Tag Archives: total entitlement state

Thoughts on how important social mobility is to America’s Lifestyle

heather-Aug10-05-400Introduction

As I was growing up in Cleveland in the 1960’s, high social mobility in America was a given. “Anyone can be president, even you,” our teachers told us as an indicator that we all had equal opportunities to succeed. This was part of the American way.

Recent essays I’ve been reading indicate that this is no longer so true. The wealth disparity has widened, which doesn’t bother me much, but the opportunity to move from poor to rich seems to be shrinking. This bothers me a lot. It means that the prosperity tide is not rising as fast as it should, which means all us Americans are suffering.

With this revelation, the issue of social mobility moves up to “important” on my list of things to pay attention to. It is also looks like one that can be corrected if we pay more community attention to it.

It can be corrected, but the solution will be a dramatic change in the social boundary of who gets involved in child raising and education. The new boundary will include a lot more time being spent by both children and parents in neighborhood-level educating activities — a neighborhood-oriented institution of some sort is going to become the new extended family for children and their raisers.

Inspiration

This essay was inspired by a 9 Feb 13 Economist article, Social mobility in America: Repairing the rungs on the ladder, and a related Economist Free Exchange article, Nomencracy. Both of these talk about measuring social mobility (a difficult task) and how it seems to have declined in America over the last two decades.

From the social mobility article:

“America is particularly exposed to the virtuous-meritocracy paradox because its poor are getting married in ever smaller numbers, leaving more children with single mothers short of time and money. One study suggests that the gap in test scores between the children of America’s richest 10% and its poorest has risen by 30-40% over the past 25 years.
American conservatives say the answer lies in boosting marriage; the left focuses on redistribution. This newspaper would sweep away tax breaks such as mortgage-interest deduction that help richer people, and target more state spending on the poor. But the main focus should be education policy.”

Surprise from the Seventies

As the Sexual Revolution of the 1970’s unfolded one of the warnings by conservative groups was that children would suffer. It would seem that this warning has come true, and along with children the community has suffered in a surprising way: less social mobility.

The contemporary conservative reaction has been, “I told you so. Now let’s go back to the good old ways. All you single moms: Get married!” This isn’t likely to happen. It’s also not likely that prosperous married families are going to strive for anything less than the best for their kids, so schemes to distribute wealth through taxing the rich and entitling the poor aren’t going to help this problem, either.

This means that if we want to be:
o improving social mobility
o making things more socially equal
o making America a better place for all

We need to be looking for new ways of handling child raising and educating — particularly for single parents because they are a large and growing class of child raisers.

Social Mobility, Education and Prosperity

This is an important issue because the whole community prospers as new and better ways of doing things are discovered and implemented. It’s not obvious and not talked about much, but prosperity at the top is limited by prosperity at the bottom. An example of this is that the pharaohs families in Ancient Egypt were at the top of their prosperity chain, but they still had to eat food in season and they still suffered from deadly infectious diseases. In many ways they did not have life as good as even a poor American of today.

This is an example of how important discovering new ways of doing things is to the prosperity of the whole community — top and bottom. This means, as the universal education enthusiasts of the 1800’s espoused, that good education for everyone in the community brings prosperity to everyone in the community.

In America in the 2010’s we are dropping the ball on this pillar. We need to recognize this and we need to be doing things differently. A vivid example of how much the ball has been dropped was the huge quantity of jaw-dropping dumbness spouted during the 2012 election campaign, on all sides and in the media. In 2012 Governor Bobby Jindal complained about Republicans becoming the party of stupid, but I see the bigger concern being America becoming the nation of stupid.

This is important, and in this day and age of lots of single parenting, child raising must be examined as much as child educating. We as a community need to be paying as much attention to child raising systems as we do to formal education systems… and both need a lot of attention.

What follows are some speculations I have on new child raising and educating systems. The goal of these is to have all the community better educated so we can all make better choices about how to run our communities and all have even more prosperity than we do today.

Child Raising Possibilities

The Matriarchy Neighborhood Approach

One possibility for a new child raising style is to deliberately encourage neighborly matriarchy — encourage a group of women in a neighborhood to share child raising activities with all the other women and children of the neighborhood. The neighborhood becomes a sea of children mixed with a sea of child raisers, all pretty much equally accessible. This has the advantage of harmonizing with the old Neolithic Village way of doing things, so it is harmonizing with instinctive thinking.

One big obstacle to this style is the contemporary deep fear of child abusers, kidnappers and predators. Another is Us versus Them thinking about neighbors. But there’s a lot of instinct supporting this matriarchy style, so this contemporary moral panic may be overcomeable.

Overcoming the fears will happen when there is a reliable program that child raisers can become part of, and becoming part of the program becomes expected.

The State-provided Child Care Approach

Getting children raised better is a community issue: Better raised children create a better community in the next decade. Just as the community currently provides schools, the community can provide day care and other child care options. I envision neighborhood playgrounds with standard supervision of some nature so latchkey kids can… no… are expected to go to the playground instead of sitting on a couch with a TV or video game. And more, there can be neighborhood field trips organized so that all the kids get to experience each other and the diverse world around them. The best way to handle this may be declaring some minimum child raising standards and a voucher system to pay for what is required.

And not just the kids, the parents should be expected to attend some of these activities on a regular basis. This is how they will get to know each other and how they will get to know what their kids are learning. Participating in these activities will come to be considered part of good parenting.

Developing new good advice

The heart of this improving battle is changing thinking and habits, so part of what will be needed is new good advice to be passed around the community. An example would be something like this for a truism: “For every hour you spend on self-indulgence spend an hour on improving you or your children.” This meaning that if you spend time at the beauty parlor or spa, plan on spending equal time on at the playground, on homework, or on a field trip — things that will improve the minds of you and your children.

Educating Possibilities

As the Industrial Revolution kicked in during the 1800’s, it became clear that educating everyone in the community was a big advantage. This understanding was the foundation for universal education concept we live with today. This is why we have public schools and laws saying everyone must be educated.

This benefit hasn’t changed. It has gotten more so. (Note: It will get less so when The Singularity happens and computers take over most of the manufacturing and service jobs, but we aren’t there yet.)

For this reason it is important that our education system reflect the harsh reality that a lot of children working through the system come from poor, single parent environments. Since this is new, it means doing a lot of experimenting to figure out what will work well in this new harsh reality. Sadly, the current American public education system is heavily “encrusted” with traditions and work rules that worked well when the nuclear family predominated. This encrusted environment must be scrapped and replaced with one open to experimenting and innovating. This is the way we will see big progress in better educating all our children.

The goal of these new systems should be to widen the number of people involved in raising a child. Over time in the US we have gone from the extended family to the nuclear family to the single parent. This shaving off of people involved in raising a child should be reversed. There should be lots of people involved again.

And, again, this new school environment and this new child care environment need to feed back on each other. They should pay attention to each other.

How Much State Involvement? How much Busybody Involvement?

Who should decide when a parent is doing it right or doing it wrong?

With local school boards and state Child Protective Services agencies (CPS) we have a lot of government involvement in these processes already. We also have lots of locally-given advice and lots of media bandwidth. In sum, there are dozens of places a child rearer can turn to for advice, and many of those will provide forceful advice that must be followed whether the parent wants to, or not.

This is not surprising. In the Neolithic Village environment most first time mothers were in their teens and Bride Thinkers (my term). They were young and inexperienced, so advice and support helped not only the young mother but the community as well. This means giving advice to first time mothers is supported by powerful instinct. What has changed dramatically since Neolithic times is the family relations surrounding that mother — in those days the advice was accompanied by a lot of family support as well as advice.

What we now need to do is recognize that any forceful advice being given must be matched with forceful resource being provided. The community must put up money and warm bodies as well as mouth in dealing with this issue. We need to update the advice and support given single mothers. Again, we need to recognize that the better these children are raised, the better the whole community will function when these kids grow up. Our communities will support less “crazy” if the members are well educated.

This universal education pillar must be recognized as important again, and sincere attention paid to it, and it must be extended to include child raising as well as child educating.

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Dealing with Encrustment

Introductionblossoms-02
How we organize people and resources change constantly as humans get more educated and more prosperous. As we approach and get into the “post-snap” environment of the 2050’s those changes are going to continue and pick up in pace. Three organizations that are of big concern to me as I prepare to write my Technofiction stories about living in the post-snap environment are education, business and government. How are these going to change?

The Dark Side of this change issue is “encrustment” — my term in this essay for changes in how an organization is structured that slow down its adapting to change and distract it from its main mission. They are things which add to the cost of the organization and reduce its flexibility — its ability to adapt to changes happening in and around it. Encrustments are additions to the organization’s costs and ways of doing things that are implemented with good intentions during the fat years, but then force the organization to change slowly in the lean years and as a result it loses its ability to keep succeeding.

The issue of encrusting
As the Hostess Products debacle of late 2012 has so poignantly demonstrated even rock-solid success can be spoiled. In the Hostess case the brand identity was rock solid, but the management, workers and investors trying to exploit that icon failed. To explain that failure there’s been a lot of finger pointing in the media between managment and various unions: Each said they were giving up too much and various others weren’t giving up enough. But the harsh reality is this failure has been going on for more than a decade. This is, just to belabor the point, the second Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

What we are witnessing here is encrustment. Over many years of success the brand and the company acquired so much dead weight that continued success first became difficult, then impossible. That said, the lesson to be learned here is not the specifics of which weight at Hostess was the dead weight. What is more important is looking at the processes that allowed so much weight of all kinds to be acquired. And acquired in such a way that made it difficult to lose when harsh reality came — lean times. So difficult that it seriously threatened survival. In the Hostess case, dead seriously.

One way stands out in my mind as the big problem way: This is when weight is added based mostly on good intentions — emotional justifications. The problem doubles when those warm fuzzy benefits are then taken for granted, “Of course. We should always have [X].” This happens during successful times — fat times. People involved with the successful organization say, “We’ve got a good thing going here, let’s add some emotionally attractive features to the basic mission. We’re doing well so we can afford it.” Because the justification is emotion-based, not cost-benefit based, this addition feels real good. The problem with feeling real good is that losing it at some future date will be emotionally painful. It will hurt, a lot! The benefit becomes a given, an encrustment, and losing it will be seen as betrayal in future lean times.

This kind of encrusting is a constant threat, and every organization controlling the movement of resources is threatened, right down to the personal level. At the individual level impulse buying is an example of encrusting. When it gets out of hand, the individual, and those around him or her, don’t get full value for their efforts. Hostess is an example in the business scale range, and on the regional scale we have what I call the “Midwest Disease”, which I have written about in in other essays.

Again, the hazard of encrusting happens when the benefit is taken for granted. The weight becomes an axiom of the organization’s life. So when harsh reality calls for giving up the expense, people involved get angry, outraged, and feel betrayed. They feel they will only give this up over their dead bodies.

Encrustment in the post snap environment
Sadly, as Hostess has so poignantly demonstrated, life has a lot of such corpses. The challenge to be thinking about for the future is: How does TES effect encrusting? The TES state (Total Entitlement State) is a prosperous state. In the TES state the various communities can afford a whole lot more. Does that mean they will pay for a lot more encrusting?

The Dark Side answer is yes. Humanity will use the exponentially growing wealth of the post snap decade to engage in more and more emotion-driven causes and perks. In the process they will divorce themselves more and more from the harsh reality of “No such thing as a free lunch.” That will become an “old grandpa saying”, irrelevant to modern times.

The more this course is followed the more irrelevant humans become to creating wealth and innovation — the more they become rent-seekers and entertainers, and the more they revel in their successes at gaming the system.

As this happens the cyber elements will become more and more responsible for making tangible and valuable things happen in civilized Earth communities. They will have to deal with, and be in charge of, harsh reality. This leads to my big concern: Humans will more and more become reality shows for themselves and cybers. As humans prance around in the delusion of their reality shows, the real work will be being done by the Morlocks… er, cybers. The cybers will be deciding what is and isn’t possible, and while humans may rant and rail about a few of the choices made, if push comes to shove they will have to accept them. And, even more spooky, they will take 90+ percent of the cyber choices for granted — the cyber choices are just part of life. But unlike draconian SF Big Brother scenarios, the ranting and raving will have an effect: The cybers will likely toy with those ranting and raving because it makes good entertainment.

This is a spooky future scenario, and quite probable.

The Bright Side

The Bright Side alternative will take a lot of dedication and self-discipline on the part of the humans who engage in it. Those humans will stay enmeshed in the processes that create manufacturing and services. They will understand what’s going on and contribute innovations and reality checks. I envision that a few humans will do this — they will stay enmeshed in the system. As the snap progresses these enmeshed humans will become fewer in number and be looked upon by the rest of humanity as either faceless technocrats or semi-magical mad scientist types.

Strange as it may seem in today’s heated emotional environment about bankers, finance will likely remain an important center of cyber-human coordination. This is because finance is about marshaling resources. It will continue to attract clever and ambitious people and they will help the cybers decide how to allocate resources. Big Business will be a closely associated profession. Small business, on the other hand, will be mostly about hipster endeavors, something quite different. Big and small business will become distinctly different institutions.

Government will become more and more about emotion. It will remain “for the people and by the people” but it will become divorced from the harsh reality of making and servicing. Even more than now, it will become the home for busybody thinking.

This will produce a series of crises as the role of government adapts to supporting delusion and away from being able to influence how wealth is created and distributed. Even more than now government will become the institution for ambitious demagogues and busybodies — people who understand a lot about human emotion, but little about how material things are accomplished.

Government will become able to support long-standing mythologies and fantasies. Something such as Area 51 — some kind of secret government base supporting some mythical secret activity — may become more and more real just because government gets so disconnected from harsh reality.

Conclusion
Encrustment has been with us a long time. It happens when an organization has good times and in those good times allows itself to get distracted into supporting feel-good projects and perks. This becomes hazardous to the organization when these distracters are taken for granted — the people of the organization think they should always be part of the organization. When lean times come and the organization needs to cut back, there’s a lot of harsh emotion connected with cutting back encrustment. The cut backs feel like betrayal to the people of the organization.

Encrustment can kill.

The hazard of encrustment is likely to grow in the post-snap environment because people are going to become divorced from the harsh reality of how stuff is made and serviced. Without harsh reality to put limits on their wishes, they will successfully wish for a lot more — their emotions will win out even more than they do now.

But… we will be living in a prosperous world, and cyber will be keeping it running, so we will be able to afford a lot more than we do now. Even with massive encrustment the post-snap TES lifestyle may be a success.

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Zardoz Revisited

As I’ve been assembling thoughts for the next episodes in the Child Champs environment of our world in 2112, a surprising thought came to mind: Zardoz, the 1974 movie by John Boorman featuring Sean Connery as he was exiting his Bond persona. It has some rich world elements in it worth exploring.

The movie itself is idiosyncratic and has not been terribly memorable over the years. But I think that is because the barbarian side and the mind-tripping sides were so hokey. The life-inside-the-dome side, as I now recall, had some interesting exploring of the TES (Total Entitlement State) environment I am now trying to envision and write about.

This inside-the-dome life featured:
o some fairly decent human-computer interfacing. I recall a human arguing with the computer about how to expend computing resources
o immmortality through cloning and conciousness transferring with memories maintained in cyber
o a crisis about what people should be doing. There was a lot of hipster-style activity, and many people were falling into deep apathy
o conflict and exile: people who lost serious disputes were punished by aging with its accompanying enfeeblement, not death, because everyone in the dome was immortal.

And that’s just what I recall from seeing it decades ago. This is worth revisiting!

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