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Capitalism Has Won! And Conservatives Are Confused
R.R. Reno, quite an astute conservative public intellectual, claims that those with eyes to see know that the big news these days is the global victory of capitalism. I'm not following Reno in every respect here, but going with what I would say in support of his position.
The good news is that productivity has soared as a result. It's easy to see that people are in many ways better off. Money and power can't quite buy happiness. But who can deny that they're really useful when it comes to being able to enjoy the genuine goods of human life: quality time with loved ones, civilized leisure, meaningful work, good health, and the serenity that comes with a large measure of security?
BUT capitalism, as Marx explains, privileges mental labor over physical labor. Brains, increasingly, are what sell. So our "cognitive elite" is getting richer all the time. Meanwhile, wages for the ordinary working stiff haven't gone up for forty years. And who can deny that sectors of our middle class are sinking? The situation of that ordinary guy, as Marx also predicted, is increasingly precarious. In every area of life, safety nets are eroding. I'm not only or even mainly talking about our government entitlement programs. Everywhere defined benefits are being replaced by defined contributions.
The global competitive marketplace is taking out unions, pensions, corporate and employee loyalty, and the very idea of a career. All the libertarians--our genuinely forward-looking thinkers--are saying that the idea of college is obsolete, the idea that you can spend four years in a privileged institution and readily transfer to another privileged institution (a corporation, a law firm or whatever). Liberal education is out, acquiring flexible skills and competencies is in. We'll all soon be independent contractors, selling, as Marx said, our labor piecemeal for a price. So the whole idea of employer-based healthcare no longer makes any sense, although no one, neither Democrat nor Republican, has the guts to break it to the country.
Nobody much these days is really a progressive, believing that our future will be all about bigger and better government. The Democrats have become, in a way, the conservatives, defending the government benefits we now have and warning of imminent "voucherization." And they have become so conservative that our president was viciously attacked from the Democratic left when he proposed a minor reduction in the rate of growth in Social Security. But it's not like that left is seriously proposing an increase in Social Security. When the president proposes a tax increase, it's pretty much to pay for what we now have. And we really sort of know that his strategy is to delay the inevitable.
Well, what about ObamaCare? It's not going to work. Does anyone, to begin with, really think most people are really going to be able to keep the insurance they now have?
And, as Marx predicted yet again, the bourgeois ideology of "choice" moves from the marketplace narrowly speaking to transform all of life. Who can deny that relational life--from religion to the family and every mediating institution in between--suffers as a result? Every human activity not tied to productivity is reduced to a whim, a hobby, a lifestyle option. As Reno said, the cost is huge to social solidarity and social stability.
Some conservatives say that the family would come back if we just got rid of welfare. If people can't depend on the government, they'd have to fall back to depending on those they really know and love. That simple conclusion--which might have some truth to it--doesn't take into account the forces of dissolution associated with high-tech capitalist individualism. As Marx says, it's capitalism that ripped the halo off those who devote their lives to seemingly unproductive voluntary caregiving.
We can see that our "cognitive elite" is tending to separate itself emotionally and, really, irresponsibly from the experiences of most Americans. The shared struggles of common citizenship are replaced by condescending "nudge" economics, ways of incentivizing good behavior for those not sensible enough to calculate what's best for themselves.
It wouldn't be hard to go on to connect the declining quality of our relational lives to the global birth dearth. Surely that demographic time bomb will take out parts of our safety nets that the competitive marketplace might not touch. In a meritocracy defined by productivity, we're going to have more and more unproductive (old and frail or at least inflexible) people dependent on fewer and fewer young and productive ones. Here's one irony of our time: A high-tech society is full of preferential options for the young, but there are also fewer and fewer young.
So conservatives who say that our main problems these days are welfare, the minimum wage, and unions are clueless. And they are equally clueless when they say that our problems can be solved simply through lower taxes, fewer regulations, and other such measures for growing the economy. It's not that these reforms, insofar as they increase productivity, wouldn't be good. It's just that it's naive--and often self-serving--to think that they would be enough to cure what ails our sinking middle class.
I've already suggested that the problem isn't that our conservatives are more clueless than our liberals. It's just that they're not less clueless. They should be more attuned than liberals to ameliorating the relational pathologies that accompany the victory of capitalism and the creeping and sometimes creepy libertarianism of our time.
Because "the victory of global capitalism" is obviously an exaggeration, I probably should highlight something else obvious. Everything I've said in response to that claim of victory is an exaggeration too. When I say someone writes like a Marxist, I mean that someone is confusing polemical exaggeration with reality. The more "traditional" conservatives who criticize the more oligarchic or libertarian conservatives are just as confused in a different way as those they criticize.
Reno, I want to conclude, avoids serious confusion by not forgetting that progress in the direction of capitalism and high technology might be reasonably managed in the service of whole personal lives. Things are getting better and worse. What's new about that?
This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.