Wednesday, April 06, 2016

The End of Ordinary Politics

Archdruids may take vacations but politics never sleeps, and during the month that’s elapsed since the last post here on The Archdruid Report, quite a number of things relevant to this blog’s project have gone spinning past the startled eyes of those who pay attention to the US political scene. I’ll get to some of the others in upcoming weeks; the one that caught my attention most forcefully, for reasons I trust my readers will find understandable, was the reaction to a post of mine from a few months back titled Donald Trump and the Politics of Resentment.

It’s not uncommon for a post of mine on a controversial subject to get picked up by other blogs and attract a fair amount of discussion and commentary. On the other hand, when something I write takes not much more than a week to become the most-read post in the history of The Archdruid Report, goes on to attract more than half again as many page views as the nearest runner-up, and gets nearly twice as many comments as the most comment-heavy previous post, it’s fair to say that something remarkable has happened. When a follow-up post, The Decline and Fall of Hillary Clinton, promptly became the second most-read post in this blog’s history and attracted even more comments—well, here again, it seems tolerably clear that I managed to hit an exquisitely sensitive nerve.

It may not be an accident, either, that starting about a week after that first post went up, two things relevant to it have started to percolate through the mass media. The first, and to my mind the most promising, is that a few journalists have managed to get past the usual crass stereotypes, and talk about the actual reasons why so many voters have decided to back Donald Trump’s aspirations this year. I was startled to see a thoughtful article by Peggy Noonan along those lines in the Wall Street Journal, and even more astonished to see pieces making similar points in other media outlets—here’s an example,, and here’s another.

Mind you, none of the articles that I saw quite managed to grapple with the raw reality of the situation that’s driving so many wage-earning Americans to place their last remaining hopes for the future on Donald Trump. Even Noonan’s piece, though it’s better than most and makes an important point we’ll examine later, falls short.  In her analysis, what’s wrong is that a privileged subset of Americans have been protected from the impacts of the last few decades of public policy, while the rest of us haven’t had that luxury.  This is true, of course, but it considerably understates things. The class she’s talking about—the more affluent half or so of the salary class, to use the taxonomy I suggested in my post—hasn’t simply been protected from the troubles affecting other Americans.  They’ve profited, directly and indirectly, from the policies that have plunged much of the wage class into impoverishment and misery, and their reliable response to any attempt to discuss that awkward detail shows tolerably clearly that a good many of them are well aware of it.

I’m thinking here, among many other examples along the same lines, of a revealing article earlier this year from a reporter who attended a feminist conference on sexism in the workplace. All the talk there was about how women in the salary class could improve their own prospects for promotion and the like. It so happened that the reporter’s sister works in a wage-class job, and she quite sensibly inquired whether the conference might spare a little time to discuss ways to improve prospects for women who don’t happen to belong to the salary class. Those of my readers who have seen discussions of this kind know exactly what happened next: a bit of visible discomfort, a few vaguely approving comments, and then a resumption of the previous subjects as though no one had made so embarrassing a suggestion.

It’s typical of the taboo that surrounds class prejudice in today’s industrial nations that not even the reporter mentioned the two most obvious points about this interchange. The first, of course, is that the line the feminists at the event drew between those women whose troubles with sexism were of interest to them, and those whose problems didn’t concern them in the least, was a class line. The second is that the women at the event had perfectly valid, if perfectly selfish, reasons for drawing that line. In order to improve the conditions of workers in those wage class industries that employ large numbers of women, after all, the women at the conference would themselves have had to pay more each month for daycare, hairstyling, fashionable clothing, and the like. Sisterhood may be powerful, as the slogans of an earlier era liked to claim, but it’s clearly not powerful enough to convince women in the salary class to inconvenience themselves for the benefit of women who don’t happen to share their privileged status.

To give the women at the conference credit, though, at least they didn’t start shouting about some other hot-button issue in the hope of distracting attention from an awkward question. That was the second thing relevant to my post that started happening the week after it went up. All at once, much of the American left responded to the rise of Donald Trump by insisting at the top of their lungs that the only reason, the only possible reason, that anyone at all supports the Trump campaign is that Trump is a racist and so are all his supporters.

It’s probably necessary to start by unpacking the dubious logic here, so that we can get past that and see what’s actually being said. Does Trump have racial prejudices? No doubt; most white Americans do. Do his followers share these same prejudices? Again, no doubt some of them do—not all his followers are white, after all, a point that the leftward end of the media has been desperately trying to obscure in recent weeks. Let’s assume for the sake of argument, though, that Trump and his followers do indeed share an assortment of racial bigotries. Does that fact, if it is a fact, prove that racism must by definition be the only thing that makes Trump appeal to his followers?

Of course it proves nothing of the kind. You could use the same flagrant illogic to insist that since Trump enjoys steak, and many of his followers share that taste, the people who follow him must be entirely motivated by hatred for vegetarians. Something that white Americans generally don’t discuss, though I’m told that most people of color are acutely aware of it, is that racial issues simply aren’t that important to white people in this country nowadays.  The frantic and passionate defense of racial bigotry that typified the Jim Crow era is rare these days outside of the white-supremacist fringe.  What has replaced it, by and large, are habits of thought and action that most white people consider to be no big deal—and you don’t get a mass movement going in the teeth of the political establishment by appealing to attitudes that the people who hold them consider to be no big deal.

Behind the shouts of “Racist!” directed at the Trump campaign by a great many affluent white liberals, rather, lies a rather different reality. Accusations of racism play a great many roles in contemporary American discourse—and of course the identification of actual racism is among these. When affluent white liberals make that accusation, on the other hand, far more often than not, it’s a dog whistle.

I should probably explain that last phrase for the benefit of those of my readers who don’t speak fluent Internet. A dog whistle, in online jargon, is a turn of phrase or a trope that expresses some form of bigotry while giving the bigot plausible deniability. During the civil rights movement, for example, the phrase “states’ rights” was a classic dog whistle; the rights actually under discussion amounted to the right of white Southerners to impose racial discrimination on their black neighbors, but the White Citizens Council spokesmen who waxed rhapsodic about states’ rights never had to say that in so many words. That there were, and are, serious issues about the balance of power between states and the federal government that have nothing do with race, and thus got roundly ignored by both sides of the struggle, is just one more irony in a situation that had no shortage of them already.

In the same way, the word “racist” in the mouths of the pundits and politicians who have been applying it so liberally to the Trump campaign is a dog whistle for something they don’t want to talk about in so many words. What they mean by it, of course, is “wage class American.”

That’s extremely common. Consider the recent standoff in Oregon between militia members and federal officials. While that was ongoing, wags in the blogosphere and the hip end of the media started referring to the militia members as “Y’all-Qaeda.” Attentive readers may have noted that none of the militia members came from the South—the only part of the United States where “y’all” is the usual second person plural pronoun. To the best of my knowledge, all of them came from the dryland West, where “y’all” is no more common than it is on the streets of Manhattan or Vancouver. Why, then, did the label catch on so quickly and get the predictable sneering laughter of the salary class?

It spread so quickly and got that laugh because most members of the salary class in the United States love to apply a specific stereotype to the entire American wage class. You know that stereotype as well as I do, dear reader. It’s a fat, pink-faced, gap-toothed Southern good ol’ boy in jeans and a greasy T-shirt, watching a NASCAR race on television from a broken-down sofa, with one hand stuffed elbow deep into a bag of Cheez Doodles, the other fondling a shotgun, a Confederate flag patch on his baseball cap and a Klan outfit in the bedroom closet. As a description of wage-earning Americans in general, that stereotype is as crass, as bigoted, and as politically motivated as any of the racial and sexual stereotypes that so many people these days are ready to denounce—but if you mention this, the kind of affluent white liberals who would sooner impale themselves on their own designer corkscrews than mention African-Americans and watermelons in the same paragraph will insist at the top of their lungs that it’s not a stereotype, it’s the way “those people” really are.

Those of my readers who don’t happen to know any people from the salary class, and so haven’t had the opportunity to hear the kind of hate speech they like to use for the wage class, might want to pick up the latest edition of the National Review, and read a really remarkable diatribe by Kevin Williamson—it’s behind a paywall, but here’s a sample.  The motive force behind this tantrum was the fact that many people in the Republican party’s grassroots base are voting in their own best interests, and thus for Trump, rather than falling into line and doing what they’re told by their soi-disant betters. The very idea!  It’s a fine display of over-the-top classist bigotry, as well as a first-rate example of the way that so many people in the salary class like to insist that poverty is always and only the fault of the poor.

May I please be frank? The reason that millions of Americans have had their standard of living hammered for forty years, while the most affluent twenty per cent have become even more affluent, is no mystery. What happened was that corporate interests in this country, aided and abetted by a bipartisan consensus in government and cheered on by the great majority of the salary class, stripped the US economy of living wage jobs by offshoring most of America’s industrial economy, on the one hand, and flooding the domestic job market with millions of legal and illegal immigrants on the other.

That’s why a family living on one average full-time wage in 1966 could afford a home, a car, three square meals a day, and the other necessities and comforts of an ordinary American lifestyle, while a family with one average full time wage in most US cities today is living on the street. None of that happened by accident; no acts of God were responsible; no inexplicable moral collapse swept over the American wage class and made them incapable of embracing all those imaginary opportunities that salary class pundits like to babble about. That change was brought about, rather, by specific, easily identifiable policies. As a result, all things considered, blaming the American poor for the poverty that has been imposed on them by policies promoted by the affluent is the precise economic equivalent of blaming rape victims for the actions of rapists.

In both cases, please note, blaming the victim makes a convenient substitute for talking about who’s actually responsible, who benefits from the current state of affairs, and what the real issues are. When that conversation is one that people who have a privileged role in shaping public discourse desperately don’t want to have, blaming the victim is an effective diversionary tactic, and accordingly it gets much use in the US media these days. There are, after all, plenty of things that the people who shape public discourse in today’s America don’t want to talk about. The fact that the policies pushed by those same shapers of opinion have driven millions of American families into poverty and misery isn’t the most unmentionable of these things, as it happens. The most unmentionable of the things that don’t get discussed is the fact that those policies have failed.

It really is as simple as that. The policies we’re talking about—lavish handouts for corporations and the rich, punitive austerity schemes for the poor, endless wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, malign neglect of domestic infrastructure, and deer-in-the-headlights blank looks or vacuous sound bites in response to climate change and the other consequences of our frankly moronic maltreatment of the biosphere that keeps us all alive—were supposed to bring prosperity to the United States and its allies and stability to the world. They haven’t done that, they won’t do that, and with whatever respect is due to the supporters of Hillary Clinton, four more years of those same policies won’t change that fact. The difficulty here is simply that no one in the political establishment, and precious few in the salary class in general, are willing to recognize that failure, much less learn its obvious lessons or notice the ghastly burdens that those policies have imposed on the majorities who have been forced to carry the costs.

Here, though, we’re in territory that has been well mapped out in advance by one of the historians who have helped guide the project of this blog since its inception. In his magisterial twelve-volume A Study of History, Arnold Toynbee explored in unforgiving detail the processes by which societies fail. Some civilizations, he notes, are overwhelmed by forces outside their control, but this isn’t the usual cause of death marked on history’s obituaries. Far more often than not, rather, societies that go skidding down the well-worn route marked “Decline and Fall” still have plenty of resources available to meet the crises that overwhelm them and plenty of options that could have saved the day—but those resources aren’t put to constructive use and those options never get considered.

This happens, in turn, because the political elites of those failed societies lose the ability to notice that the policies they want to follow don’t happen to work. The leadership of a rising civilization pays close attention to the outcomes of its policies and discards those that don’t work.  The leadership of a falling civilization prefers to redefine “success” as “following the approved policies” rather than “yielding the preferred outcomes,” and concentrates on insulating itself from the consequences of its mistakes rather than recognizing the mistakes and dealing with their consequences. The lessons of failure are never learned, and so the costs of failure mount up until they can no longer be ignored.

This is where Peggy Noonan’s division of the current population into “protected” and “unprotected” classes has something useful to offer. Members of the protected class—in today’s America, as already noted, this is above all the more affluent half or so of the salary class—live within a bubble that screens them from any contact with the increasingly impoverished and immiserated majority. As far as they can see, everything’s fine; all their friends are prospering, and so are they; spin-doctored news stories and carefully massaged statistics churned out by government offices insist that nothing could possibly be wrong. They go from gated residential community to office tower to exclusive restaurant to high-end resort and back again, and the thought that it might be useful once in a while to step outside the bubble and go see what conditions are like in the rest of the country would scare the bejesus out of them if it ever occurred to them at all.

In a rising civilization, as Toynbee points out, the political elite wins the loyalty and respect of the rest of the population by recognizing problems and then solving them. In a falling civilization, by contrast, the political elite forfeits the loyalty and respect of the rest of the population by creating problems and then ignoring them. That’s what lies behind the crisis of legitimacy that occurs so often in the twilight years of a society in decline—and that, in turn, is the deeper phenomenon that lies behind the meteoric rise of Donald Trump.  If a society’s officially sanctioned leaders can’t lead, won’t follow, and aren’t willing to get out of the way, sooner or later people are going to start looking for a way to shove them through history’s exit turnstile, by whatever means turn out to be necessary.

Thus if Trump loses the election in November, that doesn’t mean that the threat to the status quo is over—far from it.  If Hillary Clinton becomes president, we can count on four more years of the same failed and feckless policies, which she’s backed to the hilt throughout her political career, and thus four more years in which millions of Americans outside the narrow circle of affluence will be driven deeper into poverty and misery, while being told by the grinning scarecrows of officialdom that everything is just fine. That’s not a recipe for social stability; those who make peaceful change impossible, it’s been pointed out, make violent change inevitable. What’s more, Trump has already shown every ambitious demagogue in the country exactly how to build a mass following, and he’s also shown a great many wage-earning Americans that there can be alternatives to an intolerable status quo.

No matter how loudly today’s establishment insists that the policies it favors are the only thinkable options, the spiraling failure of those policies, and the appalling costs they impose on people outside the bubble of privilege, guarantee that sooner or later the unthinkable will become the inescapable. That’s the real news of this election season:  the end of ordinary politics, and the first stirrings of an era of convulsive change that will leave little of today’s conventional wisdom intact.

On a not unrelated theme, I’m delighted to announce that my next book from New Society Publishers, Dark Age America: Climate Change, Cultural Collapse, and the Hard Future Ahead, is now available for preorder. Readers who favor the sort of feel-good pablum for the overprivileged marketed by Yes! Magazine and its equivalents will want to give this one a pass. (It’s been suggested to me more than once that if I ran a magazine, it would have to be titled Probably Not! Magazine: A Journal of Realistic Futures.) On the other hand, those who are looking for a sober assessment of the mess into which we’ve collectively backed ourselves, and the likely consequences of that mess over the next five centuries or so, may find it just their cup of astringent tea.


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John Michael Greer said...

I'll be busy this evening, and so decided to post this early for a change. I'd like once again to thank everyone who kept discussion going, and kept it civil and thoughtful, over the past month!

goingnowhereslowly said...

Welcome back! March was so full of fall-of-the-empire fodder, it was very sad not to have your usual commentary on it all. Now my withdrawal symptoms are lifting at last!

Neo Tuxedo said...

Talking about class issues forces Americans to confront that, contrary to the conventional-wisdom's flannel, we don't have a classless society any more than the Soviet Union did (though, judging by what I've heard about reality TV, it keeps getting closer to something truly class-less). My friend Philip Sandifer, the other practicing magus of my acquaintance, would probably argue that race and class are intertwined like "Vengeance and Madness, inseparable twins,"* and as Thom Hartmann often says on his radio show, "I don't disagree."

(* Fragment attributed to Opyros, quoted by Karl Edward Wagner as one of the epigraphs of his Kane the Mystic Swordsman novel Darkness Weaves)

Robert Tweedy said...

Welcome back, JMG. I hope your time off was restful. Spot on post, as usual.

Sackerson said...

Spot on. Same here in the UK. Clear and punchy. Well done!

Esquon said...

A profound analysis! Export the jobs and keep up the inflow of desperate, illegal low wage workers who don't demand anything, and here we are. Sweeten the deal with tax breaks, privatization schemes, resource give aways, war contracts, etc and the rich really get richer. Meanwhile the environment is written off. Full speed downward to ruin.

Ceworthe said...

Living in the "Hardscrabble, white, Upstate New York", my response to Kevin Williamson is that I would rather live here if the DooDoo hits the fan than in any city, since the country people of the region have more than a passing ability to grow and raise their own food than any country-club types and most salaried types. In my experience with them and, they would be utterly clueless as to how to provide for themselves as well as how to fix things, etc..
A book I recommend to read about working class people and how to understand them I "Deerhunting for Jesus:Dispatches from America's Class War" by Joe Bageant, who is unfortunately deceased. I think he would have been utterly fascinated by the political goings on nowadays.
I had a rather amusing incident where I suggested to one of my university area liberal friends that if they wanted to understand why rednecks act and vote the way they do, they should read the aforementioned book. I was told that they didn't want to read anything about Jesus because they were Buddhist, even though I described what they book was about, and Jesus was not really any particular part of it. This from otherwise intelligent people, who don't realize how much they are bigots too, just not of people of color.
By the way, I feel like, as Joe Bageant did, that I can understand both the "back country" people and the liberal college educated cityots,aka educated fools, having gone to college myself. As for the term cityots, country people think city people are clueless people who don't know how to do anything useful, so the city people's scorn for the country people is often reciprocated. And I have to mention that your description of the Nascar man stereotype was missing him holding a can of cheap beer ;-)

Ceworthe said...

Oops, Title is "Deerhunting with Jesus", my bad

Mikep said...

Welcome back JMG and thanks for the link to Peggy Noonan.
"In America now only normal people are capable of seeing the obvious." anyone who comes up with a quote like that is clearly worthy of respect.


RAnderson said...

Brilliant and concise summation of the situation we find ourselves in. Welcome back!

John Roth said...

In a similar vein, I was amused to note that a columnist in a rag I read suddenly discovered that Sanders and Trump have essentially the same attitude to our trade policy - put in rather different terms, of course. Sanders apparently said something about foreign labor at the equivalent of 60 cents an hour in one country, and being the equivalent of indentured servants in another because they confiscate the laborer's passports when they arrive, and that he wasn't going to countenance trade with any country that didn't treat its workers at least as well as we ought to treat ours.

This scrivener opined that if we fixed our trade policy to only trade with countries where they paid and treated labor the same as we did, they'd lose out, and that would be morally reprehensible. It apparently never occurred to him that those self-same trade policies have ripped up a reasonably well working village culture to provide those under-paid laborers, fueled the drug wars in Columbia, facilitated ripping up large swaths of land for mono-culture plantations and fostered a trade imbalance that's reduced a large part of our population to debt peonage.

El Gaucho said...

As always, thank you for a rational and thoughtful analysis of this impending cloud of darkness. I've found myself watching this process over the last few months and slowly morphing from "casual/interested voyeur" into "terrified onlooker".

Dan the Farmer said...

Welcome back. Or maybe it's us who've been away...

I keep thinking about the amphetamine of the intellectuals.

Michael said...

Sweet, you're back. I missed you posts.

Martin B said...

What a pleasant surprise to find a new post by JMG! I'd almost forgotten what a clear-eyed and thoughtful essay on contemporary affairs looked like.

I've recently been turning over in my mind the thought that there's one assumption we always make and conveniently ignore in discussing economic matters, and maybe it's time to state it out loud.

It's this: Everything else remaining the same.

For example, I could put a ton or two of CO2 into the atmosphere, and it would be absorbed without any measurable effect; or as a factory owner I could make a few people redundant and society would absorb them and there would be no repercussions that anyone would notice.

Except that now we seem to be at a tipping point. The pile of sand is about to slip, but we don't know exactly which grain will start rolling first. Somewhere, soon, something else will no longer remain the same and the big slide will start.

Those with the most power need to move the most cautiously. But I think someone in the 1% will blunder thoughtlessly and set off an avalanche no one can control.

ed boyle said...

I oracled trump with the iching and got 18 (decaying/corruption)with changing lines 9 on 2nd, 3rd and 6th lines and 6 on line 5. Future hexagram is 8(alliances).

One could see the situation of US politics as a corrupt enterprise which can be changed through alliances.
I have the idiot's guide to iching which is quite intelligent. Revolution is afoot globally against the postwar order. Radivcals against consensus politics in europe and usa and the sino-russian-iranian-indian axis building an alternative financial-diplomatic-military-trade and infrastructure base. So while the West collapses on its systemic corruption the East is post collapse and building up a climbing society based on fairness.

The russian revolution happened a generation before the West's last great crisis so they were able to build up a new identity before the crisis and protect their cultural independence and spread an alternate ideology. It seems the same is repeating itself now. As western social wefare state, military industrial finance complex based on consumerism and fake democracy gets shaked up internally, trump, sanders, Le Pen and co. being symptoms like mussolini and hitler were in 30s the russians provide military, diplomatic, theoretical structure of a survivable post democratic, post oligarchic consumerist slimmed down efficient state,military,etc. Chinese give financial backing and manufacturing base. More eurasian countries are becoming convinced all the time,like lots of westerners, that cia, ngos, soros,nato,etc. are not out to spread democracy. The mindset regarding treaties with indian tribes in19th century is that which the oligarchy uses against the lower classes and all foreign countries. Treaties are, like the US constiution, just pieces of paper, to the hereditary elite. Exporting factories, importing workers,ninja loans destroyed middle class. Perpetual warfare is destroying muslim world. Financial warfare by banks, IMF loans have destroyed NICs, latin American countries many times over the last decades, inaddition to coups originating in US embassies. The elite are a handful of people. CIA originators were Wall Streeters.This is all the same story. The love of money is the root of all evil.

David said...

(formerly buddha, etc.)


Your analysis is as unrelenting and clear-cut as always. I am very aware of my own class status (not upper, but certainly well within the salaried class) and I have a moral obligation, as I see it, to use that income to improve my community and the lives of everyone in it. (Finding effective ways to translate that sentiment into actions that make a difference is, of course, the challenge.)

On a related note, I have to report the local election results from yesterday. Yours truly managed to place sixth (i.e. last) in the city council election. The top three candidates won seats. All-in-all, the experience was very positive, though I likely handicapped myself by choosing to 1) be myself and 2) lay out my case as I saw it, rather than being/saying what was needed to win. One of the other candidates mentioned that he thought I had good ideas, but that I talked like an engineer and came off as too smart.

Oh, well. There are other (and perhaps better) ways I can work to improve/prepare the community for what cometh.

Thank you again, John, for your regular dose of sanity.

Urban Harvester said...

The return of your prescient insights are as welcome as the spring, JMG. I hope you had a good break - but thank the gods you are back! I'm going to have to think a lot more about the ways in which stereotypes of the wage class get used to put people down, and the ways in which they are used as dog whistles.

This post makes me realize how the promises of salary class status get dangled like carrots at wage class underlings, enrolling their hopeful participation; while what is required of them to advance to that protected class more often than not leads them into the very instruments used to further estrange them from their resources (student loan debt, racketeered university degree/licensing programs, etc).

Looking back over your posts on Péladan, thaumaturgy and binaries, it seems these dog whistles would classify as thaumaturgical tools designed to incite binary-stress responses, inhibit logical thought, and elicit conformed participation while the unwitting subjects get fleeced. In which case those same essays give me some ideas for how to defend against them (as well as food for though for your new writing competition).

"Grinning scarecrows of officialdom" is a keeper!

Pantagruel7 said...

RE: Ceworth and "Deerhunting with Jesus": We mark the passing of someone who seemed to have a foot in both these worlds; Jim Harrison. He could do deerhunting and Dostoyevski with equal aplomb. Since he was "from around here," I followed his work from his first novel up to about 1996 when I began to feel he was repeating the same story over and over. And to JMG, good post - those who are so visibly appalled at Trump like to forget that he sometimes tells the truth.

Eric S. said...

I’ll think through a more thorough response to the details of the essay tomorrow after I’ve had more time to ruminate, but I did want to ask your thoughts on one of the other possible outcomes of this election, and what it might look like. It seems like the Republican Party has been putting together its best possible efforts at forming a unified anti-Trump movement (and most of the Republicans doing it aren’t doing much in the way of pretending their opposition is about Racism, Women, or any of those things, they don’t like his labor-centric economics and they’ll readily admit it after just a few minutes of talking). But there does seem to be a very real possibility of that coalition doing everything in their power to make sure that Trump falls just barely short of the required number of delegates to avoid a contested convention, and then force Cruz through despite him losing the primary. A Trump versus Clinton race looks like it’d be close, and if Trump came through on top, it’d be the doing of secret Trump voters who are voting in their self-interest but don’t want to admit it because of the stigma surrounding him, and who are therefore not being represented in any of the projections. Cruz on the other hand has a consistent, solid lead over Clinton and would take the presidency without much of a fight. What’s your take on Cruz? From what I’ve gathered, he seems to combine the worst of Clinton and Trump without either of their redeeming qualities. What do you think the effects, both in the populist Trump/Sanders movements, and in the policy direction of the country would likely be under a Cruz presidency? We’ve done a lot of discussion on Clinton’s business as usual versus Trump’s wild card demagoguery that could be disastrous or productive depending on how the wind blows, but until just this last week or two, I’ve largely ignored Cruz.

SLClaire said...

Welcome back, and thank you once again for saying exactly what needs to be said in exactly the right way! Because you do such a good job, I don't have to embarrass myself in my blog trying to say something on this subject and failing to do it any kind of justice. Instead, I can direct folks to you and then talk about what I know.

For reasons that I don't need to explain, I have had the great good fortune to learn how poor people do the best they can in this kind of economic climate. I'm not poor myself at this point because our income is from a combination of interest, pensions, and Social Security and we have been working for many years to reduce expenses to a minimum. But I can tell you that once again in 2015, we failed to earn enough income, by a long way, to have to buy medical insurance, for which I am once again profoundly grateful. And I am taking very careful and detailed mental notes on how to survive true poverty, because I expect my husband Mike and I will find ourselves in that position at some point.

Misty Barber said...

I'm worry about what happens if a Trump presidency doesn't lead to large scale changes.

Marcu said...

Dear Mr. Greer,

Welcome back! I hope your break was fruitful, productive and enjoyable. The world seems a crazier place without your insights.


The next meeting of the Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne will be held in the last week of April. All interested parties are invited to attend. For people who are unsure about the nature of our meetings imagine a long decent support group with some intentional living discussion mixed in. If you are interested meet us on the 30th of April 2016 at 13:00. In honour of the Archdruid's return we are trying a new venue, the Druids Cafe Bar, at 409 Swanston St Melbourne Victoria, Australia.

Please RSVP, or send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]

Just look for the green wizard's hat.

MindfulEcologist said...

Very glad to be able to read your words again, hope the break was wonder-filled.

Once, if you were a construction worker you might have built a hospital, or perhaps a school sometime in your career. Today you are more likely to spend the whole of your working life building hotels for the business perk class.

I think it is also worth pointing out that the salaried class has so transformed the type of work we do that fewer and fewer today are able to find a means of "right livelihood" aka meaningful work. In light of the hard road ahead to spend our time doing what most people are paid to do is, well, incoherent at best.

I suggest there is an even deeper fissure than class resentment in the semi-conscious recognition that we are trashing the biosphere for the sake of trinkets. When the work you do is basically meaningless, just what are the Values in the Workplace?

John Michael Greer said...

Going, thank you!

Neo, to my mind class and race are two of many variables making up the convoluted landscape of American injustice. They're distinct -- a lot of white people are on the receiving end of vicious class prejudice, and a significant number of people of color are well ensconced in the salary class -- but they intersect in complex ways with each other, and with all the other divisions of differential privilege.

Robert and Sackerson, thank you.

Esquon, nicely summarized.

Ceworthe, he'd have had to have three hands, in order to hold onto the beer can too!

Mikep, you're welcome and thank you.

RAnderson, thank you.

John, bingo. Of course the pundit didn't get around to mentioning how much of his own lifestyle depends on the pauperization of the US working class.

Sven Eriksen said...

Good to have you back, JMG. Wednesdays just haven't been the same of late. I've noticed that every time the topic strays into these waters, somebody inevitably produces an anecdote in which clueless, affluent and bigoted college-bubble liberals are referred to as "otherwise intelligent people". Just can't help thinking that phrase has a lot in common with such equally meaningful phrases as "moderate Syrian rebels"...

whomever said...

I had an interesting conversation with my father (very much of the CEO class). He expressed total bafflement at Cruz and Trump (He's a Hillary supporter, which makes sense given she's by far the most establishment candidate in the race). "Don't the voters know they can't do deliver what they are promising? What do they want?" I tried to explain it in terms of the decline of the working class and he really looked baffled. I would note that this is a guy who's engaged over the years in a number of legal but eye-rolling ways of reducing his taxes over the years and strongly defends the tricks that Apple and Google do do the same ("IT's perfectly legal!"); yet also has a house in France that frankly depends hugely on French taxpayers (since rural France is, lets be honest, a disneyesque place the rest of Europe is supporting at this point). He really can't put two and two together.

Meanwhile, the leaks from the Panamanian law firm have started hitting and have already brought down one PM and possibly damaged a second (though honestly, does anyone NOT think Cameron is a sleazeball at this point?). No Americans yet, but who knows what come up in the future. There was much speculation as to why Romney was so cagey about his taxes for instance.

Cherokee Organics said...


Did you enjoy your break from blogging? Congratulations on the attention that your excellent work and analysis is getting and I do hope that some good comes from that attention - or it at least raises some uncomfortable questions in certain quarters.

Entropy is eating our resource base, we're consuming our infrastructure and our numbers are increasing which basically means that there is less of the pie to go around with every passing day. The privileged class are attempting to hang onto what they can, but with declining resources per capita, that simply means - to my mind anyway - that they have to take from others. And they are desperately trying to avoid inflation - by any possible means. The reason for that is because inflation “disappears” their wealth (which in many cases are merely little bits and bytes in a computer memory somewhere).

Down here there have been some shocking revelations that overseas students have been exploited in many, many industries. And if the students complain then, well, they've breached their student visa's and they risk imminent deportation. I won't even mention the plight of the slaves that are down here.

My view is that the only way we can move forward is if the people holding the preponderance of power and wealth let go of some of that wealth and redistribute it more evenly across the population. Recessions and Depressions are made because no one has any money to spend on stuff - which is useful because in turn that keeps other people employed.

Anyway, whilst I'm being very controversial I'm going to say this: Growth based on debt is not growth. Economists are smoking weed if they believe their own line about growth. I've been considering the derivative and futures markets recently and the thing that I find fascinating about those is that they are so far removed from the realities that I'm not even certain that they can be traced back to their supposed reality. And that is where the salaried and privileged class are keeping their wealth, and it is going to tank, and then rebound, and then tank again in a strange cycle that mirrors oil prices (funny that huh?). Each time will throw a few more people off the boat (with no lifeboat either). Fun times.

Glad you're back and I enjoyed the essay.



whomever said...

Oh, and Re: Kevin Williamson, the "Conservative Establishment" are doubling down. See eg

The absolute, total and utter contempt that is being expressed is absolutely breathtaking. I mean, it concludes with "Kevin is right. If getting a job means renting a U-Haul, rent the U-Haul. You have nothing to lose but your government check." So if you are stuck somewhere due to, oh, family, or underwater mortgage, or whatever, good luck. The poor are poor because it's their fault.

As a side note, I think that US culture has always had a bit of this, and 19th C. England was also famous for it (see, eg, Irish potato famine), it's interesting to think about in a historical context. But still, if you write things like this you can't then act surprised at the pitchforks.

John Michael Greer said...

El Gaucho, good. I hope the next step will take you to "passionate participant."

Dan and Michael, thank you.

Martin, excellent! Yes, and that's a crucial point. The fantasy that everything else will stay the same is way up there on the list of the narratives that are dragging this country and this civilization to its ruin.

Ed, I'd be slow to assume that the rising Eurasian system is "based on fairness," as you've suggested. Hegemony is hegemony, and the opposite of a bad thing is usually another bad thing.

David, sorry to hear that things turned out that way! I hope you feel it was worth the attempt, though.

Harvester, got it in one. We'll be talking more about binaries as the new series of posts gets under way.

Pantagruel, thank you.

Eric, as I see it, a contest between Clinton and Cruz would be an election America could only lose. Two clueless political hacks, fatally disconnected from the realities of life outside their respective bubbles of privilege, and suffering from the fond delusion that a sense of entitlement is adequate qualification for the highest office in the would be purely a matter of seeing which of them got to play the role of Louis XVI. Seriously, if that's the way the election comes out, I'd give even odds that we have a full-blown domestic insurgency under way by 2020.

SLClaire, that's a very sensible thing to do just now.

Misty, at this point anything that didn't make things actively worse would go a long way to satisfy the very low expectations of American voters. Stil, no question, a Trump or Sanders election would be only the beginning of a long and difficult process of change.

Marcu, thank you.

Mindful, that's a good point.

Bike Trog said...

I noticed what may be a collapse aspect, like stranded soldiers: inmates who get out of jail without money or rides home, if they have homes.

Justin said...

Welcome back!

Regarding NAFTA:

JMG, what do you think the odds that Trump understands our actual predicament passably well are? I'm quite sure Clinton gets it, but doesn't have a path forward other than doubling down on the same and Sanders... well, free college, even if some of the beneficiaries go into petroleum geology, isn't going to help.

Gabriela Augusto said...

Dear JMG,
good to read you again!
For many Europeans the Trump phenomenon is totally incomprehensible. People here understand that his popularity indicates some dissatisfaction of the American voters, what they can't understand is: why aren't the Americans happy?
Economy is booming, unemployment so low it doesn't even count, they can print money to pay their debts, they now have an Europe-like healthcare, and no masses of newcomers willing to force them to pray 5x a day or dress funny :)
I know that when Odoacer came, he and his army walked around the italic peninsula for more than 10 years unchallenged. Nobody bothered to find an army to stop him from taking the administrative capital of the western empire, in fact, nobody care…and Rome fell.
Good thing Washington DC is well protected by two oceans :)

Bill Pulliam said...

I'd be really curious to hear you address Sanders at the same level as you have addressed Trump. There are many parallels, but sharp differences in what they say and especially how they say it.

Since neither of them really has down-ballot allies to sweep in as a wave with them, either presidency would be severely hobbled by existing structures. And both Parties are working hard to prevent either from being nominated.

Mark said...

Really nice to have you back, and hope you enjoyed the time away from the ADR.

I'm interested in what's happening in the middle of the economy, where the lower end of the salary class and the upper end of the wage class still have a lot more day to day connection than the entitled executive type and the struggling lower-wage worker have with each other. That's the part of the economy where I live, for the most part, and is where the general class consensus around American Dream optimism was forged, and still hangs on to some degree. Trump seems to draw much of his support from this middle group, where there is still a desire to make the old promises work. So ironically, he may be the upper end of the salary class's last chance to avoid that middle turning their angry eyes to them.

So much is happening now.

Ceworthe said...

I'd replace the shotgun with the beer. And for what it is worth, both Deerhunting with Jesus type and liberal city types are generally good people with inaccurate ideas of the other and a general unwillingness to consider the other point of view.

Sojan Shieldbearer said...

I have been reading "A Study of History" as of late. I am very fortunate to live in a town with a good public library and they have the full 12 volume set, as well as some of Toynbee's other works and both volumes of the "Decline of the West". Right now, I am about a third of the way through Volume III and I have been amazed at what I have learned so far and the insights I have gained by reading the magnum opus of this great man.

It's a pity that Toynbee and Oswald Spengler aren't required reading for high school and college students.

234567 said...

I listened to some 20-somethings drinking soda and cooling off, after working planting trees at a big University. Some were students and some were fresh out and in debt to their eyeballs. They supported Sanders mostly, but one Trumpster. They had harsh references for sexual acts with animals whenever Cruz or Clinton were brought up.

Eventually, one of them said, "You know, there's no way for any of these guys to pay for anything new. I just saw where our student loan debt is 30% of projected government income - so we're totally f&%ked."

That brought them, through lots of jocular convolutions, to the fact that with the electoral system and the whole Democrat/Republican thing, there is no way to ever fix this. Especially since all the older generations only vote red or blue, was the consensus.

"Maybe we just need to tear this whole sh*t up. Nobody is going to change anything, and we get to look forward to being in debt for 10 or 20 years for 4 damn years of college, IF we don't get thrown in jail because we can't find a f*%king job!"

"We got no decent income and already got taxed before we even earned it," said one, irritated.

"Wouldn't take much you know," said another. "Totally easy to shut things down - remember that last bomb threat?" Lots of laughter.

"That wasn't even real, and the entire school was shut down for 2 days."

"Yes, wouldn't take much. I might do some crazy sh&t if they were going to send me to jail when I can't get a job to repay my loans. No reason not to."

This is paraphrasing - but it certainly caught my attention. They wandered away from the barn, and the rest was lost.

That entire conversation among those 5 or 6 kids grabbed my attention and I can't let go of it...

Sojan Shieldbearer said...

@ whomever:

The arrogance and cluelessness of people like Williamson is sickening. No doubt the white wage class has often been its own worst enemy and there is a lot of self-inflicted damage like the drug abuse he alludes to.

But what about the responsibility of the salary class, both Republicrat and Dempublican, who have sold the wage class down the river and cannibalized much of the American economy in order to maintain their own status? What are people supposed to do when so many of the decent wage class jobs have been shipped overseas or automated out of existence and the only jobs they can find even when they can find work are dead-end, minimum wage jobs?

If we get to the stage when the tumbrils start rolling, it will be because the clueless elites and their bought-and-paid-for apologists (like Williamson) left the masses with no alternative.

Nastarana said...

Welcome back, Mr. Greer.

About Kevin Williamson, everyone did notice, I hope, that the places he designates for ethnic cleansing are places where house prices have fallen low enough that non-salary class persons can have a shot at ownership, if personal circumstances allow and the omens are favorable.

Avery said...

John Roth: your comment about Sanders and Trump being the same on trade is precisely the one I wanted to make. Sanders, like Trump, has few details on how what he would replace our current system with. But both Trump and Bernie are inspiring simply because they offer us the possibility that what we know to be a corrupt establishment can be swept away democratically. Nothing has been better in this long election cycle than watching globalists around the world squirm at the idea of a President Trump squashing the TPP, winding down NATO, and renegotiating America's foreign entanglements. I have friends who work for the actual human establishment that maintains America's domination of global security, and I've never before seen them so worried.

I live in Japan, and it's very simple to lay out the situation here. The country is stagnant, and will undergo its own democratic revolution as soon as the American Caesar arrives (whoever it might be). The ability to dispute the central command of the party was swept away in 2006 under PM Koizumi, and his eventual replacement, PM Abe, has used that centralization of power to knock out Japan's economic backbone and replace it with undying obedience to the US and a pledge of commitment to the American security agreement. Everything that has been done in this country, even the protests against Abe, has operated on the incredibly naïve assumption that America is always going to have a Clinton/Obama kind of president who will say nice things while continuing to maintain the status quo. To Japan's elites Trump represents pure chaos, and they've been demanding an explanation from their American establishment counterparts for months now. I wonder what they will be saying come August.

John the Peregrine said...

Hello JMG,

Once again thank you for the insightful and level-headed commentary. A month's absence is unbearable when events are moving so fast! On the topic of Hillary Clinton, it's worth mentioning that, given her legendary corruption, the elites of a previous era would have been glad to sacrifice her to set an example to the rest of us that no one is above the law. Even if Hillary loses the general election, her escape from prosecution for the crimes she obviously committed (and I'm not referring here only to the e-mail server incident), when millions in America are in jail for comparatively harmless drug crimes, will deal a crushing morale blow to the country.

If you don't mind me asking, could you comment on your writing habits? You said a while ago that not owning a television allows you to squeeze extra hours out of the day that most people spend vegetating in front of a glass screen. Is there anything else that you consider to be equally important?

Moshe Braner said...

Hmm, right after I read this post (thanks JMG!) I read the following junk email I received from Microsoft with an especially jaundiced eye, noticing their use of the phrases "average people" and "every person" while they are clearly talking to a privileged minority:

"MileIQ is the leading automatic mileage tracking app that saves people an average of $6,500 per year in business mileage deductions or reimbursements and hours of time each week.

As part of Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, we’ve recently welcomed MileIQ to the Microsoft family."

Genevieve Hawkins said...

Great post welcome back. I think Sanders perhaps even more than Trump is highlighting the divide between wage and salary class because some of the struggles of working class Americans have been papered over with various forms of government assistance from exploding participation in disability insurance, medicaid, and food stamps to the earned income tax credit to student loan checks, which is basically giving free money to anyone who can fog a window and sign a paper saying they are going to attend college. If not for those government programs, the wage class would be even more devastated than it already it's not surprising that Sanders desire to expand programs and make them less covert also gets support....

Rita said...

Welcome back--on your reply that your stereotype country yahoo would need a third hand to hold his beer--well doesn't all that cousin marrying result in the occasional third hand? Course we don't let them sit out on the front porch and shock the neighbors. (I have impeccable Arkie ancestry on both sides including my father's family coming to California in a Model T and my grandmother winning a prize for picking the most table peas in a single day as a migrant worker in Oregon)

But seriously--I have been reading a book of essays by W. H. Auden and a passage in "The Poet and the City" struck me. "There are two kinds of political issues, Party issues and Revolutionary issues." He explains that in party issues both sides agree on the goal but differ on the means, whereas on revolutionary issues "Different groups within a society hold different views on what is just." He asserts that on party issues tempers should be kept and rhetoric controlled. "Outside the Chamber, the rival deputies should be able to dine in each other's house; fanatics have no place in party politics." But when revolutionary issues are at stake "argument and compromise are out of the question; each group is bound to regard the other as wicked or mad or both." At the time of writing this (late 40s or early 50s) Auden saw racial equality as the only world-wide revolutionary issue and berated the leaders of both capitalist and communist nations for not realizing that the disagreement on how to provide mental and physical health for all citizens was a party, not a revolutionary issue. Interesting point of view. He was apparently not politically sophisticated enough to see how blowing up the other side into the enemy of all things good and right benefited those in power in both the West and the Soviet bloc.

It seems that what passes for party politics in the U.S. is actually being presented to the voters as more closely approaching revolutionary politics. Not that anyone throws that term around lightly. But the demonization of the opposition on both sides justifies the deadlock that is really, in what I read as the view of this blog, the result of inability to address the real questions without requiring those who pay for elections to give up money, privilege and power. No Western politician feels able to say "the party is over" because real steps to stop resource depletion, etc. would threaten the dividends. The essay may be found in the collection _The Dyer's Hand_

Bob Wise said...

Another good article about the salaried/wage earning class divide is "The Blue State Model: How the Democrats Created a 'Liberalism of the Rich'", by Thomas Frank.

pygmycory said...

A totally unrepresentative view from Canada:
most of the people I talk to HATE Trump, and often can't figure out why he'd be popular in the US. I've tried explaining that the US working class is enraged with the status quo to the point that any change seems better than the current situation.

The reaction to this has often been 'oh, now I get it', sometimes with 'but he isn't going to solve their problems if elected/he's evil'. I suspect a lot of this is that living in a different nation, we get most/all of our info on Trump and the USA via the media, and you know what the mainstream media is like generally, and more specifically with regards to Trump.

Unknown said...

Minor correction: Y'all is second person singular. Second person plural is all y'all.

Michael Connolly said...

I think you should know that some of us out side of the stolen land are quite looking forward to Pres Trump as we think it would be fun to see a monkey driving the bus. He seems less likely to start a war with Russia that the bought and paid for Clinton. For what it worth your country will look like Syria within the next twenty years and climate change will likely all but wipe it out. But then we all reap what we saw good luck to yous. Michael in Ireland

Eric Backos said...

Hi John
I’m working on middle school teaching certification in hope of returning to the salary class. In a presentation last Monday, I introduced my classmates to the use of hard science fiction as a method for discovering the sciences. The World Beyond the Hill by Panshin and Panshin provided the theory, and Star’s Reach demonstrated the practice. Green Wizardry got a tie-in plug because it is such a great source for lesson plans.
Thank you so much for your help with my coursework.

Dan Mollo said...

Great post as usual! Just put in a pre-order of your new book. Do you expand on the material you posted in your Dark Age America themed posts with this new book?

Pinku-Sensei said...

@Eric S. "Cruz on the other hand has a consistent, solid lead over Clinton and would take the presidency without much of a fight." What are you basing that conclusion on? It's not the polls. Looking through the Real Clear Politics General Election polls page, I see both Clinton and Sanders consistently beating Trump and Cruz. Only one poll of the entire country has Cruz beating Clinton, and that was a Fox News poll from two weeks ago. Otherwise, only polls of safely Republican states show Cruz winning. This is true where I live. I reporte on a poll showing Clinton and Sanders beating Trump and Cruz in Michigan.

@JMG I agree that the country desperately wants change. What people seem to want, at least based my experience, is Trump vs. Sanders. Instead of a putative outsider (a Senator or billionaire as outsiders--yeah, right) vs. an obvious insider, the U.S. would get what it wants, two insurgent candidates. Instead, it's the woman who wins the mainstream media vs. Springtime for Trump.

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, I have been watching the situation in the US very closely for some time now, as I think the whole world will suffer from the fallout if things go south in there. One thing that I think deserves mentioning is the fact that, even now, there are still many people that would like to or are planning the emigrate to the US. As my own country is currently having a political seizure that may turn very ugly indeed, a good portion of these possible immigrants are members of the upper classes - doctors, engineers, and so on. They regard the US as a sort of paradise of the rule of law, decent government and good life - they still believe in the American Dream. I'm always met with incredulity any time I talk about the real situation of the US, the imminent end of its empire, and the many possible changes that are to come to its economy and political system. The only thing they dread about Trump is his stance on HB1 visas...
You should keep in mind, JMG, when assessing other people's reaction to events in the US, that most foreigners still do believe that the streets of NY are paved with gold.

ARodrigo said...

Cruz will never be the Republican candidate. He was born in Canada, no certificate of foreign birth was filed, and BOTH of his parents voted in Canadian elections in the early 70's. The republicans hate Cruz as much as they loathe Trump, and are using him as a stalking horse to take out the Donald, after which that horse will be taken out back and shot.

He may get chosen as the nominee, but then HORRORS! Shocked, shocked they will be by the court challenge filed by the Democrats (or ungodly 3rd party candidate Trump). Enter the establishment candidate, dropping from the rafters like a pasty, middle aged ninja.

And don't count Sanders out yet- he's had an uphill slog all the way, yet seems to be gaining momentum, in contravention to the laws of physics. This may even shape up to be a 4-way fight for the crown...not likely, but actually within the realm of possibility. I never thought I'd see the day.

Shane W said...

I'm always amazed at how cluelessly liberal even your readership can be. I've had this strange situation where I'll be discussing your blog and books with readers who claim they're avid fans, yet contest every point you make. Most recently, someone said that the wage class was voting "against their own interests" in voting for Trump, and recently, I was treated to a rehashing of all the ugly wage class stereotypes you listed. I'm left scratching my head at these bizarre encounters, thinking, "what ADR are you reading, and what JMG are you a fan of?"--your writing seems pretty straightforward to me! I literally can't have a conversations with some of these people. So very strange--interesting how the human mind works and how it functions.
I'm reminded through repeated encounters recently that I have way too many clueless liberal salary class acquaintances, and not enough wage class contacts. The gods are trying to tell me something. One thing that I see through and through amongst the salary class people I know and their cluelessness is an overarching death wish, be it alcoholism, New Age spirituality, or other forms of unwillingness to cope or face reality--I'm thinking that maybe the salary class is complicit in its destiny w/the pitchfork.

Sojan Shieldbearer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shane W said...

what's your take on the email scandal and the chances of an indictment? Lots of people think that the FBI wouldn't be going to the trouble to do all this investigation & subpoena witnesses if it all came to naught. They're saying that the Justice Dept. would be hard pressed not to pursue anything if there was something illegal. Some are saying the Dems could be more roiled than the GOP this year. I'm interested on your take and how it will all come down...

Justin said...

SLClaire, I agree with JMG. Tonight I had homemade sauerkraut, which was delicious, and spent 6 weeks at room temperature and a month in my fridge. I don't really believe all the woo about fermented foods, but any technology that can preserve food without electricity or even canning is interesting to me for obvious reasons. The cabbages I put in were exactly the same price as the ones I could buy fresh today, but it was a good exercise. It is important to do this stuff now, where a few pounds of wasted food due to a mistake don't really matter too much, and you can learn continuously instead of seasonally.

David said...

aka buddha, etc.

Thank you, John. It was most certainly worth doing, even if it didn't turn out as I'd hoped. A newcomer ("not born here") in a smaller city has a hill to climb when it comes to things like this. There are many ways I can do the work that needs doing.

On the other hand, my banjo lessons are going well :)

Zachary Braverman said...

Great article, as always.

I think Trump consciously courts accusations of racism, and not only to appeal to racists.

You don't have to be a racist to think that accusations of racism fly far too fast and easy in America today. By demonstrating his willingness to bear the brunt of those accusations, Trump also appeals to the huge swath of the American public who resents this environment.

Sojan Shieldbearer said...

William Lind advocating a third party Trump-Sanders ticket:

And calling out Republican "conservatives" and pointing out they are really pseudoconservatives, just like the Archdruid did a while back:

foodnstuff said...

I've been reading here for years, it seems, and have never commented before, but this was just brilliant. I'm comparing with what's happening here in Australia and there are not too many differences. So many people here don't understand what Trump is all about.

Bill Pulliam said...

Unknown -- sorry, 100% wrong. "You" is singular, "y'all" is plural, and "all y'all" is an expansive inclusive plural. It's the same as "I," "we," and "all of us." People get the idea that the term "all y'all" means that "y'all" is singular, but this does not logically follow. By the same reasoning, the existence of the usage "all of them" would mean that "they" is singular, which is nonsense. Like "we" or "they," "y'all" can refer to anywhere from two people up to everyone on Earth, hence clarification is often needed. The colloquialism of dropping the "of" in "All of y'all" is pretty much universal, but this is exactly what the construction means. "Y'all" is only used when speaking to an individual when that individual is the representative of a group or institution. "Do y'all take credit cards here?" The person would answer "Yes we do." "Y'all" functions pefectly normally and regularly as a plural pronoun.

tawal said...

Thank you David, buddha for your update. Sorry to hear that you lost; it's likely your community will be poorer for it. Hopefully you can find a way to be helpful that is equally fulfilling. Think water and sewers, if you haven't already....
Blessings, tawal

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

I predict that when the Res-Publicans deny Trump the nomination (for being short 100 votes), he will offer Sanders to run as VP on Independent: that would be tactically devastating, and utterly up-end all of what's left of the rules. Plus, it's a win-win, no matter if that ticket wins. Yes, I read that NRO article: I couldn't really believe it. Does he really think that everyone ought to be "fungible"? Like cheap gasoline? Migrate all over the country in a U-Haul looking for barista work, in between college classes and a broken marriage? Some people just want to work, have kids, and not be so broke they can't drive a city over on family vacation. Meanwhile, the worm is turning: we are seeing the re-alignment of the "Right", which is now starting to define itself, rather than being defined by its Jacobin opponents.

Bill Pulliam said...

I posted this elsewhere, but I'll repeat it here...

The efforts of the two political parties to ensure than they get an establishment nominee could be characterized as neoantidisestablishmentarianism.

Yeah, I know, a more accurate description would be contraantiestablishment, but that (a) has an unfortunate double "a" in it, and (b) is not as funny.

John Michael Greer said...

Sven, I've begun to think that we should just start calling all those imaginary beings "hippogriffs." If would improve the evening news no end: "The Obama administration announced this evening that it plans to increase funding for hippogriffs..."

Whomever, I've heard exactly the same thing from other clueless members of the privileged classes. Tumbril time cometh...

Cherokee, thank you! It wasn't really a vacation as such -- I had a couple of big writing projects on tight deadline, and spent the month writing my fingertips down to nubs. It's good to be back. Not surprised that Australia is right up there with the US in the same idiotic policies, and I suspect they'll have very similar fates.

Trog, yeah, that's not exactly a good sign.

Justin, I don't think Clinton gets it at all. Trump? I think he gets some aspects of it, but nothing like the whole picture. For example, I've never seen any evidence that he gets the limits to growth.

Gabriela, your friends have no clue what it's like over here. The US economy isn't booming, it's in the tank, and unemployment over here is sky-high -- the statistics are faked by excluding long-term unemployed from the figures. We don't have European-style health care; we've got a law that says we have to buy health insurance that only pays a fraction of our health care costs, for whatever price the insurance companies want to charge. It's true that our newcomers don't want to make us pray any particular way, but corporate interests are using them to drive down wages to starvation levels. Washington DC is protected by oceans from east and west, but not from the south...and I expect when our Odoacer shows up, he'll get the same kind of welcome.

Bill, I'll talk about Sanders if he turns out to have a shot at the nomination. You'll notice that I haven't talked about Cruz, either, even though he's considerably scarier than Trump.

Mark, no argument there. The thing the "Never Trump" brigade doesn't get is that he's probably their last chance to avoid dangling from lampposts. If he wins, and gives Middle America a few benefits, we may yet avoid a civil war. Otherwise? probably not.

Ceworthe, but the shotgun is central to the stereotype, and it's the stereotype I want to discuss.

Sojan, delighted to hear it. I'd happily see high school history classes take Spengler and Toynbee as their textbooks.

234567, and there you have the first stirrings of America's next civil war.

Nastarana, why, yes, that would follow, wouldn't it?

John Michael Greer said...

John, I found it interesting a couple of weeks ago when all of a sudden the mainstream media started talking about Sanders, when they'd been squelching stories about him for months beforehand. I wonder whether it's sunk in to the Democratic establishment just how poor a candidate she actually is. As for writing habits, the other important thing is to remember never to edit while you're writing -- that's where writer's block comes from. Just keep writing; you can go back and edit later.

Moshe, funny. Having lived in the Seattle area when Microsoft was doing its first big boom, I can testify to the serene detachment from reality that pervades the Gates empire.

Genevieve, you're missing the difference between the wage class and the welfare class. A lot of people in the wage class don't actually get much government aid -- that's doled out to groups that manage to market their support to politically influential power centers, and the wage class hasn't by and large been good at that for too many decades.

Rita, Auden was very naive in some ways, and he also had the attitudes appropriate to his class and background.

Bob, thanks for the link!

Pygmycory, and that's the problem, of course -- the US media is about as honest these days as Pravda was under the Soviet Union.

Unknown, with all due respect, I think you're wrong. Certainly that's not the way it's used where I live.

Michael, I supposed we've earned a certain amount of gloating from overseas, haven't we?

Erik, glad to hear it.

Dan, the book does some expansion, yes.

Pinku-Sensei, I admit I'd rather see a Sanders vs. Trump contest than anything else. That would be fun.

Bruno, that's funny. It would be amusing, in an ironic sort of way, if all kinds of salary class people in the US fled to other countries, and all kinds of salary class people in other countries fled to the US!

ARodrigo, I certainly hope you're right!

jcummings said...


Welcome back! We all missed you and your exceptional observations - best served cold with a dash of wry amusement... I hope your break was restorative!

I wrote this story in response to your latest challenge. I'm not sure it's quite what you were after, but it's what came out. All the best!

Bill Pulliam said...

A final little note about "y'all." The existence of "all y'all" also demonstrates that "y'all" is now seen only as a pronoun, not as a contraction. People will still frequently expand contractions like "can't" into "can not" for emphasis. But no "y'all"-speaker ever expands it in to "you all." They extend it in to "all y'all." "Y'all" is a single morphometric unit. As such, there is a tiny nascient lexicographical movement to drop the apostrophe and write the pronoun as "yall," with the possessive form "yalls" (just like "it" and "its"). This would make it sooo much easier in the written form; "y'all's" is a really weird-looking construct but is an extremely common word in southern speech, and nationwide african american speech, regardless of economic status or educational background.

jcummings said...

@unknown and JMG re: y'all

My own experience tells me that y'all can most definitely be singular, but isn't often. Much depends on context. Y'all in the singular is kind of a formal version, like "vous." You'd never use y'all in the singular sense with your wife, for example. You might if you were trying to pick someone up at a bar, however. Y'all in the plural sense, however, is more generic, and can be used interchangeably with all y'all.

All y'all avoids any confusion, and is always plural.

nuku said...

@ ed boyle:
you said "money is the root of all evil"

I think not. How about "Humans are the root of all evil"?

Mark Rice said...

Regarding Y'all:
As near as I can tell the only people who use y'all as singular second person are bad TV script writers. They have a character use y'all to let us know a character is from the South. But these script writers do not know that y'all is plural -- not singular.

John Zelnicker said...

"corporate interests, . . . aided and abetted by a bipartisan consensus in government . . . stripped the US economy of living wage jobs by offshoring most of America’s industrial economy, . . . and flood[ed] the domestic job market with millions of legal and illegal immigrants on the other."

Although these are contributing causes to the problem of stagnant wages, perhaps the most important is the concerted effort to keep wages from increasing along with the increase in productivity over the past 40 years. This has been accomplished by a massive, coordinated campaign by the corporate elites through the think tanks, co-opted media, and academic economists they support. (See the Powell Memo from 1971, written by Lewis Powell for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce a few months before he was appointed to the Supreme Court). Virtually all of the gains from productivity have gone to profits (and executive compensation) rather than wages. Since the mid-'70's productivity has increased, IIRC, about 97%, while the median wage has increased somewhere in the single digits. The ongoing campaign to destroy the unions, the substitution of casual employment for long-term job security (cf. Uber), and, yes, the off-shoring of manufacturing have all contributed to this. The overarching concept behind this is the idea that a corporation's single, most important goal is to increase "shareholder value", which means continually increasing profit. Contrary to what many people believe, there is no rule or law that supports this. It was promoted by neoliberal economists like Milton Friedman beginning in the late '70's. (BTW, prior to the '80's, stock buybacks by corporations were a violation of SEC rules. I think that was changed during Reagan's term in office.)

The issue of immigration is a bit more complicated. The use of H-1B visas to bring in high tech workers has certainly contributed to wage suppression in those fields. However, this is a relatively new phenomenon. The tech industry has also used the age-old method of collusion to keep wages down. Many of you may remember the exposure of several of the biggest tech companies' coordinated efforts to prevent bidding wars over programmers, etc., a couple of years ago. Intuit, Google, Adobe, Apple and others were implicated.

The problem of undocumented immigrants (I hate the term "illegal immigrants". How can a human being be illegal?) is often misunderstood. Here in Alabama a few years ago, a draconian law was passed that allowed law enforcement to demand immigration papers from anyone they stopped, as well as other provisions that basically made life miserable for anyone who appeared to be Latina/o. Even documented immigrants were afraid to leave their homes. One result was that farmers in North Alabama were unable to find workers to harvest their crops and the entire tomato crop rotted in the fields that year. The point is that undocumented immigrants do not always take jobs from Americans. In another incident, the manager of the Mercedes Benz assembly plant near Tuscaloosa was detained because he did not have his immigration papers in his car. The German press had a field day with that one.

One other fact to keep in mind about undocumented immigrants is that they are also consumers and spend most of their income in the local economy, increasing aggregate demand. They also pay taxes such as sales tax, property tax (through the rent payments to their landlords), and other taxes, including FICA, for which they never receive any benefit. If you work through the calculations, undocumented immigrants are actually a net positive for the economy, contrary to the propaganda put forth by the elites.

John Zelnicker said...

@ed boyle and @nuku - The actual quote is "The love of money is the root of all evil".

John Michael Greer said...

Shane, remember that talking about class issues in the US is far more drastic a violation of our current taboos than talking about the decline and fall of industrial civilization; people can mentally push decline and fall off into the future (even though it's happening right now, of course), but class bigotries are here and now, and a lot of very liberal salary class members whose identities focus on being in favor of equality and against bigotry are deeply committed to the policies that have slammed the wage class face first into the gravel. Bring up the contradiction, and yes, you're going to get doubletalk. My hope is that this and forthcoming posts will get some of them to notice the cognitive dissonance, and do something constructive about it. As for the email scandal, we'll see. Clinton has a lot of enemies, and it's quite possible that some of them are trying to make sure that her ambitions go nowhere.

David, banjo lessons are a good fallback!

Zachary, that could well be. Trump's very clever, and he's adept at getting the privileged to attack him in ways that endear him to his base.

Sojan, a Trump-Sanders ticket would likely blow the current political stasis in this country to smithereens. Definitely worth putting by some popcorn!

Foodnstuff, thank you! I gather from my friends and readers Down Under that the US and Australia are pretty much following the same track right off a cliff.

Matthew, one way or another, this is shaping up to be the most interesting presidential campaign of my lifetime. It would be good if the conservatives were to start defining themselves; it would be better if they threw out the free-market zealots, the theocrats, and all the other utopian fanatics and got back to being actually conservative for a change!

Bill, hah! Okay, that earns tonight's gold star. I once won a spelling bee by being able to spell "antidisestablishmentarian," which I'd learned from the Guinness Book of World Records; three more letters won't hurt. ;-)

Jcummings, hmm. It wasn't really what I had in mind, no, but I'll consider it -- it's well written and well paced.

Bill, modern English is sadly lacking a second person plural -- "you" as both singular and plural causes much confusion -- and I think the rest of us should be grateful to all y'all in the South for providing one. I'm not sure if you're aware, though, that there's competition -- in Pittsburgh and some other corners of western Pennsylvania, "yinz" (a contraction of "you 'uns") has come into general use. It's not impossible that a few centuries from now, two languages descended from modern English will be instantly distinguishable by their second person plural pronouns...

Jcummings, that's fascinating -- in other words, "y'all" is evolving to have the same functions as the second person plural in other Indo-European languages, in which it very often serves as a respectful second person singular on occasion.

Mark, this does not surprise me at all.

Charles Richardson said...


Hoping that your hiatus was enriching, and both the birds in the trees and the neurons in my head are blissfully chirping at your return and latest post. Marvelous. Thank you. You are the polymath diagnostician.

Inspired by your earlier posts, I would like you to share some of the noteworthy current efforts you are aware of in sustainability at different tech levels. We don't know how rough a beast slouches toward us and what it's going to stomp on, and we may find ourselves in radically different scenarios as TSHTF.

I am beginning to see that there is no higher calling than to help heal the world and the hearts of men, and to provide some temporary light against the darkness.

Thanks again for what you do.

John Michael Greer said...

John, the phrase "illegal immigrants" refers to people who immigrate illegally, of course; I prefer it to more mealy-mouthed language, because laws are being broken and it's only fair to mention that fact. In claiming that illegal immigrants are a net gain to the economy, in turn, you're finessing the fact that the gains go to the salary class and the losses -- primarily in the form of wages being forced down by excess supply relative to the demand -- go almost entirely to the wage class. The erasure of the class issue pervades and distorts economic thinking in today's America; saying "the economy is growing," as you point out yourself, conceals the question of who gets the benefits of that growth and who bears the costs.

Charles, I'll certainly consider it.

Norton (offlist), do you know what the word "genocide" means? It means the actual or attempted extermination of an entire category of people defined by race, religion, class, or some other general label. In saying that you want the American wage class to die off because you don't approve of the values of the candidate it supports, you're advocating genocide. How does that make you feel?

len said...


I too am grateful for your writings. Your post explaining the Trump phenomenon was really helpful to those of us in Canada who had been perplexed.

The election in your country this season is really interesting and the establishment is loosing its grip - visibly. I thought of the electoral process as being given new life. It is now a direct forum around which people can coalesce. What I mean is that the media has done a good job isolating individuals from possible collective push back. Now, citizens are starting to see that they are not the exception (e.g., only my family, only my community, only my town, etc.) struggling in the middle of a "booming" economy with lots of available jobs - if that were the case and others were doing well, they would not be turning out and voting for the establishment outsiders. As such, the voting process is itself a forum. The last thing the elites want is engaged citizenry - they must be panicking by now. In their greed, they simply disenfranchised too many people - they probably thought they had it all stitched up after decades of gradual strip mining of the populace without much fuss - turns out that they are hitting the limits on just about every resource - funny that!

steve pearson said...

@ JMG & Ceworthe, Might the beer can not be gripped between the legs?

steve pearson said...

Another fairly common second person plural usage in CA is you guys.We regularly use it even in school to indicate the whole group instead of a specific student. It has pretty much become gender non specific. I prefer y'all, but it sounds affected there in CA and you by itself is often confusing.

Ben Echols said...

I caught a news clip today that showed Clinton laughing at Sanders, "because she has more delegates." It was surprisingly jarring and brittle, but the shear "in your face"ness of it was shocking. I have long ago felt that voting is largely a waste of time, but to have her express just that, in such a way, still angers me. Glad to see you back.

William Hays said...

Excellent column and welcome back! I had read the Kevin Williamson column and, as a life-long Republican, found it one of the most disturbing things I had even encountered. This is truly a generational change, Fourth Turning election, to borrow the phasing from Strass and Howe. If the status quo does survives 2016, then what we will see in 2020 will make this election seem quaint.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Missed your posts - and the subsequent, always unusually-savvy comments conversations - quite badly, JM. You really do field a striking beacon of sanity and solid insight through TAR, in these sillybabble-filled times. Great thanks! And long may you continue to write out your insights! Great to have you back. Hwyl fawr i ti, ffrind dda.

patriciaormsby said...

Aha, my comment did not come through (Word Press took me to a page sayin "Trouble"). The rape victim analogy is great! I'll share it around, and credit you, and eventually you'll get so many followers you won't be able to answer even half of us!
Japan is such an America wannabe. Essentially the same thing is happening here, with its own peculiar twists. The TV all but gloated over Trump's Wisconsin defeat and a week ago, it mentioned difficulties with Hillary's campaign, and that Biden might need to replace her. And what about Bernie? Bernie who? Meanwhile, Japan has a growing problem with child poverty which is serious enough that a "Children's Cafeteria" initiative has sprung up here in a country that has only a very recent history of charity. If I can locate one nearby I'll start donating our produce. The issue of poverty is still well hidden here, because most of the victims are the younger generations, who live at home with their elderly parents on pensions. People my age had part of their pensions stolen in a nifty bureaucratic paper-shredding incident and are now facing the prospect of trying to get by with very little.
I am not sure how the Japanese revolt. I think there will be a lot of suicides. Under a Confucian moral system, they prefer stability, and my impression here is that the average citizen has long given up any illusion of a political voice. In China, though, corrupt officials face execution, because under Confucian ethics, they are considered more dangerous that a murderer. Thus people who try to take advantage of their good fortune under the American system may ultimately be called to account. There is, in fact, a venerable tradition of swordsmen exacting revenge against corrupt officials (including one of the folks involved in the paper-shredding scandal), and it has always been of great interest to me how the Yakuza maintain the old, Confucian ethics in Japan.

Unknown said...

JMG, welcome back and congrats on a ripper of an essay.

It is my view that politics, globally, will never improve the lot of the wage class while ever it is structured around the party model. There are too many conflicted interest issues that allow the few to dictate to the many.

I favor and advocate for a far greater role for independent representatives and more use of the debating chamber to thrash out where the greatest common good lies and how best to pursue it.

A question, where in your model do farmers fit? Unless they are vertically integrated corporate model entities they are being hung out to dry by virtue of being price takers in marketplaces dominated by corporates run by the salary class.

They often have considerable capital invested, are unable to move rapidly to respond to changing conditions,and suffer many of the problems of the wage class.

Cheers from Tasmania

eagle eye

Mikep said...

" We don't have European-style health care; we've got a law that says we have to buy health insurance that only pays a fraction of our health care costs, for whatever price the insurance companies want to charge."

This may be true but you do have something that we in the old countries generally don't have, GUNS! From over here it seems that every time one of your establishment types uses the words gun and control in the same sentence ya'll head of to the nearest gun shop. You have to wonder if the push for greater gun control is motivated entirely by a desire to make it more difficult for young urban blacks to remove themselves from the gene pool. The day may not be far off when we get to see which is the better investment a more or less functioning NHS or a basement full of automatic weapons.

Spanish fly said...

"Racism is part of my culture"-Trump's Irish friend?
Look at the others policemen reaction, ha ha...

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, yes, it would be funny in a montyphytonesque sort of way. As for your reply to @Mark, are you saying that Trump may yet play the same role as, ahem, FDR? Funny thing they are both from NY.

Gigoachef said...

Hi John,

For a strange ;-) case of synchronicity your first post this month and Ugo Bardi's post a few days back deal with the same subject: the true meaning of Trump's rise. And it's interesting that you both conclude that it is the loss of control the governing elite exert of the polity, what leads to civilization collapse.

Ugo supports his thinking with a System Dynamics model, which he includes in his post. If you haven't it's worth checking out:

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Dear David,

I'm told there is a Yiddish saying that translates to, "Being poor is no disgrace. It's no great honor either." The same applies to coming in sixth out of six in your first run for office. You accomplished the first step in a budding political career: bringing yourself to the attention of the voters and the local political establishment.

If you have sufficient ego and I imagine you do, the result doesn't mean giving up on being a candidate ever again. It is a signal to prepare the ground more next time.

If you are working on a strategy to do that, here’s one idea. My town has a bunch of standing committees and commissions that report to the council and make recommendations in specific areas. They include economic development, capital program monitoring, financial, flood, open space, dog park, arts, bicycle/pedestrian advisory, community facilities, library, parks and recreation, historical, quality of life. These committees are composed of volunteers and I frequently see solicitations for applicants to fill vacancies. They want people who have already demonstrated an interest or have relevant expertise.

I imagine this is a typical arrangement and that some of the committees would be more permeable than others to willing newcomers (e. g., not the planning commission). If there happens to be a vacancy on a committee for which your engineering background is useful, you’ve already demonstrated your seriousness and you would have a good chance of getting on. Serving on such a committee would be worthwhile in itself, give you useful information on how things get done, and put you in the way of connections for your next run for office.

YCS said...

Fantastic to read your work again. I hope you had a good rest!

I'm currently doing Macroeconomics 1 (meant for the completely uninitiated novice) and it physically pains me to study this course.

Then I realise, that all the future 'policy experts' walking out of my ('prestigious') program walk into government and use their clueless conceptions of growth to fuel their confirmation bias. No surprises why policy makers exhibit the behaviours of insane people: the model through which they view the world is so fundamentally flawed, and their fear of reality so deep that they prefer to treat things like a set of lever or switch, not realising that what they're dealing with isn't a machine.

Incidentally the engineering side of my program prepares me much more to understand systems and clearly catch the blind spots in 'economic thinking'. Most of the engineering and science oriented people I know refuse to even deal with the absolutely flawed piece of bogus that is modern economics. It pities me that my economics lecturer actually believes what he teaches.

Of course, you can't even comment on modern economics without having some qualification due to widespread use of appeal to authority fallacies by the establishment. The only thing that keeps me going is that I know that the house of cards is going to fold in my lifetime, and there will be need for somebody to build something from scratch based on actual reality to replace this nonsense. The allocation of resources is going to be an important issue and if I can at least highlight that the natural world actually exists to our bioblind contemporaries and help build a model that works practically (which is really what engineers do best) then learning the entire thing wrong, as it is being taught to me, won't have been a waste.


Christine4 said...

Slightly off topic, but in the north of England, the 'Geordie' dialect has the second person plural pronoun "youse" or "yous", pronounced as 'you' with an 's' on the end (retaining the oo vowel sound).

Shane W said...

It warms my heart to hear that youth are finally getting a clue and coming in from the wilderness where they've been ever since the radicalism of the late 60s-early 70s ended...

NJGuy73 said...

John Zelnicker -

If undocumented immigrants are actually a net positive for the economy...
...then why should any immigrant be documented at all?

I say only let in undocumented ones. Given the choice between:
a) one who puts into FICA without getting any out, or
b) one who puts into FICA and will get some out,
it should be obvious as to what our government should want.

I say we shut down all the agencies. Just a big waste of paperwork.

Dylan said...

Great to have you back, JMG.

If I follow Spengler correctly, we're expecting a Marius figure at this point in history's curve, not an Augustus, as you suggested in a comment to your last post.

We've had our two Gracchan reformists assassinated already; that was the 1960's. Now we should expect a Marius figure, a populist leader who rides his popularity to the top job entirely legally and THEN begins to distort the legislative framework in favour of his wage-class supporters.

The 'Sulla moment' is when the establishment strikes back and for the first time begins openly killing citizens.

If Roman history were a perfect analogue (which it isn't), we'd still be about fifty years away from the appearance of the true Caesars, who have the charisma and military might to personally smash the state and rebuild it in their image.

gregorach said...

I'm not entirely sure that'd I'd agree that the policies associated with business-as-usual have really been a failure. Sure, they've failed to achieve their publicly-stated goals, but I'm not convinced that those were ever their actual goals. I tend to view them much like a pyramid scheme - they promise wealth for all, but only (and can only) result in wealth for a few, leaving the majority holding the bag.

In those terms, these policies have actually been wildly successful for their originators and intended beneficiaries, which explains exactly why they have persisted for so long. The problem is not so much that political elites have become so isolated that they can't see that their policies are failing the majority of people, it's that they've become so isolated that they think it doesn't matter as long as they're making out like bandits.

It's not that the con has failed (it's been a stunning success), it's just that we're among the marks, rather than the grifters or the shills.

Patricia Mathews said...

@ Bill and y'all who commented on that pronoun: Old English had a singular, a dual, and an inclusive plural I translated (in my notes, not on the quiz) as "I, the two of us, and y'all." And BTW, there was no such thing as a respectful plural "you" or a royal "We" in that period. God, Alfred the Great, and Taran the Welsh slave pigboy would be addressed as "You," usually formally translated "thou," to the confusion of speakers of modern English. But not the local Spanish-speakers. Or any Francophones, who OTH, find addressing the ruler as "You, King....." to be highly slangy and disrespectful.

At any rate, "thou" blended into "you" in common speech for exactly the same reason that everyone of any rank (certain dishonorable regional exceptions noted)became "Mister, Miss, and Missus." From president to pig keeper. Now falling out of use as respect for the person slips out of fashion and foreign PhDs are addressed - in writing - by their first names, like children and, in some regions I lived in as a transplanted Yankee child, to my shock, the adult help.

Okay - TMI from a language geek. But postmodern English has had a few very major lacks. Y'all fills one of then, "Ms" -pronounced "Miz", another Southernism orally - is another. And for the collective 3rd person general-reference singular, we're back to the early modern "they", driving the grammar nazis into screaming fits.

Language is like water and air - rushing in to fill a vacuum.

David said...



I'd like to pass along an interesting election data point. My brief commute to work runs along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and for the past many months, there has been a sizable (~4x6 foot) pro-Trump sign prominently displayed on one of the roadside properties along that main drive. This morning I noticed that the pro-Trump sign had been replaced by an anti-Ryan sign ("Paul Ryan" with the universal "no" symbol). Even more noteworthy, of course, as this is Ryan's home state.

@BillPulliam regarding the grammatical discussion -- My appreciation for the concise explanation to everyone. As one who grew up (more or less) in the South, the distinctive second-person plural is one of the regionalisms that occasionally creeps into my speech. This far north of the Mason-Dixon line, it tends to get noticed.

Bill Pulliam said...

jcummings -- I've heard this claim a lot (about singular yall). As a lifetime yall-speaker and a resident of the south for most of my 54 years, I have to say I have never heard this usage. I think yall (the plural meaning everyone who makes this claim, not just you individually) are misinterpreting the plural pronoun used towards an individual as a representative of a group. When someone calls the Mayor "yall" they are addessing her as the representative of the entire city government. If I saw her on the street I would call her "you" even if we had never met before. It's not formal address, it's true grammatical plural. When I call the cashier "yall" I am speaking to him as representative of the business ("Are yall going to be open on the holiday?"). If I am addressing him as an individual I would call him "you" ("Do you have to work on the holiday?"). The classic "How are yall doing?" means you, your momma, your kids, your spouse, your dogs, cats, everyone in the family. "How are you doing?" means you specifically and individually. Since southern culture is very tribal, this form of collective "yall" gets used a lot. A Tennesee fan might say to a Bama fan, "Yall suck!" meaning you and your team and all the other Bama fans everywhere on earth: your tribe.

In languages that have an official standard second person plural (i.e. most other Indoeuropean languages) all this is understood without confusion. And the same is true for Southerners; we never get confused about "Do you have eggs?" "Do yall have eggs?" and "All yall need to go out and buy some eggs." It's not just a weird dialectical quirk, it's a very useful grammatical distinction that standard English is poorer and weaker for not having.

JMG - yes I have encountered "yinz." Back in the 70s when I first came across it, it was tabboo and those who used it were called "yinzers," the local equivalent of "hillbilly." Buy, like "hillbilly" it has been reclaimed as a badge of regional pride. As for the competition, "yall" is standard in african-american speech and is very commonly heard in Hip Hop. Because of this it is becoming more widespread and understood by younger people outside the South. And our last three US Presidents have been yall speakers in casual conversation and interviews. But it only takes one or two celebrities from northern Appalachia to put "yinz" in the national pop culture lexicon and everything might be different!

David said...


@tawal -- Thank you. I do intend to keep up the effort. I'm a member of our community garden (which is going on its 3rd year), serving on the city zoning/land use commission, and still working on getting a community discussion group going (in the vein of the "transition" movement, but not necessarily exactly so) that would hopefully act as a seedbed for ideas for community action, local businesses, co-operative projects, etc. Just have to acknowledge that it's a marathon, not a sprint...

Goldmund said...

As Trump racks up his victories the establishment and its media has gone into full panic mode, trying to explain away his appeal, as you say, in purely racial tones. I've noticed that Bernie Sanders' victories have been explained away with a similar condescending spin by these same pundits, usually with reference to his inability to win in states where the population is too "diverse" (never mind Hawaii.) I may be going out on a limb here, but this meme sounds to me like a kind of dog whistle as well, i.e. that Sanders is unelectable because his followers, like Trump's, are mostly young white male losers.

Stu from New Jersey said...

Welcome back!
The paragraph with the phrase:

The leadership of a falling civilization prefers to redefine “success” as “following the approved policies” rather than “yielding the preferred outcomes,”

is brilliant, and was worth waiting a month to read.

I noticed this happening in the corporate world, too, but could not figure out if it was a function of the senescence of a company or of society as a whole.

nuku said...

@John Zelnicker and ed boyle: mea culpa for the misquote. However I still assert that its not love of money or money itself that is the "root of all evil". There are plenty of evils around, child abuse and misogyny for example, that have nothing to do with money. (please enlighten me if you can make any connection between loving money and mistreating helpless children or women).
I recently had a conversation with a man who claimed that European Jews were murdered en mass so that the Nazis could "get their money". Never mind that rich Jews were only a small fraction of the 6 million killed. The real reason for the Jewish Holocaust was rampant anti-Semitism and the Nazi ideology of the superiority of the Aryan race.

barrymelius said...

John,Did you use your time away to rest up or catch up? Either way it seemed well earned. When I was younger(born 1950)I occasionally came across the phrase 'classless society' in reference to the U.S. We were kidding ourselves then of course,but I can't remember the last time I have run across that conceit,but it has been decades at least. You have made me realize how so many divides in society are merely fig leafs for class divides. Continue doing what you do so well.

ProvidenceMine said...

Wonderful post, JMG! Bravo!

I personally don't know if these privileged Liberals ever cared for immigrants, underclasses of color or sexual minorities. It seems to me that they use these populations as lip service in order to appear more tolerant than they really are, quite frankly.
It's like what Chris Hedges said about the Liberals in Harvard Divinity School-they would talk all this concern about the poor, but they didn't like the smell of the poor. At least Hedges practiced what he preached and spent time in a parish in the poor section of Boston called, I think, Roxbury.

As for the white underclass, I suspect that the elites have frankly lied to them-telling them that they were special, that they were just like them-and when the economy was doing well for these white working people it was easy to fool them with all of the goodies that go with a strong economy. Now, the elites are not even pretending to have any connection to this population anymore. Liberals like Jerry Springer and reality television poke fun at the white underclass with abandon. The Conservatives poke fun of Trump supporters as well( many of the supporters being of the white underclass), clueless to the fact that they, along with the mainstream media, created the monster that is Trump!

Whoever wins the election, the results will not be good for the people. As much as I don't like Trump, I find Clinton to be the more frightening figure of the two-I think she will do a hell of a lot more damage than Trump ever could. As for Sanders, who is simply a repeat of the 'hope and change' nonsense of Obama( you'd think people wouldn't fall for that bull again), he would be a disappointment in the same way that Obama was.

Just my little views.

Please keep up the good work! :D

My donkey said...

JMG: The article by Chris Hedges that you linked to makes much the same points as you do in its first few sentences:
"College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. [...] These elites, many from East Coast Ivy League schools, spoke the language of values — civility, inclusivity, a condemnation of overt racism and bigotry, a concern for the middle class — while thrusting a knife into the back of the underclass for their corporate masters. [...] There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities."

Hedges certainly doesn't claim that racism is "the only reason, the only possible reason" that anyone supports the Trump campaign.

Did you accidentally link to the wrong article?

Bill Pulliam said...

By the way I preferred "Yeehawdists" over "Y'all Quaeda." It used a stereotypical western term, and better conveyed the sense of a bunch of guys in hats riding off on a campaign that they had not really thought out and were ill-prepared for. I kept thinking of "The Four Lions," a fairly recent British black comedy about an Islamist terrorist cell in London that is utterly incompetent.

Eric S. said...

@Pinku Sensei: I was actually basing it off of the same polls you linked me to, which I had last checked about 2 weeks ago, at which point he'd been ahead of Clinton for a solid 2 and a half months. He’s since had a serious plummet.

subduedcrew said...

The post is very much along the lines of something I have been thinking about quite often recently. It is ironic to me that the slurs and accusations that supposedly liberal-progressive types like to hurl at Trump voters sound remarkably similar to the slurs and accusations that outright racists like to hurl at immigrants and minorities. "They're ignorant and selfish." "They don't belong in this country." "They don't represent our values." "They don't have any real contribution to make to our society." I guess the language of scapegoating and shadow projection is the same everywhere, regardless of who is using it or who is being subjected to it.

Matt and Jess said...

Hi, JMG! Welcome back from your vacation. Holy cow, what a month! We're new residents of Wisconsin and just had the pleasure of voting in the primary here a couple of days ago. It was a big deal, because of the new voter ID laws in the state. Traditionally the story has been that these laws are meant to deter Democrat voters, but I do have to wonder if any of Trump's supporters had difficulty voting for one reason or another as well. That would be a news story I'd listen to.

I really need to read up more on history and politics. I do wonder overall what the differences would be between a Trump presidency disrupting the status quo now, and years of more failed policies resulting in a worsening situation for most of us. You know--when someone like Trump wants power, does he try to keep it by actually putting better policies in place? I don't know whom in history he might be comparable to and what the possible positive outcomes of his presidency might be. Clearly a lot of people are hinging their hopes on him.

Paulo said...

As an 'educated rural redneck', tolerated and liked by my neighbours because I taught their kids and was good to them as they grew up, I would like to share a quick Youtube link at the end of this post. But before that, a few points.

Working class folks are definitely 'not stupid'. I grew up as a carpenter and bush pilot before finally breaking out and attending university to obtain a teaching degree. What, you think a faller dropping a 250' fir doesn't know 'trig'? You think a logging truck driver inching down a frozen mountainside road doesn't know physics? You think a seiner skipper doing a set on Johnstone Strait doesn't understand weather or tides as well as an oceanographer?

Anyway. I grew up making wages and working piecework, and retired on a salary with a pension. Back in 1981 I was laid off from a flying job by the owner trying to break our Union. The date was Nov. 24th, and this allowed him to forgo paying me Christmas and Boxing day stats. He turned down 2 weeks of solid flying revenue for the company to deny me 2 days of holiday pay. I knew at that moment the comapny would always be a terrible place to work, regardless of our pay and benefits, and went back to construction. That very lean Christmas, (wife at home and young I discovered the following song by Merle Haggard, "If We Make It Through December". I have played it every Christmas for the past 35 years as part of our Christmas 'experience, and have never forgotten the words or what it conveyed. It would help the 'salary class' to understand what working folks endure, as they feather their nest on wage earners sweat and taxes, especially if they went through being pitched out on the street or out of their career merely to 'break their Union'. Anyway, I have loved Merle Haggard ever since and learned through life just who is and was on my side. It definitely wasn't politicans, corporations, universities, school districts; 'the system'. The only real supporters were family, friends, and neighbours, (rural redneck neighbours......God bless 'im. And, my family Doctor.


trippticket said...

Well, welcome back, Mr. Archdruid! If the rest of your readership is anything like me, I'm pretty sure the internet's traffic statistics declined over the last month! Especially here in the northern hemisphere, where the more southerly of us at least, have been in the garden non-stop for weeks now. I'm planting for nine this year instead of four!

I have this image of you desperately trying to take a vacation and relax, but being unable to with the richness and depth of dung falling all around us this month! (He jumps for the, no, I'm on vacation...) Hope I'm wrong. But either way, I'm awfully glad you're back. And such thick porridge to chew on this morning, too.

Something fresh to ponder while I'm cleaning chick brooders today...

George R Fehling said...

Dear JMG,

Happy to have you back. I just pre-ordered my copy of Dark Age America. Fantastic book cover!


barrymelius said...

John,You are a dangerous man,you have started me thinking. When I don't think or bother or bother to pay attention to whats going on around me I end up giving away my power of self determination in relationships whether political or personal. Made me realize how just ignoring politics has given others control over large parts of my life. Easy to not pay attention to whats going on. The Roman empire realized that encouraging this made control easier. The phrase 'bread and circuses' comes to mind. If the power elite was smart enough to encourage mass entertainment 2000 years ago can I assume they are still doing so? How much of our popular culture is designed to put me to sleep while interesting things happen out of sight. Does Brittany Spears really have my back or not?

Ekkar said...

Hello John Michael Greer, welcome back, hope you had a refreshing break.
As always very good and provocative post. The thing that provoked me, and I have to admit disappointed me, was the dropped pronouncement; "Does Trump have racial prejudices? No doubt; most white Americans do." Ugh...All white people have racial prejudices. Also all Black people. All Brown people. All Yellow people. All Red people. Etc...
Prejudice is part of any thinking creature modus operandi. What we don't know we fill in the blanks with what feels comfortable to our personal narratives. Hate and stupidity are completely different things than being prejudice.
In fact that very statement was not only prejudice but racist. My six year old son, being that he like me is a white male, in that out look, is just a underdeveloped women hating, white privileged, racist, awaiting the day he is a white man, king of the world.....phooey
Thanks for everything else in the blog post!
Perhaps I am putting too much into that statement. Or perhaps places like this blog is where I go to get away from all that type of witch-hunt-style-pseudo-anti-racism.

John Roth said...


The comment about "illegal immigrants" gave me a chuckle at the phrase, because it obscures a rather important distinction. We have both an "illegal guest worker" and "illegal immigrant" problem, and they are quite distinct. The former are the people who come in to work and send money home, the latter are the people who come here to stay because they want to live here. While Trump's wall is pure fantasy, he finally said how he was going to get Mexico to pay for it: stop all the money flowing back home from illegal guest workers. He missed the simple fact that, if he could actually do that (and it wouldn't be all that hard, BTW), there would be a massive exodus of illegal guest workers. They're here to earn money for their families back home.

All the kids being sent north by their parents to escape the chaos in Central America are the actual illegal immigrants. That's a humanitarian issue, not a guest worker issue. Except for the Natasha trade, which is an entirely different issue.

Ceworthe said...

Ah, I see, the crazy gun toting redneck stereotype perhaps? Most people here own a gun or two as a tool of protection from rabid animal &/or for hunting. And they have had gun safety and proper muzzle control drilled into their heads since they were able to walk, long before they were ever allowed to even handle a real gun.

Bill Pulliam said...

It's absolutely true that people of the former wage class are not inherently stupid. However, living in a place where this is the predominant class, it is more complicated than that. I have had lots of very witty insightful and stimulating conversations with many people who probably do not have a single college graduate in their ancestry and may not even have many high school grads on their paternal lines. BUT, the impoverished environment does have its effects. I learned really quickly on moving here a decade and a half ago that I need to be careful about complex sentence structures. Big "five dollar" words are not such a problem, but lots of nested subordinate clauses tend to cause a slightly panicky stare in the eyes of the person I am chatting with. I have always thought (and have seen nothing to change my mind) that this is mostly due to underfunded schools. And it turns out you can express your ideas, even very complex ones, just fine without complex sentence structures and latinate jargon, without dumbing them down at all. And you can be introduced to whole new ways of understanding by listening to people whose ancestors never set foot in an institution of higher education.

There is another problem in the poorer areas though; actually a set of problems: drugs, alcohol, poor prenatal care, poor diet, untreated chronic health conditions like diabetes, etc. And of course now young vets with varying degrees of PTSD, since these are the communities that disporoportionately staff the US military with their youngsters. All these things really do damage the mind and body in ways that can't always be recovered from. And the mainstream culture's seeming willingness to let these things burn through poor and rural areas uncontrolled, so long as they don't affect the kids of the people with money, really does constitute slow-motion genocide.

Now, would President Trump actually do one single fracking thing for these communities? HAH! I would not bet a single penny on THAT! President Bernie? He might try, but Congress won't give a flip and without Congress the President is mostly impotent on domestic matters.

Kevin CIMMYT said...


Welcome back, and thanks for an interesting post as usual. As a non-American I do not really have a horse in the US presidential race, although of course as the US is a major world power the outcome will undoubtedly have global effects. As you say, Mr Trump appears to be a demagogue who mostly *appeals* to the squeezed American wage-labor class, but do you think his election would *actually* benefit this section of American society if he came to power ? Thanks....

Martin B said...

On employment statistics: David Stockman has this to say:

In any event, once again this month the labor department bureaucrats did not go out and actually count 242,000 new jobs or even extrapolate them from a valid, scientific sample survey of the Gallup variety.

Folks, they never left their cushy offices; they plucked these numbers from a computer model!

He goes into lots of detail to back up his statement in this article:

John Roth said...

@Patricia Matthews:

Has the following snippet become standard English when I wasn't looking?

"There is a head nurse on each shift. When they comes on shift, they will..."

For people who don't catch what's wrong, the verb in the second sentence is singular, which is required for concordance with a singular subject.

This is probably not the place to thrash out the actual grammar of "singular they." Let's just say that using "they" with a singular antecedent has been standard English since as long ago as Chaucer, but it's always been used in a context where the antecedent has been understood as plural, hence the plural is legitimate, regardless of what the pedants say. For people who want to investigate the grammar further, the topic to look up is "notional agreement" or "notional concord."

Claiming that it's been used as an singular epicine (that is, gender-neutral) pronoun before second wave feminism is misrepresenting the historical record.

John Roth said...

@William Hays:

With respect to Fourth Turning, you might want to read John Xenakis' on-line draft of "Generational Dynamics for Historians." If he's right, a "Crisis War" is inevitable at this point.

As far as getting back to "real conservatism," there have been several people who have been trying to do that, but they've been drowned out by the free traders and theocrats, as well as the segment that's been defining the party as "hate Obama" to the exclusion of talking actual policy.

Eric S. said...

I’m having a difficult time getting a grasp on Trump and what we’d actually be looking at. It seems like, for every promising policy, (fines on offshore accounts, trade barriers, support for manufacturing, age adjusted wages, etcetera), he’s got things tossed in that feel like a complete overhaul in the absolute opposite direction (lowering income tax all the way down to pre-depression levels, overturning business regulations, abolishing the EPA and getting rid of any environmental regulations whatsoever, support for a high surveillance military state, etc.).

But there are some things he supports that legitimately frighten me. Scapegoating and stereotyping of broad groups of people does get to me, and yes, that does include scapegoating of Trump supporters, which I have called out on every turn (and lost a few friends over it), but as a religious minority, scapegoating of other religious minorities (regardless of my feelings on their ideology) gives me a sick and familiar feeling in my stomach. I do worry about the way a lot of his rhetoric about illegal immigration has gotten the anger of his followers directed not at the employers, who are bringing in undocumented workers for pay that consists of a warehouse sleeping mats, a bucket, and the threat of deportation. It feels like the anger is getting directed at the wrong people… at people who are themselves mostly victims… and as that anger builds into a movement, the possibility that there will be people swinging from trees in the wake of this grows, and I’m afraid that it won’t be the representatives of the power establishment the mobs turn on. I hope I’m wrong, I really do, but there does seem to be a mean streak directed not at the people profiting off of the issues in our society, but instead at groups of people who are poor, marginalized people themselves…

This passage from an Archdruid Report you wrote a few years back keeps churning through my mind every day as I watch this election cycle unfold, and in a lot of ways, I think it could go down as one of your more accurate predictions:

“Imagine along these lines, dear reader, that sometime in the next year or so you start hearing media reports about a rising new figure in American politics [who] looks as though [he] might just be able to break the stranglehold of the established parties on the political system. Some of his ideas come straight from the fringes, and he’s been reported to have said very negative things about Arabs and Islam, but he’s nearly the only person in American public life willing to talk frankly about the difficulties Americans are facing in an era of economic collapse, and his party platform embodies many of the most innovative ideas of the left and right. Like him or not, he offers the one convincing alternative to business as usual in an increasingly troubled and corrupt system. Would you vote for him? Millions of Germans did.”

I’m thinking a lot lately about the life of Oswald Spengler himself, who voted for Hitler, seeing him as the best chance to break Germany out of the stranglehold of its decline, thinking that some of his more unsavory ideas were unlikely to influence the Germany he created… only to spend the last 5 years of his life watching in horror, and insisting at the top of his lungs that Hitler was a dangerous ideologue who would rather destroy businesses than see Jews in them and writing about his defeat, which he never lived to see. I’ve been feeling twisted up inside. I really do understand the anger, and I really do understand why some of Trump’s policies could be a break in a positive direction, though there are some things that I’m a little more doubtful on. But there are some things going on that just tug the wrong way on my conscience and I don’t really know how to feel about it. I suppose there have always been a lot of people like this at the cusp of every period of great change, stuck in the middle, tugged between their core human values and practical solutions…

Nastarana said...

Dear Patricia Ormsby, Aha! That makes two mentions in one week about Biden as the replacement for Clinton. The first was at Daily Kos, the unreadable site which founder Moulitsas has used to parley his way into the Clinton patronage machine, via the much better site,, and credited to Kos himself. Makes one wonder what might be lurking in those Panama Papers. As for the Panama Papers themselves, I think it best to defer judgement before attempting to determine who, or what faction, arranged for their release and for what purposes. I do think Mme. Clinton might be a target if only because she has so far been deaf to rather explicit hints from various official sources that she needs to get her act together.

Himanshu said...

Hi John,

Regarding the taboo topic of class in USA, I have one name for you and this blog's participants: Joe Bageant


Roger said...

In Toronto we had the Trump thing with Rob Ford. Now, Ford wasn't Trump, but his constituency was the wage earning class that got progressively shellacked these past two generations similar to the wage earning class in the US.

The wine-sipping Toronto intelligentsia reviled Ford for daring to actually beat (by a wide margin) their anointed candidate, a gay white man with a husband and an adopted Black baby boy.

Having said that, Ford didn't exactly help himself, he was a drunk and a drug addict. Oh yeah, Ford hung with two-bit hoods. Oh, and he made sure to be far away in the family cottage during Pride Week.

So naturally, Ford voters - so-called Ford Nation - were bigots and morons. End of discussion. It couldn't POSSIBLY be that Ford voters had legitimate interests. And it couldn't POSSIBLY be that Ford addressed those same concerns.

No matter that bigotry wasn't and isn't the sole preserve of one social class, after all, somehow it's ok to revile Westerners and disdain rural and blue collar people. See, there's acceptable and unacceptable bigotry. But you and I aren't qualified to make that call. No, it's only certain people with social antennae tuned within certain universities and social circles allowed to make that judgment.

No matter also that we have a long tradition of drunken political leaders, some of them highly effective.

To cut to the chase, the electorate got it wrong and the result could not stand. And so the intelligentsia did everything short of assassination to up-end the results of a fair and square vote.

But, despite tailing him for months, the cops couldn't lay a glove on Ford. Regardless, in the end, the intelligentsia got its way and the election was up-ended. City council stripped Ford of his powers. Somehow it was all legal.

If it's Trump in the White House next January the voters will have got in wrong like the voters in Toronto. By hook or by crook, they'll stymie Donald like they stymied Ford. Short of a pistol-shot, it will somehow be legal.

Rob Ford passed away last month. RIP Rob. For what it's worth, in my estimation, the voters did not get it wrong.

Good luck to you guys down there.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Wonderful to have you back. I have sorely missed the weekly dose of eclectic and erudite doom and gloom. The blind spot in North America about class has always baffled me, glad to see it addressed. No great merit on my part, I had the advantage of growing up in a socialist household in Europe. Now, I have downloaded Spengler, but will I ever get around to it between the blogosphere and the gardens?

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ David - Making it in a small town, if you'r not "from here." Marry into a venerable old family. Buy several properties along the main drag, even if they are money pits. Find out where the power brokers go for their morning coffee. Be prepared for many sexist and racist jokes. Figure out what the "power" church is, and join it. Figure out which civic organizations or lodges are favored by the power brokers, and join them. Make sure your children go to school with, and only associate with, the children of the power brokers. Wives have an even harder time negotiating the power at the female end of the spectrum. But, since you've married into an old family, that will not be a problem.

A story I read years ago, somewhere, has stuck with me. I think it was in New England. It was an obituary for an old fellow who lived to be about 86. His family had moved to the area, when he was five or six. He was very well liked and respected, in the community. The kicker was the line "We loved him like one of our own." :-) Lew

aiastelamonides said...


It's good to have you back!

It's a pity that the social-and-economic-justice oriented left has tied itself so strongly to the elite. There was a time when people advocated for equality and mutual respect on the grounds of American patriotism, but it didn't work out and now the movement's ideas have become doubly politicized, first in their own right and then as flags of allegiance to the elite. Of course, there are plenty of people in the wage class fighting the good fight, but the elite left has mostly abandoned them and identified their ideas with heavy-handed paternalism at best and raw class hatred at worst.

As for the election, it looks like another Clinton presidency at the moment. If Kasich allies with Trump at the convention in exchange for the VP spot, I'd give the pair even odds against Clinton, but otherwise Trump is going to have a hard time winning the nomination (50% chance Trump, 40% Cruz, 10% other) and a harder one winning the White House (70% chance Clinton, 30% Trump).

I'm not sure that Toynbee's civilization-length waves of creative and dominant minorities (I think that in the West's case we've actually had a couple such waves already, but that's another discussion....), or even the higher-frequency "rhythm of disintegration," are on the right time-scale for talking about this election. A similar dynamic seems to happen cyclically in American politics, going once around every 50 years or so (sometimes a deal longer), going back possibly as far as the French and Indian War or farther (I don't know enough colonial history to even speculate well about anything much earlier than the Revolution). This election may be a watershed in a longer process, but it is most likely smaller than that (though still very significant compared to those immediately adjacent).

onething said...

Bruno B. L.,

Tell your friends that a salaried, academic job at a good university that must surely pay some part of the medical insurance for this young and healthy family of four still has to pay $1200 per month for their medical insurance. And that when the dad got very ill with an intestinal bug so that his potassium got so depleted that he more or less fainted, they took him to the ER. He was there about 3 hours, got two bags of saline and some potassium pills. A blood draw of course. The bill came to $5,000, and the part that this family has to pay is $2,000.

onething said...

Bill, you're batting 100 today! Very good job on the y'all thing. Exactly correct.
When I was in first or second grade, I absolutely loved the word antidistestablishmentarianism. And you've added another syllable. Bravo.

Helix said...

Re: "The Obama administration announced this evening that it plans to increase funding for hippogriffs..."

Or, in the case mentioned here, "hypergrifts"

donalfagan said...

I'm wondering if the Republican'ts and Establocrats could actually join the Federalists and Whigs in my lifetime. The GOP at least realizes that it is in disarray, though their plan of replacing Trump with Cruz is like treating a rash with steel wool. I don't think the Dems have any idea just how much the Clinton and DNC antics are hurting their brand with the young people that could have been their core supporters. I hear true blue Dems talk about Sanders accepting the VP slot under Clinton as if his supporters would obediently follow along.

I think no matter what happens in this election, a movement of Tea Party/Trump supporters is going to be with us for a good long while. They were easily coopted after the great recession, but they seem more skeptical of the establishment now. Not being young myself, I'm sure where the Sanders movement is headed. If the economy strengthened I would expect them to return to the Democratic fold, but I don't expect a strong economy anytime soon. One of my friends thinks they could be the beginning of a LaFollette-type progressive movement.

Mister Roboto said...

A criticism/ compliment mix today: There's nothing new in this post, but you did an enjoyably readable job of tying in stuff you've gone into here in the recent past into what's going on just now.

I have changed my mind somewhat on the situation. Upon discovering this gem of information, I've decided I would vote for Hillary Clinton if Ted Cruz were to get the Republican nomination, just out of sheer self-preservation. The Republicans have to realize that handing the nomination to Ted Cruz would be the single stupidest thing they could do. After all, not only could the man get yours truly to actually vote for Hillary, but he also has a reputation for being utterly detested by nearly everybody in politics who knows him at all. (And fundamentalist Dominionism has seriously politically "jumped the shark" in 2016.) So I think there is a strong possibility for an open Republican convention this summer in which either Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan will be drafted to be the party's nominee for November.

But of course, we both know that sweeping all that simmering resentment under the rug will prove to be the most pyrrhic of victories for our feckless and doddering political class, don't we?

Robert Mathiesen said...

Here in New England, where I have lived since 1967, the three-way contrast that Bill Pulliam shed so much good light on, works out as: you -- youse -- all youse. ("Youse" is pronounced "youze" /yɪ́wz/. "All youse" has the main accent on "all": /ɔ́l yɪ̀wz/. It's also marked for class: most of my faculty colleagues at my ivy-league university wouldn't be caught making this useful distinction in their own speech. Being a transplanted Bay-Area Californian, I didn't acquire the three-way distinction natively, but I perversely enjoy using it at times on campus for its shock value.

Helix said...


Here in central Virginia, "y'all" is always plural but refers to a small number of people. "All y'all" is applied to larger groups, or to disparate groups -- those where some are friends of the speaker and others are not, for example -- when "y'all" is meant to be all-inclusive.

jeffinwa said...

"The class she’s talking about—the more affluent half or so of the salary class...."
For some reason "effluent half or so" reads just as well.
Great to have you back JMG; hope your working vacation had some play time.

MIckGspot said...

Welcome back, Thank you! and Congratulations on your new book which I will order.

Mark said...

Re: "The love of money is the root of all evil". I believe the actual quote is that "love of money ii the root of all kinds of evil". I remember back in my churchgoing days a pastor explaining this meant, according to the original text, that love of money is the root of some evil, as in various kinds of evil, not absolutely all kinds of evil. So, this waters it down quite a bit! But for those who love money, or would at least like to have some money to love, you can feel a little less guilty now :-)

111DFC said...


@ JMG. It was a pleasure to read you again

About Toynbee he take a lot of his ideas from Ibn Jaldun (or Ben Khaldun), the “father” of historical sociology and he praised him as the “one of the more important thinkers of the human history” (or something similar)

Jaldun stressed the impact of conflicts of groups inside societies in the historical evolution, and the relationship with the dynamics of markets, price, benefits, luxury, population, etc…in a similar way of Bloch and Braudel. It was really a systemic approach of history from a man born in the XIV century (so, “nihil novum sub sole”)

I have heard too many discussions around “resources scarcity” and so on as a way to explain, in a mechanistic way, the fall of societies/empires, and some of them falls in the pinnacle of their theoretical power and resources at their disposal. The lack of resources was a consequence of the paradigm crisis, not the opposite

As you said civilizations or societies does not “fall” because lack of resources (human or natural), or wealth, or technology, but I would say, they fall because the “dreams”

Hernán Cortes and a few hundred soldiers could defeat the Azteca Empire because almost all aztecs “dreamed” (literally) their demise; from Moctezuma to the last servant, all dreamed the coming of Quetzalcoatl. The key person in the conquest was not Cortes, but “La Malinche” who knows that “dreams”, the fears, the hope, and at the end the “thanatian” desires (in the freudian sense) of all the groups inside the empire, and she managed to give then the sum of fears and hopes they were waiting for. At the end it was really a civil war (as almost all the successful conquests)

In the same way: how a few thousands muslim warriors could conquest the old spanish visigoth kingdom? In fact they did not, it was also another civil war

Like you, and even the powerful elite, too many people are “dreaming” the fall of the Empire now, so the end could not be far away

Annette Simard said...

Well. Y'all know the grammar rules.

Shane W said...

I actually WISH the young people I know would talk like the ones 234567 overheard. They're working two jobs to pay all their bills, smoking a ton of weed just to get through the day, and when I tell them that they're wasting their time, and that the system is stacked against them and has been since the 70s, they just get a pained expression on their face, or don't acknowledge what I've said...

Dammerung said...

We live in interesting times, and the pace at which they become more interesting seems to be increasing.

Unknown said...

I have no direct evidence this is true, but I firmly believe Peggy Noonan got the idea for her WSJ piece from you. Not directly, as in she read the blog post, but rather through the idea percolating through 6 degrees of separation or whatever and ending up in her head.

Graeme Bushell said...

Welcome back JMG!

Re: the second person plural pronouns, in Australia we sometimes just add a plural "s" to "you", usually spelled "youse" to make the pronunciation a bit clearer.


Lucius Cornelius Sulla said...

Queensland English also pluralises you to youse. E.g Are youse coming down the pub?

Patricia Mathews said...

Even the economists are getting a clue!

Varun Bhaskar said...


Welcome back.

The rise of local demagogues is something I've been watching for since last year. So far no blips on my radar. What I think is happening is that the hope and anger is currently being channelled through Sanders and Trump, and if they fail then it'll find purchase in others. So, instead of having one or two big demagogues, we'll get dozens or hundreds. Each espousing their own ideologies, first directed at the elite then at each other.


Sorry to hear about your temporary set back. Now you have time to regroup and plan. By the way, with my paper now in print I need a correspondent in the north. How do I get in touch with you?


Varun Bhaskar
View on the Ground

pygmycory said...

Just listened to a couple of Merles' songs. They're good, and I'd never heard them before.

Don Plummer said...

Welcome back!

A couple personal thoughts about D. Trump, racism, and the disrespect the salaried class shows for the "cracker" class:

You are correct that not all Trump supporters are racist; at least, they're no more racist than most of the rest of us. The problem I see with Trump is his rhetoric; a rhetoric that inflames sentiment against people of color, immigrants (legal as well as illegal), and religious minorities (especially Muslims). Trump's rhetoric is far from benign; already, some of my Muslim and Latino students are worried that they might be targeted by Trump supporters; it's already happened, as you probably know. His slogan, "Make America Great Again," when stripped of its facade, seems to mean, "Make America White Again," or at least "Making America Great Entails That White People Stay In Charge." Pitting American against American is an old ploy of elitists, of course. Trump hardly belongs to the wage class himself, obviously.

I must speak out against a politician who pits Americans against other Americans, who scapegoats people, and who advocates violence against protesters at his rallies.

Regarding salaried class' disrespecting wage classes, you are correct, of course. But the problem here is that wage classes and their supporters seem to be doing things to encourage that kind of disrespect. Case in point: the Tennessee state legislature passing legislation making the Barrett .50 caliber rifle the "official state fiream" (a rifle so powerful, according to the Washington Post, it can destroy commercial aircraft) and more recently passing another piece of legislation making the Christian Bible the "official state book." You can complain all you want about "elitist" attitudes toward the wage classes, but acts like these seem to invite ridicule.

Ezra Buonopane said...

Hi JMG, hope you had a nice break.

There's a PBS quiz titled "do you live in a bubble?" that's been circulating online quite a lot recently. It measures how isolated you are from the culture of the working class americans who make up the core Trump-voter demographic. Of course, it has been denounced widely by salary-class bloggers, many of whom don't really understand what they're arguing against. Here's an example from Grist:

His first rebuttal completely misses the point of the question, which asks "Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community with a population under 50,000 that is not part of a metropolitan area and is not where you went to college?” by pointing out that large cities are poorer than surrounding suburbs. It was completely lost on the writer that the "surrounding" suburbs are considered part of the metropolitan area. Towns like the one I live in in central Pennsylvania, which has 6000 people and is over 100 miles away from any large city really don't exist in the worldview of people from places like New York City, which my town, and others near it even more so, is probably poorer than.

His last paragraph is even more revealing when he says "Many city dwellers, even wealthy ones, are far less insulated than suburbanites who shuttle in oversized automobiles from their McMansions to air-conditioned indoor malls." Those are, again, not the people the quiz was asking about. Working class people in rural areas definitely don't live in McMansions or drive SUVs. This view of America is only "outdated and racist" because salary class individuals in cities have no idea that anyone lives between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, or in the central US "flyover country".

Of course, yes, cities are filled with working class people who don't fit the description of the quiz, but fact that the author ignores the existence of the working class people the quiz is asking about is frankly, disturbing and much of the reason they're voting for Trump.

Brian Chadwick said...


I checked out why you would think that Yes Magazine was feel good pablum. The first article I read was a well written story of a fisherman reinventing his life to a more environmentally sustainable job.

These positive stories are happening worldwide but if popular writers like yourself ignore them how we going to change.

It seems you welcome the devastation.

B Chadwick

benjamindavidsteele said...

"Mind you, none of the articles that I saw quite managed to grapple with the raw reality of the situation that’s driving so many wage-earning Americans to place their last remaining hopes for the future on Donald Trump."

I would clarify a point. Trump actually gets a disproportionate percentage of supporters from the upper working class to lower middle class, not the working poor or even worse off. Instead, it is Sanders who has won over the lowest income Americans, poor whites included.

“Writing for In These Times, author Jack Metzgar notes that the basis for this assumed white working-class support for Trump is his popularity among Republican voters who lack a college degree, who have indeed preferred him to the other Republicans in the race. “Among all adult whites,” however, “nearly 70 percent do not have bachelor’s degrees,” the definition of working class used by pundits. One recent survey found that 55 percent of this group support Trump, meaning “the white working-class is under-represented among Trump supporters,” Metzgar observes, which means “his supporters are disproportionately college-educated whites.”

“This becomes clear when one takes a step back from the tiny weird world of the U.S. right and looks at the electorate as a whole. In a general election, polls Sanders would not only beat Trump but destroy him: Reuters currently has him up by nearly 10 per cent overall, and that with far less media coverage. Among white voters in particular, Sanders’ margin of victory in the most recent poll does drop to just under 5 per cent — but among white voters who make less than US$25,000 a year, his margin of victory actually grows to 15 per cent. Among unemployed white voters, that number rises to 16 per cent. Practically no one who isn’t white is voting for Donald Trump.

“Commentators are right, then, to believe the Trump phenomenon is a white people problem — it’s just the data shows it’s not working-class whites who are the heart of this problem."

John Zelnicker said...

JMG - I did refer to the gains going to profits and exec. comp. which to some degree includes the salary class, although your term is more comprehensive and probably gets the class distinction more accurately. While it is true that there is an excess supply of labor relative to demand, this is not a problem that can be solved by making adjustments to the supply side; we need to increase aggregate demand. The existence of the excess labor supply is an intended consequence of the campaign to suppress wages, thereby suppressing demand since everyone's income is someone else's spending. By creating a large cohort of unemployed, the ownership class creates a race to the bottom as desperate people become willing to work for ever lower wages.

We need to increase aggregate demand in our economy and there are only three basic ways to do that. One is to increase the the amount of exports over imports, which is not entirely in our control and right now is seriously negative and does not appear to be improving. A second is to increase spending by the private, non-government sector, which also ain't happening as most households are still trying to pay off debt acquired during the run up to the financial crisis and as you note, their incomes are not increasing. And businesses won't increase spending unless they can clearly see more customers demanding their products and services. The third is to increase government spending, specifically the federal government. This isn't happening either right now because the morons in Congress and the Federal Reserve and the mainstream economists who support them still believe that cutting federal government spending is somehow going to cause households and businesses to increase their spending. Money is the fuel that runs the economy. If you reduce the amount spent, either through savings (or debt reduction), increased imports over exports, or reducing government spending, the economy cannot grow.

So, it seems the only solution is to increase federal government spending since it is the only entity whose spending is not constrained by the amount of income available.

Explaining that last sentence would take a separate blog altogether and there are others who have already done so far better than I can. For those interested, if you are not familiar with Modern Monetary Theory, I recommend checking out Warren Mosler's blog at Center of the Universe and his "Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds", and the economics professors from the University of Missouri-Kansas City who blog at New Economic Perspectives.

HalFiore said...

I think a bunch of y'all might have missed a bit of subtle, characteristically self-depreciating humor in Unknown's comment on "y'all." At least that's how I read it.

As for "you all," I disagree with Bill P. It is still used, at least in the Mississippi Delta, though I grant mostly by older folks. It is easy to miss, because it doesn't come across like Minnie Pearl hamming it up for the tourists at the Grand Old Opry or Elly Mae in the Beverly Hillbillies. (YEW AWL, NAYUW, SAY-UT A SPAYUL.) Rather, it tends to be pushed together into a soft "yuall" that isn't too different from "y'all."

Tying to the class discussion, it's of the aristocratic Planter class vernacular, as opposed to the more popular southern accents (e.g. "hill country," "redneck," "piney woods," to name some MS variants.) I was reared to speak the higher form, but picked up such redneck pieces as "we('ll) see y'all" (spoken by a lone person to a single listener) in my teenage years, much to the chagrin of my family.

Bryan L. Allen said...

Welcome back, esteemed Archdruid! I've pre-ordered your new book. I was frankly surprised not to pay for it upfront, like I would on an Amazon preorder. How genteel.

I only heard about Yes! Magazine about a week ago. I specifically noticed it since a colleague of mine, Peter Kalmus, has written a couple of recent articles for it. He's an (IMO) rather brave climate scientist willing to walk the walk, even if that's career-threatening. He told his bosses he'd not be flying anymore, for personal travel or to attend conferences, which he was doing to the tune of ~50000 miles/year. He has an online draft of a book called Becycling where he details many of the adjustments to his life he's made. Quite interesting, with two kids and wife and ancient veg-oil powered car and bees and chickens and an old house and composting and bike commuting and humanure and even civil disobedience. A kindred soul, I think, so perhaps not ALL of Yes! Magazine is deserving of opprobrium... but like I implied I'm unfamiliar with the history of Yes! magazine. In any case, felicitations!

shastatodd said...

"The reason that millions of Americans have had their standard of living hammered for forty years..."

dont forget that net energy has been declining since the 1970's.

Shane W said...

I think those youth you encountered are perfect candidates for learning about limits to growth and the missed opportunity of the 1970s. I think if I were there and had their ear, I'd tell 'em that their predicament was laid out 20 years before they were born, rattle off JMG's recommended reading of JMG's 70s era ecology/systems theory books, and tell them to make sure and make friends with their wage class veteran friends who are skilled in the use of violence, who have seen guerrilla warfare up close and person enough to know how it works...

Shane W said...

since we're discussing uses of the term "racist" and its meanings, what do you make of the whole campus-based SJW (social justice warrior) phenomenon, with it's microagressions, trigger warnings, and offenses over "Trump 2016" chalkings? Is this going to all go away once other, more important issues come to the fore? When the ivory tower/student loan bubble bursts? What's the likelihood that it becomes the basis for a future fascism/Fred Halliot?

Mitch Davis said...

Exquisite article, cures the craving I've nursed in your absence.

Small nit-pick: I understand "dog whistle" differently. A dog whistle is something said for a larger audience, which is intended to resonate (and send a different message) to a smaller, quite select audience.

I think in describing the connection between "states' rights" and the rich southerners who benefited from racist policies, "states' rights" may be a proxy, or a euphemism. A term we used when we can't bring ourselves to admit the white elephant has no clothes.

Zach said...

Bravo, JMG! And welcome back.

I'm a salary class guy who comes from a wage class family and community, so this all seems painfully obvious to me. (First to complete college, etc.)

Possibly key: I did not throw my family and community under the bus when "arriving." This is such a common dynamic: "Oh, yeah, I grew up in a little hick town - what a bunch of racist fascist sexist homophobes! I'm so glad I got out of there!"

Obvious subtext: "I'm not one of them! Please accept me as a genuine member of the privileged class!"

I saw the Williamson piece, and the doubling down of NR, and spent several days alternating between white-hot rage and cold fury. I suppose it's good to get that sort of contempt out in the open where it's no longer a deniable dog whistle. Williamson is a fool if he doesn't expect that contempt to be returned.

Interesting times ahead for sure.


Shane W said...

I just wanted to second Bill's understanding of "y'all" and "all y'all"--I never consider "y'all" to be singular. Also, I wanted to second Hal's understanding of "you all" vs. "y'all", even in my family from humble background, "you all" was considered more proper, and "y'all" was considered slang...

patriciaormsby said...

I've actually got some good news out of Japan. They've taken a fancy for Jose Mujica, the president of Uruguay. I don't know whether he has been featured in America or not. He is a former guerrilla, incarcerated in solitary for a dozen years and tortured, but currently an endearingly grandfatherly farmer with a tractor, an old VW and an income of about $1000/month. He is in Kyoto now on live TV, fielding questions and giving advice. For example, he notes there are a lot of lonely elderly people in Japan, abandoned by their families and forced to live alone. He says Japan should build facilities so that they can live in communities. In his country, they provide free housing for the poor with the stipulation that the poor themselves build them. I dare say the Japanese are enthralled. Maybe this is the form the revolt will take here.
Mujica has met with Putin, but probably not with Obama, or else the TV would have shown that, I think. Now I will pray each day that the rabid dogs of Hillary et al. are not sicced on this humble gentleman.

Shane W said...

I still have reservations about Sanders. He conformed on gun control and immigration to the party line. He's voiced support for whomever gets nominated for the Democratic party. I just have a reservation that he might be "hope and change", part II. IF (and that's a big IF) Trump enacts some of his policy platforms, it stands to benefit the wage class...

Shane W said...

One little bit of obvious truth that Trump is getting roundly pilloried by the chattering classes is his observation that the economy is going to go into a severe recession w/in a year or so...

Bill Pulliam said...

Interesting diference between yall and youse in the US -- "yall" is not a class signifier in the south. Everyone uses it from the guy who lives under the bridge up to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. "Yous" still seems to be very much taboo in the "educated classes" in most areas. I'm not sure I have ever heard a NY City mayor use it in public for example (though if I lived in "youse" country that might be different). I also rarely if ever hear people defending it the way many of us southerners militantly defend "yall."

Hal -- The south is a huge place, I don't need to tell you, and regional differences are enormous. Sometimes I think there's more diversity just within the southern US than in all the rest of Anglophone North America combined. A Tennessee Henry Higgins could probably tell you which holler in which county your parents came from by listening to you talk. So not surprised if there's some variation here, especially among older folks. Southern speech has changed a lot in the last two generations. Non-rhotic speech (R-dropping) is all but extinct in people under 60 in most areas, even in places it used to be common. My mother-in-law from Savannah GA used both R-dropping and an intrusive R at the end of words ("Savanner"), as well as some amazingly drawled vowels. The vowel in the number "eight" was two full syllables -- "Ayuht." Sadly, I think that distinctive accent may have died with her last year; I have not heard it in anyone else.

And by the way since these regional speech patterns are often used as class signifiers, this is actually kinda on topic...

Himanshu said...

Hi John,

I just wanted to comment that the title of your recent book ID the same as Dr. Morris Berman's 2006 book: Dark Ages America.


David said...



"Now, would President Trump actually do one single fracking thing for these communities? HAH! I would not bet a single penny on THAT! President Bernie? He might try, but Congress won't give a flip and without Congress the President is mostly impotent on domestic matters."

I would agree, with one caveat. Without Congress, the President is mostly impotent on domestic matters...under the current arrangement of power. The logjam-breaking figures that arise in these times, however, tend to be less bothered by legal niceties. For good or for ill, I think that is the situation toward which we are heading, whether it is this election cycle or one in the near future.


Thank you for the encouragement. I actually have been serving as a public citizen member of the planning commission for 6 years now and have two more years left on my last term before I have to rotate off. The good news is that we have city council elections every year (9 member council, 3 year terms, 3 seats elected every year, all seats at-large), so I can always try, try again :)


I'd love to contribute to your effort. If you go to my campaign blog ( and send me your email in a comment (which I won't put through, of course), I will email you back.

David said...



I checked off on item on that list. My wife is a native, going back several generations :)

Ceworthe said...

@steve pearson, other than the difficulty fondling a gun with no hands, why yes, a shotgun between the legs would be perfect, as that is what some think a gun is, a substitute for a certain male appendage.

anton mett said...

I know you don't normally post links, so don't feel like you have to post this, but thought you might enjoy it. recently had a conversation about the social classes in America in a way that really showed me a blind spot in my own world view. Basically, Americans would prefer to believe that we are a classless society, but if pressed, we are willing to admit that there are economic classes (upper/middle/lower). We might even be willing to admit that some of these classes have more power and privilege afforded to them than others. However most of us just assume that you can change class by getting more or less money. The point that they drive home in their conversation is that economic class is not the same thing as social class, and that social class is a thing that exists in America. While economic class is driven by how much money a person has, social class is based more on speech, beliefs, and behavior.
Making this distinction has definitely helped me in clarifying me thought and conversations. It's very hard to understand our culture without admitting that social class is a thing that exists and a thing that is important to American society. It's kind of like finding a hammer in your toolbox halfway through a building project.
You probably understand this concept already, but you may still find it interesting to listen to a couple of guys working through the cognitive dissonance that most of our public has on the issue.

Phil said...

You might be addressing the Bernie Sanders issue sooner than later if you consider these two Huffington Post articles that provide a good argument for the idea that the Clinton campaign and support is rapidly collapsing and will very likely lead to a contested convention even if Hillary manages to hold on to a delegate lead and/or Clinton may very well headed for an indictment over her emails - which could force her to concede
Whatever happen's one can't deny that this is the most interesting and unexpectedly bizarre candidate race in decades!

Eric S. said...

I ran an article that takes an interesting perspective on the economic difficulties facing the US right now, it doesn't talk about long term unemployment, but it does talk about contracting, temp work, and all the other part time work that has accounted for the entirety of the much lauded jobs growth of the past half decade or so. And it mainly focuses on the rise of independent contract work, which interestingly enough in a lot of ways resembles a shift into the sort of post-decline economy you discuss in your "end of employment" essay a while back. I wonder if, once the dust clears in the wake of the 2020s crisis, where whatever comes of rising class tensions and spreading unemployment (and independent workers) opens the way towards a shift to an economy designed to aid and protect independent workers through the rise of trade guilds, etcetera. It'd be the sort of twist in conventional wisdom that seems to come out of major crises. It'd also be an economic opening for people doing the Green Wizardry work as well.

Ekkar said...

After re-reading everything, I feel my comments were fired out a little too emotionally hot. I know what you were implying, and it was not what I was implying that you were implying :)

Donald Hargraves said...

I've had a few discussions with Clinton supporters in the past few days. The one thing that strikes me is that they always talk about "electability," as if the willingness of certain groups to press a button or lever was the only measure of a candidate. Never mind her past experience or her stands, just "will people vote for her."

Trump supporters talk about him being a businessman (however flawed a businessman he is), Bernie supporters talk about his stands and of starting a revolution. All I hear from Clinton supporters is their disdain for the other candidates and how she is "electable."

Most surprisingly, I get this from the blacks who ride with me to and from their appointments. The same people who proudly told Hillary to Stand Down are now proclaiming her the only electable candidate. One wonders whether the disappointment of the Obama years is such that they've lost the imagination that inspired them eight years ago.

Nastarana said...

Dear John Zelnicker, Nice. Not one word about land and property ownership.

"We need to increase aggregate demand in our economy." I think we need to lower fixed costs for working families, such as costs of housing, transportation, and health care. $15. an hour wage doesn't do me a durn bit of good if the landlord promptly raises rents to keep on getting his or her cut. People in the wage class and underclass don't want more immigration primarily because we know perfectly well that immigration pushes up the costs of necessary amenities like a place to live and electricity and running water. To me, this an ethical issue: are we going, as a nation, to continue to privilege rent seeking over production, or not?

I think the underlying issues of this election are two: one is do we allow the elites to start a general war we cannot win in a desperate attempt to hang on to their power, and, second, who gets to own what.

Peter VE said...

Bill Pulliam: Your comment ("neoantidisestablishmentarianism") skewers the new religion perfectly. Mr. Greer has been examining the ongoing end of the established wisdom, and with this one word, you have captured the reaction of the upper half of the salary class.

Patricia Mathews said...

What the bubble quiz omitted:

"Were you taught to fix, grow, or make anything useful (meals included) as a kid?"

"Do you still do so?"

Full disclosure: my score was 20 points, or "First generation upper-middle-class, of middle-class parents."

My mother taught me to sew both by hand and machine, to cook and bake, to wash dishes by hand, and to hang out clothes on the line. She also made grape jelly and jam from the arbor in our back yard, crocheted, and made afghans. My grandmother taught me to knit. This was an utterly standard 1940s upbringing.

Michelle said...

Jumping in with some word-nerd mojo here:

English did at one time have both a formal/informal split (you/thou, which later rather reversed, making 'thou' more formal than 'you) and a 2nd person singular/2nd person plural, in the form of 'ye'. As in "Hear ye, hear ye!"

In Spanish, there is a split between 2nd person formal/informal singular (tu and usted) and also plural (vosotros and ustedes). Interestingly, the 2nd person plural informal (vosotros) is seldom taught, at least in US Spanish classes, and I understand its use varies from one Spanish-speaking country to another. I have a friend from Spain who deliberately uses vosotros just to keep it in circulation (and to ensure his children learn the form).

donalfagan said...


Interesting that you say that. Last summer, at a family picnic, I met another one of my wife's cousins from Texas. She was the first IRL person I met who raved about Trump, and is not at all from the poor and struggling class. I suspect many Trump supporters are the ones who are used to being successfully middle class, but see success slipping away - either for themselves or for their children.

@Phil & Donald,

Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight is insisting Sanders can't win.

Bernie Sanders Is Even Less Competitive Than He Appears

Hubertus Hauger said...

This election is a nice example of several ways, which we are able to go. Follow a selfcenterd elite person, who concentrates on the establishment, or a salesman, who tell the aboriginals what they want to hear to keep their entitlements and a old fighter for justice, who inconsequentionally doesn´t adress the approaching collapse, o his proposal of spending will fall short. None will adresse the most pressing problems, because there are too many. They all gonna fail and we together with them. No saviour available.

Patricia Mathews said...

Boys and girls in the bubble quiz, Nortena/o version:

1) When I order huevos rancheros, I expect:
a) Whole black beans and brown rice, eggs sauteed in olive oil, served with a tiny dish of chopped green chile, no sauce. Melted gourmet cheese.
b) refried pinto beans, rice or potatoes, fried eggs covered with ranchero sauce, and generously topped with shredded lettuce and cut-up tomato. Grated cheddar or longhorn or Mexican cheese.

2) When I see a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I think:

a) How can I twist this into cutting-edge art?
b) How vulgar!
c) Mother of God.

3) If I speak Spanish, it's
a) From that nice trip to Spain - remember, dahling?
b) From a textbook.
c) In order to talk to the help.
d) From my neighbors and/or spouse and inlaws
e) From my family as a kid.

4) Do you have any relatives:
a) In rural villages?
b) In state and local government?
c) In the South Valley?
d) South of the border?
e) Excuse me?

5) In an emotional crisis I go to:
a) A New Age practitioner
b) A qualified professional psychiatrist
c) A priest or pastor
d) A curandera/o
e) My bartender

Okay, folks - regional variations cheerfully appreciated, y'all.

Grebulocities said...

I moderate an internet forum with lots of generally interesting political discussion, policed strictly to keep it devolving into the sorts of boring flamewars that characterize most of the internet. I like to watch the interactions of all the participants with their various political ideologies. My favorite poster is a guy who is definitely a leftist, but who primarily sticks up for poor rural people rather than for some race, gender, or sexuality based group. To use some Internetese, he's like a social justice warrior for rural people.

It's amazing to watch how seriously this disturbs the regular 'SJW' types. They'll start calling him things they won't even call the actual conservatives, because he dares to defend a group of people who are despised by the salary-class left and (ostensibly) supported by conservatives. Even the ones who are supposed to be Marxists and therefore see the world in class terms actually hate the poor who don't happen to fall into some other oppressed class, and nothing makes them angrier than having their own internal contradictions pointed out.

Of course then I have to clean up the flames and give people infractions and time-outs while dealing with their angry messages, which is annoying, but it's worth it just to watch hypocritical ideologues get "called out" on their own prejudices.

John Michael Greer said...

Ien, yes, we do seem to be hitting peak disenfranchisement right about the same time as the other peaks, don't we?

Steve, no doubt. Or he could be wearing one of those novelty hats that holds a beer can or two, with a long flexible tube descending to his lips. "You guys" -- yes, I've heard that. So we have American English splitting into several languages, in which the second person plurals six or seven centuries from now will respectively be "Yal," "Yuze," and "Yi'gaiz."

Ben, one of Clinton's difficulties is that she seems to be utterly oblivious of how she comes across to other people. It's a common bad habit of privileged elites on the way out.

William, thank you. I suspect you're quite correct about 2020.

Rhisiart Gwylim, diolch y fawr!

Patricia, I wonder what people in the Heian period thought about the future as the Japanese system of that time ground slowly and gracefully to a halt. Did they imagine the Sengoku jidai? I suspect not...

Unknown Eagle, depends very much on the farmer -- that label covers everything from landowners well integrated into the corporate system to family farms struggling to maintain some semblance of the old profit-class attitudes.

Mikep, that's just one of the interesting features of the current situation.

Fly, thanks for the link.

Bruno, as noted in an earlier post, probably not, because the resources that enabled FDR to do what he did got burnt a long time ago. Still, it's possible that Trump could become the catalyst for a series of transformations that might actually do some good.

Gigoachef, doesn't surprise me at all. Ugo and I read each other's columns pretty regularly.

YCS, it's crucial to know what the other side is thinking, especially when what they're thinking has no connection whatsoever to reality. Knowing the rules under which they operate makes it easy to run rings around them, since most people who believe in conventional macroeconomics seem incapable of recognizing that there's any other way to understand the world -- much less another way that makes much more sense.

Christine4, fascinating. "Youse" seems fairly widespread, then -- it's much spoken in New York City, for example.

Eric S. said...

Re: Patricia et al on the Bubble Quiz, what I found more telling than anyone there regarding the bubble the quizmaker themselves lives in, is the assumptions it made about people's classes. They all assume upward mobility, my result was that I was a first generation middle class child of working class parents, when in fact, I and many of my friends are just the opposite: first generation working class children of middle class or upper middle class parents, who are themselves no longer of the same class they were when we grew up. The idea of permanent downward class mobility just doesn't register. Which is fascinating.

Bill Pulliam said...

Interesting, the "Bubble Quiz" gave me a 54 which makes them think I am first generation middle class form working class roots. But actually I am first generation hillbilly from middle class roots. They don't seem to recognize the possibility of dowwnward mobility, only upward.

Personal current election forecast: Trump gets GOP nomination when party realizes Cruz is the only candidate with worse unfavorables than Trump, and chosing anyone other than one of those two would alienate all their base. Clinton gets Democratic nomination simply by superdelegate math regardless of which one has a tiny edge in pledged delegates by then. In general election, Trump's negatives prove to be bigger, and Clinton wins by a fairly substantial electoral margin with large and deeply polarized voter turnout. So four out of five consecutive presidents have been named Bush or Clinton, and the Bareorgeillary Obushinton Administration and policies continue for four more painful years.

And at the end of those 4 years, Scalia's Supreme Court seat has still not been filled, and there has been another vacancy, so the 7-member court has at least been able to avoid ties.

Bill Pulliam said...

Oh and a p.s., having had a non-white president and a non-male president, in the extremely contentious 2020 election season the race and gender of the candidates themselves are relatively little discussed. Race and gender issues in society as a whole, of course, remain as explosive as ever. A female president doesn't make us post-sexist anymore than a black president made us post-racist!

Shane W said...

I don't know how many other people from the South see it this way, but all I can think about is "turn about is fair play" regarding the deindustrialization of the South. You see, before those jobs were offshored, they first were moved South, starting in the mid-20th century. The South industrialized rapidly, and gloated over its old arch-nemesis, the industrial North--we offered "right to work (for less)", lower wages, lax regulation, tax incentives, and poached industry from the unionized, industrial North. Little did we suspect at the time that we were just a way station on the way to even lower wages, enforcement, and costs overseas. Now we're in the same boat the industrial North we gloated over was.
if Gramma & Grampa Boomer/Silent are expecting Papa & Mama Gen X to keep their Gen Z offspring in line and conforming to the system, they may have another thing coming. (Young 20 something college grads now more likely than not have Gen X parents) I'm sure a lot of Gen X parents remember how their angst and rage was turned inward during the grunge era, and how they were made out to be slackers, etc. One of the biggest touchtones for our era was a suicide, the suicide of Kurt Cobain. It was made clear to us in no uncertain terms that we were the smallest generation ever, and were to take a back seat to the most important generation to ever walk the face of the Earth. So our rage was turned inward. I'm sure that there are a few Gen X parents who would take vicarious pleasure in seeing their offspring torch the system that they felt powerless to do anything about, the same way some Boomer parents took vicarious pleasure in seeing their offspring join a garage band, go to a Dead concert, etc.

pygmycory said...

'You guys' gets used in Canada. It is usually used informally.

onething said...

"The point that they drive home in their conversation is that economic class is not the same thing as social class, and that social class is a thing that exists in America. While economic class is driven by how much money a person has, social class is based more on speech, beliefs, and behavior."

Which is why Sarah Palin, though rich, is still white trash. By the way, I decided to check in on them, and it turns out that sometime last year the entire family went to a party which turned to fighting and the police had to come break it up. And yes, the Palins were involved.

Speaking of whether Trump would change things for the better and if he even could, the Market Ticker guy says that much of the incredible price gouging in medicine is already illegal and that the president is already charged with upholding the law. He's speaking about lack of price transparency, monopolistic practices of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and overcharging when people are "in extremis" such as helicopter rides and perhaps ambulance rides. I find all that interesting. Because while it is becoming more and more obvious that we are abandoning the rule of law as a nation, these nefarious practices have been getting slowly worse for quite a few years.

And I have an idea for a grassroots way to fight at least one of these prongs - the lack of price transparency - the way that you can't find out what they plan to charge you for anything, whether at a clinic or hospital. A website should be set up with a big data base so that people could post what price they were just charged for something and where. Zip codes, towns, streets and names of institutions. When possible, they should black out personal information and take a picture of the bill. Armed with this information, people can begin negotiating. At first, the information is after the fact, but soon it will be obvious what a place has recently charged someone, and the customers can begin to bargain. If they won't tell a price, walk away. If they find out that they were charged double what the place across town charged, that goes public. I think that people are starting to get some clarity about how this scam works and the ignorance of the public has allowed these institutions to get away with it. Once people help one another to price shop, the game could change.

Max Osman said...

I'd like to present an arguement against your belief that immigrants are lowering wages.
It is tax cuts that are causing jobs to leave. Immigrants are just energy subsidies into our economy, just like the Gas sipping Chinese are used instead of the gas guzzling Americans.

If Trump gets elected them the country will be a black soot filled wasteland. We arbitrage environments with the Chinese and we import plastics that would take a huge amount of money to make and buy as subsidies.

There is no way to fix American Thermidor.

latheChuck said...

I was startled to hear an interview this morning on National Public Radio, coming from a community near Chicago, when the program host asked his audience "How many of you think that we need a political revolution? a huh, a huh, ... quite a few, I see."

Later, I was listening to a discussion of climate-fiction, and someone commented that authors like to use climate disaster, like nuclear disaster, as a way to reset society to a (simpler, dramatic, self-reliant) pioneer setting. My first thought was, "... but the original pioneers have already exploited and exhausted the easy resources that allowed them to be successful: shallow aquifers, fertile soil, timber (in some regions), wild game, rich ores... it won't be so easy (as if it was ever easy) next time."

mr_geronimo said...

Greetings and welcome back, mr Greer!
Things are spinning out of control everywhere in the western civilization. In Latin America the old political system that communist rebels from the sixties and plutocrats bent on pillaging whole countries built together is cracking everywhere. Here in Brazil there are a few dead bodies on the streets: yesterday two communist militiaman were killed by cops in an ambush. Last month many VIPs that knew too much died in suspicious circunstances: planes falling, larceny and falling from balconies. And the russians are bringing lots of guns and gunships to many places in Latin America while american plutocrats finance neoliberal agitators. At the same time a philosopher with new, strange and dangerous (to the regime and the wannabe neoliberal successors) is being read and discussed by the masses, in some ways similar to the Ayatollah during the prelude of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. At least the weather improved and the dams are full of water.

In Argentina the neoliberals are ruling and the people are getting poorer and poorer but It seems that things will improve since foreign investment is back once the bolivarians were gone from the power. And Venezuela looks like Somalia just before the breakdown. All it takes is a bullet on Maduro's chest and the country will blow up and become even worse.

And in Europe the sons of the goths and franks are on the receiving end of a classical barbarian migration. The ironies of destiny.

Toynbee also said that old faiths, the "souls" of societies absorbed by another don't really die but stay dormant, underground, mutating into something else, like what became the Islam gestating in the borders of the hellenic society until it matured with the prophet. And we see dead religions walking everywhere... the Santa Muerte, followers of Odin, neoplatonists and many others.

The 2nd great crisis has alredy begun, the flame rises and is quite hot in the colonies.

John Zelnicker said...

@NJGuy73 - Very interesting ideas. The federal government in reality does not need to collect FICA at all since it can and does create money whenever it pays its bills. However, fully open borders, it seems to me, can create other problems. I still haven't worked that out completely in my own thinking.

@nuku - Agreed. There is much evil that is related to power relations rather than money, such as you said, although power and money are closely related. The conversation you mentioned elicited a WTF!!! I'm Jewish and have never heard that. What a f---ing idiot.

@Mark - I just looked it up and it appears that the majority of translations use "root of all kinds of evil" or "root of all sorts of evil". However, the King James Bible says "the root of all evil". From Timothy 6:10.

@Nastarana - You are correct, I did not include those, but how do we lower fixed costs in the economy such as housing and transportation. Health care costs for the people can be reduced to nothing by instituting a Medicare-for-All plan, cradle to grave, everyone in, no one out, no co-pays, no deductibles, paid for by the federal government. This would eliminate the 35-40% that insurance companies add to the cost of health care. Pure economic rent.

The only way I know of to directly reduce those other fixed costs is through price controls and that creates more problems. If, however, we were to institute a Job Guarantee that offered a living wage to anyone who was able and willing to work, the increased demand would cause developers to build more housing and competition would keep a lid on unconscionable rent increases. Perhaps a bit of temporary rent control would be necessary while new construction caught up to demand.

Please explain how "we know perfectly well that immigration pushes up the costs of necessary amenities". Utilities such as water and electricity are regulated and if the regulators are honest (I know, many are not), rate increases are capped. I agree that rent seeking needs to be stopped. As Keynes said, we need to euthanize the rentiers.

I agree that the risk of a hot war is incredibly high right now due to the aggression of the American Empire and the increase in the placing of armaments near Russia's borders through NATO. No one would win. There is already some talk in some circles about using tactical nuclear weapons. There are no words to adequately describe how horrific and frightening this is.

John Michael Greer said...

Dylan, to my mind you're allowing the Roman model too large a space in your imagination. You might find it useful to try to find identical figures in the decline and fall of other civilizations...

Gregorach, I have a hard time believing that the people who came up with the current policies were enthusiastically planning to destroy the political and economic power of the US, and their own power and wealth with it. That's what those policies are doing, you know.

Bill, "Yinzer" has now been enthusiastically adopted as a self-description by people in Pittsburgh and environs, so the emergence of "yinz" on the national scene may not be too far off.

Goldmund, you may well be right.

Stu, thank you! It seems to be a general thing, and one that's found in most senile societies.

Barrymelius, I used it to catch up -- I was writing long hours all month.

ProvidenceMine, sure the liberals care for the poor and underprivileged. Who else is going to provide them with cheap daycare, undocumented and underpaid domestic servants, consumer goods produced at sweatshop wages, and all the other things that keep affluent liberals comfortable?

Donkey, er, and after those first few paragraphs, what does he say?

Bill, oh, granted.

Subduedcrew, exactly. I'll be talking about that next week.

Matt and Jess, exactly what Trump is likely to do if he gets elected is a very interesting question with no immediate answers. The one thing he has going for him is that the bar is so low. Current policies are having such a cascade of bad effects that almost anything else has a good shot at being a change for the better.

Paulo, the affluent end of the salary class doesn't want to know what life is like for the wage class. Try playing that song for one of them sometime and watch the sneering contempt and anger you get in response.

Tripp, thank you.

John Michael Greer said...

George, thank you.

Barry, good. If you have a television, consider going on a weeklong TV fast and watch how your brain clears. It's a remarkable experience.

Ekkar, nah, you've misinterpreted what I'm saying. Next week's post should clarify things a bit.

John, it's by no means as cleancut as that. A lot of guest workers have zero interest in going back to their countries of origin, you know.

Ceworthe, that's the one. A lot of affluent white liberals get very impressively freaked out about guns in the hands of the wage class.

Bill, of course pervasive poverty and the worst educational system in the industrial world has its effects! As you know well, though, "poorly educated" is not a synonyn for "stupid."

Kevin, Trump might actually benefit the wage class. At this point, all you'd have to do is get rid of certain policies that are making things worse, and things would get noticeably better.

Martin, Stockman is quite correct. Job numbers at this point are among the more egregious pieces of economic fiction churned out by the propagandists of government.

Eric, understood. Yes, I thought of that essay of mine more than once as the Trump campaign got under way.

Himanshu, he's already been cited.

Roger, yes, I'd heard about that from Canadian friends and correspondents. The same class bigotries exist all through the English-speaking world, and of course there are equivalents everywhere else.

Ien, thank you! Fortunately Spengler can be read in brief doses...

Aias, it seems to me that Toynbee's analysis can be applied fractally, with short cycles alternating creative and dominant minorities shaping the destinies of nations on a time scale of decades, with longer cycles rising up from there possibly to scales far larger than the ones Toynbee himself analyzed.

Helix, funny. "Hypergrifts" is a keeper.

jcummings said...


I've been digging into this question a little more, and found this completely non-scientific, but otherwise interesting article:

We are all basically recapitulating the author's salient points: true southerners vehemently deny any singular use, some singular use reported and the context, etc. As a lighthearted topic of conversation, it's worth a read.

@JMG - thanks for the props!

John Michael Greer said...

Donalfagan, I suspect that one of the parties will break apart and the other will end up being taken over by the insurgents. That's the way these things usually work out in American political history. My guess, since the GOP is more democratically run than the Dems, is that the GOP will end up being taken over completely by the people who are currently following Trump, becoming a populist conservative party, while the Dems will be abandoned by most younger voters and will shrivel and die while a new social-democrat party takes its place as the main party of the left. Still, we'll see.

Mister R., this entire blog, from the first post in May 2006 to now, is the working out of a single thought in all its implications, so a certain amount of repetition from time to time is unavoidable.

Robert, most interesting.

Jeffinwa, thank you. No play time worth noticing, unfortunately.

MickGspot, thank you!

111DFC, true enough. I've cited ibn Khaldun in a couple of posts here, for that matter.

Unknown, well, I was wondering about that. It interested me that within a week or so of my Trump post appearing, big name media types abruptly started talking about something that had been unmentionable, or at least unmentioned, until then.

Graeme and Sulla, thank you. I gather that "youse" is well ahead in the race for second person plural pronoun!

Patricia, okay, now you've rattled my worldview -- Brin and I actually agree on something. ;-)

Varun, of course. It's the aftermath of the election that's going to decide a lot.

Don, is the Tennessee legislature composed of members of the wage class? No, they're affluent salary class. You've fallen into the same trap I anatomized in my post, of believing that "Southern" and "wage class" are interchangeable terms, and until you get past that, you'll find no shortage of reasons to hate the wage class. I'll be talking about the very curious narrative behind that kind of thinking next week.

Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG - Brin's opinion of our senile elite is as low as your own, and has been for quite some time. It doesn't take a meteorologist to feel a north wind?

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