Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sorta Political: Who gets whacked

I had something else in mind for this morning and will return to it this afternoon but Walter Russell Mead has a really good post up this morning that I wanted to call attention to and make one additional comment.

You really need to read his post to do it justice so I won't even try to cover it all here. In summary though, Mead has long been arguing that what he calls the Blue social model is crumbling. That is the model that parties that essentially saw themselves as brokers dispensing political largesse pushed. These parties justified what they were doing in the grounds that the growing wealth of the industrial west was unevenly distributed and that social peace could be maintained by having governments step in and make things fairer.

Government being government, these brokerage parties were and are riddled with corruption. That said, they did do enough of what they said they would do to keep the people happy and they stayed in power a long time from the 1930s on. The most successful example of such a party in the entire world was Canada's Liberal Party. Today, the Canada's Liberals are in disarray and their future uncertain. It's not even clear they have a future. As Mead says, the social model that these parties pushed is crumbling.

And yet a lot of people cling more and more desperately to that model the more it fails. The parties fail because they can no longer deliver what they promise but a large segment of the public wants the social model they have known all their lives more than ever. Mead, I think, gives us a good explanation of why that is:
The biggest flaw in that picture is, perversely, its one optimistic belief: the assumption that white collar jobs and incomes will continue to grow. This optimism is key to the Democratic Party’s idea of how to keep the country running. If the upper middle class is going to continue to prosper and grow, then the option of keeping the blue model on life support by a new wave of redistributionist policies makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.
More bluntly: The poor may be getting poorer but the upper middle class are getting richer so we can at least tax the upper middle class more and more to support the poor. Now there is a lot to be said about this. Most obviously, it can't possibly work; like heroin addicts, liberals are so focused on the next hit of the drug that makes them feel good that they are no longer capable of being rational. They only focus on how good the high will be and forget all the destruction that always comes with it.

But Mead adds, and he is right, that the other problem is that even the high cannot be depended on after a while.  Eventually the drug stops working and the same will happen here: the upper middle class white collar sector is going to stop growing.
Increasingly, it looks to me as if large chunks of the upper middle class are about to get whacked. Many of the learned professions are going to see their incomes cut and the private sector is going to seek much greater productivity improvements by replacing expensive US-based executives with cheaper foreign ones — and even cheaper computer technology. Lawyers, accountants, business managers and executives, university professors and administrators, architects, designers, upper level civil servants, NGO managers: this means you.
What he doesn't say, and what needs to be said, is that women are going to bear the brunt of this. All of the gains for women we hear so much about lately are in some of these fields: especially the law, management, academia, the public service and the so-called NGO sector. There are thousands upon thousands of women in these fields who are going to get hit and hit hard.

If you combine that with what is happening in education, I think the next fifteen to twenty years are going to be brutally hard on women. It's going to be a rough ride.

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