Status, Universities, and the Elites

This article is going viral: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans:

Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous. Nor would you know it to look at my résumé. I have had a passably good career as a writer—five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do.

IMHO, there are three types of poverty: lifestyle poverty, whereby someone earns below their cognitive potential and or mismanages their money; and then poverty for those, due to biological factors such as low IQ, don’t have a whole lot of potential to begin with. The third type is poverty due to unforeseen circumstances such as a medical emergency, disaster, and or the death of the breadwinner. The second type is intractable, whereas the author, who obviously has an above-average IQ, falls into the first category. Those in the first group can learn high-paying skills, but those in the second cannot (or at least not without a lot of difficulty).

For individuals in the first category, money (but more specifically, earning potential) is exchanged for social status, but such status does not have to be in the form of material possessions; rather, it can also be the form of intellectualism (as in the case of the article above. Although the author is poor, his status is improved by writing a popular article about his poverty). Online at least, having a STEM PHD (especially in computer science, physics, or math), even if one works at McDonald’s, confers more status than having an MBA and working in middle-management. Also, online, being a semi-obscure author such as Chuck Klosterman or Mark Leyner brings much more prestige than being a corporate nobody. The monastic, canonical pursuit of intellectualism over material wealth, is respected. Status is so powerful–humans are obsessed with it and will make great sacrifices to attain it–it’s even more important than money. Consider Bill Gates, who has enough money to retire a million times over, yet still seeks status by being so active in philanthropy, instead of trying to squeeze another couple billion out of his Microsoft stock. Or Trump, whose presidential bid may have been motivated by a pursuit of status. He could have just been content retiring and dying with his billions, but it’s not enough. Obama, despite not being a billionaire, has more status than almost everyone on the Forbes 400 list.

From Social Matter, The University Empire:

As a wing of the reigning power, the university has the special dispensation of educating the masses. Universities have tax-free endowments, they receive grants from the official sovereign, they have their own police forces, they operate courts outside the rule of law, and they even earn billions tax-free. They have another special dispensation. They are the official union card stampers for any job in the white collar world and also what the sovereign’s official propaganda organ declares and portrays as ‘the good life’.

The universities are very powerful…besides holding the keys to ‘good paying jobs’, elite universities produce the next generation of thought and business leaders, whose contributions are manifested everywhere: TV & print journalism, foreign policy, government, business, science, etc. Elite universities don’t admit paper pushers…rather, they are looking for visionaries, activists, and leaders who will not only bring prestige and endowments to the university, but heavily influence society, too. In the NRx sense, it’s very much Brahmin. High IQ is a necessary but still insufficient condition: they want people who have an elitist mindset, to be molded and groomed to impart such elitism, presumably for the ‘good of society’. Ted Cruz epitomizes this.

This is related to the Charles Murray talk “Coming Apart: America’s Growing Cultural Divide”
. The divide is not about wealth, but rather about cultural values. The elite want nothing to do with anyone who are not part of their clique/caste, and rather than try to assimilate as they did in the 50’s, the elite close themselves off, creating intellectual and financial enclaves. The turning point came in the 60’s when elite universities switched from a plutocratic admissions system to a meritocratic one, that favored the highly intelligent who scored well on the SAT. Although this opened new opportunities, it also resulted in cultural stratification. Murray lists the Bay Area, New York, Los Angles, and Washington DC as such enclaves, that while small have an enormous influence on society. I would also add to that list: Cambridge, Massachusetts (home of Harvard and MIT); Seattle (home of Microsoft and Starbucks); and Greenwich, Connecticut (a lot of hedge funds and rich people there). 70 of the top 100 wealthiest ZIP codes nationwide are in California and 20 are in New York state. As discussed in the post Collapse, the post-1960’s rise of these high-IQ enclaves parallels the decline of once-powerful manufacturing and blue-collar cities and states such as Detroit, Michigan, and Chicago, which decades later remain in a perpetual funk.As of writing this, Manhattan, Cambridge, and Silicon Valley are smarter, wealthier, and more powerful and influential than ever before, even despite Trump’s win, which was supposed to be a repudiation of ‘cosmopolitan, globalist values’. The ‘coming apart’ as described by Murray is only accelerating, and grip of the ‘university empire’ is stronger now than ever before (especially given how the elite cities have done so well but also how the wage premium between college grads and high school grads keeps widening).