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Gruntled Center

Exploring the Happy Society.

Updated: 2018-01-16T07:02:12.802-05:00


Most Christians No Longer Support Trump


A year ago, most American Christians supported Donald Trump.

Now, most do not.

Best Social Movement of 2017: Sexual Predators are Pariahs


Of the many good things that happened in 2017, I have the most hope that the movement against sexual predators will have long-term effects.

In many fields, men known for years to have been gropers, sexual blackmailers, and even rapists were driven out and rendered pariahs.  Liberal organizations were more consistent than conservative ones in removing the offenders, but that is often what happens at the beginning of a social movement.

This movement was made by tipping public opinion, not by a change in law.  This suggests to me that it will have real staying power.

Permanent Life, Happy Wife


Brad Wilcox, one of the leading researchers on marriage, reports that husbands who are committed to marriage for life have happier wives.

What husbands believe about gender roles does not predict their wives' happiness.

Who Will Win the Election? The Party That Governs Better


Allan Lichtman, the historian who has successfully predicted all the presidential elections since 1984, reminds us that that the main theme of such an election is a referendum on how well the party in power governed.

This is good news - the candidate horse race is really secondary to the years of achievement, or non-achievement, which lie before the race.  This is as it should be.

The Republican Party has had total control of government for a year.  They have done almost nothing with it.

On the basis of Lichtman's findings, I think they are building toward a disastrous 2020.

Conservatives Want a "Strict Father" To Make Everyone Personally Responsible - Except Corporations


George Lakoff has argued persuasively that an underlying cause of the deep conservative/liberal divide is that, while both tend to view government as like a family, they have different theories of what kind of parent is best to lead a family.  He calls these two views "strict father" and "nurturant parent," respectively.

This helps make sense of why conservative policy is so hard on welfare recipients.  They believe a strict father should make children become responsible and self-supporting.

This also explains why they want "fathers" of all kinds to have a free hand.  Theirs is a patriarchal theory in the most literal sense.

Which brings us to the mystery of "trickle-down economics."  As an economic theory it has failed repeatedly.  However, conservatives doggedly stick to it as the solution to all problems.  Give the rich more money and give corporations a free hand, and they will do what is best for their dependents.

Liberals regard corporations as economic institutions, which respond to incentives.  If you want them to create more jobs, then tie their tax breaks to actually producing more jobs.

Good News: India Outlaws Sex With Child Brides


The Indian Supreme Court closed a loophole which allowed sex with a young teen by her husband.

Now, 18 is the age of consent across the board, even for married girls.

I Don't Care About Sports Unless It Touches Me Personally. This is Like How Many Conservatives Feel About Social Problems.


Liberals have long lamented that conservatives seem to care about social problems only if the problem affects them personally.

Since "care for the harmed" is the heart of liberal ideology, this approach seems unjust to liberals.

I had a "shower thought" about this question this morning:  I feel the same way about sports.  I only care about a team or a game or a sport if it affects me personally.  I don't really care about sports as such, and only have a vague notion of what it going on with professional and semi-professional (Division I) sports.  Very occasionally a local kid will have a notable sports career, and I will want to have some idea of how that person, and that person's team, are doing.

I feel the same way about the sports team in my town and my college.  I care because I know some of the players, or their families.  And I care a bit because it matters to my neighbors.

But I don't regard sports teams as marking my "tribe."

Online Dating Seems to Increase Racial Intermarriage


The researchers hypothesized that online dating would take people out of their social networks. Since our networks still tend to be mono-racial, expanding them by algorithm into a much broader world is likely to make them more diverse.

The rapid increase in racial intermarriage matches the predictions of the model.

Yes, some people specify that they only wants to see potential dates of their own race.  But most people do not.

This is from a correlation study, so take it with a grain of salt.

One interesting side note:  A steady ten percent of marriages seem to come from college connections. Since about a quarter of Americans go to college, this is an extraordinarily high proportion of marriages in the college class.

A Silver Lining of the Trump Election: Mobilizing Millennials to Civic Action


Millennials supported Clinton over Trump in the 2016 election by 20 points -- the biggest gap of any generation.

Moreover, the 35% who supported Trump "are less experienced in civic and community engagement ... and they are less likely to say that they would take up a formal civic opportunity (like regularly volunteering for a nonprofit organization)." 

Clinton supporters, by contrast, were more engaged in civic and political life to begin with.

The Tufts study, taken just after before and after the election, thought that the high level of civic mobilization of the Clinton voters would depend on whether the Trump administration attacked "individuals and organizations with diverse viewpoints, including those of young people largely oppose him."

Now that we are almost a year after the election, I think we can clearly answer that question in the affirmative.

General Kelly Gives a Clue About When They Imagine America Used to Be Great


General Kelly, President Trump's Chief of Staff, gave a speech in response to the controversy about the president calling the families of fallen service members.In the course of this speech, he give this vision of the lost golden age:And they [members of the military] volunteer to protect our country when there's nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required.You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That's obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life was sacred. That's gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. President Trump's slogan is "Make America Great Again."  It has never been clear when they thought America was great, nor why they do not think America is great now.  This speech gives a clue.It is also mostly wrong.Volunteering is up.  Millennials have higher levels of community service than prior generations. Feminism has produced a greater level of equal honor for women than ever before.  The dignity of soldiers' lives, the very subject of Gen. Kelly's lament, is more honored than it was a generation ago.The United States is the most religious industrialized country.Gold Star families were central to one of the conventions last summer, even if not treated with equal respect at the other one.America is great now, and improving in many ways.  The MAGA lament is really nostalgia for a time when things were worse.[...]

Trying to Empathize with My Enemies


The Hidden Brain podcast "Tribes and Traitors" has got me thinking about how to empathize with my  enemy, the angry white men who shoot people.

When I take angry white men as a group, I can kind of understand their view.  They are trying to defend themselves and their kind from what they regard as an invasion of dangerous aliens.  The impulse to protect is honorable.  Their reading of how to identify the dangerous people if grossly misplaced.

They err in taking every story of a non-white person doing a bad thing as typical of that group.  They treat similar stories of bad things done by white people as individual actions, not reflective of the group.

Their decision to act by shooting random non-white people draws in part on this sort-of-understandable-but-misplaced impulse to protect.  But it also draws on an impulse, which I think is buried in all of us, to wish to have a good reason to destroy things.

When I try to empathize with Dylann Roof, the Charleston church murderer, in particular, though, I have a harder time.  He is another of those angry white men.  But he did not just open fire on random black people.  He crossed state lines to go to a prominent church.  They welcomed him in to their Bible study.  He took part for an hour.  And then opened fire on these very non-random black people who were doing good.

Love your enemies is a commandment.  Empathize with your enemies is an empirical path to a better society.  But some particular individual enemies have, so far, defeated my attempts at empathy.

The project of the happy society


The project of the happy society is building trust among the members to protect and advance the collective sacred.

(Today's thought during the "Happy Society" class.  The new idea is what the project of the happy society is, not just its static conditions.)

Breaking Up Spain is Part of Putin's Plan to Destroy the West


The Barcelona independence vote is supported by many different groups, most of them motivated by local reasons.

But it is also true that Vladimir's Putin's strategy is to sew confusion in the West and break up our economic and political unity.

This is why the Russians actively supported Brexit, and Donald Trump, and Scottish independence, and every other separatist movement in Western Europe.

The same plan is also why he brutally suppresses every separatist movement within Russia.

Three Percent Gay, Half a Percent Trans


I have been looking for some reasonable estimates of the proportion of the population who are homosexual, and of those who are transgender.

Edward Laumann and his University of Chicago team established the now-standard estimate that 2 - 4% of men, and 1 - 3% of women have a same-sex orientation, which averages to about 3% of the population.

The first efforts are being made now to estimate the proportion who are transgender.  The first reports, based on state-wide surveys in California and Massachusetts, were .3%.  Are more recent study of 19 states found .52% said they were transgender, which the authors round up to .6%

The wheel is still in spin here, so these early estimates will likely be modified by later research.

Hooking Up is a Dominance Game


Lisa Wade has a new book on campus hookup culture, which she discusses on the "Hidden Brain" podcast.

She found that the students who most enjoy and benefit from hookup culture are higher class white men and women who use it as a status game.  The men are competing with the other men, and the women are competing with the other women, to see who can hook up with the highest status member of the other sex.  (This whole game is for hets.)

The point of hooking up is that it is for sex without emotional connection.  If you get attached, you lose the game.  In this, as a group, men have an advantage, which they exploit.  This is also why hookups are conducted drunk, to provide plausible deniability that any real emotions were involved.  And noise, to prevent conversation.  While the actual sex is usually conducted in private, the point of the hookup - both the initial connection on the dance floor, and the gossip afterwards -- is so that others will know.

Wade confirms what I found at Centre -- people think there is much more hooking up than there actually is, and think it involves intercourse much more than it actually does.

Nonetheless, hookup culture creates a social expectation that goes way beyond the "winners" of that status game, and interferes with actual love and romance.

Merkel Takes a Huge Gamble on the Demographic Future - Still Mostly Winning.


Angela Merkel took a huge gamble in welcoming a large number of immigrants to Germany.  Her country has very low fertility - too low to replace itself.  The refugees will not only be a new workforce for Germany, but, more importantly, the parents of the future Germany.

Anyone who has been following the tide of resentful nationalisms all around the world could predict what would happen next:  an intense anti-immigrant backlash, openly racist and violent, would challenge her.

Merkel did win the German election, but the new fascist party came in third - the first time fascists have been in the parliament since the Nazis were driven out.

It cost Merkel much of her political capital to take this huge gamble, but, in a generation, I believe she will be honored as the demographic savior of Germany.

The False Choice Between Altruism and Social Conformity


Some think that altruism is not real if it has any mixture of self-interest, social pressure, or social conformity.

But we learn how to serve others, much the way we learn anything else.  Virtue is a practice which we try to get better at and make habitual.  When it becomes second nature, it can appear to be "pure".

Yet we learn how, exactly, to be altruistic from social models.  And we keep on trying to learn how to make virtue habitual because we have the support of social norms and of other people promoting those norms.

Moreover, when we do serve others, we also can reap the approbation of others - that is, enhance our status.

These are not impurities of altruistic service.  This is the very human and social way that we learn how to be altruistic servants.

America Acts as One Commonwealth Whenever It Can Check The Southern Grandees


The vision of America as one commonwealth comes from Reformed, Catholic, and Jewish worldviews.  The Yankee vision of the city on a hill translated into the progressive policies of the early Republican Party.  Catholic social teaching and Jewish repair of creation views were joined to this progressive Protestant view (which had changed parties by then) to underscore the New Deal.

Opposition to the view of America as one commonwealth comes from what Michael Barone calls the Southern Grandees.  Marrying racism and exploitation of cheap labor, they have consistently opposed universal social welfare policies.  This has been true in every era of America, from Jamestown to today.

The United States has been able to adopt universal social welfare policies when the Southern Grandees have been checked.  This was especially true during and just after the Civil War, and partly true in the Depression and the Civil Rights movement.

The Southern Grandees, and their fellow travelers, are dominant at the national level right now.  But history gives us plenty of reason to hope they will be checked once again.  America is one commonwealth, and will be able to act like it once again.

When Faced With Moral Hazard, Err On the Side of the Innocent


Moral hazard is the idea that, if you insure against some hazard, the insured will act in an even riskier way, knowing they are insured.  Economists usually just focus on the economic costs of changing the balance of risk.

The moral part of moral hazard, though, is that people will behave worse than they otherwise would if we, collectively, try to protect people against bad actions.

This has led some people to harden there hearts - if we have no social insurance, then everyone will behave better because they are on their own.

Yet this runs the risk of hurting people who are hurt through no fault of their own.  It is to take care of the vulnerable that we create social insurance in the first place.

So which side should we err on -- taking care of the injured innocent, or promoting the risky guilty?

Personalism - treating everyone as a worthy person - says we err on the side of protecting the innocent, even at the cost of producing some more bad behavior than we otherwise would have.

We Don't Like to Contemplate Our Vices, But Could Reap the Easiest Benefit from Doing So


It is easier to contemplate our virtuous habits than our vicious ones, because we don't want to think about the ways we are vicious.

Yet Aristotle is right that contemplation leads to the highest happiness.  I take this to mean that happiness requires the continuous feedback of contemplation of our habits, both the good habits and the bad ones.  Gretchen Rubin, in The Happiness Project, found that she was made happier by reducing her bad habits than by increasing her good ones.

Contemplating our vices, and reducing the habitual ways in which we engage in them, are the low-hanging fruit for increasing our own happiness.  But, for the reason given above, we resist contemplating our vices.

Aung San Suu Kyi is Squandering Her Moral Capital by Persecuting Muslims


I have admired Aung San Suu Kyi above all current world leaders.  She earned her Nobel Peace Prize in the long democratic resistance to the military dictatorship in Burma/Myanmar.

Now, though, the government and local mobs are killing and burning out the Royhingya, a Muslim minority whom the Buddhist majority regard as foreigners and an impurity in the body politic.

In any other country, "The Lady" would be part of the opposition to this ethnic cleansing.

It is therefore very sad that she is squandering it by not stopping this evil act.

Karma is ... a Nice Young Woman


We had a wonderful family moment at our recent reunion.  One daughter asked another go get her something.  It is probably relevant that it was a younger sister asking an older one; also, that they are now grown women.

The asker reminded the askee of the many times in their youth when the roles were reversed.

This was a happy exchange, and the returned service was readily offered.

Which prompted me to say "Karma is a nice young woman."

Which then led the whole family to reflect on how we usually take justice to be harsh.  Yet, just as often, what we deserve for the many good things we do in life is good things in return.