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Blame Modern Life for Political Strife

It’s hard to argue against the comforts of modernity. Avocado toast, fiber optics, Roombas. What’s not to love? Technological innovation and trade liberalization have yielded prosperity and stability. Poverty, infant mortality, and global hunger have fallen. Human development, life expectancy, and food production have risen. Compared to our ancestors, we’re the glitterati.

But there are always tradeoffs. While urbanization and personal accumulation have enriched the West, they have also produced a culture of narcissism and illusion of time scarcity. This self-preoccupation and feeling of lost leisure time has reduced our participation in civic organizations. We’re engaging less with one another. And as a consequence, societal trust has dissipated. This has inhibited the development of common interests and shared identities, prompting a return to an archaic tribalism which prioritizes salient features over ideological values.

You People are All the Same

Imagine you were speaking to someone you’ve never met. Both of you are separated by a dark curtain to conceal appearances and voices have been distorted to obscure genders. The first and only thing they mention is that they’re a Republican. What might this person look like? Chances are you weren’t picturing someone black, female, gay, or non-religious. What if they said Democrat? Did you picture a white Christian male? Not likely, we’d wager. Out of many possible combinations, you have intuitive ideas about who sides with what party.

Here’s the secret about modern political tribalism: it has little to with policy or ideology. In fact, research suggests that political identities are weak predictors of policy preferences with Americans routinely overestimating the policy preferences of Republicans and Democrats.

In reality, modern political tribalism appears to be a vehicle for more conventional forms of tribalism. It is driven by differences of race, religion, geography, gender, and class, but is conveniently housed within the confines of a political contest. The reason for this is that our social identities have coalesced, aligning with our political identities. Put differently, our political preferences are becoming strong indicators of our race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender.

What’s more, the American electorate has separated into two increasingly homogenous political tribes. As Lilliana Mason points out in Uncivil Agreement, “partisanship can now be thought of as a mega-identity.” The Republican mega-identity is religious, middle-class, rural, and white. The Democrat mega-identity is secular, working class, urban, non-white, and gay. But perceptions about group homogeneity can clash with reality.

Take a recent study where researchers asked Americans to estimate the size of groups in each party. Respondents believed 31.7% of Democrats were members of the LGBT community. The actual number: 6.3%. As for Republicans, they believed that 38.2% earned over $250,000 per year. The actual number: 2.2%. Both parties have warped views of the other.

Part of this can be explained by the out-group homogeneity effect. Simply put, we tend to believe that members of our own groups are unique, while those in unfamiliar groups are the same. For the out-group, we generalize, we stereotype, and we denigrate. For our in-group, we pay special attention to each member’s unique attributes, mental states, and contradictions. One study found that participants assigned fewer mental attributes to “a group of people” relative to “people in a group.” When we focus on group membership, we are more likely to strip people of their capacity to think and feel. By painting an out-group with a broad brush, we reduce our burden of having to think of people as individuals. We default to our biases.

Perceptions, false or otherwise, have an insidious habit of determining reality. In this case, Americans are convinced that they are locked in a political grudge match against a homogeneous tribe of outsiders.

As a result, Republicans and Democrats are increasingly unwilling to get married, be friends, or live beside one another. In 1960, only 5% of Republicans and 4% of Democrats disapproved of their child marrying outside their party. In 2014, 30% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats disapproved of inter-party marriage. Compare this to interracial marriage, a former taboo. According to Gallup, 87% of Americans now favor interracial marriage, up from 4% in 1958.

Along the same lines, 63% of Republicans and 49% of Democrats report being friends primarily with those sharing their political views. Another nationally representative study found that 20% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans believe that their country would be better off if large numbers of people in the other party died. We’ve traded one prejudice for another.

Part of these changes is due to the reduction of “cross-cutting cleavages.” These are shared identities that are present in one social group but also in others. For example, rival fan bases will support their hometown team, but will also unite to support their nation’s Olympic team.

Mutual social ties provide a sort of common ground from which political rivals can collaborate.

Political scientists have long held that the effects of partisanship are dampened by cross-cutting cleavages. Mutual social ties provide a sort of common ground from which political rivals can collaborate. A wealthy Republican can find common ground with a working-class Democrat if they both attend the same church.

But the sorting of American social groups into two political tribes has reduced our cross-cutting ties. When we identify most with our political parties, our shared identities fade into the background. Under these conditions, communication collapses, trust dissipates, and hostilities intensify.

The Busy and the Boastful

Modern society can be cold, contained, and isolating. Industry and urbanization, while pivotal to our species’ success, altered human relations. Emphasis on personal accumulation has encouraged individual decision-making, weakening the role and relevance of our tribes in everyday affairs. This shift in human relations had two major effects; it (1) it transformed our adaptive values and (2) it distorted our perception of time. Tribal connectivity began to erode.

The transition from rural to urban, as psychologist Patricia Greenfield suggests, transformed the adaptive values of Western culture. Using Google’s Ngram Viewer to measure word usage in American and English literature between 1800 and 2000, Greenfield observed increases in words like “get,” “ego,” and “self,” and decreases in words like “give,” “obedience,” and “belong.” The individual had triumphed over faith, family, and community. Still, the problem isn’t individualism so much as it is a pathological preoccupation with the self.

Measures of narcissism have increased substantially over the past two generations

As social psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell explain in The Narcissism Epidemic, American culture has, for the past 50 years, experienced a shift towards narcissism.

In data from 37,000 college students, narcissistic personality traits rose just as fast as obesity from the 1980’s to the present. “By 2006, two-thirds of college students scored above the scale’s original 1979–85 sample average, a 30% increase in only two decades.” In fact, one study found a statistically significant trend toward narcissism in music, with researchers observing the gradual replacement of the words “we” and “us” with “I” and “me”.

Economic development and cultural environment are intertwined; with the former often determining the latter’s orientation towards individualism or collectivism. And this influences personality traits. America’s move towards narcissism began in the late 1960s with the college Boomers, but accelerated under the economic opulence of the 1980s. During this period, almost every trait related to narcissism increased. Of course, the consequences of extreme collectivism are appalling. But an extreme emphasis on self-satisfaction can also be damaging to a culture. Narcissism may come to resemble a social value.

Then there’s modernity’s effect on leisure time. While John Maynard Keynes’s prediction of a 15-hour work week has not materialized, he was on the right track. Leisure times have increased. In fact, we’re working less than we did in the 1960s and considerably less than we did under an agrarian economy. Men work 12 hours fewer each week compared to 40 years ago. And while women’s paid work has increased, their time spent on housework and childcare has declined by 35 percent.

But here’s the weird part: we don’t actually think we’re working less. According to Gallup, 28 percent of Americans feel they don’t have enough time to finish what they need to. A similar study of 2000 workers in Britain revealed that 70 percent of respondents felt that their lives were “too busy.” Our perception of time has been distorted. But why?

As economies grow and incomes rise, time becomes more valuable. Individualistic cultures, which prize accumulation over affiliation, cultivate this time-is-money mindset. We want to make every moment count. And as The Economist points out, “when people see their time in terms of money, they often grow stingy with the former to maximize the latter.”

In an experiment by management scholars Sanford DeVoe and Julian House, two groups were asked to listen to the first 86 seconds of “The Flower Duet”. However, one group was asked to think about their hourly wage while they listened. This group was more impatient and less relaxed than the group that wasn’t thinking about money. As Dr. DeVoe maintains, “they wanted to get to the end of the experiment to do something that was more profitable.”

While economic progress has improved our standard of living, it has also created an illusion of time scarcity. Labor economist Daniel Hamermesh refers to this as the “yuppie kvetch” — a phenomenon where the cash-rich feel time-poor.

Then there are the ways new technology is changing us. According to psychologist Aoife McLoughlin, constant interaction with technology has disrupted the natural pacemaker within us. “Those who were always online or on their computers or smartphones overestimated the amount of time that had passed compared to those who rarely used technology.” To make matters worse, 60 percent of those who use smartphones are connected to work for 13.5 hours each day. We’re more dialed in, but less aware of the passage of time.

Under the forces of narcissism and perceived time-scarcity, our social connections falter. We’re too busy and too self-important to tend to others. For journalist and documentarian Sebastian Junger, the mechanism is simple: the poor are forced to share their time and resources and the rich are not. The challenges of poverty demand cooperation and interdependence. For the affluent, though, a shared struggle does not exist. Financial independence is freedom from the tribe.

But without a tribe we run the risk of social isolation and a loss of self. As sociobiologist E. O. Wilson writes, “to be kept in solitude is to be kept in pain…a person’s membership in his group—his tribe—is a large part of his identity.”

Sociobiologist E. O. Wilson writes, “to be kept in solitude is to be kept in pain…”

According to a Cigna survey of more than 20,000 Americans, 54 percent of respondents sometimes or always felt that no one knew them well. In fact, 56 percent felt that those around them were not “necessarily with them.” In Britain, the statistics tell a similar tale. In 2018, the Red Cross declared loneliness a “hidden epidemic” with over 9 million Britons reporting that they often or always felt lonely. The severity of social isolation is such that Britain has appointed a “Minister of Loneliness”. Modern life, rewarding as it is, has impaired our social connections.

The Strange Death of Social Capital

In Bowling Alone, political scientist Robert Putnam suggests that voluntary organizations have, for the past 50 years, experienced a precipitous decline in membership. And it wasn’t that old members were dropping out. Rather, younger members were choosing not to join.

In 1975, American men and women attended 12 club meetings a year. By 1999, it dropped to five. In terms of hours per month, the average American’s investment in organizational life had fallen from 3.7 hours per month in 1965 to 2.3 in 1995. This trend accelerated after 1985 as active involvement in community organizations fell by 45 percent. By this measure, nearly half of America’s civic infrastructure was obliterated in a decade.

According to Putnam, this decline in civil engagement created a laceration in American social life. Social capital had collapsed.

“Social capital refers to connections among individuals—social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.” Broadly, social capital is a civic virtue based on a general trust in others. Good will, sympathy, fellowship; these are the properties of social capital.

For Putnam, community organizations generate social capital. They connect individuals and create trust. In this regard, civic institutions foment a healthy tribalism based on voluntary association. Membership is contingent not on physical features but on personal interests. But perhaps most importantly, civic institutions create cross-cutting cleavages. Members of formerly adversarial social groups can join together if both are members of the same voluntary association.

Moreover, Putnam contends that the decline in social capital can be explained by four possible factors: the pressures of time and money, suburbanization and commuting, electronic entertainment, and generational turnover. While each explanation is unique, they share a common feature: all are products of modernity.

Putnam’s explanations are related to the two we’ve proposed. The pressures of time and money, suburbanization and commuting, and electronic entertainment are tied to the economic developments which have distorted our perception of time. And generational turnover means values have changed. Younger people are more focused on themselves and less focused on civic institutions.

We think ourselves too busy or too important to attend religious services, volunteer, or participate in community organizations. As a result, cross-cutting cleavages have evaporated. Without civic engagement, shared identities and common interests atrophy or fail to develop. We lose track of unifying elements.

And indeed, there has been a sharp decline in various forms of informal social engagement over the past 50 years. According to Putnam, visiting with friends, meals with family, and get-togethers at bars and nightclubs have decreased by 35 percent, 43 percent, and 45 percent, respectively. In fact, we’re growing increasingly unfamiliar with those around us. According to Pew Research, 57 percent of Americans knew some or none of their neighbors by name.

Under these conditions, trust dissipates. We default to our biases when dealing with unfamiliar people, treating them with skepticism and sometimes malice. A 2013 poll by the Associated Press revealed that only 1 in 3 Americans would agree that “most people can be trusted.” Furthermore, sociologist Josh Morgan found that “the percentage of all respondents who said that most people can be trusted dropped from about 46 percent in 1972 to about 32 percent in 2012.”

For people to coexist, trust is required. And cross-cutting cleavages are essential for this. Without them, we will seek out other measures of trust. Archaic forms of tribalism may emerge.

Tribal Relapse 

A reduction in civil engagement doesn’t just diminish tribal connectivity. It redirects it. Tribalism is inevitable. And the collapse of social capital provokes a scramble to compensate and direct our social energy elsewhere.

Trust and association go hand in hand. We associate with those we trust. And we trust those we associate with. But in the absence of civic organizations, we develop different means of conferring trust upon the unfamiliar.

Without voluntary associations, we tend to reduce unfamiliar individuals down to a set of salient features. When we don’t have the time or interest to get to know one another, we resort to cheap and easy methods of identification. We default to our biases about race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. The calculus for this method is simple yet disturbing: “I trust this person because they look or think like me.”

And as is often the case, we choose to live beside those who look and think like us. Consider Americans’ geographical realignment following the collapse of social capital. According to political scientists Andrew Garner and Harvey Palmer, American residential neighborhoods became increasingly balkanized by “political attitudes as well as . . . race, education, and income.”

This drive to be amongst one’s “own people” is supported the scientific literature. Research shows that we automatically encode three features when we meet someone for the first time: age, sex, and race. The first two make evolutionary sense. Our ancestors distinguished between old and young, and male and female for the purposes of status, reproduction, and kinship. But race is different. Our ancestors traveled by foot, and almost never encountered another tribe whose “race” differed from theirs.

Nevertheless, Robert Kurzban and his colleagues suggest that race is only important insofar as it signals group membership. We typically use visual cues to determine who is from what tribe. In foraging societies, this might include hairstyles, piercings, and other adornments. As race is a salient feature, it signals tribal affiliations similar to how sports jerseys separate rival fan bases.

Or consider psychologist David Kelly’s work on in-group recognition among three-month olds. As Paul Bloom writes, sharing Kelly’s findings, “Ethiopian babies prefer to look at Ethiopian faces rather than Caucasian faces; Chinese babies prefer to look at Chinese faces rather than Caucasian or African faces.” At an early age, then, we attribute value to familiarity. We have an ingrained preference for what we easily recognize.

Eliminating the Out-group

The Republican and Democratic mega-identities are a consequence of our return to an archaic tribalism which prioritizes salient features over political or civic values. Political observers have referred to this as “identity politics,” a seemingly new phenomenon. But that’s not actually true. As Jonah Goldberg contends, “‘Identity politics’ may be a modern term, but it is an ancient idea. Embracing it is not a step forward but a retreat to the past.”

Looking beyond visible traits and treating others as individuals is a recent idea. But we often fall short of it. We group individuals together based on their superficial characteristics. This comes easily to us. And when something comes easy, we will find all kinds of reasons to justify why it’s right.

We are now in the precarious position of moving back toward this way of thinking, of folding people into categories. We want to easily understand who our allies and enemies are. The desire for an out-group is ever present. Today, the safest way to express this desire is through political parties, which appear to be vehicles for other social identities. Unfortunately, one of the surest ways to obtain social status in our in-groups is to denigrate our out-groups.

So we have a choice: we can repair our country by engaging with those with whom we politically disagree. Or we can trash our political opponents to boost our social status at the cost of destroying the country.

Just because something’s easy doesn’t make it right. Sometimes we have to walk a road less traveled. There’s another way to eliminate your out-group: make them your in-group by finding shared values. We must create new cross-cutting ties.


Vincent Harinam is a law enforcement consultant, research associate at the Independence Institute, and PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. He received his BA and MA in Criminology from the University of Toronto. You can follow him (or not) @vincentharinam on Twitter.

Rob Henderson is a Gates Cambridge Scholar and Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge. He received a B.S. in Psychology from Yale University and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. You can follow him on Twitter @robkhenderson


  1. “modern political tribalism . . has little to [do] with policy or ideology.”

    That is nonsense. It has a great deal to do with ideology, especially in regards to whites, and amongst whites especially amongst Democrats, who have embraced an ideology of racial self-denial, self-contempt and self-hatred, which I believe to be an overreaction to the evils of Nazism: https://twitter.com/rogerahicks/status/1012987161409355776

    • ga gamba says

      Political commentator Brendan O’Neill of Spiked magazine calls this a new form of white pride. Certain groups of self-flagellating whites are proud of being more ‘woke’ than other lesser ‘untermenschen‘ whites and seek recognition of their virtues from fellow proud whites and, more importantly, non-whites for whom they perform their submissive allyship.

    • Myer Quash (@quashdat) says

      Very interesting piece. I happen to respectfully disagree on this point:

      “Unfortunately, one of the surest ways to obtain social status in our in-groups is to denigrate our out-groups. So we have a choice: we can repair our country by engaging with those with whom we politically disagree. Or we can trash our political opponents to boost our social status at the cost of destroying the country.”

      The recommendation here seems facile to me. “Engaging with those with whom we politically disagree” is a Thomas Kinkaide painting: very pretty but empty of meaning.

      I suggest instead that repair isn’t a matter of engagement with others; it’s a matter of confronting and our inner need to find someone to blame and destroy for our own and group’s suffering and problems. Once we can do that, we can engage (or not) with others peacefully and treat them as individuals who possess good and bad, just like ourselves.

      Yeshua bar Yosef and Siddhartha Gautama made confronting the dual self a central tenet of their philosophies; but the authors talk about “the West” without bringing up this crucial issue (so to speak) … perhaps because it touches on religion, which might make their social science peers wrinkle their noses(?)

      Until Westerners find a way to confront and accept responsibility for their own suffering again, they will continue to make it worse, in part by blaming convenient others. Black communities often seem to do it with victimhood right now; sophisticated whites often seem to do it with guilt, but the underlying mechanism is the same. Black ideologues do it by blaming whites; woke whites do it by blaming their ancestors and the “bad whites.”

      And we are fast approaching a point in the USA at which non-woke whites are getting fed up with being called assholes because of their skin color and heritage and will start to slap back in earnest at their accusatory minority neighbors and their self-immolating self-proclaimed betters on the coasts. Be nice if we could avoid that. A good start would be to stop blaming: stop blaming Christianity, stop blaming responsible firearms owners, stop blaming Deplorables, stop blaming technology, and stop “Blaming Modern Life.”

      And while we’re at it, I’d also like a pony and a magic box of chocolates that never runs out…

    • Michael Joseph says

      Makes you wonder if this page has editors. “Put differently, our political preferences are becoming strong indicators of our race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender.” The authors are trying to say that ideology is separate from the community you identify with. The two go together.

      “What’s more, the American electorate has separated into two increasingly homogenous political tribes.” That might be an important point except for the fact at 20% of Americans don’t even register to vote. Add them to the 40% of registered voters who don’t show up and you have 50% of the population not participating in politics. Now, there are moderate Democrats, socialist Democrats, and apathetic Democrats. There are moderate Republicans, hard right Republicans, and apathetic Republicans. I will venture to say the largest group of the two parties is in the apathetic camp.

      The piece goes on to list a wheel barrow full of statistics that have very little to do with our society since nobody pays attention to politics and half the people don’t vote. Half the people who do vote are woefully uneducated about the issues as evidenced in the partisan statistics listed. I quit reading there but came back and finished the article as I am retired and have the time;)

      The contentions that it’s a bad thing that people are insulating themselves from each other might be true but it’s not surprising. We are a wealthy nation and that’s what wealthy people do. The withdraw from people that bother them and seek out people they enjoy. It is true that it could open the door for a demagogue but demagogues have been around for a long time. I think we’re witnessing an end to the demagoguery now that the midterms are over.

      The conclusion of the article that we should all meet with someone from the opposite side and get to know them is a joke. Easier said than done nationally and not really helpful in finding a solution. Sure, it might work if everybody did it but the reason we need a good idea right now is everybody is not doing it.

  2. Nearly Normal Frederick says

    The human world is now in a state of virtually infinite fragmentation, in which the individual feels powerless and is just thinking of him or her self as some kind of consumer-ego to be titillated and satisfied, and perhaps be given a voice, a soapbox here and there. The global state of humankind is absurd and dark.
    Therefore, this darkest of times requires an immense force of self-correction and self-rightening, an immense emergence of the self-organizing principle that is inherent in humankind as an interdependent system of life. Nevertheless , and in spite of this necessity, nothing of the globally rightening kind is going on.
    Everybody is asleep.
    Very few people understand the all-inclusive scale of the disaster that is happening. Furthermore, people do not understand that humankind is actively doing/creating this disaster – and, therefore, that humankind can also choose to stop doing the disaster, and, altogether, humankind can choose (collectively) to re-organize, self-correct, and truly righten the entire system of global of now globalized humankind. Nothing can possibly stop the disaster except the force the force of the whole, the integrity of the whole. That is the only happening that will or can righten (and en-lighten) the darkness of the human world.

    When the entire human world founds itself on the adolescent motive to aggrandize the apparent separate ego-self, then everyone is collectively working toward the destruction not only of human culture and humankind itself, but even of the Earth itself, the very vehicle that supports life. The root of that terrible destructiveness is simply the aggrandizement and idealization of the separate ego-self, the illusion that the separate ego-self is great.

    Everything associated with the Koch brothers only exacerbates this destructive process – even quite deliberately.

    But where did the infinite fragmentation come from?
    It did not just suddenly appear overnight as it were. This dreadful situation is associated with a fixed philosophical habit that has been developing for centuries, and is even at the root of all of the presumptions about the nature of humankind (and reality altogether) upon which Western civilization is based.

    • Bernard Hill says

      …sounds like the work of the forces of chaos are alright Fred. Time for a bit less of all that yin do you think?

    • Mechan says

      Your discussion Nearly Normal Frederick sounds like a great sci-fi novel or screenplay but the actual article is trying to discuss the real issues with a new highly intellectual urban world that is still learning how to construct organizations that do not display deficiencies that are ripe with conflict.

    • Kevin says

      I think that your reference to the Koch brothers deliberately exacerbating the march to the “destruction of “human culture and humankind itself” might be just a tad batty.

  3. There are three main problems that stand in our way at the same time:

    1. Civil war
    2. Economic depression
    3. Great-power war

    If the West were a forest, then it would be ready to burn down to the ground.

    This article focuses more on the impending civil war coming our way. This would be a war between bricks and stones. The bricks are everybody who believes in equality (of outcome.) The stones are everybody else – nobody is equal to anybody else. The bricks were actually the problem at the Tower of Babel. The leaders were trying to make everybody equal. The future civil war would have destroyed everybody. God stepped in to save the people from themselves.

    The Tower of Babel tells us that our current path leading to equality will eventually cause the destruction of the West. Perhaps the Bolivarian socialist revolution in Venezuela should be an example to us all.

    Another sign of great destruction is an impending financial crash on the order of another great depression. The 2008 great recession was suppressed but the underlying problems remain. Time just makes things worse. There is chatter on the internet about another crash coming within a few years. Only this crash will be much worse than before, and we can do little to stop it.

    More chatter on the internet about experts being worried about a war between the US and China and/or Russia. Currently, it wouldn’t take much to set off a great-power war. If you thought the gutted US nuclear arsenal can prevent nuclear attack then imagine how surprised you will be to learn you are wrong.

    When a forest is ready to burn down to the ground then it is already too late. Just wait for that hot, dry summer and a spark.

    • Ned Ludd says

      What about these three..?

      1) climate change/environmental collapse
      2) nuclear war
      3) technological disruption

      • Peter from Oz says

        Robert Burton understood the problem in the 17th century:

        I hear new news every day, and those ordinary rumours of war, plagues, fires, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, comets, spectrums, prodigies, apparitions, of towns taken, cities besieged in France, Germany, Turkey, Persia, Poland, &c., daily musters and preparations, and such like, which these tempestuous times afford, battles fought, so many men slain,
        monomachies, shipwrecks, piracies and sea-fights; peace, leagues,
        stratagems, and fresh alarms.

        A vast confusion of vows, wishes, actions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, proclamations, complaints, grievances are daily brought to our ears.

        New books every day, pamphlets, corantoes, stories, whole catalogues of volumes of all sorts, new paradoxes, opinions, schisms, heresies, controversies in philosophy, religion, &c.

        Now come tidings of weddings, maskings, mummeries, entertainments, jubilees, embassies, tilts and tournaments, trophies, triumphs, revels, sports, plays: then again, as in a new shifted scene, treasons, cheating tricks, robberies, enormous villainies in all kinds, funerals, burials, deaths of princes, new discoveries, expeditions, now comical, then tragical matters.

        Today we hear of new lords and officers created, tomorrow of some great men deposed, and then again of fresh honours conferred; one is let loose, another imprisoned; one purchaseth, another breaketh: he thrives, his neighbour turns bankrupt; now plenty, then again dearth and famine; one runs, another rides, wrangles, laughs, weeps, &c.

        This I daily hear, and such like, both private and public news, amidst the gallantry and misery of the world; jollity, pride, perplexities and cares, simplicity and villainy; subtlety, knavery, candour and integrity, mutually mixed and offering themselves….

      • The first is fantasy created by people who wanted to weaponize the weather and use it as a wedge issue for Marxist politics, the second gets less likely with every passing year, the third is meaningless noise.

      • Steven Hollingsworth says

        The top two, along with Global Overpopulation, ARE Mankind’s real threats — but the view expressed in this article is a Danger as well.

        One has to understand that the divide in the U.S. (and we here do either play a stabilizing role OR spread chaos throughout the world) is being driven by declining incomes in the Poor, Blue-Collar, and Middle classes. This is happening because the CPI (Consumer Price Index), on which income raises everywhere in the U.S are based, is a lie that undercounts real inflation by 3 to 5 percent yearly (see ShadowStats.com as well as by my own comparison of British “constant market basket” data).

        When you cut peoples’ incomes, they get cranky — and then they get angry. Right now they don’t see what is actually happening, so they are lashing out. The Rich are too greedy, the immigrants are taking our jobs, the unions are overpaid, THEY are BAD for US.

        Meanwhile our politicians are stoking the hatred, and our Millennuals working their butts off in part-time jobs without health care (which in our incredible blindness we tried to fix by making it legally mandatory) have given up all hope.

        The solution? The knee-jerk reaction is that it is “Guns or Butter” folks (the famous Vietnam War concept). Every major country except the U.S. invests in its economy and its people — we invest in already-obsolescent weapons (even El Salvador has national health care — the U.S., except Hawaii, does not). (I was a reserves Military Intelligence officer — we will soon have no “home front” left to fund our military with).

        But the above is wrong. We have to address Global Climate Change NOW — and we can’t do that when a huge section of our population is more afraid of losing their housing next month.

        The solution is to expose the CPI Lie, and then a change in U.S. political thinking by BOTH major parties.

  4. Morgan says

    “So we have a choice: we can repair our country by engaging with those with whom we politically disagree. Or we can trash our political opponents to boost our social status at the cost of destroying the country.”

    The entire article makes the case that the problem is not about politics at all and, yet, it concludes like this. Puzzling.

    • Circuses and Bread says


      Give them time. We’ve had 5,000 years plus of recorded history and the way people are used to dealing with societal problems on a group basis is through politics. It doesn’t work and with the exception of brief times through history it hasn’t worked. But it’s still the norm, what’s culturally acceptable as a “solution.”

      • Morgan says

        Is such a thing “politics” though, properly speaking?

        Consider that politics could be defined as the affairs of governance… which would then make herding cats a political activity. Just as flippantly, was Genghis Khan a politician?

        I wonder if, perhaps, we should define politics to be the realization of an ideology through policy. Unfortunately (or not), this definition would imply that there is hardly any politics at all taking place. Political parties do put forth and pursue (quasi) policies but their ideological underpinnings are often unclear or absent all together.

  5. Some studies and articles on the matter of social cohesion and diversity:

    The Evolutionary Dominance of Ethnocentric Cooperation
    Max Hartshorn, Artem Kaznatcheev and Thomas Shultz (2013)
    McGill University Psychology, Canada; McGill University, Canada:

    “Does Ethnic Diversity Have a Negative Effect on Attitudes towards the Community? A Longitudinal Analysis of the Causal Claims within the Ethnic Diversity Social Cohesion Debate”:

    “Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust: Evidence from the Micro-Context”:

    “Ethnic Diversity and Its Impact on Community Social Cohesion and Neighbourly Exchange”:

    “School ethnic diversity and White students’ civic attitudes in England”:

    “Ethnic Diversity, Economic and Cultural Contexts, and Social Trust: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Evidence from European Regions, 2002-2010”:

    “Volunteering Hits Lowest Rate in More Than 10 Years. Americans are volunteering less than they have in over a decade, but why is unclear” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013):

    “Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust: A Critical Review of the Literature and Suggestions for a Research Agenda”:

    “Does Ethnic Diversity in Local Areas Residential Areas Erode Trust in Other People?”:

    White liberals not so liberal about immigration when immigrants move to their neighborhoods:

    The downside of diversity: A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?:

    “Fragmented Future: Multiculturalism doesn’t make vibrant communities but defensive ones”:

  6. E. Olson says

    The political divide is almost entirely based on takers (Democrats/Leftist) versus makers (Republican/Right).

    If you generally believe/support small government, the bill of rights, individual responsibility, equal rights but not equal outcomes, capitalism, and protection of national borders you will be welcome by the Republican/Right side no matter what color your skin is (see Thomas Sowell, Herman Cain, Candace Owens, Bobby Jindal), your sexual preferences (see Peter Thiel, Dave Rubin, Milo Yiannopoulos), or gender (see Nikki Haley, Carly Fiorina, Jean Kirkpatrick, Sarah Palin), and even if you have some disagreements on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, immigration policy, global warming, or trade policy. In other words – traditional economic/political/social “liberals” are Republican/Right.

    On the other hand, if you believe white heterosexual males are responsible for virtually all problems and that the solution to all problems is more government, higher taxes on the “privileged”, welfare for “victims”, “free” education (but only in unionized schools), government provided medical care, open borders (especially for people of color and Muslims), open bathrooms, gay everything, minimal defense/police, a flexible Constitution, affirmative action (except for Asians), abortion on demand, banning “hate” speech, and massive government interventions into the economy to stop global warming, then you will be welcome by the Democrats/Left, but only if you believe in all of these things (or at least keep your mouth shut about the things you disagree with), otherwise you will be doxed, fired, or physically/verbally beaten up by thugs (aka the fascist “anti-fascists”)

    • dellingdog says

      “By painting an out-group with a broad brush, we reduce our burden of having to think of people as individuals. We default to our biases. Perceptions, false or otherwise, have an insidious habit of determining reality. In this case, Americans are convinced that they are locked in a political grudge match against a homogeneous tribe of outsiders.”

      E. Olson, thanks for providing a picture-perfect illustration of the hyperbolic tribalism the authors are describing. You’ve certainly made your choice:

      “So we have a choice: we can repair our country by engaging with those with whom we politically disagree. Or we can trash our political opponents to boost our social status at the cost of destroying the country.”

      • E. Olsone says

        Only the Left side is regularly violent. Only the Left side stifles debate. Only the Left side regularly attacks members of their own side for not being extreme enough. Only “moderates” on the Left fail to regularly criticize members of their own side for “being too extreme”. The only open tent is on the Right, but the Left has to be willing to accept the invitation and act nice. The growing Blexit and Walkaway movements suggest that some on the Left are finally starting to see the light – and they will be welcomed – just ask Dave Rubin.

    • @ E. Olson

      You’re probably the most reliable right-wing voice in the comments here at Quillette, and you regularly provide me with insight into how people on your side of the divide feel (and I more than occasionally agree with you as well), so I do enjoy your perspective, but, holy cow, it’s hard to imagine anybody writing what you just did after reading what I presume you just read in that article. Your comment literally embodied the type of reflexive in/out-group tribalism the author fairly convincingly argued is wrecking the country. Did you find his thesis unconvincing?

      • E. Olson says

        Radical Centrism – I enjoy the attempts by many Quillette authors and commenters to be “balanced” in their perspective, but I strongly disagree when they try to equate the “sins” and “successes” of both sides. Most of us on the Right are sympathetic to the “unlucky” in life, but we strongly dislike being called racist, or sexist, or phobic by Leftists because we don’t think government regulation, forced redistribution, or open borders are the best or fairest ways to solve problems. This is reflected by the research that finds those on the Right are far more likely than Leftists to voluntarily be generous with their time and funds to help the less fortunate. Most of us also don’t like the Leftist rewriting of history to inaccurately downplay the overwhelming contributions of dead white males to the Western culture that has been the biggest civilizing force in the history of the world. No race or culture in history has been more kind, tolerant, and open to other “tribes”, and yet the dominant voices of the Left want to destroy it because it hasn’t been perfect from their point of view. This is particularly galling because none of the models/alternatives desired/promoted by the Left (e.g. Atheist, Muslim, Communist, Socialist, Environmentalist, Matriarchy) has been successful or more fair than the Judeo-Christian, Democratic-Capitalism traditions of Western Culture. Most of us on the Right also recognize that a “Left” is needed to keep the Right from getting corrupted by absolute power and authority, but when the Left gets too violent and too destructive because they don’t get their way, it is necessary for the Right to correctly point out the side that is too extreme and not pretend the both sides are equally to blame.

        • In another words you are sexist, racist, and xenophobic which most of us Quilletters are. You should not let the names put you off.

        • dellingdog says

          I’m on the left. I’m completely opposed to “open borders,” but I do support DACA, a path to citizenship for some immigrants who are in the country illegally, and an expanded guest-worker program combined with a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers. I’m convinced that Communism was a catastrophic failure and believe that capitalism is the only viable economic system. However, I do think that government regulation is necessary to correct market failures and to protect consumers, employees, and the environment. I don’t think it’s possible or desirable to guarantee “equality of outcome,” but I do think that progressive tax policies can and should be used to expand equality of opportunity (e.g., by funding public education). I celebrate Western culture and believe that Enlightenment principles should be defended against their opponents. However, I’m also willing to criticize the West when it violates those ideals, e.g. slavery and imperialism.

          My point: your sweeping assertions about “Leftists” don’t describe me, nor do they describe the vast majority of my peers (I teach at a community college) or to mainstream Democrats. You’ve constructed a straw man based on the actions and rhetoric of Left-wing extremists, and you’re contrasting this caricature with an idealized version of “the Right” which apparently lacks any extremists of its own. I would encourage you to reread the essay with an open mind while asking yourself if any of the authors’ statements could apply to you.

          • I really enjoyed the back and forth between dellingdog and E. Olsen because I found myself agreeing with most of what both wrote, despite the fact that the two of them are on different sides of the political divide. (On some of the issues related to the “culture wars,” they’re actually probably a lot closer than they imagine.)

            The main difference, I think, between the two of them is that anger seems to drive E. Olsen more than it does dellingdog. And I understand that anger because I have some of the same anger myself (and about some of the same things). But I think that too much anger and partisanship can lead to a certain lack of nuance and useful objective distance.

          • E. Olson says

            dellingdog: If you proposed your immigration solution to the Republican leadership you would get a lot of support (in fact I am 100% certain a deal you could live with on comprehensive immigration reform would be enacted), but if you proposed it to Democrat leadership you would be called racist and be voted out of office. Nobody on the Right thinks there should be no regulation, only that regulation be cost effective, shut down when not effective or when mission accomplished, and fairly and evenly applied, and hence not used to punish political opponents (i.e. IRS scandal against Conservatives, bogus DOJ/FBI Russian collusion investigation, bogus Climate Change lawsuits oil companies, etc.). You should also be very pleased with the US tax system, which is the most progressive in the world thanks to Republican cuts to lower and middle-class tax rates where the bottom half now pay virtually no income tax, and Republican enacted Earned Income Tax Credits that encourage the poor to work.

            As for my sweeping generalizations of the Left not describing you, I can only say that if you represent the Leftist mainstream then why are you and your fellow moderate Leftists so invisible on college campuses speaking up for free speech, or so unheard in the mainstream media criticizing corrupt Democrats and collapsing Leftist governments, or so ineffective on election days in voting out corrupt Democrats and voting in moderate Democrats instead of Pelosi, Schumer, Menendez, H. Clinton, Waters, Ocasio-Cortez, etc.)?

        • augustine says

          Both sides are simply not equal. One plays offense by definition (liberalism) while the other plays defense (conservatism). One acts, the other reacts. Each has its own ugly tendencies when under threat– but liberalism has not been under threat, or even seriously questioned, for a long time. Until Trump. Unfortunately, statesmanship is no way to resist or fight against modern liberal tyranny.

          A good dry case for the tyranny of modern liberalism is made here by Jim Kalb:


          • augustine says

            No, I don’t believe liberals in general want to abolish democracy. But it looks like many leading liberals in the U.S. would be happy to abolish our Republican form of government in exchange for mob rule (sorry, “pure democracy”).

            From the article you cited (quoting another article):

            “The evidence points to a major partisan asymmetry in polarization. Despite the widespread belief that both parties have moved to the extremes, the movement of the Republican Party to the right accounts for most of the divergence between the two parties.”

            This is distinguished from any divergence in the general population but it still sounds absurd to me. I don’t think it is unreasonable to take that statement and ask just how far left Democrats were in the first place, and how much, in many ways, Republicans have tried to keep up with them. Regardless of dichotomies in Washington politics, the culture has been falling over itself to move leftward nonstop for over five decades. There is a little resistance now and people are freaking out. Go figure.

            You must know the old saw about the Republicans being just a step or two behind the forward movement of the Democrats? That this reflects the tilting of American society in general seems like a lock so please tell me where Republicans have managed to maintain conservative positions on key issues? Too often they have been only eager to demonstrate their “tolerance” and “inclusiveness” in social policy. Their embrace of globalism, feminism (cf. military and sex), double-speak about Islam, etc., tells me we have not seen any substantial defense of old timey conservatism, let alone the effecting of real rightward movement. Yet the media seems always keen to point out how fearsome and powerful Republicans are.

            We know what to expect from Democrats. But when the ostensibly conservative party has been chickening out on important principles for decades there is bound to be a reaction. The imperfect reaction that is Trump’s election.

          • dellingdog says

            “But it looks like many leading liberals in the U.S. would be happy to abolish our Republican form of government in exchange for mob rule.” I think you meant small-r “republican,” right? Can you provide examples?

            “But when the ostensibly conservative party has been chickening out on important principles for decades there is bound to be a reaction.” You don’t think Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush was authentically conservative?

            For defense of “old-timey” (principled) conservatism, I would point toward Never Trumpers.

          • augustine says


            Yes, I meant republican government. One good example of this intention is the open desire to do away with the Electoral College. Trump’s election again being the spark. Many urban dwellers want to have representation based more proportionately on large city populations instead of national geography. Can there be any doubt this would lead to more socialism?

            Actual politics is not the place where strongly developed ideologies survive, and for good reason. I think Reagan did pretty well for the modern age, considering that no one is 100% conservative (or liberal). I never believed Dubya was principled or conservative. His gibberish about Islam being the Religion of Peace after 9/11 says a lot. Even with our stake in Saudi oil and ME politics, a principled U.S. president would not have placated us with that deceitful, dreadful entreaty.

            I don’t consider Trump a conservative, though he has certainly demonstrated productivity in this area. There are many species of conservative, with nuances that are probably more diverse than on the liberal side of the spectrum. Among moderns I am a fan of Mark Richardson (Oz Conservative), Thomas Sowell and the late Lawrence Auster (VFR). The archive of the latter is a treasury of thoughts and conversations worth exploring.

    • D-Rex says

      Wow E, it’s actually hard to argue against anything you just wrote. I’d like to send that comment to Jimmy Dore and Bill Maher and see them try to argue against it.

  7. Andrew says

    Excellent article. Thank you both.

    The human brain requires a balance of lower-level excitatory and higher-level inhibitory mechanisms to obtain optimal behavioural efficacy. The problem with the current world is that we have created runaway social ideals, most notably individualism and anti-racism. These operate in an environment of zero-inhibition – in fact we inhibit the inhibitors.

    Nearly 60 years ago, a U.S. President could ask his fellow Americans, “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Many Americans agreed, some not. Ayn Rand was one of the latter.
    The idea that the individual should in any way be subordinate to the collective is now almost completely gone from Western culture. The ending of the military draft was probably a significant turning point, given that “what you can do for your country” meant, for young able-bodied males, was to go and fight and possibly die, in Vietnam.

    The association of the concept of the public good and the subordination of individuals to it, and a highly controversial and costly war was perhaps unfortunate, because now the individual reigns supreme in our culture, but the benefits to either individuals or society, are not apparent.

    • BrannigansLaw says


      Good point.

      I’ve been thinking about how we have become so individualist that we think that the state’s purpose is to provide/guarantee all the rights we could want while simultaneously rejecting any and all of our responsibilities that we owe it in return.

  8. annaerishkigal says

    While I agree with the writer for the most part (about the decline in civic membership fueling increased tribalism), he completely failed to address the issue of WHY so many of us are abandoning our lifelong positions “in the middle” and, in most cases, shifting towards the right. Nobody likes being attacked over minor differences of opinion (that civic-minded “reaching across the aisle — let’s discuss this”) attitude that so many of us carry from the older generation. The right tolerates my opinion that gay people should be allowed to marry, that we need -some- social programs if only for purely pragmatic reasons, and I’m pro-choice — we can “agree to disagree.” But the left absolutely exorciates you, calls you vile names, and will even hunt down your family and friends to dox and harass you, if you try to voice a nuanced opinion about an important matter, such as our need to secure our border (and I’m a DACA-kid sympathizer, so long as their law-breaking parents don’t get nationalized, as well).

    So, yes, we have a problem. But it’s not about “race” or tribe. It’s about the fact that so many people who -used- to be in the middle are getting visciously attacked. Once you’ve been attacked for a minor difference of opinion, you will never want anything to do with that tribe. I’m old enough to remember getting turned off by the “religious right” during the 70-80’s, so this isn’t a democrat/republican thing. And it’s not a “tribal” thing either, since most of us who read these kids of political articles don’t give a rat’s @$$ about a person’s skin color. It’s a lack of tolerance thing. Any group that attacks people “in the middle” will eventually lose.

  9. new delhi speaking says

    All my life, “wise” people spoke of individualism in the west as an eventually bad thing.

    Brought up in democratic thinking, in the third world though, I always argued against it, because we here mostly witnessed the absence of individualism and how people would suffer due to that, trying to serve community and family, diktats and dogma.

    Girls fighting to go to school, to then work, men going against their families to marry a woman they love (who is not gonna bring in any dowry for the family) etc. and of course, other more “urban” personal decisions being taken by individuals for themselves.

    But this article, among other things; hmm, too much of nothing is ever good, huh.

  10. augustine says

    “Moreover, Putnam contends that the decline in social capital can be explained by four possible factors: the pressures of time and money, suburbanization and commuting, electronic entertainment, and generational turnover.”

    What about Putnam’s own research on the deleterious effects of “too much” diversity in communities? As I recall, he found that the result of this stressor is more often withdrawal rather than conflict. What sort of strife develops from withdrawal? Why was this important factor not considered in the article?

    “We default to our biases about race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.”

    Well, of course we do. Those aspects of existence never went away and we should not expect that they will go away. We can and should do our best to keep them within the realm of personal association, however, and not convert them to identity politics. They need not be discouraged or encouraged.

    “We are now in the precarious position of moving back toward this way of thinking, of folding people into categories.”

    I agree that identity politics is a bad thing. But what of identity itself, in the social sense of regarding others? Are we to be prohibited from discerning our differences for limited practical purposes, such as recognition of family, ethnic affiliation, class distinction, religion, etc., just because some might take it too far and subvert the political? Many useful or essential things present clear danger and risk but we do not abandon them because of risk alone. The negative aspects of categorizing people has a reciprocal, positive side that involves curiosity, understanding differences, neutral cooperation and even transcendence. If humans were truly and absolutely universal in their views toward others, these would disappear also.

    • petros says

      @augustine said:

      “What about Putnam’s own research on the deleterious effects of “too much” diversity in communities? As I recall, he found that the result of this stressor is more often withdrawal rather than conflict. What sort of strife develops from withdrawal? Why was this important factor not considered in the article?”

      Having read Putnam, I was thinking the same thing while reading the article. Thanks for bringing it up.

      As I remember, Putnam called the diversity withdrawal–not only of whole groups from each other but of individuals within groups away from each other–“turtling.”

      And it seems to me isolation goes hand in hand with this diversity withdrawal, so it’s important. But I can’t say that out loud, because I live in California, USA, the Diversity Capital of the Universe, where too much diversity is never enough. I cannot express in words my disgust at what this state has become over the last 30 years. I drive through whole urban areas and think, “It would be hard to tell the difference between this and photos of Honduras…”

      Not for long though. I’m joining the OTHER migrant caravan OUT of the People’s Democratic Republic of California very soon, to someplace like Texas, Tennessee, etc. I will not be here when governor-elect Gavin Newsom tries to institute single-payer healthcare or any of the other catastrophes he promised. I’m going to take him at his word, and we’ll see how their experiment in socialism works out.

  11. Well, as government takes over charity, giving away freebies to all the presumed downtrodden, the need for social groups to provide charity and social services diminishes.
    As employers and businesses are told who they must serve, who they must hire, how much they pay, what benefits must be given, what products/services they can sell, etc., we learn to deal with “everyone the same,” but that precludes how friends are made and maintained, through shared differences. Smokers, for example, are denied licenses to run businesses that cater to smokers.
    Next, public schools suggest acting male is a behavioral defect, to be suppressed, and that gender isn’t a valid bias that would otherwise create social harmonies. Safe spaces suggests people aren’t energized by debate conflicting ideas that create real progress. Schools also tend to treat everyone as if they are the same, one size fits all, whether you are academically advanced, artistically inclined, physically motivated. They prepare you to be an employee, not an entrepreneur, as small businesses naturally create social groups (of both employees and customers) around the shared interest, rather than subverting your interests and socialization to whims of an employer.
    Stranger danger is taught early and often. Kids aren’t to play ad hoc games they make up themselves, but should only be organized in adult-supervised activities.
    Conformity creates boredom; why seek out others if they are no different than everyone else?
    Don’t resolve conflicts yourself; see something, say something to law enforcement. Authority will take care of it, so you can go back to your isolation.
    That said, is it not entirely possible that if we look at what people do rather than what they say, you find that people actually prefer isolation, prefer doing their own thing, prefer believing that their choices are independently arrive at (rather than social pressure and advertising driving “your” desires), prefer e-conversation and e-dating and e-working and e-voting?

  12. Circuses and Bread says

    I enjoyed this article, and it’s fun to watch the thinking slowly change on politics. Slowly but surely the bleeding-edge thinkers are beginning to poke around some heretofore heretical ideas, jabbing them a bit with their metaphorical sticks, and starting to make connections. Exciting times!

    This article makes some good points, but I disagree with the conclusion. To wit: “so we have a choice: we can repair our country by engaging with those with whom we politically disagree. Or we can trash our political opponents to boost our social status at the cost of destroying the country.”

    That’s a binary choice, and it’s a false one. We’re not limited to just kill -or- be killed, fight -or- flee, engage -or- trash. There are other options on the table, such as, oh, doing nothing on the assumption that the problems outlined are self-correcting over time. Then there is the option that I regularly tout: anti politics and conscious abstention. And I speculate that there are other options that neither I nor the authors have considered.

    • dellingdog says

      Is promoting anti-politics on a mostly political website really a better use of one’s time than engaging in politics?

      • Circuses and Bread says


        Great question! I’ll answer it two ways.

        First: Im not expecting to persuade folks at Quillette to anti politics because let’s face it, I might as well be selling home furnaces in the Amazon forest. My purpose is to attract the slings and arrows from very bright people who (I think) are predisposed to disagree. I think I’m onto something. Maybe not. So let’s test it out.

        Second: I’ve noticed that in our culture, the more unusual views or expressions do end up getting a disproportionate share of the attention. So while I don’t have any expectation of winning hearts and minds here, I can hope to provoke discussion elsewhere. And I dearly hope it’s along the lines of “can you believe this lunatic at Quillette who thinks we’re going to live in a post political society someday? Anti politics? What an idiot!”

        • George G says

          @ Circuses and Bread

          could you explain what you mean by anti-politics?

          • Circuses and Bread says

            @ George G

            Sure thing.

            Anti politics is a viewpoint holding that politics is not a reasonable way to achieve beneficial ends in society. That’s the one sentence summary. There are some ancillary views that might include:

            -Just about any productive endeavor engaged in other than politics will have a far better return on investment than politics, both at the macro and personal level.

            – Politics is naturally inclined toward tribalism.

            – Political factions operate very similarly to cults.

            I should also define politics. I don’t define it as widely as some who seem to think that politics encompasses just about any and all forms of human interaction. I define it more along the lines of those actions taken to gain, hold, or influence power in a government.

          • George G says

            @ Circuses and Bread

            Thanks for your thoughts.

            I pretty much agree with everything you say, especially the cult aspect. I wonder if the lack of religious structure ( not a judgement just an observation) in most peoples lives has made them look to political groups to fulfil a similar role in their lives religion would have done for previous generations

  13. Susan says

    “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”
    People frequently change “tribes” over time and tribes change over time. Think of the acceptance of gay marriage over the last twenty years. I took the Hidden Tribes survey that someone suggested a few days ago and came out as a Traditional Liberal but I suspect that Jonathon Kay might label me Alt-Right. Very confusing.

    • dellingdog says

      What makes you think you’d be labelled Alt-Right?

  14. jonfrum says

    Modern life? Thomas Jefferson received a stream of death threats while he was president. Jefferson and John Adams, partners and friends during the Revolution, became enemies during Washington’s first term in office. Political leaders fought duels to the death, for christ sake. And now, people are pissy on Twitter? Wake me up when the revolution starts.

  15. D Bruce says

    The left v right paradigm was what we got when we rejected Georgism. Georgism gives both left and right what (they say) they want, it dissolves politics.

  16. Mike1 says

    “The Democrat mega-identity is secular, working class, urban, non-white, and gay.”
    Working class?! No. The current Democratic identity views the working class with hatred. Talk to any Democrat or spend 30 seconds on Twitter.

    • Egalitarian Freshness says


      I believe the authors make a distinction between self-perceived identity and statistical reality. That is, you are looking at the reality–“All the Crats I meet and read are urban professional class and up, who speak of the blue collar man with distain, unless he looks and votes just right.”

      But a great number of Crats see THEMSELVES broadly as the champion of the working man in abstract (as long as he isn’t–ya know–white, or a gun owner, Christian, pro-life, conservative, living in a second-tier state, a climate change skeptic, or otherwise a stupid, untrustworthy Nazi incapable of wiping his own windshield).

      It might be atavistic, from when union working men voted Crat overwhelmingly and the Crat Party did make a point of looking after their interests.

  17. Hannah Lee says

    What is this? AA for milennials? Quilette seems the need to find balance by publishing any kind of verbose twaddle, so provide ‘balance’ with the high quality, high density publishing that made me support them with Patreon previously. This post is clearly just a click bait filler, pedantic and lacking any insight AT ALL- Along with whiny posts about poor El Salvadorean refugees and tired retreads of NEO Con War hawks (Max Boot, really?!?) Quillette seems to be getting desperate to publish, if only to fill the maw of us poor souls clicking refresh for the latest articles to load.

    please use your editorial pen more wisely

  18. David Gudeman says

    This article misses several cultural forces that are likely part of the problem:

    * Smaller families and one-parent families radically alter the way that children are socialized.

    * Mass immigration and the subsequent refusal of new immigrants to integrate into the culture means that a lot of people have experienced violence or strife from people who are ostentatiously different from them. This naturally happens far more to working class and poor people.

    * A single party controls most of the entertainment and news media, universities, and most of lower education, and most of government services outside of the military and law enforcement. This allows them to slander the other side with impunity and to hide their own faults from the large majority of the people. This makes the people who trust these institutions distrust the other party because they hear nothing but horrible things about it, and makes people in the other part angry about the way that they are routinely lied about.

    • dellingdog says

      Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.

      Democrats don’t “control” the media. Yes, most reporters lean liberal — that’s because they’re educated urban professionals. But the “MSM” gave candidate Trump massive amounts of free media coverage and fixated on Hillary’s email pseudo-scandal.

      I can see why Republicans are so upset. There’s certainly nobody in the Republican Party who slanders the other side with impunity and routinely lies! Except the President. And Fox News. And Breitbart. And the Drudge Report. And Rush Limbaugh. And Sean Hannity …

      • D.B. Cooper says


        Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.

        While true, this is hardly the salient point in question. Granted, I understand you were simply responding to @David Gudeman, and what you said is certainly borne out by the data as it relates to the OP’s statement on “mass migration.”

        Putting aside the OP’s lack of specificity – type (illegal vs. legal) not magnitude (mass vs. dram) – for a moment, the salient question should consider the number of crimes committed by legal immigrants vs. illegal immigrants. No one serious person (even Trump as far as I’m aware) is arguing that all immigration (legal & illegal) to the U.S. should be banned. The debate is over legal versus illegal. The apples-to-apples comparison is the difference in crimes committed by those cohorts (legal & illegal), not immigrants vs. natives. The fact that immigrants commit less crime than the native population is largely beside the point (if it’s not obvious why and you really want me to list the reasons, I will).

        I would go so far as to say, it’s misleading to frame the issue as a comparison between immigrants vs. natives (not by you, the media I mean). The fact that the media obfuscates (purposely no doubt) should suggest to you, which cohort (legal vs. illegal) has the higher criminal conviction rate – hint: the adjective that’s a synonym for ‘unlawful’.


        • dellingdog says

          D.B., you’ve linked to study which shows that *illegal* immigrants commit fewer crimes than either legal immigrants or native-born citizens. Was that your intention?

          “In Texas in 2015, the criminal conviction and arrest rates for immigrants were well below those of native-born Americans. Moreover, the conviction and arrest rates for illegal immigrants were lower than those for native-born Americans. This result holds for most crimes.”

          • D.B. Cooper says


            D.B., you’ve linked to study which shows that *illegal* immigrants commit fewer crimes than either legal immigrants or native-born citizens. Was that your intention?

            “In Texas in 2015, the criminal conviction and arrest rates for immigrants were well below those of native-born Americans. Moreover, the conviction and arrest rates for illegal immigrants were lower than those for native-born Americans. This result holds for most crimes.”

            If you were trying to punk me, I’ll give you full marks b/c it worked. Or, almost worked. I was ready to tender my resignation on the matter, but then – as is often the case – conceit got the better of me, so I decided to go back and reread the study (a third time) to see if the world was still round; the sun was still rising in the East; and my reply to your comment was still correct. I’m happy to report all three are still in good standing. Your point was refuted then, and remains thus.

            D-square, you strike me as a capable individual, so excuse me if I’m being untoward, but it’s generally considered a bad form to pull-up after the opening paragraph (that is where your citation came from, isn’t it) and then start slinging dismissive quips (e.g. Was that your intention) like you just zipped somebody in a clown suit.

            But since you asked, allow me to retort. No, I did not intend to make a claim and then substantiate that claim by referencing data that falsified it. I can appreciate that a lack of formal introductions may be a limiting factor, here; so, you’ll simply have to take it on faith that I’m not a heathen sophist. And, of course, I’m happy to extend the same courtesy to you.

            Returning to the point in question, my original claim was that comparing legal vs. illegal immigrant’s crime rates was the more appropriate (read salient) issue AND that legal immigrant crime rates were lower than illegal immigrant crime rates.

            To that you remarked that I, “linked to study which shows that *illegal* immigrants commit fewer crimes than either legal immigrants or native-born citizens. Was that your intention?

            Aside from being wrong, what’s most strange about your rejoinder is you the quote you cited doesn’t in anyway confirm or disconfirm your claim (or my own oddly enough). We both agree that immigrant (by which I take to mean of the ‘legal’ variety) and illegal immigrant crime rates are lower than the native population. No one has claimed otherwise. Again, my claim is that the crime rates of legal immigrants is lower than those of illegal immigrants. The native population crime rates are of no consequence to this discussion, i.e., ignoratio elenchi

            Now, as for your claim that the study I linked to shows “illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than either legal immigrants or native-born citizens,” please direct your attention to the (study’s) subsection: Conviction

            And I quote:

            Natives were convicted of 409,708 crimes, illegal immigrants were convicted of 15,803 crimes, and legal immigrants were convicted of 17,785 crimes in Texas in 2015. Thus, there were 1,797 criminal convictions of natives for every 100,000 natives, 899 criminal convictions of illegal immigrants for every 100,000 illegal immigrants, and 611 criminal convictions of legal immigrants for every 100,000 legal immigrants (Figure 1).

            For matters of clarity, let me repeat that.

            (1) There were 899 criminal convictions of illegal immigrants per 100,000 illegal immigrants.

            (2) There were 611 criminal convictions of legal immigrants per 100,000 legal immigrants.

            On the off chance that your math is as bad as your reading comprehension this means that illegal immigrants are – or were in Texas in 2015 – almost 1.5 (1.47) times more likely to be convicted of a crime as compared to that of a legal immigrant.

            Someone please arbitrate this… Am I wrong?

      • @dellingdog,
        “Democrats don’t “control” the media. Yes, most reporters lean liberal — that’s because they’re educated urban professionals. But the “MSM” gave candidate Trump massive amounts of free media coverage and fixated on Hillary’s email pseudo-scandal.”

        I call BS on all the points here.

        1) Reporters don’t lean liberal, they lean democrat. There is a difference. I suspect that is what your really ment, but democrats are not always the supporters of ‘liberal’ policies. Par for the course, Dems have been leading a charge against ‘innocent until proven guilty’ for males. (Obama’s ‘dear collegue letters, Kavanaugh hearings…) This is highly illiberal.
        At the very least; you have to admit that the Suburban and Rural way of looking at and understanding events is not being included in most news coverage, and this makes it look like the media is controlled by one way of seeing the world if you don’t hold that point of view. Just look at how many ‘fact finding’ trip where taken after 2016 election to ‘understand what we missed’…. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/10/on-safari-in-trumps-america/543288/

        1.5) You didn’t address the rest of the argument. Universities, Education industry, Government services outside of those who carry guns….. Any thoughts on the majority of the examples given as to how the democrats control the ability to slander with impunity?

        2) Just because the MSM gave Trump massive media attention doesn’t mean they did it with good intentions. They loved the money, not the candidate. Trump is a loudmouth braggart who puts on a show. They cashed in, assuming they were safe, cause ‘who could loose to Trump?’ They have been making amends for it ever since with nearly pure negative coverage of everything, and so much shoddy and deceptive coverage it is embarrassing. I can’t read Constantly Negative News (CNN) anymore, it is no longer a source I can trust. The reporting is just so bad. 12+ months of “Russia Probe will take Trump down any day now…… They are closing in…… It is happening…..Just you wait….. Any day now… ” will make anyone gag.

        3) Hillary’s emails were a huge scandal, just not the one that was covered. She created a huge private workaround to the freedom of information act. She deliberately and knowingly attempted to deny the people the right to know what their government rep’s were doing, and she did it for personal gain with private money. This is a freaking scandal in it’s own right, irregardless of what was sent. She even admitted to it. “I just didn’t want them to know my yoga schedule’ really translates to ” I didn’t want people knowing what I was doing”.

        From Wikipedia: “In December 2012, near the end of Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, a nonprofit group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, filed a FOIA request seeking records about her email. CREW received a response in May 2013: “no records responsive to your request were located.”[32] “

        • dellingdog says

          D.B., no need to get nasty! It was an honest mistake. The bottom line (and my original point) is that illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens.

          Alex, it’s beyond ridiculous that you accuse Democrats of “slandering with impunity” when Donald Trump is President. He’s a pathological, narcissistic liar and bully who is constantly insulting his enemies (and often his allies). Yes, most reporters are liberal (and probably vote for Democrats) … because they’re educated. Trump’s base mostly consists of uneducated whites who are terrified of the prospect of a majority-minority America. Analyses have consistently shown that the best predictor of support for Trump is racial animus, not economic distress.

          I’ll concede your point about Hillary, mostly because I’m incredibly sick of talking about her,

          • @dellingdog.

            You claim that the “reporters lean liberal (and probably vote for democrats)… because they’re educated.”

            “Trump’s base mostly consists of uneducated whites who are terrified of the prospect of a majority-minority America.”

            This is the kind of thinking that got Trump elected in the first place. This general attitude is what makes people think Democrats/MSM are in bed with each other. This was the general nonsense that was spouted before, during and after elections on the “news” and in politics.

            You labeled a whole plane of people voting for diverse reasons down to their race, education and an assumption of their “xenophobia.” How is that liberal, open minded or educated thinking on part?

          • dellingdog says

            D.B., My original comment about immigrant criminality was responding to this statement: “Mass immigration and the subsequent refusal of new immigrants to integrate into the culture means that a lot of people have experienced violence or strife from people who are ostentatiously different from them.” It’s based on two false premises, (1) that the current wave of immigrants isn’t assimilating and (2) that immigrants are disproportionately violent. The study you cited provides evidence against the latter claim. I apologize for misstating the relative crime rates of legal vs. illegal immigrants.

          • D.B. Cooper says


            My apologies, I meant no disrespect; although on reflection I can see that I was a little over-the-top. To the extent that I came across like a petulant asshole, again, my apologies. According to my wife, I’m handicapped by a natural immaturity.

            My brutish atonement tour notwithstanding, I’d still like to hear your general view of immigration – legal and illegal. From what I can tell, you appear to occupy the Left side of the aisle, although to your credit you also seem to employ a level of rational thinking to your discourse; which makes you a rare breed among Leftists.

            While that compliment was sincere, it wasn’t without purpose. I mention this because I want to challenge a couple-three of the claims you made to @Alex in your most recent response. Consider the following:

            (1) “Yes, most reporters are liberal (and probably vote for Democrats) … because they’re educated.

            If true, there’s at least three (and possibly more) inferences that I can draw from this claim.
            One – postsecondary education correlates (strongly) with liberal/Leftist views.

            Two – if premise one is true then if follows that conservative views would more likely than not be held by “less” (scare quotes intentional) educated people.

            Three – while being “less” educated doesn’t mean, necessarily, you’re more likely to hold conservative views, being conservative does mean you’re more likely to be “less” educated.

            The obvious question is, of course, is the claim true. While you didn’t provide any evidence to support the claim (obviously) and I don’t feel like digging any up; I will say – and admittedly, I have no good reason for holding this belief – if I had to bet $1M either which way, I would bet your claim is more likely to be true than not true. Of course, adjudicating this claim would require a proper definition of terms, e.g., do trade schools count, enrolling vs. graduating from postsecondary institutions, etc., etc. It’s an interesting argument, nonetheless.

            (2) “Trump’s base mostly consists of uneducated whites who are terrified of the prospect of a majority-minority America.

            While I’m willing to concede the last claim was likely more plausible than not, I’m a little more, actually, a lot more pessimistic about this claim. Also, it’s worth noting you seem to drift-off just a bit into the more histrionic liberal vernacular with your description of uneducated whites being “terrified” of not simply a majority-minority America, but just simply the “prospect” of such a reality. I think, it’s fair to say your engagement in hyperbole is unwarranted. I’ve yet to meet anyone – that I would consider has full control over their mental faculties – who is “terrified” of a possibility. Yes, words matter.

            Putting aside your defamation of uneducated whites – which, ironically, is both racist and classist; not the most liberal of views some might say – the claim itself sets a new high-water mark for truth by assertion. For what it’s worth, I’m not at all concerned with your terribly condescending tone, or the fact that you’ve taken this tone while trafficking in what can only be described as liberal platitudes.

            I’m guilty of doing both all the time. Rarely, does a day go by that I’m not insulting white southern rednecks in some form or fashion. Never mind that I am one, it’s still great fun. You’re right, @D-square, many uneducated whites (in my experience and it is extensive) have a parochial mentality – but how, precisely, does that make my neighbors any different than educated liberal whites, or uneducated blacks/Hispanics for that matter – liberal, conservative or otherwise.

            Let’s be blunt here: no one has ever accused the black and/or Hispanic communities of running a surplus on educational attainment. And how do you think blacks or Hispanics would feel if an all black or Hispanic nation suddenly became majority-minority black/Hispanic?

            And, of course, this begs the question: Where’s your indignation for their provincial purview? Are we supposed to believe that their (blacks/Hispanics) views any more enlightened than the copious amounts of uneducated rednecks that I call my neighbors? Or is it simply that their (blacks/Hispanics) views – by which I mean, race reductionist discourse posing as a moral measuring tape for whitey – are aligned with your own, and therefore; can be excused away as echoes of some historical grievance.

            While, admittedly, nothing I’ve said actually disproves your claim (ironically, some of it might support your claim), if you get time, I would suggest skimming through the following two articles. The NYT article, How Much Can Democrats Count on Suburban Liberals; and the Politico article, Why Liberals Aren’t as Tolerant as They Think.

            The findings discussed in either article should be enough to disabuse you of your “provincial” view of uneducated whites. The latter references no less than 5 separate studies that run roughshod over the idea. So, that’s nice.

            (3) “Analyses have consistently shown that the best predictor of support for Trump is racial animus, not economic distress.

            Have they? What analyses. Come on @D-square, you’re better than that. Truth by assertion is for liberals women. It takes an inestimable amount of cognitive dissonance to circumscribe a disfavored group’s (read whitey) ineffectual complaints as a persecution complex, while simultaneously – and almost certainly for the express purposes of – advancing the acknowledgment of a favored group’s similarly indulgent narrative (read everyone else).

          • @dellingdog Yeah. We “uneducated” whites are terrified of becoming a “minority” in America because we’re realists. We can look around the entire world and find ZERO examples of “people of color” treating whites with anything even remotely approaching fairness.

            The reality is, the moment it is widely accepted that whites are a “minority” in America the non-stop, openly hateful racist violence towards us as a people will begin. And we will have no hope of it ever ending, because “people of color” have nothing we can appeal to make them stop. We cannot appeal to their Christianity, as Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. did with whites, because most “people of color” are hostile to Christianity. They’re muslims, they’re atheists, they’re buddhists, they’re wiccans or into voodoo or other pagan nonsense. It’s why they almost all vote Demoncrat. The Demoncrat Party is the Party of Hate Whitey and Hate Jesus. Demoncrats are the party of Me, of Self, of narcissists. They are not about mercy, forgiveness, or compassion. They’re all about Do What I Say Or ELSE.

            It should also be pointed out that in all of human history, NO group of persons ever wanted to become a “minority” in their own country. To become a minority is to be on the outside looking in at best, or exploited and killed at worst. Yet the Left constantly mocks whites for not WANTING to place our heads onto the chopping blocks of being “minorities”, in a country which would then be ruled by so-called “people of color” who will wish only to make us suffer as they constantly imagine we once made their great-uncle Kunta Kinte suffer. It is not sane for anyone to wish to become hated, despised, and abused. Yet that is the inevitable fate awaiting whites in America, just as surely as it occurs right now every day in south Africa, with no end in sight, EVER…

          • @dellingdog,

            Trump doesn’t deserve to be president, and his presence in elected life sullies the White House. His behavior is crude and unbecoming. I seem him as a poor forgery of President Jackson (who I have little but contempt for) and worry he will lead us to the same fate Jackson’s populism did. I didn’t, and will never, vote for Trump.

            Having said that, I refuse to accept the democrats or the media’s bad behavior ‘because Trump’. His faults don’t excuse theirs. They don’t get to just make shit up, ’cause that is what Trump does’. It takes two to tango in the White House Press room and the MSM has shown no ability to rise above Trumps sub basement level.

            It is Trump’s behavior that makes him unfit for office; and the national democrats and most of the MSM have copied it because it is profitable and effective in the short term. What does that say about MSM or our 2020 Democratic contenders?

            BTW- Trump won whites with a college degree 49% to 45%. In 2012, Romney won college whites by a somewhat wider margin in 2012 (56%-42%). Trump’s advantage among this group is the same as John McCain’s margin in 2008 (51%-47%).

          • @dellingdog Claims regarding Trump voters tend to be single variable analysis which means they are of little use. One thing that is being omitted is the important role authoritarianism was playing in the Democratic Party throughout the election(https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/699338?journalCode=jop&). The claim that reporters are liberal Democrats because they are educated is again another univariate analysis it doesn’t account for things like anti-PC sentiment which turn out is one variable that predicts support for the GOP even among liberals, if anything IQ predispose people to lean libertarian (who in study come out as more educated than liberals) but even that doesn’t take in account personality traits which, alongside Moral foundations, have the biggest influence on political preferences
            Even the claim concerning the alleged “racial animus” are flawed because the analysis you are alluding to use a scale known as “Racial Resentment”, a scale that has been recognized as biased, and since it simply measure liberals’ racial sympathies the best for someone to score low is to have at least a pro-black bias which is seen as the normative baseline, and even that is not enough, one needs to score high on measures of White Guilt (i.e anti-white whites)
            (read this for the bias of the “Racial Resentment” scale…https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ad3f/1d704c09d5a80c9b3af6b8abb8013881c4a3.pdf), I encourage you to follow Zach Goldberg (@ZachG932) who has interesting analysis regarding the ideological bias in academia and the leftward shift of Democrats and was recently cited by the NYTimes(https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-InKu3jR-J6LNrulbje-r4tIo25NTqoS/view),and Musa al-Gharbi who has provided one the best data-driven case for the causes of the outcome of the 2016 election.
            Among the other factors ignored is how the consumption of Media with a strong Left-Wing bias( and there isn’t any doubt on the existence of this bias: read https://www.amazon.com/Left-Turn-Liberal-Distorts-American/dp/1250002761) creates a distortion effect that correlates with, and might even cause, decreased accuracy in their audience; that’s not surprising since the role of the media in general is to create a narrative, but this is not even an entirely symmetrical issue since left-wing outlets result more biased than the right leanig ones who whilehere…https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/there-really-was-a-liberal-media-bubble/

      • @dellingdog illegal immigrants are 100% more criminal than the natives unless you are using a definition of illegal that I am not aware of and that is not a synonym of criminal
        The majority of mainstream organization in the US are liberal for the same reason the majority of media platform in the Gulf country are Islamic: a non insignificant amount of nepotism

      • Wal Harutyunyan says

        Sure! Why not? I’m bored:

        (1) “Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.”

        Do you mean “a smaller percentage of crimes”? Cuz otherwise your statement is beyond obvious. There are a a lot more native-born Americans than immigrants.

        And please keep in mind crossing the border illegally is a crime. Just sayin’.

        Pace you, this is “cherry picking,” and nobody is eating your pie but you. Enjoy the sugar rush.

        (2) “Democrats don’t “control” the media. Yes, most reporters lean liberal — that’s because they’re educated urban professionals. But the “MSM” gave candidate Trump massive amounts of free media coverage and fixated on Hillary’s email pseudo-scandal.”

        Exactly. Like I told that cop:

        “I was driving the car, but I wasn’t in “control” of the car, strictly speaking. The way I see it, that tree tricked me into running into it. And it was MY car that was dented, so who’s the real victim here?”

        Makes sense to me. Don’t change a thing.

        (3) “I can see why Republicans are so upset. There’s certainly nobody in the Republican Party who slanders the other side with impunity and routinely lies! Except the President. And Fox News. And Breitbart. And the Drudge Report. And Rush Limbaugh. And Sean Hannity …”

        Whatabout bout bout bout…

        “Officer, lots of other people both drink more and run into more trees than I do. Why are you giving me a sobriety test? There are really dangerous tree haters out there!”

        I’m gonna use this as an example in my logic class. I’m gonna tell them it was written by Thomas Aquinas, see how long it takes one of the mush-minds to call BOWLSHEET….

  19. D.B. Cooper says

    Moreover, Putnam contends that the decline in social capital can be explained by four possible factors: the pressures of time and money, suburbanization and commuting, electronic entertainment, and generational turnover. While each explanation is unique, they share a common feature: all are products of modernity.

    The fact that the authors’ reference Putnam’s, Bowling Alone, while ignoring more recent work (of his) on the subject is worrisome for multiple reasons. If the authors are/were serious about advancing an erudite argument, I would think they should have some obligation to at least mention it – as opposed to outright ignoring it.

    The work in question is Putnam’s, E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty‐first Century, and the abstract reads:

    Ethnic diversity is increasing in most advanced countries, driven mostly by sharp increases in immigration. In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’. Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. In the long run, however, successful immigrant societies have overcome such fragmentation by creating new, cross‐cutting forms of social solidarity and more encompassing identities. Illustrations of becoming comfortable with diversity are drawn from the US military, religious institutions, and earlier waves of American immigration.

    If they (the authors) were simply guarding against the confusion of referencing conflicting views from the same argument, they could have easily cited any number of studies (there’s a lot) with similar findings, such as Ethnic Diversity and Trust: New Evidence from Australian Data; which found, among other things:

    In all specifications, an increase in neighbourhood diversity is associated with a decrease in local trust, for both ethnic and linguistic diversity… Neighbourhood ethnic or linguistic heterogeneity is among the most important determinants of trust identified in the models.

    Of course, this doesn’t invalidate their (the authors) entire thesis, but it does/may suggest a couple things. One, their claim that “self-preoccupation and feeling of lost leisure time has reduced our participation in civic organizations,” as the reason we’re engaging less and why societal trust has dissipated IS QUESTIONABLE (at best). And two, the authors’ integrity has now been called into question, considering the likelihood that they were unaware of these studies is essentially nil (they managed to reference everything else, no?).

    • D.B. Cooper says


      (1) The opening paragraph is a (obviously) a passage from the article and should reflect as such:

      Moreover, Putnam contends that the decline in social capital can be explained by four possible factors: the pressures of time and money, suburbanization and commuting, electronic entertainment, and generational turnover. While each explanation is unique, they share a common feature: all are products of modernity.

      (2) Fifth paragraph should read:

      If they Harinam and Henderson (the authors) were simply guarding against the confusion of referencing conflicting views from the same argument author (Putnam), they could have easily…

      *** My apologies ***

    • dellingdog says

      D.B., thanks for the links; the Politico article is especially good. I’m an unapologetic elitist. I agree with much of Jason Brennan’s argument in _Against Democracy_: about 45% of the electorate are “hobbits” (indifferent to politics, want to be left alone), about 50% are “hooligans” (dedicated partisans who vote the party line but lack any real understanding of the issues), and the remaining 5% are “Vulcans” (informed voters). Given my values and my analysis of the issues, I think the Democratic platform is less bad than the Republican platform. I fully acknowledge that many black and Hispanic voters who reflexively support Democrats are uneducated partisans (“hooligans”), but I think their votes move the country in what I regard as the right direction.

      Please see my response to Alex for an admission of hyperbole and a link which supports my point. As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s difficult to remain reasonable and civil in anonymous comment sections. Quillette is much better than other political websites, but there are still a lot of ad hominem attacks and it’s always tempting to respond in kind. You’re very articulate for a white, Southern redneck! 🙂 Thanks for the nickname. I suspect we’d have a constructive and respectful conversation if we talked in person.

      • dellingdog says

        Forgot to include my view on immigration: I’m completely opposed to “open borders,” but I do support DACA, a path to citizenship for some immigrants who are in the country illegally, and an expanded guest-worker program combined with a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers.

        • dellingdog says

          @Tiffany, I feel very sorry for you. If I wasn’t afraid of being #me-too’ed I’d say you needed a hug. If it makes you feel better, I plan to use an excerpt from your post as an example of conspiratorial, reactionary panic in my lecture on racism. I sincerely hope that you and everyone who thinks like you find an isolated white ethnostate where you can live. (Maybe Idaho?)

          • @ Dellingdog
            Wow, what an amazingly condescending classist remark you left Tiffany. I am a highly educated female from a very red state so I think I know a thing or two about “uneducated whites” and you have demonstrated the most cliche’d remark I have ever read on Quillette.

            I think you need a little trip down humility lane to see the kind of mess that the“highly educated, best and brightest” of the intellectual class have wrought in the 20th century alone. It was not the “proletariat” that were the vanguard Bolsheviks, it was not the working class Germans that pushed Hitler into massive popularity, it was the intellectual elite. Read “Hitler’s Professors” for a revealing look at the massive groupthink of the professoriate and intellectual class of the Weimar Republic. Oh and I’m pretty sure our own Neocon Straussian intellectuals did a lot of reality creating in the lead up to the Iraq war. So, please stop with the self righteous fake elitism. True blue bloods would never, ever have to say out loud that they were an elite.

            This is your way of separating yourself from the hoi poi, just like all the other self conscious status seeking borgious. Try reading some Hayek on the Fatal Conceit of the intellectual class, ok?

            As for conspiratorial thinking, try reading the comments section of the NYT, especially of any Charles Blow op-ed it’s like a mirror image of Breitbart or Reddit Alt-Right.
            It is ridiculously conspiratorial. You are not any better than Tiffany, you view the world through specifically colored lenses. Namely the increasingly homogenous lense of the Western, educated, leftist lense. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that as long as you know the exact point of view from which your self righteously judging others.

      • D.B. Cooper says


        I fully acknowledge that many black and Hispanic voters who reflexively support Democrats are uneducated partisans (“hooligans”), but I think their votes move the country in what I regard as the right direction.

        D-squared, I appreciate your honesty. One of the more contemptable facets of the human condition is our inability to recognize the incongruities within our own worldview. Truth is hard to find once you’ve become emotionally involved with it, and anyone that claims otherwise is either lying or selling something. For reasons I’m not qualified to speculate on, the more I’m around people, the more I realize how uninformed we are about our irrationalities; which is exactly why I appreciate you acknowledging yours.

        Personally speaking, I’ve come to terms – reluctantly, it should be said – with the “sad” fact that, if pushed hard enough, I will always inevitably find a level of incoherence in my own views; and this despite my sincerest efforts to mitigate, if not eliminate, such inconsistencies. I say “reluctantly” because as someone who is deeply partial to ‘good sense’, I have a strong proclivity to reject the idea that no worldview can be logically coherent under all conditions, i.e., the existence of an absolute truth.

        While I continue to believe in such a thing as absolute truth – slippery, though it may be – it must be said that coalescing the manifestation of an absolute truth is no less an act grounded on an appeal to faith, than is coalescing the manifestation of purple-polka-dotted unicorns. A Sisyphean task, to be sure.

        You’re very articulate for a white, Southern redneck! ? Thanks for the nickname. I suspect we’d have a constructive and respectful conversation if we talked in person.

        Thank you for the compliment, and if it wasn’t, I intend to take it as such. As the great wordsmith, Mark Twain, once noted: I have been complimented many times in life and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.

        My insecurities aside, I’m sad to report that an articulate white, Southern redneck is not all it’s cracked up to be – in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is not always king.

        For reasons unknown to me, God (pick whichever one you like) has put me in a place I love, but do not belong. I know this may come as a shock to you – in which case, you’ll just have to take me at my word – but in my neck of the woods, an articulate white, Southern redneck has about the same social cache as a 4th wave feminist of ambiguous gender identity; less even considering I can count on one finger – if I include myself – the number people (I know personally) aware of the fact that feminism has multiple iterations. For whatever reason, the topic isn’t brought up much in everyday conversation.

        As irreverent as I may be, or appear to be, about my station in life and all that it entails, I can say with honest conviction – I wouldn’t want it any other way. And I say that without the slightest aid from drink or drug, and despite knowing the seductions of motivated reasoning are often born from an empty pretense that exceeds the faculties of an overly-challenged mind.

        I, too, suspect we’d have a constructive and respectful conversation, if we talked in person. For me, what makes this (theoretical) proposition so intriguing, is that two people with what I would guess are significantly different life experiences, beliefs, values, etc. You describe yourself as an unapologetic liberal elitist (which is about one step shy of Bolshevism); while I claimed the mantle of Southern redneck, and even this might be too generous a descriptor for someone like me. In truth, my formative years were less redneck than white-trash. That’s really what I would call it. I grew up in poverty to a single mom on welfare with four kids in a single-wide trailer. The white-trashiness gets worse (much worse) from there, but I’m going to stop b/c I think you get the idea.

        The upshot here is that people should be able to come together, even when – especially when – they have life experiences as wildly different as yours and mine. And not necessarily to find common ground, but to learn from one another; to test one another’s ideas; to find out where the strength and weaknesses of our ideas truly are.

        *** The Bolshevik Elitists vs. The White-Trash Southerners ***

        • D-Rex says

          D.B., if your origins claims are true (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), then I would be fascinated to read more of this tale as you are clearly an articulate writer and deep thinker and I suspect highly educated(self-educated). I make no assumptions here, just that in my experience, people like you are rare.

          • D.B. Cooper says


            D.B., if your origins claims are true (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), then I would be fascinated to read more of this tale as you are clearly an articulate writer and deep thinker and I suspect highly educated(self-educated). I make no assumptions here, just that in my experience, people like you are rare.

            Thank you for the kind words @D-Rex; although, undoubtedly, there’s more than a few who’d say you’ve been a bit too charitable in your description. Nonetheless, I do appreciate the gracious compliments. For whatever it’s worth, what follows is an abridged version of this rather peculiar tale I call, my life.

            I was born in the rural south to teenage parents whose marriage, two years earlier, was predicated not so much on love as it was the inducements of my (maternal) grandfather’s shotgun vis-à-vis the birth of my older brother. As it turned out their coerced commitment to fidelity was less a commitment than it was an option – an option they both deferred; and so, as is often the case with shotgun marriages, my parents were happily divorced by the time I was in grade school. After which, I rarely, if ever saw my father – and for reasons that wouldn’t be clear to me until much later in life.

            As I stated in the previous post, I was raised by a single mother of four on welfare. We lived in one or another rundown single-wide mobile homes (trailers) from the day I was born until the day I moved out on my own. When I describe my formative years as white-trash, what I mean is a type of lifestyle where destructive and/or nonproductive behavior is the norm as it pertains to poor/uneducated rural whites.

            Your assumptions are warranted, because you’re right, most poor rural whites (in the South) don’t break away from this type of behavior, nor do they want to – for a multitude of reasons it seems to continue, almost without exception, from one generation to the next. I could fill reams of paper with such examples from my childhood/teenage years.

            Take my three siblings as an example. Two of the three never graduated high school, which you might think is an ominous sign, until you consider that two of my siblings (a different pair) have also been convicted of felony crimes – one involved someone losing their life and the other the manufacturing of methamphetamines; which, along with marrying your cousin, is widely considered the gold standard of white-trash behavior. If you want to get an accurate depiction of the type of life I’m referring to – the type that many in my community live every day – you could do worse than J.D. Vance’s, Hillbilly Elegy.

            As for myself, I’ve never had a predilection for deviant behavior – academic, criminal, or otherwise. In fact, outside of one or two speeding tickets, I’ve never ran afoul of the law. And yes, I graduated high school, then college, then graduate school. In what must have been a surprise to everyone (my family included), I was what you might call a precocious child. Unlike my siblings, I was able to read and write at an early age, and I always did quite well in school (advanced classes, Gifted program, etc.).

            The truth is, despite sharing the same environment, I am – in more ways than not – as different from my parent(s), grandparents (none of which graduated high school) and siblings as they are from me. And just to be clear, not all of these differences break in my favor, e.g., personality traits.

            I guess the question you’re wanting to know is, “Why am I different from those typically found in my community, i.e., poor/uneducated rural whites trash?

            I’ve thought about that question throughout the years, although when I have, I usually frame it in terms of ‘Why are they (family/community) different than me’ rather than ‘Why am I different than them (family/community)’. As with most people, I automatically code my behavior/thoughts/values as the “norm” and any/everyone who deviates from that paradigm as the “exception.”

            The most simplistic answer to this question can probably be attributed to differences that are both genetic and environmental in origin; although, I would think (but not certain) genetic inputs are likely to play an outsized role (as a causal factor) as a result of environmental differences being somewhat mitigated within a shared socio-cultural setting. Of course, these (genetic inputs) would likely play an even greater role when discussing familial differences.

            Right now, you might be wondering why genetics would play a significant role in explaining the differences (I discussed earlier) between me and my family members.

            Well as it turns out, my Dad is not my biological father, although he is the biological father of my three siblings; which isn’t that big of a deal, until you consider that I was the 2nd of 4 children, and that I didn’t find out about any of this – my illegitimacy, specifically – until my mid-20s; which kinda made it a big deal for me. I’ll let you work out the logistical implications of how something like this happens.

            I hate to break into essentialist talks right here at the end, but the truth is, once I was able to excise the emotional response from my calculus, I realized that what had actually occurred was something closer to being saved from the fire, rather than being condemned to it. Now, some may think my matriculation towards relief was a bit condescending, but I would like to think better explanations are available. As to what those might be, I will leave that for you to decide.

            I hope this brief explanation, helps in some way. If not, I would, again, recommend you take a look a J.D. Vance’s book. He gives an excellent account of this culture.

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  21. Cannot afford to become a patron at this time, but I wanted to tell you how thought-provoking this was. I shared the link with many on my social medias.

  22. Cornfed says

    Christianity was the great uniter of the western world. Its decline has caused the fragmentation we now see. Or, put another way, it held our tribalism in check for a thousand years, but we are now returning to our natural tribalistic ways.

    • dellingdog says

      Christianity was a uniter? The Catholic Church maintained its spiritual monopoly over the West by condemning heretics to Hell and ruthlessly eradicating any resistance (e.g., the Cathars). Once Protestantism became established, Europe was ravaged by religious warfare for over a century. The concept of religious tolerance emerged as a consequence of this conflict and was championed by Enlightenment figures like Thomas Jefferson. The least Christian countries in Europe (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands) are among the happiest and most successful. As the number of “nones” in the U.S. continues to grow, I hope we’ll finally move in the same direction.

      • Mellowcanadian says

        Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands are also not very “diverse”….which countries have banned full face covering? Imagine the uproar in the US and Canada if that type of legislation was introduced ( Quebec will likely introduce a face covering ban for the public service in the near future…the Laurentian elite are already inflamed). In order to “move in the same direction” you’d have to re-create the “American” tribe.

      • sorethumb says

        My family were not very religious Presbyterians but I miss cousins and family congregating to walk to church and a family Sunday dinner afterwards.

      • Congratulations for pointing out that a religion behaved just like any other religion and political ideology in human history (I hope @dollingdog hasn’t already erased the other Abrahamic faiths from memory), somehow @dellingdog doesn’t seem to notice that one the best ways to uphold unity is to purge or penalize outliers and that holds true for both secular and religious belief systems, so I will encourage him/her to check Emile Durkeim’s work on religion, his definition of the phenomenon and the more recent cognitive/psychological studies. The idea of “religious tolerance”, a term and a concept I seriously despise, wasn’t invented by the Enlightenment nor was it knew when it was used as an excuse to declare war against the Pope. The concept of “religion” itself is a gift to the idealogues regardless of their background.
        Although the number of “none” in the US seems to be increasing, we are not dealing with rational humans, a quasi-mythological creature, but with pseudeo-atheists, peole who still display religious-like tendencies and behavior ( @dellingdog seems to be one interesting example but I shouldn’t jump to conclusions) and “Our planet is infested with pseudo-atheists”, Christianity is being replaced by another religion call it Progressivism, Multiculturalism or non-theistic UltraCalvinist Christianity, the problem remains Idealism and “Idealism is not great”.
        Eric Kauffmann has an interesting book on how the higher fertility rate of religious people is reversing the trend toward secularism, of course as an atheist myself I find that disappointing but trying to push the religious towards atheism has had a negative effect..

  23. Optional says

    Political affiliation correlates better with “identity” than with policy ideology because that is the secrete sauce that Democrats discovered to obtain power.
    Everyone figured out the “free stuff paid for by somebody else” old Democratic line was a lie. But this new one is a total winner. Democrats wanted to elected a lady with a law degree who was $300,000 in debt, and a guy under FBI investigation for bribery – because they had the “right” superficial genetic traits.

  24. Replacing ‘we’ and ‘us’ with ‘I’ and ‘me’ suggests narcissism to the author, but might just as well suggest greater personal responsibility and less hiding in mobs. ‘We’ and ‘us’ terms are often abused by people using them like the Royal Prerogative, or not really including themselves in the statement at all, defying the fact that the first personal plural should include the first person singular. I always ask exactly who ‘we’ and ‘us’ are.

  25. johno says

    This sort of mob mentality has happened before, and without electronic media.

    The last time a major left leaning political movement got out of hand, was the French Revolution, specifically when Robespierre and the Jacobins seized control of the ‘committee for public safety’ (and the rest of the government).

    Much like the current left today, the Jacobins regarded themselves to be enlightened, and therefore, whatever they thought was above judgment. Much like the current left, a complete failure of self examination.

    The result was The Terror, a brief period when people were condemned, usually falsely, on flimsy pretexts, or often no pretexts at all. Very much what’s going on with the hard left and social media today, without the guillotine.

    In reality, the death toll from The Terror was fairly small, around four or five thousand people, but it is remembered as a time when a political ideology, in practice, divorced itself from the ideals it claimed to hold, and was completely out of control.

    Eventually, more civil minds prevailed, the Jacobins were ousted, Robespierre was sent to the guillotine, and France got back on it’s feet. If we are to contrast today’s situation with how it went in the past, we find that political extremism on any end tends to stray from it’s ideals, and become power for the sake of power… right down to failing to apply their ideals to themselves, and repressing any who disagree.

    And, eventually, extremism fails. This, too, will come to pass.

  26. R Henry says

    We exist in a historically and doctrinally significant, yet echoed moment…a time of cultural Reformation.

    501 years ago, starting in Oct of 1517, the Western world was upended by Martin Luther’s efforts to reform The Church. His quest was enabled by the then new communication technology called the printing press. The press allowed rapid dissemination of Luther’s ideas, supported organization of like-minded individuals into groups, and the ability to carry ideas over long distances. The power of the press was strong enough to re-order European Faith and culture, to eventually move Europe to the savage 30 Years War, which killed 8 million, form the basis for The Enlightenment, and spawn what we consider “modern” culture.

    Our contemporary era has ushered in another similarly powerful communication technology, the Internet. The ‘net amplifies all the disruptive attributes of the press by at least 1000%, and introduces additional disruptive capabilities. That our culture is enduring existential conflict and dissolution is entirely predictable…it happened in the same way 500 years ago. The Internet generally, and social media specifically, are empowering this.

    Do I anticipate another fundamental reordering of Western Faith and society, war, and the birth of new philosophies, as a result of this new communication technology? Absolutely. All the conflicts within the Faith, and within larger Western culture illustrate the implosion of the Post-Reformation “Modern” society.

    We have entered the transitional period, from our Post-Reformation Liberal Culture…to whatever comes next. Our great grandchildren will live in an entirely different cultural and spiritual paradigm.

    Hang on, it is going to be a rough ride.

  27. Craig says

    Commercial entertainment has replaced family interaction and digital media has absconded with the little time left for personal development. Loss of time stems from a sense of constant engagement with the red tape of an overreaching government and the digital obsessions mentioned above. Identifying tribalism as a problem is too superficial. The real issue at hand is the underlying impetus to this regressive trend. All of the causes identified in this article are collateral symptoms more than causes. The real causes of tribalism are a function of the western model of capitalism, and the pathological obsession with profits and market expansion. Corporations profit off of war, chaos, unenlightened drone workers with low pay, massive energy consumption, intentional obsolescence, unfettered resource consumption, and media-controlled consumerism. All of this leads to isolation, ignorance, generalized poverty, loss of time, frustration, alienation and tribalism. The balance to this should be government structures honed to mitigate the worst trappings. Unfortunately this positive force has been castrated by legislation that gives Corporations the right to buy and control the entire political process. The other balance should be a free press, which has also been purchased by the elite wealthy and turned to their agenda.
    How can people ever hope to be educated, empathetic, integrated, progressive and cooperative when they are forced to survive in an environment that destroys all enlightened ideas and positive social interactions? Look at what our system of capitalism has done to the most significant advance since the printing press: Instant digital connectivity and information is dominated by social media, porn, gaming, advertising and RETAIL SALES. All of which benefit corporations and retard intellectual and social progress. And sites like this one are called “dangerous” because it dares to deal in truth!

  28. Mastriani says

    Very interesting article.

    Prompts the inquiry: if a social identity is replaced with a technological identity, does that exchange cause a change or otherwise modify individual level of self-awareness?

    Has there been a study that has attempted to research such an inquiry?

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