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Culture war games: us vs. them

The Dangers Of Online Conmunity
By Ben Sixsmith

The internet benefits a lot of people who have sought like-minded acquaintances, friends, and even lovers — yet it is a dangerous place. All across social media are what I call “conmunities”: not quite cults, lacking their organization and militancy, yet still drawing fragile, desperate people into exploitative relationships based on false hope, narcissism, and greed. Features often include:

  1. Charismatic leaders who act as mentors on the basis of selective information, rather than the more rounded perspective one might gain from acquaintance in real life.
  2. Clear hierarchies of status and influence, based more on popularity than expertise, experience, or achievements.
  3. Underacknowledged financial interests.
  4. Claims to exclusive truth.
  5. Severe resistance to criticism.
  6. “Us against the world” dynamics.
  7. Reinforcement of destructive behavior.
  8. Relationships based more on shared beliefs and preferences than shared experiences.

These features make conmunities vulnerable to herdlike conformity, financial or narcissistic exploitation, and latent social ties based on shared opinions, taste, and language that are hard to transform into trust, cooperation, and emotional fulfillment.

BREMMER: Globalism lifted me out of poverty — but now, it’s clear why everyone is so angry
By Ian Bremmer

Why do Palestinians throw rocks? To attract attention? To improve their lives? To make progress toward creation of a Palestinian state? They throw rocks because they want others to see that they’ve had enough, that they can’t be ignored, and that they can break things. Voting isn’t helping them. Outsiders don’t care. Where are the opportunities to bring about change? There is nothing left but to throw rocks.

In that sense, there will soon be Palestinians all over the world. Workers everywhere fear lost jobs and wages as a shifting global economy and technological change leave them behind. Citizens fear surging waves of strangers who alter the face and voice of the country they know. They fear terrorists and criminals who kill for reasons no one can understand. They fear that government cannot or will not protect them. Gripped by anxiety, they get angry. To make themselves seen, heard, and felt, they start to throw rocks.

Then the call for help is answered. Donald Trump tells an excited overflow crowd that he sees them, that he sees their enemies, and that only he can take them (back) to the promised land. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders tell cheering fans that big corporations and Wall Street banks are robbing them blind. Champions of Brexit tell voters they must reclaim Britain’s borders and reject laws and rules imposed by Europeans. European populists tell followers they will lead the charge of patriots against foreigners and globalists.

These leaders aren’t arguing that government should be bigger or smaller, that it should tax less or spend more. They’re challenging the right of “elites” to make the rules that govern our lives. They tell citizens they’ve been cheated of their chance to succeed, and that the media is in on it. They promise to comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and burn down the houses of power.

We can attack these populists, mock them, or dismiss them, but they know something important about the people they’re talking to, and they understand that many people believe that “globalism” and “globalization” have failed them. These would‑be leaders have a talent for drawing boundaries between people. They offer a compelling vision of division, of “us vs. them,” of the worthy citizen fighting for his rights against the entitled or grasping thief. Depending on the country and the moment, “them” may mean rich people or poor people, foreigners or religious, racial, and ethnic minorities. It can mean supporters of a rival political party or people who live in a different part of the country. It can mean politicians, bankers, or reporters. However applied, it’s a tried- and- true political tool.

Francis Fukuyama and the Return to the Past
By Simon Brunner and Lucia Waldner

But the economy is booming at an almost unprecedented level.

The current changes are still relatively fresh; just wait a while longer. But you are right insofar as the United States is now in its ninth year of growth since the financial crisis. According to all indicators, we are doing very well. Nevertheless, Donald Trump was elected with the claim that the American economy was in ruins.

There’s a difference between macroeconomic considerations and the fate of the individual.

That’s true. Not everyone benefited from the upturn. In the more prosperous countries, many people, and specifically older people, lost their jobs when production was outsourced to poorer countries. But the cultural dimension is also important: Almost every Western country has experienced an unprecedented wave of immigration in the past ten to fifteen years. This comes as a shock to many citizens, and they fear that their national identity is being lost. This is especially the case for people from what was the middle class, who increasingly bear the brunt of it.

Populist parties are currently attracting support from young voters as well. Why?

Many of the countries in eastern Europe have relatively young population structures; most people were born after the Wall fell, and they haven’t experienced communism or dictators. These young people have no appreciation for the European Union and democracy. In the United States as well, studies show that the younger generation generally have less faith in democracy than their parents do. This worries me.

After the Fall
By John Lanchester

I notice, talking to younger people, people who hit that Napoleonic moment of turning twenty since the crisis, that the idea of capitalism being thought of as morally superior elicits something between an eye roll and a hollow laugh. Their view of capitalism has been formed by austerity, increasing inequality, the impunity and imperviousness of finance and big technology companies, and the widespread spectacle of increasing corporate profits and a rocketing stock market combined with declining real pay and a huge growth in the new phenomenon of in-work poverty. That last is very important. For decades, the basic promise was that if you didn’t work the state would support you, but you would be poor. If you worked, you wouldn’t be. That’s no longer true: most people on benefits are in work too, it’s just that the work doesn’t pay enough to live on. That’s a fundamental breach of what used to be the social contract. So is the fact that the living standards of young people are likely not to be as high as they are for their parents. That idea stings just as much for parents as it does for their children.

Electorates turned with special venom against parties offering what was in effect a milder version of the economic consensus: free-market capitalism with a softer edge. It’s as if the voters are saying to those parties: what actually are you for? It’s not a bad question and it’s one that everyone from the Labour Party to the SPD in Germany to the socialists in France to the Democrats in the US are all struggling to answer. It’s worth noticing another phenomenon too: electorates are turning to very young leaders – a 43-year-old in Canada, a 37-year-old in New Zealand, a 39-year-old in France, a 31-year-old in Austria. They have ideological differences, but they have in common that they were all in metaphorical nappies when the crisis and the Great Recession hit, so they definitely can’t be blamed. Both France and the US elected presidents who had never run for office before.

How free-traders blew it
By Megan McArdle

The analytical mistake was underestimating the effect that China’s accession to the WTO would have on domestic industries in the rich world. When workers complained about trade displacement, we free-traders pointed out that trade creates jobs as well as destroys them, leaving workers generally better off. That’s usually true. But China was a special case. Most trade liberalization occurs slowly, giving workers time to adjust, but when trade barriers to Chinese goods fell, manufacturing workers in the 37 nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development were suddenly exposed to competition from millions of low-wage workers. Recent research by economists David H. Autor, David Dorn and Gordon H. Hanson suggests that the “China shock” destroyed jobs faster than they could be created.

In our defense, this was a unique situation. There is no other country with a comparable population and a comparable pace of industrialization. It won’t happen again. But that isn’t easy to explain to people who can see what it did to their town, not much comfort to those who lost their jobs.

Which brings me to free-traders’ second, more fundamental mistake: We forgot, in all our pro-trade rhetoric, that people care more about their identities as producers than they do as consumers.

Well into the China shock, people like me rather glibly pointed to all the cheap goods that trade with China had made available. Somehow, it didn’t occur to us that someone who has gone from making $20 an hour as a machinist to making $9 an hour as a Walmart associate doesn’t much care that his new employer now offers fabulous deals on flat-panel televisions.

Why we can’t ignore the working-class identity crisis
By James Bloodworth

When I travelled to South Wales in 2017, I was told almost upon arrival that the old factories which once stood in towns like Ebbw Vale and Brynmawr had been like “extensions of your family”. These work-related networks were once modest outlets of democratic expression, allowing working people to act on the world– as opposed to simply being acted upon. By this I mean that there existed forums of working class democracy through which the individual and the group could interpret wider events – and more importantly, could exert a pressure of their own on their situation. The owner of a pit couldn’t simply cut your wages or lay you off arbitrarily, or else members of the union would walk out on strike. This feels a long way from companies such as Amazon and Sports Direct.

The disappearance of much of this – and the consequent atomisation of social and economic life – has produced a climate propitious to populism. The more chaotic and tumultuous that life appears to be, the easier it is for demagogic politicians to channel the resultant anger toward their own obsessions. The demagogue succeeds by pointing at the processes of globalisation – the forces that close the local factory, or which produce jobs that only Romanian migrants are willing to do – and proposes simple solutions. These are very often ugly, cynical and violent. It seems clear that we are some way down this path already.

Is globalism a failed policy?
By David Brancaccio

Brancaccio: But anger isn’t a policy. So what’s the alternative? I mean capitalism tends to be global, [it] likes the borderless world. I just was reading a piece the other day that some younger folks don’t think that socialism is a dirty word. Is it does that address some of the problems of angry Americans?

Bremmer: Look, I think the two ways of addressing the problems, one is you build more walls and you continue to disenfranchise. And I think that that is more sustainable than people think, especially because it’s facilitated by technology, it’s facilitated by social media, it’s facilitated by our ability with a data revolution to get information on everyone and to sort them into only seeing and talking to those that they like. So I do think that the nature of technology facilitates more authoritarian outcomes, that disenfranchise people, than the communications revolution ever made us believe it might have 25 years ago. But the alternative is that you change the social contract. The alternative is that you actually look at these people and say, “We’re going to invest in improving your infrastructure. We’re going to invest in improving your education and dealing with your health care.” It’s going to be expensive, it’s going to take a long time, and I do think that there are experiments that are happening along those lines but not at the national level. I think some CEO’s are investing in universal training and we’re seeing some cities and some states. But let’s be clear. Technology is going to displace a hell of a lot more people than globalization ever did. So part of the reason I wrote this book is because this will get worse before it gets better. And for all of those people that believe that, “Oh, Europe is going to come together because they see how bad Brexit is,” or “the United States will come together because they see what a disaster Trump was,” that’s just wrong. And the fact that so many people want to blame the Trump voters for voting for Trump because he’s so obviously, as Comey says, morally unfit to be president, as opposed to blaming all of those that stood by for decades watching the situation for these people get worse, it strikes me that those people have at least as much responsibility and complicity on their shoulders, myself and yourself included, as those that actually ended up voting for the “anathema” president.

The 2016 election was far from a fluke
By Salena Zito

When explaining the Trump voter, the media usually offers portraits of isolated, uneducated, working-class rubes who are driven by anger, race and nationalism. To the experts and those who didn’t support Trump, it’s hard for them to see it any other way.

And while the media obsesses over the future demise of the president, they aren’t pausing to consider the strength and durability of the coalition that swept him into office.
They aren’t asking why people in the Rust Belt counties who voted for former President Barack Obama twice suddenly switched to Trump.

But they should. Because Trump was not the cause of this movement, he was the result of it. In order to fully appreciate his rise to the White House, you need focus on the people who put him there.

Far from a fluke, the 2016 election was a product of the tectonic plate-grinding of our society — a backlash against globalism, secularism and coastal elitism.

Political Corruption Is Ruining Everything, but We Can Fix It
By David Dayen

Corruption is at the heart of much of the political and economic strife we see today. Concentrated economic power begets concentrated political power, with big business rigging the game in its favor. And self-dealing and corruption have become a new normal, both for personal gain and as favors to some corporate interest, which may turn out to be a federal employee’s next employer. This saps trust in government institutions and paves the way for demagogues.

These insights have been assembled into an excellent report from the Roosevelt Institute called “Unstacking the Deck.” Authors Julie Morgan and Rohit Chopra write that post-Watergate reforms designed to rein in public corruption have utterly failed, particularly in the area of “soft corruption,” which is best understood as a common cultural framework: it’s the symmetry of public officials and the corporate executives they regulate as members of the same class, chasing the same jobs, and saddled with the same belief systems. It may be perfectly legal for a government official to give a corporation whose views they hear the most and recognize as reasonable a break, or for a think tank to not give an opinion on something out of fear of upsetting donors. But it serves to undermine confidence and has a dramatic effect on who wins and who loses in our economy. “When government actions are not in the public interest, the net result is a wealth transfer from the entire citizenry to the purchasers of political influence,” Morgan and Chopra write.

The Daily 202: Koch network laying groundwork to fundamentally transform America’s education system
By James Hohmann

Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, highlighted field operations that the network has built in 36 states to advance its agenda, including on education. “We have more grass-roots members in Wisconsin than the Wisconsin teachers’ union has members,” he said. “That’s how you change a state!”

Many of the richest people in America listened intently as Koch donors and officials outlined their theory of the case. The Washington Post was invited inside the strategy session on the condition that the donors in attendance not be named without their permission. At the end of what was essentially a sales pitch, members of the Seminar Network, as it is officially known, were asked to check a box on a piece of paper in front of them if they were interested in contributing to the education efforts.

“We all need to be fully committed to a society in which everyone has an opportunity to make a better life for themselves,” Charles Koch said. “To succeed, each of us has to be all-in. What I mean by that is that we have to make these kinds of efforts a central part of our lives. You don’t need to be as obsessed as I am … although that wouldn’t hurt … but you can’t just make it a sideline.”

Charles Koch, champion of free speech? His grants to news media accelerate.
By Paul Farhi

Representatives of the Koch foundation, based in Arlington, Va., describe their motives as high-minded and bipartisan. The foundation’s agenda includes defending press freedoms, promoting civil discourse and combating censorship, said Sarah Ruger, who directs the foundation’s “free expression” grantmaking.

Ruger describes the foundation’s outreach as an extension of Charles Koch’s ethos that “information must flow freely for a society to flourish.”

The irony is that the brothers have used secrecy in their own fundraising activities, overseeing a “dark money” network of mostly anonymous donors that raises massive amounts of money to advance a largely libertarian and conservative agenda.

At the same time, the company the Koch brothers control, Wichita-based Koch Industries, has maintained an aggressive posture toward journalists seeking to shed light on their activities.

The company has publicly attacked reporters who have sought to document the brothers’ political activities, the company’s environmental record and the Kochs’ support of efforts to raise skepticism about climate change.

In 2010, the company — an oil, chemical and consumer-goods giant — created a website,, as a platform to promote itself and to criticize reporters whose work it deemed biased or inaccurate (the website appears to be inactive.) Among other tactics, the site’s editors posted personal email exchanges between reporters and company executives — often to the surprise of reporters.

At one point, the company took out ads calling journalist David Sassoon, the founder of InsideClimate News, “a professional eco-activist” for his reporting on Koch’s pipeline business. (InsideClimate News won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for its reporting on lax regulation of the nation’s oil pipelines and was a finalist in 2016 for its investigation of ExxonMobil’s efforts to misinform the public about climate change.)

Koch Document Reveals Laundry List of Policy Victories Extracted from the Trump Administration
By Lee Fang, Nick Surgey

“This year, thanks in part to research and outreach efforts across institutions, we have seen progress on many regulatory priorities this Network has championed for years,” the memo notes. The document highlights environmental issues that the Koch brothers have long worked to undo, such as the EPA Clean Power Plan, which is currently under the process of being formally repealed, and Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, among their major accomplishments. The memo also highlighted administration efforts to walk back planned rules to strengthen the estate tax in a list of 13 regulatory decisions favored by the network.

The network’s political operation includes a polling and research outfit, Capitol Hill lobbyists, several hundred field staff, groups designed to air campaign ads, and an assortment of grassroots groups set up to appeal to certain constituencies. The LIBRE Initiative is a network group geared toward selling Koch policy ideas to Latino communities. Generation Opportunity works to reach out to millennials and college students; Veterans For America for veterans and military-minded voters.

To win support for the Republican tax legislation, the Koch network claims that it organized over 100 rallies in 36 states, contacted over 1.8 million activists, and knocked on over 33,000 doors. The group also spent freely on digital and television advertisements, with $1.6 million in TV spots to support the legislation in Wisconsin alone.

Actors were paid to support Entergy’s power plant at New Orleans City Council meetings
By Michael Isaac Stein

It’s not uncommon for organizations to arrange grassroots support or opposition at government meetings. Groups sometimes drive people to meetings, pass out statements, and coach them on talking points.

It is unusual, however, for people to be paid to weigh in on an issue they may have no knowledge or opinion about.

However, astroturfing may be more common than you think. Crowds on Demand is one of the only companies that advertises this kind of work. But UCLA professor Edward Walker, who wrote a book about the phenomenon called “Grassroots for Hire,” said many other crowd services operate under the radar.

“There are hundreds of such firms across the country,” he told CNN in January. “By my estimate, around 40 percent of the Fortune 500 appears on the client list of at least one such firm.”

How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country
By Hiroko Tabuchi

Public transit, Americans for Prosperity says, goes against the liberties that Americans hold dear. “If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want,” Ms. Venable said, “they’re not going to choose public transit.”

The Kochs’ opposition to transit spending stems from their longstanding free-market, libertarian philosophy. It also dovetails with their financial interests, which benefit from automobiles and highways.

One of the mainstay companies of Koch Industries, the Kochs’ conglomerate, is a major producer of gasoline and asphalt, and also makes seatbelts, tires and other automotive parts. Even as Americans for Prosperity opposes public investment in transit, it supports spending tax money on highways and roads.

Conservative Koch brothers network breaks with Trump over brewing trade war with China
By Brian Schwartz

With the network taking a stand against the president’s efforts to slap tariffs on Chinese imports, Republican leaders in Congress who reaped Koch funds last year could be forced to go after Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for instance, was one of the top recipients of Koch financial contributions in 2017. His campaign committee, Team Ryan, brought in $495,000 in November from the coffers of Charles Koch and his wife, Elizabeth, during the same month the House of Representatives passed its historic tax reform bill, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Ryan criticized the president in March when the administration proposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. “I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences,” Ryan said at the time.

Industrial Revolutions Are Political Wrecking Balls
By Thomas B. Edsall

While operating legally — indeed with the full support of the legal system — contemporary corporate technology leaders, including Brin, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs (who died in 2011) and Mark Zuckerberg, accumulated unprecedented amounts of wealth. According to Kurz:

Once an IT monopoly is established, it endows the company with the advantage of first mover. A combination of associated factors — additional patents, intellectual-property rights, trade secrets, falling computing and storage costs, and decreasing network user costs — then enable the company to consolidate market power, raise barriers to competition, and make it virtually impossible for potential competitors to break its power. IT networks endow a market leader with economies of scale that allow it to grow rapidly. Using their market power, such firms choke off innovations that threaten their position, often by purchasing competing firms.

According to Kurz, the concentration of economic power, and with it political power, in the major technology companies has dangerous consequences:

Monopoly profits have risen dramatically in the last three decades, from near zero in the early 1980s to $2.1 trillion — equivalent to 23 percent of total US corporate income — in 2015. During the same period, monopoly power caused the combined shares of wages and interest paid to capital to decline by 23 percentage points.

The result is a cascading effect caused

both by fueling the rise of corporate monopoly power and also by undermining the position of labor. It has altered the balance of market power in favor of corporations and against their customers, workers, and suppliers. And it has had a profoundly negative impact on lower-skill workers, in particular.

40 Years of Data Suggests 3 Myths About Globalization
By Lucas Chancel

When we compare Europe with the U.S., or China with India, it is clear that countries that experienced a higher rise in inequality were not better at lifting the incomes of their poorest citizens. Indeed, the U.S. is the extreme counterargument to the myth of trickle down: while incomes grew by more than 600% for the top 0.001% of Americans since 1980, the bottom half of the population was actually shut off from economic growth, with a close to zero rise in their yearly income. In Europe, growth among the top 0.001% was five times lower than in the U.S., but the poorest half of the population fared much better, experiencing a 26% growth in their average incomes. Despite having a consistently higher growth rate since 1980, the rise of inequality in China was much more moderate than in India. As a result, China was able to lift the incomes of the poorest half of the population at a rate that was four times faster than in India, enabling greater poverty reduction.

The trickle-down myth may have been debunked, but its ideas are still rooted in a number of current policies. For example, the idea that high income growth for rich individuals is a precondition to create jobs and growth at the bottom continues to be used to justify tax reductions for the richest, as seen in recent tax reform in the U.S. and France. A closer look at the data demands we rethink the rationale and legitimacy of such policies.

Exclusive: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics
By Steve LeVine, Chris Canipe

At a time of rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits and a booming stock market, more than 40% of U.S. households cannot pay the basics of a middle-class lifestyle — rent, transportation, child care and a cellphone, according to a new study.

Quick take: The study, conducted by United Way, found a wide band of working U.S. households that live above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses. Based on 2016 data, there were 34.7 million people in that group — double the 16.1 million who are in actual poverty, project director Stephanie Hoopes tells Axios.

  1. These are households with adults who are working but earning too little — 66% of Americans earn less than $20 an hour, or about $40,000 a year if they are working full time.

The Birth of the New American Aristocracy
By Matthew Stewart

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease are all two to three times more common in individuals who have a family income of less than $35,000 than in those who have a family income greater than $100,000. Among low-educated, middle-aged whites, the death rate in the United States—alone in the developed world—increased in the first decade and a half of the 21st century. Driving the trend is the rapid growth in what the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton call “deaths of despair”—suicides and alcohol- and drug-related deaths.

The sociological data are not remotely ambiguous on any aspect of this growing divide. We 9.9 percenters live in safer neighborhoods, go to better schools, have shorter commutes, receive higher-quality health care, and, when circumstances require, serve time in better prisons. We also have more friends—the kind of friends who will introduce us to new clients or line up great internships for our kids.

These special forms of wealth offer the further advantages that they are both harder to emulate and safer to brag about than high income alone. Our class walks around in the jeans and T‑shirts inherited from our supposedly humble beginnings. We prefer to signal our status by talking about our organically nourished bodies, the awe-inspiring feats of our offspring, and the ecological correctness of our neighborhoods. We have figured out how to launder our money through higher virtues.

Which Side Are You On?
By Thomas B. Edsall

The Democratic Party’s upper-middle-class voters are highly effective in voicing their views, pro or con, on legislative and regulatory initiatives. Recent examples are the affordable housing fight in California I just mentioned, as well as the opposition by white parents on New York’s Upper West Side, many of them putatively liberal, to a proposal that would require 25 percent of the places in 17 local middle schools to be allocated to students who score below grade level on state tests.

In other words, the deep emotional commitment of college-educated liberals to the Democratic Party — their “expressive partisanship” — is both a boon and a constraint.

Can Democrats retain their new rich constituents without destroying the party’s mission?

Will affluent white liberals, whose expressive or affective partisan identification has been with the Democratic Party, continue to be steadfast members of the left coalition if they perceive imminent threats to their economic well-being, their property values, their children’s educational opportunities and their own relatively homogeneous neighborhoods?

The Ignoble Lie
By Patrick J. Deneen

While elites may suffer self-inflicted blindness to the nature of their position, the rest of society clearly sees what they are doing. The uprising among the working classes across the developed West arises from a perception of illegitimacy—of a gap between claims of the ruling class and reality as experienced by those who are ruled. It is no coincidence that these rebellions come from the socialist left and authoritarian right, two positions that now share opposition to state capitalism, a managerial ruling class, the financialization of the economy, and globalization. These populist rebellions are a challenge to the liberal order itself.

Our ruling class is more blinkered than that of the ancien régime. Unlike the aristocrats of old, they insist that there are only egalitarians at their exclusive institutions. They loudly proclaim their virtue and redouble their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They cast bigoted rednecks as the great impediment to perfect ­equality—not the elite institutions from which they benefit. The institutions responsible for winnowing the social and economic winners from the losers are largely immune from questioning, and busy themselves with extensive public displays of their unceasing commitment to equality. Meritocratic ideology disguises the ruling class’s own role in perpetuating inequality from itself, and even fosters a broader social ecology in which those who are not among the ruling class suffer an array of social and economic pathologies that are increasingly the defining feature of ­America’s underclass. Facing up to reality would require hard questions about the agenda underlying commitments to “diversity and inclusion.” Our ­stated commitment to “critical thinking” demands no less, but such questions are likely to be put down—at times violently—on contemporary campuses.

Campaigns for equality that focus on the inclusion of identity groups rather than examinations of the class divide permit an extraordinary lack of curiosity about complicity in a system that secures elite status across generations. Concern for diversity and inclusion on the basis of “ascriptive” features—race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation—allows the ruling class to overlook class while focusing on unchosen forms of identity. Diversity and inclusion fit neatly into the meritocratic structure, leaving the structure of the new aristocratic order firmly in place.

This helps explain the strange and often hysterical insistence upon equality emanating from our nation’s most elite and exclusive institutions. The most absurd recent instance was Harvard University’s official effort to eliminate social clubs due to their role in “enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values,” in the words of its president. Harvard’s opposition to exclusion sits comfortably with its admissions rate of 5 percent (2,056 out of 40,000 applicants in 2017). The denial of privilege and exclusion seems to increase in proportion to an institution’s exclusivity.

Study: Elite Colleges’ Race-Conscious Admissions Discriminate Against Asian Applicants
By Robby Soave

The author of the new CEO paper, Althea Nagai, finds reason to be concerned about the impact of race-conscious admissions. She compared the percentages of Asian students at three elite private colleges: the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Caltech does not practice affirmative action; its Asian student population stands at 43 percent, having nearly doubled since 1990. MIT and Harvard, on the other hand, use race-conscious admissions in an attempt to achieve a racially diverse student body; consequently, the percentage of Asian students at both schools has remained relatively flat over the past two decades—26 percent at MIT, 17 percent at Harvard. Harvard, unlike MIT and CalTech, awards preferential admissions treatment to legacy applicants, which might explain why Asians constitute an even smaller percentage of Harvard’s student body. Legacy preferences likely benefit white students, at the expense of minority applicants.

“So-called holistic admissions and diversity goals enable discrimination against Asian American applicants, much as the Harvard plan of the 1920s, also using holistic admissions, did against Jewish applicants,” wrote Nagai.

Harvard Is Wrong That Asians Have Terrible Personalities
By Wesley Yang

“To prevent a dangerous increase in the proportion of Jews, I know at present only one way, which is at the same time straightforward and effective,” wrote A. Lawrence Lowell, Harvard’s president in the 1920s, “and that is a selection by a personal estimate of character on the part of the Admission authorities, based upon the probable value to the candidate, to the College and to the community of his admissions.” The opacity of its admissions procedure could veil what Lawrence’s written correspondence would later disclose to be a fully intended policy of discrimination.

The same zealously defended discretion to rank applicants on intangible personality traits would, of course, later come to the aid of blacks, Hispanics and Asians when Harvard pivoted toward an embrace of affirmative action in the 1970s. Affirmative action and the privileges of legacy and wealthy students, most of whom are white, both found shelter in the concept of “diversity” — a term that refers at once to racial diversity and the mix of people that make Harvard’s student body so varied and so disproportionately rich. Alumni preference, so crucial to the sustenance of Harvard’s $38 billion endowment, could provide cover before the courts for racial bias. Harvard’s commitment to racial diversity could whitewash its devotion to the preservation of privilege before liberal public opinion.

Asian-Americans Can Blow Up America’s Racial Quota System. Will They?
By Wesley Yang

Asian-American activists recently underscored the incoherence of the identity for which they claim to speak by supporting initiatives in state governments across the country calling for the disaggregation of data collection on Asian-Americans. The goal is to highlight the diversity of the nationalities constituting the Asian-American identity. The purpose is to ensure that those subgroups who lag behind the others in their educational attainment and income, such as the Cambodian, Laotians, and the Hmong (many of whom came here as refugees), do not disappear into aggregate figures that show that Asian-Americans are the best-educated, highest-income, and fastest-growing of all racial groups in America. We have poor people too! the activists insist. See? We’re not a model minority after all.

In other words, the Asian-American leadership petitioned the government to cease treating them as the single group that they are not and never were. They aggregated the group into a fictitious identity in the first place (and still purport to represent the interests of 20 million Americans of Asian descent) so as to maximize the numbers they could claim to represent on paper. They then resorted to disaggregating what they had themselves aggregated, so as to have a claim to represent disadvantaged minorities who need civil-rights leaders. All racial categories begin as incoherent fictions, but some remain so forever.

Income Inequality in the U.S. Is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians
By Rakesh Kochhar and Anthony Cilluffo

Today, income inequality in the U.S. is greatest among Asians. From 1970 to 2016, the gap in the standard of living between Asians near the top and the bottom of the income ladder nearly doubled, and the distribution of income among Asians transformed from being one of the most equal to being the most unequal among America’s major racial and ethnic groups.

In this process, Asians displaced blacks as the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the U.S., according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. While Asians overall rank as the highest earning racial and ethnic group in the U.S., it is not a status shared by all Asians: From 1970 to 2016, the gains in income for lower-income Asians trailed well behind the gains for their counterparts in other groups.

An increase in income inequality matters because of the potential for social and economic consequences. People at the lower rungs of the income ladder may experience diminished economic opportunity and mobility and have less political influence. Researchers have also linked growing inequality to greater geographic segregation by income. In addition, there is evidence that rising inequality may harm overall economic growth by reducing consumption levels, causing excessive borrowing by lower- to middle-income families, or limiting investment in education.

Liberals still ignore the grievances of the ‘left behind’
By Nick Cohen

The right has triumphed by playing on white identity politics; explicitly so in the case of Trump, Orbán and the Brexit campaign. In other words, the worst of the right has aped the worst of the left. A successful political strategy would combine the fight against white racism with a contemptuous dismissal of liberal-leftists who engaged in racial sectarianism and the separation of ethnicities. It would ask them to think about the possibility that cries of “white privilege” drive away poor whites, who are anything but privileged, and who might once have given the left a hearing.

Fighting culture wars is easy. If social and traditional media are a guide, modern people want to fight little else. But in Britain’s case, those of us engaged in the harder task of trying to stop a hard Brexit have to say what they would do about immigration. Staying in the single market might help save us from another decade of economic stagnation, but the cost of admission is accepting freedom of movement. You could argue that freedom of movement for Europeans would be balanced by tight restrictions on migrants from the rest of the world, although honesty would require you to admit that most of those immigrants are needed. Or you could defend the pre-2017 immigration system. You cannot avoid the issue, however. You must have an answer to the question “What would you do instead?”

The Post-World War II Order Is Under Assault From the Powers That Built It
By Peter S. Goodman

In the United States and Britain, working people have suffered joblessness and declining living standards while political leaders have prescribed policies that have enriched the elite — more trade deals, fewer strictures on bankers. These countries’ economies have been bolstered by trade, but not enough of the gains have filtered down to working people.

Even as China has violated trade rules, subsidizing state-owned companies and stealing innovations from foreign investors, commerce across the Pacific has lifted the American economy. But American leaders have failed to deliver job training and other programs that might have cushioned the blow for communities hurt by imports.

“Many people in Europe and the United States have not benefited very much from overall economic growth over the past few decades, and they are naturally skeptical of the policies and leaders in place,” said Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. “But the solution is not to throw out the liberal order. It is to complement it with government policies that allow people to share in the benefits.”

Globalization is close to its ‘holy cow’ moment
By Richard Baldwin

Humans have brains that are built to think about things linearly—to understand motion in nature, to look at two points and calculate how long it would take to walk from one to the other. But technological growth is exponential. That mismatch gives rise to the cognitive pattern known as Amara’s law, which states that we have a tendency to first overestimate and then underestimate the significance of new technologies. For instance, we landed on the moon, and people assumed the next step would be colonizing Mars. We’ve still never set foot on Mars, but in the meantime, we’ve put countless technologies into space that have changed the experience of life on earth.

There’s a point at which the exponential path of technological growth crosses the straight line of human expectation, and it’s the point at which the real power of this technology that we’ve alternately over- and underestimated fully dawns on us. I call it the “holy cow” moment. We haven’t quite reached it yet with ICT and its meaning for globalization. When we do, it will not be the result of a single, sudden event.

In the old days, globalization came and shut down the big factory in town, and thousands of people were put out of work, and it was a great tragedy, but it was the result of someone’s conscious choice. I don’t think the next phase of globalization will happen that way.

I think it’ll happen more the way smartphones insinuated themselves into our lives. Now, think about the iPhone. Ten years ago, smartphones barely existed. Five years ago, they were mediocre phones, maybe good music players with short battery lives and not much else because the Wi-Fi was so bad everywhere you couldn’t do much with them. Today, everybody uses them to do everything. No one made that decision. No one said, “OK, now we’re going to let iPhones change our lives, disrupt our dinner conversations, and change the way we conduct business meetings.” It happened one convenience, one cost saving at a time, and it changed our societies.

Our ‘Us Vs Them’ World: 5 Reasons Why Globalism Is Failing
By Ian Bremmer

People talk about the coming era of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) as the “fourth industrial revolution,” placing it (somewhat comfortingly) in historical context. But we’ve never seen anything on the scale of what’s to come—automation and AI are expected to cost 400 to 800 million people their jobs by 2030.

The world may produce more with robots at the helm, but the economic gains will go mostly to the few who control the technology; hundreds of millions of others will be left with less work to do (if they find work at all). And for all the talk of retraining to prepare people for this automated future, few of those plans have come to fruition. If anything, we should be preparing for a “post-industrial revolution,” one that looks set to widen the chasm between “us” and “them” still further.

And to think that all this fracturing into groups, pitting us against them, is happening at a time when the global economy is growing at a solid clip. In today’s polarized environment, one global economic stumble may be enough to shatter our interconnected world completely.

‘Eat Mor Krow’ and Other Signs of a Dangerously Politicized America
By Nick Gillespie

Whether we recognize it or not, we remain on a sort of Cold War footing that attacks complexity, nuance, and engaged conversation and replaces it with simplicity, slogans, and shouting matches. It happens at pro football games, on college campuses, on cable TV, and, of course, in Congress and legislatures everywhere. Trump is an acknowledged master not just of being divisive but of fouling everyday life with politics.

How long can this continue is anybody’s guess. As politics becomes more rancid and ubiquitous in all parts of our lives, the main parties are losing market share. In 2001, 32 percent of us identified as Republican, 36 percent as Democrats, and 26 percent as independents. In 2017, those figures came in at 26 percent, 33 percent, and 37 percent. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump came close to winning a simple majority of the popular vote. Political scientist Morris Fiorina has declared the first two decades of the 21st century a second “Era of No Decision,” similar to the late-19th-century period when control of the White House and Congress flipped back and forth for years. Eventually, the parties will realign and reconfigure into more effective coalitions, or they will be replaced by groups that are able to represent shared voter interests on issues such as trade, regulation, lifestyle freedom, crime, and more. When domestic partisan political advantage is again stable, it will be easier for us to leave culture alone and allow for more differences within our political coalitions again. When the Democrats had a lock on Congress for decades, after all, they could allow for more types of Democrats. And as the ideological and policy legacy of 9/11 fades in the face of multipolar world order in which the E.U., China, Russia, the United States, and others wield less and less unequivocal power, international agreements and relationships will need to be humbler, smaller, and less overarching, thus reducing the stakes rather than constantly raising them to red alert, us-against-them levels.

Holy Wars, American Style
By Cass R. Sunstein

One of the most corrosive features of Manichaeism is that it breeds more of itself. If people accuse you of being aligned with the forces of darkness, you might well respond in kind. That makes self-government far more difficult. It leads people to focus not on substantive issues on which progress might be made, but instead to attribute terrible motivations to their fellow citizens, and to see themselves as engaged in holy wars against both individuals and abstractions (such as “liberalism”).

Aware of these risks, some of the nation’s greatest leaders refused to speak in Manichaean terms. With the Civil War near its end, Abraham Lincoln asked, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.” In the midst of the struggle for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.”

Political Moderates Are Lying
By Vincent Harinam and Rob Henderson

When moderates acquiesce to the beliefs of partisans, they signal to the opposition their ideological inflexibility and unwillingness to come together. It may even be the case that moderates on either side agree with another. But if no one speaks their mind, similarities are never discovered and compromises are never made.

Under these conditions, political caricatures and derogatory terms are accepted as truth. We’ll have bought into the idea that those on the other side are actually “deplorables” and “snowflakes.” Binary thinking, ideological brinksmanship, and bad faith assumptions will come to define us. Most importantly, we’ll have succumbed to belief that we have nothing in common.

In short, perception will become reality. The preference falsification which props up political tribalism will in time legitimize it. Indeed, believing that we are divided may be indistinguishable from actually being divided.

‘Americans are Being Held Hostage and Terrorized by the Fringes’
By Tim Alberta

Brooks: I have a book coming out next year called The Culture of Contempt. We’ve created a culture of not anger, not disagreement, it’s contempt. And we need to strike back. We’re the majority. We don’t want this. Americans are being held hostage and terrorized by the fringes. That’s what’s going on here. It’s not like 50 percent of Americans thinks one thing and 50 percent thinks another thing. No, 15 percent on each side are effectively controlling the conversation and 70 percent of us don’t hate each other. I can ask any audience, “How many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically?” Every hand goes up. And yet, you’re willing to have somebody, some fringe person on your side of the debate, say that your brother-in-law or your mother or your aunt is evil and stupid.

PM: But isn’t the problem more that the fringe used to be called “the fringe” for a reason—and today the fringe represents a broader chunk of both politicians and voters?

Brooks: They always do in this cycle. It’s always the case that when you get into a time of really big political polarization, that people are manipulated by people who are at the fringe. It’s only in retrospect that people go, “Whoa, man, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that we were putting up with that.” We need a kind of an ethical populism. What basically happened is that political establishment was a little bit too reticent. It was not paying attention, and the result was that the fringe picked up the football and ran off with it. But there’s going to be a backlash. If I have anything to say about it, there’s going to be a backlash of people who say that your radical, hateful views, and I’m no liberal, but I don’t hate liberals. I refuse to hate liberals. Refuse. I think there’s a lot of Americans that want to join me in that.

PM: How do you think we got to this point?

Brooks: The two things to read are Reinhart and Rogoff’s book, This Time is Different. It came out in 2010—the single best book ever on financial cycles and financial crisis. The second is an article that was written in the European Economic Review in early 2017 by three German economists that looks at the knock-on political effect of financial crises—not a regular recession, but a big overhang of assets that becomes a bubble and then pops, which typically happens a couple times a century. So it’s silver and the railroads in 1894 and 1896, or it’s the stock market in 1929, or it’s the real estate market in ‘08. The most interesting thing for me is that in the decade after a financial crisis, the knock-on effect over 10 years is not low growth, it’s uneven growth. The big thing that happens for 10 years is that you have asymmetric economic growth where 80 percent of the income distribution gets none of the rewards of the growth after the recession. Of course you get populism after that. It’s natural. It’s just the way it works.

Ian Bremmer: America isn’t a politically risky place right now—and that’s the problem
By Paul Smalera

Fast Company: You scour the world identifying political risk. Is America a risky place right now?

Ian Bremmer: No. America’s not a risky place right now and that’s kind of the problem. America hasn’t had to address things that have gotten worse over a long period of time, because they aren’t crises. As a consequence, we have a lot of things that feel pretty broken right now. Support for America’s political institutions are at horrifyingly low levels. No one’s happy with the divisiveness. And yet, people are pretty comfortable. The most important election in a generation, barely half the people voted. More people didn’t vote than voted for Hillary Clinton. The real winner of the 2016 election was “couldn’t be bothered.”

FC: Ok, so what’s the case for optimism? Is there one?

IB: Believe it or not, the best case for optimism is to make an analogy with climate change. Forty years ago, climatologists had no reason for optimism. The science was clear but there was no long term solution, no ideas for fixes, and no impetus for change. The first thing is, you have to get people to focus.

My book “Us Vs. Them” is a wakeup call. The media is acting as if this story is all about Trump. Even Trevor Noah on the Daily Show was trying to get me to say this is all about race. It’s not just about race and the United States. It’s about Canada, Italy, the UK, Europe, South Africa. He responded really well to be fair, but the fact is that you have people in the entire mainstream media in this “us vs. them” narrative, they’re playing their part. So you have to recognize that’s an issue.

The case for optimism is that we will get there. People will recognize it as things get worse. Back to climate change: today solar power is cheaper than coal. Forty years ago it was inconceivable that could happen. And it happened mostly because people, not the government, decided we needed to try these things. They got out there and invested in the experiments that today are finally starting to pay off.

The other case for optimism has little to do with the book. As all this is happening, the tools we’re developing to respond are also becoming much stronger. In the last generation we’ve taken nearly hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty. Humanity has never had the capacity to do that before. Ninety percent of the world’s one-year olds have been immunized. That’s astonishing. The literacy rate is astonishing. What we’ve done to create a global middle class is astonishing. We’re going to have a lot more Mozarts and Einsteins. It’s one thing when out of 7 billion people, only a couple hundred million really have the means to harness their raw intellect. When 4 or 5 billion can, entrepreneurial talents grow so much faster. That’s ultimately the real reason to be optimistic.

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