Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

An interesting public opinion poll

February 8, 2016

political revolution

A recent public opinion poll found that a majority are willing to consider a “political revolution” to redistribute income from the richest Americans to the middle class.

This includes a majority of Tea Party supporters, of independents and of people who didn’t vote in 2012.

The poll found majorities in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy, raising taxes on corporations, single-payer health care and free college tuition.

But it also found that a majority of Americans think big government is a more serious problem than big business.  Majorities of whites, of blacks and of Hispanics agree on this.

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Silicon Valley’s agenda for the Democrats

January 27, 2016

The kinds of Democrats who go to college, get an entrepreneurial career or move to a big city — those who embrace a relatively unpredictable life — want an entirely different role for the federal government: they want the state to invest in modernization, with more high-skilled immigration, expansive free trade agreements, and performance-based charter schools.

Source: The Ferenstein Wire.

Startup founders and college-educated liberals fundamentally reject an atomistic conception of Society: government should be involved in personal decisions, such as finishing school or eating healthy, because they believe that personal decisions ripple out and significantly affect most people in Society.

Source: The Ferenstein Wire

Economically, the technology industry exacerbates inequality between the rich and middle-class, but eradicates poverty by making essential goods freely accessible.  Ultimately, this will trend toward a two-class society of extremely wealthy workaholics who create technologies that allow the rest of society to enjoy leisurely prosperity.  The cost for this prosperity will be inequality of influence

Source: The Ferenstein Wire.

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Click to enlarge.

A San Francisco journalist named Gary Ferenstein says the Democratic Party is no longer the party of factory workers and organized labor.  It is the party of college-educated professionals and high-tech companies, he says, and this is a good thing.

He has published a manifesto on behalf of the Silicon Valley Democrats—which include Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton—and against “protectocrats” such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

While not all Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and professionals think alike, any more than labor union members, white people or any other large category of people do, I think that Ferenstein does speak for many people from that background, and that his ideas are worth discussing.

His basic idea is that the government should give free rein to creative entrepreneurs, while trying to change individual behavior so as to make people more productive.  The high-tech start-up corporation is his model for all the institutions of society.

Unlike the typical neo-liberal, he does not advocate allowing people to fend for themselves.  Government should assure everyone an adequate education, adequate medical care and everything else they need to be economically productive.

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He believes that the key to better education and better public health services is internal competition.  He therefore favors Obamacare over a universal single-payer system, and charter schools over universal public education.

This is a form of radicalism that has appeared time and again in modern history—a radicalism that would revolutionize the way people live, yet leave the structure of political and economic power unchanged.

Ferenstein asserts that change is always good, there are no fundamental conflicts in society and education is the solution to all problems.  Nobody struggling to survive in today’s harsh economy would believe any such thing, but I’m sure that there is a constituency that does.

He deserves credit for making that constituency’s assumptions explicit, and showing how they influence the Democratic Party leadership.

What follows is more of Ferenstein’s Silicon Valley manifesto, my comments and links to the full text of his writings.

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What is killing Southern white women?

January 26, 2016

 

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Click to enlarge.

Two researchers at Princeton University published a study last November indicating that the death rate for middle-aged white Americans was on the increase.

Statistical blogger Andrew Gelman analyzed the figures and concluded that the increase is concentrated among white women in the South.

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One thing he did was to adjust the figures according to age.  Not everybody in an age group, such as 55 to 64, is the same age, and changes in age distribution can skew the figures over time.

The top chart shows the results of Gelman’s adjustment and analysis.

The Princeton study said the main causes for the increased death rate were drug-related (overdoses), alcohol related (liver disease) and suicide—all indicators of despair.   An earlier study said higher mortality among white women was correlated with lack of education and heavy smoking.

Why would this affect Southerners, whites or women more than other Americans?  I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure, however, that southern white women, like other Americans, would be healthier and happier in a high-wage, full-employment economy.

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Walking in New York City as a woman in a hijab

January 12, 2016

Hat tip to The Vineyard of the Saker.

An attractive woman walked the streets of New York City for five hours attired in a T-shirt, tight jeans and a cardigan.  She was the target of constant unwanted remarks and propositions.

The same woman walked the streets of New York City for five hours in a hijab, traditional Muslim dress.  She was ignored or treated with respect.

Modesty in dress is a good thing, not a bad thing.

What we were afraid of in 2015

December 30, 2015

topfears2D6BC74000000578-3273130-image-m-74_1444858317411Source: Chapman Survey of American Fears.

The healthy Hispanic life style

December 19, 2015

Hispanic_Poverty_Longevity400

Hispanics in the United States are nearly as poor, on average, as African Americans.  Yet they live longer, on average, than non-Hispanic whites.  What’s their secret?

Jasmine Aquilera, writing for Yes! magazine, says it is a combination of close community and family bonds, a healthier diet and la cuarentena, a Latin American tradition in which a new mother rests for the first 40 days after giving birth, not lifting a finger except to breastfeed and bond with her child.

A life in which community and family take priority would certainly be less stressful than a life in which priority is given to climbing the ladder of success—particularly in an economy in which so many people are moving down the ladder rather than up.

The traditional Mexican diet, based on corn, beans and rice, is indeed a healthy one.  It should not be confused with the Tex-Mex diet, with its big gobs of ground meat and melted cheese.   I think that the Tex-Mex diet may be a big reason Hispanics suffer disproportionately from obesity and diabetes.

I was especially interested in Aquilera’s report on the custom of cuartena. It reflects a culture that is profoundly pro-life in a way that goes beyond mere opposition to abortion and contraception.

I’ve read international surveys of happiness, which in general is proportional to the level of material well-being in various countries.  The exceptions are the former Communist countries of eastern Europe, where people are less happy than the statistics would indicate, and the Latin American countries, where people are more happy than the statistics would indicate.

I think Latin Americans have something to teach us Anglo Americans about how to live.

LINKS

Latinos Live Longest Despite Poverty.  Here’s Their Secret by Jasmine Aquilera for Yes!

The tide of illegal Mexican immigration ebbs

November 20, 2015

PH_2015-11-19_mexican-immigration-01These days more Mexicans are leaving the United States than entering.  As Mitt Romney might say, they are “self-deporting.”

Immigration, both legal and illegal, peaked in 2007.  Pew Research reported that in that year, the U.S. resident population included:

  • 5.9 million legal immigrants from Mexico
  • 6.9 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico.
  • 5.3 million unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

By 2014, the figures were:

  • 6.1 million legal immigrants from Mexico
  • 5.6 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico
  • 5.7 million unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

Overall, according to Pew, there are just under 59 million foreign-born residents and citizens of the United States, comprising a near-record 14 percent of the population.

Pew Research said one reason for the net out-migration of Mexicans is that the U.S. economy is less of a magnet than it once was.  Increasing numbers of Mexicans tell pollsters that they are just as well off staying in Mexico as they would be going to the United States.

Another factor is increased immigration enforcement.  Even though the number of unauthorized immigrants being stopped at the border is down, the number of deportations is up.

There are still 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the USA, and even if the unauthorized immigrant population continues to shrink at the rate it did from 2007 to 2014, it would still take more than 87 years before they were all gone.

As I’ve written before, I’m of two minds as to what to do about this.  I don’t think immigrants who break the rules should get a place in line ahead of those who obey the rules.   At the same time, I can’t much blame people for breaking rules to  better their lives and the lives of their families.

My bottom line is that it is better to offer a path to citizenship, as President Obama proposes, than to have an exploitable underclass in the United States outside the protection of U.S. law.

LINKS

More Mexicans Are Leaving Than Coming to the U.S. by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera for Pew Research.

5 facts about illegal immigration in the U. S. by Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel for Pew Research.

Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S. by Pew Research.

China abandons one-child policy

November 11, 2015

chinese_kids_by_peter_morgan_credit

One of the most momentous events in modern history was China’s adoption of the “one-child” policy in 1980.

figure1Now the Chinese government has done something almost equally momentous.  It has adopted a “two-child” policy.  Henceforth all Chinese couples will be allowed to have two children.

The one-child policy limited China’s population growth and, arguably, eliminated the threat of famine and made possible China’s current relative prosperity.

But the Chinese paid a price for this, and not just in brutal violations of human dignity, including forced abortions.

chinapopulationpyramid70China has a population imbalance, because Chinese couples traditionally prefer boys to girls.  This means there are millions of eligible Chinese men who will never find a spouse.

China faces an age imbalance, with an increasing elderly population and a shrinking working-age population.

And China faces a geo-political imbalance.  The population of India, China’s chief rival in Asia, will exceed China’s if present trends continue.  This affects the balance of power.  Bertrand Russell wrote somewhere that if there ever is to be peace among nations, they will have to agree on limitations of population as well as limits on arms.

demographic_transition_detailedMy hope for the Chinese, and for other peoples, is that they go through a demographic transition without government dictating to couples how many children they mahy have.

A demographic transition requires (1) a material standard of living sufficient that couples don’t think they have to have as many children as possible to be assured of survival in old age, and (2) women assured the freedom and knowledge they need to decide how many children they are to have.

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Weekend reading: Links & comments 10/30/2015

October 30, 2015

The Midwife to Chaos and Her Perjury by Andrew Napolitano for The Unz Review.

Republican attacks on President Obama and the Clintons generally amount to straining at gnats while swallowing camels.  The House Benghazi Committee’s questioning of Hillary Clinton fits this pattern.

She was questioned for 10 hours, nearly continuously, for her alleged neglect of security leading to the murder of an American diplomat in Benghazi, Libya.  But nobody asked her about why she instigated a war against a country that did not threaten the United States, throwing innocent people leading normal lives into bloody anarchy.

And incidentally providing a new recruiting ground for terrorists..

The 6 Reasons China and Russia Are Catching Up to the U.S. Military on Washington’s Blog.

China Sea Blues: A Thing Not to Do by Fred Reed for Fred on Everything.

Just because the United States has the world’s largest and most expensive military doesn’t mean we have the world’s best military.  We Americans are complacent because of our wealth, and because we have not faced a serious threat to our existence in 70 years.

Our leaders think we can afford to waste money on high-tech weapons that don’t work, and military interventions that aren’t vital to American security.  Other nations, which have less margin of safety and would be fighting near their own borders, may be a match for us.

FBI Accused of Torturing U.S. Citizen Abroad Can’t Be Sued by Christian Farias for The Huffington Post.

Nowadays the Constitution stops where national security and foreign policy begin.

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Bernie Sanders and Ronald Reagan agree

October 27, 2015

Hat tip for the video to my expatriate friend Jack.

This video shows how Bernie Sanderss stated views on corporate tax loopholes, Social Security and gun ownership are much the same as Ronald Reagan’s.

It is a measure of how much the spectrum of opinion has shifted over the past 30 or so years.  For Ronald Reagan, closing corporate tax loopholes, preserving Social Security and background checks for gun owners were matters of common sense that conservatives did not challenge.

China tests using credit scores for social control

October 12, 2015

Chinacredit1433817334738_646Source: China Daily.

Chinese authorities are experimenting with a new method of social control.

It is a credit score generated by Big Data methods that evaluates not only a person’s financial record, but everything that could throw light on their moral character, including associations and lifestyle choices.

A good credit score would give a person not only certain privileges, but prestige.  Conformity would be induced not through threats and punishments, but through positive reinforcement.

Last year the Chinese government announced it is working on something called a “social credit system” to enhance “sincerity discipline” in government, commerce and society in general, which is scheduled to be launched in 2020.

More recently a Chinese credit card company started testing a credit rating system that will use social media to gather information not only on people’s finances, but their hobbies, shopping habits, overall lifestyle and interactions with friends.

Based on that, the person will be given a rating of between 350 to 950 that not only determine their access to credit, but other privileges as well.

Some analysts think the two systems will come together to produce a system of total Orwellian surveillance, a kind of incentive-based totalitarianism.

Every aspect of a Chinese person’s life, including political opinions and friendships, would be fed into the system, which would produce a numerical score based on an algorithm.   That score in turn would be the basis for rewards and punishments that would shape the person’s whole life.

Now this is speculative.   I don’t know that the Chinese government actually has this in mind.

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Anti-intellectualism and questioning of authority

October 7, 2015

criticalthinking002Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

Anti-intellectualism has long been a strong and deplorable force in American life, but there’s a fine line between anti-intellectualism and questioning authority.

It is not anti-intellectual to refuse to accept someone’s opinion because the person has an advanced degree and speaks in scientific jargon.

I don’t believe credentialed experts who tell me that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is safe, or that the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership will create jobs, or that it’s necessary to drop bombs on people in Middle Eastern countries for their own good.

I question authority, but I accept legitimate authority.  I don’t elevate my personal feelings to equal standing with scientific fact, and I don’t think I can determine everything for myself.  Rather I try to figure out which persons have real knowledge and wisdom, based on their records and on my ability to follow their reasoning.

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How much do we really need?

September 27, 2015

The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.
        ==Attributed to Gandhi

I believe that, with good luck and good management, the world is capable of feeding the world’s people through the hoped-for demographic transition, when population growth levels off.

But I doubt that the world is capable of keeping all of the world’s people at as high a material standard of living as I enjoy as a middle-class American, barring some breakthrough that is beyond my imagination.

numberRTE_DVstuffwedon'tneedOf course the world is not limited by my imagination.  I have no way of knowing what the future will be like.  Many of fears of 50 or 60 years ago proved unfounded.  Maybe my present fears will prove equally unfounded 50 or 60 years from now.

But, as the saying goes, hope is not a plan.  Suppose things are what they seem to be.

What is required to provide for everyone’s need?  How much is enough?

Back in the 1930s, thinkers such as Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes projected that economic growth would, in the foreseeable future, provide enough so that human beings—at least those in the USA and UK—could cease striving for more and lead lives based on higher values than acquiring money.

This didn’t happen because the definition of “enough” changed.

I am unhappy if my Internet connection goes down for a few days.   I am in acute discomfort if my gas furnace ceases to function.   But I was happy as a boy without those things, and so were my parents.

If you go back in history, highly civilized people such as Ralph Waldo Emerson or Samuel Johnson lived happily without electricity, indoor plumbing or private automobiles, and their contemporaries put up with pain and discomfort that people today would find unendurable.

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How the USA got over being anti-Catholic

September 24, 2015

The most significant thing about Pope Francis’ address to Congress is that it happened.

During most of American history, a majority of Americans saw the Roman Catholic Church as an enemy of American freedom and democracy.   Persecution of Catholic immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s was worse than persecution of Muslim immigrants today.

Anti-Catholic cartoon from the 1850s

Anti-Catholic cartoon from the 1850s

This would be unthinkable today, and it reflects changes in both American public opinion and Vatican policy.

The Founders of the American republic defined themselves in opposition to the absolute monarchs of Europe.

The French Revolution was a revolution against the church as well as against the king and aristocracy, and, after the defeat of Napoleon, the Papacy aligned itself with the Holy Alliance, a union of Austria, Prussia, Russia to suppress any democratic uprising in Europe.

Vatican policy for more than a century was based on opposition to the legacy of the French Revolution, and, as a result, all revolutionary movements in Catholic countries were anti-clerical.

Catholics in Protestant countries were persecuted sometimes by law and almost always in public opinion.  Poor Catholic immigrants into the United States had equal legal rights, but in the early 19th century were targets of mob violence, both because they were poor and foreign and because they were regarded as proxies for the Vatican.

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Blaming the victim: Ahmed the “hoaxer”

September 23, 2015

Ahmed Mohamed is a ninth-grader in Irving, Texas, who assembled a home-made electronic clock to impress his engineering teacher.  His English teacher thought the electronics assembly looked like a bomb.   Despite his attempts to explain, he was questioned by police, taken away in handcuffs and suspended from school for three days.

Ahmed Mohammed

Ahmed Mohamed

Do you think he was a victim of prejudice and injustice?  A lot of people who post on the Internet would disagree with you.  They say:

  • Ahmed Mohamed intended people to react the way they did, in order to get publicity and discredit people who hate Muslims.   He was a 14-year-old mastermind who knew the adults would react without thought or common sense.  He is to blame, not them.
  • Ahmed Mohamed’s dad, Mohamed El-Hassan Mohamed, is the leader of a small Sufi congregation.  When Florida pastor Terry Jones held a mock trial of the Koran in 2012, he appeared to defend it.  Being a high-profile Muslim is looking for trouble.
  • Ahmed Mohamed was not a genius, and his clock was nothing special.  It may have been reassembled out of a disassembled existing clock.  He does not deserve all the attention he is getting, which makes him a fraud.

This is typical of what happens when there is an uproar over apparent injustice to a member of a minority group.  Thousands of people counterattack by changing the issue from what happened to the character of the alleged victim.  They search the Internet for any information that can be used against the victim.

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Many Americans open to a U.S. military coup

September 16, 2015

A poll by YouGov, a private polling organization, indicates that, if push came to shove, a sizeable minority of Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, would support a military coup in the United States.

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The passing scene – August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015

Here are some links to article I found interesting, and perhaps you will, too.

How Close Was Donald Trump to the Mob? by David Marcus for The Federalist.

Maybe there are innocent explanations tof Donald Trump’s business connections with known Mafia bosses in New York City and Atlantic City.  If such exist, we the voting public deserve to hear them.

Katrina Washed Away New Orleans Black Middle Class by Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight.

Black homeowners and business owners lost the most in Hurricane Katrina.  Black professionals such as physicians and lawyers have moved on.  And black school teachers are losing their jobs to supposed school “reform.”

∞∞∞

Hat tip for the following to Bill Harvey—

The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor? by Alan Nasser for Counterpunch.

The United States was the first country in which a majority of the people were taught to think of themselves as middle class.  In Victorian English novels, the middle class are the doctors, lawyers and other professionals who aren’t working class, but not truly upper class.

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Immigration and the American Indians

August 26, 2015

immigrationcartoonA council of Native American leaders has offered partial amnesty to the estimated 220 million illegal white immigrants living in the United States.

At a meeting of the Native Peoples Council (NPC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico … , Native American leaders considered several proposals on the future of this continent’s large, unauthorized European population.  The elders ultimately decided to extend a pathway to citizenship for those without criminal backgrounds.

indianimmigration“We are prepared to offer White people the option of staying on this continent legally and applying for citizenship,” explains Chief Wamsutta of the Wampanoag nation. “In return, they must pay any outstanding taxes and give back the land stolen from our ancestors.

“Any white person with a criminal record, however, will be deported in the next 90 days back to their ancestral homeland.  Rush Limbaugh will be going to Germany.  Justin Bieber will depart for Canada.  And the entire cast of Jersey Shore will be returning to Italy.”  [snip]

ponce.de.leonProgressive native groups welcomed the council’s decision today as a step forward toward normalizing relations with the White community.  However, many conservative Native Americans are upset about the plan, claiming that amnesty will only serve to reward lawbreakers.

“Why can’t we just deport all of the Whites back to Europe?” asks Ité Omáǧažu of the Lakota people.  “They’re just a drain on our economy anyway.  They came over here to steal our resources because they’re too lazy to develop their own back home.

“I can’t believe we’re just going to let them pay a fine.  They should get to the back of the line like everybody else — behind the Mexicans.”

via The Daily Currant.

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How “political correctness” empowered Trump

August 11, 2015

So-called “political correctness” has spread out from its original habitat on college campuses to society at large.  The backlash against this partly explains the popularity of Donald Trump.

An article in The Federalist, quoted by Joseph Cannon on his Cannonfire blog, describes the problem.

Since the Republican implosion in the 2012 election, much of American political discourse has centered not so much on whether particular ideas are wrong as on whether they can be expressed at all. [snip]

Witness the constant barrage of arguments that people who dissent from leftist causes are on the “wrong side of history,” as if history is something that can be predicted in advance like the weather.

[snip]  The idea that egalitarian principles require us to legally sanction gay marriage might be persuasive, but the idea the same principles should allow gay-rights proponents to trample religious freedom is a much harder sell. Therefore, prudence requires not overextending that argument for it to maintain its effectiveness.

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A view of growing inequality in the USA

July 31, 2015

Inequality1973.6a00eInequality2010.6a00eI’m not opposed to great rewards to people who create things of great value, whether by inventing something, managing something or in some other way.  But I don’t think this is the reason for the growing in inquality in the USA.  I think it is because the laws, the rules and the overall level of morality have changed so that it is easier and more acceptable to milk the system.

Subjects of the American empire

June 9, 2015

Hat tip to Jack C

We Americans don’t usually think of ourselves as rulers of an overseas empire, but the people of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other island territories might disagree.

A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled that people born on American island territories do not enjoy birthright citizenship rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

However, Mother Jones reported there is a good chance this decision will be reversed on appeal.  I find it troublesome that lawyers for the Obama administration argued against birthright citizenship.   Just because the people of Samoa or Guam are not potential Democratic voters in federal elections doesn’t mean they don’t have rights.

LINK

A Federal Appeals Court Just Denied Birthright Citizenship to American Samoans Using Racist Case Law by Pema Levy for Mother Jones.

Pro-science religion and anti-science religion

May 27, 2015

evo_env-relig3_0

What this chart indicates is that the big religious split in the United States is not between Protestants and Catholics, or among Christians, Jews and Muslims, but between pro-science religion and anti-science religion.

This chart is based on a 2007 survey by Pew Research.  It will be interesting to see if the 2014 survey is significantly different.

LINKS

Evolution, Science and Religion by Josh Rosenau for the Science League of America.

Our new pro-science pontiff: Pope Francis on climate change, evolution and the Big Bang by Chris Mooney for the Washington Post.

World on track for zero population growth

May 15, 2015

image-279209-galleryV9-ivqb

asianbirthrate20140110_asc002_l

Much of the world is on track for zero population growth.  Birth rates in many countries are at the replacement rate of 2.1 children per average couple, or lower.

brazila01gra1The change, in my opinion, has come about because (1) knowledge and availability of birth control are widely available, (2) women are emancipated and have control over their bodies and (3) people are raised far enough out of absolute poverty that they think it is better to have a small number of prosperous, well-educated children than to have many children.

I think that, in the long run, Muslims and Hindus will be as willing to practice contraception as Catholics have proved to be.

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Americans of German ancestry outnumber others

May 13, 2015

49840035-germans-live-mostly-in-the-midwest

I came across an article the other day that pointed out there are more Americans who report they are of German ancestry (like myself) than of any other.

A report from Business Insider said that 49.8 million Americans who claim German ancestry, versus 35.7 million Irish, 31.7 million Mexicans, 27.4 million English, and 17.5 million Italians, to name the largest groups.

There are 19.1 plain “Americans” who don’t report foreign ancestry, either as a political statement or because they don’t know it.  And there are 5.2 million American Indians and Alaska natives, who of course comprise many nations.

Why don’t we hear more about German-Americans?  The reason is that nationality is not a question of ancestry and blood, but of upbringing and, in the USA at least, choice.

I think that very few Americans of German ancestry think of themselves as German-Americans.  Certainly General Eisenhower and Admiral Nimitz didn’t.  Certainly I don’t.

It is interesting to know that some of my ancestors came to Pennsylvania and Maryland from Germany in the 18th century, and that an ancestor, Johann Ebersole, fought in the Continental Army under George Washington.  But if I learned tomorrow that none of these things is true, it would not change my sense of who I am.

In fact, I grew up with a certain amount of prejudice against Germans.  I used to think of Germans as authoritarian, hierarchical and rule-bound, and a perfect contrast to us freedom-loving, democratic and practical Americans.

Since then I’ve come to see us Americans take on all the qualities that I saw as defects in the German national character.  And, although I don’t have a close knowledge of Germany, my impression is that Germany is more egalitarian and more respectful of basic civil liberties than the USA.

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Why I am not a population bomber

May 11, 2015

In 1968 I read a book entitled The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich which began as follows:

The_Population_BombThe battle to feed all of humanity is over.  In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…

via Wikipedia.

Ehrlich argued that the world’s fundamental problem was that there were too many people in the world, and that the only solution was by means of birth control if possible, but not by relief of poverty or increase of food supply.

At the time he wrote, there were 3.5 billion people in the world.  Now there are 7.2 billion, but there is less hunger and starvation in the world than there is today.

Nowadays Ehrlich admits he exaggerated for dramatic effect, but he says it was for a good purpose, which was to alert people to the danger of overpopulation.

I don’t agree it served a good purpose.  I think Ehrlich put obstacles in the way of people such as Norman Borlaug who sought to increase food production and relieve famine.  What good was it, people asked, if it results in more people being born who eventually would starve to death anyway?

Mathusianism has long been used as an excuse to let people starve.  The British government used this excuse for failing to relieve famine in Ireland in the 1840s and in India in the 1940s.   It is still used as an excuse for failing to relieve famine in Africa.

The great economist, Amartya Sen, has pointed out that there never has been a famine in a democracy, because in a democracy, public opinion will not permit allowing a large percentage of the population to starve.

In modern times, the problem has never been that there was not enough food to go around, he wrote.  The problem was people who were too poor to buy the food that was available.

Yet Ehrlich’s ideas still have wider circulation than Sen’s, at least among people I hang out with.  I still hear people say, when we’re talking about some social problem, that the basic underlying problem is that there are too many people in the world.

And sometimes this is followed—and this makes my blood run cold—by the remark, “We’ve got to thin the herd.”

The best thing I can say for people who talk like this is that they don’t realize the genocidal implications of what they’re saying.

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