09 February 2012

Even if The Dude bowls with Hank Rearden everyday he'll never be a Morlock

NY Times: Opinion | David Brooks | The Great Divorce

I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

If we could jam the tribes together, we’d have a better elite and a better mass.
(1) I was involved in a scheme like this as a child. I, along with the other students at the magnet program I attended, were bused into the shittiest part of the county.*The same county in which Brooks lives, I might add. The ostensive objective was to do exactly what Brooks describes: let our good habits rub off on the disadvantaged. (The cynical objective was to juke the stats by raising the average test scores of a poor, minority school.)

It didn't work at all. In my estimation, it backfired completely. No one from genpop wanted to be mistaken for one of us nerds, so they were extra careful not to put in effort, turn in assignments, show up, participate, etc. The few bright students in the general population were mocked for wanting to actually learn like all the magnet maggot kids.

(2) All the same objections I raised back in 2008 about compulsory volunteering still hold (e.g. one, two, three, four). Forced labor, even for the "common good" is still slavery. It's ripe for corruption, giving favored groups and causes access to free labor and well-connected "volunteers" opportunities to shirk. The government already controls enough of my economic output so I don't need them controlling my time as well. It's ageist: no one ever suggests we require service from retirees as a condition of SS/Medicare. Do I need to go on?

(3) Institutions matter. If you take average people and put them in situations with dysfunctional institutions and bad incentives you'll get dysfunctional workers. The DMV will still be the DMV when the zero-marginal-product epsilon moron who works there gets done rubbing elbows with some Vickies. The union contract will still be there; the rock-solid, untethered-to-results budget will still be there; the state-enforced, police-backed monopoly will still be there. None of the incentives exist for that DMV worker to be productive, but because she spent the summer raking trails in the park with a go-getter she's suddenly going to turn into an "achiever"?

(4) Let me get this straight. Brooks' plan is to take the most productive members of society, the ones with the habits and outlooks and decisions who make them the most successful, and remove them from the workforce for a couple of years? Does that not strike you as the goddamned opposite of what they ought to be doing? Instead of designing chemical plants and writing software he wants to force these people to babysit ostensible adults who haven't gotten their own shit together and need a culture transplant?

(via Brian Dunbar)

1 comment:

  1. The Dude: Hey, cool it Walter.
    Walter Sobchak: No, without a hostage, there is no ransom. That's what ransom is. Those are the f@cking rules.
    Nihilist #2: His girlfriend gave up her toe!
    Nihilist #3: She though we'd be getting million dollars!
    Nihilist #2: Iss not fair!

    Great movie.

    Slavery is the unacknowledged goal of Brooks and his ilk; they are happy only when they have (and exercise) the power to tell you what to do and where to do it.

    It's the only way they know how to make something of value. They cannot actually create anything useful on their own so they force other people to create things while following 'laws' they make (which they think they're entitled to break at whim).

    They tell themselves what was created is really their work (the actual creators had to follow their rules, right?) and it's only fair they get the $20 mil gov't contract for their son or take that trip to Paris on their expense account.