A Letter from Germany
Dealing with the Dignity Deficit

Are the grievances tearing our societies apart at this hyper-polarized moment insurmountable? A week with some AfD voters and politicians gave me a measure of hope.

Published on: April 5, 2018
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  • Micah718

    So having a large intrusive State that strips citizens of rights is not the answer to all things? Quick. Somebody tell Comrade Friendly Goat. it will BLOW his mind.

  • Gary Hemminger

    Yes this is a good essay. As a person who has traveled extensively, deals positively with immigrants on a daily basis, and generally believes the liberal script, it has been appalling to me to hear the elites talk about the racism of those that want some border controls, who think that identity politics and political correctness are not positive, and who believe blue collar, energy intensive jobs are not cancers on the environment. I am getting really sick of these progressives who think they are the morally righteous and anyone that doesn’t subscribe to their exact political thoughts is a xenophobe. These elites and their my way or you are a backward rube are the real dangers to our society. It appears to me, as well, that many of them are outright marxists whose main goal in supporting basic incomes and redistributive policies are for the aim of making sure their own personal cooks, cleaners, and gardeners are paid a living wage by everyone else to work on their mansions. It is an absolute travesty that the most progressive states and cities are the ones that are the most economically unequal.

  • WigWag

    “ It appears that even the world’s most practiced technocrats have little idea how to ensure equitable and broad-based growth in the 21st century” (Damir Marusic)

    That’s not it al all, Damir; that’s not it at all. Those “practiced technocrats” might or might not have good ideas to ensure equitable broad-based growth, but whether they have workable ideas is not the point. The real problem is that those practiced technocrats have little interest in economic growth that benefits all sectors of society. It’s their own financial growth that they’re interested in and their personal prospects are enticed not one whit by facilitating programs that help the downtrodden working class. Their personal success depends exclusively on enforcing the nostrums of the ruling elite of which they are junior but full-fledged members.

    If you want to be frank, Damir, you will admit that as often as not, those practiced technocrats have nothing but contempt for the values, opinions and prospects of the working stiffs they are employed to assist.

    Real solutions to the problems of workers in Germany, the United States and else where are not hard to identify, but because of elite hostility those solutions are difficult to impossible to implement. Limiting immigration for low-skilled workers and encouraging it for high skilled workers is an obvious solution. Tariffs on imported merchandise is another. Disbursing the government bureaucracy away from the center and bringing those jobs to the periphery is just one more (why not move the Department of Health and Human Services to West Virginia and the Pentagon to upstate New York or western Pennsylvania?)

    Your analysis is weakened by your insistence of averting your eyes from reality. Those practiced technocrats couldn’t care less about broad-based economic growth. What the care about is the prosperity of their class, and for them and their cohort, everything is just fine.

    Like the rest of their class, those technocrats aren’t just clueless, they’re self interested and they are venal.

    • @disqus_ivChwng3UC:disqus I don’t think I ultimately disagree with the substance of your analysis. I’m just approaching it from a slightly different angle.

      • D4x

        Damir: Perhaps you need a different angle, one that does not start with post–industrialization. Germany is still a manufacturing powerhouse. Why did you not delve into why Bischofswerda’s centuries-old textile industry ended in 2012?

        Or – next trip to Kannapolis, NC, where you can study the forces that destroyed Cannon Mills, once the manufacturer of the best towels Made in the USA. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannon_Mills The NOT-creative-at-all destruction started with the 1992 narrative of a post-industrialist America, whose future was with Robert Reich’s symbolic-analysts. That narrative accelerated the monetization of industrial assets that started in1978. If Cannon Mills had not been sold and re-sold by 1997 for too much, perhaps they could have survived Wal-Mart’s 1990’s ‘driving down costs’ narrative that offshored so much non-durable goods manufacturing. Offshoring manufacturing was core to the post-industrialization narrative. The Cannon brand name is currently owned by the ultimate post-industrialist: http://www.iconixbrand.com/investors/overview/ licensing the name to make towels somewhere, probably Turkey, with cotton grown in the USA because those Federal subsidies never die. Turkey is considering retaliatory tariffs on their imported cotton, not realizing that Egypt and India are unlikely alternative sources for raw cotton, because they vertically integrate, just like the USA used to do.

        You can still speak directly with ” “somewheres” […IN] their community, prioritizing the bonds of citizenship, and against elites who were poor stewards of the national interest. (some DID call them “deplorables”) ” Kannapolis is in Cabarrus County, NC, and here are their election results for Nov. 8, 2016: https://er.ncsbe.gov/?election_dt=11/08/2016&county_id=13&office=ALL&contest=0 Kannapolis is a suburb of Charlotte, straight 15 to 20-mile shot on I-85 to the center of what passes for cosmopolitan in most of America.

        If you do visit Kannapolis, try to sound less theoretical. NC has really good K-12, still taking Thomas Jefferson seriously:

        Extract from Thomas Jefferson’s “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge”

        “experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes … whence it becomes expedient for promoting the publick happiness that those persons, whom nature hath endowed with genius and virtue, should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens, and that they should be called to that charge without regard to wealth, birth or other accidental condition or circumstance ” Printed text (Dixon & Holt, 1784); http://tjrs.monticello.org/letter/58

        Quotation: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
        Status: This quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson.
        https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/educated-citizenry-vital-requisite-our-survival-free-people-spurious-quotation

  • Che Guevara

    The economic and demographic collapse of mid-size cities in Eastern Europe is a human catastrophe. The young people have left, while the older unemployed have nowhere to go and are forced to survive on meager pensions and benefits.
    I know the scale of this human catastrophe because I’m from a mid-size industrial city in Poland (but I’ve been living in the U.S. for many decades now). After the fall of communism most of the industry went bankrupt, and people in their 40s and 50s were left unemployed with no prospect of finding any jobs compared to what they lost. They were condemned to either surviving on meager unemployment benefits, or to search for menial physical labor abroad.
    The post-communist reformers promised that the pain of the economic shock therapy would be rewarded by an economic rejuvenation similar to the wirtschaftswunder economic miracle in Germany after WWII, but that never came. Instead, most of Poland outside the big cities has been condemned to an irreversible decline, because the savage privatizations and bankruptcies destroyed human capital, which is impossible to rebuild with low birth rates and with young working-age people emigrating en-masse.
    Add to that now the immigration of MENA migrants, which is adding insult to injury. The only wonder is that there hasn’t been a full-scale revolution against the ruling classes.

  • Anthony

    To use the line from “The Music Man” – you gotta know the territory!

    Thanks, Damir, for both the descriptive essay and the recognized comparative empathy for deindustrializing communities. Indeed, not populism but reconciling gemeinshaft traditions and current gesselschaft society (somewheres/everywheres) is my takeaway from your emotive essay. Getting there remains artful work but keep at it.

  • “moral self-congratulation” on the part of liberals who have succeeded in imposing the madness of mass immigration & DIVERSITY on western societies will prove hollow indeed, to the extend that western civilisation is on course to collapse into the hollow space created within its core.

    What well-intentioned liberals fail to recognise is that DIVERSITY is a modern, secular incarnation of the West’s age-old strategy of divide and rule (largely subconscious or obsured by Orwellian doublethink), whereby society is divided into a morally superior, now supposedly non-tribal, unprejudiced, “colour-blind” and xenophilic elite, on the one hand, and the morally inferior, naturally (evolved human nature being what it is) tribal, prejudiced, not colour-blind, but nativist and xenophobically-inclined masses, on the other, who must submit to the authority of and domination by their “moral superiors” (a moral animal like ourselves can be manipulated and controlled by a regime of moral rewards & intimidation as well as by one of material/physical rewards & intimidation).

    It is, in effect, a modern, secular replacement for the power-political role of medieval church ideology. Original sin (disobedience of divine, i.e. priestly/state authority) has been replaced by “racial prejudice” (the natural human inclination – like original sin – to identity with members of one’s own tribe, race or ethnic group, which was made responsible (wrongly) for the Holocaust and equated with the evils of Nazi racism), and which only submission to priestly/academic/state ideology and authority can save us from eternal damnation for, not as heathens and heretics, as in the past, but as bigots, xenophobes, nativists or racists.

    State and society conflate and confound very different aspects of the original tribal environment in which human nature evolved, long before the first states and civilisations emerged from it, with the modern “nation state” now deceitfully posing as our tribe or nation (intra- and inter-tribal environment) itself, while at the same time facilitating society’s SELF-exploitation (as an extra-tribal environment, on a par with the natural environment) to the personal advantage of its ruling elites and favoured (especially wealthy and academic/formerly priestly) clients, at the expense of society at large.

  • hecate9

    There is a lot of the usual name-calling, question-begging, tribalism, and resentment in many of these comments, but those of Che and Anthony are thoughtful and thought-provoking. In the spirit of their comments, I ask two related questions:
    1. Is globalism essentially a political project (presumably instigated by nefarious ‘cultural elites’ and engineered by their technocratic henchmen) or is it rather an economic phenomenon driven by the combination of market capitalism and a technology-driven shrinking world? If it is a mostly economic phenomenon that has doomed places like Lublin and Blackpool and Sandusky, can this global process really be reversed by political means? Are there successful examples in history of political reversal of broad economic forces? What critique, if any, would, say, a libertarian economist have of political efforts to reverse the tide of globalization?
    2. Is large-scale migration always something to be feared? “Uncontrolled migration”-if it truly exists -may or may not change society in an unfavorable way (that would depend on one’s point of view)- but it clearly might have consequences: economic, cultural, and political. Borders historically arose as a consequence of inter-nation rivalry and military projection of power, but are increasingly called upon to mitigate and control the effects of migration and to secure populations from potential violence by foreign non-state actors (terrorists). But to many of us, the outsized attention given to Latino immigration to the US-legal or illegal-seems to be a search for a solution to something that isn’t really a problem. The US- with its 325 million people -is unlikely to be changed in a significant way by 11 million undocumented workers (a number which is actually going down). Latino immigrants are relatively easily “integrated” culturally into the US as no religious differences exist. In Europe, however, the Muslim share of the population is expected to be about 15% by 2050-even with NO migration- and there and likely will remain significant differences of religion, language, and world- view between at least a significant chunk of the Muslim community and either the liberal/secular Europe of France or the traditional/Catholic Europe of Hungary and Poland.
    Can we take a more nuanced view of large-scale migration? Can we admit that its effects vary locally? Or must we be alarmed by it on principle?
    I don’t claim to have the answer to either of these questions.

    • Jim__L

      ” Is large-scale migration always something to be feared?”

      If the migrants are moving into your labor pool and driving down wages, then yes, absolutely. It can severely disrupt both inter-class equality (by severely cutting the costs that those with high amounts of disposable income would transfer to locals for goods and services) and thus intergenerational wealth-building in the center of the economic ladder, by removing any chance the semi-skilled workers would otherwise have, of joining the Middle Class.

      ” Is globalism … a mostly economic phenomenon that has doomed places like Lublin and Blackpool and Sandusky”

      If so, these places will rise again as the rising tide of the global economy lifts most of the rest of humanity out of poverty, curtailing (driving to zero) the marginal value of offshoring, increasing the consumption of the formerly impoverished, and equalizing living standards worldwide while boosting US exports.

      In the meantime — The sheer, senseless destruction through neglect of American human and physical capital, the cruel disruption of tens of millions of lives (and of culture) through a sustained downturn in fortunes, the beggaring of a generation and a half at least, is a crisis that “nefarious cultural elites” are simply ignoring because they’re benefiting from it as members of the equity (and governing) class.

      Go read WigWag’s post. He’s got it spot on.

      Our elites have failed to come up with a stopgap solution to the problem, and in fact are aiding and abetting the Globalist aspect of the problem just as fast as you can say “offshore”, and then worse, multiplying the impact of the Globalist job-loss aspect of the problem by failing to address (aiding and abetting!) the Migration wage-eroding aspect of the problem.

      The election of someone like Trump — someone who can cast himself as a populist outsider — was INEVITABLE given the seemingly unbridgeable difference in interest between the majority of the voting public, and the utterly self-centered elites of this country.

      People are looking to outsiders to mitigate the impact of Migration. Curtailing Migration at the low end would make a huge amount of sense, unless you’re counting on immigrants as your voting base. (Only Republicans, only a party NOT obsessed with Identity Politics, is equipped to solve this problem.)

      People are looking to outsiders to mitigate the impact of Globalization. Other countries in the world, particularly China, have gotten enough of a start that domestic consumption can sustain their growth instead of exports. The rising tide and equalization of global living standards is probably unstoppable at this point. So, we need to get new elites, who aren’t interested in offshoring everything anymore, not least because the marginal value of offshoring is inexorably falling.

      The Identity Politics Candidate, Hillary Clinton, consciously decided to ignore the Globalization aspect of the problem, which the Democrats really should have owned. If the Democrats want to win, they could do so by pushing for international unions to be truly International in scope, driving wages and living standards up worldwide.

      Best-case scenario — the 2018 and 2020 elections become a contest between the Republicans, who are going to improve your life by reducing wage erosion through immigrant competition; and Democrats, who are going to improve your life by bringing jobs back to the US by destroying the rationale for offshoring, as workers worldwide get a better life. Heck, it may not even be a competition! It could be cooperative!

      EVERY PART OF THIS requires a revolution in the way our upper-middle and upper classes approach these problems. Ditch Identity Politics. Curtail immigration. Encourage unionization, especially overseas. Deprecate offshoring.

      Each party has winning issues here. They just have to embrace them, even if it means their own personal (or political) fortunes don’t grow as fast.

      • hecate9

        WigWag’s post is all about nefarious elites. He seems to think that the solution to “..the beggaring of a generation” as you put it is limiting immigration for low-skilled workers, selective tariffs, and the dispersal of federal government jobs (“DHS…the Pentagon…The Justice Dept.”) to WVA, western Pennsylvania and Youngstown. This is what you believe is “spot on”?. Really?
        Does anyone out there in TAI -land believe (as I do) that that would just be pissing into the wind? Does anyone out there doubt the proposition that a bunch of immigrants put coal miners in WVA out of work? These are vast, inexorable, GLOBAL economic and technologic trends that no “elites” are capable of controlling, much less instigating. Are there any libertarians left at TAI?
        The answer, I think, is not in trying to reverse history. The answer is in getting “ahead of the curve.”

        • Jim__L

          You should probably have read the rest of my post, the part where I talk about the overall global trends equalizing prosperity across the globe.

          The fact is that in fifty years or so, other countries will have American standards of living — their lives will get better. The real solution that we need is one where their climb does not tear us downward, but instead holds our standard of living stable until they catch up to it.

          If the elites are instead simply going for the main chance and surfing that curve, lining their own pockets, the rest of us are going to cashier them and find new elites.

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