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Jun 7, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

Although I was just a boy in the 70's, what I remember was the pervasive sense of national decline: Vietnam, Watergate, OPEC, urban crime, malaise, Japan, Iran. Listen to the 1979 hit from The Kinks: Catch Me Now I´m Falling. Compare the tone of the first Rocky in 1976 to that of the third in 1982. While the US has often seemed to be the land of plenty, the dream was for a better tomorrow. Today, the country feels tired and people on both sides of the political isle have lost faith in themselves. Mere abundance cannot replace that. Decline is back.

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I have similar memories. And yes, by the 70s the long post-war boom had been crunched by the sharp rise in oil prices (and various attendant, specific problems like persistently high inflation).

Once inflation had been broken by the 80-82 recession, though, people felt a lot better about things, although per capita GPD wasn't rising any faster in the 80s (and economic inequality was getting worse). But I think one huge factor that helped was the continued rise of female participation in the labor force. IIRC, we weren't seeing much progress in median wage growth in the 80s, but median *household* income continued to rise (at least modestly) because of this effect. By the 90s the gains to household income from the entry of women into the workforce were pretty much at an end, but then the US experienced an increase in productivity growth which resulted in modest wage growth. Millions of Americans also benefited from increases in property and share prices in the 90s. And inflation remained low. After the start of the new millennium, the party managed to continue for a few more years largely because of the ability of US households to borrow to prop up consumption (itself probably enabled by soaring savings in China). And then came 2007-2009, and the dismal half decade of "recovery" after that.

And here we are.

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Ran into this from your citation of my REAGANLAND. Great stuff!

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Thanks!!

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It reminded me something of a Bay Area NIMBY activist told me, that he's found Berkeley to be the most reactionary community he's ever experienced, for how hard its homeowners pushed back against any zoning changes, ever. https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/americas-scarcity-mindset

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Reactionary economics, racism, and the military industrial complex have always survived and thrived along with experimental countercultures and advanced scientific and technological research in the Golden State. It's almost as if there's a specific ideology that originated there...

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The scarcity mentality comes about because of high inequality. What isn't in abundance anywhere is relative prestige, and inequality means that those high up on the totem pole both 1. Have more resources to defend their relative prestige, and 2. Care more about defending it because the drop down the gap is big.

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Relative wealth is always the measure to look at. In absolute terms, most Americans have more creature comforts than royalty did a couple hundred years ago. But do we *feel* like kings? Nope.

Everyone is trying to "get ahead". Ahead of whom? Can everybody be ahead of everyone else? But this is what we care about.

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My sense is Americans tend to undervalue leisure and economic security, both of which contribute to peace of mind. The wealthiest bits of the high-income world tend to be somewhat less affluent than the USA, which translates into things like smaller houses, cars, refrigerators, TVs and fewer restaurant meals. But they also tend to enjoy shorter work weeks, more vacation, and higher savings. I remember seeing a statistic a few years back showing average net household worth in the US was very high indeed (4th or 5th globally IIRC). But median net household worth in the US was a something like 25th (behind Greece and Portugal if memory serves). The American public is like a valuable asset, carefully managed by powerful rent-seeking interests to provide a steady income stream. It works out great for the rent-seekers, but results in excessive debt, onerous work hours and insufficient down time and economic security for the bottom (ball park estimate) 60% of the US.

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Folks outside the US have this tendency to construct their knowledge of the US from quantitative sources and de-contextualized video cultural media only. There is a distrust of qualitative and narrative sources.

American culture generally and political culture specifically is Calvinist/Puritan. This is a tradition that says that work is worship, and poverty a result of laziness which is a sign of immorality because it refuses worship. One way to express the resulting mindset is in the language of mid-20th century technocratic developmentalism as "undervaluing leisure".

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I think it's perfectly fine to valorize hard work. More gets done that way! But Americans work quite a bit *longer* than the other countries near the top of the national income charts, and have seen a markedly smaller reduction in working hours over the last several decades (compared, again, to other very high income countries like Canada, Norway, Germany, Sweden, etc). So, I'm merely suggesting that, if they wanted more time off, Americans could demand it. We could pass laws, and everything! But not enough of them want such a change, apparently, and sure, perhaps it's largely attributable to the Puritans. Although I reckon it has more to do with James Madison, Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand than with Cotton Mather.

(Also, needless to say, there's a difference between a high salary person who performs intellectually simulating work and enjoys favorable conditions -- and thus might arguably enjoy a reasonable return in exchange for a very long work week -- and a lower wage worker who's on her feet eight hours a day).

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Why would Madison have anything to do with a cultural valorization of hard work beyond being a white Southern slave-owner? That's a good reason, but is that what you mean?

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Exactly. The US workforce (i.e people) are managed as assets according to the "rational" theory taught in business schools (although always understood by finanaciers).

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America is a very rich country, agreed! In broad terms probably the richest. But I was talking about "median" not "mean." Perhaps Portugal/Greece took a particularly savage hit a decade ago and their rankings have dropped. But I think my recollection held up pretty well, based on your update (thanks). 22nd in median wealth.

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Also, I'm sure you've heard the grim statistics about the vast number of Americans who can't put their hands on 400 bucks (or whatever the exact factoid was) for an emergency. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about. Untold wealth. But untold numbers of people who seem utterly disconnected from the country's economic lifeblood. I suspect things are a lot better in this regard in (poorer) Finland or Denmark. But that's just a guess.

And yes, zero doubt these folks are disproportionately non-white (although plenty are white!).

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Keeping up with the Joneses, not the Ndlovu's..

I wonder if social media exacerbates this perception by rubbing it in when people have more money and show off their car/holiday/whatever. Before, it may have been easier to not notice.

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You seem to keep arguing against human nature. Yes, if we were all rational happiness maximizer, maybe you'd see the masses all taking the bird's eye view and being "sane".

It's only slightly odd that people overlooking human nature is the exact criticism used in defense of our prevailing distributive system. (not to seems sparky since you are arguing in well-mannered good faith)

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An internal analysis of a country is an internal analysis of a country. Of Japan, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Albania, Turkey, or the US. Humans within societies relate directly to and compare themselves directly to other members of that society, and there is nothing weird about that. It's a very recent, hyper cosmopolitan mindset that says that the only legitimate reference point for a particular population is the entire planet. The entire planet did not make Newt Gingrich Speaker of the US House of Representatives or Mitch McConnel the leader of US Senate Republicans.

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It's not mainly about these grades of millionaires. People are judging themselves based on 1) the people around them, and 2) images created in the media, the prevailing worldview.

As to that second one, if you think about who controls (or at least allows) those messages, you notice that it's exactly what you'd want from the perspective of the population being assets which you own and want to see rise in value.

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Chicken and egg, though. What caused the high inequality, when we know that there was a period of time when the white majority of the US was much more equal within itself?

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Is the question the answer?

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Great point. This seems incontrovertible to me, at least as a partial explanation.

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Jun 8, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

I would expect that Noah reads Miles Kimball regularly (his PhD advisor and sometimes coauthor). Miles had a post on 3 June in his blog which shared an essay from Gary Sargent Porter titled "Alternate Realities: Republicans vs. Democrats". The essay cogently argues that fear of change is an evolutionary biological trait that has allowed humans to survive over ca. 200,000 years. Fear of "the other" is part of our most primitive brain. Even now that survival is not a major issue in most developed countries periods of more rapid change trigger the same reptile brain response.

From Sargent:

Mormons, Jews, Japanese (during Japan’s war years), Germans (during the country’s war ---years), and many Christian groups today, depend on stories of persecution to unite the group. Even invented stories of persecution can unite groups by touching a part of the human genome. It is the threat, however remote, of total destruction. If a group is threatened, even preposterously, humans lose their capacity to think in rational terms.

Almost none of us is aware of the degree to which this happens.

Consider Fox News. All day long its messages are about ‘threats’ to the group. Each anecdotal story, repeatedly told, reinforces some threat to the group’s existence.

Trump’s messages also are about threats to the group. Rationality ceases. Preposterousness becomes truth as long as a threat is perceived.

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yep

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> Mormons, Jews, Japanese (during Japan’s war years), Germans (during the country’s war ---years), and many Christian groups today

Add China today to this list please.

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In her book "The Sum of Us:What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together" Heather McGhee identifies this scarcity mindset as constructed by plutocrats throughout American history so that they can keep the rest of us divided and fighting with each other. If we can over come that we get what she calls "the solidarity dividend." It's an interesting complement to the excellent arguments you are making here.

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It's no accident that plutocrats have done so much better than the rest of us over the past 40 years. Just look at the influence of the Kochtopus (http://critiques.us/index.php?title=Kochtopus) and think of the scarcity mindset propaganda it has put out over the years. Keep in mind that almost all the ideas of conservatives/republicans originate in Koch organizations. Wedge issues, for example, designed to keep us divided and fighting.

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I don't think so. ALEC (http://critiques.us/index.php?title=ALEC), founded, led, and funded in part by the Koch brothers, pushes wedge issues such as guns all the time.

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They're also fierce advocates of restrictive voting laws.

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Anti-trump but pro GOP. It's not like they paid for ads against Trump in 2016 or 2020. They just gave to Paul Gosar instead.

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One thing:

- Are you planning to spin this into further posts? I could see several, more detailed posts for each of the topics you've outlined here: college spots, housing, etc. I generally think the scarcity mindset, as you've stated it, is an unnecessary drag on the country, but I do think there is something to be said about certain aspects being zero sum - finite amount of college admission spots (could be expanded though), etc. Anyways, good post; hope to see more.

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Surely others are making these points more completely and coherently, but here goes. What we currently call conservative has a zero sum worldview. This is exploited ruthlessly by fabricating threats to their status (politics, wealth, safety, etc) for the financial benefit of a few (Fox, etc). They are a minority, no more than a third, but our unrepresentative system, such as the Senate, gives them excessive power. That's all.

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I really hate to hand it to Ross Douthat, but he was right on the mark back in the 2000s when he told liberals and leftists that if they're not fans of the Religious Right they're REALLY not going to be fans of the post-religious right.

People speculate on why the US has historically been way more religious than the rest of the West (with exceptions like Ireland, Poland, etc.) and in the end I think it's just the stabilization factor that being a member of a church/synagogue provides. With the exception of the mid-twentieth century the US, while definitely a wealthy land of opportunity, has always been a chaotic and paranoid place to live due to our high geographic mobility, then-high economic mobility (rags to riches and maybe back to rags), non-wartime crime rates, and willingness to charge head first into adopting disruptive technologies whatever the social cost if there was a buck to be made. (Among other things, I think this kind of culture also explains why Americans have a harder time with moderate alcohol consumption than lots of the world).

Although the religiosity of the US on-balance has been kind of a net negative, churches also provide community, civic engagement, a set of non-materialistic values, frameworks for self-improvement, and a positive orientation towards the future that I think is a lot more difficult for the ordinary American to find than, say, an ordinary New Zealander, South Korean, or French person.

When I was younger and more naive I thought that losing religiosity and churchgoing would lead to a civic renaissance in America. Haha. Instead, it started happening just in time for the algorithms to start herding us away from our neighbors and community towards fandoms, hyper-consumerism, and most dangerously bespoke conspiracy cults like Qanon. High earners in the wealthy liberal cities are becoming more alienated too, but I think they express it differently - you see more careerism and hedonism in the form of people becoming foodies or globe-hopping travel junkies. This is a recipe for mutual alienation, distrust, and eventually hostility. I'm from and live in Seattle, where I think a lot of this stuff is less apparent than in the rest of the US, but it still feels like a meaner, nastier place than it did in 2014 or even 2017. It really sucks.

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A number of problems here: I'll start with immigration, which does provide an overall economic boost but also comes with costs. The boost goes to the immigrants themselves and the people who employ them, for the most part. And the costs are borne by the majority of Americans who watch as their neighborhoods and schools are degraded, housing values where immigrants settle decline, medical resources are strained, jobs become scarcer and wages extend their long descent.

There's a lot of talk these days about the "big lie" associated with Trump backers' challenge to the 2020 election results. Well, "big lies" aren't confined to the political right. Perhaps the biggest lie of the past century was the lie that opening the door to more immigration in the 1960s absolutely under no circumstances would ever change the ethnic and racial makeup of the country, which at the time was 90% white and 10% minority. Now we're at 60% white and 40% minority and headed quickly toward a so-called majority minority future. If the well-established pattern of the past few decades is sustained -- and there's absolutely no reason to believe it won't be -- that future will be one of incessant tribalistic hostility in which the "scarcity" mindset the author laments will only grow worse.

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Yes, I understand that racism is a big reason why people want to maintain artificial scarcity by keeping out immigrants. But thanks for reminding us!

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Ah, the surest indication that someone is losing an argument is the last-ditch accusation of racism.

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Jun 7, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

Why would we want to maintain the country at 90% white?

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I'm not saying we should or shouldn't. What I am saying -- and it is a well documented fact -- is that we were lied into the state that we're in, whether you consider that state to be absolutely wonderful, utterly deplorable or anything in between. I don't know about you, but when authorities lie to me, I tend to be displeased.

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Who lied to you, specifically, and when?

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There were many but they included Lyndon Johnson and Robert and Ted Kennedy. And they didn't lie to me specifically, even though I was around at the time, but to the public at large with repeated public assurances that Hart-Celler would make little or no difference in the nation's demographics. This was key to passage of the bill in 1965.

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who would ever think that the hart-celler bill wouldn't change the demographic?

It got rid of the quota system that was based on the existing racial demographic.

when did LBJ said it wouldnt change anythinng and why would an educated person believe it, when the bill clearly opened up immigration to all?

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Good questions. And they were good questions raised at the time, in response to which LBJ and other Democrats assured us -- however implausibly -- that nothing would change.

We get this constant recitation that we're a "nation of immigrants" and therefore have some kind of moral obligation to fling open the borders. But that's simply not true. Most of us were born here. This nation, like every other nation, has developed a certain character over time that its people are just as entitled as any other nation's people to try to preserve if they wish.

We should never lose sight of the fact that over most of the 5 1/2 decades since Hart-Celler was passed the American people again and again demanded less immigration only to be denied. Once more, I'll emphasize that there are many who think this is great. In fact this includes a majority of the now transformed national demographic. But this doesn't cancel the lies that launched the transformation and the anti-democratic thwarting of the public will over the years since to keep the doors open.

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Not sure it’s true that “authorities” said “absolutely under no circumstances would [immigration] ever change the ethnic and racial makeup of the country”. But ok.

Racially diverse places are the best places to live in the US. It’s a classic win-win for native born people and the immigrants themselves.

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"Best places to live" is a subjective value judgment. Certainly there are areas that benefit from the presence of immigrants and diverse cultures. But there are other areas that don't.

As left-leaning economist and Brown University professor Mark Blyth puts it, for him an immigrant is a fascinating, articulate person whose different background and perspective are enlightening and entertaining. For an American who's doesn't have tenure at a major university, however, he says an immigrant is someone who competes for jobs, lowers wages and housing values, places additional burdens on already strained public services and changes local culture in a way that's unfamiliar, unpleasant and threatening.

Having lived in Belgium for several years, I would encourage you to visit the several no-go zones that Muslim immigrants have come to occupy there in major cities in the Belgian drive for enlightened "diversity." Much the same can be experienced from southern Sweden and through the Netherlands, France and Germany. This is beginning to happen in the US as well, but Europe is more "advanced" along these lines and provides a nice insight into our "diversity is a strength" future.

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I’m not a university professor, but I’ve spent time working in a factory or two. For native born American workers, immigrants are those people who invited you over to their place for carne asada last weekend.

Never met a factory worker who would describe an immigrant as “someone who competes for jobs, lowers wages and housing values, places additional burdens on already strained public services and changes local culture in a way that's unfamiliar, unpleasant and threatening.” Sounds like something a college professor thinks a working person would say haha.

I can guarantee you that the average American worker has a lot more in common with their immigrant coworkers than a college professor from Brown University.

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And like, if you need any proof immigration makes a country strong, you don’t have to look any further than the good old USA.

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But certainly by current standards the US has been anything but diverse through most of its history. Basically we're an outgrowth of British and European civilization based on Judeo-Christian values and ideas about rights, obligations and governance, initially drawing on a stock from northern and western Europe and eventually southern and eastern Europe. These were the decades in which we were developing rapidly.

That didn't begin to change substantially until the 1960s, and since then I believe the record will show that we haven't won a war (OK, we did defeat Grenada) even as we've fallen well behind other countries in basic measures of well-being where we used to be world leaders (education, healthcare, longevity, basic infrastructure, etc. etc.). That said, I'll allow that diversity hasn't been the main driver of these downward trends. But it clearly hasn't helped.

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All I know is from seven years of firsthand experience and scatterings of data that authorities typically de-emphasize or hide, including unemployment rates for adult immigrants that average two to three times the overall rate in several countries. Murder rates are indeed low by US standards in these areas. But rape and gang rape perpetrated by immigrants are fairly common across Europe and lesser sexual assaults far more so. Stats are elusive, but in Denmark immigrants over a 5-year period ended in 2019 accounted for 6% of the population but 34% of rapes.

So pick your preferred brutality.

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Sometimes you have to lie to white supremacists to get things done I guess.

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That's fine until they tell lies and take the reins.

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It's never going to be fine when racists take power. It doesn't matter what you did before.

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Setting aside the fact that the entire first paragraph is a farce, no one claims that ethnography wouldn’t change with more immigration. The point of the piece is that artificially limiting people’s opportunities drives them apart, not arbitrary traits assigned to them by cultures and other systems— did you even read the piece?

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Yes, no one claims now that ethnography isn't shifting. In fact, it's considered an absolutely glorious, liberating, marvelous and joyful thing. But in the 1960s, at the relevant time and shortly thereafter, leading Democratic politicians did assure us that the Hart-Celler Act would bring about no substantial change. This was intended to soothe widespread concerns among many people that they would end up in a country that they would no longer recognize. And yes, I did read the entire entire article and take its main point. I'm only addressing one of the issues raised.

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Is there empirical research to support this? I’ve lived in majority Mexican immigrant neighborhoods twice in my life. Eight years in Chicago’s Pilsen and more recently Athmar Park in Denver. In both cases the neighborhoods steadily improved over time. In the second case I bought a four plex and all my tenants are Mexican immigrants. They’re great tenants.

Pilsen was a very tough neighborhood when I lived there in the nineties, but nonetheless I saw houses being built and rehabbed. It was fine.

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I'm familiar with Pilsen, and what you say is true. I have noted that some neighborhoods thrive from immigration, and Pilsen is an example. But it's also a place that came back from a very low point due to ongoing deindustrialization, a trend had little or nothing to do with immigration and a great deal to do with pernicious economic policy.

A counter-example would be much of East Los Angeles, a city that I'm also familiar with, once thriving areas that have since yielded to gang infestations. Compton, Calif., would be another example. And, as mentioned, the many no-go neighborhoods scattered throughout Europe.

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Clearly, the you were last familiar with East LA and Compton in the 1990's. As of 2021, there isn't a habitable dwelling for less than $400,000 in either neighborhood and that's the starting price for a 2br/1ba. But don't let me convince you of reality, see it on Redfin: https://www.redfin.com/city/3890/CA/Compton/filter/sort=lo-price,property-type=house+condo+townhouse

https://www.redfin.com/city/22411/CA/East-Los-Angeles/filter/sort=lo-price,property-type=house+condo+townhouse

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Both of those are enormous numbers. And foreign-born is just the tip of the iceberg that indicates a much larger cohort of strongly ethnic or racial groups that are unassimilated. And remember, "assimilation" is now a dirty word.

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deletedJun 7, 2021Liked by Noah Smith
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Many would agree with your view on this. Many don't. Cosmopolitanism and hyphenated nationalism is objectionable in their eyes. And their opinion diverges from yours. Hence, we have cognitive diversity .

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My two kids (4 and 6 years old) are considered Latino (they're one-fourth Hispano). We live in a city (Albuquerque, NM) that's a plurality Latino. Everyone seems to get along reasonably well. People are probably friendlier here than when we lived in (much-whiter) Colorado.

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Thanks, Pelham. I read the whole thread with all the replies to you and your responses to those replies and found the exchanges interesting. I do see how “assimilation” has become a dirty word and that’s unfortunate. With immigration, a certain amount of assimilation is required for a society to be healthy. It just is. And the US has a better track record of assimilating than Europe, for whatever reason. Your original post concludes that when the demographics tip over to a minority majority country, the future will be one of incessant tribalistic hostility. Do you make that conclusion based on people feeling lied to or the lack of assimilation? Who’s to say we won’t continue to be successful at assimilating like a positive feedback cycle? Is there any data you know of where countries have tipped into a minority majority?

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The economy requires immigrants in a lot of places. Without them, businesses would shut down. Low wages are due to those businesses unable to to make do otherwise not because of a surplus of workers.

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You make a good point, and thanks. But if a business cannot pay a decent wage, it probably shouldn't be in business.

What's missing in arguments justifying poorly paid immigrants and low wages in general is a broader look at what, say, a $20-an-hour minimum wage would mean. Yes, many businesses would fail and yes, prices would go up. But the inflation would be limited to a one-time bump. After that new businesses created by fresh demand from well-paid workers would flourish. People would be able to pay off debts and begin spending more. Vast new opportunities would be created in a more just economy.

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This is just bad econ, the average American profits because of the productivity boost, and immigrants done degrade services, and if they do then you just don't allow them services

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I tend to disagree bc global history has shown large economies always have prospered more w immigrant work - agriculture to medicine - for example. Also, not worried about race bs. However, I will say, as someone whose lived in Mexico 11 years, that a massive amount of money is sacrificed by immigrant workers to help relatives here. Is that "bad"? You're getting your gigs done, and there's not a scarcity of gigs, and they need doing. You may say agriculture is not skilled, but it more than sort of is, so this goes the same on all levels. And global history backed this up, as I learned online university course.

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One underrated influence here is the extent to which the Emerging Democratic Majority thesis (more complex in original form than in its usual understanding) poisoned the well on immigration with the GOP. Aside from being factually incorrect, it’s becoming one of the most damaging ideas in political discourse and plays to the left and right’s worst instruments.

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What's wrong with the United States?

Since the 2016 election, it's a question that's been asked in a thousand different ways but not yet answered satisfactorily. A third of the country is still in thrall to an ignorant and corrupt sociopath who has nothing but contempt for them. 74 million people voted to keep Trump in office. His adopted party abandoned even the pretense of staying true to its old dogmas. Somehow we've reached a point where Republicans can just shrug at an armed attack on the Capitol, the perverse logic being that if multiracial demonstrators are allowed to take to the streets to demand changes to improve policing and criminal justice, then de facto Klansmen and Klanswomen can storm the Capitol to overturn democracy while sending scores of police to the hospital and leaving the hallways smeared with their feces and dripping with their urine.

What is wrong with the United States? I don't know. The scarcity mindset seems symptomatic but not diagnostic of the root cause or causes. The Civil Rights Act was passed more than a half century ago — why can't we move on? Women now outnumber men in law schools and med schools — why can't we move on? My gut tells me that the mood at large in the country may be analogous to the guy who thinks, "If I can't have her and the kids, then nobody's going to have them." That's dark, but then what the Republican Party is gearing itself up to do in 2024 is dark, too.

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Correlation, causation. In contrast to the view offered below by our British friend, it is possible to see that the white majority in the US did experience a period of broadly rising prosperity after the fin de siecle "closure of the frontier", in the period of the height of the New Deal consensus. The postwar baby boom occurred during this period, also.

So what actually precedes the turn towards scarcity thinking in the US in the 1970s? Well, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, as well as women's liberation and other rights movements. In response, activated white reactionaries from the South and rural Midwest were organized politically into the conservative movement through the Southern Strategy. A change precedes and has the ability to cause a change. There is no more disruptive change in white supremacist America than efforts at Black freedom.

This conservative movement nationalized the traditional white Southern political mindset and political style, which *is* based on a mercantilist, quasi-capitalist/quasi-feudalist idea of material scarcity and scarcity of esteem. Only white planter elites had either in the Old South, and they have sought to (re)impose that structure on the entire country in the wake of the CRM.

Myself, I think all of this reflects much more poorly on the US than the centuries-long overall trend of falling birthrates in the West interacting with the finite size of the middle latitudes of North America, but mileage varies.

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It really is kind of mysterious why the sense of crisis/chaos is so elevated now. If you look at it factually, as you have done, there really isn't enough there to explain it. We are certainly no more racist than we were in the past, things have vastly improved in fact. Income inequality is up but everyone has more than they used to, it's just that the wealthy have gotten much more.

To me it is more like we have a crisis of self hatred. One thing about Reagan you didn't mention is that he made Americans feel good about being Americans again, whatever else you thought about him. The worst thing about the left is that they are so negative about us.

Trump and all are completely bonkers and getting worse, these are people in a defensive posture who feel under attack, who believe everything they believe in is being taken away from them. They are getting more and more dangerous.

One real crisis I can point to is that character is getting worse. It's a crisis of lying, elevated by Trump and now the mainstream media, one just cannot trust anything you hear. People are lying and exaggerating more and more.

No one seems to have a vision of what can pull us together, we have been shattered into pieces more and more, some will blame identity politics, but then give us a vision of America we can latch on to if you think that.

Anyway, thanks for writing and not getting sucked into all of it, someone needs to stand outside and try to evaluate honestly what is going on and I think you are doing that.

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I don't know, Noah actually wrote a piece on this recently, it is a problem but it hardly explains all the issues going on now. People at the bottom have seen a gradual but much smaller increase in income in the US (which is what I am talking about) over the last forty years. They are not worse off than they were. Plus this is all about a lot more than money.

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It is the problem when some people can afford $5k a month in rent and others can’t afford $2k for the same size apartment. That leads to desperation, deeper poverty, and in extreme cases homelessness.

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ok, well it certainly is a problem for them, but we are talking about the new sense of crisis and chaos. People have been poor and housing prices have been high for a while. But I don't really know what the problem is, my own sense is that people are reacting to a great deal of change that is going on and it is throwing them into some weird places.

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I think we're missing a dimension here....there's survival vs self expression, but there's also individual vs collective.

America is becoming extremely individualized...all the stuff you mention - guns, NIMBY - are all about me over the collective.

The scandi countries we know have a strong sense of collective and that allows them to tolerate high degrees of self-expression too. Frankly, there isn't much to self-express when 90% racially homogeneous.

I also don't put a lot of value in WVS, especially given in 2021 America is exporting its culture via netflix to every country on earth.

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It is this idea that growth is good, and not just for having more stuff good, but also for easing the sense of zero sum competition and improving social trust, that I think the left often misses when it wants to complain about business and free markets. Now maybe growth isn't the highest good, but it is important and matters in folks day to day lives and a lot of of folks on the left seem to think wanting more growth is greedy, evil, or exploitive. The GOP under Reagan I think "got" this.

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In part the scarcity mindset is due to our adoption of the Musical Chairs Theory Of Economic Justice (http://critiques.us/index.php?title=Musical_Chairs), which basically says winner takes all and the rest of you are losers who get nothing.

If you are not a First-Class Citizen (http://critiques.us/index.php?title=Corporations), you are a musical chairs loser. The rich have done what crackpot sovereign citizens have dreamed of: they have made themselves legally immune to many of the liabilities that ordinary citizens have, through the distinction between corporations and themselves. Which is why it is so rare for a corporation owner or board member to go to jail for corporate crimes.

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