Yang, the Doomer Candidate

Andrew Yang 2020: The world is fucked, you’re on your own, take some money, head to higher ground

What is a “doomer?” A character archetype first fleshed out on 4chan last year, the doomer is a depressed, purposeless 20-something usually depicted smoking a cigarette and wearing a beanie. The doomer isn’t necessarily a NEET — that is, a basement-dwelling, unemployed loser “not in education, employment, or training,” as the acronym suggests. He simply doesn’t believe he, or his society, or, for that matter, the planet have much of a future. He has, to use the 4chan phrase, been “black-pilled” into nihilism and despair. The doomer, according to various meme portraits, is “at high risk for opioid addiction,” has “no hope of career advancement,” and “cares … but knows there’s nothing he can do.” He “likes the unabomber” but “still uses technology.” He is “black-pilled on climate change/peak oil,” and “genuinely believes the end of civilization is imminent.” His “true political views only come out when drunk.”

Yang is obviously not himself a doomer, or an anti-socialist; he’s running for president, after all. His sense of what the future holds is not necessarily wrong: Automation isn’t putting people out of work at the scale he frets about, but as any liberal or left economist will tell you (probably without you even needing to ask), we’ve seen vastly improved labor productivity over the last 30 years without concurrent wage increases. And whether or not we’re “ten years” too late to address climate change, I did admire the bluntness of Yang’s point in the debate: We’re now late enough in the warming process that a significant portion of any real climate change plan will need to be the mitigation of catastrophic effects, not prevention. His solution, at least to the labor-market problems we face, isn’t entirely wrongheaded: There is a version of the UBI that envisions wealth as the product of a society as a whole, to be shared among that society’s members, based on need, in order to empower them.

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