When you observe shootings; divorce; drug use; low savings rates; diminished work ethic; an increased focus on recreational pursuits; few or no offspring; disrespect within the family; personal mutilation; skimpy clothing; loud-mouthed arrogance; foul-mouthed internet culture; youtube skate-and-crash motifs; non-musical music; and diminished desire and ability to read, study and learn; you may think, why now? Why all at once? Do these things somehow relate to each other? How can they? How can a shooting at a concert be related to the fact that millions of homes are affected by divorce or contain mongrel children from more than one father? (By the way, the latest shooter was twice divorced, grew up without his father, and lived with a divorced woman.) How can high credit card debt be related to the fact that many demanding people show up to job interviews in shorts and flip flops with designs etched into their scalps and decorative hardware protruding from their faces?
It is the boom period of a social cycle. The social cycle moves roughly in parallel with the business cycle. We now have the biggest bubble in history poised for the biggest crash; a bubble of government—including all the areas touched by its tentacles—fueled by unprecedented central bank credit expansion. This dark symbiotic relationship between the state and banking results in a state-backed social foray into previously non-viable lifestyles. It occurs in the same way that unnatural credit expansion causes entrepreneurs to embark on unsustainable business expansion. The same artificial credit fuel that explodes the stock market and causes a housing boom causes an explosion in unmerited, unsustainable social action. The new Fed money finds its way into society via thousands of outlets like federally-backed student loans, welfare payments, research grants for schools, policing grants, environmental grants, war contractor funding, and payments to federal employees.
In the decade following the creation of the Federal Reserve, skimpy clothing and late-night partying exploded. The late 1920s saw the peak of a business cycle and a social cycle. During the subsequent crash—the period of creative destruction when society was coming to its senses—modesty in clothing and manners along with less boisterous lifestyles returned as people rearranged their priorities so they could regain their reputations, regain productive skills, help their families, and seek and retain the jobs available after the collapse of the credit-fueled insanity.
If natural interest rates prevailed and the state could not create money out of thin air, we wouldn’t have to go through these cycles. There is a saying in the investment world, “Don’t confuse a bubble with brains.” Every goofy business or social experiment seems to work during a boom time. Everyone is a genius. Let’s see, I will get a lot of tattoos, put decorative metal in my face, chug booze, and crash a motorcycle into a wall. I will film myself doing these things and become an internet sensation. The babes and paychecks will flow in like crazy. It may work like that for a while; until the dam breaks and reality re-imposes itself.
What does this have to do with culture? What is culture? To culture something means to grow something. Almost five hundred years ago, the word came to also signify the idea of cultivating, growing, building, enhancing, or refining a person’s mind, faculties, or manners. To culture is very simply the training process that parents undertake with their offspring to enhance their prospects for survival. It is the process of imparting proven skills; the process of cultivating children. Since humans are born as almost completely blank slates with little instinctive specialization, it can be a daunting task for a parent to develop a workable philosophical matrix to impart to his children. Many intelligent parents, perceiving this complexity and their own shortcomings, choose to rely on the wisdom of their ancestors who spent eons on trial-and-error developing workable philosophical constructs and physical skills. The ongoing “culturing” process is therefore often seen in the form of imprinting packages that are adopted by parents to be used with their children. The parents imprint the skills that have proven to be successful for the survival of previous generations. The parents may choose to utilize off-the-shelf imprinting packages that may or may not include a component with a religious or philosophical moniker like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Taoism or they may choose to take their chances and use an imprint of their own design (or no imprint at all) and hope for the best.
A successful cultural model may be multi-faceted covering such diverse things as language, food, religion, and how to deal with regional weather issues. Cultural models will likely have different components combined into an imprinting package that has proven successful for generations in specific regions or under specific circumstances or with people that have specific aptitudes. The items that make up these workable packages are usually absorbed by children from their parents and may include a combination of specific components like Christianity, thrift, speaking Swedish, fishing, preparing pickled herring, building a cold weather house, singing songs about the joys of winter by the hearth, etc.
The model may change and improve somewhat over the generations to adapt to different circumstances, but core principles that ensure the multi-generational survival of progeny will persist. Some of the subordinate components will also vary within the same region because of the importance of the division of labor. For example, a family of carpenters that speaks the same language and shares the same religion as their neighbors may imprint somewhat different skills on their children than a family who runs a dairy, one that operates a retail store, or one that provides accounting services.
What then is cultural erosion? Cultural erosion (in the sense I am using it) doesn’t mean specifically the demise of any component, or the entirety, of any previously-successful imprinting package. Cultural erosion, means that less effort is made by parents across society to culture children, to cultivate children, to imprint children with skills—regardless of imprinting package— that will enhance their chances of survival; skills that they can pass on to their own children to increase the chances that the family lineage will endure. The next generation becomes less “cultured.” This also has the effect of reducing or eliminating regional cultural imprinting packages—regional cultural models—to the extent that they are abandoned or infiltrated by other packages.
The current state-backed mega-boom has made other alternative lifestyles appear to be as successful as traditional lifestyles. Previous cultural models seem unnecessarily constraining. There is no longer extreme biological pressure (and resultant cultural pressure) for a woman to assure a specific man—through her behavior—that he is the father of her children; and then to stay loyal to that man.
Every lifestyle appears to work. We no longer need culture. We no longer need to imprint children with social skills and adhere to the tenets of a cultural model. People with a high time preference can impose themselves on people with a low time preference since the state will bail out everyone—especially those with short time horizons. Cultural constraints against bathroom humor seem antiquated since the trappings of promiscuity are no longer taboo under the “everything works” state model. Sarcasm replaces sincerity. Why make your yea be yea and your nay be nay when you can get a bigger laugh by denigrating your neighbor with innuendo? The proven cultural imprints seem to be excess baggage. They are in the way. Why bother.
During a boom, every weird lifestyle experiment, no longer how unsustainable over the long run, appears to work in the moment. The skills of previous cultural models are lost. Many children, potential future parents themselves, grow up without ever being exposed to the imprints of a proven cultural model. The knowledge of how to “culture” future children erodes and dies when statism expands.
A clamor for workable lifestyle skills will return when this biggest of all bubbles pops. The ones who have the best chance of making it through and preserving their parents’ lineage are the ones whose parents loved them enough to diligently—in the face of the deafening contrarian voices invading the cultural models—imprint proven thought and skill patterns on their children.
Technology and resource availability change and some minor aspects of the imprinting packages adapt correspondingly. But, there are basic imprints that endure. What are the fundamental tenets of the most successful cultural imprints around the world? The encouragement of voluntarism as opposed to predation in children; the elevation of the family; the recognition that fathers desire to support and train their own children; and a corresponding awareness that the mother’s behavior is key to gaining the support of the father by assuring him that her children are his children. These simple truths are the building blocks of most long-standing cultural models. When these basics are not passed on, predation and violence emerge and prevail in future generations. Hence, statism with its promise of effortless stolen prosperity for everyone leads to cultural erosion which leads to predation which equates to violence. It is no surprise that there is an upsurge of violence owing to destructive distortions in society as people abandon proven models and wander back and forth between state-sponsored social experiments with divorce, drugs, warfare, coerced property transfer, and public school not knowing what is workable and what is a state-sponsored fad that will ultimately impoverish their offspring and be a dead-end for their lineage.