Interesting Links: July 25, 2016

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They contain a few articles about the general unraveling of society in USA (and other “developed” countries to a lesser extent) by Chris Arnade on Medium.

Link 1: Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots”

Trump voters may not vote the way I want them to, but after having spent the last five years working in (and having grown up in) parts of the US few visit, they are not dumb. They are doing whatever any other voter does: Trying to use their vote to better their particular situation (however they define that). Labeling them dumb is simply a way of not trying to understand their situation, or what they value. In choosing a candidate, a voter is buying into that candidate. It is, in an oversimplified way, like buying a stock. In that sense, it is helpful to use some basic analysis from finance, to look at how/why voters make the choices they do.

Link 2: Granted, however….

There is a growing move to blame Brexit, or Trump, on voters just not trusting experts. Or being too uneducated to understand experts. This is wrong for two big reasons beyond being contemptuous, beyond having the goal to demean those who you disagree. Reason 1: It creates an unnecessary laziness in political discourse. Rather than really working at explaining a position, you default to the much simpler, “Well the experts say.” So when I hear arguments like, “The voters didn’t understand the consequences of Brexit,” I am also hearing, “I didn’t explain my positions very well.” Reason 2: It ignores the huge mistakes experts have made. Like the Iraq war and the aftermath of the global financial crisis (TARP anyone!) At the risk of borrowing from David Brooks (!), let me get a bit pop-sociology/ psychology.

The “expert class” are very slow to admit they are wrong which is a direct result of our system that rewards the most educated, and the cleverest. Rising to the top now means being clever as fuck, knowing how to game rules, and most important, being able to always argue your case. It is almost like we now reward that kid on the playground who when tagged during recess, replies, “You didn’t ACTUALLY tag me. You only tagged my clothes. Which isn’t technically me…..” Or the person who when they lose a bet for 100 dollars, says, “I didn’t say dollars, I said, Doll Hairs.” or responds, “We never actually signed a contract.”

Link 3: Rationality, anxiety, and meaninglessness

In all of these places people are turning more and more to drugs to combat a growing sense of hopelessness, meaninglessness, and anxiety. Some are also turning to angry and disruptive politics. Why? Over the last fifty years we have pursued a political and cultural agenda shaped around rationality and efficiency. We worship free markets and have maximized the power of capital while rendering labor only a cost to be minimized. We now define success through simple numbers — rising GDP, rising income, and rising profits. Our economic policy, driven by this rationalism, has morphed into a national version of the Hunger Games, pitting every worker against each other. We sort by education and by wealth, giving the winners a larger share than they need or deserve. It has created anxiety, one especially acute in lower income neighborhoods.

Now the poor are seen as losers and failures, increasing their anxiety. They are told they have failed to pull themselves up, failed to educate themselves, failed at a system that rewards the advantaged and the aggressively clever. We have also completely changed our culture in other ways, devaluing what once gave people meaning: A sense of community. It is easy to ignore these changes because community is a hard to measure metric. What once defined many neighborhoods —a tight social structure focused on community — is giving way to the ordinariness of strip malls, franchises, and disposable jobs. It is a deadening banality of both style and purpose.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. July 26, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Yep,…somehow, a few actually do break through our bio-wired tendencies to see life as we wish it was to more-objectively perceive the realities.

  2. hoipolloi
    July 26, 2016 at 9:52 am

    “…how/why voters make the choices they do.”

    Is that wisdom of the crowds?

  3. P Ray
    July 26, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Democracy has always had “experts” who only want things to go one way in order to benefit themselves.
    The same way how many people who talk about “freedom of speech” will try to stop others from showing how their point of view is hypocritical (e.g. “Freedom of speech for me, but not for thee”) … try asking countries that talk about “equality” how many female rapists they have convicted.

    e.g. laws don’t allow governments to seize assets without due process … but there is such a thing as asset forfeiture laws.

    • webej
      July 27, 2016 at 7:18 am

      That’s because technically it’s those assets that are guilty, and they do not have the right to due process or to the presumption of innocence. The fact that you are the owner is completely immaterial and extraneous, so you can only get them back by proving (? to whom) that the assets are not guilty (!!) and, in addition, that you are the owner.

    • webej
      July 27, 2016 at 7:18 am

      Justice and equality before the law are always difficult:
      Say you have a mother that stole a loaf of bread for her starving children and another person who embezzled a million dollars. Would it be justice to hang them both? (“stealing is stealing”)
      Say you have somebody driving 25 mph over the speed limit, the one has an income of $34,000, the other has a ferarri and an income of $3,400,000. Should they both be fined $1000 or else go to jail 3 weeks?

      Justice requires the application of measures of guilt and punishment that are tailored to circumstances and outcomes, all the while acting without partiality or favour. Applying the law equally to unequal cases is by definition a balancing act.

      • P Ray
        July 27, 2016 at 8:18 am

        Yeah, exactly how much punishment is Bernie Madoff going through for embezzling all that money?
        P.S. You’re the one talking about hanging, I didn’t mention such penalties.

        Also, yeah … how many women have been convicted of rape, because they had sex with a drunk guy?

        It seems to me that “equality” means blaming men for a lot of things …

      • P Ray
        July 27, 2016 at 8:56 am

        Switzerland has your answer on car fines:
        UPDATED: 10:39 GMT, 13 August 2010

        View comments
        A speeding Swedish driver is facing the world‘s biggest ever motoring fine of 650,000 euros – around £538,000 – after being clocked at 180mph while driving through Switzerland.
        The 37-year-old man‘s £140,000 Mercedes SLS AMG was impounded along with his driving licence after soaring along at two and-a-half times the speed limit on a Swiss motorway.

        He is unlikely to go to prison but is expected to be hit with the landmark fine because of the way speeding fines are administered in Switzerland.
        When his case is judged by a magistrate the fine will be based on his income and the ‘extraordinary speed’ at which he was travelling.
        He is threatened with the highest possible penalty of 300 days of fines at 3,600 Swiss francs a day which comes out to close to 650,000 euros.
        In Switzerland and Germany it is common for fines to be levied in such a way. In Switzerland the level of the fine is always dependant on a person‘s income – and clearly the suspect in this speeding affair is very rich indeed.
        The car will now undergo a technical inspection to see if his tale of a faulty odometer holds up.

  4. July 28, 2016 at 10:14 pm
  5. July 31, 2016 at 11:12 am
  6. July 31, 2016 at 11:13 am

  7. August 3, 2016 at 2:49 pm


    as my trusted news source, why didn’t you publish this first???

    (or maybe you did but I never check your NSFW posts…)

    Because it is 2016, not 1996. Today that photo hardly qualifies as porn, let alone scandalous.

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