data corroborates. What is less certain imho is that grassroots activism has ceased to be ineffective. Nobody expects the pitchforks and guillotines until they show up on their doorstep.


Which variables?


I agree with you, the author seems to assume that Brexit/Trump/France are all one-off political movements.

I'm not even so sure as to how homogeneous tech i if the drama at Google is any indication. Academia probably is as they have a financial interest in the federal government expanding.


The working class is already radicalized, however it's powerless through division. A poor minority in the city and a poor majority in the countryside have a lot more in common than either of them might like to believe; their economic interests are shared as they are both simply the working class.

However, the poor person in the city is unlikely to vote at all, and the poor person in the country is likely to vote against their own economic interests in favor of perceived social narratives. As long this remains true, I wouldn't hold my breath on a working class awakening anytime soon.


IIRC, revolutionaries in Russia didn't wait for the proletariat class consciousness to arise on it's own, as it had been predicted by Marx.

The middle class helped spark the revolution hoping that the proletariat would come around eventually.

The fact that the article, and many of the commenters here are mentioning this again makes me wonder if socialist movements have always been primarily middle class movements.


> The middle class helped spark the revolution hoping that the proletariat would come around eventually.

That resulted in several decades of false starts by what Krein would call the Russian "secondary elite", in the form of the Narodniks, in the 1870s and 1880s. They had almost zero experience with the real "narod", only an idealized mental picture, and when they moved out of the big cities into the countryside (where the majority of the poor, Russia being vastly unindustrialised, lived), most of them got homesick and went back again.


Have a look at the cadres of the early Bolsheviks. Stalin - the supposedly uneducated thug - quit seminary school through disillusionment and decided the join a revolutionary party instead.

At a time where the majority of people in Georgia got 4 years of part time schooling at best he spent over 10 years in education.


> They too are out here on the internet, talking to each other and culturally evolving at an unprecedented rate

If by "talking to each other" you mean "increasingly consuming only whatever media the machine learning has been trained to foist onto them", yes.

> uncoupled from professional barrier.

This was true ten years ago, but not today. The recommendation algorithms run by the big tech companies are the window most people use to look into the Internet now.


I think the author's take would be that the working class can radicalize all they want, but it probably won't change anything without the support of a significant part of the 10%-0.1%. I wish he had gone into detail on why he thinks the upper-middle class is required to effect political change. Is it because they have just enough capital? Or maybe they are closer to and more familiar with institutional power?


Because his class consciousness is with them so he sees their participation as pivotal to anything taking root across the whole of society because they are how he relates to the whole of society


It’s also not a coincidence that this thread has 400 comments


Well said.


You can't run the world without them. (Yet, barring some sci-fi hell dystopia.) That's why.


That window might be closing with the current attempts to censor the internet.


>they have the power to publish

On the off chance some unsubscribe from their media streams to create then platform X is well prepared to flag their ideas as too similar to other quarantined fake news items.


The election of Donald Trump could be seen as the result of the radicalisation of the working class.


I think it's more likely due to the echo chamber of the media/pollsters and big cities who didn't count of all the 'fly over' areas actually coming together.

I remember working a temp job at a polling call center and although I was just doing grunt work of calling people, it was clearly obvious they were doing polls to hear what they wanted. There was only 1 survey out of maybe 200 that was what I would consider unbiased and didn't have any leading questions or pre-picked answers.

You would screen out people in the beginning of the survey that were obviously not interested in whoever candidate you were calling in regards to, and more often than not the survey itself would have leading questions to get the answers they want so they can take the results and be like, "See our Candidate is winning!!!" - yet they only called people and did the survey with those who were already willing to vote for said candidate.

Polls are literally circle jerking people who were voting democrat and those regarding republican candidate were always negative.

It also could be that the particular call center I was working out of only had contracts with Democratic parties/PACS but from my time there it was clear that polls are a racket.


I’m not sure why you’re downvoted, this is definitely true at least for the white uneducated working class. Yes, it is a reflection of old ideology that was used to exploit them in the past, so it is tragic that this is where their expression of group assertion is getting its start.

Yet I think as the public discourse among this group continues to grow in sophistication it will develop a more nuanced worldview and will assert its power with greater wisdom.


I'm sure a lot of people agree with you, but I still see putting a war-hawk like Hillary in the oval office as a radical concept.


Trump voters are on average wealthier than Clinton voters: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/06/0...


I would guess (completely based on personal experience) that most in the service class voted for Clinton, while working class is more centered around manufacturing, which does pay better than the service industry.

A big part of the issue is that people have different definitions for all the various social classes, so it's hard to compare things correctly.


It's not the working class, it's exclusively the white working class.


Looking forward to it since I believe the professional barrier to be quite dysfunctional in recent times.


I think that's evident in the Bernie Sanders movement (and to a lesser extent, Warren). Folks like myself support him even though we're some sort of "upper middle class" or some form of middle-merchant class. Not owners, not truly capitalist/investment class, but solidly aligned with everyone else who also has to show up at 9AM daily to get their checks.

This more affluent middle class of information workers are leading the rest of the folks who punch a clock for a living to a better life. It's not everyone though, there's older folks who are fully committed to a dog eat dog existence, because it worked out easily and well for anyone willing to even try their hand in the post-WW2 era. It's understandable that they don't see the connection between relatively easy prosperity, and destroying all of your industrial competitors. Some of the younger conservatives don't have the life experience of being exploited and tossed out to form well-informed views on labor, and are often afraid of challenging their tribe's view, with their fathers often being the aforementioned Boomer. Then you lose another chunk from those who are not very capable, but inherited wealth. Insecurity that they couldn't duplicate their position in life from scratch leads to extremely anti-social behaviors that we see from the capitalist class.

Claiming some defectors from each of those groups, add in the blue collars who know the score, and add in the "Bernie Sanders" educated folk and I definitely am seeing more support for the movement in American society today than I do for any other grassroots movement. Judging from the strength of support of someone like Sanders, the only competent base of support that rivals it is Trump's. It may not be tomorrow or next year when it succeeds, but we're definitely seeing what you're describing and I suspect it'll continue to build until big money can't stop it any longer.


Folks like myself support him even though we're some sort of "upper middle class" or some form of middle-merchant class.

Why do you say "even though"? Sanders and Warren target upper middle class and people aspiring to it.


I was referencing the article which states, it's (almost) against class interests for these people to do so. That said, I disagree with any distinction in classes other than their actual function, workers vs owners. The upper/middle/lower descriptions don't mean much to me.


No, the article explains that Warren and Sanders are popular among exactly the professional class and that this is their natural electorate. Which it is.

Sanders’s left-wing challenge to Clinton found significant support among educated, relatively affluent voters, especially younger ones (similar to Obama’s). As one 2016 Vox headline put it, “Bernie Sand­ers’s base isn’t the working class. It’s young people.”32 Within any given age group, the article explained, higher-income voters were actually more likely to support Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign more explicitly appeals to the professional class, both in form and content.


Your citation is only stating that they receive support from the professional class, not that it's the natural electorate. The article never states as such, you're asserting that. The actual content reads and suggests just as I recall, offering this point as a clear preface-

>This underappreciated reality at least partially explains one of the apparent puzzles of American politics in recent years: namely, that members of the elite often seem far more radical than the working >class, both in their candidate choices and overall outlook. Although better off than the working class, lower-level elites appear to be experiencing far more intense status anxiety.


This assumes that internet radicals are working class , which they are really not. Not even the majority. Isn't it mostly college kids and older boomers?


[flagged]


Isn't there something patronizing, even patrician, about saying "the propaganda machine has so effectively manipulated the working class"? Why aren't their views as legit as yours or mine? There seems to me a great assumption in saying that they are "manipulated". Who isn't?

This is the idea of false consciousness (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_consciousness), and it has always seemed questionable to me. Who are we to say that someone else's way of relating to their own life and their own concerns is wrong? Why should their priorities be any different than they are?

By the way, I'm not trying to start an argument. These are questions that I worry about myself, and I'm genuinely interested.


> Why aren't their views as legit as yours or mine?

Could it not be argued that the legitimacy of views depends on how much information the person has access to? The average working-class person, due to lack of free time and interest may be unable to acquire more information than is conveniently delivered to them through a handful of sources, and if those sources are controlled by certain actors and not balanced by other sources, then that would appear to place a limitation on how informed their views might be.

Some influential 19th-century traditions of working-class radicalism heavily emphasized learning for the sake of it, but I am not sure that conditions today are conducive to that.


The average working class person knows more than you think.

They probably don't have a lot of time for abstract theory, but they do have experience dealing with the government. They've seen how broken their local public schools, VA care, and Medicare are. They've been overwhelmed and overborne by the complicated rules of government programs, and faced harsh penalties for slight missteps.

They also know that Democratic programs generally exclude them because by working for slightly more than minimum wage they earn too much to qualify. And they usually know people receiving government benefits, and they see the lifestyle these benefits impose, and they don't want that for themselves.


> The average working class person knows more than you think. They probably don't have a lot of time for abstract theory...

Yet there are traditions both within working-class leftism and working-class libertarianism that emphasise that what you call the "abstract theory" is key to activism and informed participation in the democratic process. After all, the argument for why whatever political system is just and fair is based on a canon of writings that goes back centuries. Thus, as I said, in the past political thinkers have urged the working class to read, read, read, and not just go off their anecdotal experiences of interaction with government and society or their gut feelings.


> the argument for why whatever political system is just and fair is based on a canon of argument that goes back centuries.

Those would be the same kind of arguments that justified communism, which was once popular among the intelligentsia? Abstract theory often leads people astray.

I think the working class might be wise to ignore those arguments in favor of their own experiences.

We've seen what the government is actually doing, and theory doesn't match reality. Those who advocate more government intervention should first improve those government interventions that already exist, so government programs can serve as an advertisement for their ideas, instead of a warning.


> Those would be the same kind of arguments that justified communism, which was once popular among the intelligentsia?

Or the arguments for American democracy and the nascent European democracies, whose founding fathers advocated for such systems by citing literature from Ancient Greece to the Enlightenment. The 19th century saw a wave of low-cost, mass-market editions of the classical canon precisely because it was thought that democracy required an educated citizenry.

Or modern libertarianism, which points to many of the same sources but adds more recent thinkers like Hayek or von Mises.

With your third paragraph, you seem to be suggesting that I favour government invention, but I have made no such suggestion in my posts. Rather, as I said, the need to be informed and aware of the tradition of political argument holds regardless of where a person might be situated ideologically, whether on the "left" or "right".


You did more than argue in favor of staying informed and aware of the tradition of political argument. You suggested that the political opinions of those who do not spend time on that are illegitimate:

> Could it not be argued that the legitimacy of views depends on how much information the person has access to?

But politics is not mathematics. Political ideas should be judged by their outcomes, not their theoretical validity. And everyone gets a vote about whether those outcomes are good.


> But politics is not mathematics. Political ideas should be judged by their outcomes, not their theoretical validity. And everyone gets a vote about whether those outcomes are good.

With voting based merely on a gut feeling, a politician’s charisma, or the candidate’s party affiliation, one may well have to wait until the next election cycle to express one’s feelings about whether the outcome was good or not, and try all over again. But an informed voting public has a better chance of getting the outcomes they want the first time around. There has always been that expectation in American democracy and some of its analogues elsewhere that the populace, beyond merely having the right to vote for its representatives, would be keenly self-educating. If a voter fails to live up to the ideals which were considered crucial for democracy to run smoothly, then I think it is fair to question the legitimacy of their views.

Also, simple, straightforward voting is not the only action or mechanism for “outcomes” in modern democratic states. There are things like strikes, tactical voting, lobbying, resorting to legal action, etc. (Radicals on either end of the political spectrum would add uprisings, too.) It is the political literature of the past that lays out all these options for the citizenry, explains the pros or cons, and lets them make an informed decision on how to better their lot.


> But an informed voting public has a better chance of getting the outcomes they want the first time around. ... It is the political literature of the past that lays out all these options for the citizenry, explains the pros or cons, and lets them make an informed decision on how to better their lot.

A bold assertion that you should provide evidence for. I'd argue that, in practice, things rarely happen the way political theory predicts. Politics is not physics, either.


I can't believe you have to defend democracy in this day and age. Reading your interlocutors, I feel like I fell into the Queen Victoria's reign. But it seems the old patricians never die, they just become deluded members of the working classes trying to keep other members of the working classes away from their bit of the pie.


> The average working-class person, due to lack of free time and interest

The average American watches three hours of TV a day. People have plenty of free time. If they’re not interested their political opinions are irrelevant, politics will happen to them, not with them.


Yet they still get a vote. And if they vote for something you don't understand, then it just proves that watching the news helps you know what journalists think - not the public.


That's a good argument, but let me continue the other side: I wonder if this doesn't just repeat the question. Who are we to say that the information we have is the true information? At least on the internet, we all select the information we want. I listen to my preferred sources, and I bet you listen to yours. Why are the working class doing something less legitimate if they do the same?


Lets win back the working class by disparaging them? This doesn't seem like the greatest path to success


No, because Internet. A better argument would replace information with IQ/EQ.


It's a very tricky problem. My awareness of false consciousness is more from feminism.

So what if a woman aspires to being nothing more than a good housewife? But what if she's been brought up in a culture where she has been told from early childhood that being a good housewife is all she every should aspire to? I don't think you can tell that person that their desires are wrong but you can point out what other options they have. It's up to them how they personally live.

Voting and public life are different, however, because they have an impact on wider society. I think is then reasonable to critique others' decisions because those decisions impact us. On the big, high-level stuff there will always be disagreement about objectives, their relative importance, the best way to get there and so on. I don't think you can do too much there.

But on more focused things you absolutely can question someone's rationale, their evidence base and how their vote or political activity will achieve their stated objectives.

Take Brexit as an example. If you just don't want foreign people around then voting for Brexit probably makes sense. I disagree with your objective but there's a consistency to what you're doing. If you're voting for Brexit because you think the NHS needs more money then it's absolutely incumbent on you to explain what kind of economic impact you expect Brexit to have, how that'll affect tax receipts and the evidence for all of those expectations because I'm not aware of any informed analysis that says Brexit is consistent with increased NHS funding. It's not sufficient to just say "well they said on the bus that we give £350m a week to the EU and now that's going to go to the NHS".

You're entitled to have whatever concerns you want, relate to your own life however you like. You're not entitled to have inaccurate beliefs based on a poor understanding of how things work.


(I don't mean to be rude or argumentative, just interested.)

Don't you think this is patronizing in the way I described above? By all means point out options, but if people decide not to choose those options, I don't see what entitles us to call that false consciousness. A caricature of this view might go as follows: "if you accept my political agenda then you have true consciousness and are entitled to your beliefs; if you do not then you have false consciousness and are not entitled to your beliefs." What is missing in that caricature?


I think it's the distinction between intrinsic beliefs and beliefs based on knowledge of the world. Maybe I didn't make the distinction clear enough. The former, though we may want to change them, can't usefully be called "wrong" but the latter can. False consciousness is then wrong beliefs deliberately propagated to achieve some end.

What is missing from your caricature is whether the beliefs expressed make internal sense and fit with what we know about reality. Are you entitled to a belief that we shouldn't fund space programs because they're too expensive? Of course. Are you entitled to a belief that we shouldn't fund space programs because the world is flat? No.

Another good UK example is government austerity over the last decade to reduce the deficit. The government gained popular support for it using analogies about household budgets that in fact aren't very applicable to government spending. This and other arguments got picked up and repeated by the media despite not being accepted by mainstream economists [1]. This led to a divergence between popular and academic understanding of the economy's strength and weaknesses. Given all of that, how much weight should be put on the economic beliefs of someone whose only macroeconomic knowledge is gleaned from the headlines? I would say that this a classic example of false consciousness.

Of course, in politics and economics neutral knowledge is a tricky concept. That's why this is inherently discursive. My economics knowledge is mostly from reading a few introductory textbooks and reading blogs. Some economics expert might come along here and say I'm totally wrong on austerity and here's why. That's fine. I don't have an inherent right to be wrong.

[1] https://mainlymacro.blogspot.com/2015/05/on-mediamacro.html


I think the way you portray Brexit is rather telling.

There's actually a ton of very informed analysis that could be boiled down to "leaving the EU will result in increased NHS funding". Some of it is academic and wonkish, some of it is intuitive and working-class. But it's there. If you aren't aware of it that says more about how much you tried to expose yourself to such arguments, I think.

A simple version goes like this:

1. The Eurozone is an economic backwater and Brussels a monolithic quasi-socialist archetype of Big Government.

2. So, growth in the EU is terrible and will remain terrible for a long time. The UK's economy is actually beating the other big mature economies in growth, even Germany, despite Brexit related uncertainty, so there are good reasons to believe the UK has it more right than the rest of Europe does, economically speaking.

3. But in the EU the Euro is sancrosanct, it cannot be questioned and EU institutions will do "whatever it takes", to use Monti's phrasing, in order to avoid it breaking up.

4. Inside the EU the UK is a sitting duck politically. It's unpopular with other member states because it's not populated by true-blue starry-eyed EU ideological believers and tends to argue for smaller government. But its political elite feels like it literally can't leave, which means its membership fees can be set arbitrarily high and money can be and should be extracted from its economy at will.

5. We can already see this happening with the entirely political and arbitrary "exit bill", a so-called bill that's written in no treaty or legal text anywhere. The EU demand it purely because they can and they know the psychologically weak and ideologically addled governmental classes will roll over and do whatever Brussels wants. We can also see it in the rapidly rising membership fees, which are tied to GDP and not any kind of actually delivered services.

6. Thus to Remain is to signal vast weakness to the Brussels conglomerate, who will then extract as much wealth from the country as possible. In case of Eurozone recession or bank collapse the UK will certainly be called on to fund a bailout, despite all the treaties saying this won't happen. Anyone who believes that hasn't studied the EU's history: it is a dead cert thing.

7. As a consequence, remaining in the EU will drain funding from all local government services, and especially the NHS, which will be hit by a double whammy of reduced UK government budgets due to the EU taking tax revenues and becoming a free hospital for all of Europe as a Eurozone financial crisis knocks out health insurers and freedom of movement ensures the NHS can't separate Brits from everyone else.

What I outlined above is a scenario you seem to believe isn't supported by any "informed analysis", but it's not complex, or absurd, and you can read about the individual components in many informed analyses. Just search for it.

Moreover, all the above is considered obvious by the working classes. Look at the Conservative election adverts that spell it out specifically - switch to an Australian style immigration system and there will be more money for the NHS because fewer low-earning immigrants will be using it.

Obvious, innit?


There are a few things to unpick here.

My belief that Brexit will lead to lower NHS funding is as follows: assuming Brexit results in higher trade barriers with the EU, our biggest trading partners, it will dent trade, which will lead to lower growth, which will lead to lower tax receipts, which will lead to lower funding available for the NHS (and other things). The unknowns are by how much trade with the EU is affected and how quickly trade with other countries grows to fill the gap. Given current trading patterns [8] I feel justified in thinking it'll take some time. The other points are basic macroeconomic principles.

Leaving aside the factual points addressed below, your belief is based entirely on how you think Brussels thinks, how the UK elite think and how they will respond to some hypothetical event. It's basically playing out a possible sequence of future political events. I would be interested in links to the informed analyses you mention (I'm not sure what search terms you think I should use).

What's interesting about it is that it's not falsifiable. It's your political opinions, which can't be proven either way, and playing out a hypothetical, which is unknowable. My belief can be disproven easily by demonstrating how Brexit won't harm overall trade or some plausible offset that I haven't considered. Your belief is correct if your reading of the entire EU and UK political classes is correct and you correctly predict their intentions. My belief is correct if we have a correct understanding of how trade affects growth. Do you think that both beliefs are equally robust?

On factual points, recent data [1, 2, 3] shows that the UK is actually underperforming the Eurozone in growth, including Germany (though it's also experiencing negative growth). In addition, this is from a bad start as the UK has recovered very poorly from the GFC [4], especially relative to other major economies [5]. On your final point it is at best highly questionable [6, 7] that fewer EU migrants will lead to higher funding for the NHS.

The fact that this is considered "obviously true" in the face of evidence to the contrary is a very good example of what I'm talking about. I agree we should challenge our own views. In particular, I worry that the argument that EU migrants are a net benefit overall is all well and good on paper but ignores the localised impact in places that experience high immigration and don't see a corresponding increase in central government funding. That said, given the evidence of the relative economic consequences of austerity and EU migration I feel justified in saying that people "should" direct their anger at the government that mishandles migration, not migrants themselves.

[1] https://tradingeconomics.com/european-union/gdp-annual-growt...

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php...

[3] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locat...

[4] https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/13302

[5] https://blog.euromonitor.com/the-recovery-from-the-global-fi...

[6] https://fullfact.org/europe/eu-immigration-and-pressure-nhs/

[7] https://www.niesr.ac.uk/blog/migration-and-public-finances-l...

[8] https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/internationa...


The unknowns are by how much trade with the EU is affected and how quickly trade with other countries grows to fill the gap.

Yes, this is an entirely reasonable perspective, but I'd note that it's also a projection of hypothetical future events (large trade barriers) based on a projection of what Brussels thinks (no trade deal with the treacherous Brits regardless of the mutual costs).

My projection is not less valid than yours, even though it may appear that yours is more projected or more common than the other. My own research led me to conclude that the facade of 'expert consensus' is mostly a creation of journalists and (at the time of the referendum) the Civil Service operating under direction from Cameron and Osborne. There's really much less agreement in the field of economics on the topic of Brexit than is first apparent.

Now, you say this:

My belief is correct if we have a correct understanding of how trade affects growth. Do you think that both beliefs are equally robust?

Actually, yes, I think my beliefs are slightly more robust. Mainly for two reasons:

1. I don't think we have a correct understanding of what economists call growth theory.

2. I think EU realpolitik is significantly easier to analyse than something as large and complex as an economy. It's far fewer people for one, but also, I have made my own predictions about how things would play out both economically and politically with the EU, and so far I've been more right than most of the so-called experts (but not completely right).

The second is hard for me to prove without giving up my identity: I did write publicly about my predictions at the time of the referendum but prefer to post on HN anonymously these days. But anyway, the first will more interesting both for us and anyone reading this thread.

How well do we understand economic growth? The evidence suggests: very badly. It can be easily argued that our understanding hasn't really advanced since the 18th century.

Let's start with one piece of evidence: economic projections are basically always wrong. The only time they're right is when economists are just extrapolating the current trend line and predicting a continuation of whatever's happening now. But they more or less never successfully predict changes from the current trend.

To read about this Google "economic forecast accuracy". There have been many studies. But most working class people don't need studies to know economists don't understand the economy, they just need two events:

a. "Nobody" forecast the 2008 financial crisis.

b. "Everyone" forecast recession in case Leave won.

For example, the Treasury department published an economic forecast that said if Leave won the vote, the 2 year period of Article 50 negotiation would create such massive uncertainty that the economy would enter a year long recession in which it would lose 500,000 jobs in the best case, and 800,000 jobs in the worst case.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/britain-to-enter-recessio...

Clearly this prediction can be tested against reality: the British economy grew strongly (for Europe). These forecasts weren't just wrong, they were wrong in the wrong direction and of course anyone outside of the London elite's knew that was going to happen: they were being told by idiot Londoners in Whitehall that leaving the EU should be the scariest thing that ever happened to them, and it just isn't.

The total corruption of the field of economics can be supported in many other ways. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist and staunch left wing anti-Brexit writer for the staunchly pro-EU New York Times, wrote this:

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/06/30/the-macroeconom...

"I believe that Brexit is a tragic development, which will do substantial long-run economic harm. But what we’re hearing overwhelmingly from economists is the claim that it will also have severe short-run adverse impacts. And that claim seems dubious. Or maybe more to the point, it’s a claim that doesn’t follow in any clear way from standard macroeconomics – but it’s being presented as if it does. And I worry that what we’re seeing is a case of motivated reasoning, which could end up damaging economists’ credibility."

One of the most frustrating things about Remain supporters for me - and very relevant to the class war this HN thread is originally about - is the complete refusal of so-called elites to update their priors in response to failed predictions by so-called experts.

It doesn't matter that economists get it completely wrong again and again. It doesn't matter that famous economists themselves are saying the field is riven with "motivated reasoning" i.e. politically biased BS posing as expertise. Working class people who draw their own conclusions based on their own lived experience and get it right are ignorant and bad; people with a bachelors degree who put their faith in professors and get it wrong are superior and should be in charge.

How long will it take until EU supporters recognise that many of their predictions have been tested and failed? My guess is never. I've never seen a single one say, gee, I believed the predictions of recession if Leave won and it didn't happen. Maybe I shouldn't have listened. It's a psychological and political decision for everyone in the end, not really about facts or economics.

Now, how badly will trade barriers affect the EU and UK? Honestly, I'm skeptical it will have any noticeable impact on the average British person's life. I think we're overdue for a global recession anyway and thus when the UK does next tip into recession, there will be a brief argument of the form "see! we told you Brexit would create a recession" because of the timing that will be answered with, "Europe is in recession too and America is sliding, because the world economy is cyclical and we were overdue". But that will pass and I don't think Brexit will have much impact on the real economy (except maybe currency prices, which are mostly reflective of the consensus of the sort of people who are hired as traders).

The reasons are pretty simple. Firstly, free trade is less important to economies than experts tend to say. I actually work with an expert in global trade, someone whose entire job is to be a specialist in trading policies, and she's said publicly that one of the lessons learned in recent years by the field is that free trade policies seem to have less impact than they predicted.

Secondly, the UK economy is primarily services oriented and its exports especially so. Services are tariff free under WTO GATT rules so wouldn't be affected, and anyway, the EU has never really created a single market for services and selling services into the EU is difficult, so the UK is less exposed than you might think. For instance I work for a company that sells software and services, so the EU can't impose tariffs on us without exiting the WTO framework.

Thirdly, the EU actually needs UK services much more seriously than most Remainers realise (because the newspapers they tend to read don't want to admit it). For instance there was much talk of the collapse of the City right after the vote because the UK would supposedly lose its so-called financial passport i.e. the EU would ban member state firms from buying UK financial services in retaliation for the UK leaving. You don't hear much about that anymore, because the Commission folded very quickly when it became clear Brexit wouldn't be immediately cancelled and granted "temporary" permission for trade with the City to continue due to the EU's dependence on London's financial services. Likewise for air travel and a variety of other things that would supposedly all be banned outright by the EU. All given "temporary" extensions (but not much will have changed by the time these extensions expire, so what will they do then?).

Add it all up and I think it's fair to say that the people who do understand growth theory the best aren't the ones being put in front of the British public, and even they don't really understand it that well.

Even if they did though, so what? Leaving the EU isn't actually about economics to most people. Polling showed the top issues for Leave voters are immigration and sovereignty. Pretending it's merely a cost/benefit calculation to be decided by discredited economists is exactly why Remain lost. The EU is structured as a dictatorship pretending to be a democracy: the average British person, working class or not, has no say whatsoever in its decisions and the EU elites routinely enjoy reminding them of that.

On factual points, recent data [1, 2, 3] shows that the UK is actually underperforming the Eurozone in growth, including Germany

You can't compare UK GDP growth to the Eurozone directly because the Eurozone includes a lot of ex-Soviet economies that have high percentage growth because they're poor, and that pushes up the percentage-wise average. Nobody would claim Romania has a better economy than Germany though. If we compare UK and Germany directly:

https://d3fy651gv2fhd3.cloudfront.net/charts/united-kingdom-...

We can see that the graphs look pretty similar. The UK compares very well to the best "100% European" case. In 2018-2019 UK growth has been lower in some quarters and higher in others, although German growth benefits from an artificially weak currency vs the pound. France was doing great until Jan 2018 when growth dropped off a cliff and has never recovered (what happened there? is that the gilets jaunes?). Italy is stagnant at near zero. Spain is doing better than I expected, actually: consistent growth, albeit very low.

Of course, this misses the bigger picture. British and German growth is all peanuts compared to the USA. The UK is doing pretty well compared to other EU member states. They're all doing terribly compared to a culturally and technologically very similar country that's not in the EU. The firehose of money the NHS would get if we had American levels of growth would render most existing political bun fights irrelevant.

I don't believe the British government will actually adopt US style economic policies and get US style growth anytime soon, even if we leave the EU, but that's partly because the policy-making classes can't psychologically escape the EU's moral and social philosophies. Leaving the EU completely and then getting a good trade deal with the USA is still a necessary step if we want to get there ... and I think we do.


It seems that you are not disagreeing with the concept of false consciousness. You just believe that a different group of people suffer from it. I hope you don't consider it too much of a caricature of your position for me to say that you think the elite labour under a lot of false beliefs but the working classes are able to see through all of this based on their own experience and clear insight.

I think at the core of this discussion, and false consciousness in general, is the question of how can we know what knowledge is true. I certainly agree with you, probably more than it appears in this thread, that we shouldn't take economics as some objective science. That's why I said up-thread that this is all discursive. But I think we are in real danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water and dismissing any economic knowledge at all. Larry Elliot has a good article here about economists' failings [1]. What I take from that is that, yes, forecasts are very shaky but economics itself analyses the failings and uses it to build better understanding (whether HMT uses that knowledge is a different question). SWL talks here [2] about the benefits of trade and compares dismissals of economic knowledge to climate denial. I think that's too strong but I am reluctant to dismiss the idea that we can gain empirical economic knowledge. (Incidentally if you know any good, pro-Brexit economics blogs please do let me know).

It seems that you implicitly rely on economics in some of your scenarios, thinking etc but then when you come against an economic idea or prediction you disagree with you just dismiss it with "oh well, economists are always wrong". I mean, if they are then how do you know the economics implied in your scenarios are correct? Why bother trying to get trade deals? Why bother making any economic arguments for Brexit if it's all unknowable? How do you know which of the US-style economic policies are the ones that created the growth? Surely there is some validity in testing hypotheses?

Continuing this skepticism, maybe you don't intend this but your comments read as if you think working-class people have some kind of natural, clear-headed insight from their lived experience that the elite and their academics don't have. I'm not sure from where you draw your certainty that you know what the entire working class is thinking, nor why a judgement based on individual lived experience should be any more reliable than one based on broader evidence. I don't think "economists missed the 2008 crash and got post-Brexit wrong so I can ignore them all now and go off what I see around me" is really a strong argument.

If all these expert economists with their models and their papers can't make a prediction why should you or I believe that you can? Maybe, like some economist, you've got a model that worked a few times but is going to come crashing down any day now. Shouldn't the same skepticism apply to you? Your whole scenario was based on the idea that the EU coveted the UK's growth rate but when I linked to World Bank data showing that in 2018 the UK underperformed literally every member state but Italy (ok, level with Germany) you still say that we're doing very well compared to other member states. See [3] for more recent data -- hardly comparing very well either. France is comparable and I wouldn't say the US is in a different ballpark. It doesn't seem like you update your priors in response to new data so what makes you think you are any more likely to be right? Or, to return to falsifiability, what would make you think you're wrong?

Coming back to false consciousness, I don't think it's the views themselves that are problematic but the way in which they are reached. I am doubtful that many people complaining about immigrants overcrowding their hospitals have looked at any evidence to decide whether the complaint is valid. I don't think "lived experience" is enough to make an objective, accurate assessment. You are right of course that we should critique arguments and not just take them at face value. For what it's worth, I'm a lukewarm remainer and I agree entirely with you about the Remain campaign's terrible campaigning. They also failed to mention the impact on N Ireland, which is far more significant and it's a terrible indictment of the British public that neither side bothered to think about the border. That didn't last long anyway...

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2017/jan... [2] https://mainlymacro.blogspot.com/2019/10/brexit-is-denial-of... [3] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/10075412/2-1...


I suppose I didn't quite understand what you meant by false consciousness. It sounded a bit like "people want what they're told by others to want and that's bad" in the example of feminism, but isn't that just the process of opinion forming? If the governing classes have been told their whole life the EU is good, the future, peace, civilisation etc and then support Remain, are they labouring under false consciousness? Or what does it mean, precisely?

I think there is economic knowledge we can know to be true. A lot of the basics is surely sound, but also quite obvious and simple (supply and demand, printing money creates inflation etc).

The problem and question is to what extent things go off the rails after that? It's worth calibrating our expectations against other fields of science, for example:

1. Ioannadis argued in a very well known paper that about half of all published research findings are false.

2. I've heard repeatedly that Big Pharma/VC supports this, and biotech doesn't get more investment (vs say software firms) partly because about half of all academic microbiology doesn't replicate.

3. Psychology as a field has witnessed large areas collapse completely during the replication crisis: entire careers and phenomenons with hundreds of papers investigating them just turn out to be based on nonsense.

A good example of the latter is this one:

https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/05/07/5-httlpr-a-pointed-rev...

It's entirely reasonable to assume that most academic output is false, and that average is significantly biased upwards by hard sciences that are empirically testable. If you focus on subjects that produce explanations of observed data independent of large scale experiments (psychology, economics, history, sociology, yes also climatology etc) then it's fair to assume the vast majority of published output is wrong.

This may seem radical or absurd, but I think this view will become more widespread in future. For instance even in psychology, where experiments are possible (unlike economics), many studies are statistically underpowered to a level that can't plausibly be fixed:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4816570/

It's certainly going to be the case that economics is more wrong than psychology; at least in psychology you can run experiments, even if they're too small.

Thus, given the structural and financial setup of these fields, we can assume they will continue to produce spurious findings indefinitely.

Now, you pose the following question:

If all these expert economists with their models and their papers can't make a prediction why should you or I believe that you can?

You and I have a major structural advantage over professional economists when it comes to making accurate predictions: our careers are not judged by our output.

This gives us a huge edge because we can be as imprecise, simple or intuitive as we like and nobody will care. My Brexit economy prediction wasn't very precise, it was literally "We're being told there will be a huge recession caused by uncertainty and I think that's completely wrong". No recession, thus, my predictions were better than the economists! But mine also didn't have any numbers in it. This is the right level of precision for such a prediction given the state of economic knowledge, and for a non-professional that's fine. For a Treasury official, not so much.

The underlying cause is social: academics and related professions (like government economists) are required by their peers to "publish or perish", preferably in reputable journals. Like speakers on the dinner circuit, they must speak even if they have nothing insightful to say right now. If they come up with something novel or clever sounding they will be promoted and become one of the judges themselves, where they apply the same criteria.

I've been referring to the working classes because Brexit is so often positioned as the 'educated' vs the 'working class', and the article is about class distinctions. But that's actually kind of a gloss over what I really mean. My point is really about specific professions or classes vs everyone else.

Your whole scenario was based on the idea that the EU coveted the UK's growth rate but when I linked to World Bank data showing that in 2018 the UK underperformed literally every member state but Italy (ok, level with Germany) you still say that we're doing very well compared to other member states.

For UK vs France/Italy, remember the UK has a much lower unemployment rate:

https://d3fy651gv2fhd3.cloudfront.net/charts/united-kingdom-...

https://d3fy651gv2fhd3.cloudfront.net/charts/united-kingdom-...

You're right that my original point about "growth" was over-stated. I was thinking of some quarters where the UK had better GDP growth than Germany along with better employment stats than France, wage growth etc. There's been lots of positive economic news lately.

But it doesn't actually matter - the overall point I was making remains even if the UK would have weaker growth at the moment. Namely, there are plausible scenarios in which leaving is good for growth and you don't have to be ignorant to believe them. We can see how the EU seems to be scared of the idea of the UK deregulating and becoming more competitive. For instance Angela Merkel stated outright that in future Germany may have to face the UK as a competitor alongside China and the USA (implication: today they don't). The French Secretary of State for European Affairs has said outright about the UK, "I don't want a tax haven on our doorstep". It seems like they take the scenario of a stronger British economy outside the EU seriously, and I guess that's enough to validate the scenario.

Re: economics blogs. Unfortunately I don't read any economics blogs. The Telegraph has columnists who lay out some of the ideas and Leave campaigners (including Boris, to his credit) have in the past proposed various things the UK could do to increase competitiveness, like the free ports.

Finally, falsifiability. Yes, I do think about this. One thing that makes it hard is my own predictions are a mix of short range which were proven true already, and long range, but those are only about a specific scenario that probably won't happen (Conservatives get more conservative and significantly liberalise the economy). But the advantage of not being an economist is I can happily say "I don't know what will happen next year" and nobody will care, which is why I can be more accurate than them :)


My understanding of false consciousness is that it's a false belief knowingly spread by others to achieve some aim. When someone justifies their political views as "just common sense" it's often an indicator because what's taken to be self-evidently true changes over time.

In my view, what matters is not so much the belief itself but the way in which it's reached. Let's return to the hospital example and assume that your local hospital is overcrowded and underfunded. If you look at immigration levels in your area, read about the economic impact of migration and the levels of government funding to your area and decide that, on balance, hospital overcrowding is due to immigration then I would not consider that false consciousness. Possibly incorrect, but not false consciousness. If you just see a lot of Romanians on the street and read lots of anti-immigration stories in your newspaper and conclude that the overcrowding is due to immigration then I'd consider that false consciousness because you are relying on a notion of "basic common sense" and haven't even considered the possibility that the migrants are contributing more than they take or that the government funding has been inadequate.

The whole questions of knowledge that we've been debating, though very important, is in a sense secondary to this because the person relying on common sense isn't actively dismissing the claims of economic truth, they're completely unaware of them.

And in this particular example I think it's pretty clear that the government sought to deflect anger at austerity to immigrants. Assuming that Cameron and Osborne shared the kind of elite worldview we've been discussing, they would have known that the deflection couldn't be justified. They were deliberately spreading a view of the world that, in their minds at least, they would have known to be wrong. So that's why I think it's false consciousness - knowingly spreading a false belief.

Where it gets complicated is when the elite come to believe the idea as well, and then it's just a received wisdom (and the original intent has completed succeeded). I think you're right to call out remainers' unquestioning belief that the EU is a good thing, though I disagree on how much we can rely on economic. You're right that we should be skeptical of that too, of course.

One important thing that neither of us has mentioned that much is the role of the media in propagating beliefs and the extent to which the British public's view of the EU has been shaped by the likes of Boris Johnson printing knowingly false stories about the EU ("knowingly spreading a false belief"...). I'd argue that all of these [1] are examples of false consciousness. Either the official figures are all totally wrong and a person looking down their street can make a more accurate estimate than teams of statisticians measuring the entire country, or views are shaped by distorted reporting of these issues. And if the media aren't trying to present a factual account of reality, that raises the question of what are they trying to do instead...?

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-publ...

Edit to add: I used to read the Telegraph but then they went down a weird spiral of clickbait mixed with making everything interesting premium-only. A pity because it used to be very good.


My understanding of false consciousness is that it's a false belief knowingly spread by others to achieve some aim

Hmm. Isn't that just a lie? What makes it false consciousness and not just a more ordinary concept like manipulation?

If you just see a lot of Romanians on the street and read lots of anti-immigration stories in your newspaper and conclude that the overcrowding is due to immigration then I'd consider that false consciousness because you are relying on a notion of "basic common sense"

Is the key issue here newspapers vs government sources or is it the inclusion of personal eyewitness observations? I'm not sure newspapers are really worse at spreading false beliefs than government sources are, but that would seem to be the only distinction based on who's speaking here. Indeed there'd seem to be less risk of false consciousness in this scenario because claims by third parties are being augmented with 'reality checks' against personal observations, whereas in the first scenario you seem to be relying almost entirely on government sources.

And in this particular example I think it's pretty clear that the government sought to deflect anger at austerity to immigrants.

Did they? The UK has had strongly pro-immigrant governments for decades. It only started getting serious about reducing immigration numbers recently and even then only in rhetorical terms: non-EU immigration has now hit record highs, and they could already control that. People want reduced immigration but they don't get it. As for austerity, the Tories blame Labour overspending/structural deficits and Labour blamed conservatism and the financial crisis. Only UKIP made an explicit link to immigrants, and UKIP collapsed after Farage left because they took a stronger anti-immigrant turn that got painted as racism.

So I'm not sure that telling matches my own recollections. I remarked on the Tory poster about immigrants and the NHS partly because it's remarkable: this is the first time I recall seeing Conservative campaigning that directly blames overloading of public services on immigration. It's a ... bold ... move? Given that it's pretty clear they've been supporting high levels of immigration for a long time and Boris is also a big supporter of it.

Either the official figures are all totally wrong and a person looking down their street can make a more accurate estimate than teams of statisticians measuring the entire country, or views are shaped by distorted reporting of these issues.

Are you sure the press is less reliable, or deliberately distorting things? If it contradicts elite sources like academic studies, or government statistical reports, many people assume the elite sources are true and the newspapers are false. Especially papers that the working classes tend to rely on like the Daily Mail.

OK, I think we agree that economists should be treated with some skepticism. What about statistical agencies?

The reason I keep hammering on the unreliability of supposedly neutral and informed elites is because there's so much evidence that they're hopelessly compromised, to the point that average man on the street can beat their reliability. Certainly they shouldn't be shamed for taking their own experience into account.

Here's another piece of evidence I encountered today in support of that view. Above, you're suggesting it's unlikely official statistics about immigration are wrong. I used to believe this too. Fine, academic analysis may be wonky, but surely basic numbers are free of political bias and being measured correctly?

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/01/eu-membershi...

[Priti Patel] We don’t really know how many people are in the county either. Earlier this year, the Office for National Statistics downgraded its immigration statistics to “experimental.” In other words, they don’t know how many people are coming into the country or who they are.

So now the Home Secretary is admitting publicly the UK's immigration data is so wrong that "we don't really know". She's the most important consumer of the stats! If she doesn't believe them why should anyone else?

Seeing a Cabinet member admit this so unambiguously was surprising. The conclusion itself less so. I've been suspicious about UK population data for some years now, ever since learning they had stopped correlating with other stats like electricity and water usage in the way they always did historically. You don't read much about that because in fact, most newspapers are also pro-immigration.

My estimation of Patel has gone up for her unobfuscated and honest language. But that just makes the unvarnished truth even more horrible: the left/globalist consensus of "more immigration is always good" has saturated government and academia to such an extent that basically nothing from it on the topic can be trusted. The sort of people who completely ignored what economists, statisticians etc were telling them and just went by "is my hospital waiting room full of immigrants" had an equally accurate or quite possibly more accurate understanding of the impact on public services.

And yet they were so slated for it! So much scorn poured down on their heads, they were called ignorant and racist, and yet now we know the economic analysis was wrong, the stats were wrong, all the sources supposedly superior individuals were relying on for decision making were just completely wrong. We don't even know by how much!

It makes me so sad. I'm not even against immigration. I am myself an immigrant! But watching how deeply this issue has compromised every institution it touches makes me sad for the state of epistomology.

Because it's not just economists and statisticians. Every institution that claims to be neutral, informed and unbiased is shredding its credibility. Ofcom is supposed to enforce political neutrality on broadcasters but the people who work at major TV channels are constantly tweeting their political allegiances, with no consequences. The Speaker of Parliament claimed to be neutral whilst driving around with "Bollocks to Brexit" on his car, then admitted he wasn't the moment he retired. The Electoral Commission claims to be neutral and most of its board have expressed anti-Brexit views in public. The Civil Service ... well, you get the idea.

Not only are these people not neutral, they don't even pretend. Yet constantly they feign offence at any suggestion they might be anything but 100% trustworthy and neutral. It's obvious to the man on the street that nobody claiming to be politically neutral in public life actually is, that they're mostly in the bag for the EU and willing to systematically lie/distort to get their preferred outcomes. So why shouldn't the working classes ignore them and make up their own minds?

I don't know where all this goes, but you're completely right that over time I find my respect for ordinary common sense and 'street logic' going up. Not because it's getting better or more accurate: it's not. It's more that the alternatives presented as better keep getting revealed as being just 'common sense' and 'street logic' of different social classes.


I think you might be having a completely valid emotional response to your consciousness being called false.

False Consciousness, like Dictatorship of the Proletariat, are specific terms within Marxist thought that are popularly misinterpreted, and often used by more cynical capitalists to misdirect.

False consciousness has to be understood as false as it relates to 'class consciousness', the true consciousness of the Proletariat as the Proletariat relates to its position within the dialectical materialism applied by Marx to the historical process. This has nothing to do with psychological consciousness.

The Proletariat has class consciousness when it collectively realizes that capitalism is simply a phase in history, and not an eternal state of nature.

It's awfully pompous. Marx wasn't infallible. False consciousness developed a lot after Marx, and you truly can't see it when you're in it. Krein, for example, is in false consciousness. He can't properly conceptualize that capitalism will be replaced, and has developed his own asinine class analysis not on the bedrock of Hegel, but on dividing the working class by race, gender, and ethnicity. It blinds him from seeing the real class antagonisms in society between the Proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

He doesn't seem to know he's a prole like the rest of us, for instance.


The definitions may be as you say. But you seem to be assuming that the Marxist definitions are correct; that is, that they correspond to reality.

Here's what I mean: By your definition, I'm a prole. I should have "class consciousness" that I'm a prole, and since I don't, I have "false consciousness". But try and expand your mind to the point where you can consider the alternative: People like me might actually see our condition reasonably clearly. When Marxist theory puts us in the same bucket as a ditch-digger, that could be because Marxist theory doesn't correspond to reality, and it's not reality's fault. And telling us that our understanding is false could betray the weakness of your analytic framework rather than the weakness of our understanding of our own position in society. If this alternate position is correct, then we really don't need to care very much about what bucket Marxist theory puts us in, or about what it says we ought to think.

You've got your position, which you think is correct. But at least consider the possibility that it could be mistaken.


> Why should their priorities be any different than they are?

Because we are all humans with the same priority, to carry on the species / tribe.

> Who are we to say that someone else's way of relating to their own life and their own concerns is wrong?

Humans don't consider their way of life they act on instinct (of self / human preservation) first and only consider their life upon reflection if at all.

Personally I find it difficult setting aside time to consider my life and even more difficult to reflect and deal with the fact that i'm usually wrong, at first.

I know the average person doesn't bother doing this, maybe they are just way smarter than me and don't need to but more likely they have the same default as me and are wrong and just haven't considered.


I know a lot of working class people, and their views are just as valid and often they are smarter/more well informed about some particular low level details of the way the economy/society operates. But without a college education in today’s complicated world its really hard to be a sophisticated consumer of information (even with one many fail) so working class people are more susceptible to manipulation by propaganda, oral information, conspiracy theories, availability heuristic etc. Being able to google something vs being able to search skeptically and critically are two different skills.


Isn't there an argument that many people currently saddled with college debt made poorly informed decisions? Maybe the working class people who knew not to do that actually processed information better than many people who took massive amounts of debt on for degrees of dubious economic value.


I’m not following how a college education somehow inoculates someone from being susceptible to propaganda. Aren’t they just trying to install their own branded software on your OS anyway? Searching skeptically and critically is, at least judging based on some recent hires coming from well-know and (ostensibly) “elite” universities, not necessarily part of the base install.

100% not saying you intended to imply this, but the “sophisticated” qualifier can imply that the people or group in question is simply not reading the “right” things. Which is an interesting thought (again I don’t think you meant to imply that).


You’re right many college educations still fail to teach these skills (as I said) but I disagree completely about installing their own OS. That was not my experience at all, though maybe its changed. My professors encouraged open minded critical inquiry. College failed me in other ways but forcing an agenda was not one of them.

Sophisticated is probably the wrong word but what I mean is like paying attention to which news sources are accurate and push which agendas requires a fairly lengthy process of learning the institutions themselves, politics, economics etc. I think college gives most people a better shot at doing that but obviously isn’t the only way.


This is a very elitist and condescending ran. Assuming everyone who disagrees with you is being manipulated is not going to bring anyone to your side and will further distance people who disagree.


It's not "everyone who disagrees with me", it's one very specific point: public intervention - be it healthcare, infrastructure, job training for people in dying industries, workers' rights, etc. - is the only way to stave off the natural gravity of economic stratification. But I've seen more Fox News than most people here probably have, I listened to hours of conservative talk radio in the car with my mom over the years, I've argued the points and heard theirs.

They think the solution to everything is faith and the free market. They vote for reduced taxation and deregulation when the only people it benefits are the 1%. They buy into the meritocratic view that the ultra-wealthy earned it, and that it's somehow immoral to try and redistribute some of that insane wealth. They do not - cannot - accept the idea that the meritocracy is a sham, and that they need help from their society if they want things to get better. And I truly believe that most of the strength of that entrenchment is from hours and hours of exposure, day-in, day-out, to the ranting and raving lunatics (or perhaps masterful orators) on Fox News and talk radio.


A lot of what you say is true, but also applies to the likes of MSNBC and (even) CNN. Raving, frothing at the mouth, 'journalism'.

I grew up in a commumity much like the family life you described. Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, etc etc 24/7. There were some non-ideological types who - while staunchly conservative - actually thought through their beliefs. They were the exception.

I left and attended an elite school, where... almost the exact inverse of that existed. Sure, it was more 'educated' types in that in general they had attended better schools, had more degrees, etc. than the people from the rural area I grew up in. However, most of them were startingly dogmatic and could not reason through their beliefs to provide a proper justificatory ground. Just the same tired slogans and phrases recited by academics and students who all already agreed with one another.

To quote David Foster Wallace, "human beings are generally pathetic." You will find many people on either side of the divide who just go with the flow.

And sadly this honestly is just a given with human nature. We should encourage higher levels of critical reasoning and the like in politics, but at the end of the day people are going to choose their communities.


I didn't mean to imply that the left is any less emotional and irrational with its beliefs. I find it equally exhausting.

What's special about the right-wing case, at this present moment, is the profoundly self-defeating nature of it. It isn't just dogmatic, it's actively self-destructive.


I feel that. And I understand that sentiment.

The only thing I'd say is that we treat should treat the claim about it's self-destructiveness as possible, and remove the certainty (some conservatives think progressive economic policies are self-destructive).

I would also add that there is a moral element here. Some conservatives take economic policy to be not only an empirical matter but a moral one. Some will interpret poor economic conditions as, say, their lot in life before thinking it right to tax someone more. Is it right to claim that someone who morally detests non-minimal taxation is being self-destructive?


Yep, and I suspect that particular moral conviction may be the root of the whole thing.

The overly-complex moral system that conservatives have is one of the main reasons I left conservatism behind. A plethora of things that should be practical matters just become all gummed-up and given significance they shouldn't be given. And in addition to the cases like this one where it's self-destructive, there are many many more cases where it inspires undue judgement towards others.

That's why, for me, morality is being good to others. That's where it starts and ends. Everything else is just deciding how best to accomplish that in context. If a moral assertion can't be traced back to the good it does for real people, it isn't valid in my book.

So to take this case: "Each person is responsible for his or herself and it's immoral to depend on the government for support or for the government to tax citizens to that end."

I mean, sometimes. If your government is a corrupt dictatorship that does nothing for its citizens with those taxes. Or if you actually are in a position to fully support yourself without any outside help. But there are too many exceptions for me to list them here. Raising generalities like this to universal moral assertions just causes them to crumble like a skyscraper made out of bricks and mortar.


The answer is staring at you. You base all your arguments on agreement that the free market is under attack and being regulatory captured. The govt. is the only institute that can help level the playing field.

This is influencing 101 :)


If the working class turns to radicalism what makes you think it will be the kind of radicalism you agree with?

It’s more likely to be the kind of radicalism you find terrifying.


The kind of radicalism that raises my taxes to keep our country from falling apart is the kind I'm fully on-board with.

Or, better yet, taxes the massive, useless dragon-hoards of the 0.1%. But I'm a team player; I don't mind if mine go up too.


Yes, but I think a lot of people are worried about the kind of radicalization that blames everything on intellectuals, foreigners, minorities and women.


Well right now we have that kind without any of the useful economic kind. So it can't get worse.


Unemployment is at historical lows, consumer confidence is at historic highs. It can get so much worse. Look at Venezuela and Colombia for modern examples of what happens in failed states


Yeah it absolutely 100% can get worse.

The Cambodian killing fields were less than 50 years ago. The Rwandan genocide was only 25 years ago. The Rohingya genocide was less than 3 years ago.

"Us vs Them" is a dangerous game.


>>>Or, better yet, taxes the massive, useless dragon-hoards of the 0.1%.

You do realize that "net worth" != cash/liquidity, right? Even if the billionaires were all sitting on piles of literal money that you could confiscate, it would be a mere band-aid on the Federal government's budget[1], let alone the state and local budgets. So what's the plan past the next few years those few trillions buys you, when you won't be able to dump the wealthy upside down and shake all of the change out of their pockets a second time?

[1]https://checkyourfact.com/2019/02/15/fact-check-wealth-billi...


The kind of radicalism that raises my taxes to keep our country from falling apart

How is that “radicalism”? It’s a common mainstream opinion that people do often vote for. In fact I would say that radicalism starts with options that aren’t even represented in mainstream politics.


You make an interesting point that I found easy to overlook. “Radical” is thrown around a lot but when you ground it in its definition a lot of “radical” things aren’t radical by virtue of being a mainstream political topic.

Another definition of “radical” that might be helpful here is “the root of something” so when you propose a radical idea you’re proposing to fundamentally change basic policy.


>If the working class turns to radicalism what makes you think it will be the kind of radicalism you agree with?

This is something I like to mention whenever I see HackerNews talking about revolution.

The odds that the "rednecks" from fly-over country (the people with guns) will partner with the California intellectual cognoscenti, who enabled a massive concentration of wealth and built the state surveillance machine, is practically nil.

In all likelihood, the tech-elite will be seen as the enemy: "what were you doing when this machinery was being built?"


Hanging out with my gay and immigrant friends, whose lives will probably be in danger if it ever comes to that.


This is more about the middle class professionals who where Eisenhower republicans or on nation torys (in UK terms) finally waking up and realising that their part has been taken over by entryists.

The reaction against the trinational working class who Trump and Boris have used, could be brutal as they are the ones who will be hurt, I bet like the foolish CP fellow travellers aka useful idiot.


It’s more likely to be the kind of radicalism you find terrifying.

Exactly this. The “woke” at lavishly expensive colleges or in richly rewarded tech-adjacent jobs are kidding themselves if they think their solidarity with the genuine Workers will in any way be reciprocated. They will be up against the wall with the investment bankers.


I wouldn't say never, but it is the current frontier and so far disruption has seemed remote without being able to just buy Fox, Sinclair media etc off the air or some other free speech impediment.


>Instead of frankly acknowledging their own professional class interests, they project their concerns onto the working class and present themselves as altru­istic saviors—only to complain about a lack of working-class enthusiasm later.


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