Two Tribes

70
Mon, Aug 5, 2013 - 8:32pm

An experience I had about six months ago left a profound impression on me, so much so that I find myself mentally referencing it whenever discussions arise regarding government spending and debt, or the end of the Keynsian experiment. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this experience shocked me in some ways, not because it invalidated opinions I previously held but because it made clear to me how much I had underestimated certain elemental forces at work and the cultural attitudes behind them. This essay is about the implications of that experience. I have no doubt that some will be offended by what I write here, and for that I am genuinely sorry as offending you is certainly not my goal. I can only state that what you are about to read is as completely accurate a description of the events as I can possibly relate- and I promise you that what I say happened actually happened.

In my work, I brushed up against a situation where two completely opposing worldviews were clashing. Their cultural assumptions and opinions could not possibly have been farther apart, and the animosity I witnessed was both deep-seated and raw. These groups were, in essence, two completely different tribes and I had an inside view of this clash because two people directly precipitating it thought – erroneously as it turned out – that I was a member of their tribe and treated me accordingly, giving me an insider’s tour of the conflict and situation with no holds barred.

The situation I was called in to consult on was as follows: There was an interesting property located in a rural township. The owner wanted to sell this property to the township with the idea that they would develop it for community use, and given its location this was an intriguing idea. However, because the site contained certain features that are given protection under law, two Government workers with expertise in these features became interested in the property and began working on obtaining funding so the township could acquire the tract. After discussing the possibility of purchasing and developing the property for community use with a few interested members of the Township Board of Supervisors, the Government employees did what they do in their professional arena. They went out and successfully obtained a sizeable grant from the state. With a chunk of free money in hand, they returned to the township believing that nothing stood in the way of the project moving forward as they envisioned… except for one tiny detail.

The full township board had not been notified that this money was coming in, and had not been consulted- nor had any official vote taken place. This presented a problem because the majority of the board, being elected in a rural area on a platform of fiscal responsibility, had not approved the plan. Indeed, there was no actual plan, no estimate of total costs, nothing. These supervisors pointed out that 1. The “free” money, while a considerable sum, was not enough to pay for the entire project and thus the township would be obligated to come up with the remainder, 2. There had been no accounting of future costs associated with the maintenance, staffing, equipment, etc that would be needed to maintain and operate the facility, so they had no idea what these costs would add to the budget in the future, and 3. The Township budget was balanced at the moment and thus the services they currently provided were sustainable at present levels indefinitely, but this meant that the budget was therefore already maxed-out absent new revenue. These people had been elected on a platform of no new taxes, thus when these elected representatives actually had a chance to vote on the project, they voted no. At this point, I was brought in by the Government men to consult on certain aspects of it, to see if I wanted to get involved in doing a study on the property.

All this is boring stuff, so far… but the tour I was given that day was truly remarkable. The Government men assumed that I was one of them- a “member of their tribe” because of my profession and current position. Because of this assumption, they spent all day telling me what they really thought. It was an education.

The Government men were in equal turns angry and astounded that their generosity in obtaining all of that ‘free’ state money for the township was so unappreciated. I was informed that it was only the pathetic ignorance and small-mindedness of the rural culture that had kept the project from going forward. In terms of the project, I was told again and again how these people lacked vision and were basically too stupid to accept the big pile of free cash that had been laid at their feet, a rank example of witlessness that the Government men found deeply offensive. The money was there, thanks to their efforts, and the stupid locals were too dumb to simply reach down and pick it up.

The government men referred all day long to the Township Supervisors as “hillbillies”, “hicks”, and on one occasion “Tea-party racists”, despite the fact that they were rural farm owners (in an area where the average farm is worth 1-2 million) and local businessmen/women, and despite the absence of any actual racial incidents of any kind. Though these people lived far from the isolated ‘hollers’ of Appalachia, and were successful business and farm owners in their community, I must have heard the term “hillbilly” forty or fifty times, interspersed with jokes about marrying cousins and inbreeding. One local supervisor was in favor of the project, and I was therefore told that “she was OK- must be the only one who has all her teeth, heh heh!”, as if all the rest of these community representatives were stump-toothed inbreds straight from “Deliverance”. Though it is entirely possible I have led a sheltered life, it was nonetheless the most blatantly bigoted conversation I have ever heard in person, leading me to wonder on the drive home if this was what it was like to talk to unapologetic bigots back during the 30’s or 40’s, merely substituting “Hillbilly” and “Inbred” for what would in a previous era have been “Darkie” or “Jew”.

It was crystal clear that these men were very comfortable speaking this way and that, indeed, this was likely how they and their co-workers in government usually talked, so easily did these slurs and aspersions flow during otherwise normal, professional conversation. In their tribe, it was apparently perfectly acceptable to characterize the other tribe in these terms. I was truly amazed at the depth of sheer disgust expressed.

At one point during the proceedings I was talking shop with one of them and he informed me that the new Governor’s budget cuts had necessitated a drastic change in how he oversaw certain state contracts which he supervises. According to state law, a specific type of survey was required prior to certain public projects, and after this survey was completed a report had to be submitted to the state. Previously, he sent these out on a contract basis to big companies to the tune of 50k per project, but with the new budget cuts, he informed me sadly that he was now farming the work out to a local state college, which could handle them at a cost of around 5 thousand per job. “How is the quality” I asked? He assured me that it was great, just as good as the big boys. Now I happen to know that around 20 of these surveys are done annually in my part of the state alone, and that this represents less than 1/4th of the total done statewide per year. I sat there (pretending to pay attention while doing the math) and trying to wrap my head around the fact that this guy basically just told me that he used to pay 4 million per year in state money to do these things, but when push came to shove he could do the exact same thing for just 500k. Given that this guy has worked in his current job for over a decade, I would guess conservatively that his casual little lunch admission means that on this type of project alone he personally has spent at least 40 million taxpayer dollars for projects he could have completed for 5 million over the last decade. He then went back to telling me how ignorant the local tea party was, and never missed a beat. It was a clarifying experience.

* * *

When I read of IRS employees targeting groups advocating for small government, using the extraordinary power of the government’s ability to tax in order to purposefully harass and target these groups in a direct effort to hamper their political activity and speech, I am not surprised in the least. They do not view these groups as ‘fellow citizens deserving of constitutionally protected rights", they view them as members of a different and profoundly inferior tribe, a tribe so debased and low that it is only right to treat them with disdain and to use whatever force is available to thwart their goals. When I read of the wailing and the dire predictions of disaster that would be caused by the small, virtually inconsequential sequester cuts made in the face of exponentially mounting Federal deficits, I am not surprised in the least. Those dollars are largely fictional to the tribe that spends them ‘on behalf of others’; the money is merely an abstraction representing to them departmental power or career advancement more than any actual value that must be earned through productive endeavor.

And you want to know the greatest irony, or perhaps tragedy, of the entire story? The government men who so unapologetically mocked the culture, the reasoning, and even the genetics of the small-government advocates from the township? When we left our meeting that day, those men returned to their offices in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- the first state capital city to have been so profligate in its spending that it could not pay even the interest on its enormous debts and had declared bankruptcy just months earlier. These men were utterly oblivious to the fact that this rural community they so freely mocked was being run in a way that ensured fiscal survival and continuance, while they returned to taxpayer-funded offices at taxpayer-funded jobs in the first failed capital city in America, a basket-case polity so ill-managed that it can no longer pay for even the basic services required to remain a functioning city. This fact did not stop them from believing themselves to be utterly and completely superior to their small town/small government counterparts in public service. It did not for one second give them pause, or spur them to reason through the consequences of their assumptions of public works and spending in relation to the assumptions of governance they found so provincial and uninformed in the people of the township. The people of the township were, government men believed, members of an ignorant and benighted tribe and thus were entirely deserving of their contempt.

Two tribes. And I have no doubt that one of those tribes will feed without question or remorse upon the carcass of what was once a thriving economy, right up until the last scrap of flesh is devoured and there is nothing left to consume. To even question doing so would be to affirm a critique originating from the other tribe… and that would be unthinkable.

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  70 Comments

Left Field
Aug 5, 2013 - 9:12pm

Same here on the West Coast.

Your story is not shocking, in fact it seems awfully familiar. Let's just replace the word "hillbilly" with the words "developer" or "grape grower" or "Waldorf Mama"

I am involved in several local political groups plus the revitalization of local Grange Hall. In all of these factions and tribalism play a huge role. While being active in the community, I have noticed that there are particular tribes of active people in the community pushing for their particular vision.

It's the tribalism that most interest me. Issues Come and go but there's always an inside and outside, The good tribe and the bad drive. Further the tribalism continues from issue to issue.

The tribes mostly coalesce around the same types of issues. It almost unheard of and impossible for someone to go from one tribe to the other. To put it differently, once you've been identified with one tribe you can never really be accepted into the other tribe.

As you point out, this tribalism prevents any real discussion of the merits of some important ideas. Within the tribe, contrary opinions are not accepted and therefore remain unvoiced. This kind of fast and easy stereotyping of the issues is a human trait and does not lead to the best outcomes. Think about the tribes of Detroit. The pensioners know they are right and deserving of their promised payments. The government of Detroit and many of its citizens know there's no way they can pay for those promises.

I suspect that the fear of losing your place inside a tribe is what prevents the tribes from coming together for a compromise on some of these issues. The first person to voice an opinion that doesn't flow with the main opinion is usually ostracized. possibility of compromise. Therefore, compromise is usually reserved for times when external unavoidable events force everyone's hand.

I have done a lot of work in my area regarding climate change. Where I live, it is one issue that goes from the far left to the medium right. Therefore we can have environmentalists and businessmen participating in a program that goes in the same direction. However, both sides continue to question the motives of the other. The delicate balancing act to keep everyone committed is So extraordinary, that it is setting an example for what can be done in other communities. But the tension here inside the program remains incredibly high, There is a constant pull between lower rates for electricity and lower carbon output from the generation.

Speaking of tribes, as a long time daily lurker, and avid post-reader, I note that the TF tribe does not like to hear about climate change. However, adding to SRSroco work, climate change is also going to make The business of mining far more expensive. Along with everything else.

I hope to continue to be a member of the TF tribe in good standing.

Thanks Turd,

PS I also love the recent diversity of posts and opinions.

Lefty

Aug 5, 2013 - 9:20pm

Sorry for hijacking Pinings excellent thread

But I forgot to ask this today...

This week's guest on A2A is Jim Willie and its my intention to only ask him questions submitted by everyone else here at TFMR.

Let me know if there's anything you'd like to ask him.

So It Goes
Aug 5, 2013 - 9:21pm

Silver - quick thought

US Mint sales of ASEs are at an all time high - running about 16% above the past record year (2011).

Yet - Tulving has just lowered their premium to $2.99 over spot for a new sealed monster box. A sealed monster box can be delivered to your door for $11,429. That's a low for a couple years - there has got to be a relative surplus of silver in this particular market.

Yet - Silver is in backwardation for the September futures contract.

So - silver appears to be in abundance but not in abundance. Silver is schizophrenic!

Disclaimer - long silver

So it goes.

¤
Aug 5, 2013 - 9:29pm

Is Europe's Silence Deafening?

El-Erian Warns "Don't Be Fooled" By Europe's Tranquility

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/05/2013 - 20:49

August is traditionally Europe’s holiday month, with many government officials taking several weeks off. In the process, important initiatives are put on hold until the “great return” at the beginning of September. This year, there is another reason why Europe has pressed the pause button for August. With a looming election in Germany, few wish to undermine Chancellor Angela Merkel’s likely victory. Some of the recent economic news has seemed to justify this approach. Yet no one should be fooled. This summer’s sense of normality is neither natural nor necessarily tenable in the long term. It is the result of temporary and – if Europe is not attentive – potentially reversible factors. If officials do not return quickly to addressing economic challenges in a more comprehensive manner, the current calm may give way to renewed turmoil. In essence, Europe (and the West more generally) owes its recent tranquility to a series of experimental measures by central banks; consequently, the resulting surface calm masks still-worrisome economic and financial fundamentals.

Zerohedge.com

opticsguy
Aug 5, 2013 - 9:37pm

I was thumbing throug a 1964 LIFE magazine a few days back

and there was an ad from Westinghouse or somebody about how greater Philly was the largest concentration of wealth in the world and you needed to invest there. Anybody remember that ad? I didn't buy the mag, but I should have taken a picture of the ad.

James Quinn would have liked that.

¤
Aug 5, 2013 - 9:39pm

Us vs. Them

More tribes...The Wanderers...

Video unavailable

StevenBHorse
Aug 5, 2013 - 9:43pm

Your characterization of hill people

I take great offense to this post. Even though I am a stones throw from ORNL. I also have good white lightning hookups. Don't you dare speak a word against Jr. /sarc off

Everyone knows that the ruin of FIAT has taken control of even the lowliest of government agencies, all the way down to the city county level. That's how you know that the end is near. When everyone in power, even the simplest forms are abusing FIAT, we are closer to the end than the beginning.

Great post yet again.

Neigh

But hey I got offered to buy some 10 year muni paper for 40 bps above tsy's.

Sounds like a good deal.

StevenBHorse
Aug 5, 2013 - 9:45pm

Since the shittalkers talk so much shit

I would have a new thread for them to air there questions to Jim. My only question is why are you so AWESOME. Epic Winnie/hoof clap

NonoverlappingMagicCereal
Aug 5, 2013 - 9:54pm

Question for Jim Willie

What was his dissertation topic at CMU? Their statistics department website only has records going back to 1991 (which I guess was after he left), and I cannot find any record of it elsewhere. Apparently CMU offers theses online through ProQuest, but my account expired a year ago. Just curious what his research focus was.

Green Lantern
Aug 5, 2013 - 10:02pm

'Havoc' as HSBC prepares to

'Havoc' as HSBC prepares to close diplomatic accounts"

I smell a dirty rat. HSBC who launders over a billion dollars in cartel drug money and Iran contraband money is now concerned about diplomatic missions using it to wire funny money?

HSBC is closing the Vatican Account who is managed by a German lawyer and member of member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta which past members of the CIA were also members. And Papau New Guinea which the west is trying to open an old WW2 military base.

Oh yeah baby, I smell tribal warfare here and it ain't Jethro Clampett and the Beverly Hillbillies vs. the Drysdales.

I'd like to get a look at the full list. .


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