I love the taste of bitter liberal tears, shed as they belatedly learn the Law of Unintended Consequences. Ms. Emily Badger is one such leftist, learning now what has been apparent to anyone with two eyes and half a brain: when social engineering goes awry, resulting in outcomes that people don’t like, they will use everything at their disposal-from technology to institutions-to restore the status quo ante.
Lamenting the decay of public life in America, she makes three primary observations: (1) that civic and social bonds between countrymen have atrophied (2) that trust has declined and (3) that racial and class separatism is as robust as it ever was.
Americans are pulling apart. We’re pulling apart from each other in general. And, in particular, we’re pulling apart from people who differ from us.
Badger is correct on several fronts: Americans are living more atomized and isolated lifestyles. This bodes poorly for our collective mental health and overall happiness. She is also correct in noting that Americans are more withdrawn from each other and from the public sphere than ever before, and guard the private with an enthusiasm bordering on religious fervor. What she misapprehends is the why. She makes a brave attempt at divining the root causes of this alienation:
We’re more likely to spend time isolated in our cars, making what was historically a communal experience — the commute to work — a private one. In 1960, 63 percent of American commuters got to work in a private car.
Now, 85 percent of us do. And three-quarters of us are riding in that car alone.
The shared experiences and communal spaces where our lives intersect — even if just for a ride to a work, or a monthly PTA meeting — have grown seemingly more sparse.
She diagnoses the disease that ails us as cars, suburbs, and schools, not realizing that cars are only vectors and that self segregation within suburbs and schools is only a symptom. While she attempts to badger (heh) us into thinking that we are bad people because we don’t carpool, we live in suburbs, and we enroll our children in “good schools” all while having the gall to live in under capacity homes, she will never examine whether her ideology has produced any blowback. Or whether Americans’ expressed social preferences are a rejection of this ideology.
Waxing lachrymose, she tells us that Americans are increasingly unwilling to invest their “social capital” in ways that will further the cause of the common weal. Nevertheless, she will never make the connection between the expansion of the federal government and civil society’s contraction. Why are there so few vigorously active fraternal orders, benevolent associations, and religious charities nowadays? Because a bloated, centralized government has obviated any need for them. These organizations simply can’t compete with a leviathan financed with trillions of fiat dollars, endlessly printed. Why is trust on the decline? Ms. Badger’s faith in multiculturalism and diversity will never waver, even while she watches America’s failed diversity project imploding before her very eyes.
When we retreat into these private spaces and separate enclaves, now increasingly sorted by income, too, we have less and less in common. And when we have little left in common, it’s hard to imagine how we’ll agree on fixes to big problems, or how we’ll empathize with the people touched by them.
She reverses cause and effect here. We don’t have less in common because we retreat into separate enclaves, we retreat into separate enclaves because we have less in common than leftists like Badger care to admit. She will never understand that there is an inverse relationship between relationship between levels of diversity and levels of trust, as increased diversity decreases social cohesion. Humans are fundamentally tribal, and prefer kin ties and ties to like individuals. Though this preference doesn’t necessarily have to be antagonistic, I’m certain that Ms. Badger will nonetheless denounce these demonstrable preferences as Very Bad Things. Meanwhile, she’ll probably voice support through her bitter tears for continued immigration to this country because as we know, that’s a Very Good Thing.
People don’t want diversity. People don’t want to “socialize” with people with whom they feel no affinity to. Diversity and centralized government have been foisted upon Americans who are now voting with their feet and with the mechanism of exit, choosing private association over public life, and choosing homogeneous neighborhoods over multi-cult heterogeneous ones even as public policy continues to ram the agenda down their throats.
Such is life, Em.