September 29, 2013

The past is a semi-foreign country; they do some things differently there, others not so much

One of my recurrent shticks is to try to compare the dominant assumptions of the moment to those of the past. That's because people have a hard time remembering the past, even the parts they lived through.

So, to try to present some objective evidence on what the past was like, here are the national high school debate topics from age 13-17:
1972-73   Resolved: That governmental financial support for all public and secondary education in the United States be provided exclusively by the federal government. 

This is when I first read up on the social science work of Coleman, Jencks, Jensen, and others.
1973-74   Resolved: That the federal government should guarantee a minimum annual income to each family unit. 

A similar topic with much overlap in social sciences. Both of these debate topics reflect specific panaceas of the era that have fallen out of fashion, but the general topics haven't changed much at all in four decades. Obviously, they were both deeply entwined with race. And still are.

Thus, when I complain about how little has changed in thinking about race, education, and poverty, and how the latest fads tend to be rehashes of old ideas, I have a 1972-74 baseline in mind.
1974-75   Resolved: That the United States should significantly change the method of selection of presidential and vice-presidential candidates. 

In contrast, there's relatively little interest in this topic anymore. It's tied into the kind of Good Government reformist progressivism that has declined in popularity with the rise of identity politics. Thus, the post-2000 effort to improve voting machines quickly got boring. The Republicans haven't been able to dig up phony voting scandals with much traction, although the Democrats have had lots of luck getting elderly black people worked up that their votes are being taken away.

But, in general, there not much interest today in procedural reforms -- technocratic improvements are of little interest these days compared to identity politics squabbles.
1975-76   Resolved: That the development and allocation of scarce world resources should be controlled by an international organization.

Today, this one sounds like it's from Mars: Instead of nationalizing the means of production, should we internationalize the means of production? I mean, why not?

When I try to point out how much less suspicion there is of big business today than in the 1970s, this is a good example of what I'm talking about.

36 comments:

countenance said...

The Republicans haven't been able to dig up phony voting scandals with much traction

I think you're being glib here, but just in case you aren't, denial isn't just a river in Egypt. There is a fair amount of voter fraud.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

I don't think that there is so much less suspicion of big business, there is probably much, much more.

What is in much shorter supply is idealism, or at least that justice can be obtained from an impartial system. There is much greater assumption (and consequent despair/resignation) that the system top to bottom is hopelessly corrupt.

Hence, identity politics may be as much of an effect as a cause of the current political situation. People resort to tribalism in corrupt systems, safety in numbers and all that.

Orthodox said...

I think you're seeing some effects of the death of leftism. It's been a roughly 300 year run from the start of the Enlightenment and the left represents the vanguard of the movement. In general, the left is very powerful these days, but ideologically very dumb. There are no new ideas, and if I project 50 to 100 years out for their next big thing, the next big advance will be global government (trannies). It is about total power now.

White people in the West are the stumbling block to having white leftists rule the world. If they can put down whitey in the West, of course they can be trusted to be fair to all the peoples of the world. If you are an agent provocateur and you want to hobble the left, figure out how to get white people knocked out of control of the DNC.

International Jew said...

What these debate topics tell me is that the people in charge of picking them (they called themselves the National Forensic League, based in Ripon WI, back then anyway) had a strong statist streak to them. And as further evidence of that, you'll be interested to know that the 74-75 topic in the Midwest was "Resolved that campaign funds for all federal elective offices should be provided exclusively by the federal government." Sheesh, between that and some of the others, you have the left-wing promised land.

And to think that back then I could, with some conviction, argue the affirmative side of those resolutions!

Anonymous said...

although the Democrats have had lots of luck getting elderly black people worked up that their votes are being taken away.

It works up all of the Democratic party. Suspiciously so. Having to show some sort of ID isn't any sort of burden, even for disorganized voters on the left unless you've got something to hide.

Speaking of disorganized, I expect we're going see a lot of black and Hispanic non compliance with the ACA. Outreach programs will be a new growth industry.

-OSS

jack strocchi said...

Steve Sailer said:
"The past is a semi-foreign country; they do some things differently there, others not so much"

Increasingly I find the present to be a foreign country. The past feels more like home, psce Faulkner:

"The past is not dead, its not even past."

Guess I'm just growing into an old fogey.

Anonymous said...

"Ex Submarine Officer said...

I don't think that there is so much less suspicion of big business, there is probably much, much more."

Indeed. Big business, along with politicians and journalists, are consistently ranked among the least trusted out there.

The only difference is that because of how divided we are today nothing ever comes of that opposition. Much like opposition to new foreign wars always seem to fail.

Dave Pinsen said...

It's interesting to compare the right to vote with the right to keep and bear arms. If citizens had to go through half of the hurdles involved in getting a firearm permit in some blue states, the DOJ and the ACLU be on the case in an instant.

A Working Class American said...

the public "debate" springs wholly from the frame presented by the educational curriculum and the mass media. The people think in just the ways and patterns that are handed down to them in class and on TV and talk radio and the newspapers.

Yes, identity politics, consumer products, the GDP. These are the things that occupy my minds. But we didn't get through some random path that we all took on our own. We are guided in our patterns of thought by the framework presented to us through these societal institutions--educational curriculum, corporate media, hollywood, talk radio, etc.

These societal institutions act like a filter for ideas. It's survival of the fittest: all ideas enter into the filter at the bottom, but only some bubble out at the top. And those are the ideas handed down to us, the ideas that make it into the public debate/discussion.

But what are the factors, the forces that eliminate certain ideas and promote others? And why are they there?

A Working Class American said...

Anonymous said...

"Ex Submarine Officer said...

I don't think that there is so much less suspicion of big business, there is probably much, much more."

Indeed. Big business, along with politicians and journalists, are consistently ranked among the least trusted out there.

The only difference is that because of how divided we are today nothing ever comes of that opposition. Much like opposition to new foreign wars always seem to fail.

---------------------------

my reply:

exactly. We the public are now pretty much helpless in the hands of those at the top. But why? Primary reason: divisions, factions in the electorate. Dems vs GOP polarization; race and culture and language divisions; we are just a larger nation now, and the larger we get, the more factions and divisions; also, the disconnected suburban lifestyle--fewer people living in small towns; video games occupy our time, we have no bowling leagues anymore; people no longer discuss local politics at these local social function. They get it handed down to them from the top via talk radio or cable tv....

The breakup of the federal union is the only hope we have.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

I ramble a bit, but...

I forget who said it, but someone once pointed out - rightly - that two people on opposite ends of a paradigm shift really don't have any way to understand each other. We can gain some superficial understandings of how they thought - the Romans were coldly logical, the Victorians were sentimental and proper - but as for understanding deeply how their mindset operated, you can't really ever grasp it. Even words that seem universal to the human experience mean slightly different things when someone on the other side of that rift says them: what Socrates meant by "love", "duty", or "piety" is different than what we mean when we say those things.

There was a huge paradigm shift that occurred in 1914 in the West, with aftershocks in 1968 and 2001 that were strong enough to be considered substantial paradigm shifts of their own. This shift, when considered as a whole, was the shift that signaled the beginning of the decline of the West.

The upshot of all of this is that people who straddle these paradigm shifts can be subject to some serious stresses. They remember the world that was, and they see the world that is, and understand that they are fundamentally different. They feel, to some degree, caught between two worlds. Sometimes the effect can be utter shock. It used to be common to hear Vietnam veterans say that when they returned from the war, they barely recognized the country they had come back to. Such was the shock of the paradigm shift of 1968.

Go back and watch some movies or TV shows from before that shift - maybe some episodes of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It seems hard to believe that the country you see in those shows ever really existed. You don't even have to go that far back. Sometimes it seems hard to believe that the America of the 1980s (the era which saw the last pushback of any significance against the effects of 1968) ever existed. Or sometimes even that the world before 9/11 ever existed. It's so different now. Maybe that was all a dream, or something that someone made up.

I'm a stranger here.

Anonymous said...

Regarding these being some far-left ideas.

>[What's the deal with the RESOLVED? You are not a delibarative body, you are a debate nerd!] the federal government should guarantee a minimum annual income to each family unit.

Among the supporters of this proposition are far-leftist figures such as Milton F...ing Friedman.

> the development and allocation of scarce world resources should be controlled by an international organization.

Of course this is not the case now does not mean that nations decide on this issue nationally, or in a free market exchange. OPEC, BP etc are all international organizations. Of course for many places around the world resources are controlled by extranational organizations called USG (oil) or PRC (rare earth metals).
After all European Coal and Steel Community did not work so bad for Germans and French; Which idea enacted by Schuman and Adenauer both Christian-Democrats, as far as I know. I am not that good with history but Monet was a bureaucrat[, the primordial eurocrat even] and not the general secretary of communist party of france or anything.
Never mind the brown people dying by hundreds of thousands; US and UK people would be better off without oil companies externalizing their costs, in blood as well as in silver and paying the high prices, which they already pay, at the pump only; just out-bidding the $4k-per-capita chinese.

It could be that America actually moved away. Not necessarily left or right. Just vested interests became entrenched interests. You should already know the subjects which will get you stamped as a racist. Others get you stamped conspiracy nutter(, but they are nutters no?). And war party got so entrenched that Eisenhower's positions on war and UN etc became a fringe position to be mocked on Comedy Central next to Denis Kucinich.

Anonymous said...

Is there a list of the debate topics online somewhere?

"Instead of nationalizing the means of production, should we internationalize the means of production?"

I think both Marx and Keynes had schemes for this.

Keynes proposal for international monetary union:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bancor

Sam said...

This is another reason why I like to read Sailer's work. He goes against assumptions that many on the right have. In this case I would like to see Sailer expand on how people are less suspicious of Big Business.

I disagree when I look at how many times I see talk of corporatations taking over the world among my hipster peers but I'm young and so Sailer might be right compared to earlier times I would just like to see the evidence.

Anonymous said...

Back in the stone ages, before Steve pulled a Sierra Club and sold his immortal soul for 30 pieces of silver, someone like me would be allowed to tie together all of the disparate observations on this thread by instructing you people to ask yourselves: Just who watched and learned and REMEMBERED how effective their Roman masters had been at divide et impera?

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT but I read this op-ed by a popular teacher at my high school this weekend. He was a teacher for 40 years and recounts the multitude of fail reforms that have come and gone.

http://m.washingtonpost.com/opinions/four-decades-of-failed-school-reform/2013/09/27/dc9f2f34-2561-11e3-b75d-5b7f66349852_story.html

Karen said...

I'm a couple of years younger than you, but close enough to have had most of the same experiences. I completely disagree that we are less suspicious of big business now than in the 70's. For one thing, the deregulation movement started then with the elimination of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Civil Aeronautics Board, two agencies that governed transportation rates. If you hate flying, blame Milton Friedman and Jimmy Carter for their conviction that airlines companies would treat their passengers well because Competition Solves Everything!

The difference between then and now is that in the 70's there were labor unions and newspapers that provided an institutional check on giant corporations. The Federal Trade Commission wasn't committed to the idea that antitrust law was a waste of time. We don't have institutional checks on business anymore because we were naive back then. Culturally, however, I think we are more suspicious. This weekend I saw "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2" with my kids. The villain is a Steve Jobs type tycoon, complete with goatee and Buddhist corporate slogans, and this is a cartoon for children. Back when I was a kid, bad guys were the heads of international spy organizations -- SPECTRE, SMERSH, CAOS -- sorta governments like the Empire in Star Wars, and wizards.

Cail Corishev said...

"Big business, along with politicians and journalists, are consistently ranked among the least trusted out there."

It may be like congressmen: Everyone hates them as a group, but votes to keep his own incumbent.

When people tell pollsters they distrust "Big Business," they may be thinking of some theoretical Big Biz Co. that's out there screwing the little guy, not the friendly companies who provide them with credit and entertainment and sell them food and gadgets.

Paul Mendez said...

Sometimes it seems hard to believe that the America of the 1980s (the era which saw the last pushback of any significance against the effects of 1968) ever existed.

Yes, in retrospect the 1980's were just the eye of the storm, not the end. As a newly graduated econ major with a head full of libertarian and free market ideas, 1980 seemed to me to be the dawn of a new age that finally repudiated all of Hippiedom. Reagan, Thatcher, the Ramones, a soaring stock market, the refreshingly cynical but realistic outlook of Generation X. All the pieces seemed to be falling together.

But now I realize that the Hippies were down, but not out, in the 1980s. They may have been too busy indulging their hedonism and narcissism to raise their GenX kids in their own likeness, but they sobered up in time to realize they could still transform the world by indoctrinating their Millennial grandkids.

So just as I was settling into middle age thinking the war against Hippiedom had been won, an entirely new generation of fatuous, naive, 60s-worshipping, Neo-Hippies suddenly appeared. And unlike the Hippies -- who consciously made the choice to reject traditional behaviors and mores -- the Millennials know nothing else.

If you believe the book "Generations" by Strauss and Howe, things will just go downhill from here for the next 20 years or so.

Luke Lea said...

Go back and watch some movies or TV shows from before that shift - maybe some episodes of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It seems hard to believe that the country you see in those shows ever really existed

Even better, watch the old black-and-white movies on Turner Classics.

jody said...

i've often thought about this in the context of contrasting the gold standard with the civil rights era.

today, the gold standard is treated are pure nutty insanity, a relic from the time of caribbean pirates and probably last used over 300 years ago in a far away colony island detached from the rest of mainstream society. anybody who floats the idea of the gold standard in 2013 is immediately derided as a kook.

yet the entire civil rights era occurred under the gold standard. and, as we all know, the civil rights era is not only the most important time period in american history, but extremely relevant and germane even today - the media constantly brings it back up in 2013. it's always 1963 in the south to these people

...in 1963 any american could redeem their dollars for gold, guys...

today, one historically unusual and unique thing from the relatively recent past is recalled as the most important, most relevant feature of it's time period. while other things, which were the norm, the taken-for-granted, the standard for thousands of years, are completely flushed down the memory hole and deleted from history. references to them are met with snickers. and not the kind that really satisfies. you're not you when you're hungry.

don't get me started on the historical revisionism of sports.

Anonymous said...

Honestly Karen you are a complete liar. Most likely you are an old crotchety stewardess thanking god that your union protection keeps you from having to demonstrate even a modicum of decency to passengers. Unions provide no ancillary benefits to non-members. The Catholic Church could provide a check on royal absolutism and in turn increase freedom for everyone because it was both in their interests and they had an animating non-pecuniary idelogy. A union is just a cartel for labor. Its only goal is less work more money. Heck to the extent that whistle blowing requires more work to track down an interested reporter etc. I'd say labor unions would be the last people on earth to correct corporate malfeseance. They'd rather just get their piece. After all report business corruption and you'd just piss off the boys down at the Whistleblowers Union local 101.

jody said...

"Sometimes it seems hard to believe that the America of the 1980s...ever existed."

in the 70s and 80s you could deliberately plan a fight with another man, have the fight, and...that was it. no police, no arrests, no permanent record, no firing, no loss of job, no resume ruined...nothing. just a fist fight. and that was all.

i must have witnessed almost a hundred fights on the streets, in the halls of schools, in parking lots outside of restaurants and bars and shops during this time period.

not one police cruiser was seen.

today, you throw one punch, and it's all over for you.

one thing i noticed is that teens and 20 year olds are bold today...because they 'know' you can't smash them in the mouth in response to them harassing, taunting, or bothering you. they've been raised in an environment where that doesn't happen, or happens so rarely they think it literally can't happen.

over the last 10 years i've had teenagers harass me in ways they never would have dared in the 70s and 80s and early 90s. presumably under the safety of the idea that 'this guy ain't gonna do anything' because, well, that's the only world they know. where people don't hit other people no matter what.

back in my day, this happened routinely - or that is to say, it happened occasionally, and would have happened daily without the understood restraint that people knew you didn't pick fights with or harass guys who could clearly beat your ass - because, back then they were allowed to beat your ass. and you didn't get any recourse either. you didn't get to sue them, or call the police, or anything. you pissed off big steve adams down at the corner of 4th and main and he administered an ass whooping to you...and that was it.

one thing i have noticed is that africans are still allowed to operate by those old rules. if some african guy beats the crap out of somebody, the automatic response now seems to be "Oh, they must have pissed them off/made him mad for some reason/called him a nigger." the implication being that it's ok for african men to smash the shit out of anybody if you 'piss them off' for any reason. the bold teens and 20 year olds usually won't harass africans, because they know this exception to the rule.

Miguel S. said...

The 74-75 resolution about our presidential elections was a result of Ford's becoming the first non-elected president, not of previous interest in the topic. Likewise, the sudden interest and loss of interest in this topic after Bush v. Gore.

sunbeam said...

Paul Mendez wrote:

"Yes, in retrospect the 1980's were just the eye of the storm, not the end. As a newly graduated econ major with a head full of libertarian and free market ideas, 1980 seemed to me to be the dawn of a new age that finally repudiated all of Hippiedom. Reagan, Thatcher, the Ramones, a soaring stock market, the refreshingly cynical but realistic outlook of Generation X. All the pieces seemed to be falling together. "

Geez, again with the Ramones. I must have totally missed whatever they had. You know they are still a pretty obscure band to a lot of people.

I've seen them (at least videos, never live). I've heard some of their songs.

They weren't very good musicians, at least compared to other acts I enjoy. I can't find anything groundbreaking in the songwriting.

They don't even have anything interesting to say like The Dead Kennedys.

So what did you guys see in them?

The posters on this site aren't alone, I've seen them listed as seminal and whatnot by pubs like Rolling Stone and others.

But how? Why? No offense, but I guess I'm just not going to get this one.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

Or, as Izumi Matsumoto put it:

"That wasn't just a passing season, but also the everlasting summer that we passed through.

That 80s, that were like a dream..."

Art Deco said...

If you hate flying, blame Milton Friedman and Jimmy Carter for their conviction that airlines companies would treat their passengers well because Competition Solves Everything!

Yeah, it will be wonderful again when airlines are run as a cartel and each needs the approval of its competitors to lower its prices.

Art Deco said...

day, the gold standard is treated are pure nutty insanity, a relic from the time of caribbean pirates and probably last used over 300 years ago in a far away colony island detached from the rest of mainstream society. anybody who floats the idea of the gold standard in 2013 is immediately derided as a kook.

yet the entire civil rights era occurred under the gold standard. and, as we all know, the civil rights era is not only the most important time period in american history, but extremely relevant and germane even today - the media constantly brings it back up in 2013. it's always 1963 in the south to these people

...in 1963 any american could redeem their dollars for gold, guys..


You are off by 30 years. The classical gold standard was discontinued in 1933 and private ownership of gold (other than jewelry) was prohibited by law. There was a gold parity under the Bretton-Woods regime, but no private trade in gold.

The classical gold standard gave you the monetary policies followed during the years running from 1929 to 1932. Best not repeat that.

Art Deco said...

The difference between then and now is that in the 70's there were labor unions and newspapers that provided an institutional check on giant corporations

The unions only work on behalf of their members and, in so doing, promote institutional sclerosis and rent seeking.

David Davenport said...

These societal institutions act like a filter for ideas. It's survival of the fittest: all ideas enter into the filter at the bottom, but only some bubble out at the top.

Didn't you mean to say, "All ideas enter into the filter at the top, but only some bubble out at the bottom."?

Remember, stuff tends to roll downhill. De haut en bas, as they say in Chattanooga.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

"If you believe the book "Generations" by Strauss and Howe, things will just go downhill from here for the next 20 years or so.

I'm a Spenglerian in historical outlook, so I think things are going downhill, and not coming back. Ever. At least not for what we once called the "Western civilization".

As the man himself said:

"Already the danger is so great, for every individual, every class, every people, that to cherish any illusion whatever is deplorable. Time does not suffer itself to be halted; there is no question of prudent retreat or wise renunciation. Only dreamers believe that there is a way out. Optimism is cowardice.

"We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man."


Another great civilization will rise in maybe 15 centuries or so, though - so don't worry too much.

Maxwell Power said...

Maybe I misread it too but thought he was saying that voter fraud incidents seem to roust more pushy Democrats & widen the GOP margin of loss. Possible to acknowledge that and still be miffed by voter fraud

David Davenport said...

Spengler and his Decline was and is crap.

Spenglerism is passive fatalism, an excuse for self-designated big thinkers to do nothing.

I'm sure there were Spengler fans in Vichy France, Norway, and elsewhere during WWII telling each other that resistance was futile, because "... Time does not suffer itself to be halted; there is no question of prudent retreat or wise renunciation. Only dreamers believe that there is a way out. Optimism is cowardice...

Shhh, don't talk so loudly. That Frtiz over there is scarey."

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

@David Davenport

Sorry, but here you prove only that you've never read Spengler, don't know what his arguments were, and don't know what the historical scope of his work was.

Second, if there's anything that the post-9/11 world has taught me, it's to feel free to ignore people for whom it's always 1938.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anti-Democracy Activist said...

Second, if there's anything that the post-9/11 world has taught me, it's to feel free to ignore people for whom it's always 1938."

Amen. Well said.

People who seem to think that it is 1938 should be told that it is not 1938, that it has not been 1938 since, ohhh, about 1938, and that it will never be 1938 again.

gloria said...

"don't think that there is so much less suspicion of big business, there is probably much, much more."

I agree. I personally am vastly more aware of how the media, for example, is owned by a very few people compared to 40 yrs ago--or even 15 yrs ago. The U.S. has basically become an enterprise run by big corporations whose bottom line is global profits, not national pieties. That's why I feel such a tragedy and injustice is being done to the working classes. They are still being called upon to die and/or kill for "their country." What are they getting in return for this potentially ultimate sacrifice?