To know the answer, at least in America, it helps if you born in a place during the last phase of its legacy, post-WWII normalcy, and were raised watching the Murraysian ‘Coming Apart’ transition into class-based geographical segregation.
And, perhaps with the exception of a very few gentrifying districts in special-sauce cities, my speculation is that the answer is gradual Elysium-ification (combined with dysgenic, death-spiral, cultural-collapse Ididocracy everywhere else, along with a little counter-zombie-enclave World War Z imagery). Sailer, as usual, is essential on Elysium, Idiocracy (here too, and here’s an interview with Mike Judge) and WWZ.
Throw in some of the darkest bits of Tyler Cowen’s ‘Average Is Over‘, and some Stephenson Diamond Age (with Arnold Kling’s musings about Vickies and Thetes), and some Gartner Group Maverick Research, “Surviving the Rise of ‘Smart Machines,’ the Loss of ‘Dream Jobs’ and ‘90% Unemployment’” (Sorry, I don’t have an ungated copy, any help appreciated)
Life in these Latin-American-style Elysian enclaves is going to be unspeakably awesome (though also imprisoning, in a way) and robo-techno-utopian for the very small slices of the population which can rise to the top of the wide pyramid and make their ways to them. For everyone else, a wide spectrum of possible conditions from dull, to dreary, to dangerous, to deadly.
Most of them (us?) won’t have jobs and will be living off the surplus outputs of hyper-automated production controlled by the elites. The long-term unemployed are doomed, not just because of policy, or because the DC Walmart can now be more selective than Harvard, but because there isn’t always work to do for every kind of person, and soon enough there’ll be no point for the vast majority of individuals.
The enclaves are like giant mature stars in their final days, shrinking and collapsing under the weight of their own gravity and burning hotter and hotter, brightening to a blinding incandescence. All while the places where they once glowed gas are left to a dark void, only living off the light emanating from the ever-more-tiny dots.
For some American examples, consider Camden, just across the river from prosperous parts of Downtown Philly, and covered by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, “Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch From America’s Most Desperate Town” (HT: SBPDL). Or look at David Simon’s ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show.’
There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west.
Simon could say the same for countless districts in cities across the United States. Sometimes an area will be strongly bimodal with regards to income distribution and will only hold rich and poor, right next door to each other, with the middle class exiled to the suburbs. These distortions of the natural tendencies of the real estate market are mainly caused by countless government-owned and managed properties along with permit and zoning restrictions, but even more important is that the public schools in areas with poor people are awful, and so only those wealthy enough to afford the best private schools would choose to live there.
As an aside, Simon gave that speech at the ‘Festival of Dangerous Ideas‘ at the Sydney Opera House. I didn’t find many of ideas very ‘dangerous’ at all (then again, we’re not likely to find ideas ‘dangerous’ around these parts), but who even knew there was such a thing? Can we get a few DEC folks to be invited to FODI 2014? That would probably be ‘dangerous’, in a way, but only for the participants.
The title of Simon’s talk’s theme idea was ‘some people are more equal than others’. Alas, he didn’t mean it in the dark enlightenment sense, but in a ‘Our corrupt society does this, it shouldn’t be this way, let’s do Socialism!’ sense. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting talk and the video is here. (See them all, and don’t miss Peter Hitchens’ ‘There is No War On Drugs‘ and for fraternal rivalry, this is his late brother Christopher from 2009, ‘Religion Poisons Everything‘)
I thought this AIACC-related excerpt deserved some transcription because it’s so perfectly indicative of the contemporary American Progressive worldview. I enjoyed The Wire, but I try to remember that these are the attitudes of the people making most successful broadcast entertainment.
… has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the History of mankind at this point, in terms of just the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons, and the percentage of people we put into American prisons. No other country on Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.
We have become something other than what we claim for the American Dream. And all because of out inability to basically share; to even contemplate a Socialist impulse.
Socialism is a dirty word in my country. I have to give that disclaimer at the beginning of every speech, “Oh, by the way, I’m not a Marxist.”
I lived through the 20th Century, I don’t believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism in producing mass wealth; I don’t. I’m utterly committed to the idea that capitalism has to be the way we generate mass wealth in the coming century. That argument’s over.
But the idea that it’s not going to be married to a Social Compact, that how you distribute the benefits of capitalism isn’t going to include everyone in the society to a reasonable extent, that’s astonishing to me. And from that, capitalism is about to seize defeat from the jaws of victory all by its own hand. That’s the astonishing end of this story, unless we reverse course. Unless we take into consideration, if not the remedies of Marx, then the diagnosis.
Cause he saw what would happen if capital triumphed unequivocally, if it got everything it wanted. And one of the things that capital would want unequivocally and for certain is they would want labor to be diminished. They would want labor to be diminished because labor is a cost. And if labor is diminished, let’s translate that in human terms, it means human beings are worth less.
From this moment forward, unless we reverse course, all of us, speaking in terms of the average person, the average human being is worth less, unless we take stock in the fact that Socialism and the Socialist Impulse has to be addressed again, it has to be married, as it was married, in the 30’s, 40’s, and even into the 50’s to the engine that is capitalism. Mistaking capitalism for a blue print to how to build a society, I think, to me, strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way.
Capitalism is a remarkable engine, again, for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how you build a just society; there are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report. [a neocameralist would disagree entirely].
We have suggested that the market will solve such things as our environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, as the problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after another when that economy is changing.
The idea that it’s going to heed all the human concerns and still maximize profit is juvenile. It’s a juvenile notion, and it’s still being argued in my country, passionately, and we’re going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I’m astonished at how comfortable we are absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?
Well, if you watch the debacle that was and is as the fight over something as basic as public health policy in my country over the last couple years, culminating in this last bit of hilarity in the Congress, you have to be a little bit in awe that we might actually – imagine the ineffectiveness that Americans are going to offer the world when it comes to something complicated like global warming, when we can’t even get health care for our citizens on a basic level.
And the argument comes down to “God Damn this Socialist President! Does he think I’m going to pay to keep other people healthy? That’s Socialism!” Motherfscker! What do you think group health insurance is? You ask these guys, “Do you have group health insurance?” “Oh yeah, my law firm …” “So when you get sick, you’re ok, because you have enough people in your law firm, and enough of them stay healthy, so the actuarial tables work, and all of you, when you do get sick, are able to have the resources there to get better. Because you’re relying on the idea of the group”
And they nod their heads, and you go, “Brother, that’s Socialism.” It is. [Actually, if we’re pricing people actuarially it’s not, but whatever. -ed] If Socialism is the taint you can’t abide by, then get your checkbook out, write a check to the hospital, write a check to the doctor, and shut the fsck up. The fact that this is actually semantic arguments … ok, we’re going to do what you’re doing for your lawfirm, but when we do it for 300 million American, and we’re going to make it affordable that way.
And yes, it means, you’re going to be paying for the other guys in the society the same way you pay for the other guys in the lawfirm. Their eyes glaze, they don’t want to hear it [because it’s a nonsense arugment, but whatever. -ed]. It’s too much. It’s too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might actually be connected.
So, I’m astonished that, at this late date, I’m standing here saying, “You might want to go back to this guy Marx we’re laughing at.” If not for his prescriptions, no, I don’t see a state-run economy being viable ever again, then at least for his depiction of what is possible if you don’t mitigate the authority of capitalism. If you don’t embrace some other values for human endeavor.
That’s got to be something that we leave behind forever, the notion that this tool is more than what it is. And that’s what ‘The Wire‘ was about basically. It was about people who were worth less, that were no longer necessary – there’s maybe 10 or 15 percent of my country that is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy – it was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their economic irrelevance they were nevertheless still on the ground, occupying this place called Baltimore, and they were going to have to endure, somehow. And that’s the great horror show; what are we going to do with all these people that we’ve managed to marginalize?
Chilling stuff. But the answer, I suspect, is that we’re (they’re?) going to do something like what we currently do and leave them (and find a way to keep them) in place and feed and shelter them, throw some extra fashion and bauble-consuming cash their way, and give them enough
soma and joyboxes drugs and video games to keep them more or less pacified.
High Culture is about human beings producing and contributing innovations that both build upon and are superior to what has come before. It is about standing on the shoulders of giants and raising your own shoulders upward and capable of supporting new passengers at even greater heights to see even farther vistas. Increasingly, more and more of humanity is going to become divorced from this march of progress, or even from economic production at all, except as passive consumers and spectators. They will have no, and need no, comprehension or participation in the work of the age and remain beneath the feet of all the original Titans; breathing, breeding, binging.
But for some tiny, fortunate remnant, something like a dignified human existence will continue, but only in the Elysia.