Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 09, 2018
The culture war is a deliberate distraction

Capitalism is the best economic system for the overall creation of wealth. However it is lousy at distributing that wealth fairly between the people who contributed to the creation; and it equally sucks at all other issues which require solidarity (e.g. health care) or involve the common good (e.g. the environment). After WWII it appeared that the first world countries had solved that problem: They had all created political systems in which "the right" fought for freedom and capitalism, and "the left" fought for fair distribution, solidarity, and the common good. Alternating between left and right governments created a balance, and even allowed different countries to arrive at different points on that balance, e.g. Scandinavian countries having more solidarity, and the US having more capitalism.

However the system had one inherent flaw: Politicians are by definition members of the elite, the ruling class. And that is true for left wing politicians as well. Thus a right wing politician fighting for unfettered capitalism that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer was both following his party politics and his own greed. While the left wing elite was naturally less inclined to fight for policies that aided less well off, because it didn't help them personally. So at various points in the 90's the left wings in different countries simply gave up on economic policy for fairer distribution of wealth, and just joined the capitalist camp which made the elite richer. Today a left wing politician like Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn who still push for some economic fairness and solidarity are considered as "odd" and decried as "communists".

Now this has created a growing rift between voters and the elite that leads them in politics and media. The people simply isn't represented any more. They are being fed lies like "your salaries are only low because of immigrants" or "tax cuts for the rich will trickle down to you". In their desperation they increasingly vote for extremists and populists, and end up harming themselves even more through the resulting policies. And the left and right wing elite in order to be seen to do something play acts a culture war to distract the masses from the real problems.

In Germany there is an organization of soup kitchens which collect food past its sell-by-date and distributes it to people who are so poor that they have to beg for food. One local organization recently made headlines because they enacted a controversial "Germans first" policy, after food fights had broken out in which younger male immigrants shoved aside elderly German grandmothers. And the discussion is all about the culture war, with the left fighting for equal rights for the immigrants, and the right defending priority for the natives. Only the extreme left is mentioning the real problem: That in one of the world's richest countries, at the top of the economic cycle and full employment, there are still so many people having to beg for old food that the soup kitchens can't feed all of them.

As Bill Clinton still knew, "it's the economy, stupid". If the centrist parties fail to represent the economic interests of the majority of the population, they will fade into irrelevance. History repeats itself, and the rise of populist parties in Europe in the 1930's (not just in Germany) isn't really the example we would want the world to follow. We need to see the culture was as the distraction that it is, and concentrate on the real economic problems.

Education is the only thing that I believe can end distractions like this. Unfortunately education isn't a priority. (At least in the US)

Culture wars have been used by people in power to maintain and build their power for ages and until the general populace becomes more educated and engaged with things other then their immediate bubble culture wars will remain a tool of those in power.
"Education is the only thing that I believe can end distractions like this."

If you mean public school education, it is indeed a priority to change the curriculum to be more conservative such as giving alternatives the civil war and evolution. As such, future generations will be the same as they are now: 2 halves of the people disagreeing with each other.
Wouldn't gaining and imparting wisdom be a better answer to the problem than an education. There are huge percentages of the population that are well educated, but they feed into and gobble up the culture war. Many have become very educated in fields where there is zero employment options. It would have been better if they had been humble, and gleaned some wisdom.

In addition, we no longer have tight communities. As we have progressed to a more global culture, we know everything about what is going on with the Royal Family, but almost nothing about the ailing widow 2 houses down.
I agree with your regrets about the devolution of politics.

On the other hand, I am much more skeptical about the emphasis on "fairness" since it is not a zero sum system.

E.g., if some (probably capitalist) policy changes increased the wealth of the top percentile by 30% but increased the wealth of the bottom percentile by 10% is that "good" or "bad?" I'm sure some people would be on each side. It is clearly less fair and the poor are clearly better off.

If some post-Trump global trade agreement increased the GDP of France by 100B but increased the GDP of the US and China by 200B each, would/should the voters & politicians of France support it?
You are right that the main reason for the crazy-liberal movement is that the left abandoned the economics and in order to get elected turned to more and more extreme cultural issues.

However immigrants do cause salary losses, because they are mostly lowly educated. Among the natives the doctor:nurse and engineer:machinist ratios are fine. But among immigrants there are barely any doctors and engineers, so people fight over the limited low-skill jobs.

Funny that you ignore the recent Trump tariffs which have the prospect of creating serious step towards equality (international trade is mostly firing local workers and buying child slaves in Malaysia)
Well, tariffs first make everybody poorer, especially consumers. With the poor spending a larger part of their income on consumption, they aren't necessarily a force for equality. You might well create 100,000 jobs in the steel industry and destroy 200,000 jobs in the auto industry with steel tariffs.
@Tobold: you are contradicting yourself. You complained that free market capitalism creates most wealth, but only in the hand of billionaires. Now you complain that tariffs decrease wealth.

The source of poverty is lack of (OK paying) jobs. Considering that others do consume (not like people are walking in rags) you should ask where the items come from. The answer is: from abroad and from illegal worker-slave factories at home. Remove low-skill immigration and international trade and the rich is forced to hire the poor natives.
@Gevlon: If the goal of tariffs was to increase jobs, then why target industries like steel, and not something much more labor intensive like clothing?
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