A Few Ways Of Looking At Atlantic City

It can be the right kind of fun, but the steep drop from glittery artifice to gritty despair in Atlantic City is enough to make even the most contented reflect a little.

Across the street lies the baffling gaze of a woman, gripping the edge of her lawn-chair and cigarette at the same time.  Her peeled, faded porch displays a ‘For Rent’ sign.

Tourist towns, for me, have an air of the superficial and sad, despite the amenities and excitement they promise.  There always seems to be a lack of the local, as the locals must cater to tourists, coming and going.  What Atlantic City had going for it was trying to be the East Coast’s premier destination for gambling.  It’s since been mostly in decline from that holy peak.

Perhaps, in my early twenties (the last time I was there), I was looking for something like bittersweet confirmation of my oh-so-earnest impressions of how-the-world-really-is.  It was done with more than a little melancholic self-regard (apparently I haven’t changed that much).

Yeah, I can handle it.  I only lost $200 and we got to see Jon Bon Jovi playing craps as a crowd gathered (leather-jacket, surprisingly big head).

Glitzy:

No, dear reader, I haven’t suddenly joined the barely organized, deeply personal hatred of a man who thwarts political activism and idealism in crude, populist fashion.

I can’t really say I support him all that much either (although I think a lot of the right people are pissed-off).

For the sake of our Republic, I hope Trump’s a decent steward, because I suspect the forces driving deep institutional dysfunction and mistrust are probably still growing, and maintaining our freedoms will be difficult.  It could get quite a bit worse before anything gets better (maybe pretty bad, I’m afraid).

Sorry to not just focus on serious questions and policy, and to blather and link on a blog, but I’ve got a life and a job.  Writing for money seems…compromising, and my writing isn’t all that great, and my insights are nearly always second-hand, anyways.

I’m thankful when a few dozen people read what I’ve bothered to think and write down.

Really, thank you:

From ‘Atlantic City Waiter’ by Countee Cullen

Just one stanza might do, to show there are many eyes you see, that may also see you:

‘For him to be humble who is proud
Needs colder artifice;
Though half his pride is disavowed,
In vain the sacrifice.’

As previously posted, and probably relevant enough to post here: Bowling Alone and Charles Murray:

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***A reader passed along this bit of news: ‘Black Trump supporter beats white anti-Trump protester…’

A new kind of populism?

Charles Murray argues that controlling the data for just for whites in America, a gap has opened up between working-class ‘Fishtown’ and professional-class ‘Belmont.’ Fishtowners have increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, more isolation from churches, civic organizations and the kinds of voluntary associations that Murray suggests can make a life more fulfilling, regardless of income beyond certain basic needs. Fishtowners have higher incidences of drug and alcohol use and intermittent work.

Belmonters, on the other hand, are mostly college-educated and beyond, still tend to court, marry, engage in family planning and tend to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Folks in Belmont are still living more moderate personal lives and working to stay ahead in the changing economy through academia, the professions, government, tech, business and global business.

Being a social scientist with a more limited government/small ‘c’ conservative/libertarian worldview, Murray likely sees a smaller role for government and limited ways in which some people acting through government can actually solve problems in other people’s lives. As a contrarian social scientist in a small minority, then, he disagrees with many basic assumptions often found amongst a majority of social scientists.

Murray thus advocates for people in ‘Belmont’ to increasingly preach what they practice, to look outside the bubble of their daily lives and wealthier enclaves, and perhaps reconstitute the kinds of family and civic associations, moral virtues and opportunities for independence and success he’d like to see more broadly.

What this would look like in practice, exactly, is unclear.

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Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Murray about what much of what the data highlights: Working-class whites are behaving more like working-class non-whites, and college-educated non-whites are behaving more like college-educated whites.

Putnam also focuses more on economic factors, the decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of working-class jobs that has without question affected large parts of America and small-town life. Globalization has opened American firms to global competition, global capital markets and mobile labor. Whatever your thoughts on race, Putnam creates some daylight between the data and strictly race based interpretations (often aligned with ideology, especially in academia nowadays) and focuses more on ‘class’ in a way slightly differently than does Murray.

An interesting discussion, in which the empirical research of social science can highlight important differences in political philosophy and try and transcend the inevitable political and ideological battles of the day.

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