Saturday, March 16, 2013

Are Indian Gang Rapes the Fruit of Sex-Selection Abortion?

India has been killing off girls at high rates for a generation.  Sex-selection abortions have produced ratios of 120 boys to 100 girls born in some rural provinces. There are already millions of young men in India with no reasonable hope of marriage.

The world heard the horrible story of the gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi in 2012.  This month a Swiss woman was gang-raped in central India.  In each case the woman was with a man, who the gang beat and subdued before raping the woman in front of him.

Two cases does not make a social trend.  Still, these cases, in the larger context of masses of poor, unmarriageable men, suggests to me a story that makes sense.  Gang rape is extremely rare - almost all rapes, even stranger rapes, are by lone men who hide their deeds from everyone.  To get a whole gang of men in a condition to rape a woman together, and in front of one another, takes unusual circumstances.  And the circumstances of seeing a young woman having fun with a man seems to me the very circumstance that would madden a gang of permanent bachelors the most.

The killing off of girls, mostly by sex-selection abortion, is a great evil in the world.  China, India, Eastern Europe, and the Arab countries are the worst offenders.  I think they will reap the whirlwind.  A rising rate of gang rapes is one the forms of that whirlwind that I think likely.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What If: A Nigerian Pope?

When Karol Wojtila was chosen as Pope John Paul II, the political value was immediately apparent.  The Polish pope was an old hand at resisting communists, and was a strong voice in the years leading up to the collapse of the Soviet empire.

With that in mind, I have been thinking about what might have been: a pope from sub-Saharan Africa, the front lines of the world-wide struggle between militant Islam and Christianity.  (NOTE: I am not saying there is a struggle between all of Islam and Christianity.) 

I have no objection to the newly chosen Argentine pope, and no brief for any particular African bishop.

I am glad that the cardinals did not go with a Curia insider, or indeed with any European.  And it certainly makes sense to finally pick someone from the most Catholic continent.  But, in a sense, a South American is a safe choice.  A Nigerian would have shifted the world power balance in one of the great cultural struggles of our time. At least a little.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Differential Life Expectancy of the Rich and Poor is Half Chosen, Half Structural

The Washington Post has an interesting article by Michael Fletcher on how raising the Social Security benefit age would affect poor people much more than rich people.  The catchiest fact:

the life expectancy of male workers retiring at 65 had risen six years in the top half of the income distribution but only 1.3 years in the bottom half over the previous three decades.

However, deep in the article they also note that the behavior of the poor and the rich among the old are quite different.  Comparing a poor Florida county with an adjacent rich one (Putnam vs. St. Johns), Fletcher notes:

Adults also smoke at nearly double the rate they do in St. Johns, and they are far more likely to be obese and far less likely to be physically active.

He quotes doctors who say that the difference in life expectancy shows differences in health insurance and health care availability. Yet it is clear that a big part of the difference is due to self-chosen behavior, by both the rich and poor populations.

The centrist position here is that both factors are relevant. 

But I think at this point we can say that the many bad effects of smoking, at least, are the smokers' own dumb fault, and not primarily to be addressed by health insurance and having more doctors.  And in coming years I think we will reach the same conclusion about most causes of obesity and lack of exercise.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Routinization of Charisma of the Pope

Max Weber described the "routinization of charisma," the process by which the personal authority of a leader is transformed into the institutional authority of the leader's office.  This is a predictable part of the rationalization of any social institution.

Pope Benedict XVI, by resigning rather than dying in office, has taken a crucial step in routinizing the charisma of the Pope into the Papacy.

I expect his successors will follow suit more often than not.