Economics, US Election

The White Death

“With my own eyes I have seen the countless diamonds stored in Solomon’s treasure chamber behind the white Death….” – H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines.

When I was a boy, I laboured under the delusion that so long as a man’s income remained the same, it mattered little whether he was on welfare or employed. The costs of globalization and mass immigration would be easily outstripped by the benefits; those workers displaced by these economic changes could be easily supported by welfare payments, and they would be, at the least, no worse off than before. In fact, due to the widespread availability of ever-cheaper luxury consumables, their lifestyles would be somewhat improved as a result.

Over time, I grew to appreciate the errors of my ways, and just in case I hadn’t, the events of the current year arrived to reinforce the point. Nevertheless, it appears as though many still don’t quite get it. How else to explain the persistence of this exasperating meme, most notably voiced by the odious Jimmy Carr?

 

 

The cynical attitude that anyone in fear of losing their job as a result of mass immigration must be a hopeless loser is endemic to upper middle-class culture. It functions as a signal of both in-group identity and virtue, usefully separating the speaker from the slavering mass of racist lumpen proles. The vicious logic of the meme is that low-skilled natives are fungible. In the mind of the Western executive they are of no more inherent worth than his cafetiere. Like the cafetiere, the native worker is efficiently replaced, if necessary, by a new model from Eastern Europe or Mexico.

Surrounded in a social bubble of the university-educated, the typical executive easily forgets that most people were not born with IQs at least one standard deviation above the mean. Given the high heritability of intelligence, personality, and educational achievement, it makes no more sense to blame the average marginally useful worker for his lack of workplace productivity than it does to blame the cystic fibrosis sufferer for his poor lung productivity. The one is barely more at fault than the other.

The White Death is a product, in part, of this meme. Midlife mortality amongst US whites has risen from the late 90s;  it has fallen for US Hispanics and blacks. This trend seems to be driven in large part by increases in alcohol and drug poisonings, and suicides amongst the white population. Since the turn of the millennium, the CDC reports a 137% increase in the rate of drug overdose deaths, including a 200% increase in deaths by opioid poisonings (including heroin and prescription painkillers).

The decreasing value of low/medium-skilled labour may partly underlie these trends. A number of recent papers demonstrate the causal link between mortality increases and labour market shocks such as rapidly increased Chinese competition. Faced with such shocks, workers whose jobs have been outsourced often do not relocate or upgrade their skillsets. They drop out of the labour force, subsist on disability benefits or low-paid temporary work, and kill themselves one way or another.

The heroin epidemic is starting to make itself felt politically, particularly in the Republican primaries. In New Hampshire, Donald Trump sought to capitalize on the issue by linking it to his signature policy of building a wall between the United States and Mexico, which he argues would make cheap heroin more difficult to acquire. Regardless of the practical merits of such a proposal, it should not be difficult to understand its emotional appeal. Statistical analyses indicate a positive relationship between county-level mortality and Trump’s percentage of the vote share in the primaries. In desperate times marked by encroaching fear, it should be no surprise that suffering voters flock to the comfort of a populist with authoritarian tendencies, especially one who so clearly lives a life of flagrant opulence derived from consistent success.

The White Death, however, is unlikely to be explained by economics alone. Such social cancers will not metastasize in communities with a healthy ritual ecology. As Sarah Perry discusses at Ribbonfarm, cultures can and do routinely evolve safety valves for the channelling and gentle release of humanity’s more chaotic impulses. These safety valves of complex community rituals, however, are rarely robust to rapid cultural churn. The breakdown of traditional family structure, the decline of faith and greater social isolation driven by both meritocracy and diversity all contribute. Men and women of low birth but high ability, who once would have served as local community leaders, are now hived off to higher education by increasingly efficient selection procedures, and merge seamlessly into traditionally affluent upper-middle class cultures.

I hypothesize also that the White Death sits on a throne of ethnic diversity. As Robert Putnam documented in Bowling Alone, a consequence of increased diversity is often decreased social trust and lowered participation in the exact same community social networks that constitute a healthy ritual ecology. Similar results have been subsequently found in European nations. White flight may accentuate the effect, as the whites most able to depart to a new enclave are precisely those most vital to the maintenance of the old community and its support structures.

No single factor can explain the White Death in isolation. Nor do I claim to have identified correctly all those that do. The phenomenon is one that has only just come to the attention of social scientists, and its causes will no doubt be the subject of much future research work. Nevertheless I make this plea to the elites of developed nations; turn not your eyes from the sick, the dying, and the desperate. Even if they vote for Donald Trump.

 

Andrew Sabisky is a researcher and writer. His work has featured in the International Business Times. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewSabisky

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Andrew Sabisky

Andrew Sabisky is a researcher and writer. His work has featured in the International Business Times.
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21 Comments

  1. Beautiful post. But I think you’re missing more stuff regarding this issue such as:

    1.Extremely high divorce rates (filed by women in most cases 90%)
    2.Income Stagnation.
    3.Alimony, child support payments (crooked family courts).
    4.Obesity due to bad eating habits.
    5.Unlimited amount of porn and video games
    6. Lack of mentorships (especially from fathers)
    7. Low testosterone levels.

    • Andrew Sabisky says

      a lot of that is plausible but sounds quite gendered, & the white death is a fairly gender-egalitarian killer, I believe. Income stagnation however is definitely something I probably should have mentioned.

      • I reckon that filing for divorce doesn’t make women better off (on average).

        Porn and video games decrease the quality of men and lower the demand for women.

        Lack of mentorship for boys and low testosterone levels decrease the quality of husbands.

        The causes of social decay might attack each sex from a different vector, but they decrease the happiness of both regardless. Turn men into lazy slime and it makes both men and women unhappy. Turn women into greedy slatterns and it harms both sexes as well.

        Life is gendered. We have to cut reality at the joints.

    • White men in the Western world suffer from the loss of a positive male identity. They struggle to make sense of the world around them and how they feel about it on the inside, living in a constant cognitive dissonance they aren’t able to solve for themselves.

      Being taught to suppress parts of their nature, their so called “toxic masculinity” their desire to dominate, to suppress their aggressivenes and thirt to measure themselves with other males, rather than being taught how to canalyze all of those into doing something useful for both themselves and the people around them, took it toll.

      The vast vast vast majority of men is living a plugged-in life, believing in all the utter bullshit they have been and are still fed day by day by what we call “society”.

      Being told that being nice and patient is all they need and that success in life is just a byproduct of luck and not of hard work, those who fall and struggle to get up, simply cannot imagine a positve and happy future for themselves, since what they have been told it takes in oder to succeed in life, didn’t work for them.

  2. duderino says

    The situation after college isn’t great even for talented kids from middle America. They have to move from low rent areas to high rent cities to work. Their wages aren’t keeping up with student loan and rent costs. Support from Mom and dad is far away.

    Also, the idea that 40+ workers would get re-trained for the new economy was unrealistic. STEM jobs are hard to train for when your in college. Parents with mortgages from a less technological generation? No chance.

  3. DZK says

    The rising death rates for middle-aged whites are concentrated in the South, the area where whites are most religious. The region with the lowest death rates? The Northeast, a bastion of white liberalism/secularism http://andrewgelman.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/ageadj.pdf

    And Kentucky/West Virginia are perhaps among the worst-afflicted areas, but they’re also the more homogenous states in the South. Your points about the decline of faith + bad effects of diversity have some merit probably, but important to note these other data points also.

    • Andrew Sabisky says

      yep, there’s a ton of detail that I just didn’t have the space for. I’ll do a follow-up post or several to discuss that stuff further & try to break it down properly. There’s also a growing urban/rural divergence in these death rates; rural areas increasingly have higher death rates, I believe. There’s lot to work through.

    • Yandoodan says

      “The rising death rates for middle-aged whites are concentrated in the South, the area where whites are most religious.”

      Causation? Or correlation?

      Working class Southerners have long been dependent on jobs in textiles, furniture, small manufacturing plants, and mining. Furniture and textile plants used to be freely scattered throughout small rural towns. These were decent paying jobs that required little education.

      They are gone now. How can they possibly be replaced with STEM jobs? These remote, rural towns have lousy internet connections. Even if the workers train for them, STEM employers couldn’t possibly set up shop there. The communications infrastructure doesn’t exit.

      An example: Fifteen years ago Burnsville NC had two textile mills, an outboard motor plant, a mattress plant, and two mines (gravel and quartz). Only the gravel mine survives. Today the main industry is selling nick-knacks to tourists. (Its tiny downtown, centered on a well-kept square, is really cute. Visit it when you’re in the area.) It has 3,000 people, horrible communication lines, and is on a dead-end of a four-lane US route. How can it possibly attract STEM employers?

      • DZK says

        I did not mean to imply that southern whites’ religiosity was driving their increasing mortality rates, but instead was illustrating that declining religious faith itself doesn’t appear to be a key factor in “the white death”. The main causes are probably economic, as you pointed out.

        • Yandoodan says

          True dat. Thanks for the clarification.

          I would like to point out that there is actually causation here. Having a deeper religious faith helps one cope with the uncertainty and fear of life on the low edge.

  4. LauraM says

    But what the dying whites don’t want is the usual progressive pablum of handouts, programs, services, more transfer programs. How about some respect. Of course, they need to respect themselves, which starts with reaffirming the dignity of marriage, work and self-reliance — whatever work is available and needs to be done in our changing economy. (If you’re gonna kick out the immigrants, someone has to step up and do it. That’s reality) The government can’t produce “good jobs.” Unfortunately, the elites have relentlessly dumped on the old fashioned work ethic for the unskilled (“exploitation”), and they delusionally believe the government CAN create good jobs, even while we regulate capitalism to death. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

    • You are completely wrong Laura, by far the biggest consumers of welfare and other social platforms are poor whites and mostly in the south. That is just fact and well known fact at that. The poor whites just don’t want poor people with brown skin to get anything.
      Amusing that you think we are regulating “capitalism” to death when we are by far the least regulated capitalist country. In fact this country is roe about welfare for the rich and corporations and pure dog eat dog capitalism for everyone else. Of course they are using everyones tax dollars for welfare for the rich and corporations.
      On the other hand the heavily socialist and highly regulated countries like Germany have booming economies.
      Enjoy your kool-aid.

      • Yandoodan says

        And another Bubble resident heard from. Do you have any appreciation at all of how all this sneering at poor people sounds?

  5. Yandoodan says

    What both the article and commenters on both sides miss is the overwhelming fear that working people live with. They are economically on the edge, highly vulnerable to changes in the global economy or the whims of their absentee employer. They know it, and live in fear and dread. They adapt to this in ways that people in the Bubble cannot comprehend, but never tire of ridiculing.

  6. The White Death is a product, in part, of this meme. Midlife mortality amongst US whites has risen from the late 90s; it has fallen for US Hispanics and blacks. This trend seems to be driven in large part by increases in alcohol and drug poisonings, and suicides amongst the white population.

    Is it? It’s my understanding that all causes of death were up among this age group.

    Midlife mortality amongst US whites has risen from the late 90s; it has fallen for US Hispanics and blacks. This trend seems to be driven in large part by increases in alcohol and drug poisonings, and suicides amongst the white population.

    Aside from the suspect nature of all such research, even if there is a real relationship, it may be driven by the most able workers fleeing economically depressed areas, leaving the less able (and inherently sicker) behind. In other words, differences between counties don’t tell much about the mechanism that’s going on with White Americans as a whole.

    In desperate times marked by encroaching fear, it should be no surprise that suffering voters flock to the comfort of a populist with authoritarian tendencies

    Perhaps. Or those areas are lower IQ and more Scots-Irish (and other groups friendly to Trump) and that drives the relationship:

    The Donald Trump Phenomenon: Part 1: The American Nations – The Unz Review

    It’s entirely possible that “The White Death” is an example of medicine being a victim of its own success. Perhaps people who would have died in their 20s and younger now live to middle age, and die then.

  7. Bob says

    …and https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/05/26/when-the-legend-becomes-fact-print-the-legend/

    “It turned out, though, that (a) the trends in death rates among men was much different than women, and, in fact, (b) after adjusting for age composition (the “middle-aged” category in the United States has had an increase in average age during the past two decades as the baby-boom generation has moved through), the death rate among middle-aged white men has actually decreased during the past few years.

    The comparison with other ethnic groups and other countries still seems strong — Case and Deaton’s main findings hold up — but it’s just wrong to report that middle-aged white men are dying off. No matter how you slice it, it’s white women who are having the problem.”

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