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Links to Consider, 9/12
Rob Henderson on Neuroticism; Peter Wallison on Mr. Trump's vulnerability; John Tierney on anti-male bias; Scott Alexander on evolutionary fitness and mental health
Commenting on a Jordan Peterson lecture on neuroticism, Rob Henderson writes,
Roughly, the differences between people who are high vs. low on Neuroticism: Worrying vs. calm, nervous vs. at ease, high-strung vs. relaxed, insecure vs. secure, self-pitying vs. self-satisfied, vulnerable vs. hardy.
…When kids play, this is an indication that they are comfortable. Kids who are disturbed or anxious will freeze or behave fearfully, but when they are comfortable and feel secure, they will play. If kids are hungry or frightened or otherwise don’t have their needs met, they won’t play. This is one way you can tell whether your house is well-ordered and emotionally stable—if your kids are playing. This indicates that everything else they might need has been taken care of.
The crucial element of the Trump plan was to have the vice president declare, falsely, at that ceremony that there were controversies about who actually won the election in several states that Joseph Biden legitimately won but which Trump was contesting. For those states, according to the Trump plan, Vice President Pence would refuse to count the electoral votes. Instead, he would send the legitimate electoral votes back to the allegedly contested states so that the legislatures in those states could decide which slate of electors—those for Joseph Biden or those for Donald Trump—would be the legitimate slate. Meanwhile, Trump had persuaded a number of gullible people to sign up as fake electors. Many of them are now charged with crimes in at least one state—Georgia—for agreeing to participate in this charade.
…Trump’s plan was to have the vice president cite the controversies anyway, and refuse to count the electoral votes submitted on January 6 by the states that Trump was contesting. In effect, this would have overturned the valid elections until the controversies could be settled, and could have taken years of litigation—during which of course Donald Trump would claim that he was still the president. He might even have refused to leave the White House until the issue was fully settled by the courts. This would have brought on a constitutional crisis greater than any in our history and probably changed our democracy forever.
I think that the general perception is that Mr. Trump was flailing, and that he had no plan. Wallison is alleging that Mr. Trump had a real plan, and that it was only thwarted by Mr. Pence refusing to go along.
Nobody asked me, and probably nobody should care what I think, but I find the election-season indictments of Mr. Trump highly suspect. He should not be above the law, but I see no reason why the indictments could not have come a year ago, or why they cannot wait until 2025—assuming he loses in 2024.
Given their timing, the goal of the indictments appears to be to reduce his chances of winning in 2024. And that is indefensible. The way to deny Mr. Trump the Presidency is to bring the case to the American people during the election or bring it to the Senate via impeachment.
That is how our system works. If you think these indictments need to happen during election season, then you have given up on the system. It makes these indictments election interference and anti-democratic, straight up. They are as bad as anything he ever did, if not worse.
In better times, there would have been a bipartisan commission created after 2020 to look into election procedures and recommend ways to shore them up going forward. And there would be bipartisan agreement about whether or not Mr. Trump’s post-election obstinacy was acceptable (as you know, my opinion is that it was unacceptable). But we are not living in better times.
Numerous studies have shown that both sexes care more about harms to women than to men. Men get punished more severely than women for the same crime, and crimes against women are punished more severely than crimes against men. Institutions openly discriminate against men in hiring and promotion policies—and a majority of men as well as women favor affirmative-action programs for women.
…This instinct to protect women has been essential for societies to survive, but it has also made us easy prey for a modern industry of academics, journalists, activists, lobbyists, and bureaucrats who falsely blame sexism for any gender gap that doesn’t favor women.
I am not saying that I agree with Tierney’s analysis. Perhaps the recent book by Emanuel Todd will help me sort out these issues, or at least spur me to think them through.
As of now, the gender issue and the race issue just look more tense than they have ever been. This is not what I would have expected as of 1970.
I am glad I got married when I did, in 1980. I am glad that I worked in organizations with women and with black people when I did, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, I am afraid that I would have a hard time trying to navigate all the minefields.
Emil proposes an alternate definition: a mental disorder is a mental trait which lowers reproductive fitness.
He sees Emil Kirkegaard as wanting to define mental disorders as conditions that inhibit reproductive fitness of individuals. Scott proceeds to argue against doing so. The most that Scott will concede is:
If you’re studying how mental disorders evolved, it’s useful to group homosexuality together with depression, anxiety, and the like, as examples of how evolution failed to optimize the reproductive fitness of certain individuals.
I think that Emil’s definition is a non-starter. In evolutionary terms, it is the gene that must survive, not the individual. If someone is inclined to jump on a grenade to save his mates, he is not going to survive, but that does not make him mentally ill. Or to take a less dire example, an astronaut on a risky mission may be lowering his chances of reproducing, but we would not call him mentally ill.
Conversely, a psychopath may be able to reproduce. That does not mean that we should regard him as mentally sound.
Evolution does not know what environment people may find themselves in. Traits that help in one environment may be superfluous or even harmful in a different environment. So humanity is endowed with a distribution of traits. We are endowed with genetic diversity.
A different attempt to define mental disorder could be “repeated behavior patterns that appear to harm the individual, his friends, and his relatives.”
But what if the “harm” that a behavior causes is embarrassment or disgust? Is homosexuality a mental illness if everyone abhors it but not a mental illness if everyone is ok with it?
If there is a crisp, clean definition for mental disorder lying around, I don’t see it.
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