Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yay Us

Astute observers of human nature that we are, conservatives are a generally dour and pessimistic bunch. For tens of thousands of years that attitude has proved reliably predictive, as humankind's natural defects of selfishness and greed prevented it from advancing beyond a standard of living that was brutish, nasty and short. Fortunately, beginning in the 17th century, a movement began, gradually at first, and then with a rush on July 4, 1776, granting individuals the freedom to pursue happiness within a system of free market capitalism. Among its myriad benefits, that revolution allowed human flaws to be utilized as assets, initiating miraculous improvements in living standards.

Kevin Williamson is cheered by this significant achievement of Homo sapiens --

The Princeton economist Angus Deaton, recently awarded the Nobel prize, has spent much of his career working on how we measure consumption, poverty, real standards of living, etc. It is thanks in part to his work that we can say that the global rate of “extreme poverty,” currently defined as subsistence on less than the equivalent of $1.90 a day, is now the condition of less than 10 percent of the human race. In the 1980s, that number was 50 percent — half the species — and as late as the dawn of the 21st century, one-third of the human race lived in extreme poverty. The progress made against poverty in the past 30 years is arguably the most dramatic economic event since the Industrial Revolution. It did not happen by accident.

...There is much left to do: We have unsustainable fiscal situations in the Western welfare states, irreconcilable Islamist fanatics originating in points east but spread around the world, environmental challenges, and that tenth of the human race that still needs lifting out of hardcore poverty. But we have achieved a remarkable thing in that unless we mess things up really badly, in 50 years we’ll be having to explain to our grandchildren what a famine was, how it came to be that millions of people died every year for want of clean water — and they will look at us incredulously, wondering what it must have been like to live in the caveman times of the early 21st century.

The recent plummeting of global extreme poverty is due almost exclusively to China's and India's acceptance of the ideas of Smith, Hayek, and Friedman (Milton, not Thomas). In the process, those two countries rejected policies advocated by Marx, Sanders, Obama, Clinton, Warren, et al. Other nations are adopting, have adopted that which made us great and exceptional, even as we are turning away from it.

And note - these wonders are occurring with a current global population of 7.3 billion, roughly ten times what it was in 1700. Many, Many more mouths to feed. Yet, taken as a whole, our species is incomparably better off now. Malthus was wrong, spectacularly wrong, and so are his intellectual successors.

More cause for optimism -- It's always gratifying when an individual of the left gets something right. The Wall Street Journal's token liberal opinion writer, William Galston, has correctly identified single parenthood as the chief cause of African-American poverty. When conservatives make this connection, they're immediately and viciously branded as racists. To correct the discrepancy between black and white poverty rates by substantially diminishing the former, many more voices on the left must come to Galston's conclusion. They must relinquish the intellectually lazy, politically expedient myth that racism, crime and the vestigial cultural effects of slavery, segregation and discrimination are to blame. 

About seven in 10 white children, from newborn to 18 years of age, are living with their biological parents, compared with one in three black children.

This matters because—as family-structure researchers Sara McLanahan and Isabel Sawhill note in the Future of Children, “most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide variety of outcomes.”

...The researchers study—and reject—the hypotheses that these differences reflect higher prenatal sensitivity to factors such as stress and poor nutrition or that they are entirely attributable to dangerous neighborhoods and poor schools. There are independent effects of family background that contribute to the large gaps between boys and girls. In fact, the researchers conclude, neighborhoods and schools are less important than the “direct effect of family structure itself.”

Why is this? The research team finds that boys’ problems are far more behavioral than cognitive. For example, truancy and classroom disciplinary issues lead to suspensions, which play the largest role in explaining the boy-girl high-school graduation gap. But the presence of fathers in the household substantially reduces the gaps between boys and girls in absences and suspensions. It turns out that boys need fathers as well as mothers even more than girls do, and suffer even more when fathers are absent from their lives.

...we should never imagine that efforts by government and civil society, however effective, can fully substitute for the influence of stable, intact families.

Kevin again --  expressing puzzlement over our inconsistencies in defining adulthood. He observes an effort by doctors to enlist government in raising the age "minors" are permitted to smoke...

Never mind that government-backed health projects often turn out to be wrong — e.g., that starchy food pyramid — we ought to carefully consider whether they ought to exist in the first place.

“Of course they ought to exist,” the progressive argument goes. “Government subsidizes health care and takes upon itself some share of health-care costs, and it therefore has a legitimate interest in whether you smoke.” Or eat your veggies. That is, in its way, entirely correct, and it is an important part of the case against such policy misadventures as the wretchedly misnamed Affordable Care Act — or Medicare, for that matter. Once the government is in the business of financing something, it acquires all sorts of interests and leverage points, all of which it will use — reliably, and almost without exception — for political ends.

...We should pick an age of adulthood and stick with it. If 18-year-olds are going to be legally permitted to inflict Barack Obama on this republic, then the few sensible souls among that age cohort should be permitted to legally dull the resultant pain with a cocktail. And what’s a cocktail without a cigarette?

If, on the other hand, we’re going to decide that 22-year-old students at Harvard getting ready for law school or junior positions in the U.S. Foreign Service are not far enough removed from their diapers to be expected to deal with the micro-aggressions of Mark Twain, then they sure as Hell shouldn’t be at Parris Island preparing to meet macro-aggressions on behalf of these United States — or permitted to see the inside of a voting booth.

Speaking of micro-aggressions, how about this?! ("She" refers to a University of Vermont freshman, Cameron Shaeffer, the subject of the article).

According to a piece in the Huffington Post, the word “too” is sexist and hurts women by constantly making them feel like they’re not good enough.

...“In my experience, I rarely hear too thrown around about men,” she explains. “You hear someone say, ‘He’s short,’ but you seldom hear ‘too short.’”

Well, why shouldn't Ms. Schaeffer be so easily offended? She has as a role model the probable next president of the U.S. And that woman is offended by the imagined suggestion that she speaks at an excessive decibel level, (shouts) something of which men are apparently never accused. (No wonder she got rolled by Assad and Putin).

KW takes aim at the pernicious phenomenon of celebrity that has somehow empowered and enriched such vacuous non-talents as Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Lena Dunham and the Kardashians (whoever they are).

A great many dumb issues and empty crusades make it to the forefront of the public political consciousness because of celebrity. The anti-vaccination movement is celebrity-propelled; the phony pay-inequality crusade is a creature of celebrity (N.B., Emma Watson: The movie that made you rich wasn’t called Hermione Granger and the Sorcerer’s Stone); global-warming hysteria has been sustained by celebrity much more than by science; Lena Dunham’s daft and illiterate political pronouncements would not echo very far beyond Maison Premiere if she were just another rich private-school kid from Manhattan instead of a famous rich private-school kid from Manhattan.

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