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The Vanishing Middle Class (Or Patrick Deneen vs. Capitalism)
There’s a new columnist out there writing for The American Conservative. You may or may not regard him as conservative.
Patrick Deneen reflects on a semi-depressing book written by my favorite (because most honest) libertarian writer—Tyler Cowen. Cowen says the good news is that they’ll be more rich people than ever, and that the keys to wealth will be analytic precision and being comfortable with (because highly competent in) the use of high technology. That will be a genuinely cognitive elite; a meritocracy of brains and training, if not of virtue. Meanwhile, the lower part of our middle class and below will continue to sink into underclass lives of permanent underemployment.
The meritocrats won’t feel the pain of the underemployed enough to provide them with generous or even adequate public services. But one reason among many why the new proletariat won’t revolt is that our population is aging. There won’t be enough angry young people to overthrow anything, much less the government.
You can add, of course, that they won’t literally be reduced to nothing in some proletarian/Marxist sense. Our cognitive elite will nudge them with economic incentives, in some cases, toward less self-destructive or stupid behavior. Still, their family lives, we can predict, will continue to more pathological, which is bad news for their kids getting what they need to break out of this cycle of not-quite-poverty. Their main compensation for their miserable dislocation will be their ability to lose themselves in the various distractions found on screens—internet porn, football ‘round the clock, video games, and so forth. There will also be, thanks to our libertarians, legalized marijuana and other soft drugs.
Reading Cowen and Deneen’s commentary on him suggests that idiocracy might the be future for most Americans.
The bottom line—suggested by Cowen’s title Average Is Over—is the middle class of free beings who work is in the process of disappearing. And, if Deneen is right, neither the Democrats or Republicans care. Both parties are fundamentally dominated by libertarian oligarchs—some located at places like Bain Capital, others in Silicon Valley.
Deneen adds that Cowen's prediction is actually enhanced by the libertarian post-humanist scientist Lee Silver in his Remaking Eden. There, we learn that the cognitive meritocrats will be able to purchase biotechnological upgrades to their natural abilities. And so the distance between them and ordinary people—who perhaps can’t even afford the basic package of enhancements—will continue to widen.
Not only will Tocqueville’s observation that almost all Americans are middle class be obsolete, so will the stirring words of our Declaration of Independence concerning all men being created equal.
Deneen’s thought that unregulated capitalism creates two giant classes—basically the bourgeois (or bourgeois bohemians) and the proletarians or those who do pure mental labor and those who are only fit to do physical labor—seems too Marxist to me. In that respect, Deneen appears as a man of the left, a man who doesn’t know (or hides that he knows) that Marxist was exaggerating big-time for effect when he wrote The Communist Manifesto.
Except: Deneen doesn’t hold out any hope for hate-driven revolution. But: He does write on behalf of resisting politically the “disruptively” dehumanizing logic of the 21st century competitive marketplace. That means, in a way, Deneen is less Marxist than the libertarians Cowen and Silver, who are more about thinking that economic forces—the progress of the division of labor and technology—can explain everything and inevitably produce change, whether we believe in it or not.
Deneen’s political leftism causes him to be a Tea-Party fellow traveler:
While the Tea Party receives unending scorn from the chattering classes, forgotten in the mist of time (well, in the course of only five years) is that the anger of this uprising was fomented by the not-unsubstantiated suspicion that there was a deep collusion between government and economic elites in the nation (and beyond) that existed to assure that their growing take would be sustained by policies and even government fiat. This fact, often hidden from plain view by political coverage worthy of ESPN, was exposed in 2008 to ordinary Americans who “played by the rules,” and suddenly plainly saw that their betters had brought their casino to the brink of catastrophe but that access to the levers of power and wealth assured a soft landing, while ordinary citizens were increasingly stripped naked and exposed in a ravaged landscape.
Well, let my introduction to Deneenism stop with those memorable words about being naked and exposed. It might be even more controversial and confusing for some to go on to notice that he finds moral and political political guidance in the words of the pope, which aren’t Marxist at all.
For me, there is an important philosophical issue here. The moral argument John Locke gave for a free economy is that the resulting increases in wealth and power would benefit everyone. Those he called "the industrious and rational" would benefit the most, but almost everyone's boat would rise some. But what if at a certain point "the trickle-down theory" stops being true? It should be disconcerting that one of our most astute libertarians—Tyler Cowen—has lost faith in wealth trickling down to all of us, or most of us. That doesn't mean Cowen is right, of course.
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.