13
Jul
10

All linky, no thinky

Things I found on the big truck today:

As an undergraduate, I took a special interest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its interminable civil war.  My interest was largely selfish: I wanted to one-up the causes beloved of the Caring People around me, and I wanted to rub their noses in the fact that they didn’t give nearly as much of a shit about other people’s problems as they were pleased to pretend.  Social concern was essentially a fashion item, an accessory chosen to compliment one’s core beliefs.

So my Cheshire-grinning schadenfreude tasted a bit rueful when I read this paragraph:

In the end, this answer is just another variant of the “good intentions are enough” mindset. It excuses stereotyping in the name of awareness, while assuming that Americans are too parochial to be able to recognize, relate to, and applaud the work of people whose names sound different from ours. It reveals much about Kristof’s approach to the people he profiles; as we’ve discussed here many times before, they’re more often characters than people.

(Emphasis added — that’s a beautiful turn of phrase.)

——

Next, we have this post on Popehat, which has the peculiar properties of not only scaring the shit out of me but also spawning a short comment thread that’s 50% composed of abysmally banal Japanese language pedantry:

The police did not get Haley Dawson’s permission to use her identity it what sounds like the plot to a Cinemax movie. I doubt the police will clear up any legal or credit or tax consequences for her. The police say they are allowed to do it. For the good of the citizens.

Yikes.

——

Finally, here’s Ryan Avent making a fairly obvious point that’s utterly non-obvious to the vast majority of commentators:

There is a sense that people seem to have that the making of things is an activity crucial to a modern economy. It’s crucial because a country that can’t make things is vulnerable to trade collapse. It’s crucial because a country that can’t make things is likely to lose its economic edge. It’s crucial because without manufacturing you can’t export. And it’s crucial because manufacturing jobs, everyone knows, are high-paying jobs that provide a good living to people with limited education.

I don’t think too much of this. Economic activity isn’t about satisfying the demand for objects, it’s about satisfying demand, period, and people demand many things that have little to do with assembly lines and smokestacks — hair-cuts, mixed drinks, financial advice, dentistry, and so on. These activities are important. If they weren’t important, people wouldn’t be willing to pay lots of money for them. Economic growth, meanwhile, is about figuring out how to do more with less. There’s no reason why “doing more with less” ought to be associated with manufacturing rather than services.

I know a maddening number of people who “know” that manufacturing jobs are vital sources of meaningful, well-paid employment for “those with limited education”.  These people are nearly invariably well-educated white-collar folks who get most of their contact with “the working class” through New York Times columns.  I also know a fair number of people who left or lost blue-collar jobs (mostly fisheries-related jobs in the Maritimes), moved to BC, learned new skills (often self-taught), and got new jobs in what I guess we’re calling the service sector.  It’s hard not to think of the “manufacturing jobs are critical because dumb jocks can’t do anything more complex” attitude as anything other than high-handed condescension.

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4 Responses to “All linky, no thinky”


  1. July 13, 2010 at 19:31

    It’s hard not to think of the “manufacturing jobs are critical because dumb jocks can’t do anything more complex” attitude as anything other than high-handed condescension.

    Never thought about it like that before.

    It _is_ condescending. It’s also not true, or not true for much longer.

    Give it twenty years (less, in some areas) manufacturing is going to be a few guys on the floor, a lot of guys in charge of the automation, and management.

    Just like you can’t be dumb and be a farmer you won’t be able to be a mope and get a job in manufacturing. Manufacturing in 2050 is going to be like farming in 2010. Not many people making a living at something people don’t really understand and being very productive in the bargain.

    • July 13, 2010 at 23:58

      Give it twenty years (less, in some areas) manufacturing is going to be a few guys on the floor, a lot of guys in charge of the automation, and management.

      Yep.

      And in fifty years, software engineering (“my field”) will be the same way, and with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work I’ll be able to leverage that automation to spend my retirement building sports cars in my garage. I’ll have to find a new job, but Solidworks and five-axis CNC mills are gonna get a lot cheaper.

  2. 3 Ben #3
    July 14, 2010 at 06:44

    Your White Man’s Burden Link appears to go to an Ultima Underworld website.


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