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05/28/2015

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"The more typical truth, I have little doubt, is that young people leave the Church because they're much more interested in other things and because it tells them they can't do what they want to do. And what they want is to enjoy sex and the many other pleasures and comforts which life in a rich and licentious society has to offer."

Exactly. I remember going to a talk about how to keep our children Catholic by a guy who had written a book by that name or something similar, about 26 years ago. I didn't really want to go, but I didn't want to go to the other breakout sessions more. Everyone was asking the question, "Why do they leave?" I was sitting there thinking exactly what you said, but no one seemed to be able to come up with such a simple answer. Nowadays, I would be in their with my big mouth open I'm sure. Also, turns out that 2 of the man's 4 children and left the Church at that point.

AMDG

And I think it's usually sex because that's the only thing they think sin is about. That probably says something very profound.

AMDG

Mac, all good points but surely some of the falling away can be attributed to a failure in preaching. Faith comes through hearing, no?

"Sometimes I think the solution to the mystery of the great apostasy is that our material progress has made life so comfortable for so many that they no longer see the point in paying much attention to the spiritual life except in a consumerist or therapeutic sort of way."

Yes, that's definitely a big part of it. No real crises, no real want, thus, why worry? The spoiled don’t see the need for the gods.

On reflection, I think the science-and-technology factor is as important, or almost as important.

Bill, I think a failure in preaching, like many other defects in the Church, is a factor, but I don't think it's a decisive one.

Janet, something I tried to work into that post, and didn't because it was going to take too long, is the way a look at my own psychology supports the idea. At 65 (66?) I see my own teenage repudiation of Christianity as having more of desire to give up something difficult and pursue something pleasurable than I would have said even as a Catholic at 35. And my repudiation was comparatively thoughtful--I didn't just drift away out of boredom and indifference. Certainly by the time it had hardened, say by age 20 or so, the idea of having my pursuit of pleasure thwarted was about as unwelcome as anything could be.

There's also Freud, who encouraged us to think that sex was the meaning of it all. And, man, did that idea take hold.

Combine that with another point that commenter you quote made about “the ravages and horrors of WWI and WWII [doing] far more to kill off religiosity in Europe than any 'medieval' folderol in the Papal Court or Latin in the liturgy" and, well, the perfect storm.

Darwin!

"On reflection, I think the science-and-technology factor is as important, or almost as important."

Related to this, here's part of something I sent Rod Dreher last month that he ended up using on his blog:

[In The Crisis of Modernity] Del Noce argues that while the Left in Europe had largely failed at the level of politics, it had won at the level of values. The still greater victory, however, was won by what he calls the "technocratic right," because "it has been able to completely turn the culture of the left into its own tool."

Thus, the cultural revolution of the 60s, which began as a rebellion against bourgeois values (mistakenly considered "traditional") was captured and then used by a foundational aspect of the very thing it was rebelling against. Transfer this to our place and time, and we observe that the same thing has happened here, that American corporatism, our "technocratic right," has, in effect, harnessed the Sexual Revolution for its own purposes.

Del Noce says, "Because of the culture that inspires it, the technocratic right is mortally opposed to traditional thought..." and "the alliance between technocratic right and cultural left is there for everyone to see." While this may have been true in Del Noce's time and place, it's undoubtedly not so visible here, at least among the mainstream left and right. Because of its commitment to the Sexual Revolution the left misses -- either by being blind to it or downplaying it -- the role that the "technocratic right" has played in the furtherance of "sexual liberation." Likewise the mainstream right, given its commitment to corporate capitalism, fails to see the corrosive effect of the same on what it values culturally, and thus serves as a semi-willing accomplice.

Interesting that Del Noce, a committed Catholic and Christian Democrat, and Christopher Lasch, a non-religious "man of the Left," come to similar conclusions despite independently examining things in Europe and America respectively.

You know, this is funny because I was thinking of it completely in terms of a pre-internet world. I was thinking of when I was young, and when my kids were teenagers. I mean, my kids were on bulletin boards and did some very early internet stuff, but it was nothing like it is now. And even then, the technology was a growing factor in their disaffection with the Church I imagine.

AMDG

The big change, as we were discussing a while back, was the advent of movies, radio, and tv. With widespread print and literacy in the preceding centuries starting the process. Not that those are intrinsically bad things, but they enabled mass propaganda. But with the internet, it's like the loudspeakers were turned up from 5 or 6 to 10.

I don't know exactly who del Noce, or for that matter you, Rob, are including in the term "technocratic right", but I'm not sure there really is such a thing in the U.S. anymore. Well, I guess you can still find it, but for the most part the people I would describe as technocrats are on the left.

I had not heard of del Noce before you mentioned him, but Lasch's book (the narcissism one) has been sitting unread on my shelf for many years. I think I'll make it my next non-fiction read.

But I've come to the conclusion that even if the liturgy were always reverent and beautiful, and all the clergy and faithful were shining lights of truth and charity, the basic situation of the Church in the formerly Christian world would not be much different.


I think you've overstated it. A decade ago, you would see offered in fora like these an 'if you build it, they will come' argument. Having seen conscientious ministries fail, I'm skeptical of that, but recognizing that conscientious ministries fail is rather different than arguing that the trajectory of a ministry is indifferent to its properties.

The people who trade in the c**p that's abroad in the Catholic and evangelical world are, I suspect, passably pleased with it in the present tense and the rest do not protest because they are not the sort to do so. Any attempt to improve matters in a given parish will generate conflicts and a departure on the part of a section of the congregation so will lead to short and medium-term demographic losses even if the institution may be healthier in the long run. Since clergymen tend to be particular character types and (when not) have no interest in building and maintaining conscientious ministries, the probability you'll find someone who will take the hit is fairly low. The probability that you will find such a person fully ensconced in a diocese in which conscientious ministries are valued is lower still.

And it's not just boring people to death. Institutionally, Catholic apostolates do not have much resistance to the larger culture and evangelical apostolates have even less. They're run by people easily rolled. What's maddening about reading these complaints from Dreher of all people is that he works for a publication that has been easily rolled and he himself is fairly craven in his treatment of the Church's adversaries (and systematically unfair and even malicious to Church officials).

"Because of the culture that inspires it, the technocratic right is mortally opposed to traditional thought..." and "the alliance between technocratic right and cultural left is there for everyone to see."

"Technocratic right" is a nonsense term, and an instrument for striking attitudes. There are varieties of libertarianism which are troublesome. There are the terminally other-directed in electoral politics and in mundane life. There is a set of corporate officialdom whose civic engagement (such as it is) involves extending what their balance sheets and their income statements tell them into realms where those instruments are misleading rather than instructive. There are technology fetishists. There is no 'technocratic right'.

"But with the internet, it's like the loudspeakers were turned up from 5 or 6 to 10."

No, I'm sure that one goes to 11.

AMDG

"But I've come to the conclusion that even if the liturgy were always reverent and beautiful, and all the clergy and faithful were shining lights of truth and charity, the basic situation of the Church in the formerly Christian world would not be much different."

It's hard to be able to judge that. My parish does have liturgy that is reverent and beautiful, etc., and is packed with young couples and lots of children. And it's not the only parish here that is growing because of these young, involved families.

AMDG

Augusto Del Noce was an Italian political writer/philosopher who lived from 1910-1989. He was a committed Catholic, and politically could be considered something of a Christian Democrat. He was widely known in Europe for his writings on Marxism and Fascism.

"I guess you can still find it, but for the most part the people I would describe as technocrats are on the left."

Yes, there are certainly leftist technocrats, but I'd say that "our" technocratic right (Del Noce wrote the essay I referred to in Italy in 1970, so those to whom he was referring would be different) is the corporate capitalist elite, "fiscally conservative but socially liberal."

~~~"Technocratic right" is a nonsense term, and an instrument for striking attitudes.~~~

See above.


I read Lasch's 'Culture of Narcissism' a year or so ago, and am reading 'The True and Only Heaven' now.

It's just a terminological quibble, but I wouldn't describe "fiscally conservative but socially liberal" as being on the right anymore. I'm not even sure it really exists in any number. It's way outside my sphere, but I wonder whether our corporate elites can for the most part even be accurately described as "fiscally conservative," except in the sense of wanting to conserve their own fisc. I suppose Mitt Romney might do as an example of the technocratic right. And some libertarians.

Janet and Art, I never meant to be saying that liturgy and solid teaching and faithful witness don't attract people. They do. I'm arguing against the Dreher/Walsh claim that remedying our defects in those areas would make some kind of decisive difference in the general situation of Christianity in the culture. To put it the other way around, I don't think a deficiency in those areas goes very far in accounting for the turning away from Christianity on the part of our buddy Modern Man.

To put it the other way around, I don't think a deficiency in those areas goes very far in accounting for the turning away from Christianity on the part of our buddy Modern Man.

It's hard to disentangle causes even consulting multiple disciplines. I cannot help but note, though, that religious observance in this country which can be verified through social research was at its peak ca. 1958, when about half the population attended weekly in what was not exactly an era of feudal village society. If the fragmentary readings I've done of period histories are true, actual congregational membership in the last quarter of the 18th century was modest, less than 20% of the population. Also, you have huge present-tense ecological variation (see Sweden v. Portugal) I think there are vectors at work other than technological advancement.


It's just a terminological quibble, but I wouldn't describe "fiscally conservative but socially liberal" as being on the right anymore. I'm not even sure it really exists in any number.

Critics of William Weld and Christine Todd Whitman contended (and we could consult the data) that purveyors of this were sorely ineffective at the 'fiscally conservative' portion of this formula, and for foundational reasons. Not sure what the answer is.

--

Neither Weld nor Whitman had any background in technology. Weld was a lawyer and Whitman was a corporation executive's wife with a long history in Republican voluntarism. Her mother had been a prominent avocational Republican as had her father. They were non-ethnic patricians with some of the signature features of the breed. Amory Houghton and George Bush the Elder would be examples as well. Among those features would be a disinclination toward systematic thinking on civic matters, a tendency to conflate the virtues manifest in personal dealings with the well-springs of public policy, and a weird sort of conflict aversion wherein you're habitually kind to the cruel and cruel to the kind, as it were. Not much to do with technocracy, a great deal to do with virtues which help you in everyday life being extended to a political realm wherein they are inappropriate.

our corporate elites can for the most part even be accurately described as "fiscally conservative," except in the sense of wanting to conserve their own fisc.

I suspect what it is is that corporation executives simply do not have the ambitions or the passions that the social work industry or academe or much of the legal profession has. However, they have nothing to speak of which generates any resistance to the designs of these characters. The business case dictates wheeling-and-dealing and pr to avoid losses.

During the Duke Lacrosse fiasco, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University was a banker who had been in George W. Bush's subcabinet and was later CEO of Wachovia in its terminal phases. What did he do to reform Duke? Nothing. He backed the weasel University president to the hilt, a man whose lack of honor was manifest. One might also recall Jonah Goldberg's account of his time on the board of Goucher College. Among the motors of the board's activities was a liberal lady lawyer who actually believed in something. The board was stupidly other-directed much of the time ("we've go to get out ahead on this") and Goldberg's objections were met with annoyance by much of the board because they elongated meetings and cut into golfing time.

What's amazing about the corporate elites is that they are very capable in their field but seem to be complete breeze brains in every other circumstance, so they end up with a 25 year old bachelor alumni trustee telling them they should stop and think about what they're doing (and failing to persuade them).

You recall Charles Sykes' book about Dartmouth, The Hollow Men? The 'hollow men' in question were Dartmouth's trustees, who caved into faculty pressure and were generally unfamiliar with even the graduation requirements of the institution over which they presided (much less anything granular about institutional life).

These people are someone's idea of the 'right'?

http://www.city-journal.org/2015/eon0518mm.html

I'd probably interpret 'technocracy' as rule not by technology per se, but by 'technique' in Jacques Ellul's sense, which includes technology but is not limited to it.

~~~It's way outside my sphere, but I wonder whether our corporate elites can for the most part even be accurately described as "fiscally conservative," except in the sense of wanting to conserve their own fisc.~~~

Yes, I think you're right. The whole conservative/liberal nomenclature is a problem. If Deneen, et al, are correct, then many "conservatives" are really some version of "right liberal."

That economic liberalism and cultural libertinism have to a great extent been joined at the hip for the past 50 years has been good for the corporate and managerial elites, but bad for the culture. This was my point about relating the Del Noce argument to your comment about technology.

"I think there are vectors at work other than technological advancement."

Of course. It does seem reasonable to say that Modern Man is pretty well convinced that this world is all there is. Technology is part of that. Though Darwinism might be a bigger part.

The way "technocrat" is used here has very little to do with technology. It means people being entrusted with power (or being trusted by those in power) because of some supposed expertise — economic, sociological, social psychological; not by any means necessarily technological. When the Italians got an economist as Prime Minister during the financial crisis, he was widely described as a "technocrat".

"But I've come to the conclusion that even if the liturgy were always reverent and beautiful, and all the clergy and faithful were shining lights of truth and charity, the basic situation of the Church in the formerly Christian world would not be much different."

Yes, that could well be right.

"There is no man so blind [as] those that do not want to see"

Gosh! I just used this expression to express this very idea at least twice today.

"I found myself becoming impatient with the whole premise: if young people leave the Church, it must be the fault of the Church, and when we figure out what they don't like and stop doing it, and start doing what they do like, they'll stop leaving."

Me too. I think it's like a beaten wife thinking she "deserved it."

"We are dealing with a scourge of God, a hardening of hearts the scope of which probably hasn’t been seen before, not something to dialog with."

Seems so. It seems to be a prefiguring of the final apostasy.

"And what they want is to enjoy sex and the many other pleasures and comforts which life in a rich and licentious society has to offer."

I think so.

"As illogical as the idea that advanced technology and "the modern world" in general somehow make the idea of God implausible may be, it seems to be very powerful."

Given the simply enormous number of people - even young people - who still die of cancer every year, in spite of the best medicine, it certainly is illogical.

“the ravages and horrors of WWI and WWII [doing] far more to kill off religiosity..."

Yes, I think this may have been a big part of the hardening of hearts.

I definitely see WWI as a major turning point. Perhaps THE turning point.

I definitely see WWI as a major turning point. Perhaps THE turning point.

I'd be skeptical. Smells of Paul Fussell.

Observant Catholics were a minority in France in 1945, but they were a generous minority, 20% or so of the population and as consequential as evangelicals are in the United States today, with the main Christian democratic party good for a quarter of the vote. As late as 1970, non-believers per polls made up perhaps 20% of France's adult population. As we speak, France competes with Sweden and Denmark for the title of the most secularized country in Europe (with weekly observance in low single digits) and a majority say they are unbelievers. In Britain, the Church of England had a mini-revival during the post-war period, gaining adherents and vocations up to about 1962. See the memoirs of Andrew van Rijn on his Dutch childhood. The Church and the protestant congregations remained something close to the master institutions of village life as late as 1935 and religious bodies only began to implode around about 1965. Spain, Portugal, and Italy had vigorous Catholic minorities as late as 1995. The catastrophic implosion of the Irish Church began, again, not in 1915 but in 1990. The vigor of the Catholic Church in America and in Quebec prior to 1960 is not a story that needs retelling.

It means people being entrusted with power (or being trusted by those in power) because of some supposed expertise — economic, sociological, social psychological; not by any means necessarily technological.

That might apply to Cdl. Richelieu as well. You could also appoint people by virtue of political loyalty, dynastic considerations, or status considerations. I'm not sure we'd be better off.

The whole conservative/liberal nomenclature is a problem. If Deneen, et al, are correct, then many "conservatives" are really some version of "right liberal."

Political terminology is conventional. It's hardly a new idea that the incongruence between academic and journalistic usage causes confusion, as does that between historical and latter-day usage. Deneen wishes to use a terminology approrpiate to intellectual history to describe contemporary conflicts. That exacerbates problems of confusion (and fails to plumb the sources of the conflicts we do have).


That economic liberalism and cultural libertinism have to a great extent been joined at the hip for the past 50 years has been good for the corporate and managerial elites, but bad for the culture

Hugh Hefner is Hugh Hefner. He's a rather odd duck next to an ordinary business executive born in 1926. Very few people are employed in the entertainment business, all things considered, and at least some were as conventionally bourgeois as Walt Disney.

It means people being entrusted with power (or being trusted by those in power) because of some supposed expertise

Just to point out again William Weld is a lawyer and Christine Todd Whitman a housewife whose paid work has consisted of political offices. Whitman's post-secondary schooling was in academic subjects at a liberal arts college. If I'm not mistaken, Weld has two degrees in academic subjects in addition to his law degree. This pair had a great deal of liberal education.

Cardinal Richelieu was no sort of "expert".

"I'd be skeptical. Smells of Paul Fussell."

I don't know who he is, but I'm pretty sure Australia's situation was different to the US.

Cardinal Richelieu was no sort of "expert".

He was educated in rigor and extent characteristic of only a tiny minority in the 17th century. Whatever.

I don't know who he is,

http://www.amazon.com/Great-War-Modern-Memory/dp/0195133323/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

'The way "technocrat" is used here has very little to do with technology. It means people being entrusted with power (or being trusted by those in power) because of some supposed expertise — economic, sociological, social psychological; not by any means necessarily technological.'

Exactly. Of course there are always people wielding power, usually a fairly small number of them. But the reliance on quasi-scientific, supposedly objective expertise is different.

"Hugh Hefner is Hugh Hefner. He's a rather odd duck next to an ordinary business executive born in 1926."

Well, yes and no. Ignore the product and there's probably not much difference in the practices. And Hefner could not have succeeded without the cooperation of people in many other businesses. The point is not that most businessmen were personally libertines but that the logic of business provided no defense against cultural solvents like Playboy.

Ignore the product and there's probably not much difference in the practices.

Why would I 'ignore the product'?

And Hefner could not have succeeded without the cooperation of people in many other businesses. The point is not that most businessmen were personally libertines but that the logic of business provided no defense against cultural solvents like Playboy.

Well, Hefner bought paper from people, printing equipment from others, hired contractors to renovate the Playboy clubs, sent his magazines through the mails, and sent some to news vendors. It's rather a stretch to derive from this some sort of "joining at the hip" of 'cultural libertinism' and 'economic liberalism".

But the reliance on quasi-scientific, supposedly objective expertise is different.

The significance of which is precisely what?

I first heard the expression 'Ubertarian' at a seminar at a conservative journal about a year ago. None of the other conservatives present had heard it before. It came from some young guy. The young guy explained to us that Uber-tarians are people who think technology can solve every problem, like with the Uber taxis. I know one person who is the Uber-Uber-tarian. He is relatively conservative in some respects, but no one would say he is a typical conservative. He is my middle brother and a maths wizzard. I could only characterize one other person I know as 'Uber-tarian' - it seems to fit the temperament of some people who work a lot with computers. It is not characteristic of most intellectual conservatives, so far as the ones I know personally and by acquaintance are concerned.

"Ubertarian" is a new one on me. But I immediately thought of Newt Gingrich. He might be our best example of a right-wing technocrat in politics.

"The significance of which is precisely what?"

That basing authority on quasi-scientific, supposedly objective expertise is a different thing from basing it on, for instance, throne and altar. If you don't think the difference significant, I can't help you.

'It's rather a stretch to derive from this some sort of "joining at the hip" of 'cultural libertinism' and 'economic liberalism"."

I didn't do that. I cited it as an example of the difficulty that a commercial society of unstable principles has in resisting a line of business that's harmful to it.


The point is not that most businessmen were personally libertines but that the logic of business provided no defense against cultural solvents like Playboy.

True. But can we blame business for stores being open on Sunday? Or was that due to pressure from consumers? Anyway, it sounds very mundane, but surely that's had a big impact on church attendance.


The point is not that most businessmen were personally libertines but that the logic of business provided no defense against cultural solvents like Playboy.

True. But can we blame business for stores being open on Sunday? Or was that due to pressure from consumers? Anyway, it sounds very mundane, but surely that's had a big impact on church attendance.

That basing authority on quasi-scientific, supposedly objective expertise is a different thing from basing it on, for instance, throne and altar. If you don't think the difference significant, I can't help you.

In the social context of that time, the altar incorporated not 'expertise', precisely, but the building blocs of it. I'd refer you to Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou, a portrait of a French village near the Pyrennies which he was able to assemble due to an unusual cache of court records. The setting is ca. 1300. From the records, Ladurie was only able to verify that 4 people in a village of 250 were literate. There may have been more than that, but that's what he could verify from surviving documents and court testimonies taken. One was, of course, the village priest.


I didn't do that. I cited it as an example of the difficulty that a commercial society of unstable principles has in resisting a line of business that's harmful to it.

You did not do that, but you were interceding for Rob G who did do that. And I'm disputing the idea that it's all that difficult. The 'commercial society' in which we live managed it passably well up until about 1950, and it was not the business community which sought to dismantle that, but the legal profession and the word-and-image merchant element with which they were allied. I'd refer you and Rob G to the work of Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter done a generation ago. The media, the legal profession, and the general run of the business community are distinct interests even if they're all organized under corporate law.

One thing lost in all this chuffering about 'economic liberalism' and what not is that commerce and industry takes place within a legal architecture. The precise features of that architecture vary. In discussion of economics - whether it's Milton Friedman's or it's Paul Samuelson's - aspects of that architecture are taken as given. Economists themselves are commonly very conscious of the limits of their discipline and leery of any kind of normative discourse because normative questions cannot be effectively addressed using the tools of economists per se. You have 'libertarian' economists, but they are, in addition to being purveyors of particular understandings of social dynamics, also purveyors of a set of social ethics and political principles.

It's your contention that the predilection of particular men of business are irrelevant because the logic of markets determines outcomes. With regard to the precise issues we're discussing, that's not true. The members of your local Rotary do not aspire to run strip joints and are uninjured when local ordinances debar such enterprises. Another example would be the drug trade, which no one wants anything to do with except a small corps of social deviants.

Just to point out that value added in "Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services" amounts to 4% of national income. The share of that accounted for by assaults on the sensibilities is quite small. The share of aggregate personal consumption devoted to street drugs is also quite small. (Gross sales of legal marijuana are supposedly $1.5 bn. The spicoli jurisdictions have a population of 17 million. If you scale that, you might posit $27 bn of sales nationally. That amounts to 0.23% of personal consumption expenditures).

~~~The way "technocrat" is used here has very little to do with technology. It means people being entrusted with power...~~~

Thanks, Paul. That's what I was driving at when I mentioned Ellul.

~~~Hefner bought paper from people, printing equipment from others, hired contractors to renovate the Playboy clubs, sent his magazines through the mails, and sent some to news vendors. It's rather a stretch to derive from this some sort of "joining at the hip" of 'cultural libertinism' and 'economic liberalism".~~~

Cute, but facile. That is not the sort of "cooperation of other businesses" either Mac or I are talking about. But of course you know that.

"The 'commercial society' in which we live managed it passably well up until about 1950, and it was not the business community which sought to dismantle that, but the legal profession and the word-and-image merchant element with which they were allied."

Hmmm. Are you implying that big business had nothing to do with word-and-image merchantry? Given the history of mass advertising, that borders on the delusional.


"But can we blame business for stores being open on Sunday? Or was that due to pressure from consumers? Anyway, it sounds very mundane, but surely that's had a big impact on church attendance."

True, but I don't recall any consumer pressure for stores opening on Sunday until the stores themselves floated the idea by trial runs. Consumers then voted with their feet and their dollars. Advertising exists to create desires, and a desire to shop on Sundays is no different.

It's the same thing that's happening now with Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving. In America it's largely Wal*Mart that's the culprit in initiating these current consumerist pushes.

~~~Just to point out that value added in "Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services" amounts to 4% of national income. The share of that accounted for by assaults on the sensibilities is quite small.~~~

By this logic free internet porn has NO influence on "sensibilities."

By this logic free internet porn has NO influence on "sensibilities."

[rolls eyes, drums fingers] My point is that dead-weight losses from restraining the sex trade (according to conventional national-income accounting) are contextually small and would be borne were their not non-economic objections (and have been borne in the past). Businessmen being businessmen really does not account for the abandonment of obscenity law.

Cute, but facile. That is not the sort of "cooperation of other businesses" either Mac or I are talking about. But of course you know that.

No, I do not know that. What I know is that you're engaged in your usual word play and very resistant to anyone inspecting mundane life to see if the verbiage is a description of anything palpable. You're last sentence there is gamesmanship, and tiresome.


Hmmm. Are you implying that big business had nothing to do with word-and-image merchantry? Given the history of mass advertising, that borders on the delusional.

No, I'm contending that hardware dealers sell hardware, not words and images, and that social research on the media and the legal profession indicate they have quite different dispositions toward the common life than do ordinary businessmen. Not rocket science.

Sunday until the stores themselves floated the idea by trial runs.

In New York and in Virginia, blue laws were annulled by arbitrary judicial decrees. Cannot say about the other states. When I lived in Maryland, there was a vigorous and successful constituency in the business community for the maintenance of blue laws. The legislature repeatedly refused to repeal them at that time due to the pressure of this constituency.

"My point is that dead-weight losses from restraining the sex trade (according to conventional national-income accounting) are contextually small and would be borne were there not non-economic objections (and have been borne in the past). Businessmen being businessmen really does not account for the abandonment of obscenity law."

This fails to take into consideration mass advertising and its ever-increasing adoption of and reliance on "sex sells." The car salesman may not be a lecher, but the ads that help sell his cars are often lecherous indeed. (Ditto, for the record, hardware dealers.)

Also, the belief that pornography should be illegal has zilch to do with its de facto market status. While it's legal it's subject to analysis like any other marketable product. The presence or absence of anti-obscenity laws doesn't enter into it.

"What I know is that you're engaged in your usual word play and very resistant to anyone inspecting mundane life to see if the verbiage is a description of anything palpable."

Sorry, but mere flinging of statistics about doth not an argument make.

The entire culture of mass advertising is subversive of tradition and traditional morality in that it is inherently narcissistic, hedonistic and acquisitive. It promotes precisely "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." You may feel ideologically compelled to separate business per se from how it promotes itself. I do not.

I'm busy today and can't respond at any length, but I want to say this much: the discussion has taken a turn that really doesn't have much to do with any point I was making. (Probably applicable to Rob, too, but I'll let him speak for himself.) My point is NOT that business and businessmen are the cause of various sorts of moral and cultural decline, but that liberal (in the old sense) societies have a flawed conception of freedom which facilitates the decline. It shows itself in commerce as in many other areas. Commerce is an interesting instance precisely because the business community has or at least had no particular desire to encourage the self-indulgence and casting off of restraints that it does in fact implicitly encourage.

the business community has or at least had no particular desire to encourage the self-indulgence and casting off of restraints that it does in fact implicitly encourage.

I'm somewhat perplexed by what you might mean here.

Self-indulgence is to some degree a function of technological advancement and process improvements. There's more stuff with which to indulge oneself. Here your problem is not a flawed conception of freedom nor commerce per se.

Advertising is an aid to marketing goods and services and commonly is employed to persuade people to buy one brand or another; the aggregate demand for the good or service in question is not much affected by it (or the product in question is a minor component of household budgets). It cannot compel people to buy anything. It can trick someone into buying something that has esoteric flaws, but to the extent that it does so repeatedly or over the long haul or at great scale, it generally has to be a service traded in by experts and of opaque value to laymen. Legal services, architecture, psychotherapy, investment counseling, and higher education are the loci of long-con gyps. You might notice that these are not advertising-intensive trades.

The entire culture of mass advertising is subversive of tradition and traditional morality in that it is inherently narcissistic, hedonistic and acquisitive. It promotes precisely "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life."

Yak yak yak

You have production and you have consumption. Has there been a secular increase in the share of household incomes devoted to personal consumption? If not (and IIRC, the allocation between private consumption, savings and investment, and public expenditure has tended to vary within narrow bands for the last generation with the principal change since 1929 being the size of the public sector), you're complaint is either that we produce too much or produce too much that can be sold through advertising.

Now, when I turn on the tube, what do I see most prominently displayed (and there are oh so many ads):

1. Pharmaceuticals

2. Technological do-dads

3. Other television programs

4. Business services

5. Furniture showrooms &c.

6. Automobiles

7. Occasion sales ("back to school")

8. Chain restaurants

9. Appliances and appliance dealers

10. Home improvement & lawn and garden items.

11. Commercial higher education

12. Ambulance chaser lawyers.

13. Cleaning products (some durable, some not).

14. Packaged comestibles.

15. Money management


It seems rather florid to use terms like 'narcissistic, hedonistic and acquisitive' to describe the trade in blood thinners and lawn fertilizer.

Oh, i forgot hygiene products, cosmetics, and clothes (though the latter are covered under 'occasion sales' and the cosmetics seem to be shampoos and the like).

Sorry, but mere flinging of statistics about doth not an argument make.

The argument is that you're not with all of this babble describing much but half-baked notions which have no analogues to anything going on outside your head. You might try demonstrating that they do in lieu of merely telling me I'm vulgar or dense.


This fails to take into consideration mass advertising and its ever-increasing adoption of and reliance on "sex sells."

Arnold Palmer is not hawking blood thinners with sexual subtexts.


Also, the belief that pornography should be illegal has zilch to do with its de facto market status.

I think people hauled in for traffickng in obscenity in 1963 might take exception to that.

(Probably applicable to Rob, too, but I'll let him speak for himself)

Agreed. I'll simply refer any interested parties to Del Noce, Lasch, Daniel Bell, et al.

"Commerce is an interesting instance precisely because the business community has or at least had no particular desire to encourage the self-indulgence and casting off of restraints that it does in fact implicitly encourage."

No doubt. For example, Burger King was not attempting to destroy civilization when it introduced the "Have it your way!" ad campaign back in the early 70s. But it doesn't seem arguable to me that that particular mentality has become rather dominant in our society, and consequently there certainly is a lot more word and image merchantry that screams "It's all about you!" As someone put it, with apologies to Kris Kristofferson and Janis Joplin, "Freedom's just another word for lots of things to buy."

"I think people hauled in for traffickng in obscenity in 1963 might take exception to that."

Which totally misses the point, but hey. Probably better that way.


You're obsessed with advertising and fancy the country is filled with gulled rubes while you yourself sip port reading back issues of Modern Age. Not very attractive.

"You're obsessed with advertising and fancy the country is filled with gulled rubes while you yourself sip port reading back issues of Modern Age. Not very attractive."

Actually, I was always more of a beer guy, but I had to give up alcohol for health reasons, alas.

I do not think the country is full of gulled rubes; what I think is that Madison Ave. is adept at the modification of consciousness.

what I think is that Madison Ave. is adept at the modification of consciousness.

In other words, that they can gull people but not you.

People do not drink Dr. Pepper because their consciousness is 'modified'. They drink it because they like the taste of it. Advertising might induce someone to try it when they would not otherwise, but they still have to come back for it.

People spend their income on housing, with regard to which the intervention of advertising agencies is modest, likely limited to design for sites like Trulia. They spend their money on medical care, with regard to which advertising is nearly non-existent. They spend their money on insurance, with regard to which it's limited to brochures and websites and often intermediated by agents. They spend their money on legal services, for which word of mouth is the order of the day except for the sort of attorney despised by other attorneys. They spend their money on fresh produce and fresh meat and milk (for which advertising is minimal except for branded chicken). They spend their money on cars. There is a great deal of advertising there, but the advertising faces cross-cutting vectors (test drives, Consumer Reports, Kelly blue book). They spend their money on higher education, but higher educations' promotion generally consists of brochures, circulars, and websites. They spend their money on utilities. Those are natural monopolies.

Durable goods account for 11% of household budgets; clothing and shoes about 3%; recreation about 4%; restaurants, bars, and hotels, 8% (I've seen advertisements for 2 of the 5 or 6 restaurants at the nearest mall to me, and in one case it's just fliers). Most of what people spend their money on is not advertising intensive. You're fussing over shifts in market share among producers of goods and services people spend their money on anyway.

I find it very hard to believe anyone actually likes the taste of Dr. Pepper without making considerable efforts to acquire it first.

Of persons of British extraction whom I have heard express an opinion of Dr. Pepper, 100% have said they can't understand anyone liking it. That's only two people, but it's a trend. The other was Andrew Stuttaford of National Review, who was extremely emphatic.

Personally I love it and as I happen to be thirsty right now wish I had one.

Going back to Cardinal Richelieu, his education was not exceptional for a member of his class, and was pretty much the equivalent of what would now be a Liberal Arts degree. He had a remarkable mind and was a man of remarkable achievements, but none of them were based on any claim to "expertise".

A Hungarian Member of the European Parliament I used to meet occasionally so he could practice his English once had occasion to berate "expert advisers" for presenting policy decisions ready-made for elected officials to endorse, rather than presenting advice on the basis of which elected officials could deliberate. He was very proud not only of having been able to make his point in English, but to have done so by paraphrasing Burke in the chamber of the European Parliament.

There is a contrary tendency to view experts as the best people to make decisions on behalf of non-experts, rather than providing expertise for non-experts to draw upon in deliberating about decisions. "Technocratic" is as good word for this as any.

With regard to advertising, it's remarkable that so many superficially sensible businessmen should spend so many billions on a pursuit that pays for the media (and a lot of the lawyers) to do their thing, and fills our cities, roadsides, letterboxes, reading matter and screens with its images, when it has such negligible impact on the general public's economic decisions.

As a businessman myself, I feel quite vindicated in not wasting a penny on advertising, despite the blandishments of such as Google and the Yellow Pages, and getting almost all my clients by word of mouth and direct sales.

Back to Dr Pepper: objectively it's vile, so people must presumably put some effort into acquiring the taste, or the manufacturers would long ago have packed it in.

I loved Dr Pepper as a kid -- no effort required. But then in high school I was made fun of for liking it, so I gave it up for Coca-Cola. Is it sweeter than other soft drinks, and so appeals mostly to children?

I would occasionally lick a battery when I was small. The taste is very similar.

A Hungarian Member of the European Parliament I used to meet occasionally so he could practice his English once had occasion to berate "expert advisers" for presenting policy decisions ready-made for elected officials to endorse

In this country, the most prominent critic of this has been, of all people, Henry Kissinger. ("You would endorse the bureaucratic consensus every time just by selecting option two, always placed between to patently absurd options"). The object of Kissinger's irritation was, ironically, the Foreign Service, which once made a particular point in its entrance examinations to select people with a liberal education.

There is a contrary tendency to view experts as the best people to make decisions on behalf of non-experts, rather than providing expertise for non-experts to draw upon in deliberating about decisions.

The most egregious manifestation of this in this country concerns the appellate judiciary (and their shallow and smart-assed clerks, and the public interest bar, and their straw plaintiffs). However, what they trade in is not true expertise, but in the notion that their personal excellence (from their education and social standing) entitles them to stick the plebes with their moral sentiments.

As for Mario Monti, in this country there are masses of politically-connected economists and their preferences vary considerably (moreso by far than their assessment of economic variables). Every presidential candidate has a brain trust of petexperts and there are institutions on both sides which generate studies and position papers.

I miss that Hungarian MEP. I didn't know him well but I liked him a lot. He died of a heart attack almost 10 years ago; I think in his early forties. He got his Burke from an old-fashioned "Reader for students of English" that he wanted me to talk him through and that he was proud of owning because it had belonged to a dissident writer of the 1950s and 60s. There was a typed draft of a letter folded inside it, declining an invitation to a PEN meeting in Venice because of not being allowed to travel. We hear a lot about faineant MEPs just clocking in for expense allowances, but he was a tremendously active man with a real sense of history and of duty. I haven't known many politicians personally, but I don't think he can have been representative of them in general.

Back to Dr Pepper: objectively it's vile,

Southerners in my experience love it. Not sure why. There's enough of a constituency up north that it's marketed in New York (which Duke's mayonnaise is not). I cannot recall the last time I saw a commercial for RC Cola though, though I understand it's still sold somewhere. Carroll's, Howard Johnson's, Arthur Treacher's, Red Barn, Burger Chef all gone or nearly so. Mass marketing does fail, even after periods of prosperity.

the notion that their personal excellence (from their education and social standing) entitles them to stick the plebes with their moral sentiments

That's something that's very apparent in British politicians of all parties. Much less so in judges.

Much less so in judges.

Mark Steyn, who has been a party to lawsuits in the U.S., Britain, and Canada has said the American judiciary is stupefying in its pretension, in the expense of dealing with it, and the degree to which it is politicized. He said in Britain, "a judge is just a bloke in a wig" at the end of the day.

"I would occasionally lick a battery when I was small. The taste is very similar."

Now this is objectively incorrect. Dr. Pepper has a very sweet, heavy and vaguely fruity taste (hence the belief that prune juice is one of its ingredients), while batteries have a bright, sharp, and (not surprisingly) metallic taste.

RC Cola was always an also-ran. I think it's still around but if it is it isn't very popular.

Actually I think all that stuff is mildly toxic. I drink maybe half a dozen a year, though this year I hit my quota in January trying to alleviate flu misery with ginger ale.

"In other words, that they can gull people but not you."

People aren't gullible - they're just ill-informed.

re: Dr. Pepper. I spent two years in college in Texas. There were folks there from various parts of the south who would drink Dr. Pepper hot, with lemon. Like tea. It actually isn't bad. As it loses its carbonation when it gets hot, it tastes less sweet. They also had a soft drink there called Big Red. It tasted like liquid bubble gum.

I like Dr. Pepper but I have to be in the mood for it. I generally don't drink soft drinks very often, but when I do it's usually Pepsi or RC. Coke isn't sweet enough for me.

I started thinking about this discussion a few days ago, but I was busy with work here and before I knew it the comments had moved on from whether flight from the church is all motivated by sex to a fierce argument about whether technology is all the blame and businesses and liberalism and do they destroy the family or is it advertizing that destroys the family, to now, finally, a conversation about whether or not Dr. Pepper is vile or does it taste like a battery.

I do not like soft drinks so I cannot contribute an opinion about Dr. Pepper. When I was a child mothers were continuously told about a tooth left overnight in a glass of coka cola which had disintegrated by the morning. So we never had them at home and I never acquired the taste for soft drinks.

Now, I often disagree with Art Deco. I have posted a photograph on my facebook of a course advertized in the mid western University in which I teach: the course is on the philosophy of time and the professor has two doctorates. It just is not such an unbelievable phenomenon as he supposes.

However, on the point at issue between Rob G and Art D I fall closer to A.D.

I did not follow the whole discussion. Simply, when the discussion above about liberalism was in its early stages, I began to muse about it. And my musings are anecdotal and have little anecdotal force. Most of them were, as I say, stimulated by the very early part of the discussion and are not a direct response to what either gentleman wrote above. By the time I returned an argument had developed around a thought I had begun to think but had not yet articulated.

My musing led me to the thought that it is advertizing, in our culture, which grooms young people to be self-focussed serial monogamists to whose life style it makes little difference whether they are hetero or homo sexual. The ideal person in the advertizement is in their mid twenties, obviously very slim, in perfect health, with a perfect car, a perfect house, perfect teeth, perfect pets. These images are in people's heads from everything they read and look at from the first months of their lives. It is the constant promotion of these images which undermines self-discipline and encourages hedonism and therefore undermines the existence of the kinds of virtues which can build stable families.

Anecdotally: as children, we were not allowed to watch adverts on TV. I'm sure I've said that here before. It was very strictly enforced. My father turned off the sound and he said 'avert your eyes' and we had to cover our eyes. He said it got us into the habit of averting our eyes from evil. It was stricter even than it sounds; we were not, for instance, allowed to hum or sing advertizing jingles. My father thought these things promoted materialism and they were evil.

Now here is something I cannot explain very well, but this is why I side with Art Deco on this question and why I do not think it is stupid or inane or vulgar to think it right to distinguish manufacturing business in general from the advertizing industry.

We had a small business ourselves and my father wrote very amusing adverts for it! Little verbal jokes! He designed the adverts with pictures photographs and his texts. Of course we could not afford TV advertizing. They were just little ads which went into the Village Voice or into the mailings we made to our customers.

This is a kind of paradox which I think paleoconservative anti-liberals do not understand and which I cannot articulate very well. In a conservative society the small business class must discourage its offspring from anything amounting to a hedonistic life style whilst simultaneously encouraging other folks to buy stuff.

Sorry it does not sound very convincing, but if I was any good at being convincing in political science or social theory I would be in a different line of work to my present employment.

Sorry, I just agree with Arty that the one single industry apart from the teachers who have undermined the stability of our culture is the advertizing industry - or marketing, or PR or whatever you wish to call it. And I think that industry *can* be distinguished from the businesses which used advertising or PR to market their products. Making things to sell them and and 'marketing' are not one and the same thing. Logically that sounds ridiculous, which is why Rob G says its ridiculous. But the world is not built out of logic.

Grumpy, I see your point and actually agree partially. However, what I think you're missing is the extent to which business and its advertising become less separated as one moves up the food chain, so to speak. Products in a sense "become" their brands, and the pushing of the brand is hugely important. And at a certain point the production and the marketing of the brand become indistinguishable on any other level than the material.

I've seen this very recently, close up, as the Fortune 500 company I work for has within the last 6 mos. "rebranded" itself. Now since it's a medical company we don't do a ton of advertising, but one of the things we heard a lot during the transition was "the brand is us." If this is true for a company that doesn't have an instantly recognizable brand, how much truer is it for one that does?

I really must try Dr Pepper. I'm fairly sure I won't like it, but you never know.

I'll report back...

I'm about to eat pulled pork which is just one of the Best. Things. Ever!

I agree Rob that it is different for small and large businesses. As I have said before, my mother was a fashion designer. I would have said we had a middling sized shop in Greenwich Village. I went back there last spring and we had a *tiny* shop in the Village! I had no idea was so small. My sister was also surprised by the size when she went back a while ago. And I agree that when the business becomes 'the brand' its hard to distinguish the product from the marketing for the product.

But I do not think that, in and of itself, say, the existence of Ford or IBM or those big American or Japanese camera companyies which don't exist any more - I don't think that that changed the culture from the 1960s on. I think what changed the culture was the marketing of these products. It was that which affected, not to say, poisoned, the imaginations of most people.

To go back to the original discussion: I do find it surprising that parents will let their kids sit and watch TV throughout their teenage years and then be distressed when they fall away from the faith. I remember at one of Stratford Caldecott's conferences Peter Hitchins gave a talk and said you should not let your kids watch TV if you want them to grow up to be Christian. I thought that was sound common sense, but the audience was simply appalled. They found his proposal unthinkable.

Well, I haven't been following this discussion because I've been too busy, but I can say that pulled pork is the best and Dr. Pepper is gross and when I tell people that I don't watch TV they ask, "Well, what do you do?"

AMDG

since it's a medical company we don't do a ton of advertising

Not even to doctors and hospitals?

I think I've mentioned before that I had a very Pinfoldesque experience a few years ago, brought on by oxaprozin-based anti-inflammatories prescribed after a hand operation. When I went back to the prescribing doctor and told him, he said something dismissive about the likelihood of the medication being to blame (although its warning leaflet actually lists "confusion, delusions, depression, hallucinations, paranoid reactions, and panic disorders" as potential side-effects; but, typically, I didn't actually read the leaflet until afterwards). At that very moment I noticed that his subscription pad was provided to him by the manufacturer, and had their name and logo blazoned across the top. I don't think he was even consciously aware of it any more.

Very occasionally I'll catch wind of something on the television I'd like to see (such as archaeologist friends being interviewed on documentaries about ancient remains). I never have the time to watch.

At that very moment I noticed that his subscription pad was provided to him by the manufacturer,

I don't think your doctor is a date that cheap.

I have nothing substantial to add to this discussion. Ya'll are, as usual, much better read than I am.

I do agree with Art that any claim must find a real, observable manifestation in the world in which we live. Basically, if this abstract point is true, it will appear in our world like this. But, what we actually see is that. Now, I'm not saying that stats can't be used to obscure the actual reality of things. Obviously they can. The business of actually finding and analyzing the empirical evidence for claims is time-intensive.

I love Dr. Pepper. I'm from Oklahoma, which is a northern suburb of Dr. Pepper land. One of my favorite stories is about the ridiculous lengths my sister went to to find a Dr. Pepper when she was visiting me in Kentucky. If it is available, I drink it and only it. I prefer Coke to Pepsi. And, by the way, a "coke" is any soft drink in Oklahoma. As in "I'll take a coke." "What kind? We have Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, root beer...."

I REALLY don't see how people can spend any time watching TV. I don't watch it at all (except for Packer games--sans advertisements), but I don't have enough time to get all the things I need to do accomplished.

I'm not sure what "a date that cheap" actually means. I don't for a moment imagine there was any conscious quid pro quo ("I'll ignore the known risks of the medication because the manufacturers give me freebies") — more likely, he was not even consciously aware of the company's logo, no longer noticing it day after day, while its unnoticed presence unconsciously linked that brand to his conscious business of writing prescriptions. That is, after all, how branding is supposed to work, and why people spend so much money on it.

Or are you suggesting he got a lot more out of the relationship with that brand than a free prescription pad? As I say, the expression is opaque to me.

"Coke isn't sweet enough for me." You have a serious sweet tooth! I always thought Coke was slightly preferable to its competitors because it wasn't as sweet. Which I know does not fit with my liking Dr Pepper, which is extremely sweet.

And by the way now that you mention it I remember a brief vogue for hot Dr Pepper. I think the company may actually have been pushing it at one time.

A while ago I heard a Eastern European saying the strangest thing about being in the Low Countries was seeing so many adults cycling, since where he came from it was regarded as a typically childish means of locomotion (people transitioning to cars, mopeds and motorcycles as soon as legally old enough, if not before).

I hope this doesn't cause offence, but I do notice in myself a slightly similar wondering reaction to adults discussing their taste in fizzy pop. I know it's just a cultural difference, but it's a strangely dissonant one.

I'm confused. Grumpy, you said "I just agree with Arty that the one single industry apart from the teachers who have undermined the stability of our culture is the advertizing industry - or marketing, or PR or whatever you wish to call it. "

But I thought Art was saying the opposite of that, that advertising does not have that big an impact.

At any rate, I'll repeat what I said earlier, just for emphasis: advertising is only one factor in our culture among many that foster an attitude of self-gratification.

" advertising is only one factor in our culture among many that foster an attitude of self-gratification."

One of the others is a favorite of a friend of mine. Whenever I say "Why did so and so bad thing happen?" he says, "Genesis 3."

That is, after all, how branding is supposed to work, and why people spend so much money on it.

I'll give you three explanations:

1. That he's aware (or has a personal assessment) of the frequency of side effects to this medication as against any confounding phenomena and he thinks the confounding phenomena are much more likely. (Doctors are not actuaries, so this is unlikely).

2. For practical reasons, he'd rather not admit a mistake.

3. For reasons of pride, he'd rather not admit a mistake.


Any of these strikes me as more plausible than the notion that he'a a Manchurian Candidate by virtue of his prescription pad.

You'll recall that the fictional Guilford Pinfold's doctor says the problem with private patients is that you don't know what they're taking on the side (in Pinfold's case, his 'sleeping draught').

A 'cheap date' is a girl who doesn't cost you much for an evening. Phrase modal among cohorts born in the late 1920s, I believe.

Except it's not a mistake on the doctor's part for a medication to have a side-effect, and he could only perceive it as a mistake by somehow identifying himself with the manufacturer.

I do not know what a date that cheap means either.

I may have got it wrong. Down to where I read in the discussion between Rob G and Deckers it seemed as if Deck was contending for advertizing alone being the cause of recent social decline and Rob G saying it was daft to make a strict distinction between advertizing and the stuff it advertizes. Rob seemed to be saying you cannot just blame 'advertizing' or marketing because the products which buy that marketing are complicit in the advertizing they use. Whereas down to where I read I thought AD thought that there is a distinction. Seeing the more recent discussion about the medical stuff makes me wonder if I did understand.

Many of these medicines have side effects which the doctors in English brush off as side effects. When he had to take a lot of such medicines late in life, my father used to say 'no engineer would build a bridge and then when it makes you disappear after crossing it say 'well that's just a side effect'." I think doctors do tend to focus on the immediate effects of the medics. In America they seem to be forbidden to ignore the long term effects: the adverts for pills on the radio include at the very end a long list of the potential side effects, often down to and including death. By the time the very fast voice has read out all the potential side effects its a wonder anyone at all would want to buy the pills.

I can't really see myself how to distinguish media and advertising: they exist in almost complete symbiosis.

he could only perceive it as a mistake by somehow identifying himself with the manufacturer.

No, he would perceive himself as responsible because he prescribed that particular painkiller rather than telling you to take Tylenol.

I gather the personal injury bar is less inventive in your neck of the woods.

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