February 22, 2019

Digital robber barons can make Gilded Age 2.0 less chaotic by not pursuing open borders, which they don't need to profit anyway

Thinking more about the parallels between the coming Bernie realignment and the Lincoln realignment that led to the Gilded Age -- with the Reagan era paralleling the Jacksonian era -- it might not be so bad this time around regarding open borders and cheap labor.

Open borders is implemented by the elites to lower the labor costs for employers in labor-intensive sectors, such as agriculture, manufacturing, security / armed forces, and material services (retail, food, nail trimming, etc.).

Employers of non-labor-intensive sectors do not benefit much -- that includes finance, info-tech, and media / entertainment. They could have fully unionized workforces with astronomical salaries, and it wouldn't be a drop in the bucket of the employers' costs because hardly anyone works in those sectors -- because they are not labor-intensive, and don't require many employees in order to staff a national or international empire.

During the first Gilded Age, the dominant party (Lincoln's GOP) was mainly controlled by the soaring industrial manufacturing sector, the robber barons. Their factories were labor-intensive, requiring loads and loads more workers if they wanted to expand their operations and total profits.

They could have scrambled for existing Americans, and competed against one another by offering higher and higher wages to attract the limited number of them -- but since the industrialists were collectively organized into a quasi-cartel, and had control over the dominant political party, why do that when you can just conspire to open the borders and bring in millions of cheap-labor Europeans to work in those factories?

During the earlier Jacksonian era, the Southern plantation owners brought in millions of African slaves to be cheap foreign labor in their labor-intensive sector (agriculture). But during the Lincoln era, that big picture did not change -- only the source of migration (poor areas of Europe), the particular sector they were indentured into (industrial manufacturing), and the region of the country they flocked to (the industrial North). Thus, inequality and societal instability continued to widen from its already deplorable trend of the Jacksonian era.

This time around, though, the sectors of society who will be in control of the new dominant party, after the Bernie realignment, will be non-labor-intensive -- principally finance, but also info-tech, who control the Democrats. That means they will not necessarily throw open the borders, as the Reaganite GOP has done in order to get cheap labor for their labor-intensive patrons (agriculture and small-business material services, with manufacturing opting for off-shoring as the method of hiring cheap foreign labor).

Sure, tech companies will want some number of high-skilled immigrants from India and China to be coding monkeys, but there still aren't that many people who will ever be employed in the tech sector. It scales up infinitely and cheaply. Taking over a larger share of their market, and generating loads more profits, does not require them to hire loads more workers. Therefore, they have no incentive to truck in millions upon millions of immigrants to serve their own material interests.

Ditto for finance -- they will want a handful of skilled immigrants from around the world to work in Wall Street investment banks, but they hardly employ anybody, and never will. They, too, do not need millions upon millions of immigrants in order to expand their operations and profits.

So, the digital robber barons will not necessarily push for open borders the way that the industrialist robber barons did -- or the Jacksonian plantation owners, or their Koch Brothers descendants of the Reagan era.

The biggest obstacle is the tech titans who get involved in labor-intensive activity. One is Apple, which is more of a manufacturer (of the iPhone and other Mac products). But they have off-shored their plants, and will not be bringing immigrants here, where there are no plants. The other is Amazon, which has an extensive slave army in its distribution business. Amazon's main cash cow, however, is its informational business -- cloud services -- which does not require millions and millions more immigrants to expand, unlike its doodad delivery business.

For improving the lot of the working class, the best-case scenario is for the purely informational tech companies to wield power within their industry -- Facebook, Apple (assuming it does not build plants here), Netflix, Google, and Amazon's cloud but not delivery division. Of course the even more powerful finance sector will stay as highly informational as it already is.

That dominant coalition could be bargained with toward the goal of low immigration in order to boost workers' living standards in labor-intensive sectors, where most people will be working after all. Even giving them lots of skilled code monkeys from India and China would only be bringing in on the order of thousands, rather than millions, of immigrants per year. Give them that, in exchange for no immigration to the labor-intensive sectors -- i.e., all the rest of it. That would harm American IT professionals, but at the benefit of lifting up the entire American working class and much of the middle class.

If they want to leave opposition status, and realign the Democrats into dominant-party status for the first time since the New Deal, the tech and finance sectors will have to offer their leadership as the good elites, as opposed to the bad elites, during a time of soaring populism. Perhaps they get some cheap foreign labor for themselves, but it's still a 99% reduction of total immigration (which does not work as code monkeys or chart analysts).

That appeases both those on the Right who want it stopped for cultural reasons, as well as those on the Left who want it stopped for economic reasons -- and swing / Independent voters who want it stopped for both reasons. And they'll still be bringing in some immigrants, so they can play the reasonable tolerance card as well.


  1. on an unrelated note

    Orson Welles, the radio broadcaster for the Wars of the Worlds’ hoax, and the actor for Cesare Borgias in the Prince of Foxes, said something about how the Machiavellian character he played was needed for the advancement of society.

    "In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock"

    Good to see your observations corroborated

    1. Dark Triad people are always claiming other's accomplishments as their own. "Why if it wasn't for us..."

  2. https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/02/howard-schultz-american-centrism-sham/

    Good article which criticizes (!) modern day politics for not giving the public what they want (economic liberalism, cultural conservatism or at least moderation). He could've gone a step further and acknowledged that the economic conservative/social conservative wing hasn't been able to really deliver on the latter, to boot.

    Interestingly, he also admits that the Trump admin is a reincarnation of Reaganism, instead of being the genuinely populist vehicle it was supposed to be.

    The current standard bearers of middle aged Democrat liberalism are, of course, embarrassingly in thrall to the ideology of middle class wrecking globalism and corporatism, which they hide by pandering to ID politics and boutique cultural liberalism, as Phillips notes (Cory Booker, Kamala, Gillibrand). Biden, Sanders, and Warren are part of the dying 60's generation which idealistically wants peace and progress, not poisonous rancor that furthers the class and ideological divide (Yes, Biden is a Clintonite corporate squish but at least he doesn't want a Cultural Revolution that will tear the country apart). Gillibrand actually voted against derivative regulation, something that the real Leftists ought to use to pummel her out of the race.

    Lastly, WRT to how horrible the generation born in the 1960's has been at producing good political leaders, I'm reminded of John Xenakis's insight that the early born members of a nomad generation have been spectacularly destructive and nihilistic. The early born members of the Lost Generation produced a lot of nasty military and political leaders, as well as criminals, bums, and drug addicts. If the culture of the late 80's and 90's is any indication, do we really want the generation that created death metal and grunge and the First Person Shooter to be calling the shots? According to Strauss and Howe (and Xenakis), front half Nomads tend to see life as a Darwinian spectacle, and they glorify a gladiator approach to life. I work with a fundie born in 1966, who seems to have very little interested in ethical and cultural "clean-up" campaigns (and indeed, it's those born in the 60's who are the strongest Reaganites, the most pessimistic about humanity and progress).

    Agnostic, I'm afraid that the late Boomers and early X-ers are so culturally and politically disagreeable that we will have to suffer the consequences for decades to come. The GI Generation and Missionairy generation teamed up to over-power the Darwinian impulses of the Lost Generation in the 20's and 30's, and it looks like we might need a similar alliance of modern youth and elders to overcome the nihilism of Late Boomers and early X-ers.

  3. You wrote:
    "During the earlier Jacksonian era, the Southern plantation owners brought in millions of African slaves to be cheap foreign labor in their labor-intensive sector (agriculture)."

    ...just a clarification: the federal law stopping the importation of slaves (2 Stat. 426, enacted March 2, 1807) went into effect in 1808; Andrew Jackson didn't become POTUS until 1829.

  4. That's right. I must've been thinking of immigration in general, which was non-existent during the Jeffersonian era (just like during its spiritual descendant, the New Deal era), and then did explode during the Jacksonian era, which continued into the Lincoln era.

    The main point is that the periods of national cohesion, civic organizations, and narrowing inequality -- Jeffersonian era, New Deal era -- have closed borders, while the periods of fragmentation and widening inequality have open borders, like the Jacksonian and Lincoln eras.

    Usually people draw sharp distinctions b/w the Jacksonian and Lincoln eras, but in some major ways they were part of the same trend -- open borders, inequality, decline of civic organizations.

    De Tocqueville caught the last glimpse of that Jeffersonian civic cohesion when he visited in the early 1830s, before Jacksonianism had totally re-shaped the society. Akin to someone visiting in the early 1980s and observing a still largely New Deal society, only about to undergo a very major shift away from it.

  5. the 1856 disjunctive election features 3 major parties. do you expect a third party to emerge? Bernie and Biden seem solidly devoted to the Democratic party. I doubt Bernie, even if he didn't get the nomination, would break off because even he seems caught up in the "we must stop Trump" (the man, not the institutional actor) hysteria.

    Also, what sort of scenario do you see where Trump is denied the nomination? He seems to be compliant with the agenda of the economic sectors that run the GOP. What incentive would they have to remove him? Perhaps the threat of Biden would encourage them to run someone more "moderate" i.e. neocon. But there doesn't seem to be a crisis distressing enough, like the one under Pierce, to have Trump be replaced. Unless you're banking on a severe economic recession I don't think we'll see the equivalent of Bleeding Kansas any time soon.

  6. Here are my earlier posts on 2020 being like 1856, with partisan polarization reaching a max, delaying party realignment by another term:



    Re: 3rd parties, it's not so much Bernie running 3rd party that is the concern -- he's poised to win the nom. That's like the GOP being the 2nd major party in 1856, representing the realigners of the old opposition (Whigs).

    It was the status quo camp of the old opposition who ran the 3rd party campaign -- the American Party (Know-Nothings), whose candidate was a former president of the opposition (Fillmore), and an operative of the old dominant party, on a bipartisan unity status quo ticket.

    So the parallel would be a 3rd party with Biden running with Bill Kristol -- and if you think that ticket wouldn't win the same old swampy border states of MD and VA, guess again. No way would those Dems vote for "crazy" Bernie, nor whatever generic Reaganite replaces Trump.

    That's the crux of the matter -- even if the Dems give the nom to the wildly popular realigner, he still isn't popular enough to get all of the Dem voters on board by the general.

    Polarization is so intense that the Dem party effectively has split, just like the Whigs. There's the realigner side, and the status quo side. Just because it hasn't formally split, doesn't mean that it will not be de facto split on election day. How many bitter anti-Bernie primary voters will vote for the Biden-Kristol 3rd party, or the status quo Republican, because they don't want a crazy whole new system like Bernie is promising? "He's not a real Democrat anyway!"

    In 1856, the role of the 3rd party was not so much to steal states (they only won MD), nor to attract so much of a state's vote to split the opposition vote. In fact, most of the unusual victories for the Dems in 1856 were due to Whig voters not wanting abolition, and siding with the Jacksonian status quo, voting for their former rival party.

    If they wanted the status quo, for their own party, that would be the 3rd party, easily seen as a wasted vote. So they figured, better to vote for the status quo, even if it means voting for the enemy's party. Not as much of an enemy as the splinter group from our party who wants a crazy new system (abolition, civil war).

    In 2020, that would be like status quo Dems rationalizing that Bernie is not a real Dem, wants a crazy new system, and while we'd love to vote for the status quo of our own party (Biden), that would mean wasting the vote on a 3rd party, so we'll hold our nose and vote for Kasich (or whoever it is).

  7. In the 2nd post above, I discussed economic crises as catalysts for realignment. In 1980, there was a big recession. In 1932, the Great Depression. But in 1856, there had not been a massive panic during the Pierce term. That had to wait until the Panic of 1857.

    So that allowed the status quo Whig voters to rationalize not needing a whole new system. Meh, Bleeding Kansas is pretty bad, but it's not worth voting for an abolitionist candidate who might precipitate a civil war. We'll go with our own status quo guy (Fillmore, 3rd party), or hold our nose and vote for the other party's status quo (Buchanan).

    After Buchanan took office, all bets were off. Bleeding Kansas got worse, the Panic of 1857 struck, and the Dred Scott decision all but guaranteed a civil war over slavery, and the pro-slavery side was to blame for that decision.

    So by 1860, the former status quo Whig voters had a hell of a lot less reason to side with the status quo of either party, and could see the writing on the wall regarding abolition and civil war, and stabilizing the financial system (another major effect of Jacksonian rule, since they began their regime by killing off the national bank). So, might as well go for the realignment after all.

    It remains to be seen how much of the current Everything Bubble the central bank is willing to pop, in order to sabotage their rival party, the GOP, for the 2020 general. They had their hands off in 2017, since no elections were coming up. Then they let it pop like crazy in 2018, in time to steal the House back for their party. With that secured, they took their foot off the gas before the new year. And now in 2019, with no elections upcoming, they are taking a much more dovish stance. That will change back to hawkish in 2020, the only question is how much.

    If there is a massive depression by 2020, it's conceivable that everyone will get the picture, and vote for the radical realigner Bernie. But even if the bubble bursts in 2020, it may not devolve into a clear depression until after the election. Hard to tell for now.

    1. "If there is a massive depression by 2020, it's conceivable that everyone will get the picture, and vote for the radical realigner Bernie. But even if the bubble bursts in 2020, it may not devolve into a clear depression until after the election. Hard to tell for now."

      Yes I think it will occur to status quo/establishment Dems that they have a hard choice to make. Jack up rates and try to ruin the GOPs chances but risk economic turmoil and a Bernie surge or maintain low FFR and take their chances kicking the can and trying to woo back the Rust Belt. It might occur to them on some level that jacking up rates will only serve to rock the boat and make normies realize how bad the status quo really is. Although they might not be able to override their visceral distaste for Trump. We'll see how it plays out.

  8. The GOP has already stated they will replace Trump. The RNC gathered earlier this year, and they only passed a resolution saying that they "support Trump" in his capacity as the sitting GOP president, and the wonders of the current administration.

    Trump tried to twist that into saying they supported his re-election bid -- but that was typical Trump lies. The RNC was presented with just such a strongly phrased resolution -- not just supporting the current Trump admin, but endorsing Trump personally for re-nomination and re-election in 2020, to fend off any would-be challengers -- and they blocked it!

    So it was not just an oversight: they deliberately endorsed only the current Trump admin, not Trump's re-election bid.

    Why won't they re-nominate him? Everyone in the party still hates his guts, he has no political capital, and he isn't do much, if anything, that's unorthodox, so he's replaceable with any other orthodox Reaganite.

    He's such a polarizing, bitterly hated figure for would-be cross-over Dems and Independents. And by now, more and more of his hardcore base hates his guts for doing the exact opposite of his major campaign promises -- trade deficit has exploded wider, military footprint has expanded massively, and immigration, including illegal, has exploded. Now he's openly mocking a rep of that camp, Ann Coulter? He can fuck off for all they care.

    He has no political capital of his own, so he can't withstand their inevitable effort to replace him with Kasich or Haley or Rubio or literally anyone else. He over-powered that effort in 2016 because he ran an insurgent, heterodox, realignment campaign -- but after taking our society in the opposite direction of what he ran on, he won't be getting that support in 2020. All he'll have is the GOP plantation dwellers who thought McCain would've been a savior against the antichrist Obama.

    Axios recently quoted some of Trump's campaign staff as saying they're not worried about Michigan, Wisconsin, etc., since the Democrats are so deeply divided. That's true: contests are relative, not absolute. Kasich may bomb out in a contest against only one Dem (either Biden or Bernie), but have a cake walk into the White House if the status quo and realignment Dem voters cannot reconcile by election day.

    They will replace Trump with someone who doesn't have the stench of Trump on them -- not Pence. They'll have to go with someone farther outside the admin, maybe even antagonistic toward it. My money's on Kasich, but it could be all sorts of others.

    Just like with Buchanan -- the Dems couldn't go with the loathed Pierce, nor anyone else in his admin. Buchanan was the ambassador to Britain -- not even in the country! So he didn't have the stench of the hated incumbent admin on him. The GOP in 2020 will go with someone outside the White House, who won't go into the race with half the country calling for their execution.

  9. "The GOP has already stated they will replace Trump. The RNC gathered earlier this year, and they only passed a resolution saying that they "support Trump" in his capacity as the sitting GOP president, and the wonders of the current administration."

    Where is this coming from? I can't seem to find any statement like that.

  10. RNC refuses to endorse Trump 2020 :


    They only offered their "undivided support for President Donald J. Trump and his effective Presidency.” That only refers to his role as figurehead of the current GOP administration.

    "A competing resolution outright endorsing Mr. Trump’s renomination was considered by the RNC’s rules committee but killed before being brought to a vote."

    I don't know whether they're going to go through the formality of a primary challenge, or just pressure Trump into bowing out and saving face.

    He'll say, "I've accomplished so much in so little time -- more than any president in our country ever has -- that, y'know what folks? I don't need to run again, frankly. And I'm happy to pass the baton on to my old rival John Kasich / Nikki Haley / Whoever. You know I'm handing over one hell of a great country to you? You better take care of it, see if you can do even better than I did, right John?"

    This will recapitulate the 1856 election in that the sitting pres is seeking re-nomination (he formally declared on Inauguration Day, and has had a campaign staffed, and held rallies, ever since), but will not get it.

    That reveals weakness in the incumbent admin, and portends failure in the election, like LBJ getting the boot by his party in '68, when the Dems lost to Nixon. However, unlike those other occasions, in 1856 the incumbent party that did not re-nominate the sitting pres (who actively sought re-nom) did go on to win the general, due to even greater weakness and fragmentation on the opposition's side.

    Trump is seeking the nom, won't get it, but the Dems are too fractured to capitalize on that weakness, allowing Kasich or whoever to skate right through.

  11. (Anonymous from above)

    Boy it's a tough call. I think you're right on many viewing Bernie as a crank/"not a real Democrat". He's hit or miss for most. As extreme a choice as Trump for some. You see this with some of the talking heads Jimmy Dore lampoons. When I hear people rag on Bernie my go to line is that EISENHOWER was to the left of Bernie in the sense that tax rates on the highest marginal bracket were ~90%. Peoples' heads explode when you tell them that but it really puts the period and how far we've deviated into social Darwinism and laissez faire into perspective.

    Thanks for the detailed response.


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