Nearly every conservative commentator agrees on the West’s decline. Whether it is Ann Coulter, or Victor Davis Hanson or Mark Steyn, Belmont Club or the lesser-known but just as well written Takuan Seiyo and Fjordman, who also posts at Gates of Vienna, all agree the West is beset by specific ills.
Among the ills are, multiculturalism, political correctness, statism, socialism, a spineless response to Islam and Jihad, phony “Green” scams and Global Warming humbuggery, and a general collapse of total standards in culture, morals. Theodore Dalrymple, who wrote “Life at the Bottom,” and writes at City Journal as well, has written often of the total collapse of all standards and morals in modern Britain, from the underclass to the Upper Class, as part of this collapse of the West.
But hardly anyone understands WHY the West has declined. Declined so rapidly, so thoroughly, and so completely. The few who have tried to analyze the “why,” mainly Seiyo and Fjordman, have gone astray. It is their belief that a few cultural Marxists have seized control of society, and created in Seiyo’s words, a group of “Pod People” (from the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and it’s many remakes). Obviously, Cultural Marxists exist, and they can be found in your nearest University faculty, in various NGO’s connected to government, and even as a recipient of Bill Gates $2 billion in grants, such as Rick Ayers, brother of Bill Ayers and himself a fugitive from justice for seven years.
But these cultural Marxists don’t have magical powers of “evil.” If people find their ideas deeply attractive, something must be deep at work all over the West, to transform society so clearly and completely in less than fifty years.
Rather than some magical powers of persuasion, unstoppable, or deep conspiracy, or anything of that nature, what has happened all over the West, from Japan and Coastal China to Italy to Norway to the United States, is a broad set of changes, mostly demographic, that have tilted the West towards Multiculturalism, political correctness, and general weakness in all areas along with a general cultural collapse in music, arts, entertainment, and morals.
These broad trends are:
- A huge increase in wealth, through global manufacturing, spurring a global consumer environment
- The collapse of manufacturing in the West
- The so-called “Gentry” of Western nations becoming impossibly rich, and therefore influential outside their limited numbers
- The decline of the middle and working classes in the West
- The Pill, Condom, increased female earning, and anonymous urban living, leading to the death of the nuclear family
- The fragmentation of unifying mass communication institutions and media
- Consumerism, advertising, marketing, and mass media becoming a gay and female ghetto
- Lack of “affordable family formation” leading to hedonism instead of old Western cultural values
Let us examine these factors, and see how they created the decline of the West by undermining the West’s fundamental advantage: how people cooperate, in high-trust networks, stemming from widespread nuclear families. Since the secret of the West’s advance for nearly a thousand years, from 1000 AD to 1965 or so, is the story of the spreading and deepening of the nuclear family and the resulting cooperation among people in nation-states, driving ever greater increases in wealth, technology, and military, social, and cultural power.
As in my post The Bailout, America and the West has since 1945 experienced an exploding GDP, even with intermittent recessions, as the graph below from the St. Louis Federal Reserve makes clear:
Oil Prices have remained mostly low for most of that period, not only in the US but globally:
The low oil prices allowed the export of manufacturing jobs to the lowest cost labor (and safety and environmental standards) nations. First, Japan and South Korea in the twenty years following World War Two, and then later to Taiwan, then China, Vietnam, and finally India. Textiles, consumer electronics, computer chip manufacturing, cars, whole classes of manufacturing where the lowest cost labor and least regulations meant lower cost, moved overseas. First from the US, then from Europe and even Japan. Indeed, Pioneer is considering closing it’s production of televisions. Nissan will slash 20,000 jobs, but industrial output and employment in Japan has been declining for decades.
Cheap oil prices meant that producers with lowest labor costs could produce “disposable” products such as $25 DVD players, often at big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, with minimal transport costs. Companies like Komatsu and Caterpillar, which produce expensive, relatively long lasting, and complex earth moving equipment, were still competitive with lower labor cost Chinese and Indian manufacturers. But for the most part, the story of the Post-War global economy has been a growing abundance of cheap, disposable consumer goods of no particular value, but easily affordable. Enabled by cheap oil and relative peace and stability world wide. No submarines sinking cargo containers and ending global shipping.
The US Navy’s dominance, and protection of world-trade, and cheap oil fueling massive cargo ships, created the global consumer economy. This global consumer economy in turn created a tremendous amount of wealth, among shippers, manufacturers, companies contracting out manufacturing under their labels, marketing professionals, and so on. With this wealth, naturally, came power. Political power, resting not in Western countries, but in many cases across their borders or entirely outside it.
It’s easiest to see this effect by comparing the world of 1955 and 2005. In 1955, the economy was mostly American, the rest of the world still recovering from WWII and much of it Communist, outside global trade except for basic commodities. The world economy was dominated by GM, Ford, Chrysler, Motorola, Philco, and so on. Cars, televisions, radios, office machines, clothes, and so on were mostly manufactured in America, with the exception of a few cheap imports from Japan or Germany. In 2005, very little was manufactured in America, and even Ford, GM, and Chrysler had half or more of the content of their automobiles manufactured and assembled abroad. Nearly all consumer electronics and computers were imported, mostly from China, and of cheap quality. In 1955, most consumer goods, particularly electronics, were expensive. In 2005, most consumer goods, especially electronics, were cheap.
This global consumerism is not limited to America, or Europe either. Ford plans to sell it’s Fiesta model in China mainly to young, affluent, and female consumers. This at a time when 70,000 factories are closing and there is 20 million unemployed in China. Not surprising, either, since global consumerism like all massive global trade systems, creates winners and losers.
The winners are those who can act as middle men in various trade systems, or have pursued the lowest cost strategy by moving production to the cheapest nations. It is not surprising that the vast amounts of wealth created by Nike, or Apple, or Microsoft, which has also moved production (software development) to India, have resulted in massive gains in political power. Middle men like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Nike’s Phil Knight, replaced old-line moguls at GM, Ford, and Boeing. It’s worth noting that neither Apple, nor Nike, nor Microsoft actually make anything in the US. Merely act as branding middle men, and hip designers.
Even less surprising is that this political power is expressed in support of soft multiculturalism, of the sort Bill Gates expresses (releasing mosquitoes into a ballroom conference on aid to the Third World, explaining that First World people should fear being infected as well). [The mosquitoes, he assured his audience later, were sterile.] Power and political influence shifted towards Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, whose fortunes depend mostly on a cheap labor force overseas, and good relations with repressive and anti-American foreign governments. It is no surprise at all that both men are substantial donors to Barack Obama, and various left-wing causes. Nor is it shocking that the fortunes of Nike, or Google, or other major international companies, depending on foreign labor almost exclusively, have embraced political correctness (Google famously refuses to celebrate most American holidays on their home page, particularly Veterans Day or Memorial Day, while celebrating the birthdays of Edvard Munch and Arthur Conan Doyle). Hardly anyone at Google is American, and the few who are embrace the culture that depends on cheap foreign labor, either the H1-B variety or actually outsourced. Microsoft is no better, having been rapidly transformed by the falling stock price (and Sarbanes-Oxley requiring the expensing of stock options) from American born, relatively well compensated software engineers, to Indian and Chinese H1-B Visa holders, with the notorious habit of squeezing out the few remaining American developers once Indian or Chinese program managers are hired in a division.
While America offers fertile ground for examining the money shifts to globalist businesses and figures, the similar rise in Germany of Adidas, in Britain of Saatchi and Saatchi, and the collapse of say, Triumph, BSA, and Goldstar Motorcycles, and Germany’s Leica, offer the lesson that this process repeated itself over and over again in the West. Globalist middle-men like Britain’s advertising giant won and manufacturers based locally like Triumph or Leica lost.
Collapse of Manufacturing in the West
Along with the rise of global trade based on cheap consumerism, and the massive money shifts to the winners like Microsoft, Nike, and Apple, has been the decline of manufacturing in the West. Takuan Seiyo in a recent article notes the decline of the San Francisco of Hitchcock’s films, set in 1957-1963, including Vertigo and The Birds. But I want to refer to an earlier film Dark Passage, made in 1947, when San Francisco was a mostly working-man’s town. A town of mostly White, Blue collar workers. A vanished San Francisco when US manufacturing, and it’s labor force of mostly (but not exclusively) White men wielded considerable power. What’s astonishing about this film is how ordinary and belonging working class White men are, in San Francisco. A town on film at least, of cheap boarding houses and apartments, of no great beauty and charm, of no glamor and excitement, of utter ordinariness.
One of the unseen, but huge transformations, has been that of what Joel Kotkin called the Gentrification of the Democratic Party, and the decline of blue-collar, lunch bucket unionism (which itself was mostly a White male affair). It’s astonishing now, to look back upon “liberal” politics of Hubert Humphrey, Pat Brown, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Baines Johnson, and see how oriented it was towards White Working Class union men. Not because these politicians had some innate orientation towards the working class “goodness” of that group, but because that is where the balance of power existed.
Harry Truman beat Dewey on the strength of that White, Blue Collar unionism. Which itself rested on massive employment at places like Ford Motor Company, or Bethlehem Steel, or Lockheed, or McDonnell-Douglass. Jobs that paid good money, and created a large class of men who wanted stability, continued high wage employment, and the kind of American exceptionalism that drove the success of their employer.
As money and power shifted away to low-cost manufacturing countries, and with it employment and power, we could see many Pat Brown types succeeded by well, Jerry Brown. Tribune of the Marin County Gentry. Pushing the obsessions of those with inherited wealth, a concern to run other people’s lives (for their general moral improvement of course), and constant status-mongering which is a feature of life among the wealthy, Brown (the very lesser) has been a fixture of California politics since the 1970s.
This is why Pat Brown built the state of California, with it’s freeways and (then) world-class university system, and Jerry Brown presided over the start of it’s demise, with political correctness, fawning over murderers and criminals, “small is beautiful,” and other concerns of the Gentry. Neither were saints or sinners, and both politicians were arrows pointing directly where the power and the money were. For Pat Brown it was the dockworkers and autoworkers of the day (yes, once upon a time cars were manufactured in California). For Jerry Brown it was Silicon Valley millionaires to billionaires, and the old money of San Francisco.
This process, to one degree or another, played itself out in Britain, Italy, Germany, Japan, and pretty much all of the West.
Decline of the Middle Classes
That the middle classes are in decline in the United States (and across the West) cannot be doubted. Housing affordability is part of that, which in turn is driven by two factors: price of housing, and income.
Housing prices all across the West, from Ireland to France to the UK to America, have risen. They have risen the most in coastal or capital cities, with severe constraints on expansion, and lots of relatively educated, young, and ambitious people flooding into them. New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, and Los Angeles typify these job centers in the US, and London, Paris, Rome, and Barcelona typify them in Europe. Housing is less expensive in regional centers, away from the big money, and larger groups of young people. Cities like Dallas, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City have all grown through this appeal of cheap land. But the cheap land comes with lower salaries, and less opportunity to meet particularly younger, educated, professional women.
Meanwhile, real income has declined as a measure of housing affordability. Wage increases have not kept pace with inflation, and outside bubble occupations, such as software engineers in the Dot-com bubble, or real estate people in the housing bubble, actually declined in real purchasing power excluding consumer electronics (and before biofuel idiocy, food). It does a prospective husband no good to have a closet full of X-box equipment and no ability to purchase a house.
Even with the decline of housing prices, most properties remain without buyers, because income is so uncertain. The ability to buy a home, after all, is a bet that earnings for thirty years or so will be stable enough to provide enough money to cover the mortgage. Since the 1970’s, the economy has been on one bubble after another, without sustained productivity growth and industrial production and exports that drive broad wage increases and thus wealth across the broad spectrum of the populace.
In short, the West has gotten poorer, mostly, in the most important things: the ability to buy a house and start a family. The move away from broad industrial production is the reason why.
Death of the Nuclear Family
Along with the lack of affordable housing, has come a profound shift in the way men and women relate to each other and form families. Or rather, fail to form families.
First off, women are increasingly having children as single mothers, as the 2006 US Census Survey on women and fertility shows. Depending on how you add things up (note page 6 of the PDF) “not married” can mean living with an unmarried partner or not, and can be either 36% or 41% of all births within the last twelve months of the Survey. I incline to the 41% figure (adding up the 35.5% of not married and 4.8% of “living with unmarried partner”). But to each his own. As noted in the report and elsewhere, births to Black women are 70% illegitimate, and 90% in the urban core, and among Hispanics it is approaching 50%.
The “good news” is that the Census Bureau is responding to these numbers by redefining “legitimacy” as a member of the opposite sex who resided in the household for at least a week. So if Mom’s boyfriend stays over that long, the birth is reclassified as “legitimate” or with a claimed father. Political Correctness at it’s finest.
Men and women used to get married far younger in the West. At far higher rates. See my posts here for example. Now, the trend is the opposite. Children are delayed, and when they come single motherhood is often a choice.
The typical path for a young woman in 1960, say, was to graduate from college, work for a few years, marry a man, probably 6-7 years her elder, have two kids, return to the workforce at some point. Now for a young woman, in 2009, it is to graduate from college, work for twenty years, a great many love affairs but no real desire to pair off with a “good enough” man rather than the perfect guy, and one designer eugenic yuppie baby, through IVF, or adoption from China.
The Pill, the condom, rising incomes for women, anonymous urban living, as Roissy in DC has noted [Don’t let the Pick Up Artist stuff scare you off, he has startling insights into how dysfunctional the male-female relationship has become] enable women worldwide to achieve a seeming utopia, what City Journal writer Kay Hymnowitz has termed the “New Girl Order” of consumer goods, control over their own fertility and sexuality, fashionable clothes, independence, and all around fabulousness! Just look at how Ford in China is targeting “Mei” (the personification of their customer) for sales of the Fiesta. Even in the land of “Little Emperors” and male preference, Ford would believe that sales lie in the New Girl Order.
But like every other utopia, there is a catch. Falling Total Fertility Rates, in countries wherever there is enough female earning power, urban anonymity, and availability of the pill and condom, are the result. Italy, Spain, and Greece have point of no return TFRs. Around 1.1. White Britain and the US have under 2.1, the replacement rate, around 1.9 or so. Even places like Algeria, Tunisia, and Iran, of all places, certainly no feminist paradises, have TFRs of 1.7 or so. The rates are available at the CIA World Factbook, you can look it up!
This happens because women often delay marriage until well into their thirties, when excess baggage on both parties, rather limited attractiveness, and the dilution of the effect of bonding hormones released during sex make a high divorce or break-up rate (for those never marrying but cohabitating) a near certain thing. A man or woman with many, many sex partners will not have any practical hope of bonding with one partner. Certainly not when both have far less limited attractiveness compared to their salad days, when sheer physical attraction could get them over inevitable bumps in the relationship. Even worse of course is the pairing of a woman with many, many sex partners, and a man with relatively few.
Women spend most of their time single, and as a consequence care intensely about what their peers think of them. This bleeds over into men’s relationships as well, any young man who is single knows well the importance of looking the “correct way” for whatever fashion holds, and having the “correct” opinions and accessories to have any success in the dating market.
I submit for your amusement: Victoria Beckham hates Straight Guys (most young White women do), Young British Women more promiscuous than men (not sure I believe this one, but data to back up Roissy’s general first-hand observations about the dating scene), Britain the most promiscuous nation (this one I believe), same here, the Death of Dating, Certain women regard Drew Peterson as a Catch, and my all time favorite NY Times Redefines Family.
Now, by no means should these links be taken as endorsement that women are somehow “bad” or that they hold responsibility for the decline of the West. But I don’t think any casual observer can say that the lack of social institutions, mores, and limits on women’s (and men’s) actions, sexual expression, and behavior has been a positive result. We see in these links the expression of hatred towards straight White men, general promiscuity that prevents any possibility of a happy marriage, the death of dating and judging the opposite sex on behavior, decorum, character, and other things other than pure physical animal attraction, and murderous thuggishness as the attractive markers of men for women. To round everything out, we have Single Motherhood by choice.
No single factor other than the collapse of how men and women relate to each other, and the inability to form even the nucleus of a nuclear family (lacking only the capital to start having children in a house of their own), explains the fall of the West.
Women live in a constant status competition, for fabulous clothes and pecking order. No article encapsulates this than the recent Marie Claire article “Why I Left My Beta Husband”
A few years ago, my husband, Mark, and I were at one of those hip downtown restaurants sipping mojitos and nibbling on lime-spiked seviche when one of my bosses appeared from a cloud of Cuban-cigar smoke and patted my shoulder. When I introduced him to Mark, he naturally asked what he did for a living. We both froze.
“I do some freelancing,” Mark said.
“He studied film at NYU,” I said at the same time.
Mark looked at me and shrugged. “I stay home with our daughter,” he said, as my colleague quietly balked.
“He makes it possible for me to do my job,” I said, laughing. But inside, I was mortified. Technically, I had it all back then, including a gorgeous toddler and a cool job.
What I didn’t have was a husband I felt proud of.
Which is the social landscape women inhabit, all the time, of the constant pressure to be hip, cool, trendy, and of course with the correct accessories, Apple computer laptop, fair trade latte, and husband that impresses your boss.
This forms the social landscape of the culture at large, as appeals to women dominate the consumer products industry and the dating market of course. Seeing as how there are more men pursuing single women than single women pursuing men.
Women of course, hate Beta men. See Roissy’s blog for more details, especially the comment on top by T AKA Ricky Raw, on the attitude of women towards the Mo Rocca types. Women really do hate most men, because after all, most men are indeed “Beta.” Victoria Beckham might be extreme, but most women would share at least some of her attitudes.
It’s easy to see why. Beta guys with no social dominance and status hit on them on all the time, and when they don’t hit on them, they stare at them or other, unwanted attention. They also provide competition for the limited amount of high paying “cool” jobs that women either occupy or hope to move into, and worst of all, don’t excite them. “Boring” is basically a synonym for White Guy among women. Gay men are “fabulous” without having any desire for them, don’t block the access of the Alpha man, and are “interesting” in a way that boring guys who work in the office without status just are not.
These two measures, the constant unwanted attention from guys “beneath” them, and competition for scarce top jobs and status, account for how White women are always keen to sign up for a good dose of anti-White male bashing and discrimination. Not just Robert Reich, but most White women, would agree that “No White Men Need Apply” for bailout money, or much of anything.
If there was a process designed to create an alliance of women, gays, non-Whites, in attacking the traditions, cultures, and political alliances of the West as it was before 1965, it would be hard to top the current arrangements. Dear readers, please do not take my words for this. Check out yourself any of the following sites, and explore the attitudes of women towards Barack Obama, traditional Judeo-Christian culture, traditional morals, White men, the military, political correctness, and more therein. Explore: TMZ.com, Televisionwithoutpity.com, and Dlisted.com .
Do not just take my word for it, see for yourself.
Once you understand, most women will be single their entire lives, their social and emotional lives fed by a bunch of Alpha men, who decrease in frequency and duration as they age, and are transient in any case, and “friends” who are nearly all female, and replace the nuclear family, but require a constant struggle to maintain status-pecking order, things become clear. The dominance of political correctness, a fashion in opinions, mirrors that of fashion in shoes. Wacky fads, including “Green” mania and Global Warming, and the hatred of the White guy it all makes sense.
Even the desirable nature of men such as Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Drew Peterson, Chris Brown, and Roman Polanski becomes clear. Women, no longer needing to, on their own account, and not having social institutions and mores forcing them to, do not judge men by what they do and the content of their character revealed by action. Rather, they judge them based on how much status and social dominance they possess. A Roman Polanski, who drugged and raped a 13 year old, can be lionized by a female documentary director. Because he’s famous and other famous people think he’s cool.
This represents, by the way, a radical shift in how women viewed men. Enabled by the pill, condom, anonymous urban living, and the ability to live their own lives free of integration into a stable community (and fearing censure of same). Take away any two of these and women would revert back to what they were before. And such men would have much to fear from women on any jury.
Nor can the male sex escape censure. Britain’s New Year looked like this. The inevitable result of men competing for women on social dominance quickly degenerating into pure thuggery. Just as bad were the drunken women falling apart into stupors on the sidewalk, and being left there, defenseless.
The failure to defend women, in either the Virginia Tech shooting (healthy young adult males did not feel their female classmates were worth dying for, and simply sat passively waiting to die) or the Montreal Massacre years earlier, are canaries in the coalmine. They along with the spate of horror movies showing young women killed (instead of young men killing the monster and well, marrying them or what have you) are part of the disconnect between men and women.
Increasingly, men are defaulting to a passive, disconnected mode when it comes to women. This is worthy of a separate post, but in brief men are largely unable to compete with the few “Alpha” types and women, increasingly, will share the Alphas among themselves, in a “soft” polygamy and choose single motherhood if they have any children at all. This is the downside of the “New Girl Order” and the changes wrought by contraceptive technology and urban living.
Women are not “bad” or responsible for the fall of the West. But the massive shifts in their behavior and lack of nuclear family formation due to the collapse of how men and women related, are indeed a large part of the decline of the West. Ann Coulter was right in that Single Mothers, and the general pain they create in poverty, early sexual contact, teen motherhood, promiscuous behavior, do indeed on average create crimes and misery. For a Black Blogger’s take on this, do not fail to check out The Myth of the Ghetto Alpha Male at the Rawness.
Since this is a very long post, I will add my thoughts on how fragmentation of the mass media, consumerism and the capture of marketing and advertising by and for women, and the rise of hedonism to replace the nuclear family, have contributed to the decline of the West.
But in short, I think massive technological changes have created the decline of the West. The pill, condom, urban anonymous living, great mass consumerism wealth accruing to middle men elites, decline of industrial production in the West, and status mongering among single men and women account for pretty much all the decline of the West.