At the ASI.
That welfare state that works in Sweden might work because it’s in Sweden
Tags: Timmy Elsewhere
// Nov 25, 2012 at 10:32 pm
It’s always difficult with stuff like this to distinguish causes and effects. There always tends to be some “prior cause” in social sciences.
I was thinking about all this a while ago while reading Thomas Sowell’s stuff about black crackers; that is that in his view, American ghetto blacks inherited the deep South’s white cracker culture, and that is the primary cause of their social mess. It’s a reasonable hypothesis. One can extend it to note that American culture being dominant currently (we’ll probably all be copying the Chinese and Indians a hundred years from now as the USA sinks to “former imperial power status” like we did in the last century, but anyway, sorry to digress) that cracker ghetto culture now heavily influences British lower classes. Hence Starkey’s “whites have become black” thing. What he actually meant, or should have meant, is the inheritance of American cracker culture by British blacks and whites in the lowest class. Three cheers for Gangsta Rap! (Watch out for the “Feds”, now!).
But it seems to me that the unifying prior cause here is an economic principle; time preference. Cracker cultures (the English crackers who spread it to the American South, the historic Irish, the historic Finns, current ghetto blacks (and whites) etc) display a common suite of behaviours which are clearly recognisable as, basically, primitive tribalism; high levels of violence related to plunder and raiding (“gangsters/gangstas”), disinterest in the long term interests of offspring, disinterest in preventing offspring, all linked to a high time preference- instant gratification rather than long term planning and concern for the future.
And I was thinking about Kenneth Clark’s famous golden-age-of-the-Beebs series, “Civilisation”. In the first episode, “The Skin Of Our Teeth”, at one point he muses about what disginguishes, historically, civilised societies. His answer, I think, is a good one. It is that civilisations consider the future, rather than just the now. They build from stone, not wood, for instance, because they have a concept of things “lasting”. In a pre-civilised tribal society, such as the Vikings (in his example), they make things, often beautiful things (longships, swords, works of art) but everything is just enough to last for now and get you through the next season. The next raid, the next act of plunder. And so on.
So there’s a strong tendency to have a higher time preference the poorer you are; because you are living hand to mouth, how can I pay that next bill? Long term planning is discouraged, and short term planning encouraged. The clear economic illustration of this is the exhorbitant interest rates (a direct function of time preference) for short term “payday” loans. You’re not borrowing to invest. You’re borrowing just to survive another week, another month. Your time preference rises, and you get less civilised. You stop thinking, “if I work hard, in ten or twenty years I’ll be comfortably off” and start thinking, “what can I get now?”
Hence, without some powerful ideological force (e.g. religion), the lower class is incentivised to collapse into cracker-ism.
Sweden is still quite strongly ideological. They have been described as being atheist pietists, who kept the social ideology of religion while mostly discarding the God bit. It will be interesting to see if this situation continues. Considering the fervent desire of European ruling classes to smash indigenous cultures, that is unlikely. American influence will probably last long enough to produce a similar situation of a strongly divided “middle” class from ghettoes full of crackers (of every shade of skin). It’s the American Dream, after all.
// Nov 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm
Oops, sorry for another tl;dr.
// Nov 25, 2012 at 11:25 pm
Sweden is to the ‘very homogeneous’ side of the social cohesion scale.
In part because after Gustavus Adolphus they stayed home.
In part because they practiced eugenics between 1936 and 1975. 62,00 sterilizations, 90% women. Snipped off the ends of their bell curve.
I offer in evidence a meeting in Stockholm in my formative years with five Swedish blokes. All called Sven.
// Nov 25, 2012 at 11:37 pm
// Nov 25, 2012 at 11:43 pm
Well, it’s one thing to know that a certain state A exist, and that a certain act B occurred, but the hard part is proving that B caused A.
For instance, in 1914 Britain introduced rigorous beer licensing laws. After 1914, Britain’s empire collapsed. Did the licensing laws lose Britain her Empire?
// Nov 26, 2012 at 12:04 am
Ian B…glad you brought in Kenneth Clark. just how many of the iconic buildings of today have a design life of 10 years or less. All the glass-clad sky-scrapers will collapse leaving exactly what record of our civilisation?
So Much for Subtlety
// Nov 26, 2012 at 12:51 am
As I may have said before, people are not fungible. Swedes are Swedes. An ethnically homogeneous Protestant country. Until recently. So a lot of Swedes will know each other and will trust each other even if they do not. They will also be hard working, save their money, remain faithful to their wives and so on.
The 60s mounted a sustained attack on this. I think the 60s will win. Because in one sense people may be fungible – the Swedes may become more like the Ghetto trash of the US. After all, the Hispanic community is. High levels of teenage single mothers are not common in much of Latin America. They are more and more so in the US. So the Swedes are sticking with their partners for now. But there is no reason to think they will go on doing so.
So Much For Subtlety
// Nov 26, 2012 at 2:18 am
Thomas Gibbon – “In part because they practiced eugenics between 1936 and 1975. 62,00 sterilizations, 90% women. Snipped off the ends of their bell curve.”
I hope they only snipped off one end of their Bell Curve. I am not sure I am comfortable with that argument and instead I would turn it around the other way – it is not that eugenics made them less feckless, it is that their social intolerance for fecklessness made them sterilise one end of their Bell Curve. That made it clear that that sort of behaviour was socially unacceptable.
Sweden has been coasting on that social capital ever since.
So Much For Subtlety
// Nov 26, 2012 at 2:31 am
Ian B – “that is that in his view, American ghetto blacks inherited the deep South’s white cracker culture, and that is the primary cause of their social mess. It’s a reasonable hypothesis.”
Because Southern Blacks were so well off before they moved up north to the ghetto? Surely this is just a way of blaming poor Whites. It is more likely to be the other way around – slavery badly undermined the Black family and poor Whites copied Blacks in this as in much else.
“So there’s a strong tendency to have a higher time preference the poorer you are;”
Or the shorter your time preference, the poorer you are likely to be. Cause and effect again.
“Hence, without some powerful ideological force (e.g. religion), the lower class is incentivised to collapse into cracker-ism.”
Especially when they are financially rewarded for doing so. I know dozens of families that have problems with their children, because the older generation does believe in hard work and so on, but the children know they are better off on the dole. And they no longer believe in God anyway.
“American influence will probably last long enough to produce a similar situation of a strongly divided “middle” class from ghettoes full of crackers (of every shade of skin).”
But that in turn is only a half way house. The ghettos will win and Sweden will become like Lebanon and then like Egypt and then like Turkey. With its White Christian population becoming a smaller and smaller – as well as ever more persecuted – minority until it no longer exists and Sweden is yet another Third World sh!thole.
Because the time preference you are ignoring is the one we should have in our ruling class which says that we ought to pass on a better, or at least similar, country to our children. Instead the liberals of both the free market and socialist sort are determined to destroy that legacy and make Britain into something very different.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 7:34 am
just how many of the iconic buildings of today have a design life of 10 years or less.
None. Not even the effing Dome.
Okay, I’ll grant you that surviving 2000 years is unlikely but most of the buildings will be designed for stability to well over 100 years. The Shard cost what, about £ 1/2 billion? And you reckon they’ve designed it with just a 10 year life-time?
// Nov 26, 2012 at 7:53 am
The presumed working lifetimes of modern office buildings is surprisingly short. I can’t give an exact figure, but anything 40 years old is deemed to be well past its design lifetime and generally hell on Earth to keep running. If I had to pick a worst one in the City that I worked in, it would probably be Bucklersbury House, a decrepit anachronism from the immediate post-war period. Even had a bomb shelter in the basement. It was, not surprisingly, on Bucklersbury.
Woefully outdated, it had been upgraded to air conditioning etc with a plant room in every wing (3) of every floor (can’t remember how many, too many). That meant every floorx3 had its own AHUs, humidifiers, etc. Only the boilers were central for the whole building (fucking ginormous, like an ocean liner). The only guarantee was that any given instant, the whole building was never functioning. It was like Vietnam; engineers would deliberately cripple themselves to avoid getting assigned there, and some were driven mad in a sort of “Bucklersbury House Shock” and had to be sent to sanitoria in the countryside to recuperate. It destroyed lives. One day, the story will be told.
Anyway, they’ve torn the bastard down now, apparently. Point is, it’s no use keeping old buildings working because they are inevitably out of date and a liability within a generation or at most two.
I was only there two weeks. I still wake in the night screaming at the memory.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 8:21 am
Interesting paper on actual building lives here:
“a large study of U.K. residential buildings found 46% of demolished structures fell in the 11-32 year age class.
“Another large study, of office buildings in Japan, found the typical life span to be between 23 and 41 years (4).”
// Nov 26, 2012 at 8:57 am
Point is, it’s no use keeping old buildings working because they are inevitably out of date and a liability within a generation or at most two.
Exactly. Other than for aesthetic value, there is no point in keeping an old building to run a modern business in. From a purely practical point of view, you might as well bulldoze it and build a new one. Nobody building offices in the 1970s could have predicted the need for Ethernet cables, windowless server rooms which need to be climate controlled, HVAC systems which can cool a floor filled with PCs, modern fire detection and suppression systems, and CCTV. Similarly, there is no point in nowadays building offices to last a hundred years: they will cost more to construct, and be obsolete long before they fall down. Much better to take advantage of our ability to build what are effectively cheap, temporary buildings – no longer are imported stone and thousands of stonemasons required – and just tear them down every two decades. Modern buildings should serve a purpose – as the old ones did – not be designed in order to impress people 200 years hence.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 9:51 am
SMFS ‘Because Southern Blacks were so well off before they moved up north to the ghetto? Surely this is just a way of blaming poor Whites.’
Sowell is black, and academic, and has been studying these things for 50 years. He’s also highly impartial. I suspect that what ever you thought, he already thinked it. (Cf Rodrick Heffley.)
// Nov 26, 2012 at 9:52 am
“Nobody building offices in the 1970s could have predicted…….”
Actually in designing the Lloyds Building (in 1978) Richard Rogers did predict all of this.
Rogers was given a briefing for the electricity/air con/”computing” demands that the Lloyds guys thought they would need for the next 10-20 years.
Rogers multiplied all these by 10 and built accordingly.
And, as someone has said, modern office blokes are deliberately designed to be replaced in 30 years time because the changing needs of office workers just can’t can’t be adapted into older buildings.
No one has a problem living in a Georgian building but open plan office spaces housing 1000 people and their computers just can’t be fitted into period buildings.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 10:26 am
True, but that building was truly groundbreaking.
That would never happen now. The accountants would reject any deviation from the original design brief, regardless of how sensible.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 10:38 am
How much of the obsolescence is due to constantly shifting fads for office layout. Everyone has their own office, everyone is in cube farms. The boss’s office is the same as everyone else’s, the boss has a bigger office with two windows to the outside. The boss’s office has plate glass overlooking the drones in the cube farm, now it doesn’t. Now it does but there are curtains/snazzy glass that goes opaque at the touch of a button.
I detect the malign influence of the management consultant again. Change for its own sake.
Even outdated plant can be replaced, usually with smaller and cheaper stuff, though I concede it’s hard shoehorning new stuff that was never anticipated into space that isn’t there for it. Experienced that in a late Victorian nurses home that had been turned into research laboratories.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 11:51 am
“Oops, sorry for another tl;dr. ”
Nah, it was a good read.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 11:54 am
“For instance, in 1914 Britain introduced rigorous beer licensing laws. After 1914, Britain’s empire collapsed. Did the licensing laws lose Britain her Empire?”
As night follows day…
// Nov 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm
Good article in the ASI.
The same principle applies whenever there a discussion on the age of consent (presently 16 years in the UK). Some commentators point to, eg, Spain’s age of consent which is 13 and draw a variety of conclusions esp. about single parenthood but fail to take into account Spanish cultural mores.
The age of consent may be 13, but Spanish culture does not encourage teenage sex at this age nor does the society take a benign view of unmarried / uncoupled teenagers having babies nor does Spain’s welfare state provide a high place on the housing list for teenage single parents.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm
…..Surely this is just a way of blaming poor Whites……
Having read the book, I can assure you that it is no such thing. What Mr Sowell is simply saying is that “Genuine Black Culture” is nothing more that the original low class culture of the poor white southerners. Whilst they grew out of it with time and education, the blacks didn’t.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm
Developments in computing in the last decade mean it is now much easier to install this technology. For example flat screen monitors require less desk space, wireless networks mean less surprise, surprise, wiring. The main thing that hasn’t been overcome is the need for a huge number of power points, which typically means false floors to run them under.
// Nov 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm
SMFS – going back to your first rant,
“Because in one sense people may be fungible – the Swedes may become more like the Ghetto trash of the US… So the Swedes are sticking with their partners for now. But there is no reason to think they will go on doing so.”
If you go to the post TW links to, it contains the fascinating nugget that Swedes living in the US (ie those of Swedish descent, not just recent immigrants) have the lower % of single parenthood than US whites as a whole, and almost exactly the same as in Sweden. So it looks like Swedes may well keep together.
I advance this with mixed feelings – I hope it will make you reconsider your conviction that we are going to the dogs (Mad Max here we come), but fear it will reinforce your cranky views on race.
(It maybe that living in Sweden and Minnesota is good for stable relationships in some way I can’t fathom that are not cultural – cold winters? lots of lakes? good pike fishing? any ideas?)
// Nov 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm
“…modern office blokes are deliberately designed to be replaced in 30 years…”
My 30 years came to an end some time ago. Do I have a design fault?
So Much for Subtlety
// Nov 26, 2012 at 11:26 pm
Serf – “Having read the book, I can assure you that it is no such thing. What Mr Sowell is simply saying is that “Genuine Black Culture” is nothing more that the original low class culture of the poor white southerners. Whilst they grew out of it with time and education, the blacks didn’t.”
Sorry but isn’t that exactly just blaming poor Whites? It also assumes that Black Americans had little or no culture of their own. We know that is not true and that poor Whites, such as Elvis Presley, had no problems copying Black culture. Nor am I sure that poor Whites have grown out of it. Surely Occam’s Razor suggests that the influence is the other way around?
What is interesting about Black American culture is that it has become so defined by the Northern Ghetto culture. “Real” Black culture is that of the poor urban northern communities. Which is a very modern thing as until recently there weren’t many Black people in the North-East. I would suggest the reason for this is simple – Blacks define their culture by not being White. Whatever White culture, or the dominant White culture, tells them to do is wrong. Anything it says they should not do is fine.
23 Luke – 2SMFS – going back to your first rant”
Please do. And notice that making you in some way uncomfortable does not make me wrong.
“If you go to the post TW links to, it contains the fascinating nugget that Swedes living in the US (ie those of Swedish descent, not just recent immigrants) have the lower % of single parenthood than US whites as a whole, and almost exactly the same as in Sweden. So it looks like Swedes may well keep together.”
Of course Milton Friedman noticed this a long time ago when someone pointed out there was no poverty in socialist Sweden. He replied that there was no poverty among Americans of Swedish origin either. But the 60s happened in both places at about the same time. There is no reason to think American Swedes won’t go the same way as other Whites.
“I advance this with mixed feelings – I hope it will make you reconsider your conviction that we are going to the dogs (Mad Max here we come), but fear it will reinforce your cranky views on race.”
Mad Max is the optimistic outcome at the moment. But please explain why you think it will make me rethink any views I have? We can be pretty sure that race is not the main factor here. Because until recently Black Americans had a fairly intact family structure. Never as strong as Whites, but when Patrick Moynihan wrote his book on African-American families, the rate of single A-A mothers (that he deeply regretted and said was a social disaster) was lower than it now is for White Americans. Cultures change over time.
// Nov 27, 2012 at 12:48 am
I wasn’t saying that eugenics was good!
Just that it has the effect of reducing within a population the frequency of individuals with extreme behaviors. And ‘extreme’ feeds adaptation, primarily behavioral, and, much more slowly, genetic. Which is why eugenics is such a crap idea & is very bad for a population.
You can see a similar effect in nations that have had long periods of mass emigration. Ireland, parts of England, Wales, Scotland, southern Italy. The poor and talented bugger off to avoid misery/make their fortunes. The middle remains.
// Nov 27, 2012 at 1:41 am
I don’t know how familiar with Sowell’s career and work you are, but anyone who is ought to realise that the idea that he’d be trying to scapegoat whites in laughable.
He asked the reasonable question of whence the origins of stereotypical “black” culture as it is seen today, and came up with a plausible scenario tracing it through white cracker/redneck culture back to British cracker culture, using a set of useful criteria, from attitudes to work, to propensity to violence, to speech modes, to styles of preaching. We can say reasonably that it didn’t come from Africa, since African native culture is radically different. So either it arose spontaneously, or they got it from someone else; and since there was an immediately proximate “someone else”, his argument is, at least, plausible. The whites can’t have got it from the blacks, because the blacks, as stated, came from African culture.
Seriously, Sowell in my view is one of those conservative thinkers like, say, Paul Gottfried, who one has to take seriously even if one doesn’t agree with the partiuclar thing they’re saying.
So Much For Subtlety
// Nov 27, 2012 at 8:23 am
Ian B – “I don’t know how familiar with Sowell’s career and work you are, but anyone who is ought to realise that the idea that he’d be trying to scapegoat whites in laughable.”
I am a fan of Sowell’s work. I have bought nearly every single book the guy has ever written. But. On this I don’t think I can agree with him. Nor am I saying that he is scapegoating Whites. Not all Whites anyway. Poor southern Whites? That may be so. It would be more politically correct, not that he is likely to care, than saying that Black culture is responsible.
“He asked the reasonable question of whence the origins of stereotypical “black” culture as it is seen today, and came up with a plausible scenario tracing it through white cracker/redneck culture back to British cracker culture”
Which is interesting because there is a long and impeccably liberal tradition of tracing it back to slavery. Stanley Elkin’s famously made this argument for instance:
Elkins’s second argument was that the experience of slavery was psychologically infantilizing to slaves, making them follow what he controversially called the “Sambo” model. He based his arguments on then-recent sociological and psychological research by Bruno Bettelheim and others on inmates of Nazi concentration camps during World War II, showing that the totalitarian environment systematically destroyed their ability to resist, to plan, and to form positive relationships with one another. Elkins speculated that antebellum slavery was a similar environment and instilled an infantilized, dependent personality pattern. One implication, only partially spelled out in Elkins’s account, was that this personality pattern might persist in his own time, a century after the end of slavery. Elkins’ views were influential during the late 1960s when Daniel Patrick Moynihan supported Affirmative action programs in order to counteract the lingering effects of slavery on black culture.
“using a set of useful criteria, from attitudes to work, to propensity to violence, to speech modes, to styles of preaching. We can say reasonably that it didn’t come from Africa, since African native culture is radically different.”
Sorry but attitudes to work? Not African? A continent where most field work is done by women. Propensity to violence? Well I won’t touch that one. But speech modes and preaching are undoubtedly African influenced and there is a great deal of working showing just that. What is more the influence has been the other way – poor Southern White religion radically differs from the dour Calvinism of Iain Paisley, almost certainly because of the influence of the slaves.
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