FINDING MODERN TRIBALISM IN THE TAX CODE
(Part I here, some subsequent clarifications here, Part II here)
There’s 1. Here “social left” is a stand in for the left most aligned with social justice (insert whatever here). “The other side” is the motley collection confusingly stretched between Gamergate and Marxism. a common fear among the social left  that no matter how persuasive their rhetoric and how many studies they mount and how many articles they write, people’s behavior will not change. Men benefit too much from the patriarchy, whites benefit too much from systematic racism. A thousand years of lip service and everything will wind up exactly the same as it has been.
There’s a common fear on the other side that social goals are mostly about policing language, fighting culture wars, and that they will not stop. The goal posts will always move, the rhetoric will remain as extreme no matter how “bad” the problem is. That structural change has become impossible or ignored.
These two concerns are the exact same thing, and that thing is the Panama Papers.
Even if the right reports on it, the struggle is internecine. It was not always this way, because while the left controlled the social state, that state didn’t metonymically become “the Left” until recently. That change coincided with the cessation of right-wing taxes, but it was not caused by that. It was caused by gnosticism, and tribalism, and [bleh], all of which will be examined at another time but which will simply confuse this issue.
If the goal was simply to reorganize the social state, this would have been a winning strategy. Purge the opposition and enforce the rules as you see fit. But the goal was not to consolidate power – the left already controlled the social state. The ultimate “goal” of the left is changing law and social structure of the united states. This is easiest with control over the opposition, which requires engagement with them. It can be achieved with a strong enough friendly group pressuring (I’ve called these, respectively, the stronger and weaker forms of social power), but that’s much more difficult. Another way of putting this: taxes both diffuse currency (ideals, so power) and enrich the state, but a rich enough state can ignore the spread of its currency.
Of course, to get that way the left had to raise taxes on itself. It would be more accurate to say that the left raised taxes on the the social state. This just happened to be mostly on “the Left” because the social state that remains is mostly the Left. It occasionally interacts with the right more broadly (see: the Memories Pizza incident), but the state largely confines itself. The right might think that they’re the subject of opprobrium, but that’s only when they fall into social state territory. Sure, we all hate Ann Coulter or w/e, but genuine malice is reserved for our own (for what it’s worth, I also thought Lilla’s piece was timid and confused and bad. But in the eyes of those critics, mine will be more evil.).
I’ve written about social taxes a lot now, but to TLDR: “paying” them is a matter of both acting and legitimating the ideals of the state. The low tax version (read: original) of this looks like every boomer’s favorite form of self-congratulation: “I don’t care if you’re black, white, yellow or purple! People are people.” The higher rate is calling that statement racist for not giving precedence to the purple people’s lived experience. That’s not entirely accurate, because it’s a little too glib. But I’m not trying to explain social justice ideals to their practitioners, I’m trying to explain how the opposition sees them.
The opposition (including several conservative articles I’ve linked before) think that this is a “redefinition” of racism, a qualitatively different meaning. I don’t. Higher levels of taxation may appear to be qualitatively different. There’s a strange belief that “more of something” always looks the same, i.e. like quantitative addition. To understand why this is wrong, remember that colors look qualitatively different but there’s (really) a simple quantitative difference: wavelength and frequency. A bit more lambda and blue is red, but at no point have I thought that that red feels just like “bluer blue” or “more blue.” We can’t even see greater quantities of those (i.e. ultraviolet up), and “here it is!” to “there is nothing!” is a pretty substantial qualitative difference.
High vs. low rates look different but have similar roots: apparent change of ideology and apparent change of praxis. Anti-racism, affirmative action, etc. are simply proactive versions of the original color blind ideals.
You might think that “higher rates” means going out and protesting, maybe throwing some rocks, smashing a cop car, etc. At the very least getting some legislation passed, right?
You would be wrong.
The problem with [actual actions] is that those are more or less structural. They aren’t relations of the social state, they’re its end goals. What we’re examining is the social state in itself. In terms of that, the things that look “meaningless” (i.e. language policing, celebrity gossip, etc.) are actually the higher rate than something like a protest or an “action”. This is because they’re solely social, they’re the constant pledge that one has to make within the social state’s sphere of control.
I 2. I think this is where the meme of “cultural marxism” came from. If so, it has the order all fucked. The left isn’t changing social ideals based on economic premises, its only power is social, so of course that’s what it tries to change. Note that communism is still unpopular among many of the most emphatically pro-Social Justice. And, besides, people who complain about “Cultural Marxism” think it’s about egalitarianism. It isn’t, it’s about power. Egalitarianism is a liberal thing, which is exactly why Marxists used to call identity politics people fucking liberals. But that’s ancient history. mentioned race because it’s the one that’s always on everyone’s mind (not for bad reasons: American history). But that’s just a specific example of something underlying it, which we might call “egalitarianism” for lack of a better term. Either way, the higher rate of this also meant things like hating comic sans being ableist.
Whether you find that ridiculous or admirable is besides the point, and ditto to the enforcement through social media. The problem with this is Laffer Curves.
The assessments increase beyond the limits of equity. The result is that the interest of the subjects in cultural enterprises disappears, since when they compare expenditures and taxes with their income and gain and see the little profit they make, they lose all hope. Therefore, many of them refrain from all cultural activity. The result is that the total tax revenue goes down, as the number of the individual assessments goes down. Often, when the decrease is noticed, the amounts of individual imposts are increased. This is considered a means of compensating for the decrease.
Finally, individual imposts and assessments reach their limit. It would be of no avail to increase them further. The costs of all cultural enterprise are now too high, the taxes are too heavy, and the profits anticipated fail to materialize. Thus, the total revenue continues to decrease, while the amounts of individual imposts and assessments continue to increase, because it is believed that such an increase will compensate (for the drop in revenue) in the end.
–Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah
The Laffer Curve has 3. This is important for one very specific reason: nearly every argument against the Laffer curve ad homs Laffer to dispute it or mocks the napkin as evidence of, uh, “imaginative” theorizing. But it didn’t come from Laffer, and it didn’t come from Wanniski. These are methods of obfuscation, and I’ll spend exactly zero time defending Laffer and Reaganomic tax policy. If we accepted or rejected overarching theories by their worst use and their namesake’s biography, then creationists would have a pretty goddamn compelling argument. Reductio ad Ken Ham, no moralizing here. a somewhat confused history, given the name. Arthur Laffer related the theory to Jude Wanniski, who then popularized it in this article. Like all great theories, it was written on a cocktail napkin (by Laffer). And like every good intention reduced to monstrous policy, Dick Cheney was somewhere in the room (that’s not a joke). Laffer himself attributed it to Ibn Khaldun (above, duh). At first, anyway. Then he attributed it to Keynes. Either way, neither Ibn Khaldun nor John Keynes nor Ibn Keynes got the name. You should read Wanniski’s paper, because it’s good. I disagree with his final conclusions and policy recommendations. And?
In case you don’t: the curve is an interaction between an arithmetic assumption and economic theory. The “arithmetic assumption” is [fancytalk] for how we normally think taxes work. We unconsciously assume that revenue from taxation is linear, i.e. the rate multiplied by the pool of money (tax payers and their wealth). The equation normally given is t*B, where B=the base (i.e. the total from which tax takes a percent). If there’s a monarch whose citizens collectively earn $1000/year, and they tax at 10%, then they’ll get $100. If they raise that to 20%, they get $200. If they raise that to 47%, they’ll get $470, etc. This is wrong.
If it were true then the corresponding graph would have one straight, diagonal line between x-axis “revenue” and y-axis “rate”. In reality, the line curves, and we call this the Laffer Curve. Laffer/Wanniski/Khaldun’s explanation for the curve has three parts (not all have all three, but give me this): 1) the incentive to work will fall due to overtaxation, and more specifically the incentive to work cooperatively rather than individually will fall (see Wanniski’s construction example, pg. 8; also below); 2) people will revert to black-market activities to avoid the tax rate (Wanniski also calls this “barter”); or 3) it will be more profitable for businesses to figure out loopholes/hide their money/pull an Alice Schwarzer (obvious).
In reality a mix of all three is probably happening at any given moment, which means that tax rates curve as they rise. But there is a point at which the curves goes back on itself, and higher tax rates mean less income than lower ones, i.e. less revenue than you had before. In other words: at a certain point, a state will make itself weaker and poorer if it pursues a certain financial policy.
I 4. I suspect that the Left ignores Laffer Curves because they can. I doubt we’re anywhere near apex of the curve itself, and thus the Left doesn’t need to worry about revenue decreases. But the Left also doesn’t have much structural power: the 80’s took care of that and the Clinton years finished the job. want the Left to pay attention to Laffer Curves, and not simply because the curve has some very left wing results. No economist doubts that a Laffer Curve exists, they question where it falls. The use of the theory has been right-wing, under the assumption (or perhaps desire) that the apex be [lower amount than we have at any given moment]. But even if one thinks that the government can tax up to 98% without effect, the change at 99-100% is still a Laffer Curve. The Panama Papers and [insert corporate finance here] are the most relevant left-wing connection, but also the least interesting. There’s another one that’s much lefterner and much more frightening. It will become important for us later on, but for now it’s going to be a surprise. Until then, recognize this: ignoring Laffer curves isn’t a sign of political partisanship. It’s built into the system and you’re upholding it.
Laffer Curves do not appear apocalyptic, because they do not appear at all. This is, paradoxically, what drives them to the breaking point. The three most important results of a Laffer Curve are obscure and maintain power precisely from their obscurity. Wanniski discusses one explicity, implies another, but he does not follow up. I find this obvious and yet I’ve never heard anyone talk about it. It’s entirely possible that the jargon I’m about to introduce has standard terminology and I don’t know it because I’m ignorant about many things. If a reader tells me the names, I’ll update. For now I’ll call these Work against Productivity (the one Wanniski discusses; his name-ish for it), the Blindspot, and the Feedback Loop.
Work against Productivity 5. There’s some irony in the fact that the Left largely attempts to organize via regulation, which requires tax money for power, which in turn destroys natural forms of organization.(hereafter W/P) is the tendency for work to continue but productivity to fall. Uh… obviously. It’s a jarring effect, not least of which because we’re used to imagining that bad economic effects from policy are somewhat obvious. Republicans are always crowing about this – raise the minimum wage and the breadlines will triplicate. But unemployment is vulgar, and far more damaging is routine, meaningless work. These aren’t “bullshit jobs” a la Graeber, but necessary ones made less productive because of a lack of possible coordination. Wanniski:
To see this in another way, imagine that there are three men who are skilled at building houses. If they work together, one works on the foundation, one on the frame, and the third on the roof. Together they can build three houses in three months. If they work separately, each building his own home, they need six months to build the three houses. If the tax rate on homebuilding is 49 percent, they will work together, since the government leaves them a small gain from their division of labor. But if the tax rate goes to 51 percent, they suffer a net loss because of their teamwork, and so they will work separately. When they were pooling their efforts, since they could produce six houses in the same time it would take them to build three houses working alone, the government was collecting revenues almost equivalent to the value of three completed homes. At the 51-percent tax rate, however, the government loses all the revenue, and the economy loses the production of the three extra homes that could have been built by their joint effort
In 6. This is, interestingly, a weird twin of the old Marxist critique of inefficiencies produced by individualist capitalism. But then again Marx hated taxes.other words, while productivity is what we want, work tends to be how we calculate it. Tax rates that result in lost productivity can easily retain its appearance, some ghost that lurks around the edges of once-labor The net result is loss of profit to the government, but the “appearance” of an equal amount of effort. More crudely and therefore honestly: effort doesn’t mean shit.
The Blindspot of a Laffer Curve is that a leader will both suppose and receive confirmation that taxes are linear while in reality they are not. The “suppose” is obvious: Imagine that the original kingdom raises taxes from 10% (receiving $100) to 20% because the monarch wants to build a new palace (which costs $200). No matter how much the state receives, every tax return says 10% -> 20%, all paid up.
Of course, because of [Laffer Curve effect], the state only receives $170. And they’ll certainly notice this. But it’s in most subjects’ interest to convince the ruler that the curve is more linear than it is. Criminals (read: tax evasion, black-marketeers) rarely inform the government of the nature and magnitude of their crimes.”There must be another reason. Perhaps locusts.” To stop Laffer effects, to “correct” them you’d want the exact opposite. Hence: a terrible blindspot. Note that this will be exacerbated by Laffer Curves with steeper inclines (i.e. higher tax rates). If there are more people scurrying away their money (in one way or another), then there is a larger populace-wide effort to convince the ruler that there is no problem at all. One could imagine that those losing productivity would complain, but they’re being paid the same amount as before. Indeed, because of W/P they’re working the same amount as before. The only person who loses here is the state (…and society at large). Even if one or two voices do raise, they’ll be shut out by tax-dodgers in whose interest it is to “realign” the Laffer Curve.
The ultimate point of this is to make it impossible to tell what the true effects of a given tax rate are once it passes the apex of the curve, due to the power balance between the govt. (lock up tax dodgers!) and the blackmarketeers (honor among thieves!).
This leads to the Feedback Loop. The monarch upped taxes for the palace, right? They didn’t reach the $200 necessary, and (obvs) still want the palace. Due to the blindspot, the tax still looks more or less linear, and they will assume that they can just raise the taxes again. Of course, they won’t get the full amount of that either, because Laffer curve. But, again due to the blindspot, they may choose to raise again. And then blindspot, and then raise, and then…
This entire time, that Laffer Curve has become increasingly convex. In the beginning, the state will receive less than they wanted, but still more than the initial rate. At a certain point, it will baseline. And if the state continues, then it will begin to receive even less.
Fair warning: this is about to be the most controversial section of the essay.
As bad as Laffer Curves are for “real” governments, they’re worse for social power. Social movements normally rely on mass mobilization for success. This does not necessarily mean “everyone in the streets” – it more often means dedicated protesters backed by mass support. Where that mass support peters out, the movement fails.
The Democrats (here standing in for the Left) are often called a “party of coalitions” rather than a united party, but that’s the opposite of what the Left is meant to be. “Solidarity” was the keyword of the Left, under the assumption that it could not possibly gain power without a united base. That’s how social power works, and without that you lose. To phrase this in the language I’ve been using: you’re a lot more productive together than you are alone, i.e. W/P. Taxes do more damage to groups than to individuals, which has the effect of causing the most damage to the state itself.
Where social tax = explicitly pledging adherence to every coalition interest, uniting becomes a lot harder. The cycle is always the same, and I have no desire to list give you a list of Leftist rows. Group 1 does something, Group 2 either is not included or finds their inclusion offensive, Group 1 backs off or changes everything. To me, the ideal example is Washington’s Carbon Tax. Long a left-wing project, it was rejected by Social Justice advocates for being too white, despite addressing policy concerns brought up by BLM.
None of this is to say that the demands are just or unjust. I don’t want to affirm or deny. For our purposes, these simply exist as fractures of the left that are notable in one very important way: they’re all mass efforts at structural change. When everyone’s action is essentially “keep your head down and agree”, then dominant ideologies do get more powerful. But they don’t get anything done. In economic terms, everyone is “working” but there’s no productivity.
Against this, there are general calls for leftist unity. But all talk of “party unity” exacerbates the blind spot. “We all believe that we should-” How do you know that? It will look to the people in power as though the tax-structure is linear, i.e. that everyone is on the same page. For Social Tax, this is a zillion things. [Article against slacktivism here], but the easiest way to put it is: why do you think all those awful feminist dudes still call themselves feminists? You know exactly who I’m talking about. Laffer Curve. They’re acting as though they’re paying their tax without paying the tax.
Indeed, for some time the social left was operated under the assumption that it was larger than it is. The narrative now is terrifying fascist revolt, but before Hillary lost the generic op-ed stance was “the American people will never elect Trump – they’re too moderate/good/like us.” Read: I thought the US was further left than this. The import here is not the navel-gazing required to assume that Laramie thinks like San Jose, although that is funny (and almost certainly the fault of Ang Lee). It’s that up until the Trump election, the explicit right was not taxed, but the “average american” was assumed to be under the social state.
I’m not saying that “political correctness gone amok” caused Trump’s victory because of [anti-PC revolt]. There was no revolt, because Laffer Curves don’t govern revolt. They dictate blindspots. They “look like” bugs in the program, whoopsy intercalary days of the Long Count of Progress. For us, they “appear” as shy Trump voters. Or in certainty about the Latino vote, or wailing about how the alt-right is just a white reactionary thing, right? To expand to the rest of the anglosphere, the blindspots come out looking like Brexit, i.e. not very expected.
When think pieces talk about [political controversy], they tend to assume that resolution comes from bargaining. Both sides haggle until they get their cost/benefit, and we progress. This implies that both sides understand the stakes. Here there is no bargaining. I don’t mean it’s zero-sum, winner-takes-all. There’s theoretically a place where the left can meet and both get at least some of what they want. But to do that both sides would need knowledge that’s impossible given the current structure. Due to the blindspot the stakes are hidden, and then due to the feedback loop, people push forward anyway. The result of this isn’t slower ascendance, nor is it even stagnation. It’s enervation.
Laffer effects are not equally distributed. The richest are both a) the first to go past the apex, due to a progressive rate, but also b) the only ones with the connections and money to avoid taxes. This means that they realistically pay lower rates. If rates go up again (feedback), it becomes the middle and upper-middle class that pay most, see: Steve Jobs and his secretary or whatever.
This is true of those with solely social power, although #yourfaveisproblematic shows that this isn’t always the case. Indeed: that earlier piece on the director of Boys Don’t Cry is a striking counterexample. When it does manifest, say as key speakers at left events having previously tortured a 60-year-old gay man for weeks before killing him and using that as a reason why they can speak about social justice, then it gives the right some ammo. That’s bad,, but it isn’t the biggest problem. Far worse is the connection between social and structural power.
Structural power is fungible with social, but the gap between rich and poor is much larger structurally than twitter celeb and trash person. This means that the relative power of the rich in a social system is much larger than it should be all things being equal. The much greater structural power of the rich allows them to ignore social brackets. This works out quite well for those with true structural power (wealth) who want to convert it into social capital. The opposite is true for [complaining brocialist]. The social game is where he has the least power, and unrealized structural advantages do not allow him to avoid tax in the same way those who have realized them.
When purveyors of the New Left pretend that the rates are totally fine and maximized for growth what people hear is: “But supply side economics, only social!” 2+2: When you have a stupidly powerful elite that pays lower taxes than everyone, people will hate you. Do you want an explanation of why college kids are (essentially) the social left? College=Rich. Do you want to know why the working class looks like a bunch of troglodytic reactionaries compared to beautiful, sunny Davos? [thing]=Rich
The goal is to influence structural power by getting people with structural power to pay into and thus feel invested in a social state. When they’re the first people to ditch out, you didn’t just lose marching bodies. You lost the goal of the social state. They may still pledge allegiance, but that means nothing without political investment, i.e. why did both economic conservatives and the social left push Hillary? [thing]=Rich.
Yeah, I get that this sounds like “lower taxes” is my proposal, but that’s only because it is. It translates into a choice. You get either: a) the banishment of comic sans jokes, or b) structural change. Choose one.
But of course, you can’t. Because feedback loop, which means Alt-Right.
While I’m criticizing a particularly corrosive form of the social left, but the problem isn’t “the left”. The problem is the way political allegiance works in a social state. Here I talked about the rise of the politics of identity. Not “identity politics” as in social justice, but one’s identity becoming their politics and vice-versa. The creation of political party as an identity-in-itself, not simply as an action, makes it existential. It is who you are. And when people are existentially threatened, then revolt happens. Because we’re dividing by tax reforms, because the right is no longer taxed, it means that there’s no revolt coming from them. It came from the Left.
Revolts come from existential anxiety, and when one’s identity is wrapped in their politics, then weakening systems produce existential identity. This can come in several ways: either the political system fails to get them their goal while taxing their energy (i.e. attrition through weakness), or the taxation itself threatens “who they are”. The left has both of these happening, because they’re the same thing: blindspots, feedback loops, and W/P.
The first case gives you groups like the New Black Panther Party (different from the original). The second gives you groups like the Alt-Right. These are both obviously not left-wing groups. But you’ll note that they both came from the left, and they share one particularly salient feature: identity.
I’m going to focus on the Alt-Right because it’s something that the left both must understand and really doesn’t want to. Here goes: the left made the Alt-Right. And I don’t mean that in the sense of “the pushed the right wing too far.” The right wasn’t taxed and they don’t feel invested in the social state, there was no pushing them “too far”. I mean quite the opposite. The alt-right’s ground force did not come from “right wingers”, it came from the left. The Alt-Right isn’t a conservative movement, it’s a social state tax-revolt. They aren’t “taking advantage of infighting” as certain leftists fear. They are leftist infighting.
People keep making a big deal of the Alt-Right being “identitarian”, as though this were a bizarre thing to have occurred. It isn’t. It’s completely consistent with their origin. Their “ideological core” might be actual right-wingers, but that’s completely immaterial. Most of them don’t have an “ideology”. They’re there to piss off the left. They may claim allegiance to [older racists], but this is the same way the Left adheres to Judith Butler. A bunch of illiterate peasants joined the Soviets when they wanted to fight the Czar – do you think that they’d all carefully selected Bolshevism when they went ideology hunting? Those with common enemies close ranks regardless of origin.
It’s obvious if you look at any right or far-right subreddit (find them yourself). Nearly every poster was left-wing or liberal in one way or another, check their comment history or ask them directly. Spend five seconds on The_Donald and see what people say about how they came to support Trump. It’s common enough that they’ve developed their own specific lingo for switching from “left” to “Trump”. “I disavow” says a now-ex-leftist. “Give this man a coat!” say the centipedes.
For 7. Note also that it’s immaterial whether or not these people have been the target of leftist opprobrium or not. Anyone who sees Peirce be attacked and has any idea at all about social prominence fucking ducks the hell away. “Americans are all temporarily embarrassed millionaires” is a quote the Left loves to throw around to explain why [Rightronyms] vote against “their own interest.” But everyone also thinks of themselves as Big Fucking Stars just waiting to be discovered.our purposes, the strongest test is also (kindly) the easiest. The left conflates the Neo-Reactionaries and the Alt-Right, but the largest difference between them is telling. NRx despises the Alt-Right for being knuckle-dragging culture warriors, rather than political theorists. In other words, for being left-influenced identitarians. Similarly, actual conservative FOX-news viewer in [red state] may mock Leftist political norms, but I doubt he knows enough about millennial political fights to understand what a tumblr is, much less why it’s in action. Only people invested in a state care about its currency, so when the New Right spends 80% of their time losing their shit over internet tweens, interpret them as being invested.
It’s a social state revolt, which is why they only care about social state issues. What those rightist elements give them is an alternate social tax structure. It’s defection along with an attempt to reclaim social power for themselves. If provincials (the actual right) revolt, they mostly want liberty for their lands. Only a civil war in Rome itself tried to claim, well, Rome.
Needless to say, this is the end result of the feedback loop, while being a thing that continues it – nothing changes, so the taxes go up, which results in a bigger enemy.
This results in war, in one form or another.
Social states gain power from social taxes. Those have gone up. If I had to breakdown “action” by tax structure, it would look something like this: acceptance without complaint>wordswordswords>action>wordswordswordsbutmoreso>sincere belief>identity. When your rate is “identity” (as current social movements are) then you’re moving from 0% to 100%. You’ll note that the Laffer Curve assumes an ideal tax rate is in between those two.
There’s only one way to maintain rates that high. Wanniski:
When the nation is at war, [the apex] can approach 100 percent. At the siege of Leningrad in World War II, for example, the people of the city produced for 900 days at tax rates approaching 100 percent. Russian soldiers and civilians worked to their physical limits, receiving as “pay” only the barest of rations. Had the citizens of Leningrad not wished to be taxed at that high rate, which was required to hold off the Nazi army, the city would have fallen.
Don’t get it? “Military-Industrial Complex.” Surprise!
I’m not saying that any group wants to direct Gettysburg 2: The Four-Scoreier. But it isn’t an accident that all groups are getting increasingly militaristic. Nor that each spends much of its time convincing its own side that the other one is going to destroy it. To maintain a certain rate of taxation without total collapse, states don’t need to be at war. But they need their citizens to think that they are.
This would be the part where “can’t we just talk this out?” starts to sound even more naive than usual.
I used a monarch and their palace for an example earlier. The palace costs $200, they only got $170 in revenue because of Laffer Curves. There’s a question that everyone should have asked then: “Why not just wait another year and then you’ll have enough for the palace?” Great question! Unfortunately the answer is terrible.
The implication of the Laffer Curve is that we want to get a project done and we can’t, which is bad. This is the general theme I’ve accepted and used. For the social state, this means changing society somehow, and ideally changing structure with it. The problem is that we’ve seen structural and massive social change from social power before, i.e. very fucking recently. We know it works, but we know it takes some time. The question to leftists isn’t “why do you want [thing]?” but “why are you ignoring all the ways that getting that worked in the past?” But what if that isn’t the goal? It may be the “supposed” goal, in the same way that all utopias are a supposed goal, but that doesn’t mean it’s the real one. Heaven is the theoretical goal of Christianity, but I suspect that most people join the church for more earthly reasons: community, self-image, convenience, etc.
The monarch may want a nice palace, but palaces aren’t simply there because “Oooh! This staircase has a newel!” They may “enjoy” the palace, but Easterlin Paradox and [other money doesn’t mean happiness things]. A palace is mostly about power projection, it’s a means of displaying who is and is not in charge. They want it for entirely different reasons, and on an entirely different timeline, than what is merely stated.
And so the question you need to ask yourself is what is our equivalent to that palace?
top image from Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line
3 thoughts on “Social Laffer Curves that go for a thousand screaming years.”
An alternative formulation of the feedback loop (regarding social taxes imposed by the modern Left, insofar as that’s a coherent side/term/thoughtgroup/thing of any sort), using concentric diagrams – imagine a very large circle, thoroughly purple: this is society in total. Most people are more-or-less happy not to be deliberately horrible to people different from themselves in some way to their faces. This is ‘polite society;’ draw a slightly smaller circle within the first. This circle is a couple shades bluer as a pure historical accident. Of the ‘polite,’ some number genuinely believe that difference does not mean inferiority. This is ‘genuine* society;’ size-of-circle is dependent on optimism and faith in social progress. Of these, some – a minority or at best slight plurality, if recent statistics are anything to go on – are willing to actively** support measures to improve the status of those less-advantaged than they.
Here’s where things get tricky for the Left. Statistics show that few people are in favor of overt discrimination against minorities, but the reverse is true of discrimination in favor of them. This is to be expected – see the definition of ‘minority;’ also that of ‘time’ with regards to the usual historical justifications – but see the Laffer Curve article above: from the Civil Rights Act,we descend in decreasing circular areas through ‘will support Affirmative Action policies (theoretically a good idea, although experimentally the results have been generally negative for everyone involved), ‘will support minority-preferential Federal/state/local subsidies,’ ‘will support LGBT rights,’ ‘will support illegal immigrant concerns***,’ etc., etc,. Finally, we reach the end point: ‘will support calling dislike of the Comic Sans font ableist and worthy of censure.’ At this point, having passed through God-knows-how-many (five, almost six decades’ worth, anyway) levels of increasingly stringent ideological requirements, we (the Left, here) find that very few of those we started with back in ‘polite society’ are still with us. Our circle of true believers has shrunk to a small, if very loud subset: of those who say: ‘I do not believe in [racism/sexosm/etc.],’ a tiny, tiny minority will go as far down the antidiscrimination rabbithole as many Leftist thoughtleaders have. Our ‘taxes’ grow with every new success, further alienating those we needed to bring the success into being in the first place; at the same time, we think that same success means we can press on to the next one without a pause for breath. We’ve thrown people who agreed with the first four or five our our cultural policy changes out because they didn’t agree with the sixth. That was silly, and we should really fix it if we want to accomplish anything.
I really do mean the ‘alternative,’ from the opening line – this was slightly more intuitive for me than the author’s explanation, and I hoped it would be useful for some other reader while not sacrificing any of the (perceptive, and depressingly accurate) analysis.
*Here meaning simply ‘not cheerfully racist/sexist/what-have-you-ist; I had a better term in mind but forgot it between the reading and the responding.
**Via speech, primarily, this being a social theory, but it translates to the structural realm fairly well in my opinion.
***By U.S.-specific legal definition, a ‘right’ is something Constitutionally-established; there is no legal right to open immigration and I’m not going to pretend there is; whether or nor a different (again, legal) immigration policy would be better for the nation as a whole is an entirely different question with an incredibly obvious answer: yes, yes it would.
Yes, I think your model makes sense. A question follows from it, though (not one I have an answer to), namely that of inclusivity and exclusivity. I think I’d call your model more inclusive, inasmuch as “the Left” (in various forms) is still the subset(s) of a larger unity. Mine is more exclusive – there are competing factions, with different members. Both seem true to me, and maybe the apparent distinction comes from which aspect of society one wants to focus on. In that sense, they’re definitely complementary analyses, and both tease out different parts of the situation. But I suspect that one’s solution/response to political polarization (or any other problem) is going to be different depending on the emphasis.
The exclusive view will probably be a fair amount gloomier, if it even comes up with a fix.
Indeed; all I’ve got so far is ‘roll back to a larger circle and draw the smaller ones less antagonistically,’ but there’s nobody with the authority to do that and if there were they’d be the ones who got us here in the first place. In a way it’s oddly comforting that we can’t do social engineering as a synthetic proposition, but it does make describing the problem almost an exercise in self-inducing cynicism.