Accept that some of your sons will be shoeshine boys

Conservatives tend towards a fantasy that they are all above average and so are their children.  This is particularly true with the cohort that relies on the IT industry for their primary household income.  But we can’t all be above average and that includes smarty-smart types.  Some kids will not be that bright and even among those that are that bright, they might be unable to rely on the historical accident of high-paying trades work that IT essentially is.  During the dotcom bubble, white families experienced a shift in how the five quintiles of income were distributed, with big effects in the second-highest quintile and the bottom half of the highest quintile and a smaller but still noticeable effect in the second-lowest quintile.  I will update this post when I can find a link to the chart that shows this “IT bump”, but the key thing is that it happened and has persisted to date.  Those shifts have been in place for about twenty years now.

But as I’ve already mentioned before, relying on a hostile industry is a risky, fragile strategy in the long run.  Yet it is very clear conservatives do seem to think their sons can always just get a tech job to support a large family, where they don’t themselves buy into the college bubble thinking of getting a degree for the same goal.

Also, the IT bump, while noticeable and real, only represents a tiny fraction of all households, including all white households.  Ten or twenty million seems huge, but that’s not even ten percent of the American population.  Conservatives seem peculiarly immune to the idea that if you have many children, most of them will not be top-flight, even though that kind of ruthless thinking is traditional to its core.

Some of your kids will have to be shoeshine boys and maids, and they just may not be able to support a household on those wages and thus will have to not marry.  This is also pretty traditional and one of the reasons for delayed marriage in the past.  However, in the past societies with that kind of delayed marriage provided better tools for preserving chastity into the late 20s and early 30s (like *gasp* women having hard power financially).

I get the ego protection reasons for deeming oneself Mrs. Darcy when one is married to (at best) Mr. Collins, but they aren’t really doing conservatives much good.  The kids know what’s really going on and they see how little food they all get or how tired Mom is or how scared Mom and Dad are when Dad loses that sweet telecommuting gig and has to drive two hours each way now because there’s no replacement telecommuting gig and they’re out in the sticks to be “self-sufficient” but now he can’t help out and is exhausted himself and they’re hours away from even other people at church, much less family.

But if you went back to the traditional view that not all your kids would be scholars or prosperous tradespeople, that some of them would always be employees at best in some little job, you could get them to take pride in that little job and find them a profitable one.  Shoe shining is an example I choose because it seems so small, yet during the eras when it was so common, polished shoes were an essential requirement of society.  Being able to ensure that polish was in fact valued by many of the men going to those stands.  It was not so small to them, not always.

Something to consider.



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  1. Pingback: Framing the Distributist debate in HTML (and perhaps getting some pushback to Going Our Own Ways) | vulture of critique

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