Kansas and the Vanishing Gap

In my last essay, The Vanishing Consumption Gap, I presented several lines of evidence leading to the conclusion that the consumption disparity between rich and poor in the U.S. is drastically less than the income disparity, and seems to be decreasing even as income disparity rises. This continues a historical trend, and there are causal reasons (ephemeralization and the efficiency-seeking effects of markets) to believe it’s happening everywhere on earth.

I concluded the essay by observing that the vanishing consumption gap has political consequences. Among other things (as I hinted in a comment on Oh, those bitter clingers!) it explains what’s the matter with Kansas.

Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter With Kansas? bears the standard for a common complaint by left-wing redistributionists. “Why”, Frank asks, “do middle and lower-income Americans keep voting for Republicans when Democrats better serve their economic interests? Why do they let ‘values’ issues trump pocketbook issues?”

In fact, only a little study of public-choice economics is required to show with near certainty that the major premise of Frank’s question is wrong — that more redistributionism would not wind up serving the economic interests of anyone outside the political class itself. But let’s agree for this discussion to ignore everything we know about about rent-seeking and capture effects and address Frank’s question in terms of his own limiting assumptions.

Redistributionists like Frank reason and argue as though (a) Republicans represent the interests of the top income quintile only, (b) Kansans are all lowest-quintile, and (c) they are therefore looking from the bottom up at the 15:1 disparity in quality of life that income statistics suggests. Under those assumptions, Frank’s question would indeed be quite difficult to answer.

I think Frank’s assumption (a) is false; it takes very little research to show that the Democratic Party is actually more reliant on rich donors (notably from the entertainment industry and tort lawyers) than the Republicans are. But I’ll let him keep this premise, too, because I don’t need it to refute his model. Moving on…

Premise (b): Bureau of the Census statistics on states ranked by median income put Kansas squarely in the middle quintile. This suggests that the raw income disparity between the average Kansans and Frank’s hypothetical bloated Republican plutocrats is about half the extreme case, maybe 7:1. Remember, when we get to consumption spreads, that Kansas vs. the hypothetical fat cats only captures the difference between the top and the middle of the distribution, not the top and bottom.

Premise (c) is where things get interesting. I think the real answer to Frank’s question, in his own terms, is that he’s looking at income disparity when he should be looking at consumption disparity. This leads him to grossly overestimate the degree of economic envy that should reasonably be expected to motivate Kansans.

In my last essay I reported that after adjusting for household size, individual consumption disparity between quintiles 1 and 5 is about 2.1:1, an approximately 6:1 compression relative to income disparity. To model Frank’s case, we only have to make two assumptions; (1) consumption, like income, obeys a Gaussian distribution, and (2) the deviation of that distribution is about the same. Both seem easily defensible.

Under these assumptions, the consumption gap between the average Kansan and the average top-quintile Republican drops to…1.05:1. And that would explain a lot. Kansans don’t behave politically like they’re motivated by economic envy because, in fact, they aren’t. They don’t have to be; their actual consumption volume is so close to that of the “wealthy” that the difference might be lost in statistical noise.

Because the upper limit of 2.1:1 on individual consumption spread is so small, this conclusion is not very sensitive to the way you interpolate the particular case of Kansas. And it matches our eyeball evidence. OK, WalMart may seem rather tacky and depressing to an upper-middle-class Ivy League urbanite like Barack Obama or myself, but after they’re out of the store neither of us would have an easy time telling WalMart clothes from the stuff we might buy at Nordstrom’s. And so on. American society looks, dresses and eats in its egalitarian way because, across the 80% represented by the three middle quintiles and a half each of the top and bottom ones, consumption differences are the next thing to nonexistent.

And, really, where’s the surprise here? If consumption weren’t pretty near flat across the SES scale, American society would have to look far more stratified than it does. The rich might be able to pass by underspending, but the poor wouldn’t have the symmetrical option. They’d look, dress, and eat enough differently from the rest of us to stand out a mile. That remained generally true as recently as World War II, and in some of the most rural and backwards areas of Appalachia it continued to be true until the 1970s. But those days are gone, and good riddance.

This leaves redistributionists like Thomas Frank in a hole. It would leave them in a worse one if they recognized that most of todays’s lifetime poor are stuck in a poverty culture created by previous rounds of redistributionism, but they’re blind to that. Never mind; even in terms of the facts they allow themselves to see, they have a problem.

The problem is this: how do you generate mass support for more redistributionist policies when economic envy no longer motivates voters? That is the question What’s the Matter With Kansas? is really asking, underneath.

The answer is, basically, that you can’t. Kansans have jumped up a level on the Maslovian hierarchy; freed of the necessity to vote their pocketbook interests, they choose sides in culture wars instead. When this happens, Thomas Frank’s political allies almost always lose, for reasons I discussed directly in Oh, those bitter clingers!.

Historically this is is not unlike the problem the Left faced after World War II, when it became apparent that Marx’s industrial proletariat, far from being “immiserized”, had actually disappeared rather cheerfully into the petty bourgeoisie. They didn’t cope so well then, either; in retrospect, the money and organizational armature secretly provided by Stalin’s Soviet Union is probably the only thing that kept the socialist Left any more relevant than the Free Silver movement or the Henry Georgists.

Today, the first-level response by America’s would-be socialists is to heatedly deny that the consumption gap is in fact vanishing. That is, to construct a rhetorical fantasy world in which domestic poverty and inequality remain Huge, Crushing Problems That Must Be Dealt With and their preferred solutions are still relevant. Sadly for them, this doesn’t work; Americans signaled that they’d stopped buying it in the 1990s when they voted for the effective abolition of Federal welfare and against Hillary Clinton’s health-care takeover. And Kansas keeps right on voting Republican.

The second-level response seems to be to invest heavily in disaster scenarios. “Nice late capitalism you’ve got there,” goes this line “…be a shame if something happened to it.” Like a peak oil collapse, or global warming. Nature isn’t cooperating, though; market incentives are improving solar-energy and synthetic-fuel technology right on schedule, and global average temperature is dropping like a brick.

As Kansas goes, so goes the U.S. And as the U.S, the world. The forces tending to narrow the consumption gap are broad, deep, and no respecters of national borders. It’s hard to see how they could be even slowed down by anything shy of a major war or a killer pandemic. And the political consequences (voters jumping up a level on the Maslovian hierarchy to non-economic concerns) are likely to be similar everywhere. The Left seems in for a rough time and dwindling influence, unless they get the slate-wiping disaster they seem to crave so keenly these days.

Not all of the consequences of the vanishing gap will be so benign. One of the games humans play when they’re not worried about food and shelter is “hate the other”. Yugoslavia’s welter of tribal animosities didn’t blow up until after Communism fell and they jumped up a Maslovian level. Islamofascist terrorism is a movement of millionaires and the tiny Arab middle class, not the subsistence-level poor. In general I think we might see quite a lot of uncorking of old resentments, and not a few invented new ones.

Still, the general trends accompanying the flattening of consumption have certainly been positive up to now. Lots of people get decent food and clothes and houses and even toys like games consoles. It may not be quite true that democracies never war on each other, but there may well be a threshold consumption spread below which they never do.

But what about the further future?

One of my commenters has proposed that a society with perfectly (or near-perfectly) flat consumption would be one that wouldn’t care about capitalism versus socialism, and approximated the “gift culture” I described in Homesteading the Noosphere. I doubt it.

I agree that in that future almost nobody will care about capitalism versus socialism, and it will be for the same reason nobody cares about Henry Georgism or the Free Silver movement now. Deprived of poverty and inequality as issues, socialism will be moribund; the ugly authoritarian impulses that drive it will have to find other forms of rationalization.

Capitalism, on the other hand will not be dead. The reason is that material things aren’t like software. The gift culture is a superb adaptation for producing software because the limiting factor of production is human attention and the marginal cost per unit of goods is zero. Unfortunately, neither of these things, is true of goods that consist even partly of atoms. There are inescapable costs to shoving atoms around, and we will need capital to meet those costs and markets to clear them.

As usual, utopia is not an option. But a much wealthier and happier human species is. In fact, it seems almost inevitable.

28 thoughts on “Kansas and the Vanishing Gap

  1. I’m unconvinced by the trumpeted libertarian notion that there is some vast army of paper-pushers standing to take a cut from increases in welfare. I mean, social workers have master’s degrees and they earn less than 40,000 annually.

  2. The gift culture is a superb adaptation for producing software because the limiting factor of production is human attention and the marginal cost per unit of goods is zero. Unfortunately, neither of these things, is true of goods that consist even partly of atoms. There are inescapable costs to shoving atoms around, and we will need capital to meet those costs and markets to clear them.

    Wanna bet? I know guys working on nano-fabs who say say otherwise.

  3. >I’m unconvinced by the trumpeted libertarian notion that there is some vast army of paper-pushers standing to take a cut from increases in welfare.

    Are you? Tell me, then, what tends to happen to a bureaucrat’s compensation when the welfare department he runs expands to handle a bigger caseload?

  4. >Wanna bet? I know guys working on nano-fabs who say say otherwise.

    Sorry, I don’t believe them. Look, I’m a nanotech fan too; Eric Drexler is a friend. But the atoms gotta come from somewhere, and there’s an energy cost associated with making and breaking molecular bonds. Those inputs aren’t free.

    Even supposing they were, human service won’t be.

  5. > Even supposing they were, human service won’t be.

    Human service isn’t free for software either. I don’t see how this point harms the analogy.

  6. >Human service isn’t free for software either. I don’t see how this point harms the analogy.

    I didn’t explain that well enough. You’re right; human service isn’t free for software either, but it looks free because hackers are willing to donate their time for ego rewards or as a form of signaling behavior.

    Now try to find someone who will fix your plumbing for those reasons. Pardon me if I don’t wait up.

  7. Jumping up a Maslovian level occasionally has a few negative consequences. The most notable is that Kansans are now free to concern themselves with whom their neighbors are having sex with.

  8. My question after reading these last two essays concerns the implications of difference between income and spending. If the rich are earning more and spending less their savings grow faster. If the poor are earning less but spending more their savings grow slower, with negative savings growth possible through consumer credit.

    This raises several questions I don’t know enough to answer.

    Are the rich in some sense investing in the poor through consumer debt? What are the implications of that? What happens to the differences in the consumption gap in a depression? If everyone with negative savings declares bankruptcy those with positive savings lose as well. What options are available to keep that from happening? How motivated would both the positive and negative savers be to keep that from happening?

  9. >>Wanna bet? I know guys working on nano-fabs who say say otherwise.

    >Sorry, I don’t believe them. Look, I’m a nanotech fan too; Eric Drexler is a friend. But the atoms gotta come from somewhere, and >there’s an energy cost associated with making and breaking molecular bonds. Those inputs aren’t free.

    >Even supposing they were, human service won’t be.

    Eric, you are correct that there will be a cost – but it will get substantially smaller.

    Several anecdotal items.

    My sister is a PhD bio researcher. In the 80s, using stone knives and bear skins, she perfected techniques for extracting and coding fish and insect DNA. 20 years later, those ground breaking techniques that she invented are not even considered. Computerized analyzers can do more work in 10 minutes than she could in a year. Once the software and hardware was developed, anyone with a high school bio education (or very smart) can run them and interpret the results. The equipment is not cheap (5K – 50K depending on various factors), but one machine and one technician costs less than her college education did.

    The smart people, or the determined, dedicated, driven people, will invent new things and get paid (in coin or praise) for it, because they must. The rest of us will use it without thinking about it or even having a clue about it.

    There will always be things that are expensive, that only the wealthy can afford, but what those items are will change – and the rate of change is accelerating.

    I know you know this. While I do not believe in a technological rapture (in 2041 we will all be rejuvenated to 25 years old and in 2073, we will all become incorporeal beings of light who understand the Metaverse), I think we will be having these arguments in another 100 years about what ever is the next horizon.

  10. Income is not normally distributed. If it was, the mean and median would be very close. From Wikipedia,

    “Overall, the mean household income in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau 2004 Economic Survey, was $60,528, or $17,210 (39.73%) higher than the median household income.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States

    In general, variables that are bounded by one side cannot be normally distributed. There is no one whose income is 60k – $100 Mil to balance the people making $100 Mil + 60k.

  11. >Income is not normally distributed.

    Thanks for the correction. Are you enough of a statistician to propose and justify a correction to my estimate? If so, I’ll publish it in an update.

    Hmmm…according to this page, Kansas is dead average in per-capita income. So despite the funky shape of the distribution, my model is probably still good.

    Comment, refutation, and improvements welcomed, of course.

  12. A couple of economic policies that are perennial Democrat favorites might win over Kansans. There are undoubtedly some manual laborers hurt by globalization and illegal immigration who would find anti-trade rhetoric appealing.

    The big issue this campaign is, of course, the occupation. That would be another potential Democratic inroad.

  13. >I’m unconvinced by the trumpeted libertarian notion that there is some vast army of paper-pushers standing to take a cut from increases in welfare. I mean, social workers have master’s degrees and they earn less than 40,000 annually.

    Social workers may be motivated more by power and the ability to control people rather than money. Haven’t you read Foucault? ;-)

  14. Dan in MD, that you’re describing is called a “force multiplier” a.k.a. productivity enhancement, which is part of what Eric was addressing in the first post of this chain. The force multiplyer effect is extremely well understood; it’s also well understood where it breaks down.

    A (slightly dramatic) example:

    Currently, given anything better than 6 to 1 odds against a third generation or earlier opponent (American forces are currently fourth generation warfighters; aka post industrial or information warfighters. Iraqis are third generation, industrial warfighters. Afghanis are second generation pre-industrial warfighters); an American combat units advantages in morale, training, equipment, combat support, logistics, and what used to be called C2 (command and control), and is now often referred to as C4i (command, control, communications, computing and intelligence); allows commanders to remain confident in overall mission success.

    Those are all force multipliers; i.e. factors that increase the effective productivity of an individual worker; or in this case warfighter.

    Force multipliers have always existed, and always will. The English experienced an effective 5 to 1 force multiplier at Crecy, between the muddy terrain and the Longbow. The Spartans had an effective 25 to 1 force multiplier at thermopylae (3300 men including all the allied forces of Greece held off at least 80,000) because of the terrain.

    The problem lies in where those factors don’t work properly, are countered by the enemy (either by possessing similar factors themselves, or by using countermeasures), or are simply ineffective; as happened in Somalia, or as might happen in human wave attacks in bad weather (the north Korean scenario)… or as happened at Thermopylae when the persians found a way around the hot gates.

    Without force multipliers, the standard Clauswitzian maxim of needing a 2:1 advantage to have justified confidence, and a 3:1 advantage to be assured of victory still applies (3:1/6:1 if facing well trained troops in prepared defensive positions).

    Also note, that force multipliers are far less effective on an individual warfighter basis; because not all of them apply to the challenge of one man fighting another, and because size is an effective multiplier on it’s own (presuming a units C4i and logistics are adequate).

    So, while a brigade of American troops in the open field, and with the initiative, may be as effective as six brigades of Iraqis; you still wouldn’t want to enter a standup fight on those odds unless you absolutely had to; and any individual American warfighter may only be as effective as any three, two, or even one Iraqi… or under certain circumstances less than one.

    Now, as I said, this is a very dramatic example, with life and death stakes; but the principle of force multipliers also applies to industrial efforts.

    Your sister had the multiplier of being extremely intelligent and innovative, and did work that 50 less educated, intelligent, and innovative people could not do at the time. Today, a single one of those less educated, intelligent, and innovative people can do 50 times what she was able to do then…

    …when those multipliers are in effect. Your sister cannot now do 50 times what the intern can do; unless she can innovate again to give herself a new force multiplier. Therefore her labor efforts have been equalized with those of a lower value worker, in this instance.

    Her force multiplier is still her intelligent, educated, and innovative brain however. When she can apply that, she will be many times more effective than someone without that advantage.

    Now, when it comes to software, we all know that some engineers are 50 to 1 force multipliers, and some actually negate others; but that over time as more effective techniques are developed, the lowest performers still become more productive, along with the highest performers… and that in fact the gap tends to narrow, because the lower performers are able to take advantage of techniques that higher performers were using previously; while the higher performers are less likely to be able to find further optimizations without major paradigm shifts (in this case the phrase is actually appropriate).

    We can surmise that so long as no physical limitation is put on intellectual output these same conditions will continue to apply. Everyone becomes more productive over time, but the less productive become more productive, faster than those who are most productive, because optimization of the most productive is more difficult; except when breakthroughs are made, when the cycle begins all over again.

    The world of physical production is far more constrained.

    Another example:

    Although design and construction techniques have made housebuilding far faster than it was 20 years ago (force multipliers like the nailgun, construction adhesives, panelized construction, etc…), efficiencies in production technology will never allow a house to be constructed of 40% less wooden 2x4s. We would need to shift to a new material, AND new designs to see that kind of efficiency; and even then the cost of adoption would be far higher until the replacement technologies became the dominant format within the distribution channel.

    Quite simply, innovation without physical constraint proceeds geometrically (or faster), while innovation with physical constraint proceeds linearly or slower, with occasional leaps forward.

    What you are speaking of when you say you think that we are unconstrained, or less constrained than Eric has stated, is that unconstrained intellectual development will trivialize constrained physical development.

    In some areas, this has been the case… as Moores law has so dramatically proven for example; but in others it has not, and will not, without a massive paradigm shift.

    The field of CPU manufacturing has been able to apply the force multiplier of unconstrained intellectual development; to compensate for the constrained physical development of fabrication processes, to the point of minimizing those constraints. Housebuilding on the other hand has not been able to make such compensations.

    This is why CPUs are 1000 times faster and 90% cheaper than they were 20 years ago; but houses only cost 20% less per square foot to build (after accounting for inflation and normalizing for external factors on both sides).

    Every major science and engineering problem in the world falls under these same parameters.

    Now, if we can change fundamental science, to the point of matter reorganization (synthesis of arbitrary matter from arbitrary matter with reasonable energy inputs) then I’ll say the physical constraints won’t matter…

    …but we don’t have any idea of how to do that, or if it is even possible.

    …It’s a fundamental science problem, not an engineering problem. Every genius in the world could work on it 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and get no result, until and unless that fundamental breakthrough is made.

    That is a physical constraint that cannot be overcome by intellectual effort; and there are many of them out there.

    It’s why we don’t have fusion power, or direct conversion solar, or 1000mpg cars, or cars that run on water etc… etc… etc…

    Once a fundamental science breakthrough IS made though, that’s when the unconstrained intellectual development of the engineers takes over, and the cycle begins again.

  15. Oh and I should note before somebody gets stroppy that we’re not really sure if fusion power is a science problem or an engineering problem right now. As of right now we face three major problems with fusion:

    1. We can’t figure out how to produce a stable, self sustaining reaction at a useful scale and still control the reaction properly.
    2. We can’t figure out how to get more energy out than we put in and still control the reaction properly (we know how to do it uncontrolled. It’s called a bomb)
    3. We can’t figure out how to extract and use a useful percentage of the energy we would produce, if we could resolve the other two problems

    Right now, we’re not really sure whether there is a fundamental problem we haven’t solved yet… or even discovered yet… or whether all of these issues can be resolved with engineering.

  16. Quoth Chris:

    “It’s a fundamental science problem, not an engineering problem. Every genius in the world could work on it 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and get no result, until and unless that fundamental breakthrough is made.”

    People not getting this distinction is the source of much frustration for engineers when people talk about things like alternative energy, also. Hopefully without cracking that particular can of worms too wide.. when someone claims that solar, biomass, or whatever other form of energy can be scaled up to meet our national energy needs, if only we (and by that they generally mean the taxpayers by way of the government) would spend research dollars on it; that person has missed this point.

    Not every problem can be solved faster by throwing more money, brainpower, or explosives at it.

  17. If nine women get pregnant, at the end of nine months you’ll have nine babies, which is obviously an average of one per month. But no matter how many women you put on the job, you can’t produce one actual baby in one actual month.

    Most of the “if we just throw enough research dollars at the problem, we could replace petroleum tomorrow” crowd don’t seem to understand this. Money for research is certainly a _necessary_ condition for scientific progress, but it is just as certainly not a _sufficient_ one. And typically we have to follow a lot of blind alleys (and thus pour a lot of money down a lot of dry holes) before we find one that pays off. The total cost of development thus includes money spent on all the stuff that turned out not to work after all…but until we spend it, we have no way of knowing what will work and what won’t. The right answer is seldom clear except in retrospect.

  18. The cost of distributing software is not quite zero (though the marginal cost may be); bandwidth and server space cost something, but it’s so small that for the vast majority of software projects the developer is quite willing to pay for it himself or can easily find someone to donate it. Given the more optimistic predictions of accelerating returns with artificial general intelligence, it’s certainly possible that the same thing could happen for some or all physical products, but it’s really beyond our ability to intelligently speculate about at this point.

  19. >Not every problem can be solved faster by throwing more money, brainpower, or explosives at it. [...] But no matter how many women you put on the job, you can’t produce one actual baby in one actual month.

    Of course you’re both right. But I think we’re going to have the nine months we need. Well, nine years. That’s my estimate for when cheap synfuel from algae and other sources reaches crossover point. Um, and I’ve been pretty good at this kind of prognostication in the past.

  20. Economic redistribution faces a more serious problem than a lack of a consumer gap leading to consumer angst. It itself is an economics equation that places more value on wealth (and / or income) equality, believing that the masses are more productive on the margin than individuals or single legal entities.

    This begs Hayek’s point about centrally controlled economies – without the market’s ability to actually discover who the most efficient / effective producers actually are (rather than who they should be), incorrect allocations occur. Those incorrect allocations have bad consequences, not just in theory or in the future, but immediately, and viscerally. Hayek’s point about this reaction being part of the human sensory gestalt makes this reaction against centrally-controlled economies a fight / flight mechanism. In other words, people don’t over time elect officials whose programs provide the evolutionary equivalent of basting yourself with bbq and lying down in front of a sabre tooth’s cave.

    Consumer angst could be overcome with the moral arguments of the left. But those arguments haven’t worked except in small, local pockets for 50 years now – interestingly in exactly the same political size where centralized economics amount to bluster since there is no way to mandate socialist economics at the county level (for example).

  21. >Jonathan Haidt gives a more well-thought-out and scientifically backed response.

    I largely agree with Haidt’s analysis. The commentary on it by the “reality club” members is also perceptive.

    In Haidt’s terms, I’m a Millian (as he thinks liberals are) rather than a Durkheimian (as he thinks conservatives are); I strongly doubt you could find any Durkheimian libertarians. My only major reservation is that I think he somewhat overstates the extent to which those categories drive the difference between Left and Right. His model fails to account for right-wing individualism, which is kind of ironic given that he starts by quoting John Wayne.

  22. > I didn’t explain that well enough. You’re right; human service isn’t free for software either, but it looks free because hackers are willing > to donate their time for ego rewards or as a form of signaling behavior.

    > Now try to find someone who will fix your plumbing for those reasons. Pardon me if I don’t wait up.

    If all of the plumber’s other physical needs are somewhat trivially taken acre of, by dint of only requiring (science as magic levels of nanotech) energy and raw atomic input, you might see it more frequently than you’d expect. There’s got to be some guys out there that just genuinely love plumbing.

  23. We Georgists are still hanging out there, y’know. And we think the current problem is about as bad as it was in the Gilded Age.

  24. There’s got to be some guys out there that just genuinely love plumbing.

    I know some software guys who love plumbing. Tips and techniques for soldering copper pipe make for interesting lunchtime conversation.

  25. Anyone who wants to talk about the utopia of nanotech needs to read Nanotechnology without genies. The short version of the argument is that as our ability to manipulate matter on small scales increases, the capital costs of the equipment required to do so increase inversely proportional to the scale of the manipulation.

  26. I believe the Millian and Durkheimian dichotomies explain nothing of the Left-Right divide.

    There are a few people, usually very radical Libertarians, who see people as atoms (individual = indivisible = atom) floating around in space, like noble gases, occasionally bumping into each other. But this is fairly a small group, as this idea is a tad bit unrealistic. Here, soceity is hardly more than a set. This is the direct opposite of the oldschool Platonism that society is something that exists in itself and thus ought to have a shape and form.

    The Conservative approach is at the core individualistic too, this what Haidt doesn’t get. Everything comes from individuals. But here there is that added dimension that these atoms form relationships, molecules (family), and crystal-like structures. Here the relationship is taken into account too. One especially important form of these relationships are families, which connect the past to the future (society as a contract between the dead, living and unborn – Burke) (and this is where all the familiy values stuff instinctively comes from, to protect this relationship between the past and the future). Here, society is conceived as a system: atoms + relationships.

    On the Left-Liberal side of politics, the Millite approach certainly exists, especially when it comes to lifestyle, sex, and entertainment. But on the economic side a good amount of pseudo-Marxism was imported into it, which says society does not originate from individuals at all but from material productive forces and individualism is in itself part of the cultural superstructure of it. Of course these ideas got very diluted, softened up, modernized, but their legacy is recognizable. By combining the Millian and pseudo-Marxist ideas, it’s hard to tell what do they think about the fundamental existential questions (not ethical, existential) about individuals and society.

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