Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Jonathan Haidt's Nationalists and Globalists: Who are the Real Authoritarians?

In the turmoil of Brexit and Trump political intellectuals are trying to understand what is happening. So Jonathan Haidt writes in The American Interest that we must think of the warring sides as Nationalists and Globalists. He writes that
I’ll show how globalization and rising prosperity have changed the values and behavior of the urban elite, leading them to talk and act in ways that unwittingly activate authoritarian tendencies in a subset of the nationalists.
I will propose that the opposite is true, that the problem is the authoritarian tendencies of the globalists.

Here is how Jonathan Haidt sets this up. He refers to the World Values Survey that tells a story about how people socialize to the modern capitalist global economy.
[F]irst, as they industrialize, they move away from “traditional values” in which religion, ritual, and deference to authorities are important, and toward “secular rational” values that are more open to change, progress, and social engineering based on rational considerations. Second, as they grow wealthier and more citizens move into the service sector, nations move away from “survival values” emphasizing the economic and physical security found in one’s family, tribe, and other parochial groups, toward “self-expression” or “emancipative values” that emphasize individual rights and protections—not just for oneself, but as a matter of principle, for everyone.
Yes. Well. That's how liberals look at it, because it validates their welfare-state-run-by-liberals world view. And about that business of individual rights and protections "for everyone." Can you spell "authoritarian?"

And it is not true that people move away from traditional values as they industrialize. In fact they move from pagan and world-of-spirits religions to the Axial Age religions, most notably Christianity. Then, after they have mastered life in the city, then they start to shed their religion and the cultural traditions of Axial Age religion.

My world view says
First, as nations industrialize people start to move away from "subordinate values" where the name of the game is finding a powerful patron, from a pantheon of power-driven gods or a warrior lord or a labor union boss or a precinct captain, to "responsible values" championed by the Axial Age religions, where people are open to adapting themselves to the needs of other people and taking on the responsibility of serving others in order to serve themselves. Second, as they grow wealthier and move into the service sector they start to move from "responsible values"  to "creative values". In particular, many of these people of the creative self find in themselves a vocation to order around the people of the responsible self in order to force them to fund government programs to "emancipate" and "liberate" the remnant population of people of the subordinate self. Which they usually fail to do.
And when the plans of the creative elite fail to produce the requisite result the elite blames racists and xenophobes and redoubles its efforts to extend rights and protections through free-stuff government programs. And the elite encourages race-based divisive politics in the remnant population of the subordinate self and gender-based divisive politics in the creative elite in order to retain their grip on political power.

If the world view proposed by Jonathan Haidt above has relevance it would recognize that an evolved elite cannot really expect the middle ground of people that have come up from survival values to be enthusiastic about transitioning into "self-expression" and "emancipative values," and these folks probably should not be poked in the ribs about their backwardness and bigotry and racism and sexism and homophobia. The elite would realize that these people and their children would come to those values in due course and that it would be unjust and wrong to marginalize them for values that, for people in their stage of cultural evolution, are perfectly valid and appropriate.

But there is another thing to consider, one that the global elite really hasn't thought about. It is the old question: quis custodiet ipsos custodes -- who will guard the guardians? It is all very well to have an elite of creative caring experts busily extending emancipation and protection to everyone, according to their lights. But who will correct them when they make a mistake? And everyone makes mistakes. And who will punish them when they are corrupt? If you give people the power to emancipate and protect the world, but power corrupts, as the saying goes, and if you give people the opportunity to feather their beds with public funds they will usually do it. Look at the folks presently building and operating wind farms. Oh yes, wind and solar are going to save the planet. But meanwhile a well-connected elite is making a bundle in grants and subsidies and the average person is paying a bundle in increased energy costs. Is there anyone that can not see a problem here?

The way that the global elite has set things up there is really no way for the people to vote them out of office and change the rulers. There is no legitimate channel by which ordinary people can register their cultural dissent from the global elite, and no way to correct the global elite for malfeasance in office.

You can see that in the current flap over Brexit and Trump. The fact is that the Crash of 2008 was a failure of the global elite, however you look at it. If you take the official liberal line that it was greedy bankers wot done it, then the global elite is to blame. If you take the conservative line that is was liberal housing policy designed to emancipate minorities and women into homeownership by lowering lending standards, then the global elite is to blame. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Where is the banker that went to jail, if you are a liberal? Or, where is the political activist that went to jail, if you are a conservative?

Here's an issue. How come the global experts haven't been able to restart the economy at full speed in the eight years since the Crash? Is this "bad luck" or does it tell us that the global elite really don't have a clue?

Here's another issue. Supposing the World Values Survey approach is right and people move from "traditional values" and "survival values" to "secular rational" and "self-expression" values. Isn't it rather pushing it to import tens of millions of people into Europe and the US who are right at the starting gate in the values progression? Won'r this influx of people swing the cultural balance significantly towards the less advanced cultural context and "turn back the clock?" Do not the secular rationalists realize that this might be a bit of a problem, from their point of view?

Or, to put it less charitably, do not US liberals see a problem in importing a ton of Muslims with their traditional approach to women and gays? Let alone dealing with disaffected Black Lives Matter people that are regressing to a naked racist program (survival values anyone) and wanting to curb the police that ineffectively police the black areas of America's cities? Liberals tend to think of conservative Christians and right-wing extremists as the only thing between us and the millennium. But conservative Christians and right-wing extremists really only want to be left alone and not dragged into liberal plans to march in double-time along the arc of history towards justice, especially since this march to the future looks profoundly like straight-up injustice to them.

And that brings us to the final point. According to the liberal World Values Survey view, the educated cosmopolitans "embrace diversity." That is a lie. The educated elite demands that the rest of us embrace their particular cultural values and abandon our more traditional values forthwith. That is why my liberal friend muttered about "hate" and "xenophobia" last week. If you don't get on the team with gay marriage right now you are a hater. If you don't get on board with large-scale migration then you are a xenophobe. This doesn't sound like an embrace of diversity to me. It sounds like an authoritarian program of cultural imperialism, and you will be made to care.

But no. It is the nationalists who are the authoritarians. Sez the global elite.

Here is reality. Globalization is great for the global elite; they and their children get to traipse around the world from gig to gig, and for moral release, they get to help the marginalized and the underprivileged with other peoples' money. Globalization has brought billions of the world's poor out of indigence. Globalization is also good for people that have been able to migrate to western countries and pick up the work that ordinary western people don't want to do. But globalization is not so great for the people in the middle, because they are being forced to raise their game from being subordinate factory workers and office workers with lifetime tenure to become creative workers that must reinvent themselves all the time.

For some reason, the global elite has been blind to the effect of all this on the people in the middle who had become used to "good jobs at good wages" and all the thumbs on the political scales that helped them in the past. It stands to reason that the global elite should pay for their mistake, for they have been thoughtless authoritarians that did not consider the possibility of error. They did not consider that there might be glitches in their program, as would be natural in any human endeavor. And they certainly did not consider that their whole program might be folly.

As Dr. No told James Bond. You are a fool Mr. Bond, and a fool must pay for his folly.

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