The American Collapse (of Civil Society (non-governmental institutions))

When a CEO’s pay is based on stock, why aren’t they paid with options, say, 5 years out? (Or are they?)

It seems like that would be better for the shareholders in the long run than incentivizing short-term gains.

So investorama specifically calls out those pitfalls. I’m obviously not the first person to think of this.

the incentive to keep the share price motoring upward so that options will stay in the money encourages executives to focus exclusively on the next quarter and ignore shareholders’ longer-term interests. Options can even prompt top managers to manipulate the numbers to make sure the short-term targets are met. That hardly reinforces the link between CEOs and shareholders.

I guess a counterexample is Warren Buffett. He’s been in for the long haul since what, 1965?

Side note: the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway shareholders letter was just published. I’d recommend reading them to anyone with even a passing interest in how businesses work.

They’re also written very unlike you might expect Wall Street reports to be:

Since 2011, we have owned Lubrizol, an Ohio-based company that produces and markets oil additives throughout the world. On September 26, 2019, a fire originating at a small next-door operation spread to a large French plant owned by Lubrizol.
The result was significant property damage and a major disruption in Lubrizol’s business. Even so, both the company’s property loss and business-interruption loss will be mitigated by substantial insurance recoveries that Lubrizol will receive.
But, as the late Paul Harvey was given to saying in his famed radio broadcasts, “Here’s the rest of the story.” One of the largest insurers of Lubrizol was a company owned by . . . uh, Berkshire.

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It really is a pathology. I was already there with gun violence and school shootings in America. But I guess I’m there now with coronavirus death statistics too. Because I don’t live in America, me becoming numb to the suffering isn’t going to change things one way or another.

But for those who live in America, and are already numb to the death and suffering of others… well, of course they aren’t going to wear face masks.


As soon as America decided that kids dying at a high rate in school was the price to pay for RWNJs to have their gun rights, America decided that “a high rate of people dying” is on the list of currencies we as a nation are willing and able to spend.


The myth of American freedom is worth any cost to these people. To surrender the myth of American freedom would shatter their entire understanding of what our country is built on and how it works. It would invalidate their ability to live their lives striving for an imaginary middle class, and believe that the only thing keeping anyone from wealth and prosperity is a mix of luck and skill.
For them, a few hundred thousand lives are an acceptable tradeoff. Changing their worldview is harder.

It more insidious than that, it’s the atomization of society that is the crux of liberalism that persists this mental model that individualism is the core moral tenant of society. As long as our society exists to perpetuate this, we will be unable to react and respond to societal threats such as the pandemic and climate change.

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TLDR Sri Lanka
Not a civil war in the sense of the American civil war or Syria or Yemen (short time scale).
More a continuous insurrection along the line of FARC (decades).

Right. More along the lines of the Northern Ireland “Troubles” where 50% of life goes on as normal, and 50% has the constant threat of sectarian violence or death by bombings and shootings.

I’m pretty well traveled, and I’ve had options to visit places where there was civil unrest. Like in early 2009, I was meant to visit Madagascar, but then:

And in 2014, I was planning on visiting Bangkok, but then:

And in 2016, I had quite a few trips to Turkey planned, but then:

Make no doubt about it, for outside observers and people with previous travel plans, the USA is currently in pretty much the same state.


Maybe we can undo some of the damage Facebook has done by weakening them.


Europe and Canada reinvests 50% of its economy into bettering themselves socially. The USA? Just 15%.

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America struggles to figure out how to invest in itself while making sure that investment does not benefit the lower-class and non-white people. So, if prefers to do less to none as a result.

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It’s really right at the founding of the country that this started - our entire socio-economic system was conceived of by people who specifically wanted to escape a unified society, and so they set up petty kingdoms where they wouldn’t have to be beholden to anyone else.

We’ve spent our entire existence as a country violently defending the rights of feudal landlords with the aspirational idea that one day you could become that landlord.

So, I agree with the author when they question whether or not America was ever truly a society - we were never a unified anything, just a bunch of warring fiefdoms.

I tend to agree with Hunter Thompson that there was a brief time window where we almost had it, but we choked at the last minute, hide-bound to a legacy of reckless individualism at the expense of others, taking the short-sighted gambit to try to get ahead. And so the wave broke and rolled back, and instead we culturally embraced the notion of the individual as being the most important thing in society.

So now we see where that leads - division, rampant classism, and a profound cynicism about the value of people who aren’t us.


There’s a great book about this that uses the example of public pools in the US:

“The American landscape was once graced with resplendent public swimming pools, some big enough to hold thousands of swimmers at a time,” writes Heather McGhee in her new book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” These pools were the pride of their communities, monuments to what public investment could do. But they were, in many places, whites-only. Then came the desegregation orders. The pools would need to be open to everyone. But these communities found a loophole. They could close them for everyone. Drain them. Fill them with concrete. Shutter their parks departments entirely. And so they did."

“Drained-pool politics are still with us today and shaping issues of far more consequence than pool access. Drained-pool politics — if “they” can also have it, then no one can — helps explain why America still doesn’t have a truly universal health care system, a child care system, a decent social safety net. McGhee, the former president of the think tank Demos, offers a devastating tour of American public policy, and she shows how drained-pool politics have led to less for everyone, not just their intended targets.”


Between my house and the freeway exit there is a house that has had a flag hung on a pole on the porch for maybe a year or two that I’ve been meaning to look up what its significance is. Due to a local subreddit discussion I now know that it is a stupid ‘sovereign citizen’ flag and my reaction is “because of course it is, fucking hell”. I have no reason to have to interact with the occupants at that house, but now I will consider that stretch of road extra sketchy. I was worried the flag had some kind of conspiracy connotations but I was holding out hope it was some kind of Americana decoration, but it’s one of those things that I see it while driving by and wonder what it means and then forget about it 30 seconds later.

This flag:

The department of education tracks literacy:

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies ( PIAAC) is a cyclical, large-scale study of adult cognitive skills and life experiences developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and, in the United States, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Respondents get scored 1-5, higher is better. Here’s a sample of what a level 3 question is like:

The stimulus displays an exercise equipment chart. The respondent has to use the chart to determine which equipment received the largest number of “ineffective” ratings.

The median US adult is level 2:

That’s pretty disheartening. Doesn’t bode well for the country fixing things.

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I don’t have any evidence for this thought, and maybe I’m even thinking about it from the wrong direction, but I wonder beyond simply reading comprehension what the “idea” or “concept” comprehension level is for Americans - I assume it is not great and getting worse. Or listening comprehension might even be a more easily measured skill.

That level 3 question is actually sort of an “idea” or “concept” question. You have to look at the information and not just read it, but also possess some kind of basic understanding, and an ability to interpret. Very basic, but still something.

So I think the answer to the question is: it’s really bad. If people can’t correctly answer a question that requires such a basic level of synthesis, there’s no way they can process more complex or nuanced concepts.

We’re boned.