Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit and Superorganisms

The glory of human beings is that we create super-organisms of non-kin who work together for common purposes.  These super-organisms must create loyalty to their shared community.  The bigger the community, the harder the work of imagination this loyalty requires.

The European Union is one of the most ambitious acts of imagination ever attempted.  Unlike nation-states or multinational empires, the idea of the EU was not backed by force.  Rather, it used the softer powers of capitalism to create ties, and the even softer - but deeper - power of a common cosmopolitan culture to create a feeling of Europeanness.  The EU has been a great force for peace, especially in Europe, for which it was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2012.

The surprising British vote to leave the European Union is a step back from the great experiment of a super-organism held together by soft power.  I believe this is a loss for the world.

Friday, June 17, 2016

With Flexible Policies, There is No "Happiness Penalty" for Parents

A study by sociologists Jennifer Glass, Robin Simon, and Matthew Andersson compared the happiness levels of parents and non-parents in 22 countries.  In the U.S., parents pay a happiness penalty in several ways.

In other countries, though, there was no gap.  What those countries, such as Norway and Hungary, offer are flexible policies, such as paid sick leave, which help parents make work/family balance work better.

Moreover, the policies that helped most were not the big-ticket items that some countries have tried.  Direct subsidies to parents, for example, were less effective than leave policies that were available to parents and non-parents alike.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Another Small Step to One United America: Southern Baptist Convention Urges Members to Remove the Rebel Flag from Church

The Southern Baptist Convention, which was born to preserve slavery and only apologized for that position in 1995, has taken another step toward the national mainstream: proposing to ban the rebel flag from its sanctuaries.

The SBC is a congregational polity, so it lacks the authority to require its member congregations to do anything.  But the convention as a whole has taken a stand, and urges its thousands of local branches to follow suit.

Good News: Support for Assault Weapons Ban Grows

Very few countries in the world allow civilians to own assault weapons, and only one does so with practically no restrictions (that one would be the world leader in mass shootings).  Guns and Ammo made a list of the "10 Best Countries for Gun Owners," and even in that list only five readily allow semiautomatic weapon ownership at all.

Most Americans support a ban on assault weapons.  That proportion ticked up to 58%, as it does after each mass shooting.

The experience of Australia in effectively ending mass shooters gives all countries hope.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cosmopolitanism May Solve Group Bias, But at the Risk of Meaninglessness

We all live in groups and take part of our identity from them.  We tend to identify with our groups.  And, as a result, we tend to be biased toward our group, and against out-groups.

Being biased against other groups is a problem of alienation. The Other stands over-against us.  Marxism is centrally concerned with problems of alienation.

Liberalism is centrally concerned with overcoming bias against other groups by treating others (and oneself) as individuals. The liberal solution to the problem of parochial attachment only to my group is to become a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world, not bound by any group.

However, if we are not tied to any group, we face another problem: anomie. Anomie is the sense that there is no law (nomos), no order, no meaning, no "there" there.  We look into the abyss of meaninglessness.  Durkheimianism is centrally concerned with anomie.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

What Does It Mean to Say "I Do Not Have to Be Politically Correct?" It Means "I Have No Duty to Care for the Harmed"

I have been puzzling over what people who object to "political correctness" are objecting to.  Donald Trump says he "doesn't have time" to be politically correct.  This seems to be the trait that his supporters most admire.

Jonathan Haidt's research on liberals and conservatives found that the moral foundation that most resonates with liberals is caring for those who have been harmed.  Liberals feel a special duty to  those who have been harmed by powers and privileges that liberals themselves have benefited from.  This, I believe, is the heart of what it means to be politically correct.

So what is it that Mr. Trump and his followers get out of rejecting political correctness?  They reject any ethical duty to care for the harmed.

They reach this conclusion by two routes.

The first is to deny that anyone has been harmed.  If everyone is an individual who can succeed by his or her own efforts, then whatever condition people find themselves in is just.  They deny that there are structures of power or privilege which benefit some groups and harm others.

The second is to claim that they, the privileged, have also been harmed - especially due to "reverse discrimination" by liberals trying to help those previously harmed by power and privilege.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Best Way to Fight the Demagogues? Know, and Say, The World is Getting Better

What makes reactionaries, reactionaries is that they view all change as decline.  It is not surprising that they are doomsayers - that is their slogan and recruiting strategy.

But it is a contradiction when progressive don't believe in progress.  They should be the most devoted to seeing hope in change.

In this moment it is left to centrists to see that, in a thousand important ways, the world is getting better.

As Greg Easterbrook said in a recent well-named piece, "When Did Optimism Become Uncool?", the problem is that "the lack of optimism in contemporary liberal and centrist thinking opens the door to Trump-style demagogy."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Silver Lining: Trump Nomination Leads to Huge Increases in Hispanic Naturalization and Voter Registration

The rate at which Hispanic immigrants are becoming naturalized citizens has picked up dramatically this year, doubling rates seen even last year.

And the rate of Hispanic registration to vote, both among recent and long-time citizens, is also way up, tripling in some places.

All of which is an unexpected benefit of Donald Trump's likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president.

There is almost always a silver lining, even in dark events.