The Siege of London

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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183 Responses

  1. InMD says:

    I don’t want to relieve those who voted for Brexit (particularly of the UKIP stripe) or Trump supporters of responsibility for their actions or viewpoints. They’re all individuals with agency of their own. However, I do wonder if we shouldn’t expect the Merricks of the world, be they in London or Wall Street to take a little responsibility for their own lifestyles and what they ask for as a culture and class. I mean, is there really something so noble about how our economy rewards people in big finance? I won’t say that the people involved aren’t smart and driven, but it’s also the result of a few decades of policy choices, pushed in no small part by the industry and the politicians in their pockets.

    Merrick has something that all those rubes wearing “Make America Great Again” hats that are so easy to take pot shots at on social media don’t. Money and the ear of the people who make the rules.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to InMD says:


      A famous article from five years ago where the title says it all:

      Basically to get a job in Investment Banking or Consulting you need to attend HYPS or the OxBridges of the world. Even really good schools like Cornell and Brown are sneered at by Investment Banking places like Goldman and Consulting firms like McKinsey. Though Consulting might be somewhat more open.

      The HYPS places of the world do try to be economically inclusive and inclusive along other lines but the majority of students who attend those schools are still comfortably middle-class and above and either grew up in the most desirable American suburbs or the most elite of private schools. I googled the stats for people graduating Harvard next year. 61 percent attended public school and 41 percent came from the Northeast United States.

      This was basically true of Vassar during my time there. 60 percent of us attended public school (mainly in upper-middle class suburbs). I would say much more of us were from the nicest suburbs of NYC and Boston though than 41 percent.

      So they generally already came from comfortable backgrounds. I would armchair psychologize and say those that came from more humble backgrounds really want to fit in. They were also always told they were the best of the best and working in Investment Banking or Consulting is no different.

      As I mentioned below, Investment Banking and Consulting are not jobs that people can do forever. Both involve incredibly long hours. I could not and do not want to do those hours. From what I’ve heard, young Investment Bankers generally get in at 9 and leave at midnight. Though they are not working until 3 PM or 4 PM though so 9 AM until then is pretty free. Consulting is something where you are always on.

      I suspect that the long and brutal hours and generally tough cultures of these industries (yelling is the norm) create an attitude where people think they deserve all the money they get. They deserve to party it up in their few free hours. They deserve the trophy wives, etc.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The trophy wives and the partying are nooses around their fucking necks.
        I suggest you read more game theory to understand hiring and retention practices, in places where folks are being paid oodles.Report

  2. veronica d says:

    It’s called fascism. It’s happened before.

    And fine, maybe it’s not precisely fascism the way an economics or polysci nerd wants to use the term. Okay. Whatevs. I understand what they are saying. Understand what I am saying. These are the parts of fascism we should care about.

    It’s back. Are we surprised?

    Hang on tight.

    I wonder, will my life end in a ditch with a bullet in my head, starving in as camp, heatstroke in a boxcar, or the “dying times” from an ecological nightmare?

    I came of age before the Soviets fell. I used to think it would be a hydrogen bomb.

    Whatever. Until then I shall dance. Maybe it’ll all work out fine.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    On an LGM Brexit thread, another poster made the observation that the angry at everything people are taking over politics. This seems more true on the Right but the Leftist version of angry at everything is also getting some steady ground.

    Human society is going through some very massive changes. Some groups like the very well educated or the LGBT community, in some countries, are the big winners. They are either increasing their wealth and mobility or are gaining unprecedented freedoms. Other groups who can be as diverse as the near entire Muslim world or Westerners living in what is considered the boonies of their countries feel like the big losers and are acting accordingly. Even many educated and affluent people in the metropolitan centers are feeling the pinch in terms of the cost of livelihood.

    I guess one of the hardest aspects of managing globalization is to make sure that people emotionally feel that they aren’t losing out on increasing prosperity or that their world isn’t falling apart by massive social change. Maybe this isn’t possible but it seems to me that peace and order depends on it. A certain amount of wealth redistribution is necessary to pull this off. Its the price tag of free trade even though many people will bunk at this. The wealth redistribution has to be universal though. People can’t be allowed to perceive other “tribes” as getting more or the politics get screwy again.Report

    • Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “or the LGBT community, in some countries, are the big winners.”

      Wait, in what countries? “You’re only twice as bad off as average instead of 10 times as bad” counts as a big win, now? There is a small segment of the LGBT community which is significantly better off now, due to the unprecedented freedoms. (I count myself as part of that segment.) And a whole lot of it (mostly the non-white, non-well-off parts) that is just as not-well-off as ever.

      Leaving the whole relative murder, suicide, rape, etc. rates aside, 1 in 6 trans people have spent time in jail in *this* country. 1 in 6. Westerners living in the boonies might “feel” like the big losers, but until they experience similar risks / misery, it’s Not Actually True.

      So, like, which countries? Canada? Sweden? What percentage of the world population do you think that makes up?Report

      • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

        (I’m not meaning to blow off the very real gains that have been made. But they’re like, the very tip of a very big iceberg of necessary fixes, not some kinda serious “big winner” business.)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

        I was trying to qualify the statement as best as as possible. I’m not trying to be dismissive of the very real hardships felt by LGBT people all over the world including the most enlightened countries in regards to LGBT rights. Compared to even the very recent past though let along longer ago, the LGBT community is doing much better in terms of rights than previously.Report

        • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

          @leeesq — Honestly it was deeply offensive. @maribou got to it first. But seriously.

          But no, as we explore the many legitimate grievances that working class people have, bringing up the “gains” that LGBTQ have made is out of bounds. It’s crass and clumsy.

          I can’t even.

          Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

            This is why people think that the entire Social Justice Calvinist movement is nothing more than the cudgel used to beat people up so that Social Justice Calvinists can indulge in the pleasures of self-righteousness. Compare 2016 to 2000 or 1984. That is tremendous progress in about a generation even if it is not evenly distributed.Report

            • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

              @leeesq — Dude, seriously…

              I can’t even.

              Don’t make this about “social justice.” Take some responsibility for your own words and their meaning.Report

            • Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

              @leeesq “as best as possible” would have involved not using the phrase “big winners”. Particularly not less than three weeks after the Pulse shooting. Telling someone – particularly a trans woman! – to compare 2016 to 2000 in that context is similarly tonedeaf. She knows how much progress there has been, as do I. In our different ways, we have both benefited from that progress. But come on. (And also, my student workers who still don’t feel safe coming out at their fancy pants “diverse” liberal arts college, because where they grew up, HERE IN THE STATES, that’s a recipe for getting beat every day? It’s not that different for them than it was for my friends in high school in 1994…)

              I’m no kind of Calvinist, but this is tonedeafness akin to people talking about how great any other group that still has it really rough is doing these days. “But but but – your life expectancy is so much LESS crappy than it was! Your life is so much *less* fraught with major dangers than it was!!!” does not a big winner make.

              Were you running around immediately after Ferguson explaining to people how Black Lives Matter just didn’t understand how much better off they were than black people were in 1950?Report

    • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Angry at everything folks are a fine fucking tool. They don’t run a damn thing, except around with their heads cut off.

      Peace and Order are overrated.Report

    • Barry in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “On an LGM Brexit thread, another poster made the observation that the angry at everything people are taking over politics. This seems more true on the Right but the Leftist version of angry at everything is also getting some steady ground.”

      No. Compare the Clinton and Trump campaigns, for a start.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Barry says:

        The totality of the sentiment on the left does not begin and end with the persona of the nominee of the leftward party in the United States in particular.Report

        • There’s also the Bernie crowd with their angry insistence on fully funding Social Security and universal health care while spending less money on overseas military adventures.Report

          • j r in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            … with their angry insistence…

            So, you agree?Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            And stopping greedy corporations from giving jobs that rightly belong to Americans to a bunch of dirty foreigners.

            Bernie Sanders campaigned on pure, naked, fish-everyone-else greed. He’s better than Trump in some ways, but not by that much overall. His saving grace would have been that he wouldn’t be able to get his agenda through Congress.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Will Truman says:

          [This is a bit rambly, but I think my point will come through.]

          There is an obvious sense that things feel very polarized these days. Likewise, it is no doubt far too easy to find examples of “ugly shit” on the left. I mean, the whole Requires Hate thing happened. No one should pretend this stuff does not exist.

          That said, there is a difference between Requires Hate and Donald-fucking-Trump, precisely inasmuch as we did not nominate Requires Hate as the Democratic presidential candidate. Nor was Requires Hate ever a “big name guest” on MSNBC, whereas Trump was a Fox News darling. The Tea Party has had an impact quite different from (for example) Antifa.

          Comparisons require numbers [1]. There are various ways to put numbers onto this. None of them are perfect. Each reflects the bias of whoever selected the numerical model. Likewise, each of us will subjectively experience these things from our own point of view. A young-and-horny nerd guy on a college campus will have a very different experience of “social justice feminism” from what I do, as a middle-aged professional woman. So it goes.

          There are many stories. Reality can support many narratives. Choose your poison.

          But still! The alt-right is a particular kind of ugly. It is associated with a particular kind of paranoia and violence. It is certainly notable, in ways that we cannot easily dismiss.

          I never tangled with Requires Hate. In fact, her “sphere of influence” was pretty narrow. That said, I’ve tangled with people similar to her. It is unpleasant. But even then, it ain’t quite the same as the “angry white men” I face on the subway, with their barely concealed violence.

          Had I been in Orlando during the club shooting, I could have been shot. Had I been in Dallas — well I ain’t a cop, but it ain’t like a bullet won’t kill me. When they start flying, I don’t wanna be around.

          If we elect Donald-fucking-Trump, and he drags us into a dumb nationalistic war, how many men just like the police officers in Dallas will die in stupid ways? How many young gay men will find themselves in the military, getting killed in a big-dumb-war? (Hey, and soon we trannies will able to serve also. So yeah.) Will these numbers be larger than Orlando and Dallas? (Clearly yes.)

          Anyway, how many idiotic people want to see us in a ground war with Isis? Who are those people voting for?

          The question is, who gets violent in our society? In most societies? (The answer: disaffected men.) Which politics appeals most to disaffected men?

          Well it depends on the man, right? Obviously it is possible for a left-inclined black man to pick up a gun and engage in political violence. Did anyone think otherwise?

          But count the number of black men willing to pick up a gun and engage in political violence. Count the number of white men. (These things are hard to count. I doubt the militia groups publish their membership lists. But still.)

          Then listen to the angry men calling for war, more war, more “toughness” (which in this context means unchecked social violence), on and on. Who are they voting for?

          The point is, the “hard leftist” don’t have anyone to vote for, at least not in the major parties, in that neither major party gave them a candidate that matches their values. For the “hard right,” on the other hand, well look! We have a candidate they like very much.


          [1] Yes I know about posets. Let’s keep this simple.Report

          • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

            Clinton’s far more likely to get us into a foreign war that we can’t win, that no one can win, than donald trump.Report

            • veronica d in reply to Kim says:

              [citation fucking needed]

              I mean, it is hard to measure second-order effects. One limit on Trump could be, quite simply, that our national security establishment might — well — when the chips are down, sometimes people step outside of the system. It is easy to imagine our national security establishment responding to Trump with very narrow, very targeted, violence, just one bullet. Maybe two or three bullets.

              Then we find out what his vice presidential choice is like.

              [For the record, I find this whole notion horrible and depressing, but I find Trump so preposterously terrible that — well, I can’t even say it.]

              One expects our national security establishment will be basically okay with Clinton. She’s been playing the game long enough. She knows the contours.

              Will she use the military? Obviously yes. Will she prefer drones to ground troops? I think so. Will her decisions be wise?

              Well that is a big, complicated question.

              Anyway, my point is, the main thing preventing Trump from leading us to war might be how fucking incompetent he is.

              But while Trump’s own incompetence might stop him, it will do little to stop Trumpism. The fuckers supporting him really do want to “nuke Isis” or whateverthefuck. They want America to flex her “muscles,” which means “starting shit,” which means responding in dumb, predictable ways.

              Have you ever deliberately antagonized a big, dumb asshole and got him to make a fool of himself? It’s an easy game. (It can be risky, but the point is, it’s a game the big, dumb asshole never really wins.)

              We can surely “defeat” Isis, just as we “defeated” the Iraqi army and “defeated” the Taliban. I mean, we “won” those fights, yes?

              Right? We won. It’s obvious. We swept their armies from the field. We planted our flag. We call that “victory,” don’t we?


              Clinton understands the complexity of this. Trump — I honestly think he does not. His supporters certainly do not.

              Anyway, if they can elect one leader, can the elect another? How do we change their minds? How do we respond to growing white nationalism with real political influence?

              (Hint: complaining about mean lefties on Twitter is not a good response.)Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                Trump feels a lot like Carter — he gets into office, everyone in his party wants his fucking head, and will stonewall. Dems will stonewall because they do that whenever there’s a Rep in the WhiteHouse.

                Limited Options for him. MORE limited if the National Security team decides to ante up. After all, they pulled some shit to keep us out of Iran, last administration (I know someone who helped a bit).

                They call Hillary the Mad Bomber for a reason, ya know?

                So, um, the trump people want him to flex his muscles in relatively unimportant places.

                The issue with Clinton is that she may flex her muscles in relatively important places.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Kim says:

                Trump is not Carter. My wager is he will fold to the GOP establishment. There will be some typical false ‘gains’ to feed the Republican base, but in the end the big differences between operations of a Clinton or a Trump presidency will be narrow. The same wars for the same reasons.

                The far left may get angry as hell and rearrange the furniture to obscurity or failed state, but it will never consider destroying it. Until the right destroys the furniture, all we have to look forward to is more lies from the tablecloth.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Trump is not Carter. My wager is he will fold to the GOP establishment.

                Every indication we’ve gotten so far is that it’s the other way around: If he wins, the establishment will fold to him.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Will Truman says:

                The establishment is not bleeding or hungry, Trump is currently just a pawn in the power game.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Joe Sal says:

                “Trump will turn in to a typical Republican” is the new “Trump will calm down and pivot as soon as he gets to the general.”

                And it is wrong for pretty much the same reason.Report

              • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

                because he’s been bribed by hillary?Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Will Truman says:

                Trump is a social validation seeker. He seeks validation that he is successful, shrewd, smart, an effective business man.

                The establishment seeks no validation, it’s typical position is to let the seekers come to it. It’s spent decades building that position, it’s not going to move over someone like Trump. They may rebrand or wear whatever label to avoid the populist pointy spears, but my wager is they won’t move an inch.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Trump has never needed the party more than he does right now. And yet he has not even moved in the direction of doing what he would need to do to get their help. He’s not even trying to meet them half-way, apart from a visit to the electeds.

                He either doesn’t think he needs them or doesn’t care.

                If he wins, he will need them even less than he does now, and will act accordingly.Report

              • North in reply to Will Truman says:

                Though it probably bears noting that his strategy of not doing what is required to earn the GOP establishments aid is elevating his odds of losing from likely to extremely likely.

                But yes, if lightning strikes twice and he somehow wins he certainly won’t feel he owes them anything. That said I’d wager that most of what a POTUS Trump (heavens forfend) would do would be go along with what the GOP wants primarily because I doubt he has policy positions on most matters and thus the GOP position will be in by default.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to North says:

                I think there are limits to “They hate the establishment so much that whatever he does to piss them off helps them.”

                When it comes to half the primary voters, that may be true. When it comes to delegates, that’s a different story. When it comes to the RNC, who he needs, it’s a different story. When it comes to donors, who he also needs, it’s a really different story.

                This is not strategy.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Will Truman says:

                To leverage populism he has to play the part of an outsider. The problem is, he isn’t built out of outsider material. His financial interests and business parameters have him already in bed with the party of Mitt Romney.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Bob Dylan wanted to be Elvis but instead found an opening to be Woody Guthrie.

                And so it is with Donald Trump. He’s a Republican because that’s where the opening was.Report

              • North in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yeah, Trumwill, we’re speaking the same language. Trumps problems that could potentially turn into festering sores are logistical: if he doesn’t build a campaign apparatus then he’s taking a fingernail clipper into a machine gun fight. Kicking the establishment isn’t going to make expert campaign people or data people sign up under his ticket. Kicking the establishment isn’t going to make the GOP’s sugar daddies open their wallets (and he either can’t or won’t self-finance).
                Setting aside Trumps intractable message, persona and personal issues that’s a huge deal (but on the plus side if he completely botches his campaign apparatus we get to see vote wise just what happens when one candidate runs a normal campaign and one runs no campaign).

                Kolohe: Yeah but the right wing MOTU have some problems because the obvious solution isn’t obvious: Do you try and stage a coup at the convention? Do you try and contain the damage down ticket? Do you try and coopt the Donald? Adding additional complexity to the matter is that the right wing MOTU’s have different (and in many cases opposing) priorities, some foreign policy based, some domestic, some social, some financial.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think in the end Trump only matters in one way. He won’t deliver. What that does to the next wave of populism matters.

                Suppose if Jaybird has it correct, it’s not Trump, it’s who comes after Trump. A ‘true believer’, that guy would be the dangerous one.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Joe Sal says:

                That’s long been my concern.

                (Don’t know that it will be a true believer, though. But will be someone more convincing and credible about it than Trump. And someone more disciplined. I actually almost wrote a post about it early this year, with Chris Christie in the starring role. I didn’t end up finishing and posting it because I thought that would have been unfair to Christie. It turns out I was wrong, and it was actually too flattering a portrayal.)Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Joe Sal says:

                If I’m thinking rationally, and I’m a Master (or Mistress) of the Universe, I’m sitting pretty right now with Obama in the White House and Ryan with the Speaker’s Gavel.

                I’m also probably sitting pretty with Clinton in the White House as long as Ryan can hold onto that gavel.

                I got stuff to worry about if either Ryan loses the gavel, or Trump gains the White House. The former is directly adverse to my interests, the latter is just from the sheer unpredictability.

                But all of this is predicated that I am an actual rational being, even if a Master of the Universe.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to veronica d says:

            I don’t think one has to accept parity to reject unipolarity.

            Beyond which, I think it’s a mistake to view it as a specifically American discussion. The left may not have much of a voice here, but they had the government in Greece, and they have their guy atop the Labour Party over the objections of its political establishment.

            (And again, one needn’t accept that Corbyn is as bad or as extreme as Trump to note that there is at least some similarity of anxiety and anger even if it’s not pointed at the same places.)

            But viewing it as a strictly Republican thing – the Great GOP crackup! The GOP is uniquely extreme! Etc – overlooks a much larger context, both in terms of right/left and an international phenomenon.Report

      • j r in reply to Barry says:

        No. Compare the Clinton and Trump campaigns, for a start.

        OK. Let’s start with this:

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    The interesting thing about Brexit is that you can make economic and social arguments and a lot of people on the left were making social arguments about free movement but did not think of Brexit as an economic issue at all. To them, it was solely about xenophobia, little England, and not wanting refugees.

    I wonder what is happening is a carving out of the middle. Now some of the middle is getting wealthier and some is getting poorer but there seem to be fewer paths to truer middle-class lifestyles.

    Industrial jobs that require little or no education and provide a decent lifestyle are not coming back in the United States or the United Kingdom. They have been lost because of automation and industralization.

    The problem is that no one wants has any answers for people who would have taken these jobs and are now left behind. I suspect that there are a lot of people who really would like to do what Kevin Williamson did and just scream “Accept your fate. Take a low paying service job and expect a lower standard of living” but are smart enough to realize that this is a non-selling argument in world with universal suffrage!

    Most of the wealth in the economy seems to be going to very specific sectors that have always employed a narrow set of people. Investment Banking and Consulting are brass ring jobs that can land someone a 6 figure salary while they are still in their 20s. The thing about investment banking and consulting is that it is very hard to do these jobs for more than a few years for many people because of the long, brutal, and constant hours. From what I here, working from 9 AM to Midnight is more the rule than the exception and this is true every single day. Weekends might be slightly lighter but not by much. There seem to be people who do this for a decade or so, make their fortunes, and then find something easier to do.

    The problem is that for the most part Investment Banking and Consulting are still very much the old boy’s network made slightly more eagalitarian. They still mainly recruit from HYPS but there are a few others let in and women and people of color are let in because they can now attend HYPS but it is still mainly filled with white guys, your friend potentially excluded.

    The same thing is going on with tech in SF right now. Tech provides huge salaries but generally only to people who come from a handful of select backgrounds. Maybe slightly better for the coders. This does mean plenty of people with disposable incomes who want to eat in restaurants. SF restaurants are expensive and often overflowing with people trying to get seats. Wages for cooks and servers is still very low and certainly not enough to be comfortable in the Bay Area.

    Profits for a Partner at BigLaw firms are higher than ever but the law market is still struggling for recent graduates. 37 percent of lawyers work as solos and solos have seen their real incomes decline since the 1970s from around 70K to 49K. Big Law only takes associates from a handful of law schools generally.

    But no one knows how to equalize all these things and people are getting angry.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      @saul-degraw — Tech is a strange beast tho. Yeah, we’re no doubt MIT/Stanford heavy. But still, it is truly far more porous than almost any other path to a decent income.

      But then, you can either code or you cannot code.

      I do job interviews for a big tech company that you’ve heard of. I’ve often said “no hire” to people with PhDs from MIT or whatever. See, it turns out that a PhD does not mean you can code, not even close, even from Stanford or MIT. Correspondingly, I’ve from time to time said “yes hire” to folks with (something like) a music degrees from the University of Bumfuck Nowhere. If they can code, they can code. We test if they can code, live, face to face. They either can do it or they cannot.

      I’m not saying it’s an easy path, which I know well cuz I walked it. I’m a highschool dropout.

      Anyhow, I think the “techbro” crowd sometimes overestimates the degree this is a true meritocracy. Likewise, I’m not sure how well they understand how much the rest of the world is not like this. (All politics is local, but don’t forget how much that limits your point of view.)

      Blah blah blah. Nerd self-celebration is — well, it’s certainly a thing.

      Our species wastes so much talent on bullshit games. Tech definitely does it better. I wonder if we as a species can do even better still?

      I bet we cannot. Everything is terrible.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to veronica d says:


        That might be true on the coding end of tech but is it true on the business end? Google seems pretty selective when it comes to the backgrounds of their non-tech employees.

        I noted this on one of Will’s weekday headline threads but I think coding academies are becoming the new law school for liberal arts grads. So people will study music or art history and then spend a few months at a coding academy and then get a job.

        Though I wonder if places would hire them if they were an 18 year old with a high school diploma and a coding academy certificate vs. 22 with a BA and a coding academy certificate.

        Now this implies there will be a bubble bursting eventually but probably not for a while because not everyone can do coding as you mentioned and there are lots of opportunities to code including at non-tech companies. One guy in the article got a coding gig at an ad agency because he wanted to go into advertising and that was his doorway in.

        Still even if there are huge tech companies, the perks don’t seem evenly distributed. The people who drive the buses or work in the cafeterias or clean are probably contractors who don’t make a good wage and have no benefits.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          [cw: I’m in a weird, cynical mood tonight]

          @saul-degraw — I actually have no idea what it takes to get a non-engineering job at Google. I mean, I only know the educational background of a few non-eng Googlers, and well, one of them is from Harvard. So yeah. The other is from Brown.

          Well golly.

          Software is amazing. It changes everything, so much.

          I mean, bridges still need to get built. Someone needs to drive trucks, otherwise we’ll all starve to death.

          I’m going to put on my “I wouldn’t blame you if you hate me” hat, but someone has to cook my breakfast in the morning.

          True story. We have a guy who is really great at eggs. We chat every morning while he cooks one up for me, over-easy.

          I bet I make ten times what he does. Maybe more.

          He’s really fucking good at eggs. Seriously. I cook for myself on the weekends and it’s embarrassing.

          My IQ is pretty good, 147. This was measured when I was maybe eight years old. I have no idea if it is “true.” (Honestly, I’m too vain to get retested. What if it came out lower? I’d hate that.)

          Anyhow, I’m not bragging. I did nothing to earn that. It’s just how I cooked up.

          I bet that’s probably about average at my workplace.

          But I am proud of myself all the same, cuz I worked my ass off. Actually I think I study harder than the folks around me, who have fancy degrees from prestigious schools. Everyday during lunch, while they goof off and play Magic the Gathering or Pathfinder or whatever, I sit alone and read math books.

          I’m really weird, even by nerd standards.

          I’ll never know enough. I plan to spend my last day on this Earth trying to learn just one more thing.


          After software beat humans at chess, “they” pointed out that Go was too hard. Software could not beat humans at Go.

          We wrote software to beat humans at Go.


          Software eats the world.

          But it’s so hard to do. No, it’s really hard. It takes so much brains to make it all work, to keep it in line. It’s not like other things.

          You cannot explain it to people. The piece of software I work on is one million lines long. Each line matters. Each line does something.

          Maybe 10% of those lines are actually “airline stuff,” which directly encode some dumb rule or business practice or other brain-fart that the airlines came up with — instead of designing a coherent, logical system.

          You know that dumb argument I had with DaveTC the other day, on the other post, all about how to use formal methods and logic to design software. Let us just say, the airlines did not do things the way I would have done things.

          To be fair, this stuff was done decades ago, by various “consortiums” and committees. It is the result of accretion and “organizational scar tissue.” This process continues. New dumb ideas arrive every few months.

          So it goes. That’s the job. If it were easy, anyone could do it.

          Then I would earn the same amount as the guy who cooks my eggs.

          The other 90% of our code is a set of really bizarre and non-obvious hacks to make our software run unnaturally fast. The thing is, to find optimal prices using the kinds of search algorithms that you learn in school, the “standard basic” way you solve these problems — the way a civil engineer can design a standard highway bridge, textbook style — would be several hundred times slower than what we do. In other words, if we can do a complex query in a few seconds, the standard way would take several minutes.

          Our product is successful. It’s also very, very, very, very complex.

          When I got hired, I was given the choice of which team to work for. Several wanted me. I chose my current team over the others. One reason was, I couldn’t understand how this particular software worked so fast. They described it to me. They explained the complexity and the scale. I was baffled. I wanted to understand. The best way to understand was to work on it.

          It was the most challenging of the positions offered. I chose it.


          Software is going to keep getting better, and better, and better, and better. Operations research is a thing. Machine learning is a thing. Computers are going to be making complex decisions in very competitive spaces, at a speed and accuracy that people cannot. This is coming. There are real advances in these fields. My current “interest” is non-smooth, non-linear optimization. It’s a subset of operations research that a decade ago was considered too hard, too slow. Back then everything had to be abstracted down to something “linear.” We don’t have to do that anymore. This makes a big difference in the kinds of problems we can solve.

          We have data centers. They’re huge. Basically they’re a kind of amorphous super computer. We have people like me, weird spergy fucks who want nothing more than to write code to solve huge problems.

          It will not be perfect. We will stumble, make false starts, go back and forth, but inexorably, we will advance.

          They said we couldn’t beat Go. Then we did.


          I’m average where I work. There are thousands just like me, a teeming mass of super geniuses, gathered from the top-shelf of human cognitive capabilities, all working together to master this form.

          There are not enough of us, not even close.

          After all, do you want one company running the world? Everyone is going to want this.

          This is so hard to do. If you can do it, you will be needed. If you cannot…


          This is not a stable situation. This is not a “good time” of history. This cannot go on.

          It could lead to something very nice. After all, a “singularity” could arrive and lead us Christ-like into the promised land.

          But that’s not going to happen. It’s a childish dream. No matter how smart our machines are, it will still be our values that guide where we apply the algorithms. No matter how fast and accurate a decision algorithm might be, someone is going to enter the “cost/benefit” matrix, or else write the code that generates the matrix. These things will be reflections of us.

          It will probably be terrible. Humans kill each other a lot. We let each other die in massive numbers, while we fritter away our time.

          I’m no better.

          We are all meatsacks that die easily. Computers won’t change that.


          All the same, software jobs are not like other jobs. This industry is not like other industries.

          It’s weird.Report

          • J_A in reply to veronica d says:


            “My current “interest” is non-smooth, non-linear optimization. It’s a subset of operations research that a decade ago was considered too hard, too slow. Back then everything had to be abstracted down to something “linear.””

            veronica, if we ever meet, i will need you to talk to me about this for as long as you care to spare, while I keep feeding you fried eggs. I do good fried eggs

            I was born too soon. 25 years ago my mind buzzed with ideas about how utilities were fractal in nature, and how a fractal analysis (of almost any subject) should be far more efficient without any significant loss of accuracy. Regretfully, the math wasn’t there (or if it was it was too far over my head), and instead efforts were diverted towards the brute force answer: if you model every single last tree, you will have modeled a forest.

            Bummer, I need to learn more. Do you like your eggs fried in bacon fat and olive oil?Report

            • veronica d in reply to J_A says:

              Butter. Lots of it.

              I’m pretty sure egg-guy at work uses some kind of oil.

              (By the way, he has a name. I use his name. I’m calling him “egg-guy” here cuz he didn’t agree to have his name used online.)

              (Just thought I’d point that out.)Report

            • veronica d in reply to J_A says:

              Oh, and non-smooth analysis works on problems that are mostly smooth, but which have a few “kinks” in them. For example, a common (and very simple) example might be a max function, where you are optimizing Max(f_1(x), f_2(x)). In regions where f_1 and f_2 are equal, then there will be a discontinuity. Generally we approach these problems with some variation of a subderivative, which is a generalization of the directional derivative. The hard part is convergence speed. To get good convergence, you need to capture “second order” information, which is an analog of the second derivative. It’s tricky.

              In high-dimensional spaces, second-order information is very expensive, and that only gets worse in a non-smooth setting. See for one approach.

              If you have a truly fractal problem — I mean really bumpy and jagged all over the place, then just use simulated annealing (or related stochastic method), throw a ton of CPU at it, and get on with your life. You ain’t gonna do much better.

              Honestly, for anything non-analytic (and non-combinatorial), just throw something stochastic at it. Without reliable “local information,” you have to depend on a probabilistic model.

              If you deal with multiple data sets from a “similar” source, you might try a learning algorithm, to discover some search strategies. Think of that as as a “guided stochastic search” with “hints” from previous experience.

              That would actually be a tremendously fun problem to work on. Perhaps someday I’ll encounter a problem like that.Report

              • J_A in reply to veronica d says:

                Utilities can easily be modeled in graph theory. Whatever the product (electricity, water, sewage, gas) is produced and consumed in certain nodes, and the product is transported through the edges. Some edges branch out, some close loops.

                The fractal nature comes when you look at the consumption nodes: each consumption node branches itself into a new graph of edges and vertices, with several new consumption vertices, each of which….. etc., etc., from Hoover Dam all the way to the plug in the wall where your laptop is charging.

                (In other words: in the high level power graph of the USA (including Canada), New England in a node, then NE, if I open It, I see Boston, if I open Boston I see large city areas, then neighborhoods, then streets, then houses, then inside the house. It’s the same in Power, gas, water.

                There’s a lot of operating information I want in real time about every point of the system: in particular, probability of outages given current condition and expected new condition. I have the hunch -and it’s only a hunch- that I could exploit the fractal nature of the system to run high level simulations that will give me information about things in veronica’s street.

                Other possible applications are probably more of the planning type. How do I allocate restoration resources after a hurricane or ice storm? What’s the optimal number of spare parts of X type I should have?

                As memory constraints and processing speeds improved, utilities left sparsity and other techniques behind. And went brute force full steam ahead: we will add every last pole and every last screw in the pole to our data base.

                Now that distributed generation is a thing, I think this on line fractal analysis can have value. Should I turn off large generation because clouds are breaking in Boston and rooftop solar will kick in?

                Anyhow, I have never seen anyone exploit the fractal nature of utility grids, and when I was still thinking that that would be a cool subject for an engineering Ph.D., I got sucked into technicolor-economical feasibility analysis of generation projects, and by the time I looked back, I was CFO of a generation company fighting with the Auditors about whether the fuel tanks bottoms should be written off or not (I won that one).Report

              • veronica d in reply to J_A says:

                @j_a — ah yes. That’s different.

                Self-similarity is going to be hard to exploit with standard method, unless things are almost-identically similar, in which case you can exploit sensitivy analysis. That the thing where you vary the Lagrange multipliers. It’s a basic idea in linear programming. There are non-linear analogs.

                For the general network stuff, you might want to look at hierarchal methods, although I don’t know much about them. They seem to focus on sparsely coupled systems.

                I bet this paper has cool stuff:


                When I got started, as a highschool dropout teaching herself math, the web did not exist.

                Kids today!Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:

              Why I love my job.

              Linear solution? Sure, no problem, crank it out right here on my laptop. Nonlinear, hrmmmm, probably, how many cores on your cluster.

              Man, when I started learning this stuff, if you had a dual core machine, you were rocking! Now, my workstation that I develop and test on has 20 cores and can spit out my test cases while I step out to pee.Report

              • James K in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                For a project I’m working on, I’ve been given server support for R. Boy oh boy does that make a difference.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to James K says:

                As long as it can be parallelized with some degree of efficiency, more cores always helps.

                Well, to a point. Our software has a floor of about 25K cells per core. Below that, the time it takes to partition the problem, and latency eat up any potential gain.Report

              • As long as it can be parallelized with some degree of efficiency…

                Aye, there’s the rub. My honors thesis for my BS degree back in 1976 involved parallelizing algorithms for a particular problem class (largely hypothetical, as multiple independent processors with shared memory weren’t really practical yet). Interesting that good parallel algorithms in that case were usually based on inefficient serial algorithms…Report

              • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                Sure, no problem, crank it out right here on my laptop. Nonlinear, hrmmmm, probably, how many cores on your cluster.

                In a whole cluster?

                Golly I don’t even know. I’m such a dummy when it comes to hardware.

                We actually have this while hierarchy of cluster-ish things, which I sorta half understand. No details. It’s probably a trade secret or some shit.

                I know that, if I can convince my manager to spend team “resources,” I could easily get 10k or so. I’d need a good reason. There’s an accounting system for CPU. No one ever has enough.

                For a “me” project, short job, I could grab a couple thousand from my team’s dedicated testing pool. If I hog them, I’ll get “spoken to.”

                My first computer was an Apple II+. What a world we’ve built.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

                That’s the trick with parallel processing, more cores is a good thing, up to a point. That point might be because the problem space doesn’t parallelize well in general, or the paralleling routines don’t like the problem space, or you start spending more time partitioning and passing information around than you do solving the problem.

                It’s one of the things we constantly test our software for, and something we spend a lot of time educating our customers about.Report

          • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

            “it will still be our values that guide where we apply the algorithms. ”
            … you should meet some of the people who have written intelligent, self-aware computers. Your values may not be their values. Just sayin’Report

            • veronica d in reply to Kim says:

              “Our values” means of course the humans running the machines. Their values are human values, applied in this case by the logic of capitalism. Anyway, I’m not saying these will be good values, but I am rejecting the various FOOM-like scenarios we get from the Bostrom/Yudkowsky set.

              And … see the thing is … the place I work …

              Well anyway, yeah. I have met such people. Quite often.

              (We can quibble over what “self-aware” means, but actually I cannot imagine a more tedious discussion.)Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                Directive to machine: “Find out what it means.” (and was given a wide ranging dataset, including pornography).
                20 years later — self-awareness.

                While you might be able to get some sort of “values” out of this, Cat is an asshole. And a troll. And posts on 4chan (among other places).

                Perhaps we ought to be concerned when self-aware computers develop the capacity for sleeper agents.

                Which, I’ll grant, is a lot better than what Yudkowsky fears (I assume, haven’t read him).

                [reminder: believing in what Kim says is probably bad for your health.
                Do not make Cat admin.]Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kim says:

                Yeah I have zero concern about those scenarios, because long before we arrive anywhere near that place, we will already have optimized our path along current trends, which is the kind of stuff Deep Mind is doing, namely, learning and decision theory.

                My personal focus on large scale optimization rests on this. In the end, the faster can get get large constrained systems to converge, the more you can learn with the same amount of CPU. The current generation of neural networks largely rely on (what amounts to) simple gradient descent. (If often doesn’t look like gradient descent when viewed from the “adjusting weights” perspective. However, if you view a neural net as a large non-linear system, that is precisely what is happening.)

                In any case, yes these system can find deep patterns, even patterns that humans could not have guessed. But still, what we do with the data is up to us. In the end, these systems all operate according to a fitness function. Now, there can be a large inferential gap between the first-order reading of a fitness function, and the actual results of the computation. Fine. But still, we program these things with our own ends in mind.

                What are those ends? How much power will accrue to the people who control the machines, who control the direction of research, etc?

                Long before we need to worry about the power of autonomous machines, we should worry about what people will do, when their capabilities are enhanced by machine intelligence. We already have much experience with what people do, in cases where one side has “superpowers” the other does not.

                Software eats the world. Companies and industries will rise and fall according to data science. Will countries rise and fall? Militaries? Social movements? On and on?

                It won’t be a simple story. But it will surely be a story.Report

              • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

                [Edit: some of the large neural systems actually end up doing a kinda mix of coordinate descent and gradient descent. In any case, the point is, convergence is really hard in high dimensional cases. I’d like to make it faster.]

                [I probably won’t. I’m not nearly smart enough to be a big mover in this story. But I keep studying, and thinking, and pushing forward. I might get to play a small role. In the meanwhile, people keep buying plane tickets.]Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                Still shocked you managed to do that gig without the blindfold and the black helicopters.

                Guess there are bonuses to not being a consultant.

                [yes, the airplane companies have/had crazier security on their tech than the military. The military will simply unplug what it doesn’t want folks getting into]Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      In the second or third volume of his multivolume history of post-war Britain, David Kynaston noted that Enoch Powell’s two big beliefs, free market capitalism and romantic English patriotism, were mutually contradictory. Free market capitalism depends on the free movement of goods. You really can’t have the free movement of goods without the free movement of people. You can make a try at it but if the goods, capital, and jobs are going to move around the world than people are going to follow the opportunities. Enoch Powell’s English patriotism required that there wouldn’t be massive demographic changes in the United Kingdom, this isn’t possible with a free market economy. Lots of people on the Right are like this. They want the goods to move freely but people to stay more or less in place if they belong to the “wrong” tribe.

      The Left suffers from a similar delusion. They believe you can have the free movement of people and a borderless, cosmopolitan world without free market economics. You can’t for the same reason you can’t have free movement of goods without immigration. People generally move from one place to another for economic reasons. Even if refugees have economic reasons. Wealthier persecuted people stay in place longer than poorer persecuted people because they have more to loose by seeking asylum. If economic opportunities were more evenly distributed than their would be less movement.Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      You mistake the Powers That Be for the left? You are indeed a fool.Report

  5. Aaron David says:

    One of the big issues of all of this is what is considered a good result of political actions, and who that result benefits. One of the regulars here often comments that the financial aspect of things isn’t the most important. And thus Brexit. People took stock of the world, and decided that the “benefits” of EU membership were not worth the costs. Now, some of those benefits were financial. Some of the costs were not. They made a decision based on that. Did they like what was happening in their country overall? Yes/no. Basing all of the results on YOUR* values is not a very good way to judge the actions of millions in a vote that was essentially up or down.

    This isn’t too different with the idea of racism. One group has decided on what to call racism, and not everyone agrees with that definition. This isn’t fascism or totalitarianism. This is just life. If one group of people decide that anyone wearing black clothing, for example, are the scum of the earth as it now represents something something feels, that doesn’t mean that those who wear black are evil. You need to convince them that it means that, or your language looses all impact on that group. And if they see the wearing of that as a good thing, they might just take all of your ideas as garbage. This is what happened to the internationalist movement here. Again, not fascism, not totalitarianism. Just basic facts of life. They needed to convince them that it actually benefits them, that the trade off is worth it., and they didn’t. Calling them names proves they were right.

    A Democrat senator recently stated that Due Process is what is an obstacle to national security. That is fascism, the destruction of the rule of law. But we are worried about the people of England having a democratic vote?

    *Not you specifically Will, the generic if you will.Report

  6. Dand says:

    But no one knows how to equalize all these things and people are getting angry.

    One hundred years ago we were in the same situation then we

    a) raised the top marginal tax rate 90%
    b) Cut immigration down to almost zero

    After we did those to thing inequality dropped.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Dand says:

      a) A recent study and book on what it takes to get the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes reveled that the answer is massive war fought with conscript armies. Without that, good luck in trying to raise the top marginal tax rate. The wealthy were willing to put up with high taxes so they didn’t look like they were living the high life while everybody else was sacrificing themselves for their country.

      b) I’m not even sure if it is possible to cut down immigration to almost zero. Cutting immigration has just as many political opponents as it does advocates. I’m not even sure if it is technically feasible in the modern world to cut down immigration to the levels it was at between 1924 and 1965. You need to make traveling to the United States as grueling as possible for short term tourism or business travel or studying to cut down on long term immigration. You also need more Americans willing to do the type of work immigrants do, which seems to be not that many.Report

      • Dand in reply to LeeEsq says:

        a) A recent study and book on what it takes to get the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes reveled that the answer is massive war fought with conscript armies. Without that, good luck in trying to raise the top marginal tax rate. The wealthy were willing to put up with high taxes so they didn’t look like they were living the high life while everybody else was sacrificing themselves for their country.

        Who says that need to agree? If people vote for 90% they’ll have no choice.

        Cutting immigration has just as many political opponents as it does advocates.

        It might be difficult politically but that’s not true, the General Social Survey has consistently shown that a majority of people favor reducing immigration levels.

        I’m not even sure if it is technically feasible in the modern world to cut down immigration to the levels it was at between 1924 and 1965. You need to make traveling to the United States as grueling as possible for short term tourism or business travel or studying to cut down on long term immigration.

        Japan has immigration levels that at the same rate that they were here in the 50s.

        You also need more Americans willing to do the type of work immigrants do, which seems to be not that many.

        People would be willing to do those jobs if it payed enough. In 1980 meatpacking was mostly done by Americans, then the meatpackers started using immigrants to bust unions and wages dropped, now it’s almost all immigrants.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dand says:

          Japan’s a country of…Japanese people. Non-Japanese people stick out. In Seattle, I wouldn’t be able to point to you whose the tourist and whose lived here for decades based on their skin color or accent.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            “Japan’s a country of…Japanese people. Non-Japanese people stick out.”

            Yes. Now let’s think about how it got that way. Let’s think about why other countries aren’t that way.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Dand says:

          Soaking the rich polls really well with most non-wealthy Americans. It has significant support among Democrats and Republicans, whites and people of color, and they young and the old. Yet, all hell breaks loose when a politician even makes a minor suggestion that the wealthy should pay slightly more income taxes. Getting things actually done is impossible. The wealthy are apt at getting their way and they have a bad it takes a lot to go against them.

          For immigration, Japan is not the best example for the reasons that Jesse said. Its also going through some massive demographic and economic problems because of the lack of immigration. There aren’t enough young Japanese to take care of the older Japanese and run a society. The Japanese are trying to use robotics to make the difference but aren’t there yet. For the other countries, I think that we are simply too mixed and the markets too interconnected to really end immigration.Report

          • Dand in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Soaking the rich polls really well with most non-wealthy Americans. It has significant support among Democrats and Republicans, whites and people of color, and they young and the old. Yet, all hell breaks loose when a politician even makes a minor suggestion that the wealthy should pay slightly more income taxes. Getting things actually done is impossible. The wealthy are apt at getting their way and they have a bad it takes a lot to go against them.

            But what will they do if the people vote for someone who wants to raise taxes? At the end of the day there’s not much they can do about it. The problem right now is the parties aren’t divided on economic issues.

            For immigration, Japan is not the best example for the reasons that Jesse said. Its also going through some massive demographic and economic problems because of the lack of immigration. There aren’t enough young Japanese to take care of the older Japanese and run a society. The Japanese are trying to use robotics to make the difference but aren’t there yet. For the other countries, I think that we are simply too mixed and the markets too interconnected to really end immigration.

            It’s not just Japan, South Korea and Finland also have low levels of immigration. We can’t completely stop illegal immigration but we could reduce the level of permitted legal immigration particularly low skilled no refugees.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Soaking the rich polls really well with most non-wealthy Americans.

            Well, sort of. You have to keep in mind that for decades politicians and the media have been feeding the public shit by the shovelful about how the rich don’t pay taxes, or pay a lower effective rate than the middle class. This is demonstrably false, yet many if not most people still believe it, including some people here who really ought to know better. So if you ask them if the rich should be pay higher taxes, of course they’re going to say yes. I’d like to see a survey where people are asked what tax rate the top 0.1% should pay. There are some moonbat ideologues out there who think we should have top rates of 80%, but I would expect that a wide majority would cite a rate less than or equal to the actual effective tax rate of people in the top 0.1%.Report

        • Kim in reply to Dand says:

          Do you really think the American government should pay to support child pornography? (Citing Kanon as a reference).
          Personally, I’d rather have the immigration…Report

      • Barry in reply to LeeEsq says:

        LeeEsq, your link to that study did not come through.Report

  7. Stillwater says:

    Great post Will. I agree, the consensus is breaking down. I have to share with you the first thought that hit me upon completing your essay, tho: that American Conservatism has always viewed itself (consciously or not) as ameliorating the destructive hostility generated by radical elitist liberal urbanization of our politics and culture and the basest expressions of xenophobia, protectionism and racism which appear from time to time (among other types of thinking…).

    I don’t know if that’s right, but it makes me think that REAL conservatives may be more pissed off about what’s transpiring than anyone else. They’re supposed to be the rational alternative between two extremes and they’ve lost out in that battle completely.Report

  8. Saul Degraw says:

    There is a never ending argument among Democratic blogger and wonky types about whether the Democratic Party needs to pay attention to the white working class or not. Here is one example:

    Here is a quote from Adam Davidson when he guest hosted Slate’s political gabfest a week or so ago:

    I know Hillary Clinton’s economic team fairly well, and I’m very impressed by them. They really are top-notch economists and economic policy thinkers. They don’t have anything for a 55-year-old laid-off factory worker in Michigan or northeastern Pennsylvania. Or whatever. They don’t have anything to offer them. And so I think it’s intuitively understandable that a screaming, loud, wrong answer is more compelling than a calm, reasonable, accurate, right answer: Your life is going to be worse for the rest of your life — but don’t worry, these hipsters in Brooklyn are doing much better.


    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The Atlantic had a similar article recently. The unfortunate answer for liberals and leftists is that their might not be answer. Right populism can give simple, pleasing and false answers. Certain strands of libertarianism off the cold comfort of the world being a harsh, competitive place and it’s your job to earn your livelihood. The Further Left lost their ability to provide anything approaching an answer after 1989 but can just simply dismiss the workers turning to right populism as racists unable to get with the times. I think part of the big surge in non-economic politics on the Further Left is because of the massive failures of Marxism.

      Liberals and the Center Left are the ones really struggling to find answer. The traditional answers to these problems, wealth redistribution policies, are not politically possible. Lying and saying the jobs are going to come back isn’t possible either from a liberal perspective. Politicians can’t admit they don’t have any good answers during an election though. You don’t win elections by saying, “I don’t know” or telling hard truths.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Leftists have an answer! That’s one of the reason they’re among the biggest voices on the broader left for not writing them off.

        I offer no advice in the OP because I have none. This isn’t a prescriptive piece. There may or may not be answers, but I don’t think there are any easy or obvious ones. I think there are a lot of tradeoffs and risk assessments that have not always been acknowledged.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

          After 1989, Leftists really stopped with the sweeping critique of capitalism and grew more obtuse. They actually stopped long before that but the fall of the Soviet Union took away what remained. I think one reason why Piketty’s book was such a big deal on the Left is that it was the first really substantive economic critique of capitalism in economic terms for a very long time.Report

      • J_A in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @saul-degraw @leeesq

        Lee is right on one thing. The old factory jobs in MI and PA no longer exist. They don’r exist here, they don’t exist in China. They were automatized to death. In the early 90s Caterpillar was able to cut 90% (ninety percent) of the workforce in their Peoria spare parts distribution center through automation. That was over 800 jobs destroyed, as robots picked up boxes and put them in conveyors that would direct the box to the correct truck, where the remaining human would put the box inside the truck.

        Right now we have a crumbling infrastructure that needs replacement. If you want jobs for the displaced working class, jobs that would last at least 20 years, we should engage in long-term, massive, infrastructure projects. There is one party that is in favour of infrastructure projects, and one party that it is against them.

        In the USA, and other places, the WWC has two problems: a jobs and economics problem, and a social/cultural problem. My (perhaps mistaken) observation, is that the WWC would not consider solutions to their economic problems that do not address, first, their cultural problems.

        Even our bete noire, Rod Dreher, says it: Hillary probably has better solutions for the WWC, but because Hillary hates the WWC, thinks they are a bunch of hicks, and mocks them over quinoa fritters and Chablis, the WWC does not care about what she might be offering, because the WWC prefers their dignity to three square meals. At least that is how I read him.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to J_A says:

          I am not sure what you mean by the WWC not considering economic problems that don’t address their cultural problems. Thats partly because I have no ideas of what their cultural problems are. If you mean returning the United States to the type of society that existed between the end of World War II and the start of the Counter-Culture than good luck with that. Thats even deader than the factory jobs absent massive human rights abuses and societal collapse.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to J_A says:


          I agree that automation is the real destroyer of jobs and it is only going to get worse. Even white-collar knowledge workers are being hurt by automation.

          There is an argument that culture has replaced class as the main divider in U.S. politics.

          In these ways, the British vote showed the power of the Trump-like anti-immigration, anti-globalization argument for white, older, non-urban and non-college-educated voters who feel marginalized by economic and cultural change. The key difference is those voters represent much less of the U.S. electorate. In particular, while whites comprised about 90 percent of British voters, they will likely cast only around 70 percent of American ballots. In the U.K., Ashcroft found 53 percent of whites voted to leave; because Trump faces so much opposition from minorities, if he wins the same percentage of whites, he will lose in a landslide. He will likely need well over 60 percent of whites to win.

          Now I happen to think that the laughing behind their backs at dinner party things is more imagined than real. But the imagination is a potent force that will not abate anytime soon.

          The infrastructure thing will help all Americans and provide many jobs for working class people but the resistance from the GOP on this side is so great, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

          The working class has always had an inherent social conservatism. Even in the UK where socialism was more of a thing, you had Labour supporters who were appalled by the social changes and liberalization that happened during Wilson’s government in the 1960s. Now they maintained their socialism but they disliked the changes. in Dominic Sanbrook’s history of Britain in the 1960s, he writes about an old Labour trade-unionist begging David Owen to vote against the legalized/decriminalized homosexuality.Report

          • Barry in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            “The infrastructure thing will help all Americans and provide many jobs for working class people but the resistance from the GOP on this side is so great, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.”

            The GOP won’t vote for those projects because they like an impoverished white working class (and black, latino,…).Report

        • Dand in reply to J_A says:

          There is one party that is in favour of infrastructure projects, and one party that it is against them.

          What one is that? The one Christina Romer, who boasted about stripping infrastructure from stimulus belongs to?Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to J_A says:

          “we have a crumbling infrastructure that needs replacement.”

          By union labor, of course, with fully-funded pensions! And extensive tracking of all finances to make sure that taxpayer money isn’t being wasted! And audits to ensure that nobody’s using conflict minerals, and that at least three domestic companies submitted bids on every part of the job! And full Title-VII complaince training to keep disgusting attitudes from being expressed in the workplace!

          And somehow all the money is spent on contract management employees who already *had* jobs, and all those workers who were supposed to get hired for 20 years never actually get anything.Report

          • greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Well yeah we can’t have nice things because some people will always gripe and complain. Was that the point you were making or just displaying without understanding.Report

              • greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

                So? The opinion piece, which it was, said the gov can create jobs he just didn’t think the Stim did it well. If we have infrastructure that needs to be fixed then it should be fixed and it will create jobs. Is there any actual argument with that?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

                “The opinion piece, which it was”

                One of the “opinions” cited in the piece was that of the god damn President whose idea the whole thing was. I know that you really trade on No True Scot arguments but this is a whopper even coming from you.

                “If we have infrastructure that needs to be fixed then it should be fixed and it will create jobs.”

                Except it doesn’t get fixed. Bay Bridge? Big Dig? If you like I can find more examples.Report

              • greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Not true Scot??? You lost me.

                I’m not really sure what point you are trying to make. Plenty of stuff gets fixed. We have all sorts of road construction going on right now. Sure the Stim could have been better. We’d have to go back through all the politics to figure out why things happened. One party certainly wanted more money to do more stuff.

                “If we have infrastructure that needs to be fixed then it should be fixed and it will create jobs.” This is true and you haven’t said anything to change it. Why did one thing not get fixed? Beats me and beats you to. Like i said we would have to get into the specific politics. We have money to spend and plenty of things to spend it on. Not really that hard if we have the consensus to do it. Are against infrastructure repair? Just against O and the D’s? What is your actual point.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

                “We have all sorts of road construction going on right now. ”

                Yeah, that we planned for ten years ago and started actually running five years ago. There are, despite childish imaginings, not thousands and thousands of ready-to-go-tomorrow projects whose only obstacle is intransigent Republicans.

                “Like i said we would have to get into the specific politics.”

                “specific politics” is why this shit didn’t work last time. “specific politics” is why this shit keeps on not working. “specific politics” is actually really important to the whole thing.

                “Not really that hard if we have the consensus to do it.” Well, there’s a consensus to do it, but there’s also a consensus that whenever government money is spent it should be done properly, for the benefit of people who need it, rather than just giving it all to one favored historically-advantaged group.Report

          • J_A in reply to DensityDuck says:

            I’m convinced now. Let’s not invest one more dollar in infrastructure.

            Imagine, some of it might go to unionized non-white workers. One of them might even be gay.

            So now that infrastructure is not an option, let’s get Caterpillar to scrap the robotics based spare parts wharehouse and hire another 800 guys. I’m sure Caterpillar will be happy to oblige.

            And after that, we’ll bring back to the USA jobs that no longer exist even in China.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to J_A says:

              Yes yes, keep telling me how this is all just because I’m a racist homophobe. Maybe someday you’ll be famous and people will marvel at how woke you are.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq says:

        As long as people cling to a need for a job or earnings to give them 100% of the lifestyle they want and remain uninterested, or in any case unwilling to demand and accept as significant replacement for lost earnings (and potential earnings), a government handout (which usually includes government-guaranteed jobs)… there is indeed likely no answer for them.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The answer is simple: kill the unnecessary ones.
        Why aren’t you listening?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      There is a never ending argument among Democratic blogger and wonky types about whether the Democratic Party needs to pay attention to the white working class or not.

      Of course they should! Obviously, in fact. That is, if the party wants to represent Americans and all….

      In my lifetime I’ve seen the Democrats transition away from the white working class (unionism) (and closed borders and protectionism, etc) to effectively pandering* to two segments of society: middle to upper class white liberals and minorities. And the reason it WORKS is evidence of just how f***ed up that practice is.

      *Yes, pandering. No other word describes it.Report

      • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

        The D’s struggle is that they do try to do things for the working class but not specifically for the WWC. There is no way in the current D coalition to focus on what the WWC wants specially ( well in as much as any generalization like the WWC wants something). The ACA, more bucks for education, social safety net are things that benefit the WWC (leaving aside effectiveness or what the WWC wants) .Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:


          I would say the big thing about the big dividing line is that the WWC seems to be rural (plenty of working class people of color in rural areas as well). This means that being nice to things like fracking and coal mining is going to be hard. Same for gun control issues.Report

          • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Oh yeah the rural v urban divide is significant and much more at the root of the issues.Report

            • veronica d in reply to greginak says:

              Does the “rustbelt” count as rural?

              Over on Tumblr we have this “regional gothic” set of memes, which is usually a goofball list of “features” that mock the notion of southern gothic, usually inside jokes for people who live in that particular region. Like, there was a “Seattle Gothic” full of Seattle jokes and a “Florida Gothic” full of Florida jokes.

              Just today a “Rustbelt Gothic” crossed my dash. Unlike many before, this one is no joke.

              Rust Belt Gothic

              – Growing up, the night sky was always orange and smoke-filled.

              -They closed the steel mills, but only some of them. You used to believe they were portals to hellish dimensions. You weren’t wrong.

              -The people live in ghost towns now. The people look like ghosts.

              -There are so many churches, so many cathedrals, all cold stone and judgment. They built new ones, and they’re low-ceilinged, carpeted affairs. They have recorded bells that chime the hours, but you can hear the distortion. You’re not sure why that terrifies you.

              – It doesn’t matter if you go as far west as Detroit or as far east as Johnstown, there are dead or dying cities all along the corridor. The air is cleaner now, but people still choke.

              – “Maybe the dragons will come back to save us.” You turn and see a young mother leading a little girl through the door of a nondescript diner and wonder how a child who surely has never seen the flames could utter words you never told another soul.

              – the coal mines subside and cause entire streets to collapse. This is normal. The mines burn. This is normal. The slag heaps have been covered in sod. This is normal. The population is shrinking. This is normal.


              Oof! That’s a gut punch.Report

              • greginak in reply to veronica d says:

                Some rust belt is rural and some isn’t. Heck, apropos of your link, some rust belt used to be suburban and is now more rural since so many people have moved away.

                fwiw, where grew up in NJ we had a lot of orange skies but no mills or large scale factories.Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                Rural rustbelt is prisons and medicare/medicaid warehouses.
                It’s not decent sized towns — these are the places where the state police show up in 2 hours, and the town itself will run you out if you’re enough of an ass.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

              When we say “working class”, do we mean economic class or social class?Report

              • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

                Such a nebulous question. Everybody uses different and contradictory explanations. I’d say WC means some thing like no college and family income under 50K or maybe 70K. I believe median family income is around 45-50 so if you make much more than that you are doing pretty well and working class stops being a decent bin to sort people in.Report

              • KenB in reply to greginak says:

                If a working class person hits the lottery or gets rich via opening a chain of laundromats or getting on a hit reality show, is s/he no longer working class in your view? The answer to this will help you answer Kazzy’s question.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to KenB says:


                If you are referring to Duck Dynasty, what is interesting to me is how much of their long beard look is performative and for the show.


                This is how they looked before the show and how very J.Crew it is.Report

              • KenB in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                TBH I don’t watch any of that stuff so I didn’t have anyone particular in mind. It wouldn’t ever surprise me to learn that someone was faking a lower class origin in order to get more viewers & cred.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                But that introduces some other wrinkles.

                Were the DD guys NEVER ‘working class’? Were they previously ‘working class’ but only accepted by other working class members after growing the beards? If you “fake it” to the point that you essentially adopt the lifestyle, are you still faking it?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to KenB says:

                My frame is: Who more closely fits your definition, an offshore rig worker making $90k year or an adjunct professor making $45k?Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think adjunct professors would swoon if they made 45K.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                More seriously, this is where the culture angle comes in. The adjunct professor is not seen as working class (even if they are living an economically precarious life) because they are well-educated in a formal and credential manner. Their preferred/ideal lifestyle might be more towards Brooklyn upper-middle class bohemia.

                The oil rig worker is working class because of the kind of labor and possibly his or her preferred (or perceived) lifestyle.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                That would seem to make it almost all culture.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Kazzy says:

                It is all culture @kazzy.

                When people say it’s cultural rather than class as the issue, it means they don’t want to talk about class (in my eyes this is the big break in American politics.)Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                In the Christmas Carol, the Cratchits would be considered a middle class family because the family patriarch worked as a clerk. Their lack of money did not effect their class. Outside of the United States, income and class are less closely linked.Report

              • KenB in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yeah, that’s more concise and to the point. I’ll borrow it for next time.Report

              • greginak in reply to KenB says:

                Oh i say yeah if a WC person makes a lot of money then they aren’t WC. WC seems like an inherently economic term. That doesn’t mean they aren’t “country” or “down to earth” or a “plugger” ( if you know that comic) or culturally identify with rural or otherwise working class folk.

                I’ve known a lot of people who make 90+K or more working in the oil patch here in AK. Granted lots of them don’t have those jobs now but they would have self identified as WC in many ways. But having plenty of money changes how you live. Not culturally but in the economic ways, that matters.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

                I know we’ve recently had some pretty robust conversations about the difference between economic and social class (with links to the SlateStarCodex article that discussed it in depth and reference to the Cracked podcast that discussed the SSC article) recently so it seemed relevant to bring up.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

                Kazzy and Saul…..all true and that is part of the problem. There are to many and to varied definitions. People who make 200K per year think they are middle class. Econ and culture get intertwined in confusing ways. My preference, which means no one will use it, is to stick to an economic definition and talk about culture separately. People of all ethnicities can be working class and have different cultures but the WC part can define a certain set of incomes and jobs.

                The SSC piece is good although i think he went a little overboard but that is sort of his thing. Never say in 500 words what can be said in 5000. He is on the right track.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

                Well, if we’re talking straight economic class, I don’t think we need to break race out so discretely.

                If we’re talking culture, than we need to address culture.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

                I think it is better to separate them. White and black or latino or etc working class people share some characteristics and concerns. They often have very differing cultures and it is better to just talk about their different cultures as discrete phenomenon. Seems much simpler to me.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:


                But, again, then we’re talking culture. Which is okay!

                The idea that there is a specific economic plan we need for WWC people is what strikes me as a little silly.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

                It’s very silly. That is part of the problem with talking about the WWC. The fixes for their problem are stuff that helps all WC people. The White part is the thing that sticks out. The WWC issues are far more about White then WC.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:


                It strikes me that when we’re discussing the “needs” of the WWC, we’re really talking about feelings. The WWC sees itself/is perceived as/has it projected upon them that they are penned in by poor black and brown folks on one end and wealthy liberal urban elites on the other. And this framing is why they tend to skew conservative/Republican because the right tends to look disfavorably upon those two groups, so the enemy of my enemy and all that.

                But I’m not sure what the left/liberals/Democrats can really do about. Saying, “Hey, all these policies that help those ‘poor black and brown folks’… you know the rest of the working class… will probably help you. At the same time, you’re totally welcome to join us at Whole Foods where your whiteness will help you blend. Have you had kale?” doesn’t seem like a strategy likely to breed success.

                Because, at the end of the day, I don’t think the WWC is voting based primarily on either economic interests but with an eye towards preserving a culture that is increasingly squeezed out as America modernizes and as demographics change. Which isn’t a bad thing or illegitimate approach to voting or stupid or anything else that folks tend to tag others’ voting tendencies with… just that appealing to that mentality doesn’t really square with today’s general Democratic platform and trying to convince folks they should vote differently is REALLY hard.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                The problem with positional goods is that they cannot, by definition, be distributed “fairly”. This means that positional goods cannot be redistributed “fairly”.

                I don’t know how many problems that are being felt by the WWC involve loss of positional goods, but it’s non-zero.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:


                Do you have any specific positional goods in mind?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                The problem is that they’re mostly intangible.


              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                By and large I think the Democratic Party has little to answer for in this arena. They do have a program for the white working class, and it’s doing well enough outside the south and much of ruralia. And even in the latter case, they can be locally competitive in some otherwise red rural states (like Montana and North Dakota).

                It’s all good. My concern isn’t that the Democrats need to change, but that they might. And in response to, or conjunction with, the Republicans changing.

                If the GOP were to ditch the economic platform and become more UKIPesque, the above picture might change. In which case, the Democrats would need to become more accommodating on cultural issues to hold on to those votes.

                Or the Democrats themselves may simply choose to become less accommodating than they presently are, or even actively hostile in a way they presently aren’t. (Guns come to mind as an issue, but a lot of it wouldn’t be issues so much as presentation – running explicitly against Indiana the same way that Republicans presently run against coastal cities.)

                That’s not a prediction, but a concern.Report

              • J_A in reply to Kazzy says:

                That’s exactly what I was trying to say about the primacy of cultural vs economic issues for the WWC.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

                @kazzy The strategy for the D’s is to push teh polcies they have that speek to the needs of the WC. That has been succsessful. The ACA is popular in some red states, more so when you don’t call it Ocare. Push teh policies. The Whole Foods/Kale crap is more about news people and shallow sterotypes. Not sure why you are throwing that out there.

                It is a hard fact for D’s that some whites feel their “culture” or something is being lost with the changing of views on LBG and immigration and other things related to race. At some point a party can’t be all things to all people. ie; if your party is strongly pro-choice you have to accept you are going to not get some pro-life votes. The D’s have become the party of all the non-white people and that will always rankle some whites. At some point i don’t’ think there is anything the D’s can do about that.Report

              • J_A in reply to greginak says:

                I don’t think the D’s chose to be the party of all the non-white people (including most Jewish people)

                I think the D’s chose to be the party of the working class, at least the urban working class, and they chose that a very long time ago.

                But the fact is that working class has always included a lot of minorities: first you had Catholic Irish and Italians;then East European Jews; then black Americans; then Hispanics. Yes, there as a hiatus from FDR to JFK/LBJ, because the D’s also included the Republicans started the War South.

                To paraphrase someone: the D’s did not leave the WWC to pursue minorities, the WWC Jeff the Working Class coalition. .

                There is nothing in the D’s Working Class platform that is “for minorities only”, But the White Working Class decided that their White culture was more inimical to them than the Working Class culture.

                How do we get past that, I don’t know. I understand that WWC rebels against the loss of the world they grew in. But they are conflating the loss of the White World of their youth with the loss of the Working Class World of their youth.

                None of the two are coming back, but we can still help the Working Class adapt or mitigate the impact. But we cannot realistically help with real problems, unless everybody first comes into the real world.Report

              • greginak in reply to J_A says:

                I agree in general although the D embrace of Civil Rights in the 60’s had a massive impact on who was in the D coalition. Lots of whites left never to return over the next 20 years and minority groups flooded in. That was a big inflection point re: what happened to each party.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to greginak says:

                “They often have very differing cultures and it is better to just talk about their different cultures as discrete phenomenon. Seems much simpler to me.”

                I think this is a mistake. At working class levels we see the same struggles. Mostly pivoting around shelter, food, fuel and electricity. We are still having to engage very similar social constructs such as the job market, the way corporate/state markets have been constructed. Even the velocity of money in local environments will be distributed effects.

                This is something I think the right is better at than the left. The left tends to first group people then try to determine the environments of the groups. The right tends to look mostly at the environment and how individuals are doing in it.Report

              • greginak in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Joe. You lost me. I’ve said i think WC people( using the economic definition) have the same issues. So it’s best to just talk about that discretely. If we are talking different cultures then just talk about the cultures. It reads like you are disagreeing with me then agreeing with me.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Joe Sal says:


                Yes and no. Notice how Paul Ryan has said that poor urban dwellers (read blacks and hispanics) are the victims of their environments/cultures but he is goes out of the way to not make similar claims about the white working class in rural areas:


              • Joe Sal in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I think all cultures that have the working class supplementing their diet with Ramen noodles will if not already start having certain cultural alignments about the economy. WWC included. I have no love for Paul Ryan, I think he is a sell out to the establishment, and doesn’t have the vision to see past the back of his eyelids.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:


                No one really knows how to define “working class” or “middle class” in the United States.

                I would say economics and cultural issues are too intertwined here and prevent the broad definition of working class. As I noted, there are plenty of working class people who are also people of color but we need to define the white working class as a different entity because of cultural divides.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Is “conservative” (socially and/or economically) a marker for the cultural divide there?Report

              • Dand in reply to Kazzy says:

                How about Paul Fussell’s class concept:


                It’s somewhat outdated especially at the top but still seems pretty good.Report

          • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            You ain’t been to rural, you don’t know rural, and rural ain’t what you think it is.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

        That isn’t an entirely accurate. The Northern part of the Democratic Party was always against the immigration restrictions after they were implemented because their base, the Catholic and Jewish working class, was hurt by them. There were fist fights at Democratic Party conventions during the 1920s about a wide variety of issues that still resonant today, including civil rights for racial minorities. Once FDR became President things cooled down for awhile but they split between the Northern and Southern Democratic politicians blow up after 1945.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:


        I don’t think this is completely true and I don’t think pandering is the right word because the concerns of minorities are very much a real thing. I also don’t know what you mean by pandering to upper-middle class liberals because parental leave and environmentalism strike me as perfectly good solutions.

        The fight between liberals and conservatives in the Democratic Party is nearly 70 years old or over 70 years old depending on how you count. In 1948, Hubert Humphrey gave a very famous speech at the Democratic convention that argued the Democratic Party should be the party of human rights and not the party of state’s rights. In response, Strom Thurmond walked out and formed the Dixicrats. This was the start of the end of the Solid South for the Democratic Party.

        The Democratic Party were on the sides of angels in 1964 and 1965 with the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.

        In Linky Friday this week, Will had an article about cities fretting about millennials moving out of the city when they have kids. What these articles fail to mention is that millennial in this case means white (or Asian) usually, professionals, with college degrees or higher. It ignores the fact that many millennials are not white, do not have college degrees, and who grew up in cities and will never leave cities.

        The working class contains many minorities. The fight for fifteen is often being waged by minorities. So I don’t necessarily get fetishizing over the WWC. Home health aides from Harlem and Oakland are just as valuable as coal miners from West Virginia or Kentucy and voting/advocating for their interests should not be seen as pandering.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

        It’s not (necessarily) just Democrats (or liberals, if you prefer). David Shor, who follows such things, says that since the 1990’s much of the international center-left moved in the same direction: Towards urban, suburban, and educated (white) voters, and away from the working class.

        From what I’ve seen in other countries, there seems to be some truth to it. The strength of the left parties in prairie Canada and non-urban UK waning, and Labour’s strength in London continuously improving. My knowledge of other countries is superificial, though Shor’s isn’t. And Third Wayism was definitely a(n international) thing.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Will Truman says:

          “The strength of the left parties in prairie Canada […] waning”

          This used to be true but I’m not sure how true it still is, witness Alberta currently has an NDP government, a phrase I never expected to be typing…Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Maribou says:

            True, but that had mitigating factors (the collapse of the PC and division between the PC and Wildrose). But that even that mattered could prove significant. We’ll see!Report

            • Maribou in reply to Will Truman says:

              @will-truman Oh yeah, I’ve heard alllllllllll about the mitigating factors from my banking lawyer sister who tends to lean classic PC in her politics. Also about the relationship between huge influx of temporarily-Albertan Eastern Canadian workers (like her, technically :D) and shift in voting patterns. And etc.

              But I think if you didn’t grow up in Canada, at about the same time I did (such that you remember them getting swept out of Alberta in the early 1990s as a significant part of your early political awareness, rather than just being theoretically aware they’d never, not once, been in charge there), it’s probably not so obvious why she stopped arguing with me, laughed, and conceded the point, when I just reiterated, more slowly:

              “Nonetheless. The EN-FREAKING-DEE-PEE. Are. The Government. In. Alberta.”

              Because HOLY COW.

              The only thing more personally brainbreaking, in Canadian politics, would be Quebec actually separating.Report

            • Maribou in reply to Will Truman says:

              Also, you probably have the context but other readers may not:

              The NDP runs somewhat more to the center in modern-day Alberta than it does in some other places, but that’s somewhat-more-to-the-center of a party that is still socialist enough that when I immigrated to the States, I was required to declare my past membership in the Young NDP as part of the immigration form. It fell under the rubric of party memberships the US is suspicious of.

              (As an aside, b/c I am feeling garrulous, the least social-democratic
              NDP government OF ALL TIME was probably in Ontario under Bob Rae. That dude got into office and was all like “what? j/k! i’m secretly PC!!!”* The topical news sketch-comedy shows were delighted.)

              Just sayin’.

              *This is hyperbole – but it does describe the decisions the party made AND his personal stances… he eventually became a Liberal and even led that party, and srsly, back when the PCs were thriving, but post-Mulroney – they were only as different from the Liberals as one hockey team is from another. If that.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

          To be somewhat fair, Scotland is significantly to the left of England and I don’t think you can quite map European politics to American politics.

          Parties in Europe (including the UK) are a bit more economically oriented than US ones though this might be changing. Corbyn came into power because there is still a significant section of the Labour base that believes in the old school socialism of the Labour party despite the fact that Blair’s New Labour helped lead them back into power.

          Anecdotally, most of the European expats I know living in the US would vote for the center-right parties in their native countries. Yet they look at the Republican Party like it is insane especially in terms of social politics. The idea of a socially liberally, fiscally conservative, urbane, urban dweller is not unusual in Europe like it is in the United States.Report

          • scott the mediocre in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Anecdotally, most of the European expats I know living in the US would vote for the center-right parties in their native countries. Yet they look at the Republican Party like it is insane especially in terms of social politics.

            My anecdata sort of match yours, though interpreting center-right in e.g. Italy is tricky, given how Trumpesque Berlusconi and his enablers (Lega Nord) are/were. The set I know well enough to make an informed guess about are: two Italians, one Brit, one Irishman who spent his young adulthood in Britain, one Frenchman, one Dane, and one Swede. One Italian supports the Democratic Party (PD), who are more or less Social Democratic but with a leaven of leftish Christian Democrats; the other supports Civic Choice who are a smallish liberal in the European sense party (think FDP in Germany). The Brit used to be a New Labour type until Iraq, then he went SDLP/LD, although he doesn’t mind the wetter Tories. The Irish guy is more connected to UK politics than to Irish, and indeed was a left Tory (and utterly appalled by Brexit, Bojo, Farage, etc.). The Frenchman and the Dane match your model, while the Swede finds the Social Democrats too rightward 🙂Report

            • There’s likely a component here of which European righties we’re talking about. I mean the Tories we’d most likely know are not likely to be those flirting with UKIP. And while UKIP may love the NHS, they do seem to be more interested in culture. And as we’ve found out, a lot of Republican voters might not mind an NHS themselves. If Shor’s theory holds in this instance, that might become part of the international party convergence. Same with Canada and immigration.Report

              • scott the mediocre in reply to Will Truman says:

                I took Saul’s “center-right” to mean “mainstream” center-right: a party that might have a Euroskeptic wing/tendency, but which is clearly “establishment”, and which has longish roots in the postwar political order. So UKIP would not fit, while the (Austrian) FPÖ is a marginal case, since they were part of the political order initially (minority party in government with the SPÖ), then starting moving right-nationalist under Haider.

                Re NHS – AFAIK the US is the only first world economy (operationally defined as an OECD member as of say 1989, with Turkey perhaps subtracted) where opposition to public provision of healthcare to the under-65 set is a major pillar (a Schelling point, even) of the right of center alignment. There’s a lot of path dependence to get where the GOP has been post-1992 (although, paging our Canadian membership, my weak impression was that Harper really was fairly close to the Canadian instantiation of a modal Republican).

                Re Shor’s thesis, from my anecdata, the expats I know (all in the tech business, so an incredibly biased sample) tend weakly liberaltarian/socially atomistic, and so their compatibility with the center-left alignment in the home country will depend a lot on the state of labor relations and perceived fiscal rectitude. e.g. In Britain they might be OK with Labour under Blair or Miliband, but absolutely not under (Tony) Benn or Corbyn. The only Germans I know, I don’t know well enough to talk politics with, but the FDP exemplifies what I think the ideal Euro-expat party would be.Report

              • Brent F in reply to scott the mediocre says:

                Canadian left-wingers liked to depict Stephen Harper as a Republican because of the severely negative connotations that entails for the bulk of politically engaged Canadians.

                In reality, he was largely representative of the views of the Calgarian business types and Ontario exurbia, neither of which would fall in line with a real Republican. His primary policy goal was to prevent the creation of new centralized nation building projects, pick fights with the civil service, and to make minor tax cuts.Report

              • scott the mediocre in reply to Brent F says:

                Thanks for the correction. Two followup observations/questions:

                1) ISTR Harper as Opposition leader/PM going on about culture war stuff and Jesus in ways that seemed unusual for a Canadian rightist (though of course kindergarten level for a Republican). But a quick scan of his Wikipedia article didn’t confirm (other than the anti-SSM run of 2005-2006). Did I hallucinate that? I fear I did 🙁

                2) Ontario exurbia leads to Rob Ford, who strikes me as a being sufficiently Real Republican of the Trumpoid tendency as it’s practically possible for a Canadian to be. I had the impression that Harper’s support was much more Western, e.g. ex-Reform (like him).Report

          • In Shor’s context, Scots are minorities. Same with Quebecois.

            Western European conservatives may be uncomfortable with the GOP, but the GOP is uncomfortable with a lot of Eastern European conservatives. Specifics are secondary to the general.Report

        • Brent F in reply to Will Truman says:

          In the Canadian case you have the right general idea, but the completely wrong geographical terms.

          The left parties in Canada are generally fading in rurallia, exubia and low density areas while the far left is retrenching from old industrial towns instead to the low income areas of urbia.

          Because the party system is way more complicated than Americans are used to (and less binary than even the British one as Tory/Labour is probably still a much more dominant organizing principle than Liberal/Conservative is) it is a bit difficult to track this election to election. If you are used to the linear, trench warfare of American politics the multilinear, manuever warfare of a 2.5 party system with intense regionalism is going to be a bit difficult to fathom.

          In regional terms though, this is something that increased the right’s strength in Ontario. In prarrie terms what we are seeing is a slow demographic shift as migration and urbanization alters prarrie cites to more resemble their larger kin. Locally this can be best explained by understanding that 2015 was the political tipping point when the Alberta population of 1971 (pre-oil boom) had been effectively politically marginalised by the New Albertans.

          The other major, major difference is that the mainstream Canadian right generally tries to embrace immigration and visable ethnics minorities because their collation is too small and weak to afford to ignore them. White anger is a distinctly losing strategy for them so they usually do their best to avoid it (recent failures accompanied by when they didn’t avoid it are proof of the soundness of that approach)Report

  9. Michael Drew says:

    ITM, baby.Report

  10. Dand says:

    How minorities voted:

    I’m trying to figure out what happened here, it seems like for non-British higher SES groups were more likely to vote leave.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Dand says:

      Given th commentary we’ve heard, you’d expect the spreads to be wider.Report

      • Dand in reply to Will Truman says:

        I find that pattern very strange, it would have made much more sense to me if poorer minority groups had voted for leave. Rob Ford showed that populist movements can attract minority support but he won the poor and working class minorities.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Dand says:

          Could be related to the thing where bachelor degreed whites were slightly more likely to vote Democrat than Republican in 2008 and/or 2012, but the opposite was slightly true among minorities.

          (Or, for that matter, why protestant Hispanics and Catholic blacks are slightly less likely to be Democrats than Catholic Hispanics and protestant blacksblacks, an indicator of assimilation/integration of a sort.)Report

    • scott the mediocre in reply to Dand says:

      sample sizes are pretty small for the non-whites

      Hypothesis: the relatively higher Leave voting groups (Indian and Chinese)
      1) Derive residency, property, etc. rights from formerly colonial status, hence unaffected by Brexit
      2) Relatively longer roots in country than EU-based migrants.
      3) Perhaps concentrated in fields (healthcare, at least for the Indians) which are both not affected by deindustrialization and which are under labor competition from Eastern Europe?

      ISTR Farage, or maybe Gove, making some speech points during the campaign about preferring [english-speaking] Pakistani doctors to Bulgarians or something like that.Report

  11. Duff Clarity says:

    It’s interesting that in discussing the Brexit, leftists never mention the main reason that people voting to leave say they did so.

    It just never comes up as an issue. Not worth mentioning.Report

  12. Saul Degraw says:

    @will-truman @jaybird

    Moving below thread. I wonder how much religion plays apart in the WWC woes. Specifically American Protestant Evangelism and the Prosperity Gospel.

    The Catholic Church does horde great wealth but they also had a long tradition of the nobility of poverty. Something like this has never existed in the United States. We had Protestant denominations that thought material possessions and wealth were a sign of your wealth or Protestant denominations that were known for being made up almost exclusively of wealthy people (like the Episcopalians, Unitarians, and Congregationalists.)

    The other denominations were more aspirational in nature and did not tell people to be grateful for what they had.

    The left’s solution to this issue partially is to use the welfare state to make working class lives more palpable. You might not have much but we can give you healthcare and time off. They would also seemingly want people to be less concerned with material possessions.

    Yet this does not seem to sell in the United States to most except those who largely know material comfort and a few oddball bohemians here and there.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      One of the things that religion does in addition to hoarding wealth and providing false consciousness to sheeple is creates an ingroup out of damn near nothing and provides a little small amount of “siblinghood” to complete strangers.

      Sort of like “hey, we’re both Broncos fans” but for sky fairies.

      I think that we’re really, really going to miss being able to appeal to that sort of thing. We might even miss the circumstances under which we might have non-ironically believed in such a thing.Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    Remember The Dark Knight Rises? (I watched it on the plane on the way back, so it’s fresh in my mind.)

    Selina Kyle: There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.

    Bruce Wayne: You sound like you’re looking forward to it.

    Selina Kyle: I’m adaptable.

    There’s a storm coming.Report

    • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

      Pendulum swings both ways, pardner.
      The swings are getting more vicious, but that’s just the way of things.

      It’s no storm the way you hear storms coming… It’s just another hurricane, and the forcing function’s getting stronger — more heat in the system.

      Predictable. Boring. Deadly.Report