Staying Classy

Siderea writes an essay on class in America. You should read it. In case you don’t, here’s the summary:

1. People tend to confuse social class with economic class, eg how much money you make. But social class is a more complicated idea involving how respectable you seem, how educated you are, and what kind of family you come from. An assembly line supervisor might make the same amount of money as a schoolteacher, but the schoolteacher would probably seem more refined and be able to access better social circles.

2. Classes are cultures. People in a certain class have their own way of dressing, speaking, decorating, and behaving. They have distinctive ideas and values. This is why a lower-class person cannot simply claim to be upper-class and so gain all the benefits of upper-class-hood; it would be as hard as trying to pass for Japanese. Lower-class people can learn their way around upper-class culture, but it’s a difficult and lifelong project done most easily if you already have upper-class resources.

3. Talking about class is taboo because we like to believe we’re a classless society. We talk about income instead and pretend it’s class. Class breaks through in a couple of phrases like “rednecks” or “white trash” or “white collar” or “coastal elites”, but people use the phrases without usually having a broader idea that it’s class they’re talking about.

4. Class prejudice is complicated. It combines the practical superiority of being upper-class to being lower-class (because you have more money and opportunity) with the very dubious value judgment that upper-class culture is superior to lower-class culture, or that lower-class culture is just people trying to do upper-class culture but failing. But lower-class people like lower-class culture and generally do not want to adopt upper-class culture, except insofar as it’s necessary to advance. Analogies to race and assimilation are obvious.

5. People mostly understand their own class, and the class one step above or below them, but have only vague stereotypes of classes further than that. This limits social mobility; you can’t join what you can’t understand.

6. College is a finishing school for the upper classes. They send their children there to learn the proper upper class values and behaviors. Even if community college does a great job teaching whatever trades it teaches, it will not teach you how to be a part of the upper class, and this will seriously limit your opportunities.

7. Politically, the left pretends class doesn’t exist; the right talks about it, but only to yell at the underclass and say that their culture is wrong. Race is really complicated and will be left out of this analysis.

I notice Siderea is a psychotherapist, which doesn’t surprise me. We in mental health get a pretty good cross-sectional exposure of everybody and get to hear about their lives, and with enough data points the structure comes into sharper relief.

Just to give an example: suppose a lady comes in with really over-permed dyed curly hair wearing several rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Her name is Sherri and she calls you “darling”; she’s also carrying her lunch, which is KFC plus a Big Gulp. Without knowing anything else about her, you can peg her as working class. Maybe she won the lottery ten years ago and is now the richest person in your state. It doesn’t matter. She’s still working class.

Or suppose a thin 25-year-old man comes in wearing glasses, a small close-cropped beard, and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. His name is Alex and he apologizes for being three minutes late. This guy is probably middle-to-upper-middle-class and college educated, maybe not a great college but still college-educated. And maybe he’s fallen on hard times and doesn’t have a dollar to his name. It still doesn’t matter. He’s still middle-to-upper-middle class.

And you start to learn you can predict things about these people, the concerns they’re going to have, the kind of things that happen to them. Who their friends are. How they relate to their friends: Sherri will expound upon the flaws of every single one of her ungrateful coworkers; Alex will reluctantly say he went through a tough breakup a year or two ago. What kind of drugs they abuse, if they abuse drugs (maybe Sherri has smoking and drinking problems; Alex has probably tried marijuana and LSD but is embarrassed to say so).

But this kind of innate stereotyping is different than a formal taxonomy. Siderea links to Michael Church’s attempt to explain what the classes actually are. This is another piece you should read, but again in case you don’t:

1. 10% of people are in an underclass consisting of “generationally poor” people who may never have held jobs and who come from similarly poor families.

2. 65% of people are in the labor class. They work jobs where labor is seen as a commodity, ie there’s not as much sense of career capital or reputation. They base virtue and success around Hard Work. Its lower levels are minimum wage McJobs, its middle levels are assembly line work, and its higher levels are things like pilots, plumbers, and small business owners. The stratospheric semi-divine level is “celebrities” like reality TV stars who become fabulously rich and famous while sticking to their labor class roots.

3. 23.5% of people are in the gentry class. They fetishize education and career capital. They engage in all sorts of signaling games around “fair trade” and “organic” and what museums they go to. At the lower level they’re schoolteachers and starving artists, at the mid level they’re “professions” like engineering and law, and at the highest level they’re professors and scientists and entrepreneurs. The stratospheric semi-divine level is “cultural influencers” like Jon Stewart or Steven Pinker who become famous and (maybe) rich while sticking to their gentry class roots.

4. 1.5% of people are in the elite class. Although you can be borderline-elite by getting a job in finance and making a few million, the real elite are born into money and don’t work unless they want to. Occasionally they’ll sit on a board or found a philanthropic association or something. They don’t believe in “professional achievement” because working is lower-class; they might compete in complicated status games around who throws the best parties or has the best horses or whatever.

5. The highest class (E1) are psychopaths who burn the global commons for shits and giggles. They tend to be drug lords, arms dealers, and morally insane billionaires. Most famous politicians and businesspeople are not in this class and most people in this class are not famous.

6. The three main classes (labor, gentry, and elite) are three different ‘infrastructures’. To be in labor you need skills, to be in gentry you need education, and to be in elite you need connections. There’s no strict hierarchy (eg not all gentry are above all labor), but you can picture them as offset ladders, with the lower gentry being at the same rung as the higher labor and so on.

7. The Elite control everything; the constant threat is that Gentry and Labor will unite against them, which might very well work. The Elite neutralize this threat by making Labor hate Gentry as “effeminate” or “pretentious”; they also convince Labor that the Gentry are probably secretly in cahoots with the underclass against Labor. Elites also convince Labor that Elites don’t exist and it’s Gentry all the way up, which means that “anti-1%” sentiment, which should properly get Labor and Gentry to cooperate against the Elites, instead makes Gentry hate the Elites but Labor hate Gentry. Politics boils down to Gentry being good people trying to improve things, and Elite conning Labor into hating Gentry to prevent things from being improved.

8. While all classes can have good and bad people (except E1, which is wholly bad), Elites have a generally negative influence on society, and Gentry are generally positive. After the World Wars, everybody got angry at the Elites for all the war and killing and stuff, which convinced them to lie low for a few decades and forced the Gentry to take over. This was why the country did so well during the 50s and 60s. Whether the country goes in a good or bad direction now depends on whether the Elites manage to take it back or not. One reason Silicon Valley works (used to work?) so unusually well was that it was mostly a native project of the Gentry that hadn’t yet been infiltrated by the Elites.

Reaction to Church on the subreddit was pretty negative, but I find it at least a good nucleus for further discussion. The Gentry/Labor distinction is glaringly obvious. The Labor/Underclass distinction also seems glaringly obvious to me, if only because Labor hates the underclass. The Gentry/Elite distinction doesn’t seem glaringly obvious to me, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t met enough elites. In particular, Church’s “E1” seems caricatured and out-of-place in his otherwise sober analysis. Then again, if those people existed I probably wouldn’t know anyway. Then again, the rest of Church’s blog suggests some paranoid tendencies, so maybe the E1 entry is just those coming out.

Siderea notes that Church’s analysis independently reached about the same conclusion as Paul Fussell’s famous guide. I’m not entirely sure how you’d judge this (everybody’s going to include lower, middle, and upper classes), but eyeballing Fussell it does look a lot like Church, so let’s grant this.

It also doesn’t sound too different from Marx. Elites sound like capitalists, Gentry like bourgeoisie, Labor like the proletariat, and the Underclass like the lumpenproletariat. Or maybe I’m making up patterns where they don’t exist; why should the class system of 21st century America be the same as that of 19th century industrial Europe?

There’s one more discussion of class I remember being influenced by, and that’s Unqualified Reservations’ Castes of the United States. Another one that you should read but that I’ll summarize in case you don’t:

1. Dalits are the underclass, made up of homeless people, chronically unemployed people, drug addicts, etc. They tend to have a lot of trouble with the law, go in and out of jail, never really hold down stable employment. Status is “street cred” that you get from being powerful, wealthy, and sexually successful, eg gang leaders.

2. Vaisyas are standard middle-class people who engage in productive employment. They tend to form nuclear families and try to go to church. Status is having a stable job, a stable family, and being well-liked in your church or social club.

3. Brahmins are very educated people who participate in the world of ideas. They range from doctors and lawyers to artists and professors. Access is conferred by top-tier university education. Status is from conspicuous engagement in progressive politics, eg being an activist, working for an NGO, “campaigning for justice”. They are “the ruling class”.

4. Optimates are very rich WASPs concerned with breeding and old money. Status comes from breeding and an antiquated idea of “nobility”. Optimates used to be “the ruling class”, but now they’re either extinct or endangered, having been pretty much absorbed into the Brahmins.

5. Mentioned elsewhere in the UR corpus: politics boils down to Vaisyas being basically decent people trying to lead normal productive lives, and Brahmins trying to create a vast tentacled monstrosity of useless bureaucrats and petty enforcers of ideological conformity to employ Brahmins in the “knowledge work” they feel entitled to and to protect their interests. Silicon Valley is (used to be?) unusually functional because it maintained some Vaisya values separate from the corrupting influence of the Brahmins.

Michael Church’s system (henceforth MC) and the Unqualified Reservation system (henceforth UR) are similar in some ways. MC’s Underclass matches Dalits, MC’s Labor matches Vaisyas, MC’s Gentry matches Brahmins, and MC’s Elite matches Optimates. This is a promising start. It’s a fourth independent pair of eyes that’s found the same thing as all the others. (commenters bring up Joel Kotkin and Archdruid Report as similar convergent perspectives).

But there are also some profound differences. UR says that the Elites are mostly gone, that everything’s ruled by the Gentry nowadays, and that the Gentry are allying with the criminal Underclass against Labor. MC mentions this same picture, but only as the false facade that the Elites are trying to get everyone else to believe in order to keep them divided.

You could reconcile some of the differences by supposing the two models have different cutoffs. Suppose we rank people from 0 (lowest underclass) to 100 (highest elite). Maybe MC draws the Labor/Gentry and Gentry/Elite borders at 40 and 70 respectively, and UR draws the Vaisya/Brahmin and Brahmin/Optimate borders at 60 and 90. If the world’s being run by 80s, MC could be right to say it’s run by Elites and not Gentry, and UR could be right in saying it’s run by Brahmins and not Optimates. If Silicon Valley is run by 55s but being ruined by 75s, MC could say it’s run by Gentry but ruined by elites, and UR could say it’s run by Vaisyas but ruined by Brahmins. But if there’s this much variability in class boundaries, what’s the point in even drawing them in the first place?

But I think the differences are real and political: MC comes from a liberal perspective, UR from a conservative one. MC wants to locate the source of the cancer in the (mostly plutocrat) Elites, cast the (mostly liberal) Gentry as wonderful people who can do no wrong, cast the (mostly conservative) Labor as deluded and paranoid, and cast the (liberal-aligned) Underclass in a sympathetic light. UR wants to locate the source of the cancer in the (mostly liberal) Brahmins, cast the (mostly conservative) Labor as decent salt-of-the-Earth types under threat from the elite, and cast the (liberal-aligned) Underclass in an unsympathetic light.

And the political angle evokes one more system worth adding here: my own discussion of the Blue Tribe vs. the Red Tribe in I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup. I point out that the group sometimes referred to as “coastal liberals” or “SWPL” and so on are marked not only by Democratic Party beliefs, but by a host of cultural similarities including food, dress, music, hobbies, religion, values, art, etc. Likewise, the group sometimes referred to as “rednecks” or “fundies” and so on are marked not only by Republican Party beliefs, but by a similar set of cultural similarities. I call these the “Blue Tribe” and the “Red Tribe” as an attempt to distinguish them as cultures and not just as sets of political beliefs.

These tribes seem closely related to classes. “Blue Tribe” is similar to Gentry; “Red Tribe” is similar to Labor. I won’t say there’s a perfect 1:1 equivalence; for example, I know some union leaders who are very clearly in the Labor class but who wouldn’t be caught dead in the Red Tribe. But the resemblance is too close to miss.

Some final scattered thoughts:

1. All those studies that analyze whether some variable or other affects income? They’d all be much more interesting if they analyzed the effect on class instead. For example, there’s a surprisingly low correlation between your parents’ income and your own income, which sounds like it means there’s high social mobility. But I grew up in a Gentry class family; I became a doctor, my brother became a musician, and my cousin got a law degree but eventually decided to work very irregularly and mostly stay home raising her children. I make more money than my brother, and we both make more money than my cousin, but this is not a victory for social mobility and family non-determinism; it’s no coincidence none of us ended up as farmers or factory workers. We all ended up Gentry class, but I chose something closer to the maximize-income part of the Gentry class tradeoff space, my brother chose something closer to the maximize-creativity part, and my cousin chose to raise the next generation. Any studies that interpret our income difference as an outcome difference and tries to analyze what factors gave me a leg up over my relatives (better schools? more breastfeeding as a child?) are stupid and will come up with random noise. We all got approximately the same level of success/opportunity, and those things just happen to be very poorly measured by money. If we could somehow collapse the entirety of tradeoffspace into a single variable, I bet it would have a far greater parent-child correlation than income does. This is part of why I don’t follow the people who take the modest effect of IQ on income as a sign that IQ doesn’t change your opportunities much; maybe everyone in my family has similar IQs but wildly different income levels, and there’s your merely modest IQ/income relationship right there. I think some studies (especially in Britain) have tried analyzing class and gotten some gains over analyzing income, but I don’t know much about this.

2. I think Siderea is right that the Right thinks in social class terms more naturally than the Left. To oversimplify, both sides use class warfare, but the Left’s class warfare is economic (“the plutocrat billionaires are ruining everything!”) and the Right’s class warfare is social (“the media and academic elites are ruining everything!”).

3. Closely related: Donald Trump appeals to a lot of people because despite his immense wealth he practically glows with signs of being Labor class. This isn’t surprising; his grandfather was a barber and his father clawed his way up to the top by getting his hands dirty. He himself went to a medium-tier college and is probably closer in spirit to the small-business owners of the upper Labor class than to the Stanford MBA-holding executives of the Elite. Trump loves and participates in professional wrestling and reality television; those definitely aren’t Gentry or Elites pastimes! When liberals shake their heads wondering why Joe Sixpack feels like Trump is a kindred soul even though Trump’s been a billionaire his whole life, they’re falling into the liberal habit of sorting people by wealth instead of by class. To Joe Sixpack, Trump is “local boy made good”.

4. The thesis of “I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup” simplifies to “It is a Gentry-class tradition to sweep aside all prejudices except class prejudice, which must be held with the intensity of all the old prejudices combined.”

5. But “I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup”‘s Grey Tribe sits uneasy within this system. It doesn’t seem to be a class. But it also seems distinctly different from ordinary Gentry norms. And what about minorities? What about the differences between farmers vs. factory workers? If different classes are equivalent to different cultures, well, there are a lot of different cultures that don’t fit easily into the hierarchy. Maybe class is one factor among many that can create a different culture, but other factors can be stronger than class in some groups?

6. Siderea doesn’t want to get into how race interacts with class, and that seems wise. But a related digression: lots of people complain about social justice being classist, in that it’s hard for anybody who hasn’t either gone to college or at least spent a lot of time hanging around social justice people to keep track of which words, opinions, and causes are okay versus will render you radioactive. On the one hand, this is probably true. On the other, it’s probably true of everything, with social justice as an unexceptional example. Yes, the way you refer to trans people shows what class you’re from, but so does the way you order ice cream.

7. Siderea admits she is classist and not ashamed of this. I have a hard time understanding what she means, but I can try to explain my own classism: I think classes probably sort on important qualities and reinforce those qualities. For example, the Underclass and Labor class people I know are much more likely to have high-conflict styles of interaction: if they feel offended, they’ll yell at you and maybe even fight you. Gentry class people would be horrified at the thought; they might respond to the same offense by filing a complaint with Human Resources. I think there are two equally correct ways to interpret this. Number one, people with the maladaptive behavior of starting physical fights don’t make it very far in life and so end out in lower classes, and insofar as these behaviors are either genetic or learned within the family, their families stay in lower classes throughout the generations. Number two, the lower classes have a culture where you defend your honor by fighting people who offend you, and the upper classes have a culture where you defend your honor by submitting complaints, and although in a cosmic sense both of those styles are equally valid, and although indeed a thousand years ago the fighting might have been more adaptive, in today’s society the complaint-submitting is more adaptive and the lower classes are screwed unless they unlearn that behavior – which they probably won’t, because unlearning class is hard. But this means that classism is at least kind of justified – if you want to hire for example a schoolteacher, you might want to look for people who show all the signs of Gentry rather than Labor class to make sure they’re not going to get into physical fights in the classroom.

8. Cellular automaton theory of fashion likely relevant.

9. Siderea’s idea of college as finishing school for the upper classes is interesting, and her own experience is a window into something I never thought about before. But I’m not sure how typical she is; I think most colleges admit students who are already members of the classes their graduates end up in. I felt like I didn’t learn any class culture during my own college experience at all – which isn’t surprising since I was born the son of a doctor and ended up as a doctor myself. I think my story’s probably more typical than Siderea’s, though other people can prove me wrong if they’ve seen differently.

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981 Responses to Staying Classy

  1. Cerebral Paul Z. says:

    Yet another convergent perspective: The New Class Conflict by Joel Kotkin; his Yeomanry, Clerisy, and Oligarchs correspond pretty closely to Labor, Gentry, and Elites.

  2. Morkys says:

    Nice article. I think you may be overreaching when you talk about mapping blue/red to the caste/class hierarchy. Blue/red (if I understand it) is as far as I can tell an American thing and based on historical ethnic groups/cultures whereas classes are social niches that I think should be expected to convergently evolve in any society with our sort of social sophistication.

    Weird thing about the E1 class is that people with ‘radical’ views seem to unanimously agree that they exist, but I don’t know of anyone who is supposedly a part of it.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      “Weird thing about the E1 class is that people with ‘radical’ views seem to unanimously agree that they exist, but I don’t know of anyone who is supposedly a part of it.”

      That’s the point – they’re exclusive and well-hidden.

      • Joyously says:

        I am inclined to be highly skeptical of the existence of an “exclusive and well-hidden” class full of people who don’t resemble anyone I’ve ever met but match up perfectly with movie cliches.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Yes, I’m also very skeptical about the idea of E1, but if you assume their existence that doesn’t imply that you actually know any of them personally.

        • Alrenous says:

          Teaser: “Each of the top 400 earners took home, on average, about $336 million in 2012, the latest year for which data is available. If the bulk of that money had been paid out as salary or wages, as it is for the typical American, the tax obligations of those wealthy taxpayers could have more than doubled.”

          Teaser: “Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes — a minimum of $87 million in 2000, the last year for which the government will release such data — now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000.”

          You know the names of maybe a dozen of those 400.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Obviously lots of unknown super rich people exist. However, it seems unlikely that they go around being gratuitously evil – why would they? Church’s case isn’t helped by the fact that half the examples he gives are fictional, and none of them are really proper examples (neither the Joker nor Hitler were super-rich).

          • Hircum Saeculorum says:

            “…insane psychopaths who burn the global commons for shits and giggles. They tend to be drug lords, arms dealers, and morally insane billionaires. Most famous politicians and businesspeople are not of this class and most people in this class are not famous.”

            What about, say, El Chapo? A rare example of a famous E1? He seems to fit the description, and it’s hard to imagine that there aren’t more people like him who don’t have the same penchant for trying to make themselves into folk heroes.

          • destract says:

            Kim Jong-un and other high-level people in North Korea would definitely count as E1.

          • Gravitas Generator says:

            “…insane psychopaths who burn the global commons for shits and giggles. They tend to be drug lords, arms dealers, and morally insane billionaires. Most famous politicians and businesspeople are not of this class and most people in this class are not famous.”

            Hugo Chavez?

          • Alrenous says:


            Don’t worry, I’m sure everyone is aware you hold high-status skepticism.
            I did not address the evil dimension, and I will continue to not address it.

          • WildUtah says:

            Joaquín Guzmán is certainly, like Pablo Escobar, working class. Money doesn’t make you elite.

            Kim Jong Un is a good example of E1. If there is such a thing as E1.

            Hugo Chavez was a military officer and therefore gentry.

        • Tibor says:

          The first name that came to my mind was Pablo Escobar. Also probably whoever now is at the top tier in ‘Ndrangheta or Camorra. They are ultimately not a terribly important part of the society though, so I think one could ignore them. the class distinction is not all that accurate anyway, I don’t feel like I fit to either the gentry or the labour class but more like something between or entirely different (explained in another comment). I think there are more people like me than there are Mafia bosses.

        • Viliam says:

          An obvious example would be high-ranked KGB officials. Not only the one person at the top, but the next 50 people below them. Or perhaps the ones lower in the official hierarchy, but having many good friends in the higher positions.

          Are they powerful? Yes. Do they resemble typical movie villains? Kinda. Do you know their names? Probably not. Do you believe they are real?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Well, they aren’t real any more.

          • Viliam says:

            Sancta simplicitas! Aren’t real anymore…

            So what do you think happened with those people when their functions officially ended? Did they just disappear, like disbanded units in a computer game?

            Or did they say to each other: “Well, we had decades of experience with having enormous power; we have materials to blackmail thousands of politicians and judges and entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone; we have experience with killing, kidnapping and torturing people; and most importantly we have this huge network of people with the same background, with similar morals, with mutual trust based on years of successful cooperation… so now when the job is officially over, we are going to throw this all away without having a second thought; and we are all going to live exactly the same way as the average Ivan, which means starving and drinking vodka. We are totally okay with this.” Yeah, I am sure that’s exactly what happened. And then Putin was elected in fair and democratic elections, and everyone who criticized him just randomly died, but that is absolutely no reason to get suspect about anything, because only conspiracy theorists do that.

            I was going to also name Uday Hussein as an example of a real person worse than the average comic book villain, but why bother. I guess the answer is that he is dead, and there are no other individuals like him, so we can all relax.

          • sweeneyrod says:


            My point was just that the KGB no longer exists.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was, well, I was a big fan of the one with the polonium, that was just kind of hilariously over the top.

          • LeeEsq says:

            One amateur explanation for Russia’s somewhat to very unique political trajectory for a European nation that I’ve encountered was that Russia has been effectively run by the secret police ever since Ivan the Terrible founded them.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I don’t think they are pure evil in it for villainy. I’m pretty sure at least some of them tell themselves they do what they do to keep Russia safe- the country has enough horrifying terrorism to make that not ring hollow.

        • Donny Anonny says:

          If he’s not a member already, it would seem that Martin Shkreli aspires to E1-dom.

          Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei would be a pretty obvious candidate for E1.

      • Max says:

        All social systems needs a symbol of “absolute irredeemable evil”. For this essay its “E1”. For liberal gentry its “racists and nazis” and so on.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          This is the kind of gratuitous addition of tribal politics I would like to see less of here.

          • Jiro says:

            The point is that the article describes the class as irredeemably evil in in a tribal politics sort of way. It’s impossible to criticize the article in this way without bringing up tribal politics–that’s the whole point. In order for Max to point out that the article uses tribal politics, he has to mention it, but there’s a use/mention distinction here.

          • merzbot says:

            “Liberals consider racists absolutely irredeemably evil” seems like a bit of a tribalist sideswipe to me.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            It is. Besides, it’s outdated, the fashionable thing nowadays is to consider racists mentally ill.

      • Vamair says:

        If it’s a class one step higher than the Elites, then the Elites should probably know about them.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Fear and anger have to be part of this campaign. If you want to win, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to get people to like the oil and gas industry over the next few months.

      There is no sympathy for the oil and gas industry. So we’re not going to tap into the sympathetic, ‘Oh, I’m sympathetic for all those poor guys who are running the energy companies.’

      What you got to do is get people fearful of what is on the table and then you got to get people angry over the fact that they are being misled.

      So we thought how are we doing to kick off this campaign? Take the typical Berman and Company model, in terms of undermining these folks credibility, and diminish their moral authority. … One of the first things we did was, we said, well, let’s make this a little personal. Let’s find out whether these people are practicing what they preach. So what we did was we conducted a whole bunch of intense opposition research digging into their board of directors, and we pulled all of the title information for all the vehicles that they own.”

      People always ask me one question all the time, ‘How do I know that I won’t be found out as a supporter of what you’re doing?’

      We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us. We’ve been doing this for 20 something years in this regard. And to the degree to anybody is concerned about that I will tell you there are all sorts of ways, all sorts of firewalls that have been established to get this done on an anonymous (inaudible), and we have just a few minutes left for questions if you want.”

      “But it’s not up to me to say who funds me. If the company wants to say that they are funding me, or the company wants to tell somebody else, that’s their business. It’s not up to me.”

      I know your spending a lot of money on the positive stuff, if you spent somewhere between 2-3 million dollars on extending this campaign it would be, I think it would be a game-changer.

      I think 2-3 million dollars would be a game-changer.

      “What individual companies contribute, is quite frankly, up to them. We’ve had six figure contributions to date from a few companies in this room to help us to get to where we are. But you know, if people gave fifty thousand, one hundred thousand, more if they thought well of it, that would be up to them”

    • Richard Gadsden says:

      The only person I’ve ever encountered that pattern-matches to E1 is Vox Day – inherited lots of money, hateful bigot, adopts various things as hobbies that would be careers for other people.

      Of course, he’s too noisy to really match the archetype, but I could see him as being what the archetype looks like when the mark slips.

      Except, while I certainly think the E3/E2 exist, I really don’t think E1 does. Emergent behaviour does not require a conspiracy in order for it to exist.

      • Vaniver says:

        Of course, he’s too noisy to really match the archetype, but I could see him as being what the archetype looks like when the mark slips.

        One of the things I found most interesting about the Gervais Principle (a similar analysis, but on organizational dynamics and varieties of workers) was the idea of whether sociopaths are honest or circumspect in their personal dealings with other sociopaths.

        (Sociopath is the organizational version of the elite, defined by ownership; clueless is the organizational version of the gentry, defined by idealism; loser is the organizational version of labor, defined by putting in the time.)

        Rao claims that the lower classes would be honest in the sociopath positions (which is one of the reasons they don’t become sociopaths), and that sociopaths interacting with other sociopaths remain circumspect because that’s their natural mode of operation. Instead of getting into a fight over ideas, they’d silently crush opposition and support allies. (The CIA funding modern art to reduce the appeal of representative Soviet art seems like an example of what Elite cultural warfare looks like, and Vox Day looks to me like Gentry cultural warfare.)

        As Scott A puts it, instead of Trump and Bill Clinton talking about whether or not Trump should run or Bill would oppose him, Trump can just ask “How are things at home?” and Bill can respond “about the same” with all the necessary information transferred. (In a Hollywood movie, Bill would go on a rant against Hillary.)

        (I do think Trump is rich labor, but his persuasion skills are Elite-tier.)

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Sociopaths, that is actual people diagnosed with sociopathy, have notoriously poor impulse control and little to no ability to plan ahead. Even so-called successful sociopaths still get themselves into trouble with simple tests of strategic planning like the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. And beyond that, they’re not exactly famous for their incredible ability to cooperate.

          There are no sociopathic conspiracies for the same reason that there are no quadriplegic triathlons.

          • Jesse M. says:

            Couldn’t sociopathy and psychopathy follow a sort of spectrum model in which you have some people on the borderline that don’t show all the defining traits such as poor impulse control? Googling a little, I found that the Handbook of Psychopathy has a section talking of “successful psychopathy”, here’s part of it:

            An understanding of psychopathy as a collection of traits from a general model of personality, however, suggests that all versions of the successful psychopath target only a subset of the traits in the psychopathic profile. The individuals Hare described are clearly deceptive, exploitive, arrogant, and callous (i.e., extremely low on Agreeableness). However, these individuals have frequently obtained advanced degrees and moved far in their fields; they seem to lack other important characteristics possessed by the prototypical psychopath such as unreliability, aimlessness, and poor impulse control (i.e., low Conscientiousness/Constraint). Similarly, Lykken’s description focuses on only a subset of the traits involved in psychopathy, namely, the traits associated with low Neuroticism.

          • It should be pointed out that “sociopath” in Rao’s work is a term of art, defined within the book, which has only a vague connotative connection with psychological sociopathy.

          • JonCB says:

            And just to show that an analogy that seems logically sound is still probably flawed… i give you Paratriathlon

            “TRI 1 – Wheelchair user: Includes Paraplegic, Quadriplegic, Polio, Double Leg Amputee and disabilities that prevent the safe use of a conventional bicycle. Must use hand cycle on bike course and racing wheelchair on the run.”

            (I think you’re more likely right than wrong about the sociopaths however)

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Huh, that sounds like a really interesting race. I have to remember to try to see that online, I just can’t picture it.

          • With the thoughts you'd be thinkin says:

            Jesse M, the psychopathic trait that correlates with presidents is fearless dominance. Which is the basically the tendency towards boldness.


        • Viliam says:

          I really hate that the author decided to use the word “sociopath” in the article.

          One does not start a rational discussion about a topic by choosing a word with strong mindkilling connotations and gratituously using it as a label for something else.

          Yeah, maybe the author meant it as a metaphor, but I don’t trust most of the readers to be able to ignore the connotations.

          Maybe the part that irritates me is that when I say “rationalists should win“, I feel like the author adds “well, if they win, then by (my) definition they are sociopaths (despite not having any symptoms of sociopathy as defined by psychologists, because who cares)”.

          Also, I believe that the topic of sociopathy should be given serious attention in the rationalist community (and is currently given zero attention, and any attempt to debate it would probably invite many clever contrarian dismissals). Any group that wants to gain power and preserve their values must solve the problem of detecting people who don’t share the values, but are charming enough to easily raise to the top. Again, one does not achieve the necessary clarity of mind by using the term gratituously as a label for something else.

          • I have a lot of cognitive dissonance about his “losers”. If you put minimum effort into climbing the greasy pole, and get your utility from family and out=-of-work activities, what’s wrong with that?

          • TheNybbler says:

            Nothing’s wrong with the “Losers”, and he actually points that out. The real “losers” in that system are the Clueless. The names are chosen more for titillation than information.

          • wysinwyg says:

            His schtick is narrative decision making (instead of evidence-based decision making).

            Terms like “sociopath” and “loser” are part of the narrative he’s constructing to explain human behavior in organizations.

            He could have made up new terms without any baggage, but that would defeat his own purpose. That “baggage” is the stuff narratives are made of.

          • Philippe Saner says:

            I’ve heard the groups relabeled pragmatists, idealists, and opportunists. Dunno how to posts links here, so:


            Is that more agreeable to you?

        • Muga Sofer says:

          So that our terminology will reflect my own unproven assumptions, I propose we refer to “E1″/”sociopaths”/etc as “lizardmen”. Better than inviting conflusion between clinical sociopaths and subtle self-interested elite conspirators.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Tangential Question: Are the agents in Operation: Endgame E1?

          (Minor spoilers follow.)

          They do not have personal access to wealth, but in the course of their jobs (i.e. secretly running the world) they have access to nearly unlimited capital and pretty much anything else an E1 could want. They don’t seem to report directly to, well, anybody, except the agent in charge, who occupies a very precarious position indeed (as do they all.)

          I know they’re not real, but they seem like an interesting example of something which is at least facially plausible and an example of the class.

      • Source for the claim that he inherited “lots of money”?

      • hlynkacg says:

        The first image that popped into my head reading the E1 description was the Clintons (Both bill and Hillary, but mostly Hillary) and the recent l’faire de Epstein.

      • I’ve just read most of the Wiki page on Vox Day, and I don’t think he matches the pattern at all. To begin with, while he might have inherited several million—it isn’t at all clear from the page—that’s not “lots of money” on the scale of the hypothetical E1’s. He seems to be a very talented creative individual with unpopular views which he is very open and aggressive about. Not a secret manipulator type.

        • John Schilling says:

          Agreed. E1 is the Bavarian Illuminati and maybe the Gnomes of Zurich; the secret rulers of the world, with power, privilege, and immunity that Theodore Beale can only dream of. They don’t have to hide behind a pseudonymous front when dealing with the public, because they don’t have to deal with the public at all. Their true names may be listed in the phone book, or at least the corporate 10K filings, but still nobody really knows who they are. Well, except for the bit where any half-wit conspiracy theorist can rattle off dozens of names anyhow.

          And, like the Illuminati, they are fun to imagine even though they don’t really exist. But when we are imagining them, Vox Day isn’t one of the people we are thinking of.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            On the new show Angel from Hell (which I find very enjoyable) alleged guardian angel Amy tells her charge Allison that there is no such thing as coincidence: 99% of all coincidences are caused by angels pulling strings.

            Allison replies, “What about the other 1%?”

            Amy says, “The One Percent. They control everything. Didn’t you know that?”

    • have you seen the documentary “Born Rich”? It makes a pretty compelling case that E1 exists, and gives us a view into one subset of it (the 18-25 E1 demographic). The whole documentary is available here: Here is the wiki summary:

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        I haven’t seen it, but young rich people being horrible assholes is not new; people have been complaining about this since the Greeks.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          I am an only slightly reformed libertarian. However, if I make the mistake of looking at “Rich Kids of Instagram,” I start trying to remember where I left the pitchfork, torches and hemp and looking up the words of The Internationale.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            I actually have one to two degrees of separation from some world class wealthy people (I’m not one of them and I am not bragging) a lot of them (even one who people suspected had parents connected to Eastern European crime) seemed to be pretty charming.

            Kids related to locally successful lawyers, however?

            Total scumbags.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ God Damn John Jay

            noblesse oblige is a thing.

    • Tibor says:

      I would not say that the Red/Blue, unless understood too strictly, is an entirely US phenomenon. The alignment of the Red tribe with one party and Blue with another is, the situation is not as neatly divided in countries which do not have a two-party system.

    • Michael Vassar says:

      I know at least one, maybe two or three such people. I’m not convinced that Church understands them properly though. I don’t think ownership is their thing to anything like the extent that he thinks it is. Ownership, in the long term, requires too much trust in property rights. This confusion causes him to mis-place Bush, Clinton, etc.

      • Chrysophylax says:

        Please expand on this. Who is E1, in your view, and what do E1 people care about? Are they all laughing monsters, and if not, what distinguishes them from E2 and E3?

    • ryan says:

      If they exist this is their form:

      Mass anti-government protests are engineered. The government doesn’t know exactly what to do. They send the army or riot police to keep the crowds from rioting but otherwise just pray the problems magically go away. After days/weeks of this snipers show up, they shoot protesters, they shoot riot police/soldiers. The protesters think the police shot them. The police think protesters shot them. And the revolution goes from there.

      The same formula played out the same way in Libya, then Syria and Ukraine. E1 are the people who sent in the snipers.

  3. Oligopsony says:

    1) Marx’s use of class isn’t about income, but it is fundamentally economic; it concerns where people get their resources from (labor, capitalist property, other kinds of property) and the habits and alliances that accrete around that. Weber usefully refers to this as “class” and (most of) what you’re referring to in this post as “status,” which I think is a useful distinction.

    2) Being more physically confrontational/less inclined to tattle is adaptive in a context where you can’t as reliably expect authority figures to protect you, which is truer at the lower ends.

    • multiheaded says:

      Oh god, I saw that and jumped to the comments to POINT THIS OUT!!!

      (p.s. oh by the way I was under the mistaken impression that Weberian class is precisely this; I was nodding along right now, like, ah yes, guess this is mostly cropped from him. I should actually read Weber I guess.)

    • hlynkacg says:

      In regards to #2, this is a critical factor that I feel many rationalists ignore.

      Rule Number one is that “Help is NOT on the way”.

      • Susebron says:

        This can also lead to a vicious cycle: the police aren’t going to help you, so you take matters into your own hands. This makes the police even less likely to help you.

  4. Nornagest says:

    E1 is silly and people have already commented on how (including me, the last time the Church essay came up). So I won’t belabor that any further. But this doesn’t seem much less silly:

    While all classes can have good and bad people[…], Elites have a generally negative influence on society, and Gentry are generally positive. After the World Wars, everybody got angry at the Elites for all the war and killing and stuff, which convinced them to lie low for a few decades and forced the Gentry to take over. This was why the country did so well during the 50s and 60s.

    Obvious political cheering is obvious. What maybe isn’t so obvious is that the ideological conflicts leading to the Second World War, at least, were largely middle-class projects on all sides. Most of the early Soviet leadership came out of what they called the petit bourgeoisie, ironically enough. The Nazi base skewed if anything a bit lower. Although a few aristocrats did throw in with the Nazis, the Nazi nobleman stereotype is more fictional than not; the party’s early support came mostly from small-time shopkeepers, Great War veterans, and the like, and expanded to the working and upper-middle classes later on.

    I also suspect that the post-WWI aristocracy was a pretty different beast than the pre-WWI in most of Europe and maybe the States as well; the early modern aristocracy had a very martial character to it, and its sons, at least early in the war, were pulling strings to get sent to the trenches. Not coincidentally, it took very heavy losses.

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      The last paragraph corrisponds to the extinction of the Optimate class in the Moldbuggian framework, though the war here is Civil.

      The characterization of ideological conflicts leading into World War 2 as largely middle-class projects is incorrect. Examining it from the viewpoint of party politics will lead to this view because party politics are a largely middle class phenomenon, but your narrative priviliging party politics must be justified, I am interested in hearing one.

    • nope says:

      Church’s argument was that the two World Wars were more or less one, and it’s true that the second probably never would have happened without the first. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the first was a war that happened because of the elites, and by extension you can say both did, although the destruction of elites as a ruling force had mostly finished by the beginning of WWII.

      • Nornagest says:

        The European theater probably wouldn’t have happened without WWI, or at least wouldn’t have been recognizable. You could make a case for the Pacific theater happening or not, but it depends on a lot of variables — most obviously, whether Japan would have felt inclined to throw its weight around in the presence of a colonial Britain that hadn’t been weakened by WWI. Personally I feel it would’ve been less likely but not a definite no; the British Empire was overextended even without the war, and none of the other stuff leading to Japan’s prewar confidence would have been affected. The Pacific War was a more geopolitically driven and less ideological conflict anyway, though.

        But I don’t think that gets Church off the hook. Even if we agree with Church that the European elites are materially the same culture before and after WWI, and that WWII was precipitated by the fallout of a war created by the elite-dominated politics of the early 20th century, we could say the same for the immediate postwar era and for the same reasons; I can’t see any principled way to score the Forties for the elite and the Fifties and Sixties for the gentry.

    • James Hedman says:

      The elite vs. gentry divide is just a restatement of the Tories vs. Whigs. (Although the hijacking of the word “gentry” is a bit confusing since most of the English landed gentry are famously Tory.)

    • wysinwyg says:

      E1 is silly

      Have you read Freakonomics? Specifically, the chapter about drug dealers. It talks a lot about how drug gangs are set up like fast food franchises, including having a board of directors made up of extremely wealthy people.

      Who is it on that board of directors? Do you know anyone like that?

      Or is Freakonomics completely inaccurate w/r/t the structure of criminal gangs? If so, do you have any info on their actual structure?

      OR, we know that several large banks have laundered money for international criminal gangs — Wachovia, BoA, and Citi I think have all paid fines related to this IIRC. Who authorizes these transactions on the bank side? Who contacts the banks on behalf of the gangs? Or do the banks compete for the gangs’ business?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      @Nornagest: the early modern aristocracy had had a martial character since time immemorial, as far back as the proto-Indo-Europeans according to some academics. I read an interesting book on the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars called The First Total War by David Bell that discusses the taming of the martial aristocracy by Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, by forcing them to do things like live in Versailles and dance for fun rather than on their estates and hunt for fun and the replacement of clergy in many clerical jobs with the new noblesse du robe

      I also just remembered that the courtesy title for large landowners (i.e. slave owners) in Antebellum America was “colonel”. Breaking the link between landowning and martial spirit was a long process.

      • Anonymous says:

        as far back as the proto-Indo-Europeans according to some academics

        I rather think you understate this than anything else. AFAIK it’s academic consensus that martial aristocracy goes back way, way longer and is way more universal than the mere Proto-Indo-Europeans. Stuff like “peaceful matriarchal pre-IE Europe” is thoroughly the domain of ridiculous kooks.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @Anonymous: I wasn’t even thinking of Gimbutas and the “Old European Matriarchy” kooks. I was thinking about the equivocal evidence for Georges Dumezil’s trifunctional hypothesis. Linear B tablets and the Iliad can be seen as evidence that warrior chiefs were priests and vice versa. The Germanic branch of IE seems to have been the same. OTOH, Vedic and Latin are not closely related and yet both had a trifunctional society with priests called Brahman or Flamen, and there’s an obvious genetic relationship between the Vedic priestly class and Celtic Dru-vids.

          So all I meant was that priestly lords who got their hands bloody may predate the priest/martial-landowner split.

          • Anonymous says:

            Oh! Yes, that’s certainly something different. Owing to the wider context I read you as saying the elite might not have been martial before then. With your actual point I have no disagreement.

            (As an aside, I think the appearance of a segment of the elite which wasn’t martial might be as good a cutoff point for the start of the Modern Era as anything; a situation which I don’t know ever obtained anywhere, at any time, previously.)

          • keranih says:

            I’m not sure it’s the same thing at all, but if you look at some tribal cultures in East and South Africa (I’m specifically thinking of a couple cattle-oriented cultures) there were generational divisions of ‘profession’ – males were boy-children until puberty, when they became raider/warrior/protector. Then, around 30-ish, they became elders, and were expected to set violence aside, and take up debate and wisdom in its place.

            (I don’t have my refs before me, but I seem to recall a further division between young elders (up to 45 or so) who did farming/homestead management and older elders, who were more advisors. Might not remember correctly.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @keranih: I’m curious about the coming of age rituals when one “gives up violence” in an age-graded society like that.
            There’s a belief shared by ethnic groups as distant as the ancient Greeks and Yanomamo that violence pollutes you/angers supernatural beings but that you can be ritually purified. I kind of suspect that the Indo-European transition from a primitive hierarchical society* to the trifunctional one was related to the rise of a belief that it wasn’t that easy. Fun fact: the Julian clan made Caius Caesar a Flamen, and Flamens were so holy that just looking at an army was polluting, which explains why he didn’t stick with the position.

            *By which I mean a hierarchical society where the only classes are farmers, craft specialists, and chiefs who get to redistribute resources between them by divine right. In Polynesian chiefdoms, for example, chiefs are literally superhuman relative to commoners, being full of mana and surrounded by taboos like the gods themselves. This does not stop them from personally committing homicide, and indeed the lines between war, judicial execution and human sacrifice are vague until a society bans the last.

      • Nornagest says:

        the early modern aristocracy had had a martial character since time immemorial, as far back as the proto-Indo-Europeans according to some academics.

        Wasn’t saying the martial aristocratic tradition wasn’t older, only that it was present from the early moderns up through WWI.

  5. Allan53 says:

    At the risk of revealing my own ignorance, I’m not sure I get what broad point you were going for? I mean, it’s interesting hearing about these analyses in a broad academic sense, but as you note they really say more about the authors biases than anything inherent to humanity as such.

    Or maybe that’s what you’re going for. Entirely possible, really.

    • Morkys says:

      For me, it helps make sense of political rhetoric at least.

    • Simon says:

      I’m also a little at a loss. My dad is from a very wealthy Jewish family who do things like read about String theory for fun and work in politics. My mom was the only one of eight kids to go to college born to a single mother in post-war Rotterdam, and her siblings have jobs like ‘bird-breeder’ or ‘works in the harbor’, and the women all have at least four kids.

      There are obvious differences in class, but there is a surprising amount of high-class stuff that the labour people like. I prefer the birthdays of the Jewish side, because at the very least they’re not as loud, but there’s a surprising amount of overlap. It might just be low expectations, but I’m often amazed that some cousin on my mothers side (obvious confounder: I have a *lot* of cousins on my mothers side) has read all of Tolstoy, and not just for signalling, but because he really likes Tolstoy, while still being on welfare and having gotten another woman pregnant again. In some way, that is way more impressive than one of the Jews reading all of Tolstoy.

      Social class is more mutable than Scott’s post suggests. Most ‘labour’-people have at least one higher-class hobby. Even if they are still immediately recognizable as labour-class.

      • Goof says:

        Selection effects: out of all the women born from single mothers, your mother married a rich Jewish guy, and out of all the people whose grandparents were single mothers, you are reading SlateStarCodex.

        (I agree that social class is probably fairly messy and nondilineated, just wanted to point out that your experiences are likely not representative.)

  6. voidfraction says:

    The Archdruid Report recently published another article that applies the same class framing to American politics.

    > It so happens that you can determine a huge amount about the economic and social prospects of people in America today by asking one remarkably simple question: how do they get most of their income? Broadly speaking—there are exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment—it’s from one of four sources: returns on investment, a monthly salary, an hourly wage, or a government welfare check. People who get most of their income from one of those four things have a great many interests in common, so much so that it’s meaningful to speak of the American people as divided into an investment class, a salary class, a wage class, and a welfare class.

    An important note on the relative fortunes of the classes:

    >Over the last half century or so, how have the four classes fared? The answer, of course, is that three of the four have remained roughly where they were.

    > (…)

    > And the wage class? Over the last half century, the wage class has been destroyed.

    > In 1966 an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage could count on having a home, a car, three square meals a day, and the other ordinary necessities of life, with some left over for the occasional luxury. In 2016, an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage is as likely as not to end up living on the street, and a vast number of people who would happily work full time even under those conditions can find only part-time or temporary work when they can find any jobs at all. The catastrophic impoverishment and immiseration of the American wage class is one of the most massive political facts of our time—and it’s also one of the most unmentionable. Next to nobody is willing to talk about it, or even admit that it happened.


    • drethelin says:

      I think there has been a LONG history of “wage earners” being NOT being breadwinners. Farmhands, coal miners, waiters, etc. were not expected to be able to solely own a house, a car, and raise a family. It’s the 50s and 60s where ridiculous hourly wages commanded by union employees in manufacturing industries became the new cultural norm.

      I think a big cultural shift that has taken place (and you can really see it in the Living Wage movement) is the idea that all jobs are in some sense equally Worthy, and that people have the Right to raise a family.

      • Vaniver says:

        I think a big cultural shift that has taken place (and you can really see it in the Living Wage movement) is the idea that all jobs are in some sense equally Worthy, and that people have the Right to raise a family.

        Agreed that this is a new development (see Hanson on the issue), and not sure what’s going to happen with it. Especially in combination with the idea that people have the Right to live in America or Europe.

      • multiheaded says:

        How dare they.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        If wage-earners aren’t breadwinners, how are lower-class families expected to survive?

        • caryatis says:

          Two wage-earners who are married and solidly committed to each other.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            That one and a bit of welfare.

            1) The bottom half of America more or less are at the same nominal income. Because you trade welfare for money.

   – And I’d love to see one of these updated for Obamacare, which, whatever flaws it may have, was at least nominally supposed to be fixing some of the more obvious cliffs.

            2) 1 person working full-time making $10/hour makes $20,000/year (Let’s assume you get 10 holidays and you get sick for easy math) (And yes, I’m aware the poor mostly work part-time and so on and so forth).

            $20,000/year to raise a kid in even the most low-COL places in America is… questionable. Which is one of the reasons why they get so much welfare, and I’m moderately cool with this.

            However, get 2 parents working for $10/hour, and you’re at $40K.

            Move to a rich city where minimum wage is now $15/hour, and you’re at $60K.

            So all of a sudden, a tad-above-minimum-wage family is sitting just below median household income in America.

            /Which in turn raises the general question of how the bottom half of America hasn’t starved to death yet when $30K/year in takehome is ridiculously poor, but.

          • Mary says:

            ’cause they know a lot more about living while poor than you and I do.

            One glaring difference between Nickeled and Dimed and Scratch Beginnings is that the author of the latter, who did succeed in living as a poor man, took advice from the poor that he lived among about how to do it.

        • keranih says:

          Define “survive.”

          Lifetime minimum wage earner also assumes a lot of things. Probably most of them are not good assumptions.

          • Pku says:

            The society you’re in affects dealing with low earnings a lot: For example, in Israel (which has a much lower median income than the US), people were a lot more willing to lend things, give rides, or take the bus (while here it seems like all of those signal low status and are To Be Avoided). From what I hear the Haredi community, which are significantly poorer, have a much stronger lending/sharing culture (as well as other adaptations, like economy shops where you can get suit pants for around $5).

        • LeeEsq says:

          The historical answer is as best as they could given the existing economic conditions. For most of human history, it was a struggle to survive for most people though with some times of prosperity occurring on occasion.

        • drethelin says:

          Extended families, putting off marriage until you have a better job, both husband and wife working, saving up money, etc.

      • Michael Vassar says:

        Coal miners totally were expected to make enough money for those things. Read Wealth of Nations on that point!

        • Anonymous says:

          Two-three generations ago, you could feed a family of eleven on a single labourer’s wage – barely. The kids had to go to work as soon as they were able. With two or three kids, rather than nine, they probably wouldn’t have to.

          Today, it’s also possible. Economies of scale and not spending money on luxuries are quite enough. Wanting a new car every two years, or to live in a seriously upscale area, or a new smartphone every half year will fuck you over, though.

        • Rob K says:

          During the 1984 miners strike NUM leaders had to deal with the issue that, for the first time in a major strike action, their constituents had house and car payments to keep up. I can’t trace an exact arc here (don’t have the data) but the basic pattern seems to have been that from the 18th century to the mid 20th the typical British miner would have been operating slightly above subsistence and not accumulating wealth. (Artisans in the mine industries did better.) From the 1950s, and particularly between the 1972 strike and the 1984 strike, miners were earning enough to actually have some property to their name. So that’s a relatively recent development in that context.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Are we thinking of the same farm hands and coal miners?

        Both are generally see as some of the “better” jobs among those who work hourly wages.

    • John Schilling says:

      In 2016, an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage is as likely as not to end up living on the street,

      We’ve already discussed the part where this isn’t true.

      More generally, it is difficult to distinguish between Labor or Wage Class having lost ground in absolute terms, and having lost ground only in relative terms but, seeing everyone else advancing faster, now aspiring to more than it can afford. Labor no longer settles for a (small) home, one car, and three square meals a day.

      • My impression is that cheap adequate small homes are a lot less available than they used to be.

        • John Schilling says:

          There are plenty of them around here (Lancaster, CA), but I agree that new ones aren’t being made all that often and may be undersupplied in some markets.

          Same goes for cheap new cars, I think. So how do we characterize the problem if the wage-earning class has the economic means to secure what would have been a stable Churchian L2/L3 lifestyle forty years ago, but the relevant goods are hard to find and instead advertisers are all selling “But you’re supposed to be aspiring middle-class Gentry; look here, we’ve reduced the price on some of our G2 stuff to the point where you can just barely afford it”?

        • The Anonymouse says:

          I am not saying that you have (I cannot tell), but in these discussions of unaffordability, we very often get to talk about the lack of cheap housing in coastal cities, forgetting the 2400 miles of country in between. And if we’re talking about low-end wage-earners, I’m not certain a guy who works at 7-11 in San Diego makes a meaningfully different wage than the guy who works at the Maverik in Twin Falls, Idaho; certainly not enough to make up for the difference in cost of living.

        • multiheaded says:

          Hey Americans, here’s a subtle hint for ya:

          demolish your stupid fucking surburbs and try arcologies instead. *that* will eliminate the obvious but hard to reach root of the problem.

          the three biggest path-dependency public good problems in america today seem to be all the housing/mortgage/etc bullshit, + healthcare, + the education mess

          and somehow there are much less advanced countries – even, yes, ex/socialist ones – that have not been funneled towards a similar mess.

          path dependency sucks. also, i am under the impression that politics of corruption, delusional ideology (the whole MUH HOME OWNERSHIP insanity, etc), red-baiting, racial segregationism, etc have strongly shaped all of the above.

          so I think America is relatively pretty fucked on these three items, short of (not very plausible) total upheaval..

          • John Schilling says:

            Americans generally respond poorly to foreigners telling us we are doing it wrong and ought to do it their way, particularly when they are being needlessly insulting about it.

            Go build your fucking arcologies in your own fucking country, and we’ll decide for ourselves whether we want to copy them.

          • bbartlog says:

            Do you understand why the American suburbs were built?
            Then I would suggest heeding Chesterton’s Gate: until you can offer convincing account of the reasons behind our sprawling suburbia, one that doesn’t just invoke some grand conspiracy, you shouldn’t be calling for their destruction…

          • Tibor says:

            Well, I am not an American, but it seems to me like you get too much information about the US from Russian media (you are Russian if I remember correctly). It might be pointless but I still feel an urge to respond.

            I do not think that the US is run particularly well, but I think that the EU countries are comparable in their mess. Some things are better in Europe, some in the US, a lot of them are different and yet equally bad.

            The US healthcare system is way better in one thing. You can get the medical care right away and the best there is if you are willing to pay for it. I had a problem with my knee which I sprained in August. At first I thought it was simply going to heal by itself but when it still hurt after two months, I decided to go to my orthopedist in Germany. I had to wait 3-4 weeks to get an appointment. Then they made an x-ray, found everything to be ok and told me that I should go have an MRT, because they can see more than just the bones there and gave me a list of radiologies in the area. The first one was full (for non-emergency cases such as mine) until February (2016), then the third one could take me in December but it was in another town (some 60 km, 30 minutes by car, but not everyone has a car and it would take maybe an hour by bus). After the MRT they told me they would send the pictures to the doctor who wrote the order to to this, I even specifically asked them whether I had to do anything myself, they said no. Then, next week I had an appointment already prearranged at the orthopedist to check the pictures. Except that the pictures had never arrived. The nurse told me “yeah, we have problems with that radiology sometimes, do call them and insist on them telling you when they send it exactly”. Then I went home for Christmas and found out that they sent the pictures to my hometown in Bohemia instead (on a CD). So then I arranged another appointment with the orthopedist (it is also not always the same doctor which makes me quite annoyed) and the waiting time was 5 weeks this time. Them sending the pictures elsewhere was an uncommon thing but the waiting times are abysmal (even a bit longer than the Czech ones) and if there are more doctors in the practice, you will just get whichever doctor is present at the moment instead of coming to the same doctor each time (this also never happened to me in the Czech republic but there usually a doctor has a practice only by himself).

            Also, I don’t know about Germany but in the Czech republic, while it is technically illegal, you can still usually get the best surgeon for your operation for example if you know people and if you are willing to bribe. If you don’t, then you simply get whoever the hospital chooses for you from the people who are available at the moment. The right wing wanted to legalize this, but the social democrats blocked it because “healthcare should stay equal to all”. Well, it may be on paper.

            At the same time, there are features of the US system which are nowhere near free-market and which may not make it socialist like in the EU but definitely increase the price and limit the supply of medical practicioners.

            As for home ownership, I find it pretty natural that most people get a mortgage and eventually own a house or at least a flat. At least in the Czech republic if you are over 35 or something and still rent, you are probably someone who is incapable of keeping a stable job, hence more or less the underclass (I would never rent my flat to anyone that old, save for professionals coming for work for a few years, because those people often have problems paying and unfortunately the law makes it quite hard to get rid of tenants who do not pay). In Germany, except for a few really expensive cities like München, this also seems to be the norm. I don’t know about other countries.

            France, Sweden, Norway or Belgium seem to have relatively acute racial problems, it is definitely not an exclusively US problem. You won’t see very many Arab and French/Swedish/… mixing either. And depending on how the asylum seekers situation develops Germany, which has so far had comparatively fewer problems with this might have the same problems as France.

            As for education, I find the education pretty bad more or less everywhere. In the US, college education is also expensive which does not seem to be a product of it being not paid entirely from taxes as in most EU countries (all those I know except for the UK) but more or less for similar reasons why medical care is expensive there. Licensing plus government subsidized student loans do not seem to help keep the costs down.

          • Sastan says:

            Multi, I have lived in Russia. The day I take criticism from the country that runs itself via organized crime is the day I swear allegiance to a new country.

            Here’s a subtle hint to you: aren’t you trying to leave your country? Maybe a little less venom about places objectively better than the one you have a stake in would be warranted.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The day I take criticism from the country ”

            When did Multi become Russia? Or is this how people do mindkilled impressions on this blog?

          • “the day I take criticism from the country”

            I read that not as “criticism by the country” but “criticism by someone in the country, hence criticism coming out of the country,” hence “from the country.”

            This time of the year, we get our grapes from Chile.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I’m know, I’m trying to subtly hint that “fucking Russians” is not in fact an acceptable response to something a Russian says. Many of the posters above did not seem to grasp that.

          • John Schilling says:

            Multiheaded’s admonition to “Americans” was in response to something a very tiny and non-representative subset of Americans had said. What is the threshold at which this becomes acceptable?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Don’t sweat it, your average American’s skin is a lot thicker than your average Russian or European’s.

          • “The US healthcare system is way better in one thing. You can get the medical care right away and the best there is if you are willing to pay for i”

            That isnt’ a USP. Most countries with public healthcare allow the purchase of private healthcare, so you you can get immediate healthcare almost anywhere if you have the money.

          • “Americans generally respond poorly to foreigners telling us we are doing it wrong and ought to do it their way”

            That’s a true thing, but is it a good thing?

          • John Schilling says:

            Given that foreigners don’t seem to listen when Americans tell them they are doing it wrong, it at least seems appropriately symmetric thing. And I’d prefer to avoid monoculture in Western civilization, for all the obvious reasons.

          • Tibor says:


            Come to think of it, my father had a varicose veins operation with laser which he legally paid in a private hospital. Similarly, you pay for most things at the dentist (only the amalgam fillings are covered by the insurance and pretty much nobody gets those nowadays because they look ugly). But I think that you are not allowed to buy everything, for example there were talks about making it legal for patients to pay for sooner treatment (so one would not have to wait for it). Again, the right wing wanted to make that legal but the left wing blocked that. It guess it would be legal to have a private hospital where you just accept cash and run it the way you want. But aside from “above standard” treatments like the laser operation of varicose veins (the normal way is more invasive and takes longer to heal) or cosmetic surgery you don’t have those. The reason is of course that most people are not willing to pay that money in cash. But more people might be willing to buy premium insurance like they can do in the US. But that is simply not allowed, the insurance companies have to offer the same price (actually it works more like a tax, currently 13,5% of your gross wage, even though it is theoretically divided into what you pay and what your employer pays, but that is just accounting of course), set by the government and the same coverage. They can only compete by offering some minor extras like a sale on sports equipment or whatever. In Germany, I think it is similar, except that you can have private insurance if you make enough money. That is you are literally not allowed to buy private insurance if you don’t make enough money (it is above the average wage, but I forgot how much exactly…I don’t make that much as a PhD student anyway). But even that insurance is limited. Basically, it is cheaper and you get better services but you also have to pay for more stuff from your own pocket. I don’t know the exact details like how much better those services are and so on.

          • multiheaded says:

            100% of the above assumptions re: me and my way of thinking are wrong btw. I am not driven by any nationalistic animus towards the American nation, I am just befuddled by its seemingly weirdly inadequate institutions. It’s all… odd.

            @Samuel: thank you

            @John: oh, come on, I was trying to, like, provoke discussion in strong terms. Because it is fairly surprising to me how American people across the spectrum seem to take all these things for granted.

            @bbartlog: cheap subsudized post-war housing, car culture and advanced road system + underdeveloped public transportation, class ideology, racism and white flight, etc, etc

          • “Given that foreigners don’t seem to listen when Americans tell them they are doing it wrong, it at least seems appropriately symmetric thing”

            1. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

            2. What are we doing wrong? The last iteration I can remember was that we should be supporting you more in the war you were pursuing that pretty well everyone now regards as a mistake.

            “And I’d prefer to avoid monoculture in Western civilization, for all the obvious reasons.”

            Does that apply to everything? In STEM fields it is taken for granted that you should adopt best practices wherever they originated. Only in politics is “not invented here” a virtue. But is that rational? How much utility are you willing to sacrifice to individuality?

          • @Tibor

            There is never anything to stop the very wealthy getting private treatment, since they can take a jet to a Swiss clinic.

            You can stop the moderately wealthy buying priviliged access to healthcare, but you don’t have’s not an intrinisc feature of public healthcare. The UK has a comprehensive public health system, AND free access to private care. So the question is what the advantatge of the US system is .. it mainly seems to lack the public safety net.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >That isnt’ a USP. Most countries with public healthcare allow the purchase of private healthcare, so you you can get immediate healthcare almost anywhere if you have the money.

            I’d assume the counterpoint would be that, given the added tax burden required to pay for national health care, there’d be less people able to pay for private one.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Multiheaded: Are you pleased with the quality of the discussion you have provoked? Do you plan to use this strategy to provoke more discussions in the future?

            Has anyone here learned anything from this experience?

          • Sastan says:

            I find it useful. Makes it very easy to tag the emotional tribe-jumpers. If I respond to someone’s needlessly angry and aggressive comment with a contrary and aggressive but slightly milder response, I can see who jumps to whose side.

            We were having a discussion about affordable housing, and Multi thought it was a fantastic idea to start with sarcasm and direct aggression. The proper response to this is sarcasm and direct aggression, in equal measure.

            “arcologies” pffffffff

          • Tibor says:


            From what I’ve heard, the public healthcare in Britain is pretty abysmal. In any case, there is more to healthcare than whether you decide the full coverage of everyone or not and how much you can legally pay with your money. Since you mentioned Switzerland, they actually seem to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world and it is something more or less between the European (I mean other than Swiss) and the US systems.

          • As best I can tell, European systems vary quite a lot. I’m not sure in how many of them the share of medical costs born by the state is actually higher than in the U.S., where it’s about fifty percent.

            Checking Wiki on France, it’s 77%. “Most general physicians are in private practice but draw their income from the public insurance funds.” So private practice, unlike the NHS, but largely government funded.

          • “Has anyone here learned anything from this experience?”


          • “I am not driven by any nationalistic animus”

            For what it’s worth, your comment came across to me not as driven by nationalistic animus but as arrogantly confident about things you probably didn’t know very much about.

          • brad says:

            What does it mean exactly that the healthcare in Britain is abyssal? Are a lot of people dying or becoming disabled because they aren’t being treated properly?

            Regarding multiheaded’s original post, I agree that a cultural quirk of fetishizing homeownership, reinforced by government distortions catering to that quirk, has screwed up the housing market in harmful ways. There are also entanglements between real estate and the way we organize the public education system to the determent of both. I’m not sure about arcologies though, and I don’t know of any countries that have successfully deployed them at anything like scale.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            “From what I’ve heard, the public healthcare in Britain is pretty abysmal.”

            According to the WHO rankings from 2000, the UK is 18th in the world with 26th highest per capita spend. In comparison, Germany is 25th with the 3rd highest spending, and the US is 37th with 1st highest spending. Things may have changed since then, and there may be problems with the methodology, but the results still probably mean something. From personal experience, the NHS seems fairly good, but I don’t have anything to compare it to.

          • “According to the WHO rankings from 2000, the UK is 18th in the world with 26th highest per capita spend. In comparison, Germany is 25th with the 3rd highest spending, and the US is 37th with 1st highest spending. Things may have changed since then, and there may be problems with the methodology”

            The ranking in which the U.S. is 37 includes spending. The ranking of health care, independent of cost, puts the U.S. at 15.

            But “problems with the methodology” is a considerable understatement. If you look at how the rankings were calculated, you discover that they were based on five characteristics, only one of which is an (imperfect) measure of how much health care the system provides. One is a measure of how good people in each country think their system is—on that one the U.S. comes in first. The other three are measures of how egalitarian the system is.

            For details see:


            That includes a link to the notes that explain how the ranking was calculated.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @David Friedman
            Yes, those problems do seem to render the WHO rankings approximately as useful as looking at a list of countries sorted by life expectancy (i.e. not very).

          • A little worse than sorted by life expectancy, since that (adjusted) is only one out of five criteria and the others will distort the ordering.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            John Schilling
            “Multiheaded’s admonition to “Americans” was in response to something a very tiny and non-representative subset of Americans had said. What is the threshold at which this becomes acceptable?”

            When your position isn’t “I can ignore you because you are from group x”. Do we really need to go over why SJWs are bad and why acting like them is insane?

            “Given that foreigners don’t seem to listen when Americans tell them they are doing it wrong, it at least seems appropriately symmetric thing.”

            You know who else doesn’t listen? Other Americans. I guess we should completely ignore them- I mean it isn’t like we are commenting on a blog dedicated to the principle of charity.

            “We were having a discussion about affordable housing, and Multi thought it was a fantastic idea to start with sarcasm and direct aggression. The proper response to this is sarcasm and direct aggression, in equal measure. ”

            The proper response is to EXPLAIN WHY THEY ARE WRONG. Respond to content with content. If you don’t you end up with a death spiral where people’s method to ‘win’ arguments is to make their opponent annoyed and use it to justify disengagement and nonsense.

            “I’m not sure about arcologies though, and I don’t know of any countries that have successfully deployed them at anything like scale.”

            Ironically the Russians were apparently building one (until 2009 halted construction on Crystal Island); the closest functioning example wiki gives are Antarctic Bases and Begich Towers in Alaska.

            I’m assuming multiheaded is thinking of apartments but with a mixture of commercial, workplaces and recreation; if they mean a facility that has its own waste treatment, power, social services and agriculture, it is obvious why it hasn’t been constructed yet.

            @Samuel: thank you

            You’re welcome.

          • Tibor says:

            @NHS: Well, I guess that basing my opinion of the UK healthcare system on a few news stories about starving patients in UK hospitals and a shortage of beds (from 2010ish) is not going to give me an accurate picture.

            @different systems in the EU: I guess they might. I sort of assumed that since the healthcare system in Germany, Austria or Slovakia (i.e. three neighbouring countries one of which used to be a part of the same country relatively recently and another used to be the same country a longer while back) does not significantly differ from the Czech one, the same would hold for other EU countries. I guess I should be more careful about making such generalizations.

          • @Tibor

            “From what I’ve heard, the public healthcare in Britain is pretty abysmal.”

            Ah, the thing where you say something is bad without saying what is better. But the topic isn’t whether a particular system is good or bad, it is whether being able to buy private treatment is a unique feature of the US “system”. It isn’t.

            And how much the badness of a public healthcare system *matters* depends on how easy it is to find alternatives.

            The two things to bear in mind about the NHS are that there is a constant stream of complaints about the details, combined with a deep commitment to the general principle.

            Re: Switzerland. I am not sure what the “halfway” comment is supposed to mean, when the US has a hodgepodge of healthcare provision that hardly deserves to be called a system. And I was talking about Swiss private clinics, not the whole system, and I was not saying the NHS was the best system.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Is there anything better than having your opinions validated?

            I submit that there is not. Rebuttal?

          • We have arcologies. They’re known as shopping malls. The main reason people don’t normally live in them is that community activists passed laws forbidding it.

          • I grew up in a European suburbia. I think it is different: the houses were smaller but more durable (brick not wood), the gardens much bigger (gardens, not just lawns) and we could have gotten a pool if my mother would not have preferred her flowers instead. It was also different in being that it was an old village incorporated into the city, not newly built, and we had suburbian train, so cars were important but not all-important.

            Anyway it was so much better than living on a third floor apartment that I cannot even describe it. During the warm part of the year we could spend as much time outside in our own place as we wanted, were not locked up between four walls or in some public park where people never feel as relaxed as at home. We grilled, had bonfires, or just sat under the apple tree and drank wine happy. And had pool parties at my uncle whose wife apparently did not value flowers so much so they had one. Sitting in the pool, beer in hand, watching the meat on the grill, was the best thing in 32C summers.

            During the winter, it did not make much difference, but not sharing a wall with neighbors meant if the parents were not at home we could be as loud as we wanted. Learn to play the drums? No problem.

            The pace of life was slower than inside the city. The corner shop guy was more polite, not so many customers. As our street had no through traffic, only neighbors driving, we could reasonably safely play outside or ride our bikes, as long as we avoided the main traffic road it was safe. And not with the dogshit on the street, there was none, every dog shat in their own garden.

            BTW it was far better for dogs than in a flat and we did not have to walk them, we did if we felt like, but was not mandatory because they could run enough and shit enough in the garden, wasn’t this stress of getting up early to walk them before work.

            We actually knew neighbors and invited them each other for a coffee. We did not hate each other, because people did not disturb each other or had no conflicting interests like in beehive living.

            Urban flat living is a prison, as I found out later. Compared to that, it was almost utopian level good.

        • brad says:

          Cheap housing is still around, even in the markets everyone likes to talk about. Just in neighborhoods where “you” “can’t” live.

          Whenever something like outsourcing, immigration, living wage or similar comes up you get these wild claims about how it is impossible to survive/raise a family on X in place Y. Inevitably there are many many people surviving / raising a family on X in place Y.

          Cost of living is this deployed as this weird talisman, as if some how working class Chinese or Indians are paying $100/month for fully decked out McMansions, $200 for large SUVs, and fancy Montessori kindergartens are free for the taking. That’s why they can live on so little money, but IT’S DIFFERENT here. It’s just not fair to compare the two.

        • “Same goes for cheap new cars, I think.”

          The usual way of getting a cheap car is to buy one second hand. I don’t think that, when I was growing up, my parents ever bought a new car, and the first two cars I owned (at least) were second hand.

          Cars last a good deal longer now than they did then, so I would expect the disadvantages of second hand cars are less, not more.

          • John Schilling says:

            That used cars last longer has now been fully incorporated into the pricing for used cars. There was a generation when it was easy to find cheap reliable cars on the used market, and a generation before that when “reliable” wasn’t so critical because cars were easy to repair and basic mechanical skills nearly ubiquitous among working-class males. I liked that era, and both of my current vehicles date from it, but I’m pretty sure it’s gone and not coming back.

          • Checking blue book price on a 2010 Honda Civic in good condition bought from a private party I find $5850. Sounds like a reasonably good and inexpensive second hand car.

          • John Schilling says:

            Checking autotrader and the local classified ads, the cheapest private-seller 2010 or newer Honda Civic actually on sale within a hundred miles of here (which encompasses essentially all of Los Angeles) is going for $8900. For $5000 you get a 2007 model with 221,000 miles on it – and even with a Honda that’s not likely to be reliable for much longer.

          • stubydoo says:

            @John Schilling,

            1) those autotrader ads are listing aspirational prices, a starting point for negotiation

            2) especially on the West Coast, Honda Civics are a bit of an aberration, due to having earned over time an exceptional reputation for reliability and durability

            3) in California there is no weather so cars age more slowly than in certain other regions, and this is also reflected in how they’re priced

            4) A bit more broadly relevant, perfectly viable used cars are entirely affordable to anyone with any full time job, especially today.

            (here’s your anecdote: got my current ride for $7k from a dealer in 2010, it’s still going fine. I absolutely could afford to get new cars, but I don’t do it because there’s no need).

          • Sastan says:

            John. Five years ago I was a poor student and needed a car. I bought an older, low mileage Honda Civic for $1800. I think it was a 2000 model, 115k miles on the clock. I just traded it in, it worked fine for five years, I put another sixty thousand miles on it.

            You can get a very good, very reliable car for quite cheap. You just have to shop a bit, dicker a bit, and not try to get something sporty or offroady. You aren’t going to get a “cool” car for cheap unless it’s total crap. You pay in status for reliable transport.

          • John Schilling says:

            We’re talking about Honda Civics here, if you hadn’t noticed. “Cool”, “Sporty”, and “Offroady” were never a part of this discussion.

            And for everybody who gets five trouble-free years out of an $1800 Civic, there are five more who wind up sinking thousands into unexpected repairs and probably thousands more in lost income or other expenses from not having reliable transportation. To get a “very good, very reliable, very cheap” car requires more than “a bit” of shopping and dickering. And even with unusual diligence and skill at negotiation and/or auto mechanics, it typically requires a good deal of luck.

          • Protagoras says:

            Yeah, that’s a really big reason to buy a new car if one can; with a used car, there’s always a substantial risk that the reason the previous owner is selling is because there’s some non-obvious problem with the car that they’ve noticed that they’re hoping you won’t.

          • Sastan says:

            @ John,

            I’m not much mechanically inclined, and I know little about cars. I copied a checklist from a friend who knows what he’s doing and I check the cars I look at. I specifically look for cars with superficial body damage, huge hit to the value, nothing lost mechanically. I buy Japanese exclusively. That civic was my sixth such car, most I ever paid was $6k, for an Acura, and oddly that was the worst car of the bunch. My first one I paid $350 for, a 1988 civic hatchback (in ’98).

            Some need more repair than others, the best was the cheapest, only thing that was replaced was the windshield wipers. I gave it to my sister after four years, and she drove it another six and sold it for more than I paid for it originally. With the exception of the Acura, none of them ever had major repair (over $500), and none were ever in the shop more than once a year.

            Now, maybe I’m lucky. So lucky I got six decent cars (and five of them very reliable) despite no expertise, not much shopping and very little money.

          • bean says:

            John, you’re in SoCal, which is the world’s worst place to find cheap used cars. I think this has a lot to do with California’s absurd smog requirements, and the fact that you can get $1000 from the state if the car fails. (Though not if it was previously registered out of state, annoyingly.) I recently moved to the area, and it was a lot better in the rest of the country.

          • John Schilling says:

            Southern California also has the dry, warm climate that means cars basically don’t rust, so older used models tend to both cost more and are worth more.

            But I ran the same Autotrader search with a 500-mile radius centered on Kansas City. $5000 gets you a 2007 Honda Civic with 140,000 miles, the cheapest 2010 model was $7000 and ~350 miles away. Cheapest 2010+ model within a hundred miles was $9000. This doesn’t seem like much of an improvement over Southern California; is there someplace else I should be looking?

            And yes, these prices are negotiable, but not factor-of-two negotiable or any such. And they are the cheapest in class, which means they are probably the ones you are going to either walk away from because of the mechanical problems or spend a few thousand dollars repairing in the first year. Indeed, one of the best negotiating strategies for used-vehicle purchases is to offer their advertised price iff they pay to fix all of the problems your mechanic found in the pre-purchase inspection – this engages everyone’s moral intution as to what constitutes a “fair deal”, and it incidentally means the advertised price is a fair proxy for the actual price of a trouble-free vehicle.

          • bean says:

            But I ran the same Autotrader search with a 500-mile radius centered on Kansas City. $5000 gets you a 2007 Honda Civic with 140,000 miles, the cheapest 2010 model was $7000 and ~350 miles away. Cheapest 2010+ model within a hundred miles was $9000. This doesn’t seem like much of an improvement over Southern California; is there someplace else I should be looking?
            That’s worse than I thought, though not much. A check in St. Louis (because I can remember the zip code) shows a fair number of ~15 year old Civics for around $5-6k with 120-150K miles on them. I’m not sure if you’d define that as ‘cheap’, but the car should last another 50-100K miles without breaking the bank. Going back another few years puts you in the $2000 range, which doesn’t exist in SoCal.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think the market now efficiently prices no-frills small automobiles at about $1500 per year of trouble-free service one can reasonably expect from them, including the up-front repair work you’ll probably need to invest in a cheap used car to make it trouble-free. But “years of trouble-free service” has a substantial variance, and when you get down to that $1500 beater, that means you might get anywhere from -3 to 5 more years out of it.

            Also, there are probably 5-10 increasingly troublesome years after that. Which is fine if we are talking about a car for a high school or college student, or a second car for a family whose first is reliable, or for a talented mechanic. But for an L1/L2 wage-earner who isn’t a mechanic, a single unreliable car can be worse than useless. It “lets” you move to that not-crime-ridden neighborhood that is unfortunately beyond practical walking or public transportation distance from your job, and then breaks down. Now you’re unemployed and in a way that won’t have your last boss giving a glowing recommendation of your reliability, or you’re beholden to a payday lending service at 400% APR for emergency repairs and substitute transportation.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @David Friedman:

            If there were any single thing you could do which might diminish my enormous respect for your knowledge and intellect, treating the Blue Book as if it were anything but some sort of accidental scamspiracy between the auto dealership industry and the auto insurance industry would be very high on the list. I’m going to assume you were extremely drunk when you did that (fantastic drunken typing skills, btw) and politely ask you to consider retracting it.

          • @Mark:

            It’s a very long time since I’ve been in the market for a used car. Do you know of a better easy way of getting a rough estimate of the market value of used cars, which is what I needed?

          • Marc Whipple says:


            Depending on exactly what I wanted to know I’d look on eBay motors, the website for CarMax, the website for AutoTrader, and I think, maybe, Consumer Reports or one of the other magazines does some independent resale value research.

            I apologize if that came off a little snarkier than I intended: the snark was not directed at you, but at the Blue Book, which is basically a mechanism for auto insurance agencies and auto dealers to cheat their customers.

            It is Amusing to note that Liberty Mutual has been running a plethora of commercials plugging their “we’ll replace your whole car, not three-quarters of it” policy feature. Obviously they think there is some dissatisfaction to tap. (Though I note with even more Amusement that the restrictions on the policy are quite stringent. After that, one assumes, it’s right back to “Blue Book says X. What? There’s not a single car roughly comparable to yours available for less than 1.3X? Sounds like a personal problem to me.”

        • eqdw says:

          Bullshit laws (such as, in this case, city zoning codes) that implicitly or explicitly raise the cost of engaging in society are one of the most immoral things about our society, imho.

          There is substantially more demand than supply for cheap adequate small homes, and the reason is that in many ways they’re de-facto illegal now.

      • Nicholas says:

        40*52*7.25=15,080 (because the four classes are rent, salary, wage, and unemployed, the wage class must thus by definition include the minimum wage class.)
        1230*12=14,760 (price of a two bedroom apartment in America in Aggregate per annum.)
        15,080-14,760= 320 dollars American.
        So if you accept that “working class jobs” includes minimum wage full time employment (and the author in question does, because there’s no class in between wage class and unemployed class) then the fact that you can’t afford to feed and house a family of four on 15,080 dollars a year means that you would in fact “end up on the streets” if you tried such a thing, always spent enough money for food, and had no one to live with if you lost your apartment.

        • Sastan says:

          Twelve hundred bucks a month rent? I pay four hundred for a two bedroom, with a roommate it’s $200, plus about forty bucks a month utilities. $240*12 = $2880. Financial planners recommend you spend no more than a quarter your income on housing, so $2880*4 = $11,520, well under the expected income for minimum wage.

          I think you’re conflating “rent in a nice part of a big city” and “rent”.

        • Jason K. says:

          I am currently in Dallas in a 1K sq ft, 2 Bdr apartment wedged between downtown Addison and far N Dallas (which is a relatively pricey area) in an A level property. I’m only paying $1,070. You can get a 2 Bdr for 2/3rds that without getting into the ghetto. I call shenanigans on your source. Your source is likely either:

          1: Lying
          2: Taking a nationwide average (which places like NYC and SF will screw with)
          3: Failing to take into account that list price is rarely paid
          4: failing to take into account that there is a *huge* amount of variability in rent from one property to another, even in the same market.
          5: Some combination of the above

        • John Schilling says:

          @Nicholas: You have established that it is possible for an hourly wage-earner to end up on the streets. If he heads a family of four, and if he has an absolute minimum-wage job, and if he cannot find any apartment at less than the average national cost.

          The false claim is that it is more likely than not that an hourly wage-earner with a family would wind up on the streets. The difference is that most hourly wage-earners earn more than minimum wage, and most of those who do earn minimum wage aren’t supporting four people, and most people move into downmarket apartments rather than living on the streets. Only a few percent of wage-earning heads of household are going to wind up on the streets.

          And if I’m going to do anything about that, or even worry about it, I’m going to do it in the company of people who at least understand the actual scope of the problem at the order-of-magnitude level.

        • Sastan says:

          Is that where he got the $1200 figure? The national average?

          So aside from the skew produced by very wealthy cities with restricted building codes………the argument is that the poor people must be able to afford average-quality or better housing? It’s like Garrison Keillor up in here “all the housing must be above average or else people will be homeless!”

        • “So if you accept that “working class jobs” includes minimum wage full time employment (and the author in question does, because there’s no class in between wage class and unemployed class)”

          His claim wasn’t limited to minimum wage workers, who make up a very small fraction of the labor force. Quoting from a BLS page:

          “In 2014, 77.2 million workers age 16 and older in the United States were paid at hourly rates, representing 58.7 percent of all wage and salary workers. Among those paid by the hour, 1.3 million earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.”

          So less than 2% of wage workers.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I hadn’t though about this before. Why aren’t laborers paid a monthly salary, especially if they’re expected to keep a certain consistent schedule?

      • meyerkev248 says:

        1) From my occasional forays into Labor Society, they don’t work a consistent schedule.

        I have a decent idea of when I’ll be working 6 months out in advance. Perfect beyond 2-3 and I can keep an eye on the oncall schedule.

        And when I worked at the golf course, we got told on Friday if we were coming in on Monday. And some of my labor friends refuse to make plans more than 2 days out because they might get called into work.

        2) Because a lot of hourly people look at the salary horror stories, and Nope! out of there.

        On the one hand, if they cut their hours, that sucks. On the other hand, if they need them to work 60 hours all the time, “screw you, pay me. OT at that”

      • Mary says:

        ’cause they want to be paid more frequently?

        There’s budgeting problems for people who live pay check to pay check if the paychecks come in large and distant chunks.

      • xtmar says:

        It’s against the FLSA. Some places, especially in very tight labor markets or if the job involves a lot of on call work, will guarantee a minimum number of hours a week, but that is solely at the employer’s option. At any rate, paying a salary to non-exempt employees (i.e. employees who do not have a supervisory or professional role) is illegal and opens the employer up to very expensive lawsuits, as well as action from the Department of Labor. At one of my old jobs, they tried this, and ended up making several 50k payouts to different employees after someone complained.

        • anon1 says:

          > paying a salary to non-exempt employees (i.e. employees who do not have a supervisory or professional role) is illegal

          Technically incorrect – it’s legal if the employees do not work overtime, or if they are paid extra on top of their salary for any overtime they worked, or (in some cases, with some other conditions I’m not too clear on) if the workweek fluctuates below full-time enough to balance out the overtime. I assume these describe only a small fraction of salaried non-exempt positions though.

      • John Schilling says:

        Note that many salaried professionals (e.g. me) fill out timecards for accounting purposes, and receive pay on a weekly or biweekly schedule.

        The difference is, I generally get paid the same whether I put 40 or 44 hours on my timecard; the hourly laborer gets 15% more money in the latter case. That’s important to laborers, because they (justifiably) don’t believe they will be rewarded for the extra work with quicker promotions or any other such thing and want an ironclad defense against management leaning on them for more work without more pay.

        Flip side, management wants the flexibility of saying that it doesn’t actually need 40 hours of your services next week, so you’re not getting 40 hours of pay.

        • Brian Donohue says:

          That’s right. Labor flexibility is a good systemic thing, particularly in businesses affected by, say, weather unpredictability, seasonal ebbs and flows, etc.

          An hourly wage plus OT provisions seems to be a better solution to the problem all the way round than monthly salaries.

          All else equal, wages will be higher and more work will be done under such a structure than under a mandated fixed salary regime, I think. Workers will be compensated for absorbing business uncertainty.

        • There is a generic international concept behind this, not sure where it came from. You have probably noticed that when a corporation says “you will be reporting to the chief financial officer” they are using *military* language. Similarly somewhat white-collars in Germany used to be called Privatbeamter, i.e. private versions of the civil service bureaucrats, although this got replaced b the term Angestellte. So in both cases we see the private corporation imitating the military or civil service of the state. Which is different from the working class. Similarly, the pay for the working class, wage or Lohn, both means originally “reward”. “the wage of your sins is death”. So this suggests the working class only works for money. The pay of the upper class, salary and Gehalt, in the first case comes from Roman military pay paid in salt, and in the second case the etymology is that this is paid to keep, hold someone in a service, not for the actual amount of work provided.

          I tried to research this concept further, but could not get much further. It is possible that the idea is that salaried employes who get no pay for overtime are supposed to be rewarded by promotions, it is possible that based on the military or civil service origins of the terms, they should be simply internally motivated, have a high working ethic and just work as much as needed, or it could be something else.

      • suntzuanime says:

        There’s a philosophical distinction between the company buying units of labor and the company buying your loyalty (which is of course going to include some units of labor).

      • Sastan says:

        People who get paid salary get leaned on to put in more hours. And they lose overtime pay. I’ve turned down promotion several times for this reason. What looks like a raise on paper is actually a massive pay cut when you factor in more hours and no overtime. Now, if you’re trying to work your way up the ranks, you have to put in your time at junior management and suck it up. But if you’re just there for the paycheck, you’re almost always better off with hourly wages.

        • Jason K. says:

          “People who get paid salary get leaned on to put in more hours. And they lose overtime pay.”

          That is absolutely something you have to be careful about as it is very common. There isn’t anything that prevents the company from paying OT to salaried employees, but most choose not to. Personally, before I took a promotion to a salaried job I made it an explicit understanding that I wasn’t going to do OT except for emergencies. So far, I’ve had a couple of stints of OT, but these have been more than made up for by the weeks I’ve worked less than 40.

          The practice is also as dumb as it is common as it is fairly well documented that work pace and quality will degrade rapidly during periods of sustained overtime.

          • Jiro says:

            Employers like easily measured things. Hours are much easier to measure than work pace and quality.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            While this is technically true, if you pay an exempt worker overtime, you will be treated by most state DOL as basically admitting that they aren’t really exempt. Which means, among other things, that you can never stop.

      • Deiseach says:

        Why aren’t laborers paid a monthly salary, especially if they’re expected to keep a certain consistent schedule?

        Okay, my experience is thirty years out of date and was in Ireland during the 80s recession moreover, so bear that in mind.

        Probably because it’ll screw you over.

        I was 20, it was my First Real Job, and I got promoted to Supervisor of the Packing Department in a small food-processing factory (a very grandiose title for what was overseeing a four-woman – and I do mean woman – team on a packing line and being in charge of taking in the finished product, packing it, moving it to refrigeration, record-keeping, stock-keeping, etc.)

        Whereas before I had been paid an hourly rate (plus overtime) for working on the packing line and got my wages weekly, now I was going to be paid every fortnight at a fixed rate and no overtime.

        Which screwed me over, because (a) my pay didn’t go up from my old rate (I think it was £120 a week which was Stupendously Big Money to me back then) (b) we had a 35% tax rate at the time so getting a lump sum of wages salary meant I paid way more in tax and came out with less after-deductions pay than if I had been on the weekly wages (c) I lost overtime (d) there were no perks to make up for it and the effective cut in wages.

        In sum, it was a way to get more work and responsibility for less money out of me, and looking back I can see why nobody else on the team wanted the job. But as I said I was young, inexperienced, and at the time it was “Shut up and be thankful you have any kind of a job, even a crappy one”.

        I also got Officially Reprimanded for not being sufficiently deferential to the managers, but that was a different matter 🙂 I still have no idea what I did to trigger it (it’s not like I went around slapping them on the back, calling them “Joe” and telling them to betake themselves off in a sprightly manner if they inconvenienced me). The person who reprimanded me was one of the “managers” (again, a very grandiose title for the small business we were) and I think rather a thin-skinned type; she had a PhD and was very insistent on using the title of “Doctor”, and obviously I did not bow and scrape enough for her liking.

        That did give me a valuable lesson for future employment, though: even in an organisation where the muckety-mucks are all “Don’t call me Mr Brown, we’re not that type of company! Call me Dave!” you had better be damn sure to call him Dave in the same tone and manner as you would call him “sir” or “Mr Brown”. Because if they’re a superior and you’re a subordinate, being naive enough to take that on face value and act like an equal will get you slapped down hard 🙂

      • Anonymous says:

        I think because someone on a salary is more likely to be selling work whose value can’t really be measured by the hour. They are working on a project which may last weeks or months or years, and are creating value at a very irregular pace. Sometimes they will be ahead and can relax; sometimes they will be behind and will have to work harder to catch up.

        Whereas someone on an hourly wage is really selling something more akin to ‘hours of labor’. Their work is more fungible, more time sensitive, more consistent in terms of value created per hour. It’s much easier to measure whether they’re slacking or not. How do you measure whether a software developer is slacking? Lines of code per hour is not a useful metric; shelves stacked per hour is.

  7. akarlin says:

    Alex has probably tried marijuana and LSD but is embarrassed to say so

    I must have mixed with the wrong (college-educated generally upper-middle class) crowd.

    • Virbie says:

      That was my thought too. With the exception of my Old-Country-aristocratic extended family, my circles practically see negative opinions towards (relatively) harmless drugs as a signal of “lower class ignorance” and conformity. Something like “Oh you think weed should be banned, so I assume you’re against alcohol prohibition as well? No? *feigned shock*”.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      They’re embarrassed to say so in the context of talking to their psychiatrist.

    • Tibor says:

      Yeah, I also felt like this was a bit weird…However, drugs are decriminalized (more or less all of them) in the Czech republic (not as thoroughly as in Portugal but almost as much) and unless you are doing meth (which is called pervitin here – that was actually a name for a WW2 German drug for soldiers which was based on methamphetamine…it somehow stuck) or heroin, there won’t be too much social stigma.

      You probably won’t proudly inform your parents that you smoke pot but you are not going to be ashamed of it or try to hide that fact very much. Maybe from your grandparents. I don’t think that this depends on your class very much either.

  8. W.T. Dore says:

    “Reaction to Church on the subreddit was pretty negative, but I find it at least a good nucleus for further discussion. ”

    Thanks! I followed the link from Siderea, same as you. One thing I noticed was that MC explicitly states that he is Genty and prefers Gentry life and culture, and Siderea notes that the class a person is raised in and a part of will seem Right and Natural and Correct to its members.

    I’ve had a few run-ins with elites, E4s who turned into E3s, and their parents the E2s, and it’s a different world up there.

    • Vaniver says:

      I’ve had a few run-ins with elites, E4s who turned into E3s, and their parents the E2s, and it’s a different world up there.

      One of my coworkers is very much Labor in terms of culture, but I do find his stories about his father the retired general with intelligence connections interesting, because of the number of things where something that could have been a problem magically stops being a problem when a phone call is placed.

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        The dad who can fix things with a phone call sounds more like the kind of self-aggrandizing fabrication that proles sometimes throw out when they feel outclassed and want to impress.

  9. Dan Simon says:

    I’ve been arguing something along these lines for more than twenty years now–I recently posted an outline of my analysis to my blog, but since I can’t link to it, I’ll have to summarize it here:

    The left-right split in US politics originated in the 1960s with the bifurcation of the middle class into “white-collar” and “blue-collar” segments, analogous to the “labor” and “gentry” classes. The white-collar gentry allied with the poor to form the “new left”, while the blue-collar labor class allied with the elite to form what became the “conservative movement”. This configuration made sense because as mentioned above, adjacent classes know and despise each other, whereas non-adjacent classes hardly interact and therefore find it easier to ally.

    An important aspect of this pair of alliances is that they each involved tradeoffs, as is typical of coalitions. In particular, the underclass accepted liberal social values in return for liberal economic policies that benefited them directly, while the labor class accepted economic policies favoring the elite in return for a common embrace of labor-class social values.

    This pair of alliances weakened during the 1990s, as prosperity and welfare reform reduced the size and significance of the underclass, while bestowing upon the gentry enough capital assets to draw their interests closer to those of the elite. As a result, the left-right split came to look more like a pure upper-half-vs.-lower-half conflict (although with the economy booming, this conflict was less bitter and more cultural than it might otherwise have been).

    The crash of 2008 and subsequent hard economic times revived part of the old alignment, while focusing everyone’s attention on pure bread-and-butter economic interests. The left coalition succeeded in re-forming, with racial/ethnic minorities replacing the underclass, and both they and the gentry embracing mutually beneficial economic policies at the expense of the labor and elite classes. The right coalition, however, has collapsed, because the labor class is no longer willing to accept the old tradeoff between economic and social policies–it wants its share of the economic spoils as well. Hence the Trump phenomenon, which is essentially a labor rebellion against elite economic policies within the right coalition.

    Finally, I make no moral judgments about the character or value of these classes–I assume all of them to be nakedly pursuing their own power and interests, as any class would, both each by themselves and together through coalition-building. To the extent that one class behaves worse than the others, it’s a matter of the more powerful coalition at any given moment taking advantage of its position to be more effectively greedy and contemptuous of its opposition, in true tribal fashion.

    • “I assume all of them to be nakedly pursuing their own power and interests, as any class would”

      More obvious to you than to me. Your class isn’t a person, it isn’t a hierarchical organization with a command structure. Why would I, as a member of class X, pursue the interests of class X instead of pursuing my interests?

      Of course, things that benefit my class benefit me, on average. But the effect of my actions on how well my class does is tiny compared to the effect of my actions on how well I do, so what’s the mechanism, in your world view, that gets me to sacrifice my interest for my class’s interest?

      • Dan Simon says:

        In politics, you don’t get anywhere except by forming alliances. Most people understand this intuitively, and those who don’t learn quickly. (See “Survivor”.) Hence the ease and enthusiasm with which people form tribes and pursue tribal interests, which typically align imperfectly with their own individual interests.

        (Libertarians may be an exception–indeed, their stubborn selfishness may help explain their consistent political failure.)

        • onyomi says:

          I think “selfishness” is a term with a loaded negative connotation outside the work of Ayn Rand, and, for that reason, not fair to apply to most libertarians, who are no more or less selfish as individuals, in my experience, than individual members of other groups (I know more than one ardent Democrat who is a terrible tipper, for example, which always struck me as particularly ironic).

          Better to say that libertarians are focused on freedom of action for the individual as a cure to social ills, with the idea that functional companies, neighborhoods, and organizations evolve organically out of free and voluntary individual interactions.

          But this means we are, in effect, opposed to using political power for almost *any* purpose, much less the advancement of our group interests. How do you politically (read “coercively”) advance the group interests of a group which is defined by its opposition to group politics?

          • Tibor says:

            I know leftwingers who are even kind of hostile to the idea of charity. They see it as a clumsy mechanism used above all not to help the disadvantaged but to let the rich feel less guilty. In their ideal system, there is no charity and all welfare is organized through the state and available in the right amount for all that need it (what the right amount is and what “all who need it” means is usually not very well specified). Maybe the Democrat you know views tips as something similar (“He should get a fair wage without having to rely on my benevolence!”).

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think the particular individuals I am thinking of are that principled, but I am familiar with the idea you’re talking about–a kind of milder version of Slavoj Zizek’s idea that charity is bad because it slows down people recognizing the problems with capitalism.

            There is kind of a mirror image view among some libertarians that doing things to make the government run better is bad because it slows down people recognizing the more fundamental problems with government.

            As a libertarian, this latter view is slightly tempting to me, but I think, ultimately, wrong. I want there to be no income tax, but if there comes a vote on whether or not to lower the income tax from 30% to 29%, I will vote “yes.” And then on the vote to lower it from to 29% to 28%…

            If making things as bad as possible caused people to recognize the deep problems in their system and instead embrace the opposite, then North Korea would be a free market paradise by now.

            I have also heard that some Europeans (I think this view would be pretty rare in the US) frown on private charity of the sort engaged in by Gates, Zuckerberg, et al, because they think that the right to choose what is done with such surpluses should reside with “the people,”–i. e. the government.

          • Brad says:

            There’s a weaker form of the argument–that the charitable deduction amounts to the government kicking in to the charity of the donee’s choice, that many of these charities aren’t terribly charitable, and that the deduction ought to be abolished.

            That’s far afield from the debate over selfishness though.

          • Tibor says:


            I don’t know about some Europeans, but I’ve never heard that opinion from anybody. If some means “at least one”, then it is quite likely true though :))

          • onyomi says:


            I haven’t actually heard a real person express that opinion, either.

            I do, however, remember reading on some online comment thread somewhere, a German commenter saying “here in Germany, we think…” I’m sure this person didn’t speak for all Germans, but he certainly seemed to imply he wasn’t the only one. But for all I know he could have been a very weird German or an American playing a stereotype of a European.

          • Tibor says:


            Well, I would not take people who say things like “we in Europe think…” (if he actually said it that way) very seriously.

          • Jiro says:

            If making things as bad as possible caused people to recognize the deep problems in their system and instead embrace the opposite, then North Korea would be a free market paradise by now.

            That has more to do with the “making” than the “things bad”. North Korea is run by a dictatorship which controls the economy, and even ignoring that, it also controls the media. A country that had a similar economy to North Korea but got it through a democratic government would quickly get a different government and move in the free market direction.

          • onyomi says:

            “That has more to do with the “making” than the “things bad”.”

            I don’t think it’s just that. I’ve seen polls showing that people from the former East Germany are still more statist and authoritarian in their political views than their West German counterparts.

          • wysinwyg says:

            should reside with “the people,”–i. e. the government.

            Can I cross out “individuals” in your comments and replace with “rich people”?

        • onyomi says:

          People around here are probably familiar with the criticism of democracy that it confers concentrated benefits in exchange for diffuse costs. That is, it is very much in the farming industry’s interest to make sure farm subsidies continue to pass, but not in everybody else’s interest to make sure they don’t, because the farmers have billions to lose whereas everybody else is probably losing like $10/person/year due to farm subsidies.

          And we are also probably familiar with the utilitarian question about whether it is better to kill one person or poke a million people with a pin.

          And we also know about all these news stories to the effect of: “person presents GOP candidate with sad anecdote about how her grandmother would have died without Obamacare… evil GOP candidate at a loss for words.”

          I feel like these are all connected in this sense: faced with the possibility of letting any one individual die due to lack of medical care, liberals and government apologists seem always to chose to prick everyone with a needle rather than let one person get stabbed with a knife, if you take my meaning. But if you make this deal enough times it gets to the point where everyone in the country is stabbed by a little needle 20 times a day–a not insignificant detraction from quality of life.

          This strikes me as ironic because government is supposed to be the institution which privileges the scientific good of the many over the irrational selfishness of the individual. Yet, in practice, it seems to be all about making the opposite tradeoff at every possible opportunity.

      • cassander says:

        >Why would I, as a member of class X, pursue the interests of class X instead of pursuing my interests?

        The whole point of being a member of a class is that you feel that the interests of your class are your interests.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Correlated at best, it’s important to allow for the phenomenon of “class traitors”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            “Class traitor” implies some sort of central structure or animus that was betrayed. Or an oath of some sort that was broken.

            I’m not sure how well that fits into this model.

        • “The whole point of being a member of a class is that you feel that the interests of your class are your interests.”

          But not the other way around. Lots of things are in my interest but not in the interest of members of my class in general.

          Unless I am extraordinarily powerful, nothing I can do will have a significant effect on how well off my class is. Lots of things I can do have a significant effect on how well off I am. So why should I put time and effort into benefiting my class instead of myself?

          This is the standard public good problem. Why would the government need to collect taxes to pay for the military? After all, defending the country is in my interest, and in the interest of practically everyone else in it, so why don’t we just do it?

          Because if I volunteer to fight for free, or to give money to fund national defense, I pay all of the cost of my action and get only a tiny fraction of the benefit, making it unlikely that doing so is in my interest. Similarly in the case of acting for my class.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            “Unless I am extraordinarily powerful, nothing I can do will have a significant effect on how well off my class is. Lots of things I can do have a significant effect on how well off I am. So why should I put time and effort into benefiting my class instead of myself?”

            I think it’s clear in Sideria’s text:

            “The social classes of the US are cultural groups: people who largely share values in what is good in dress, speech, occupation, food, recreation, family relations, personal style, worship, power relations, music, manners, morals, and so on and so forth.”

            If a class is a cluster of preferences with some limited allowance for individual variation, and a class is also a cultural in-group to which people are motivated to maintain membership, then it seems pretty straightforward: The shared preferences of the class will drift toward the preferences which are most often personally beneficial to the individuals comprising the class.

    • Pete says:

      “I assume all of them to be nakedly pursuing their own power and interests, as any class would” requires a correct understanding of what classes are there, which class you are in and thus what are your class interests.

      A particular consequence of this class-taboo and the vague descriptions (e.g. everyone believing that they’re middle class) is that a large number of people actively support economic policies that favor the class they think they’re in but hurt their actual class.

      For example, a significant part of poor “labor class” people with a significant risk of unemployment deride policies that help poor unemployed people because that seems (advertised as?) targeted at the “underclass”; a significant part of the not-so-poor “labor class” support policies that help “middle class” SME business owners (e.g. the upper end of the “gentry”) at the expense of labor and their right, because they wishfully misidentify themselves as belonging to that class. They *try* to nakedly pursue their own power and interests, but fail to do so because of this lack of appropriate discussion of classes and their structure.

      • Alsadius says:

        People tend to be a lot more principled than we give them credit for. A lot of things aimed lower on the socioeconomic scale are seen as rewarding vice, which people generally dislike doing. You’ll note that defences of it quite often seem to be of that vaguely condescending “Well, they can’t do any better” form, not a play to the interests of the people who actually benefit from it.

      • brad says:

        I’m not sure that really fits into the framework of social class Scott is discussing. Both a doctor and a successful owner/electrician benefit from the miasma surrounding “middle class” and resulting pledges not to raise its taxes. But they are in very different social classes per the discussion above.

      • Jiro says:

        A particular consequence of this class-taboo and the vague descriptions (e.g. everyone believing that they’re middle class) is that a large number of people actively support economic policies that favor the class they think they’re in but hurt their actual class.

        Does this explain the phenomenon of left-wing anti-business rich media moguls and Hollywood actors? And left-wing college student protestors?

        • Viliam says:

          There are also status layers within classes, and people want to signal their difference from the layer below them, even if it is in the same class.

          A rich entrepreneur may support slightly higher taxes for completely selfish reasons — just so high taxes that they would ruin his less rich competitor, but not himself. (Not only the existing competitors, but also anyone who would want to try it in the future.) That makes sense economically; with less competitors he could later increase his prices to match the tax increase.

          And by publicly speaking about it, he signals that he is richer than his competitor, for whom increasing the taxes may mean the difference between staying in the business and having to become someone else’s employee again.

          A college student with a “degree in oppression studies” may signal that he comes from a richer family than the student with a degree in STEM. The former does not need solid education to provide a reliable income as a means of his survival; the latter does.

          The desire to show that one is better than the people below them exists regardless of the political orientation. The difference is that the right-wing people are allowed to do it openly, while the left-wing people need some cover — for example do some kind of expensive (in money or time) magical ritual pretending to improve the world, and then claim that the people who can’t afford the ritual are evil because they don’t care about the world.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            I think this is vastly making things more simple than they are and relaying on a lot of stereotyping.

            I grew up in an upper-middle class suburb. The majority of people in my town were the sons and daughters of lawyers, doctors, engineers, consultants, etc. Some people would have had one or two teacher parents on the lower end. I majored in theatre in college and later went to law school. Many of my high school classmates majored in STEM fields or pre-med or went to law school at 22 instead of 28. I don’t think everyone who majors in the liberal arts and humanities is signalling that they are economically independent. In my experience, there are people who fit that stereotype but also a lot of people from more humble backgrounds who are very cognizant of the sacrifices they are making to study something interesting to them.

            I think it is a bit wrongheaded to think that all STEM majors come from the non-wealthy.

            There is also the fact that people tend to go into what their parents did because it is familiar to them. My dad was a lawyer and two of his three sons became lawyers. My friends who became doctors tended to have parents who were doctors, etc. The same thing happens in trades as far as I can tell. A lot of people get skilled trade jobs because of a connection of some sort.

      • Dan Simon says:

        As I mentioned, I interpret people’s willingness to support policies that are not in their own interest as a matter of understanding the tradeoffs necessary to coalition politics. The majority-white gentry, for instance, favors policies that prefer minorities over their own white members, on the understanding that the coalition’s overall policies (which, grouped together, are commonly referred to as “liberalism”) benefit them more than would the policies that would take effect if the coalition fell apart and a rival coalition took power. Likewise, working-class “conservatives” support low-tax policies that benefit the wealthy more than themselves, but accept that as the cost of improving their coalition’s prospects of taking power and implementing social policies they value. (And as I mentioned, that acceptance appears to be decaying as persistent economic hard times raise the priority of economic interests compared to social ones.)

      • @Pete: You assume that most people know what policies help what groups.

        Consider, for the clearest case, the minimum wage. The people who support it believe, I expect in most cases honestly, that it helps the poor. The people who oppose it believe, I expect in most cases honestly, that it hurts the poor. A few would take a further step–that it helps skilled workers by pricing their low skill competitors out of the market, which explains why it is supported by labor union types.

        I think you can tell similar stories for quite a lot of political controversies, such as immigration or free trade. The naive (but possibly correct) interpretation is that almost everyone is honestly supporting the policies he believes are good for almost everyone. The cynical interpretation is that everyone supports the policies good for him while pretending, sometimes to himself, that they are good for everyone.

        Given that what policies I support, in a large population polity, has almost no effect on what happens, there is little incentive to be well informed and very little feedback to correct mistaken opinions.

        • Dan Simon says:

          @David, you could make exactly the same argument about the free market–after all, most people have no idea how to judge the value or quality of most products. However, people can leverage all sorts of social resources, from word of mouth to commercial expert services to informal networks, to help them evaluate alternatives, and as a result the market is able to discipline producers fairly effectively. The same process applies to political leadership–leaders compete for followers, who can leverage all kinds of social resources to help them select leaders who serve their interests.

          • Tibor says:

            The main difference between selecting leaders and selecting what you buy is that you always get what you pay for whereas you often get someone else that who you voted for (which is sometimes actually the same person you did vote for). The Swiss systems with referendums about particular laws (as opposed to voting for a representative who then votes for things) all the time, relatively small independent polities (tens of thousands of voters in most cantons) and the possibility of a public veto or introduction of new laws directly works way better than the traditional representative democracy in all other western countries but it still does come close to the market where you always get what you decide to “vote” and also bear all the costs of that decision so you have a very good incentive to “vote” well – i.e. obtain the relevant information.

          • To echo Tibor:

            The point you are missing is that your vote has almost no effect on what the outcome is or, in particular, what happens to you. Your buying decision entirely determines which product you buy. Your incentive to gather information is very much larger in the latter case.

            Further, in the latter case, if you make stupid decisions you end up paying for them, whether a headache the morning after or a neat looking car that gets lousy mileage and keeps breaking down. So there is a feedback mechanism to encourage better decisions in the future.

            Much harder, in the political context, to know whether the policy you voted for actually had good or bad effects.

          • Dan Simon says:

            David and Tibor, I see two distinct points here:

            1) Because one single vote has such a tiny impact, people don’t have any incentive to vote at all, let alone assign their vote carefully. This is a well-known paradox, but the fact that such a large number of voters nevertheless do vote, the insignificance of their individual votes notwithstanding, suggests that there’s something wrong with the logic here. Perhaps democracies, like lotteries, rely on a certain inherent level of “reliable irrationality” in people. Or perhaps people are capable of understanding and entering into mass implicit contracts, under which, say, a large fraction of the public agrees to take the trouble to vote for a particular candidate that will enact policies collectively beneficial to all of them. Regardless, “people are rational and therefore don’t bother to waste their time figuring out whom to vote for” simply isn’t a viable explanation of voter behavior, given that they do bother to waste their time voting in the first place.

            2) Because voters don’t always get their way, the feedback loop by which they feel the consequences of their decision is broken in the case of voting. This argument appears simply bizarre to me. People find themselves doing without their top consumer preference all the time, without losing interest in their preferred product. If my local store is sometimes sold out of my favorite brand, and I must substitute a different one for the time being, am I really apt to throw up my hands and not bother to choose carefully thenceforth? On the contrary, if I must make do with a product other than the one I prefer, then I am even more likely, in my deprivation, to seek out the product I like better–or perhaps to switch upon discovering that the substitute isn’t so bad after all.

            Likewise in a democracy: as long as people are capable of feeling the consequences of being ruled by multiple different governments, they are capable of developing political preferences.

          • @Dan:

            My explanation of people voting, as I mentioned in another thread recently, is the pleasure of partisanship–the same reason a football game is more fun if you are a fan of one of the teams. Every four years a game is played out with the fate of the world at stake, and you get to not only cheer for your team but play on your team, even if in a very small role.

            On the feedback point. Real world outcomes of political decisions are sufficiently complicated in causation so that one very rarely can say “I thought X’s policy was right, so I voted for him, and he implemented the policy, and the results were bad.” Maybe Bush and Iraq qualifies, and for some people Obama and Obamacare. But most of the time it’s easy enough for people to believe that whatever went badly was in spite of their guy doing the right thing, not because of his doing the wrong thing. And, because your vote has almost no influence, you have very little incentive to figure out whether you made a mistake–something most of us would prefer not to discover if we don’t have to.

            In ordinary consumption decisions, on the other hand, you go to a restaurant that sounded good, the food is poor and the wait to be served long, and you have immediate feedback on your decision. If you choose to ignore it, you suffer as a result. Similarly for most, although not all, private choices.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Dan Simon

            The incorrect assumption there is that the only reason to vote is to instate your preferred candidate. Of course there are other reasons. Voting is fun, you get to feel like you’re taking part in a national sport, you get to celebrate and laugh at the losing team if your team wins, you get to drown your sorrows with fellow losing team members if your team loses.

            What there isn’t a good incentive for is spending the effort necessary to determine which candidate really is better. Especially when you consider that politics is so strongly tied up with culture, and therefore that going through the substantial effort required to learn all the things you would need to learn to make an informed vote would not only have effectively no influence on the election’s outcome, it would quite probably cause some of your friends and family to ostracize you.

        • Viliam says:

          The naive (but possibly correct) interpretation is that almost everyone is honestly supporting the policies he believes are good for almost everyone.

          If we suppose that people have better information about what helps or hurts their own class than about what helps or hurts other classes, then people could simultaneously believe they vote for the policy that is best for everyone, and yet vote for the policy that actually benefits their own class.

          Well, maybe I overestimate how much people are aware of what would actually help or hurt their own class; especially the things that haven’t been tried before.

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          I believe it spurs automation and the efficient use of labor, and support it on those grounds. This is because I have interacted with a lot of lower management, and frankly, if a business has workers employed at 5 dollars/hour, they will make absolutely terrible use of that persons labor. Thus, it is better for the economy that this isn’t even a possibility, so that that person can instead be employed by someone who has a use for a pair of hands worth more than 9 dollars/hour.

    • Samedi says:

      I would generally agree except I think the link between social class and political views is ancient and not something that started in the 1960s.

      Two modern political phenomena, red-meat conservatism and SJW, have a strong social class dimension. The visceral attitudes expressed by Rush Limbaugh, for example, and the “get tough on crime” and “bomb them back to the stone age” group sound prole (particularly mid-prole in fussellian terms). The petite bourgeoisie has an historical reputation for being authoritarian and often fascist. Whether deserved or not I don’t know.

      The SJW attitude, to unfairly generalize, strikes me as a pathological extension of the middle-class desire not to offend. Fussell wrote a lot about the middle-class preference for euphemism and I see a connection with SJW jargon.

      Neither of these are upper class. Zealotry is impolite.

      • “The SJW attitude, to unfairly generalize, strikes me as a pathological extension of the middle-class desire not to offend. Fussell wrote a lot about the middle-class preference for euphemism and I see a connection with SJW jargon.”

        That’s very Taoist (things keep going until they turn into their opposites), and I think think SJW is related to strong inhibitions about showing anger.

        The standard narrative back in Racefail (2009) was “we were polite and you ignored us, now we’re taking the brakes off– we don’t care about your hurt feelings”. Now there are SJWs who have skipped the polite part– and others who remain polite, but the latter are another story.

        There’s another piece, which I’m accessing by introspection. Middle class white Americans (especially (only?) women) are inhibited against showing anger. I remember “I won’t listen to you when you’re angry”. Being pushed into showing anger is frightening and humiliating. It seems to me that this amplified matters when there was finally anger being shown in public.

        • Viliam says:

          we were polite and you ignored us, now we’re taking the brakes off

          Isn’t this a rationalization that many aggressive people use?

          “I tried to be nice, it didn’t work, so I used a little violence. Anyone would have done the same thing, right?” Uhm, actually no; many people continue being nice or give up, even if they don’t get what they wanted. Nonviolence is more like not seeing violence as a valid option; not merely trying the polite way as a cheap experiment first.

          • Viliam attempting to channel SJW thinking: ” “I tried to be nice, it didn’t work, so I used a little violence. Anyone would have done the same thing, right?” ”

            I don’t think that’s it at all– it was more like “We’re supporting a very important cause, and we will do what we think is necessary, even if it breaks social norms.” There was also (which may be closer to what you’ve saying) “It’s a tremendous amount of emotional work to appear calm and reasonable in the face of threats and obliviousness, and we aren’t doing that work any more.”

        • Jiro says:

          The SJW attitude, to unfairly generalize, strikes me as a pathological extension of…

          The SJW attitude exists because in the name of stopping actual oppression, we’ve set up a system where the better someone is at feigning oppression, the more he will gain. It needn’t have arisen from anywhere except ther fact that you reward something, you get more of it.

          • Viliam says:

            And the “rewards” are sometimes literally money.

            Now check your privilege and donate to my Patreon!

      • Dan Simon says:

        I agree that the link between social class and politics is age-old–my claim is merely that the dominant aspects of the current class structure in the US have their roots in the rise of the gentry/white-collar class around the 1960s. (Prior to that, affluence was far more uniformly associated with either business success or inherited property.)

        As for SJWs and “red meat” conservatives, they’re just the modern equivalent of tribal warriors, contributing to the tribe in battle rather than on the home front.

    • John Schilling says:

      The left-right split in US politics originated in the 1960s with the bifurcation of the middle class into “white-collar” and “blue-collar” segments,

      I think if you go back another generation or two, “white collar” and “blue collar” were never part of the same class in the first place. That was an artifact of the leveling effect of WWII, and the unrealistic postwar economic environment where the US had a monopoly on non-rubble factories and so US factory labor could claim unrealistic almost-white-collar wages.

      But I agree that what you see as a split and I see as a failed merger, is a huge driver for contemporary politics.

      • Dan Simon says:

        The big postwar change was the huge growth in the white-collar population. Prewar, doctors, lawyers and professors, for example, were typically from successful business families, and accountants, journalists and engineers were poorly-paid and basically working-class. By the 1960s, these professions were all much larger, well-paid, effectively credentialed, and much more clearly distinct from both the blue-collar and business/propertied classes.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Why can’t you link to your blog? If this is a spam filter problem again, tell me and I’ll fix it.

      • Dan Simon says:

        Haven’t tried in a while, but every time I’ve tried in the past, it rejects my post until I remove all links. (If you’ve already fixed it and I simply didn’t notice, my apologies…)

  10. Sniffnoy says:

    Ooh, I have a bit to say about this!

    1. Moldbug’s Optimates, as initially written, don’t quite match up to Church’s Elites. But if you read the comments on Moldbug’s post there’s discussion of how the Optimates have morphed into the “post-Optimates” who are a better match.

    2. I’ve brought up Church’s scheme here before, actually, as something that might not be exactly right but forms a good starting point for discussion. One thing about Church’s scheme I like is that he openly admits that us Gentry consider ourselves the rightful Elite, which most of us are too bashful to say outright. (Well, OK, I guess there’s a number of Gentry who are opposed to any sort of hierarchy. But ignoring that…)

    3. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much UNSONG (well, not actually possible since it’s barely out yet), but I have this… I won’t call it a “theory”, since I’m certainly not proposing it as true… let’s just call it a notion banging around in my head… that there is a certain resemblance between class conflict, as described by Church or Moldbug, and subcultural or personal conflicts that we’ve discussed here before.

    Specifically, the relation between Gentry and Elite, or Brahmin and post-Optimate, seems kind of like the relation between Nerds and Suits. Really, the description of what makes an Elite or post-Optimate is very similar to how I’d describe what makes a Suit. There are plenty and plenty of Gentry Suits, of course, but I’m not sure how one is supposed to make it as an Elite Nerd.

    To spell it out, partially: Nerds — care about ideas and interestingness. Suits — care about money, power and connections. Suits tend to be the ones with in fact more power, but Nerds view themselves as the rightful elite over them. Etc.

    Hell, let’s split this up further. Let me at this point cite two more trichotomies, neither of which I’m going to use as such, because they’re not really what I’m talking about, but which I should both at least cite as relevant. First: Chapman’s “Geeks, MOPs, and Sociopaths”, and Rao’s “Sociopaths, Clueless, and Losers”. Again, neither of these is actually what I’m going for, though the former is a little closer; if you want to go ahead and try to draw rough correspondences, go ahead, though I think you’ll have trouble fitting in Rao’s one; his “Clueless” category especially is kind of an odd duck, which by its name might sound Nerdy but in fact is only partly so.

    Let’s describe people with two axes. I’m not going to state explicitly what these axes are because I’m not sure that I can. (Also, please be aware that what I have to say may be horribly biased to the extent that I have bought into Nerd mythology.) But OK. At (0,0), we have the Hypocrites: People who are basically normal and pretty compartmentalized. They pull off a modest amount of social maneuvering without realizing that they’re doing so and thereby deny that they’re doing so. At (1,0) we have the Nerds: The Nerd is less compartmentalized and takes things literally, including society’s proscriptions against social maneuvering. (As I think PJ Eby put it in a comment on LW, though I haven’t been able to find the link in ages, “A nerd is someone who thinks it’s wrong to make a good first impression.” Somebody please correct me if he didn’t say anything like that. Or find the link if he did.) This results in them doing all sorts of stupid things in the name of good that are not actually required and just self-sabotaging for no extra good. (Note that Nerds mistake Hypocrites for bad Nerds.) At (0,1) we have the Sociopaths: People who are also, noticing the Hypocrites’ hypocrisy, decide the stated rules can’t be real at all and just go all out with the social maneuvering. (Again, Sociopaths mistake Hypocrites for bad Sociopaths.) Finally at (1,1) we have a category I don’t have a name for, because it’s rare, though it seems to be what much of what the “aspiring rationalist” movement is aiming for: People who say “It’s true that the stated rules aren’t the real rules, and that most people are hypocritical about this, but that doesn’t mean the real rules are ‘anything goes’; there’s something real that the stated rules are trying to get at, that most people are no good at expressing in a literal fashion, that we need to get at and state explicitly.”

    If we ignore (1,1), we have a trichotomy. Does this match any of the trichotomies so far? Doesn’t seem like it. But now we see… The Nerd’s hated antagonist, the “Suit”, isn’t actually a great category, because it’s a mix of Hypocrite and Sociopath. And it’s Sociopath that really matches to Elite and post-Optimate, not Suit in general.

    You’ll notice these analogies are pretty partial. While I could perhaps work to extend them, I’m not going to do so, on the basis that a lot of this is probably spurious pattern-matching, and so attempting to think it through seriously seems like perhaps a bad idea. Nonetheless, I thought I should put it out there.

    4. Regarding the resemblance to Marx — I don’t think it’s just Marx; I think there’s a general pattern of people making the claim that society consists of one good group (possibly class) who makes things, and another evil group (possibly class) who takes the things the good guys make, profit off of them, and corrupt them to their own ends. In Marx, the laborers make and the capitalists take; in Rand (as I understand — never actually read any Rand to be honest) the thinker/entrepreneurs make and the government/conformists take; in Nerd mythology, the Nerds make and the Suits take. (And in New Jersey… OK, I won’t finish that joke. 😛 ) So I’m not sure how much to trust claims of this form, seeing as it might just be a whole lot of partisanship.

    • Emile says:

      I was also wondering about the correspondances with Venkat Rao’s model. But I think they are few, Scott and Sidarea are talking about society as a whole, whereas Rao is describing structure inside an (medium-to-large) company, and I’m not sure of how well it would generalize to different kinds of companies. So you could apply Venkat’s model to a tire-manufacturing company (in which case pretty much everybody is some kind of “L” per Church’s classification), or to a digital marketing company (where everybody is “G”), or to a company with a bit more of a mix. In all cases you could roughly identify sociopaths/clueless/losers (if his model is good, I’m not sure of how well it generalizes).

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Yes, that’s kind of my point — not that these categories are the same, but that this pattern of categories that relate to each other in the same way repeats in different contexts. Again, though, like I said Rao’s scheme isn’t quite the same pattern; only Sociopaths really cleanly matches up. Losers kind of matches Hypocrites, but Clueless is really an odd duck, despite initially seeming like Nerds.

    • Alsadius says:

      You make a good point about how the gentry feel themselves to be the rightful elite. You see this a lot in highly intellectual jobs – academia in particular – where its membership seems to be quite frequently offended by the fact that they’re not running the world. After all, they’re smarter than the people running the world, they have the right ideas unlike those rubes, so why aren’t they in charge?

      Plato was of course the ur-example of this, but you see a lot of it in the modern era in Blue criticisms of Red leaders – the attacks on George W. Bush were almost entirely of this sort, for example(which is funny given that he had some of the most refined intellectual credentials available to man, but he held the wrong opinions, so he had to be stupid).

      This also plays in, to some extent, to the fact that the Blue Tribe tends to be worse at the ideological Turing test than the Red Tribe. Reds get exposed to Blue memes all the time from the entertainment and education industries, so they tend to have a sense of what Blues think, even though they disagree. Blues don’t get as much similar exposure to Red memes, so they tend to visualize Reds as strawmen in a way that doesn’t happen so often in the other direction. Seeing your opponents as strawmen inevitably leads to contempt, and feeling like your opponents have contempt for you leads to hatred. So you wind up with Blues with a superiority complex complaining that idiots are keeping them from running the world, and Reds with a sense that they’re under siege even if all the formal levers of power are theirs.

      • anonymous says:

        Reading this blog has convinced me that the Red Tribe and its Grayish offshoots are great at ideological Turing Tests. Here’s a good example:

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          I’m fairly sure there’s a ton of Grey and Blue tribe people who would pass such tests as well, as everyone with religious parents is likely to be forced to do so.

        • Pku says:

          Not sure if that’s supposed to be sarcastic or not. Assuming it was serious, reading this blog has kinda convinced me that blues are mildly better than reds (and mildly worse than greys) at this, at least among the people who post here (though there are reds I respect here and blues that don’t, it goes both ways).

          • Jiro says:

            I am unconvinced that there are mainstream reds here, although there may be people who could be classified as reds and fall into the group Scott doesn’t want us to name.

          • keranih says:

            I hesitate to classify myself as “mainstream” much of anything, due to a variety of subclassifications, but at the largest granularity, here I am, a right-of-center caucasian.

          • anonymous says:

            We’ve got at least a few people here that can’t wait to tell you about how they “served”. That’s close enough for me.

          • hlynkacg says:


            Assuming that this is the same anonymous.

            You have a history of making snide self-righteous statements and then utterly failing to back them up. Your comments in this thread seem to be following the same pattern, so can we just skip ahead to the part where you go away and be done here?

          • anonymous says:

            That’s a very cool story bro, but a bit of a non sequitur. Do you disagree that going on and on about one’s “service” in the military is a marker of the Red Tribe? Or did you not have an actual point and just wanted to play self appointed ref?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:


            You haven’t indicated what post you were talking about, but the anonymous you mean is this one:

            But really, I don’t think chasing anonymous trolls (or the undistinguishable “people who have opinions very opposed to mine”) is worth your time.

        • Alsadius says:

          The linked comment basically says that a lot of leftists think catcalling is as bad as groping, and it seemed to be mildly sarcastic at that. That’s not terribly egregious.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Alsadius
            “The linked comment basically says that a lot of leftists think catcalling is as bad as groping”

            I suppose there’s a Youtube somewhere that shows the difference between a catcall and a wolf whistle?

      • Do they want power…or just influence? Surely the archetypal Gentry posiiiion is Aristotle to an Alexander.

    • Michael Vassar says:

      A lot of what’s going on is that nerds and suits mean very different things by ‘power’. To nerds, power means the ability to control outcomes. To suits, power means the ability to control credit allocation associated with outcomes so that you and your fellow suits ‘get ahead’ regardless of the outcome. This behavior is parasitic, but effective. Ideas like localism are responses, but are largely ineffective, largely because it’s very difficult to get nerds to buy into building structures that work less well in the ideal case but which are less susceptible to parasitism by behavioral patterns that they can’t easily relate to.

      • suntzuanime says:

        It sounds like there’s an opportunity to cooperate – if nerds get to build the future and suits get to take credit, everybody is happy. Is there a third group stirring up trouble between the two?

        • Cooperation, in this context, is “Team of engineers have a manager, who uses his Suit powers for good, and ensures that salary, perks, and recognition flow freely to his team members in accordance with their good work.”

          The problem is that making that last happen is always really time-consuming and difficult, and can often be directly opposed to getting good outcomes for the Suit and his fellow Suits.

          I’d say that the reason this is a factor now is because the nerd version of power has become actually-powerful enough that it’s possible (though not very likely) to Change the World just in their bailiwick. 30 or 40 years ago, hackers worked on giant, time-shared machines which required Suit intervention to get and keep funded. 20 years ago, personal computers were a thing, but not ubiquitous, and actually getting your product out there required you to adopt the ways of the suit.

          Now? Well, now Silicon Valley is a thing.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Now? Well, now Silicon Valley is a thing.

            Well, now the startup boom is a thing, and it sure seems to be making Suits out of Nerds…

        • Sniffnoy says:

          (I am going to answer this in a manner where I basically just assume Nerd mythology and my trichotomy above to be true and not worry about what’s true in reality.)

          There kind of is. Remember that Suits break down into Sociopaths and Hypocrites. Explicit cooperation might be possible between the Nerds and the Sociopaths, though (like any dealing with Sociopaths) it doesn’t seem likely to end well for the Nerds. But how are you going to explicitly cooperate with the Hypocrites? They don’t really do explicitness.

          There are several sources of conflict, I think; and one of the ones that prevents what you’re suggesting is that while “power” in the sense of control, and “power” in the sense of status, are not in fact the same thing, they are, in the popular imagination — the Hypocrite imagination — identified. They will not permit you to decouple them, handing one to one group and the other to another group.

          There’s a reason for this! Let’s recall Simler’s essay on prestige. Prestige is supposed to be a reward for doing things that help the group. But the Sociopaths have figured out how to exploit the prestige system in order to gain prestige without doing so — indeed, often by doing things that are harmful to the group. (Note that they don’t care about specifically prestige, but status in general, which may also include dominance.) So let’s say you go and you say “So there’s this group of people who are bamboozling us into giving them what rightly belongs to others, and screwing things up for everyone else in the process. How about we just give them what we want, and they won’t screw everything up?” I don’t think most people are going to be too happy with that bargain! Indeed, if you can identify such people, shouldn’t you be punishing them?

          And I should note that I think it’s a mistake to say that Nerds just want control; they do want both control and prestige. The control matters more, and they might accept such a deal as better than the status quo, but they still want what they consider their rightful prestige.

          Regardless, point is, even if the Nerds end up somehow being OK with it — they’d probably be pretty OK with the decoupling per se, I’d guess, but the part where the prestige gets handed over to the Suits would be a harder sell — the Hypocrites are not going to allow you to perform the decoupling at all, they are going to continue to conflate the two as “power”, and the Suits will continue to screw things up in order to gain prestige. (And there are several reasons they screw things up, which I could go into, but among them is the fact that if you just do nothing — if you do not even attempt to exercise the control that comes with your prestige in the “power” package — you will be seen as unworthy of that power, losing not just the control but the prestige too.)

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Some follow-up notes!

      Regarding #1, I think I should properly say — it seems like “Optimates” corresponds to E2, and “post-Optimates” corresponds to E4, E3, and E1.

      Regarding #3 — one thing I failed to note is that there is a group left out of my scheme — the Nerds-who-emulate-Sociopaths. Basically, Nerds who have finally noticed the problem with what they’re doing, but respond by deciding to move to (0,1) rather than noticing that (1,1) is an option. I think they tend to not be as good as it as the natives, for obvious reasons. This is probably how one survives as an Elite Nerd, I would imagine.

      Also I guess there actually is a simple description of my two axes: The x-axis is paying explicit attention to what people say, and the y-axis is paying explicit attention to what people do. (If you’re at (0,0), you pay attention to both, but only implicitly.)

    • Nornagest says:

      in Rand (as I understand — never actually read any Rand to be honest) the thinker/entrepreneurs make and the government/conformists take

      Rand likes entrepreneurs, engineers, and (the right kind of) artists. She also likes craftsmen and other dedicated workers, and people taking roles similar to the “sidekick” idea that was getting thrown around LW a couple months ago, but she doesn’t identify with them and so you don’t see them starring in her novels; they’re there in bit parts, but they’re easy to miss. She doesn’t like bureaucrats, time-servers, recipients of government largesse, the wrong kind of artist, and most activists.

      This usually gets cast in terms of altruism (including in her writing), but I think the split she’s going for might be clearer if it were given in terms of entitlement.

  11. dtsund says:

    “Any study that interprets our income difference as an outcome difference and tries to analyze what factors gave me a leg up over my relatives (better schools? more breastfeeding as a child?) are stupid and will come up with random noise.”

    Well, yes. I mean, look at the words themselves; clearly, income and outcome should be considered opposite.

  12. Michael Watts says:

    But lower-class people like lower-class culture and generally do not want to adopt upper-class culture, except insofar as it’s necessary to advance. Analogies to race and assimilation are obvious.

    I want to expand on this. Analogies to race are obvious because to a considerable extent they are the same phenomenon rather than just being analogous. Race is determined by who your parents are in reality. Class is less objective than that, but I like the Steve Sailer model that class is basically about determining who you can marry (in the future, so in practice you end up with a bit of wiggle room). Here’s the thing — controlling who marries who simultaneously determines what sets of parents exist. The stronger class prejudice (as exemplified by the need to marry within-class) gets, the more “class” and “race” become identified.

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      Human sexual selection is the most important ENORMOUS LANDMINE this discussion could use more of, but it is a naturally right-leaning framework.

    • Alsadius says:

      Not entirely. It’s somewhat true for races that are seen as markers for being underclass(blacks being the most obvious), though even then there’s exceptions. But even in a very classist society, you’re going to see a ton of cross-breeding between groups that tend towards being of the same social class(Jews, Asians, Indians, whites, and the like come to mind).

  13. David Moss says:

    I prefer Bourdieu’s framework for making sense of the interactions between the economic dimension and the social dimension. If you take high/low social/economic capital as your two dimensions you get four quadrants and you can describe different clusters of tendency and taste within them (e.g. the cultural elite (professors etc.), the rich non-cultural elite (pure businessmen etc.), the low economic and low cultural capital (uneducated, poor) and the low economic capital, higher cultural capital (poor knowledge workers, like artists at the higher CC end; poor educated workers like librarians at the lower CC but higher EC end).

    • Primadant says:

      Yes Bourdieu’s framework is really useful to think about social class. The two axes are economic capital and cultural (rather than social) capital. Here’s what the social space then looks like (this graph describes french society) :

      He also talks about symbolic capital which is just another way to talk about signaling. This is the most general form of capital, the one than ties together all the other forms of capital. Humans seek first and foremost symbolic capital accumulation and they can do that either by economic profits (that is signaled by conspicuous consumption) or cultural profits (signaled by cultural taste) Although he mentions that the importance of different capitals depends on the society you are considering, for example in the soviet union political capital replaced economic capital.

      The nice thing about thinking in terms of capital is that you can then apply economic analysis to social class : markets for cultural goods, rate of conversion from one capital to another, with shadow prices tied to cultural goods that increase or decrease with supply and demand (for example credential inflation).

      Another idea is that the dominant classes are able to set the rules of the game and to change them whenever it suits them. For example when one fashion trend becomes too common, they can just launch another one. This can be done via transgression, by suddenly deciding that what was in bad taste yesterday is today very sophisticated and avant-garde. Scott wrote about a similar idea in this post :

      Bourdieu writes in a really obscure and pretentious style, but you can still try this article if interested:

      • David Moss says:

        Yeh that’s right of course, I just accidentally wrote economic/social because that was the distinction Scott mentioned in the OP (seemingly I switched back to talking about cultural capital in the second half of my post).

        • Primadant says:

          Oh yeah I was just expanding a bit on your post and trying to raise awareness. It’s always frustrating to see that the nerd types who read this blog don’t seem to notice at all that a lot of smart people have thought for over a century about the very issues they care about. I think their reasoning is just : sociology = humanities = not worthy of my attention.

          • Bassicallyboss says:

            I suspect sociology just too much negative affect for me to overcome, even though I almost majored in it in college. I’m perfectly happy to read interesting pieces of writing on society and group interactions, but for some reason, those don’t count as “Sociology” in my brain.

            This is even weirder since I actually like the humanities. But I suppose those are distinct from social science.

            Still, if I hadn’t seen it recommended here, I probably wouldn’t ever find myself on, if only because all the Marxists I’ve met in real life have been activists who were abrasive even when I agreed with them. Thanks for the link.

  14. Dan B. says:

    What does it say about my class that I want to hear more tales out of school about Sherri? She sounds like a riot!

  15. jooyous says:

    I would like to file a motion requesting that someone take a stab at using this framework to describe the history of Starbucks.

    • Alsadius says:

      It’s not too complex, to my understanding. They defined themselves as a staple of gentryhood, in the same way mass-market coffee shops(Tim Horton’s is the most common around here, Dunkin Donuts might be the US equivalent?) had long defined themselves as labour-class staples.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        They’re certainly not a staple of gentryhood in the UK – more a staple of teenagegirlhood.

        • Tibor says:

          But isn’t it the same in the UK as on the continent that any chain restaurant/café is automatically something low-grade? I think I understand the reasons better now ( we already discussed it here) but i still find it incredibly funny that Starbucks is considered something “gentrifying” in the US. To me it is like calling McDonald’s a classy restaurant.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Most restaurants in big chains (more than 20 or so) are generally thought of badly, but I think Starbucks goes beyond that. To me, not only is it lower status than a (rare) independent coffee shop, but also lower status than Costa or Caffe Nero.

      • jooyous says:

        Yeah, see, I think they started out that way? But kinda dropped down into labor territory after introducing the really sugary drinks. So gentry fled to the more indie ish coffee shops, at least around my area. But not entirely?

        • Alsadius says:

          Admittedly, it’s become a lower-status gentry sort of place, the hipsters have long since abandoned it. But it’s definitely not for workers.

    • Maware says:

      Minor prole drift. Upper-mid liked coffee bars, Starbucks is that concept with some prole drift to middle class. Working class gets coffee from mcdonalds or dunkin donuts.

  16. One initial comment—what’s the difference between a class and a subculture? In a comment thread on your previous post, I mentioned _The Joys of Yiddish_ by Leo Rosten. It’s a portrait of Ashkenazi immigrant culture early in the 20th century.

    Most of what you say about classes would apply to it. Not defined by income. Affects how you speak. Largely inherited. And there are surely other subcultures of which the same is true–the Amish, say, for a more current example.

    Part of what “class” at least suggests is an ordering. We talk about lower, middle, upper, sometimes subdividing, all of which implies that, given any two classes, we can say which is higher than which. But it’s not clear on what basis one would do so in the general case, nor that classes in that sense are a different kind of beast from ethnic or religious subcultures.

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      All naturally occuring phenomena are probably going to be fractal in some way.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think people still talk about class because of historical accident. The classes used to be far more stratified and different from each other. Now these “classes” are more fluid and have morphed in to just being different subcultures but they are just similar enough to the old classes that people still hold on to the idea.

    • Alex says:

      Related question. If you have fallen on hard times, does having access to elite social circles (by itself) make it much easier to make money again? i.e. What is class good for?

      Or, by class, do we just mean circumstances that make it possible for folks to make money if that’s what they want?

      • arbitrary_greay says:

        If you have fallen on hard times, does having access to elite social circles (by itself) make it much easier to make money again?

        Yes. I’m pretty sure I have my current job because my cousin’s husband was the best friend of my subsequent supervisor. The company was willing to fly me out for an interview from out of state, an effort I don’t think would have been made without that social connection-driven recommendation. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have even known the position was up for grabs, much less considered applying for it.
        A phone call from someone else can do just as much, if not more, work than the formal applicant screening process.

    • Jason K. says:

      Taking a swing at this:

      I would think the biggest difference between class and sub-culture is how much more closely class is tied to power. Class is a first order association while sub-culture is a second order association at its closest. You will see sub-cultures ranked by perceived class, but not the other way around. Class is about hierarchy while a subculture is not (though a subculture may have an internal hierarchy). I think you could make a solid argument that class contains a power subculture.

    • Maware says:

      Class is type of person, subculture is type of interest. Working class is person, but they can be juggalo (subculture) or backyard wrestler(subculture.) Subcultures are not always related to class, as some people slum in certain subcultures. Roller derby and bowling used to be very prole, but certain upper-mids slum in it.

  17. Glenn Willen says:

    >If we could somehow collapse the entirety of tradeoffspace into a single variable, I bet it would have a far greater parent-child correlation than income does.

    So, it seems to me you can partly do this: Check the one-generation correlation against the two-generation (grandparent-grandchild) correlation. If you square the 1g correlation matrix, it should smear out and get weaker; if the 2g correlation matrix is stronger than the square of the 1g, there is some hidden factor of class that is preserved across generations that the 1g matrix is not measuring.

    • Bonsai says:

      I think that’s the conclusion of “the son also rises” by Greg Clark. Longer term there is reversion back to the ancestor mean.

      • Michael Watts says:

        This is apparently an important result in breeding: if you have a big population of individuals, select out a subset for having some trait that you like (e.g. the smallest dogs), and breed those, the selected F1 generation’s group average on that trait will regress from the parental group mean (the ones you bred) to the overall F0 group mean (everyone, the ones you bred and the ones you didn’t). But as long as you keep the selected group breeding with itself rather than outbreeding back to the unselected population, it won’t regress any further — generation F10 will have the same population mean as generation F9, and so on back to F1.

        (Obviously, if you keep selecting out the ones with the highest trait levels from successive generations, the group average will rise over time. But the interesting point here is that if you don’t bother to do that, the group average doesn’t regress back to the level of the original population the parents were originally selected from; regression to the mean happens only the one time, and then “the mean” (for regression-to-the-mean purposes) has changed.)

        Apologies for my lack of mastery of the formal terminology.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        I remember Roland Fryer of Freakonomics fame, wrote a great deal about nature vs. nurture since all he knew about his father was that he was imprisoned for sexual assault. He was later shocked to find out that his father was a reasonably well educated man before that and that his grandmother went to Juliard (Fryer is getting up there in the years so this would have likely been a far greater accomplishment then than it would be now). Fryer noted that this changed the narrative he had always believed about his life.

  18. Brandon Berg says:

    I have nothing productive to add, but I want to register my delight at Church including supervillains in his hierarchy.

  19. Simon says:

    I’m reminded of this humourous essay series by a man named Scott Locklin that examines the whole issue of social class from an avowedly paleoconservative angle:

    Locklin’s division of upper class/upper-middle class doesn’t really correspond to Church’s elite/gentry split, but it does match to Moldbug’s Optimate/Brahmin division especially the part about the upper middle class having displaced the old upper class. The main difference is that Locklin operates with a sharp division between the middle class and the working class.

    He also very much emphasizes the political alliances between the upper+working classes and the upper-middle+lower classes. In his view, most of the centrist swing voters are right in the middle of the social hierarchy.

  20. DavidS says:

    This is really interesting and I want to read properly, think, and comment.

    But first: why the heck invent the word ‘Optimates’ when India had (has?) the Ksaitrya class, which was the old military/noble elite (think knights and you won’t be THAT far off) who were displaced (and according to some myths, wiped out) and supplanted by the Brahmins? In general, France had the three estates of commoners/clergy/nobles, Alfred the Great had ‘workers, prayers, fighters’ – there is an absolutely ancient division into workers, priests/intellectuals and military/noble. The ‘military aristocracy’ is obviously increasingly outdated both from military and aristocratic angles, so it seems a fair first approximation to see the ‘triumph of the Gentry/’ as just that final step in an incredibly old Brahmin/Kshaitrya and church/king competition.

    • Simon says:

      Fittingly enough, the one upper class person I know is a Japanese-Australian woman who comes from an old samurai clan that traces its lineage back to the 13th century and counts at least one WW2-era Imperial Japanese Army general in its family tree. I’m under the impression the Kshatriya and Samurai castes correspond pretty closely. She also perfectly matches Locklin’s description of the upper class other than the stuff about ethnicity, right down to having a law degree and being employed in global wildlife conservation. (including directly rescuing some fairly dangerous predators when she lived in Namibia)

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        From The Better Angels of Our Nature:

        The journalist Steven Sailer recounts an exchange from early 20th-century England: “A hereditary member of the British House of Lords complained that Prime Minister Lloyd George had created new Lords solely because they were self-made millionaires who had only recently acquired large acreages. When asked, “How did your ancestor become a Lord?” he replied sternly, “With the battle-ax, sir, with the battle-ax!”

      • DavidS says:

        I had a bit of a (possibly inaccurate) breakthrough in how I saw history when I realised that quite a lot of older translations/secondary literature refer to a certai group of Romans as ‘knights’. As Kshaitrya and Samurai are in many ways clearly knights. I know very little about Japanese culture, though. Don’t know if there was in ‘Samurai times’ a clear equivalent to priests/Brahamins. I mean, Zen was a big deal, but not sure what social role it played or whether there were struggles over legitimacy of power etc.

    • I don’t like Moldbug’s just-similar-enough-to-be-confusing reuse of the Indian terms , and I don’t wan to see more of it.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I had the same complaint, actually – I’ll add it to the post in case Moldbug reads it.

    • stubydoo says:

      What’s this about the Kshatriyas being wiped out?

      I had a high school classmate whose last name was Kshatriya. Though this was a long way from India. And I never asked him about the significance of the name, since at the time I didn’t know any of the castes.

      • DavidS says:

        I was going to desperately google… but Aneesh Mulye below has the references! For me, this is all half-understood, half-remembered stuff from studying religion almost a decade ago. I probably only remember this because I was always interested in the conflict between secular and religious power in Western Europe, and then I came across something which seemed to be a literal divine intervention for the religious in another tradition.

    • Jon Gunnarsson says:

      “Optimates” is not a newly invented word. It referred to the traditionalist faction within the Roman Senate which sought to preserve aristocratic power and limit the power of the tribunes and other democratic elements. Notable optimates include Sulla, Cato, and Brutus.

    • Aneesh Mulye says:

      Kshatriyas still exist and are a large part of the Indian population. Traditionally, Kshatriya/Brahmin was an alliance, not a competition. The myth you’re referring to – Parashuram wiping out the Kshatriyas twenty-one times – has a fascinating aftermath that’s almost eerily relevant to this discussion.

      Parashuram, after ridding the world of Kshatriyas 21 times, goes on to give lordship of it to Kashyapa (a Brahmin and a sage). After that, it turns out that Brahmin rulers do not have the willingness to inflict the punishments necessary to uphold the law and the social order (they are too tender-hearted), and lawlessness, crime, and social collapse and decay (by the standards of the society of that time) occur.

      At which point, we see this :

      Kasyapa also, O monarch, having accepted the earth in gift, and made a present of it unto the Brahmanas, entered the great forest. Then Sudras and Vaisyas, acting most wilfully, began to unite themselves, O bull of Bharata’s race, with the wives of Brahmanas. When anarchy sets in on earth, the weak are oppressed by the strong, and no man is master of his own property. Unprotected duly by Kshatriyas observant of virtue, and oppressed by the wicked in consequence of that disorder, the earth quickly sank to the lowest depths. Beholding the earth sinking from fear, the high-souled Kasyapa held her on his lap; and since the great Rishi held her on his lap (uru) therefore is the earth known by the name of Urvi. The goddess earth, for protection’s sake, gratified Kasyapa and begged of him a king.

      “The Earth said, ‘There are, O, regenerate one, some foremost of Kshatriyas concealed by me among women. They were born in the race of Haihayas. Let them, O sage, protect me. There is another person of Puru’s race, viz., Viduratha’s son, O puissant one, who has been brought up among bears in the Rikshavat mountains. Another, viz., the son of Saudasa, has been protected, through compassion, by Parasara of immeasurable energy and ever engaged in sacrifices. Though born in one of the regenerate orders, yet like a Sudra he does everything for that Rishi and has, therefore, been named Sarvakarman (servant of all work). Sivi’s son of great energy, viz., Gopati by name, has been brought up in the forest among kine. Let him, O sage, protect me. Pratardana’s son, named Vatsa of great might, has been brought up among calves in a cowpen. Let that one of the royal order protect me. Dadhivahana’s grandson and Diviratha’s son was concealed and protected on the banks of Ganga by the sage Gautama. His name is Vrihadratha. Possessed of great energy and adorned with numerous blessed qualities, that blessed prince has been protected by wolves and the mountains of Gridhrakuta. Many Kshatriyas belonging to the race of Maratta have been protected. Equal unto the lord of Maruts in energy, they have been brought up by Ocean. These children of the Kshatriya order have been heard of as existing in different places. They are living among artisans and goldsmiths. If they protect me I shall then stay unmoved. Their sires and grandsires have been slain for my sake by Rama Of great prowess. It is my duty, O great sage, to see that their funeral rites are duly performed. I do not desire that I should be protected by my present rulers. Do thou, O sage, speedily make such arrangements that I may exist (as before).’

      “Vasudeva continued, ‘The sage Kasyapa then, seeking out those Kshatriyas of great energy whom the goddess had indicated, installed them duly as kings (for protecting her). Those Kshatriya races that are now extent are the progeny of those princes. That which thou hast questioned me, O son of Panda, happened in days of yore even thus.’

      The specific kind of disorder engendered by the lack of a ‘king’ (you can generalise this to the lack of an effective administration) is described in Canto LXVII of the second book of the Ramayana. There are some parallels to contemporary social decay that jumped out at me when I read it. Here it is. (It’s much more straightforward and requires far less context than the quote above, and so much more readable.)

      • DavidS says:

        Cheers! Interesting that you get the “True Kings hidden among animals/poor people/strange mystical things like ‘being brought up by the Ocean'”. On which (half-remembered religious studies), isn’t the Ocean in some sense a dharmic drain – I was sure I read something about a longstanding belief that travelling on boat would in some way destroy your caste or your spiritual attainment in some sense. Seems odd to have Ocean bringing up kings in such a context.

    • My guess: because these guys aren’t warriors, but old bloodlines of old money, often residing on second homes outside the cities, with political influence, and tend to think they are awesome people, like Roman Optimates.

  21. Forrest Alexander says:

    Can anyone resolve Trump’s love of Andrew Lloyd Webber with his Labor roots?

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      Musicals are a strong white culture product that Flyovers love and Coastals hate, they were the superhero blockbusters of their day.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      One of my grandparents who is of the “collectible ceramic plates class” has gone to New York to watch plays on Broadway. I think there are a number of Broadway plays that are not “Rent” or “Spring Awakening”, and I think that ALW is pretty clearly in that category.

    • FXKLM says:

      I’ve always believed that musicals are primarily popular among middle and middle-upper class individuals who mistakenly think that they are an indicator of upper-class culture because they conflate Broadway with opera.

    • Loquat says:

      As a card-carrying member of the WASP gentry (my parents’ CD collection included multiple operas and plenty of jazz but no rock as far as I remember, and hip-hop would have been beyond the pale) I can tell you Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals are middlebrow at most. Many Gentry may enjoy them, but the snootier among us will make disparaging comments like “It’s not exactly Shakespeare, is it?” – in no small part because they’re widely enjoyed among the Labor classes. Webber musicals aren’t quite in the same status as Thomas Kinkade paintings, but I’d say they’re much closer to Thomas Kinkade than they are to, say, opera performed in Italian.

      • suntzuanime says:

        And of course the joke there is that Shakespeare would be middlebrow as hell if we could understand the words.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          Aren’t penis jokes lowbrow?

        • TheNybbler says:

          Shakespeare would be lowbrow as hell if we could understand the words. At least the plays would be. I mean, he includes _fart jokes_, and not just in the comedies. And of course there’s the “country matters” scene in Hamlet.

          Kinkade, on the other hand, is just bad.

        • Saul Degraw says:

          Shakespeare was seen as the superior English writer by the mid-18th century. He does have a lot of dirty jokes but he is not completely lowbrow. Hamlet, MacBeth, and the Winter’s Tale are not lowbrow entertainments. Neither is Henry the IV even with Falstaff.

          • onyomi says:

            Shakespeare mixes vulgar jokes into otherwise very elite, refined (but maybe still “informal” by the standards of the day?) writing. It is almost exactly the same with Chinese drama of the same time period. My question is, to what extent is the idea that those jokes were there for the “groundlings” just an excuse for the fact that the upper classes enjoyed them too? Also, I wonder if the idea that elites shouldn’t openly talk about penises and farts is a vestige of a later time–say the Victorian era? I can’t imagine Henry VIII being too squeamish about such things.

          • “Also, I wonder if the idea that elites shouldn’t openly talk about penises and farts is a vestige of a later time–say the Victorian era?”

            Dante mentions farting. And there’s an anecdote in medieval Islamic literature about an exchange at the court of one of the Abbasid caliphs on the subject.

            I’m pretty sure there are demons farting in some medieval marginalia, presumably intended for upper class readers.

          • LeeEsq says:

            By Shakespeare’s time, the elites of England have placed great currency on good manners, than called courtesy, for about two centuries at least. Its just that life was closer to the bone than and living conditions more primitive, so a certain amount of earthiness comes through. Its a lot easier to be squeamish about going to the bathroom after plumbing and the flush toilet becomes prominent.

        • honestlymellowstarlight says:

          Then why did he play for King James? Class-based analysis of art is one of the worst art history trends of the 20th century, thankfully the revisionists are correcting this now.

        • BBA says:

          The Astor Place Riot of 1849, at the time the deadliest riot in New York since the Revolution, sprung from a dispute between two competing productions of Macbeth. At that point Shakespeare was still considered popular entertainment, though within a few decades it had entered the realm of the elites.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Not sure if this is specific to Trump, but I suppose I ought to ask…

      How well do you know the soundtrack to Le Miserables and does it make you A) want to roll our eyes or B) crush your enemies and see them driven before you.

      This is strictly based on anecdotal experience but I suspect that it’s usage is two-fold, part one is that he genuinely enjoys the music, part two is populist signaling aimed at the employed class.

      Regardless of Webber’s origins I feel that his music has been adopted by a certain subset of the mid-level wage earners. For example, I attended a memorial service for some co-workers where Empty Chairs was played and pretty much everyone present from the wife of our decidedly white gentry OIC to our black airframe specialist from Louisiana all knew the words and sung along.

      • wysinwyg says:

        Les Miserables wasn’t written by ALW, and it is widely regarded as much higher quality than any of his work.

    • Deiseach says:

      If “a love of Andrew Lloyd Webber” means “the musicals”, what on earth makes that upper-class? It’s very solidly Labour! Aspirational musical tastes in the UK would be angling for a ticket to Glyndebourne (whether or not you like opera), not going to a Lloyd Webber musical in the West End 🙂

      • Tibor says:

        Yeah, maybe it is different in the US, but in Europe musicals are kind of “operas of the working class”. That is not to say that they are not liked by anyone else but mostly they are made with that kind of audience in mind. I think that at least some Brodway musicals are much higher quality than the European musical production. I really liked the Book of Mormon (although it is probably not a typical example of a Brodway musical). I can’t stand any Czech musicals, they are just a one big piece of kitsch (for some reason,”rock operas” are also popular here with that kind of audience…they are like a throwback to the 80s).

    • BBA says:

      As with many things, this is fractal and a continuum. Webber is a step above “jukebox” musicals and movie adaptations, a step below “auteurs” like Stephen Sondheim and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

      Phantom of the Opera is running semi-permanently on the Vegas Strip, a hub of labor-class culture.

    • Maware says:

      Webber is lower mid, almost prole. Anything that a travel agent will sponsor a bus trip to tends to be prole. Very labor to go see those kinds of musicals, upper-mid would see non-musical plays, possibly experimental ones. The fact that so many profitable musicals have been adaptations of Disney films is similar. Plus, for seniors broadway was far more proletarian and accessible as a cultural artifact. To be blunt (and apologies in advance) the more Broadway became open about being the Gay White Way, the more marginal it became.

  22. Adam Casey says:

    Quick obvious datapoint on the UK class system. It won’t directly apply to yours, but should indicate how hard it is to change class when various facts about you change:

    The Right Honourable John Prescott, Barron Prescott is a working class oik, as common as muck. The fact that he’s literally a Barron who wears ermine robes to sit in his seat in the House of Lords doesn’t stop me feeling socially superior. Nor does his stacks of cash and multiples Jaguars.

    It’s not just that his father was a railway signalman and his grandfather was a miner of all things. Mostly it’s because he speaks in a really ugly Northern accent and enjoys amatur boxing.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I think Donald Trump is our version of that.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        They’re not really similar at all. Prescott is much less rich (and much more left-wing).

      • Deiseach says:

        I don’t know, reading about Trump’s origins and education on here makes me think he’s more like Clodius Pulcher – comes from a better background than he pretends to (e.g. “self-made man who built up his billions by unaided effort” when his father was a businessman and property developer) and for political advancement has thrown his lot in with the perceived lower orders, not his ‘natural’ class allies.

        There were a lot of genuinely nasty cracks about John Prescott’s background and life (the frequent mention of him having worked as a purser on Cunard liners) in political debate and general discussion. Whether or not you like the man personally, I do think sneering about him for being working-class is – well, déclassé on the part of those who considered themselves above such things.

  23. Someone from the other side says:

    I don’t think I have met too many archetypical Gs despite working in a world where they (especially the younger ones) would gather. The G2 supposedly are interested in influencing the rest of the world which seems blatantly untrue for almost all people who would match G2 trappings otherwise. Most actually seem to be quite happy to live in their bubble.

    As for the E4/E3, I know a bunch of either and mostly they are chasing an ever more comfortable bubble (or ever hotter girlfriend) but other than that, again seem mostly apolitical.

    Can’t figure out what the hell I am supposed to be, I guess I could be a bubbled up G2 or E4 and probably lack the income and inclination to be a E3.

    Interestingly, many E4/3 (especially the investment banking crowd) seem to share a lot of views and preferences with L, they just put more money behind living them. So the alliance might have other reasons, too.

    • Michael Watts says:

      The G2 supposedly are interested in influencing the rest of the world which seems blatantly untrue for almost all people who would match G2 trappings otherwise. Most actually seem to be quite happy to live in their bubble.

      “Change the world” is a HUGE buzzword in Silicon Valley culture, commanding mindshare in a manner akin to a very creepy cult. That’s probably where Church (I assume this is Michael O. Church?) got the idea.

      • meyerkev248 says:

        This one.

        The founders might be trying to buy a house, and the workers might be desperately trying to make rent without needing a 2-hour commute (Seriously, it’s bad these days), but at least in word, they’re “in this to change the world”.

        Because you can’t be honest and say “I want to work for you, because you’ll pay my rent, be flexible enough to let me go see Amon Amarth that one time they come to town, and I learned more in the interview than I learned in some college courses”.

        • Deiseach says:

          That’s the trouble with all job applications, though. When asked “Why do you want to work for us?” most times the answer is “I need money to live. Also this job has good perks to make up for being horrible/this job is not as horrible as other jobs”.

          You can’t say that, though. You have to burble on something about fitting in with your values, wanting to make a real change, and other aspirational bafflegab. “Wanting to change the world for the better through tech” is the kind of aspirational “our mission statement” boilerplate that is acceptable to regurgitate.

          Anyway, it’s only the nasty right-wingers who want to make money (out of exploiting the earth and grinding the faces of the poor), right? 🙂

          • Tibor says:

            I guess this depends on the company (obviously) and the level of expertize which is expected from you. When I had an interview for a job at a software developer/research company in Prague which develops botnet-protection software (and uses some nontrivial maths to design their algorithms) the only thing we talked about was work – that is what they are currently working on and what I could possibly do which would be interesting to them and to me as well. It might be because from a certain level you are usually not hired by HR managers who tend to be full of this kind of bullshit. They could not tell a good professional from a bad one so the hiring is actually done by other people who don’t care for motivational letters and similar nonsense. Then again, my experience with interviews has been very limited so far (I did not take that job which I planned to do together with and partly as a part of a PhD in Prague because I eventually decided that the position in Germany and what my current advisor does was more interesting), so maybe I am still in for a surprise.

        • Someone from the other side says:

          Funnily enough, that describes almost exactly why I currently work for a bank 🙂

          They throw money at me, let me see Amon Amarth (now if they actually came into town, it sucks having to go to a festival just for them…) and mostly let me live my life in peace. There would be definitely a lot more intellectually engaging jobs out there but none that are as peaceful overall… Not being able to go to work in an Amon Amarth tshirt is a small price to pay, I guess (especially seeing that I rarely ever wear band tshirts even for leisure [1]) 🙂

          @Deiseach: that’s almost exactly what I told my boss during my interview. Then again it helped knowing that he has his job for the exact same reason. I was a little less open to HR but not by that much.

          [1] Partially a class/image thing. Metal tshirts provoke reactions I can do without.

  24. > The Elite neutralize this threat by making Labor hate Gentry as “effeminate” or “pretentious”;

    I was thinking of buying a copy of Owen Jones’s Chavs, when, flicking through it in the bookshop, I noticed he was approvingly quoting Douglas Carswell, of all people, complaining abut an effete elite. I’m effete and proud of it….no sale!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree there needs to be space for effeteness, but I wonder how much of the Blue Tribe demonization of masculinity (or “toxic masculinity”, or whatever) is basically building up a class barrier and saying all the other classes are terrible.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Many of us have noticed the ongoing attack on masculinity–from little boys’ interactions with current school administrations to the shifting of military service to not only labor but undesirable labor to so-called “toxic” masculinity–and I would love a SSC examination of not only these attacks, but why they’re here, why now in particular, and what SSC (and commentariat) think a “healthy” masculinity looks like.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I’d be interested as well as I honestly have no clue what it looks like.

          • dust bunny says:

            Healthy gender norms don’t exist. If you list traits that are prescribed “masculine” or “feminine”, you will end up with two lists that both consist of
            1) lots of universal human needs
            2) lots of arbitrary limitations that exist just to make a distinction from the universal human needs that are on the other list
            3) physical features.
            There is nothing in this division that is worth keeping. If it’s biological and important, it probably won’t go anywhere even if we stop policing it.

          • Anonymous says:

            @dust bunny

            I think that to a considerable extent, gender norms are the result of most men being gynephilic, most women being androphilic, and therefore men trying to behave in ways women find attractive and women trying to behave in ways men find attractive.

            Some differences probably are entirely arbitrary, but note that gender is something people like to distinguish themselves by, and to do that they need some kind of symbols for identification. I’m sure there are boys who really love pink and girls who really love blue, who suffer from pink being the girl’s color and blue the boy’s color. It is not clear to me that the number of these people is great enough and their suffering extensive enough that the cost to them is greater than the benefit to everyone else who is indifferent about color but grateful to have a way to identify themselves as a member of their gender.

          • dust bunny says:

            @ Anonymous
            I’m aware that people identify with their gender strongly. I believe a significant part of this is living in a very gender-conscious culture. I don’t know how a transition to a different kind of society could happen; I understand that for most people such a transition would be undesirable and I have no desire to impose my will on them. I’m hoping for positive incremental change.

            I believe strongly that self-efficacy and respect are fundamental needs for women, and social support networks and emotional expression are fundamental needs for men. I’m convinced that these and other harmful restrictive gender norms do cause a lot of suffering, that is not in the least trivial, and that giving up obligatory gender roles would cause a massive net gain in the collective wellbeing of mankind.

          • @dust bunny

            But this is equivalent to say they cannot possibly serve any useful culturally evolved social functions.

            Besides, there are biological but not hundred percent cast in stone traits, that exist biologically but can be reinforced or repressed culturally, and sex differences are precisely this, if a boy get constantly humiliated and lose status-contests hard, he won’t get much testosterone and so on.

            I mean, what I sense in your comment about universal needs is that there are only two categories, needs of individuals and the needs of whole of humankind, without intermediate steps. So you are apparently ignoring all kind of group competition, like war, for example, to what extent classic gender norms are necessary for breeding enough soldiers.

            >I believe strongly that self-efficacy and respect are fundamental needs for women, and social support networks and emotional expression are fundamental needs for men. I’m convinced that these and other harmful restrictive gender norms do cause a lot of suffering

            I have never seen this restricted by trad gender norms. Military buddies or a motorcycle gang is a social support network for men. Road rage or generic anger is emotional expression, and when that fails there is always the glasgow style headbutt. Are you sure you are not talking about some nice-guys as trad norms? That would be a mistake.

            Respect for women existed as long as women behaved like ladies, now some hard-drinking cussing lass is hard to respect, but I think women who still capable of dignified behavior get respected. Lack of self-efficacy is a merely upper class trait. Lower class women always worked in some kind of a textile factory or as a nurse because the income was necessary. Stay-at-home housewifery is luxury/privilege. Only in the upper or very upper middle class there is this thing that if the man makes a ton of money then it makes more sense for the wife that she does something else, like look after the kids, because two people making a ton of money is kind of pointless.

          • dust bunny says:

            @ TheDividualist
            This topic makes me very angry. Certain patterns I’ve long since become oversensitized to tend to repeat themselves when it’s being discussed. These patterns are already apparent in this iteration. This post is mostly for clarification where our definitions of central concepts seem to differ, and to point out where our disagreements seem to be fundamental, so you don’t think my earlier post is quite as stupid as you clearly thought it was, and in case you genuinely want to understand what I am trying to communicate. I will read your reply if you make one, but I won’t address it unless my experience of the conversation changes dramatically. I need to do this for reasons related to point number 6.

            1) I did not claim there aren’t possible benefits ”for society” in forcing people into predetermined roles. What counts is whether the benefits to the members of society outweigh the costs or not. This comes down to value judgment: not only the different weights attributed to costs and benefits, but also value laden beliefs about how much it is possible to benefit “society” at the cost of the people of whom it consists. To me that’s a nonsensical framing. There is no abstract entity called Society that can be meaningfully said to enjoy utils and hedons. The orderliness and efficiency of a society are worth precisely the utils and hedons citizens derive from it. They are not terminal values. I’m not gaining any utils or hedons from enforced gender norms, and I am losing some because of them. I have never seen anyone benefit from enforced gender norms in a way that didn’t hurt someone else more. If you can explain to me why my experience is not representative and gender norms are actually a source of good in the world, please do. I’d be interested to hear it. However, if it’s the tired old ”women need to have more babies and they won’t otherwise”, then don’t bother. There are non-oppressive ways to incentivize baby-having, and if people simply don’t want to have babies, then forcing or pressuring them is evil. If the alternative is dysgenic selection/white genocide/economic stagnation/extinction of mankind, it’s still evil.

            2) I don’t think it’s even remotely beneficial for a society to “breed soldiers”, as normal non-aggressive people of all genders are capable of responding to any defense needs, and people “bred” to be soldiers are a liability for a peaceful, orderly society in peacetime. This is partly an empirical matter, partly a value judgment. If you value masculinity as a terminal value, then you’re likely to disagree.

            3) “Respect” that you get for doing what you’re told to do and being what you’re told to be is a ridiculous notion. I would call that being played for a fool, which is pretty much the opposite of respect. Ladylike women do not enjoy any meaningful kind of respect.

            4) There are far more ways to not be ladylike than drinking and swearing. Many of them are normal, polite ways of being. Expressing opinions is one.

            5) Female-presenting individuals who drink and swear are due the same respect as men who drink and swear. If I read you correctly, you are openly sexist and consider that a good thing. At least that is honest. But you have to understand I’m obviously not going to be impressed by arguments that are derived from explicitly sexist premises, and I don’t understand why you would make them to me. You do not seem to just be explaining your world view to me in hopes of increasing mutual understanding, and in any case I’m familiar with sexism already, which you can’t possibly have failed to predict.

            6) Road rage is not a constructive form of emotional expression. It’s the harmful consequence of a lack of helpful ways of managing emotions. (Which usually involves expressing them.) Rage is pathological: it is harmful for an individual’s ability to function in society, relationships, and physical and mental health. “Venting” isn’t a thing. When you follow your angry impulse, you make it worse. Also, if anger or rage are the only emotions you’re allowed to show (I can’t tell whether you’re saying they are or not), that’s very bad.

            7) I won’t presume to tell you about what super manly men do when they’re alone with their equally masculine man friends (no homo), but my understanding is that the threshold for seeking emotional support is, although possibly lower than elsewhere, still high in those kinds of contexts because of traditional masculinity. I’d also question what kind of emotional support a traditionally masculine man is able to provide. (I’m lying, I wouldn’t. I’m perfectly aware that going to a Traditionally Masculine Man for emotional support nearly always makes things worse. At best they will try to find a concrete problem to substitute your need for support with, and try to solve that.)

            8) I’ve got so many objections to what you said about self-efficacy, that I don’t even know where to start.
            a) First off, you equate self-efficacy with work and running one’s own life. (It is in fact a psychological need.) It would seem necessary for both, hence why it’s such bullshit that some people have to live their lives without a proper sense of self-efficacy. It’s quite the hurdle.
            b) I would not try to force backward compatibility with the concept of self-efficacy on history. I doubt it’s a useful framing from the ancestors’ perspective. We talk about it now because things are different.
            c) Currently, the self-image girls are typically inculcated with often has to be consciously overcome in order to achieve self-efficacy. At this time, it is incompatible with femininity and belongs in the masculine column. The situation isn’t as bad as it is with, say, assertiveness, which is something I help my friends and my mother with almost every day. But it’s still not acceptable.
            d) Class, race and gendered oppression have always interacted. The discourse around femininity has always been, and still is, dominated by the kind of femininity white women who are not poor are expected to perform. This does not mean obligatory femininity is a non-issue.
            e) Nor does it even mean that poor women or women of color gain freedom from obligatory femininity by virtue of their race or poverty. They may still be under pressure to perform to the same (or some other) standards, and may be subject to social penalties when they fail.

          • Tibor says:

            @dust bunny, TheDividualist:

            I think you both might find the book “Self-Made Man” by Norah Vincent quite interesting. Norah Vincent is actually a feminist lesbian writer who spend a year dressed up (plus some make-up and a few acting lessons so she would use the right gestures etc.) as a man. She would spend some time with bowlers, visited strip clubs, a catholic monastery (where she pretended to be a novice), went on a few dates with women and a kind of support group for men or something. I had zero expectations of that book, in fact I sort of forced myself to read that to get a “feminist perspective” first-hand, without it being filtered and make my own opinion but I expected it to be quite bad, especially since, as she states at the beginning, her idea was to (not exactly how she said it but more or less the same meaning) “experience the world from the male privileged point of view” and as she writes it was surprised that it was not quite as simple and easy as she thought. But it is not a book that would go about how hard it is for men either. She notices things that men probably don’t notice but when you read from someone who is not used to it you realized that it is like that and that it is not just “how things always are”. So it was a really interesting read (the monastery bit and the support group were a bit weaker, the bowlers were great and especially the part about dating was fantastic and spot-on).

            On a slight tangent, I am not a big fan of “if you give dolls to boys they will play with them”, or in other words I am pretty convinced that a large part of male and female behaviour is influenced by hormones and the culture is built on top of that. Now, there is certainly variation, not every man is an idiotic fratboy, not every woman is a stupid bimbo. But this seems to be somewhat correlated with intelligence, the maleness or femaleness is accentuated more in less intelligent people but that does not mean that it is not there in the smarter. Smarter people have the same instincts, they just don’t act up on them as much because they sometimes (but not always) override them with reason. But those instincts are not created by a culture, rather the culture is built upon those instincts. And I’m pretty sure that the fratboys or bike gangs actually like being the way they are, they don’t do it because they fear they would lose respect of their mates if they were otherwise, or not mostly because of that anyway. After all, if you don’t feel comfortable around that kind of people (I cannot stand fratboys and I don’t know any motorbike gangs but I probably would not like their members either 🙂 ), you would not start associating with them in the first place (again, such as me). Now, I am value neutral in this. I don’t think it is “good for the society” that we have these people (I generally don’t like things being framed as “good for the society”, because it usually means nothing more than “these are things I like”) and neither do I think that the people somehow suffer by the peer pressure to “stay in line”. You choose your peers and as I said, the people who hang out with people who have very concrete and strict ideas about what men or women should be like probably think the same way. I acknowledge that this might be a problem in the primary school or the high-school where you get stuck with some peers you do not choose but those years really suck anyway (compared to adulthood) and there are bigger problems with schools than this (I’m not exactly a fan of traditional schooling).
            All in all, I don’t think we should strive for any gender norms for anyone. We don’t all have to get along, it’s what we have freedom of association for. So while someone might only have contempt for stupid fratboys, the fratboy may laugh at what he sees as pansies and nerds and as long as nobody tries to force either group to hang out with the other everyone can keep on living and letting live 🙂 Similarly, a woman who does not like what a certain kind of men expect or see in her may simply avoid that kind of men…and the same holds for men of course.

            As for the “respect” TheDividualist was talking about, I think it was perhaps misunderstood. First, he does not mention that a male drunkard deserves any respect. Secondly, I think that for a lot of men, a man does not deserve respect just by being a man, even if he acts a certain way, he has to earn it by something he does, whereas a woman, if she does behave like a lady and not like the “cussing lass” he describes, is entitled to respect just by the virtue of being like that – and of course, atop of that she deserves extra respect for whatever a man would get respect for (so respectful deeds). This kind of basic “respect” is stuff like letting the woman go first, opening a door for her and the like or helping with a heavy bag, not much more or less. Although, I was told (by a female colleague who spent some time in the Netherlands) that in Holland men would not do that much because many women would be angry at them and tell them something like “I can do it for myself, buzz off!”. I don’t know how it is in Nordic countries, maybe it is also like that, in Germany it isn’t. In any case, I think that this is a complete misunderstanding of what those men want (they definitely do not do it as a “sign of dominance” or to show them that they cannot do it for themselves or any of that nonsense). A funny thing is that this colleague then thought at first that Dutch men are impolite and rude, because they would for instance saw her with heavy luggage at the bottom of the stairs and nobody would offer to help her.

        • Sastan says:

          The essence of what it is to be a man is the considered and appropriate application of physical violence. “Gentry” are too nonviolent to ever be masculine, and attempt to make everyone else as effeminate as they are. Underclass and labor struggle with the “considered and appropriate” part to varying degrees.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Yeah, anyone who declares Mr Rogers isn’t a man has no soul.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            The essence of what it is to be a man is the considered and appropriate application of physical violence.

            I am not sure I would call it “the” essence of what it means to be a man, but it’s definitely a defining characteristic of manhood. For example, when I think about what famous television characters might serve as healthy and positive role-models for inspiring masculinity in young boys, I think of James Kirk from Star Trek: The Original Series and Race Bannon from The Adventures of Jonny Quest as immediately obvious choices. In both cases, the character’s ability and willingness to engage in violence when necessary is a central part of their personality and role in the story.

          • hlynkacg says:


            Even the comparatively “enlightened” Jean Luc Picard got his hands dirty. He may of been slower to fight than Kirk but he was arguably far more vicious once the fight started.

            And because it’s one of my favorite scenes in all of Star Trek…

          • Ernie says:

            All this obsession with the manliness of other men … it’s the twenty first century, no need to repress anymore.

          • ““Gentry” are too nonviolent to ever be masculine, and attempt to make everyone else as effeminate as they are.”

            Or to put it another way, they promote peaceful societies.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The Nay responses here (“I’m offended, no need to provide anything but insults!”, “You have no soul,” and “ur gay lol”) are pretty good examples of trying to “make everyone else as effeminate as they are.”

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @Ernie: Silly me, I forgot that it is The Current Century.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The Nay responses here (“I’m offended, no need to provide anything but insults!”, “You have no soul,” and “ur gay lol”) are pretty good examples of trying to “make everyone else as effeminate as they are.””

            Read it again
            –Yeah, anyone who declares Mr Rogers isn’t a man has no soul.–

            From that I can determine that you don’t think Mr. Rogers is a man. That dedicating your life to being a good person and showing kindness to others are ‘effeminate’ traits. Or, in short, that you are a horrible human being. It is nice for you to identify yourself clearly.

          • hlynkacg says:


            I’ve been thinking about this a bit more, and I think there’s a bit more to it…

            The defining characteristic is not violence, though violence is a potential aspect of it. The defining aspect of “the Gentry” is that they are insulated from the shocks of the world, and that their connection to the meaner parts of it is very tenuous.

            That connection is the real “essence”.

            Do you think “Pajama Boy” has ever had a problem that wasn’t a “first world problem”. Do really think that he has ever made a choice that had real and lasting consequences? I’m guessing the answer is no, and that’s why we don’t take him seriously.

            Meanwhile women like Queen Elisabeth, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, and Angela Merkel can rise to lead armies and command the loyalty of millions while being dismissed by the gentry and so-called “feminists” as insufficiently feminine. Turns out that real empowerment was never what they were after.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, and Angela Merkel can rise to lead armies and command the loyalty of millions while being dismissed by the gentry and so-called “feminists” as insufficiently feminine.

            As a Hillarista, I’ve noticed that. A woman who’s actually worked her way to success in a man’s world and become a brand of her own, no longer counts as a woman.

          • It is not physical violence that matters but the various virtues that enable one to be good at it (at group level), like strength, courage, honor, and loyalty.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I’m in agreement with dust bunny — there’s no such thing as healthy masculinity or healthy femininity.

      • I wonder that, too.

        (Correction: it was The Establishment, not Chavs)

  25. rsaarelm says:

    Does someone have an idea why Church gives Henry Kissinger as an example of E1? All I know about Kissinger is that he was a Nixon era US minister and that he had some sort of public defamation fight with Christopher Hitchens, which doesn’t seem to quite warrant a seat between Stalin and Osama bin Laden. I guess there’s some US liberal grudge here I’m not familiar with?

    • multiheaded says:

      Bombed SE Asia, supported people like Sukharto and Pinochet and even – tactically – the Khmer Rouge…

      • ad says:

        So they attacked him for bombing the Khmer Rouge and for supporting them?

        Sometimes you just can’t win.

        • bbartlog says:

          Sometimes the reason you can’t win is because you’re an immoral asshole. Spend an hour on the historical record and you will see that both charges are supportable.

        • Jiro says:

          It’s the same idea as complaining that someone supported the Nazis when they were allied with the Soviets, and stopped supporting them when they weren’t. Chomsky didn’t stop supporting the Khmer Rouge because the same evidence that didn’t convince him they were bad guys before suddenly got better; he stopped supporting them because they became enemies of Vietnam, who was allied with the Soviets and supported by the left.

          • Jiro says:

            Sorry, misread. People usually make this complaint about Chomsky, so I assumed that’s what it was about. I don’t know if Kissinger did the same thing or not.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Sadly, that is close to Kissinger’s motivation. When North Vietnam was moving troops through Cambodia, he bombed Cambodia and the Khmer Rogue who were allies of North Vietnam. When Khmer Rogue went full crazy and went to war with Vietnam, they brought in superpower allies (USSR for Vietnam, China for Cambodia) and so he backed the Chinese one to get China on our side.

    • Anon says:

      Well there’s the hitchin’s book criticising him:

      Not an unbiased account of events, obviously, but it should give you an idea of the kinds of things liberals attribute to him.

    • Frog Do says:

      A “evil Jewish mastermind” type boogeyman of the Left, relatively current, maintained as a convenient enemy by neoconservativism and neoliberalism alike because of his supposed embrace of “realpolitik”.

    • Felix Mercator says:

      Harvard issued an anathema against him.

      In the case of Harvard, it was the war in Vietnam. On May 8, 1970, shortly after U.S. forces invaded neighboring Cambodia, a deputation of Kissinger’s former colleagues—among them the economist Thomas Schelling—visited Kissinger in Washington.

      Kissinger welcomed his “good friends from Harvard University.” “No,” retorted Schelling, “we’re a group of people who have completely lost confidence in the ability of the White House to conduct our foreign policy, and we have come to tell you so.” It was the beginning of a schism that would endure for 42 years.

    • FXKLM says:

      Disliking Kissinger makes sense, but squeezing that dislike into a model of social class does not. If anything, his widespread unpopularity puts him in a lower class than other people who have served in the same roles.

      The whole E1 class in nonsense. The defining characteristics of the class have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the classification structure. Even if you believe that those E1 people exist, there is still no reason to put them in a separate class and even less reason to put that class at the top of the E hierarchy.

      • multiheaded says:

        Yep. I mean, they do exist.. but who the fuck *looks up to* a Saudi prince? If anything, the philantrobillionaires are the E1.

        • FXKLM says:

          They exist in the sense that some billionaires are unpleasant people, just as some individuals in every social and economic class are unpleasant people. I don’t believe the distinctive shadowy class that Church describes exists.

          In my line of work, I have some interaction with individuals Church would classify as E1 (private equity and hedge fund billionaires). I can say with certainty that Church knows nothing about those people.

        • Michael Vassar says:

          Having tried to sell products to people who look up to Saudi princes, I can tell you that yes, there are many such people and they match the E3 description fairly well.

        • Deiseach says:

          who the fuck *looks up to* a Saudi prince?

          I’m tempted to say “The U.S. government” when making alliances, but then again so do the Brits when they’re trying to flog armaments to them.

          If you can afford to and will buy a ton of our fighter planes, we’ll kiss your arse and look cheerful about it.

      • Lambert says:

        >squeezing that dislike into a model of social class does not

        Since when has making sense ever come before basic human impulses?

        • FXKLM says:

          If he wants to use his post on class structure to take a totally unrelated swipe at people he doesn’t like, he may as well have created a super-evil class consisting of his noisy neighbor, his ex-girlfriend and the kid who picked on him in middle school. It would have been no less silly than E1.

      • JDG1980 says:

        I agree, the biggest issue is that most of the classes are actual social classes, while E1 basically seems to be more of what would in D&D be called an “alignment”. Kissinger was pretty clearly an Elite Servant (E3) by Church’s reckoning. But he got elevated to E1 because he happened to be extraordinarily evil.

    • stubydoo says:

      Kissinger did indeed go on to do a bunch of “E1” type things during his career (i.e. a standard movie-villain combo of psychopathy, eccentric surface charm, and well connectedness). But his upbringing was very much in the low-to-mid rungs of the gentry. He was majoring in accounting at CUNY until the WWII draft plucked him off to a grander stage.

      Kissinger is a pretty good demonstration that “E1” might be kind-of real in some sense, but it isn’t a true social class. It’s just a set of traits that some isolated individuals develop on an eccentric basis, unrelated to the other ones.

    • JDG1980 says:

      Does someone have an idea why Church gives Henry Kissinger as an example of E1? All I know about Kissinger is that he was a Nixon era US minister and that he had some sort of public defamation fight with Christopher Hitchens, which doesn’t seem to quite warrant a seat between Stalin and Osama bin Laden.

      The thing with Kissinger is that (1) almost all of his foreign policy initiatives caused great suffering both at home and abroad, and (2) his overall record can’t be well-explained by any principled set of ethics, whether deontological or utilitarian.

      Perhaps Kissinger’s failure was simply due to incompetence. After all, Hanlon’s Razor tells us not to attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. But Kissinger does not seem to have been stupid – he did, after all, manage to raise himself from middle-class obscurity to one of the most powerful positions in the world (not to mention a colossal personal fortune). Rather, Kissinger seems to be one of those rare real-world individuals who, like his fictional counterparts Iago and Emperor Palpatine, did evil for evil’s sake.

      • Sastan says:

        If you read the man’s actual words, he thought it a moral imperative to choose between the available evils in the world. In his worldview, almost every choice was between two horrible things, and he went for what he thought was the less horrible. Hard to prove counterfactual, and a lot of his decisions had pretty bad outcomes. But many weren’t, and it’s hard to know, once you factor in the veil of knowledge, what went into any given decision.

    • TheNybbler says:

      Kissinger isn’t just an example of E1, he was a definer of E1 values as Church gives them, being the primary proponent of “realpolitik” during the Cold War. Other atypically-visible E1s would be Dick Cheney, Vladimir Putin, and Eric Schmidt. Joe Kennedy, the bootlegging patriarch of the Kennedy clan would have qualified, as would several other Kennedies.

      IMO the idea of a moustachio-twisting class of global elites is a bit too much; I agree the E1 class exists; if you’re looking for the more hidden ones, anyone who renounced their citizenship in a Western country to avoid taxes probably qualifies. But I don’t think they are all gauche rapists. Certainly George Soros and the Koch brothers would qualify, and whatever you think of their politics I haven’t heard of any of them being as personally barbaric as Church makes the E1s out to be.

      But then, if you’ve followed Church at all, you know you have to take what he says with an ocean or two of salt.

      • Tibor says:

        Huh? So Gerard Depardieu is an evil mastermind-type because he did not fancy paying the populist millionaire tax introduced (or planned, I did not follow the story that much) by the Hollande’s government? That seems like quite a stretch. Also, if I were a US citizen and worked in Switzerland, I would get rid of my US citizenship ASAP to get rid of that stupid taxation in abroad (which I believe is a US specialty). Switzerland because it has higher wages and lower taxes (in some cantons at least) than the US, so the taxes one would have to send to the US could be pretty painful.

      • One problem with Soros and the Koch brothers as E1 is that the E1, as I understand it, are supposed to be low profile. If you are trying to keep a low profile you don’t run for vice president of the U.S. at the candidate of an ideological third party or do a good many of the things Soros has done.

        • TheNybbler says:

          I think the description of Church’s E1 class is mostly nonsense, but the concept of a Global Elite class over and above ordinary high-level elites is probably a good one.

          It’s probably true that most of them keep a low profile, but I’m not going to be able to name those (since I don’t know who they are; they’re just e.g. the people behind the shell corporations buying high-level NYC real estate), so I can only name the exceptions.

  26. Kalciphoz says:

    I think you are getting this wrong, particularly when you compare MC and UR. The reason they differ, I propose, is not that classes are best described as a continuum, but because they are from different geographical locations. Another thing to note, is that there are more classes, that can be viewed as a sort of subclass.

    Here in Denmark, the class division seems to me to go something like this:

    1. Poorest class
    The class of people who might not have a stable residence and are on edges with the law. Subclasses include the homeless bums and the street criminals.

    2. Middle class
    This class consists of people who generally are not too bad off financially – they vary from those renting an apartment to those owning a house.
    Their first subclass consists of jobless people on welfare.
    Their second subclass is the labour class, associated typically with jobs like carpenter, cashier, manufacturer, etc.
    Their third subclass I call the welfare class, because it is what you typically think of when you think of a welfare society. They are often employed in the public sector, but the particularly successful ones might get jobs like veterinarian, stand-up comedian, fashion model or pop-singer

    3. Upper class
    This sort of roughly corresponds with the gentry class as I can gather, valuing education and articulated speech, typically economists, diplomats, surgeons, doctors, professors, and other high status occupations.

    4. Elite
    I do not know much about the elite.

    To participate in the criminal streetlife part of the Poorest class, you need street-smarts and knowing your way around. Mostly, you need connections and friends.

    To participate in the Middle Class, what you need is to be well adjusted, that is, you cannot be violent, you probably should not wear rags that have not been washed for a month, depending on the circle, language that is considered too vulgar might come in the way, et cetera.

    To participate in the Upper Class, the main requirement is education. There are a lot of norms for articulation and civility you must live up to. You need knowledge of upperclass culture and idols, and you need to know your way in political debates. In Danish, we have a term called “dannelse” which I was not able to find a good translation for, but for any Danes who might be reading it, this is what I am referring to.

    To participate in the Elite, like with the poorest class, you need connections. Closer friendships can be helpful as well. I do not know much about the elite, but I find it noteworthy and interesting that the requirements are similar to that of the poorest class.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This sounds exactly the same as the system mentioned above; indeed, like a better summary of it than I could come up with.

      Also, is it true that veterinarians are lower-class than doctors in Denmark? Here it’s harder to become a vet, and I think they get paid more. My family was doctors, but we had veterinarian friends with zero class gulf between us.

      • chaosbunt says:

        data point germany, which i think generally fits the above model:

        it is just as hard to become a vet as it is to become a doctor. Veterinarians end up with less status than doctors and absurdly less income, can be close to minimum wage.

      • keranih says:

        Also, is it true that veterinarians are lower-class than doctors in Denmark? Here it’s harder to become a vet, and I think they get paid more. My family was doctors, but we had veterinarian friends with zero class gulf between us.

        Assuming ‘here’ is the USA – your data is way off, Scott. (At least in part.)

        There is a marginal difference between the GPA/SAT required to get into veterinary school than in med schools – most of the difference is in “add on” animal experience. The primary reason for this is the limited number of veterinary student slots, which are highly restricted in the USA. (More info here: here.

        As for pay – this is absolutely not true. Veterinary pay is not at all in the same class as human medicine, and this is driving the inter-profession pressure to keep class sizes low. (See BLS data here.

        There are a number of different confounders in the vet vs ‘real’ doctor divide (pro tip: don’t use ‘real’ doctor to describe human medical professionals to a veterinarian), to include the farm/food animal portion of the profession, which makes up a smaller and smaller portion of the profession every year. There’s also strong differences in male/female and race averages. Most significantly, I think, is that vets have had to be businessmen competing for discretionary income from consumers for decades, and don’t have the same “benevolent provider who doesn’t care about money” shtick. (Because they do have to care.)

        There’s a TED type talk about vet med vs human med and the incredible difference in cost someplace, but I’m not finding it. A brief piece is here.

      • Tibor says:

        another datapoint (a Czechpoint) – I would also immediately recognize a veterinarian as a (slightly) lower status than a people doctor. I have no idea how long it takes to study to become a vet in the country, if it is less or the same. Normal doctors study 6 years and dentists 5 years. Still, I would still probably consider a dentists to be higher status than a veterinarian.

      • Virbie says:

        > Also, is it true that veterinarians are lower-class than doctors in Denmark? Here it’s harder to become a vet, and I think they get paid more. My family was doctors, but we had veterinarian friends with zero class gulf between us.

        Is this true? I’m born and raised in the US: My girlfriend is finishing vet school this year and my sister+her husband just graduated from med school. The impression I’ve gotten from what both of them know is that doctors get paid substantially more than veterinarians. My gf was saying that she’s expecting to clear a little under 100k when starting out, which is far below what my sister and her husband are expecting.

        I would imagine that doctors’ social class is higher as well, among those who are old-fashioned enough to elevate it (along with law) to the pinnacle of career achievement (which includes a lot of my family). Then again my example is sort of weird: my mom comes from a very oldschool old country aristocratic family, but I was born and raised in California, which is less culturally interested in class than a lot of the rest of the country (let alone the old country). I’ve experienced a lot of mildly amusing mismatch of cultural expectations.

      • Kalciphoz says:

        The main difference is that I think the geographical component explains the differing models, rather than a continuum like you speculated when comparing MC and UR. I realize that this continuum of classiness was not a central part of your post, but I feel like the geographical component is important enough to warrant a mention.

        As for veterinarians vs doctors, well, I made that judgement based on career aspirations – a lot of people in the upper middle class aspire to become veterinarians, although most do not follow through with it in the end.

        There might well be some upper class people who become veterinarians as well, of course, but the title of Doctor seems to be more awe-inducing than the title of veterinarian to the general public.

        EDIT: The reason I commented was mostly because of my speculations that classes are really a form of tribes, but on a different plane. Having come from the gentry class myself, I find it difficult to fit into the social settings of the middle class, and since the middle class does not always want to be a part of the gentry class, I do not like the idea of looking at classiness as a ladder.

        I mean, there is obviously a financial ladder (and economy is important), but there is more to it than just that, among which are some dimensions I think worth mentioning, like geography, politics (which you briefly mentioned) and social circles.

      • Maware says:

        Scott, vets are still lower class. Remember, you said it’s not pay nor difficulty. There’s very little status in being a vet.

      • I associate vets with driving to peasant farms behind the ass end of nothing at 2AM, getting dung on their rubber boots, and going armpit deep into cattle vagina to help them give birth.

    • Viliam says:

      I find it noteworthy and interesting that the requirements [for the elite] are similar to that of the poorest class.

      The middle class is the youngest one from an “evolutionary” perspective.

      Apes already have alpha males and oppressed nobodies, roughly corresponding to the elite and the underclass. With humans, at some moment (not sure when exactly), you get the working class: people who work when the boss tells them to. But to have a large group of people who specialize at knowledge, that requires an advanced civilization.

      This is why the other classes are closer to the primitive behavior, while the middle class lives “in the Matrix”. (Don’t get it wrong, I love this “Matrix”. It’s just important to rememeber that the outside world still exists.)

      • Kalciphoz says:

        > Apes already have alpha males and oppressed nobodies, roughly corresponding to the elite and the underclass.

        Apes do not have separate classes. All the apes are equivalent to the underclass, which, in humans as well contains a pack leader. The alpha males of the apes are equivalent to the pack leader of a small gang.

        In Denmark, class history is a big thing. In the agricultural revolution, humans originally started to settle down over a longer period. People created various forms of residences, and were the functional equivalent of the middle class. As civilization progressed, it became common for a specific person to own a building, allowing others to rent or stay in it. Interestingly, people who did not own a house were barred from voting when democracy was introduced.

        Anyway, the renting of a place to stay is what marks the lower middle class, and the people who owned the houses were at the time equivalent to the upper class, with their opponents, those of noble birth being the elite. At this time, with the lower growth and lack of globalization, there was less of a gap between the elite and the lower middle class.

        With the introduction of socialism came the birth of unions, pressing up the wages and allowing the lower middle class independence. In Denmark, many people regard this as the birth of the middle class, but I personally regard it as the working class getting richer.

        I don’t really know why I wrote this, but I find it a somewhat interesting topic.

      • Ugh, no. An alpha chimp cannot oppress a whole group into nobody status, they would team up on him. They have detailed hierarchies, not just two levels. The same way there was such a thing a small, medium etc. nobility in the middle ages. Knowledge workers are just special kind of nobility, about 500 years old: nobility of the robe.

  27. Anon. says:

    >The Elite neutralize this threat by…

    This is where you lost me. Talking about classes as if they are united and have singular goals that they successfully coordinate to achieve is silly. Find a mechanism by which their diffuse interests and uncoordinated actions become something like a singular class intentionality.

    By the way, the average net worth of the top 1% is 8.6 million. Assuming it’s all productively invested, at a safe withdrawal rate of 3% that’s $250k without working. You’re not competing on who’s the best socialite with that sort of money.

    These clusterings are arbitrary and fairly useless imo. People are seeing the same thing not because it’s there but because that’s what their culture taught them to see. Here is an alternative hypothesis: the reality is not clearly distinct clusters, but a combination of multiple smooth gradients.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Elites also convince Labor that Elites don’t exist and it’s Gentry all the way up…..”

      “Talking about classes as if they are united and have singular goals that they successfully coordinate to achieve is silly….By the way, the average net worth of the top 1%…. $250k without working…..You’re not competing on who’s the best socialite with that sort of money.”

    • anon says:

      Talking about classes as if they are united and coordinate to achieve goals is silly, but more plausible with elites than any other class. First, they are defined as much smaller than the other classes – although I think 1% is still too big both as a real definition of the elite and as a bound within which coordination is possible. Second, they are defined as much more connected than the other classes.

      If there are people who know almost everyone in the class either directly or within 2-3 levels of indirection, coordination sounds plausible. Not on the “hey lets get in a conference room and openly discuss our plans for world domination” level, but “if I do something that hurts a lot of the members of my class everyone will learn about it and scorn me so I’m strongly discouraged from doing things like pushing for changes to X mechanism everyone in our class knows about and exploits”.

      Of course such an interconnected group would still have to be pretty small even when their only job is coordinating aka politics, small enough that we’re calling it “class” not because of size but because of influence, and definitely smaller than “the top 1%” – even if your day job is to coordinate aka politics you still can’t know a significant part of 1% of the USA within 2-3 levels of indirection. If we define elite class to be 1% then they definitely can’t coordinate, but I don’t think that’s the same group as the one people talk about when they say “I don’t know anything about elite culture because I haven’t met many elites”. 1% is rare but not that rare.

      • Saul Degraw says:

        But talking about the elites is silly or an exercise of futility because who is the elite depends on who you ask.

        According to the right-wing in the United States, I am a member of the elite because of my recreational habits. I don’t watch TV. I don’t like hunting or sports very much. I do like theatre, the New York Review of Books Classics Collection, what is often called literary fiction, The New Yorker, Farm to Table Restaurants, Jazz, Indie Rock, Craft Beer, art, etc. Plus I live on the coasts and am secular-Jewish.

        It doesn’t matter to them that my salary is decent but not amazing (though I do have upward prospects).

        In my view someone like the Koch Brothers are elite because of their money and ability to be grand players in the world economy. I am a no one in the world economic stage.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I think if they were being careful and coherent and extrapolated, what the right-wing would say was that you were aligned with the elite, that you were elitist, that you were an expendable footsoldier in the elite’s war on real American values, that you were a pawn of the same color as the elite kings and queens.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            Why should I believe that the right-wing has a monopoly on what counts as real American values?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Is there anyone in this damn comments section who can tell the difference between a claim and its quotation?

          • FXKLM says:

            No, I think the right-wing would say that being elite isn’t a function of having power. It’s a function of believing yourself superior to and having contempt for middle-class Americans.

          • TheNybbler says:

            In this context, “real American values” is just a dog-whistle. Conservatives consider that their values are “real American values”, liberals find the idea of “real American values” somewhat distasteful, so it works as one. Neither side is going to claim that “real American values” include support for gay marriage, legalized marijuana, high and progressive income taxes, and affirmative action, not even those who believe that, so it works.

          • Saul Degraw says:


            Contempt is a strawman concept and filled with butt hurt. I don’t care about how any one spends their free time. There are plenty of liberals who tell me about must see TV from Broad City to Amy Schumer to Girls to Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc. and I have no desire to watch those shows either. I have limited free time because work and commuting takes up about 80 hours of my week. So I think I have a right to spend that as I please without being accused of contempt.

          • Chrysophylax says:

            @suntzuanime: I think the conventional thing to say here is “I feel your pain”.

            @Saul Degraw: Flip the usage around. Do you think that “contempt” isn’t a good word for conventional attitudes towards effeminate men? Or for a more neutral example, do you think that people don’t feel contempt for, say, Peter Pettigrew?

            Contempt is an emotion that clearly exists. It’s linked to failure to support ingroups (cowardice, snitching) and to behaving in ways characteristic of an outgroup / poor-quality signalling of ingroup membership (wrong accent, wrong slang, wrong manners, wrong clothes, wrong hair, wrong music, wrong hobbies, et cetera).

          • HlynkaCG says:

            @ Chrysophylax:

            Contempt obviously exists but I don’t think it’s an accurate description in most cases. To me it implies a level of emotional investment that doesn’t exist. Kind of like conflating “indifference” or “dislike” and “hatred”.

  28. Emile says:

    Siderea’s idea of college as finishing school for the upper classes is interesting, and her own experience is a window into something I never thought about before. But I’m not sure how typical she is; I think most colleges admit students who are already members of the classes their graduates end up in. I felt like I didn’t learn any class culture during my own college experience at all – which isn’t surprising since I was born the son of a doctor and ended up as a doctor myself. I think my story’s probably more typical than Siderea’s, though other people can prove me wrong if they’ve seen differently.

    Seems to me the fact that your story is more typical than Siderea’s is necessary for the system to work – the point is that people from any background get an opportunity to be in an environment where most people are like you – from “gentry/educated/middle-class” backgrounds and so become acculturated into that class (the peers play a much bigger role than any education provided by the school). So I don’t think you’re disagreeing with her, you’ve just been playing different parts in the same play.

    My experience in a somewhat elite college is consistent with her description.

    Edit: by the way this is where I don’t think your summary of Siderea’s article does her justice:

    College is a finishing school for the upper classes. They send their children there to learn the proper upper class values and behaviors. Even if community college does a great job teaching whatever trades it teaches, it will not teach you how to be a part of the upper class, and this will seriously limit your opportunities.

    I don’t think the “teaching” at the college is supposed to play a big part, as opposed to the peers.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If this is true, it suggests at least that finishing school can’t be a big part of the point of college, since most of the people who go there are already finished.

      I might have been wrong, but I thought she was implying finishing school as a theory of college to compete with the teaching-useful-stuff theory and the credentialism theory.

      • onyomi says:

        It could be the place where you send largely “finished” new members of the gentry to network with other young members of the gentry and thereby make personal and professional connections which will assure their and their children’s continued place in the gentry.

        And, of course, the gentry is the most credentialist class, so you need the credential for your gentry job, as having jobs which require credentials is part of what separates the gentry from labor.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          But part of the difference between G and E is that it’s Elites who are obsessed with networking and need to be “in” with people.

          I don’t think I’m still in touch with any of my college friends beyond the Facebook level, and that doesn’t seem too uncommon for me.

          • onyomi says:

            This seems to be a good way to understand a bifurcation I’ve noticed at many colleges and universities:

            I was a grad student and a postdoc at two Ivy League universities. I noticed what you might call a class difference between us and many of the undergrads. We were high-level gentry, but definitely still gentry. Same went for most of the professors–professors at Ivy League–almost as high up in the gentry as you can get–but still gentry.

            The students, however, were divided among high-gentry-in-training and world leaders-in training, i. e. elites-in-training. The former, perhaps unsurprisingly, were actually the better students, but the latter would no doubt go on to make much more money on average, and also came from more money, on average (remember George W Bush’s “C” average at Yale?).

            In both cases, most students came with a gentry or elite culture already largely ingrained, so “training” may not be quite the right word. The smallish number of students who came from poor and labor backgrounds found an easier home among the gentry students than the elite students, by far (though the schools managed to avoid actually admitting many such students by filling their diversity quotas with, for example, the children of the super-elites of Africa in lieu of actual African Americans).

            And of course the socialization/networking aspect of the experience seemed much more important for the elite students than the gentry students–secret societies and all that stuff. These people do not fail to keep in touch with their undergrad buddies and are, in fact, back all the time for the crazy reunions. You and I are gentry and so our college friends are not as important as friends made later in our careers and/or professional training. I’m not very close with most of my undergrad friends anymore, for example, but I am still close with a number of friends from grad school (may also be a function of whatever your last major educational experience was?).

            I am now a professor at a not-as-elite but still pretty posh and highly ranked private university. The same bifurcation exists, maybe even more starkly. There are the students who are, for lack of a better word, there to learn, and there are, to my dismay, students who seem to be there primarily to socialize, and for whom the classes are almost an annoyance. And yet in many cases, again, this latter group (though some of them are kind of just slackers) comes from, and will go on to make more money than the former group. They also dress much nicer and more professionally in many cases when coming to class despite actually being less prepared for the class. They look like well-groomed elites killing time and making connections before they take over Dad’s business. And again, for these people, the socialization aspect is very important.

            If it seems like everything I’m saying is just common sense, I guess, in a way it is, but the reasons for some very obvious differences among students at many schools seem a little clearer to me in this light.

            Also, the appeal of Obama makes a little more sense in the light of “Trump as liberal savior.” Obama, most clearly, was the “gentry savior.” Having been in grad school when Obama got elected, let me tell you nearly all the top gentry were totally swooning over this guy in a way they never did about anyone else I’ve seen. Not just the usual “we are academics and therefore liberal and therefore support the Democratic nominee” kind of thing, but way beyond. I thought it was a combination of him being black and charismatic and a professor, but I think this last part may have weirdly been the most important point, at least for the gentry: whether or not he was really elite, he oozed “gentry” at every opportunity and in every way. I guess now that we’ve had our savior we may have to put up with “labor’s savior,” Donald Trump (though that makes it sound like organized labor will like him, which they won’t, though they might like him a lot more than say, Cruz, especially for the anti-illegal thing).

          • Emile says:

            My experience mostly matches Onyomi’s. Though I went to a school that’s more focused on the “elite” aspect than the “gentry” aspect (and things work a bit differently in France).

          • JuanPeron says:

            Having gone to a G and E college as Gentry, I think that’s your class speaking. College is very different things to different groups.

            I got to know some Elite folks and see how they approach college (and got a bit of ‘finishing’ myself – anecdotal, but I can now pass as Elite better than before I attended). Intramural sports, spring breaks, and trips to one another’s summer homes feature prominently. You make some lasting bonds, and some weaker associations that will pay dividends even if you don’t see those people again until you meet up at Davos. If you need/want a job, someone you meet here will hand it to you when you graduate. Part of high-end elitism is knowing everyone, even if you aren’t actually friends.

            Colleges-as-finishing-schools also fill some of the role of boarding schools or apprenticeships of old. You join a frat, get drunk and do immature things, and get some of that youthfulness out of your system. Ideally, you come out with some strong bonds to your ‘brothers’, well-prepared to take on a more adult persona.

            I actually think that the expansion of college to lots of Gentry is part of Moldbug’s erosion of the Elites. The E1/E2 types are still doing their thing at Harvard no matter who else goes there, but lots of G2 and E3 types are rubbing shoulders, sharing views, and eroding their distinctions a bit. Now that college is less selective, the Elites are sending their kids to room with and learn from Gentry and it’s blurring the lines between the two.

          • JuanPeron says:

            Onyomi, your experience exactly matches mine at a similar college.

            I went in as gentry, made some friends, got an education and some ideological pressure, and left (keeping in touch with few friends). I also learned to act a bit more Elite on demand – in keeping with the idea that you have to witness classes to imitate them.

            The elites, on the other hand, went full-bore into the non-academic, non-ideological parts of college. Intramural sports (professional sports are labor-level), frats, “consulting clubs” and similar. I attended the consulting club once, and discovered I couldn’t afford to meet its dress code. These people network heavily and don’t abandon those connections. They use connectivity in place of credentialism to get jobs (I watched a guy decide he needed a job, and promptly get a cushy management post with a single phonecall).

            Overall, there seem to be two different groups achieving totally different goals, along with a token Labor group who mostly become engineers or similar (it’s a Labor-style job with Gentry signifiers and guaranteed employment, so it’s an appealing jump). If the low-level elites are diminishing, I suspect it’s partly due to overexposure to Gentry in college, since Gentry make up virtually all professors and the majority of students. As for the highest-level elites, most of them didn’t seem to go to enough classes to risk contamination.

        • DonBoy says:

          Delurking to throw this into the mix: there’s an aphorism that point of the Ivies is for the young rich people to meet the young smart people.

      • Chrysophylax says:

        Scott, I think you’re missing something. Suppose that there are a hundred things that comprise “proper upper class values and behaviours”, and a hundred people who are stuck together to socialise for a few years. Failure to behave according to the group norms is socially punished, so people try to adopt the beliefs and behaviours of their peers. If every person knows one gentry thing when starting out, you’ll get noise or coordination on some other set of values and behaviours (e.g. sneering at people who do their laundry more than once a month). If everyone knows 80 gentry things, though, you can be pretty sure that everyone will know at least 90 gentry things by the time they graduate, because a majority of the students will hold the gentry position on any given topic.

        We could complicate our model a bit by saying that some things are harder to learn than other things (e.g. all students can use cutlery, but few can quote poetry or make references to Tolstoy), and that gentry-in-training can recognise very-high-gentry-status behaviour even if they can’t replicate it, so that people who can do fancy things have higher status. This doesn’t significantly change the dynamics.

        We now have a model of a university acting as a finishing school, but we still need to explain why students are willing to pay so much to attend. We could say that teenagers refuse to learn a certain percentage of what their parents try to teach them, but will accept social pressure from their peers, but this seems like a weak argument – students seem very keen to maximise their employability.

        We could also argue that parents’ knowledge gets stale and students need to learn some proportion of their gentry things from other gentry-in-training (perhaps they are forming shibboleths of that generation), but again, this seems like a weak argument – the things that are important generational shibboleths seem to be formed on the Internet.

        Also, note that what people are taught in class does affect their beliefs and mannerisms – this seems to fit well with the model where some gentryhood signals are widely recognisable but hard to learn.

        I don’t think the model convincingly explains why people pay so much. It might be true, but the bulk of the explanation should probably be credentialism and education. Note that ability to talk convincingly about your subject of study and university life is a very important signal of gentryhood: I think a degree signals not only that you are relatively high-ability, but also that you come from a family that values education and can afford to invest resources in your schooling and university study. It’s a sort of social credentialism.

  29. Daniel says:

    Gregory Clark found a great way to test class’ effect on income mobility: he studied _surnames_, that is, all the people with the same last name. IIRC, he found the income advantage of an elite surname dissipated at only about 20% per generation. So it takes almost a hundred years to halve the class-derived income advantage of a given set of families.

    Google “surname income mobility” to bring up some of his papers; I recommend them.

  30. Conor Friedersdorf says:

    It always seems to me that the class hierarchy in different U.S. regions are very different from one another. Example: I grew up in Orange County, California. My wife grew up in New York’s Hudson Valley. We come from the same class. Yet whenever we spend time in New York City, or a couple years back when we drove to Maine, I always ask questions like, “Wait, can you explain Old Money again?” And I’m mostly serious. “Okay. I get why the Sopranos aren’t. But the Kennedy family isn’t?” In some circles, but only in the east, the question, “Where did you go to school?” will cause someone to tell me what high school they attended, AND they’ll expect me to have heard of it. It always makes me feel like pre-move Joan Didion in Goodbye to All That.

    • Yrro says:

      After reading Class, I was trying very hard to decide whether his definitions of upper class just had a strong northeast coastal bias, or if there just *aren’t* any true upper class people in Ohio. Or if I was just too prole to have encountered their lifestyle.

      • Frog Do says:

        There used to be, but then there are reasons why some people call the American Civil War “the War of Northern Agression”.

      • John Schilling says:

        True upper-class/elite people cluster in the most cosmopolitan cities. There are no such cities in Ohio or Maine, and thus few such people – and the ones you might find there will probably find their own culture in New York or Chicago or Boston, not Cincinnati or Portland.

        • Yrro says:

          There are some super-rich movers in the Columbus area (see Les Wexner), but not the full culture of their peers, I think.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      The book to read on this is Cheerful Money by Tad Friend. I am one half from the class he describes, and he nails it.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I also grew up in Orange County! No wonder you ended up so politically-all-over-the-place too!

      (I’m from Irvine, what about you?)

    • Loquat says:

      It’s funny, I’ve spent basically no time in the company of rich people, but I know exactly what Old Money is and why the Kennedy family doesn’t count. I have spent much of my life in the Northeast, though, so maybe I’ve picked it up by osmosis.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      One test: do they use “summer” as a verb?

  31. Yrro says:

    Class is the integral of wealth. You have whatever class you grew up in, which is a combination of your parents’ class and your parents’ wealth.

    Because people only really understand the class one step above or below them (and I would break things into high/low labor and high/low gentry for this) social mobility should be understood as working one rung of the ladder per generation. A lower laborer can go to welding school and become upper labor. His kids will grow up with a bunch of knowledge of the industry, and maybe start a new business or grow their father’s. They’ll buy a nice house in the burgs, and send their kids to good schools — where they can successfully enter the gentry. They will have a much harder time if they try to send them to Harvard. And that is nothing compared to the difficulty the original unskilled laborer would have had trying to enter the Elite directly himself, no matter how genius or motivated he is. You can count the number of people who make that jump every generation on both hands.

    • “social mobility should be understood as working one rung of the ladder per generation.”

      How do you fit immigrants into this?

      My grandparents, on both sides, were immigrants from eastern Europe. My paternal grandfather never learned English. Various members of that generation worked in sweatshops or ran small businesses (a candy store in the one case I know of). Two members of the next generation were prominent University of Chicago professors, one of them having come to the U.S. at twelve and ended up attending Yale.

      • Yrro says:

        Hmm, you’re maybe right. I may be overstating the rarity. I still think it fits the natural/majority rule.


        My first question is: what was their background in the old country? We have a lot of immigrants who could have been gentry class in their own country who end up working manual labor.

        The second confounder I think would be that immigrants can be… wildcards?… in terms of culture and genetic ability. Native families have to some degree already settled into an equilibrium in terms of culture/intelligence/class fit.

        That said, education *does* offer an opportunity for “jumping” classes, *especially* for those of exceptional ability/intelligence, as I imagine an immigrant headed to Yale is… I’m not sure that class applies entirely the same way to anyone who is two sigma over average on IQ tests. You won’t really *belong* to a class… but you can kind of sneak into the same places. Still, going to an ivy is a signal of a class jump, but not the actual class itself — just like you can rich and buy a yacht.

        The big reason I think this argument is important — unless your inner city youth/hick prodigy is *actually* that much of an outlier, it’s a better bulk strategy to try to move them into appropriate education for the next tier up than to worrying about whether they can find a way into the Ivy League.

        • “My first question is: what was their background in the old country?”

          From my parents’ autobiography:

          “My aunt had a bar where the Russians congregated after the markets closed. My father worked in his father’s mill, to which Russians brought wheat and other grains to be ground”

          “My brother Aaron was the only one in our family who went to school. He attended classes with a few other youngsters in the home of the local learned man. I believe my parents paid the teacher in kind for the classes. All that the boys studied was the Talmud and commentaries on it.”

          (My mother’s account. Aaron arrived in the U.S. at twelve, entered Yale at 20.)

          I’m not sure how you fit that into the class account. From the American viewpoint they were dirt poor, as were most others in the Russian village where they lived—no running water, electricity, indoor plumbing, … . From the local standpoint, I suppose small business people but of a minority generally looked down on.

          “very shortly after my mother’s arrival, she started earning her own living by working as a seamstress in a ‘sweatshop.'”

          (from my father’s account)

          Not educated and very little money, but not the attitudes and background that we associate with poor people in America at present. And I suspect the same would be true of many of the other immigrant groups. Sowell comments, in _Ethnic America_, that West Indian immigrants make it to the median U.S. income in one generation.

          In economic terms they were very poor, in social terms not. Which raises interesting questions about what the barriers are that exist for the domestic poor but not for the immigrant poor.

      • Viliam says:

        The immigrants who don’t know the language may be put out of the class game for one generation, but if they pass their values on their children (who will now also know the language), the children may continue the game where their parents have stopped.

        Two members of the next generation were prominent University of Chicago professors, one of them having come to the U.S. at twelve and ended up attending Yale.

        What did their parents do before they immigrated? I’d guess something similar to non-immigrant parents of other professors.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        The four generations of Zuckerbergs in the United States are a pretty classic case of steady class growth:

        Immigrant Gen — peddler
        2nd Gen — Post Office worker
        3rd Gen — Dentist
        4th Gen — Tech tycoon

        However, that might have been slower than it had to be. Mark Zuckerberg’s father is a very successful dentist. He figures if his parents hadn’t been overly cautious and insisted he go to dental school, he probably could have been a successful tech entrepreneur himself.

  32. multiheaded says:

    I wonder if the author would dare take on the intersection of class and neurodivergence/mental illness, especially seeing as how the latter is her day job. My uncharitable guess is, no fucking way, and she’s almost certainly not going to do a piece on race vs class as well. Not given her views and the likely reception thereof wrt race.

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      Lack of desire to discuss certain topics is not necessarily cowardice, but you are uncharitable, therefore very publically weak.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’d like to see you expand upon this more.

      My own thoughts are pretty sparse and don’t see a big interaction beyond the obvious. Mentally ill people of a given class are less financially successful, but still usually easy to recognize what class they’re from. There’s a risk of working-class schizophrenics falling into the underclass, but I don’t see it as much as I’d expect – even schizophrenics are usually pretty able to maintain class appearances. Even the old adage that rich people are eccentric and poor people are crazy doesn’t seem that true to me – nowadays they both get the same SSRI.

      Maybe I am very biased because as a psychiatrist I only see the mentally ill people (of any class) who are with-it enough to get professional help, which itself is highly associated with class.

      Race seems more complicated to me. Black people can make fewer mistakes before they get identified as underclass. I don’t know anything about the elite, but I get the feeling not many black people are allowed into it (obvious exceptions like Obama are obvious). UR gives Hispanics their own category, “Helots”, which reflects that they’re given a pass from the usual underclass stereotypes and viewed as hard-working and productive, but the trade-off is that they’re stereotyped as random menial laborers who don’t have much of a part to play besides being the gardener – I think that description rings true. Asians, including Persians and Indians, seem usually part of the Gentry only less annoying about it than usual; Jews seem usually part of the Gentry but much more annoying about it than usual. I don’t know if any of this is on the mark.

      • honestlymellowstarlight says:

        It’s very much “not all Hispanics”, the history of how business-gets-done in Latin America by the US and affiliates especially during the Cold War show that there is a strong Hispanic elite base: the usual pattern of interaction was these insider elite connections were tapped to pull something, a classic “elite” move. Rubio is an example among the Florida Cubans, and of course there’s Jeb Bush.

      • TheNybbler says:

        In my family, my paternal grandparents generation was most definitely “Labor ladder” immigrants (having come from the equivalent in The Old Country). My father’s generation, however, all went to college and fit into the Gentry… except the one who was schizophrenic, who remained working class until he was no longer able to function independently.

        As for race, there’s a lot of Hispanics who are doing menial labor, but as I noticed in a different context, Hispanics are over-represented in 2-year certificate programs. And under-represented at degree-granting institutions. This says to me that they’re largely moving up the labor ladder rather than moving to the gentry. What makes it hard to analyze is unlike most other groups, there’s still a lot of poor Hispanics immigrating to the US, and that skews things.

      • multiheaded says:

        I don’t know anything about the elite, but I get the feeling not many black people are allowed into it (obvious exceptions like Obama are obvious).

        There seems to be a distinctive AA class elite in the US, but it’s not that well known to non-blacks.

      • multiheaded says:

        Even the old adage that rich people are eccentric and poor people are crazy doesn’t seem that true to me – nowadays they both get the same SSRI.

        Maybe I am very biased because as a psychiatrist I only see the mentally ill people (of any class) who are with-it enough to get professional help, which itself is highly associated with class.


        tbqh my assumption is that yes, you are likely to be biased in general. absolutely nothing personal.

        what about, say, lower-class people’s anger issues or addictions being treated, even implicitly, with much more moralization and pattern-matching that with the higher class?

        and on the other hand, do the most stigmatized conditions go underdiagnozed among higher-class patients?

  33. multiheaded says:

    The more I read Siderea’s blog in light of this essay, the more I am convinced that the Hunger Games franchise is accidentally brilliant in its depiction of the American Liberal Elite.

    • Alsadius says:

      Care to explain for someone who’s vaguely familiar with Hunger Games? (I’ve seen the first movie)

      • multiheaded says:

        basically, the Liberal Elite in HG is one that entirely reverses the old formal lip-service commitment to egalitarianism and democratic Civic Leadership and checking one’s privilege, blah blah – and all that remains to fuel their glamour and arrogance is… mostly just subculture stuff, fashion, wealth/location/connections, tacky entertainment like the titular bloodsport, etc – not the ethical superiority/vanguardism that their real American counterparts still claim to uphold.

        and the scary/fascinating/impressive thing about this portrayal is how on the surface level NOTHING CHANGES. they still reign in their smug hip way, they are recognizably the Liberal Elite and not a hoary landowner aristocracy or whatever. they probably (visibly in the movies, iirc) have Diversity of every kind except the dangerous one, etc, etc.

        ps. sorry, am drnk

        • multiheaded says:

          Hey people, if you’re using google translate for that, it defaults to male verb endings unless the sentence specifies otherwise. So yeah, don’t. It kinda came across as unintentionally very offensive.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I was quoting my Grandad and TBH not really thinking about it.

          • multiheaded says:

            Yeah, sayings and proverbs defaulting to male is, like, just a fact of where the language is at. I was talking more to anon.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Fair enough, I just hope that I remembered it correctly as my Russian has gotten rather spotty since he passed.

          • Anonymous says:

            I meant no offense with the choice of gender, but I am Slavic and understood what I was saying. I can’t in good conscience refer to you as female, and neither do I wish to impute that you’re a neuter.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Where does this idea come from that it’s a sin against one’s conscience to humor someone to their face?

          • hlynkacg says:


            If I had to guess? Values dissonance.

            On one hand an obligation “to give true account”, on the other the desire to “humor someone”. sometimes those values conflict, and you either have to decide which will win, or just keep your shut.

          • Anonymous says:


            Not 100% sure, but it’s probably a venial sin against the 8th commandment. Per Aquinas, lying is “deliberately speaking against one’s own mind.” If one does not believe something, one should not say it in a manner suggesting that they do believe it.

          • multiheaded says:


            I cannot in good conscience not tell you to go fuck yourself with a brick. Offense fully intended, you piece of shit.

        • HlynkaCG says:

          Other stuff aside, I do think that your analysis is on the money.

  34. Josiah says:

    Kim Kardashian is seen as sticking to her labor class roots? You know who her dad is, right?

  35. keranih says:

    (Well. *blinks* Now I’m really annoyed that I can’t find that ref.)

    This has encouraged me to think more about what I mean when I say red/blue tribe.

    The inclusion of caste and David Friedman’s comment about subcultures has put me down the road of thinking that classes are that – subcultures with a larger group, who control different territories and different resources, interconnected in competition and trading. They don’t “act as one” but being brought up in one particular sub culture means that one has resources – social ties, tool knowledge and familiarity with that niche – which are more like others of that SC than people from other subcultures, so a person with SC A’s resources will react differently in a given set of circumstances than a person from SC B.

    And all of this would be impacted by the region/language/larger culture – the bakers of Normandy villages are not the same subculture as the bakers of Paris until there is a broader French culture to unite them, and they are not European bakers until there is a European culture in contrast to the Russian one and the American one.

    Given how much race is woven into American culture and hence our class expressions, I’m a bit put out by people refusing to tackle that…BUT. It appears that we don’t well understand American class structure (again, the uncertainty of the military, and for me, the lack of inclusion of the rural sectors) so taking on the problem by starting with the subset that is “white America” seems a good idea. (Hopefully this – along with the various American nations classifications that are floating about – will also help people understand that there is not a single “white” culture in the USA, even though that is less false now than in the past.)

    (There is also the issue of religion, and at some point we’re probably going to have to break down and come up with a name for the secular pattern of blue tribe behavior that is called religion in other cultures.)

    I will say that I’m (probably irrationally) disappointed in Sidera’s blue tribe favoritism and with the classification of “racism” as “anti-black” – even as I applaud the self awareness that says “yes, I see how my culture’s supremacy hurts you and yours, but I prefer my culture/class’s way and don’t intend to change.”

    (Church was doing *just fine* until he got to the evil people. Jeez.)

    Again, I really applaud the introduction of the term caste into the discussion, as well as the “fancy” names – the result for me has been a way to see my nation as a whole group of different “us-es” each making connections with various “them-es” by geography, common lifestyles, and common tool niches. To me, this makes more sense than the single track ladder which I had used (whenever I thought about it) to think of different levels of society.

    Tenth and finally – the western rancher who sends his daughter to a finishing school back east, and the projects scholarship student to Harvard who is flailing and miserable – my god, I understand this now.

    You know, if we talk about this, about the different expectations and social roles of each subclass/subcaste/subculture, we could help people transition better from one to another, and even decide if they *want* (or want their kids) to transition.

    (Aaaannnndddd tomorrow I’ll wake up and there will be some other new tool or different mind pattern to Save The World. Because there always is.)

    • xtmar says:

      (There is also the issue of religion, and at some point we’re probably going to have to break down and come up with a name for the secular pattern of blue tribe behavior that is called religion in other cultures.)

      Religions are usually named after their prophet, so I suggest that the popularity of “science” would give it the name Tysonism, after their explainer of all things, N dG Tyson? Or perhaps Stewartism?

      • smocc says:

        If we’re going to name it after a prophet Tyson is a pretty good choice. It seems a lot of his shtick is copying Sagan, but Sagan is probably a little too old and a little too mystical.

        But I don’t think we need to name it after a prophet. This secular pattern of behavior that is called religion in other cultures probably maps more closely to religions like Hinduism, Shinto*, or the ancient polytheistic religions that
        1) have no central authority or orthodoxy
        2) are inextricably linked with culture and geography
        3) care much more about ritual practice and maintaining tradition than individual belief or virtue
        4) actually consist of myriad local cults that are similar enough that they get along and
        5) nevertheless have a collection of myths, and unquestionable moral principles that “everyone knows”

        The moniker “Hinduism” in the end just comes from the Persian word for the people over by the Indus river. Hinduism is nothing but whatever religion Indians collectively practice. In this vein we could try “Americanism” (maybe too inclusive?) or “SanFranciscanism” (ugh) or something similar. If we want to include a red/blue split we could try “Theravada Americanism” (The School of the Elders) and “Mahayana Americanism” (The Great Vehicle)

        “Shinto” I think just means “way of the gods.” Since I think the belief system we are talking about doesn’t care much about gods (it doesn’t mind what you believe about gods as long as you stick to the rituals and avoid the taboos) we can’t use “American Shinto.” Maybe instead “Right Thinking”

        No! I have it: Good Personism. As in, “Being a good person does not depend on your religion, status, race, color, political views or culture. It depends on how you treat others.”

        * I know next to nothing about Shinto. It is my vague impression that it fits in this class.

        • Anonymous says:

          How can you mention Sagan and not immediately come to the conclusion that the best name for this pseudo-religion is clearly Saganism?

          • smocc says:

            Wow, I didn’t say it out loud so I missed that connection. That’s really good.

            On the other hand, I still think we are talking about a very amorphous religion and pinning it on one person won’t give the best picture.

            I’m definitely going to use Saganism when I’m being more sarcastic though.

            And that makes Tysonism neo-Saganism!

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          ‘The moniker “Hinduism” in the end just comes from the Persian word for the people over by the Indus river. Hinduism is nothing but whatever religion Indians collectively practice. In this vein we could try “Americanism” (maybe too inclusive?) or “SanFranciscanism” (ugh) or something similar. If we want to include a red/blue split we could try “Theravada Americanism” (The School of the Elders) and “Mahayana Americanism” (The Great Vehicle)’

          This paragraph was brilliant.

    • On the question of class vs subculture, a possible answer:

      A subculture is a group of people who have a considerable correlation among apparently separate characteristics–what characteristics depending on the particular subculture. Examples might be accent, clothing style, world view, social behavior. If you observe one of those for an individual in the subculture it gives you substantial, although imperfect, information about the others. The correlation might be the result of members of the subculture being a group of immigrants from the same culture who have not yet fully assimilated (Lew Rosten’s Ashkenazi). But it might come from people with similarities coalescing (1960’s hippy subculture). It could, as in Marxian classes, come from how people get their income, but doesn’t have to. The subculture Rosten described would have included wage workers, salary workers, a few dividend clippers, some government employees, a few professors, … .

      Classes are a subset of subcultures. What makes them classes is that they are perceived, by those inside and outside, as having a reasonably unambiguous ranking–hence lower class, lower middle class, upper class, … . What the ranking is based on isn’t clear to me—I find “power” too vague a metaphor. “Status” probably comes closer, but it has the problem that the same person will have different levels of status as perceived by different people. Subcultures in general need not have a ranking, beyond some tendency for the members of each to think well of themselves.

      Whether the U.S. has something usefully described as a class system I’m not at all sure. I think the U.K. pretty clearly did, perhaps still does.

      There’s a Kipling story, “A Habitation Enforced,” which is in part about the interaction between a wealthy landowner and the peasantry in late 19th century England, somewhat complicated by the fact that the landowner is a wealthy American who has bought an estate that (I think) it turns out used to belong to his wife’s ancestors (details possibly muddled–I’m going by memory).

      What is interesting is that, on the one hand, it is clear to everyone who is the nominal superior, but on the other hand there is a division of function in which the lower class group gets de facto control over some decisions. The incident I’m remembering is one where the owner wants a bridge replaced, tells the workmen to do it in an inexpensive way (softwood rather than hardwood?). A couple of days later, work has not started. He complains. The relevant workmen tells him that if he does it that way, by the time his infant son grows up the work will all have to be done over. The owner gives in, does it the way the workmen think it should be.

      For a verse version of the same point, see “The Land.”

      So it’s the combination there of a subculture, a division of labor, and a recognized status hierarchy. Pretty clearly, while class correlated with income, it was far from perfect correlation–there were impoverished members of the upper class and well off members of the lower.

      Reading Orwell’s letters and essays, I was struck by what I saw as his unreasonable emphasis on the importance of class. Observing more of England, I concluded that perhaps I was responding to a difference between the world he lived in and the world I lived in.

      • Loquat says:

        Having read that story not too long ago myself, I think a substantial part of that is that the American buyers accept the idea that the workmen, and other locals, are going to tell them what to do, and this was part of the reason the locals wanted them to settle there in the first place. Another foreign landlord, a Brazilian, is mentioned occasionally, and he apparently does not put up with local workmen contradicting him, and while they disapprove of his choices behind his back he does seem to actually get his way.

        • I’ve been rereading and enjoying the story, much of which I had forgotten, thanks to your comment. The Brazilian has turned his estate into a park with herd of deer, so presumably doesn’t have tenants to tell him how he ought to be doing things. A shocking dereliction of duty from the standpoint of the local norms.

          The American couple are modeling their behavior on the neighboring gentry couple, who clearly do buy into the whole division of labor and actual authority system. And it’s clear that they, as well as the commoners, look down on the Brazilian. He isn’t playing his role in that class society, the American couple are playing theirs.

          The ending:

          “All I say is that you can put up larch and make a temp’ry job of it; and by the time the young master’s married it’ll have to be done again. Now, I’ve brought down a couple of as sweet six-by-eight oak timbers as we’ve ever drawed. You put ’em in an’ it’s off your mind or good an’ all. T’other way–I don’t say it ain’t right, I’m only just sayin’ what I think–but t’other way, he’ll no sooner be married than we’ll lave it all to do again. You’ve no call to regard my words, but you can’t get out of that.”

          “No,” said George after a pause; “I’ve been realising that for some time. Make it oak then; we can’t get out of it.”

          The “young master” has just been born.

  36. Liskantope says:

    But this means that classism is at least kind of justified – if you want to hire for example a schoolteacher, you might want to look for people who show all the signs of Gentry rather than Labor class to make sure they’re not going to get into physical fights in the classroom.

    That seems to be going rather far. How often do we hear of schoolteachers from any social subculture actually getting into physical fights in the classroom? A more effective way to defend this type of classist prejudice may be something like, “…if you want to hire for example a schoolteacher, you might want to look for people who show all the signs of Gentry rather than Labor class to make sure they’re more likely to deal with problems using diplomacy or referrals rather than aggressive confrontation, and less likely to tolerate physical fights between students.”

    I also wonder whether, in the working environments which most commonly contain members of the working class — fast food, for instance — the referral system is effective enough that complaining to HR is worthwhile, as it is at least purported to be in more gentry-heavy places like universities.

  37. Brad says:

    Even if MC’s E1s exist, I don’t see why they are a the top of the ladder. First because being a sociopathic playboy that flays poor people for fun isn’t terribly impactful and second because it isn’t like all the E3s and E2s aspire to be sociopathic playboys or defer to them. I think this has to do with his own obsessions about the software industry. To most other people there’s a big distinction between a Bloomberg, Gates, or Koch on one hand and a Saudi prince playboy on the other.

    In terms of college, rather than finishing school for the gentry, I think it makes more sense to think about it as the last best chance to change ladders.

  38. Alsadius says:

    I think the Grey Tribe is out of this system because it’s a Grey Tribe value to consciously opt out of this system. Greys are marked, in very large part, by valuing reality over status, which means they tend not to play status games very much and instead go into engineering.

    Also, outside of the Valley and similar tech hubs, there’s not many Grey concentrations around in meatspace. The stereotypical Grey is a gentry-class person with a touch of autism, so they’ll usually be found with other gentry in Blue-land, whom their habits superficially resemble. Their real home in this era is more likely to be a computer than a city, but if you’re not looking too closely, they’ll blend in very well with the Blues. You even mentioned this in your post – “for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time”.

    FWIW, I’m a Grey from a Red background – my dad’s an electrician, my mom worked construction until she quit to raise kids and got very involved in her local school board. I eat Cheez Whiz on Wonder Bread, spent most of my summer jobs in one factory or another, think craft beer is disgusting, and own Nickelback albums. That said, almost all of my Grey friends think I’m totally insane for this, and it acts as a fairly serious barrier sometimes – we may agree on a lot, but we’re not coming from the same places, and it does lead to some distance. Greys are really strongly from Blue/gentry backgrounds, and no more than *maybe* 10% are from Red/labour backgrounds.

    • anon says:

      I think its just a case of grays being overstated in analyses done by grays. Red culture isn’t a big amorphous blob, it has subcultures that in some dimensions go against each other or the broader red culture, but only a more in-depth analysis would go to the trouble to enumerate them. Gray isn’t in the system because it isn’t at the system’s level of granularity.

    • keranih says:

      Greys are marked, in very large part, by valuing reality over status, which means they tend not to play status games very much and instead go into engineering.

      Or…they value (the results of) Hard Work over Ideas. They are biologically inclined (nature) towards Labor culture, while coming from (nurture) a Gentry culture. In the old days, there weren’t enough to be a group, and individuals would be craftsmen or mad tinkers/sky watchers/land owners who got REALLY involved in running their farms, pretty much each in isolation.

      Now we have more Labor children getting a Gentry education, and Gentry is larger than it used to be, so these ‘sports’ are large enough in numbers to make a separate social group.

      I think its quite likely that there are different genetic predispositions towards behaviors that thrive in Labor vs Gentry vs Elite niches, and that some bio selection has been going on, along with much larger social pressures and cultural conditioning. Now, esp in the USA, the social barriers are lower, and people who are in one group but better fitted for others are reshuffling. (Which because of the tenuous and relative nature of the predispositions is never going to be a done deal.)

      I reject multiheaded’s Hunger Games analogy and suggest that the Factions as depicted in the first Deviant movie are closer to what may be going on.

      • multiheaded says:

        it’s called Divergent. and did it even have a lumpenproletariat??

      • Jesse M. says:

        “Or…they value (the results of) Hard Work over Ideas.”

        As a fairly lazy nerd (poor executive control is often associated with the whole autism spectrum thing, y’know) I don’t think I can get on board with this. To make my own stab at what the “defining feature” of the Grey tribe might be (though realistically it’s probably more like a cluster of related features and this is just a prominent one), I’d say the Grey tribe is marked by an orientation towards modes of thought based on “systematizing” over judgments based more on social allegiances and considerations such as being liked or respected by others (perhaps this is related to the empathizing-systematizing distinction proposed by some psychologists). And connected to this in my mind would be the tendency to think about beliefs in more “greyscale” terms, not deciding in advance that we are “for” one set of ideas and “against” another (an attitude usually tied to seeing one’s social identity as bound up with certain beliefs), but still trying to assign varying degrees of credibility to ideas and not being a total relativist who is “so open-minded your brain falls out” (usually tied to the social need to be seen as tolerant and accepting of all perspectives)…I think this is part of why Greys often find Bayesian reasoning intuitively appealing, as discussed for example in this video.

        • Jesse M. says:

          Actually, I may be a bit unclear on what “grey tribe” refers to. I sort of took it as referring to secular nerds who extend their nerdiness into politics and try to avoid red/blue tribalism…but is the “libertarian” element of Scott’s description an essential one? Most secular tribalism-rejecting nerds are probably fairly libertarian in the social sphere, but many will not be when it comes to economics, based perhaps on some sort of utilitarian judgment that an unrestrained free market can be sub-optimal in achieving certain desirable outcomes compared to a mix of markets and government intervention. And I know from Scott’s “Meditations on Moloch” that he’s not really a libertarian and probably better fits the category I mentioned above, and I figured there was likely some degree of self-identification in discussing the Grey tribe so that it’s an umbrella term that could include this type of social-but-not-economic-libertarian, but maybe I made a wrong inference there.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Grey tribe” is explicitly not supposed to be a synonym for Libertarian, any more than “Blue tribe” means Democrat or “Red Tribe” means Republican. But there is, in all three cases, a strong overlap between the tribal and political affiliations; most Greys are at least libertarian-ish and most Libertarians are at least grey-ish.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I feel like there is a sizable group of libertarians, perhaps even a majority, who are Red Tribe through and through. I think there are a lot of Grey Tribe members who are Democrat-by-default too, although maybe you could argue that if you could just Coherently Extrapolate their Volition they’d be Libertarians (certainly I’ve heard Libertarians make this sort of argument).

          • John Schilling says:

            There are certainly people who hold libertarian or nearly-libertarian views (e.g. “the government should do X but I don’t trust it to so, ugh, the market it is”) on most relevant political issues, are not anarcho-capitalists and will correctly explain why they are not anarcho-capitalists, and so define themselves as Not Libertarian.

            Anarcho-capitalists, are, I think, almost exclusively a subset of both libertarians and of Grey tribe.

          • Anonymous says:


            I have argued before here that I suspect part of what makes libertarians distinct is the fact that they don’t categorize their nation as “my tribe”. To some perhaps fairly large subset of libertarians, nation is meaningless and irrelevant. The people they consider kin are family and friends; everyone else is a stranger. This is as opposed to many or most non-libertarians who feel to some extent that their nation is their tribe, their extended family.

            If I’m right about this then I imagine it would affect how people feel about the government on a gut level. If you think the nation is your tribe, then the government is the tribe leaders making collective decisions for everybody in the tribe. If you don’t think your nation is your tribe, then the government is a group of people ordering everyone else around at gunpoint. This also determines whether you view interactions between people within the nation as inter-tribal or intra-tribal.

            I’m not sure how this relates to the colored tribes as Scott describes them.

          • anonymous says:

            “Actually, I may be a bit unclear on what “grey tribe” refers to.”

            The “grey tribe” is a medium to large subculture that gets the spot of third tribe in discussions around these parts because its the home team for a lot of posters.

            Some (many?) grey tribe types wildly exaggerate the numbers or cultural importance of their subculture. The impulse is a natural one, if a bit unfortunate in self described rationalists.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Yeah, there are definitely both Red and Grey libertarians. They’re pretty distinct from one another. (If you’re a Blue libertarian you’re probably already pretty close to Grey; remember that Grey is basically a subset of Blue.)

    • Tibor says:

      Even though I share the sentiment with you, it just seems awfully self-congratulatory the same way the gentry are the “good guys” according tho Church. If you drop the laudatory “value reality over status” then I largely agree.

      • Alsadius says:

        Fair point, that does come off as congratulatory. The funny thing is, not valuing status is actually a very good way to fail in reality, and it’s a failure mode that lots of Greys are totally blind to. Why do you think so many more of us are single?

        • Tibor says:

          I dunno. I’ve been single for 3 year now and I’ve recently thought about what I was doing wrong. I spend the first year and a half hoping to get back to my ex-girlfriend (or at least “only having eyes for her” while more or less ignoring other possibilities) and then long stretches of time (months) with girls with whom it looked kind of hopeful at start but ultimately it was not. And since I am usually shy with girls, I had to force myself to go out to meet new people which is something I do not enjoy terribly (it is a bit stressful to me, especially with women) so as a result I often stayed at home instead. I figured out that learning to dance and going dancing is a nice way to overcome the “how the hell do I approach that girl” and that I should stop fixing on a single girl (who might not be all that interested in me) all the time while ignoring all others. I think that this might not be entirely unique within “grey tribe” men. My standard approach to things is to get obsessed about them until I figure them out and to contemplate on everything too much. This is not quite the best approach to dating. I think these might be more important than “not acknowledging status”.

          • LeeEsq says:

            Learning how to dance has helped me a lot in my relationships with women or even people in general. Its through dance that I’ve learned to get along with people not inclined towards abstract thought* and have fun with them. It still hasn’t gotten me into a romantic relationship. Definitely helped with my social graces though.

            *I generally like to distinguish between intellectualism and intelligence. Intellectualism is the delight in abstract thought. Intelligence describes what we would call smartness. All intellectuals are intelligent but you can be very intelligent and not an intellectual at all because abstract thought bores you to tears.

          • After the end of my first marriage, the wife of a colleague suggested that I should attend folk dancing because there were a lot of nice girls there. I did, despite not being a dancer.

            In the conversation afterwards, one of the women was explaining some point of calculus to one of the other participants. I fell in love on the spot. We’ve been married for almost thirty-three years.

            And one of the ways in which my second wife is better suited to me than my first is that she rapidly figured out that I can’t dance, and so doesn’t expect me to.

    • xtmar says:

      . Greys are marked, in very large part, by valuing reality over status, which means they tend not to play status games very much and instead go into engineering.

      They’ve decided that the only winning move is not to play, but the system compels them to play, so they adopt whatever markers are closest to their current income, job, and geographic status. So, a programmer in New York will adopt one set of class markers, and an engineer in Texas another, and a commercial banker in Salt Lake yet a third.

  39. Matthew Carlin says:

    This is a beautiful summary of the best class essays. I loved all of it. Of course, since comments are (statistically) the place for disagreement, I have one issue:

    “”Donald Trump appeals to a lot of people because despite his immense wealth he practically glows with signs of being Labor class. This isn’t surprising; his grandfather was a barber and his father clawed his way up to the top by getting his hands dirty. He himself went to a medium-tier college and is probably closer in spirit to the small-business owners of the upper Labor class than to the Stanford MBA-holding executives of the Elite.””

    Trump went to both a medium-tier college and a first-tier MBA program. I think it’s a mistake to say he’s entirely in the Labor class. To me, the dire and scary thing about him is that he’s flexibly both Labor and E1. That makes him the Mahdi, here to bring fascism or populism or the Gracchi brothers to fruition, because what are those historically if not the cases where E1 convinces Labor into a rowdy or even violent overthrow of the Gentry?

  40. zozohth says:

    Im unfamiliar with siderea beyond the contents of this essay, but it’s obvious that she is at heart a lower-middle-class prole striving to perform as a higher class. The overwrought writing style, replete with ‘cerebral’ affectations, is a big tell.

    • multiheaded says:

      This invites the bigger question… aren’t many American geeks outside of the very proeminent Bay Area bubble something like that?

      Looking from the outside in, I feel like there’s a culture!class gap in addition to an economic!class one between “geek who does shoestring LARP” and “geek who goes to Burning Man”. And ofc I feel there might be a connection.

      • zozohth says:

        I think you’re probably right about this. My guess is that part of it also comes from smart or nerdy people in blue-collar areas trying to define their personal style and identify purely in opposition to the mouth-breathers around them, without ever really being exposed to ‘high’ culture.

        • LeeEsq says:

          I think this is one of the big differences between the American gentry and their British/European counterparts. From reading about mid-20th century society in the United Kingdom in the works of British historians like Dominic Sandbrook or David Kynaston, I get the impression that the educated classes of middle class progressives in the United Kingdom rejected a lot of popular culture. They did not like television, especially ITV, and their kids were supposed to like jazz rather than rock. The American gentry were much more populous in their cultural tastes. The idea of not watching television and trying to be as a high-brow as possible would make no sense to them outside a few very Bohemian circles in a rather restricted geography, read NYC and San Francisco. Access to high culture is rarer in the United States than Great Britain because of geography more or less so you get a more populist gentry.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      She confirms that in the essay itself; I’ll have to watch for this pattern. Very interesting if true.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      She got me at people having to do “emotional labor.”

    • zozohth, I’m not sure what the details of your writing indicate about you, but I offer a few as a basis for speculation.

      “Im unfamiliar with siderea beyond the contents of this essay, but it’s obvious that she is at heart a lower-middle-class prole striving to perform as a higher class. The overwrought writing style, replete with ‘cerebral’ affectations, is a big tell.”

      Typo: Im.

      Word misuse: “replete”– this is a subtle error which took me a while to figure out, but “replete” means completely full. There isn’t a limit for how excessive writing can be, so writing can’t be replete. I think “overloaded” would be a better term.

      Why the quotes on cerebral?

      • zozohth says:

        I’m sorry to hear about your fruitless attempt at deduction. Here’s a freebie to help you learn the art: caring about minor typos and patting yourself on the back for identifying a ‘subtle error’ based upon the third or fourth most common definition of a word are both indicators of an insecure intellect that leans on pedantry to compensate for wit.

        As for the quotes, consider them an exercise left to the reader. I’ve included another set in this post to help you puzzle out their significance.

  41. As an European, the observation that class is correlated with, but separate from, income only triggers the comment “well, duh”.

    I have since realized though that many Americans have no concept of class, they think it’s a fancy word for income bracket. Normally, I’ll ask “does the expression ‘upper class, but poor’ trigger confusion or a bemused recognition of a certain kind of person?”

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      One confounding factor here is that security of living standard has at least as much to do with network wealth as one’s own income. An upper class poor person need never worry about hunger or homelessness, because they know plenty of people who will take them in. Nor do their children need to worry about affording college. See Gilmore Girls. See also, on the other hand, the American racial wealth gap and neighborhood segregation.

      • Yrro says:

        Not to mention that being part of the socio-economic underclass tends to break down your support network.

        Most of my family is solidly labor class, but the family is *huge* and well-connected. If I needed to I could get a recommendation or a job as an assistant or apprentice to a skilled labor position in an instant. Even that level of support network is night and day from most people who are fully underclass.

  42. Alex Z says:

    I’m not sure it makes sense to treat those analysis as independently finding the same thing. As you yourself noted, they are all close to Marxist analysis of class and it’s a safe bet that all of the people cited above have either read Marx or spent much of their lives in an environment where his ideas are mentioned often.

    • multiheaded says:

      NO THEY ARE NOT EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE. they are literally nothing like Marx.

      • Anonymous says:

        When our host posited the similarity he at least laid out the correspondences; it would behoove your case against at least to lay out the primary differences. As it stands, your all-caps content-free comment is garbage, and undeserving of this forum.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Closely related: Donald Trump appeals to a lot of people because despite his immense wealth he practically glows with signs of being Labor class…

    Even though MC identifies Jon Stewart as G1, I think that was an incredibly recent development and that this same phenomenon might be at play. While he has been able to adopt the culture of G1, I imagine people still see him as chain-smoking outside a club where he just worked a set to get a free plate of spaghetti.

    The more I think about it, the more I find his discussion of G1 to be really confusing. Jon Stewart is an example, but they’re not “celebrities”. They’re “widely recognized” and the very category is named “Cultural Influencers”, but they’re not “famous”. I’d really like if someone could give me another example of an individual who fits this category.

    I have an advanced degree from a flagship campus and I work on academic topics, so I’m pretty solidly Gentry (probably low G2 at this point in my career), and the only people that I can think of that would fit G1 are influencers of very local culture. “Dr. White Beard practically invented this field; I’m so excited to hear his plenary talk!” Is it just that? It seems as though if you broaden your scope (say, become more like NdGT), you begin entering the more nebulous “famous” or “celebrity” category. This transition is really fuzzy. Am I just totally wrong about ‘true’ G1s being local?

    • Linch says:

      Academic rockstars (Terry Tao comes to mind, Esther Duflo is a weaker example). Professors with really popular newspaper columns (Like Paul Krugman, though maybe he’s too hated?). Peter Singer. People who give popular TED talks in general. Obviously John Oliver. Popular bloggers like our host — if not now, then five years from now.

      • meyerkev248 says:

        I’d argue that being absolutely hated is in many ways very influential.

        If nothing else, it makes all the other influential people do your exact opposite. Which, while maybe not what you were trying to do, is very influential.

    • Jesse M. says:

      “I imagine people still see him as chain-smoking outside a club where he just worked a set to get a free plate of spaghetti.”

      Well, one of the points of the analysis is that “social class” in this sense is at least partly independent of economic class, and a lot of “starving artist” bohemian types are still members of the Gentry class. Stewart’s parents were a teacher and a physics professor, which already tells you a lot about his likely social class background, assuming you buy into the broad outlines of this kind of analysis.

  44. nil says:

    I think mapping the tribes onto class is a mistake, although a very classic one that, ironically, is born out of an inter-tribal bias that would otherwise fit very comfortably into this post. The reality is that each tribe has it’s own discrete class structure.

    This is the mistake that leads Blue Tribers like you and me (because seriously, can we dispense with the idea that there’s such a thing as a Grey Tribe? Being a weebo doesn’t mean you’re not an American) to not understand Tea Partiers and the like. A Tea Partier isn’t some hayseed welfare recipient, they’re a member of the Red Tribe/rural petit (or non-petit) bourgeoisie. They drive a forty-thousand dollar pickup truck, own a small business, and probably have a good chunk of hunting land… and although the welfare recipients down the road also hunt and drive a pickup truck, the very real economic class distinction makes the former happy to shit on the latter.

    Also, if there’s three tribes in America, the third one isn’t grey, it’s black, and if you fail to understand the significance of the class structure within that particular nation you’re missing out on a lot of critical subtext in racial relations.

    source: blue triber raised in very rural area who then went to an almost exclusively urban-blue college and found a lot of people who knew absolutely nothing about the types of places I was from

  45. Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

    I think it is worth pointing it that 1.5% is a radical overestimate of the size of the elite, were it to actually be a thing.

    The obvious practical complaint is that 98.5th percentile in wealth is way too low to actually live a life of leisure, much less fuel an intergenerational one. Especially if you are busy engaging in expensive signaling the whole time.

    Furthermore, empirical evidence suggests they are scarce even amongst the wealthy. Wealth managers and financial planners do not make their money working for the elite. They overwhelmingly work for working professionals that have saved a few million for retirement, with a few successful entrepreneurs thrown in for flavor.

    You have to dig pretty deep into the decimal of the 99th to start mining the vein where these elites could be. And I am always struck that the type of people that write this sort of thing never seen to have a good grasp of the value of wealth.

    • Linch says:

      I had the same reaction from the summary but then I read MC’s article and his conception of the elite is somewhat more nuanced. Basically E4 and E3 are aspirational elites and bootscrapers, only E2 (which he thinks are maybe .2% of the population, which IMO is still too high) are what we usually think of as the leisure class.

    • alexp says:

      I agree, and was about to post something on the same subject.

      In addition to the mathematical reasons why it sounds wrong, empirically, I’ve rub shoulders with a lot of very wealthy people due to my educational background, and almost all of them have parents who work and who pressure them to work, even if it’s just for show.

      I had a friend who’s father had founded a Fortune 500 company who was a bit of a fuck up so his father was forcing him to join the Army after he finished college. Since his father’s company was kinda sorta in the field I was looking to get into, I once drunkenly asked him, “you think your dad can give a job?” and his response was, “nah bro, he won’t even give me a job.”

  46. Dan T. says:

    The most active culture wars these days seem to be “gray” (or is it “grey”?) tribe vs. the other colo[u]rs. Within leftish coastal-elites, campuses, and the whole cluster of geek/tech/gaming/fandom/skeptic/atheist/humanist/etc groups, the big fights are PC/SJW blue-tribe collectivist identity-politics vs. libertarianish individualist gray. Over in middle-America Republicanish circles, the fight is religious-right fundamentalist solid-red-tribe vs. libertarian conservatives, a slightly different shade of grey from the geek-libertarians, but similar enough in outlook that people are capable of migrating from one to the other.

    (But both the red and the blue tribespeople would prefer to cast their battles in the mold of red vs. blue, so when religious-right red-tribers oppose the libertarian right they make them out to be too libertine-left culturally, while the blue-left-PC crowd tries to lump geek-libertarians with the right-wingers.)

    • Sui Juris says:

      This is very insightful. The best comment in a very interesting thread, IMO.

    • Jiro says:

      If gray tribe is characterized by using facts and evidence to form one’s opinions rather than getting it from the tribe, one would expect that both reds and blues would be shedding grays.

      • dust bunny says:

        Everyone uses facts and evidence to form their opinions. Creatively. Most of the people who are ruthlessly killing their darling beliefs are not gray, and from what I’ve seen, most grays are not much better than their blue host population at the whole evidence thing.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          That depends entirely on how you define grey, doesn’t it? Adding in the HBDs and others make Grey’s the cutting edge of nonsense/genius, more likely to pick up new incorrect and new correct ideas and being wrong in new and more interesting ways (as well as some old and common ones and some ‘so old no one talks about’).

  47. Quite Likely says:

    When you’re getting into these sort of class discussions it becomes important to separate out ‘left’ and ‘liberal’. The core difference between a liberal and a legit leftist is in their thoughts on class. Liberals do not want to think about class. Their worldview is that we are all in this together and the solution to our problems is even-handed technocratic government by people of good will. “True leftists'” point of view on the other hand is very class based, it’s that the elite class is really screwing the other classes, and that the solution to our problems is to unite the other classes to defeat the elite.

  48. Wrong Species says:

    I honestly don’t see the point in all this discussion. One person says that this is how the class system works, someone else disagrees and we all argue the point without resolution because no one is being proven right or wrong. What insight are we trying to achieve here?

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      It might help to stop thinking in terms of The One True Insight That Describes Society and think of this as a discussion of how different ideologies are grasping at something that has a clear but broadly sketched existence. Which is useful, when you want to speak to ideological foreigners. Proofs are for math, language is for the real world.

      • Wrong Species says:

        But in what specific ways is this useful? Because it all seems like “angels on pinheads” type speculation to me.

        • keranih says:

          It’s useful because if we have a better grasp of how different groups are different *now*, we can apply treatments and look for changes and understand the changes better, so that we can thumbs up/down on the treatments as we go forward.

          Whether we’re talking about treatments like “smile at the bartender so they pour more whiskey in your glass” or “give more money to buy malaria nets” it’s all the same thing.

  49. Matt M says:

    Didn’t Trump go to Wharton? That’s hardly medium-tier…

  50. Devin Helton says:

    But “I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup”‘s Grey Tribe sits uneasy within this system. It doesn’t seem to be a class. But it also seems distinctly different from ordinary Gentry norms.

    I think Moldbug’s system could be improved by dividing the Brahmin’s into three subgroups: Brahmin Priests (those pushing Brahmin ideology, your professors, journalists, and activists); Brahmin Laity (those who listen to NPR and believe most things their college professor taught them); and Brahmin Veneer. Brahmin Veneer hang out with Brahmins, speak Brahmin, but don’t actually believe all of it. They believe some of it, but they think for themselves, and they are cynical about some of the activist behavior. When they visit family in the middle-american suburbs who are High Vaisya, they enjoy socializing with them, and enjoy being able to drop the Brahmin politics. The “grey” tribe are Brahmin Veneer. Many financial and business elites are Brahmin Veneer (though some are true believers).

    This was described well in the comment’s to Moldbug’s original post:


    I’m less well acquainted with neoliberal circles but I know enough fellows (and have been to enough parties) to know it works something like this:
    – Capitalists and Amnesty Int’l types plan a party together.
    – Capitalists pay lip service to the Amnesty Int’l types, lauding them for all the good they do.
    – Amnesty Int’l types know and love the fact they are considered morally and socially superior to the capitalists.
    – The capitalists sneer at the stupid idealists once they’re drunk and the idealists are out of earshot.


    The capitalist is Brahmin Veneer, the Amnesty Int’l types are Brahmin Priests.

    • dndnrsn says:

      You’re saying three different groups are “Brahmin Veneer”, though, and there is not necessarily much overlap:

      Your first example is a “red state” or whatever kid going to university and pretending to be university lefty types because it’s socially easier to go along while in university. Your second example, the “grey tribe”, is a way that some people use to describe a certain chunk of internet culture, more or less. Some people criticize it as not being much of a definition. Your third example is capitalist elite types aping, as with the first example, those same polite left-wing values – but presumably for good.

      Those don’t seem like they belong in the same category.

  51. Alex says:

    I think much of what’s wrong in higher ed these days could be summed up as “Gentry telling themselves that all the world’s problems can be solved if we just give Gentry credentials to everyone born Labor.”

    • Sastan says:

      True, but not just education. Much of the housing bubble was built on “middle class people have houses, so if we force banks to give home loans to lower class people, they’ll be middle class too!”.

      The trappings of class are mistaken for the causes of it.

      • Wrong Species says:

        To add on to this, many cities seem to prefer homelessness to “substandard housing”.

      • Pku says:

        I think there’s an important difference between these. Home ownership isn’t just a middle class trapping, it also meaningfully affects people’s lives in a non-signalling related way. There’s a difference between giving someone with torn clothes expensive designer torn clothes (I assume that’s a thing), and giving them expensive high-quality tear-resistant clothes.

      • meyerkev248 says:

        Except that that’s the exact opposite of what happened.

        80% of the country never had a housing bubble.
        Most of the new homeownership came from the 3rd and 4th quintiles.
        And pretty much the entire crash occurred in cities that wouldn’t or couldn’t build.

  52. Dr M says:

    I remember reading a study of social classes years ago. It matched this description but it broke each of the three classes into three more classes each. Thus each class would have a lower, middle and upper tier and the people in each tier would have a different culture than the overall class.

    However, that system also included a “bohemian” class. I think this is a useful concept. The bohemian class drew members from all of the classes and was characterized by people who mostly didn’t fit into any classification. They were often mobile between classes and were often innovators in their fields of interest. They were the outsiders but also some of the most creative people in the system.

    • Dahlen says:

      Sounds like either Fussell or Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety. Most likely the former; de Botton had a chapter dedicated to bohemianism, but the rest of the book didn’t make any attempt at a classification, IIRC.

    • Maware says:

      This is Fussell’s “Category X.” I think it isn’t really well defined, though.

  53. Vaniver says:

    These tribes seem closely related to classes. “Blue Tribe” is similar to Gentry; “Red Tribe” is similar to Labor. I won’t say there’s a perfect 1:1 equivalence; for example, I know some union leaders who are very clearly in the Labor class but who wouldn’t be caught dead in the Red Tribe. But the resemblance is too close to miss.

    I think this is that the tribes have different value judgments on the various classes. There are red gentry–but the red gentry sing the praises of Elites and Labor. There are blue elites–but they defer to the Gentry. (Lafayette, two rungs below the King of France, joining a Gentry rebellion out of ideals seems like a good example here.)

  54. Emily H. says:

    I’d speculate that, just as there are cultural differences that aren’t necessarily class differences between northern Gentry and southern Gentry, or between Labor in different countries, there are cultural differences that aren’t necessarily class differences between Gray Tribe and Blue Tribe; overgeneralizing, I’d say that Gray Tribe largely comes from the STEM wing of Gentry, and Blue from the liberal arts/journalism/policy wing — which is why it seems as if “Brahmin” ought to map to “Gentry,” but only gets there by leaving out engineers and software developers.

  55. Dr Dealgood says:

    The big thing all of these analyses are missing is the ethno-religious aspect.

    The Duck Dynasty could shave their beards, put on three-piece Armani suits and drink gourmet coffees with unpronouncable names but it would if anything just make them look more ridiculous. They’re not bred to be that kind of people and we all know it.

    Any system that says Cohens Romneys and Kennedys all have a common culture and common interests is fatally flawed. People look after their own whether that means coastal WASPs, Jews, Mormons or whichever group you’re talking about. Shoving them all in the same box just confuses the issue.

    • Sastan says:

      Read up on the DD people! They did wear preppie clothes, attend all the good schools, play golf and drive Porsches. They grew the beards for the show. It’s a show about rich people (rich provincials, but nonetheless) pretending to be their poorer neighbors.

      Uncle Si is the only real blue-collar dude in the family, due to a full career as enlisted in the military.

  56. SUT says:

    Anyone see last week’s 60 minutes that featured profiles on both:
    – Uninsured patients in Appalachia
    – Billionaire Philanthropists

    Most surprising to me was how much better the poor, lower-class people came across through the camera. I don’t think there was a deliberate editing attempt either like the Daily Show might do. It just turns out most billionaires even though they’re “high class” have all the charisma of Hillary, and are still grating even when literally discussing giving away billions of dollars to worthy causes. They come across shallow, over eager, and attention seeking, like some high school science fair winner.

    Meanwhile the applachia woman who smoke herself into lung cancer and ends up “sucking money out of the system”[just to contrast to philanthropy] comes across as wise and reflective.

    Any analysis that thinks high-class is a strictly dominant strategy to low-class is off in the sociological perfect-spherical-cow-world.

    • honestlymellowstarlight says:

      Your analysis may be correct, but who cares? Does that analysis change the system in any way? Does it cause anything real to happen, that is, anything outside of introspection? Forgive me for quoting The Last Psychatrist, but “if you’re watching it, it’s for you”.

    • Loquat says:

      Scott put up a post one time that I can’t remember the name of, starting with a hypothetical bar fight between Donald Trump and Rebecca Black. The reason I bring it up is the line about how there are multiple types of winning – there’s the type where everyone on social media likes you for 5 minutes, and then there’s the type where you’re still a billionaire regardless.

      The appalachian woman may come across well on TV, but is that going to have any actual ramifications for the rest of her life?

  57. John Schilling says:

    If we insist in trying to map tribes onto classes, I see Blue Tribe as constituting most of Church’s Gentry plus the Elite who don’t believe in class (or pretend not to), and Red Tribe as mostly Labor plus the class-conscious Elites. Blue tribe thinks that Labor should align with it politically on account of Blue’s progressive politics are meant to help the underprivileged, but Blue’s class-blindness has them treating Labor as failed aspirational Gentry – the attitude is insulting and the policies unhelpful to people who are trying to advance up the Labor ladder. Red Tribe’s politics and attitudes work best for people who want to stay in their present class, but most Gentry aren’t class-conscious, resent any hint of a Gentry/Elite divide, and think Gentry/Labor is an unfair barrier against Labor.

    Grey tribe is almost pure Gentry, originally Gentry with reddish-leaning politics and affiliations (e.g. first-generation Libertarians, early hacker culture’s roots in the military-industrial complex) that didn’t otherwise fit well with Red Tribe, now also including a lot of Blue Tribe that isn’t willing to follow progressive politics off the deep end. It’s nice that there’s a place where Blue and Red can get along together so well that they don’t even have to be Blue or Red any more, but it’s not big enough to matter (yet?). And it’s probably never going to encompass Labor.

    Green Tribe, to the extent that it is distinct from Blue, is also almost pure Gentry and defined by adopting Gaian environmentalism as a religion-substitute.

    And at this point, you pretty much have to hold your nose and start talking race again.

    Black Tribe is a mix of Underclass and Labor that still remembers the time when they were all definitively Underclass and so is going to stick with an “us against the world” tribalism. They will never align politically with Red Tribe because they are afraid that Red Tribe’s classism will force them all back into the Underclass. Not all African-Americans are Black Tribe.

    Brown Tribe is pretty much all Labor, and they’d mostly like to join Red Tribe with the rest of Labor if it weren’t for all the anti-immigrant sentiment. After 2-3 generations they start passing for white and joining Red (if they haven’t moved up to Gentry).

  58. keranih says:

    Who goes Nazi might make for another interesting data point in how people look at social groups.

  59. Alrenous says:

    Scott, your model contains conflations. Reality is strictly more complicated.

  60. Sounds fairly sensible to me – these are all different models, temporarily useful to make sense of an extremely complex set of interactions.

    Only thing that worried me was the thing about possible adaptivity of violent problem solving. You could just as easily have a gentry/upper-middle class culture of bankers and doctors who solve their problems with violence. In fact, not so long ago, you did. They were called the ‘burschenschaft’ ( and Sort of like today’s fraternities (which by the way also use orchestrated violence). It’s just how the violence is conceptualized what matters.

    The other concept, I’d throw in here is ‘liminal spaces’ where things make different sense – those could help you understand the transitions between classes.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      In general, European aristocrats were more violent than European bourgeoisie. In one of Gregory Clark’s or Peter Turchin’s books, the author notes that in one period in English history (perhaps during the War of the Roses?), 26% of aristocrats died violently. In English history, at least, non-peer landowners could largely contrive to die in bed.

      This helps explain why Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr fought a duel: they both felt it crucial to their potential for military leadership as neo-aristocrats. In contrast, it’s hard to imagine Ben Franklin fighting a duel.

      Whether elite Americans are expected to fight seems to go through long cycles. Consider the six guys named Theodore Roosevelt, who are about as hereditary elite as you can be in America:

      Theodore Roosevelt (father of the President): Paid somebody to be drafted into the Civil War in his place

      Theodore Roosevelt (President): ashamed of his father; led the charge up San Juan Hill in Spanish American war.

      Theodore Roosevelt Jr.: fought in both World Wars, landed on Utah Beach on D-Day at age 57, won Medal of Honor

      Theodore Roosevelt III: naval aviator in WWII

      Theodore Roosevelt IV: Navy SEAL in Vietnam

      Theodore Roosevelt V: No military service that I can find record of

      • Sastan says:

        I think it’s probably a good thing to involve the elite directly in the sausage they’re probably going to wind up making anyhow.

        And if nothing else, it ensures turnover.

  61. Douglas Knight says:

    Moldbug and Church say a lot of similar thing about L/G=V/B, but Church and you confuse it by mentioning specific professions. Whereas Moldbug says (in the comments) that doctors are split between V and B. The Vaisyas aren’t out of place, unable to function in a Brahmin profession. The Brahmins don’t grant them social status, but neither do they stand in the way of their goal of lucrative specialties. Which pretty much matches Church’s words.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Good point, and helps explain some things about medicine.

    • Deiseach says:

      The ordinary slogging if much-beloved GP being a Vaisya, the plate in Harley Street specialist who might have a chance at a knighthood in the Honours List for services to medicine later in his career being a Brahmin? That makes sense to me 🙂

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Church and Moldbug say very different things about elites like investment bankers, but they don’t contradict each other. They just care about different topics. Church cares about inputs and Moldbug about outputs. Moldbug says that IB is a mixture of Brahmin and Vaisyas, indicating that his Vaisyas lumps together Church’s Labor and Elite. Maybe that’s because Moldbug is a Brahmin and can’t tell the difference. Or maybe it’s because Church is talking about the difference between labor and connections, while Moldbug is just interested in what drives social status, which is basically money for both Labor and Elite.

      Church and Moldbug agree that Gentry/Brahmins care about cultural influence. Church says that the Elites start wars in the Middle East, but Moldbug just doesn’t care because he thinks that the cultural influence of the Brahmins will be more important in the long run. Also, the government is run by Brahmin bureaucrats who can mess up Elite plans, even if the Elites can buy off the politicians and the political appointees at the top of the bureaucracies.

  62. Joyously says:

    The underclass-thru-gentry categories seem largely correct to me.

    I suppose this helps explain the right-wing civil war that’s going on now. The conservative Gentry (which includes me) *hate* Trump. They hate his vulgarity, his tacky taste in home decor, his speaking style, his tendency to get into stupidly personal crude fights, his bragging about womanizing, his lack of any libertarian streak whatsoever, his failure to even pretend he has a consistent or intellectual political philosophy. A lot of that list is *only* class markers. And frankly, Gentry conservatives care about immigration but not *that* much.

    Members of conservative Labor see this as yet another example of the Gentry being in cahoots with the Elites and too tolerant of the Underclass (immigrants) who are going to steal Labor jobs and ruin them and what not.

    To which the Gentry shout back “What does that even mean? It’s not like opinion writers make a lot of money. Yes I live in New York what does that have to do with anything? Statistically immigrants don’t cost native jobs. Trump has given actual bribes to politicians, doesn’t that make him the worst kind of Elite? *I’m* the intellectually consistent one here!”

    This doesn’t help.

    • Max says:

      A lot of that list is *only* class markers.

      And then you see why people think gentry are delusional know-it-alls who think they are smarter than everyone else, while in fact they dumb as bricks at least in part where social dynamics is involved

      You judge Trump intelligence based on class markers and his public speeches! Without taking into account that he speaks to population at large not a small elitist academia segment. Any good public speaker know you have to speak language of your audience and get to their heart before getting to their minds.
      Trump does not need to display status markers. He plays the biggest public show there is – election of US president. And he does it like a master player, instead of giving him credit for skill, gentry derides him. Exposing themselves as hypocrite buffoons in the process

    • While immigration can be a jobs issue for the Labor class, it can be a physical safety / crime / property value issue for middle and upper classes. You see, the Gentry, Elites etc. are EXTREMELY unaccustomed to violence. They don’t even brawl in bars or something. Even a bit of rowdiness can put the fear of god in them and generally speaking once one has children, the expected status loss of being perceived as a a ray-cis may be outweighted by fearing for their kids.

      So visualize this setup. You have one group of people extremely unaccostumed to violence. You have another group of people who grew up in a country where the drug mafia kills anyone they feel like killing and this obviously raises the threshold of what is considered violence, so they may see a bit of brawling as merely fun. And you mix them. What happens? My prediction is the first group starts screaming for a strong-arm leader who protects them, right?

  63. Joyously says:

    Maybe I’m over pattern-matching, but this might also shed some light on the “Trump-has-short-fingers meme.”

    A bunch of conservative/Libertarian writer types (Gentry) read about how Trump got super angry and defensive when a magazine insulted his short fingers. The Gentries think this is stupid and ridiculous and immediately start making *a lot* of jokes about his finger length.

    So maybe the proper Labor response to a silly insult is to challenge and defeat the insulter? Whereas the proper Gentry response is to either make a self-deprecating joke or possibly ironically embrace it (“My fingers are compact and efficient!” or something). This shows that you’re cool and chill and not mad, bro.

  64. Earthly Knight says:

    Interesting classifications! No basis in reality, though. Sex, race, sect, geographical region, and age are all much more strongly associated with political alignment than education or employment status are, and political views move monotonically right as income increases. Here are some recent Pew data:

    (Lean) Democrat/(Lean) Republican
    Overall: 48%/39%

    High School: 47%/37%
    Some College: 47%/42%
    College Graduate: 49%/42%
    Post-Grad: 57%/35%

    This last data point seems telling, right? Except:

    Post-Grad Male: 50%/42%
    Post-Grad Female: 64%/29%

    Family Income
    $30,000 or less: 54%/31%
    $30,000-$40,000: 51%/37%
    $40,000-$50,000: 50%/40%
    $50,000-$75,000: 45%/45%
    $75,000-$100,000: 44%/48%
    $100,000-$150,000: 45%/48%
    $150,000 or more: 45%/47%

    • Sastan says:

      Your comment w/r to income and political views does not seem to be correct. Party affiliation is slightly more Republican above $500k, but conservatism drops. Take as an example the (in)famous Koch brothers, who are so conservative they spent $125 million supporting the gay marriage campaign in New York. Do they lean right? Sort of, they’re grey tribe though, not red. Higher incomes are correlated with higher education as well, which is correlated with socially liberal views. Unless you have a good picture of the policies advocated, it’s hard to call it a monotonous progression.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        The Koch brothers are libertarians who bankroll republican candidates and all of the major conservative think-tanks. I have no idea what color their tribe is.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          Grey tribe? I think they’d get along fine with David Friedman or the other libertarian grey tribers here.

          • brad says:

            If the Kochs are gray tribe than the term has no meaning beyond libertarian. At that point you might as well just say libertarian.

            Trying to collapse everything in political affiliation makes no more sense than trying to collapse everything into income bracket.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            They are libertarians who run a company according to libertarian principles. It is the second part that definitively makes them grey tribe; libertarianism isn’t just a tribal marker for them.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t see what that adds. David ran for President as a Libertarian, whatever libertarian points there are to be gotten he got from that. But are either of them into computers? Do they like scifi? Call football sportsball? Are they Dawkins style atheists? Do they drink soylent? Do they like to throw around the word othoganal in ordinary conversation?

            As I said, if you mean libertarian, say libertarian (ditto for democrats and republicans). This reductivness misses the entire point, not only of the original outgroup post but this one as well.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “I don’t see what that adds. ”

            Making beliefs pay rent? Not liking politics so starting your own ideology in order to fix the entire system? Consistently applying that to everything you do? If that (combined with a tone deafness to social and political currents) isn’t grey tribe, than grey tribe is just ‘likes computers’.

            “But are either of them into computers? Do they like scifi? Call football sportsball? Are they Dawkins style atheists? Do they drink soylent? Do they like to throw around the word othoganal in ordinary conversation?”

            There are no old grey tribers?

            “As I said, if you mean libertarian, say libertarian ”

            EK asked for what color their tribe was.

          • brad says:

            David Koch lives in the UES of Manhattan, donates a ton of money to the opera, to the ballet, to the Met, to the American Museum of Natural History, and to PBS. He reportedly attends their galas dressed to the nines. He was a varsity basketball player in college and set records (albeit at MIT). He was also in a frat while he was there. The officiant at his marriage was a quite liberal Episcopalian minister, the head of a major NYC church.

            It’s not a perfect fit, but Blue looks like it is a better fit than Gray to me. At least is we take them to be more than just euphemisms for political affiliations.

            There aren’t too many old gray tribe people because it’s relatively new –Inasmuch at it exists as a full blown, independent tribe in the relevant sense at all. In any event, if you want an old Gray Tribe guy take a look at Richard Stallman or Ken Thompson. Then take another look at David or Charles Koch. You should notice a difference right away.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      If we’re interested in a principled way of carving up the country’s political alignments, throw out all the nonsense about gentry and labor and brahmins and such, and start with this:

      Bluest demographics:
      –Blacks (80% democrat/lean democrat)
      –Atheists (72%)
      –Agnostics (69%)
      –Asians (65%)
      –Post-graduate women (64%)
      –Jews (61%)

      Reddest demographics:
      –Mormons (70% republican/lean republican)
      –White evangelical protestants (68%)
      –White silent generation men (60%)
      –Married men (51%)
      –White catholics (50%)

      Roughly, the democratic party is a coalition of educated women, urbanites, the poor, and racial and religious minorities, while the republican party is driven by white men, the older, more rural, wealthier, and more religious the better.

      • brad says:

        There’s more to life than who you vote for.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Sure. But the class distinctions drawn in the original and linked posts could not have any connection to political activity. Perhaps I was not clear enough about this earlier. For instance:

          –The original post claims that the underclass lean left. This is false. 49% of the unemployed, 47% of Americans with high school degrees or less, and 54% of Americans with family incomes under $30,000 favor the democratic party, compared with 48% of the general population.

          –Similarly, the original post claims that the gentry leans left. This is also false. 49% of college graduates without postgraduate degrees favor the democratic party, again almost exactly the same as the general population. Only in women with postgraduate credentials does any clear trend towards liberalism emerge.

          –Third, the original post suggests that labor leans right. This, too, is false. 47% of Americans with full-time jobs favor the democratic party, and only families with incomes >$75,000 prefer the GOP to the democrats.

          As you can see, if we carve up social classes this way it completely severs their connection to political behavior– the underclass, labor, and gentry all have pretty much identical voting patterns. Really these classifications are exercises in (almost always self-serving) mythmaking, rather than attempts to accurately describe reality. I have tried to eyeball a factor analysis out of Pew’s data set along with some additional sources, below, which describes clusters of demographic traits that actually predict political affiliation. If you want to know where the real socio-political cleavages lie, that’s your best bet.

      • Anon. says:

        Blue doesn’t mean Democrat. Blacks are the least Blue demographic of all.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Scott’s classification is bananas, in part because it fails to be mutually exhaustive in a way which completely excludes leftist racial minorities. Judging by the data, there are really three prominent centers of political and cultural gravity:

          The “red tribe”, characterized by traditionalism and support for rightist economic policies:
          1. White
          2. Rural
          3. Male
          4. Old
          5. Rich
          6. Christian

          The “blue tribe”, characterized by progressivism and support for leftist economic policies:
          1. Educated and female
          2. Jewish or Asian
          3. Young
          4. Urban
          5. Secular

          The “non-white tribe”, characterized by traditionalism and support for leftist economic policies:
          1. Black or hispanic
          2. Christian
          3. Urban
          4. Poor

          The red tribe is the nucleus of the republican party, while the blue and non-white tribes jointly form the democratic base. The characteristics listed should be strongly predictive of ideology and voting patterns.

          The “grey tribe”, so far as I can tell, is composed of principally young and male libertarians who in times past would have been reliable republican voters but who grew up during the Bush administration and were so appalled by its failures that they disavowed their political allegiance and began groping about for alternatives. The sect is too minor to show up in the statistics, at any rate.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The Demographics of registered Republicans and Democrats seems imply that age is a non-factor, your also ignoring the fact that one of the largest (if not the largest) “target groups” within the GOP is married women. In fact the divide between DNC and GOP is less about age and gender than it is “married with kids” vs not.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            1. Marriage only makes a difference among whites.

            2. Married women are evenly split between the parties at 44%. In other words, marriage only manages to cancel out the advantage the democratic party enjoys among women.

            3. Age matters– millennials favor the democrats by 16 points, while the silent generation favors the republicans by 4 points.

          • Nonnamous says:

            What is the percentage split between the three groups? I always imagined that the politics is something like,

            3% rich people who vote republican because they want low taxes
            47% poor people who vote republican because they love Jesus
            3% rich people who vote democrat because they hate Jesus
            47% poor people who like Jesus but like their welfare check more

            However, I formed that image with little consultation with reality, so I’m guessing this is way off?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Answers to your questions can be found in the fifth table here and the sixth table here.

            The distribution you suggest is exaggerated, of course, but it does look like a) jews, hindus, atheists, and agnostics are disproportionately wealthy and b) unhappiness with tax burden rises with family income.

    • Max says:

      This % votes is false classification because to get “group” it has to be 95% of group do this. The blacks are only segment close to being % vote = real group. Since they vote 90%+ democratic. Groups are cohesive because they do things predictably as one. Yankees fan not gonna go root for Red Sox. That is with 95%+ confidence, otherwise it would not be “yankees fans” .
      You can’t say educated females are blue tribe, because 35% of them do not behave like “blue” according to vote %

      • Earthly Knight says:

        It’s large (married 34% D; unmarried 46% D), but sex (male 36%; female 44%), education (at least college graduate 47%; all others 37%), region (northeast 46%; south 34%), community type (48% urban; 35% rural), and most of all, religion (34% christian; 59% unaffiliated) are comparable.

  65. Miranda says:

    I’m noticing again that I’m not sure what class nurses fall into. I mean, it’s pretty clear that *I’m* in the Gentry class, given other factors – education of parents, class of most of my friends, what I do in my free time, etc. But…

    -Many nurses I’ve met are more like Sherri than like Alex, although not always. I’m a pretty weird nurse, and it’s an unusual, though not unheard-of, career choice for someone of my background.
    -Nursing could be described as a ‘profession’, like being a schoolteacher, but nurses also seem to have a lot in common with pilots and plumbers.
    -Nursing school was until very recently taught at community college, and still has a ‘community college’ feel, at least in Canada – I don’t know what it’s like in the US. I *definitely* feel like I experienced a process of acculturation there.
    -Several well-educated people I’ve met in the US have been adamant that nursing is ‘blue collar’, to the point of being shocked that I chose to study it.
    -I think this may be something that has been changing over time – nursing becoming less blue-collar, based more around education and less around values of Hard Work. I don’t know.

    • onyomi says:

      I feel like part of the point is that, like income, occupation is correlated with, but separable from occupation. In particular, in this tough labor market, I think a lot of people with gentry backgrounds have been forced to (or in some cases, simply preferred to) work jobs associated with labor. Yet you can still tell the gentry cashier apart from the labor cashier at Wal Mart.

    • Joyously says:

      Nurses are gray area. There’s a girl I know from church who feels bad because she sees the other young people in the congregation as being “doctors and lawyers and engineers” (I would also add teachers, nurses, and social workers) and she doesn’t feel she fits in. Her goal is to work at a nursing home, which is actually pretty brilliant of her, because it’s something you can do easily with a community college degree that still feels as if it fits in the same upper-c Class as the others. I doubt it’ll will ultimately work to make her “fit in”, though, because of all the other factors at play, and that makes me feel really sad about how the world works.

    • Sastan says:

      I think nursing, like many professions, can be either. I know a lot of blue collar nurses, the sort of hard-bitten battle-axes that form the backbone of so many hospitals. Then there are a group of attractive but not particularly ambitious nurses for whom it is a nice, caring, womanly career to dip their toe into before they marry a medical professional (who happen to all be in the same building!). The second group can be either working class strivers (who figure their looks are the best way to climb) or lazier middle class girls for whom it’s a respectable way of landing a husband.

      One of my best friends got snagged by one of the latter. He’s a working class kid who did well in school and became a pharmacist. Married a brain dead and very vain nurse from a rich family who was on her third engagement to a doctor when they met.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      See Douglas Knight above. Professions can contain a mix of different classes. That having been said, almost all the nurses I know are Labor. A few doctors I know read as Labor too, but much less than the nurses.

  66. onyomi says:

    Just happened to see this article which, along with Scott’s point that Trump, despite being a billionaire, nevertheless “feels” like intuitively like a member of the labor class, better explains the Trump phenomenon to my mind than anything I’ve seen thus far.

    Favorite quote:

    for this constituency (my emphasis) and at this moment just demonstrating that he gets his way, always, is all that really matters. Policy details, protecting the candidate through careful press releases and structured media opportunities … none of that matters. Trump doesn’t kiss babies. Babies kiss him. He doesn’t have a billionaire backer; he is a billionaire. Trump doesn’t ask for support. He just tells you that you need to stop being a loser and get on board.”

    In other words, as Scott states, being confrontational and argumentative as opposed to filing a complaint with HR is a labor class trait. Along with his accent, hair, spray tan, and gaudy mansions, Trump’s dominance signalling, which feels like brain-dead bluster to the gentry, is perceived as real power to get things done in the political realm (which labor probably doesn’t understand runs more on a gentry/elite logic (or does it?)) to the labor classes. Moreover, he doesn’t need to be beholden to an elite backer because he has elite money.

    His strong stance against illegal immigration and squabbles with the “mainstream media” signal to the labor class that Trump is with them in opposing their enemies on both sides: foreign immigrants who compete for low-skill jobs (seems they need to fit somewhere between the welfare class and the labor class, though in terms of culture and lifestyle they really belong with the bottom of the labor class, though they seem to vote with the welfare class). And bullying the media, of course, signals that Trump will represent the labor class in its ongoing struggle with the gentry.

  67. Virbie says:

    > The stratospheric semi-divine level is “celebrities” like Kim Kardashian who become fabulously rich and famous while sticking to their labor class roots.

    What are you referring to here? I readily admit I know as little as I could manage about the Kardashians (every fact I know comes from headlines I’ve seen on Web pages), but I thought they’re whole shtick was being unabashedly, excessively upper class?

    • Anon. says:

      They’re rich trash, that’s what makes them so entertaining.

    • Deiseach says:

      Isn’t their father a lawyer, which makes him Gentry class by the scale above which amuses me slightly, since by older class distinctions on this side of the water, doctors and lawyers were ‘in the professions’ which did not make them gentry; they served the gentry. ‘Gentry’ had a particular delimitation, but of course Time Marches On and boundaries get blurred.

      • BBA says:

        As I understand it, barristers were considered gentry and entitled to the use of “esquire” after their names, while solicitors were not.

        The traditional class system has broken down to the extent that in Britain everyone may use “esquire”, while in America (which never had an official gentry or a distinction between barristers and solicitors) only lawyers do.

  68. Joyously says:

    So this is my third long comment in a row. But this topic seems to have really set my mind fire.

    One thing that has always bothered me about feminist sexual harassment discussion is that it ignores class. In fact, to me at least it seems weirdly, blatantly *determined* to ignore class. I have never been catcalled by someone who looks like they work in an office. I’ve never been told to smile by a stranger, but the guy at a gas station who told me “I love how you’re smiling. You have a beautiful smile” was almost certainly of a lower class than me.

    And (I’m hesitant to phrase it like this, but yay for anonymity) I’ve never been groped by a white guy. The pretty-much-all-Underclass black boys I grew up with seemed to see groping as just how you flirted. I found it very unpleasant at the time, but looking back I don’t really resent them for it. The eight year old boy who stuck his hand into my eight year old overalls and said, “Gimme some of that white sugar” probably had the same cute-little-kid-feelings as the white boy who gave me a 25-cent ring from one of those bubble machines. They were both just watching how the older boys from their subculture behaved and watching the movies their subculture preferred. If we’re going to say that one of those approaches is worse and rape-culture-ier than the other, then we need to acknowledge how subculture/class comes into it or we’re just being dishonest.

    (The times I’ve been groped by Middle Eastern guys seem much less innocent to me, since there’s a strong element of White Girls are Slutty in that. But I digress.)

    Perhaps the points made above how about how Blue Tribe/Gentry are more resistant to acknowledging class explains why exhortations against catcalling seem always to be directed towards readers of Slate and the Atlantic.

    • Sastan says:

      Blue tribe’s outgroup is red tribe, and more specifically, the avatar stereotype of white male oppressors.

      One can see this very clearly in the rape hoaxes that the blue tribe fall for. Duke and UV were huge, because they were examples of rich, white, privileged males taking advantage of women. The fact that neither actually happened wasn’t even considered. It was too perfect to check. Contrast to the reaction to Cologne, which was rather different. That situation fitted the red tribe’s narrative much better, and the blue tribe gentry tried like hell to bury it. When they couldn’t, they then tried to blame it on……… guessed it, white males.

      As to your point, I think it is correct, and one which I have been saying for years. The “street harassment” video that made the rounds a while back showed this quite well. Almost all the harassers were minority males, and the producers of the video even said they trolled around white workmen to try to get more catcalls, but there just weren’t any more than a couple. The norms for courting behavior can vary drastically. When someone not part of that milieu is on the receiving end, it is quite unpleasant.

    • Dahlen says:

      Yes, this is a strong area of cognitive dissonance for the left. Feminists try really hard and jump through all sorts of mental hoops to square that with commitment to the anti-racist or socialist (pro-prole) cause. But it’s a very tenuous alliance; for better or for worse, the fact is that the white middle class fares better on the topic of women’s rights. The recent events at Cologne should have forced people to acknowledge the elephant in the room. At some point, if there is progress to be made on this cause, people must choose one commitment or the other. Of course, this becomes exponentially easy once it strikes you how totally arbitrary the clusters of left vs. right are, I mean seriously, their names are random directions in space, that should clue people in… Once you stop trying to score leftist points, it’s easier to optimize for a narrow, concrete goal such as curbing sexual harassment.

      For that matter, I found it strange how the right went all gung-ho about the evils of street harassment once the brown people got in the news for doing it, from where weeks before they would have listed it as a prime example of overblown feminist panic. Forgive me if I don’t quite believe the attitude change from “learn how to take a fucking compliment, goshdarn feminists these days villainizing male sexuality” to “it is scandalous to see this savagery happen on the very streets of old and noble Evropa!”. I’m willing to grant that the rightists saying the former are not the same people as the rightists saying the latter. But only in like 30% of cases. The cognitive dissonance works both ways, and many commenters have proven remarkably successful at decrying both Muslim immigration and all of feminism in the same breath. I’d really like to believe that this change in discourse is about ideals being championed rather than the baser motive of sexual competition against a foreign population for “our women”.

      People. You don’t have to shoot yourselves in the foot like that all the time. It’s okay to splinter.

      • FXKLM says:

        There is a huge difference between making rude comments to strange women and physically groping them. Complaints about the former are often overblown (it’s bad behavior but perfectly legal and a far cry from assault). The latter is unambiguously criminal. I don’t see any cognitive dissonance in treating them differently.

        There is a pretty consistent pattern where the left advocates a broader definition of rape and sexual assault while the right advocates harsher penalties for rape and sexual assault. The left (including feminists) were pretty solidly united in the view that the death penalty for rape violated the Eighth Amendment.

        • Dahlen says:

          No common ground here. Neither for the supposed huge difference (which really doesn’t look so huge when you approach the matter from a virtue-ethical standpoint), nor for perspectives on political clustering, as it is vs. as it should be. I don’t think I have anything to say to you which would be a good use of my time or yours.

          • Loquat says:

            You really don’t see any substantial moral difference between:

            (a) Man saying “Smile, beautiful” to strange woman, and taking no further action towards her if she fails to express interest, and

            (b) Man seizing strange woman, ripping off her clothes, and forcibly groping her despite her resistance?


          • Sastan says:

            No, Loquat, I don’t think leftists do. It’s pretty funny to watch actually. It’d be like being unable to distinguish pointing your finger and saying “bang” and actual murder. Oh wait, they can’t do that either if you follow public education.

          • Joyously says:

            Yeeeeeeeeeeah. To me the moral difference between touching someone without permission and saying something to someone without permission is so obvious I can’t really comprehend someone feeling different.

            I also see a clear distinction between “Hey, beautiful” (which does, indeed make me feel good) and crude or sexual catcalling.

          • Pku says:

            While I certainly believe there’s a difference there, I think the original point was that, say, “guy randomly smacking your ass” clusters with a rather than b in some classes.

          • Loquat says:

            Indeed it can! But I was responding more to Dahlen’s claim that it’s gross hypocrisy for conservatives who defend nonviolent catcalling to get all outraged over the recent German gang assaults.

          • Deiseach says:

            Loquat, I agree that there is very much a difference of degree. But why the exhortation to “Smile, beautiful” is offensive is because (a) the natural expression you have on your face while walking down a public street should not be any concern to strangers – it is none of their business (b) being told to smile means those strangers think they have a right to critique your appearance (c) you are being instructed to appear happy and pleasant and attractive for their sake, not your own (d) you are supposed to be delighted some random jerk decided you pass his personal ‘would grope’ test and deigns to inform you of same (e) anyone who works in customer service or dealing with the public knows the necessity of putting on the work persona of “constantly smiling, upbeat vocal intonation, cheerful, helpful, unfussed” and how tiring and draining this constant acting is which brings me back to (f) I feel no necessity to put on a public performance of fake pleasantness that brings me no benefit but does bring me criticism if I don’t perform femininity to an arbitrary standard and (g) it’s not a compliment. Often it does involve more than “man does nothing else if she fails to express interest”, it will get you yelled after about being a stuck-up bitch and what’s wrong with you and do you think you’re too good for him and more verbal insults.

            I don’t know the male experience here or what I could compare it to. I don’t know if men get comments by perfect strangers advising them how to look and behave. Can the male commenters on here tell me of public encounters where they have to act in a certain manner as encouraged to do so by strangers (outside of work; we all know that you have to behave in a certain manner when told to do so by a superior).

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’m not sure how representative my own experience is but I get the impression that males get a lot less “latitude” females do. I definitely feel some pressure to be “the stoic” as visible displays of emotion draw attention and tend to be invitations to conflict. I’ve also watched women get away with behavior that would have gotten me beaten, shot, or arrested. If a drunk guy gropes a woman that’s rape culture, if a drunk woman gropes a guy that’s a lucky guy.

          • Sastan says:

            @ Deiseach

            I don’t often get comments on the street, but occasionally. I’ve always taken them the way they were (I presume) intended, as compliments. In certain circumstances (parties and bars mostly) I have been groped or had my ass grabbed by girls quite a lot. Maybe alcohol, maybe anonymizing crowds. Maybe I just have a fantastic ass.

            I’m not in favor of people acting like this, where I come from this is a HUGE taboo. I still to this day have a hard time initiating physical contact, even when I’ve been chatting with someone and they are signalling they are fine with it. For years, I always waited for females to break the barrier first. It probably hurt me a bit with the opposite sex. Politeness can be taken as sexual disinterest (looping around, that may be a class thing).

            The vagaries of class and the sexual marketplace should probably wait for another thread, but there is a lot to be plumbed there, provided people can leave their rape-hammers at home.

          • Joyously says:

            Deisach, do you think that that is how a man telling a woman to smile would describe his intentions? If so, doesn’t ascribing these awful intentions to him beg the question? “Smile, beautiful” is terrible because it implies These Awful Things. Well, what if it doesn’t?

            As I said, I’ve never been told to smile by a stranger before. I don’t think I would feel any of those things about it. I think I would take it as flirtatious and be mildly pleased. Doesn’t the existence of women who feel differently than you do about this interaction indicate that these men might not have nefarious purposes?

            And while a person shouldn’t be rude to a person who rejects their attempts at flirtation (again, not something that’s happened to me, so I can’t speak to the details of how this goes down) I honestly *do* think that “graciously accepting a compliment” is part of normal politeness. You clearly disagree in this context, which is fine, but to me that’s a disagreement about the rules of what is and is not polite, which should be an abstract, culture-wide argument.

            Which brings me back to my original point about how there’s a lot of class and culture norms that keep getting dropped out of the discussion. Loquat might not see “Smile, beautiful” as a huge deal, but given the only class marker I have for him (he’s commenting on this blog) I doubt he’s ever said it to anyone. So arguing about it here is not going to actually change any norms.

          • szopeno says:

            Strange. It’s obvious that anyone has right to criticise other’s appearances. They cannot dictate the appearance, but having right to say “you look like shit” is pretty much a god-given right of every man and women on this planet.

        • John Schilling says:

          There is a huge difference between making rude comments to strange women and physically groping them […] The latter is unambiguously criminal

          I am fairly certain that a large segment of the American class/cultural landscape sees groping as “unambiguously criminal” in the same way that e.g. speeding is “unambiguously criminal”. Or maybe drunk driving thirty years ago. There are unambiguously some words written on paper in a law book that says not to do that. “Everybody knows” that they really only mean to not do too much of it, and sees it as a violation of the social contract if the police actually throw someone in jail just because they copped a feel (or drove 75 in a 65 zone, or with a BAC of 0.11).

          As with drunk driving, it’s possible that a generation of dedicated social engineering could change this, but in the groping case it might be trickier to do it without crossing into class-warfare territory.

          • Viliam says:

            Middle class has a taboo against physical contact in a way that lower class doesn’t.

            Both would agree that groping someone is more serious than talking to someone, but for the middle class there is the additional aspect of breaking the taboo that makes it infinitely worse.

      • Tibor says:

        I doubt that if someone is against muslim immigration, that “taking our women” is an important issue, as long as it is not hard-coded. I very much doubt a typical German woman would be interested in a typical asylum seeker from Syria, let alone Africa. Not really for racists reasons, but above all because a quarter of them are illiterate and even those who can read rarely speak any foreign languages or have any formal education. Plus they actually are muslim and taking their religion seriously, which alone is pretty off-putting for most European women who are used to being emancipated. And since these things can be easily seen, I doubt anyone is actually consciously worried about “their” women being suddenly attracted to the newcomers (also not all of them are males, even though roughly two thirds are).

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          In this case, the taking is rather more literal. As in “raptio.”

          • Chrysophylax says:

            I think that’s stuprum, actually. Raptio is specifically the *large-scale abduction* of women; raptus was bride-kidnapping, possibly for elopement; and stuprum was the general term for sexual misconduct, including incest, adultery and sexual assault.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Well we’ve had our share of that as well, so not sure what to say. Our cup runneth over with rape.

            I appreciate the vocabulary by the way. I’ve never had any formal Latin, only what I could pick up from reading and scientific nomenclature.

        • Morkys says:

          Islam has never had a problem getting Western women to convert, it’s actually men who don’t like it and convert from Islam to Christianity.

          • Tibor says:

            Got a source on that? Yes, conditioned on marrying a muslim, western women do convert to islam pretty reliably. I think they could not really marry otherwise, so there is no surprise there. But I think that the event we are conditioning on here is prety low-probability.

          • Morkys says:

            All intercultural marriage is sort of “low probability” for obvious reasons, but as far as I know western women don’t hate islam or muslims worse than anyone else. If all the refuges are allowed to stay in Germany but not bring their wives (doubtful) then the gender ratio among young people will be weird, so either way sex lives are going to get awkward.

          • Tibor says:

            @Morkys: It depends. Even Germany has started tightening the asylum rules. The Magreb countries have been officially recognized as safe countries of origin which means that asylum seekers from there now have a zero chance to get the asylum. But if you came from Morocco and already was granted asylum but your wife stayed at home (a common pattern with the current asylum seekers in Europe) and you expected to bring her later, you might be out of luck. The result might be either you giving up on her or coming back, the latter seems more likely, especially if the prospects of finding a new wife are pretty bleak. More importantly though, a lot of these young men who come do not yet have a wife. They have nothing to come back to but they will have it really hard to find a partner. I believe this is also one of the reasons why Canada now only gives asylum to women and children. In fact, while I am not afraid of the “Islamisation of the west” and such things, I do believe that having a relatively big underclass of young frustrated men from a very different culture who cannot get a decent job and cannot find a partner does sound like trouble. And meanwhile we now have people throwing live grenades at the asylum houses in Germany which will not make things easier either. Well, it happened once (on Friday this week) and the grenade did not explode, but it did have explosives in it (when I heard about it, it was yet not clear whether the grenade failed to explode or whether the ignition was removed on purpose). I also wonder where the attacker even obtained a live grenade in Germany of all places. These kinds of weapons are illegal for civilians in all EU countries.

      • Sastan says:

        There is an aspect to which right-wing people are more receptive to arguments made in which their outgroup gets slammed. Exactly like left wingers do. And everyone else too. We are all quick to notice the mote in our neighbors eye.

        That said, if you don’t understand a moral taxonomy which distinguishes violent, public gang rape from catcalls, kindly do some reading before casting stones at it. One of these is rude. The other is the worst crime you can survive. It doesn’t seem difficult to me, but maybe I’m not smart enough to conflate those two.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          Nitpick- I believe the worst crime you can survive is torture since it tends to aim at ‘worse thing you can suffer and survive’.