The myth of the US social mobility.

Friday, 25 July, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Her Aww. Poor him.
Me I imagine for a number of the Romanian ppl who you know, met me while I was visiting Timisoara a few years ago and formed the immediate assumption that I'm Romanian just like them, live in a Romanian town just like them, I'm basically just like them. Then five years pass, and it becomes obvious that no, I wasn't a Romanian in the sense they gave to the term, but a Romanian in the sense I give to the term, as the one who actually has the authority to define what being Romanian means. Which is exactly what I said at the time, too, but they happily ignored it because what! WHAT!!! could one do with something like that ??? And so there they are and here I am and... wow. This is possible ?

Her Mhm.

This article has nothing to do with me and everything to do with football teams. Consider a town that really cares about whatever dumbass competitive sport, soccer or baseball or whatever. Some people working in that town, employed at the business of making money, spend some of that money to make more back. Specifically, they buy three guys from Africa, a couple Russians and an Armenian, make a "team" which "represents" the "city" and "win". Every redneck for miles around is beyond thrilled "their" team won. How is it theirs ?

In what sense is Shaw an English playwright and economist ? Is he an Irish playwright and economist ? What does either of those mean ? Shaw born in Scotland'd have not been Shaw, on the grounds of Scotland being so very different from England (or Ireland), and that difference somehow fundamentally important ? If you've made a Shaw, you've not made that Shaw, said no Shaw ever ?

In fact Shaw is neither English nor Irish not anything other than Shaw-ish, in that sense. Sure he happens to use some tools, and the tools in question should be extremely flattered that he does them the honor, in the plain knowledge that he could just as well use some other tools. Countries are not things, they're hotels, groups don't matter when human achievement is concerned. Collectivism has no power here. Which brings us to the point : the US "social mobility" is a myth. The people who appear socially mobile are geographically mobile in the first place. They come from China and Rwanda and wherever else. I spent some time in a small Massachusetts town that Kerouac lived in. Does this make me an "upwards mobile American" ? Why not, it improves the look of the data, right ?

More importantly, the people who appear socially mobile are socially mobile in and of themselves. Their mobility is not a characteristic of whatever place they happen to at any point bless with their presence, but of them themselves. There's nothing about a place that helps social mobility. Herr Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun was just as "socially mobile" - which is to say successful - in Nazi Germany and in pre-Nazi US, and while Ovid still wrote mostly Latin in Rome and on the Pontus, he nevertheless wrote most of his better material outside of the very "socially mobile" Republic.

Living in a neighbourhood with rich people doesn't make you any richer. Going through a gender change operation won't give you a better life expectancy, even if "women" live longer than men. All these pseudo-statistical considerations are exactly two things :

  • A way for people to create jobs for themselves out of the pretense they're doing "scientific research" while outputting pseudoscientific but politically relevant goop. This is an antisocial activity.
  • A way for people that really want to have the wool pulled over their eyes to have that wool pulled over their eyes. Is it better to be an office drone on a dead track in a company where 30% of employees end up a VP at some point in their career, rather than another company where only 28% of employees end up a VP eventually ? It doesn't matter. Not because the meaning of "VP" has been diluted to cater to HR considerations, but because office drones on dead tracks aren't in the demo for that dog and pony show anyway.

Change is not in and of itself improvement, social sciences are anything but scientific and statistics have much less impact on your actual life than you tend to imagine.

Category: SUA care este
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8 Responses

  1. An interesting collection of ideas there you managed to pull together fairly well. I wonder tho if social mobility, if it exists, isn't more about things like generation c of this fambly is better able than generation b to do shit it wants, such as afford to go on a picnic or do some vacation or have a library.

    Cause I'd think that sort of thing is actually meaningful. Whereas using the labels that are mostly used for this stuff, "upper-color-whatever neighborhood" is never gonna be too meaningful off the page.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    2
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 25 July 2014

    Problem is other factors (such as, generation X has no cellphone and no computers, where generation X+1 has computers but no cellphone where generation X+2 has computers and cellphone) completely overwhelm any sort of effects of politics and policy in the matter.

    That notwithstanding, the life quality of the average US citizen has been freefalling the past century : a bank clerk in 1914 could support a woman and her three children on his salary. Two banking mid-range "executives" working full time today can not support their two children without ample debt. So inasmuch as that thing is meaningful, the myth of US Social mobility is worse than mythical : it's going the other way.

  3. That notwithstanding, the life quality of the average US citizen has been freefalling the past century : a bank clerk in 1914 could support a woman and her three children on his salary.

    Welfarers today have more material possessions than that 1914 banker. Though certainly not the "life quality."

    For contemporary banking mid-range executives, the century-wide gap in "life quality" has much to do with the shit they think they "deserve:" the 3x larger house, annual intercontinental vacations, the Mercedes GLKs in their driveway, and $40k private pre-school tuition.

    In theory, at least, that idealized portrait of the 1914 banker's life is still available. The problem being that it would humiliate the entire nation of pretenders.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    4
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 July 2014

    If so inclined, a 1914 banker could have filled his garage with leaves, discarded bits of treebark and other naturally occuring items to a total count in excess of the total count found in the current household.

    That people today forage garage sales and discount bins in supermarkets and people then foraged the ravines and forests seems more like a color scheme than anything substantial.

    Junk is junk.

    (Mind that the larger house is NOT that large. Look at what houses single families used to inhabit back in 1914 - and they didn't want or need any insulation then, either. But they did house a dozen or so servants np. Try housing a dozen servants today, and then wonder why the lady of the house isn't having kids.)

  5. We quickly get into this whole 'quality of life' thing. Does a large house and a cellphone improve your well being in anyway?
    THere was perhaps a time when we could make a case for things like improved medicine and communication had indeed made life 'better'.
    Today the medicine is questionable (and expensive) and the communications is more propaganda than knowledge.
    We lack a sensible yardstick to measure these things.
    Does a big house make you happy?

  6. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    6
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 July 2014

    Well, if you're wondering what someone is doing a cellphone may seem like the ideal solution. If you'd rather find out whether your kids got hurt right now rather than next week a cellphone may seem like the ideal solution. In short, all these things seem like ideal solutions if you don't have them, so they must somehow be cosubstantial with being rich.

  7. I used to refer to my cellphone as 'my leash'.
    As useful as all this stuff may seem it extracts a price.
    Things wind up owning you. The big house, the mortgage, the car the cellphone you can't even turn off or your 'friends' will demand to know why you did not answer. Can you take a day and walk in the park and discuss philosophy or must you mow that lawn today?

    All well and good if you make these things as choices, too often the choice is not seen.

  8. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    8
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 July 2014

    Do not speak of rope in the house of the hanged, for I have just been through a week and change of nursing MPEx. And the memory hurts.

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