Friday, December 16, 2011

Honesty is Common. Kudos to Coke for Demonstrating and Rewarding This

Coke planted a wallet with the equivalent of $200 and a much-coveted ticket to a big soccer match on the walkway in the middle of a mall in Portugal. They filmed what happened.

95% of the people who picked up the wallet turned it in to the nearby soccer store.

The crowd of shoppers cheered. The honest citizen was given a Coke (of course). And a ticket to the soccer match, where they were seated with the other wallet-returners. During the match, Coke ran the hidden-camera film of all the wallets being returned on the big screen, then panned to the section of the stadium where these honest citizens were seated. Huge cheers from the crowd.

Most people are honest. Most people like to help others. Most people do ordinary things to build up society.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wanted: Domestic Men for High-Achieving Women

High-achieving women have a hard time finding even higher-achieving men to marry. There are more high-achieving women than ever - my students and my daughters among them.

I think it is a deep and natural desire in most women to marry up if they can. This is prudent in class and status terms. More importantly, it makes sense as young women prepare, consciously or not, for the great risk of having children, to find the most securely attached and resource-laden spouse they can.

However, human beings are reasoning creatures, who can understand trade-offs, changed social conditions, and priorities. High-achieving women are probably the best people of all to understand and weigh such factors. And every woman and man is not looking to marry an entire sex or the average of an entire sex, but one particular person with a very specific set of qualities.

SO the good news for high-achieving women is that there are more men who want to be part of a family that shares the achievements, the status, and, of course, the work. Just as women have always done when the shoe is on other foot.

So one could lament the hard time high-achieving women have of making a traditional pairing. I prefer, though, this response:

A feminist leader, Siobhan (Sam) Bennett, president of the nonpartisan Women’s Campaign Fund, does not see conflicts for high-earning women in dating, marriage and domestic life. On the contrary, she told me, “I see great opportunity that these high-value women will ask and gain the flexibility they need to have marriages and families — their lives will probably look different than what we’ve seen — but they will work for them.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marriage is Not About the Become a Minority Lifestyle

A scary Pew Research Center report, based on the latest census, calculates that only 51% of American adults are married.  Some have leaped to the conclusion that marriage is declining, and about to tip into a minority taste.

This alarmist talk is overblown. 

First, most adults are married, as they always have been in this country.

Second, a significant fraction were married until death did them part.  As we live longer, the fraction of the population composed of widows and widowers is growing.  They are not evidence that marriage is passé - quite the opposite.  They made the ultimate commitment to marriage, and we should never forget it.

Third, as the Pew report notes, the average age of first marriage is the highest it has been in this country - 26 for women, 29 for men.  We can be confident from past trends that the most of those unmarried twenty-somethings will marry.  We know from current survey research that they want to marry.

The actually scary trend is that the poorest and least educated people - the families that could most benefit from the material side of marriage - are the least likely to marry.

The good news is that the marriage rate among educated and dual-career couples is rising, and constitutes the great majority of the top half of the class and status structure.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

They Are Stopping My Gold Dollar

I like the gold dollar coin.  I get my coffee with them every day.  I started doing that with the Sacagewea dollar, one of my favorite coins ever.  Now the Mint is making dollar coins for each president, a new one per month.  We are still in the Reign of Beards in the 19th century.

Alas, the Treasury has decided to cut back on making new dollar coins to just the minimum that the numismatists want.  They claim that too few people actually spend them.  As a result, they already have a ten-year backlog in storage. 

So I will do my bit for the dollar coin.  Fewer for America, but more for me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Parenthood is Hard, But Married Parents Are the Least Likely to be Depressed

This is the second post on Marquardt and Wilcox' State of Our Unions 2011.

In the 1970s, Jesse Bernard became famous among feminists for arguing that marriage was good for men, but bad for women.  The main empirical foundation of her book was a study that purported to show that married women (but not men) were more prone to depression than single women were.

Bernard's study has long been discredited.  What the study she cited actually showed was that women who had recently left careers for motherhood were somewhat more prone to depression than were childless working women.

Marquardt and Wilcox now offer current data, which goes further into parental life.  They find that single parents are more prone to depression.  Married parents, on the other hand, are not. In fact, married women, with or without children, were the least likely to be depressed.  Cohabiting parents were also not likely to be depressed.  Single women were more likely to be depressed, and most likely of all were single parents - 37% of single mothers, vs. only 22% of married women.  This figure controls for age, education, income, and race/ethnicity.

Marquardt and Wilcox's overall conclusion about the affect of parenthood on depression, and on overall happiness, is

the sense of support, solidarity, and meaning afforded by a co-parenting relationship more than makes up for any challenges associated with parenthood when it comes to global happiness and depression.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Reformed Body - Polity Statement

Occasionally on a Sunday I write about a painfully specific Presbyterian Church (USA) topic. If this is not your cup of tea, xkcd is always good.

The Fellowship of Presbyterians is proposing a New Reformed Body.  At this point they are navigating between the Charybdis of creating a counter-polity within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Scylla of outright schism.  This week they released draft documents on polity and theology for comment, prior to next month's national meeting to Take the Next Step, whatever that might turn out to be.  Today I will talk about the polity document.

The document looks to me like a very good constitutional framework for a Reformed denomination. They dissolve regional synods, a move that I favor.  They strengthen the collegial accountability of the presbytery, which I think is an excellent professional and pastoral idea.  They put congregations, rather than presbyteries, in charge of their property.  This is a giant step toward congregationalism, but in practice would not be very different from what we are devolving into now.

The document is deliberately lean, leaving to each presbytery and congregation the responsibility for adopting the normal rules recommend in this polity document, and/or developing their own.

My favorite innovation is this:

The session shall evaluate the congregation’s ministry and mission annually and report to the presbytery for reasons of mutual accountability and the sharing of best practices.

This sounds like an excellent idea for any congregation.  If congregations really did this seriously then the presbytery would, of necessity, develop knowledge and skill in sharing and assessing best practices.  That would be a huge benefit to the whole denomination.

What really makes a denomination work are not the official rules, but trust among the members and constituent congregations, and respect for the authority of established leaders. If the New Reformed Body can achieve that kind of trust and respect, it will succeed no matter what its official relationship to the PC (USA).