Keeping up with the FITs, No. 16

Educated, Obedient, and Scared?

Joel Kotkin writes,

"There are people who can work in the virtual world, which tells them how to act and think, and they can stay safe," Laure Mandeville-Tostain of the Paris-based Le Figaro noted astutely. "Then there are those who object to the rules—people who have to go to work and see this as another way in which the elite is telling them how to live."

…it's not just when it comes to COVID-19 that this generation endorses control over freedom. The notion of imposing authoritarian controls over speech has particular purchase among the young and college educated. In other words, as Mandeville argues, the chasm between the obedient and the non-compliant has much of its basis in class.

But recall that at the start of the pandemic, when President Trump imposed travel restrictions from China, the equal and opposite reaction of the elites was to downplay the possibility of a pandemic. Still, the current alignment seems more natural.

As Kotkin points out, neither side of the class war is covering itself in glory. The less-educated are rejecting vaccines, which seem to have significant benefits and little or no risk. The elites remain enamored of lockdowns, mask mandates, and remote classrooms, which have no proven benefit and, at least in the case of lockdowns and remote classrooms, high costs.

A future in which an elite is educated, obedient, and easily manipulated into being frightened sounds pretty grim to me.

Speaking of me being grim, Joe Selvaggi interviewed me for Hubwonk (the link goes to the generic site. As of the week of October 4th, my interview is on top, but it will drop down in later weeks.) The topic is my book The Three Languages of Politics. If you are not familiar with the book, the podcast gives a good 30-minute introduction.

Continuing with grim news, John Cochrane interviews Casey Mulligan about the massive budget reconciliation bill (Mulligan actually knows what’s in it). It sounds like it was written by Wesley Mouch. I say that in practice government policies subsidize demand and restrict supply. So the bill will subsidize day care and insist that day care be unionized. If you think that the total spending in the bill is what is wrong with it, you are wrong. If the bill did not increase spending by a dime but all of its disincentives to work and invest were imposed, it would be an economic disaster.

And while we are on harms inflicted by the political world, Matt Taibbi talks about the recent (or not-so-recent) development of a drug to treat the virus.

Though the Tamiflu episode reminds us that not every drug hailed by a drugmaker as a “huge advance” turns out to be one, it’s obviously very possible that molnupiravir turns out to be the game-changer its developers claim it is. If that’s the case, a lot of officials and journalists will have a lot of questions to answer, since this drug’s release may have been delayed by six months or more, after it became collateral damage last year to yet another idiotic Trump/anti-Trump culture war drama.

“It could have been out six months ago,” says Dr. Robert Kadlec, former assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “It would have been a game-changer… It would have saved tens of thousands of lives.”

Ending on an optimistic note, Joel Kotkin writes,

Today, perhaps 42% of the 165 million-strong U.S. labor force is working from home full time, up from 5.7% in 2019. When the pandemic ends, that number will probably drop, but one study, based on surveys of more than 30,000 employees, projects that 20% of the U.S. workforce will still work from home post-COVID. 

Others predict a still more durable shift: A University of Chicago study suggests that a full one-third of the workforce could remain remote, and in Silicon Valley, the number could stabilize near 50%. Both executives and employees have been impressed by the surprising gains of remote work, and now many companies, banks, and leading tech firms—including Facebook, Salesforce, and Twitter—expect a large proportion of their workforces to continue to work remotely. Nine out of 10 organizations, according to a new McKinsey survey of 100 executives across industries and geographies, plan to keep at least a hybrid of remote and on-site work indefinitely.

I am equally bullish on the remote work phenomenon, although it would seem to exacerbate the class differences that this same Joel Kotkin talked about in his other essay.