Reasonable community standards are functional community standards

Pre-60s housewives were generally NOT expected to cough up fresh bread daily, or gourmet meals three times a day.  They were also not expected to keep a very large home spotless whilst mincing about in heels and pearls.  The community standards for what a housewife was supposed to do were actually pretty minimal and attainable for even relatively brokedown women.

A simple (truly simple) dish of meat/eggs/fish, a starch and one or two spices was considered completely decent and good enough.  Needless to say, this is no longer true, particularly among conservative SAHMs, who tend to be most driven towards expectation inflation in the matters of domesticity for various reasons I’ve either already covered or will the next time I read through old posts to note allusions I haven’t written up yet.

One of the reasons Mormons are still functionally conservative in many respects is that they remember that you can’t keep up appearances if the appearances are very complex and detailed.  People sometimes make cracks about how Mom wouldn’t let them mess up the ‘parlor for company’, but this dramatically slashed the ongoing cleaning burden and made for an attainable cross-class and cross-income and cross-racial set of housewiving standards that average to slightly dim women could manage with a little elbow grease.

Conservatives, if they want normal life restored, have to remember that broad-based community standards must consider all God’s children and be minimal without being token.  It can be a fine line to navigate, but we have so much tradition from so many of the cultures that infuse American identity to draw upon in shaping those simple, reachable goals.

But it can be hard when Walter Mitty syndrome is rampant.

Fraud Alert, John Taylor Gatto edition

If you’re going to set up alternative sources of authority, you need to vet them for fraudulence.  John Taylor Gatto is demonstrably set up as a homeschooling authority figure and even when his name isn’t directly mentioned, the boilerplate about the “Prussian system” and “everyone was college-level literate before the evils of public school” shows up in plenty of conservative advocacy of homeschooling. But Gatto’s claims are not vetted, and when they are questioned, the response is that *footnotes are a tool of the man to keep you from going on a heart journey*.  An example of not vetting Gatto is the claims he makes about literacy being higher before compulsory public education by comparing WWI literacy *data* with literacy *reports* from before WWI.  Subjective reports that ranged from being able to compose a complex essay to being able to sign one’s name are not really a useful way to assess historical literacy or compare it to hard data after the World Wars, yet that very digging into the primary sources and trying to get at the heart of things is ostentatiously absent when it comes to Gatto among homeschool advocates. This is part of a larger problem with modern people conservative and liberal alike running screaming from explicit authority, but then becoming ensnared by the allure of false authorities.

When you can’t afford to be frugal, or unexamined assumptions conservatives have about frugal tips

Frugality and being a good steward of the household income are not impossible goals.  However, what “frugal tips” are available to housewives these days rely on a bevy of unexamined assumptions that don’t apply to an average SAHM these days.

It is possible to make your own curtains, to store meat in small portions, to bake your own bread, to make your own household cleaning products and to keep a price book, to name some fairly typical tips one will run across on the old intertubes with a quick google.  But frugality of these types is generally not compatible with the current domestic setups of most American housewives.  They have no spare capital for a deep freezer, or to buy meat in bulk quantities to take advantage of sales or direct-purchase opportunities.  They don’t have domestic help even on an occasional basis, so whatever they do has to be compatible with kids underfoot.  And of course kids aren’t young forever, but how can good habits be established when it’s full-tilt survival mode when they are young?  Teaching little kids to be useful or even to consider other people and obey adult rules about where and when to talk/run/etc. takes focused effort and isn’t readily done with a casual phrase here and there.  That can be the way of it only after the habitual behaviors are in place.

Thus you have a pretty major obstacle to frugality early on, even if you are “saving money on daycare”.  The other obstacle is pregnancy.  A lot of frugal tips involve large amounts of ongoing physical labor that is difficult to manage during pregnancies.  If you haven’t spent your years growing up doing that kind of labor, you are unprepared for the extent of it later in life.  You’re also out of luck if pregnancy is hard on your body.  And some women never get back to pre-pregnancy fitness/endurance levels whether it’s one kid or seven.

I come back a lot to the physical stuff because there’s a parallel unexamined assumption among conservatives (not just the male ones) that modern technology means no real physical labor is necessary for a housewife to expend.  Pregnancy is always easy and quick to recover from, barely a speed bump, nursing is also no big, not even requiring extra food or effort (except of course many women switch to formula with “many” kids precisely because they can hand a bottle off and let the older kids feed baby so they can get stuff done).  And even if all that stuff is a little bit difficult, KIDS R FREE.  There’s a weird fixation on the infant and toddler years as being super-cheap by default among conservatives and this is used to extrapolate that children are extremely cheap to raise to 18-21 years because somehow breastmilk production costs nothing (not even calories, it’s like magic) and you can just rely on an infinite supply of thrift stores with appropriate clothing and insert all the rest of the stuff you hear from conservatives about how totally cheap it is to raise infants/toddlers, so therefore have eight.  I guess they’re supposed to drink breastmilk and wear cloth diapers until they marry at 18 somehow?  It’s a quirk I never really noticed until a recent clickbait article about tradeoffs appeared on some home decor site and conservatives tore into the writer of the article for being selfish and stupid, didn’t she understand kids aren’t expensive because BREASTFEEDING and CLOTH DIAPERS?

So, let’s recap some of the unexamined assumptions conservatives dump on housewives regarding frugality:

  • Assumption of “traditional” domestic economy skills that actually date from the middle of the 20th century and rely on a pretty vast industrial infrastructure (including exploited labor by women and children in foreign lands) to be feasible as “economizing” at all.
  • Minimizing the physical risks and stresses of childbearing and nursing, as well as the physical labor that is still necessary to run an “economized” household.
  • Fixation on the early years as being so cheap that there are no real expenses added by having more and more children
  • Parallel dismissal of the importance of child spacing or domestic support in being able to have children doing chores effectively at young ages.
  • Dismissal of chaotic early years as a major obstacle to domestic tranquility and structure, while assuming that such structure is there (no need for a sitter while homeschooling, for example, because infants and toddlers and young kids will just play quietly while you instruct older children…somehow, or alternatively that older children will not resent the play of younger children who aren’t ready for academics partying in front of them because no big kid ever envied a little kid getting to play instead of write an essay or do math problems).  Without structure, frugality is hard to consistently achieve.
  • Assumption that the average housewife was educated in domestic skills by her mother, and if she was not, that she can instantly acquire these skills in a few days’ time via youtube and blogs and immediately apply them effectively.

Feel free to toss more into the comments.  The core issue with having all these assumptions is that without them, it’s nearly impossible to economize systematically.  And that means rebuying things, buying more expensive versions of whatever because you don’t have the skills or time to go with cheaper approaches, and stress spending.  But to help people who need to be more frugal, the assumptions have to be dropped and conservatives have to start looking at the actual conditions people are living under, not the idealized conditions a small percentage of conservatives manage to live under.  Here’s hoping!

The military tail wagging the American conservative family formation dog.

Another intersection of many things discussed here, but military families are more likely to have more kids (about 1 full child more than other married families) and thus more likely to have YUUUUUGGGGGEEEE families as well, because of clustering effects.  Turns out a map of fourth births or higher has a bunch of the births happening near clusters of military presence even when there is no major metro nearby.  They don’t have all the fourth, fifth and tenth babies, but they have a huge chunk of them compared to the general population.

This also explains the relentless homeschool promotion since in that circumstance it often does make sense.

It explains the small biz/entrepreneurial mindset because you have this pool of people with PRIVATE INCOME AT AGE 40 giving advice about being “your own boss” to civilians.

Since the massive base closures of the 1990s, military bases are far more isolated from town than they used to be.  So there’s a closed loop effect.

Also, on base housing, you can have kids run around a heck of a lot more and of course walk to the commissary, which, you know, sells most of what you need to live.  So there’s a very distorted idea of what letting the kids run around really means, and that this kind of housing is not an option off-base.

And then there’s the fact that all this played out in the 1970s on, because the volunteer army started then, so there’s heavy selection bias.

While the military as a whole is slightly less religious than the general population, that’s driven by the high single-guy numbers.

And the military provides a lot of benefits that aren’t cash in hand (but sometimes are totally cash in hand, like hazard pay and bonuses) but which make living on the not-great pay a lot easier than the equivalent money in civilian world.  It also makes a lot of advice given by people who spent most of their child-having years in that environment of limited utility if they don’t actually say “but you’d need like twice the pay to do the same as a civilian of course”.

So you have a population that is a very tiny, very self-selecting slice of America punching way above their demographic weight in baby-having, which means there’s a disproportionate share of children of theirs running around and how those kids are reared exercises a disproportionate impact on the rest of the population, especially the conservative Christian one because their moms are very isolated except for internet and religious activities.

 

Panglossian Chauvinism undermines normal living in America

Panglossian Chauvinism is how Americans continue to prop up and support disorder and abnormal beliefs as normal.  It’s also how conservatives unwittingly prevent any among them from developing robust and successful alternatives to the liberal status quo.

“Everything will work out in this, the best of all possible nations.”

This is why the right wing thinks voting will be useful under the current systems in place.  This is why we don’t have better alternatives to the current energy grid, or the current farming infrastructure.  It’s also why conservatives are not at the vanguard of making it less crummy to have children and grandchildren (and thereby great-grandchildren, etc.) even though they are among the few subcultures still bothering to bring said glorious blessings into the world at all.

Panglossian Chauvinism has people boasting in their frugality as they rely on astonishing advancements in container shipping and materials science but fancy themselves independent and self-sufficient.  The world of canning is but one example.

Panglossian Chauvinism also makes it impossible for Americans to understand how things work in other parts of the world.  It isn’t all crummy over in Western Europe, Canada and Australia/New Zealand.  But it’s not some technotopia of socialist love neither.  Panglossian Chauvinism is an American flaw, but I plan to come back to the specific manifestations of it among conservative-Americans.  Another day though.

A sample of how liberal mothers create leisure for themselves.

http://blogs.harvard.edu/philg/2018/01/29/foreigners-can-rescue-us-from-our-undiplomatic-president

This is not really a post about Trump, but about liberal mothers who hire au pairs.  Au pairs are a type of live-in childcare that costs about 20-30k a year and is considered a cultural exchange program.  In that post, a bunch of liberal mothers reveal they put a lot of energy into being shocked that outside the USA, approval of LBGT is rather lower than they expect of non-Americans (mostly young white European women).  Anyway the takeaway is that while conservative mothers at similar income levels have a long list of reasons why they can’t have any childcare, liberal mothers create the leisure and free time to sit around waiting for the very small number of au pairs who approve of LBGT*.

*The post excerpts a bunch of discussions on a web board and reveals that there are au pairs who are themselves LBG.

 

We really are under a Labor vs. Capital divide.

The problem is that a big chunk of it is college-educated knowledge workers having their wages driven downwards and not understanding that they have class interests.  Instead, many of them buy into titles-over-pay and are happy to receive lower pay over time adjusted for inflation so long as they earn just a bit more than non-college workers.  And it is “just a bit” after you’ve bothered to adjust for the costs of the education ratchet and the fact that increasingly these knowledge workers are talking themselves into 2-3 degrees before getting that first job.

It doesn’t have to be this way, they could demand to be paid in money rather than ego-boost of making a few pennies more than those despised not-college types who probably don’t even have decent politics.  But it would mean they’d been bad at being smart and were instead talked into, er, voting against their own interests.

This is, by the way, misleadingly represented on the fringe socialist left as “professional managerial class” or “pmc”.

Conservative fully tenured professors don’t exist.

That’s a statement of statistical fact, though not technical fact.  Technically there’s a few.  But given that there’s not even 400k tenured academics out of nearly 2 million “post-secondary teachers”, and given that conservative ones are not much above 5% nationwide (tenured or not), in a very real sense they don’t exist.   A few thousand professors is negligible.  At a very generous 10% of tenured academics, conservatives would represent perhaps 2% of academics total, and the numbers are worse than that, increasingly close to 1% of academics total.

But just like with liberals, they wield massive influence on conservative thought despite being almost, in a way, imaginary and fictional.

Conservatives act like 1970s black Americans about male provision

Let me count the ways…

  1. Emphasis on self-employment because the (liberal) Man is prejudiced against their kind, without providing any meaningful reserve or protection against the volatility of this choice.
  2. De-emphasis correspondingly on male provision as an important part of being a husband, including discouraging men who want to do that as cavemen or delusional.
  3. Both overt and covert encouragement of women to produce the primary income in a marriage, either by openly promoting an egalitarian view that women can and do earn as much as men as sole or primary providers, or by defining the SAHM life as incomplete or lazy/leisured if there’s no income-generating going on.
  4. Related, but its own thing, pushing a “working homemaker” ideal where even if you do work full time or close to it, you are still expected to home-make at effectively a full time level too.
  5. Defending the extremely rare stay at home father as a paragon of manliness and as perfectly common and therefore something women should be expected to take seriously as a possible path in their marriages.
  6. Declaring any woman who talks about the importance of financial provision within marriage by the husband as a gold digger or money obsessed or not bringing a supportive and Godly spirit to marriage, etc.
  7. Raising daughters and loving sons.  This means encouraging girls to pursue practical options with education and prepare to earn a living while telling young men to follow their bliss and/or pursue self-employment and encourage this by not expecting them to work.
  8. Video games and pornography are heroin and crack.

With immediately post-Civil Rights Act black Americans, some of this was not surprising and they did still have to face actual race prejudice making male employment riskier and more fragile even within marriage.  They also were looking at affirmative action preferences quickly shifting towards favoring black women over black men due to killing two birds with one stone (another reason straight quotas would have been less poisonous).

Conservatives, though, are doing a lot of this for ideological and unstated class reasons.  Many and probably most conservatives are not middle class but rely on declaring themselves such as a major part of their subculture’s cohesiveness.  But these are not middle class behaviors now that most of the people promoting them have college educations, which is the major difference between white conservatives and 1970s black Americans.

Money does matter

I don’t think poor people shouldn’t have kids, but I talk about a high household income earned mostly by Dad because money does matter in a world where people are always running away from their duties and obligations to people outside their immediate nuclear family.  Obviously yes, even in America you can totally raise six kids to adulthood on 20 thousand bucks a year.  But the big conservative lie around this is that it’s a middle class upbringing.

Further, refusal to accept that individualistic, disconnected society really does have high financial costs attached keeps a lot of families dancing without a net over a ravine.

Take the often promoted “telecommute in the boonies!” plan.  Well, where’s the internet to do that?  In most of rural America outside of city limits, high-speed, telecommuting-friendly internet is several hundred dollars a month, not fifty.  In practice, people “telecommuting” this way are either defining “suburb with large backyards” as “rural” or they are commuting the old fashioned way.

And if you live rurally, it is easier to let the kids scamper around while mom stays home with no other adults nearby doing stuff around the house.  But eventually the kids need to go places, and now mom is on the commute-train too.  Even the very rural homeschool types can’t actually sit at home all day every day and never leave until the youngest of nine is 18.

Having no money, and no ability to earn a large income leave the entire household vulnerable all the time.  Dad’s car breaks.  It’s a fix requiring shop access (car lift).  Those kinds of homes exist in rural areas, but they’re not the cheap ones you could afford because “how dare you suggest we not have mom stay home when dad’s earning capacity maxes out at 40k a year!”  A lot of people get forced into really tough positions a lot faster.  It can get really ugly really unexpectedly.

Like romanticizing herb lore because you can’t afford doctor visits for chronic ailments.  Or buying the kids off with cheap filling food because you aren’t really rural, but exurban and there’s nowhere safe for them to play (busy streets, no way to walk to the nearest open play area, and you’re a one-car household).

Money would matter less if everyone was aggressive about using the interwebs to maintain clannish-style community ties to keep people matched up if they were far-flung.  Or if living twenty to a 2000 square foot house was normal mode in America right now.

In America 75+ years ago, homes used to be built with very small sleeping areas and larger shared spaces.  Shirley Jackson’s family moved into a home not much bigger than the 2500 square feet places of now, but it was split into four completely separate apartments, with very tiny sleeping areas, almost no built-in closet space and bigger social and cooking areas.  But large homes aren’t built or even modified this way anymore.

Money also wouldn’t matter if people accepted that leaving everything in the hands of one woman on the baby having and raising front will lead to fewer children if she’s really struggling and even if she personally isn’t because it always has and it’s even more the case with reliable contraception and sterilization and delaying marriage for those who take the other two options off the table.

This one’s pretty open for discussion.