Keeping up with the FITs, 6/4
Heather Heying on the Sex Binary; Robert Wright and Jonathan Haidt; Noah Smith on ESG; William Voegeli on Republican Politics; Noah Smith and Katherine Boyle; Kling on Sellgren podcast
The fact that a whole lot of pseudo-scientific publications seem to think that sex is not binary reveals the fact that humanity is in quite a lot of trouble. As Ricky Gervais says in his most recent stand-up special, nobody tweeted “Women don’t have penises” ten years ago, because it would have been an insane thing to say. It was too obvious. Everybody knew this. And here’s the thing: Everybody still knows this. Women don’t have penises. Men can’t get pregnant. Men and women are different, and even though many of the roles that we have historically been slotted into are archaic now, men and women are still different.
She will have an essay in a forthcoming compilation by many of the usual anti-Woke suspects.
Robert Wright talks with Jonathan Haidt. Around minute 17, Haidt points out that while cable TV helped bring about fragmentation and polarization, it did not create the climate of personal fear of the mob that people have with social media. Around minute 46, Haidt says he does not think we will ever have in America the kind of common culture that we had in the middle of the 20th century. The challenge will be to hold our society together without a common culture. Hmmmm.
Haidt thinks that young progressives do not understand how much better things are on the race front in this country than they were 60 years ago. By that he means that progressives have gotten a lot of the policies that they wanted. Whether that is “better” is the question.
Blacks are no longer treated as inferior at drinking fountains and other public accommodations in the South. That’s a step forward. But much of our education system treats them as inferior by not asking them to perform up to standards. That’s a step backward. And among both whites and blacks, substance abuse and broken homes are more prevalent than they were 60 years ago.
ESG seems like the investor class trying to reshape our society to fit its own vision of what that society should look like. The more things get included in the list of ESG considerations, and the more that affects corporate behavior, the more investors’ social preferences become reflected in our day-to-day social relations. And remember, most of the stocks in the U.S. are owned by rich people. That instinctively feels like a vision of dystopian capitalism.
Dystopian indeed. I keep saying that profit-seeking businesses are accountable to customers. ESG says to take that away and instead make corporations operate more like non-profits, accountable to their rich patrons. See how that works out.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s various roadmaps to make our welfare state smartly targeted and solvent had every element needed for success, except popular support. The fact that nobody can figure out the political problem of winning an election by making entitlement programs sustainable does not, however, mean that America’s grave long-term fiscal problem will conveniently solve itself.
He blames Mr. Trump for the loss of the Senate races in Georgia.
every Biden proposal approved by Congress and deplored by conservatives—every executive branch appointment and policy decision rendered by those officials, every judicial appointment and ruling delivered by those jurists over the next 40 years, every spending increase crammed into a reconciliation bill—could have been prevented or mitigated if Trump had displayed a modicum of responsibility, restraint, and intelligence. What are we trying to conserve? Well, significantly less now than there would have been but for Trump’s signature blend of solipsism and nihilism.
It is noteworthy that an article in the Claremont Review of Books is kinder to Paul Ryan than to Donald Trump.
In an interview with Noah Smith, Katherine Boyle says,
For the last 30 years, we’ve been sold a government-subsidized middle-class dream—on both sides of the aisle by well-meaning people—that your worth in American society was predicated on taking on seemingly cheap government debt to get a four-year college degree. College was the universal marker of status and the people who would have gone into machining or manufacturing jobs were implicitly told that a sociology degree from Middle-State U. was the answer to all their problems. This was wrong. This meme—and we should call it what it was, which is a government-sponsored meme—led to the decades-long labor shortage in manufacturing and adjacent industries that is also now permeating our physical world.
On Juliette Sellgren’s podcast, I talk about various issues. At minute 20, I say how I would fix Twitter. Recommended, at 1.25x speed.
There is a name missing from Voegeli's essay: DeSantis. I largely agree with Voegeli's opinion but his analysis of the future of conservative leadership is incomplete without recognizing what DeSantis is doing. DeSantis has shown Reagan / Trump toughness in going against "the elite" and defending "the people" and he is winning, but DeSantis is doing it more in the Reagan style.
Where Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney and Republican politicians in general fail is they expect arguments to win on the merits alone. They discount the strength of the opposition to persuade against change. Reagan and Trump and DeSantis show that the opposition to policy can be defeated if the opposition's position is attacked. Nice Republicans like Ryan and Romney are loathe to offend, so they do not attack and they are made politically impotent.
Where Trump fails is he is too egotistical, too self-centered, to be magnanimous when such is required. Trump's ego allowed him to succeed against the fraudulent political attacks waged against him. It kept him going when the "world" was wrongly against him. But when the situation, as in post-election Georgia, called for a leader to look ahead, and not backwards, Trump couldn't do it. The 2020 election, all of it, was about him and how he was cheated and if he wasn't happy, no Republicans could be happy.
Personally, I think Trump was cheated in 2020. The election was rigged to get the votes to defeat Trump. But the rigging was approved by the Law and the way elections work in the USA, once votes are accepted into the system, it is impossible to remove them. In other words, no matter how significant the lack of integrity of the 2020 vote, Trump was defeated and his protestations, especially in Georgia, proved to be destructive to the very political cause Trump had supported.
I do think it is very telling that Trump "lost" the 2022 Georgia primaries. As much as the media tells itself, and its audience, that people are suckers for charlatans, Georgia Republican voters showed they can think for themselves. Gov. Kemp is a good Republican governor and Trump's complaints about Kemp reflect poorly on Trump, and not on Kemp.
All great essays. Thanks Arnold for finding and sharing these insights.
"But much of our education system treats them as inferior by not asking them to perform up to standards. That’s a step backward."
It would be a step forward for the education system to acknowledge The Bell Curve, which in at least a first order sense means they are inferior and can't perform up to standards (I get it, Murray wants us to value their souls).
"He blames Mr. Trump for the loss of the Senate races in Georgia."
Yes and No.
Yes, Trump made it about him with the election nonsense.
No, in the sense that if McConnel coughed up $2,000 checks he would have his senate seats and thwarted the March 2021 stimulus bill saving vastly more money. Something Trump could figure out.
As with everything Trump, Trump is wrong on character and right on substance compared to the GOPe.
The better question is to ask why Maoists have nearly 50 seats in the Senate.
"except popular support"
Why didn't all those "Natural Conservatives" you allowed to immigrate give us Norway fiscal policy. Instead they gave us Latin America fiscal policy. What a SHOCK!
Donald Trump does look like a right wing Latin American politician. Still better than Chavez.
My father woke up at 3am and worked a 12 hour day. The one thing he told me growing up was to not end up in a job doing physical labor, despite hating "office scum". The whole revolt against real world work is partly that real world work sucks. It may not work but Xi's idea to try to channel people into atoms instead of bytes is the closest thing to a solution.