You Want Fries with That?

FriesWithThatby Brad Nelson
Michael Barone and James Pethokoukis have articles at NRO that generally intersect on the idea of an economy being driven to greater economic inequality because of machines and technology.

It’s usually foolhardy to try to predict the future. And it’s highly meddlesome to try to use government to try to secure a particular outcome. If the “war on poverty” has taught us anything (along with countless other liberal social engineering policies), it’s that the best such programs can do is move one step forward and two (or three) steps back due to unintended (or unforeseen…and sometimes maliciously foreseen) consequences.

But reading these articles sparked my own nascent thoughts on the subject. It is very easy to foresee a time when, say, 15% of the population is running the other 85%.

Mind you, it doesn’t at all bother me that there are rich people or that rich people hold an “inordinate” amount of the wealth. That is, after all, what it means to be wealthy. Rich people will tend to have a greater share of the wealth. The only question that should concern any decent American is if that wealth was gained more or less by hard work and not via collusion with government or by outright fraud and thievery (both of which, of course, are easier to do via government, which also offers business the sanction of law for their plundering and thus a kind of legitimacy).

But I’m not one of those fools who looks about on the world and decries “income disparity.” I fully expect there to be many Bill Gates in the world, and the more the merrier. That means someone is producing something of value. And in a free market, that benefits everyone. A rising tide truly does raise all ships.

But given the statist/Leftist nature of America, a nation increasingly of central control instead of free markets, given the dumbed-down school systems and universities, given the life-sapping growth of government bureaucracies (fostering a profusion of mindless and entrepreneur-zapping bureaucrats), given the dumbing down and vulgarization of popular culture — given all this and more, it’s not difficult to see a society of a few wolves and the many sheep, for only a relatively informed and moral electorate has any chance of staving off the wolves.

The sheep might well not rise to rebellion, as one of those above articles mentioned, because of the various bread-and-circuses and cheap forms of entertainment that have become ubiquitous. One can see this as a good or a bad thing, but any true American should certainly see it as an ominous thing. We were made for better things than to be, for lack of a better word, government’s bitch, even if a constantly amused and distracted one.

But I think that is where we are headed. Machines (and those who know who to run and build them, particularly the software and the marketing) will control things while a compliant, sheep-like NewClass will develop. And I say “NewClass” both because of the Orwellian implications (which I think are true) and because this “underclass” will still be relatively rich. Like our so-called “poor” of today, they will have lots and lots of stuff. They will not likely be wanting for the basic necessities.

But they will be cows, slugs, mere meat-on-the-hoof for the marketeers, both inside and outside of government (and very often in collusion with each other). It will be a society of the Lords (thank you, Timothy, for spearheading this paradigm) and the serfs. And this is not a Marxist problem of “income inequality.” It is by trying to set some kind of economic target via government that such inequalities tend to arise and get worse in the first place. It is by trying to parse “justice” (and thus “injustice”) in purely economic terms that has led us down this poisoned road of socialism, Marxism, and an increasingly authoritarian central government.

Instead, it’s a problem of the concentration of political power into the hands of the relatively few who find it convenient to keep the other 85% dependent upon them, and have the governmental and propaganda means to do so. We are even now seeing a buildup of a society comprised of the Masters (who will even go so far as to barricade public monuments to assert their Lordly rights) and the NewClass serfs who will get used to doing rather menial work at relatively low wages so long as they have the belief they are free because they have, if nothing else, ample sex and drugs. Some of this new class is comprised of those who call themselves “libertarians.”

Their entire idea of the kind of world the NewClass should live in will be manufactured for them, as we see happening now via the media, education system, the rude and vulgar entertainment culture, and especially the political classes (of both parties) themselves.

The young males of the population are on the cutting edge of this NewClass, having been marginalized by feminism and the general anti-male hostility implicit in the current “Progressive” nanny state. But, ladies, you won’t be far behind. It is in the nature of the relationship that is now building up between the citizen and the state that as the state grows, you too will shrink. This is simply an economic and social fact, even if in the short-term the propaganda machine, and government “free stuff,” can give you a short-term bubble that makes this new Big Government seemingly a desirable thing.

But don’t scorn the men, ladies. Just know that you are headed there next. As are the gays — as is anyone who must be pushed aside so that the Lords of the state can maintain their political and cultural hegemony. And that usually requires ever-new victims and various groups to be that day’s scapegoats. It is true that the state might never run out of conservatives and “big business” to demonize, as they do now to such great useful-idiot effect. But they might, and statist regimes in the past have almost always victimized those who once they called victims.

That the state has convinced so many that to be compliant sheep is a good thing is bizarre. But as bizarre as that is, it is a real factor in our culture. That is, in essence, what “Progressivism” is. It’s a manufactured statist-friendly worldview (very nearly a statist religion), perfect for making complient sheep who do not think that they are sheep because of the many nice distractions they have available.  But since the productivity of the machines is (and will continue to be) so great, there will be wealth enough for these distraction. That is, the various forms of bread-and-circuses will be relatively cheap and abundant. Freedom? What’s that? Who cares? Such simple-minded people whose lives are based upon mere distraction are easily distracted by the talking heads of the media who will tell them that all is okay if only we give the state even more power to rid us of whatever the state convinces us in now insufferable.

This scenario is not quite Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” And it’s not as harsh as Orwell’s “1984,” although some would say that so much power in the hands of a central government would make either or both an inevitability. But for now, it’s certainly possible that America will incrementally change from “The land of the free and home of the brave” to “You want fries with that?” • (1469 views)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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18 Responses to You Want Fries with That?

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    We probably won’t face 1984 because we won’t be ruled by a sadistic collective, but otherwise modern liberalism is so Orwellian that I sometimes refer to the Democratic Party as IngSoc (and wrote a 2-page article in FOSFAX — where a full page likely has well over a thousand words — pointing out the intellectual similarities). Nor is this necessarily new. One interpretation I have seen of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine is that his basic point is that the upper class (who eventually became the Eloi) failed to control the working class (who eventually became the Morlocks). I suspect that your notion — in essence, the New Serfs and Yeomanry would be well-treated cattle — is exactly what many leftists had in mind all along. Note that most socialists have been intellectuals, not workers, and the anarchist Bakunin referred to Marxism as a pedantocracy. So the Kotkin division (Oligarchy, Clerisy, Yeomanry, New Serfs) may well have been the goal all along.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ditto. And every time Obama or his ilk throw down another absurdity in the road, you expect people to get their “Aha!” moment. But it never seems to come. He can actually spend more man-hours erecting barry-cades to keep people out of public parks (which require no supervision) and you surely expect that “Aha!” moment to come. And, again, for most it probably won’t.

      That is a direct sign of living in an Orwell world, where minds are made up not by facts but by propaganda and especially by various two-minute hates. That is who Rachel Maddow is, for example. That is the function of the press, whether intentional or just as an effect of the cause of an Orwellian state.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Among the many parodies I’ve done in FOSFAX in recent years are a number of take-offs from Animal Farm and 1984. The very first involved the Two Minutes Hate scene (and in fact required very little change apart from the names, with Rush Limbaugh for Emanuel Goldstein and Barack Obama for Big Brother).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Wow. I’m impressed that you’ve covered so much with FOSFAX. Any plans on putting that in pdf format and selling back issues?

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Many back issues are available. A friend of mine has suggested we set up a website and put it (or at least the text) on, but that would require a lot of space, and probably more study. (We currently write using WordStart in MS-DOS, which gives you an idea of how old-fashioned we are — so appropriate for a conservative, particularly since it works well for us.) As for how much we include — FOSFAX tends to run 60 or more pages per issue, and as I mentioned, those are dense pages.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Well, I could certainly give you some advice on setting up a web site. It would seem to me your main issue would be moving those document from WordStar to some form that could be posted to the web.

              I’m going to assume that WordStar is a text-only format….no graphics. Getting that text onto the internet shouldn’t be that big of a deal…if those computers have access to the internet. I’ve actually taken stuff off of an old Atari 800 and put it onto my Mac. It was a bunch of indexes for a map. I used a crude 300 baud modem to send comma-delimited information to my Mac which I then (with some pains) reformatted. WordStar should require must less effort to reformat, I would assume.

              A primarily text-only document would make setting up an internet site fairly straightforward. A few graphic embellishments and you’re done. I would assume that an old-style text-centric approach would be a style suitable for what you have, although you could, of course, get as crazy as you want with the graphics.

              This site uses WordPress. And I would recommend it for your purposes. The thing to do would to be to find a template (theme) that would suit how you want to present your articles. There are a bazillion choices, all of which can then be further customized. And if you want to sell the back issues as well online, that would provide another level of complexity but should be fairly doable…if you find the right “theme” and plugins which will just require the time to look for them. They are there because plenty of people are using WordPress for commercial transactions.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                You’re right that WordStar doesn’t allow included graphics (or, if it does, we don’t know how to do it). We work up the sizes of art pieces, create holes for them within the text, then paste them in to the initial proof sheets. That works very nicely.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    We work up the sizes of art pieces, create holes for them within the text, then paste them in to the initial proof sheets. That works very nicely.

    Oh, okay. I see what you’re doing. I long been involved in doing just the same thing before the Macintosh and desktop publishing. One would have to merge the type and the graphics on an art board and then shoot it.

    You could either just scan these art boards and offer up the back issues as a pdf (the simplest solution) or spend some time to recreate the final art on a web site. That wouldn’t be all that difficult. You’d simply transfer the text (which, in theory, should be a snap) and then merge it with the graphics (which is very easy in WordPress). The graphics you would need to individually scan with a scanner. Depending upon how graphic-intensive your newsletter is, this will either be a relative snap or a gigantic pain in the ass.

  3. Black JEM says:

    I am fearful that your forecast is more accurate than inaccurate. Goldberg in “Liberal Fascism” said as much – a benign dictatorship or something like that. I hope Williamson’s opinion is more accurate.

    However, I think the Roman experience is more historically accurate and more likely. We are sowing the seeds of our own destruction – and watching Europe move before us doesn’t seem to make any difference.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      We will see (are seeing) the Islamization of Europe in our lifetimes. Will that wake anyone up? Hell no. What’s not to like? Hey ho, Western Civ has got to go.

      That’s who the hell is running things now, over there in Europe and over here. And all the skulls-full-of-mush we have running around in the general electorate don’t know any different. All they know is that if you don’t automatically like “people of color” (regardless of who these people are or what principles they organize under), you are a racist.

      We have an entire generation or two propagandized into this nonsense. These ideas, much like a retrovirus, have invaded the body of true Western liberalism and replaced it with Leftism. In essence, the very immune system of classical liberalism (which ensures freedom and an open society) has been infiltrated and re-purposed for a hard-core Leftist agenda.

      And I’m afraid the Jonah Goldberg has finally and irrevocably jumped the shark. “Liberal Fascism” is a good book. But as a serious thinker, he is done. Read his current article an NRO. It’s an embarrassment.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      How can we take time to watch Europe when we are too busy with the bread and circuses provided by our own country? Eat, drink, copulate and be merry for tomorrow you may die.

      By the way, who is that guy with the torch standing outside my window?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        By the way, who is that guy with the torch standing outside my window?

        Narcissus.

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          Whew!!! I thought for a minute it might be a Goth or someone from the Federal Government.

          At least Narcissus will probably get caught up by looking at his reflection in the window.

  4. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    I agree with everything except your machine prediction: left unchecked, the advance of the Left will inevitably lead to de-industrialization (much as it has in Detroit). There won’t be enough money to fix the machines or invest in new ones, and in any case no one will be permitted to invent new machines. In other words, the fantastic productivity of the industrial age will be gradually lost as the former middle class become serfs with wages reduced to the level of the third-world immigrants who are being imported to dilute the middle-class’s current political and economic strength.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Good points. One forgets just how revolutionary-oriented the free market is. Without those proverbial guys in their garages creating the Next Big Thing, we would stagnate. The 15% at the top, if they had all the power and access to technology, might soon atrophy into doing little other than holding onto their privileges. Innovation, after all, is about making obsolete what exists today, and those in positions of power don’t like being made obsolete.

      This is another thing that people don’t understand about socialism. B. Hussein Obama isn’t qualified to work at Burger King. The man has no marketable skills other than making lies sound good. The same goes with the bureaucrats in the state. Frankly, and I have no wish to insult some of the politicians I know, but those who can, do. Those who can’t run for office.

      Politics tends to draw busy-bodies, nannies, aristocrat wannabes, and just the power-hungry. This is why we need limited government and that any government that we have be as close to the people as possible. They need to know that they are being watched and serve at our pleasure.

      Still, there’s at least a pleasing (in a black comedy sort of way) idea of the 15% of the smart, connected, or just ambitious people (somehow) ruling over the other 85%, supplying them with the toys they require — sort of a benevolent Eloi/Morlock scenario. And, really, we’re morphing into that sort of economy even as we speak. And this isn’t one of those “the top 10% own X amount of the wealth” rants. I could give a rat’s behind about that. I mean that because of the very productivity of our machines, it allows for the creation (the paying off, really) of an underclass while that top 15% runs things. (And note how that top 15% is more and more in government and more and more runs things….now including most of the health care industry.)

      Still, there are always people with ambition who won’t be held down. And we have not yet morphed into a society where the Soviet tells us where we can work, if we can work, where we can live, etc. But the Left has found another way to keep people down other than by sheer brute force. They simply keep them stupid and uninformed. And that pretty much describes the underclass that is developing, and has developed.

      These people really don’t know enough to know that their life is in their hands. My younger brother was just conversing with some typical economically illiterate yute on some NPR site. The question was “Why don’t those mean, nasty corporation pay people more who work at McDonald’s?”

      That’s the mindset of the economically illiterate NewClass, as I put it. Life for them is passive. There’s just some big pile of money out there that simply needs to be distributed. They have absolutely no idea about value-creation, profit and loss, etc. Their life is seen through a lens of exploitation, not of production.

      And these types of people won’t rise to the top even if they have the brain of Bill Gates. And that’s because brains are not enough. You also have to have heart and spirit. And the Left — with the Democrats as their functional political arm — rot that spirit and heart away.

      So I’ll kinda-sorta stand by my original sci-fi scenario. It’s possible that the numbers might be different, but we do seem to be heading there. There has been much hyperventilation about the supposed inequality gap between rich or poor. Maybe it is real, and it’s an early indicator of the new Elois and Morlocks developing.

      Still, I probably agree with you that this situation might not be amenable to the continued innovation of high technology. That 15%/85% might just sit on its laurels or, worse, eat the seed corn as we are doing now. They might just use what technology exists with little advancement of it, and we slowly forget how to even repair the machines. More than a few sci-fi scenarios have played out like that.

  5. Reagan says:

    Just testing.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Christopher Orlet at The American Spectator offers further thoughts on this general subject of the permanent underclass of man being created by machines: The End of Jobs.

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