One of the major hammering points of conservative/libertarian thought over the years has been the psychologically necrotizing effects of subsidization on human productivity and innovation. While the mass effects of these policies are most impactful with regard to tariffs, tax policy and politically-interested grants, the psychological consequences and risks of subsidy are most starkly visible with regard to aid at the personal level, known colloquially as welfare.
The informal ward of the state has no personal incentive to better their situation, driven as they are into the pernicious cycle of dependency, and has no political incentive to change the system, because the status quo directly benefits them.
I’m not saying anybody is living large on welfare – they’re not, didn’t anybody see “Precious?” – but income subsidization removes one major bother from one’s life: day-to-day accountability to a boss and an organization. Stability is a huge incentive, one that can easily override the drive to better one’s station. It’s an ironic paradox that people will put up with a lot to get something that’s free, and it’s not always a conscious process; like wax dripping onto a rock, the molding of our psyches by incentives in fact taps into our very deepest hindbrain quarters, shaped as they are into efficiency by millions of years of mammalian evolution.
If they have a strong ambition or a need for autonomy, they might be driven to move up from statist dependency, but that’s a large mental hurdle to clear, and it gets higher the longer one is dependent. There’s also the matter of learned helplessness – as time goes by they find it progressively more difficult to get out of their quandary even if they want to or it becomes possible to do so. For an example, consider people in mediocre relationships; even though their situation is unrewarding, many stick with it because the change itself is too much bother.
Now, with that knowledge in hand, consider another angle of poverty. The so-called “working poor” consists of people whose labor is so fungible (i.e. unskilled and rote) that they have almost no microeconomic leverage against their employers or industries. Thus not only are their wages low, their negotiation power is at a minimum. Unionization is essentially a way of binding together all the workers’ interests into one contiguous block against the management, to prevent laborers from competing against each other and instead threatening management with a wholesale loss of labor output (i.e. a strike).
Don’t get me wrong on romanticizing the blue-collar worker – some of the trades are making big bank (I’m told plumbing and garbage collection are six-figure occupations) and there’s growing awareness of a crop of “white-collar poor” young adults, buried under massive student loan debt for a degree that got them in on the basement floor of a faceless, capricious organization.
In any case, those at the bottom of the employed ladder don’t lack the incentive to change – they are already putting in the dirty work yet not being particularly rewarded for it. What they really lack is the ability to influence either their station in life or the system at large; they are so far down the list in terms of productivity and wasta no one wants to listen to them.
So we have two exactly opposite scenarios, both of which contribute to an imperfect setup.
“The Innovator’s Dilemma,” a term coined by business scholar Clayton Christensen, is the phenomenon that a market leader with the customer share and capitalization to introduce a disruptive technology to a market is fundamentally disincentivized from doing so, due to the fact that they are successful doing it the old way, until it’s too late – when they get scooped by an upstart who has made the leading-brand product obsolete. So the innovator is either trying to change the modus operandi of people who have no proximal incentive to change, or he stakes out on his own in a disadvantaged position where he lacks capital and credibility and thus his idea may never be realized.
Thus the Subsidizer’s Dilemma, if I may adapt a phrase, is how to empower people to change their situation without further disincentivizing an already-empowered cohort who has no motivation to contribute as is.
THE SUBSIDIZER’S DILEMMA APPLIED TO THE ALPHA-OMEGA SPECTRUM
I recently happened to reframe this issue onto the sexual marketplace from a comment at a Manosphere blog – I can’t hope to recall the blog or the comment, apologies to whoever it was.
The small crop of alpha males have no incentive to change the marketplace or turn away from the benefits they receive – they can acquire with ease the sexual comforts of women while paying relatively little cost in commitment or relationship investment, and if and when they want to have a relationship they have many prospects to choose from which in and of itself forces suitresses to consciously increase their relationship fitness. There’s no reason for them to work for or support a marketplace reform that cramps their options or requires further investment on their part – the haphazard and disordered sexual marketplace is fine by them.
Meanwhile, the lower-beta crowd and below live through their sexual primes wholly uncomforted by the female sex – at the time when their sexual and psychological needs are at their most intense. They have no personal power (because they can’t get women) and they certainly have no political power (any agitation would immediately be dismissed as the whinings of an unattractive man that society should find his qualities more attractive).
Much hand-wringing (by both men and women) has occurred of late based on fears that the alpha-omega divide is growing more stark, with men differentiating early into implacable raconteurs and sexual basket cases. The fact that adult male virginity is more common than that of adult females seems to disturbingly support this hypothesis, however it’s all a matter of opinion as to whether this is due to increasingly-dysfunctional female sexual selection or an increasingly emasculated crop of men.
Now the Subsidizer’s Dilemma comes into effect. One method of addressing the imbalance is a re-valorization of beta-oriented males. This has produced predictable muffled snickers from the alpha male cohort, who again have no incentive to cooperate with a reform that takes away their catbird-seat power.
Another method along these lines is a tightening of courtship and commitment practices to reduce partner-swapping – to soften the overall volatility in the market by attaching costs to promiscuity and by ensuring men get some dividend returns on their commitment investment. However, this has produced opposition from women, who can’t bear the idea of being “trapped” in a relationship – when pressed on the topic they don’t seem to be very enthusiastic about the idea of commitment after all. Recall the ubiquitous Notebook-esque plot of “woman/man engaged/committed to to the wrong person.“
On the other hand, one could give betas the ability to be more alpha and thus assume a position of market power. Theoretically, alphas also aren’t going to support this as it undercuts their market advantage, although in reality alphas probably don’t really care since part of being alpha is being irrationally confident that you can best other suitors, and another part of being alpha is understanding there are lots of prospects to mine – either way, extra competition is just a marginal bother.
This is the art of game, a key mission of this blog and many others, as attractive behaviors and lifestyles can be learned, practiced and improved. This has also produced gnashing of teeth from lots of women, threatened by the bogeyman of “fake” attraction and apoplectically anxious that a new class of alphas will rise who leave their comfort- and commitment-oriented traits behind in pursuit of sexual success. (This raises the question of why, if those traits are so desired by women, they are consistently punished in the sexual marketplace to the point those men seek semi-professional advice in the form of game.) In this instance, women are the management, uninterested in having their laborers unionize or raise their skill level to the point they can strengthen their negotiating position.
And many beta-type men will be unwilling to learn and implement decent game anyway, due to either lack of fundamental talent and efficacy or a hamster-driven rejection of the art as “fake” or “just for losers” (look in the mirror?)
Any talk of a macro response to the sexual imbalance (which itself might be a pipe dream anyway) needs to take the Subsidizer’s Dilemma into account. We can’t simply aim to take sexual power from one group and grant it to another without accounting for the non-cooperation of the former, and the inefficacy and learned helplessness of the latter.