The AXis 12/03/18

A simple idea: an article, a link, a quote, and the axis on which it spins, because narratives without gravity are just news.

Today: One More Reason To Love Panera Though Its CEO Is Wrong About Trump, White Flight Racists?, Meritocracy Versus The Mob  

>“The Founder of Panera Bread Explains the Economic Forces that Led to Trump” | The New Yorker

“Shaich has come to believe that the current business environment is far less amenable to the process of building companies like his. Wall Street has embraced the idea that companies exist solely to serve the holders of their stock. Under this way of thinking, managers of companies should focus their actions on driving short-term value for their shareholders, and should pay far less (or no) regard to other constituents who may have a stake in the business, such as employees, customers, or members of the community. Shaich partly blames activist hedge funds, many of which buy shares in companies with the aim of pushing their management to make decisions that drive their stock prices up within a few months. According to Shaich, this makes it more difficult to invest in long-term projects, and create sustainable jobs.”

The AXis->One More Reason To Love Panera Though Its CEO Is Wrong About Trump. Not only do I love Panera, I am a new fan of its CEO, Ron Shaich. Most of this article is an amazing portrait of a “fast casual” visionary CEO who’s company is killing it in an ultra-competitive sector. However, I think his take on why Trump won is off. Currently there’s a battle between two dominant narratives. There’s the noble narrative of the “forgotten man,” in which Trump won because of votes from those who have been left behind by a high-tech globalized economy that has no place for workers without fancy degrees. And there’s the ignoble narrative of  “status threat,” in which Trump won because of votes from those who felt their status as white middle-class Americans was under threat from immigrants and other races and are willing to support authoritarian policies to protect it. I’m partial to the “status threat” narrative. It not only explains a significant Trump constituency, it also gives insight into Trump’s continued hardcore support from a particular segment of the electorate. Shaich’s intentions are admirable, but the success of his larger message about our economy at this moment in history depends on which narrative he affirms.

 

>“The Culprits Behind White Flight” | The New York Times

“Was Donald Trump’s surprise victory due to his voters’ racism or their economic anxiety? The right answer might be that it was both.

A similar question of “whodunit” inspired my research on the history of postwar white flight. White movement to the suburbs coincided with a period of substantial black migration out of the rural South: From 1940 to 1970, four million blacks settled in industrial cities in the North and West. As they moved in, the fraction of white metropolitan households living in the typical Northern or Western central city fell from two-thirds to one-third.

Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to the white exodus as a “triumph of racist social engineering,” and he is not wrong. Many white households moved to suburban towns precisely because black households were effectively excluded from them by real estate agents and mortgage brokers. But that’s not the whole story. Even in cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul that had few black migrants, the suburbs were a magnet for newly prosperous families after World War II seeking larger houses and more open space.

And so I found myself caught in the same debate: Did whites leave cities for racial reasons or for economic ones?”

The AXis->White Flight Racists? I’ve always suspected many different “white flight” narratives within what’s seemed like a larger general trend of whites moving out of cities because black were moving in. Author Leah Boustan’s research suggests this is more likely the case, which makes me wonder about the white flight narrative of my boyhood neighborhood in Baltimore. My family moved to an East Baltimore neighborhood in 1954, the same year the St. Louis Browns became the Baltimore Orioles. My Catholic elementary school was three blocks from my house. There are Polaroids of students from that school taken in 1968. All the students in these photos are white. At the time the study body was predominantly Polish. There are no blacks in any of the photos. By 1975, however, my 1st grade year, the study body of that same school was all black, with a few black teachers as well. All the nuns were white, just as they were in the 1968 photos. I’ve always been perplexed by how quickly my neighborhood school transformed. The Baltimore Riots of 1968, sparked by the assassination of Martin Luther King, is the accepted reason why whites left so quickly, as well as how quickly the neighborhood (and others like it) went downhill because families with lower incomes replaced the whites who had moved to outer parts of the city. I have no idea if this is true but have always wanted to research it. I suspect this story is much more complex than any account I’ve thus far heard.

 

>“The Rise of the Resentniks” | The New York Times

“During the Cold War, being a conservative was a moral cause. You were fighting Communist tyranny—aligned with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Lech Walesa. But you were somewhat marginalized in your own society. Liberals controlled the universities, the news media, the cultural high ground, so the right attracted many people with outsider personalities.

Then with the election of Reagan and Thatcher and in the years afterward, conservatives built their own counter-establishment—think tanks, publications, broadcasting outlets. As conservatism professionalized, it despiritualized. After the Soviet Union collapsed, conservatism no longer had a great moral cause to rally around. It became a technocratic, economics-focused movement concerned with small government and entitlement reform. Compassionate conservatism and the dream of spreading global democracy were efforts to anchor conservatism around a moral ideal, but they did not work out.

Many conservatives simply could not succeed in the new conservative counterestablishment. In any meritocracy, there are going to be a lot of people who lose out and do not get the glittering career they think they are due. Sooner or later those people are going to rise up to challenge the competition itself and to question its idea of excellence. “Resentment, envy, and above all the belief that the ‘system’ is unfair — these are important sentiments among the intellectuals of the Polish right,” Applebaum writes.”

The AXis->Meritocracy Versus The Mob. We live in a strange time in which technical expertise and political animus are both in abundance. Indeed, both are distributed along ideological vectors in such a way that the weaknesses and failures of each are still considered acceptable to their affinity groups when compared their polar opposites. Globalists will continue to push globalization as our only option, and nationalism will always be the only port in a nationalist storm. The experts leverage our dreams about ourselves and our future. The mob hijacks our nightmares. Experts want a better world transformed by education, competition, and yes, expertise. The rabble rousers want a world ruled by the kind of rabble that’s already been dispatched to the darker corners of history. Still, it’s just a game to some mundane extent, as neither pole on our now expanded political spectrum has a truly coherent vision of the future, or sometimes even of the present. In this way the managers and the mob are and will remain balanced against each other for the foreseeable future. There’s a balance here that keeps me thinking that until the world changes in some fundamental and perhaps grievous way (a massive conventional war or a reconfiguration of world monetary policy) the eggheads and the goons will be the dominant poles around which we think about politics and culture. Left vs Right seems quaint by comparison.

@ProjectDeX

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IMAGE SOURCE:japan-2014618_1920 (CC0 Creative Commons)

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