Frank Furedi on Democracy; Roland Fryer on measuring discrimination; Robin Hanson on social norms and population decline; Aaron Renn on building institutions
Hanson's essay was outstanding. I don't have children, but I have observed the child-raising of my three younger sisters- it is vastly different from the child-rearing done by our parents. We were definitely benignly neglected. I was literally a latch-key child by age 6 since both my parents worked. My friends and I regularly roamed far from home pretty much every day by the time I got my first bicycle at age 6. It really was a different world, and a far better one for producing well balanced adults, and my observations of my sisters' children supports this belief.
Residual variance: Reminiscent of the "Solow residual" in productivity. We economists invented a name for it, "Total Factor Productivity" which kind of sounds like an explanation but in fact it is just a catch-all term for "everything we don't know how to measure". Saying that some change in productivity is "due to" TFP is like Moliere's pedant explaining that opium induces sleep "due to" its dormitive properties.
I learned the model from Bob Solow, as I recall he was careful to emphasize that the Solow residual is just a name for the statistical residual. It's something we should try to explain, not an explanation.
I once interviewed a candidate who stank of body odor. He smelled like he hadn't bathed in a week. His resume was otherwise very impressive- Harvard Ph.D, Scripps post-doc, etc. and his published work was outstanding. He didn't get a single up-vote from the people who interviewed him, however.
That is your residual variance.
The way kids used to play: talk about inclusive! The simple need to have the number to make our games fun, typically involved going from door to door trying to round everyone up, irrespective of age or how much you liked them. Our manners were unpolished. To the mom who answered the door: "Can Doug come out?", without preamble.* I specifically recall observing a convention of asking these two very namby-pamby siblings out, though they most often didn't, when we played a game called "Colored Eggs", because their yard and front door were particularly suited to it. Having asked, we felt entitled to their yard. We used the entire street, of course, and reflexively called out "Car" - or - "Turning" meaning no need to interrupt play.
*Kids are more mannerly now, perhaps precisely because they spend less unsupervised time with each other. Those who come to the door at Halloween are so polite, almost shy of grabbing candy. Like the boy who couldn't have been more than seven who asked me "What kind of a day did you have?" (!) after he said "Trick or treat".
The more people are treated like 4 year olds outside the voting booth, the more they will act like 4 year olds in the voting booth.
Ferudi is missing the point. Living Democratically” if it means anything, means being independent and self-governing inasmuch as possible. That is, a truly democratic society is one that maximizes individual choice, power and autonomy. That sort of citizen doesn’t need to go to the ballot box to opine on most decisions. He simply makes them himself, and allows other citizens to make those choices for themselves.
Modern, illiberal societies (ironically like he’s promoting) do the opposite of this. They infantilise individuals and thereby replace liberal democracy with illiberal mob rule.
Our kids occasionally have unscheduled play with neighborhood kids, but one of the biggest limitations is that all the neighborhood kids are over scheduled. Just yesterday we were all together but they had to jet off to dance class. Today something else. Tomorrow yet another thing. If the kids aren't in the neighborhood, there can be no neighborhood play.
And when your in a spread out community, there aren't that many kids in walking distance.
I think part of the reason for play dates is that its the only reliable way to ensure that the kids will actually be there to play with.
I did visit a new HOA development in Florida where they had a central lagoon and event area that seemed to be the focus of the community. From what I could see it had a critical mass of kids and activities such that you could show up there and have kids to play with whenever. I think that kind of spontaneous "drop off" play might be the future.
As someone who has his parents living with him the biggest barrier is the grandparents desire to offer unsolicited advice and contradict the parent. This appears to be personality thing, my father never did so but my mother does it constantly. I've spoken about it with her many times and she can't seem to help herself.
Other than that it's been a very successful union, but that has been a really big issue. Especially now that we've been doing it long enough that I know she isn't going to change.
The modern confidence in materialism (only matter exists) seems to produce rejection of ideas (mind doesn’t exist).
And deep antipathy to religious principles and lessons from religious sources.
George Washington’s farewell address . . .
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.’’
Describes modern society.
“The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.’’
So true. This before Robespierre. Lenin. Hitler. Where are the ‘volumes’ written.
Maybe, Robert Conquest. Lord Acton.
“Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’’
Has not ‘reason and experience’ confirmed this opinion?
Various thinkers offer the observation for centuries ‘one proof of bible teaching is that humans imperfect, flawed. We all have proof from own heart, life.’’
The most hated idea from enlightenment was original sin. Rousseau.
Humans in state of nature good. Produced the ‘terror’, not religious zealots, but, French lawyers.
Why are these beliefs still accepted ?
In which AK self-classifies under Jefferson’s taxonomy:
“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.”
--T. Jefferson to H. Lee. May 8, 1825.
I think Hanson is writing here from the perspective of a doting grandparent and wants to emphasize how important grandparents are. Out of my son's three grandparents, only one of them is useful (neither of them my parents). One small anecdote as a Catholic is that strangers from the parish constantly approach us to praise us and to give our son gifts and offer to do things for us. We volunteer a little bit, but really it is just because we show up, look young, and have kids. It's not something that you could easily replicate through policy, even if you were giving Soviet or Nazi-style fertility prizes.
I think it is easier to attribute fertility suppression to short term incentives rather than signaling theory. Corporations in practice are mechanisms for the shareholders to squeeze as much value as they can out of markets and employees. Corporations do not have infinite time horizons, and for the shareholders, a lot of them really will get "enough" value from an enterprise through short term extraction. It is very common for people to be in business just long enough to get rich enough by their lights.
One way to do this is to pump as much value as possible out of employees as you can within their youth. Youths tend to have weak bargaining power. The government in turn extracts from these entities and has an incentive to encourage more productivity. Babies hurt short term productivity. So, all the incentives are working in favor of operating like a more cuddly-friendly version of the sugar plantations of the 17th century, which were famous for working slaves very hard for short periods of time until they dropped dead before replacing them with new slaves. It's just in our system, the time horizons are a longer; they do not care that the host society dies because of this labor pattern.
"Some of the essay is too politically incorrect to be quoted here." ??
"Constitutional limits on government powers and Madisonian checks and balances" have repeatedly failed to contain government power. Why should we think that bringing them back would work this time?
Furdedi writes: "Democracy is the only medium through realising a better world."
Nope. Sometimes a popular vote or movement yields a better world. Most of the time the popular will of the people leads to more of the same, only with different names occupying the seats of political power.
Consider that the Revolutionary war was never "popular" and the collapse of the Berln Wall occurred without a vote. Democracy can be helpful for enabling people to "fire" bad leadership, but it is inadequate for ensuring good governance of a nation.
"Some of the essay is too politically incorrect to be quoted here."
I didn't see anything more politically incorrect than what you typically write. Did I miss something?
I'm thinking you said that because you had a reason to want people to read the whole piece. But again, I don't know why. I thought it was largely on target but I didn't see anything great about it.
Always great to see a Frank Furedi link. His book Democracy Under Siege from which the material at the link is taken is but 147 pages but gives insightful commentary on a wide range of thinkers on democracy and the dilemmas of democracy, in particular nice treatments of Spinoza and Kant. Well worth a read but not the place to find a comparative analysis of Madisonian versus populistic democracy. For that reason, I would recommend reading it in conjunction with the essential book A Preface to Democratic Theory by Robert A. Dahl (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dahl )which provides a rational analysis of the Madisonian, populistic, and polyarchic approaches to democracy. The Dahl book is quite accessible and enjoyable to read despite being scholarly by virtue of keeping all the “Downsian” equations and graphs mostly in appendices to each chapter. Most importantly Dahl does an excellent job of identifying the non sequiturs in various pro- and con- arguments for each and laying out all of the important questions about governance and the trade offs entailed. One might say he offers an economic way of thinking about politics.
Don’t have time today to attempt scribbling much, so I will offer a few quotes to illustrate:
On Madisonian limited popular sovereignty:
“Nevertheless, as political science rather than as ideology the Madisonian system is clearly inadequate. In retrospect, the logical and empirical deficiencies of Madison’s own thought seem to have arisen in large part from his inability to reconcile two different goals. On the one hand, Madison substantially accepted the idea that all the adult citizens of a republic must be assigned equal rights, including the right to determine the general direction of government policy. In this sense majority rule is “the republican principle.” On the other hand, Madison wished to erect a political system that would guarantee the liberties of certain minorities whose advantages of status, power, and wealth would, he thought, probably not be tolerated indefinitely by a constitutionally untrammeled majority. Hence majorities had to be constitutionally inhibited. Madisonianism, historically and presently, is a compromise between these two conflicting goals. I think I have shown that the explicit and implicit terms of the compromise do not bear careful analysis. Perhaps it is foolish to expect them to.”
“I sometimes wonder what further revisions Madison would make in his constitutional theory if he were alive today. I’m inclined to think that after he had reflected at length on the changes since his time in democratic ideas and practices, both in his own country and elsewhere, he might well prove to be a vigorous contemporary critic of the Constitution he helped so much to create.”
“In practice, however, the attempt to identify democracy with the unlimited power of majorities has usually gone hand in hand with an attempt to include in the definition some concept of restraints on majorities. Locke left the argument sufficiently ambiguous to permit him to be regarded as the advocate both of unlimited majority government and of limited government.”
On populistic democracy:
“A final and I believe valid ethical objection to the theory of populistic democracy is that it postulates only two goals to be maximized—political equality and popular sovereignty. Yet no one, except perhaps a fanatic, wishes to maximize two goals at the expense of all others.”
“In a sense, what we ordinarily describe as democratic “politics” is merely the chaff. It is the surface manifestation, representing superficial conflicts. Prior to politics, beneath it, enveloping it, restricting it, conditioning it, is the underlying consensus on policy that usually exists in the society among a predominant portion of the politically active members”
On American democracy:
“Americans have been indoctrinated to believe in both Madisonian and populistic democracy; that they have never fully reconciled the two; and that this failure robs governmental decisions of considerable legitimacy.”
And time precludes offering a sample of his analysis of constitutions. Suffice to say, he confirms that pareto-optimal solutions to the perceived problem of majoritarian tyranny are not at hand.
Isn't there an easy way to judge the proper level of democracy? Compare the bills coming out of the senate and the house. I don't know if Garrett Jones or anybody else has studied this but it seems like an obvious natural experiment. Long terms seem to encourage more moral grandstanding.