Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chesterton Is Wise About What is Wrong With the World

I am treating myself to a dose of G.K. Chesterton, who I always find insightful and funny. Today I am finishing What's Wrong With the World, which begins with a fine slam on sociology:
A book of modern social inquiry has a shape that is somewhat sharply defined. It begins as a rule with an analysis, with statistics, tables of population, decrease of crime among Congregationalists, growth of hysteria among policemen, and similar ascertained facts; it ends with a chapter that is generally called "The Remedy." It is almost wholly due to this careful, solid, and scientific method that "The Remedy" is never found. For this scheme of medical question and answer is a blunder; the first great blunder of sociology. It is always called stating the disease before we find the cure. But it is the whole definition and dignity of man that in social matters we must actually find the cure before we find the disease.
The "definition and dignity of man" is really what the book is about, offering a stout defense of human beings against social schemes of left and right to make (poor) people adjust to some new order of the world.

Chesterton is a very healthy minded thinker, especially after his conversion to Christianity. He ends his introductory chapter with this wonderfully gruntled declaration:

I have called this book "What Is Wrong with the World?" and the upshot of the title can be easily and clearly stated. What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Black Women's Marriage Rate of 75% Is Good News

About 75% of black women have married by 35. This is a higher marriage rate than is often reported, which is pretty good news.

For comparison, about 87% of white women have married by 40 (the closest comparison I have, which will not be way off the "by 35" rate).

The black divorce rate is higher than the white rate, so the long-term marriage gap is wider than these ever-married figures suggest.

Still the black marriage picture is better than the 58% rate one often reads. Ivory Toldson and Bryant Marks, the researchers responsible for these new numbers, note that black women marry later, on average, than white women do, so a comparison of marriage rates for younger women makes the gap look larger than it eventually will be.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Last-Place Aversion" Drives Welfare Haters

The most conservative class is normally the petite bourgeoisie. Not the top, not the bottom, but one up from the bottom. The lower-middles are especially opposed to benefits for the bottom class - even if it means giving massive breaks to the rich.

The Economist cites new research on this puzzle. It is not that Joe the Plumber('s assistant) really expects to be in the top tax bracket someday that makes him oppose raising taxes on the rich. It is because he doesn't want there to be any money redistributed to the class below him, which might raise them up to his level.

"Last-place aversion," more than rich envy, makes the petite bourgeoisie so passionately opposed to welfare.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Gruntleds' TV Choices Show Our Centrism

Which of these shows, if any, do you watch?

Desperate Housewives
The Mentalist
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Criminal Minds

According to the YouGov/Polimetrix poll, Democrats and Republicans differ significantly in their preferences among these shows.

Republicans favor NCIS and Criminal Minds.
Democrats favor Desperate Housewives and The Mentalist.

This confirmed to the Gruntleds our centrist credentials: we are Democrats who watch NCIS and Criminal Minds regularly, but Desperate Housewives and The Mentalist not at all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth 2

Eric Kaufmann, in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? notes that secularism's growth has come mostly at the expense of liberalized versions of traditional faith which tried to accommodate secular thought. Fundamentalism is actually a modern movement, using modern means of thinking about religious "facts," which fights secularism directly. Kaufmann offers a striking metaphor for the ecology of modern secular vs. religion fights:

“Secularism, like DDT, wiped out much of its opposition but also gave rise to new, resistant strains of religion.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth 1

Eric Kaufmann, in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth, explores what he calls the "soft underbelly of secularism: demography." Secularism has been growing in all developed nations, and there are secularized pockets among the educated in all countries. Northern Europe, especially, has gone a long way down to the road to irreligion. Since the Enlightenment began, intellectuals, both secular and religious, have been predicting the decline and disappearance of religion.

Kaufmann points out, though, that even in the most secularized society, secular people do not have enough children to replace themselves. In most societies, the moderate or mainline religious groups also have sub-replacement fertility. On the other hand, fundamentalists in every religious tradition have enough children to grow - some of them by gigantic accumulating rates.

Moreover, secularity grows by conversion, mostly from the slightly or moderately religious. The strongly religious, by contrast, typically build strong religious communities to go with their firm faith, which helps them retain their children.

The numbers from American Protestants can represent those from other countries and religious traditions. For a population to be stable and replace itself, each fertile woman needs to have, on average, 2.1 children. This is the magic number of the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). The TFR of secular and Protestant Americans:
Secular: 1.5
Moderate Protestant: 2.0
Conservative Protestant: 2.5

Kaufmann predicts that secularists will continue to grow as a proportion of the U.S. population to mid-century. Then, though, the higher fertility and higher retention of religious conservatives (not all of them Protestants, of course) will catch up and become a larger and larger portion of the American population.