Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Why people accept the things they do

April 9, 2014

post2experiment

I don’t know when, where or if this experiment was actually carried out, but it is a good parable of why bad customs persist.

Hat tip to Carol Avedon (who is listed on my Blogs I Like page).

http://avedoncarol.blogspot.com/

http://avedoncarol.blogspot.com/2014/04/clip-joint.html

Which nation’s people are the most satisfied?

February 26, 2014
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Las year researchers from Pew Research Center once again asked a sampling of people from different countries, “Overall, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in our country?”

The map and chart indicate the percentage who answered, “Satisfied.”

The peoples who reported the most satisfaction were the Chinese (85%) and Malaysians (82%) and those who reported the least satisfaction were the Spanish (5%), Italians (3%) and Greeks. (2%).  We Americans were in the middle (31%).

What these surveys measure is not which countries are flourishing the best, but whether life in those countries measures up to expectations, which is different.

Hat tip to Business Insider and Marginal Revolution.

A good question

February 26, 2014

hattip.corrente

Hat tip to Corrente.

http://crooksandliars.com/diane-sweet/35-million-homeless-and-185-million-va

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/23/europe-11m-empty-properties-enough-house-homeless-continent-twice

James Scott and the Art of Not Being Governed

February 25, 2014

Some time ago I read and admired James C. Scott’s Two Cheers for Anarchism, in which he pointed out how nowadays most Europeans and Americans are overly ready to obey authority.

I also read Scott’s Seeing Like a State, which is about how the modern world has been shaped by the desire of rulers to make their subjects legible, so that they can be more easily taxed, conscripted and controlled, and the disasters that have followed from rulers’ illusion that information is the same as understanding.

I haven’t yet got around to reading his other great book, The Art of Not Being Governed, which is about 100 million people in the uplands of southeast Asia who have successfully escaped the control of governments in the region.  This video is a good preview.

As Scott pointed out, the ungoverned people he studied were not primitives who had failed to catch up with civilization.  Rather they were the descendents of people who centuries before had escaped the control of governments of China, Vietnam, Thailand and other countries.

He noted that only during the last few centuries has it been possible to even argue that there is a  net benefit to being under the jurisdiction of a government.  Prior to that you were better off being a free hunter-gatherer.  All government did was tax you, conscript you, enslave you and possibly provide some protection for other governments.

The old American myth and the new one

February 20, 2014

When I was growing up, most Americans believed that one of the things that made our country exceptional was “the American standard of living” — that Americans of all social classes were better off than their counterparts elsewhere, and that is why everyone would want to move to the USA if they could.

Now we’re adopting a new belief — that what makes our country exceptional, at least compared t is that we Americans are tough and therefore don’t need job security, guaranteed medical care or all the other things that cushion their lives.   However, if the Europeans follow their present austerity course, we may not be exceptional in that respect, either.

Why you should always adjust for inflation

February 18, 2014

household-income-monthly-median-growth-since-2000

This chart shows why no economic statistic is valid unless an adjustment is made to allow for the effects of inflation.

If you just look at income in terms of dollars, the American middle class has not done all that badly in the 21st century.

If you look at what those dollars will buy (setting aside the question of whether the CPI underestimates the true cost of living), the figures tell a different story.

For the context of the chart, click on Rising Inequality: Recovery Driven Almost Entirely by the Rich by “Gaius Publius” for the Center for Media and Democracy

Does Evangelical influence lead to more divorce?

February 12, 2014
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As strange as it may seem, a new study indicates that the influence of evangelical Protestant Christianity leads to higher divorce rates.

Sociologists Jennifer Glass and Philip Levchak found that the higher the concentration of evangelical Protestants in a U.S. county, the higher the divorce rate was likely to be.   Early marriage is associated with low income and lack of education, but there was a higher divorce rate even among couples of the same income level and educational level in the counties with higher percentages of evangelicals.  The divorce rate among evangelical Protestants themselves is higher in such counties.

They said the reason is the evangelical Protestant culture promotes early marriage, and people who get married in their teens are more likely to be divorced than those who wait until they are in their twenties.  This fits my experience.  When I was single and living in western Maryland, a religiously conservative area, in the 1960s, it seemed as if virtually every waitress with whom I struck up a conversation had gotten married while in high school, gotten divorce and was working to support herself and a child.

The connecting link between religion and d was evangelical Protestant culture rather than evangelical Protestant faith.  Glass and Lovchak found that among couples who did marry young, the ones who went to church regularly had, on average, more lasting marriages than those who didn’t.   But statistically, early marriage did more to encourage divorce than regular church-going did to inhibit it.

Why would early marriage be associated with divorce?  Poverty puts a strain on marriage.  Young women who drop out of high school to get married have a harder time earning an income than those who postpone marriage until graduation.  This puts the burden of being a family breadwinner on the young man, whose prospects also may be poor.

Evangelical Protestant churches tend to oppose contraception, which would lead to unwanted pregnancies and shotgun marriages.  They tend to discourage sex education and promote sexual abstinence, which means newlyweds have no sexual experience and little knowledge.

But for all that, there is something worse than a culture of early marriage and early divorce, and that is the underclass culture where people never go to church and have children without thinking of marriage at all.   Early marriage and early divorce represent a step up from having sex and begetting children with multiple partners and none of the legal responsibilities that go with marriage.   In such circumstances, a strict religion such as evangelical Protestantism is a solution, not the problem.

(more…)

Bosnian protesters unite across ethnic lies

February 10, 2014

My e-mail pen pal  Jack Clontz sent me the following link.

He thinks it is important and so do I.

Anger in Bosnia, but this time the people can read their leaders’ ethnic lies by Slavoj Zizek for The Guardian.ho

Click on the link to read about how Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina have joined in protests against corruption and demands for jobs.

As Zizek points out, their action has significance beyond Bosnia, because it shows it is possible to avoid the sterile dilemma of  rule by religious theocrats and rule by materialistic dictators, as seems to be the case in so many countries.

Conflicts among nationalities and religions, and between religious zealots and secularists, helps the powers that be to divide and rule.

U.S. rich guy sees self as like Jew under Hitler

January 28, 2014

progkristal

Tom Perkins, co-founder of the venture capital firm of Kleiner-Perkins, has caught a lot of flak for writing a letter saying that attacks on the the upper 1 percent of U.S. income earners [actually the upper 0.1 percent or maybe 0.01 percent] make him fear that America’s super-rich will suffer a Kristallnacht, like the Nazis systematic attack on the Jews of Germany on the night of Nov. 9, 1938.

He has since apologized for choosing this particular analogy.  In my opinion, a more relevant comparison would be with the French aristocracy prior to the French Revolution.  But the United States is a long way from anything comparable to the storming of the Bastille.  Instead they’re being forced to pay taxes at Clinton-era rates and submit to a modest degree of financial regulation.

The question is why so many U.S. millionaires and billionaires feel so threatened, even by the slightest criticism or the mildest expression of concern about income inequality.

The problem with a new “war on poverty”

January 16, 2014

It is very difficult to teach poor people the skills and attitudes they would need to rise into the middle class when there may not be a middle class left for them to rise into.


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