Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Battle of Preferences

The other day, Tucker Carlson had Nicholas Eberstadt on to discuss his most recent column on the economic causes of the turmoil we see in the culture.

The column is well worth a read, as Eberstadt loads it up with facts and graphs to make his points. The shocking statistics on the un-working population should be a national scandal, but as he points out, the economic data fed to politicians disguises these realities. Relying on the unemployment rate, for example, hides the legions of people, particularly men, who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. If you are not looking for work, you are not counted in unemployment figures.
Again, it is a great piece and worth reading. He has a book on this topic as well. Eberstadt is a guy worth reading, mostly because he has one of the more impressive biographies you will see.
Eberstadt was born on December 20, 1955 in New York City. His father, Frederick Eberstadt, was an author and photographer. His mother, Isabel Nash, was a novelist. His paternal grandfather, Ferdinand Eberstadt, was an investment banker and co-founder of the Central Intelligence Agency; his maternal grandfather, Ogden Nash, was a poet. His sister, Fernanda Eberstadt, is a novelist.
Eberstadt graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1972. He then earned his A.B. magna cum laude in Economics from Harvard College in 1976, and his M.Sc. in Social Planning for Developing Countries from the London School of Economics in 1978. He completed his M.P.A. at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1979, and his Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government at Harvard University in 1995.
Anyway, one of the great mistakes made by conventional conservatism was to adopt the sterile, transactional view of culture favored by libertarians and Progressives. In fact, their view is often anti-cultural, as it treats humans as if they are moist robots. Culture is about tastes and preferences that are embedded to a great degree in human biology. Just as every person is the sum of decisions made by his ancestors, the culture of any society is the sum of all those individual sums. In other words, culture is tied to human biology.
Let’s pretend that, through some special magic, economics comes up with a way to put most everyone on welfare, at a rate that allows for a middle-class life. The robot revolution leads to a world where hardly anyone works, but everyone has access to all the goods and services we associate with the comfortable middle-class life. In other words, we have lurched into a version of the future imagined by H.G. Wells, where everyone spends their day in leisure, but no one is eaten by Morlocks after sundown.
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