Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Bailout — Failure of the Elites and the Populists Part 2

In my prior post The Bailout, Energy, and Nukes — Failure of the Elites and Populists Part 1 I discussed the failure of the elites to address anything significant, buoyed by nearly 60 years of economic good times and the ability to avoid making hard decisions.

But why haven't the populists been able to push aside the elites, and have their way? Culture 11 points out that the populists can only block measures, but lack the strength to pass their own measure and sweep away the elites who oppose them. Why?

It's helpful to look back on the last two gasps of populism, in California. Examining the history of Proposition 13, and Proposition 187, tells us a lot about why populism has failed.

Proposition 13 was the result of the California governing elites failing to control the growth of taxes, often forcing retired people out of their homes, as they became unable to pay ever-increasing taxes. Taxes, that in the aftermath of the Serrano v. Priest decision, were distributed equally to all school districts in California. Middle class families, though, could see easily that they could be forced out of their homes by taxes that had no limit. There was a large pool of angry, afraid, mostly White homeowners eager to limit the ability of the politicians to tax them out of their homes.

But Proposition 13 would have gone nowhere without both leaders, and widespread support. Howard Jarvis, retired newspaper man and small time manufacture, and Paul Gann, provided the leadership, including the grass-roots organization, the Taxpayers Association. The foot soldiers of Proposition 13, however, were mostly middle class, middle aged homeowners. Who reasonably feared being taxed out of their homes, in a time of flat or declining incomes and inflationary prices for almost everything.

California in 1978, was still a middle class, mostly white, state. Filled with people who mostly trusted each other, and participated in civic organizations like the Taxpayers Association. Populist political reform does not just happen, and requires both leaders and a "deep" organization to provide voter contact, phone banks, walking precincts, and the like. As well as elect supporters of populist programs and initiatives, and defeat opponents.

"Diversity" undermines this ability to form civic bonds, as Robert Putnam showed in his latest research. As he notes, in San Francisco and Los Angeles, only 30 percent of people trust each other, whereas that figure rises to 70-80% among North and South Dakota. The difference? The Dakotas are overwhelmingly white, and middle-working class white at that. Diversity, as Putnam's study shows, makes people hunker down. Distrust each other, the media, people of their own race, other races, and less volunteering. The website Volunteering in America shows that cities that are ethnically and racially homogeneous have much higher rates of volunteering. Minneapolis and Salt Lake City are number one and number two, respectively, in rates of volunteering (39, 37%). Los Angeles is at the bottom, at #44, with only 22% of the population volunteering.

The California of 1978 more closely resembled that of Salt Lake City or Minneapolis, than the "diverse" city it is now, with everyone hunkered down, allowing the elites to move unopposed.

By contrast, sixteen years later, while Proposition 187 passed, easily, with almost 60% of the vote, State Senator Art Torres called it the "last gasp of White America in California." He was proved quickly correct, as the courts found the political courage to overturn the measure, without facing populist fury, as Rose Bird was in 1986, when she was recalled (along with Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin) from the California Supreme Court over her opposition to the death penalty and other anti-crime measures.

The difference between 1978's populist wave and 1994's populist wave is diversity, made worse by the lack of married couples, and a declining middle class. The Volunteering In America study has an interesting set of numbers: volunteering peaks between age 35 to 54, the prime years for people to get married, have children, and become homeowners. Suburban homeowners volunteer more than urban renters. President Clinton's defense cuts devastated the Defense Industry in Southern California, causing many jobs to be lost as defense contractors consolidated. High paying jobs went away, and with them, many defense workers, who migrated to lower cost states such as Utah, Colorado, or Arizona.

In California, after Proposition 187 passed, outlawing public services to illegal aliens (very popular among a citizenry seeing themselves marginalized in their own state, by foreign nationals, there illegally and consuming most of the public services), politicians felt no heat in continuing to oppose it. Unlike Jerry Brown, who had opposed Proposition 13 as Governor, and upon it's passage immediately set about to support it, seeing the power of the populists, California Governor Gray Davis ended the state's appeals of court decisions overturning the proposition.

Lack of a large, robust, volunteer organization, leaders, and in particular low-level volunteer leaders guaranteed that Proposition 187 would be defeated. The same happened with California Proposition 209, prohibiting state institutions such as the University of California, from considering race, sex, or ethnicity. Yet Affirmative Action remains alive and well in all institutions, roundly ignored by political elites and the bureaucrats who follow them. Predictably, there are more lawsuits involving White and Asian students who allege a defacto Affirmative Action system discriminating against them in admissions to the University of California.

"Diversity," plus the high cost of housing in places like California or the Chicago Metro Area, or the New York City metroplex, where water or deserts limit the housing stock, chases away much of the middle class, and makes what limited middle class that exists far less likely to cooperate to preserve populist gains through the initiative process. Throw in declining marriage rates as women making their own money prefer to forgo marriage altogether in favor of first, the single life, then single motherhood, and you have a very good explanation of why populism has failed.

Not just in California, but across America. The "Taxpayer Revolt" that swept the nation in the late 1970's could not be replicated in today's America, filled with isolated, ultra-hip yuppies jocking for position, power, and status in an endless mating dance (think "Friends" where the show never ends). Across Europe, the same conditions — limited housing stock in job centers like London, Paris, and Amsterdam, endless yuppie consumerism in relationships replacing middle class marriage and family, and most of all lots of alien immigrants that introduce "Diversity" and massive distrust, have limited sharply the ability of populists to sweep out elites who resist populist measures.

This has done elites no favors. Joe Biden, a Senator for 36 years, has no new insights into the world of nuclear proliferation, and rising energy prices threatening in tandem the fundamental power of the West. For that matter, neither does Barack Obama, heir to a tired, worn-out 1960's radicalism, that was rejected by the people in the 1970's and replaced by Ronald Reagan decisively in 1981. Nor, arguably, does John McCain have any new ideas on the subject either. Only Sarah Palin, an outsider, with no connections, and a tradition of populist reform, has new ideas. Drill for oil in the US now for well paying blue collar jobs, and better energy independence. It won't solve everything all at once, but is an adult approach instead of wishing for a magic wand. It's no accident of course, that Palin comes from "Last Frontier" Alaska, a place where populism still reigns, and it was possible for an outsider like herself to actually sweep from power her own Party's sitting governor in a populist wave. Alaska's affordable housing, and good paying blue collar jobs speak for itself in that regard.

This suggests, strongly, that any new ideas, and leaders, and grassroots organizations will come out of the Mountain West: Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming. Places with a largely homogeneous, White, and middle-working class population. Able to build large trust networks, and volunteer organizations. With people mostly married, in un-hip and un-trendy cities like Boise, or Salt Lake, or Bozeman. It's where the next Howard Jarvis, and Proposition 13 will come from.

All those other places? Too single, too hip, too isolated, and too distrustfully diverse to make a difference.

18 comments:

Usually Lurking said...

Whiskey, these have been two interesting posts, but I am hoping that you can answer a question that has been dogging me:

Why do the Politically Correct ideas become PC in the first place.

For instance, why is it PC to fall over yourself for some "vibrant" inner city kids (who are, in all likelihood, very racist), but it is not PC to prefer being around your own kind?

I know that your last two pieces were more concerned with Elitest behavior and beliefs, and not PC, but, Elitist beliefs and PC often go hand in hand.

And, as a secondary question, how do the "hip" ones know that it is PC to begin with. What I mean is, I don't believe that the Will and Grace crowd are reading some PC Elitist manual when they are in High School and then *poof* they suddenly become Elitist pinheads.

I think that for the hip and beautiful, they just sorta know...like an instinct. Sort of like some Physicist that looks at a physical system and can spot all of the forces while your average Mathematician cannot do that so easily (though, he could likely do better than your average do-nothing lawyer).

So, how do they know?

I have been thinking about this for a while.

Whiskey said...

Usually Lurking, that is a VERY good question. I will have to ponder that -- how PC becomes accepted wisdom, and how people know what is PC.

Anonymous said...

You might also, in this context, want to address David Brooks:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/10/opinion/10brooks.html?em

I disagree with Brooks, but I'm interested in your opinion.

sestamibi said...

This explains somewhat the process whereby PC ideas go unchallenged:

http://www.mylatorres.com/constructivism-and-norms/

PS. Whiskey, I love your blog and your insights, but "it's" means "it is". "Its" is the possessive.

Mu'Min M. Bey said...

Hey Whiskey!
What up, man? Another great series, just finished up reading them on the way out of the barbershop. As you might guess I take issue w/a few points you make, but overall, as per usual, good job.

But first, let me answer UL's question:

Its my view and theory, that the reason *why* the Will & Grace Crowd are so PC, w/o any "formal training", is because THEY ARE INNATELY ATTUNED SOCIALLY morseo than say, you, or me, or Whiskey. And I got this idea from an interview I read w/John Derbyshire online.

Derb was making the point that to even BE a Race Realist-what Black folks call being a "Race Man"-you have to be, by definition and in essence, a fierce Individualist. And that has both its up and downsides. We already know the former, but the latter, being literally an outlier, a kind of outcaste, makes it very hard to have the kinds of skills, innately, to do what the hipster Will & Grace Set do. And I argue that these things are largely innate because, as UL rightly notes, there's no PC Manual you get in your senior year of highschool or college per se. But rather, a complex of unspoken rules and maxims, norms and mores, and behaviors that are signposts as to what is cool and hip and therefore more acceptable in order to make it.

Now...

Go back and just re-read what I said and think about what I said for a moment. There are two distinct worldviews expressed in the Derb and the WGC. What are they?

If you said that the Derb's is inherently Male, and the WGC is inherently Female, stand up and take a bow. What Whiskey has laidout isn't just a demographic issue, but one where we see, yet again, our society becoming thoroughly, from top to bottom, Feminized. Think about it.

Now, Whiskey, I want to take you to tack for the Putnam Argument...

I'm familiar w/his work and there is much truth in it. However, we can point to clear and present proof that differing racial groups CAN indeed work for a singular cause. One great example is the Military. Another is Professional Sports.

So, Whiskey, my question to you is, how do we transfer what has worked in these two fields, to places like CA?

Comments?

Salaam
Mu

PA said...

One great example is the Military. Another is Professional Sports.


The military or sports cultures are male cultures, so it's easier for people of different groups to get along.

Life in general, however, invloves marrying, raising families, etc. This is where cultural differences become important.

For example, I might not mind if a neighbor plays rock out of his backyard on a weekend afternoon, being that I identify with rock-litening cultural norms, and that's where I am comfortable. But it would irritate me to unholy hell if he played R&B loudly.

Just a trivial example of a bigger picture.

Usually Lurking said...

Mu, the question for me is not so much why some follow PC and why some hate it, but rather, "how does one idea become PC and another become Politically Incorrect?".

However, the other question is interesting as well.

Mu'Min M. Bey said...

PA,
My point is that we should seriously consider what is it about the Military and Sports that can bring together a Hick from the Sticks and a Brotha from Da Hood to win wars and titles. I don't have to love Metallica or you dig Notorious BIG in order for us to get a job done. These are proven models of accomplishment of longstanding. It proves it can be done. We just need to emulate it.

And you cracked the code-what both have in common is they are MALE/MACRO based, which means, that for Society to function at its best, FOR EVERYONE, men and women, it must be male based.

Think about it, every female based society has gone down in flames. Name a female based society worth the name, I dare ya.

The question, at a time when entire generations of men are being raised from the womb to adulthood by nothing but women, is who has the balls to say it?

Holla back

Salaam
Mu

Looking Glass said...

Offtopic: TV ads for the Volkswagen Routan feature Brook Shields. She spouts Hollywood nonsense while a man with a pregnant woman look on in disbelief.

The latest ad makes even more fun of Brook Shields, with subtitles claiming "Brook just made that up."

Radical change in approach.

Whiskey said...

Mu'min --

The military is successful, and to the point where it's common in places like Crystal City (one stop from the Pentagon) to see inter-racial couples of both permutations, i.e. Black Men - White Women, White Men - Black Women, because they obliterate the cultures of separatism for one of the Military. In that case, individualism and cultural separatism are simply replace with the values and identity of "team" and the military environment. There is the military, or more specifically the branch of the service, and then there is everyone else.

As for sports, that depends on how successful the institution is in obliterating the cultural differences in pursuit of the common goal of victory. Some institutions are more successful than others in replacing individualism and cultural separatism with an institutional culture, i.e. certain "ways" that people act according to the rules of the institution.

Sadly, Multiculturalism encourages "islands" of cultural/racial separation unless there is a sustained effort to erase separateness with a unique culture. The "melting pot" approach of the pre-Multiculturalist system, in "Americanizing" people through a shared, common culture that was inclusive, i.e. Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, sacred aspect of the Flag, etc. served us well. You'd see that in WWII movies ... the various groups rejecting separateness for an "American" one.

Nine-of-Diamonds said...

"Why do the Politically Correct ideas become PC in the first place."

Cultural osmosis, mainly. You don't need a manual to assume the attributes of the society that you're in. A Catholic peasant in Medieval France didn't need an instruction manual to learn his religious tradition. A White Southern sharecropper living in 1920's America didn't need a manual to determine how he was expected to interact with his Black neighbors. Arguably, neither individual would ever rely on complex intellectual arguments re: race & religion to formulate personal values. Rather, I imagine that both men would have unconsciously emulated the traditions that they were born into.

Although your reference to "behavioral manuals" was obviously flippant I think that there are powerful unwritten social expectations that everyone conforms to. Just as a small rudder can steer a huge ship, an influential core of strong personalities can alter the course of thousands of individuals in a community. In the absence of mass media local values would generally reign - for better or for worse. You didn't look to the latest magazines or TV programs for guidance - you looked to a parish priest, village headman, parents, grandparents. Furthermore, the "media" as it existed back then usually mirrored the Conservative tastes of these local authority figures, for better or for worse - "Birth of a Nation" & minstrel shows for our sharecropper, religious tracts for our Late Medieval Catholic.

Of course, then came increased urbanization, mobile populations, and broader access to the mass media in forms that scarcely need to be described. Whereas influential local personalities were the "rudder" steering society in the past, with their shared Conservativism, nowadays electronic communication drowns out the old networks of authority. Add in political radicalism & groupthink amongst modern, electronically amplified opinion-shapers and you can understand why PC in various incarnations is trumpeted 24-7. I'm not sure how familair you are with the Gramscian "long march through History" (I confess that I only understand the basics) but I think that it goes a long way towards explaining how well-placed PC radicals become the societal "rudder". Once in power, they dictate what is culturally acceptable and everyone else imbibes it through the osmosis I mentioned earlier.

Whiskey said...

As for David Brooks, his criticism is nothing new.

America has ALWAYS been divided (see my post here).

The division has been between capital-rich elites on the coast (now coasts) and the inland, capital poor scrappers, scrabblers, and upwardly mobile population.

Think: the Whiskey Rebellion, Western PA settlers not wanting their wealth (corn turned into whiskey for easy transport) taxed, or tariff battles, between cheap goods hungry settlers and protectionist Eastern manufacturers, or the Cities bursting with immigrants, mostly poor, sometimes thinly Americanized, and mostly rural, White, middle-entrepreneurial class men and women on the move and scrabbling upward.

Brooks complaint is that Americans, once again, are acting like Americans. That the divisions that accompanied the Jamestown settlements are still here.

Much of the "knowledge" based wealth in the Coastal cities is likely to be transient -- irrelevant in a deep and lasting depression. Since who will need designers, or all those lawyers, or other folks, who can be outsourced anyway to much cheaper India -- and are already starting to be outsourced.

Reps bet with the rural, inland, more scrabbling class is generally the better one, over the five hundred years of European settlement that has been the winning bet more often than not.

Consider a nuke going off in NYC, obliterating it. Instantly cities become far less desirable to live in, as they are big fat targets that can't be moved or defended from a shipping container carrying a nuke. Nuclear proliferation makes this fate for SOME Western city inevitable, considering the poor security third world nations have in general, and their factionalized and tribal societies.

Without massive international shipping-container trade (likely dead in the aftermath of a shipping container based attack), and the wealth that generates demand for Urban Coastal Knowledge based work, the Dems long term strategy of yuppies plus urban minorities is not a winning hand. That's assuming that yuppies don't get downsized through global outsourcing to the cheapest labor into the working class. Even without some city dying somewhere, global networks allowing knowledge work to be done by the cheapest labor pool will reduce the temporary advantage Dems have.

OilAlternatives said...

Whiskey you said, "This suggests, strongly, that any new ideas, and leaders, and grassroots organizations will come out of the Mountain West: Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming. Places with a largely homogeneous, White, and middle-working class population. Able to build large trust networks, and volunteer organizations. With people mostly married, in un-hip and un-trendy cities like Boise, or Salt Lake, or Bozeman. It's where the next Howard Jarvis, and Proposition 13 will come from.

All those other places? Too single, too hip, too isolated, and too distrustfully diverse to make a difference."

Do you think this could be related to alternative energy options that are currently being developed? Granted they're depended on where the wind, switchgrass, etc. are, but is it just a coincidence that in the mountain west and great plains are where real alternative energy solutions (not hippie nonsense) are being developed?

Another angle related to this is infrastructure (which is related to alternative energy). When it comes to the politics from "hip & trendy" places, issues of infrastructure are considered terribly boring and uncool. We ignore infrastructure issues at our own peril. The recent droughts in Georgia are just one example. Had the state of Georgia dealt with the un-hip and un-trendy issue of water infrastructure, then the droughts would have been much less of a problem. Instead the hip and the cool just thought the water comes out of the tap what's the problem? (Supposedly, Obama has a plan for revitalizing infrastructure, but Clinton had a similar plan and as we all know nothing happened under Clinton.)

I don't know if the next Howard Jarvis/Prop 13 will have to do with alternative energy or infrastructure, but some of this seems to be too big of a coincidence.

Whiskey said...

I agree Oilalternatives.

Infrastructure is considered too boring, yet is vital. It tends to take middle class people to back it's upkeep, since it requires a middle class mindset to put money for the upkeep of such systems instead of glamorous things like sports stadiums.

Just as important, the Mountain West, and places like New Zealand, remain the outpost of the backyard tinkerer, out of necessity (repair places are a long way away, and cost, where money is dear) and because land for the tinkering is cheap. Not for nothing the hero of the movie "World's Fastest Indian" was a real life Kiwi, and that the Mountain West, far from cheap energy grids, remains a hotbed of energy experimentation, and the dream of extractors using new technology.

OilAlternatives said...

whiskey,

One thing I have noticed is that infrastructure issues are pretty much ignored everywhere. In 3rd world countries, they are too poor to do anything about it. In 1st world countries everyone effectively just assumes that magic gnomes take care of the infrastructure. I have traveled a fair amount and this is a problem in the US, Canada, & Europe. The only real exception I have seen is Japan and even that may be an accident due to the high amount of workers in the construction industry leading to massive public works projects (many of questionable purpose such as roads and trains to nowhere) which are nothing more than jobs programs.

In the BRIC countries which are supposedly quickly moving to 1st world status, the situation is just as bad. Several years ago I was talking to someone from India. He told me about how someone important in India wanted to establish a leading supercomputer research center in India. He brought up that this couldn't really be done due to the lack of a stable power grid. Sure the Indian government was encouraging people to become computer scientists and computer engineers, but what about things like electricians and plumbers. After all you can't run that leading supercomputer research center without a stable, reliable power grid. Or what if the toilets get backed up in this leading supercomputer research center? You need electricians and plumbers to deal with that. The only exception when it comes to the BRIC countries and infrastructure may be China, but even that I suspect is more for party officials and the like, not the average Chinese person.

Whiskey said...

Oilalternatives, having spent a brief time in China in the 1990's, I am not optimistic that great strides in infrastructure have been made, even in coastal cities.

Some of the very bright Engineers I spoke with, had very grandiose plans of using wind power to electrify the far West, particularly XianXing province, bypassing the nasty problem of China's electrical grid, which is broken up into provincial fiefdoms, and does not transmit power across provincial lines, for the most part.

These engineers and researchers, many with Phds and very bright, worked in a building with such a broken down infrastructure, no working elevators, unlit stairwells with no railings, that I nearly fell off the stairwell, in near pitch blackness, and had to use my tiny keychain flashlight to navigate my way to the third floor.

This, by the way, in Tsinghua University, perhaps China's #2 university and home to it's technical elite.

Of course BRIC countries are characterized by little local control over infrastructure, while the Mountain West remains one of the last bastions of such control. Due to rugged geography, harsh climate, sparse settlement, and vast distances to more centralized areas.

gayle said...

Don't you love those right wing talking points, and that bit at the end, almost as an afterthought, where he tried to come off as if he's supportive of Pelosi, when instead he.
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smithsan
seo

Chic Noir said...

UL said:but it is not PC to prefer being around your own kind

It's not PC because it's natural. Most people hang around people are similar to themselves. Not only in race but religion, attractiveness,gender,education etc..

Inner /city kids racism that you perceive is often a reflection of your own. They behave in a racist manner towards you because you do the same to them.

Whiskey saidI will have to ponder that -- how PC becomes accepted wisdom, and how people know what is PC
It's an extention of do onto others blah blah blah.