Wealth, Intellectualism, and Individualism, Part 8 (interlude)

The Wealth, Intellectualism, and Individualism series, which describes how since 2008 society has been radically transformed socially, culturally, and economically, for both good [1] and bad, continues. Part 7 was published in January 2017, so it’s been awhile. The entire essay, at 15,000 words, was finished in late 2016, so some parts, such as about the 2016 election, may be outdated.

[1] It’s ‘good’ because since 2013 or so, we’re seen the rise of the alt-right, dissident right, NRx, MGTOW, MRA/red pill, and other right-wing ideologies and sub-cultures that are challenging the status quo and conventional conservatism. That America’s economy, especially in the Silicon Valley, rewards individual merit and talent, while people can get rich quickly with assets such as stocks and Bitcoin, is an affront to left-wing egalitarianism and wealth redistribution. Intellectualism and individualism rewards competence, which is good because people who are competent should get ahead in society, and individualism (in the economic sense) and self-sufficiency is better than collectivism, but the problem is we’ve seen the rise of possible narcissism online among millennials (as well as social-justice activism, as an example of individualism taken to an extreme to the detriment of society), and those who are unable to compete in America’s hyper-competitive, winner-take-all, hyper-meritorious economy may find themselves falling behind, as described by Ron Unz in his famous 28,000-word article, The Myth of the American Meritocracy:

During this period, we have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs in the manufacturing sector and other sources of employment for those lacking college degrees, with median American wages having been stagnant or declining for the last forty years. Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America’s richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent.2 This situation, sometimes described as a “winner take all society,” leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners’ circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges.3 On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out.4

(Despite lopsided Ivy League admissions, I disagree, however, that such a meritocracy is a myth; it exists if you’re smart enough, but those who are less intelligent also have their own meritocracies; it’s, as I call, the meritocracy stratified by IQ, as discussed in the post How it’s Possible for the US Economy to Be Strong Even if Many are Not Fully Participating)

Excessive individualism and the obsession with wealth–things that can be quantified in a materialistic sense–may come at the cost of things that are not so easy to quantify but also also important to a functioning society, such as morality, culture, family, community, and tradition.

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6