Yuval Levin on freedom as communal; Phoebe Arslanagic-Wakefield on fertility; Peter Gray on play; Alice Evans on alcohol abuse and domestic violence
"I think that housing costs and morning sickness are the two biggest deterrents to married women having more children." Doesn't ring true, though I have no data. I expect the biggest deterrents are financial (not just housing) and the amount of work that having children requires for women, whether or not they are married. No women I know say that morning sickness deterred them from having kids; lots of pregnant women don't have it. Starting families late matters - not enough time, too much to lose. I don't believe that governments should provide free childcare or that they can provide good childcare. But the challenges and costs of childcare are huge deterrents for women.
Re: Decline in human fertility (birth-rate).
Robin Hanson has written a series of fascinating essays about causes and correlates of the secular decline in human fertility. Here is a link to the most recent:
Hanson ventures a prediction:
"The most likely scenario by which world human fertility will rise again includes a big return to communism. It will be a small-scale religious 'commune' form of 'commune-ism'. [... .]
To see why, note two big facts about fertility. The first big fact is that human fertility (kids per woman in her lifetime) has been consistently falling since it first started to do so in France ~250 years ago. Most of the world is now below replacement fertility, and the rest should soon follow, resulting in a world population peak in about thirty years, and a world economy peak not long after. After 'hovering' near that peak for a few decades to centuries, population will likely then fall by half every generation or two. [... .] The economy will fall a bit faster, due to shrinking innovation rates and scale economies. [... .]
The second big fact to keep in mind about fertility is that we have seen many small but consistent exceptions to this global fertility fall, exceptions which have many distinctive features in common. For example, Orthodox Jews, Salafist Muslims, Mormons, Laestadian Lutherans, and many Anabaptists such as Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites. Some of these have maintained their distinctive cultures and high fertility for very long periods. Amish, for example, have doubled roughly every twenty years for over a century.
These groups tend to be fertile, insular, religious, pacifist, rural, and family-oriented. They uphold traditional gender roles, discourage birth control, limit years of schooling, maintain strong internal censorship, limit tech to maintain social isolation, and are made of small independent communities of about a hundred which split when they get large. And they tend to be communal, with mostly shared property, collective choices of activities and roles, and strong norms governing behaviors which are quite egalitarian re differences in talk, dress, housing, etc."
A lot of the "freedom to play" issue is related to the demographic composition of society. When a large proportion of the society is made up of kids, society and the various associations within it orient around kids. Kid-based businesses are easier to create and make successful. In a society like ours that is geriatric and on death's door, most of our culture is dedicated to providing old people the palliatives and stimulations that they crave. This tends to include child-suppression measures. For example, in the fancy co-op apartment building in which I grew up, the board members demanded an absolute ban to all playing of hop-skotch or any use of chalk in front of the lobby. There must be no children playing in front of the building!
This to me is a good model of what usually happens. The old people out vote and out spend the children, so they win, again and again and again. Peter Gray, by contrast, seems to put the blame on parents, whom I also think deserve some blame, but I think the underlying issue is just that children are such a minority now that most adults see them as vermin to be managed rather than people.
The government is addressing this problem (as it is now, see: dropping life expectancy) by just killing people off like the Soviets did. See https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/09/05/upshot/medicare-budget-threat-receded.html -- somehow the author only mentions life expectancy once despite it probably being the driving factor behind the decrease in spending. The quiet legalization of MAID is also a factor here. The Soviets just dumped the gurneys into the snow, but we kill our people with moron therapy speak with a topping of opium.
prohibition is not the only mechanism.
As stated in the piece, ozempic can help
So, that whole essay about alcohol was pretty useless. Not that alcohol isn’t a problem, it is. I don’t drink because of its problematic nature.
Maintaining a posture where prohibition is the answer shows a complete lack of insight and personal hubris . I don’t know why I’m always shocked at the paternalism of modern women.
“It isn’t about being left alone but about being permitted to engage...” Permitted? Freedom/passive Rights means you don’t need permission from anyone.
re: “rights of individuals to participate in the lives of communities”
Yuval Levin’s essay rewards repeated re-readings as does the Carl Eric Scott essay The Five Conceptions of American Liberty (https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-five-conceptions-of-american-liberty ) to which Levin links.
One could spend a lot of time working through and developing all of the ideas therein, but, as an act of mercy to people who actually read these comments, I will offer just a few questions and observations.
Does Levin reject or accept Plato’s views of the demos? Is The Republic relevant to his argument or not? If so, does soul formation amount “To obey a real superior...is one of the most important of all virtues—a virtue absolutely essential to the attainment of anything great and lasting” to borrow from Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind?
As a think tank denizen, just how free is Levin to express his thoughts fully? In Liberal Suppression: Section 501(c)(3) and the Taxation of Speech (https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/books/6/ )
Philip Hamburger argues that the tax code’s exemptions from taxation for “non-profit” “charities” in section 501(c)(3)’s imposes speech restrictions that are an assault on minority rights and are grossly unconstitutional. And in Purchasing Submission: Conditions, Power, and Freedom
(https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/books/316/ ) Hamburger speaks to how “ the federal government increasingly regulates by placing conditions on its generosity. In this way, it departs not only from the Constitution’s rights but also from its avenues of binding power, thereby securing submission to conditions that regulate, that defeat state laws, that commandeer and reconfigure state governments, that extort, and even that turn private and state institutions into regulatory agents.” Is authentic community life even a possibility under such a regime?
Scott talks about 5 conceptions of American liberty, but it seems that a 6th conception, the natural right to breath air from an atmosphere with 150 ppm CO2, has supplanted all 5, and requires an all powerful supranational governance structure to protect this right. Sadly, disturbingly large segments of the population bought into the supremacy of this liberty. But when the inevitable degradation of quality of life and living standards is achieved, and people react, will the supranational governance listen? Or suppress? I think we all know the answer to that.
The currently popular conception of the status of the USA as described by Levin seems roughly analogous to the miasma of the House of Atreus. Our Agamemnon’s are slain, yet the curse lives on. Perhaps we need hearken to the great seminal populist Euripides’ version of the play Electra (http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/electra_eur.html
). For the Burkean Levin, what could better embody Burke’s notion of the contract between the dead, the living, and the unborn?
The Jeffersonian peasant opens the play setting the backstory and context which remind one of the Philadelphia convention: “but the maid Electra abode in her father's house, and soon as she had budded into maidenhood, came all the princes of Hellas asking her hand in marriage. But Aegisthus kept her at home for fear she might bear a son to some chieftain who would avenge Agamemnon, nor would he betroth her unto any. But when e'en thus there seemed some room for fear that she might bear some noble lord a child by stealth and Aegisthus was minded to slay her, her mother, though she had a cruel heart, yet rescued the maiden from his hand. For she could find excuses for having slain her husband, but she feared the hatred she would incur for her children's murder. Wherefore Aegisthus devised this scheme; on Agamemnon's son who had escaped his realm by flight he set a price to be paid to any who should slay him, while he gave Electra to me in marriage, whose ancestors were citizens of Mycenae. It is not that I blame myself for; my family was noble enough, though certainly impoverished, and so my good birth suffers. By making for her this weak alliance he thought he would have little to fear.”
And of course murder and mayhem, not dissimilar from the US history of endless war, ensues.
But populism offers a solution, Euripedes suggests. The House of Atreus is redeemed and the curse broken when both men and gods sit in judgment of the unjust:
“Thereon Orestes seized the Dorian knife of tempered steel and cast from his shoulders his graceful buckled robe; then choosing Pylades to help him in his task, he made the servants withdraw, and catching the calf by the hoof, proceeded to lay bare its white flesh, with arm outstretched, and he flayed the hide quicker than a runner ever finishes the two laps of the horses' race-course; next he laid the belly open, and Aegisthus took the entrails in his hands and carefully examined them. Now the liver had no lobe, while the portal vein leading to the gall-bladder portended dangerous attack on him who was observing it. Dark grows Aegisthus' brow, but my master asks, "Why so despondent, good sir?" Said he, "I fear treachery from a stranger. Agamemnon's son of all men most I hate, and he hates my house." But Orestes cried, "What! fear treachery from an exile! thou the ruler of the city? Ho! take this Dorian knife away and bring me a Thessalian cleaver, that we by sacrificial feast may learn the will of heaven; let me cleave the breast-bone." And he took the axe and cut it through. Now Aegisthus was examining the entrails, separating them in his hands, and as he was bending down, thy brother rose on tiptoe and smote him on the spine, severing the bones of his back; and his body gave one convulsive shudder from head to foot and writhed in the death-agony. No sooner did his servants see it, than they rushed to arms, a host to fight with two; yet did Pylades and Orestes of their valiancy meet them with brandished spears. Then cried Orestes, "I am no foe that come against this city and my own servants, but I have avenged me on the murderer of my sire, I, ill-starred Orestes. Slay me not, my father's former thralls!" They, when they heard him speak, restrained their spears, and an old man, who had been in the family many a long year, recognized him. Forthwith they crown thy brother with a wreath, and utter shouts of joy. And lo! he is coming to show thee the head, not the Gorgon's, but the head of thy hated foe Aegisthus; his death today has paid in blood a bitter debt of blood.”
The play concludes “As we go through the plains of the air, we do not come to the aid of those who are polluted; but we save and release from severe hardships those who love piety and justice in their ways of life. And so, let no one wish to act unjustly, or set sail with perjurers; as a god, I give this address to mortals.”
Frank Furedi’s substack today shares much in common with Levin, but is much more clear and specific about one of the sources of pollution:
“The absolutisation of the value of diversity is widely endorsed by the ruling elites of western society. They support diversity and cultural pluralism because it provides them with the role of managing competing interests. At a time when the ruling class faces a crisis of legitimacy, the necessity for managing diversity provides them with a reason for existence. It is easier to dominate a society consisting of competing cultural groups than a public united in a common affirmation of nationhood. A fragmented and polarised public space assist the powers that be to exercise their hegemony. Hence their valuation of diversity.” (https://frankfuredi.substack.com/p/there-is-nothing-inherently-valuable )
"I think that housing costs and morning sickness are the two biggest deterrents to married women having more children."
Given that we live in homes about double the size of ~50 years ago I'd say housing cost isn't the problem. I'd also argue housing isn't at all expensive where about half of US lives.
I'd argue the biggest deterrent is people not marrying. Another deterrent is dual income households that feel blocked by the cost for daycare.
Does anyone know how likely it is for a married woman vs unmarried to have children?
As a "baby boomer" myself (a very lucky generation in most ways) I have to say that - as a generation - we have seriously messed up so many of the things we inherited - playing in the street, making your own way to school, schooling generally, self reliance, minding one's own business..... the list goes on...https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/
freedoms aren't communal
VIOLATIONS of freedoms are
Most women take zofran or
Reglan for morning sickness. Your information is outdated. Very few young women have even heard of thalidomide.
Mornimg sickness and cesarean really: be Boston strong you ladies.
Freedom clearly isn’t a primary value for many.
Israelites desired return to Egypt and slavery for better diet.
Material vs spiritual.
Lord Acton and others see the freedom of western civilization as result of two competing ideas (institutions) State vs Church.
Modernity has eliminated idea of religious authority.
Freedom just about gone.
Removing's obstacles to housing and commercial developments is just good Econ 101 reform, but if it increases fertility, so much the better.
Higher taxes on alcohol also seems like a pretty good idea.
Re: "These are all rights that inhere in individuals, to be sure, but they are rights of individuals to participate in the lives of communities." — Yuval Levin, essay at link in Arnold's post.
Yuval Levin expresses a crucial insight about the enumerated rights in the Constitution. John Hart Ely ("Democracy and Distrust") made a case that the point of rights is to enable citizens to participate freely as political equals in democracy. One might call the enumerated rights — worship, speech, assembly — 'participatory rights'.
However, another crucial feature of democracy is majority rule — which entails risk of tyranny of the majority over the minority.
The founders wisely framed the Constitution to acknowledge, in general terms, a presumption of liberty. Amendment IX states, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." It is not unreasonable to interpret this Amendment to include broad 'freedom from interference'. Such rights may protect individuals and particular communities from tyranny of the majority.
The conundrum, then, is what may override the broader presumption of liberty in various instances. One criterion might be that a particular liberty constitutes 'a clear and present danger.' Another criterion might be a high standard of evidential warrant for restricting liberty. The intrinsic difficulty is that the minority is not persuaded by the majority's case. Perhaps judges, then, should give deliberate consideration to Amendment IX as a constitutional check on majoritarianism — but they rarely do.
And where does another enumerated right - the right to bear arms — fit within this conceptual framework?