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Sunday, May 01, 2022

Psychology and Politics

 Yesterday I listened to this very interesting conversation between Glenn Loury (who has become a friend of mine) and Jordan Peterson.  Peterson, as many will know, is another centrist-iconoclast who has drawn a lot of criticism for unwoke positions on varoius topics.  Until now, I had never enjoyed listening to him as much as I had hoped to.  He was in top form in this interview, and Loury does very well too.  Peterson is a clinical psychologist who has become something of a social psychologist, and he tried to use some psychological insights to explain our growing inequality and its political consequences.

I cannot do justice to the full range of their discussion here, and will confine myself to a few of their most salient points.  Peterson talked about the G factor, a general measure of intelligence that was developed more than 100 years ago.  Tests have shown that it correlates very significantly with educational achievement, job performance, and income.  This means that since we no longer use high marginal tax rates to limit individual income, the rewards of high performance have become enormous.  He also talked about the low IQ population and its problems.  The US Army, he noted, decided long ago not to take anyone (including draftees) with an IQ of 80 or lower, because such people, they found, could not be trained to perform any military task effectively.  According to this chart,  that cohort includes 8 percent of the population, and a full 25 percent of the population have IQs of 90 or less. 8 percent of the US population includes about 26 million people--people who simply cannot perform effectively in today's economy.  Many of them, Loury speculated, are either homeless or prison inmates.  Most academics who study these questions, Peterson noted aptly, have never had any contact with such a person.  And such people will benefit neither from the left wing view that anyone can be trained and educated, or the right wing view that anyone willing to work hard will do just fine in our society.  And the additional 60 million people with IQs of 90 or less are surely having more and more trouble finding renumerative work as well.

Peterson is not afraid of data showing differences between men and women--to put it mildly--and he said a good deal about the consequences of poor economic prospects for young men. Most of them want to attract young women, and income and status remain critical variables for success in that enterprise.  Without them, some of them will become violent.  That could eventually have major political consequences, as it might well have had in France in 1792, Russia in 1917-18, Italy in the early 1920s, Germany in 1930-33, and China in the late 1940s.  I think it is having some consequences in US politics today.

Peterson and Loury did not talk about an important political development in the western world that I think is making this problem much worse: the collapse of the economic left.  During the mid-century crisis of the western world, the Labour Party in Britain, the Social Democrats in Germany, France, and elsewhere, and the Democratic Party in the US formed alliances with organized labor and became spokesmen for the working class.  The generation of young adults during the Depression and the Second World War produced a number of very effective leaders for those parties.  The postwar generations, however--American Boomers and their European counterparts--struck up new alliances with the economic elite.  Bill Clinton in the US and Tony Blair in Britain led the way, and the German Social Democrats weren't far behind.  Organized labor lost most of its power in the English-speaking nations although it still retains a great deal in Germany.  That left the working class without effective political representation, and large segments of it have turned against the political establishment altogether in the US, Britain, and  France.  Five years ago Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine LePen by 66 percent to 34 percent.  Last week his margin fell to 58-42.  LePen's party  has firmly established itself as one half of a modified-two party systems, and sooner or later such parties have a way of getting into power.   That already happened in the United States in 2016 and it may happen again in 2022 and 2024--and today's Republican Party is just as right wing as LePen's National Front is.

The failure of any western nation to experience a successful fourth turning is also playing a huge role in all this.  The mid-century crisis forced all the western nations to mobilize enormous resources on behalf of common national objectives, including war and economic reconstruction.  Those great enterprises required high taxes on the wealthy, and the less well-off collected some of the benefits of mobilization.  They also gave whole nations a common purpose and with it, a common identity.  Elites now rule us--elites whose economic status is so exalted that they have trouble realizing how badly many of us are dong.  Tribal loyalties have replaced national loyalty among many Americans.  Anything is possible now.


Bozon said...

Why not put a different interpretation on themes in your last paragraph?
here's a thought:

Why not stop candycoating WWII?

Why not stop calling its just Germany's, and especially Hitler's, aberration?

Why not stop forgetting about the ethnic and racial orientations of Hitler's allies, throughout both East and West Europe; and stop forgetting about the ethnic origins of Hitler's, and his allies', Slavic civilizational enemies to the East.

Why not think about Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, and ask ourselves why they were so universally hated, not only by Hitler and Germans, but also hated by his non slavic East European allies, Austria (annexed), Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, etc.

Although Hungary and Romania hated each other, they both hated the Slavs, and of course the Muslims, more, Serbians, Ruthenians, Balkan Muslims, etc, etc..

He had deadly enemies in the West, especially Britain, but considered Scandinavians kin, and Italians entitled to a place in the sun.

He and his non Slavic allies hated and exterminated Jews, but his main target for extermination in his lifetime were enormous numbers of Slavic Civilization peoples, numbers which truly dwarfed the tiny minority of Jews in Europe and Eurasia.

If you look just a little behind the thin liberal versus autocracy veneer that has been thrown over this whole period, that is what jumps out at you again and again on closer scrutiny.

One has only to thumb through Gerhard Weinberg, The World At Arms, to see this issue and motivation jump out repeatedly amid the kaleidoscopic transformations of diplomatic and political manoeuvring, both leading up to the war, and then during it.

All the best

Bozon said...

Here is a link to Huntington's image, for the fault line through Eastern Europe.
You can treat it as for your eyes only here, as copyright may be an issue. I don't know.
I do not vouch for this graphic; for illustrative purposes only as I see it.


All the best

Bozon said...


Peterson and Loury, psychology/lit and economics. A real pig's breakfast!

These two scions of these distinct citadels of ignoramuses met and bonded....

They each mainly trade on, while nevertheless deriding, the remaining untainted portions of other disciplines', and their meager insights.

One can see that Peterson has already harvested and interwoven paleogenetics and genomic insight research into his post Jungian smorgasbord.

All the best