Saturday, August 03, 2019

True Progressives Lift Up Progress

The world, in most respects, is getting better for most people. 

 A truly progressive worldview would emphasize this progress.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The "Case Against Marriage" Mostly Misses the Point

The Atlantic article making "The Case Against Marriage" seems to me so obtuse that it crossed my mind that the argument was created by a Russian disinformation factory to undermine the West.

Yes, married people go out and hang out less than they did when single.  This is because they are now building a strong tie which is different in kind from the many weak ties they had been building before.  Both are necessary for a healthy society and a healthy life.

The main social task of marriage is raising children.  This is a uniquely difficult act of service to others.  We need all the strength of support and commitment that we can muster to do it well.

The second social task of marriage is strengthening the basic molecule of society, the all-in bond of two people to support each other for life.  Of course this is difficult, and many people cannot quite pull it off.  But most who try, do succeed -- and most want to try.

Not every member of society needs to make good marriages for society to be healthy.  But I believe the great majority of people want to try and would benefit if they can succeed.  And that goes double -- tripled, squared -- for their children.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

The Country Has Shifted Right Because Liberals Did Not Have Enough Kids to Keep Up Their Share of the Population

This is not the only reason, but it is the foundation of the others.

Demography is not everything, but it is the single most powerful fact about a society.

Conservatives have more kids than liberals. 

Monday, July 01, 2019

Discomfort in the Search for Truth

If, in your search for truth, you never run across a fact that is uncomfortable to your ideology, you are doing it wrong.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sociology is Phronesis

Sociology is phronesis (practical wisdom) of how philosophy is turned into institutions.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Placebos Work Because Doctors Show That They Care

Hidden Brain has a wonderful podcast on why the placebo effect works.  Placebos often show strong medical effects.  Even in surgery, and not just with drugs.  Even in "open label" experiments, in which the patients know they are being given a placebo.

The reason seems to be that when we know that someone listens to our problem and cares about our suffering, it helps us mobilize our own hidden resources for healing.

To me, this reinforces the basic premise and endless finding of sociology:  we are social beings, who flourish when we invest in one another.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

The "Self-Governing Class" Splits Off in Early Adolescence, and Almost Nothing Can Induce the Rest to Join Them Thereafter

Markus Prior, a distinguished professor of politics at Princeton, has tried to figure out why some people (like me and, presumably, Professor Prior) are extremely interested in politics, and most people are not.  He shares the fruits of his research in Hooked: How Politics Captures People’s Interest (Cambridge University Press, 2019).  I read this work with great interest, as my ongoing project is to try to get more students to be active "polis makers."  Prior does clear out most of the popular explanations offered by political science.  In the end, though, he only deepens the mystery.

Below is my review for Choice, which summarizes the problem. 

About 10% of people are extremely interested in politics, and another 25% are very interested.  These constitute the “self-governing class,” which does the vast bulk of political actions of every kind, including voting.  Political interest is very stable over the life course.  Established in early adolescence, interest level solidifies in early adulthood. People who are more curious, open to experience, smarter, and from higher SES families are more likely to be highly interested in politics.  Prior (Politics, Princeton), turned to three massive panel studies, in Britain, Germany, and Switzerland, to try to answer the question “Why are some people highly interested in politics, and some are not?”  Ultimately, he could not answer the question.  The tree seems to fork in early adolescence, before most surveys begin.  The bulk of the book is given over to niceties of technical method. He clears out a number of possible explanations, showing that events, personal or political, do little more than create a small, temporary bump in political interest.  Having gone as far as survey methods are likely to go, this vital question needs qualitative work with children to get to an answer.