Saturday, February 04, 2012

Millennial Protesters May Hate Institutions, But Are Weak On Alternatives

David Brooks has a pretty good column starting from the viral video "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus." Brooks notes, gently, that the young man who made such a strong criticism of religion, Jefferson Bethke, humbly backtracked when some theologians set him straight.

Brooks took that retreat as an example of a larger phenomenon.  I think he really has the Occupy movement in mind, though he never says that.  Brooks' summary is this:

This seems to be a moment when many people — in religion, economics and politics — are disgusted by current institutions, but then they are vague about what sorts of institutions should replace them.

I am struck by the fact that this diagnosis matches what popular demographers Neil Howe and William Strauss predicted for the Millennials - today's twentysomethings.  Howe and Strauss thought that they would be a new "silent generation," nice people, good team players, but weak on a theory of institutions.  I don't know how old Jefferson Bethke is, but his screen name is bball1989, which makes me think he is 22.

I am glad young people are finding a way to raise a critical voice.  But they do need a positive, institutional theory of what they want instead.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Silly Idea: Divorce to Boost Economic Demand

Matthew Yglesias has a very silly column in Slate arguing that more divorces would stimulate the economy, because creating more households creates more demand for things households need.

This is a perfect example of being penny wise and pound foolish. Most importantly, the cost in human misery of divorce would far outweigh the short-term economic benefit. But even at the economic level, the short-term demand from new households would, I believe, be more than offset by the loss of productivity as married men became divorced men.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Main Social Problem: Weak Marriage Rate in the Bottom Classes

Mona Charen has a fine column, "Social Pressure to Marry is Dead." She makes this strong claim:

"The collapse of marriage among the lower and lower-middle classes is rapidly tapping our national strength."

I agree. In fact, I believe this is the number one domestic problem in our country. If the poorer classes married and stayed married, child poverty would nearly disappear, crime of all kinds would decline, drug use would decline, household poverty would go way down, home ownership would stabilize, and general happiness would rise.

I think in general that things are getting better in the world. This includes the marriage rate among the educated classes, which is rising.

But one thing that is getting worse is the marriage rate among the bottom classes. And this is dragging everything else down.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Rise of "Herbivorous" Men in Japan

Men with no interest in sex or women are now so common in Japan that they have a name: herbivorous.

A third of teenage boys in Japan (age 16 - 19, not the young ones), say they have no interest in sex. Some of them say they despise sex.

One possible cause: most teenage girls in Japan (59%) say the same thing.

40% of married couples report that they have not had sex in the past month.

The Japanese fertility rate is 1.37, way below the 2.1 children per fertile woman necessary to replace the existing population.

The idea that large fractions of young men would have no interest in sex is hard to grasp.

No one knows why.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How the Richest Woman in India Became the Leading Spouse in Her Marriage

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is the richest woman in India. She heads the drug company Biocon. Ariel Levy's fine portrait in the New Yorker shows the unexpected course that led a science-trained young Indian woman to fight sexist resistance to make a big business success.

I was particularly interested in how Mazumdar-Shaw's marriage balanced with her business career. Mazumdar-Shaw is married to John Shaw, from Scotland. Late in the profile, Levy gives this account of how the Mazumdar and Shaw union settled their particular work/life question.

Mazumdar-Shaw thinks of her husband as "a very secure person" who is comfortable in his supporting role. "After we got married," John Shaw recalled, "we sat down and Kiran said, 'Now, John. You've got a career in the textile industry. I've got a career in the biotech industry. One of us has got to give up our career, and it's not me.'" When he looked at her ledgers, he agreed.
Every marriage comes down to the individual qualities of the couple.

Still, I can't help but think that if Kiran Mazumdar had married an Indian, she might have gotten more resistance from her husband when she suggested that he give up his career.

And perhaps of all the non-Indians she might have married, she was fortunate in marrying a Scot - he agreed that he should be the one to step back and support when he looked at her ledgers.

Sounds like a fine partnership.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jay-Z Announces He Will Keep Calling Women "Bitches."

I view the marriage of celebrities with trepidation, especially popular musicians. Nonetheless, I have some hopes for the union of Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z (Shawn Carter). They married before they had their first child - a rarity in their world. They are very publicly supportive of marriage and parenthood - also unusual, especially for a rapper.

I was delighted, therefore, to hear that Jay-Z proclaimed that the birth of his daughter had cured him of using the word "bitch" to refer to women

Alas, it is not to be. For reasons which are hard for me to understand, Jay-Z's publicist has released a statement that the rapper is not going to give up on calling women "bitches," after all. Despite being married and being the father of a little girl.

The more I think about this, the harder it is to understand.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Possible American Trollope: Louisa May Alcott

Some months ago I asked for suggestions of which novelist, if any, was the American equivalent of Anthony Trollope.  Most respondents thought there wasn't one.

I am now reading Little Women for the first time.  I see a strong moral similarity between Alcott's project and Trollope's. He draws on a broader social world.  On the whole I think he is the better writer. Still, Alcott seems to be engage in a similar project at the same time, and with comparable popularity.

I offer this idea for the consideration of my literary readers.