I have a soft spot for Jerry Pournelle, and the issue he raises here is one that my father rails about. He points out that being idle is destructive to your soul, to your pride.
Particularly if you are a man. I've spent a fair amount of time watching young men -- I have three in the extended family -- negotiate through a system that tells them that they are disposable. Two are going for trades. One is trying to get a job, and spends even more time than I do reading the Alt Right and Moldbug.
As my wife says, the issue is not money. The issue is credentialism. What annoys me is that the creativity that would make my lads assets is not marketable to the Human Resources people.
And this is getting worse. I cannot, with a clear conscience, recommend university to anyone who is not going for a profession that requires a degree. It is better to start working at McDonalds or as a dishwasher, and teach yourself skills.
There is another way forward: the redevelopment of feudalism, where the rich have clients, and their enforcers (men at arms) have jobs for life. The Japanese run their corporations this way.
You have given your Lord your fealty, and you serve him as well as you can. In reciprocation, he will find you something to do.
To be serious: a great deal of the traditional work that defined a great part of the population is going to be automated, leaving a lot of citizens – very likely a majority – with little sense of purpose. The schools do not seem to be addressing this. Judging by recent activities on collegiate campuses, what they teach in high school is political action as a purpose in life, and encouraging graduates to participate by any means necessary. The theory of tax supported public education is that it is investment in the future; an investment that will benefit those who have no children in schools but nevertheless must pay school taxes as well as those with more personal reasons to see their children educated. There is little evidence that students are in general being taught any skills that any sane person would pay them money to do, although that is certainly an overly broad generalization, and of course one can always find exceptions; but teaching of actual habits and skills that justify the expenses of our school system are increasingly harder to find.
One obvious step to take is to assume that local authorities are more likely to know what it would be valuable for youngsters to know than experts in Washington devising nationwide policies. This seems obvious, but of course is vigorously opposed by the education experts, particularly those who no longer have classrooms (if they ever were classroom teachers).
It would seem reasonable to have the people in charge of our schools report on their perception of the value of what they teach; it might even make interesting reading. Of course it is unlikely that we will ever see such reports.
I was in the Army at a time when there were still remnants of the old volunteer peacetime Army, and they universally had the view that they were in the Army for life; and that it was the Army’s job to find them things to do. “If all I get left is one arm and all I can do is answer the phone, it’s the Army’s job to put me to work answering the phone,” one long time buck sergeant told me in Basic Training. He meant it, too.
In other words, he expected to get fed, clothed, and housed, and be given a bit of pocket change (basic pay even for sergeants in 1950 was pretty low) pretty well for the rest of his life; but he also expected to be given work to do, even if it was only bringing coffee to the officers. There is the germ of an idea in that expectation; think on it. I’ll come back to this issue, I promise.
Pournelle, who wrote this, has written a novel of this: I think I read it about two decades ago, and I liked it then. I still do, in part because the products of this time find their heads exploding when they read it. If this reviewer is a representative of higher education, it seems to make you unemployable.
She misses the main criticisms of the arcology idea. It gives an alternative to the micromanagement of the modern state. One that many people would take. And one that the modern narrative despises. Where I read a competent corporate state that predates Moldbug, she sees nothing but badthink.
But she has given her oath to an ideology, not a person.
One of the more vile and viciously right wing novels I’ve read, though to be fair I haven’t read many of them at all. But this is something like Ayn Rand – wig askew and on her 13th pink gin fizz – going off on a paranoid scree about the muggers and rapists who are all out to kill her. Because she’s so rich and talented and beautiful and they just can’t handle that so she’s bought 10 attack dogs and built a concrete bunker.
It’s all about taking the gated community to the next level, making it a maze of about a cubic square mile with about a quarter of a million people. It towers like a monstrous black cube in an area essentially burned down by its own residents – I would think Watts or Compton. It’s powered by hydrogen, fed through pipes from ‘a complex of nuclear breeder plants in Mexico’. Ah, the outsourcing of risk and contaminants. It calls itself Todos Santos – All Saints – why do white people in the Southwest always call their high-end real estate developments nice things in Spanish? A patronising nod to the people they stole the land from? Easier to pronounce than indigenous phrases for ‘Pretty View’ and ‘Mountain Hills’? But the authors aren’t being entirely metaphorical in calling the residents saints. Apparently you can pick them out of a crowd of poor old Angelinos, they are the shiny beautiful people who move in a certain way, speak in a certain way. They are a new kind of person.
THINK OF IT AS EVOLUTION IN ACTION. I thought at first this rather chilling slightly fascist slogan must be ironic or a nod to the dangers this kind of project could raise. But no. These really are a better kind of people, helped by those who commit suicide or get themselves killed. They like this slogan, paint it on walls, put it on stickers and huge banners like a big F-you to L.A.
The Utopia? ‘We’re running a civilization, something new in this world, and don’t bother to tell me how small it is. It’s a civilization. The first one in a long time where people can feel safe’. Constantly watched, constantly surveilled and monitored. But the many guards are their friends. They don’t arrest people for being too drunk the way the terrible LAPD does, they walk you home. What is better than being safe after all? We know that the real danger is from criminal poor people who are all on the outside, hopped up to their eyeballs on drugs and trying to shoot down helicopters.
Todos Santos is of course trying to be completely separate from Los Angeles – the crime, the pollution, the drugs, the poor people. There’s a lot of anger in this book about how the government forces all of us to become accountants to pay our taxes, and the pain of collecting receipts and things. A whole lot of anger. Familiar tea party sort of anger
Trust me, it gets worse.
The issue that the left has not considered is that they no longer have a working caste. They have a client caste: at present it is clients of the state and its social welfare system. This has been baked into the structure of the social democratic process. It has the support of the unions, because it means that they have somewhat higher wages in Europe (at the cost of very high youth unemployment) and is loved even more by the global corporations, who choose to hire the minimal amount of employees and the lowest wage possible.
There are other ways to organize life. One is as a community: supporting itself. The prototype of this was not feudal: it is the extended family. In low trust societies, the family matters far more than state or religion, and this clannishness does not disappear in the few high trust societies.
The noble household and its modern incarnation, the corporation, were high trust states. Where you were not let go. You may be doing the phone calls or weeding the garden, but you were not let go.
And when society atomizes, young men will be prepared to give fealty to such. Any disciplined group will outcompete, out think, and out fight an atomized rabble. The question is where that fealty will be.
For the current narrative leaves a generation with no purpose. Into this vacuum, purpose will come. Pray that this purpose is revival and reformation. The alternatives leave blood on the streets.