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Friday, Apr 16, 2021 - 22:37 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Yuppies And Other Tribes

This short snippet was primarily inspired by an article on citadel21.com, entitled "Why The Yuppie Elite Dismiss Bitcoin", that was pithy and fresh enough that I thought it worthy of further dissemination. It is recommended to read the original, but here goes my take: it purports to explain why a particular sociological type - the (woke) "yuppie elite" - has tended to be against Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies since their inception, despite their recognized "intelligence".

Before entering the analysis proper, the choice of "yuppie" as a group identifier might be examined. The genesis of the term appears to date from the 1980s, and the bull market through most of that decade that had seen ambitious young professional climbers flock to the cities in search of their fortunes, padded-shoulder power suits and all. However, by the time the term hit the peak of its popularity about 1990, "yuppie" had begun to take on a somewhat pejorative sheen, stemming from the financial excesses of that period, which appear set for a repeat.

However, there does not seem to be a definitive replacement label for this demographic as yet. David Brooks proposed "bourgeois bohemians", or "bobos" for the new (American cultural) upper class (or G2: High Gentry, in Michael Church's excellent three-ladder system), but it doesn't seem to have ever really taken off (not helped locally by there already being an established association); the closest popular descriptor that comes to mind would be "hipster", which however loses the element of zeal towards career success and individual achievement - it's hard to reconcile "elite" with working shifts at the pub or warehouse, which suggests that "yuppie" might be the most appropriate terminology after all.

The main distinction between today's yuppie-bobos and those from the Eighties, one gathers, is an (at least outward) affectation towards woke causes, social justice, environmental issues etc., together with a particular brand of anti-materialism; it would be crass and gauche for many of today's yuppies to splurge on, say, a Rolls-Royce (a top-end Tesla would seem to give much more cachet, among the tech set at least), but paying through the nose for "delicate squash ravioli in US$25 earthenware bowls" is fine, according to Brooks. Not that today's yuppies wouldn't be able to afford either - they're the MBAs with Goldman Sachs and McKinsey's, the FAANG project managers, the rising Ivy League/R1 academics, the many-fellowshipped doctors and white-shoe law set, who'll tweet indignantly against corporate multinationals as soon as consult for them or defend them in court.

And, as Croesus at citadel21.com notes - they are almost all united in disliking Bitcoin.

He notes that, whatever else one thinks of the yuppies, they are as a group generally pretty smart; one doesn't get where they have been in their careers, by being dumb. This observation, then, puts paid to one preliminary hypothesis: that Bitcoin and crypto support is clustered at two points along the intelligence distribution - amongst the, well, not unduly bright guys, who were just too stupid to even consider counterarguments; and the fellows at the other end, who knew how it was going to turn out from the beginning.


Hypothesis One
(Source: citadel21.com, originally from Murad on Twitter;
apologies for also reproducing the figure, but there was no better)


Now, Croesus says, maybe he (a Bitcoin supporter) is kinda smart, but he cannot claim with good justification that his (many) Bitcoin-deriding yuppie acquaintances are any less smart. As such, there has to be a better explanation. The critical factor he came up with, then, is one's trust in the system. Consider that this "trust" is largely orthogonal to intelligence, at least as measured by I.Q.: one can be smart yet distrust the (establishment) system, or smart and trust the system. Likewise, one can be not-so-smart, and either distrust or trust.

With that framework established, the theory continues by defining two kinds of support for Bitcoin (and other cryptos): Bitcoin maximalism, where the ultimate success of Bitcoin was reasoned from "...understand[ing] the game theoretic inevitability of Bitcoin's continued rise in the context of central bank money printing, the deterministic price mechanics of quadrennial supply shocks via Bitcoin's halvings and the market psychology that programmatic price appreciation precipitates, and the winner-takes-all implications of an absolutely scarce store of value asset". And then there's Bitcoin moonism, characterized by a brief glance at Bitcoin's price history, a desire to get rich quick, and some combination of stubbornness and forgetfulness in hodling one's coins through dips.

So, the explanation goes: if one is sort-of smart and distrustful of the establishment, Bitcoin maximalism makes quite a bit of sense, after doing some research. Croesus observes that Bitcoin maximalism is a lot easier to reach if one already has a bad (or perhaps, just realistic) assessment of the establishment, which may jive with many of Bitcoin's earliest and biggest supporters being "cypherpunks, anarchists, and libertarians"... and yes, TRUMP supporters. To this, it might be added that experience with real-life systems - and the myraid ways they can be broken - together with even a cursory awareness of history, can colour one's trust levels somewhat. Take proclamations by the Fed chair and other "respected" economists, that the economy is gonna go gangbusters for the next few years. Those with high trust in the system might accept their words as gospel. Those with lower trust might check what their predecessors were yapping about in 1907, 1929, 1972, 1987, 2000 and 2007, and go well, perhaps they are right - but maybe they aren't?

Trust and distrust might also be understood in terms of order/law and chaos in Moorcockian metaphysics, which has permeated into much of modern fantasy. The relation is less one's personal preference, than one's understanding of the fundamental nature of society and reality; low trust, then, recognizes the fragility and flaws of existing systems, and their continual - and likely, doomed - struggle against entropy and periodic anarchy. High trust, on the other hand, squares with an expectation of permanence - ironically a form of conservatism - that systems in motion tend to continue to exist as they are. The pinnacle of this attitude might perhaps be Fukuyama's triumphant declaration of the end of history at the end of Cold War I... which might very well have lasted but thirty-odd years.



Dogs might be man's best friend -
but perhaps they would be right not to trust too deeply



Returning to the "yuppie elite" profile of New York Times and CNN believers (fine, at least leaners). They combine relatively high intelligence with high trust in the system, and really, why not? "The system" has been good to them. Or, as Croesus puts it, "To succeed in the educated, professional class, you have to be smart. But it's also crucial that you know how to fit in, be a good team player, navigate industry politics, be polite and likeable, and above all be a good foot soldier willing to sacrifice for your employer". The payoff, then, is preferment within the system - from rank-and-file associate/engineer through the managerial hierarchy, and perhaps the C-suite one day; titles, honours, perks, maybe a corner office as one goes up the pyramid. A growing number of underlings on the organizational chart. Or a medal and a photoshoot with some minister or secretary of state. All very nice attractions, no doubt.

But, perhaps above all that, there is the sense of satisfaction from "leading culture" (or so the yuppies think) - per Croesus, the belief of yuppies that they are the people in the know. This naturally requires a contrast against the non-yuppie non-elite: the blue-collar, the working class, the rural and provincial, Republicans in the American context, outsiders in general. These are the people not in the know, and Bitcoin - thus far - has been for these people (at least, a subset of them). Well, we might see if changing environments might bring about adaptation. Anecdotally, a few of my yuppie-type acquaintances appear to have come round to crypto to an extent, what with various financial institutions and banks gingerly acknowledging it (but, fair disclosure, I remain sitting out for now)



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Next: Yup, More Ethnography


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