Thursday, May 28, 2015

Left Shift: The End of Society

What?? It's the LEFT Shift Key
Pete Wehner does some concern-trolling in the New York Times asking "Have Democrats Pulled Too Far To The Left?"
To see just how far the Democratic Party has moved to the left, compare Barack Obama with Bill Clinton. In 1992, Mr. Clinton ran as a centrist New Democrat. In several respects he governed as one as well. He endorsed a sentencing policy of “three strikes and you’re out,” and he proposed adding 100,000 police officers to the streets. 
In contrast, President Obama’s former attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., criticized what he called “widespread incarceration” and championed the first decrease in the federal prison population in more than three decades. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, has chosen to focus on police abuses.
He concludes with:
For demographic reasons, many Democrats believe that they are riding a tide of presidential inevitability. They may want to rethink that. They are placing a very risky bet that there are virtually no limits to how far left they can go.
The article is written like nothing at all changed between the 1990's and 2015--but never mind that: Just as Pete chides Democrats for their leftward slide, Gallup comes out with this (same day!)--Americans Continue to Shift Left on Key Moral Issues:
Now, to be fair, Pete is talking policy while Gallup is talking moral issues--but the idea that those two things aren't intertwined would baffle every conservative voter and most liberal ones. After all, opposition for gay marriage is deal-breaker for 25-31% of Republicans. So . . . Maybe Pete's next article is how Hillary just isn't left enough?

Probably not.

That's not what we're here to talk about today. No--the question is this: Is the leftward shift in the electorate a symptom of a society that is about to collapse . . . or the cause of it? Huh? We'll get to it--for now just follow along nodding sagely.

The Culture War and the Decline of the Churched

The Omnivore thinks that--from the vantage point of right now--the culture war is going to be a major feature in the 2016 election (at least, The Omnivore hopes so--it will be a "popcorn level" event). This is because left-wing successes have, kinda-sorta (that is, in the minds of the culture warriors) backed SoCons into a corner. If they don't win in 2016 gay marriage is here to stay (it's here to stay anyway--but The Omnivore is being dramatic about it).

So they'll go to the wall for Huckabee (probably--maybe Cruz/Walker?) and see if they still have a voice in American politics. Can they force the candidate to condemn gay marriage and other moral disasters. American Conservative's Rod Dreher gets it: America's Socially Liberal Future
Post-Christian America. It’s the philosophical corollary to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD): Autonomous Eroticized Individualism. We should call it AEI. Oh, wait…
Okay, so Post-Christian America is pretty clear--what's he talking about? The Omnivore doesn't get the AEI joke. AEI seems to be the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think-tank. The rest of it though, is pretty pointed: Moral Therapeutic Deism is a term coined to reflect what teenagers think religion is about (that a distant god wants us to be happy in life). Autonomous Individualism refers to a belief system of radical narcissism. When it is "Eroticized" apparently (according to the comments section) you get something like this: gender fluidity and an imperative for society to accept it (the horrors).

Basically Rod thinks we've gone off the cliff and it's free-fall to Abaddon now.

From the perspective of a Culture Warrior--or just a Culture Critic (Rod's preferred response is to cede the playing-field to the masses)--this is the End Game. This will be the destruction of America and the West. The Culture Warrior can see this in the decline of "the churched"--especially women--who are leaving the church in greater numbers than men.

It looks like this:
Click Link For Explanation of X Axis
The demographics of the 'post-Christian' look like this:

So Dreher is maybe on to something: we are, it would appear, leaving religion quickly. If, indeed, women are leaving faster, there is a saying "As go women, so goes the American church." They might be right about that: women are traditionally the fuel the church runs on--they're not up in the pulpit but they are the traditional pool of volunteers. They run the day cares. They make the coffee.

They also tend to get young kids into the church because once they have them, they want to instill moral values.

Today that doesn't seem to be happening. Will that destroy western society?

Probably not.

No, The Omnivore wants you to look at this:

The Great Decoupling

The Great Decoupling isn't about people leaving the church--it's about economics.What we see above is productivity, real GDP per capita, employment, and median family income rising steadily and in lockstep until around 1990. Then bang--they splinter and branch off. We now--and this is, yes, thanks to technology--get steadily rising productivity with falling median family income and far less increase in employment.

This represents, essentially, the top percents of the income spectrum and people with serious training--high level college degrees--breaking away from everyone else. Note that the decoupling tracks the decline of religion.

Read the whole linked article above.

Now look at this:
While men may lead in STEM degrees, women are earning more college degrees than men and the difference is accelerating. The Great Decoupling means that for people with college degrees the gap in employment and wages will grow with respect to those without--and more and more rapidly as technology ushers in an age of learning machines.

If you want to know what The Omnivore thinks will crash society it isn't the un-churching--it's the Great Decoupling.
Wage Premium From College Degree Up

The Great Decoupling, Liberal Values, and The Church

What Social Conservatives see in the decline in religious observance and the increase in liberal values is related: without the signposts of theology-based morality there is little reason to oppose gay marriage--or divorce--or polygamy, for that matter. You can still decry testing on animals--it's cruel--but, hey, Stem Cell research is great!

If you no longer have a formal church you get the teenage version (Moral Therapeutic Deism):
  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

For a SoCon, this is clearly not enough to hang a society on. They might even be right about that. The decoupling means that women--who for whatever reason are better socialized and better performing towards getting degrees--will pull away for their income bracket from men and, it seems the trend shows, adopt more liberal views over time.

The church may require women to do its work but it is run by men and it conveys a centuries old male-dominant message. It isn't--depending on interpretation--a bad message necessarily--but religious observers have realized for a long time that things like birth control, education of girls, and no-fault divorce (with alimony) have eaten away at its foundation. Not surprisingly, all of these things mainly empower women.

The Decoupling combined with a Degree-Gap, though is a whole 'nother deal. Where being able to have sex or get a divorce without traumatic consequences looming was a new realm of freedom for women, this is a base-level power imbalance--and it's a feedback loop. The longer the trends continue, the more they reinforce each other--the stronger it gets. Looking at nothing but the graphs and drawing the trend lines out, it's pretty clear: We're decoupling and educating ourselves into matriarchy.

Women--liberal women--might start getting ideas. The Omnivore even hears a bunch of the poor things are even thinking of voting for Hillary. Imagine that!

Whatever you think of women, men, and the church, The Omnivore avers that the edifice of Western Society cannot survive this trend a decade or two out. Whatever comes next will be in its place--a sea change--not the original.


The Omnivore sees a few holes in this--but not that many. Firstly, the Decoupling thing is real and it's going to have a massive impact sooner or later. Machines are now augmenting minds rather than bodies and eventually they will do creative things as well. Robots will proliferate in the next few years and there is no way--just no way--for society to keep up. It will have to change.

On the other hand, people leaving the church isn't the same thing as leaving Christianity. In fact, the unchurched are often still quite Christian (see point #10). Spirituality doesn't have to stop at the teenaged level and Dreher's assertion that people voting for Same Sex Marriage must be naive narcissists speaks to his own blind-spot: maybe people are just less concerned with what other people do? After all, if you don't like gay marriage, you don't have to get gay married.

Same thing with women--if women are leaving the church in greater numbers than men, maybe it's because that female oncologist is being asked to make coffee--or because now they're working a job like the men are and can't volunteer in the afternoons like they used to. Churches tend to have other paid positions--for guys. Maybe that's what needs to change.

The larger point here though is that our technology and educational system are driving a cultural divide that is, itself, driving a moral shift away from church-ethics to secular ones. This is also creating gender inequalities in an opposite polarity to what society was built on. This driver--the underlying increase in technologically driven business is massively disruptive and for the most part invisible. We see people leaving the church. We see women getting college degrees.

We don't generally ascribe that to computers. As a friend of The Omnivore put it "HAL is practically measuring the drapes in your office." The Omnivore hopes HAL picks a nice color.


  1. Love your blog. The author of the NY Times article is Pete Wehner: neocon pundit and speech-writer from the GWB administration.

    1. Thanks--it's a decent blog. Really needs an editor ;)

  2. So: society is going to hell (this is known), and it's going to be pink. Egads! Hello Kitty is bad enough on bento boxes; the last thing we need is to have it up our backsides on stainless-steel pine cones!

    HAL keeps singing me kids' songs and refusing to open the pod bay doors and like that. At least he's polite when he apologizes for not being able to do things.

    I keep meaning to collect phonemes from Douglas Rain while he's still living; he'd be about 87 years old now. Absent that, I'm going to have to hire Maurice LaMarche to provide his talents for my voice prompts.

    -- Ω

    1. Really, if I'm going to be machine-murdered I'd like it to be by a polite one.