Saturday, October 22, 2011

Supporting Democracy is the Foreign Policy Aim That Does Not Come Back to Bite Us

I think the one reliable pillar of a centrist foreign policy for the United States is to support democracy.

This means supporting democracy even when people we don't like get elected. Our long-term interests are best served by supporting democracy as a framework, which is the best help and hope we can give to the factions that will, when elected, support us.

This means we do not support dictators even if they are, temporarily, the enemies of our enemies.

This means we do not make war simply for our own economic interests. That is actually more craven than supporting dictators against other dictators. War for profit reaps us justified opposition all over the world.

This means we do not invade other countries on our own, ever. Sometimes armed intervention is necessary in an emergency to prevent genocide or repel aggression. That is what the UN or NATO or our other security alliances are for. When we invade on our own, colonialism follows almost every time.

And this means that sometimes we can't do enough to support democrats in other countries. There are limits to the power of even the world's greatest superpower. But we should keep pressing diplomatically for democracy in the most oppressive places.

Most of the world's people like the American people. They like our culture. If the doors were wide open, we would have 100 million immigrants, I expect, as fast as transport could be arranged.

When the United States supports democracy in their countries, we justify that good feeling and earn legitimate admiration. When we base our foreign policy on the realipolitik of the Great Game against this year's enemy, or, worse, on what is profitable to U.S.-based multinational corporations, we undermine that good feeling and destroy that admiration.

Finally, when we do support dictators, or do make war for profit, it comes back to bite us. Every time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Oldest Siblings are the Most Persuasive Models

Oldest siblings are the most persuasive models for or against delinquency for adolescents.

In a study of Latina teens, if a girl's mother had been a teen mother, she was only .2 times more likely to be a teen mother herself. However, if a girl's older sister had been a teen mother, she was 4.8 times as more likely to become a teen mother herself.

Drinking, smoking, drug use, and crime are almost as contagious from older to younger siblings. The effect is stronger among sisters than among brothers.

These findings are reported in Jeffrey Kluger's The Sibling Effect.

This suggests to me that interventions and ministries with at-risk youth should focus on the eldest children in a family most of all.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Arab Spring Was a Revolt Against the Dictator's Sons

With the death of Muammar Gaddafi and his sons, the long generation of North African dictators comes to an end.

I think what made the time ripe for a successful revolt in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya was that the nations that had put up with dictators since independence, were not willing to stomach the even more brutal and corrupt sons of the dictators as they threatened to come to power.

This is also, I think, why the time has not been as ripe in Yemen, Bahrain, or, saddest of all, Syria. The Syrians missed their moment when the current dictator succeeded his father. I wish all three nations well in replacing their tyrants. Yemen might pull it off still.

On the whole, though, I think the "Arab Spring" will turn out to be the "North African Spring" as the post-independence autocrats get replaced by a broader ruling group. This is still a great achievement. But democracy in the Arabian peninsula will probably have to wait another season.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Most Americans Want to Legalize Marijuana. Do It.

Let me make clear that my position is not personal. I have no interest in using pot. I do think, though, that marijuana is no worse for society than bourbon. I think we should legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana production the same way we do alcohol. I have maintained this position for some years.

What is new now is that 50% of Americans agree. Moreover, only old people are strongly against it. Coming generations are clearly in favor, as this list of the percent supporting marijuana legalization by age group shows:

65+: 31%
50 - 64: 49% (this is my age group)
30 - 49: 56%
18 - 29: 62%

I saw we tax pot to fight crack.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Materialism Undermines Your Marriage

A common finding of happiness research is that, once your basic needs are met, more money does not reliably bring more happiness.

Another finding is that good marriages do reliably bring more happiness.

So what happens when money-oriented people marry?

A new Brigham Young University study found that couples who put a high priority on getting and spending money have less satisfying and less stable marriages. Lead research Jason Carroll said:

Our study found that materialism was associated with spouses having lower levels of responsiveness and less emotional maturity. Materialism was also linked to less effective communication, higher levels of negative conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, and less marriage stability.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mitt Romney's Mormonism is the Best Thing About Him

The New York Times has a substantial article about Mitt Romney's days as head of the Latter Day Saints in Boston. He comes across as solid in his faith, walking the talk, helping those in need, and serving as a low-key liaison between the Mormon church and a sometimes suspicious surrounding community.  He seems especially strong as a traditional Mormon husband and father - and the LDS is a church that makes something of a specialty of family life.

He also comes across as stiff and reserved, which matches his political persona.  That seems to be the way he is, which is no real criticism.

This article has been helpful to me, because Romney has changed his political positions so often that I was wondering if he really believed in anything.  I am glad to see that on the core issues of faith and family, he is consistent and reliable.  His faith is not mine, but I honor his fidelity to it.