The Boring Decadence of Modern Society | Ross Douthat on The Art of Manliness with Brett McKay

Check out the Art of Manliness Episode Page and Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Every society goes through phases and experiences decadent periods
    • “Any rich society is going to have decadent phases and periods where it gets stuck and can’t figure out how to advance” Ross Douthat
  • “Once a society is really successful, it runs out of enemies to challenge it, it runs out of fears to motivate it, and it gets older” Ross Douthat
    • “Being rich and old is a good recipe for decadence”
  • Technological stagnation in the US:
    • For the past few decades, technology has mostly focused on making things more convenient (think communication, entertainment, leisure, etc.)
      • “You haven’t had the same kind of changes in other areas of the economy” – Ross Douthat
  • The good news is that it’s not too late to turn things around:
    • “Once we come out of this agony there will be an opportunity to shift things in our politics, shift things in our economy, to have a little more growth and dynamism” Ross Douthat

Intro

  • Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) is an American conservative political analyst, blogger and author and New York Times columnist 
  • Host: Brett McKay (@brettmckay)

Books Mentioned

Decadent Societies

  • What does Ross discuss in his new book: The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success?
    • He argues that once a society reaches a certain level of success, its growth rate slows down, people start to think less about the future, and people begin to get bored
      • Ross has been working on his book since 2012
  • Every society goes through phases and experiences decadent periods
    • The Roman Western empire was decadent for about 400 years before it fell apart
    • The Ottman empire lasted about 150 years
      • “Any rich society is going to have decadent phases and periods where it gets stuck and can’t figure out how to advance” Ross Douthat
  • After a while, people start to run out of ideas–look at the film industry, they’re making more remakes or sequels than original movies
  • “Once a society is really successful, it runs out of enemies to challenge it, it runs out of fears to motivate it, and it gets older” Ross Douthat
    • “Being rich and old is a good recipe for decadence”
      • Fewer new companies are opening up in the US
  • Many people thought the US would come out of its decadent period after the 2008 financial crisis, but almost no changes were made

Different Types of Stagnation 

  • Economic stagnation in the US:
    • There’s a deceleration in growth over the past decades: 4-5% of growth has been incredibly rare
      • “1.5 to 2.5% growth is the best we’re going to get” – Ross Douthat
        • This is not the end of growth, but it’s growing at a very slow pace
    • The US government is running an immense peacetime deficit
    • Healthcare, real estate, and college tuition have all become more expensive
  • Technological stagnation in the US:
    • For the past few decades, technology has mostly focused on making things more convenient (think communication, entertainment, leisure, etc.)
      • “You haven’t had the same kind of changes in other areas of the economy” – Ross Douthat
        • “The growth we’ve had has been just very monodimensional, very, very, tech heavy” 
          • Silicon Valley is basically dominated by 5 companies and “entrepreneurs compete to get bought up by these bigger companies”
    • Energy costs haven’t been revolutionized
    • Transportation hasn’t been transformed–the self-driving car keeps getting pushed further into the future
    • Health and life expectancy hasn’t changed by much
      • Theranos failed to disrupt the healthcare space
  • Political stagnation in the US:
    • The US has a 200-year old Constitutional structure and a 100-year old welfare state
    • The bi-partisan polarization makes the system less trustworthy and more dysfunctional
    • Policies mostly only get passed during emergency situations

Society Is Currently Stuck

  • Music and fashion haven’t changed much since the 1990s
    • “It is a sign of a certain stuckness and repetition” – Ross Douthat
  • Most families can no longer afford to have only one parent working so since both parents have to work, there are fewer people involved in their community
    • “There isn’t time or space for community building…all of that goes away in a two earner economy” – Ross Douthat
  • The current US fertility rates are below replacement, the same is happening in Europe 
    • South Korea replacement rates are down to 1.0–“They’re literally having half as many kids as they would need to maintain their current population” – Ross Douthat
      • Education, healthcare, housing costs have all gone up, making it more difficult to afford starting a family
    • Americans are also having less sex now then they did decades ago while porn usage is on the rise
  • The good news is that it’s not too late to turn things around:
    • “Once we come out of this agony there will be an opportunity to shift things in our politics, shift things in our economy, to have a little more growth and dynamism” Ross Douthat
      • Do what you can to make society better: clean up your neighborhood, vote for politicians that will make your country better, etc.
Art of Manliness : , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 12,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks