The Amish have the highest living standard in the United States

If you define standard of living increases in terms of an individual having more opportunities to enjoy private experiences and consumption of individual goods, you get one kind of society.  If you define standard of living increases in terms of local-level collectives (families, towns, cities) having more opportunities to enjoy shared experiences and consumption of individual and collective goods, you get a whole nother kind of society.

If technological benefits are communally shared and not solely focused on individual gratification, you get a very different picture of improved living standards over time.

To put it another way, a four bedroom, two bath house of 2000-2500sq ft is considered just right for a family of four, but it’s not at all unpleasant or crowded to have eight people living in such a large home.  But the relentless march of progress always portrays the choice as “cram 20 people in” or “have 3-4 people knocking around a giant house” when one could have an intermediate situation where one enjoyed the benefits of modern technology with the benefits of accountability due to living with what has typically been a bit more than nuclear family in your home.

Related, this family lives “off the grid” in terms of energy use, but is very much tightly interwoven and connected into the grid of real community:

http://waywardspark.com/on-homesteading-off-grid-living-and-money/

That couple is raising their children with teachers and adults they knew and liked, among people who know their parents, among blood kin and friends who also have long-standing multi-generational roots in that particular region.  They aren’t nearly as isolated despite their lack of public utilities as the modern SAHM living in a suburb far from both sets of relatives, in a town nowhere near even distant kin or college friends.  A lot of people think it’s limiting or provincial to spend your life living among multiple generations of blood and soil, but it’s natural, it’s normal and just because it’s not American* doesn’t mean it’s not something to be pursued in America.

*American: traditional American living is this, if there’s no religious aspect as with the Amish.  For all the right wing vitriol towards that kind of music and, uh, black people, that’s the real American essence, distilled.  Money, money, money, getting wealth, getting a big chunk of land far away from other people to lord over, these are a few of (white) America’s favorite things.  One of the reasons the social institutions conservatives love are failing is because of that GetRich aspect of Core America (h/t one Mr. Sailer).  It combines with individualism to be ultimately not that predictive or productive of wealth in the amounts desired by nearly all the individuals, but it has created a nation with wealth that none will likely ever see again.

But the Amish and that couple have a higher standard of living than the people with bigger houses on giant lots with a car for mom and dad and junior and sally precisely because the former two are less traditionally American than the latter household.

 

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.

ETA 2015: http://www.newworldeconomics.com/archives/tradcityarchive.html

That guy linked above is kind of weird, but he has some great insights about how to build real communities that are People First and not Stuff/Vehicles/Developers First.  In fact, I wish I’d stumbled across him a bit sooner, but his archive of city planning/history is worth reading and thinking about.  Overscaling appears to be part of America’s DNA.

Real Talk for SAHMs: When maternal instinct leads to poor maternal health

This is just to say that SAHMs lose sleep because it’s hard to get to sleep at night when you expect the wakeups and in fact they come for years on end.  Then there’s the food issue.  Yes, there is joking around about eating the crumbs the toddlers leave you, but it can lead to either overeating to compensate for the sleep deprivation or slow starvation (and corresponding increasing exhaustion) as appetite shuts down in response to stress.

So people hear about SAHMs being up at 3am doing laundry and think they are silly and frivolous and making up reasons to make it all seem harder than it is, but they aren’t thinking about the four wakeups the SAHM already had to deal with since attempting her own bedtime at 9pm after the kids were down between 7pm and 8pm.  If you can’t even hope to get any sleep and everyone around is convinced you never need a helping hand because you’re home all day and what on earth is there to do, really, then yeah, you just might go ahead and save the laundry for at night since you have to get up every other hour to nurse anyway, or quell a nightmare, or get a water sippy for a toddler’s dry throat and hacking cough.

Then there’s the putting off of medical and dental care because the prospect of trying to deal with the entire process with a bunch of little kids underfoot is too overwhelming to even think about.  It used to be obvious as recently as the 1980s that trying to leave the house with many small children was just not something a woman could do on her own, but it’s now a bizarre expectation towards SAHMs specifically.

Basically, a lot of women are in really bad shape mentally, physically and spiritually, and it’s because they are just trying to follow their natural maternal instincts in an environment set up to work against that in poisonous and damaging ways.  They just need a break.

The hourglassing of male income

True middle-income guys who might have married in the past are being squeezed out in favor of slackers and high achievers.  It’s an amplified version of “Yale or jail”, except it’s “xbox and living off your woman’s 35k/yr job or make 75k plus”.

Married men with SAHMs are making most of the taxable income, contrary to the narrative pushed about the “breadwinner mom”.  Direct from the very Pew data used for that narrative, the married man+SAHM household clears about 78k per year as the median, while the married “breadwinner mom” (plus husband with a job, carefully not worded that way though) clears about 80k per year as the median.  But because the “breadwinner mom” married households consist of two lower incomes and also get very favorable tax treatment for childcare expenses, they pay lower net taxes despite having a slightly higher gross income.  The American federal income tax system is structured to favor double-income married households earning about 75k who put the kids in daycare as far as tax breaks for broad swathes of the married population go.  It is not nearly so well set up to favor single-income married households as is commonly claimed because those households overperform economically and thus phase out of the tax benefits available to those married with children.

Needless to say, all this isn’t mentioned in any of the news articles riffing on said Pew data to declare the awesomesauce of breadwinning mothers.  But the current economic situation in America is that there’s a hourglass effect on male income, and female workforce participation increases aren’t sufficient to replace the lost male earnings, because as we can see from the jury-rigged comparison of earnings above, women just aren’t earning as much as men even if they earn the highest or the sole income for the household.  The result is a smaller and smaller number of married men who overperform and whose W2 wages provide the bulk of what tax base remains for the massive welfare edifice that the federal, state and local governments have built up in the last half century.

This hourglass effect is also mostly left out of the discourse on income inequality, along with its far-ranging effects on the long-term health of the current welfare state.  It’s also a pattern conservatives need to keep in mind when lamenting the decline of marriage and discussing ways to revive marriage as a social institution.

Double Consciousness for SAHMs

Double consciousness, it’s not just a black thing!  It is a classic housewife problem, coming from servant classes but marrying well enough to afford servants yourself and not knowing what to do with them.  Chalk it up to another way to feel bad and a failure as a woman.

I think it doesn’t get enough real discussion among conservatives, because they are very wedded to the classless America myth.  But one of the conflicts with the idea of a “traditional America” is that America was peopled by folks who rejected proper authority and their proper place in existing hierarchies.  It was peopled by servant classes and third sons of gentry, people who would have been very low on their relative totem poles in the home countries.  Combined with the low population density and the love of technology, there’s always been a big conflict in “traditional America” over whether to have servants at all.  This was an added layer to slavery debates, incidentally.

Among the white ethnic groups who came over with strong traditions of sharing the labor out instead of having servants, Americans forgot or ignored that those ethnic groups relied on massive shaming and social pressure to spread the work around.

And so by the time we get to the modern era, the white-ethnic traditions that provided voluntary, unpaid support for housewives are nearly extinct and other forms of support are unavailable due to a mix of factors, including tolerance of disordered and sociopathic personalities in housewife-heavy subcultures.

This is incidentally why so many white American people are quick to claim they and their ancestors didn’t own slaves or benefit from slavery.  It’s a way to forget that lots and lots and lots of white people really really really wanted to have the wealth and subject labor that slaves represented.  There wouldn’t have been an entire industry peopled by those servantless whites around kidnapping free black people and claiming they were slaves with “missing papers” if slave labor was such a horrible financial drain to have and keep going *for the people who had slaves*. Having serfs is particularly nice if you don’t have to worry about your children dropping that far down the ladder because the serfs are an entirely different race.

Likewise, a small but influential number of women dismiss the idea of servants or household help as important, needful or useful because they are disordered and the wacky individualist strain in American culture provides cover for their madness, at the expense of having to deal with the fact that you just might not be “middle class” in origins or background and narrowly missed being the maid or nanny or housekeeper yourself.  It also is why there is such a belief, most particularly among conservatives, that the private household administered by a housewife is utterly essential but that household help is utterly improper as a social expectation for housewives.  Without that deranged, Randian individualism, conservatives could not gaslight women into believing that they must carry the full burden of maintaining a household with nothing more than a prayer book, a vacuum cleaner and a dishwasher.

There’s also the dismissal of the idea that life in domestic service could be a career with advancement and wealth-building opportunities.  This was even the case to a surprising extent (as in, it happened at all) in American chattel slavery.  If simply being a servant is the worst possible thing that could happen to someone, then having servants cannot be a moral or worthwhile thing.  This is an ongoing theme in American culture, that class and status conflict playing out decade after decade. But yeah.  Black Americans aren’t the only ones who’ve had to struggle with double consciousness as an artifact of their place in society.