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Inconvenient Social Realities

Robert Marano and Michael Crouch write in the Wall Street Journal -Ignoring an Inequality Culprit: Single-Parent Families

Excerpts:

The two-parent family has declined rapidly in recent decades. In 1960, more than 76% of African-Americans and nearly 97% of whites were born to married couples. Today the percentage is 30% for blacks and 70% for whites. The out-of-wedlock birthrate for Hispanics surpassed 50% in 2006. This trend, coupled with high divorce rates, means that roughly 25% of American children now live in single-parent homes, twice the percentage in Europe (12%). Roughly a third of American children live apart from their fathers.

Does it matter? Yes, it does. From economist Susan Mayer’s 1997 book “What Money Can’t Buy” to Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” in 2012, clear-eyed studies of the modern family affirm the conventional wisdom that two parents work better than one.

“Americans have always thought that growing up with only one parent is bad for children,” Ms. Mayer wrote. “The rapid spread of single-parent families over the past generation does not seem to have altered this consensus much.

More than 20% of children in single-parent families live in poverty long-term, compared with 2% of those raised in two-parent families, according to education-policy analyst Mitch Pearlstein’s 2011 book “From Family Collapse to America’s Decline.” The poverty rate would be 25% lower if today’s family structure resembled that of 1970, according to the 2009 report “Creating an Opportunity Society” from Brookings Institution analysts Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill. A 2006 article in the journal Demography by Penn State sociologist Molly Martin estimates that 41% of the economic inequality created between 1976-2000 was the result of changed family structure.

Why isn’t this matter at the center of policy discussions? There are at least three reasons. First, much of politics is less about what you are for than who you are against, as Jonathan Haidt, a New York University psychology professor, noted in his popular 2012 book “The Righteous Mind.” And intellectual and cultural elites lean to the left. So, quite simply, very few professors or journalists, and fewer still who want foundation grants, want to be seen as siding with social conservatives, even if the evidence leads that way.

Second, family breakup has hit minority communities the hardest. So even bringing up the issue risks being charged with racism, a potential career-killer. The experience of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is a cautionary tale: Moynihan, who had a doctorate in sociology, served in the Lyndon B. Johnson administration as an assistant secretary of labor and in 1965 published a paper titled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” warning about the long-term risk that single-parent households pose for black communities. He was attacked bitterly, and his academic reputation was tarnished for decades.

HKO

The damage of the politically correct is to turn a blind eye to that evidence that thwarts one’s world view.  This social development will not be repaired by either higher redistributive taxes or a higher minimum wage.

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A Progressive Dilemma

John Stossel writes in Townhall, The War on Women:

Insurance companies still charge men more for car and life insurance. A survey of car insurance companies found that the cheapest policy for a woman cost 39 percent less than for a man. A 60-year-old woman pays 20 percent less than a man for a 10-year life insurance policy. Seventy-year-old women pay half as much as men.

That’s just math, too, because most women live longer than men and, despite the “woman-driver” stereotype, we men get into more car accidents.

I don’t hear activists complaining about men paying too much. The “victim” propaganda works only when women pay more.

The sexes are simply different. Yet government demands that colleges have gender-equal sports participation. It’s fine if dance and art groups are mostly women, but if athletic teams are too male, lawsuits follow.

Obama even cynically repeats the misleading claim that women make 77 cents for every dollar men make, although his own Department of Labor says the difference evaporates once you control for experience and other choices.

HKO

This probably the most dog eared chapter of the Progressive Playbook, likely originated from the opposition to abortion from some of the conservatives.  Here is a progressive dilemma: What if female fetuses were aborted at a higher rate than male fetuses?

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American Capitalism and Charity

Jeff Jacoby writes ‘Tis better to give, but some give more in The Boston Globe:

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby

Excerpts:

WHEN IT comes to charitable giving, America is a world-beater. According to Giving USA, an annual compendium of national data on philanthropy, Americans last year donated more than $316 billion to charity, or roughly 2 percent of GDP. Contrary to popular belief, most of that money didn’t come from foundations or corporations. It came from individuals. In 2012, donations from private American households added up to about $223 billion.

American generosity varies by region. Studies by Fraser and the Catalogue of Philanthropy, which use IRS data from itemized income tax returns, show a consistent pattern. “Measured by how much they share out of what they have available, the most generous Americans are not generally those in high-income, urban, liberal states like California or Massachusetts,” Zinsmeister writes. “Rather, people living in areas that are more rural, conservative, religious, and moderate in income are our most generous givers.”

Discussions of charity — who gives, who doesn’t — invariably become fodder for the culture wars. Let’s face it, an unmistakable aroma of hypocrisy wafts when those who preach a politics of compassion and denounce the greed of their ideological opponents turn out to be bleeding heart tightwads.

HKO

Perhaps Pope Francis overlooked this in his 50,000 word address, Evangelii Gaudium, in his condemnation of capitalism.

Capitalism requires a free economy, political liberty AND a system of moral virtues.  He would have been far more effective if he addressed the moral component without the condemnation of an effective economic system with the pejorative of “trickle down economics.”

 

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Is Democracy A Prerequisite for Innovation ?

Eamonn Fingleton writes in the New York Times America The Innovative?, 3/31/13

Excerpts:

Few of the most creative societies of the ancient world were free. Certainly not Mesopotamia or Egypt. As for the spectacular creativity of early modern Europe, this somehow flourished alongside bloodcurdling efforts at mind control. More recently, both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, with authoritarian cultures, punched well above their weight in innovation.

Even the evidence of America’s own history undercuts the “all you need is freedom” story. Though from the start freedom was central to the country’s political culture, Americans have not always ranked as technological leaders. America’s technological coming of age was remarkably recent. As Ralph Gomory, former head of I.B.M.’s research department pointed out to me in an interview, America was noted up to the 1930s mainly as an inspired adapter of other nations’ technologies — a role similar to that of Japan and other East Asian nations in more recent times.

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Perpetuating Cynicism and Paranoia

tin hats

from the New York Times Magazine by Naggie Koerth-Baker,  Sure You Saw a Flying Saucer (hard copy) or Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories in the online version.

Excerpts:

Since Hofstadter’s book was published, our access to information has vastly improved, which you would think would have helped minimize such wild speculation. But according to recent scientific research on the matter, it most likely only serves to make theories more convincing to the public. What’s even more surprising is that this sort of theorizing isn’t limited to those on the margins. Perfectly sane minds possess an incredible capacity for developing narratives, and even some of the wildest conspiracy theories can be grounded in rational thinking, which makes them that much more pernicious. Consider this: 63 percent of registered American voters believe in at least one political conspiracy theory, according to a recent poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University.

In 2010, Swami and a co-author summarized this research in The Psychologist, a scientific journal. They found, perhaps surprisingly, that believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular. Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.

Surprisingly, Swami’s work has also turned up a correlation between conspiracy theorizing and strong support of democratic principles. But this isn’t quite so strange if you consider the context. Kathryn Olmsted, a historian at the University of California, Davis, says that conspiracy theories wouldn’t exist in a world in which real conspiracies don’t exist. And those conspiracies — Watergate or the Iran-contra Affair — often involve manipulating and circumventing the democratic process. Even people who believe that the Sandy Hook shooting was actually a drama staged by actors couch their arguments in concern for the preservation of the Second Amendment.

Our access to high-quality information has not, unfortunately, ushered in an age in which disagreements of this sort can easily be solved with a quick Google search. In fact, the Internet has made things worse. Confirmation bias — the tendency to pay more attention to evidence that supports what you already believe — is a well-documented and common human failing. People have been writing about it for centuries. In recent years, though, researchers have found that confirmation bias is not easy to overcome. You can’t just drown it in facts.

In 2006, the political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler identified a phenomenon called the “backfire effect.” They showed that efforts to debunk inaccurate political information can leave people more convinced that false information is true than they would have been otherwise. Nyhan isn’t sure why this happens, but it appears to be more prevalent when the bad information helps bolster a favored worldview or ideology.

In that way, Swami says, the Internet and other media have helped perpetuate paranoia. Not only does more exposure to these alternative narratives help engender belief in conspiracies, he says, but the Internet’s tendency toward tribalism helps reinforce misguided beliefs.

HKO

Even the educated and the intelligent tend to believe what they expect or what they want.  They are also subject to rationalization of emotional responses. Nassim Taleb pointed out that rationalization is quite different from rationality.

We want to explain with conspiracy what can be better explained with randomness or incompetence.