Instant Philosophy: Marriage, Freedom, and Society Edition

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147 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    It should be pointed out that in the United Kingdom, the average age of marriage was 25-26 from about the early 1600s to the mid-1960s. The only people that really married young were the peerage and thats because of the specific needs of their class. Otherwise, marriage before relatively economic independence was rare.

    In the United States, there was a somewhat large class of never married bachelors from the late 19th century till the Great Depression. One of the more interesting effects of the Great Depression was that it increased the marriage rate because more people sought the economically security of having a spouce. This lasted until the Counter-Culture despite the up spark in prosperity around the end of WWII.Report

  2. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    It appears that Mr. Douthat has already penned a response to your queries.

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      Alas I am not a professional writer/blogger and cannot be on topic as quickly.

      I’m not sure I buy the assortative mating arguments for reasons I’ve laid out before. Maybe more men married their secretaries in the past but I’m not completely sure those secretaries were Rosie from Hoboken. Because of fewer opportunities in the job market for women they could have still been Lucy from Mount Holyoke or Smith.

      Yes there are more two lawyer, two doctor, two journalist, two engineer, two consultant houses but I am high skeptical of the idea that in previous generations upper-middle class men who became professionals were marrying blue-collar women. They might have been marrying women without college educations but that is because there were fewer opportunities and more barriers at going to college for women until relatively recently. Some of my law professors went to law school in the late 1960s/early 70s when things began to change slowly and more and more women started attending law school and the behavior of some of their professors would lead to a sacking today even if tenured. This included a Real Property professor who only let women speak/do a skit on the section about marital property because that is all women were supposed to care about. Others who did not call on women at all.

      Or the old concept was that you would meet your spouse in undergrad and the woman would work for a few years while her husband got a JD, MD, MBA, and then she would become a housewife. I believe this was called “Putting Husband Through.”

      What changed is the amount of work available to blue-collar workers at decent wages especially male blue collar/manual workers. Mass Incarceration also doesn’t help.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Yes there are more two lawyer, two doctor, two journalist, two engineer, two consultant houses but I am high skeptical of the idea that in previous generations upper-middle class men who became professionals were marrying blue-collar women.

        I am largely in agreement with this. Maybe it used to be the case that a doctor used to marry a nurse, but they now they marry another doctor. The thing is, though, that the doctor they marry now probably has an economic background similar to the nurse back then. The main difference being that the old-time nurse is now allowed to be a doctor. I can think of reasons that there would actually be less cross-class romance today, though I can also think of more. But it’s certainly more complicated than suggested by those who pretend that assortive mating is something that just magically sprang up when women entered the work force en masse.

        However! There is an important caveat here.

        If an engineer now marries an engineer and that has kids, that is economically different than if he had married a secretary. If x is an engineer’s salary and y is a secretary’s, then (if she continues to work) they now have 2x income instead of x+y income, and this matters because the 2x’ers are able to more easily pull away economically from 2y’s. The advantages their kids will have over 2y’s kids will be even greater, and so on.

        (I hope to have more to say about the general post topic, but I wanted to get this out before I feed the baby.)Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        Perhaps but maybe that secretary from a previous generation came from a wealthy-ish family that helped the new couple set-up home.

        I generally think that it is more about education than not education. I care deeply about marrying a woman with a similar education level as mine* for a variety of reasons. It shows she values education has much as I do, we have a similar interest in learning, we are more likely to have similar ideas on how to educate our kids if we have any. I don’t care if she is the first person in her family to attend college/grad school or the third or fourth generation.

        I suspect that many people feel this way.

        *As it turns out I am doing hyper-assortative mating. This is a semi-joking/semi-serious comment but my girlfriend attended the same undergrad institution as me and we were both in the same major. We both went on to do some or complete grad school in the major but then got other advanced degrees in different subjects. We have a lot of the same interests and values and I suspect this comes from our highly similar backgrounds. Despite popular culture, the best couples seem to be more similar than different.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        If x is an engineer’s salary and y is a secretary’s, then (if she continues to work) they now have 2x income instead of x+y income, and this matters because the 2x’ers are able to more easily pull away economically from 2y’s. The advantages their kids will have over 2y’s kids will be even greater, and so on.

        The latter point is an assumption, and not one that’s obviously correct. Adoption studies have found that correlation between parental income and child income is much stronger for biological children than for adopted children, and that doesn’t even take into account non-economic aspects of family environment.

        Also, given the sex ratios I’ve witnessed, I can’t imagine that there are that many two-engineer families around.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Except that now they have, in addition to help from the family and rollover wealth, more income (2x instead of x+y). That in and of itself is significant, and is only really remediated by one of the two either staying home or having a lower-paying labor-of-love kind of occupation. Assortive mating may or may not have changed over the years, but it’s hard to overlook the consequences of that (unless you’re Brandon Berg).Report

      • Avatar Fnord says:

        If an engineer now marries an engineer and that has kids, that is economically different than if he had married a secretary. If x is an engineer’s salary and y is a secretary’s, then (if she continues to work) they now have 2x income instead of x+y income, and this matters because the 2x’ers are able to more easily pull away economically from 2y’s. The advantages their kids will have over 2y’s kids will be even greater, and so on.

        Did the men who made y marry women who also made y, back in the days when men who made x married women who made y? This only works if the gender disparity between the sexes only applied at the upper end of the class spectrum.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        My point is that research does not support the idea that parental income as such is the primary causative factor in the correlation between parental income and child income. Especially if we’re talking about the range x+y to 2x, where x is already an upper-middle-class income.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Did the men who made y marry women who also made y, back in the days when men who made x married women who made y? This only works if the gender disparity between the sexes only applied at the upper end of the class spectrum.

        I suspect it to generally be the case that there was more parity between husband and wives salaries towards the middle and bottom, numerically speaking, because of the glass ceiling on female careers and associated salaries.

        If x=80, y=40, z=20…

        Under the old model, x+y=120, 2y=80, y+z=60, 2z=40
        Under the new model, 2x=160, pulling further away from all other combinations. If we assume that what used to be (y+z) is now 2y, then we’re still dealing with greater separation (160-80=80 vs 120-60=60). Even if they are both “twice as much” the numerical values here matter.

        Does this have an effect downstream? Do we now have 2z’sReport

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Even if it’s not “the primary factor” it still confers significant advantages (fewer student loans to pay off when you graduate from college, for example).Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko says:

        I’d add that the inequality numbers are really dramatic when it comes to the difference between the top 1% or top .1% and the rest of us, which is a flavor of inequality that assortive mating has much less explanatory power over. Sure, it matters with a couple as singular as Bill and Hillary Clinton, but even in quite privileged circles you’re not seeing a large number of couples where both spouses are CEO’s, NBA players, etc.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I’d add that the inequality numbers are really dramatic when it comes to the difference between the top 1% or top .1% and the rest of us, which is a flavor of inequality that assortive mating has much less explanatory power over. Sure, it matters with a couple as singular as Bill and Hillary Clinton, but even in quite privileged circles you’re not seeing a large number of couples where both spouses are CEO’s, NBA players, etc.

        Oh, that’s definitely true. I’m talking about inequality within the 99%. Which is not unimportant, but is different from the other discussion.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @will-truman, according to my Mom medical students used to marry nurses or women from blue collar backgrounds while in school for care and sex. Than when they became doctors divorced them and married somebody from a higher socio-economic bracket.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      “How can you expect them to stay on the farm once they have seen Paris?”

      I think Douthat’s point (more than rehashing assortive mating) is that we who know Paris live as though we are on the Farm.Report

  3. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I don’t understand why we should consider getting married and having children as morally superior to singleness. I don’t go in for the full-on-environmentalist argument that having children is immoral, but the world’s population has been skyrocketing over the last century and its resources are finite. There’s no danger of an inverted demographic pyramid so long as we put in place reasonable immigration policies, since the developing world’s population is very young (median age 25 or less in many regions) and many of them would love to come to the US, Canada, Europe, etc.

    I have heard the argument that having children – provided that you want to be a good parent – makes a person more selfless and more inclined to think of another person before themselves, because that’s unavoidable when you raise a child. Similarly, marriage requires a level of compromise. But that doesn’t mean that singleness has to mean self-absorption; it can simply mean directing more of your attention towards people beyond your immediate family.

    (Of course I know that most major religions in the world consider pre-marital sex immoral, but the article seems less focused on that than on the idea that getting married later and having children later in life – or not doing either at all – is in itself a morally inferior choice.)Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      I don’t buy the environmental rhetoric here either because Malthus has been proven wrong again and again and again.

      Of course the brillance of Malthus is that his ideas provide for a perfect wait and see. It is impossible for Malthus to ever be proven wrong completely even if his world never came to pass. There will always be people waiting for it to happen so they can triumphantly say “told you!”

      My article was mainly about the fact that a free society and democracy needs to allow people a lot of leeway in how they live their adult lives.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        I don’t subscribe to Malthus’ theories at all. Primarily because every global statistic shows that as incomes rise, birthrates decline substantially, which is the opposite of what he predicted.

        Technology can also expand the world’s carrying capacity – but it can’t expand it infinitely, especially in a world where every person is using ever-more resources. With seven-billion people in the world and counting, I don’t think that somewhat lower birthrates are going to be a limiting factor on technological innovation (especially given how many great minds are currently going underused due to poverty and lack of opportunity), so whatever the world’s current resources and any expansions due to technology ultimately add up to, the less we expand the population, the more there will be per person.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Malthus hasn’t been proven wrong so much as been applied incorrectly.

        You have to look at resource production vs. resource consumption, and how they interplay (that’s the first part) but also how technological and societal changes affect both of those things.

        A great many things under the “resource production” it’s been assumed – wrongly – that production can’t be increased significantly beyond the current rate of production. Generally, that assumption boils down to be incorrect.

        But, there is still a limited total amount of hydrocarbons we can drill out of the ground. The amount of it considered “recoverable” at any given time only represents a portion of the total (usually much less than the total reserves, given current technologies.

        But eventually, we *will* run out. Unless we go elsewhere or develop an alternative.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Patrick – Malthus claimed that there was no point in trying to make the poor better off because then they’d just have more children and end up worse off (starting off a long and popular tradition in economics of explaining why trying to improve the lives of the poor is actually counterproductive). This was the opposite of what actually happened – as people’s incomes rise, they have fewer children. Therefore, on that extremely key point, he was wrong.

        Other than that, I agree with your post.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko says:

        It is, however, an observation that holds true for basically all of human history up until the era in which Malthus was writing.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        I doubt that, and there’s no way of actually proving it because we don’t have good birthrate and income statistics for pre-1800s societies worldwide.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Yes, Malthus. He’s been wrong for a long time. But then, as the capitalists are forced to admit when they try to sell their investments, past performance does not guarantee future returns.

        Exponential growth will catch up with us, sooner or later, unless we get off this planet and out to the stars.

        And even then, future generation might despair that they cannot create enough gamma ray bursts to power their multiverse-bending hyper-computers. And the survival of the transhuman race depends on completing some computation over Aleph_1 (that would drive Cantor into a furious outrage) in finite time — or else we perish from heat death.

        On the other hand, we might not survive the next 200 years. Entropy always wins.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        I’d bet a sizeable amount on us surviving the next 200 years. If we can make a similar level of technological progress to what we made over the past 200, and avoid nuking anything, society in 200 years will be almost unrecognizably advanced. Even if we make less progress (which I would expect – the changes between the 1960s and now are far less than the changes between 1910 and 1950, or between 1860 and 1910) we’ll come up with a lot of innovations we haven’t even conceived of right now.

        I agree that some resource limits do exist (hence my statement that resources are finite), but population growth should also level off as incomes rise. Exponential population growth is not going to continue indefinitely – the global fertility rate has fallen from 4.7 to 2.2 since 1970. Africa, the only region of the world where the fertility rate is over 3, has a lower fertility rate than the world average in 1960. Part of that’s wealth, part of it’s birth control, but it’s a trend that’s continuing apace.

        My parents say the apocalyptic environmentalists of today remind them of the end times folks in the ’70s and ’80s.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Oh, and population growth is linear, not exponential, at least over the last half-century.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        The birth rate is bellow the replacement rate in most of the developed world. In countries like Japan, Italy, Spain, Korea, and Germany its really bellow the replacement rate. Sometimes with some rather negative consequences. In many developing countries, the birthrate is plummeting. The population will probably peak in the mid-21st century and crash fast.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Heh. I love when people offer to bet money that the human race won’t die out.

        Like, I’ll take that bet! But I don’t want to wait 200 years.

        Let’s make it 10 grand and the time span one week. Equal odds. If the human race dies off in one week, I will pay you 10 grand. If not, you pay me.

        Any takers?Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Yeah Malthus’s fundamental error was assuming child birth would increase with prosperity. We know now it goes up a bit and then plummets. Hell, if we could get the world to developed world levels of education and economics we might seriously be discussing paying people to have kids.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Veronica, if we some how manage to evolve into a different species does that count as the human species dying out?Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        I dunno.

        (I’m going to assume by “new species” you mean “a branch in evolution where each side cannot produce viable offspring with the other.” Last I read anything about speciation, that was the going definition.)

        Okay, first, neither branch are the “true humans,” as they are both evolutionary offspring. We can probably assume, however, that members of each branch will claim that they are the proper descendents, with a shifting and always too small number who advocate parity. (Someone will do a gene analysis and loudly proclaim, “We win.” Someone else will do a different analysis and shout, “Not so fast.” Round and round it will go.)

        There will be a history to this, a reason why our species diverged. Perhaps isolation: a colony on another planet maybe. Perhaps severe economic isolation: some live and breed within the domed cities, some live and breed beyond the walls. The ecologies radically diverge. So do the metabolisms.

        I would call this humanity surviving. Someone else might not.

        On the other hand, perhaps our pet sexbots will replace us. (Actually I quite like that idea.)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Like the Germans and the Greeks arguing about which were the true Romans,Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        I don’t think anyone’s betting the human race will never die out. For myself, I am willing to bet against major collapse in the next 30 years (the time frame you suggested). I’d agree with Katherine that we’ll probably make the next 200 years–barring a supervolcano induced “nuclear” winter or an asteroid strike of sufficient size. But of course neither of us will be around to collect, which is why I like to keep my wagers to time spans when my wagering partner might possibly be alive to pay and I might possibly be alive to collect.

        But long term? Well, long term the sun goes out, right? We’ll need to have colonized space by then, which I think is a lot harder than some other folks think (although I have nothing even faintly resembling expertise in that area). But even longer term? Well, the universe collapses in on itself, doesn’t it?

        So who here is actually arguing that the human race won’t die out, eventuallyReport

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I would take you up on that bet, except that I doubt you have 10 grand.
        So here’s my bet for you: if the human race doesn’t end, you put up a guest post before the end of February.
        Otherwise, I’ll put one up.
        [aa: but the human race will be over! Sure, but I might still be alive…]Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        I’m not a Malthus guy, but I am a Limits to Growth guy. Over the last 40 years, the world has tracked their standard run pretty closely — they underestimated technology’s effect somewhat, but not by a lot. We’re just now reaching the time where things are forecast to get “interesting”. As everyone here is aware, I think energy is the key resource (perhaps probably to the point of monomania), and things are indeed getting interesting: conventional crude oil production peaked in 2005-6, and since then we’ve been making up the difference with increasingly expensive substitutes. I worry more about electricity, since it’s much more critical to maintaining today’s tech than liquid transportation fuels are. The New England ISO was reduced to using jet fuel to run generators this month, which is pretty much a desperation move.

        My complaint about LtG is that they take a global view, and regard the interconnections that have developed between countries/continents as irreversible. For example, their model is incapable of forecasting a future where most of Africa starves but North America does reasonably well. Which is a likely outcome if something were to happen to North American grain exports. In much of Northern Africa, North American wheat and corn is already the difference between starvation or not. The New England Complex Systems Institute has published a paper that establishes a link between prices for food on global (that is, import/export) markets and violence in the Middle East and North Africa. Their hypothesis is that the Arab Spring wasn’t about democracy or liberty; it was about the price of bread was too damned high.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @kim — I think you’re maybe kinda missing the point. I can bet any value, since if the human race dies out neither you nor I will be here to settle, so my bank balance is pretty irrelevant.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @michael-cain — Right. This is the sort of stuff I keep hearing, and while I don’t pretend to know what is happening, I’m skeptical of all the “it’ll be fine” folks. Maybe yes, maybe no. How does anyone know?

        Remember the faces of the douchy Republican pundits on election night, when they realized their models where wrong.

        Well, I do delight in watching douchy Republicans suffer. But on the other hand, I have some small amount of sympathy, since, well, I’ve been there. I’ve been in the room as my model failed, in a situation that matters, when much money is being lost fast, where people are about to lose their jobs.

        It’s a sinking feeling. How much the worse when it is on a global scale.

        On North America versus the world: lots of folks here believe us above genocide. I do not. If the bad times come, we North Americans will no doubt discover genocide and nuclear war were all part of God’s plan.

        Doubt it? Really? You underestimate fear.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        But you wrote;
        If the human race dies off in one week, I will pay you 10 grand. If not, you pay me.

        And that’s backward. You’re saying you’ll pay if you win, and the other person will have to pay you if you lose. You should stand by your real claim, that humanity dies off, so in fact you should be paying out if they don’t.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I am a Limits to Growth guy. Over the last 40 years, the world has tracked their standard run pretty closely —

        I disagree. There’s been some ret-conning by the LtG folks, and their model–at least their original model, as I recall, was based on an overshoot model that ignored, or at least badly underplayed, fundamental economic concepts like marginal costs and substitution. There’s also the fundamental problem for Malthusians and LtG folks (and it seems to me there’s not really any difference there) that to date the world’s population continues to increase and become more well off. I wouldn’t bet against human ingenuity, even if–as Tyler Cowen argues–we’ve already snagged all the low-hanging fruit. Our biggest concern should be natural disasters, not depletion of resources.

        I suspect you’ll disagree, and I know there are few people I’ll learn more from in a debate about this than you. 😉Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @james-hanley — I guess that makes sense; there is a reason I never actually gamble.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        I believe in human ingenuity, but I also see much hubris, and part of our ingenuity is the math and theory behind this, non-linear systems theory, and ecology, and on and on — all ignored by the those who preach “ingenuity.” How fast unstable system fall apart.

        Whatever we’re doing now, it is at a global scale, and while Rome only burned along with Europe, and Easter Island was a teeny place, this is everyone, everywhere, and everything we have to survive.

        I have no trust in our global political system to muddle through. They will do nothing until they panic. I have no faith in humanity to weather the storm. We will eat each other. I have a certain faith in science, but it is science that is warning us — to deaf ears.

        I’m not an environmentalist because I have zero faith that we will fix the problems, so I do not waste my time on solutions. If this thing is coming, it will come. We won’t stop until we crash. That is all.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Well, I think the converse to hubris is chicken littleism. Each side can be equally blind, and driven primarily by innate optimism/pessimism, I think. My own temptation–rather empirical, but admittedly retrospective–is to observe all the failed-to-date predictions (my favorite is Ehrlich’s late ’60s Population Bomb argument that humanity has already lost, and it was indisputably certain that there’d be mass starvation in the ’70s), and consequently to be exceptionally skeptical about predictions of doom. My response is, “Yeah, I’ve heard that before, and while I don’t think it’s necessarily impossible, what makes y’all think you’re right this time around when y’all have been wrong so very many times with the same prediction before?” And the response I get from some, that “eventually it has to come true,” is unpersuasive.

        Speaking of Easter Island, maybe the collapse story isn’t accurate (maybe).Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @james-hanley, the link on Rapa Nui is fascinating, and would help explain something that has bothered me for years: the lack of artistic development in the carvings. Given the supposed centuries that they were supposed to span, the lack of diversity in style would suggest some sort of mind-boggling cultural stagnation. I wish the paper you linked to had more detail, but my own eye, as an observer of artists, saw the influence of a strong mind on a few generations of stone carvers, not a span of 46 generations (Heyerdahl offers that number.)

        Thank you for that.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I don’t get the pessimism. I mean, sure, eventually our world will succumb to heat death, or be consumed by the Sun getting frisky and going supernova, or be obliterated by an asteroid strike. Nothing we can do about that.

        But the other stuff? I read a book last year predicting that within 20-30 years everyone in the US will be basically living an agrarian lifestyle similar to the 1700s. Production centers will be local, trade will be limited (by price) to only a few hundred miles, employees won’t be able to afford the cost of commuting, everyone will grow and can their own vegetables, etc etc. In like twenty years!

        Yes, there are some real foreseeable problems that need to solved or mitigated or in some cases even addressed. But apart from some radical climate related changes, all of them exist on a long time-line, long enough that solutions could be found.

        As for governments doing nothing but panicking, I think recent history is actually evidence against that type of view. Seems to me we are witnessing ever increasing maturity and forethought in governmental decisionmaking. Global warming is a logic problem; energy is a science problem; food is largely a market problem; overpopulation appears to be an education/personal economics problem.

        I understand some pessimism, but not the apocalyptic variety.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        the lack of artistic development in the carvings

        Huh, now that’s an interesting thought. Rates of stylistic development in “primitive” (if I may, without intending any derogatory implication) are well outside the bounds of my knowledge base, but that certainly seems like a good question.

        I do know that while with contemporary western artists we tend to identify the work with the artist, with art from other regions and especially other times we tend to identify the art with the culture, as though the artist were just a conduit, not a creative individual. And I suspect there’s something of an implicit bias against “primitive” culture that expects to find a strong traditionalism, a resistance to change. So from that perspective, one might be surprised if the moai weren’t all very similar. But as easy and common as that perspective is, it seems pretty dubious (at least to anyone who’s spent much time around creative arts types folks…like you with your musician husband and me with my visual artist wife).Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        @Michael Cain
        I am a Limits to Growth guy. Over the last 40 years, the world has tracked their standard run pretty closely —

        @james-hanley ,I disagree

        I gotta weigh in with Michael here. Imagine the last 150 years or so in a world without fossil fuels. No coal, no oil, no natural gas. Not even uranium, since it’s a fossil of a dying star 10B years ago.

        Energy is key; without it we’re well and truly fucked, with enough of it we can solve almost any other problem. Imagine a future with Star Trek levels of clean power available. We could desalinate ocean water and pump it anywhere we needed it. Suck CO2 out of the atmosphere to reverse climate change. Run water, carbon dioxide, and air through a modified Haber process to make chemical fertilizer. Take water and CO2 and create methane for portable fuels if need be.

        The problem is, Star Trek is a fantasy and we don’t have that kind of energy source available. Fusion? It’s been 10 to 20 years from viability for my whole life and I’m unwilling to bet the farm on that changing soon.

        Really, @veronica-dire , I believe it was, made the best point. If you’re going to hang your hat on science and technology, it might help if you listen to what the fish they’re telling you.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        It’s sort of plagued my thoughts on the place for years.

        There’s this incredible burst of engineering growth; the statues and logistics of moving them (probably aided by deforestation, and readily available downed trees, perhaps dead from rodent destruction). But the style, with a few exceptions in the earliest pieces, is of a single artist. Now an artist capable of seeing the form would be rare. But over the many generations supposedly attributed to the carving, you would expect to see some change; if nothing else, inspired by the changing appearances of the people in the community. But nothing; it remains that single vision; and the vitality is in bigger and bigger carvings and more and more difficult moves down the mountain from the quarry to the shore. Just never added up right.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Imagine we never had energy, and then imagine that’s necessarily our future? OK, let’s ignore that we have proven global coal reserves (as much as I’d prefer not to use coal) worth about a century and a half of current use. Let’s ignore that there are about 187 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves. Let’s ignore that solar power is improving (granted that it has inherent efficiency limitations relating to transport, but used locally…). Let’s forget about enhanced energy efficiency. Let’s forget about the potential for piezoelectric to power some energy-use off grid. Let’s forget that we’re just beginning to develop efficient wind-power. Let’s ignore that we have uranium for about 80 years. Let’s ignore that thorium is more abundant than uranium. Let’s ignore that actual big strides have been made with fusion in the last few years, and these numbers give us quite a few more decades to work on it.

        Let’s forget all that, and, sure, the energy future suddenly looks really doggone bleak.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        My readings of Malthus are quite different. His fundamental fact was that a population can reproduce or breed faster than its resources. He followed this up with the observation that humans can anticipate the future and do something about it. He recommended actions such as delayed marriage and child birth. He also suggested that absent such positive controls, there would likely be negative controls such as warfare and famine.

        What Malthus missed is that it is possible to produce resources faster than a growing population. The reason for this was that he preceded the era of sustained economic prosperity which, ironically, he and his fellow economists helped launch.

        As for the issue of limited resources, me thinks the physicists have it wrong. There is no fundamental resource limitation. People do not desire resources, they desire solutions to life’s problems. Most of these do require resources or energy, obviously. But better solutions is a qualitative issue more than a quantitative one. As resources become more scarce, economics indicates that you can trade more for better.

        It isn’t just the size of the network it is the qualitative nature of how the network is wired, how the thing is build. Think qualitative, not just quantitative. As nodes in the network become more scarce, the tradeoffs are such that it is economically wise to focus on how the existing sized network is qualitatively configured. There are more ways to arrange 52 cards than there are atoms in the universe.

        Said another way, it takes no more resources to generate a virtual reality heaven than a virtual reality hell.

        My two cents.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:


        For fossil fuels, it’s not about stocks, it’s about flows: how fast you can continue to extract the stuff. The output of the current set of wells producing natural gas in the US is declining at 20% per year. In essence, we have to drill new wells with output equal to 20% of our current production every year. The decline rate is increasing because the new stuff we’re adding is largely tight gas, where a typical well output declines at 50% per year. All those new wells have to be drilled, cased, cemented, and fractured (in the case of tight gas). The collection pipeline network has to be extended. It gets steadily harder and more expensive to maintain the same flow.

        I’m not a doomer. I think that (at least some of) the US can maintain its level of technology, and raise it in select fields. I also think that the “standard of living” is going to change. Not necessarily get worse, but it’ll be different. For example, people will travel less on all sorts of scales: less intercontinental travel, less travel from state to state, less travel across the city. That’s not necessarily bad, it’s just different.

        The big thing in electricity that’s already starting to happen is how different parts of the US are addressing the electricity supply problem. The states of the Western Interconnect are headed down an aggressive switch from coal to NG, build out renewables, decrease nuclear path. The states of the Eastern Interconnect are in a much more muddled situation. One of the key decisions, which will be made in slow motion, is what to do about their nuclear fleet. Over the next 30 years, most of the existing reactors will probably be retired; what will replace them? I’m inclined to think that, when push comes to shove, there will be a nuclear renaissance in the East.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Most of the doom doesn’t apply to us (“us” being America and Canada), at least not too badly, point of fact.

        The U.S. will have a great supply of fresh water for the foreseeable future, given that a quarter of the fresh water in the world is in the Great Lakes. We have pretty good energy reserves, and it’s actually not that difficult to imagine cutting our infrastructural demand for energy by quite a bit by spurring local generation. We also waste *a lot*.

        We could lose 50% of our agricultural production capability and still have plenty of foodstuffs to feed ourselves, we just wouldn’t export as much – which would be disastrous for the rest of the planet, mind you, but not people inside the borders.

        It’s not like we’re Bangladesh, and we’re looking at catastrophic loss of land mass if the worst-case scenarios of climate change occur. We’re not China or India, we don’t have a billion people to take care of.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        I completely agree about the importance of distinguishing between stocks and flows. My point wasn’t that we have plenty of gas natural gas for X years, then we have plenty of coal for X years after that, etc. etc., but that putting all these various pieces together, we’re not in an imminent crisis–we’re not going to be effectively out of energy in the next 3 decades; not unless stupid policy constrains future development.

        But also, to tie this in with the LtG stuff, the distinction between stocks and flows also helps reinforce the significance of marginal costs. As the flow from current stocks dwindles, the price edges up, which produces a shift to less easily accessible stocks (ones that were not as cost effective at lower prices). Those stocks flows are either smaller, or just more costly, which as a causal factor in market price are effectively identical–i.e., both push price up–which enhances the value of investment in other energy sources, as well as in R&D for alternative sources and for greater efficiency.

        Additionally, continued economic growth does not necessarily mean ever more stuff and resource use. That’s a popular misconception (which economists as a group have done a poor job of correcting through popular writing). It necessarily means enhanced standards of living, which don’t necessarily mean more resource use. I.e., getting the same good with fewer resources (lower cost) enhances standard of living. E.g.,through January, it’s been so cold we’ve (truly, actually) burned twice as much gas keeping our house warm as we did in February–improving the energy efficiency of our house through better windows and insulation, and hopefully someday adding some solar panels, and maybe a solar pre-heating system for our hot water supply, all that improves our standard of living through net reduction in resource use.

        It’s also likely that at some point we’ll more or less top out on “stuff” because we all have limited space, and our increase in standard of living will consist at least partly of increased leisure time, working fewer hours per week for the same amount of stuff that itself uses fewer resources per-unit to produce.

        Michael, I know some of that was a bit pedantic and giving details that I know you know. I wasn’t trying to lecture you on things I didn’t think you know, but just trying to fully explain my perspective and why I see things as I do.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        If global warming led somehow to net welfare gains for humanity would we be for it? Who gets to of the sums? Who gets to make the decision? How do we factor in the problems created by the solutions in these sums*? Whose hand controls the thermostat?

        * referencing that solving problems obviously often leads to and sometimes creates new problems. Indeed global warming is itself the wake of a previous set of human solutions.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        in a perfect world, where global warming wasn’t killing animals and plants via stress, and was actually helping more people live better? Yeah, I’d be for it. If we need to geoengineer back to 1950?? For it. I LIKE technology.

        Twenty years from now: 50% of jobs are gone — evaporated from technological progress. I see a lot of people in a lot worse state than now, despite the economic growth.

        It’s not chicken littleism to take the possibility of giant immigration and start planning for it. People are doing that, have done that, for a 30 year horizon. Their plans may be horrible, but they’re still planning.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      There’s no real credible moral superiority argument, iff’n you ask me. That whole system of thought is odd.

      Practically speaking, though…

      Generally speaking, a relatively steady state for a population is often more stable than unrestrained growth or reduction over time. If you don’t have demographic bubbles and troughs, then your system of social support doesn’t go through upheaval through generational time. The baby boomers are illustrative of how this is a problem for a relatively free society like ours, the managed one-child-per-couple family in China has essentially caused the same problem over there, it’s looming larger every year.

      It’s more likely that you’ll have good family support structure in place if you have kids – when you get older, that is, and you need care you can no longer provide for yourself. The presence of children mitigates that somewhat, just like the presence of active and engaged parents produces better outcomes for children.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      “I have heard the argument that having children – provided that you want to be a good parent – makes a person more selfless and more inclined to think of another person before themselves, because that’s unavoidable when you raise a child. Similarly, marriage requires a level of compromise. But that doesn’t mean that singleness has to mean self-absorption…”

      Hmmm… I should have read your comment first. I think the direction of causality matters quite a bit. Does the single life necessarily mean self-absorption? No. But does self-absorption make it the far more likely outcome? Yea, probably.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        So that raises the question: is character more innate, or more changeable? If a greater number of self-absorbed people married and had children, would most of them become less self-absorbed, or would most of them just be bad spouses and parents?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I’ve been pondering a post on this. Being a father has changed me and it’s done so for the better. I think that would be the case for a lot of people. Probably mostly the people who have kids. But it would change a lot of other people for the worse (as an extension of making them miserable). Probably most of the people who choose not to have kids. Happiness statistics suggest that there are more people who have kids who would be happier without them than there are people who don’t have kids that would be made happier with them. Of course, happiness isn’t the same as being a good person. It’s just that rarely do being a good person and being very unhappy overlap.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Can I say both/and? Some people are/become less self-absorbed and see great value in marriage/parenthood. Others might not quite be there (or wrongly think they are), take the steps away, and change through the process. And some aren’t there and won’t/don’t get there.

        I’m pretty good at putting the needs of others first… I mean, my day job demands it… and I still wasn’t fully prepared for how I’d have to do that with my son. It was and still is a struggle at times. But, as Will said, it is a life changing experience if one is opened to being changed by it.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Oh the general subject, it seems likely to me that delayed marriage and non-marriage is a function of a lot of things. It’s one of those interesting social phenomena that started at the bottom of the SES ladder and worked its way up instead of the other way around. For the lower classes, I suspect it’s a combination of economy, incarceration, and government policy. For the middle and upper classes, it has more to do with the increasing opportunity costs of getting married and having children. Those costs are either put off or foregone. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is mostly perspective provided that it doesn’t cause disruption through too many or too few babies (the right number being something people disagree about anyway) and provided that people do get to meet the milestones they want (such as that they don’t end up childless despite having wanted children).Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “…the marriage decline is probably more because of mass incarceration and the end of well-paying blue collar jobs than anything else.”
    “How should childless people in their 30s and 40s act? Why shouldn’t they use their money on cool bars and restaurants or whatever else strikes their fancy?”

    These two sentences stand out to me. The people described in the latter are unlikely to be the victims of mass incarceration or the end of well-paying blue collar jobs. So while those two factors might explain the marriage decline among certain subsets of the population, I think declines or delays among another are for other reasons.

    I got married just shy of my 28th birthday and we had our son a few months before my 30th. We were just the second among our various groups of close friends with a child (though two more were/are on the way). This made us feel very young. Then I remembered then when my mom was 30, she had me… her third child.

    A successful marriage and, probably to a greater extent, raising children healthily requires an immense amount of growing up. It literally demands that you hold someone as at least an equal (with the former) and that you put nearly all of your needs secondary to someone who literally depends on you to live (with the latter). These are not easy things to do. They are remarkably powerful and fulfilling things… but not easy. The attitude expressed in that second sentence… that there is nothing wrong with spending money on cool bars… is precisely why we are seeing delays or declines in the marriage and child-bearing rates.

    I don’t mean this to sound as judgmental as it does. I’m very much a live-and-let-live person. I’ve got two older siblings, neither of whom are even close to marriage or parenthood. But they seem very happy with the paths they’ve chosen and I tell them to rock on (even arguing with my mom that she needs to leave them be). But we shouldn’t pretend that the parent route and the non-parent route are equivalent. They demand very different things of people. Ignoring that seems to ignore reality.Report

  6. Avatar NewDealer says:

    @veronica-dire @katherinemw

    I believe in climate change and this need to be done about the environmental movement but I have seen the tendency you are doing before and I don’t think it does the environmental movement any favors.

    Tales of resource wars and mass death playing over a course of 100 or more years feels too much like a science fiction dystopia and makes enviromentalists seem kind of kooky and like they want us to return to the pastoral-shire which never existed. Plus 200 years from now all of us will be dead one way or another unless there are some really significant scientific advancements done in the next few decades. We need people to care about ten years from now and stories about resource wars after they are gone from the world do not help.

    The zero-growth or negative growth movement (both economically and population-wise) is about as likely as the eviction-free San Francisco movement. It strikes me as the epitome of impractical holier-than-thou politics. There might be some environmentalists that think humans are the worst things to happen to nature but we exist and most people like our continued existence. Mass child-freeness is not going to happen.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      If the average family is having two kids, that’s pretty much zero population growth in the long run. That’s where Europe, North America, Latin America, and East Asia are now, and the rest of Asia isn’t far off. I can see something like that becoming the norm for the world.

      But we don’t need to push it as a policy. We just need to reduce poverty, which is extremely worthwhile for a host of other reasons, and population growth will slow.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire says:

      I am not part of the “environmental movement,” and if you know anything about me at all you’ll know I don’t care for tone policing. I spend about zero-seconds worrying about how I “sound to people.”

      I don’t know what is going to happen, but I predict instability, on many different levels: politically, economically, ecologically. I think it’s going to get bad.

      It has gotten bad before, in the history of our species, and will no doubt do so again. The question is when. I predict sooner rather than later, for all the reasons that do not bear repeating.

      We can control much, but we cannot control everything. (The free market folks kinda get this, that you cannot manage down to the smallest level, and that little things can grow and take shapes beyond the power of planners.) If you step back and squint, this is all entropy, manifesting in lots of ways.

      So, brief version: things have been really stable for a century, but I see a triple whammy coming: energy, environment, and politics, which add up to pure badness.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        The problem I have with this, Veronica, is that it’s too vague. Are their some potentially negative trends of which we need to be aware and preparing to deal with? Absolutely. Do they inevitably spell collapse? It takes more than just saying “energy, environment and politics” to make me believe.

        Emvironmentally we’re actually making great improvements in a surprisingly short amount of time. With chemicals, for example, we only began using them in great quantities in the late 19th/early 20th century, didn’t begin really regulating them until the ’70s, and now we have cradle to grave regulation via ToSCA and CERCLA and a few other laws, and we’re making great strides (although more slowly than originally anticipated) at cleaning up polluted sites. The next big challenge, I think, is trace amounts in our drinking water, but even considering that we’re vastly improved from where we were.

        Population growth rates are declining, in most places more quickly than just about any demographic predictions had led us to expect. The world’s population is becoming more well off, and political stability is actually increasing.

        Sure climate change is going to be problematic, but regionally so. Many if the specific effects predicted are very dubious–for example at present low-lying Bangladesh is actually gaining land-mass, the Sahara is actually shrinking, greening around it’s edges, and hurricanes are not increasing (I also think people also understate the costs of cold weather, and simplistically assume the climate of the past 500 years is somehow the Earth’s norm, an ideal equilibrium that humans have disrupted). There’s no good evidence it’s going to put the human species at risk of extinction, and the best way to combat or adapt to it is to continue to increase the wealth of people around the world so they can afford to focus on that instead of just daily survival ( proposals that will limit growth in developing countries are self-defeating).

        And while others fret “peak oil,” I rather cheer the end of dirty fossil fuels and subsequent cost-induced moves to cleaner energy and more efficient use of it.

        In general, without being in any way utopian–the future will not be painless or conflict free, and my default attitude toward life is a mild pessimism–it appears to me as though the positive trends substantially outweigh the negative trends. And of course I could be wrong, but it’s hard to be persuaded by vague “energy, environment and politics” claims that lack any supportivy detail.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Yes, I am also predicting it is going to get bad.
        The difference is, I am actively helping it to get bad.
        (hell, someone’s gotta make a living.)

        Find some good strong communities, and
        hunker the fuck down. If the military’s planning
        for resource wars (and it is) pay the fuck attention.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      My issue with the discussion is that we’re focused on humans as the sole measure of quality, survival, etc. Which doesn’t mean I don’t care about human survival and well being.

      But it does mean that only focusing on humans, at the expense of other species, strikes me as the ultimate in hubris. The penultimate collapse of morality, followed only be deliberate, willful, and rapid destruction of the biosphere. We are part of, not separate from, the ecosystem we inhabit; and failure to look out for the health, well-being, and prosperity of others in our ecosystem means failure, eventually, to look out for ourselves.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        I hear you, but I suspect that was inevitable. To gain political support from masses, and not just exist as a fringe movement, environmentalusm had to focus on people’s number one concetn, themselves and “the children.” And by the time we passed ToSCA the environmental focus had shifted predominantly toward concern for human health. My hunch is that only after we have mitigated human health risks to where people feel safe enough will the mass public be ready to turn its attention to non-human organisms. From the mass persoective, that concern is a luxury good. I don’t say that with any pleasure, or as disagreement with you.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        some environmentalists get better support from “animal lovers” than others.
        Hunters do a good job of prioritizing the rest of the biosphere — so do some
        animal leftie orgs (not PETA, who for some reason dislikes racoons).Report

      • Avatar Murali says:


        Don’t you think that this statement:

        My issue with the discussion is that we’re focused on humans as the sole measure of quality, survival, etc. Which doesn’t mean I don’t care about human survival and well being.

        and this one:

        failure to look out for the health, well-being, and prosperity of others in our ecosystem means failure, eventually, to look out for ourselves.

        contradict each other?Report

  7. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Anecdotal statistic:

    My team at work consists of 12 white people and 3 black people. All 12 of the white people are married and I believe 11 of them own homes. None of the black people are married and all live in apartments. They all make roughly the same amount of money (with considerations for pay scale due to years of service). Something is just very different culturally and this has been going on for at least 70 years.

    Additionally, it was very vogue among the well-educated 10-15 years ago to delay marriage significantly. This trend has changed and more of them are embracing marriage. the economic and social benefits are just too damned good to pass up.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      They all make roughly the same amount of money (with considerations for pay scale due to years of service). Something is just very different culturally and this has been going on for at least 70 years.

      I’m just tossing this out – this isn’t an area I know a great deal about – but Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic had some excellent in-depth posts a while back about wealth disparities between white and black Americans. Wealth, not just income. The gist was that discrimination, terrorism, redlining, and a host of other policies and actions prevented black families from building up wealth over generations the way that many white families did, with the result that even if a black family and a white family were making the same income now, the white family would be substantially better off.

      That could explain the difference you’re seeing.

      Here’s a couple of TNC’s posts:

      Here’s one from another source:

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        Regarding marriage, I think this is more of a cultural thing. Marriage is simply not as common in the black community. I hear my female coworkers constantly lament the way that black men have no interest in settling down. This phenomenon has been observed by sociologists since the 1940s.

        With regards to home, it may actually be a positive feature because they are acquiring less debt when their social situation would make that problematic. I have seen low-wage workers buy homes simply because that is what they think they are supposed to do and later they are buried in mortgage payments.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Thing is? It wasn’t true in the 40’s, as far as I can tell.
        You saw a large dropoff in poor folks marrying when their housing no longer depended on being married.

        Or you can play it the other way:,d.aWcReport

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        I disagree. Read Black Metropolis, 1945. Numerous fatherless homes were observed during that study.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        there’s a big difference between “numerous fatherless homes” (common among Jews in NYC, as well, I might add, during migration — although those women were forbidden to remarry, due to not having gotten a divorce) — and having neighborhoods where there isn’t one married couple.

        How, again, are we defining “fatherless homes” — do Sicilians who sent their fathers to America to work count as a “culture of fatherless homes”? How about Mexicans? (note: i know far less about Mexican culture , so if i’m offbase. tell me!)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        My father died when I was around 10 years old. I was raised in a single-parent home by a mother who was not married to anybody.

        I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to claim that my situation was not easily distinguished from “numerous fatherless homes”, I’m pretty sure that the responses would come quickly that, indeed, there are a lot of differences.

        So those differences?

        That’s what Mike is talking about, I imagine.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        The Jewish women were abandoned by their husbands (and unable to remarry). I do not find that to be terribly different from growing up in a fatherless house. Certainly there is no presumption of support, even inherited.

        Your point’s well made for the Mexicans and Sicilians, though.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I don’t know nor will I pretend to know the specifics of your situation. So, please, the moment that I say something that isn’t true, feel free to say, “STOP RIGHT THERE!”

        If one of those differences was financial, in that A) your father provided income for the first 10 years of your life and/or B) had a life insurance policy or some other way of securing the financial stability of his family after his passing, it would seem to me that that is a very different difference than what Mike is talking about. Unless we are to infer that something like life insurance is itself a cultural component (which it well may be).

        For the record, I don’t doubt that different cultures/subcultures have different views on marriage. I imagine there being all sorts of intersections of race, class, and religion in there.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        What I am talking about is a combination of many homes where the father simply disappeared. In Black Metropolis they talk about how the dads would still live in the neighborhood, often with a drinking problem, and simply ignore their responsibilities. A lot of these couple back then were probably married at one point. Beyond the 1940s a growing number of homes where mom and dad were never married and eventually you arrive at what we have today which is a huge number of unwed births among the black community.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I don’t know nor will I pretend to know the specifics of your situation.

        Eh, that’s cool. You don’t need to know them.

        Just imagine me smugly saying that I have special insight into this topic because I was raised in a fatherless home.

        Those responses that you can imagine bubbling up in response, if not ones that you imagine yourself giving? Those responses contain the meat of the differences that Mike is talking about.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I want to make sure I’m understanding you (and @mike-dwyer ).

        An argument is being made that marriage rates aren’t a “black” or “white” thing but a “household culture” thing. It continues noting that fatherless homes have lower marriage rates. And while there might be more fatherless homes in the black community, this is not a “black” thing but a “societal thing” (e.g., the War on Drugs).

        You (and Mike) are pushing back against that. Saying the difference in marriage rates cuts across that. And you are holding yourself up as an example that you grew up in a fatherless home, understand what that experience is like, yet pursued the marriage path nonetheless.

        And were people to say, “But, Jay, your fatherless home was different.” You (and Mike) might respond: “Exactly.” And point towards cultural differences as the prime mover and not the presence or absence of a father.

        Do I have that right?

        If I do… and I think I do!… I’d say that I probably agree with you with a caveat that disentangling “culture” from “society” is really, really, really hard.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        systemic masked depression displayed as alcoholism and men neglecting their responsibilities isn’t terribly a “black trait” (or if it is, I can cite other american subcultures that it equally applied to, pre-WWII).

        The interesting part, as I see it, is the implication of implied power on the women’s part to kick the bums out. In other cultures, the men would have strongly resisted leaving the household — if only because that would mean that they wouldn’t have women/children to beat (or, if you want to be more polite, order around).Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        This is where Douthat urged conservatives to realize how horrible mass incarceration as been on the black community for marriage rates. Jim Crow by incarceration as probably been going on since the 1940s. That is when prosecution for narcotics began heating up seriously.

        Jessica Grouse recommended this book on the subject:

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        And you are holding yourself up as an example that you grew up in a fatherless home, understand what that experience is like, yet pursued the marriage path nonetheless.

        No, I’m not.

        Were I to give my position, I would be saying that I grew up in a culture that cherished marriage and held it up as an example to help people flourish. Not only in the “loving relationship” sense but the boring economic stuff senses… and I would argue that there are a handful of things that a person could do to make sure that they climb out of grinding poverty into mere being poor and they include the litany of:

        1) Wait until you are married until you have children
        2) Stay married to the person with whom you have children
        3) also do stuff like “graduate high school”

        Now if we want to discuss how my culture makes 1, 2, and 3 fairly easy and “their” culture makes 1, 2, and 3 very difficult, that seems like it might be a fun conversation were it not so obviously a minefield.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Oh, hell, I don’t mind that conversation. I just want to make sure it’s a fair conversation.
        And that means including everyone on the other end of the stick, not just the ones of darker value (I know, the word is hue. but the darkest (lowest value) hue is blue. And I’m not here to talk about those blue people!).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Jim Crow by incarceration has been going on since the 1800’s (dkos had a scholarly post on it a while back).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Given your position as stated, how does your father’s passing factor in?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Given your position as stated, how does your father’s passing factor in?

        Well, we were discussing culture when I first brought it up. It seems to me that culture does a hell of a lot of heavy lifting and to dismiss the differences between children born without benefit of clergy and children born within a marriage that ends in divorce and children born within a marriage that ends due to the premature death of a parent is to dismiss a hell of a lot.

        (The context of my original comment was one in which dismissing was going on… which was subsequently acknowledged by the dismisser, might I add.)Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        This is a fine conversation, but I have one question:

        Are any of us here black?

        (I mean right here, right now, in this little thread.)

        Since, it seems to me that talking about black folks, ourselves a bunch of white folks, using this or that cherry picked study, prepared by whites, has all the danger of us, once more, talking about people rather than to them. We isolate ourselves, stand above, pontificate.

        I mean, whatever studies we have read, we are almost certainly very ignorant.

        This conversation would be far better if it were driven, at least in the majority, by black intellectuals and academics.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Nearly every single factoid i’m throwing on this thread has been created by a black academic. I’ve sat and heard their talks (haven’t read their studies always, sorry).

        So this is based on people’s experiences, and the people we’re talking about are black.

        I also bring a bit of experience in white experience, from the Sicilians I cited earlier to the Jews.

        I’m pretty sure all the black people at my work are married (the single guy just left for Texas). Haven’t asked, of course, because that’s /rude/.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        This conversation would be far better if it were driven, at least in the majority, by black intellectuals and academics.


        Let’s say they don’t show up.

        Then what?Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @jaybird — I don’t know. I’m not suggesting complete silence on the topic, but I am staying we should know how limited this conversation is.

        And if they are not here, they are elsewhere. Perhaps go there and listen? Maybe? (It’s what I do.)Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        This calls for a Book Club!
        Can I recommend Black Wealth/White Wealth?

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        As I’m reading through this thread, it’s really hitting me how problematic the word “culture” is when we talk about these issues. And not because the word is inherently wrong so much as it is inherently incomplete.

        For example, if we look at the topic of where African Americans live, it is true, I suppose, that where they choose to live (including in many cases the seedier parts of metropolitan areas) is part of their “culture.” So too is the tendency for them to have a greater chance of coming from a single parent home, or of being or have a family member who is incarcerated.

        And yet…

        I can’t shake the feeling that when we caucasians use the world “culture” in these instances, we does it far too casually, even flippantly; and therein, I think, lies the rub.

        Blame African American incarceration statistics on “culture,” and it’s sort of like equating their life choices to my opting to submerge myself into PDX culture by being a foodie. There’s a way in which it kind of lets everyone in power off the hook for setting up laws, social dictates and mores in such a way that give them little or no choice to make certain decisions. (I agree with KatherineNW, that TNC has been writing compelling stuff for a long while about how this has been done not just in the 19th century, but the 20th and 21st as well.)

        Or to take veronica’s request that we not focus on people who aren’t here, allow me to make a corollary with the LGBT community:

        Being in the closet is part of that culture, even for those not in it any longer (or even ever). It simply is, in a way being in the closet cannot be part of my own culture as a straight.

        But to describe it in such terms, as a kind of definite explanation, does a complete end around the role of us straights in forcing people to stay in the closet, or at least to make the choice to come out unnecessarily stressful and scary. Saying “the closet is part of gay culture” neatly puts the onus for the terrible actions of straights entirely on the shoulders of the LGBT community.

        I think this is why even when I hear the word “culture” being used to describe negative aspects of the lives of society’s somewhat or fully disenfranchised, it seems wrong. Or at least, it seems unnecessarily (and for those of us not disenfranchised, too conveniently) incomplete.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        yeah, what gets my dander up is that GOOD aspects of AA culture are being derided here (perhaps unintentionally). You look up at Mike’s description and apply it to the Scotch Irish? They didn’t leave fatherless households, they left beaten, and occasionally dead family members. [No, of course this wasn’t everyone. but it was a very real, and somewhat condoned part of the culture.]Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Okey-doke. I’ll check that out from the library. Veronica, any book/website recommendations you’d like to make?Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @tod-kelly — Yeah, I think you have it exactly right, and what you are saying is why I feel uncomfortable about these conversations.

        @jaybird — Some of this is face to face, people I know in my community. A lot is on Twitter, making friends with PoC, particularly trans women, as in actually person to person communication where I listen as much as talk. If you want a place to start, I’d say start reading Janet Mock’s stuff.

        And obviously Coates and his forum.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I think this is why even when I hear the word “culture” being used to describe negative aspects of the lives of society’s somewhat or fully disenfranchised, it seems wrong. Or at least, it seems unnecessarily (and for those of us not disenfranchised, too conveniently) incomplete.

        An interesting point. Would we be better off if we discussed “common behavior” instead?

        As for your example of “the closet”, I think you raise a good point and if I wanted to discuss such things that I, as a straight guy could do, to help (however pitifully) from this side of things, I might discuss the importance of seeing homosexuality as a matter of taste rather than a matter of morality and, within religious groups where that isn’t an option, focus on the immorality of legislating against such things as, oh, hospital visitation, assumed inheritance rights, and so on and the morality of providing protections given by gay marriage… and, from there, pushing for the normalization of gay marriage to the point where folks like me would argue for gay marriage as a tool to help younger gay adults find their feet faster in modern society. (“You know what your problem is? You need to get married.”, we can imagine a curmudgeon type saying to a gay guy complaining about the cost of living in a young, hip part of town.)

        Again, to use your example, if we wanted to discuss what straight white dudes could do to improve society at large with regards to the closet, that’s something that I might come up with… even though I’m not gay myself.

        I suspect that, were we to read the right books/websites and figure out exactly what phrases to use and which ones to avoid, we’d be able to come up with a compelling policy as to what we can do to improve our society that was as respectful of African-Americans as I like to imagine my plan (which I’ve been trying to follow!) for eliminating the closet has been. Sure, you could point out that all I’m doing is pissing in the ocean but… hey. Every little bit helps, right?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      Are ages roughly equivalent?Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

      The down payment for a house often comes from mom and dad. White privilege means it is likelier that mom and dad have a little (or a lot) to gove you to help you with the payment. I would guess that is a factor here.

      Another factor is credit ratings. If you grew up in a poor household in a historically impoverished neighborhood, you are more likely to rack up credit card debt (100 dollars of debt instead of mom giving you 100 for the electric bill) as a young person, even a small amount, which is then somewhat likely to turn sour and kill your credit rating.

      Lots of middle aged and older rural poor people do have small nesteggs or home equity to give to their kids to help minimize debt and help with downpayments that people in impoverished inner city communities don’t have because of a long history of racism and oppression.

      The arc of white privilege is long, hard to see, and bends towards injustice.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “The down payment for a house often comes from mom and dad.”

        Wait… what? Is that really the norm? We ended up putting down a very small down payment because Zazzy qualified for a VA loan, but we never considered getting the money from our parents if we did put down a larger one. We were assisted by our parents with other expenses with the ability to do so very much steeped in white privilege which presumably enabled us to save more of our own money. However, had that assistance not been there, we probably would have taken other routes rather than spend our own money (e.g., a less expensive wedding).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Blacks and hispanics are denied FHA loans at double the rate of whites, as I recall.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The arc of white privilege is long, hard to see, and bends towards injustice.

        This is one of those things that strikes me as odd. The examples that you give are all of stuff where parents are helping their children. Is getting one hundred bucks here or there an example of injustice on the part of my parents?

        I give the nephews money from time to time.

        Is this injustuce?

        Because, if it is, I’d have to say that it’s injustice that I’m more than happy enough to double down on, exploit, and run with.

        I also give my nephews books.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Wait… what? Is that really the norm?

        I’m scratching my head a bit at that one, too. My peers – disproportionately well-heeled – have certainly gotten assistance from family, but not housing down payments as far as I know. It would never occur to me to ask Mom and Dad for a down payment on a house. Nor my brothers.

        If there is a privilege effect here, and I think there is, it’s that our parents paid for other things which helped us have the savings to buy a house. Of course, you don’t have to buy a house in order to get married or have kids. Money is somewhat helpful for the former and important for the latter, though the relationship between wealth and offspring doesn’t run in the direction you would expect to see with causal effect (so at the least, we can assume other factors are involved).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        If I am understanding Shaz properly, it is not necessarily that parents helping their children is, itself, white privilege. But that white parents might be better positioned to help their children because of white privilege. My parents can borrow against their home to help me. A home they own because their parents were able to borrow against their home to help them. And on and on.

        If you look at the various systems that were used to deny people of color from owning homes or taking part in other wealth accumulation schemes, it might be a bit more evident.

        The assistance is the symptom, not the disease.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot9 says:

        Well said, Kazzy.

        I think this is pretty obvious stuff.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Strange that he used examples of “parents helping children” rather than the ones you used, don’t you think?

        I mean, if he wanted to talk about the arc of white privilege bending toward injustice after a discussion of mortgage rates being pegged to credit ratings or a discussion of real estate agents not showing homes in certain neighborhoods to people of a certain color, I’m pretty sure that not a single eyebrow would be raised.

        But we’re talking about injustice after discussing parents giving their kids $100. My eyebrow? It’s up there, not down here.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        specifically, the study that showed white folks giving downpayments to their kids was done during the housing bubble, and restricted itself to twentysomethings (maybe a little less, I didn’t read the study, just listened to the author give a talk).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I would also go further and say that exercising white privilege isn’t in and of itself an injustice. I shouldn’t deny Mayo books with characters that look like him because that might be harder to do for black parents of black children. But injustice begins to manifest when systems of white privilege tend to be self-perpetuating. Fast forward twenty years and Mayo has been bombarded with images of successful white men and sees himself as capable of, if not expected to, realize similar success. Meanwhile, his black classmate is bombarded with images of black men as failures and criminals and sees himself as expected to, if not fated to, realize similar failure. Mayo becomes a writer. And writes children’s books. With happy white characters in it! His black classmate ends up in jail. And now a new generation of children face the same disparity in images that look like them. Rinse and repeat.

        I’d say that is bending towards injustice. But me reading “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” to Mayo? That hardly feels as such.

        As to why Shaz structured his argument as he did, I cannot speak to that. I don’t think your eyebrow was inappropriately raised given them.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Put in black and white: blacks on average have 10% of the wealth of whites, and this affects their prospects for increasing their wealth, staying in the middle class, and being in poverty.

        If I do anything with my degree, it is partially because of white privilege. Because of specifically racist policies, which I can tell you the statute and number of.

        I’m not going to say that it’s immoral that I make money.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Kim, I don’t doubt that it is done (or was done). I’m skeptical of it being a norm, though, among white folks.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        These are all really good comments.


        I don’t have statistics but from anecdotal evidence, I know plenty of well-educated white people who received down payment help from mom and dad. Either as a gift or an interest-free loan.

        My maternal grandparents were not very wealthy but they worked hard and saved a lot of money. This helped my brother and I receive our higher educations debt free and still have some money to spare. I have a BA, MFA, and JD, and only the MFA gave a partial scholarship/tuition discount. Plus their savings helped my parents be able to get a nicer house than they would have been able to afford on their own via down payment.

        My dishes are hand-me downs from my parents but very nice owns. My dad and I are the same size so I can borrow or get his old but very nice and classically designed suits instead of going out and buying my own. Etc. When I was unemployed, I was able to borrow my rent from my parents and pay them back instead of being evicted or dipping into savings, etc.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I do agree with the general point that “Wealth matters” and whites are more likely to have it than minorities, and on average have substantially more of it. Should also be noted that values differ greatly from one white to the next, and this portion of white privilege is pretty unevenly distributed.

        (I should add that, even if my parents won’t pay for a down payment on our house, I am definitely on the “more privilege” as far as this goes. My college was paid for, which is huge. I also had financial assistance getting my start, which may have prevented me from falling into a pit with some misfortune or another – I don’t remember this happening, but it might have. I also had access to a car, and I was given a car on graduation. The money helped me out not only in the tangible ways but the intangible as well. So my point here is not at all “Hey, don’t look at me!” but rather “Don’t look at that other guy and assume me.”)Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        If you look at the various systems that were used to deny people of color from owning homes or taking part in other wealth accumulation schemes, it might be a bit more evident.

        The assistance is the symptom, not the disease.

        One of the problems here is that we’re talking about systems – actual, engineered systems, that is – sitting on top of an environment – which is still a system, but it’s ad hoc and not engineered.

        A lot of the discussions about race privilege conflate the two, and then you get very weird justice statements. This is where it’s handy to have Blaise around, when he wasn’t in curmudgeon mode.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I somewhat agree? I’m pointing out the obvious methodological critiques of the study, and am curious on whether it still holds.

        Of Note:
        “When I was unemployed, I was able to borrow my rent from my parents and pay them back instead of being evicted or dipping into savings, etc.”

        This is KEY. This is the difference between someone dropping into poverty (and often being unable to get out again), and staying middle class. Can you afford to wait a year until a job that’s suitable opens up? Do you start working minimum wage (despite your degree)?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Note: will and newdealer:
        Will (I think) has lived in a lot of places where “get a car for graduation” is the norm. That’s a $10-$20,000 “downpayment assistance”. This is often more wealth than an average black person has… (not a just graduated. On Average. Being Poor Sucks, and it’s not just The Rent is Too Damn High).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        oh, I totally agree. Systemic discrimination against blacks on housing loans got some big class action suits this century (after 2000). Those are systems.

        The environment that means blacks get more FHA denials? (may or may not be intentional).Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        Concurred on the car.

        My parents helped me out in many many ways that are a huge advantage and will continue to do so. They roughly mentioned that since my grandparents helped pay for my college educaton, they feel compelled to do the same for their grandkids if any.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Kim, to be clear, the car I was referring to in my case was definitely not a $10-20k one. Some kids at my well-to-do high school did get that. Among my peer group, though, the common thing was that you got whatever car was at the bottom of the totem pole or the least expensive car that would get you from Point A to Point B. I had access to a car throughout college, then when I graduated the car I ended up with was a six year old Ford Escort. For my wife it was an eight year old Camry. Most people I know bought their own car within five years or so of graduation. Clancy and I didn’t, though, as our cars lasted a long while (her Camry is still our second car, in fact). It’s a pretty significant subsidy. In all, it could well be worth a down payment on a home. (I’d sort of assumed the down payment was in addition to a car, but in some places where cars aren’t so necessary, maybe it wasn’t.)Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        okay, so I was totally curious. Bluebook value of a “good” honda civic sedan (6 years old) is over $8k. So, um, obviously $20k is for a “new car”, but ~10k is surprisingly not far off for me being totally ignorant.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The car cost about $5k, bought a year before I got it (that’s $6300 with inflation, not sure how much depreciation would be, but probably not all that much). The one before that, which I would have gotten if it had lasted longer, was a ’78 Caprice that my grandmother used to drive and that wasn’t worth much of anything (a lack of AC in the south will do that to a car’s value). Before that was a Crysler LaBaron that they paid $2k for. It’s really a crapshoot on how much the gift is ultimately worth.

        That being said, it’s probably often the case that the gift of transportation is worth considerably more than $20k, with various expenses involved. Insurance, heavy repairs, etc. The dollar value of that is a crapshoot, as well, but guaranteed transportation? Very important.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:


        Somewhere around 25-30% of downpayments for first time home buyers are made with help from family. (I don’t have the breakdown by race, but you can guess.)

        Moreover, I think that data is only when the gift giver pays directly out of their account. It doesn’t take into account money that the parents put into the buyer 3 or more months before the house was bought. (Once you have the money three months it is “parked” and thus it is your money and you aren’t using a gift for a downpayment.

        Thus, the actual number of people getting money from parents to help pay for downpayments is surely much higher.

        It is true that FHA loans require less down (3.5 I think), but you nead a decent credit score to get those, which brings up my prior post about having parents help you with small things to avoid credit card debt going sour. You can can a loan through FHA that requires you to put 10% down if your credit sucks, but 10% is a lot.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

        Also, African Americans are often cursed with bad credit. In one state, roughly 50% of African American areas have scores less than 620. Scores below 580 are much more common.

        The effects of this on economic opportunity are clear and devastating.

        The causes -if you ain’t racist- are pretty clear to; African Americans get less help from parents and have fewer employment opportunities, are victims of the drug war, face oppression, etc, etc. The exact mechanisms here are subtle, but real. Indeed, I suspect using credit ratings in employment decisions is sometimes a proxy for race. Still researching though.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        A while back, we got into a discussion where the question was raised as to whether people with credit scores below a particular number should be denied loans.

        On the one hand, you can frame it as “should predatory banks predate on minorities and predate on them?” On the other, you can frame it as “should minorities live in apartments forever?”

        The causes -if you ain’t racist- are pretty clear to

        Why do you even need to do more research? It’s obvious to anyone who isn’t racist.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:


        Fair subsidized loans good. Predatory loans bad.

        This is all really fairly obvious and simple.


        The details require research and data. But yes, if you deny that the wealth gap is primarily caused by a history of oppression, that is racist.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The wealth gap *IS* caused by a history of oppression.

        But, and here’s where stuff gets really tricky, there are formulas to deal with what lending rates you’re likely to get based on your credit rating/history. These formulae are color blind. We’re well within “racism without racists” territory at that point.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot9 says:

        I don’t know if you’re trying to make a point or not or disagree with anything I’ve said. I’ll leave it to you and others to decipher your comments.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, so long as the future examples of white people screwing over black people involve banking rather than white parents giving their white kids $100 from time to time, I suppose that my needs are met.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        I hereby curse you all with bad credit!Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        except where I can cite deliberate discriminatory policies based on people’s race. North Carolina (and, I think it was Connecticut) had big class action suits on house loan lending. This century.Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    This story sort of questions Douthat’s whole spiel — that marriage is the best for stable society. It’s certainly best, so it seems, for men.

    But what’s best for women tends to be education and the right to divorce abusive and non-contributing men.

    So my take on this whole discussion is that it’s rooted in male privilege.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I agree. But tackling today’s problems is shortsighted.
      Today’s problems are that women are increasingly better suited for the tasks we pay people for.
      Tommorrow’s problems are 50% of our current jobs will no longer exist.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I don’t think that anybody at all is opposed to the idea of women divorcing abusive and non-contributing men.

      I do think that if I started discussing whether it’s a good idea to enter into a relationship with abusive and non-contributing men that it would quickly dissolve into a discussion as to why I’m not spending more time saying that men should not be abusive to women and that they, really, should contribute.

      Are there cultures that have more abuse than others? Cultures that have more non-contributing men? Maybe we could talk about what might be done to these cultures to get them to evolve better.

      Of course, if all cultures are pretty much equal across the board on these issues, we can discuss whether that means anything too.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        (Never say “[not] anybody at all”)

        As far as I know, none of my friends are abusive (except that former one). I do have friends who have been non-contributors in previous relationships. When that happens, I don’t – or wouldn’t – blame the woman one dang bit for kicking him to the curb.

        But if I have a friend who is a deadbeat who asks my advice on why he can’t keep a girlfriend, “don’t be such a deadbeat” might be the advice that I give him (except stated more nicely). Or a friend who wonders why she ends up with men who don’t contribute, I might point out her selection criteria if I think that is contributing to it. Non-friends aren’t likely to care what I think in either case.

        On a sidenote, I have a friend who carried maybe 10% of the relationship weight in a couple of previous relationships. I was worried. Now he’s married and he seems to carry about 75% of the relationship weight in that one. So if I see a guy who isn’t contributing, I might ask him “Is this a relationship you really want to be in?” (Or maybe not. In the 10-percenters, though, I can’t say that I thought either of them was a good match and I became increasingly vocal – though not to the point of saying “End it!” – about it as their relationships wore on.)Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Jaybird, I certainly don’t think you’re suggesting that, and I hope you don’t think I was implying that in any way, shape, or form.

        But there are large swaths of the world where the social acceptability of divorce is recent; and in those places (according to the article I linked), it’s been a benefit to women because it allows them to leave abusive spouses; particularly a benefit when they’ve also been able to get some education, which increases the women’s economic outlook.

        In Western countries such as the U.S., which has a divorce rate of 3.6 per thousand people, the prevalence of divorce is most often viewed as a regrettably common fact of life; evidence suggests it can be a factor in juvenile crime and declining child welfare. In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, however, divorce is both an indicator of and force behind social changes that have improved prospects for women, reduced gender inequality, and fueled development. All of which suggests that the more people are able to get out of bad marriages, the better off their societies are likely to be.

        The more common divorce becomes in a given society, the less damaging it’s likely to be for those individuals who pursue it. Research by Matthijs Kalmijn suggests divorce causes greater unhappiness in social settings where it’s rare. In the U.K., according to economists Andrew Clark and Yannis Georgellis, the period before a divorce is associated with low life satisfaction, but the period after it is comparatively satisfactory, especially for women. And if mothers escape an abusive relationship, it’s good for their children, too.

        Now I say this as a happily married woman; still married to my first husband 33 years on. A good marriage is wonderful. But I really think this whole ‘family stability’ thing Douthat goes on about is, in fact, a culturally-accepted form of misogyny; that marriage where there is gender inequality does a whole lot more to benefit men then it does women or children. And I have yet to see good ol’ Ross get around to any sort of gender discussion that adequately represents my side of the debate.

        So the real questions to be asking, if you want family stability, are those you pose, though I don’t think your culture base questioning as likely to provide a good metric, because cultures with stable marriages may well indicatethe culturally ingrained gender inequalities still prevail. They are built in and that take a whole lot of effort to even expose, let alone root out or at least diminish.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        [Zic, I fixed the above comment for you. -Trumwill]Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        But I really think this whole ‘family stability’ thing Douthat goes on about is, in fact, a culturally-accepted form of misogyny; that marriage where there is gender inequality does a whole lot more to benefit men then it does women or children.

        To be perfectly honest, it seems to me that a society (or sub-society) where marriage is not expected at all is one that does more harm to women and children than it does to harm men.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        JB, perhaps that’s the other end of the spectrum we’re discussing.

        But there’s a whole lot of color in between.Report

  9. Avatar Roger says:

    I agree people should be allowed to make their own decisions about whether to marry or have children.

    Do note though that these decisions are influenced by incentives and culture. Culture includes seeing what your parents (parent?) did as well as your neighbors and friends. It involves knowing what is expected and socially acceptable based upon your upbringing, peers and circle of influence.

    Incentives other than those imparted by cultural pressure include the financial ability to live alone and raise children. Tax details, social welfare programs, imprisonment stats, the health of the economy and all these things will contribute. We are dealing with circular feedback loops though rather than linear cause and effect.

    We are seeing a bifurcation of advanced economies into cultures of education, marriage, child investment, home ownership and good credit and their inverse. As Murray has clarified, this bifurcation is not primarily racial. Some subcultures are snowballing in one direction, other aren’t.

    I agree that we should not be incarcerating significant portions of society.

    High paying blue collar jobs is another way of saying society was paying too much for an easily replaceable resource or service. As several billion previously state-impoverished people were freed to join the international markets of economic cooperation, it no longer makes sense to pay low skill labor as much as we used to. It can be done by others, others every bit or more deserving.

    Unions, licensure, regulations, minimum wages with mandatory benefits and the war on self employment, and the horrid state of government-monopoly inner city schools all contributed to the economic emasculation of lower skilled males (oddly these are not exactly standard right wing initiatives).

    We have indeed seen a situation where culture now accepts single parents, where government interference funds it even as it (admittedly along with global markets) causes the lower skilled first-world men to be unemployable.

    Culture and institutions each explain a lot. Together they explain a hell of a lot.

    Changing culture is tricky and slow and needs to be an internal process. Changing the institutions is a better place to start.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      You’re missing the forest for the trees.
      Jobs are going to evaporate, not go to the third world.
      Many of them already have.

      What does the “is technology good for people” question mean,
      when advancing technology means deliberate revocation of the internet?Report