From my perusal of a few different pieces today all relating to lower standards of living:
First, it’s Kay Hymowitz’s “Where Have the Good Men Gone?“, arguing that women are leaving men in the dust in standard of living, income, and aspiration. Whereas guys are content to live in relative squalor (ala Animal House), play video games and watch porn, women are accumulating education, job experience, and housewares. Her blame lies somewhat vaguely on the feminist revolution, alluded to throughout the piece. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Hymowitz places most of the blame on men for their supposedly embarrassing, boorish current state (with the article’s graphics doing little to contradict this). Blogger Whiskey, via InMaleFide, forces symmetry on the Hymowitz piece by suggesting female degradation is to blame as well, with modern women preferring sexy, entertaining men of often little net value (after all, women make their own money) to the more stable, income-generating bores that stay in on Friday night. On this reading, the Hymowitz lament could reflect the bias of upwardly mobile career women that are in fact fairly boring themselves.
(My own experience tells me that it’s men who are married or in long-term relationships, and with full-time work, that routinely play Xbox, watch crude big-budget comedies and neglect to do the dishes. Single guys have to go out and mix it up, which means avoiding video game talk and references to Adam Sandler – in order to impress relatively cultured women you see – and doing your own dishes.)
Hymowitz’s verdict on why men live in what she calls “pig heaven”: Immaturity.
Second, Tyler Cowen’s explanation for why men live with less? It’s due to the slowdown in economic growth, combined with higher housing prices, culminating in his “Great Stagnation” thesis. Hymowitz compares the chic bachelor pad ideal of the Playboy persona of the mid 20th century, with its art adorned walls and sleek Hi-Fi stereo, to the beer can strewn domicile of many an actual bachelor, and suggests the latter aim low because they are low achievers. Cowen on the other hand submits that these kidults can’t afford the early Hefner because their wages have been stagnating, not (necessarily) because they are reverting to dullardry.
Cowen’s verdcit: It’s the economy, stupid.
Third is David Brooks, channeling Ronald Inglehart’s shifting Western values thesis. Contra Hymowitz and Cowen, Brooks believes the reason why young men prefer to live in humble dwellings with little else but Netflix, Xbox and food/drink to keep them occupied is that their values have changed. Whereas previous generations aimed to accumulate, this generation wants to socialize with minimal decorum and pretense (a nearly free activity), travel (couch surf), and when alone entertain themselves with the world that is available through their computer screen, something earlier generations probably would have taken advantage of too had it been available. Much of this generation’s competitive spirit, when it bothers to maintain it at all, has in essence gone virtual, and competition increasingly relegated to status in psychic or associative terms rather than the breadth of property. The sports car and personal gym has been replaced by a used scooter and a membership to a rock-climbing gym, the expensive art with an obscure art history book discovered at a thrift store.
Brooks’ verdict: We’ve become hippies.
I know my dependent variable here is forced, when it’s only Hymowitz explicitly referring to young men and their standard of living. But so be it. I haven’t blogged in a while and needed a quasi-thesis.