Back in 1991, … [a reporter] described Andrew Ross, a doyen of American studies, strolling through the Modern Language Association conference … as admiring graduate students gawked and murmured, “That’s him!” That was academic stardom then. Today, we are more likely to bestow the aura and perks of stardom on speakers at “ideas” conferences like TED. …
Factual reality : humans have evolved towards larger brains. It indicates that intelligence in all its forms (eg. social intelligence) was a selection factor.
I'm less familiar with the non-anglophone world, but in England at least my understanding is that they were universal long before then. The anti-Stratfordians often complain that someone with Shakespeare's background (and inconsistent signing of his own surname) could not have written those plays, nobody objects that he shouldn't have had a surname. I remember reading something in Slate about how Jews (who were banned in England between Edward I and Cromwell). were among the last Europeans to have surnames.
Most of the world didn't start using hereditary surnames until the 18th and 19th centuries (except for nobility of course). Although (from the renaissance onward) there were exceptions such as commoner families with great wealth who needed a fixed surname for contracts and other documents.
My recollection from "A Farewell to Alms" is that by a certain point in England, surnames were universal, even among the poor. And the probate records Clark relied on included all children, not just male ones, so we can exclude the possibility that they had lots of surviving female children even if few male ones.
Most poor didn't have a surname (they were called after their birthplace, after a striking trait or after the first name of their father) and surnames that did disappear indicated no male heirs but not necessarily no female heirs.
It wasn't necessarily the case that ALL poor would fail to reproduce. Poor surnames would decline and then dissappear over generations.
If you look at the poorest neighborhoods in America, do you really find a problem with mate selection? Fewer probably marry if jobs aren't secure, which is very tough, but people who are well-off cohabitate, marry, divorce and remarry as well. I'd think the issue is with people who were raised middle class and then became lower class and have more trouble finding a partner that they had previously thought. But even in this case it doesn't mean that his or her choices are "highly restricted."
Per Greg Clark, in the past poor people simply failed to reproduce, and were replaced by the downwardly mobile descendants of the upper-middle class.
Mate selection depends on relative poverty and in poor countries many poor people are intelligent, so it's just not the same as in rich countries. I wasn't speaking about the early 80s, that's way too recent, but even if I were it doesn't matter that real wages were lower if you were less poor relative to other people. Materially speaking (though even that is debatable: if you look at ownership of land or jewelry for example) a schoolteacher in 2014 has more real income than a pharaoh, but the pharaoh was the richest man in his country and that's what counts for things like mate selection, prestige and food/shelter security.
But the question was about the "amount of fun". people have. Mate selection highly restrictive? Yet billions of poor people around the world don't seem too concerned about this. I think you are romanticizing the past. There were plenty of moderate/high pay job/s status in the early 80s when employment was at 8 to 10 percent? And real wages, including benefits, were quite a bit lower then.
The whole point of being poor is that nothing is secure: you know there's a high chance you lose your low status low paying job tomorrow and/or that you won't get assigned enough hours to pay the rent this month. You know you can't handle something expensive breaking down at a time before you expected it to. You also know your options for mate selection are highly restricted after high school. You know you have to live in a bad neighborhood, you won't get to travel. All kinds of normative societal institutions expect a level of certainty that you do not have (homeownership, a decent employee contract, savings, etc...)
In the past there were more moderate/high status jobs with moderate/high pay available for less-intelligent people. There was always high demand for labor or a fighting force. You had to be smart and have pedigree to get the true high status positions, now you need far less pedigree (especially in Europe).
Interesting article! Sometimes it is not clear if you talk about academics or intellectuals as source of innovation.
I'm old fashioned. If you're alive and have a secure shelter, steady food supply, are literate, and have a range of entertainment options available, life is pretty good. You don't have to be rich to enjoy these things.
And I haven't even approached sexual access, which favors the young much more than it does the wealthy.
The worse part about being poor in America is having to live around other poor people. From a material standpoint your life isn't that different than the wealthy. The main anxiety most middle class people have about falling below the poverty line is sending their kids to bad schools, living in dangerous neighborhoods and being part of boorish trailer park or ghetto culture.
I.e. all things to do with poor communities, not low material living standards. Sub-cultures that avoid these problems, like Orthodox Jews or Mennonites tend to be quite happy even at low income levels.