It’s called Dutch disease, although you might know it as the Shoe Event Horizon. It’s apparently possible for one sector of an economy to become so overheated that it is no longer economically feasible to work in another sector of the economy. This is already true in a very limited sense for certain aspects of the United States, most notably with regards to choice of careers at certain intelligence levels: if you are above 99th percentile but not quite in the 99.9999 percentile, the absolute best occupation for you is in finance, more specifically in trading. Second-year associates at Goldman Sachs can earn $350k a year, which is more than the average oncologist in his prime — and the compensation only goes up from there. Therefore, you’re literally throwing money away if you’re smart enough to work at GS but don’t, unless you are so smart that you can easily invent and produce something more valuable on your own. The problem is that not every 1-in-a-thousand fellow can find a job in the business; that would require employing 20,000 new graduates a year in perpetuity. So a lot of smart people target finance and then fail, which leaves them unprepared to enter other fields where knowledgeable new prospects would be welcome, from manufacturing to medicine.
Don’t confuse “Dutch disease”, a term coined by The Economist and which refers to a specific economic situation in the Netherlands during the 1920s, with Dutch elm disease. Turns out that “Dutch Elm Disease” originally came from China, the same way that the Emerald Ash Borer originally came from China. It was called “Dutch elm disease” because it killed Dutch elms. There’s quite a history of Occidental trees and people experiencing some unpleasantness thanks to various unwanted Chinese imports; in addition to the above-named disorders, we have the now-omnipresent Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and the Northern Snakehead and the Asian citrus bug and… can you think of another recent biological invader from China? Not H1N1… not SARS… not H7N9… not the “Asian Flu” of 1956… not the “Hong Kong Flu”… of 1968… oh, that’s right! It’s COVID-19, which is this year’s killer disease from Asia, er, the latest global virus of completely mysterious origin.
No doubt you’ve been told how important it is that we not associate COVID-19 with China in any way, shape, or form. It’s also possible you’ve heard the opinion of WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who recently told a panel of Geneva reporters that “Stigma, to be honest, is more dangerous than the virus itself. Let’s really underline that. Stigma is the most dangerous enemy…”. In fact, for every person who appears to be working on either countermeasures or a cure for COVID-19, there are a hundred, or perhaps a thousand, maybe a million, people who are insistently alerting us to the greater dangers posed by stigma… or racist disparities in virus effects and treatment… or climate change. This is obviously far from a productive state of affairs — not since the last Super Bowl has the ratio of (useless-people-bloviating-from-their-couches)-to-(properly-trained-people-attempting-to-accomplish-something) been this high. How did we get here? More specifically, why are we spending so much time talking about racism and bias and climate change when there is a deadly disease sweeping around the world?
Turns out we have a little Dutch Disease of our own. Call it the Hammer Event Horizon, whydontcha?
It’s no secret that the nature of American post-secondary education has dramatically changed over the past thirty-five years, nearly as much as it did in the thirty-five years prior to that. The average American college student now exits her four-year-college without job prospects, without the ability to think critically, without an understanding of the Western cultural heritage, and without any particular skills which might prove useful in the years to come. Instead, she (on the average, it’s she, because today’s universities are rushing headlong towards the two-girls-for-every-boy ratio which was once the exclusive province of “Surf City”) leaves the school with:
* Crippling debt, more than she can pay in a lifetime of working as a barista or administrative assistant or even as a teacher herself;
* A thorough and unstinting indoctrination in the values and attitudes created by the Long March through the institutions.
These people cannot accomplish any of Heinlein’s infamous requirements for humanity (“change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly”) with perhaps the occasional exception of “cook a tasty meal”. They cannot argue from the general to the specific, nor can they argue from the specific to the general. They cannot recognize patterns, nor can they establish a chain of logic. They practice neither the “deductive reasoning” said to be used by Sherlock Holmes, nor do they practice the inductive reasoning actually exhibited by Holmes in the books.
Like Liam Neeson, however, they possess a very specific set of skills: they are experts in the detection of racism, bias, or other discriminations, both real and imagined. In particular, they have been exhaustively educated in the art of pointing out certain sorts of bias. As I have noted before, their catechism is entirely centered on two end goals:
* Lower the price and value of labor by ensuring that the labor pool is as large as possible (unlimited immigration, the removal of effective standardized testing, lowering of standards for every possible job from firefighter to pilot);
* Ensure that the price of real estate remains as high as possible (unlimited immigration, an infantile focus on urban living, a determination to live in already-popular coastal centers).
They don’t understand that their behavior serves those two goals; that would be like telling the Marines on Iwo Jima that FDR provoked the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor so he could turn the economy back on. They merely act unconsciously in the service of those goals at all times. They are omnipresent on social media, in your universities, in your corporations, in your government. They contribute nothing; they merely attack and destroy, like locusts who arrive at the target, strip it bare, then move on. They are always in search of more racism, more bias, and more discrimination to expose. Like the German military of 1945, they have long since run out of natural sources for their necessary fuel and are now manufacturing this racism and bias on an ersatz fashion as quickly as possible.
Had this pandemic struck the United States in 1960, it would have galvanized a whole nation of useful people to do useful things, the same way that the aforementioned Second World War activated the “arsenal of democracy”. A half-million small factories and workshops would have swung into action making masks, face shields, respirators, and other dedicated equipment. That’s happening now, of course, but the small factories are hamstrung by the fact that
* there aren’t that many of them left;
* nearly every single supply chain in the country involves China.
Domestically, our families would have planted “victory gardens”, conserved what they could, and supported each other through local affiliations and organizations. In many cases, they would have been extraordinarily unlikely to contract the virus anyway; in 1960 we didn’t have three million “skilled workers” who regularly flew between the United States and their overseas homes, nor did we have a middle class which viewed travel and meals as the only socially acceptable outlets for consumption. I think back to my childhood neighborhood of Upper Arlington in 1982; nobody traveled, not even the stockbrokers and the doctors. My mother sold her 1977 Cutlass Supreme in 1983 and it had under eight thousand miles on the clock. Once a year I got on a plane to see my grandparents in Florida; this was a rare enough event to elicit envy among my rich-kid classmates who were brought to school in 450SELs.
Contrast that with the America of today. We’ve trained most of two generations to be good at nothing besides griping about racism and bias. A very real form of “Dutch Disease” has taken root in the universities; if you’re bold enough to major in something besides grievance studies you can expect at some point to come under the lens of the grievance studies mandarins, who may decide to scuttle your college career on a whim in a system where you are guilty until proven innocent. Even if you make it out of school, you are likely to find that your corporate job values your adherence to certain “team norms” over and above your actual productivity or usefulness. We have largely replicated the Soviet system where one’s loyalty to the Party and its values is far more important than one’s qualifications or abilities.
I don’t fault our young people for spending their days on social media barking about the racist aspects of this and that; it’s what we trained them to do. Nor am I surprised that a significant percentage of Americans have proven to be utterly feckless during this time of crisis. We made them that way. Young people respond well to training. After just a year or so of occasional practice, my eleven-year-old son can play nearly any bass part you can find in rock music and much of what you find in jazz. Most of us acquire the bulk of our life skills before we are twenty-five. Had I not learned the very strict rules of programming Atari and Apple computers in 1981 as a nine-year-old, I probably wouldn’t have paid for multiple Porsches by writing software in my thirties.
In other words, we gave the last two generations of Americans nothing but a hammer which bangs out accusations of racism. Is it any wonder that they see COVID-19 as a nail? There’s just one problem: this coronavirus lives in reality, not in the fantasy of the modern university or corporate compliance department. It is optimized for the modern city, which might in the long run prove to be, as they say, “problematic” for the people who enthusiastically endorse the rabbit-warren vision of humanity’s future. The “social distancing” which will supposedly save us from its effects is not that different from how suburban and rural people typically live their lives; if the virus didn’t live for a while on surfaces I don’t see how it could ever get to, for example, rural Ohio. It also may be racially biased; there’s a lot of hand-wringing going on at the moment trying to convince us otherwise, which raises my personal suspicions on the matter. In the fantasy world, proving that COVID-19 has racial bias would mean that COVID-19 would have to quit its job; in the real world, that’s probably not true.
Tonight I happened to come across this article at the Brookings Institute Brookings has a lot of smart people. In another world than this one they might be helping cure the disease, or at least helping to ameliorate it. In this world? Here’s the Brookings List Of Necessary Things To Do About COVID-19:
- Immediate release of demographic data
- Testing and triage centers need to be placed in Black neighborhoods
- Essential workers need paid leave
- Essential workers deserve hazard pay
- The federal government and states need to provide a living wage
- Universal healthcare
It’s difficult to see how this agenda differs in any significant way from the standard uniparty agenda; if you replaced “Testing and triage centers” with “Planned Parenthood clinics” this could have been written in 2019, 2009, or 1979 without raising any eyebrows. Shouldn’t our self-appointed best-and-brightest have better, more timely, ideas than this? Or is it our collective fault as a society, for giving everyone a hammer when we should have been giving them an N95 mask?
This week, for Hagerty’s revamp-in-progress website, I wrote about socially distant Miatas.