Re: Like D-List Internet Celebrity

1

Speaking as a former internet celebrity, I think it falls down pretty fast once you get out of your 20s.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:03 PM
horizontal rule
2

even though most people would rather meet Condi Rice than Reinhold Messner

Assumes facts not in evidence.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:07 PM
horizontal rule
3

they really do believe that being the world's best alpinist is superior to being, say, Secretary of State,

For Christ's sake, how much of a douche do you have to be not to realize that being the world's best alpinist is in fact superior to being Secretary of State? That's just objective truth. Of course, there are lots of douches in the world.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:07 PM
horizontal rule
4

Do see KoK, like, now.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:09 PM
horizontal rule
5

You can see it as being pwned by JMcQ, or you can see it as working together to make a point.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:09 PM
horizontal rule
6

What is KoK?


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:10 PM
horizontal rule
7

Marcus and I are a team.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:11 PM
horizontal rule
8

6: in this context, The King of Kong. In other contexts, other things.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:12 PM
horizontal rule
9

You know, this argument bothers me more and more as I think about it. The key point about alternative status hierarchies is that they aren't remunerative. The benefit of our society is that we can find ways to excel that society doesn't value enough to reward in any meaningful way? Greeeat.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:15 PM
horizontal rule
10

I contend that this argument would be far better received if you didn't know it was coming from Megan McArdle.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:17 PM
horizontal rule
11

as Tyler Cowen once told me, the secret to happiness is alternative status hierarchies, combined with self-deception.

10: uh huh.

Seriously, this whole thing is so obviously spoken by somebody who doesn't have to, e.g., worry about feeding their family on two part-time jobs. Happiness is having enough income that you can seek alternative avenues to affirm your self-worth.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:20 PM
horizontal rule
12

The rock climbing avenue is also, it should be said, lily-white. How does this work when you start talking about minorities and the alternative avenues they find to seek status? Lot of talk about how commercial success is bullshit there?

What, said the libertarian, minorities? Where?!? Scary!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:28 PM
horizontal rule
13

Trying to be charitable re 10, I suppose given a system where most people didn't objectively have to suffer in order to pursue their non-rat-race dreams, the soulless corporate/political/etc. ladder up which many (or even most) chose to climb wouldn't be such a big deal. Whatever floats your boat!

But since that's not the case, I see her actually existing argument as so much brainstorming on mystification techniques.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:29 PM
horizontal rule
14

I'd a lot rather meet Reinhold Messner than Condi Rice.

In fact, I'd a lot rather meet Reinhold Messner than meet Megan McArdle. But that's just me.

Considering, I think I'd rather meet Pamela Jones or Jim Lippard or Gene Spafford than Reinhold Messner. .
Dennis Ritchie, now -- _that_ would be an honor.

I have met Eugene Nobuyo Miya, just once.

I was invited to a party at Bill Gates's new house in 1998, (I think it was), but I declined.

I was at the Fourth of July parade in Clear Lake IA this past year. President and Senator Clinton walked the route in the lead, to all appearances unguarded, and pressing the flesh. Governor Romney and his Winnebago Chock Full O' Family came soon after. My mom was all atwitter to shake Mitt's hand (she's an R, and is likely to know R politicos from Iowa), but I just can't see the point of meeting professional politicians unless there's something they want from you. Like the practitioners of the other very-old-professions, their regard is always professional.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:30 PM
horizontal rule
15

(total cranky old man follow-up)

Furthermore!

I would be hard-pressed to see what was basically a DC media popularity contest as an "alternative" to traditional status hierarchies: no disprespect to Kriston and Catherine, but working in the media in DC is, like, pretty dang establishment, you know? It may not be a traditional way of finding status in that establishment, but it ain't being the greatest tagger in the Bronx.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:34 PM
horizontal rule
16

Wilkinson's idea unfortunately neglects the fact that alternative status hierarchies are themselves arrayed more or less hierarchically. If you want to be king of the trainspotters, go right ahead. Just don't expect anyone to give a fuck, or indeed give you a job.

By the by, Cowen's one-liner implicitly acknowledges this point. Successful economists will be the first to explain to you that their success is a rational and efficient outcome based on their natural talent and the recognition thereof by the market. If you believe this picture but end up at a third-rate department, there's a certain amount of mental pressure to be resolved. It's a common enough predicament. Cowen's solution is novel only in its cheerful acknowledgment that he is in fact trying to deceive himself into believing he'd prefer to be at George Mason and best known for his blog than at Chicago and best known for his Nobel Prize.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:39 PM
horizontal rule
17

Ah, but Kriston and Catherine were the most popular DC media figures among the *robot* population. That's definitely alternative.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:40 PM
horizontal rule
18

17 to 15.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:40 PM
horizontal rule
19

Come on, renumeration and status are only vaguely related, as can be seen by comparing the large number of wealthy transmission shop owners and dare I say software engineers to pundits, professors, and mid-tier rock band members.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:46 PM
horizontal rule
20

Sure, but mid-tier rock band member excluded, the people you're talking about can at least make a living.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:47 PM
horizontal rule
21

I am so glad I am not an alpha or gamma.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:47 PM
horizontal rule
22

I don't quite get the argument. In what sense are alternative status heirarchies new, and to what extent are they not (like rock-climbing) mostly of interest to the leisure class? What definition of 'alternative status heirarchy' includes both rock-climbing and Donkey Kong?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:47 PM
horizontal rule
23

Come on, renumeration and status are only vaguely related

That's right, but occupational status hierarchies are pretty stable and consistent.

I don't quite get the argument. In what sense are alternative status heirarchies new, and to what extent are they not (like rock-climbing) mostly of interest to the leisure class?

They're not. What's new are certain kinds of libertarians that people now take seriously as philosophers and social commentators.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:50 PM
horizontal rule
24

The problem people have trying to feed their family on two part-time jobs isn't that they're low status, it's that they're dirt poor. Alternative Status Hierarchies are usually deployed in arguments about unrewarding white-collar jobs of the sort that no one wants to consider taking if, god forbid, they don't get into an Ivy League school and so can't be an I-banker.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:52 PM
horizontal rule
25

I got to hang out with Bill Ayers for an afternoon once. It was totally awesome. I don't think Condi Rice would compare.

The odd thing about this alternate status hierarchy business is that the people most excited about it are all libertarians. The idea would be a lot more compelling, to me at least, if it were part and parcel of a robust welfare state in which guaranteed everyone decent living conditions without regard to their standing in any hierarchy, alternate, mainstream, or otherwise.


Posted by: zwichenzug | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:54 PM
horizontal rule
26

bob mcm @ 21
> I am so glad I am not an alpha or gamma.

Yup. It's that 2001 A Space Odyssey waterhole scene, endlessly repeated -- Sapolsky's baboons, except with irony and subverted paradigms as a comforting rationalization.

I wish I could be happy just being a beta. Never worked for me.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:55 PM
horizontal rule
27

24: so, excelsior, the poor schlub with the job he hates can become king of the potato cannon builders? This is, like, what's good about our economy? Not convincing me this isn't silly so far.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:55 PM
horizontal rule
28

I contend that this argument would be far better received if you didn't know it was coming from Megan McArdle.

Reinhold Messner feels sorry for members of alternate status hierarchies without universal health care:

From 1999 to 2004, he held political office as a Member of the European Parliament for the Italian Green Party (Federazione dei Verdi).


Posted by: joeo | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:58 PM
horizontal rule
29

25.2 makes a great point. Why does the wealth necessary to ensure that X percentage of the population can find rewarding leisure pursuits necessarily mean X + N percent of the population will not be able to find their work rewarding?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:59 PM
horizontal rule
30

Where did "this is what's good about our economy" come from?It's about modern society as a whole. Because, last I checked, the welfare state didn't mean no one had to take a low-status job or one that they hated.

Although, I have heard in Germany that even amongst educated people, someone who goes to two years of technical school and then works in some low-level medical job isn't considered an uneducated retard worthy of scorn. Which is an interesting contrast to Unfogged.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 10:59 PM
horizontal rule
31

I would rather meet Kriston and Catherine again than meet Condi Rice, Reinhold Messner and Megan McArdle.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:03 PM
horizontal rule
32

Hey, I'm an uneducated retard and proud of it.

Wait, that came out wrong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:03 PM
horizontal rule
33

Although what I can do right now is listen to The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:05 PM
horizontal rule
34

You people are insane.

(Nothing specific, but I figure with ogged gone, it should be said every now and again.)


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:23 PM
horizontal rule
35

This Guardian piece on Messner is good.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:23 PM
horizontal rule
36

Of course the poor have alternative status hierarchies. In fact, that's all they have, which is precisely the problem.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:31 PM
horizontal rule
37

36: mm hmm.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:33 PM
horizontal rule
38

I'd rather have a higher status alter me, than an alternative status hierarchy.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:33 PM
horizontal rule
39

I just played COmITIEs (as in "Unfogged is a source of endles comities") for a bingo in scrabble, and I owe it all to you, the mineshaft.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:34 PM
horizontal rule
40

38: two ways to ignore the pain, one leaves you drunk, the other half a brain.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:35 PM
horizontal rule
41

31: Little hearts, spiderbabies, emoticons, Facebook pokes.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:37 PM
horizontal rule
42

I love you too, smasher. You your beard, and your beguiling knowledge of "art" "shows" in "Chinatown" in "Los Angeles".

Aiee, quotes!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:47 PM
horizontal rule
43

Even though his achievements are entirely more impressive, I wouldn't have the faintest idea what to say to Reinhold Messner ("Mountains are pretty high, huh? Is walking across the Gobi Desert harder with only two toes?"), but I could talk foreign policy with Condi Rice.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:48 PM
horizontal rule
44

I would punch him and then, when he asked why, say "because you're there!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:49 PM
horizontal rule
45

I had no idea Messner was from the Germanic part of Italy.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:50 PM
horizontal rule
46

41: Hm?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:53 PM
horizontal rule
47

46: Hmm.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-27-07 11:58 PM
horizontal rule
48

47: Oh noes! Nightmares for ever!!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:00 AM
horizontal rule
49

I do have some sympathy for Cowen & Wilkinson. although I have not read Will much recently. He is in my blogroll. "Alternate status heirarcgies and self-deception" describes the most common coping mechanism.

Okay "happiness" is not "well-being" amd I would be very careful about applying this insight to public policy. But as a sociopath and general loser, I have been looking at this for my whole life.

What real sense of happness and satisfaction is provided by being:"The 2rd best pole-vaulter in NW Iowa, who climbed from 10th best to 3rd in 4 years of HS, but also is good at math and has a cute girlfriend to compensate for not being best in Iowa, or Olympic Class" The competition is incessant & constant in human existance, and in many ways is made quantifiable. Three kids who became professionals; 8 healthy grandchildren.

My own grandparents had a goal of having zero divorced grandchildren, out of nearly 20. They came very close. It was in part, a competitive goal.

And the rich & successful compete just as desperately as the poor. Fucking Owen Wilson attempted suicide? I watched James Toback for two hours talk about how he was a more successful and accomplished director than the commercial hacks, even tho he couldn't get financing and distribution. Hell, and maybe Toback has internalized a set of standards, a personal style. that makes it true.

It isn't even sad or pathetic. It is what people do, jockeying for status is existential, even in Unfogged comment threads. It causes a lot of pain, and some brief moments of status satisfaction. Socialism or communism or whatever won't dent it.

I have also been attracted to Buddhism and other ascetic humilities. Pride is the worst sin, from which all the others derive. Pride in appearance, achievement, effort, pride in magnanimity, equanimity, generosity, humility.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:08 AM
horizontal rule
50

And I work in his factory
And I curse the life I'm living, and I curse frivolity
And I wish that I could be, yes I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

I really am glad I am not an alpha.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:14 AM
horizontal rule
51

I really am glad I am not an alpha.

Indeed. It's nice floating through life and seeing where it takes you, although at times I sadly wonder what it would be like to be driven. Like when I read all the archives of Equity Private. Would probably get more hot chicks.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:24 AM
horizontal rule
52

yeah i agree with 49. Status competition is one of the most basic elements of humanity.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:38 AM
horizontal rule
53

Hold on, the chief opponent of the value of an alternate status hierarchy is a fucking DJ? And he's bitching about renumeration? Jesus.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:58 AM
horizontal rule
54

No, I was bitching about remuneration.

Also, did I not say I was talking from experience?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:58 AM
horizontal rule
55

Also also, clearly I am not the kind of person libertarians are likely to ignore in their various calculi: enwhitlement is (almost) my niddle mame.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:00 AM
horizontal rule
56

The odd thing about this alternate status hierarchy business is that the people most excited about it are all libertarians. The idea would be a lot more compelling, to me at least, if it were part and parcel of a robust welfare state in which guaranteed everyone decent living conditions without regard to their standing in any hierarchy, alternate, mainstream, or otherwise.

This brings to mind John Holbo's post on "dark satanic Millianism":

the ethico-political theory that says laissez faire capitalism is good if and only if under capitalism the masses are forced to work in environments that break their will to want to 'jump across the big top', i.e. behave in a self-assertive, celebratorily individualist manner. Ergo, a dark satanic millian liberal will tend to oppose capitalism to the degree that, say, Virginia Postrel turns out to be right about capitalism ushering in a bright new age of individual liberty, in which people try new things for the sheer joy of realizing themselves, etc., etc.

A corollary is that the welfare is to be opposed precisely because it enables a proliferation of alternative status hierarchies. Company-sponsored health insurance keeping you from leaving your job? That's a feature, not a bug.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:06 AM
horizontal rule
57

No time for a long comment right now; too busy trying to boost my ranking in the Blogosphere Ecosystem.

/not really
//but a few years ago it would have been true
///yes, I am ashamed


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:11 AM
horizontal rule
58

Will there be an extended version of KoK?


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:12 AM
horizontal rule
59

54: Well, you didn't mention it but I picked it up. Did it occur to you somewhere along your career track that there might be alternative methods of renumeration to alternative status? As in, you claim to be able to get decent weed in MA? As in, you probably were able to get laid at will? Our country is well set up to fuck with those who disdain the cubicle, but such a path is not without its rewards.

Also, if you want your internet celebrity to pay off, try to avoid the 12-year old autist demographic. If you must focus there, do try to skew female.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:13 AM
horizontal rule
60

Well, you didn't mention it but I picked it up. Did it occur to you somewhere along your career track that there might be alternative methods of renumeration to alternative status? As in, you claim to be able to get decent weed in MA? As in, you probably were able to get laid at will? Our country is well set up to fuck with those who disdain the cubicle, but such a path is not without its rewards.

(a) I wasn't a DJ when I lived in MA. (b) I made money like a normal person, because that's how it works. (c) I was able to get laid at will? Oh, you minx. No. (d) I believe every single job I've ever worked I have sat in a cubicle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:17 AM
horizontal rule
61

I do know a fiar number of people who have devoted their lives to art, as it were, and in general, they have to give up other things, such as food.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:17 AM
horizontal rule
62

(e) It's "remuneration," dammit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:19 AM
horizontal rule
63

(f) Also "fair," not "fiar."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:19 AM
horizontal rule
64

No time for a long comment right now; too busy trying to boost my ranking in the Blogosphere Ecosystem.

I was pretty psyched to see that Dial "M" for Musicology links to waste.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:21 AM
horizontal rule
65

John Emerson worked a low-level medical job for many years, if memory is factive*, and we don't hold him in scorn. M/tch M/lls climbed his way up from baker's assistant to unemployed, and we still love him, even though he hates me for some reason.

Technical schools should really occupy a much more prominent place in the American educational landscape, though it would probably wound the pride of many a libertarian-style CS major if his field were taught alongside the electrician's (not to mention the MBAs; surely administering a business is a craft type of thing if ever there was one). I assume that the only reason so many fields of study are taught at four-year colleges and universities alongside the litterae humaniores is some sort of deference to middle/upper-class expectations. I say this with all respect to the less humane letters, except business administration. (Whether the causation is that a middle-class or otherwise respectable profession demands recognition in the form of some specific degree preparing the holder to enter rightfully into that profession, or that what some specific degree will end up preparing one to do is obviously respectable and U, is no concern of mine. Either way it's just elitism and self doubt and amour propre.)

*"IMIF", and its voiced alternative "IMIV" ("if memory is veridical"), are going to be the acronyms of 2008. Start using them now, before the crowd.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:34 AM
horizontal rule
66

65 was supposed to start by quoting this: Although, I have heard in Germany that even amongst educated people, someone who goes to two years of technical school and then works in some low-level medical job isn't considered an uneducated retard worthy of scorn. Which is an interesting contrast to Unfogged. which Jake said above someplace.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:34 AM
horizontal rule
67

IMIV has the unique benefit of being nigh-consistently false, Mr. Anamalous Monist.

Also kollidj is fer skwares.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:37 AM
horizontal rule
68

I was pretty psyched to see that Dial "M" for Musicology links to waste.

I don't understand what that means. Does it mean the blog "Dial 'M' for Musicology" links to dead blogs? Or something else entirely? Help me out here.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:40 AM
horizontal rule
69

ben has many a blog GB. Or at least, two.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:49 AM
horizontal rule
70

Also: I'm about to kill blip right now. Is there a better way to upload a video?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:51 AM
horizontal rule
71

60: Oh, jesus, did I fuck that up in innumerable dimensions. So you were a working stiff, and are now pining for the cubicle? I find that hard to believe, if only because it would be depressing. You're studying now, yes? Isn't that a hell of a lot better than the proverbial CPS report?

Also,
Renumerative, I says. You accept a number, prisoner style, and they give it back at an acceptable multiple. WEll, maybe not.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:00 AM
horizontal rule
72

Is anyone else trying to watch the eclipse? I had heard 4:51am (Eastern). The internets are suggesting differently (5:53?).


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:05 AM
horizontal rule
73

Point 1: Hey! The rock climbing gym I go to may be about 60-75% white, but I think that 25-40% minorities makes for something other than "lily white," at least.

Point 2: I suspect that Chris Sharma does okay in terms of cash. Maybe real alpinists (as opposed to rock-climbers) don't.

Point 3: In terms of remuneration, I think that the sticking point isn't the people at the top of micro-status hierarchies ("Gabe" from Penny Arcade notes that he drives a Mercedes, to grab a non-climbing related one), but people a bit further down the curve. On the other hand, to poke at webcomics further, a surprising number of people seem to be living on the proceeds of their comics.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:09 AM
horizontal rule
74

73: Points 2, and 3: that might work for the short term, but that shit is evanescent. If you want or need stability, you must submit to the system.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:59 AM
horizontal rule
75

No one, and especially not glibertarian twits, is allowed to say anything about this subject until they've read Georg Simmel's Philosophy of Money. Preferably in German.


Posted by: JWP | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 3:45 AM
horizontal rule
76

okay, but bottom line, i think we can agree that references to "alternative status hierarchies" are no
"response to those who are worried that economic status competition is making us all worse off"


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 4:38 AM
horizontal rule
77

e.g., isn't it a slight tip-off to the fact that your position is full of shit that one of the necessary ingredients for your "alternative" happiness is self-deception?


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 5:23 AM
horizontal rule
78

one of the necessary ingredients for your "alternative" happiness is self-deception?

Isnt self-deception what happiness is all about?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 5:49 AM
horizontal rule
79

You know what I find most disturbing about my cubicle-bound coworkers? Almost none of them seem to participate in any alternative status hierarchy whatsoever (with the so-obvious-as-to-be-unnecessary-to-state exceptions of softball, the NCAA pool and fantasy football). And they don't even participate in non-hierarchical alternatives to mass culture either. Why the hell did they go to college? Who knows? Their parents told them to. Virtually to a person, they would have been better off with 2 years of secretarial school, which would at least have taught them how to write emails that did not read as if they were tapped out by the proverbial infinite monkeys. Sigh. Off to join them and abandon you all for another 9 hours.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 5:57 AM
horizontal rule
80

I hate Penny Arcade a lot.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:06 AM
horizontal rule
81

78--
nice joke, but anyone who really thought this would be
a) actually deceived, and
b) not actually happy.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:14 AM
horizontal rule
82

Kid B:

In all seriousness, I am not sure that there is a tremendous difference between self-deception and not overly focusing on the problems that exist around you.

There is a lot of beauty in the world, but a whole lot of misery, suffering, and meaness too.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:18 AM
horizontal rule
83

"There is a lot of beauty in the world, but a whole lot of misery, suffering, and meanness too."

all true. there's all of that even within the narrower confine of unfogged comment threads.

but there are also some concrete material constituents of well-being, e.g. life, liberty, freedom from brutality, etc.. maybe a living wage and access to health care.
some people--not you--have an interest in telling us that the material stuff doesn't matter provided that you have the right attitude.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:23 AM
horizontal rule
84

RFTS, why do you hate Penny Arcade?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:24 AM
horizontal rule
85

Because I find it tremendously irritating, smug, and unfunny.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:26 AM
horizontal rule
86

but there are also some concrete material constituents of well-being, e.g. life, liberty, freedom from brutality, etc.. maybe a living wage and access to health care.
some people--not you--have an interest in telling us that the material stuff doesn't matter provided that you have the right attitude.

I often tell my kids that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.

But, of course, that 10 percent presumes the basic things mentioned above.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:27 AM
horizontal rule
87
soulless frivolities like video games

What has soul and is not frivolous in McArdle land? Art made by dead people? Political power? Piles of money?

A key problem with this post is that is assumes there is one true status hierarchy.

Much status comparison is localised. Rich people don't compare themselves to the folks in the housing project ten miles away; they compare themselves to their neighbours. The poor, likewise.

This is at least is true, and explains the existence and validity of alternative status hierarchies. The guys who are the top climbers are pretty damn big in their communities.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:32 AM
horizontal rule
88

I will merely note that I recently received an email from a lurker introducting the question he was asking by referring to me as a "prominent internet celebrity". I actually hurt something in my sinuses snorting that hard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:46 AM
horizontal rule
89

I have a prominent internet celebrity in my pants.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:54 AM
horizontal rule
90

See a physician if prominent internet celebrity lasts for more than six hours.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:55 AM
horizontal rule
91

"prominent internet celebrity"

Now you are required to do some hardcore boozing, have some very public wardrobe malfunctions, or go out in public in really, really bad fitting clothes. Your choice.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 6:56 AM
horizontal rule
92

"Rich people don't compare themselves to the folks in the housing project ten miles away; they compare themselves to their neighbours. The poor, likewise."

Just a gut feeling that most poor do compare themselves to those outside their neighborhood. A lot.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:03 AM
horizontal rule
93

How does this work when you start talking about minorities and the alternative avenues they find to seek status?

This still works just fine for minorities. Many of them, for instance, have natural rhythm.

I contend that this argument would be far better received if you didn't know it was coming from Megan McArdle.

Bah. She gets links all the time, and every time she gets a link from a site I read, she's always (in my estimation) trying to put a good face on right-wing ideology, or otherwise being foolish. With this link, her record with me is intact.

(I wonder, however, the degree to which the opposite is true: People seem to like her personally, and I wonder if her arguments would be taken as seriously coming from someone less personable.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:04 AM
horizontal rule
94

I demand complete indoctrination of everyone else into my hierarchy in order to establish my happiness. Alternative hierarchies harsh my mellow.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:07 AM
horizontal rule
95

terpball and politicalfootball seem to be jostling for status in the same hierarchyball.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:09 AM
horizontal rule
96

I suspect that Chris Sharma does okay in terms of cash. Maybe real alpinists (as opposed to rock-climbers) don't.

Sharma's a fucking rock star though. He's the exception. There's a lot of top guys local here in Salt Lake, and they ain't making their living climbing.

Competetive shooting is similar. There's Rob Leatham, then there's everybody else.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:12 AM
horizontal rule
97

"The problem people have trying to feed their family on two part-time jobs isn't that they're low status, it's that they're dirt poor. "
This is partially true, but if we're talking about happiness, then perceived status is hugely important. Indeed it's possibly the single biggest determinant of stress levels. Robert Sapolsky is good on the biological (endocrinological, to be precise) basis of this, and there's plenty of sociological research to back it up. See this New Scientist piece for more details.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:15 AM
horizontal rule
98

Two words: wes Jones: king of the ferret leggers.

w-lfs-n is right about me. 22 years at low-level medical jobs.

Haines: did your mother see the Buddy Holly crash?

McManus: my mother's family was from Sheldon, Sioux City, and Orange City. Gotta be pretty near you.

Oscar Wilde's "Soul of Man Under Socialism" proposed that socialism help liberate everyone from need and toil so that they could engage in what might be called alt status hierarchies in the arts, etc. McMegan's point would be more plausible if she had factored in family obligations, job insecurity, medical insecurity, work weeks longer than 40 hours, and actual poverty. Rock climbers have to spend a lot on travel and equipment.

I chose the wrong time to go off the net, after wasting the entire day piddling around.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:22 AM
horizontal rule
99

Your alternative status hierarchy needs you, John.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:23 AM
horizontal rule
100

I have a prominent internet celebrity in my pants.

Is it Ghyslain Raza?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:24 AM
horizontal rule
101

You're so going to be sued for 100, apo.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:28 AM
horizontal rule
102

I actually hurt something in my sinuses snorting that hard.

Good thing then that I didn't work through the idea that since you were j/ob hun/tingh, you might be interested in the recent vacancy at Justice.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:29 AM
horizontal rule
103

100: no, but there's a lightsaber involved.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:33 AM
horizontal rule
104

I had a glance into the lives of others similar to Minnepolitan's on the project I just left. Lives of gaming and consumption, in some ways analagous to mine but every restaurant or club was a chain, and there were firm opinions about which chains were better, etc.

I grew up in suburbs, although our income meant we usually lived in older rentals, most of the time I was in high school in an old farm house with a big yard surrounded by much smaller tract houses. What even then I knew I hated about them was the deliberate simplification and domestication of the environment; I was drawn always to the jumble and confusion, the contrasts of cities, and the countryside appealed for the same reason.

It's the standardization, the mass-produced quality of the lives that amaze me. I was curious about where the alternative hierarchies were, what about the lives was really interesting, and I was pretty open minded. I know in principle there's a lot out there, some weird stuff, but I didn't encounter it.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:37 AM
horizontal rule
105

94: You're going to get a lot of resistance on this from the ass-impaired community.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:50 AM
horizontal rule
106

98:The pole vaulter was entirely fictional John. I may have driven thru Iowa once.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 7:54 AM
horizontal rule
107

I really can't believe that you all aren't buying the "alternate status heirarchy" thing. It's just the "people are happier as a big fish in a little pond" argument with the caveat that some people who don't like the default pond go and find another one where they can be a bigger fish and are happier for it. And yay for them!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:00 AM
horizontal rule
108

oh, i'm buying it alright, just like Dr. J. did:

"The poor, indeed, are insensible of many little vexations, which sometimes imbitter the possessions, and pollute the enjoyments, of the rich. They are not pained by casual incivility, or mortified by the mutilation of a compliment; but this happiness is like that of a malefactor, who ceases to feel the cords that bind him, when the pincers are tearing his flesh."


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
109

just like Dr. J. did


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:06 AM
horizontal rule
110

that's the lesser dr. j.
my man samuel could have totally taken him in a game of one-on-one.
and if his pistol had misfired, he would have knocked him down with the butt of it.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:10 AM
horizontal rule
111

Becks, I basically buy it. Everyone makes a judgement call about whose opinion they value, and whose opinion they don't value, and you more-or-less try to achieve status among those whose opinions you value. When people have non-mainstream interests, they live in a non-mainstream status hierarchy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:11 AM
horizontal rule
112

McManus, it's my task to track you down.

McMegan fails to address the actual problems people are talking about, finding a more congenial problem, of specific interest to her set. which may actually be solvable by their methods.

I am, of course, an alternative hierarchy of one, as is McManus.

Heebie: speaking as a Texan, where do you stand on Miranda Lambert? And Armsmasher, if present?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:19 AM
horizontal rule
113

107: Becks, my problem isn't the basic thesis, which is merely banal. (Different people value different things, duh.)

My problem is that McArdle's presentation of this banal truth is patronizing, and given her slant, is put in the service of of an ideology that denies the need for social arrangements that improve equality of opportunity.

It reminds me of Charles Murray acolytes talking about the fact that, though black people lack the intellectual acuity of whites, they have other, compensating gifts. (Like natural rhythm, one assumes.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:19 AM
horizontal rule
114

Miranda Lambert - the only song I recognize on her Wikipedia entry is "Me and Charlie Talking" and I was indifferent to that song. Don't know much about her.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:27 AM
horizontal rule
115

When did everyone start saying "McMegan"?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:29 AM
horizontal rule
116

I really can't believe that you all aren't buying the "alternate status hierarchy" thing.

Oh, I buy it, I'm just not certain what her point is. Of course people seek status wherever they can find it. Of course modern societies have provided finer and finer degrees and definitions of "status." And of course people who have already satisfied their basic economic needs have more leisure to engage in status games. And ...?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:30 AM
horizontal rule
117

115, when she stopped being Jane Galt?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:30 AM
horizontal rule
118

When did everyone start saying "McMegan"?

When she got the golden arches tattooed on the sweet spot in the small of her back.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:32 AM
horizontal rule
119

When the same people who call her McMegan also started reading Megan From The Archives?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:34 AM
horizontal rule
120

Oh dear, now we'll have to use the names "McMegan" and "FTAMegan".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:36 AM
horizontal rule
121

When the same people who call her McMegan also started reading Megan From The Archives?

Who is passionate about government, and our need that it be done much better than it is now. So very, very different, and just as likely if not more likely to be referred to familiarly here.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:38 AM
horizontal rule
122

Isnt self-deception what happiness is all about?

This is exactly right. What is novel in the US now is that there is more than one self deception to choose from. In times past, if the luxury to think about happiness existed, there was also a strong collective ethos. One was happy because one had virtue and served the emperor, or was the patron of a cheerful and creative court or whatever. This basically accurate description of modern life is a consequence of very great and very recent wealth, and the social dislocations introduced by this wealth.

Raising kids is a great leveller, though-- I don't have much to add to to 49.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:39 AM
horizontal rule
123

Actually, as near as I can tell, if McArdle has any point here at all, it's a gloomy one. She seems to be suggesting that most people are so ignorant of the world around them, so alienated, or so afflicted by their own mental impairments, that the very notion of comparing status or achievements across individual lives is practically meaningless.

I don't think that's true and I doubt she believes that herself, but that looks like the direction her argument is heading.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:51 AM
horizontal rule
124

The very notion of comparing status or achievements across individual lives is practically meaningless.

It's a dogma of economics that utilities are incomparable, so that you can't say that a dose of penicillin to a dying man brings more utility than a cigar of equal cost to a rich man. Either one is just $10 (or whatever) worth of utility. Without this principle you get socialist results.

This is like quantum theory -- no intelligible ordinary-language expression is possible. But a high proportion of economists believe it. Amartya Sen is working on changing this and got a Nobel prize partly for that reason, but really he's just finding economic expressions for things everyone in the world already knows, except economists. Talk about trained incapacity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 8:57 AM
horizontal rule
125

i don't think 124 is talking about the same thing that the quoted portion of 123 was talking about.

(tho i agree with the gist of 124 as an independent proposition.)


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:01 AM
horizontal rule
126

124: Isn't the claim that the purchase of the cigar, with money that could have been spent on penicillin, reveals that the buyer values the cigar experience more?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:02 AM
horizontal rule
127

Not the same thing exactly, but in common is the individualist idea that people live in complete isolation from one another.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:04 AM
horizontal rule
128

"No such thing as society"


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:06 AM
horizontal rule
129

For one individual, that's the argument. But what I'm talking about is that economists deny that it is possible to say that there's no way of objectively saying that the penicillin has more utility than the cigar. Only the two individuals know how much utility there is -- no one else can read their minds, and they can't read each other's minds.

It's a form of subjectivism and relativism, but not one of the ones that conservatives rant about, except for paleocons.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:08 AM
horizontal rule
130

deny that it is possible to say that ... the penicillin for the one person has more utility than the cigar for the other person.

there's no way of objectively saying


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:11 AM
horizontal rule
131

Steve House may be the current world's greatest alpinist. But there are some pretty strong Slovenians and Frenchmen too. Messner is kind of the Babe Ruth of alpinists. And it's not all that hard to meet any of these folks -- just go to an American Alpine Club annual meeting (USA) or an Alpine Club meeting (UK) and they often turn up lecturing. Condi -- I think it may be tougher to meet Condi.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:15 AM
horizontal rule
132

From the outside, it looks like an unwillingness to say "ought." Which, while understandable, makes economics-flavored political arguments a bit frustrating. Perhaps that's what people are reacting to in the referenced McArdle post: a sense (quite possibly wrongly read into the post by the readers) that the argument is a new form of "this is the best of all possible worlds, and nothing need be changed."

Otherwise, a narrow point that people do have different values that result in different hierarchies seems pretty uncontroversial.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:17 AM
horizontal rule
133

No, Emerson reads me correctly, I think. As near as I can tell, McArdle's argument seems to run like this: in a world where the mass of people lead awful lives of quiet desperation, what a lucky thing we have plenty of alternative status hierarchies which keep us from realizing just how bad our lives really are!


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:17 AM
horizontal rule
134

I met some major rock-climbers back in the day (Jim Bridwell and Kim Schmitz). One of the two is still around, still climbing, and is supposedly in constant pain because of multiple surgeries. A guy I met and a guy I almost met were killed, and the guy who introduced me to them all is paraplegic, more or less. I was not tempted by this particular alternative hierarchy. Ferret-legging sounds easier.

All of them seemed like nice, middle-class guys with no family obligations and ways of getting money.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:19 AM
horizontal rule
135

Don't most studies indicate that the the main components of happiness (as we typically define it) are healthy social ties and your own disposition?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:19 AM
horizontal rule
136

"With no family obligations, and with relatively easy ways of getting money."

Bad editing day.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:20 AM
horizontal rule
137

I recommend the first two (non-technical) chapters of Sen's "Rationality and Freedom". One is his Nobel address.

Yeah, Tim, it's non-normativity, plus the absolute individualism of isolated subjects.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:22 AM
horizontal rule
138

here's the difference (tho it may not get in the way of your larger points):

the economic dogma is a claim about the incoherence of certain kinds of comparisons. the comparisons themselves are meaningless (it's alleged), no matter who makes them.

the point in 123, and again in 133, is that certain people are in a condition of epistemic impoverishment that leads *those people* to be unable to make comparisons, comparisons that are otherwise perfectly makeable.

(note "ignorant", "mental impairment" in 123, "keep us from realizing" in 133)

so the economists are saying that it's meaningless to say that the number 4 is more or less orange than the number 2.

populuxe is saying that some individuals are color-blind, and so cannot compare the colors of oranges and pumpkins. but of course, the orange of pumpkins and the orange of oranges is perfectly comparable, and there are many coherent facts about it. it's just that some people cannot perceive them.

emerson heard a claim about local epistemic deprivation in 123. he moved on to a claim about intrinisic incoherence in 124.

maybe none of this matters to the larger issues, but there is a difference.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:26 AM
horizontal rule
139

Coming to this thread way too late, I see that most of the obvious points have been made (the problem with alternate status hierachies is that they don't pay the bills and that most of the people who can afford to participate in them in ways that "we" find appealing are people who have enough status in traditional status hierarchies to have some control over their lives).

At the same time I'm relatively sympathetic to the idea of alternate status hierachies, and to the accompanying "cult of the amateur." First comment is that, from the perspective of much of the world, academia is an "alternate status hierarchy" and yet many of the people at unfogged are sympathetic to people who want the rewards of academic status even if it is less renumerative than many career paths.

Secondly, I think it's worth trying to imagine alternatives (or parallels) to the winner take all society. As a culture it's worth protecting cultural niches that celebrate the local and the participatory rather than finding ways for larger and larger groups of people to collectives witness the exploits of a select few.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:26 AM
horizontal rule
140

Don't most studies indicate that the the main components of happiness (as we typically define it) are healthy social ties and your own disposition?

I thought it was sex, TiVo-boy.

No, I think you're kind of right. And I wonder if the underlying issue is what to make of a society that is very wealthy and in which most people are doing--by some global standard--pretty well.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:27 AM
horizontal rule
141

there is a difference

That's true. I'm merely trying to understand McArdle's point, which I may be misconstruing. But to the extent that there is a difference here, it seems to be one that she's eliding, too.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:32 AM
horizontal rule
142

At the same time I'm relatively sympathetic to the idea of alternate status hierachies, and to the accompanying "cult of the amateur."

I do think that in a possibly unachievable "healthy world", the provision of basic economic needs to everyone is separated from the inevitable human status hierarchy games. In the meantime, I think it is fair to gloss the current state as:
"Alternate status hierarchies" are the methadone of the masses. (Religion now being just a special case ASH.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:41 AM
horizontal rule
143

I like Penny Arcade.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
144

142: How would the economy do anything if working was seperated from both status and money? I mean, what's the incentive to work at all if, both, you don't need to work to satisfy your basic economic needs, and you don't need to work in order to enjoy high social status from the people you care about?

It seems to me that having social status come at least partially from work (or from the money above-and-beyond basic economic needs that you get from work) is the thing which allows welfare-like safety net programs to work at all. There's a stigma involved in not working, and positive status to be made by working, so (some people) work even if they don't much enjoy their jobs and could just collect a welfare check instead.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:55 AM
horizontal rule
145

Of course the real difference between Rice and Messner is that Messner is good at what he does.


Posted by: re | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:59 AM
horizontal rule
146

144: I can't see the connection to 142. Actually, I can't quite understand what you're saying. You're not denying people sometimes choose careers based on personal interest or enjoyment, are you?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 9:59 AM
horizontal rule
147

I met some major rock-climbers back in the day (Jim Bridwell and Kim Schmitz). One of the two is still around, still climbing, and is supposedly in constant pain because of multiple surgeries. A guy I met and a guy I almost met were killed, and the guy who introduced me to them all is paraplegic, more or less.

Some kinds are more dangerous than others. Bouldering in on, well, boulders. No protection other than a pad on the ground and a spotter. Not real dangerous. Maybe the occasional broken ankle or wrist. Sport climbing is where the protection is already placed in a pre set route, so you're clipping into bolts pre-drilled into the rock. Very safe, and accidents are almost always human error. "Trad" climbing you're placing your protection as you go, wedging stuff into cracks and such. Much more sketchy. Then there's ice climbing and mountaineering, which are the most dangerous.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:02 AM
horizontal rule
148

146: I may have been misunderstanding 142. The way I see it now, why do we work? For the most part, we work to get enough money to survive (put food on the table, roof on the head, blah-blah-blah), and then, for status (probably for the most part by getting enough money to buy status, but some jobs can lead directly to status somewhat irrespective of money, like being a doctor or actor).

142 seems to propose that we take "get enough money to survive" off the table. I thought it was also proposing that we try to decouple status from work. On a reread, I guess it's probably saying instead just "give everyone enough money to survive, then let them find status however they want," which may include through the current (job->status) or (job->money->status) approaches.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:13 AM
horizontal rule
149

John Emerson @ 98:
> Hanes: did your mother see the Buddy Holly crash?

Nah (although you have the right airport) my parents were into big-band swing and jazz, thought of bebop as "that modern stuff", thought Buddy Holly was some parvenu kid that knew nothing about good music. So they made nothing of the Night the Music Died, and I didn't even hear about it till years later, from Dad's younger sister of the Elvis generation.

I have flown in and out of the Clear Lake airport many many times, on little 30-passenger Saab puddle-jumpers, mostly, and I always think about it for a second or two. Understandably, there's no moention of the event in the airport itself.

The Surf Ballroom, where they played that last gig, is still in operation, and still a pretty good venue for a band that can pull 300 heads at the door and keep 'em dancing.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:14 AM
horizontal rule
150

147: However, climbing, particularly climbing at ultra-competetive levels, puts a lot of stress on the body, even if you never fall. Lots of people develop nasty joint problems in the fingers, wrists, and elbows. If Emerson's acquaintence is in "constant pain" after "multiple surgeries," then my guess would be that he stressed his joints past their tolerance levels, not that his problems are the result of climbing without protection or whatnot.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:17 AM
horizontal rule
151

This post from Megan is on point.

"Burning Man is proof that humans love to work."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:18 AM
horizontal rule
152

148: Status and survival aren't the only outputs of work. One other--I'm sure there are many--is being able to do more interesting work. In fact, I suspect that's probably a fairly good description of many "I wish I had them" careers.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:25 AM
horizontal rule
153

152: I'm highly dubious that even 10% of all the jobs out there are sufficiently interesting that people would do them absent the motivations of money or status. And I'm not just saying that people aren't excited by agricultural work or sitting in front of an assembly line or doing customer service or tech support work at phone banks or handling accounts-receivable accounting for a retailer. I work in high tech. I'd say that the overwhelming majority of software engineers that I know wouldn't come into work tomorrow morning if they won the lottery. Many would do some programming, sure, but not their jobs.

I think that having "interesting work" is, for the huge majority of everyone, a mitigating factor to the unpleasantness of work. I just don't know people -- even people who like their jobs -- who get up in the morning and say, "Awesome! I get to go to WORK today!"


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:33 AM
horizontal rule
154

I'm highly dubious that even 10% of all the jobs out there are sufficiently interesting that people would do them absent the motivations of money or status.

I think that's probably true. I also think that maybe 20% of population, at most, has ever had a reasonable shot at such jobs (be it for reasons of capital, social capital, or temperment), and that such 20% is probably close to 90% of the readership of McArdle or Unfogged. It's not like all academics become academics because they couldn't handle the more remunerative jobs. Or that no one ever switches to lower stress, lower pay/status expectations, higher enjoyment jobs. Depending on where you sit, those moves are relatively common.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
155

138: I was generalizing. Two similiar but not identical things. Individualism and perfectly private subjectivity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
156

I think that having "interesting work" is, for the huge majority of everyone, a mitigating factor to the unpleasantness of work.

I'd say that the overwhelming majority of software engineers that I know wouldn't come into work tomorrow morning if they won the lottery.

I think you're conflating work with jobs. I disagree that people would cease to work if they won the lottery; in fact, anecdata suggests otherwise.

But more than that, interesting work is an interesting task. Jobs contain all sorts of tasks, some more interesting than others. People without an economic need might quit a job, but I am entirely unconvinced that they would cease to work.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:47 AM
horizontal rule
157

then let them find status however they want," which may include through the current (job->status) or (job->money->status) approaches.

t
I was rather cryptic, plus I was proposing some idealistic future state that I do not actually think that we are going to get to. The main characteristic that I would like to see (but am not optimistic about) - is where the societal "status games" of choice, although competitive, do not deprive anyone else of basic diginity, political participation or the economic necessities of life - independent of where folks rank in "status". Other than that have at it - as I think that social animals like humans "need' their status.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:50 AM
horizontal rule
158

"Work" is interesting when it means doing things that one thinks are useful or purposive. It fucking sucks when it's not.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:00 AM
horizontal rule
159

More taste, fine tobacco.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:03 AM
horizontal rule
160

156: Well, "win the lottery" was something of a shorthand -- if you win, say, $4 million in the California lottery (less nearly 50% for taxes, and then another 50% for present expected value), you'd probably continue to work because frankly, that's a house but not a life, here.

But more so, it's certainly the case that even very rich, high-status people continue to work. If I won $100 million tomorrow, I'd continue to work. But not at my present job! And, in fact, not at any of the 90% of jobs that aren't very interesting. And probably most of those 90% of jobs that aren't very interesting are pretty essential to maintaining a first world society.

Also, part of the reason that people who don't have to work, still work, is because it's socially normative to do a job. Even if you don't feel that people sneer at you for not having a job, if all your friends are working 9 to 5, it's boring to sit at home. If we postulated a future society in which fewer people had to work, I suspect that the incentive to work would drop dramatically.

This is why I think that it continues to be very important for work to be incented. I think that if work was necessary for neither basic survival nor status, then little enough work would get done that we wouldn't be able to maintain things like the social programs that make work not necessary for survival.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:09 AM
horizontal rule
161


> I just don't know people -- even people who like their jobs -- who get up in the morning and say, "Awesome! I get to go to WORK today!"

I know exactly two, one at Apple, and one at Sun.
Their employers are fortunate.
Their cow-orkers too, except that the tipmost-top of the technical work status heirarchy is thus securely filled.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
162

This is why I think that it continues to be very important for work to be incented.

I really don't think this is a problem you need to worry about. I think your reasoning is correct, but I don't see a route that would take us to a world in which work was not incentivised.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:15 AM
horizontal rule
163

160: What in the world are you meaning by "work"? I've known a few microsoft millionaires; they did things like open used book stores or build music studios in their garages or study acupuncture and start nonprofit organizations to provide alternative medicine for the indigent. All of those things count as "work." And an awful lot of people who have 9-5+ jobs do shit like coach kids soccer or garden or knit--all of which are also work. Shopping for groceries is a kind of work; organizing friends to go out for an evening is a kind of work; giving people advice about their personal problems is a kind of work. Just because something doesn't pay money doesn't mean it isn't both necessary and work.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:19 AM
horizontal rule
164

This is why I think that it continues to be very important for work to be incented.

You're claiming more than that. You're claiming that the only incentives are status and survival. This is basically Podhoretz "misery makes the world go round" argument. It probably is true for the vast majority of the world, a smaller majority of the US population, and increasingly smaller percentages as you move up the SES scale. I think both McArdle and readers here are addressing a very small set of people who are way up some SES-like scale without fully acknowledging it.

As I said, it seems apparent to me that there are, in the US, plenty of people who end up choosing to value other things than survival or (let's call it) naive status. People switch jobs in unexpected ways all of the time. Some percentage of people drop out of the workforce to take care of the kids.

At some level, this is going to be dependent on personal experience, though, and may not be amenable to argument.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:21 AM
horizontal rule
165

start nonprofit organizations to provide alternative medicine for the indigent. All of those things count as "work."

Quack health care for all! Magnetic therapy: not just for the rich any more.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
166

Quack health care for all! Magnetic therapy: not just for the rich any more.

hahaha Perfect.

In other news, the Bush Administration is developing a universal health care plan for the poor. Abstinence educators and Christian Scientists will be stationed in every poor neighborhood in order to provide community based universal health care.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:31 AM
horizontal rule
167

The idea that misery, hostility, and greed make the world go round is actually pretty central to conservatism in its authoritarian variant. In lots of subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

I think if we all had to work, say, three days a week a lot more people would be thrilled to go to work. It's not the work, it's the amount.

I think a lot of even conventional jobs work through "alternative status hierarchies"...each little vocational village has its own hierarchy that only people in that group know about.

OK, back to work now.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:35 AM
horizontal rule
168

An alternative way to look at this is to say that there is a certain set of things that must be done for First World lifestyles. There is a set of countries that manages to get those things done, definitionally. Those countries have a variety of incentive structures, not all of which are self-evidently dependent on the survival/status matrix. Yet all seem to meet Epoch's minimum conditions.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:50 AM
horizontal rule
169

165: Eh, whether or not you think acupuncture works (and I think there *are* studies that show it working in some instances, though maybe I'm wrong), it's still work. Said acupuncturist tried to induce labor for me when I was almost 2 weeks overdue. No, it didn't work, but it was actually quite relaxing and soothing, and if I were so fucking broke I couldn't see a doctor, I think it would be nice to have someone lay hands on you in a caring way.

Plus the city in question has quite a big Chinese population, so.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:52 AM
horizontal rule
170

My alternative status heirarchy is based on avoidance of all commonly accepted signifiers of status. It's my zen-like way of sticking it to The Man.

On low brushes with climbing fame: friends of mine had their garage built by Arlene Blum, who went to Reed around the time that Emerson was there.

165, 169: Moxibustion, an acupuncture-related technique, has proven effective in treating breech presentation of fetuses. We used it ourselves, with instruction from an acupuncturist friend, and it worked. Damnedest thing.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:13 PM
horizontal rule
171

I think there *are* studies that show it working in some instances

I think you're right, but in the study I read about there was no difference between "real" acupuncture and a placebo (basically, they get a doctor with no training in acupuncture to stick needles pretty much randomly in the skin of patients, without consulting some "energy force" chart). So there can be a benefit, but you'd get the same value with a do-it-yourself acupuncture kit.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:23 PM
horizontal rule
172

170: Huh. I used the lie-head-down-on-an-ironing-board-propped-on-the-couch method to get PK to turn around when it looked like he was going to be breech, and either it worked or he coincidentally turned that same day. My ob was kinda surprised.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:24 PM
horizontal rule
173

My crippled friend knew Blum. He claims that she used the possibility of sexual favors in order to borrow an ice axe once, but never came through.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:31 PM
horizontal rule
174

I'm not up to date on acupuncture. Needham's book was pretty favorable, but it's 30-plus years old. It seems to be more or less in limbo, neither disproven nor fully accepted.

I had a friend who had good results with Chinese herbal medicine in Taiwan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:34 PM
horizontal rule
175

172: I lay head down, put ice packs on my belly and clothespins on the acupressure points on my toes, and Buck promised her a pony, and Sally turned head down. And then the rotten little wench turned back during early labor. Grr.

But the pony wouldn't have fit in our apartment, so best all around.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:37 PM
horizontal rule
176

The study I linked to in 170 was a rare example of peer-reviewed acupuncture research. That particular issue of JAMA was entirely devoted to alternative therapies, and was very controversial; the editor was apparently fired because of it.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:39 PM
horizontal rule
177

if all your friends are working 9 to 5, it's boring to sit at home

No way. That's when all my imaginary friends are commenting on Unfogged from their work computers.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:41 PM
horizontal rule
178

170 My alternative status heirarchy is based on avoidance of all commonly accepted signifiers of status.

I decry your attempt at "less concerned with commonly accepted signifiers of status than thou" one-upmanship.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:42 PM
horizontal rule
179

Jesus has always been holier-than-thou and humbler-than thou. That's his schtick. Deal with it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:07 PM
horizontal rule
180

I'm thou-ier-than-thou.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:08 PM
horizontal rule
181

That's when all my imaginary friends are commenting on Unfogged from their work computers.

Exactly! Which is work, dammit. It's *hard* to troll you people.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:17 PM
horizontal rule
182

This morning: "I love my work!"
At the moment: "ADKJDSALLSDKDGGGGGG"

*closes Microsoft Word*
*closes face*


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:21 PM
horizontal rule
183

My mother-in-law spent weeks going to a naturopath who described herself as a "medical intutive." She had my mother-in-law hold different "medicines"--tree bark, twigs, I dunno--in her hands, and then prescribed regimens of treatment for a steadily worsening nagging cough based on how my mother-in-law's aura reacted to each of the items held in her hands.

The dear woman had pneumonia.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:27 PM
horizontal rule
184

179. Deal with it.

I do. I deal with it by decrying it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:33 PM
horizontal rule