Quotulatiousness

March 16, 2017

QotD: Sex and the twentysomethings

Filed under: Health, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To be clear: The ideal female mate is young. You’re going to want three kids, and to do that you really need to get going by 25. My wife had our first in her early 30s and at the hospital she was wheeled through a door that said “Geriatric Mothers.” I thank my lucky stars we were able to defy biology and churn out three so late in life. I know you twentysomethings are convinced you don’t want kids, and I was the same way at your age, but you’re wrong. Talk to social workers who deal with the elderly. The deathbed moans from those with no kids are all about their total lack of legacy. Defying the biological imperative isn’t empowering. It’s a curse. So if you settle down with a woman over 35, you are making a huge mistake.

That being said, I’m not into women under 35. I remember having sex with young women when I was a young man and it sucked. Teenagers were the worst. It was like we were both trying to go through a doorway at the same time as we grunted, “Not there,” and apologized. My single friends often text me pictures of the twentysomethings they’re paired up with and I almost feel sorry for them. Sex lasts, what, 10 minutes? Now you have 23 hours and 50 minutes to talk to someone who says “like” every third word. The sex is terrible, too. They pump away like they’re working at a pump factory and there’s no intellect or imagination involved. It’s like playing tennis with a toddler. I want a woman who has been around the block and knows what she’s doing. I’ll spare you the details, but there are techniques you learn with time that only a wife can know.

Gavin McInnes, “In Praise of the Benjamin Button Babes”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-24.

February 14, 2017

QotD: Explaining why men tend to be slobs, but women very much don’t

Filed under: History, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The central fact that controls the the preferences of both sexes is that bearing children is difficult and dangerous for women, but fertilizing a woman is almost trivially easy for a man. Furthermore, the female investment in childbearing is front-loaded (proportionally more of the risk is before and at birth) while the male investment is back-loaded (proportionately more of the risks and costs are incurred after birth).

Moderns living in a largely disease-free environment seldom realize how cruel and pressing these differences were over most of our species history. But before modern sanitation, death in childbirth was so common that men wealthy enough to afford it expected to have several wives during their lifetimes, losing many of them to childbed fever and other complications.

Also relevant is the extremely high rate of childhood death from infectious diseases and parasites that was characteristic of premodern societies. Disease resistance in humans is highly variable and generally increases with genetic mixing (the same reason a mongrel puppy or kitten is less likely to catch a disease than a purebreed). Thus, both men and women have instincts intended to maximize genetic variety in their offspring in order to maximize the chances that some will survive to reproductive age.

Our instincts evolved to cope with these patterns of life and death. The next piece we need to understand those instincts is what physical beauty means. Recent anthropology revealing strong cross-cultural patterns in the perception of pulchritude is helpful here.

In both sexes, the most important beauty indicators include symmetrical features and a good complexion (clear skin without blemishes, warts, etc.). It turns out these are indicators of resistance to infection and parasites, especially resistance in childhood and during adolescent growth. Good hair is also a health indicator.

In men, physical signs of strength, dexterity, and agility are also favored; this reflects the value female instinctive wiring puts on male specializations in burst exertion, hunting, and warfare. In women, signs of fertility and fitness to bear are favored (healthy and generous breasts, a certain range of hip-to-waist ratios).

Men fixate on physical beauty and youth because under primitive conditions it is a leading indicator of the ability to bear and suckle children. Through most of history, plain or ugly women were bad risks for the next round of infectious diseases — and their children, carrying their genes, were too.

The last piece of the puzzle is that men and women have asymmetrical information about the parentage of their children. A woman is seldom in doubt about which children are the issue of her womb; a man, by contrast, can never be as sure which are the fruit of his seed. Thus, genetic selfishness motivates the woman in a mated pair to sacrifice more for her children than it does the man. This is why women abandon their children far less often than men do.

While women do respond to male good looks, it’s not the agenda-topper for them that it is for men. To understand why this is, it helps to know that the optimal mating strategy for a woman begins with hooking a good provider, a man who will stick around to support the kids in spite of not being as sure that he’s their father as the woman is of being their mother. Where men look for fitness to bear children, women seek the capability and willingness to raise them.

Thus, robust health and infection resistance, while desirable in a potential husband, are not the be-all and end-all. Behavior traits indicating attachment, loyalty, nurturance, and kindness are more important than a tight six-pack. Men instinctively worry about these things less because they know women are more certain of parentage and thus more tightly bonded to their children. Fitness-to-raise also means that indicators of success and social status count for more in men. Men marry health and beauty, women marry security and good prospects.

There is, however, one important exception — one circumstance under which women are just as physical, beauty-oriented, and “shallow” in their mating preferences as men. That’s when they’re cheating.

Both sexes have a genetic-diversity incentive to screw around, but it manifests in different ways. Again, the reason is parentage uncertainty. For a man, diversity tactics are simple — boff as many hot babes as possible, accepting that you don’t know which of their kids are yours and counting on stronger maternal bonding to ensure they will have at least one devoted parent around. Because a woman can be more sure of who her offspring are, her most effective diversity tactic is different — get married to a good provider and then cheat on him.

Under those circumstances, she doesn’t have to value good character in a mating partner as much; hubby, who can’t tell the kids aren’t his, will supply that. Thus the relative value of handsomeness goes up when a woman is taking a lover on the sly. Marrying the lord and screwing the gardener is an old game, and from a genetic-selfishness point of view a very effective one.

Eric S. Raymond, “A Unified Theory of Male Slobbishness and Female Preening”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-01- 06.

August 9, 2016

Growing up White Trash in the modern university

Filed under: USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Holly Genovese on the difficulties of an academic career when you come from a “White Trash” background:

I bought The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky, a terrifying book full of blunt (and much needed advice) about navigating the academic job market. While the author gives outspoken advice about the struggles of the job market, particularly for women, she also implicitly argues for the importance of hiding one’s class. She wrote about clothing and makeup and speaking patterns in women. Around the time I read this book, I realized that I, for a lack of a better term, code “white trash.” I have bad teeth, frequently say “ya’ll” and “how come,” and have a habit of running around South Philadelphia in a Dale Earnhardt Jr. t-shirt. It is one thing to have your hometown judged by your peers, but it is quite another to realize that qualities you possess, habits born of a lifetime that you don’t even realize you have, make you read as unqualified or unfit for your chosen profession.

But you can’t go home either, as they say. The more formal education I acquired, the larger the gap between my family and I became. My parents are incredibly proud of me and have never been anything other than supportive. But everyone from cousins to former employers have insinuated that I am arrogant because I left my small town for the city and enrolled in a Ph.D program. Why couldn’t I get a real job in the Harley Factory? What could you even do with a history Ph.D anyway? And most common of all, was I ever coming home? Slowly I realized the answer to that question had to be no.

Coming home still feels like a relief, a break from a life of pretending. But very gradually, my life has become very different from that of my family and old friends. We no longer watch the same TV or drink the same beer or read the same books. It takes a good week to get acclimated to the Folgers coffee my mom still buys. And many of my friends have no frame of reference for my chosen career, having never gone to college or even finished high school themselves. And sometimes my liberal and quasi-socialist opinions run up against those of the people in my hometown. How can I contest their sometimes racist, homophobic, or anti-intellectual opinions without confirming their stereotypes about who I have become, an elitist snob from the city?

H/T to Rick McGinnis for the link. “Except for the use of the voguish word “microaggression,” this resonates strongly with what I’ve seen (and lived.) That in-between feeling, of never quite fitting in where you’ve come from or where you are now. Class is a powerful thing, and in my experience Americans have a hard time talking about it. (And Canadians only marginally less so.)”

QotD: Grief

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’m told by a friend that there’s a new book out, The Truth about Grief by Ruth Davis Konigsberg, that apparently demonstrates how Elisabeth Kubler-Ross made up all that stuff about the “five stages of grief.” I have no plans to read it. But I’m fully prepared to believe that any hard-and-fast five-point definition of grief is bogus. Admittedly, my data sample set is pretty small but hugely significant; in the last six years I’ve lost my father and my brother out of a family of four people. And, already, it’s clear to me that the geography of grief cannot be so easily mapped.

Obviously there are going to be similarities to the terrain. But just as there are different kinds of happiness — say, winning the lottery versus having a kid, or beating cancer versus seeing Keith Olbermann booted off of MSNBC – there are different kinds of sadness, too. And how they play out depends on the context.

In terms of my own internal response, the most glaring continuity between my dad’s death and my brother’s is loneliness. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got lots of company. I have lots of people who care for me more than I realized. I’m richer in friends and family than I could ever possibly expect or deserve.

But there’s a kind of loneliness that comes with death that cannot be compensated for. Tolstoy’s famous line in Anna Karenina was half right. All unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, but so are all happy ones. At least insofar as all families are ultimately unique.

Unique is a misunderstood word. Pedants like to say there’s no such thing as “very unique.” I don’t think that’s true. For instance, we say that each snowflake is unique. That’s true. No two snowflakes are alike. But that doesn’t mean that pretty much all snowflakes aren’t very similar. But, imagine if you found a snowflake that was ten feet in diameter and hot to the touch, I think it’d be fair to say it was very unique. Meanwhile, each normal snowflake has its own contours, its own one-in-a-billion-trillion characteristics, that will never be found again.

Families are similarly unique. Each has its own cultural contours and configurations. The uniqueness might be hard to discern from the outside and it certainly might seem trivial to the casual observer. Just as one platoon of Marines might look like another to a civilian or one business might seem indistinguishable from the one next door. But, we all know the reality is different. Every meaningful institution has a culture all its own. Every family has its inside jokes, its peculiar way of doing things, its habits and mores developed around a specific shared experience.

One of the things that keeps slugging me in the face is the fact that the cultural memory of our little family has been dealt a terrible blow. Sure, my mom’s around, but sons have a different memory of family life than parents. And Josh’s recall for such things was always not only better than mine, but different than mine as well. I remembered things he’d forgotten and vice versa. In what seems like the blink of an eye, whole volumes of institutional memory have simply vanished. And that is a terribly lonely thought, that no amount of company and condolence can ease or erase.

Jonah Goldberg, “From the frontlines”, National Review, 2011-02-24.

March 11, 2016

Trump and the stand-up comedians

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:24

Gavin McInness on the seemingly universal view of Donald Trump among stand-up comics:

… They don’t have any arguments because this isn’t about facts. It’s about feelings and they feel Trump is a serious threat to their very existence. That’s really what’s going on here: Trump represents the traditional family, and modern comics—especially the alternative ones—have built their careers mocking exactly that.

Sure, he’s had a bunch of divorces and yes, there are plenty of comedians who are happily married with kids, but we’re talking about the culture here and in America’s eyes, Trump represents a good dad with great kids who wants to get back to when America was great, and comedians represent a reboot of everything traditional and that’s the nuclear family. Comedians are deeply scarred human beings who shudder at the very idea of a family. They’re not pro–gay marriage because they give a shit about two random homos who want to fuck everything that moves while pretending they live for matrimony. They’re pro–gay marriage because they’re anti-marriage because they’re anti-family because their childhood sucked.

I enjoy watching stand-up, but sometimes I look at these poor bastards standing on a stage for $20 and I just think, “You poor bastard.” If they came from big, happy families, they’d be the funny guy at the dinner table making their cousin Donny laugh until milk came out his nose. They’d be content amusing their inner circle and not have to stand on a stage and plead for a roomful of strangers to clap for them.

It’s not remotely controversial to say comedians are insecure and almost unanimously depressed. I believe this comes from having parents who didn’t love them. Not only are they drawn to stand-up because it mimics validation, they are drawn to the career because it’s the perfect career for the unloved. A family man can’t disappear for months and months at a time touring the country in his Honda Civic and getting paid in beer to make 35 people giggle at Chuckles. The more we respect the family and the idea of procreation, the less we respect their profession. Louis C.K. divorced his wife not long after they made two kids. Trump’s Great Again America sees that as a failure. The totally hip alternative America sees it as awesome.

Donald Trump is a constant reminder that plenty of us had parents who loved us and made us feel good about ourselves. We have mimicked this success story and created families of our own. We’re happy and what’s worse, we’re content. For the most part, comics are miserable people who developed the ability to make light of a bad situation. We get laughs from them because we’re not in a bad situation so it’s like doing a shot after you won the lottery. To us, seeing a comedy show is like taking Prozac when you’re not depressed. It’s a bonus. To the comedians, it’s what they need to stave off suicide. The more America becomes great again, the less resonance the kvetchers have. And when your entire ethos is based on complaining, you don’t want prosperity. It bums you out.

October 24, 2015

QotD: The role of the family

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I don’t follow libertarian family policy (never mind conservative family policy, liberal family policy, or even Shining Path Maoist family policy) too closely, though I know some very smart people who’re involved in it. Anyway, the conversation turned to the claim made by many libertarians, as well as folks like Al Gore (wolfsbane to libertarians), that modern society has changed so much that it is only right and rational that family structure change, too.

Here’s my problem with this sort of thinking, which I don’t think is unreasonable on its face. Some institutions endure because they are, well, enduring.

The whole point of certain institutions is that they are insurance policies against the unknown future (picture G. Gordon Liddy talking about gold, only replace it with “the family”). The phrase “you can always count on family” may not be literally true, but it is more true than “you can always count on your old college roommate.” When times are great, the demands of family (or religion, or good manners, or thriftiness, or a thousand other institutions, customs, and habits of the heart that we can throw under the bulwark of “tradition”) might often seem like too much unnecessary baggage to carry around. But when things hit the fan, family is there in a way that other people aren’t. Not because those other people are bad, but because your family is your family.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the family — or the Bill of Rights, or good manners, whatever — isn’t a catastrophic insurance policy. The value of these institutions is best understood during a time of crisis, but the influence of these institutions is constant, even in times of calm luxury. The fact that these institutions exist forecloses certain options and avenues for reformers who yearn for a blanker social slate.

The family, like marriage, is an institution that predates our Constitution and the very concept of democracy, never mind modernity. That is not to say that it hasn’t evolved and changed or that conservatives should never, ever contemplate further changes and greater evolution. It is simply to say that we should do so carefully, reservedly, humbly, in full knowledge that tomorrow may look as little like today as yesterday did.

Jonah Goldberg, “The Goldberg File” email newsletter, 2011-04-25.

October 23, 2015

QotD: “Ever wonder why on earth anyone thought socialism would work?”

Filed under: Economics, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

No, seriously: Ever wonder why? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” sounds very fine, but by the time socialism rolled around, this idea had been tried, and fallen apart, in multiple communes. Moreover, sponging, shirking relatives had been observed in families from the dawn of history. The universal desire to work less than needed had long been countered by some variant on the biblical rule that “he who does not work, does not eat.” Why, then, did people want to throw out the profit motive and have the government run everything?

Conservatives and libertarians who ask themselves this question generally assume that socialists must have been naïve pointy-heads who didn’t understand that socialism would run into incentive problems. And of course, as in any sizeable movement, there were just such naïve pointy-heads. Even if I’m no expert on the history of socialist thought, the reading I have done suggests that the movement itself was not actually this naïve; there were people who understood that, as economists like to say, “incentives matter.” They thought that socialist economies would perform better despite the incentive problem because of various efficiencies: streamlining overhead, creating massive economies of scale, eliminating “wasteful competition,” and the many-splendored production enhancements possible through “scientific planning.”

In hindsight, this sounds ridiculous, because we know that socialized economies failed on a massive, almost unprecedented scale. Scientific planning proved inferior to the invisible hand of the market, scale turned out to have diseconomies as well as economies, and administrative overhead was not, to put it lightly, reduced. But before socialism was tried, this all seemed plausible.

Megan McArdle, “Will Ebola Be Good for the CDC?”, Bloomberg View, 2014-10-20.

October 17, 2015

Moynihan’s scissors

Filed under: Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren looks at the work of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

We are celebrating this year, if that is the word, the fiftieth anniversary of perhaps the most inconsequential sociological study ever published. That was, The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, by the brilliant American politician and thinker, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927–2003).

Working then in the U.S. Department of Labour, Moynihan focused his attention on a counter-intuitive statistical fact. Unemployment among black males was falling, in 1965. But rates of welfare enrollment for black families was rising. This did not make sense. The two lines on this chart had always fallen or risen together. But they had crossed over in 1962. He had put his finger in what came to be called, “Moynihan’s scissors.”

[…] while the “Moynihan Report” is famous, and at one time, everyone claimed to have read it, it contains something so obnoxious to enlightened post-modern thought as to remain invisible to all participants in the discussion.

This was Moynihan’s sociological and anthropological observation that the American black culture was becoming “matriarchal.” Whether without, or more likely with the help of welfare programmes, women were becoming the heads of households, and men were being removed from that station.

(The background: All of the higher civilizations have been unambiguously patriarchal; matriarchy is associated in the prehistoric and anthropological record with savage, gratuitously violent, self-destructive tribes.)

Already, in 1965, one in four black kids in the USA were born out of wedlock. Today it is more than three in four, and levels of bastardy among the other races have risen in course. By the end of the last century (1990s), white children were as likely to be raised in fatherless homes as black children had been in the 1960s. “Progress” has been progressing rapidly.

The Nanny State has replaced fathers as the principal source of income for such families (bankrupting itself in the process), and the feminist movement has supplied the arguments — or more precisely, misandronist slogans and vindictive clichés — for the overthrow of “patriarchy” and its systematic replacement with a shrewish matriarchy in all facets of social life. The movement has been, moreover, so successful in achieving its objects — the emasculation of men, and degradation or actual inversion of traditional morality — that it has now moved on. For with the defeat of masculinity, new horizons of “gender-bending” or “transgendering” have come into view.

Now, part of the reason people can’t get their little heads around what has actually happened — first to the black family, then to the brown, then to the white — is the surviving, basically modern (i.e. pre-post-modern) belief that eunuchs behave much like fairies; that they become docile and effeminate, harmless and nurturing, sensitive and sweet; that their previously reprehensible “masculine” traits will quietly disappear. Some men do indeed respond to emasculation by becoming the pathetic, contemptible wimps that all women, including feminists, instinctively abhor. But some do not.

As a well-read student of social sciences and history, Moynihan knew better than this. The masculine capacity for violence (at all levels, spiritual as much as physical) does not go away. From Spartan Laconia, backwards and forwards through history on all continents, we see that eunuchs and other “homosexual” (the word is inadequate) guards and soldiers have been employed by the great warrior despots. This is because they make the fiercest fighters. Having no families, no heritage to protect, no women and children to feed and shelter in safety, they become a purely destructive force. They become men who do not care even for their own lives, let alone for the lives of others.

August 12, 2015

QotD: The Relative

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The normal man’s antipathy to his relatives, particularly of the second degree, is explained by psychologists in various tortured and improbable ways. The true explanation, I venture, is a good deal simpler. It lies in the plain fact that every man sees in his relatives, and especially in his cousins, a series of grotesque caricatures of himself. They exhibit his qualities in disconcerting augmentation or diminution; they fill him with a disquieting feeling that this, perhaps, is the way he appears to the world and so they wound his amour propre and give him intense discomfort. To admire his relatives whole-heartedly a man must be lacking in the finer sort of self-respect.

H.L. Mencken, “Types of Men 12: The Relative”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.

August 7, 2015

QotD: Kids these days

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Sometimes I despair for the kids these days, I really do.

I didn’t expect to feel this way at the tender age of 42. I was supposed to find them puzzling, with their Snapchatting and their Venmo and never looking up from their phones. I was supposed to think they were having too much sex or doing too many drugs and not listening to their wiser elders, gosh darn it. I was supposed to grouse that young people are always getting themselves into trouble.

Instead I’m worried that they aren’t getting themselves into enough trouble. They seem so fragile. They can’t read Ovid without a trigger warning and a pair of latex gloves, or go off to college without calling their parents to check in. Did no one ever take them aside and explain that college is for abandoning your parents, leaving them to worry about what you are doing with their money while you forget to call them for a month at a time ? There is something truly terrifying about a generation of younger people that craves more adult intervention into their lives. Yet, that’s what everyone from teachers to employers reports: a rising number of kids who seek to be tethered to their parents, and don’t seem to know what to do unless Mom or Dad is hovering nearby.

I know, I know. People have been worrying about The Kids These Days since time immemorial. And yet, older people I talk to — ones old enough to remember seeing the low-speed, low-stakes train wreck that was my own generation hurtling through college and into the workforce — confirm my impression that This Time Really Is Different. The upper stratum of the Trophy Kids really are going into college expecting to live in a sort of Nerf universe where nothing ever really hurts, and there’s always an adult to pick them up and put them back on track. And they’re coming out into the workforce expecting the same sort of personal concierge service from a world that, as I was myself dismayed to find 20 years ago, really doesn’t have time to care how they feel.

Not that I blame the kids for this. Their parents are the ones who did it to them, hovering over them every spare minute — and in those rare moments when they have some time off from the endless commute between soccer practice and enrichment activities, calling the cops on anyone who leaves an 11-year-old outside to play basketball for an hour, so that their parents will have to hover too.

Megan McArdle, “Helicopter Parents and the Kids Who Just Can’t”, Bloomberg View, 2015-07-07.

June 15, 2015

“The destruction of the family is the single most destructive force in the past 40 years”

Filed under: Health, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Gavin McInnes talks to Dr. Amier Carmel, a New York psychoanalyst, about trauma and “cry-bullies”:

He describes the cry-bullies as people with “an intense need to control” and says that “the resentment associated with this need to correct is often an induced feeling used to fix another problem.” This makes perfect sense. Whenever I argue with liberals and they preach to me about immigration, education, or women’s rights, their lack of knowledge on the subject makes it clear they’ve never looked it up. “It’s never about what it’s about,” as Derb would say. Ask them how many illegals are in the country and they’ll rarely get within 10 million of the number. Ask them how much we spend per student per year and they’ll say, “Not enough.” Ask them how much young women without kids make compared with men and they’ll say, “Women need a choice.” They’re not in it for the truth. They’re in it for the platitudes of the crusade and the power it evokes. We all know that by know. The question is why.

Carmel has a fascinating answer. “The destruction of the family,” he opines, “is the single most destructive force in the past 40 years.” Amier then discusses the back-and-forth kids do, going from mom to dad every time they have a grievance. “This dance,” he says, “is how we attain justice. It’s how the parameters of our sense of internal integrity are defined.” Amier seems particularly concerned with the lack of fathers. “The father sets down the law. When he is not there, a sense of anxiety takes root and that leads to outwardly directed hostility. Soon you are looking to the outside world to show you what the limits are. You’re ‘acting out’ and hoping society will control you. The desire for paternal law becomes pathologized.” Amier calls PC violations “narcissistic injury” and adds that this fear-driven petulance becomes especially dangerous when the ideology becomes someone’s entire identity. “When that happens,” he says, “it’s as though rationality and socialized relationships dissolve. The ideologically identified person can often become wildly reckless because they seek the obscuring of accountability with increased pathos.”

We can see this in the liberal demigod Che Guevera. His insatiable lust for power was cloaked as a need for justice, but it’s arguably just a case of a mentally ill child trying to impose order on a world he felt was spinning out of control. Che grew up in a household where his emotionally absent father would openly flaunt infidelity. Ernesto Guevara Lynch was a loser who blew his wife’s fortune on himself and young girls. I’ve noticed a pattern with liberals and fathers who were negligent and financially irresponsible. So much of their belief system seems to come from revenge. This is why they attack white men for looking at someone funny but turn a blind eye to a child prostitution ring in Rotherham. This is also why feminists won’t shut up about the “white male patriarchy” (“patriarch” meaning “father”) but have nothing to say about the shocking difference between black-on-white rape and white-on-black rape. Che is no different. He took his pain and turned it into a crusade against the world. This is why liberals put him on a T-shirt. They don’t like him because he freed Cuba or forced socialism down its throat. They like him because he personifies the cry-bully.

April 7, 2015

Senator Moynihan

Filed under: Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In City Journal, Fred Siegel looks at some recent books about the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Monihan:

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the four-term senator from New York who died in 2003, was that rare soul who was both a political and intellectual giant. Stephen Hess, who worked in the early Nixon White House as an aide to Moynihan, was the rare individual friendly with both Moynihan and Richard Nixon. The Professor and the President is a short but revealing memoir-cum-narrative of Moynihan’s service in the executive branch.

What brought Nixon and Moynihan together was a tectonic shift of the political plates. Nixon won the presidency in 1968 thanks to the backlash against the riots that had ripped through America’s cities. What made Moynihan a Democrat of extraordinary insight, willing to serve a Republican president, were his reactions to those riots — and to the excesses and wrong turns of American liberalism.

Today, 50 years after its issuance, some liberals “bravely” acknowledge that 1965’s so-called Moynihan Report, in which the future senator warned about the dire future consequences of the collapse of the black family, was a fire bell in the night. But at the time, and for decades to come, Moynihan was branded as a racist by civil rights leaders, black activists, and run-of-the-mill liberals. “One began to sense,” Moynihan wrote, that “a price was to be paid even for such a mild dissent from conventional liberalism.”

His capacity for irony notwithstanding, Moynihan came close to a nervous breakdown and “emerged changed” from the experience. He came to feel “that American liberalism had created its own version of a politique du pire (i.e., the worse the better) … in which evidence had been displaced by ideology.” His fear that the empirically oriented liberalism of his youth was under assault from racial and cultural nihilists intensified after the 1967 riots that burned through Cleveland, Newark, and Detroit, where 43 died. “The summer of 1967,” Moynihan wrote at the time, “came in the aftermath of one of the most extraordinary periods of liberal legislation, liberal electoral victories and the liberal dominance of the media … that we have ever experienced. The period was, moreover, accompanied by the greatest economic expansion in human history. And to top it all, some of the worst violence occurred in Detroit, a city with one of the most liberal and successful administrations in the nation; a city in which the social and economic position of the Negro was generally agreed to be far and away the best in the nation.”

March 30, 2015

The built-in advantages of the traditional family structure

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Megan McArdle on the reactions to a recent book dealing with traditional and non-traditional families:

Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis has touched off a wave of print and digital commentary. The book chronicles a growing divide between the way affluent kids are raised, in two-parent homes whose parents invest heavily in educating their kids, and the very different, very unstable homes in which poorer kids generally grow up.

Naturally, social conservatives are delighted with this lengthy examination of the problems created by unstable families, even if they are not equally delighted with Putnam’s recommendations (more government programs). Equally naturally, there is pushback from those who see the problem as primarily one of economics and insufficient government spending, as well as from those who argue that there are lots of good ways to raise kids outside the straitjacket of mid-century, middle-class mores.

I have been trying to find a more delicate way to phrase this, but I can’t: This is nonsense. The advantages that two people raising their own biological or jointly adopted children have over “nontraditional” family arrangements are too obvious to need enumeration, but apparently mere obviousness is not enough to forestall contrary arguments, so let me enumerate them anyway.

Raising children the way an increasing percentages of Americans are — in loosely attached cohabitation arrangements that break up all too frequently, followed by the formation of new households with new children by different parents — is an enormous financial and emotional drain. Supporting two households rather than one is expensive, and it diverts money that could otherwise be invested in the kids. The parent in the home has no one to help shoulder the load of caring for kids, meaning less investment of time and more emotional strain on the custodial parent. Children will spend less time with their noncustodial parent, especially if that parent has other offspring. Add in conflict between the parents over money and time, and it can infect relationships with the children. As one researcher told me when I wrote an article on the state of modern marriage, you frequently see fathers investing time and money with the kids whose mother they get along with the best, while the other children struggle along on crumbs.

People often argue that extended families can substitute, but of course, two-parent families also have extended families — two of them — so single-parent families remain at a disadvantage, especially because other members of the extended family are often themselves struggling with the challenges of single parenthood. Extended families just can’t substitute for the benefits of a two-parent family. Government can’t, either; universal preschool is not going to make up for an uninvolved parent, or one stretched too thin to give their kids enough time. Government can sand the rough edges off the economic hardship, of course, but even in a social democratic paradise such as Sweden, kids raised in single-parent households do worse than kids raised with both their parents in the home.

March 25, 2015

The juggling act of mothers in the workforce

Filed under: Business, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Federalist, Nichole Russell agrees that it is nearly impossible to “have it all” (a real career and a family) … at the same time, anyway:

The conversation about mothers in the workforce seems to be at once continuous and clamoring. Rarely does a working mother nail the problem and solution without sounding too whiny or too arrogant. Yet a recent commentary in Forbes comes as close to any as I have seen recently, complete with some eyebrow-raising admissions. If more men and women — parents and CEOs — viewed this exhausting issue with such clarity, perhaps we could finally work towards a solution.

In the piece, succinctly titled, “Female Company President: I’m sorry to all the mothers I worked with,” Katharine Zaleski recounts how, while employed in high-powered editorial positions at The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, she regularly scoffed at the work ethic of other women just because they were mothers, either mentally or by failing to support the decisions they made related to work and family.

She reveals this penitent anecdote: “I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her ‘commitment’ even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hungover colleagues the next day.”

What’s just as surprising as her admission that she evaluated a mother’s work-related achievements on a different scale than she did other employees is the equally important truth that the workforce isn’t just a tough place for moms because of their male bosses. “For mothers in the workplace, it’s death by a thousand cuts – and sometimes it’s other women holding the knives. I didn’t realize this – or how horrible I’d been – until five years later, when I gave birth to a daughter of my own.”

Zaleski goes on to discuss how she lamented her status as a new mom and employee only briefly before she determined to find a solution, both for her daughter so she wouldn’t feel “trapped” and other moms facing the same struggle. She wound up co-founding a startup called PowertoFly that matches women in technical positions they can do from home.

While many conservatives and liberals alike might call this an abandonment of the feminist theory, I think it actually expresses the heart of feminism — not radical left-wing feminism, but one of the few Oprah gems I agree with: “You can have it all, just not at the same time.”

March 24, 2015

Tim Worstall on the economic emancipation of women

Filed under: Economics, History, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In his Forbes column last week, Tim Worstall made the point that perhaps the biggest economic story of the last century has been the economic emancipation of women:

There’s an interesting little rumpus going on over the new book by Robert Putnam on the class divide in American lifestyles. Put very simply, the middle and upper classes seem to take marriage and child rearing seriously and the poor have a more, umm, chaotic approach. Looking at the various think pieces that have been done on this book I find myself astonished by the way that the most important salient and relevant fact is simply not being mentioned. Marriage is many things but among them is that it is an economic contract. And the terms of that contract have changed: thus it’s not even remotely surprising that behaviour has changed too.

[…]

Which brings me to that headline: that the economic emancipation of women is the most important single fact of the past century. That past really was a different place. We can argue if we want to about whether that economic emancipation is complete (the famous womens’ 77 cents to mens’ dollar, or is it a motherhood pay gap and so on) but let’s leave that for another time. What is obviously and glaringly true is that women are much freer economically than they were a century ago. Wages for women back then were distinctly lower than they were for men. And no, this wasn’t particularly discrimination: some large part of what most people were hired for was physical muscle. Men have more of this so they got paid more. There were also strong social norms: I’m not quite sure of pre-WWI America but in my native UK the only respectable jobs for an adult woman (ie, something that the bourgeois would be happy to see their daughters go into) were nursing or teaching. And as a result of this paucity of choice the wages were low in both professions (there’s a strong truth to the point that the rising wages of both teachers and nurses in recent decades are the result of their being free to work in other sectors these days).

The result of both of these things was that the wages of a female worker were not, except at the most basic, basic, level, sufficient to raise a child let alone support a family. I’m not saying that being a single parent these days is easy but it is at least possible as tens of millions of people are showing us.

Which brings us to marriage: yes, this is many things. Love, sex, companionship and so on. But it is also an economic contract (the only proof we need of this is to read some divorce settlements)
and marriage always has been an economic contract. Pretty much since humans arrived as a species it has been necessary to have two parents around in order for a child to have a reasonable chance of survival to an age where it would have its own children. This was true of hunter gatherer societies, of agricultural ones, of industrial ones, feudal and so on. It really is only in this past century, more so in the past 50 years, that it’s been possible for one person to both earn a living and raise a child or children. Yes, obviously people did do so as a result of having to do so but it wasn’t something that anyone did by choice simply because of the penury that resulted from their doing so. And yes, all of this is much more true of women than men.

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