Unlike many readers of Coming Apart, you don’t have to convince me that I live in a Bubble. I’ve known it for decades. In fact, I think my 3-out-of-20 score on the “How Thick Is Your Bubble?” quiz greatly overstates my integration into American society. I live in a Bubble Within a Bubble.
That’s Bryan Caplan.
Unlike most American elites, I don’t feel the least bit bad about living in a Bubble. I share none of their egalitarian or nationalist scruples. Indeed, I’ve wanted to live in a Bubble for as long as I can remember. Since childhood, I’ve struggled to psychologically and socially wall myself off from “my” society. At 40, I can fairly say, “Mission accomplished.”
Why put so much distance between myself and the outside world? Because despite my legendary optimism, I find my society unacceptable. It is dreary, insipid, ugly, boring, wrong, and wicked. Trying to reform it is largely futile; as the Smiths tell us, “The world won’t listen.” Instead, I pursue the strategy that actually works: Making my small corner of the world beautiful in my eyes. If you ever meet my children or see my office, you’ll know what I mean.
One aspect of the Charles Murray debate that I don’t see discussed is the increasing density of subgroups as a potential driver of social phenomena. Bubbles are getting more numerous and more esoteric. Inevitable, I say, social engineering be damned.
Of course, I find the paragraphs above appealing. No doubt Bryan’s a better Libertarian Economics PhD than he would be on his own.*
But what about the bubbles of thieves, terrorists, drug dealers and hackers (bad sense) out there? What grows in those bubbles can break out and ruin your day.
*Addendum: Paul Graham Network(s) function like this: engaged enough to solve problems, but insular enough to supercharge the network effects of smart guys in a room.