Join 3,561 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


All are equal before God. On Earth....
February 27, 2004 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Wages of hate - anti-gay attitudes damage the economy - conversely, Gay-tolerant societies prosper. Will GOP anti-elitism and the US religious right make the U.S. a 3rd world country? Paul Craig Roberts argues that we're on the fast track, and a Carnegie Mellon study (title link) shows that culturally repressive attitudes in America are driving away the "Creative" class. Virginia Postrel defines this class differently (manicurists and stone cutters) but in Richard Florida's "Creative Class War" (recently on Metafilter), "America is no long attracting creative workers from abroad because it is seen as an intolerant society". More than artists and programmers are shunning the US - scientists are staying away too. In the US, meanwhile, a bifurcation - Americans are geographically self-segregating, choosing to live with those who hold similar beliefs and values.
posted by troutfishing (61 comments total)

 
I moved to Holland yesterday.
posted by the fire you left me at 1:00 PM on February 27, 2004


You must be one of those "creatives".
posted by troutfishing at 1:05 PM on February 27, 2004


Firstly as someone who actually lives in a 3rd world country let me just say that there is absolutely no way the US is even coming close to becoming one. Not a chance. Ever.

Secondly, Europe is losing scientists to the US. A month or two ago (can't find the date sorry) Time had a cover story about the massive number of scientists and academics who are leaving Europe to go to the US where there is less beuracracy and greater access to research and venture capital funds.
posted by PenDevil at 1:05 PM on February 27, 2004


I have nothing to add substantively, but I just want to say this is a great, well-assembled post. Thanks!
posted by adrober at 1:06 PM on February 27, 2004


Not a chance. Ever.

I bet they used to say the same thing about Mesopotamia.
posted by spazzm at 1:10 PM on February 27, 2004


Americans are geographically self-segregating, choosing to live with those who hold similar beliefs and values.

I think that this is a major problem which will result in serious problems to come. But then, I am also moving out of the country.
posted by rushmc at 1:11 PM on February 27, 2004


America are driving away the "Creative" class....

What does that make the rest of us, the Destructive Class?

Actually no matter whether it the "Creatives" or money-making speculators in charge, they still are gonna need people to mop their floors, clean their toilets and bag their groceries. And that's where most of the population will lie.

So, stay or go, it really makes no difference as far as I'm concerned.
posted by jonmc at 1:14 PM on February 27, 2004


Did a bit of digging and found the Time story: How to plug Europe's brain drain
posted by PenDevil at 1:15 PM on February 27, 2004


"WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 — Bucking a trend that dates to the end of World War II, the number of foreign students applying to graduate and doctoral programs in science at American universities is declining broadly, according to a survey of 130 such programs released here today.....

"It's really what we've been fearing all along," said Vic Johnson, associate director for public policy at the Association of International Educators. "It's the accumulation of a lot of things that is just causing a change in the attractiveness of the United States as a destination for students and scholars." (from the link on scientists, NYT, February 25)

adrober - thanks.

PenDevil - There may be a countervailing trend . I can't meatheadely dismiss that one out of hand, so I'll have to look into it. Meanwhile - on the "Third Worldization" of the US - I don't think things will be so simple as that - I predict that third world poverty will come to some in the US even as classes living at near American levels of affluence arise in the developing world. Overall, the US middle class squeeze will continue and even increase and - as with a foot, stepping towards one end, on a truly giant toothpaste tube, the bulk of the US middle class will be slowly squished in the direction of declining affluence while a smaller group is squished in the opposite direction.

Gentle Metafilter reader - which toothpaste will you be? ;\
posted by troutfishing at 1:19 PM on February 27, 2004


some people make culture, others consume it. i agree with the underlying message here: through population segregation, emigration and repression, we are actively become duller and dumber, less respected and more boring, and eventually they'll bust out the soylent green (made out of your gay neighbors who were recently "relocated," no doubt) and we won't notice.
posted by luriete at 1:21 PM on February 27, 2004


That is ludicrous.
posted by techgnollogic at 1:27 PM on February 27, 2004


Attention is finite, especially legislative attention. It doesn't surprise that those who fritter their attention on other people's peccadillos tend to ignore more work related pursuits.
posted by effugas at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2004


luriete, we segregate ourselves, and every subgroup of humanity is guilty of it, so everybody can eat a big slice of the blame pie, if they want. It's natural birds of a feather behavior. And when people get into large enough groups of like-minded people they feel perfectly comfortable in their contempt for those unlike them. This is true for religionist and athiest, straight and gay, black and white, liberal and conservative, hipster and old fogey, rich and poor. "creative class" and "non-creative."

Just seems to be human nature.
posted by jonmc at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2004


Excellent post troutfishing!

Your second link really backs up what MidasMulligan was saying in an earlier-this-week thread on gay marriage: that it makes sense, for an "Ayn Rand Conservative" to extend spouse/partner benefits to same-sex couples.

On a later point in your post - the self-segregation of America. I really am not sure that's a bad thing. If there were true differences in substantial law between different areas of the country, then we could exercise what I call a Socratic choice: choose to live in a land governed by laws that are in accord with your own values. As it is, there is currently no place in the nation that has laws which embody significant values I hold, but it is nice to have hope. It really can be a solution to some of society's ills, and help restore some states' rights that have been eroded since the Civil War.

The only negative I see is that, were these value-segregations to occur and be reflected in law, the locations that hold values I like might not be places I would want to live anyway. Most of my values are likely to be shared by urban folk, while I'm a country boy at heart (yeah, a country boy who wants to decriminalize all consensual crimes, eliminate property taxation, and find a nice guy to marry).
posted by yesster at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2004


spazzm - great one-liner.

PenDevil - Thanks the article. I saved it - slogging past the 5 ad packed screens... In retrospect, with this added perpective, I think the NYT piece was a bit irresposible (or sloppy). However, I'm suspicious that the developing world scientists who are forgoing studying at American Universities will be much more likely - during their working careers - to stay home and work for domestic ventures. The Chinese and Indian economies are anything but stagnant.

We'll see. ; |
posted by troutfishing at 1:36 PM on February 27, 2004


yesster - thanks. You know, I'm sort of with you on that : I like, in theory anyway, the prospect giving states (and cultural conservatives) more rope with which to hang themselves. If Americans could self segregate according to values and religious beliefs on a large enough scale that these super-tribes could dominate whole states and enact the sort of culturally repressive laws they yearn for, the negative economic impact of this would become dramatically more apparent.
posted by troutfishing at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2004


I personally am familiar with a number of science people and medical doctors who are slipping into Mexico illegally to get work there, even though the wages are not good. The opportunities seem much better than in the U.S. Presidente Fox is thinking of granting them amnesty so they can get licenses to drive cars, cars made there for the U.S.
posted by Postroad at 1:51 PM on February 27, 2004


States race to lead stem-cell research
posted by homunculus at 1:55 PM on February 27, 2004


Isn't the "self-segregation" of America not a result of any political trend but just the logical outgrowth of the increasingly cheap cost of relocating? I recall a thread a while back about how much more Americans move their homes than anyone else, and how that trend is increasing. Maybe cities/neighborhoods are becoming more homogenous simply because whereas before, the transvestite anarchist computer programmer and the blue-collar republican butcher who grew up next to each other just dealt with it, now they move away from each other as soon as they graduate high school.

Like, you know, when you have a bunch of big marbles and little marbles in a bowl and then you shake the bowl really hard and all the big marbles end up together and all the small marbles end up together...
posted by sodalinda at 1:55 PM on February 27, 2004


Oh, please. There are plenty of us homos out in the suburbs and in small towns, and there always will be, because that's where our families, our family-owned businesses, and the cheap land/homes are. I make a difference for gay rights every day by just talking with my Christian neighbors about lawn care.

My town is a damp armpit, but it has lots of artists and creatives and gays BECAUSE the poverty and lack of jobs makes everyone else go away, so we can do art and be creative and clamber around on our post-apocolyptic dead industrial town landscape.

Plus, who wants to live with a bunch of shallow, apple-
martini drinkin' "L Word" wannabees anyway?

(I kid)

Actually, I just moved out here as a mate retention technique; if there aren't any other lesbians as cute as me, I know my honey won't leave.
posted by pomegranate at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2004


Hmmm. So is the implication that the majority of creative, innovative people are in fact gay? Or simply that tolerant urban centers attract creative innovative people?

Would gay marriage make San Francisco even more productive?

Do the results still seem significant if you look normalize economic indicators for population of an area as a whole and cost of living?
posted by namespan at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2004


troutfishing- >-"If Americans could self segregate according to values and religious beliefs on a large enough scale that these super-tribes could dominate whole states and enact the sort of culturally repressive laws they yearn for..."

They would live in Utah.
posted by MikeMc at 3:33 PM on February 27, 2004


"Will GOP anti-elitism and the US religious right make the U.S. a 3rd world country? Paul Craig Roberts argues that we're on the fast track..."

Thats when I stopped reading.
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:45 PM on February 27, 2004


leaving Europe to go to the US where there is less beuracracy

Less bureaucracy, that is, provided they can even get into the country. And the scientists that do leave Europe will be more than easily replaced by the many, many scientists from Asia who are increasingly choosing to work and study in Europe instead of the U.S. because of how they are treated by U.S. embassies and immigration services.

PenDevil, if you can find that Time story, I can find many others that will tell you this is the more serious brain drain.
posted by lia at 3:58 PM on February 27, 2004


Oh snap, scrolling through again I realized you had posted it, I just hadn't seen it. Many of the articles in the original post talk about it but Alan Murray's recent piece on reverse brain drain is a good summary.
posted by lia at 4:12 PM on February 27, 2004


So is the implication that the majority of creative, innovative people are in fact gay? Or simply that tolerant urban centers attract creative innovative people?

The latter interpretation makes more sense, and isn't hard to explain. Creative, innovative people are, by definition, in the business of thinking up new ideas and new ways of doing things. Someone with this trait probably isn't going to feel very comfortable in a culture which celebrates traditional ideas and old ways of doing things.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:15 PM on February 27, 2004


Gayfilter [/nonPC statement]
posted by SpaceCadet at 6:01 PM on February 27, 2004


What does that make the rest of us, the Destructive Class?

Dull Class? Chopped Liver Class?

Gayfilter [/nonPC statement]

yeah why is everything about gays.. what about the polygamists, bigamists and other forms of human mating they should have equal rights too.

Good post trout I had seen all these in the headlines but not together as a "world hates us" trend.

IMO the media creates the 50/50 split. It is classic journalism to create black and white stories with a protagonist and antagonist. The world is never that simple but we are sold the bill of goods so often we believe it. We want to believe it, it makes us feel secure. Children see the world in black and white everything is either very good, or very bad.
posted by stbalbach at 6:47 PM on February 27, 2004


To those who think the U.S. could not revert to third world status, I think you should take a look at history. The U.S. has only been a world power for about a hundred years. Every civilization that held the top spot before the U.S. has fallen, and fallen far. Everyone knows about Rome, but I think for the U.S., China is a better example. China was so far out in front that they should have ruled the globe forever. However, one emperor decided that there was nothing left worth exploring, and dismantled their navy. After that, the combination of isolationism and lack of curiosity effectively destroyed their ability to progress. Now they are a global nuclear power, but still basically a third world country.
The U.S. came very far, very fast based on the ability of our more creative citizens to invent and discover whole industries. Now we have a system that is stacking the deck against any sort of innovation that would threaten existing corporate power. This is a recipe for disaster. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen unless we do something to change our present course.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:33 PM on February 27, 2004


Apparently new demographic categories will be continue to be discovered until we reach the moment where we all are subdivided into parties of one, each man, woman, boy or girl his or her own ultimate niche market.
posted by y2karl at 9:51 PM on February 27, 2004


Hi lia! *waves*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:13 AM on February 28, 2004


From the article:- But, America is no long attracting creative workers from abroad because it is seen as an intolerant society. He cites the lack of recognition of same-sex couples and the battle over gay marriage, and policies restricting stem cell research and the tightening of visa requirements as reasons the world's brightest are no longer seeking to come to the US to work.

Those who call the US intolerant have never been to a truly intolerant country.

A good economy comes about when a country's population is skilled and hard-working, and there are demands for the goods it produces, not because of it's stance on gay rights and stem cell research.

India, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan - hardly the most tolerant of countries when it comes to human rights, but they all have their own individual economic success stories.

To say that governments must be more tolerant of gay rights or the economy will "be damaged" is the purest propaganda.
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:26 AM on February 28, 2004


Countries where large majorities frown upon gays — including Egypt, Bangladesh, Iran and China — tend to be more economically backward and ruled by authoritarian regimes.
- From Florida's USAT oped.


This strikes me as deeply silly. I think affluence leads to tolerance, not the other way around.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:01 AM on February 28, 2004


"...Actually no matter whether it the "Creatives" or money-making speculators in charge, they still are gonna need people to mop their floors, clean their toilets and bag their groceries. And that's where most of the population will lie.....So, stay or go, it really makes no difference as far as I'm concerned."
- Come, jonmc - you can do better than that. Not that there's anything wrong with those jobs per se. But all humans aspire to better work (better paying, more interesting, or both).

And besides, I think you're partly wrong on that - the human servants of the rich will long be around but I suspect that the mopping, toilet cleaning, and grocery bagging will be done by robots without the decade.

It will take a bit longer for Virginia Postrel's new "creatives" - stonecutters (granite/marble kitchen countertop cutters, to be precise), manicurists, salon workers, massage therapists, and so on - to be supplanted by robots, and some will always pay a premium for a human touch. But many of these jobs will nonetheless be consumed by automation - sooner or later.
posted by troutfishing at 7:16 AM on February 28, 2004


Cunninglinguist - have you read anything Richard Florida has written ? While your observation is certainly true, the converse is almost certainly true as well :

Tolerant areas tend to attract "creatives" - of all sexual inclinations (gay, straight, bi, other) who contribute disproportionately to creating economic wealth.

In other words, it is a virtuous cycle.

This works at both a national level, within the U.S., and at an international level ; on the world market, talented creatives prefer to take jobs in countries or cities/regions which offer cosmopolitan amenities and hold tolerant cultural values. As creatives populate an area, it becomes even more attractive to other creatives. And so on.
posted by troutfishing at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2004


Trout - I don't doubt it. I mean, see Paris in the 20s as an easy example. Or New York anytime. (Pre smoking ban anyway.)

I just think in general the model works better on a national scale rather than international, and objected to the simplistic suggestion that places like Iran and China have economic problems because their cultures are socially intolerant.

I also do vaguely remember vowing vociferously in a bar last night that I would be moving to Paris after the election.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:42 AM on February 28, 2004


"India, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan - hardly the most tolerant of countries when it comes to human rights, but they all have their own individual economic success stories." ....To say that governments must be more tolerant of gay rights or the economy will "be damaged" is the purest propaganda" (SpaceCadet) - Well, ummm - no. It's actually academic research in this case. That's why I posted the links - they had merit which rose well above the level of propaganda.

The examples of India, China, Malaysia and, to an extent North Korea, are inappropriate in this case. They do not refute Richard Florida's argument because :

1) Florida's research has been done primarily in the U.S. but more significantly,

2) It concerns the ability of mature, developed economies to compete on the world market for the most talented, migratory professionals who are willing to consider locating to many different countries and are, essentially, shopping for the best deal ( $, cosmopolitan amenities, tolerance, quality of life, etc. ).

India, China, Malaysia, and North Korea have developing economies which are not yet comparable (yet...and North Korea is very close) to the more advanced economies of the U.S., Canada, Europe, the UK, Ireland. They are not in the same competitive league (yet).

Further - Japan and North Korea have powered their economic growth almost exclusively by indigenous labor and do not compete for world talent at the same level (yet) but North Korea's economy is still developing, while Japan's now seems oddly stagnant and so on wonder if Florida's analysis is coming to bear - a lack of international talent. See Pendevil's comment far up the thread (and link) to the "European Brain Drain" of talented European scientists relocating in the U.S. - this substantial talent helps to propel the U.S., economy. North Korea ? We'll see. This country might prove the exception to the rule. But that wouldn't, in my opinion, invalidate Florida's overall argument.
posted by troutfishing at 7:49 AM on February 28, 2004


re self segregation, jonathan rauch wrote an interesting piece in the atlantic monthly (that i think was linked here someplace?) about modeling societies using simple CA rules:
look at Figure 2 ... the agents seek only one neighbor of their own color. Again the simulation begins with a random distribution (Frame 1). This time sorting proceeds more slowly and less starkly. But it does proceed. About a third of the way through the simulation, discernible ethnic clusters have emerged (Frame 2). As time goes on, the boundaries tend to harden (Frames 3 and 4). Most agents live in areas that are identifiably blue or red. Yet these "people" would be perfectly happy to be in the minority; they want only to avoid being completely alone. Each would no doubt regard itself as a model of tolerance and, noticing the formation of color clusters, might conclude that a lot of other agents must be racists.
which is also similar to majority voting -- "You look at your neighbors and, being a timid conformist, switch to whatever most of them are. (This is a model for politics in the '50s.)"

re the correlation between gay-creative urban centers, richard florida also wrote about this in the rise of the creative class noting:
While I had been studying the location choices of high-tech industries and talented people, Gates had been exploring the location patterns of gay people. My list of the country's high-tech hot spots looked an awful lot like his list of the places with highest concentrations of gay people. When we compared these two lists with more statistical rigor, his Gay Index turned out to correlate very strongly to my own measures of high-tech growth. Other measures I came up with, like the Bohemian Index---a measure of artists, writers, and performers---produced similar results.
and like the same conclusion mars comes to, "Talented people seek an environment open to differences."

and re the reverse brain drain, stephen roach has characterized it more as the global labor arbitrage and at least with regard to science and engineering:
US National Science Foundation data show that the United States is currently awarding only about 200,000 bachelor's degrees in engineering and science, little changed from trends in the mid-1980s. By contrast, Asia's annual graduates of science and engineering students (for China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, combined) has now hit approximately 650,000 per year; that's up over 50% from the graduation rate in the mid-1980s and fully three times the comparable degree production rate in the US.
[also about 40% of US science and engineering Ph.D.'s (still) go to "non-US citizens" every year according to the NSF]

so if craig barret is right and russia, china and india (and brazil :) already have as many as 250 million to 500 million "knowledge workers" -- as much as or more than the US pop! -- then maybe we should "staple a green card to their diplomas and let them stay here." :D else we can start spinning rifkin/black - marshall brain - macroknow scenarios!
posted by kliuless at 8:03 AM on February 28, 2004


Creative, innovative people are, by definition, in the business of thinking up new ideas and new ways of doing things. Someone with this trait probably isn't going to feel very comfortable in a culture which celebrates traditional ideas and old ways of doing things.

I think this is a bit too much of a black and white view of creativity. I know many creative people who celebrate traditional ideals; what is more, creativity inevitably comes out of some tradition, it just adapts that tradition to the artist's own vision and goals. Tradition may even play a role in creative people's choice of residence. New York, for example, has a great creative tradition, and it's easier to feel in touch with them when you're there, in their environment.

Of course, the main problem with this self-segregation is that it oversimplifies and ignores creative people who choose, for whatever reason, not to live in creative centers. Maybe they disagree with its current climate, or have family ties, or simply cannot afford to live there.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:19 AM on February 28, 2004


dagnyscott - Sure, there are always exceptions. But we're talking about averages here. 100% of creatives don't live in Florida's "tolerance zones" - but on the statistical level they tend to.

Cunninglinguist - Yes, I agree with your first point there. I think Florida's theory applies best within nations but - additionally, it works well, I'd assert, within a certain bloc of developed nations characterized by 1) a relatively uniform level of tolerance and 2) liberal immigration/work permit policies.

kliuless - thanks very much for providing all those links. I'll check them out.

stbalbach - yup, "The bias of journalistic impartiality" (or something like that)

SpaceCadet - Well, I'm not gay. But I don't know - nor do I especially care about - the sexual orientations of most of the people who commented on this thread. I didn't think of this as a "gay" post. It's about economics.
posted by troutfishing at 9:57 AM on February 28, 2004


this is definitely more of a SocioeconomicFilter post I think, and a great one at that. I wonder tho--some scientists and engineers are creative and want to live in a diverse vibrant area, but most (in my admittedly stereotypical view based on those i've known) are more myopic than that, going wherever the grants or jobs are, and extremely focused on their work to the neglect of their surroundings.
posted by amberglow at 10:03 AM on February 28, 2004


Tolerant areas tend to attract "creatives" - of all sexual inclinations (gay, straight, bi, other) who contribute disproportionately to creating economic wealth.

But ISTR that the last time this went around, it came out that the tolerance-zones have lower long-term economic growth than boring manufacturing areas.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:14 AM on February 28, 2004


President Bush yesterday dismissed two members of his hand-picked Council on Bioethics — a scientist and a moral philosopher who had been among the more outspoken advocates for research on human-embryo cells.

In their places he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out precisely against the research that the dismissed members supported, and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the "threats of biotechnology."
posted by homunculus at 10:57 AM on February 28, 2004


I think affluence leads to tolerance, not the other way around.

cunninglinguist, I agree with this as a rule, with odd exceptions (e.g. Japan, very rich but also very intolerant of anything perceived as "not the norm").

troutfishing, I mentioned South Korea but I figure you meant the more affluent half of the Korean peninsula in your post anyway :-) (as North Korea is anything but an economic success story).

Well, ummm - no. It's actually academic research in this case. That's why I posted the links - they had merit which rose well above the level of propaganda.


So academic research can never be used for propaganda purposes? To say that research can never equate to propaganda is naive. You know how it goes:- you have your message -you just need to figure out a way of stating your opinion as fact, to give it the air of objectivity. Stats can prove anything these days. Just depends how you massage them. Your link comes from a gay website. If it was from a news website, I'd give it more credence.
posted by SpaceCadet at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2004


Even The Economist thinks there should be gay marriage.
posted by amberglow at 12:37 PM on February 28, 2004


George Bush is going to be remembered as another one of "those" presidents. The ones that people laugh about or make fun of when the word is used.

Old Georgey is just doing his part to keep his constituents happy. Someone should mow him down.
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:11 PM on February 28, 2004


Did I say mow, like to cut? No, I meant Impeach. Yes. I meant.... Impeach.
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:12 PM on February 28, 2004


The two democratic front runners are opposed to gay marriage too. The amendment is stupid they all agree on the marriage issue.
posted by techgnollogic at 9:18 PM on February 28, 2004


SpaceCadet - Sure, academic research can be used as propaganda. But to label it as propaganda out of hand - without addressing it independently on it's own merits....doesn't this amount to a very similar type of propaganda?

"tolerance-zones have lower long-term economic growth than boring manufacturing areas." - ROU_Xenophobe, what was that research? The main point here concerns a major change in that equation which has recently emerged in Florida's research.
posted by troutfishing at 9:24 PM on February 28, 2004


techgnollogic - the marriage amendment is, I suspect, about providing a red meat issue to rally the Republican base. I'm suspicious that GW Bush, will push this amendment as long as it is politically expedient (and no more).
posted by troutfishing at 9:29 PM on February 28, 2004


Bush will have little legacy with regard to "culture," I think. Culture is bigger than Presidents. The cultural left should be more alarmed by The Passion of the Christ breaking $100 million in box office in its first 5 days than by anything Bush says or does.

This is not to say Bush will have no legacy -- far from it. The very fact that the Democratic nomination is coming down to two different supporters of the Iraq War Resolution, and whose going forward military policy differs from Bush's more along the lines of which Islamofascists to bomb rather than whether they ought to be bombed at all, demonstrates the powerful foreign-policy changes which will endure.

The biggest legacy is on fiscal policy. Particularly if he makes the 2002-2010 tax reforms permanent this summer, America will have been basically changed. It is very hard to increase taxes once they've been cut, particularly when it comes to tax reforms on capital (like the lowered capital gains and dividend taxes) that get priced into assets, and even more when one has superintended a fundamental rightward shift in the membership of Congress.

Reagan's tax cuts were largely undone, but today's Congress is structurally far more anti-tax than the 1987-1993 Congresses, who undid the Reagan tax cuts with a series of marginal rate increases pushing the top rate up by more than forty percent (from 28% to 39.6%). There are 80 or so more Republican members of Congress than there were back then, but that actually understates the change. There are nearly 100 new Republican Congressmen representing rural, exurban and Southern districts, offset by about 20 new Democrats representing culturally liberal, but fiscally conservative, affluent suburubs which used to be the domain of country club Republicans. It is almost impossible to imagine these Congresses raising taxes once they've cut them.
posted by MattD at 5:18 AM on March 1, 2004


MattD - I largely agree..... at the moment. But let's see what the next 20 years brings, eh? The US middle class is sinking. Who are they going to blame? The shameless upward wealth redistribution policies of the Bush Administration - abetted now by "Chainsaw Al" Greenspan's exhortation to gut social security benefits for the 50 and under crowd (instead of allowing the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy to expire) - WILL have an impact. The economy WILL continue to sputter, and jobs WILL be outsourced.

The US is on a fast track to "Brazilification" (in more ways than one) and the US middle class is getting scared.

And all the culture war gambits of the Republican Party cannot change that.
posted by troutfishing at 8:08 AM on March 1, 2004


Well, it seems to me that people tend to think that only a few large cities have any culture at all, and people who live outside of them can't possibly be creative, which, in my mind, ruins everything good about America as a creative center, which is that you don't have to have a rich family supporting you in order to be creative. But all the creative centers are also really expensive, so you do have to have some sort of pretty strong financial backing to live there.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2004


It is very hard to increase taxes once they've been cut

The other way around, actually. It's very hard to cut taxes once they've been raised. The general trend has been upward since country was founded. Lowering them for a few years or even a couple of decades is only a blip on the graph.
posted by kindall at 8:54 AM on March 1, 2004


kindall - While that may be true, it is also true that, in the US, corporate tax contributions to the federal tax rolls have been dropping for the past several decades and that, furthermore, the top individual marginal tax rate has been dropping since around the late 1940's. If one lives in one of those blips on the graph - well that is personally quite significant.

Taxes - in the long run - may be going up but in the long run, as the saying goes, we are all dead.

You could extend your graph to comparative rates of taxation through the ages, to survey the tax rates of Medieval era, the tribute demanded of serfs by overlords and the Church. Or - back to the Roman Empire, and even to ancient Sumeria. Then your general upward trend would, I suspect, disappear.
posted by troutfishing at 1:15 PM on March 1, 2004


Yes, my Sumerian tax bill has been minimal for years now.
posted by languagehat at 3:51 PM on March 1, 2004


languagehat - Oh, don't be to quick to count your chickens. The Sumerian Monarchy restorationists are waiting in the wings, and they've got some big bills in hand - bills with compounded interest.

They have lawyers too.
posted by troutfishing at 8:06 PM on March 1, 2004


*quickly starts brushing up Sumerian legal and accounting terminology, getting clay tablets ready for oven*
posted by languagehat at 7:03 AM on March 2, 2004


*googles for Sumerian clay tablet recipes - best clay? oven temp?*
posted by troutfishing at 8:11 AM on March 2, 2004


I imagined Virginia Postrel was somewhere between getting her nails done and a massage when the seeds of her article were planted. In much the same way she was probably driving through the suburbs and then wrote an article for Reason claiming that the amount of Xmas light decorations was a major indicator of our affluence. She ignored-among other things-how none (I looked quite in quite a few different stores too) of those lights were made in the USA. She also ignored how much longer these lights last. This makes it easier to add on the display each year.

The first opinion was shared by Michael Bérubé, who also shared his encounter with her concerning cloning. Henry Farrell pointed out an old (1997) Reason article that suggests she's been on the nail subject for a while.
posted by john at 10:01 AM on March 2, 2004


john - One writes about one knows and experiences. Postrel, it seems, has a lot of experience with getting her fingernails done.

Thanks for that link. I was equally appalled when I read Postrel's NYT Magazine piece and had to wonder - how the HELL did this woman achieve prominence as a writer? Plo chops? Old money connections? Blackmail?

I have to commend Postrel though, for providing such wonderful material for satire. Plus, she forced me to revisit the strange cluelessness of certain upperclass Americans - their insensitivity to the plight of average working Americans - and those elite attitudes exemplified by Postrel's exhortation - Let them eat granite
posted by troutfishing at 7:48 AM on March 3, 2004


« Older White House To Seek Ban On Gay Sex On The Moon...  |  "Us intellectuals realized a l... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments