2014 was a year you could have sleptwalked through without really missing anything. It was a year of minutia amplified by the megaphones of media manufactured outrage and fear. Putin invading Crimea was supposed to be World War 3. Ebola was supposoed to the next next Black Death. Wealth ineuality was supposed to doom the economy. College rape was supposed to affect one in five women, a figure later downgraded to the less outrage-worthy three in five hundred. It was year of anomie by those on the sidelines of the Great National Debate.
But overall, 2014 was much in many ways a continuation of 2013. Due to the waning enthusiasm attributable to the sluggish news cycle, a lot of bloggers – starved for crisis or any big click-worthy event – have stopped updating as frequently or are writing smaller passages. You go to Drudge or any of the major news sites and the big story is, Obama says something prosaic and scripted…blah blah. Russia and North Korea is Cold War 2.0. It’s like online media is desperate for crisis, outrage and sandal, however small it may be, to get page views up.
Like 2013, 2014 was a year that heavily rewarded merit and IQ as evidenced by how the cognitive and tech elite had another banner year as stocks continued their relentless climb higher, with the S&P 500 ending the year at 2100 – a gain of 12%. Same for those web 2.0 valuations, which keep going up. As congress dithers and middle class America feels glum over stagnant economic prospects, champagne bottles were popping in Silicon Valley as Snapchat and Uber valuations crossed $10 billion and $20 billion, respectively. In 2014, much like 2013, America continued to solidify its global economic dominance and exceptionalism, with the S&P 500 posting the biggest year-over-year gains of any developed country, second only to China. The US dollar also gained ahead of all currencies, and real US GDP growth of 3% outpaced all peers. We have GDP and profits & earnings growth that rivals that of the 80’s and 90’s, but without any of the interest rate hikes and inflation to go along with it. Adjusted for inflation, the USA has more growth than the emerging markets. Dow 20,000 soon and interest rates never going up again. MIT and Caltech continue to churn out the business and technology leaders of tomorrow, admitting based on IQ and talent over quotas. The ‘post-America era’ that the left sought sure as hell didn’t happen in 2014, and in 2015 we expect America to continue to run circles around the rest of the world. America’s most valuable and innovative tech companies, most prestigious institutions of higher learning, and high-end real estate will continue to be magnets for cognitive and financial capital the world over. America today has a growing advantage in the four big C’s: code, capitalism, cognitive capacity and capital.
To quote Andrew Sullivan
. It’s a huge challenge for a liberal technocratic society that the skills it increasingly rewards are unevenly distributed across racial groups. It’s equally a huge challenge for our society that the kind of intelligence IQ measures is so strongly correlated with economic success, regardless of race, and that the rewards to the most gifted in these areas are growing, not shrinking. The Bell Curve was one of the great prophetic books of our current crisis of inequality. It raised very troubling questions about this country’s ability to advance economically and not stratify into two, increasingly separate and mutually uncomprehending nations. And yet the important thing to say about it, according to so many who have never read it, is that it should never have been published and no one should have responded to it.
Biological determinism was hugely relevant in 2013 & 2014 and will be even more so in 2015 and beyond. I disagree that this split is troubling, but it’s inevitable the gap between the cognitive elite and everyone else will keep widening, and there’s really nothing anyone can or should do about it. This gap is a byproduct of America’s economic and technological exceptionalism, and the pursuit of equality is futile – especially in the post-2008 era. You look at the wealth that has been created in the Silicon Valley, especially in the past six years alone, as lending credence to the meritocracy over the alternatives.
From sexism in the video game industry to rape, the culture wars dominated in 2014. In the wake of the deaths of two belligerent thugs, police brutality dominated as well – splitting the left side of the Bell Curve into two factions: I Can’t Breathe and Hands Up Don’t Shoot. With any luck they will turn on each other like the Bloods and the Crips, destroying themselves in the process. Culture wars tend to take precedent during periods of geopolitical and economic stability, and like the 1998 media hype over the Clinton & Lewinsky scandal, 2014 wasn’t much different. I guess we should be thankful that we have stories of imagined sexism and a non-existent rape epidemic over more grave matters like domestic terrorism and economic collapse.