Keeping up with the FITs, 7/13
Benn Eifert on investment scams; Charles Fain Lehman on marijuana; Robert Wright and Ross Douthat on the blogosphere; Leighton Woodhouse on social classes
On Noah Smith’s Substack, Ben Eifert gives some tips for avoiding investment scams.
The first step in avoiding being taken for a ride is to recognize that you are a mark for people trying to get rich off your money.
Burn the principle into your brain that financial markets are large and competitive and have a lot of smart people in them.
Easy money-making opportunities are almost never real; professional mercenaries would have found and exploited them first.
There is more at the link.
In 2020, there were about 1.18 times as many Americans ages 12 and up as there were in 2002, but there were 2.26 times as many Americans who used marijuana 10 days a month or more.
Legalization has not made casual use easier. But it has made addictive use more prevalent.
I don’t think that this means that we need to go back to the regime that makes possession of marijuana illegal. But I do think that we need to be more punitive toward people who misbehave because of their substance abuse.
This spring I took frequent walks in woods nearby. Whether I walked at 8 in the morning or noon, I always saw the same three boys who should have been in school instead sitting next to a stream smoking marijuana. My guess is that this will not turn out well for those boys.
Talking with Robert Wright about the “golden age of blogging,” Ross Douthat says,
What that era had, I think, was a lot of contexts where people were sort of engaging at length with ideas that they really, really strongly disagreed with. And that was what blogging itself sort of lent itself to.
There were two structural factors that contributed to this. One was that Google had a Blogsearch function, which helped to make blogs easier to access and follow. The other was that blogs had a “trackback” feature, that allowed you to look at one blog post and see which other bloggers had responded to it.
Trackback was ruined by “trackback spam,” in which spammers would insert irrelevant ads and other junk into the trackback stream. If we could have eliminated trackback spam, trackback was an excellent way to build a discussion/argument among bloggers. I think that Substack could benefit from a trackback function.
Leighton Woodhouse (pointer from Razib Khan) writes,
while the university does indeed turn some meaningful number of kids from poor or working class families into middle class or upper middle class professionals, its primary function is not to dismantle the social hierarchy, but to reproduce it. It does so by glorifying the cultural tastes and moral virtues of the upper middle class and celebrating them as the universal, transcendent values of civilization rather than as the arbitrary, parochial preferences they objectively are. In our collective imagination, a degree from a prestigious university is purported to be evidence of one’s elevation into some kind of higher order of citizen, or something. In reality, what it signifies more than anything is a successful cultural assimilation into the professional managerial class, which can then be parlayed into higher lifelong earning potential. In this way, the university generates and re-generates the economic value of specifically upper middle class cultural capital, while degrading that of the working class.
My perspective differs somewhat. I think that from the 1940s through the 1970s there was a genuine movement in the direction of merit-based criteria for broadening access to universities, and hence upward mobility, for those who were not white, male, and Protestant. As of 1940, my father’s career was somewhat limited by the fact that he was born Jewish, and my mother’s career was limited by the fact that she was born female. And of course others had it worse by being born Black. By 1980, those barriers of prejudice had been much reduced.
But now the trend is away from merit-based criteria and instead toward cultural conformity. Part of that cultural conformity is contempt for people who work with things. And part of it is contempt for liberal values.
At least from that excerpt, Woodhouse appears to talking around the actual problem with the current state of post-secondary education. "[S}uccessful cultural assimilation into the professional managerial class" is exactly the point of any post-secondary degree. The generation of an attitude of disdain for 'working class virtues' (I'm not entirely sure there is a significant difference between UMC virtues and working class virtues, but I'll play along) is directly attributable to the fact that we've steadily reduced the number of kids from poor and working class families who attend post-secondary institutions by switching from admission by merit to admission based on DIE criteria even as actual negative discrimination based on those criteria has declined, as you noted.
Have you read 'The Aristocracy of Talent' by Adrian Wooldridge ?
If not it might be worth a look for you. Wooldridge goes into how talent was highly regarded for a long time and many of the left and right pushed the meritocracy but how many have turned against it.
In England the Grammar Schools were set up by the left and then torn down by the left.