Friday, May 24, 2013

Going Benedict

During one of the recent presidential debates, moderator Candy Crowley, who is as objective as she is beautiful, cut to an audience member who asked the candidates what they would do to rectify the situation whereby females make “only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.” Despite the paucity of evidence for this much vaunted gap, Obama and Romney stumbled all over themselves in order to demonstrate how willing they were to help women.

Less than a month prior to the debate, an article in the Daily Mail noted that in the U.S., the labor participation rate for men had dropped to 69.9 percent, the “lowest level ever recorded.” A spurious wage gap between men and women is regarded as an occasion for Government to Do Something; if men are falling behind in the economy, they need to Man Up.

In her new book, Men on Strike, Dr. Helen Smith takes umbrage with this double standard and speaks up for the men who are reluctant to champion their own cause. In our haste to better society for women, we have eroded the institutional incentives which spurred a man to go to school, to work hard and to marry. Now, many men are going Galt.

She quotes the blogger Roissy: “Men slowly discover that the effort to win women's attention via employment is not rewarding them the way it did for their dads and grandads, and that now only herculean efforts to make considerably more than women will give them an edge in the mating market.” From a certain standpoint, dropping out is rational.

Probably the most important chapter of her book covers the kangaroo courts of family law. Men are routinely forced to pay child support for children that aren't their own; if they fail to pony up, they are sent to jail. Courts have even held that a boy who was statutorily raped by an older woman was liable for her child support. When it comes to procreation: women have rights, men have responsibilities.

Dr. Smith possesses a sympathetic understanding for the plight of men. Her book is filled with insightful anecdotes from men she has interviewed or who have commented on her blog. Since men are reluctant to bring their concerns forward, for fear of being seen as unmanly, Dr. Smith provides a helpful service in reminding men that they are not alone. The media remains oblivious to the extent, as well as the nature, of the man strike, but her book is a welcome addition to the trickle that will soon become a deluge.

There is a minor flaw in her book, or, rather, there is an unresolved dilemma among those who wish to supplant female privilege with justice. One camp argues that only a doctrine of separate spheres is sufficient to maintain a stable society; that female suffrage leads to civilizational collapse by way of unchecked hypergamy. A more moderate school of thought, to which Dr. Smith subscribes, wishes to replace our regime with one that, at least legally, treats men and women with genuine equality.

Regardless of the specific program, if the political problem proves to be intractable, more radical gestures may be required. For while opting out might work for individual men, the author astutely observes that such an approach is not good for civilization as a whole.

Perhaps a better model than John Galt, the striker, would be the great founder of monasticism: St. Benedict. Today's Benedictines would not need to be celibate like the saint and his monks. Instead, as the philosopher Alidsair MacIntyre suggested, we could start little communities with wives and children, far away from the evils of modern society. One might call it: going Benedict.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Scandal time

President Obama may be in some trouble.  For months, the conservative press, led by Fox News, has been hammering at him over Benghazi.  This scandal hasn't really gone anywhere, even though it now seems clear that the administration knew that the attacks were motivated by terrorism.  Despite, or rather, because of this unfortunate element, the administration simply lied, pinning the blame on the creator of a YouTube video that was--let's go with critical of Islam.

There are two odd elements to the Benghazi affair.  First, it should have been clear immediately that an attack which took place on 9/11 just might have some connection with terrorism.  Second, who on earth expects their government to tell them the truth?  Conservatives should know better.

This is all very cynical of me, but this is probably the right attitude to take towards leviathan at this stage of the republic.  Liberals ought to be more concerned with the propensity of their rulers to lie, since they inexplicably put faith in the government.  But since politics is little more team sport, well, this is what we get.

Conservatives will point out that if Benghazi was a story prior to the election, it would have hurt the President.  Perhaps, but so what?  Republicans lost because they appointed a crony capitalist to crow about tax cuts.  Romney's inability to appeal to the base had nothing to do with the President.

Anyway, the Obama has now been embroiled in a much more significant scandal.  The broad strokes: the IRS was targeting tea party types, treating them much more harshly than progressive groups.  And, someone--we don't yet know who--knew about this prior to the election. 

This scandal seems much more serious since: 1) everyone hates the IRS; and 2) this is banana republic type stuff.  When the government is interpreting the law in a political manner, that's as illegal as it is unethical. 

Now, from the perspective of a cynical libertarian, this is reasonable shorthand for how the government works.  For instance, see the story about Congress building tanks that the army insists it does not want.  Congress isn't about to eliminate any jobs, even if those jobs represent a total waste of resources. 

Conservatives like to claim that government shouldn't pick winners and loser, which is true, but it's still what they do every time they award a contract.  This targeting of political groups is much more pernicious, though, because it's not necessary.  If it turns out that the Obama administration knew about this, things could get very interesting.

Also on the scandal front, the Justice Department sought and obtained phone records of journalists.  Given the extent to which the press has carried the president's water, there's a humorous element to this.  Still, if the press turns--and this makes it more likely that they will--things will start to go very badly for Obama,

If Congress can kill off Comprehensive Immigration Reform, it looks like lame duck Obama will spend the rest of his term trying to avoid any association with scandals.  This will be both amusing and good for the republic.  The best we can hope for at this point is to prevent Congress from passing any idiotic bills.  This might do the trick nicely.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Brooks plays the fool

One problem with the Narrative is that while it keeps the peace, in the short term, by channelling discontent into tired trenches of something that occasionally resembles thought, on the whole, it tends to make us dumb. 

Witness David Brooks, house broken "conservative" over at the New York Times.  I actually like Brooks, when he remembers to stick with his light but amusing columns concerning the sociology of contemporary America.  But here, as Steve Sailer puts it, he "goes beyond self-parody." 

The schlock here is almost too thick to stand, but it will nonetheless receive a rebuttal.

First, immigration opponents are effectively trying to restrict the flow of conservatives into this country... In survey after survey, immigrants are found to have more traditional ideas about family structure and community than comparable Americans... Immigrants go into poor neighborhoods and infuse them with traditional values.

Surveys are amazing things, but you know what's even more amazing?  Empirical data.

"[U]nmarried immigrants are significantly more likely than unmarried natives to give birth... Hispanic immigrants have seen the largest increase in out-of-wedlock births — from 19 percent of births in 1980 to 42 percent in 2003. This is important because Hispanics account for nearly 60 percent of all births to immigrants."

Oh so close, David.

This notion that lawbreakers from the south are exemplar conservatives is risible, and doesn't square with the electoral data.  Sure, Hispanics tend to frown on buggery more than natives, but they still vote for the party of abortion and handouts.

Second, immigration opponents are trying to restrict assimilation.

Why, just think of Los Angeles, where a home crowd eagerly rooted for the U.S. soccer team against visiting Mexico.  Wait, that didn't happen?  Well, then, it's obviously the fault of those horrible natives for not helping immigrants assimilate. 

If this was 1965, Brooks would still be wrong, but at least he would be guessing.  We've had almost fifty years of substantial immigration from the third world, and the results aren't pretty.  But it's so much easier just to speculate wildly, so we'll stick with that.

Third, immigration opponents are trying to restrict love affairs... an astonishing 26 percent of Hispanics and 28 percent of Asians married outside their groups.

This is certainly a new one.  Presumably, without immigration, all of these people would have died alone.  Tragic, really.

Fourth, immigration opponents are trying to restrict social mobility.  Generation after generation, the children of immigrants are gradually better educated and more affluent than their parents.

Wrong.  As the last link above explains:

"In our book “Generations of Exclusion,” we show that the descendants of Mexicans do not experience the steady progress into the third and fourth generations that has been documented for those of European ancestry."

I guess Brooks doesn't read his own paper.

Moreover, American citizens are no longer seeing their own affluence increase from generation to generation.  That's just not a high priority, though, what with all these magical people living in the shadows.

Fifth, immigration opponents are trying to restrict skills. Current reform proposals would increase high-skill immigration. Opponents of reform are trying to restrict an infusion of people most likely to start businesses and invent things.

Apparently Mexico is a really stupid country.  They keep kicking out these high-skilled entrepreneurs, but lucky for us, we get them all, and they go on to start all these businesses and... wait, they don't?

Actually, while Mexico has its share of problems, sloughing off its unemployed masses to its norther neighbor while refusing to let in any undesirables from the south is pretty good policy.  Since it would be racist to implement Mexico's policy, we've really no choice but to send unemployed to Canada.  Take that you hosers!

No one wants to restrict entrepreneurs, but it would be asking too much to let in a handful of bright immigrants without taking in millions of unskilled workers. 

Our immigration policy makes us really dumb.