(America’s) Farm policies have made low-nutritional commodities exceptionally cheap, providing the food industry with enormous incentive to market processed foods comprised mainly of refined grains and added sugars. In contrast, vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, nuts and high-quality proteins are much more expensive and, in “food deserts,” often unavailable.
At the root of this is American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system.
— Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker
This is a principle that is repeated in every aspect of life: if you raise the floor of competence, you inevitably lower the ceiling of achievement. There is no reward without risk, and demanding that everything meet a certain standard is to inevitably ensure that nothing goes beyond.
Ben Thompson, in the Stratechery Daily Update dated 22 Jan, 2018
Needless to point out that I completely disagree with Ben on this. I believe the opposite to be true. When the minimum required standard is raised, the standard of achievement required to stand out nudges even higher, spurring innovation and achievement.
I find his quote to represent a very American view of things – something that underlies/propels a lot of policy (and impolitic) discourse in their society. Even the most thoughtful, most reasonable people, once integrated in the US way of thinking tend to develop a intrinsic distrust and fear of equality, and anything that may even remotely resemble it, or lead to it.
The farmers know something is happening to the weather, but the words “climate change” have become politically charged in a place where, like much of rural America, conservative politics dominate.
In the field, looking at his withering crop, Somerfeld was unequivocal about the cause of his damaged crop – “climate change.” But back at the bar, with his friends, his language changed. He dropped those taboo words in favour of “erratic weather” and “drier, hotter summers” – a not-uncommon conversational tactic in farm country these days.
We’ve done this repeatedly over our own history. This current wave of immigration is not the first time that we have had a big wave of immigration, that causes turbulence, and then we come out the other side, and we’re all better off.
It happens that my ancestors came to this country in 1640, so we’ve been here forever.
And we were doing just fine, and then the Dutch arrived. Now, don’t get me started on the Dutch. It was really hard for us to get along with the Dutch, but then we eventually got along with the Dutch, and then we forgot they were Dutch.
And then they were just us.
And then the Germans arrived, and they were really difficult, and we had a lot of trouble assimilating the Germans. And then, after a while, we got adjusted to them. And we, sort of, didn’t even notice that the Germans were Germans.
And then we invented, at that point, a term called Anglo-Saxon to refer to the Dutch, and the Germans, and us.
And then we had a lot of trouble when the Irish arrived…
So far, Mr Trump has governed mainly as a traditional Republican “pluto-populist”, delivering policies to the plutocracy and rhetoric to his angered base.
Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible.
But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.