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July 04, 2011

Comments

To put on my nasty cap: I am not surprised that selective abortion is found more in the higher and better educated classes. They have easier access to the tools and are likely more squeamish and less willing to kill a child already born. Poor people have (or had) less choices and could not afford scruples (except maybe not to put the infant into the pot).
An 'overproduction' of males made/makes sense, if society expects to use them up quickly through war etc. Many dystopies have as one feature a relatively constant breeding population of females that are allowed only enough female offspring to replace spent breeders while the males serve (as cannonfodder or slaves). Looking at propaganda from the World Wars (I stronger than II afaIct) this mindset is present at least implicitly (and sometimes out in the open*).

*to read what some clerics shouted from the pulpits in WW1 is simply nauseating. To paraphrase: "You have lost all your 4 sons? Blame only yourself that you have not born more so that one might still be alive. You should actually be ashamed that you haven't". A Gauleiter (high Nazi official) in Munich caused a riot at the university when he attacked female students for not doing their duty and showing their devotion by bearing a healthy son each year for the Führer, and then topped it by offering to impregnate students that claimed they could not find a proper mate.

I think that the basis for selecting for sons is not really the absense of non-family old-age security systems. Even though, admittedly, installing such a system can reduce some of the pressure.

Rather, I think the driver is a cultural one: in the cultures where female abortion/infanticide occurs it is tradition that upon marriage women join their husband's family -- and, implicitly, are no longer part of their parents' family. In cultures where children of both sexes remain part of their birth family even after marriage, support in old age can come from daughters as well as sons. Indeed, there is some indication that, in American culture (the only one I have a good handle on) care for aging parents falls disproportionately on the daughters.

The cultural bias in East and South Asia in this appears to reflect the ancient natural order of things. See Science:

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/06/ancient-female-ancestors-roamed-.html?ref=hp

(H/T Science News)

Hartmut said:

"A Gauleiter (high Nazi official) in Munich caused a riot at the university when he attacked female students for not doing their duty and showing their devotion by bearing a healthy son each year for the Führer, and then topped it by offering to impregnate students that claimed they could not find a proper mate."

Yes, we're developing an entire Reich of those Gauliters right here in the good ole USA. They pass laws to sequester soldiers in women's vaginas and then offer shore leave to the troops on weekends so that the Fuhrer has room to insert his impregnation services.

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/page/251569_An_anti-abortion_Ohio_legislat

I am curious about why later developments in Germany didn't cause riots. Maybe the Volk were fully impregnated with the propaganda.

Doctor:

"It's often said that humans are the only creatures who know they're going to die, but I think it's more important that we're the only ones who know we're going to get old, too old to find all our own food. When other creatures -- even other apes -- get too old to feed themselves consistently, they die. Animals have no old age in our sense, because every adult is self-supporting: if you get too old to take care of yourself, that's pretty much it."

This idea of too old to find all our own food is playing out in an odd way in dyspeptic, dystopic America.

Witness the modern supermarket, spread over hundreds of thousands of square feet, aisles now diagonal in some parts, and everything arranged in a dizzying, counter-intuitive maze of infinite selection, sparely and badly staffed, and everything rearranged from time to time overnight.

My elderly mother, early in her senescence, still doing her own shopping (try limiting your parents freedom; grrrr, snap) by herself, would be gone for hours and hours doing the weekly shopping trying to find all of the items on her list. Later, someone (a son or daughter) would accompany her, but when I visited from out of town I would go and the two of us would stand there (her senile, and I unfamiliar with the layout) in a forsaken aisle clutching the handle of the cart craning our necks up at the signs and back down at the grocery list, probably for an effing can of tomatoes in their own juices.

The next week several of the aisles seemingly vanished. We would get shunted into a backwater, an eddy of random products when all we wanted was, what, toothpaste (just paste, not the whitening paste, not the whitening, bleaching paste, not the cavity prevention whitening, bleaching paste)?

I suspect many of the elderly disappear in these stores, their cars abandoned in the parking lot.

There are probably trapdoors down which they fall, into a chute which feeds into a crocodile infested underground River of Styx.

Or maybe, after the stores close for the night, the confused lost elderly, foraging for toilet paper (just the two-ply, no further explanation, including how many sheets on a roll, required; just stfu already) are hunted down by packs of ravening wolves.

One can see how the great herd of babyboomers will be culled, under the florescent lighting of these death traps late at night.

I understand Governor Scott of Florida is combining sprawling supermarkets with Medicaid clinics (all in his wife's name, the clinics at the horrifying middle of a maze of mirrors just adjacent to the pet-food aisle), the better to reduce taxpayer expense.

My mother no longer shops, but amazingly can still drive, though we don't let her. By drive, I mean she can operate an automobile flawlessly, never to be seen again.

She's a saint, cared for my utterly disabled diabetic adult sister for 20 years until the latter's death, and now rewarded with senility and Stage IV breast cancer, without an intervening f*cking Mediterranean cruise.

Now, in our sadistic health insurance "market", her Medigap insurer is quarreling with the hospitals and doctors providing my mother and tens of thousands of others with care, threatening to cease cooperation.

The suspense is killing.

Luckily, my mother is mostly unaware of what a sadistic vermin hash this country has become, with its business wolves constantly moving the walls and slanting the floors and making the small print unseeable.

The United States is an ass, with malice aforethought.


Try asking even a partially senile human being to recite their PIN numbers.

Imagine them waiting on a phone tree.

My mother until about a year ago could still quote Bette Davis: "Getting old ain't for sissies".

Speaking of senility and actresses, there's an amazing article in the Sunday New York Times about 94-year old Celeste Holm.

What a mess.

wj -- "support" and "care" are two different things. "Support" generally refers to the provision of the material things one needs to survive, and care refers to provision of the physical assistance one needs to survive. Traditionally (by which I mean at most a few generations), an old person has been supported by a son, and cared for by either a daughter or the son's wife.

This is still pretty much the case, although in some cases a substitution is made in one or both of the categories. My mother, for instance, was supported in her last years by her pension and her husband's, and was cared for by my daughter, with the assistance of a live-in caregiver whose services were arranged for by my daughter.

My former mother-in-law lived with her son, although her expenses were met by the trust fund set up for that purpose by her late husband. Supportive care was provided by her son's wife.

Rarely does a single person, either son or daughter, provide both forms of support.

Dr. Science, I congratulate you for a sound scientific hypothesis. Your explanation is logical, consistent with the facts for the societies you mention, and best of all, testable. I'd be interested to see how it stands up to analyses of pre-WW1 US and Europe, though; I suspect that there are very different effects in practice there.

wj:

The point I'm making is that female dispersal does not reduce the *biological* value of a daughter, not at all. Her children are still your descendents, they still count as a "win" as far as evolution is concerned. Indeed, you could argue that those grandchildren -- because they don't take up your local resources -- are a bigger win than the ones who live near you and compete with you for e.g. food.

And as I said, a daughter is a *safer bet* biologically: she's more likely to have grandchildren for you than a son is.

The cultural factors you talk about *are* about old-age security -- but my point is that old-age security (not a biological value) comes at a biological price.

Something I didn't put in the post, because it was *really* late by then:

All human cultures have rules about food-sharing within the family. One way traditional Asian cultures (at least) develop a male-biased sex ratio is by food-sharing rules that undernourish women and girls.

Typically, the rules state that all the males are fed, in order from oldest to youngest, before the females, also from oldest to youngest. In poor families (=most), this means that the girls don't get as much food as the boys. It also means that "honor your father and mother" *literally* takes food out of the mouths of your children, especially your girl children. The girls don't starve, exactly -- but they don't grow well, they get sick more often, they get less medical care.

Infanticide by neglect -- by not even thinking about it much -- is what Douthat *should* contrast with sex-selective abortion. But, like all American conservatives these days, he doesn't know much about history and he knows *nothing* about anthropology.

"One way traditional Asian cultures (at least) develop a male-biased sex ratio is by food-sharing rules that undernourish women and girls."

Cite please? Asia is a big place.

From Wikipedia: Demographics of the People's Republic of China

Sex ratio
At birth: 1.133 male(s)/female (2011)
Under 15 years: 1.17 male(s)/female (2011)
15–64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female (2011)
65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female (2011)
Total population: 1.06 male(s)/female (2011)

"The natural sex ratio at birth is estimated to be close to 1.05 males/female." So, yes, there's apparently (sadly, horribly) some gender-based abortion or infanticide in China. Not huge though.

One way traditional Asian cultures (at least) develop a male-biased sex ratio is by food-sharing rules that undernourish women and girls.

Doc, don't all traditional cultures have those, not just Asian and it is magnified because of poverty? Thus, Douthat's notion that 'sexual empowerment' = 'abortion right' gives up the game and is one strong indication of Douthat's intentions is that he can't acknowledge the crushing poverty that Asia (especially India) has suffered, which may give rise to this, but simply cast it out there in order to have some talking point to beat pro-choice people about the head.

A small point about the Horse years, in Japan, there are similar statistical dips as the same superstition is involved. This shouldn't be taken as proof of abortion or infanticide. What has happened in Japan is that parents have delayed registering the births until the year has passed. I suspect a similar phenomenon is behind the graph peaks for South Korea.

I was just in Vietnam where they have put in place a 2 child policy, but they seem to have built in some escape valves to avoid the worst problems of the Chinese policy. Also, I'd be interested to know your take on the question of 'marriage migration', the transnational flows of females who are immigrating to be married. Right now, there is an identifiable population (not sure if it is "significant" or "growing") of Filipino women who have married Japanese men in rural areas here in my area. This seems to be the case in Taiwan as well, with the majority of immigrant brides going to rural areas. (you may want to look at (Un)tying the knot: ideal and reality in Asian marriage for some other interesting stuff about this) I'm not sure if linkage to marriage practices is too tenuous to evolutionary psychology, but it's an area I find rather interesting.

It's interesting that we don't make assumptions based on regional differences in demographic gender ratios in the US.

As to China, my understanding is that the one-child policy is not universally rigid. It's relaxed in agricultural areas, and even in urban areas, there's a fine on more than one child. Some can afford to pay the fine, and so have multiple children.

There is certainly some evidence that women suffer in Asian countries, but it's not entirely clear at what stage, for what reason, etc. And what do we make of the strange US stats?

So, yes, there's apparently (sadly, horribly) some gender-based abortion or infanticide in China. Not huge though.

Um...you don't think the fact there will be a cohort of 40 million young men in China who can never marry poses any problems for political stability? You think those 40 million young men will just sit back and say 'eh, so what if I can't have a family, no big deal, I wasn't that interested'? It seems like a huge potential problem, even if we completely ignore the fact that 40 million girls will have been eliminated through some combination of abortion, infanticide, and low-level starvation. Certainly, some IR scholars have raised this as a major problem for global stability in the coming decades. The Economist raises similar issues here.

It's interesting that we don't make assumptions based on regional differences in demographic gender ratios in the US.

I don't see any indication of regional differences in gender ratios at birth or in childhood in that link. So I don't see what your point is....

Now, there are regional differences for all ages, but that's to be expected: the gender-ratio for the entire population should vary based on the distribution of ages, wealth, and ethnicity.

There is certainly some evidence that women suffer in Asian countries, but it's not entirely clear at what stage, for what reason, etc.

It seems pretty damn clear in some cases; in many parts of India, if you have a daughter, you have to assemble a vast sum of cash in order to marry her off whereas if you have a son, you'll have a breadwinner who is socially obligated to take you in and feed you in your old age. In terms of net present value, daughters are worth a huge negative number of rupees and sons are worth a huge positive number. So, one way or another, you end up with fewer daughters. The mechanism may not be fully understood but the reason seems crystal clear.

And what do we make of the strange US stats?

They're completely irrelevant to the discussion. Dr Science is writing about at-birth or at infancy sex ratio imbalances. There don't appear to be any in the US. So there's no issue here.

This is a topic I've been aware of for twenty-odd years; not quite sure why the fact that Ross Douthat has just discovered it makes it suddenly relevant, but what the hey.

No easy answers, though Doc Science has done her best to posit some interesting logic. A couple of observations re: China.

- I happened to be at a conference once with a couple of demographers from China, and they said that while the problem was real, it might be exaggerated, because a lot of female births went unreported due to the "one-child" policy. The girls were there, they were just hidden from the data collectors. Don't know how true - and how consequential - this may be.

- "Traditional" China, up to the 20th century, practiced polygyny among the upper classes, to the point that this became a cultural norm. (I once asked a class of Hong Kong University students - all ethnic Chinese - whether in traditional China *all* men had multiple wives, and they said "yes" until I pointed out the impossibility of this!) Which meant that there have always been substantial numbers of Chinese men who have not had access to women because the gentry have taken them out of the market. Again, I have no idea how consequential this is, but the concept that large numbers of men who cannot marry is inherently dangerous may need to be modified a bit.

Someone asked about preferential feeding for adults (and for boys over girls) - this shows up in almost every study of household "economy" in SEAsia. It's not really in dispute.

Oh, and on Douthat's view that the "tragedy" is that so many "girls" are "dead," one can only assume that he's unfamiliar with the basic facts of gender and reproduction. Since - as has been noted already - males are inherently much weaker (health-wise) than females, in order to arrive at a sex ratio of 104 (to 100) at birth, it is necessary to have a far higher ratio at conception. If memory serves, it is at least 140:100, maybe even higher. The "surplus" male fetuses are then winnowed out by much higher rates of miscarriages, many of them early and scarcely noticed by the mothers.

But if one chooses to believe that they all have souls from the moment of conception, and can be "killed," then even with all the female-specific abortion noted, far MORE "boys" than "girls" are, and always have been, "killed" - by nature or by God, take your choice.

dr ngo:

Which meant that there have always been substantial numbers of Chinese men who have not had access to women because the gentry have taken them out of the market.

Yes, one of the things I've wondered about for years is how the marriage market in e.g. the Punjab works. It doesn't make economic or biological sense for the rarer sex to be a glut on the market.

The only thing I've been able to conclude is that the system is set up to make sure there's a pool of unmarriagable men. Why would parents *want* to have unmarriagable sons?

The only reason I can come up with is that as long as a son is unmarried, his excess income (which could have supported his wife and children) can flow back to his parents. The parents have traded away potential future grandchildren for the sake of money in the here-and-now.

Turbulence: "Um...you don't think the fact there will be a cohort of 40 million young men in China who can never marry poses any problems for political stability? "

40 million/a few hundred million = 15%?
You need to normalize your numbers. I suspect what is happening and will happen is that the bottom economic/social 20% of men will not get married. This would probably lead to some crime problems in poorer neighborhoods, but otherwise nothing.

The only reason I can come up with is that as long as a son is unmarried, his excess income (which could have supported his wife and children) can flow back to his parents.

This reminded me of Ozu's Tokyo Monogatari (highly recommended) where an elderly couple come to visit their son (a successful pediatrician) and their daughter (who runs a beauty salon) and are really only show any kindness by their daughter-in-law, whose husband (their son) was killed in the war. A companion piece to this is Banshun">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Late_Spring">Banshun (Late Spring, also excellent) where a widowed father contrives to have his daughter married off even though she wants to stay with him and, it is clear, they are perfectly happy together. After the match has been made, the father and daughter go on a trip to Kyoto and as they are packing to return home, she wonders why things can't just stay the way they are. The father admonishes her, saying that he's 56(!) and he doesn't have long and she has to live a life that has nothing to do with him, and that's the order of things. After the wedding, he has a drink with his daughter's divorced friend and reveals (though the viewer knew that it was happening) to her that the planned remarriage of the father was just a ploy to get Noriko to marry. After that, the father returns to his house and sits alone, and we see the weight of his sacrifice, which wasn't done for her daughter's happiness (because she was perfectly happy being with her father) but because they both had to move on.

Remembering these two films, I wonder if it is not thinking about money, but that modernization and industrialization lead parents to hold on more tightly to their children because they realize it is less rather than more likely that their child will drift away from them.

it might be exaggerated, because a lot of female births went unreported due to the "one-child" policy. The girls were there, they were just hidden from the data collectors. Don't know how true - and how consequential - this may be.

Well, it is a fact that there are lots and lots and LOTS of female children abandoned in China, so you can't count only the children outside of orphanages. To the extent that that is being done (if any) than any assessment of ratio is flawed.

Unfortunately any data that comes from the government of China, or is produced in cooperation with the government of China, is probably flawed if not horribly wrong. China doesn't in any awkward self-criticism as it used to actively encourage in its citizens.

Even if you went out and located all of China's orphanages and counted all of their residents, that wouldn't tell anywhere near the whole story. Most of the children in both of the orphanages my two daughters came from were in foster care; the families paid by the government to raise extra children. Both of my children were in full-time foster care prior to their adoption, as were every single one of the other children in both of the groups I traveled with to adopt.

It'd take a very thorough review of the bookkeeping, if it exists, to get you within any reasonable tolerance of an accurate assessment, I think.

Both of my daughters were abandoned, naturally, as were all of the others adopted by both travel groups.

I don't argue with Dr. Science's thesis, here, but I do want to point out that reproductive success is not the only biological imperative at work, here. If it were, we could all just suicide once we were unable to fend for ourselves, so as not to be a burden to our children and thus jeopardise the furthering of the bloodline.

It's interesting in the case of China to note how the state has swallowed cultural tradition hook, line and sinker where elder care is involved, but has no qualms about shelling out support for female infants that have been abandoned.

One last thing to consider: there is in fact a shortage of females in China, as evidenced by the burgeoning trade in wives.

One more thing: although in terms of percentages the Chinese imbalance between men and women may be small, this small percentage multiplied by 1.3 billion people winds up being some number of millions of actual people.

I grew up with the same food sharing dynamic here in the US and I know a number of other women who experienced the same thing. Men worked and boys were growing so they received the largest share of food. Women did not work and girls were smaller so they received less. This does not make a big difference if there is abundance. When there is not it makes a significant difference.
The belief that the family does not benefit from feeding or educating girls because they marry out and the benefit goes with them shows up in US culture as well.

Among the (mostly middle-class) people in the US I know, I mostly hear the opposite stereotype, that boys eventually go away and join their wives' families but girls will be with you forever. I wonder if there's a class or generational difference.

I recall hearing somewhere that US couples who do sex selection via IVF are usually selecting for girls. Maybe there's a counter-trend developing?

To Matt's point, here's the old saying I'm familiar with:

A daughter is a daughter for all her life. A son is a son until he takes a wife.

I recall hearing somewhere that US couples who do sex selection via IVF are usually selecting for girls. Maybe there's a counter-trend developing?

If this is true, I doubt it signifies a cultural trend. Every round of IVF costs many thousands of dollars and most couples who undergo IVF end up paying for multiple rounds. Given the point dr ngo raised above about males fetuses having a higher failure rate, one can hardly blame a couple engaging in IVF for playing the odds and selecting female offspring. That calculation would be totally rational and yet still tell us nothing about larger social mores regarding the value of girls.

Doc Science: I think part of the answer to your conundrum is that, for most of the last 2-3000 years, patriarchy trumps evolution. Without going into a whole lecture on the rise of patriarchies (or call them "androcentric societies," if you have problems with the term) around the world, it is clear that, however they came into being, they have two characteristics that are relevant here.

First, in order for them to "work," the male-dominated institutions (government, religion, etc.) have to be accompanied by masculinist ideologies, proclaiming again and again, in a variety of ways, that Male Is Better. You can't sustain patriarchy without this, and you can't limit it to the upper classes. So peasants almost everywhere are conditioned, like the rest of us, to think Daughters OK, Sons BETTER. How much action - as opposed to prayers and wishes - follows on this preference is of course variable, as your original posting nicely points out.

The other major factor is that over the past 2-3000 years, patriarchy has defeated its (original/presumptive) gender-egalitarian rivals. (There's no solid evidence for any "matriarchy" comparable to what we're calling patriarchy anywhere, ever.) All of the countries that came to dominate their neighbors - China, Rome, etc. - were patriarchal. All of the "world religions" - Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. - were patriarchal. Pockets of gender egalitarianism persisted, but never won out. It may be as simple as the capacity to mobilize military activity or a far more complex mix of property rights and organizational structures, but patriarchy has "worked" in this sense for societies if not for all of their subjects/citizens.

We appear now to be in a phase in which patriarchy is in retreat (although fighting back at many levels). Whether a gender-equal society can emerge and survive in this post-modern world, presumably less dependent on brute physical force and potentially less indoctrinated in patriarchal religions, remains to be seen. I'm a historian, not a soothsayer.

Does this make sense?

My impression of Obwi posters and commenters is that they think that taking Federal tax money to fund abortions is a good thing and no religious objections can be justified enough to prevent those objectors from being compelled to pay for those abortions.

It'd be most effective if you pointed out specific instances, Dave. For all I know, you're complaining about me. Which would be rather tragically mistaken of you.

My impression of myself is that I think taking Federal tax money to kill civilians with drones, and in general to go around engaging in stupid unnecessary wars that do little beyond enriching armaments manufacturers, is a bad thing, yet no objections that I could raise, religious or otherwise, can be justified enough to prevent this objector from being compelled to pay for all that war and killing and waste of life and resources.

I could elaborate without end. However, it's off topic, even if only marginally more than DaveC's effusion, so I'll drop it.

What JanieM said.

My impression of Obwi posters and commenters...

It's a big country with lots of different kinds of people in it.

Everybody's taxes are paying for something they hate.

I could be wrong, but I'll bet my list is longer than yours.

My impression of Obwi posters and commenters...

I prefer your hippie Euell Gibbons. Or is it your stoner Marlin Perkins?

Does DriveByDaveC live in a world where there is no Hyde amendment? What kind of drugs do I have to do or head injuries do I have to sustain before I can live in that world?

It occurs to me that, while having parents directly supported by male children might give parents incentives to abort female children, making support a commons by taxing everybody's children to support everybody in old age gives parents an incentive to abort ALL children. Since the benefit of having children is to everybody, and the expenses are directly to one's self.

Thus one takes a private problem for some people, and make of it a worse common problem for everyone.

If you really wanted to set up a proper system of incentives for people to have an adequate number of productive offspring, you'd directly allocate to parents a fixed fraction of the taxes paid by their offspring. This would give people a strong motive for making sure they had maximally productive offspring.

But I don't expect much support for that, as it fails the fundamental test of liberalism: Making sure that bad choices don't have bad consequences...

Yep, liberalism is all about making sure that bad decisions like choosing the wrong parents or to be born the wrong gender don't have bad consequences.

I think children should be tax deductible as dependents. That would solve Brett's problem.

or

What utter nonsense - pure abstraction, devoid of meaning in the face of empirical reality!

dr ngo:

I don't buy your formulation -- or the related "it's about war" idea -- because female-biased infanticide has occurred in too many cultures at too many levels of development. Structured patriarchal institutions may be an invention of the past several thousand years, but male dominance is not so recent.

The rapid changes in Korea prove that people don't neglect or eliminate daughters just because traditional forces tell them to, they do it because they think it is *necessary*. Remove the necessity, and murderous bias goes away in a generation, *poof*.

One reason I've been thinking about this problem for years is that female infanticide is so very biologically unnatural. Whatever pressure is making people do it must be strong and constant: people only obey tradition when tradition works for them.

Fear of old age would be such a pressure.

Brett:

making support a commons by taxing everybody's children to support everybody in old age gives parents an incentive to abort ALL children

Or, here's a crazy idea, use contraception and not have children unless they want them. Wacky and outside your experience, clearly.

Under our current tax regime, parents abort all children (i.e. fetuses), even though they don't, but, even though they don't abort them, they choose sub-maximally productive children, because parents generally want their kids to be failures. It makes perfect sense, considering the tax code.

female infanticide is so very biologically unnatural

I'm not really sure of what you mean by "biologically unnatural", here, given the nearly fractal wierdness of biology.

As it stands, it just looks like an elegant-seeming placeholder for "I don't understand it".

"I don't understand it"

Not that there's anything wrong with that; I don't understand it, either. "It's cultural" seems far too handwavey.

What utter nonsense - pure abstraction, devoid of meaning in the face of empirical reality!

I thought he was making a joke.

Yikes.

I thought he was making a joke.

Hope springs eternal. That didn't occur to me, but I hope you were right.

One man's joke is another man's modest proposal.

I don't recall John Galt taking his mummy with him, seeing as how her paps were no longer productive, and her arthritis prevented her from doing piece work in the Marianas.

That his mother might have aborted the fetus was testimony to her altruism, but unfortunately permitted the novel (as tasteless and boring as a gallon jug of joint compound eaten with a spoon) to continue for 72,000 pages of wooden, but vaguely erotic prose, if you like libertarian rape fantasies.

My sister has the bad form to be insufficiently incentivized (or is it incented; I've never mastered Larry Kudlow bullsh*te?) to avoid inheriting the gene for childhood diabetes from my Dad.

It's all debatable and complicated, except for the maximally glib among us, natch, but my Dad was not incentivized to keep living and perhaps being a productive executive, father, and citizen, considering dialysis did not exist and Medicare (the taxpayer) had yet to subsidize the practice at the time.

My sister was incented to cling to life for 20 years (she worked early on, even after blindness, but then became an unproductive parasite on the taxpayer, a sin in both communist secular societies, and capitalist God-bothered societies) by medical advances and subsidized medical care and my mother was incented to devote her every moment to keeping her going.

I guess my mother's current taxpayer-subsidized medical care should be reduced by some pro-rated amount to lay the blame for not making sure one of her children was maximally productive.

And then there is the brother, whose life travails have stunted his productivity; let's dock her another pro-rated amount.

My plan for America is to penalize parents for birthing maximally glib offspring.

Take away their pain meds first.

"Or, here's a crazy idea, use contraception and not have children unless they want them. Wacky and outside your experience, clearly."

Look, it's not all that complicated: Children have costs, well beyond the tax deduction you get for having another dependent. I ought to know, I've got a 2 year old.

In a society where people are provided for in their old age by their children, it's in their interest, their personal interest, that they have enough children, and prosperous children.

In a society where people are provided for in their old age by taxes on other people's children, it's in their interest that somebody have prosperous children, but it's in their personal interest that it not be them, because they bear the expense, and the benefit is divided across society. So, you get under-production of prosperous children.

Ever heard of the "birth dearth"? It's not a joke, every advanced society on Earth with a liberal welfare state is suffering from a population implosion. I'm suggesting that it's due to a bad incentive structure, and proposing a way to fix that incentive structure.

Or maybe you want your old age pension plan to collapse because there aren't enough kids born to pay the taxes?

I'd have another child, if I were you, in case the two-year-old grows up to be a productive, but unprosperous, non-unionized janitor or school teacher rather than a prosperous but unproductive buy-side stock analyst, attorney*, or talk-radio host.

*apologies to all of my attorney friends out there -- those whom Shakespeare would first kill, I merely insult with tongue in cheek. Bond traders and radio talk-show hosts, on the other hand, may proceed directly to the gallows.

Or maybe you want your old age pension plan to collapse because there aren't enough kids born to pay the taxes?

No, I'm relying on immigrants, especially illegals who don't get to collect social security after paying into it.

I'm not sure what Brett is getting at, here. US population isn't precisely imploding at present, and if it was, that would be a good thing.

Dear Brett,

If we all stopped having children, that would end all government taxation and oppression forever.

Give that some thought.

Regards.

What this planet* urgently needs is a human reproductive rate slightly lower than necessary to keep the population constant at least until we are back to 1-2 billions. Too fast and society will indeed collapse, too slow and the planet will.

As to Brett's proposal, there are countries where children have to support their parents financially, if they are able to and the parents aren't able to support themselves. It's not via the tax code but the children get the bills. But that's Old Europe.

*referring to the biosphere. The big lump of rock doesn't care.

Slart, the US isn't precisely a European style liberal welfare state, either. Maybe that's got something to do with this?

The connection between this topic and the "birth dearth" in welfare states seems remarkably obvious... is it just that nobody here likes the implications?

What is it with the conservative mania for seeing everything in terms of a cost/benefit analysis?

What person who's made it beyond adolescence looks around at their fellow human beings and assumes that people behave purely as rational, efficiency-maximizing actors?

Market theory is a wonderful abstraction for considering certain specific issues around political economy.

It's not a sufficient and complete explanation for how people live in the real freaking world.

Seriously, modern conservatives and market theory are like a little kid with a new toy. They're like a 12 year old with their first crush.

Life ain't about ROI.

referring to the biosphere. The big lump of rock doesn't care.

Dude, the biosphere doesn't care either. It will adapt. It will suck, mightily, for some sectors of the biosphere, but as a whole not so much.

There are ecologies based around freaking methane. Human activity is not going to bring the living world to an end.

The pressing question for humans is how *we* are going to live in the world we're making.

Only idiots crap in their own nest. OK, idiots and sparrows, but you catch my drift.

Slart, the US isn't precisely a European style liberal welfare state, either.

Not yet, no. Which, to be clear, I think is a good thing. But I think you see "liberal welfare state" as a cause of imploding population, rather than e.g. as a common effect of some other factor (I don't know about either, because I lack the data). IOW, I think you're jumping at conclusions that happen to support your preconceptions.

Seriously, modern conservatives and market theory are like a little kid with a new toy. They're like a 12 year old with their first crush.

A worldview based on comfortable, self-assuring slogans.

If the market can figure out what the price of grain should be, why not the fates of little old ladies?

If the market can figure out what the price of grain should be, why not the fates of little old ladies?

Or babies.

"A worldview based on comfortable, self-assuring slogans"

No one is better a comfortable, self assuring slogan than a true liberal.

No one can up a clever retort quite like Marty.

I'm sure that russell has some "modern conservatives" in mind that have this cartoonish version of how markets work. I don't think any serious student of free markets thinks that markets are always perfect, or always efficient, any more than serious students of politics think that democracy is never dysfunctional.

Free markets are valued by conservatives; I think you could say that as a generalization. But I don't think you can say that conservatives think free markets are perfect, or even something they'd give absolutely everything to attain.

Anyway. Way too much generalization going on here. If you have a beef with some particular person or group, it's best to identify them by name instead of making sweeping generalizations that can't be verified. I hate it when you guys do that.

"No one can up a clever retort quite like Marty"

Oh, sorry, I must have misread. I thought I was agreeing.

I can't respond at any length, because I'm taking my wife to hospital for yet another heart "procedure" (ablation, in this case).

But this whole business of the so-called "birth dearth" is the tale end of the demographic transition, which was old hat when I studied it quarter of a century ago, and has nothing whatsoever to do with "liberal welfare states." I don't have time or inclination to offer Demography 101 on line, or explain the intergenerational transfer of wealth (entire academic careers have been based on explication of this transfer), but if anyone in ObWi thinks that (a) this is the first time this has occurred to anyone, and (b) it's primarily a matter of tax policy, we are collectively even more deluded than I thought.

No more for now - off to the hospital.

"identify them by name"

Well, very few or no self-described conservatives who frequent OBWI would make the Conservative Cartoon Channel show list, to their credit.

The "conservative" Yosemite Sams left here some time ago to actually create a Republican Cartoon Tea Party Congress (kind of a gathering of the John Birch cartoon tribes who, in fact, view the free market as a simplistic moving line drawing with a Mel Blanc voiceover).

For a start on the list of specific names, I refer you to the 85 or so Tea Party hacks elected to the House of Representatives last November.

Or check any old comment thread at the Redrum cartoon archives.

CNN hired Foghorick Leghorickson in a bid to draw the Saturday morning cartoon confederates, and if your tastes run to fairly advanced animation, you can check out the FOX blondes, who shoot conservative cartoon platitudes (bullets with eyes that look around corners) from their Gatling gun titties.

You want the funny papers, then tune into the Iowa and New Hampshire Republican primaries, where various clever Sylvesters (tongues extended like red carpets) believe all voters are innocent Tweetiepies (Oh, looky, what a big dark cave, I wonder what's in dere. I tought I taw da free market down dere)

Now, Brett Bellmore is on a list of names, but not this one. His cartoonist creator I think would be R. Crumb or maybe whomever came up with Rocky and Bullwinkle, not Chuck Jones.

No one is better a comfortable, self assuring slogan than a true liberal.

That's "self-hating liberal" to you!

Marty, if you read my comment, there's a word missing. If you read your comment it was responding to, there's at least one word missing.

And now any degree of humor present in my little joke has evaporated via the process of explanation.

For extra credit, we can try supplying the missing words and seeing what kind of amusing results we can obtain.

I'm sure that russell has some "modern conservatives" in mind that have this cartoonish version of how markets work.

My comment was in response to Brett's apparently serious assertion that folks in liberal democracies have fewer children than they used to out of some kind of rational calculus in which they summed up the cost of raising kids and compared it to what they would receive back from their kids in their dotage, vs what they would get from the public teat.

So, QED.

And really, that kind of thinking is by no means unusual or anomalous.

It's really, really not my fault if modern conservatism is enamored of market theory as the One True Explanation for all human behavior. Nor is it my responsibility to explain why that is so, nor is it incumbent upon me to pretend that it is not so.

In other words, not my problem, hoss. I didn't make that particular world, I just have to live in it. Or, at least, with it.

it's best to identify them by name instead of making sweeping generalizations that can't be verified.

There aren't enough hours in the day. Plus, it would probably put me beyond typepad's comment length limit.

For extra credit, we can try supplying the missing words and seeing what kind of amusing results we can obtain.

Mad Libs!!

It's really, really not my fault if modern conservatism is enamored of market theory as the One True Explanation for all human behavior.

Cartoons travel in packs! It's not my fault that they do, though.

Cartoons travel in packs!

As a matter of fact, they do.

It's not my fault that they do, though.

I'd never think or say otherwise.

Generalizations can be true, even if they can't be applied to every individual, to be general about it.

Regarding the specific generalization at hand, do you deny that, generally speaking, there is an over-reliance on market theory among today's prominent American conservatives in determining or advocating various policies, Slart?

My kingdom for a with, and it is still funny. But I was laughing all the time so I missed it.

What a thread.

My summary of what I've read.

Governments, cultures, and yes, real patriarchy, predetermining sexual preference for infants is bad. We should try to make that stop.

Parents wanting a boy so they have an heir to the name, and then a girl. Or the other way around, or another boy so they have a full basketball team or whatever, is as good a reason as any.

Growing boys get fed more than teenage girls who are inevitably watching their weight, big surprise if not always necessary. Have you raised both? It happens.

In some of the rest of the world they don't seem to have the cultural sensibilities about the subject that we seem to, although many individuals seem to still want to have the children they create regardless of sex.

The market is a poor manager of all human relationships, including anything that has to do with children, having them, raising them or how they treat you when you're old.

Rich and poor alike fail miserably at all aspects of the human endeavor. While the full range of people also succeed spectacularly, living full and happy lives despite the worst that society can do to them.

Somehow none of that surprises me.

I wrote a very long response to hsh and russell, and the blog ate it.

A more compact version follows:

do you deny that, generally speaking, there is an over-reliance on market theory among today's prominent American conservatives in determining or advocating various policies, Slart?

As unfond as I am of formulations containing "do you deny that", I'm going to say that conservatives simply fight the free-market battle because it's something they feel strongly about. But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a substantial body of conservatives that would agree with "market theory as the One True Explanation for all human behavior". Even ardent supply-siders like Jeremy Siegel don't think that the market is always right:

But is the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) really responsible for the current crisis? The answer is no. The EMH, originally put forth by Eugene Fama of the University of Chicago in the 1960s, states that the prices of securities reflect all known information that impacts their value. The hypothesis does not claim that the market price is always right. On the contrary, it implies that the prices in the market are mostly wrong, but at any given moment it is not at all easy to say whether they are too high or too low. The fact that the best and brightest on Wall Street made so many mistakes shows how hard it is to beat the market.

Market forces are simply an influence, much as family forces are an influence, much as culture is an influence. My opposition to screwing with markets overly is more along the lines of "you have no idea what you're doing" than that markets are somehow mysterious and sacrosanct.

CCDG, you forgot about the biosphere. :)

dr ngo, best of luck, hope your wife's procedure is textbook-perfect.

But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a substantial body of conservatives that would agree with "market theory as the One True Explanation for all human behavior".

Sure. I just wanted to test how far your disagreement really went. I try to stop the talking-past-each-other phenomenon when I think I have a shot at it.

Even ardent supply-siders like Jeremy Siegel don't think that the market is always right

This probably deserves a thread of its own, and I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but there is a world of difference between claiming that the market is always right, and claiming that free market theory is a normative model for discussing general human relationships and behavior, especially in the public sphere.

I really don't think ascribing the latter to conservatives is much of a stretch.

YMMV.

Wow, a free market model or that the government can effectively impact and predict it's impact on human relationships? There is a huge leap from rejecting highly intrusive social engineering as the appropriate role of government and a "free market model" as a normative model for human relationships.

I think that might even need a definition. And, yes, maybe it's own thread. Maybe a front pager who suggested it could put down a few thoughts. :)

claiming that free market theory is a normative model for discussing general human relationships and behavior, especially in the public sphere

I'm not sure I know what you mean by that, but it sounds very different from market theory as the One True Explanation for all human behavior at first read.

I really don't think ascribing the latter to conservatives is much of a stretch.

Something had you thinking that. What, other than Brett's comments in this thread?

There is a huge leap from rejecting highly intrusive social engineering as the appropriate role of government and a "free market model" as a normative model for human relationships.

Is social security highly intrusive social engineering? Are public pensions around the world, generally? Who here is advocating highly intrusive social engineering?

Just because Brett could be perceived to have characterized liberal public pensions as being highly intrusive social engineering (I don't perceive that, exactly) and to have argued against such using a free-market argument doesn't mean that the rejection of his free-market argument is an argument in favor of highly intrusive social engineering (or an argument that highly intrusive social engineering is the only alternative to the free market).

I'm going to put "highly intrusive social engineering" as a filter phrase in the spam filter on a lark, one of these days.

Growing boys get fed more than teenage girls who are inevitably watching their weight, big surprise if not always necessary. Have you raised both? It happens.

I think you missed the point. This is emphatically not what Dr Science or dr ngo were referring to. What they're talking about is a cultural institution whereby women and girls are not permitted to eat as much food as they want because the men and boys get first pick. There's a huge difference between being denied food and choosing not to eat food. Systemic malnutrition has consequences, like lower resilience to infection, a higher death rate, etc.

I'm not sure I know what you mean by that

Normative as opposed to positive.

So, markets are not just a description of how people happen to relate in certain contexts, but a description of how they *ought to* relate.

And for One True Explanation, kindly reflect on the range of institutions and functions that traditionally been part of the public sphere which conservatives have called for moving to private hands.

Seriously slarti, you don't see any of this?

Something had you thinking that.

I've been alive and mostly awake for the last 30 years.

I don't mean to be flippant, I just find it hard to see how this is even controversial.

I kid, natch, but Obsidian Wings, like Proust, might spend the last years of its life confined to a cork-lined bedroom.

Turb, I understood that part, it was the subsequent growing boys in the US I was referring to.

There is a huge leap from rejecting highly intrusive social engineering as the appropriate role of government and a "free market model" as a normative model for human relationships.

Not really. I converse regularly with conservatives who make that leap routinely. Therefore, it cannot be overly huge.

I'm home (for the second time); wife remains overnight in the hospital; all seems to have gone well; hope to bring her home tomorrow; thanks for good wishes.

I was planning to write quite a bit more about demography, but this thread has now drifted so far it would appear irrelevant, if not outright threadjacking. A couple of final (?) points, then:

To Slarti and others - I apologize if I appeared to be denying or grossly minimizing the fact of female deficit (male surplus) among Chinese children, now young adults. At the conference, this fact was taken for granted; we were merely quibbling over quantification, as demographers do ("I still maintain the 19th-century growth rate was closer to 1.8% than 1.5%!") The gap is real, and cause for concern, even if it is not quite as big as some imagine and one does not believe - as some do - that China's only recourse will be to start wars to kill off the surplus men. (Far likelier, as someone mentioned, to import women from poorer countries as mail-order brides, maids, "entertainers," or whatever.)

To Doc Sci: In a better world (or another thread, perhaps?) I'd quibble over your assertion that "Structured patriarchal institutions may be an invention of the past several thousand years, but male dominance is not so recent." How do we know? Feminist historians such as Gerda Lerner, I suspect, would be unconvinced.

To CCDG: The case of adolescent "growing boys" and dieting girls in the USA today is completely irrelevant to the systematic preference for feeding males, from infancy onward, found in many poor societies where those who eat last eat next to nothing. I can't figure out whether your citation of this represents simple flippancy or willful wrongheadedness, but I guess it doesn't matter.

And this, rather than my previous comment, must be the "tale end" to which I previously referred.

Only idiots crap in their own nest. OK, idiots and sparrows, but you catch my drift.

also gorillas because getting out of bed (and tree) would waste needed energy. But they build a new nest each evening, so the crap problem is only temporary. Maybe we should be talking about crapping into each other's nests instead. ;-)

Of course it is unfair to accuse 'modern conservatives' of worshipping the market exclusively. Like old-fashioned conservatives they bow not just at the shrine of Mammon but also at that of the God they claim has made Mammon his deputee and any scripture saying otherwise is a liberal forgery.

Dr ngo:
I'm sure everyone here shares my wish that your wife continues to do well, and improve.

Re: apologies; none are needed as far as I'm concerned. You have in the past schooled me that my concerns regarding China's population imbalance were overdone, and it was my intention to remember the lesson. Where I'm coming from now is that even though a China-led armageddon may not be a huge danger, there's still practices that affect a great many lives. IOW: I have no quarrel with what you've said, here.

"The case of adolescent "growing boys" and dieting girls in the USA today is completely irrelevant to the systematic preference for feeding males, from infancy onward, found in many poor societies where those who eat last eat next to nothing. I can't figure out whether your citation of this represents simple flippancy or willful wrongheadedness, but I guess it doesn't matter."

I recognized this(now the second time) and was referring to the comment by thebewilderness of having experienced the phenomenon in the US, and even then it was being flippant. Apologies to anyone offended.

I'm sure that russell has some "modern conservatives" in mind that have this cartoonish version of how markets work.

I never really made a good reply to this, and it deserves one.

What I'm talking about is the trend in conservative thought to discuss pretty much anything in the public sphere in terms of market dynamics.

Schools suck? What we need is competition. We need market-based incentives to drive school improvement.

CO2 levels getting uncomfortably high? Government can't simply regulate carbon emissions, that would be too large of an imposition. We need market-based mechanisms to get folks to reduce their consumption.

Health care costs rising, such that essential care is getting out of reach of many folks? We need a market-based solution.

Markets, markets, markets. Lather, rinse, and repeat, for almost anything you can think of that touches on the public sphere.

Ideas that are, straight up, simply not on the table:

Some things are sufficiently essential to a humane society that they should not be considered as commodities. I'm not talking about them being rights, I'm just talking about them being profoundly good and useful things.

People who share a political community are bound by mutual responsibilities and obligations above and beyond the mere requirement to respect terms of contracts.

Personal liberty loses its meaning and relevance in the face of extreme and widespread disparities of wealth and opportunity. Not in the abstract, but in any meaningful or concrete estimation.

Societies that allow for extremes of unfairness fall apart.

Show me the conservative who has argued from any of those points, at any time in the last thirty years. I'm all ears.

I can actually point you to some, but they are not in fashion, and are not involved in making public policy in a significant way.

They're generally regarded as cranks and weirdos.

Markets are great ways to regulate the production of, and set meaningful prices for, commodity goods.

Not all transactions between people are in terms of commodity goods, and to the degree that you try to make them into commodity goods, you undermine the human community.

That's what I'm on about when I talk about "free market theory (being) a normative model for discussing general human relationships and behavior, especially in the public sphere".

Hope that helps.

I never really made a good reply to this, and it deserves one.

I think this definitely serves, russell. Thanks for taking the effort. I wasn't all that happy with your prior attempt, and I suspect that similar techniques would be hooted down if used by e.g. Brett.

I'm not going to be able to address all of your thoughts at once, mostly because I can't speak for "modern conservatives" or, really, anyone other than myself. So, I'm torn: do I attempt to get you to back up your generalization, or do I attempt to address what you've said and try and correct what I see to be misperceptions? Maybe something like the latter, as I'm guessing you aren't prepared to substantiate.

What I'm talking about is the trend in conservative thought to discuss pretty much anything in the public sphere in terms of market dynamics.

Markets can and should be discussed in terms of market dynamics, no? What couching do you advise as a means to discuss the mortgage loan market collapse, or the healthcare market?

Schools suck? What we need is competition. We need market-based incentives to drive school improvement.

No: schools suck, and there's a structure in place designed to thwart most attempts at reform (teacher's unions!), so we're going to attempt a market solution as something of a last resort. Oh, and the mechanism in place is busily gaming itself, in any event.

We've been fortunate enough to have had access to an awesome public school (surprise, in a lower-middle-income district), which we've supported for some years now, but we've got both our kids in a charter school for middle and high school because public school discipline sucks. Sure, we've got no one to blame but ourselves (parents): the school system is for some reason terrified to put its fncking foot down and discipline students for fear (dunno what else it could be, really) of annoying the parents. Our charter school is for some reason rather more loosely constrained in this regard.

Something has got to give, and has.

You want to talk about conservatives and education, check into what Jeb Bush's highly unpopular (with the teacher's unions) education reforms have done to education success in Florida. Not that there aren't conservatives that don't consider Jeb Bush to be a conservative.

Oh, apropos of free markets and little else: 72% Favor Free Market Economy Over One Managed by the Government. So, there's that.

Maybe something like the latter, as I'm guessing you aren't prepared to substantiate.

To reiterate, the issue is not an unwillingness to substantiate, it is the fact that there isn't enough time in the day to walk back through the history of the last thirty years and enumerate every instance where American conservatives promoted market dynamics as the solution to some social problem or other.

I have a more than high regard for your opinion, but I'm also just not inclined to jump through hoops to "substantiate" what appears, to me, about as controversial as the sun rising in the east once a day.

Seriously: my statement is that conservatives of the last thirty years view market dynamics as the go-to solution for basically any issue in the public sphere.

This is controversial, or needs detailed documentation and evidence?

If I said liberals of the 60's through mid-70's saw government programs as the go-to solution for basically any issue in the public sphere, would that be a statement that required an detailed enumeration of cases, complete with links and google-fu attached, to be credible?

I think the two statements are equally valid.

Shorter me: take the statement or leave it as stated, I don't have the time or inclination to assemble documentation. It surprises the hell out of me that it's even in question.

What couching do you advise as a means to discuss the mortgage loan market collapse, or the healthcare market?

The "mortgage loan market collapse" had damned little to do with markets per se. It had to do with the fact that tons of people lied their @sses off to make themselves wealthy.

That's not a market problem, nor is one that will be solved by markets. The solution to that problem is jail time.

The problem with the health care "market" is that it costs a lot more nowadays to provide health care. There are lots of reasons for that, some of which are amenable to market solutions and some of which are not.

Some are straight-up matters of basic public health, and really nothing to do with health care markets at all.

To a very non-trivial degree, problems with the "health care market" are driven by the fact that people live longer. Old people are generally sicker than young people, the market has nothing to do with that, and offers no solution to that.

There are many, many, many dynamics that touch on the health care issue.

And there are a range of things, among which I would include health care, that are sufficiently critical to basic social good order that insuring their availability takes priority over relying on the free market to provide them.

Which is to say, they're very important, and they're not commodities.

And for the record, *I* favor a market-based economy over one managed by the government.

My point is that the economy is not the be-all and end-all lens for thinking about public life.

Old people are generally sicker than young people, the market has nothing to do with that, and offers no solution to that.

Or, actually, the market does offer a solution to that.

The market solution is:

Demand drives up price until the number of folks who can afford to purchase health care comes to be in equilibrium with the available resources.

It's just not an acceptable solution, if we don't want people dying from preventable causes.

Which, *to my mind*, should remove market-based solutions from the discussion.

If I said liberals of the 60's through mid-70's saw government programs as the go-to solution for basically any issue in the public sphere, would that be a statement that required an detailed enumeration of cases, complete with links and google-fu attached, to be credible?

It might if I had said it.

But I'd have put it like: modern-day liberals see government programs as a kind of One Ring to manage all human endeavors and to Right all Wrongs, for a closer parity to what you said.

It surprises the hell out of me that it's even in question.

With respect: just as it surprised the hell out of Gary Farber that his assertion that Horatio Alger's fiction was a key underpinning to conservatism was in question. Because look at some conservatives who have him in their libraries! But maybe your cartoon of conservatism (or Gary's, or both) IS a better fit than mine. I am just not seeing it. But I suspect that I'm just going to have to content myself with simply disagreeing with you.

The "mortgage loan market collapse" had damned little to do with markets per se. It had to do with the fact that tons of people lied their @sses off to make themselves wealthy.

So: that wasn't market manipulation? I'd like to hear more on that. Every single article I've read on the mortgage loan market implosion, whether it originates from the left or right, discusses it in the context of markets. To borrow a phrase: it surprises the hell out of me that this is even in question.

My point is that the economy is not the be-all and end-all lens for thinking about public life.

I have no disagreement with that, russell.

Hey slarti, you think my characterization of conservatism of the last 30 years is too broad.

I think it's right on the money.

And it's not something I'm just making up because I'm in a bad mood, it's a conclusion I've drawn from listening to conservatives talk, and watching them act, for the last thirty years.

I appreciate the link to the stuff about Bush's education initiatives in FL. It's great that he's trying to make things better, and is meeting with some success.

One thing that jumps right out at me about Bush's Foundation For Excellence in Education is it's association with free-market think tanks like the State Policy Network and the James Madison Institute.

The wiki page for the foundation characterizes their agenda as follows:

providing a high quality education to all students ensures our students enter the world with the skills to compete and succeed in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. An educated workforce will attract investors to create high-wage jobs and produce prosperity

All wonderful goals. And, all in all, a very one-sided view of the function and role of public education in a self-governing republic of responsible citizens.

IMVHO.

Maybe I'm cherry-picking stuff to slant the argument in my favor, but I really don't think so. It was, literally, the first thing I read - the headline - on the wiki page. I took a pretty thorough look on the Foundation web page to find a more well-rounded view of their point of view, but didn't find anything.

So, there it is.

In any case, I don't really see much room to budge on my overall position here. I'd be happy to be wrong, I just don't see that I am.

Feel free to enlighten me.

In the meantime, we're simply going to have to disagree.

Regarding this:

Every single article I've read on the mortgage loan market implosion, whether it originates from the left or right, discusses it in the context of markets.

I completely agree. And *THAT IS MY POINT*.

Nobody discusses the social and moral obligations of folks involved to NOT FREAKING LIE. Nobody discusses the damage done to public trust in financial and regulatory institutions, except as they effect the behavior and performance of the market.

Nobody in a discussion of public policy says IT'S F**KING WRONG FOR PEOPLE ACTING IN ANY POSITION OF PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY TO LIE, IT WON'T STAND, AND HERE IS WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT.

It's all about depressing credit markets, or some other financial crap.

And yeah, mortgage originators, folks bundling crap mortgages into instruments, folks selling those instruments, and folks selling hedges against those instruments, are all acting in a position of public responsibility.

And you're dead right, it's both the right and the left.

Because there is no freaking left in this country anymore. There is only the right, and the sort-of-conservative middle.

And maybe Bernie Sanders. And Dennis Kucinich, but he believes in UFOs, so he's sort of not in the conversation.

That is my point, full stop. Nobody talks about anything except in the context of the market dynamics.

I'm going to stop now, because this is depressing the living hell out of me.

Good night.

Not to over-overextend this conversation, as I suspect that neither of us is going to convince the other on the basic point; just nibbling around the edges.

Nobody discusses the social and moral obligations of folks involved to NOT FREAKING LIE.

Well, that's the elephant in the punchbowl, isn't it? The basic fact of the matter is that some people are liars, and pointing out that they have a responsibility to be honest isn't going to dissuade them from lying. Because it's the lying that gets them to where they want to be in a way that's fundamentally less full of effort than being honest.

So we're left with the fact that said lying is illegal, and that the folks that lied should incur civil and/or criminal penalties that align with penalties for some level of theft. Grand larceny ought to be part of the conversation.

There's a fundamental difference between breaking into someone's home and swiping their money, and defrauding them out of the same amount of money. But I think there ought to be some parity in legal consequences.

Thanks for taking the time out to unravel the skein for me, russell. I don't promise to agree with you, but the fact that you take the time out to 'splain yourself is, and always will be, highly appreciated.

many thanks for your patience slarti, and for your willingness to extend good faith. they are much appreciated.

So we're left with the fact that said lying is illegal, and that the folks that lied should incur civil and/or criminal penalties that align with penalties for some level of theft. Grand larceny ought to be part of the conversation.

The admirable consensus on this point requires, however, a codicil:

Which party/faction is most in favor of increasing the regulatory power of the state to uncover and prosecute such lying? Which party/faction consistently tries to dismantle or weaken such regulation, so that lying - which they duly deplore, rhetorically - will be much harder to uncover, prosecute, and prove?

"Which party/faction is most in favor of increasing the regulatory power of the state to uncover and prosecute such lying? Which party/faction consistently tries to dismantle or weaken such regulation, so that lying - which they duly deplore, rhetorically - will be much harder to uncover, prosecute, and prove?"

Well, the answer here is neither. One side wants to regulate lots more WHAT gets done. Neither is real big on making regulations that catch liars.

I've been thinking on the good dr ngo's question, and I offer the following, in no particular order:

-There is not a complete overlap between Republican and Conservative.

-Neither Republicans nor Conservatives (nor indeed Liberals or Democrats) are immune to inconsistency, nor to failure to link cause and effect.

-The Republican Party, to the extent I'm familiar with it and can speak from observation, is highly prone to take action, or refrain from doing so, to a great extent because doing so (or not) will give them some advantage, or thwart their opponents

Apologies for over-terseness or errors in spelling, etc. Typing this in via iPhone is somewhat of a chore.

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