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Thinking about the political impact of transience

Thinking about the political impact of transience

A central theme in The Politics of Crazy was the impact of declining social engagement on our democracy. The book was relatively sunny about the prospect of new forms of engagement (like this website, for example) beginning to pick up where other dying institutions left off. I’m becoming less confident.

During the election Vox pointed out an interesting social divide contributing to support for Donald Trump. People who still lived in or near their hometowns were far more likely to be Trump supporters, regardless of other common factors.

After the election they dove in deeper and found an even more disturbing divide. People who still lived in their hometowns were less likely to attend a high school reunion. Their reason was mostly shame and embarrassment.

People who remain rooted to and invested in a place, seem generally less successful in the culture and economy that has emerged since the rise of global capitalism. And they appear to be bitter about it.

Unemployment is relatively low almost everywhere, just as it was in 2016, but that statistic may miss something more important. High wage jobs are increasingly concentrated in a just a few places, full of transient residents. If you get a chance to visit San Francisco, look carefully at who lives there. These big, wealthy commercial centers are not organized for lifetime living. People who use these venues successfully leverage them for a period of time before moving on. Even the suburbs around them are purpose-oriented, not life-oriented. You live in San Francisco until about the time your children are ready for school. You live in Walnut Creek until they have completed high school. Then you might move back to the city if you’re still fully engaged in a career, otherwise it’s time to go to Carmel or perhaps the Sonoma Valley. Or you might head for a cheaper life in Arizona or Montana.

All through this successful career, a community is merely a backdrop. Communities are as important to this lifestyle as home decor or a particular brand of car. Those who gain the most from this new emerging culture are the ones smart enough to avoid the costs of entanglement in a community.

People who choose to “give back to their community,” especially if that community is more than an hour’s drive from one of the country’s ten major cities, may be able to stay above water, but they might also be committing themselves to life in a new kind of American underclass. If you want to play in this economy, you have to be transient.

Winning in this economy means shedding attachment to place, community, and older notions of rootedness and becoming instead a global consumer. Citizenship is expensive, time-consuming, and frankly boring. People with any prospect of success in this economy can seldom afford to waste time and energy on local politics or local institutions. Organizations like the Kiwanis Club, once the bedrock of both social legitimacy and economic ties, are expensive dead-weight. Local politics is dominated by real estate developers and attorneys, people with a direct, practical, economic interest in those institutions. The random citizen showing up to city council meetings is usually some crackpot complaining about fluoridated water. Affluent professionals shop for a neighborhood the way they shop for clothes. If a neighborhood no longer effectively meets their needs for schools and other services, they buy a spot in another one.

Democracy in the American model cannot survive this kind of transient, consumer-driven engagement. An electorate that knows every move of presidential politics while unable to identify a single city councilman is living in the upside down. A citizenry disengaged from and disinterested in local politics cannot possibly create competent political outcomes at the most distant level. A rotten, hollowed out local political structure cannot carry the weight of an effective national government in a democratic system.

An alternative system is developing elsewhere in the world that is perfectly adapted to deliver the kind of consumer government a transient, global population demands. Places like Singapore, China and the United Arab Emirates are governed by technocratic experts. They hold elections with largely symbolic importance. Real decisions are made by well-paid, elite professionals in consultation with the large corporate entities which function effectively as their clients. For all the dismal implications this model augers, right now they are outperforming traditional democracies not only in economic terms, but also in terms of livability and the degree of personal liberty they offer. That may not persist, but for the moment it is cause for concern.

A version of this system seems to be evolving here at home. America’s own Hitler has been neutered by unaccountable public institutions largely untouched by our democratic dysfunction. Those institutions are close to removing this menace, possibly without violence. With a presidency and congress rendered dysfunctional, military, law enforcement, and professional executive branch institutions are the last repositories of American civic values. As elected officials descend into screeching incompetence, these institutions are accountable only to major economic buyers, mostly corporations. We are not far from unintentionally replicating the Chinese model – the evolutionary process at work. In fact, it might be our brightest hope for escaping the fate of the Germans in the first half of the 20th century.

No practical remedy is apparent. You cannot merely goad people into caring about things that lack any relevance to their lives. A transient population cannot be inspired to care about the boring minutia of local government. If people don’t feel a stake, they aren’t going to be competent decision-makers. But, what if your ability to vote in a presidential election was conditional on showing that you voted in the last city or county election?


Two graphics seem to illustrate our dilemma.


Steep declines in local political participation over time


Where the money is going


There will probably be a Forbes post on this soon, but it took a week of thought just to get this together. It may take some time.


  1. Staying up late tonight to watch election returns. Dems had a very good night. I am happy to report that the hard-working effort of people in deep red Montgomery County were able to unseat an incumbent Tea Party candidate for Township Board of Directors. Granted, this is a little, local race, but clearly it serves notice that there are many voices in MoCo and people are willing to work very hard to seek more bi-partisan representation. It was a satisfying win and one that reflected the efforts of many people who are brand new to the political process.

    For those who don’t think local politics matters, I say this: empowerment of people at the grassroots level is what Democracy is all about. I’m very proud of this little engine that could.

    1. Speaking of local races, Democrats have swept to victory in all offices in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. To put that in context, Republicans have held these seats for forever, literally since they were established way back in 1976.

      Republicans’ suburban, educated voters are fleeing from them in droves. Many may have been willing to hold their nose and vote “against Clinton”, but they’re increasingly unwilling to suffer this Republican Party and this “president”. If this persists, this could prove to be a historical political realignment.

    2. EJ

      My congratulations to the people of the American Republic for this.

      It’ll be interesting to see the data: is the swing Leftwards coming from previously-active voters realigning, or is it coming from previously-inactive voters deciding to vote for the first time?

      1. Looking at Virginia specifically (And this is all hearsay and anecdotal analysis) it appears to be a mixture of both. In terms of “previously inactive” voters, in a sense, it’s notable that the amount of young people voting did not fall as much as it usually does during off-year elections. In terms of people switching, it appears that most of the Moderates and left-leaning people that were uneasy about Clinton and didn’t vote for her came around for Northram. Interestingly, Northram’s biggest gains were the big military/veterans area of Norfolk and Virginia Beach (a longtime Republican area).

        If I could take anything away from the elections last night from my armchair punditry, it would be to get out of the way of women, as they are entering the political arena in droves. The Virginia house will have a record number of women delegates, including its first Latina, Asian-American, and transgender women (one local newspaper called last night “the revenge of Obama’s America”). Here in Atlanta, we had a very unusual mayoral election in that there were 8 candidates running, all of whom were well-known city figures and were well-qualified for the position. The three women in the race finished 1-2-3.

      2. Shiro, I have been noticing that on the ground here in TX, and I am pleased to see this trend expanding. What’s equally significant is that it is such a neat mix of ages. Young women are working alongside the older generation and seem to really be enjoying the collaboration…It’s been a joy for me to mentor and to learn.

      3. “It’ll be interesting to see the data: is the swing Leftwards coming from previously-active voters realigning, or is it coming from previously-inactive voters deciding to vote for the first time?”

        It’s looking like a mixed bag. Virginia proves tight races and charged candidates bring people out. New York City proves unchallenged incumbency results in people sleeping in.

        In my area and most of the places I’ve read about where demographics are broken down by age and wealth and so forth, it’s not new voters. The same 60-70 year olds who voted for Trump because he was anti-establishment seemed to vote against incumbents or established Republicans because they want a change.

        This is good because it means 45 didn’t win due to an embrace of his ideas and the direction he intends for the future of the United States…

        but it’s bad because it’s proving that after decades of being the dominant force in politics, Baby Boomers are still just fickle fuckers who don’t know what they want, meaning they can hand the reins of power to basically anybody who talks big about operating ‘outside the system’ that literally every American operates inside of.

        Anyway the most calming message of last year’s social media was my libertarian friend who posted, simply, “There are no permanent victories in politics.” All these Democrats that made gains this cycle should be just as wary of that as the Republicans who are probably waking up today realizing that they have no easy way out of the primary-base versus general-electorate trap.

      4. >] “but it’s bad because it’s proving that after decades of being the dominant force in politics, Baby Boomers are still just fickle fuckers who don’t know what they want, meaning they can hand the reins of power to basically anybody who talks big about operating ‘outside the system’ that literally every American operates inside of.

        In the short-term, that’s fine. Baby Boomers have been eclipsed by Millennials as the largest voting bloc in the country, and though that shouldn’t, not by any stretch of the imagination, give way to arrogance or the idea that their voting power should be discounted, what’s important is that we find a way to get some equilibrium back into our politics.

        Democrats have seen an absolutely eye-popping number of candidates in races all across the country thus far, and last night in Virginia will almost certainly kick that trend into turbo drive. Needless to say, unless Republicans somehow manage to bring some sanity back their ‘governing’, things are on track for a truly historic election next year.

        Hold the line until these fickle fuckers lose their voting power and the grown-ups can be in charge and stay there. That’s our course.

      5. Bobo, You hit on something with the boom generation. I count myself as an early boomer, as I was born in 1945 and experienced the turmoil of the 60’s and 70’s. The boom generation has had a split in it, throughout our entire adult lives. I personally ascribe that split largely to the Vietnam Conflict. Those of us who had to deal with Vietnam in one way or another have had a different outlook towards life than others who did not have to deal with it. Also Vietnam only affected the early cohorts of the generation. The later cohorts were too young to be seriously affected. The earlier cohorts had to deal with the draft or service unless they were fortunate enough to get serial deferments and then finally a complete exemption as our present President did and most of the senior members of the Bush II administration.

        I personally feel this split has been a major factor in the schizophrenic nature of American politics for the last 25 years.

    3. Good job Mary! There was nothing to vote on in my neck o’ the woods other than the amendments, but I got that done. Next year will bring the choices.

      I had been bad in the past about ignoring the purely local elections, but I reformed my lazy ways on that several years ago. I absolutely won’t skip an election now.

      Hoping that last night’s results are just the beginning.

    4. Congratulations Mary. I’m glad to see some good news.

      It’s only 6:35 AM here in Seattle as I write this. I’ve finished my morning workout, but haven’t digested the news yet. Anyway, Manka Dhringa won in the 45th Legislative District and WA now has a Democratic Senate. This victory is significant in that that District is in the heart of the tech hub on the Eastside of Lake Washington and is the heart of suburbia. It will really hurt the GOP in WA; almost existentially. Also the entire Left Coast now has completely Democratic governments. The victory will open up the way for far more significant action on such things as climate change, carbon controls, etc. More than $8 billion was spent on this small legislative district race.

      More later, but I’m really pleased about the results in VA, too.

      1. For an off-off year election, last night’s results look very good. As Chris Vance a former WA State R Party chair was quoted: “Annihilated in the suburbs, this is what Trumpism has wrought. The Republican Party is dying in urban and suburban America.” That conforms with my observation here in the Seattle area. Seattle itself was a mixed R & D city in the 70’s, with the suburbs largely R. Now as the area has urbanized and the R’s have drifted right, the entire area has become largely D. That is what has happened on the entire left coast.

        Specifically regarding the WA state elections, a word of caution is required. Only approximately 50% of the vote is in, since WA is exclusively vote by mail or by deposition of the ballot in a drop box. Approximately 1 week will be required for the results to stabilize , but as indicated in my earlier post the initial returns look promising.

        In regards to the 45th LD, Dinkra’s lead is over 10 points, which will almost certainly stand. But she does have to stand for reelection in 2018 and the R’s will certainly mount a determined challenge. Also the D’s will only have a single vote majority in the state senate. So they will have to be cautious and cannot be very aggressive. The WA legislative session in 2018 will be short without much major business transacted. We do have a biennial budget. Still this will remove the ability of the R’s in the state to be totally obstructionist as they have been since 2013 and over the longer term open the way for a more progressive approach.

    5. Ever the cynic, I am also heartened with the returns, but worry now about what tactics the fascists like bannon and the mercer’s will use if they feel they are losing momentum. And you KNOW the puppet tyrant, assuming it is still alive in 2020, will not go quietly into the night.

      I am certain there will be redoubled efforts in the areas of voter suppression, propaganda spread via social media (though Facebook promises to clean up their act), and ultimately, the hacking of any voting machines.

      And of course, when really desperate, a little war is a surefire way to keep power. I am sure that the drum beat for attacking Iran will only escalate, let alone North Korea.

      1. Wow, and I just read this:

        ‘When asked about Bob Marshall, the conservative Republican she defeated in Virginia yesterday, Danica Roem said “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.”’

        Damn that’s classy. That is high-key class. We’ll see what else she’s capable of.

  2. Chris,

    I think that’s a great article in the sense of describing how capitalism/consumerism has harmed communities. I will recommend it to friends.

    BUT. You need to rethink your proposed remedy. That would just be used to disenfranchise people. Couldn’t get time off to vote in that county election? Hah, can’t vote for President. Were in the process of moving to this county during the last election … same deal. The existing system already makes voting harder for the poor, for students (’cause they’re transient), etc. Your proposal would decrease the Presidential vote by more than it would increase the local vote, and that decrease would be seen disproportionately among disadvantaged communities.

  3. Wow Chris. This is a really thoughtful piece. That said, I think you could flesh out your thinking by considering a few points. Much of what you write reminds me nothing so much as British history from the Industrial Revolution and their colonial times.

    1) This transience is being forced by the very economy you hail. The freelance, gig economy, where no one can expect to have a job for more than a few years, is the very reason why people now move all the time. It’s not like people (beyond say the age of 25) say “i’m bored, let’s move”. People *want* to put down roots. Most people would even be willing to give up some money in exchange for more permanence, but that’s not an option because the globalist vision is to make you compete not against your neighbor who makes 10% less, but against a laborer in China or an engineer in Bangalore who makes 90% less. Doing so, you can be kept hungry and desperate enough that you’ll turn your entire life over to your company’s whims.

    This was a deliberate result of policy decisions, not some cultural change with “lazy, unconcerned kids and their iphones”. It is very similar to the British Enclosure Acts. Contrary to popular belief, peasant life in Britain was not *that* terrible, certainly much better than living in squalid tenements in polluted cities. Peasants actually had a longer life expectancy than workers in many of these cities, and worked fewer hours. So the problem was, how do you get peasants to give up their way of life, their local ties, etc. that were there for generations, and accept miserable conditions toiling in the new factories of the Industrial Age? I guess you could have made the industries more attractive, but that took too much money and was bad for “competitiveness”. So instead, Britain passed the Enclosure Acts, which outlawed peasants from using common grazing, agricultural land, etc. that was present for generations. This forced peasants out from the land, with their only options being starvation, or going to work in the factories for… a little better than starvation wages. This powered a boom in GDP and productivity, but at what cost? Most of the workers who were behind that GDP growth were more miserable than their parents who led less productive but vastly more fulfilling lives on the countryside. Does this describe anyone you know in our supposedly “new” economy? Or is history repeating?

    I bring this up because your article paints this problem as a cultural shift, of “new economy” workers jetsetting to new neighborhoods due to their own whims. It’s not. It’s the outcome of the destruction of the notion of lifelong, plentiful employment protected from having to compete with desperate citizens of poor countries who will always be hungrier than you (which may have reduced GDP growth, but led to happier citiziens, which is the point, is it not?). Which means changing it will require political action, not cultural change.

    If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this: how easy is it for your company to convince those digital jetsetters to move from SF to Chicago for a job? I suspect very, very hard (unless they already have ties in Chicago). Why? Because people don’t actually want to move cities, and as long as jobs in SF are plentiful, they can quit and find another one in their neighborhood if they wanted to. They don’t need to move to Chicago, so they don’t.

    Another example: relocation specialists say the single best predictor of where corporations will relocate their headquarters is where the CEO currently lives. IOW, even CEOs, who should be the epitome of both the global citizen able to comfortably live anywhere, and the one person who should most make a rational decision on such decisions, usually decides to move the entire corporate HQ staff to where he’s living rather than move himself.

    I’m not so much of a conspiracy theorist as to think that corporations and govts were in cahoots to deliberately bring this change about, but it does benefit both of them, and so this virtuous (or vicious, if you’re the employee) cycle (job demands leading to constant re-location -> leading to less local ties -> leading to less resistance to constant re-location) not surprisingly has a broad consensus across the political spectrum and is the main reason why outsiders like Trump and Sanders are getting so much traction.

    2) Regardless of cause, if things don’t change, you’re right that we’ll see less local engagement. And that may follow the direction you describe. But I don’t think the results will be as benign as you think. Aside from Singapore, the other states are not ones you nor I would want to live in if we were an average person. The average Chinese, i.e. not one of the minority living along the Pacific Rim, has seen a marked decline in his standard of living (loss of communist-era guarantees like healthcare, jobs, education, pension, and being thrown off their land to make way for new development) even as the richest have become billionaires. It bears a disturbing similarity to the British Enclosure Acts forcing a massive migration of rural workers into industries that want hungry and compliant labor.

    Life in the UAE is good *if* you’re an Emirati citizen. Unfortunately, that’s only about 10% of the population. The rest are noncitizen migrant workers and expats, mainly Asian, many of whom live in squalor and destitution that wouldn’t look out of place in Dickensian London. They also lack any rights, and their employer keeps their passport so they can’t even flee the country when they fear for their very life. I very much doubt they view the UAE’s detached, technocratic rule as being a model to aspire to.

    If you worship at the alter of GDP uber alles, you might even say all this is fine. After all, slavery was a great GDP booster as well. But I’d argue even that is only temporary (just as the South ultimately lost by depending on slave labor).

    History actually provides an example of the end-result of a country run by corporations and governments. It was called British India, and the company was the British East India Company, the progenitor of the modern multi-national corporation who held power unrivalled even in the fevered dreams of Jeff Bezos or other wannabe CEO of the world (a title the head of the EIC could credibly claim). They literally *owned* India (it was their private property) until Britain essentially nationalized the colony in the mid-1800s. So an entire country was run by a private company and its imported expat technocrats, answerable to its shareholders, without pesky citizen input, in close cooperation with its titular regulating government.

    How did that work out for India? Let’s forget about all the misery and horrors that colonization entails. Let’s talk pure economic effect of corporate control of a nation. At the start of the British occupation, in 1700, the region comprising the British Indian colony was responsible for ~22% of the world’s GDP, nearly equivalent to all of Europe (23%). In 1952, immediately after independence, it was 3.8%. It also experienced significant de-industrialization and famine, something not unique among British colonies (see Irish Potato Famine). It turned the “Jewel in the Crown” that powered Britain’s rapid imperial rise into an economic basketcase that became a net drain on Britain’s resources that they could no longer afford after WWII. I doubt the East India Company wanted to ruin its greatest economic asset in that manner, but even they couldn’t escape the long-term consequences of a system of governance unmoored from the concerns of the average citizen.

    This is the end-result of a society run by corporate technocrats in “collaboration” with their government while minimizing citizen input. It may sound like a stretch to compare modern companies to colonial powers like the East India Company or DeBeers, but I’d argue they are the logical end-result of the path you seem to be looking forward to (indeed, I’d argue the Private Equity industry is already there, no less rapacious, with no less ugly longterm results than the EIC).

    It’s why, despite GDP growth, there are suicide nets around Foxconn’s factories in China, why every gleaming skyscraper in Dubai hides the bloodstains of the dozens of laborers that routinely die constructing them, and why the U.S. de-industrializes while its share of global GDP declines from 38% in 1969 to 22% today. our current corporate overlords have one-upped the East India Company’s in one respect: they’ve sped up the 200 year timeline quite a bit.

    This is why I think Marx is useful to study. No, I’m not a communist. Marx’s main idea was that the structure of a country’s economy dictates the structure of its society, not the other way around. I believe he’s absolutely correct here. So it behooves us to focus on changing our economic structure if we want to reverse the social changes you’re seeing. It never works the other way around.

  4. Having spent my tween and teen years in a small town in East Texas, ( think Louie Gohmert country), I can understand the dynamic behind folk staying where they were born. In a nutshell, it’s fear of the unknown.

    At first, after I moved to the Houston, friends would come down to visit for the weekend. After a while not so much. Once one of those folks mentioned how traumatic it had been watching our local news. Another friend who had also visited chimed in and the two of them went on about not knowing how I could live here for 10 minutes.

    I had tried to explain the math involved and even mentioned that the murder rate there was higher there than here, no good. That’s when I understood that fear of change had them stuck there. They would accept poor wages, no culture, and having to drive an hour or two one way for any real entertainment options. It was better than what they did not know.

    When you think about it, it makes sense that folks like that voted for Trump. He, and all his minions, promise a return to a better time. You know, back when things were great! The fact that change is the only constant most rational people believe in be dammed. But then rational people do not elect the likes of Louie Gohmert, much less the Twit-in-Cheif.

    1. Yea, same here. Had a cousin who was on the cusp of getting a real job in a technology company and riding the slipstream. She just couldn’t do it. She complained about “traffic.” Honestly, I still have no idea what exactly scared her off, but it was a devastating failure with serious consequences.

      The big city always looked good to me. Never could understand what held people back. Of course, growing up in such a miserable industrial hellscape (Beaumont) probably made it easier. If I had been raised in some pretty central Texas Hill Country town I might have been more conflicted.

    2. “I had tried to explain the math involved and even mentioned that the murder rate there was higher there than here, no good.”

      Sometimes I wish just looking someone in the eye and saying, “You and I are going to die of either heart disease or cancer. The rest is nonsense,” would actually work.

      This goes both ways. I’m not just angry at conservatives for being afraid of their shadow because it’s browner than their skin. I’m pretty pissed at liberals for insisting the whole liberal democratic order is just a sham to keep us sick enough to keep buying Big Pharma prescriptions.

  5. In addition to our transient existense, cynicism fed by stories of conflicts of interests and profiteering off of government positions adds to the malaise. This just dropped from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists regarding our Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross:
    I have a feeling this will be the next 2-3 news cycles.

    1. Red flags have been up for me on Ross’ Cyprus banking role since it was first made public….months ago. I’m glad it didn’t get past the Mueller team’s investigation but don’t see how it could, really. The timing, contacts, location of his banking position, etc has too many ties to the whole Russian scheme.

      1. It’s going to be a very interesting week to be sure. After preliminary reports about Ross and Cyprus banking months ago, it was confusing as to how the administration expected no one to dig a little deeper into it.

        This tangled web of greed and corruption being exposed could be the silver lining of this dark time. Putin’s desinformatisiya campaign against the west appears like it could get exposed as well.

        If the great sleeping masses of no-shows at the voting booth wake up for 2018, there’s still a chance of a happy, non-violent ending here.

    2. The Paradise Papers investigation just doubles the turmoil I felt when I heard that Monafort had 3 passports — and had applied for more — and had other entities pay his bills so his income was obscured.

      Here I am, carefully documenting my little tax deductions, filing correctly every year, careful not to make a mistake and there are the assholes of the world, moving money in ways I can’t imagine.

      I could have more than one passport?

      Think about the advice ordinary working people are given: use that 401K your company so generously provides; it’s just your duty to save now that there are no pensions; it’s up to you, social security won’t cover you, especially if Paul Ryan gets his way…. meanwhile, those with resources so huge we just call them asset flows are not paying what they owe in the way of taxes… so yes, ordinary people have to figure out how to protect themselves against the massive missteps of those who rule the economy. Market boom/bust, housing bubbles…it’s up to you, kiddo, you who can influence nothing. Of course, not everybody will be able to and Americans will look down on their poverty as their moral just deserts.

      Reading The Guardian this morning and reactions in GB to this excellent work by journalists makes it clear again that the rich are different than the rest of us.

      Different rules, different concerns, not constrained by anything ordinary people might recognize. So different, in fact, that ordinary people may just let its unrecognizable reporting drift by, not an actionable item.

      1. And just think, the die hard Trumptards will just tee hee and think how smart these guys are. Good for them. Meanwhile, their medicaid and other social services will be gutted and their taxes will increase.

    3. “…An estimated 8 percent of household financial wealth is held offshore, representing a loss in annual global tax revenue of about $190 billion.

      But this pales in comparison to the tax avoidance and tax evasion by the large multinational companies that use this system.

      All told, more than $7.6 trillion may well be hidden in tax havens around the world, according to Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the issue.”

  6. This discussion reminds me of two songs

    Pink Floyd – Time ,
    Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.
    Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
    Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town.
    Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

    Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
    You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
    And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
    No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

    When you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking;
    Racing around to come up behind you again.
    The sun is the same in a relative way that you’re older.
    Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

    Every year is getting shorter; never seem to find the time.
    Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines.
    Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.
    The time is gone, the song is over,
    Thought I’d something more to say.

    And David Bowie – All the Madmen

    “All The Madmen”

    Day after day
    They send my friends away
    To mansions cold and grey
    To the far side of town
    Where the thin men stalk the streets
    While the sane stay underground

    Day after day
    They tell me I can go
    They tell me I can blow
    To the far side of town
    Where it’s pointless to be high
    ‘Cause it’s such a long way down
    So I tell them that
    I can fly, I will scream, I will break my arm

    I will do me harm
    Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall
    I’m not quite right at all…am I?

    Don’t set me free, I’m as heavy as can be
    Just my librium and me
    And my E.S.T. makes three

    ‘Cause I’d rather stay here
    With all the madmen
    Than perish with the sadmen roaming free

    And I’d rather play here
    With all the madmen
    For I’m quite content they’re all as sane as me

    (Where can the horizon lie
    When a nation hides
    Its organic minds in a cellar…dark and grim
    They must be very dim)

    Day after day
    They take some brain away
    Then turn my face around
    To the far side of town
    And tell me that it’s real
    Then ask me how I feel

    Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall
    I’m not quite right at all
    Don’t set me free, I’m as helpless as can be
    My libido’s split on me
    Gimme some good ‘ole lobotomy

    ‘Cause I’d rather stay here
    With all the madmen
    Than perish with the sadmen
    Roaming free And I’d rather play here
    With all the madmen
    For I’m quite content
    They’re all as sane as me

    One of my best friends had this discussion with me when he left the company we both worked for while I stayed put

    I’m now in NZ and he is living on a Narrow boat in England

      1. Hi
        I’m a Scot – well my family is but I was born in Malaya when my dad was there with the RAF – went to Glasgow Uni
        I lived in Kent – where I worked with Phil – Phil is a “Kentish man”

        We both worked at CAV – Phil left to go “Up North” to Newcastle while I stayed with the “madmen”
        Then he came back to CAV in Kent!
        While I moved “up North” to Darlington

        I then worked in the USA and after I returned from the USA I emigrated to New Zealand

        So I have ended up on the other side of the world while Phil has retired to his Narrow boat – I think he has sailed (motored) it around Kent

  7. I was writing a response to Mary’s question in the last post but it is relevant here. Transience also affects local media, which in terms affects epistemology itself.

    My response to Mary below, regarding:

    “What are your thoughts about the expansion of Sinclair Broadcasting and rules changes at FCC regarding local business presence for TV affiliates?”

    Sinclair Broadcasting is a natural outcome of the media conglomeration that occurred as a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed into law by Bill Clinton, which changed how broadcast spectrum was divided (spectrum is a limited resource, or at least was at the time) to allow fewer, but broader corporations to compete in a market. It was hailed as method of keeping the airwaves free and democratic by assigning a monetary value for licensing within this ‘public space’ instead of ‘letting companies steal it from the public.’ So for the good of our democracy, Bill Clinton signed away public access for corporations.

    Shortly after massive conglomeration occurs as described by this satirical animation that wasn’t even satire. If anything, it under-estimated the impact of conglomeration:

    Note that the title says this was banned. It wasn’t. It aired on Saturday Night Live in 1998. But all top searches for this video on Vimeo and YouTube claim it was banned in its title. Hold that thought, it’s important.

    The FCC drawback of rules regarding local broadcasters is another step in this, but like the Telecommunications Act of 1996, there are certain technological and consumer reasons that justify it. It might not be the right way of dealing with the changing landscape of media, but on the surface it does reflect a shift in both how consumers consume the news and also how the news is produced on a technical level.

    The original rule is basically a requirement that the original broadcast signal is manned by the company close enough to the local community so that that signal is meaningful. That broadcast signal required expensive and heavy equipment and would not just be maintained naturally out of ‘market demand’ for places where only a few hundred to a few thousand people live, so it was a matter of the government enabling local markets to have news stations and that those news stations truly reflect local news for that rule to happen.

    None of those situations are the case in the current environment anymore. Broadcast television practically isn’t a thing, replaced by cable, satellite, digital, the Internet, and so forth. The broadcast spectrum itself has been increased in size with new digital televisions (XM radio, that government subsidized digital television device that ran somewhere between 2004 and 2009, I remember because I had to sell them and consumers came in with government coupons). Not only do entire generations of people exist who don’t remember ‘3 channels, signal card at midnight’, there are many people — like me — who grew up without broadcast, satellite, or cable television at all.

    The equipment necessary to run a broadcast television station is no longer cumbersome or expensive: before, an on-site live feed would require a truck with signaling equipment and live feeds running from cameras (cabling, then later, short wave signals) that would go through a MAYA server and then be sent on to a broadcasting station where it would go through an operating board manned by at least one person as switcher, a director, a producer, and all the support crew technical and bureaucratic needed, while also running a news desk with multiple anchors, multiple cameras, and multiple feeds. Each camera had at least one operator and one tech ensuring that the color, quality, and output were all consistent, and those operators and techs had assistants. All of these feeds would output to a booth where realtime graphics switching, Closed Captioning, and editing (with their assistants) would then send to a QC room where a quality control supervisor would make sure everything was technically and editorially high quality.

    Now, and this is real, OG broadcast guys I know in their late 50s are seething as their jobs are being replaced by 20 year olds with iPhones running Facebook Live streams through a wifi signal into aforementioned newsrooms, where the director/producer/switcher (now one person) can easily switch using a prosumer freeware from the Internet between it and two to three cameras more or set up to run with automatic focus and exposure. There’s still the illusion of the full ‘news room’ but it’s the anchors, who increasingly don’t work with either editorial nor journalist departments. A crew of maybe 50 is now a crew of 8, if that.

    Meanwhile even if that station is there, they don’t have the journalist or editorial staff to fill up the broadcast time, so they accept digital press kits from national news sources and PR departments and run those instead. This is really the environment that Sinclair was able to thrive, by pre-setting news packages that could be inserted into any market and thus cutting the costs of local markets down even further to essentially faces who could read off the automated teleprompter.

    So the fact is, requiring broadcast to have local stations doesn’t really fix the need for local news, though of course fully tossing away the rules without reconsidering what new rules there could be doesn’t resolve the problem. And Republicans don’t care about solving that problem because it isn’t one to them. As long as Hannity is scaring old white people into voting for them at all costs, they could care less what is happening in local news markets.

    Democrats may care, but a) are not in power right now and b) don’t know how any of this shit works anyway. I recently saw Al Franken ragging on Facebook’s lawyer regarding the metadata behind Russia’s purchasing of political ads, and though everyone is praising his behavior and shame-on-you-shameful-for-shame tone of voice, I found the whole thing embarrassing for Franken, who clearly doesn’t know the first thing about how digital technology and data analytics even work. Like in so many other situations, the Republicans are the problem, but the Democrats aren’t the answer.

    But neither is Silicon Valley, in love with their own hubris and still under the impression that they’re ‘saving the world’, nor are ‘the local communities’ with the new ‘democratic medium’ of social media and the Internet.

    And that’s where I get back to that example I wrote about, how people keep posting over and over again the Saturday Night Live animation with the claim that it was banned. It wasn’t. But Americans in general believe that anything that speaks their voice is non grata in ‘The Corporations’ (the left) or ‘The State’ (the right), both of which they believe The Media is merely a propaganda apparatus of. This belief is so engrained in American culture that it underwrites our identities as individualistic free thinkers.

    So back to source. The FCC can argue, completely rationally, that the market for ‘local news’ is now open enough that it doesn’t have to be enforced by law, and on a blanket technical level they’re absolutely right. ANYBODY can create a local blog, a video newscasting system on YouTube, or a social media feed. The issue isn’t access, it’s quality and professionalism. The expense of that technology and specialized skills necessary to work it meant that it couldn’t be idly used — think of the QC process. Shit had to be verified before shit went live. EDITORS mattered and information had gatekeepers.

    Modern media has far fewer gatekeepers and even less editors. And editing and journalism is a professional skill, that costs money in education to acquire and time and experience to refine. Big or large, local or national, print, video, or digital, that skillset is being completely lost. Editors desks are folding (NYTimes laid off several of their editorial departments this year after posting record subscriptions from Trump blowback — but their excuse was completely rational and had to do with the fact that the subscriptions were BECAUSE of the Trump blowback, requiring a different type of editorial approach toward digital distribution, regular updates, and content aggregation). Journalists who previously would report to local city halls and ask questions specifically about local zoning laws are being replaced by ‘citizen journalists’ which is your crazy uncle with an iPhone and a microphone accosting protestors asking why they don’t seek out mental help. Article ledes are moving from “Americans’ changing tastes and consumer patterns are putting pressure on casual dining restaurants to adapt” to “MILLENNIAL SNOWFLAKESS ARE KILLING APPLEBEES AND PAPA JOHNS!!!!11!!1!!!”

    There’s also ethics issues behind this. I genuinely believe most Americans would be surprised how much honest, professional journalists care about ethics. Representing sources honestly and respectfully, finding sources from other sides, asking questions about aspects of the story that might not be covered, gaining relationships with people who can give valuable information without undermining the independence and integrity of their office, building a wall between editorial and sales, being clear about what piece constitutes reportage and which constitutes opinion or editorial, what should be labelled news analysis versus what is speculation, and figuring out the difference between branded content and advertising (one’s written in prose, the other in slogans and images).

    The gatekeepers and the editors cost money. Journalists who actually research shit and take time to write things like an adult cost money. The audience, however, genuinely doesn’t believe these people are even working. They are taking these people’s work, posting it on Facebook, and claiming, “The Mainstream Media Isn’t Reporting This!”

    So, that’s the problem, in search of a sort of solution that involves recognizing the value of professional media production, the importance of local news coverage, the ethics of journalism and reportage, and the fact that all of this has to be paid for under a new economic model to attract an audience that not only doesn’t seem interested, but doesn’t even believe is legitimate information because it doesn’t vocalize their outrage and alienation. Chicken and egg problem right there.

    The FCC isn’t going to do fuck-all about it, and as regards Sinclair Broadcasting, their market is aged and dying anyway.

    1. To underwrite the above, I just want to give 4 case studies of the issues facing ‘new media’ and the practice thereof.

      The first two are well-meaning OG journalists attempting to transfer their skillset into the Internet age.

      1) I follow a website + newsletter subscription that gets sent to my e-mail that is focused, local reportage on state politics. It’s funded entirely via crowdfunding and user donations. It has only three writers and one editor, and they are only able to publish about one or two articles a day, but they are good articles.

      Problem: I am the only person I know that reads them. I’ve shared their articles on social media and nobody seems to give a fuck, even if the topic interests the person I share it to. An article about a land acquisition debate from the states public regulation committee with environmental and water rights issues got sent back to me from my water rights’ fighting friend with, “Why are you sending this to me?”

      To my knowledge, that newsletter is still not profitable.

      2) I get a separate newsletter in my email daily that is essentially a content aggregator of all local news sources to cover the things that happen by interest, and then break it down by what local lawmakers are up to on a day to day basis. This content aggregator is paid for by ads. So far I like their selection, and it does widely range between right and left sources, but there’s no original journalism or writing. It relies heavily on newspaper sources, because newspapers are the holdouts for editorial-desk-as-locus reportage to date.

      The next two case studies are the Local Blogs, run by brash young excited folks who “actually believe that information should be free.” (Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge, 2013)

      3) One is the ‘citizen journalist’ who, inspired by Humans of New York, attempted a local variety in my midsized home city of a decidedly more rural state.

      First of all, he doesn’t pay anybody, and he steals photographers pictures from their social media feeds and refuses to take them down or compensate them, claiming that they should be grateful to be featured for ‘the exposure.’

      Secondly, he has a predilection for hiring women as assistants and then trying to have sex with them. None have stayed more than a couple weeks before noping the fuck out. And he doesn’t pay them any more than he doesn’t pay anyone else; he literally thinks that they should stick around ‘for the opportunities.’

      Lastly, he shipped himself up to Detroit during a protest and got arrested for punching out a protestor. Details are unclear what happened, but he was kind enough to yell as loudly as possible about ‘being a citizen journalist!’ from my hometown, on camera, meaning national news featured this asshole getting arrested.

      This is a case study, so he does NOT represent all citizen journalists, but what he does represent is the lack of ethics and gatekeeping in citizen journalism. His site still receives hundreds of thousands of unique visitors per month, not enough to be a sensation, but enough to keep enough currency in his pockets to keep trying to molest women.

      4) I’m just going to cite this one:

      A well meaning Millennial creates this highly successful NYC local news blog called ‘The Gothamist’ which he runs for 14 years before finally selling to a hedge fund manager from TD Ameritrade. Said hedgefund manager holds it for 6 months. A week ago, the writers and editors, complaining about low pay and too many hours, unionize. Said hedgefund manager promptly shuts the entire thing down and deletes all its archives, citing ‘the difficulty of running a company in this media environment.’

      This event is rich in basically every modern media issue currently happening:

      1) I don’t doubt workers at the Gothamist weren’t getting paid shit. New Media outlets such as Gothamist and Vice are essentially replacing old media outlets BECAUSE they use digital delivery methods to buypass union oversight and cut professional rates to a shadow of their former selves.

      2) Despite that, I find it hard to believe a hedgefund manager worth billions would buy a 14 year old company with 9million unique visitors a month that wasn’t profitable.

      3) Even if it weren’t profitable, the optics are bad beyond point of intelligent to choose to close down a week after unionization, and before even starting negotiations.

      4) Even if dudebro was being honest but stupid about the optics, deleting the archives and basically salting the earth of the entire decade-and-a-half old project is proof beyond jury that this was not a fucking business decision, this was an angry fucking billionaire.

      5) Hm, what other angry billionaires might arbitrarily decide to just shut down and destroy entire news services? Bezos maybe? The Kushners? This entire event speaks to the issue of relying on rich people to own new media, or even subsidize it.

      6) How difficult would it have been for a millionaire financier to burn every back copy of a newspaper they just shuttered out of spite of their workers unionizing?

      It would have been completely impossible. The fact that entire archives of news media can be eliminated overnight should really be raising major red flags.

      All case studies are questions of money, sustainability, and the proclivities of whichever owner manager decides to stake claim in the new media space. Before even dealing with the issue of how consumers are sharing the media, often without critical thought or consciousness of whether it’s valid or meaningful information to share, the foundation of all that media is largely illusory.

      Most new media only looks like how we expect an article or piece of reportage to look; the writing has only the voice but not the character of journalism; the journalists only talk like the professional and verified professionals of yesteryear, only with a newly prescribed ‘Millennial’ swagger and slang; the profession is now just a bunch of gigs; and the businesses are barely definable as such.

      1. Aaron – What an interesting set of responses to my obviously simplistic question. Thank you for your insight and clarity. I would be very interested in your recommendations for quality media sources, especially the local news aggregator you referenced. You obviously have deep knowledge in this area and I am glad you are in it. I worry not only that too few people are making an effort to learn from quality programming and news sources, but that there is so little to choose from…or, maybe I just don’t know where to find them…Of course we haven’t touched upon what people do with the information they find….which, if my gut instincts are correct, has little to do with critical analysis. Thanks, buddy!

      2. Aaron, yours and Chris’ comments are both deadly accurate.

        I am of an age that remembers a world without the Internet. I have acquired any assets I have because of the Net. But I truly believe that for all the good the Internet has done, the damage it has done by allowing so much evil and insanity to be treated on the same level of acceptance as sane views far outweighs that good.

        Try to imagine a world without the Internet. No Alex Jones, Limbaugh, Russia hacking the election. the puppet tyrant, global warming deniers, the banks crashing the economy.

        We would lose so much, but gain back so much more, as people would actually have to talk to each other.

      3. EJ

        Counterpoint: if there were no internet, this community would not exist. Many others wouldn’t exist either, especially those consisting of isolated individuals, those unable to travel, and those who are the only one of their kind in their town. (For example, gay teenagers in small religious towns.)

        It may come down to which sorts of communities and which sorts of discussions you prefer.

      4. EJ, no question the Internet infrastructure has been used for great good. It has also been used for great evil, and right now, that evil outweighs the good, in my opinion.

        The point is moot. I can’t stuff that genie back in the bottle. Somehow, I just can’t see people giving up all the services they have seen appear in the last 25 years.

      5. Before the Internet we had Ron Paul’s mimeographed newsletters full of bizarre conspiracy bullshit. We had the Art Bell Show on late night AM radio, preparing us for the XFiles and Alex Jones. We had faxed conspiracy newsletters (seriously, this was a thing). All that’s changed is acceleration.

      6. You are correct Chris. All that has changed is acceleration, or I prefer the word scope. Whack jobs like Ron Paul and Art Bell had a method of dispersal, but nothing as powerful as what the Internet provides any individual nutcase, or powerful cabals like the mercers, murdoch’s, or koch’s, today.

        I also blame Clinton when he changed the media ownership laws as Aaron and others have detailed.

      7. “Before the Internet we had Ron Paul’s mimeographed newsletters full of bizarre conspiracy bullshit. We had the Art Bell Show on late night AM radio, preparing us for the XFiles and Alex Jones. We had faxed conspiracy newsletters (seriously, this was a thing). All that’s changed is acceleration.”

        The difference between medicine and poison is merely a matter of dosage. We’re well past LD here.

        Part of what I forgot to go over with my comments (wall-of-text and tl;dr as they were) was relevance to transience. Everybody who wants to be a Real Journalist travels to the coasts. Those 20 year olds with cellphones that are replacing entire location crews don’t have nearly the experience or editorial guidance to provide good quality investigative journalism even if they intend to. That big if is assuming they’re not citizen journalists with a clear preference for operating outside ‘the mainstream media.’ The people left behind in shrinking rural towns increasingly cannot manage any useful or meaningful local network for news, and their audience doesn’t want to pay for their reportage or doesn’t trust it anyway.

        So yeah, in the past the rightwing nutjobs would do their leafleting while ‘the average American’ got their news from newspapers and 8o’clock news television. In the modern day, digital leafletting is the only thing resembling news at all for major swathes of the country.

  8. Halfway through my first read, the thought occurred to me that, perhaps, the Founding Fathers had it right the first time around after all. Maybe they really were right to divvy power between the people to elect their Representatives and selected ‘experts’ to choose those who would go to the Senate and the presidency. Perhaps it was too much to hope for a people, broadly speaking, to govern themselves.

    1. Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, offers a very different “take”on the Donna Brazile “tell all”. I won’t spoil it for you except to offer this teaser: “Liberals used not to believe in doing these things not only because they understood that they would likely be the first victims in a society stripped of civil protections (a school district forcing the removal of Black Lives Matter stickers is a classic example of a more probable future in a world without civil liberties).

      No, they eschewed these tactics because they genuinely believed that debate, discussion, inclusion and democracy brought out the best in us.

      The point of the Brazile story isn’t that the people who “rigged” the primary were afraid of losing an election. It’s that they weren’t afraid of betraying democratic principles, probably because they didn’t believe in them anymore.

      If you’re not frightened by the growing appeal of that line of thinking, you should be. There is a history of this sort of thing. And it never ends well. ”

      We are living it right now.

  9. I really like reading Mark Blyth, a political economist from Brown University. He did a short but effective appearance on a CBS Morning News Podcast show and in a 7 minute piece explained the global economy from 1945-today while illustrating the political effects. Reading his books I see symmetries with Chris’s blog topics especially this one.
    Supply chains go global and labor stays put. If you’re stuck in the towns, counties or states that got deserted you better be ready to move and have the education to participate in the data acquisition, management and analytics economy or lights out.
    Blyth suggests government can ease the hit by taking the big costs off the table (education and healthcare) and investing in infrastructure to make commuting/transport as cheap as possible like China, Singapore and the UAE.
    It was easier to participate in our community institutions when we were secure that our wages would climb with productivity. We had the time/leisure to participate and invest in working towards common goals….when we were sure we would be staying.

    1. All over Europe Koctya, as well. If the basic needs – education, health care, and infrastructure were priorities in America as they are in other parts of the world, many things would be different. Instead, it seems that polarization and sequestration of wealth and power have quashed any rational thought that by improving and simplifying people’s basic needs, productivity and economics generally (not to mention Armchair’s “happiness quotient”, would result. I loved the Charlie Rose interview of Robert Gates this week…if you have time, watch it. We have lost thoughtful, intelligent, pragmatic people like this in public service and it is so unfortunate.

  10. Mary Shelly above NAILS something many people overlook!

    I lived in three states between 1st and 2nd grade, largely because my father, who worked for a Fortune 10 company, didn’t quite find the right fit for him until the third of those three states. I never felt accepted where we ended up, and I couldn’t tell you why, precisely.

    I CAN tell you, however, that as an adult, having moved from Silicon Valley to one outside-I-495 community in MA, the locals never fully welcomed anyone who didn’t grow up there. The second, and current, MA community in which we live is a LITTLE better, mostly because it’s small-and-wishing-to-get-bigger. My wife has noted that almost all her friends here are ones who moved in to MA as adults, not ones who grew up in MA. It’s HARD to engage locally when you’re treated as an invader.

    1. I guess it really depends on where you live and the mentality of the area. I just recently moved to Atlanta (granted, it is a rapidly expanding area) and was quickly welcomed with open arms. As an example, the coverage of our impending mayoral election keeps noting that one of the key demographics in the race are people who have recently moved to the area, and the local media have purposefully spent time discussing what newcomers might want in the election.

      Compare that to my friends and family back in my hometown in Florida, who are constantly complaining about how things are changing and all the new people moving in (and how the roads and stores are now too crowded, how they’ve torn down everything to build more houses and apartments, etc.). Interestingly, they’ve pretty much all left my hometown as well: only one of my friends is still there, and my family will be leaving the moment my mother has banked enough working time for her full pension benefits to kick in.

  11. EJ

    You raise a very interesting point, and explore it very well. Thanks for the read, Chris.

    I’m less hopeful about the “managed democracies” than you are. So far they’ve managed to avoid turmoil, but I think this is largely because they’ve been prosperous, and prosperity is a good way to conceal the flaws in any system. As and when they go into down-cycles, we’ll see whether they can handle the bad times as well as they handle the good.

    The other thing that occurred to me was whether, in the modern day, our travel and communications infrastructure has become good enough that elected local positions have simply stopped being a good idea. People care about what’s on the top of the ticket and not what’s going on in local races. Since this seems to be the case and there’s little point in wishing that it were not the case, I wonder if it would be a good idea to have local leaders be appointed rather than elected.

  12. Brilliant. I would point out how difficult it is for a transient to be ALLOWED to be engaged in many of the places you talk about. Homies are quite resentful of people not of those communities. For instance, farming communities don’t believe non-ag people have anything to offer. The divide this gets greater.

    1. What this all boils down to for me is this simple fact: people have stopped working for the common good. Period. This explains their acceptance of the right’s tactic denigrating the value of government (while being paid to serve it and seemingly not wanting to leave it) and the fear of anything but authoritarian rule – with men at the helm. Women go back to cooking, cleaning and procreating. All is good in the world. Their world. Not my world. I will go down kicking and screaming for equal rights for all people (everywhere, really). Design whatever governance system you like as long as all people have an equal opportunity to participate and I’m good. Trust. The forces of evil and selfishness have successfully destroyed trust – in one another and in our democratic system of government. We are moving rapidly back into a feudal system where the 90% will serve those who have garnered wealth and power. It’s no wonder other nations who are rising up are looking askance at American Exceptionalism. I stopped believing in the inherent good of that a long time ago. Again, being true to my belief that the common good unites and elitism destroys.

      1. “…when were they working for the common good?” – when they didn’t have whatever it was they were seeking.

        “Fuck you, got mine,” is at the heart of a lot of what is wrong with things.

      2. “. . . when were they working for the common good?”

        The Cold War, probably. That seems to be the last time that politics seemed somewhat cordial. The lack of a common enemy has quickly turned Reps & Dems into their own enemies.

      3. No, I believe people pulled together after the Depression (1929) and again during WWII. I also believe the post-war years, 50s/60s’ were years when there was more bi-partisanship in Congress and in the country.

      4. >] “No, I believe people pulled together after the Depression (1929) and again during WWII. I also believe the post-war years, 50s/60s’ were years when there was more bi-partisanship in Congress and in the country.

        In other words, the people only came together when there was either a national crisis or a foreign foe that we had to defeat, and so we had to stick together, whether we liked it or not.

  13. There are already states that are using prior voting in presidential elections as a means to remove voters. In TX, as I recall, it’s two preceding presidential elections.

    I disagree with a statement you made: “The random citizen showing up to city council meetings is usually some crackpot complaining about fluoridated water. ” This introduction to individual participation in local politics is how you teach people. What is lacking is identifying and harnessing those who care enough to get outside their comfort zone and take a stand. Mobilization of frustrated individuals through secret FB groups and other social media, can be a tool but only if leadership recognizes the potential and works it.

    I understand your point, share your frustration, and am completely open to a whole new form of government. Heck, I’m for socialism – I support medicare, medicaid, social security…People are busy. They are struggling to manage personal relationships (marriage or other), families, jobs, health, saving…it’s no wonder they are retreating in the face of the absolute acrimony of today’s politics. Like you, I don’t have any answers except that giving in or giving up is not viable. I honestly believe that if tax reform isn’t defeated, America is going to lose its democracy. I listened to an interview of Robert Gates on Charlie Rose (11/2) and his measured concern and deeply knowledgeable understanding of world balance was impressive. People like Gates aren’t in the T administration, and that’s by design.

    I continue to hope that the very nature of transient lifestyles will enable the Millennial and GenXer populations to sort this out. It probably won’t look like anything I can imagine, but it couldn’t possibly be worse than what we are witnessing develop. Capitalism has devolved into an ugly, self-serving, uncaring system. Greed and disdain for those who are not born the right color or ethnicity, into the right class, or attended the right schools, is front and center in American politics. As Gates noted, America is not only losing respect as a world leader, Democracy as an institution is being looked at in a whole new way.

    1. Maybe the elite is still transient, but even in the big metropolitan areas the rate of geographic transfers is dropping to levels unknown for over a century. Americans are substantially more tied to community than they have been for a long time. The people I know who have moved are mostly “once and done” movers, including myself. They’ve mostly moved from small cities to major metropolitan areas, for economic reasons you’ve alluded to – there are few opportunities even in small cities now.

      I think you need to look elsewhere for the reasons for declining community participation. You can’t blame increased transience when it’s actually decreasing. I think a more likely reason is the increased time draws of the modern world. Yes, we have more “labor saving” devices but this is more than compensated for by increased hours worked, increased time commuting and driving, and enormously increased child supervision requirements. When I was in elementary school, I’d walk with my younger brother to eat at a nearby cafeteria. Today that would generate a call from Child Protective Services.

      Perhaps even more important is the enormous increase in available entertainment. When I was young there were three TV networks. Now there are hundreds of channels, and while a lot of it is garbage, there is a lot of high quality stuff as well. I’ve seen estimates that there are so many quality scripted series on cable it is literally impossible to watch it all.

      Another issue I’d look at is the increasing power of large corporations. 50 years ago most people ate at locally owned restaurants ,still did a lot of shopping at locally owned stores, and probably lived in a house built by a local contractor. Now that’s all mostly done by giant regional or national corporations. It’s true that local politics can constrain these entities somewhat but the power relation is completely different than it used to be.

      So my analysis would be: people have less free time, more to do with their free time, and can influence their lives much less by community political activity. So they stay home instead.

      1. I agree with your assessment, Fair. And, isn’t that a shame? With all the gadgets that make so many aspects of our lives easier, there appears to be more responsibility and demands on our time than ever before. Days just aren’t long enough and there never seems to be enough time for reflection or just down time. Quality of life is really hard for young families and those who are preparing to exit the workforce for retirement. Even as a retiree, I stay incredibly busy…(need to take control of that), and the “golden pond” theory just isn’t happening for enough people. People are living longer but, are they living “better, more fulfilling, happier lives”? This treadmill life imposes (and that we may or may not willingly hop onto) is stressful.

      2. Yeah, Mary, I notice I have lots less “free” time than I used to. What I really notice is that often I forego things I know I’d like because I know I won’t have time for them. You can’t really get away from that “incredibly busy” because even if you’re part of the privileged minority that can get away from the things you *have* to do you’re still pursued by the things you *want* to do. Compared to the majority working two jobs to pay rent in a metro area, or unable to find decent work elsewhere, the minority is doing fine but it’s a kind of gilded cage.

        I’m a member of the minority, and I do feel relatively happy (although that may be mostly my personality) but not so fulfilled.

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