Why does the Tech Right hate the working class?
The Tech Right has shown itself to be completely detached from ordinary people. This is perfectly illustrated in the reactions of many right-wing intellectuals to “Rich Men North of Richmond”.
Written by Sasha Ivanov.
The native working class’s dissatisfaction with the establishment is nothing new in Western nations. From the slums of Marseille that first voted for Le Pen in the ‘80s, to the collapse of the Red and Blue walls in the North of England and the American Midwest, there has been a major realignment from the socialist Left to the populist Right. The current rise of the AfD in the poorer parts of East Germany is only the most recent expression of this phenomenon.
Conservative parties, which originally represented the church-going aristocrats of a bygone age, have been largely unable to accommodate the needs of their new, largely secular, working-class base. The gap has so far been filled by demagogues like Donald Trump. But how would a reasonable, scientifically-informed, technology-driven Right respond? Could such a Right answer the needs of this disenfranchised segment of the population, and turn their anger into a productive movement?
Unfortunately, the Tech Right has shown itself to be completely detached from ordinary people. This is perfectly illustrated in the reactions of many right-wing intellectuals to “Rich Men North of Richmond”. The neo-bluegrass song was uploaded to YouTube by an until-then-unknown artist. The beautiful voice and acerbic lyrics captivated millions of Americans and took the internet by storm. The simple lyrics touch on the deaths of despair (“Young men are puttin' themselves six feet in the ground”), censorship (“Lord knows they all just wanna have total control”), the Epstein scandal (“not just minors on an island somewhere”), and welfare abuse (“the obese milking welfare”). The musical style is obviously reminiscent of the communist folk idol Woody Guthrie, and is symbolic of the political realignment: Guthrie has been dead for more than 50 years, and today’s leftists despise anything working-class, including this song.
A typical response is that of the otherwise brilliant Nathan Cofnas, a New York-raised research fellow at Cambridge. Cofnas repeats an often-raised point: the working class is better-off (in material terms) than it was 50 years ago; therefore their grievance towards “rich men” is unwarranted. Let me start by saying that I understand where Cofnas is coming from. Working-class, anti-rich protests often evince Nietzschean resentment, and bear the marks of an oppositional culture. However, I still think that the Right’s intellectuals are being unfair.
First of all, attacking working-class conservatives is both tactically and morally wrong. Since the college-educated urban population of the Anglosphere is 99% percent liberal, working class people must now make up the base of any anti-woke movement. It would therefore be tactically wrong to alienate them. In addition, there is hardly another group of people on Earth that has been so demonised by the establishment. With the white working class as everyone’s favourite punching bag, such demonisation can be seen as an egregious form of punching down.
Here’s the substance of the argument. It is a fact that American workers now have iPhones, UberEats snd Instagram, and that the prices of various gadgets have gone down. It is also a fact that divorce, illegitimacy, suicide, depression, chronic pain, substance use, obesity, loneliness, and premature deaths have skyrocketed among white working class Americans in the past 20 years. It is also a fact that their wages have been stagnant for the past 40 years.
Who is to blame for these trends? Should the “rich men North of Richmond” be held accountable? Neoliberals often say that these trends are the result of invisible “market forces”. I submit that these market forces have names. Trade deals and deindustrialisation were conscious policy decisions; so is the open borders policy that has been ferociously pursued by every Western county for decades. The architects of these policies are rich men. Offshoring was pursued by industrialists. Open borders was pursued by capitalists wishing to devalue the native labour force, and politicians wishing to tip the demographic balance for electoral purposes. Orwellian censorship was imposed by tech moguls. The visitors of Epstein’s Island were not poor. And they likely did not reside South of Richmond.
The point of this essay is not to defend a country song. Rather, it is to highlight a weakness within the modern intellectual Right – a promising movement that has attracted the attention of some of the world’s most powerful, including the new owner of Twitter/X. But this new Right will not be successful if it stands against the majority of the population, as noted in a recent essay by the conservative populist Michael Lind. Although Lind’s critique is in bad faith, and is at times statistically illiterate (“when you control for class, it turns out that working-class whites aren’t that much wealthier than working-class blacks”), it points to an important truth. Genetic realism is often to used to advance runaway neoliberal policies, which do not follow from the data. Acknowledgement of innate differences in ability is an argument for redistribution and economic protection, not against them.
Libertarianism might work in a world that was entirely populated by autistic tech bro geniuses. Yet such a dystopia is unlikely to ever emerge, even if polygenic selection and genetic engineering become popular. Due to the extreme polygenicity of behavioural traits, variance in the population persists across generations. Even traits that have been under intense selection, such as intelligence and height, remain normally distributed. Both traits have seen steady increases through recorded history, which have shifted their distributions to the right. But while the average height has increased, the shape of the distribution remains. In other words, the left half of the bell curve is not going anywhere. The stupid of the future might have an IQ of 140, but they will still be relatively disadvantaged.
Modern Eugenicons would do well to study Aldous Huxley’s 1927 note on eugenics. Huxley, son of the eminent Darwinian Thomas Henry Huxley and brother to the prominent eugenicist Julian Huxley, had certain qualms about the practice: his main worry being that a society where everyone was highly intelligent would be untenable. Variation in human ability exists for a reason.
Despite their problems, the majority of working class people are honest and decent. They are the people that produce our food, build our homes, and fight our wars. Instead of elitism and snobbery, genetic realism should lead us to compassion and support.
Sasha Ivanov is a behaviour geneticist.
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