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July 16, 2008

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Liberals, to use the broad generalization already in play, do not criticize as hypocrites those that support the conservative "family values" agenda simply because the so-called Red States tend to show higher incidence of the supposed immoral or broken-family phenomena.

Maybe you're being saved by specificity ("liberals," "hypocrites," "simply," etc.). I know I've criticized Red Staters on those grounds, and the popularity of the F**k the South post four years ago suggests I wasn't the only one. I don't thinik that's particularly problematic: if we're at the point that all that's available is shouting and slurring, we ought to be able to shout and slur, too.

(I continue to wonder to what extent D&S's analysis folds in geographic and rural/urban distinctions. Just by the by.)

I'm no expert, but IIRC the evidence is that forms of sex education in schools have no effect one way or the other. Abstinence-based education doesn't work, but neither does condom-based education.

On the other hand, involvement in religious communities does seem to "work." Those who go to church a lot are less likely to suffer from substance-abuse, joblessness, family breakdown and so on. Obviously, that fact is independent of the truth claims of the religion, but it might help explain the appeal of both Dobson and Wright.

I kind of agree with Tim that "blue staters" are a lot more tribal and a lot less high-minded than you want to claim.

Just got done listening to them on Fresh Air on the way home. Very high level; however, I noted that they were happy to lampoon McCain for lack of websavvy-ness and give kudos to Democratic Party for their blog networking ability. Also said that some time out in the wilderness might do the Republican party some good.

I need to go click on my Washington Monthly Tab; but something I noted that they repeated on Fresh Air is the difference between being Pro-business and pro-markets. It'll be interesting to see if that changes anything.

I'm no expert, but IIRC the evidence is that forms of sex education in schools have no effect one way or the other. Abstinence-based education doesn't work, but neither does condom-based education.

No. That is wrong. Abstinence only education leads to greater practice of unsafe sex than condom based education.

I kind of agree with Tim that "blue staters" are a lot more tribal and a lot less high-minded than you want to claim.

This might be true, but that was not my recollection of the Red State/Blue State posts. Do you guys have links.

I've been reading Douthat's blog on the advice of folks here. He's a bright guy, but I have to say I've been underwhelmed.

Here is the situation. Republican policies for the last 30 years have been absolutely crappy for working people. By "working people" I mean people whose income is primarily wages for labor.

Republican policies are, for whatever reason, incredibly consistent in their favorable treatment of capital and/or corporate management, as opposed to labor.

If you are a working person, regardless of what color your collar is, you're labor.

I guess Republicans can continue to make some headway by leveraging the good old "liberals are elitists" warhorse, or by appealing to "traditional values". They may even be wildly successful with it (even though, as an aside, I'm hard pressed to see any kind of widespread lack of "traditional values" among my east coast, upper middle class, liberal snob buddies).

In the end, though, working people will continue to get the shaft as long as public policy is unfriendly to people who work for a living. Period.

So, good luck to Douthat et al with their rebranding, but I don't see any real change in policies that will actually *help* working people.

Thanks -

I think this misunderstands how working class communities, especially religious ones, see cultural issues. I would assume most people frightened by teen pregnancy, divorce rates skyrocketing, or whatever else, don't these as policy issues to be addressed through dispassionate analysis. These problems, in their eyes, are symptomatic of a larger cultural decline -- social conservatives would call it the secularization of America. They aren't looking to solve these problems with reasonable solutions, but to forcibly theocratize the country. Which is why something completely unconnected to divorce rates in these communities -- like gay marriage -- is seen as destroyignt he fabric of the family.

That might be true Jake, but then that doesn't support the Douthat/Salam/Drum argument that these values issues are important to working class voters because of their vulnerability to family crises as a result of their economic condition.

Which might be your point as well.

"No. That is wrong. Abstinence only education leads to greater practice of unsafe sex than condom based education."

I don't believe that is the case, but now I'll look it up. :)

HSS report showing essentially no effect on sexual behaviour from abstinence only sex education, but seeming to show same lack of effect from other sexual education.

What’s more, things like divorce, single-parent families, and teen pregnancy incur costs that are harder to deal with the poorer you are, so to a large extent, when working class whites vote for socially conservative Republicans they’re also voting their economic self-interest.

I'm trying to understand the logic of this.

Let's assume, for a moment, that social dysfunction is more disruptive to working people than to wealthier people. I'm just going to leave it at that, because I refuse to concede the equation of "working class" and "not liberal" that appears to be assumed in Drum's comments. I'm also not sure it's *actually true*, but again, I'll spot him that one.

How does voting for a socially conservative politician improve, in any useful or material way, the life of someone who is experiencing divorce, unwanted pregnancy, single parenthood, or any of the other social ills named?

Maybe our socially beset working class friend will *feel better* about voting for someone who espouses "traditional values", and I guess that's useful in a way. But how does that person's position in office do a damned thing for them in any concrete, tangible way?

Is this the best that the "New Republicans" have to offer? Vote for someone who says he believes in what you wish your life was like?

I'm missing the good part here, somehow.

Thanks -

Pithlord: I'm no expert, but IIRC the evidence is that forms of sex education in schools have no effect one way or the other. Abstinence-based education doesn't work, but neither does condom-based education.

It's been noted in the UK that merely telling kids to use condoms when they have sex isn't very effective - it's also necessary to ensure that they can get condoms (or other forms of birth control) when they decide to have sex. Which generally means making sure they can get free condoms or birth control pills, and emergency contraception, at school or near by.

But as Douthat and Salam point out, doesn’t it make sense that the people who are most often face-to-face with these problems are also the ones who are most concerned about them? Put that way, of course it does.

For example, closeted homosexual Republicans know firsthand the dangers and allures of the homosexual lifestyle, and tirelessly strive to deny it to others. :)

Other reports show a different result: here and here.

And, sadly, I'm skeptical of Bush administration produced reports because of the track record for concealing inconvenient truths. I mean, this is the administration that took to editing NASA scientists' reports on global warming because of potential political implications.

What Jes said too.

I'm not satisfied with the current state of sex education/condom availability.

Both could be improved upon, and thus optimized, would further pull away from abstinence only.

Here is the situation. Republican policies for the last 30 years have been absolutely crappy for working people. By "working people" I mean people whose income is primarily wages for labor.

Republican policies are, for whatever reason, incredibly consistent in their favorable treatment of capital and/or corporate management, as opposed to labor.

Yglesias criticism is, to me, more precise. Post-Reagan, the Republican party made tax cuts an core part of its three-legged "brand" (the other two are "defense" and "family values"). As Douthat himself recently noted -- albeit perhaps without fully understanding his own point -- tax cutting is dominant among all parts of the Republican coalition. Pre-Bush, foreign policy probably occupied a similar spot, but 7 years of mismanagement has neutralized this aspect of the brand. Lower taxes may be the only think that virtually all Republicans agree with. It's also a deeply populist message: all things equal, who doesn't like lower taxes?

The problem is that, after a certain number of tax cuts, you can cut no further. "Taxes are too high and must be cut" only works as a practical matter if taxes are indeed too high. If they're not too high, you start getting into all sorts of other problems -- cutting popular programs, incurring debt, etc. At a certain point, tax cuts become prohibitive or counterproductive. So what else you got?

That's the crucial problem McCain faces this election and why I suspect he won't win: the Republicans have boxed themself into a corner with respect to the votes of the "working man." McCain needs to be able to offer hope to the American people. He also must promise change in Washington/Iraq/etc. Hope and change, however, requires money. Yet, McCain is required to also promise more tax cuts to try to keep his coalition from fracturing. The problem is that taxes have already been cut so much that it does not look like he can deliver both change and tax cuts.

Eric, your second link doesn't say what you think it does:

"Findings indicate that youth who were assigned to the Title V abstinence education “program group” were no more likely than youth who were assigned to the “services as usual” control group to have abstained from sex. Those who reported having sex had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age. Contrary to concerns raised by critics of abstinence education, program group youth were no more likely to have engaged in unprotected sex than control group youth.

The programs improved identification of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) though had no overall impact on knowledge of unprotected sex risks and the consequences of STDs. Both program and control group youth had a good understanding of the risks of pregnancy but a less clear understanding of STDs and their health consequences."

Your statement that "No. That is wrong. Abstinence only education leads to greater practice of unsafe sex than condom based education" directly contradicts the study you cite to that proposition.

Might have cited in error. But did I get the first report right at least? ;)

I might be guilty of overstating the case. For some reason, I was under the impression that the STD results were different.

Ultimately, I think the plan should be to have even more comprehensive sex education and improved condom availability, and that, together, such a plan would improve the situation.

Sebastian, it appears then that the very best that can be said for "abstinence education" is that it does no good and is no use.

The commonsense approach adopted successfully by many European countries, of making sure teenagers have information about contraception and access to contraception, does seem much more effective in preventing teenage pregnancies - and thus teenage abortions - and preventing STI rates - than the preferred US method of telling teenagers not to have sex and denying them access to contraception.

To be honest, the discussion of sex education and condoms is interesting, but I don't think it is what is keeping working folks up at night.

Things working folks need are things like convenient public transportation (in or near cities) or a decent, reliable car (if not), a convenient place to buy decent, affordable groceries, access to health care, decent public schools and affordable public colleges, and maybe some help with the heating bill.

It'd be really nice if more of the tax cuts went their way, too.

It'd be really, really nice if they could get some help when entire industries go offshore or just fold their tents altogether.

I could go on, but IMO it's stuff like that that are really going to make a tangible difference to working people.

Some guy on the TV telling them that their "traditional way of life" is "under attack from liberal forces" might get them fired up, but it ain't gonna make their lives any better.

Thanks -

For example, closeted homosexual Republicans know firsthand the dangers and allures of the homosexual lifestyle, and tirelessly strive to deny it to others. :)

You joke, but David Frum tried to pull exactly that line of bullsh!t on gullible National Review readers.

von: I agree here: "The problem is that, after a certain number of tax cuts, you can cut no further. "Taxes are too high and must be cut" only works as a practical matter if taxes are indeed too high. If they're not too high, you start getting into all sorts of other problems -- cutting popular programs, incurring debt, etc. At a certain point, tax cuts become prohibitive or counterproductive. So what else you got?

That's the crucial problem McCain faces this election and why I suspect he won't win"

I also think, though, that a lot of Republican politicians/opinion leaders/etc. got stuck on a couple of further points. First, tax cuts and smaller government became a lot of their ideas and their responses to issues, and many of the exceptions to that were essentially niche products, designed to appeal to Christian conservatives, libertarians, or whoever. By now, for many of them, I think it's almost a reflex: propose a solution involving any government anything, and out comes what is by now a pretty predictable set of responses. I don't know that there are many new ideas left.

Second, this is a response that doesn't leave a lot of room for any kind of subtle discussion of what to actually do with the government that remains. I think that some of this administration's incompetence is due to Bush and his carelessness, and no doubt some to people who just don't think the agencies they're working for should so much as exist, but a lot, I suspect, comes from the fact that the standard conservative repertoire of ideas is just much better suited to attacking government than to governing.

Finally, I really think that large chunks of the conservative intellectual apparatus (meaning: Heritage, AEI, etc.) have been intellectually corrupt for some time. By this I mean: they are for some reason invested in saying things that just are not so, and that any real familiarity with the issues shows are not so. Here I am not talking about conservatism itself (i.e., I'm not assuming that conservatism is among the things that are "just not so", which would be kind of tendentious of me), but things like: cutting taxes can raise revenues over the long term, there is no man-made global warming, and stuff like that.

Creating an intellectual environment in which everyone believes things that are not so, obviously, creates a whole lot of mental habits that do not stand a party or a movement in good stead when it wants to intellectually retool itself.

And, I guess, one final thing: my sense is that the overwhelming majority of policy types who would once have been non-partisan -- able to work with either party, just pragmatists who want to solve problems -- have gone to the Democrats in the past several years, because at present it's the only major party in which it's really possible to be a pragmatic problem-solver. The Republicans in power seem to be divided between flaming ideologues and people who don't really care about policy at all. I think this is also a loss that will be felt for a long time.

"Sebastian, it appears then that the very best that can be said for "abstinence education" is that it does no good and is no use."

Sure. And apparently the same is true of sex education in general. I'm certainly not defending abstinence education.

Yglesias criticism is, to me, more precise.

Yglesias' criticism is right on, but there's a lot more than Republican tax policy that hasn't been good for working people.

I think Republicans have worn out their franchise, and are floundering for whatever The Next Thing is going to be.

Douthat is a bright guy, but if Drum's characterization of his argument is accurate, I don't think there's anything to it.

It makes no sense. The premises are shallow, the analysis is weak, and the solution is pandering and insulting.

Social ills like divorce, single parenthood, and unwanted pregnancy hit all social strata.

Wealthy people have more money to throw at these problems, but that's because they have more money to throw at ALL of their problems. In that regard, social problems are just like the cost of groceries, gas, college, and insurance.

To the degree that working people are more socially conservative than wealthy people (already arguable, IMO), they'd be likely to vote for a socially conservative candidate because that candidate was someone like them. The economic value of that candidates conservative social policies would not, I think, come into it.

If economic factors were considered (whether due to conservative social values or not), it would most likely only hurt a conservative candidate. Any program he'd be interested in cutting would probably take money out of a working person's pocket. Any tax relief he championed would probably benefit them less than anyone else, if at all.

He'd do better to just run on the social issues.

Drum, Douthat and Salam get this wrong on multiple levels.

I agree.

Thanks -


But as Douthat and Salam point out, doesn’t it make sense that the people who are most often face-to-face with these problems are also the ones who are most concerned about them? Put that way, of course it does. What’s more, things like divorce, single-parent families, and teen pregnancy incur costs that are harder to deal with the poorer you are, so to a large extent, when working class whites vote for socially conservative Republicans they’re also voting their economic self-interest.

This would explain why our economically blighted inner cities (where various social pathologies like single-parent families and teen pregnancy are such a serious issue) have come to be such bastions of electoral support for the GOP, based on their conservative family values platform and the economic consequences thereof. It is difficult to imagine a liberal ever winning votes in DC, for example.

It also explains why wealthy suburban enclaves are such hotbeds of liberalism and secularism (Colorado Springs, I'm looking at you).

Or perhaps not.

If you take of the worst of left (disastrously high federal government spending on terrible domestic programs), and the worst of the right (social intolerance and the squashing of counter-culture), you'd probably end up with something like the "Grand New Party". The superb Kerry Howley explains why these tax proposals outlined in the book favor a politics of exclusion, that will leave people with alternative lifestyles high and dry. These policies reward a specific kind of lifestyle, and I guess it would be up to the federal government to determine "what that ideal family home" is. Creepy!

These egghead political insiders always think that the coveted "working class" vote is a bunch of rubes drooling all over themselves just waiting for the government to solve all their problems. I'd like to see Douthat operate a CNC lathe, so have some respect for people's intelligence for pete's sake, and don't think a massive voting bloc is going to be swindled with this political scam. If this is "the new hope" for the Republican party, many of us disgruntled types will be happy we fled the GOP years ago.

Eric,

What's with writing about domestic issues?!? I've only seen your posts on foreign policy. Does this mean the apocalypse is coming?

Hilzoy said: First, tax cuts and smaller government became a lot of their ideas and their responses to issues, and many of the exceptions to that were essentially niche products, designed to appeal to Christian conservatives, libertarians, or whoever. By now, for many of them, I think it's almost a reflex: propose a solution involving any government anything, and out comes what is by now a pretty predictable set of responses. I don't know that there are many new ideas left.

FWIW, I always thought Cato had interesting ideas on policies from a small government perspective. Reason is also one of my favorite reads and non-partisan (although I tend to disagree with them on Iraq).

As for the rotting corpse of the Republican party and their so called "small government" prinicples (thanks for the $9.5T debt guys), those in power tend to abuse power. There's been a lot of examples of this in history (too damn many to cite).

The primary damage done to the middle class by liberalism has been the suppression of judgment and shame in schools. Immigration and dysgenic breeding patterns have created a less intelligent population on average, and have widened our standard deviation of ability and character.

Since our current system frowns upon grouping people according to ability and character, standards must be lowered for all. See the SATs for one datapoint. See grade inflation at finishing schools outside of technical majors for another. The lowering of standards eliminates shame as a mechanism to motivate former borderline students, giving them more opportunities for personal failure. The various deviant behaviors described in Eric Martin’s review are nothing more than symptoms of personal failure.

Tell me you can’t see personal failure on parade when you walk around a shopping mall.

There always is a return to judgment. It is spooky to think about what form it might take this time around.

Tell me you can’t see personal failure on parade when you walk around a shopping mall.

Dunno, Bill: where do you live?

hilzoy skrev :
my sense is that the overwhelming majority of policy types ... have gone to the Democrats in the past several years

My sense is that George W. Bush has driven the entire scientific research community firmly into the Democratic Party.

Sebastian,

You cite HRR as a resource for a study. As Eric said, I would be skeptical of anything coming from the Bush administration. If you want a reliable study go to: http://www.guttmacher.org.

The thing is, the idea that the Democratic Party is weaker than the Republicans among the working class is incorrect (link is PDF, to Larry Bartels' "What's the Matter With What's the Matter With Kansas"). It’s relatively high-income Southern whites who are very, very Republican, and economic issues matter *more* to people in conservative states than in liberal ones.

The result is it’s true both that rich voters tend to be Republican, and that rich states tend to be Democratic.

Drum's report doesn't suggest that these GOP strategists are seriously looking at the problems of the non-white/non-male working class, either.

"How does voting for a socially conservative politician improve, in any useful or material way, the life of someone who is experiencing divorce, unwanted pregnancy, single parenthood, or any of the other social ills named? Maybe our socially beset working class friend will *feel better* about voting for someone who espouses "traditional values", and I guess that's useful in a way. . . . ."

------------

"Authors Cassie Mogilner (Stanford University), Tamar Rudnick, and Sheena S. Iyengar (both Columbia University) demonstrate a surprising phenomenon called the “mere categorization effect,” where consumers are happier with their choices if their options are categorized, even if the categories are meaningless. “People confronted with highly categorized large selections are happier with their decisions because they experience a sense of self-determination as a result of perceiving differences among the available options,” write the authors." [source] (I should stress that I don't see the categories as being meaningless in this case, but there are certainly circumstances that could make this seem rather more plausible.)

Anyway, for an interesting and pretty nuanced take on the 'traditional social values' argument, see Doug Muder's '04 essay "Red Family, Blue Family:

"Ault noticed a profound difference between the families of Shawmut River and the ones he was used to finding among his friends. But the nature of the difference is somewhat surprising: The families Ault found at Shawmut River - extended families in which multiple generations remain deeply involved in each other’s lives - aren’t supposed to exist any more, especially not in a Massachusetts edge city like Worcester.

Though a life of mutual dependence within a family circle was commonplace among members of Shawmut River and other new-right activists I met, it was foreign to people I knew in academia and the New Left, as well as to other educated professionals I knew. Most of us were prepared, from the moment we left home for college, to leave family dependencies behind and learn to live as self-governing individuals. This left us free to move from one city to another for graduate education or for those specialized jobs for which our training qualified us. In the process, we learned to piece together a meaningful life with new friends and colleagues alongside old ones. Our material security did not rest on a stream of daily reciprocities within a family-based circle of people known in common, but rather on the progression of professional careers, with steadily increasing salaries and ample benefits to cover whatever exigencies life would bring.
The key distinction in Ault’s account is not strictness vs. nurturance, but the Given vs. the Chosen. What, in other words, is the source of your responsibilities to other people? Are you born with obligations? Or do you choose to make commitments? As with strictness and nurturance, every actual person experiences some combination of obligation and commitment. But emphasizing one or the other makes a striking difference. . . .
" ------------

BOB: Immigration and dysgenic breeding patterns have created a less intelligent population on average"

What's the word for an argument that by virtue of being made provides evidence for (some of) its claims?

"(disastrously high federal government spending on terrible domestic programs)"

Link to "Great Society." Where do you get the idea that the Great Society programs were either "disastrously high federal government spending" or "on terrible domestic programs"?

More to the point, what can you cite that doesn't beg the question with its ideological bias that would objectively support the claim?

To quote your own cite, absent the links:

The centerpiece of the War on Poverty was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which created an Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to oversee a variety of community-based antipoverty programs. The OEO reflected a fragile consensus among policymakers that the best way to deal with poverty was not simply to raise the incomes of the poor but to help them better themselves through education, job training, and community development. Central to its mission was the idea of "community action," the participation of the poor in framing and administering the programs designed to help them.

The War on Poverty began with a $1 billion appropriation in 1964 and spent another $2 billion in the following two years. It spawned dozens of programs, among them the Job Corps, whose purpose was to help disadvantaged youth develop marketable skills; the Neighborhood Youth Corps, the first summer jobs established to give poor urban youths work experience and to encourage them to stay in school; Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), a domestic version of the Peace Corps, which placed concerned citizens with community-based agencies to work towards empowerment of the poor; the Model Cities Program for urban redevelopment; Upward Bound, which assisted poor high school students entering college; legal services for the poor; the Food Stamps program; the Community Action Program, which initiated local Community Action Agencies charged with helping the poor become self-sufficient; and Project Head Start, which offered preschool education for poor children.

So your claim is that Head Start, Food Stamps, the Job Corps, VISTA, legal services for the poor, and so on, were and are all "terrible" programs? By what measure?

And the "disastrously high federal government spending" was all of $3 billion dollars?

How does that compare to $100 billion to $500 billion, a year, exactly?

Other disastrous Great Society programs: you want to get rid of Medicaid and Medicare, then?

Really? You're fine with the way people just didn't get medical care, and wouldn't without these programs? Do you actually know much about what Medicaid and Medicare do? You really think we shouldn't have these programs at all?

Consumer protection: which of these do you wish to get rid of?

Cigarette Labeling Act of 1965 required packages to carry warning labels. Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 set standards through creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fair Packaging and Labeling Act requires products identify manufacturer, address, clearly mark quantity and servings. Statute also authorizes permits HEW and FTC to establish and define voluntary standard sizes. The original would have mandated uniform standards of size and weight for comparison shopping, but the final law only outlawed exaggerated size claims. Child Safety Act of 1966 prohibited any chemical so dangerous that no warning can make its safe. Flammable Fabrics Act of 1967 set standards for children's sleepwear, but not baby blankets. Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 required inspection of meat which must meet federal standards. Truth-in-Lending Act of 1968 required lenders and credit providers to disclose the full cost of finance charges in both dollars and annual percentage rates, on installment loan and sales. Wholesome Poultry Products Act of 1968 required inspection of poultry which must meet federal standards. Land Sales Disclosure Act of 1968 provided safeguards against fraudulent practices in the sale of land. Radiation Safety Act of 1968 provided standards and recalls for defective electronic products.
Environment: which of these are/were disasters?
* Clear Air, Water Quality and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments
* Wilderness Act of 1964,
* Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966,
* National Trails System Act of 1968,
* Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968,
* Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965,
* Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965,
* Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965,
* National Historic Preservation Act of 1966,
* Aircraft Noise Abatement Act of 1968, and
* National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
Among the dreadful results of the Great Society programs: ""from 1963 when Lyndon Johnson took office until 1970 as the impact of his Great Society programs were felt, the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, the most dramatic decline over such a brief period in this century."[10] The poverty rate for blacks fell from 55 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 1968."

Terrible! What a waste!

Lastly, civil rights: you apparently oppose, then, these laws?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade job discrimination and the segregation of public accommodations. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 assured minority registration and voting. It suspended use of literacy or other voter-qualification tests that had sometimes served to keep African-Americans off voting lists and provided for federal court lawsuits to stop discriminatory poll taxes. It also reinforced the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by authorizing the appointment of federal voting examiners in areas that did not meet voter-participation requirements. The Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 abolished the national-origin quotas in immigration law. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 banned housing discrimination and extended constitutional protections to Native Americans on reservations.
Do you make any exceptions for any of these "terrible" laws and programs?

It would be interesting if you might explain any of this. Thanks!

"These egghead political insiders always think that the coveted 'working class' vote is a bunch of rubes drooling all over themselves just waiting for the government to solve all their problems."

Two questions: 1) what do you mean by "egghead," exactly? Are you suggesting that people with advanced education deserve to be insulted, or what exactly are you suggesting with this usage?

2) Whom are you talking about, specifically, please?

Thanks for any help here!

I've always enjoyed reading Reason, both zine and site, myself, btw.

Brick Oven Bill: "Immigration and dysgenic breeding patterns have created a less intelligent population on average, and have widened our standard deviation of ability and character."

As usual, this reads better in the original German.

By and large, the system has been rigged to favor rich people. Incrementally, since the 50's, the tax burden had been shifted off of rentiers (those who collect their income, rather than work for it) and corporations onto the backs of working people.

Working people feel they get very little in return for this tax burden and are not wrong to respond to anti-tax appeals. They really don’t get much for what they give up in taxes - over half of federal taxes feed an already bloated military. The only advantage the military offers is as an employer of last resort. What a deal!

The Republicans always pull a bait and switch with their lower taxes mantra. Most of the benefits accrue to the rentier class. If you throw in over-heated rhetoric, assisted by your local fundamentalist pastor, about hot-button social issues you might successfully misdirect poor people's anger to immigrants or gays. This strategy might no longer work as the inconsistencies are becoming too obvious as a result of Bush’s incompetency. Time will tell.

I knew I couldn't slip a comment by without Gary beating me up. Anyhoo, didn't the welfare state cause a rapid social decline (especially in the inner city) in the 1970s? Of course our ill-conceived drug war probably had something to do with it. No, Gary, I'm not upset that Civil Rights happened, as a matter of fact I'd bravely assert that it was a good thing! You won't see my mug over on Stormfront.

As for the Iraq war spending, I thought the Surge was important, and I was glad to be there when it was going on. But you'd never hear me say that it was a good idea to go in there in the first place.

Eggheads? People who make crass characterizations about large groups of people deserve to be ridiculed a little. It's hardly a jab at "smart" people, as it's understandable that some people are more well-educated and more suited to lead than others. But it's not to say that one set of people are "better" than the other. I mean didn't Thomas Jefferson say "Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God", and he was a well-educated guy.

I mean didn't Thomas Jefferson say "Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God", and he was a well-educated guy.

Welfare encouraged people not to labor in the earth, and now we have to have illegal immigrants do the jobs Americans don't want to do. I'm in favor of making layabouts that listen to the junk that passes for music these days, and surf the net for porn, go out and pick some apples or tomatoes. Back in the day, there were self-organized hobo camps and not all this government run crap.

I knew I couldn't slip a comment by without Gary beating me up.

Proverbs says "For whom the Lord loves he corrects" and I've always assumed that Gary sees himself as doing the Lord's work ;-)

Anyhoo, didn't the welfare state cause a rapid social decline (especially in the inner city) in the 1970s?

Maybe, maybe not. That seems like a fairly big and complex question of causation. I'd hesitate to say yes without seeing fairly strong evidence.

Of course, I don't know what you mean by social decline.

Eggheads? People who make crass characterizations about large groups of people deserve to be ridiculed a little.

This made me laugh. I hope you were in on the joke.

It's hardly a jab at "smart" people, as it's understandable that some people are more well-educated and more suited to lead than others.

Might I suggest something: in the civilian world, smartness and leadership don't necessarily go together.

I mean didn't Thomas Jefferson say "Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God", and he was a well-educated guy.

Maybe he did; I don't think he really meant it. Given that around his home, those who labour in the Earth were his slaves. It seems that buying, selling, whipping, branding, and raping God's chosen people might be a bad idea if you thought God was real, and if you didn't think God was real, then who cares about his chosen people?

LT Nixon; Anyhoo, didn't the welfare state cause a rapid social decline (especially in the inner city) in the 1970s?

No.

What did happen in the 1970s to a marked degree was a seachange in attitude both on the part of single mothers and of social services, that an unmarried mother could choose to keep her baby, and that she ought to be supported when she did so.

This increase in support for families was often presented by conservatives as a "social decline", apparently because they felt that it was more socially uplifting to have children grow up in care or single mothers with children experience brutal poverty with no support from society.

"You cite HRR as a resource for a study. As Eric said, I would be skeptical of anything coming from the Bush administration. If you want a reliable study go to: http://www.guttmacher.org"

Yeah because the number one pro-abortion institute is the least biased source for anything. ;)

Sebastian: Yeah because the number one pro-abortion institute is the least biased source for anything.

The number one pro-abortion institute in the US is Human Life International. As I recall, they work towards a goal of more women having more illegal abortions all over the world.

The Guttmacher Institute has worked for 40 years to prevent abortions round the world... very successfully.

Pro-lifers tend not to like or support organizations that successfully prevent abortions, but the Guttmacher Institute does have a far better local and international reputation for scientific accuracy than any of the pro-illegal abortion organizations...

Proverbs says "For whom the Lord loves he corrects" and I've always assumed that Gary sees himself as doing the Lord's work ;-)

Hmm. I don't think anything is that benign in blog land, even though I'm sure Gary is a swell guy in person. It's a pretty hyper-partisan atmosphere, insults flow freely, and people in general are angry about this or that. I'm lucky because my handle conveys military status which is usually a free pass on both the left, who tend to have an element of pity, and the right, who tend to have an element of respect if you think the "right" way. Come to think of it, it's probably not fair that I use this phony name.

Social decline: ever heard of Devil's night? The pics are actually from the 80s, but urban decay started long before that, especially in the Rust Belt (I grew up in the midwest).

Yeah because the number one pro-abortion institute is the least biased source for anything. ;)

Compared to a source that's been known to suppress (in rather ham handed fashion) politically disliked on several occasions? Sorry, but I think I'd take that source over the Bush administration.

People are trained by propagandists to get overly excited by hot-button issues (abortion, gays, undocumented workers, affirmative action). I know, I used to listen to hate radio as a teen and was thoroughly brainwashed to focus all my anger and resentment to outsiders or someone down the economic ladder.

Having an intelligent discussion of who's benefiting from tax and policy changes over the last 50 years becomes impossible - a Pavlovian urge to return to the hot-button issues makes it so.

If you don't like the Guttmacher Institute, how about an article like this, which explains how the Netherlands has developed one of the lowest abortion rates in the world, during a period of 'the transition from an agricultural to a modern industrial society, rapid economic growth, declining influence of the churches on daily life, introduction of modern mass media and the increased general educational level' via 'very large scale, nonmoralistic, public education campaigns'. Sex education in the Netherlands is successful on almost any measure you choose (fewer pregnancies, later age of sexual activity, fewer STDs) except pleasing the socially conservative.

except pleasing the socially conservative

Because the socially conservative do not care nearly as much for preventing abortions as they do for adopting moralistic attitudes about teenagers having sex. (Said "moralistic attitudes" are never either protective or caring once a teenager has had sex, either.)

"Sebastian, it appears then that the very best that can be said for "abstinence education" is that it does no good and is no use."

Sure. And apparently the same is true of sex education in general.

You gotta be kidding me.

With authoritarians ideology trumps pragmatism every time. Here's a group that decries regulation of any sort but has a bazillion rules on how one should run your own personal life - go figure. Lakoff is the only one I have read that comes close to understanding this phenomena.

From what I read (sorry, no links at hand), the results of abstinence only were a slight delay in becoming sexually active (about half a year iirc) and a shift towards non-vaginal sexual practices (oral, anal etc.). Similar for promise-keepers, silver-ringers, true-love-waiting-canners etc.
There also seemed to be trend of less use of contraceptives, esp. condoms. Assumed reasons for the latter: ignorance*, fear to be found out, unavailability. The unpreparedness ("It just happened, I did not plan it") is also probably even more** common with abstinence-only eductated people than with the comprehensive-sex curriculum.

*both of use (what choice is there and how do I handle the stuff?) and necessity (i.e wrongly assuming that no penetration = no danger)
**Even those that learned about contraceptives often neglect it or the condom is beyond the use-by date when it is needed.

The families Ault found at Shawmut River - extended families in which multiple generations remain deeply involved in each other’s lives - aren’t supposed to exist any more, especially not in a Massachusetts edge city like Worcester.

Dan, thanks for this. A couple of quick comments.

First, I think the multi-generation thing is actually common in New England. Folks seem to be less inclined to move away from home at adulthood here. Don't know why.

I think this cuts across religious or political affiliation. At least around here.

There is some class element to it -- based on my admittedly anecdotal observation, wealthier folks are more likely to move away, and in fact to have moved here from somewhere else.

To the degree that this is true, I think it argues against the "social conservatism is better for working folks economically" idea. Working folks (I think) often have deeper social networks of family and community than wealthier folks. They often bring resources to the table that money can't buy when faced with divorce, single parenthood, unwanted pregnancy, etc.

IMO the most appealing thing that conservatives have historically offered to working people is the claim to fiscal responsibility and discipline. Unfortunately for them, they've kind of blown that up over the last 30 years or so. They've made guys like Obama, who's generally liberal on domestic things, but who is also very pragmatic in how he thinks about and approaches them, look like the adults.

Thanks -

I'm acquainted with quite a few people who have stereotypically Red State lives--divorce, drugs, disfunction, relatively low paying jobs, fundamentalist reigion and vote Republican.

Their decsion to be Republicans doesn't make sense annd certainly doesn't serve them economically. Their decsion doesn't serve them in terms of addressing the family dysfunction in their lives and communities either.

But they aren't people who make sense about much of anything. I hate to say it but in the folks I know the main reason why they are Republicans is that they are uninformed, not logical thinkers on any subuject, and get an emotional kick out of using politics to smite other people. They like to feel that they are more in the know, more virtuos, more right about everything than other people. In their political lives they are ignorant, stupid and vain.

I am wrting here about specific people: two coworkers, most of my ex husband's relatives, and a couple of my current clients.

Most of these people are more emotional than rational but wellintentioned in other aspects of their lives.

So to genrealize: when Republicans go to low income people in states with high levels of familial and community dysfunction and say "Vote for mebecause we Republicana are more patriotic, more moral and more truly Americans thatn those Deomcrat party wimps and weirdos" they are making an emotional appeal, not a rational one, and it is an appeal that will work with voters who don't know much about the current issues, don't think carefully about what they do know and who get an kick from the act of voting for someone who will go forth and punish all those other people out there who aren't good people like them. It makes them feel powerful, a feeling that they don't get from their jobs or their relationships.

The shorttem benefit of feeling powerful and feeling that one is in the right trumps actually doing thing real about real problems especially since an awful lot of real problems are not readily solved.

Of course I'm not saying that every Repubican voter fits this particular patern. I'm saying tht there are enough people out there who fit this pattern to amke a difference in the outcome of an election and Republcian party leaders know it. So they appeal to this sort of voter by deliberately cultivating in them a sense of being superior to everyone else.

I have to agree with Wonkie. Recently someone posted the internal descriptors Humvee sellers have for people who actually buy and drive humvees. The key words were "fearful, uncertain of driving skills, very concerned about appearances, easily swayed, gullible" things like that. That's the low information/republican voter to a t. I say that from personal experience of republican voters. They are excitable, emotional, often frightened people who are convinced that they themselves, and every one else, would be a ravening lunatic, gay, gambler, addict absent strong controls of some kind, whether church or government. They don't know anything about the economy or international politics, they are concerned with how things look to others in their social circle. Bob Altemeyer's book on the authoritarian personality describes most republicans very well. They are extremely susceptible to being manipulated for their votes and their money because they are extremely submissive to perceived authorities.

aimai

GHF: thanks for the 11:51 post. I'd forgotten two-thirds of those.

"Sure. And apparently the same is true of sex education in general.

You gotta be kidding me."

That is what the studies show. If you have factual reasons for disagreeing with the study you should share them. The studies have been available long enough, and have an annoying enough political content that I'm relatively sure any major problems of them have been aired (or in this case not aired). What happened to the fact-based community?

Also for those who want to say that the Bush Administration must be lying about it, I submit that for faked data the conclusions don't help Bush's preferred policy.

Headline: abstinence education isn't any better than any other kind of sex education.

I don't think they would have gone out of their way only to manufacture that.
It isn't IMPOSSIBLE in the irresistable force/immoveable object kind of way. But it seems unlikely.

Well, Sebastian, they weren't comparing abstinence only to comprehensive sex education that includes condom dissemanation and the like.

That's an important distinction.

Further, in places like Africa, the abstinence only approach has been shown to have a deleterious effect on the transmission of STDs whereas condom programs offer a better alternative.

People act as though "abstinence only" and comprehensive sex education are somehow alternates whose goals are the same. Of course, that's absurd. Comprehensive sex education is not optional but *required* for every adult human being who plans on ever being sexually active, whether inside of marriage or outside. Abstinence only education is nothing more than religious indoctrination which is, itself, only appropriate for the children of people who believe that their children will remain abstinent until marriage, will receive health and safety counseling from celibate priests and nuns, and who will never deal with the fall out from health care issues surrounding sexual activity with a non monogamous spouse.

Kathryn Lopez's bizarre riff on the difficulties and unfairnesses of the contraception burden placed on women by the existence of contraception is all of a piece with this incoherence. She seems unaware that married people use contraception in order to space out their childbearing in a way that makes sense to them. She seems unaware that married people have sex at all. No doubt she is the product of abstinence only sex education--she seems far more obsessed about it than those of us who had comprehensive sex education, are actually married, and are sexually active. Correlation isn't causation but I'm starting to think that the right wing obsession with teenage sexual knowledge and activity is pretty close to being pathological.

I have two daughters. They are nine and eleven. They know about sex, in an age appropriate way, and they are receiving comprehensive, age appropriate, sex education in their grade school. I expect I'll be providing them with more information, and condoms, when they are teenagers. I also don't have any worries that they will be hustled into sex too early, or pregnancy too early, as the little catholic girls' school darling next door was. At sixteen a mother, at eighteen bagging groceries? Somehow, I think she is probably using contraception now--and she's still not married. Can someone tell me what the utility of her religious, abstinent, education was? Or whether the sin of using contraception the first time was somehow greater than using it now, after she's had the baby and lost her educational future?

aimai

That is what the studies show.

Actually, I don't even need to look at studies to come to the conclusion that a comprehensive sex education is beneficial, just as I don't need to look at studies to know that reasonably well-designed civics classes are beneficial. Are you seriously suggesting that we should have no sex education - after all why spend money on something that is useless - and leave our children to find out all this stuff for themselves?

"Further, in places like Africa, the abstinence only approach has been shown to have a deleterious effect on the transmission of STDs whereas condom programs offer a better alternative."

Ok. But your claim was about the United States:

For example, the conservative stance against family planning, contraception, AIDS education and comprehensive sex education (abstinence only!) exacerbates problems associated with teen pregnancies, out of wedlock births, unwanted pregnancies and STDs. By highlighting the disparaties in the rates of these social ills in Red States vs. Blue States, liberals are making an argument about the comparative efficacy of the two approaches.

Which as to the United States and as to abstinence only education appears to be wrong. If you want to talk about Africa you surely can, but you can't really use studies in the rather different cultural space that Africa inhabits to try to generalize to the cultural effects in the United States when we have studies that show the opposite of what you claim in the United States.

And that is just as to abstinence education. I think you'd be hard pressed to blame the skyrocketing rate of out-of-wedlock births on cultural conservative values about family planning or contraception. Out-of-wedlock births are notoriously quite prevalent in liberal stronghold states (California and New York for example).

Are you seriously suggesting that we should have no sex education - after all why spend money on something that is useless - and leave our children to find out all this stuff for themselves?

More abortions that way. Sebastian's a pro-lifer, after all.

"Actually, I don't even need to look at studies to come to the conclusion that a comprehensive sex education is beneficial..."

Ah, fact based community working its magic.

I think in reality it may be that school-based sex education is mostly irrelevant to our sex-soaked society. Sex, contraception and abortion are all talked about regularly on television, and by peer groups. It may be that by the time we 'teach', the attitudes are already set enough that not much movement is likely to be seen on the issue.

BTW, in the news of other things that obviously should work but don't--Head Start programs offer no long term benefits.

Which sucks, because it seems like they should.

sebastian's posts, like BOB's, are why I have a hard time taking Obsidian Wings' seriously. The post directly above mine is an example. Sebastian, at this point, literally doesn't care what he is saying, so long as he is negating what he thinks is a liberal belief, even if the numbers and facts he is throwing around are utterly meaningless to his own point. "Out of wedlock births are notoriously quite prevalent in liberal stronghold states such as alfiornia and new york" what does that even mean? On a per capita basis? For teenagers? On TV? For teenagers who have had abstinence only sex education? Sebastian doesn't know and he doesn't care, its just a jab because this isn't real to Sebastian. He really doesn't care about other people's children's educations, bodies, and lives. Its just fodder for a left/right war of attrition.

And that is really the nature of the abstinence only/comprehensive sex education divide in this country. There is literally *nothing that prevents* any parent from teaching their children a set of moral values, including abstinence before marriage, or abstinence during marriage for all that the rest of us care. Just like there is nothign to prevent people from home schooling if they want to be sure their children aren't exposed to the 21st century, to other religions, or to non family members. But in this particular case, like school vouchers, the religious issue is merely a cover for an attempt by a small, bigoted minority to loot the public treasury for its own benefit. After all, the issue isn't whether "abstinence" or "sex" is good for children--its whether some religious lunatics for whom this is religiously important have co-opted the government into paying for it and have further prevented other parents and school systems from teaching children what they will need to know as functional adults, married or not, about their own bodies and those of their partners.

Here are the facts: when we teach children something it is important that it be true, and that it be age appropriate, and that it be useful. Those of us who have children, or care about other people's children, want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, productive human beings. Lieing to them about sex, procreation, female and male health, condoms and etc... is just the stepping stone to allowing their first, naive mistakes, to be very dangerous. STDs, Pregnancy, etc...are all potential side effects of unprotected sex and of a silencing, abstinence only educational form. What good does that do my daughters, who I expect to have happy and healthy sex lives with fully informed and responsible young men (or women) when they are ready? High school is the last time we can be sure we are reaching kids with health information about their bodies. We shouldn't waste it promulgating the absurd views of one or two religious communities. Let them withdraw themselves from us and stop sucking off the public teat if the ignorance and suffering of their own children mean nothing to them.

aimai

I'll give this to the Republicans for free: most people who say they want "smaller" government really want simpler government. Eg, the small businessman who deals with a half-dozen different inspections, with a dozen different federal, state and local taxes, and who knows how many different forms that have to be filed annually. The Republicans could make a lot of political hay by pushing hard consolidate and simplify, even without shrinking the actual revenues and expenditures.

Oh, so then its true that a douche of coke prevents you from getting pregnant? And raping a virgin cures AIDS? Apparently, Sebastian thinks the street corner is good enough for our children:


"I think in reality it may be that school-based sex education is mostly irrelevant to our sex-soaked society. Sex, contraception and abortion are all talked about regularly on television, and by peer groups. It may be that by the time we 'teach', the attitudes are already set enough that not much movement is likely to be seen on the issue."

What I see conservatives attractively offering the working class is something immediate - "reduction of taxes" equals a greater paycheck. Who doesn't like that?! That is an emotional response to the offering. (Much of everything I can think of that conservatives offer the working class is emotional, but I'm going to focus on immediate vs. postponed rewards.)

What progressives attractively offer the working class is something less than immediate - "health care", "retirement", ect. These call for intellectual responses to the offering, or responses that involve cognitive consideration of potential future events for evaluation.

One appeal is an immediate reward, the other appeal is a postponed (and not guaranteed - i.e. maybe I won't ever become injured?) reward. There are several reasons why someone of the working class would be more receptive to a conservative sales pitch, including:

1) A lower income means that there are more immediate needs that need to be met, and therefore future needs are reduced in importance,
2) Higher education requires a consideration of immediate reward vs. postponed reward, and therefore people who are better at evaluating (especially at a younger age) immediate vs. postponed reward are less likely to be in a blue collar position (note: higher education can also mean technical colleges, nursing programs, etc. - any beyond highschool education where someone increases their earning power and job status by sacrificing immediate rewards for a future reward).

Now, I'm not saying that any working class person is a fool for voting for a conservative. There can be ligitimate reasons for supporting any candidate based on what someone consideres important. But, as a whole, voting for immediate reward (decreased taxes) that result in a sacrificing of postponed rewards (improved health care) most always comes out as a negative when the ledger is finally balanced. Or, to put it another way, much of the working class is only huring itself when it votes conservative (short term reward) over progressive (postponed reward), which means that most working class are not voting their economic self-interest.

Ah, fact based community working its magic.

Yeah, well, there are a lot of factors determining the rate of abortions, unwanted pregnancies and STD transmission among teenagers and anybody pulling up a study and drawing mono causal conclusions is not to be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, I'm inclined to view the support for comprehensive sex education by the American Psychological Association,the American Medical Association,the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the Society for Adolescent Medicine and the American College Health Association as having slightly more weight than some bloke on the internet telling me that teenagers should just get their info from TV or their pals - sorry.

Or I could have a look at teenage pregnancy rates and wonder why it's so outrageously high in the US as compared to other rich, western, industrialized countries. Then I could talk to people from Scandinavia, the Netherlands or Germany and ask myself why these people with their enlightened, liberated and pragmatic attitude towards sex also score very well in such stats.

I might begin to wonder if the whole framing of teenage sex as something negative and to be avoided isn't more part of the problem than the solution. Combine it with an absurd amount of hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance when it comes to sex and you have a royal mess.

Sex education alone sure won't solve the problem, but it is certainly part of teaching our children how to become responsible and confident people who can take care of themselves - and that in turn will help a lot with the problems in question.

What novakant said. Much better than me.

sebastian's posts, like BOB's, are why I have a hard time taking Obsidian Wings' seriously.

Sebastian, while often wrong, is never racist--unlike BOB

"Yeah, well, there are a lot of factors determining the rate of abortions, unwanted pregnancies and STD transmission among teenagers and anybody pulling up a study and drawing mono causal conclusions is not to be taken seriously. "

ARGHHH

I wasn't the one who did it, Eric Martin did. I was just noticing that his mono-causal conclusions weren't even going the direction he claimed when he made his claim.

"What novakant said. Much better than me."

You don't get to say that when it was your sweeping and wrong generalization that sparked in the first place. Or at least you don't get to without retreating a bit from the broad and wrong generalization.

:)

Seb really is not comparable to BOB. Seb might be wrong sometimes but he's basically sane and capable of rational discourse. In contrast, BOB has nothing to offer but a bunch of bizarre conspiracy theories and vintage racism.

In this particular case, I think Seb has some pretty decent points. Eric really did make a very broad and sweeping claim. What's more, Eric's claim was phrased in such a way as to imply that there was very strong research backing it up. Seb's links suggest that the case might actually be more mixed. I'm not sure if that's correct, but it seems like the way to resolve it is by pointing to other studies, or meta-studies rather than just dismissing Seb by comparing him to racist lunatic.

That being said, we require adolescents to learn the facts about far more trivial things than basic sex education. Expecting them to get that knowledge from peers or TV seems like an abdication of responsibility: just because we voting adults are too incompetent to resolve our political disputes, we're going to punt on giving non-voting adolescents the tools they need. I'll also note that while TV might mention sex, it doesn't really do a good job of transmitting information. Just because a TV show has a sex scene doesn't really allow viewers to determine whether or not they can get AIDS by kissing.

What I see conservatives attractively offering the working class is something immediate - "reduction of taxes" equals a greater paycheck.

The thing is, I don't think that the lowering of the marginal income tax rates have done that much for working folks, either.

I was looking at this table of historical marginal tax rates. The really dramatic rollback of the marginal rates -- 90% to 70% by Johnson, 50% to 35% later on, etc. -- all happen at the upper income levels. The marginal rates for income levels that working people pay don't change nearly as dramatically -- typically a couple of points, and in fact at some lower income levels sometimes they go up.

The net result of this is that "lower taxes" ends up meaning lower taxes for upper middle to upper class income earners. Not really for middle class and below.

I think the appeal of social conservative politicians to socially conservative people is simply the "socially conservative" part -- they have social values in common. I'm not sure economics comes into it. For conservatives to make an economic appeal to working people will require a truly drastic change in their economic policies and priorities. More than just in tax rates, too.

Thanks -

Seb really is not comparable to BOB

Seconded.

Thanks -

I wasn't the one who did it, Eric Martin did. I was just noticing that his mono-causal conclusions weren't even going the direction he claimed when he made his claim.

Wait a minute, monocausal?

The paragraph in question:

For example, the conservative stance against family planning, contraception, AIDS education and comprehensive sex education (abstinence only!) exacerbates problems associated with teen pregnancies, out of wedlock births, unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

That is neither monocausal, nor mono-resultant.

You don't get to say that when it was your sweeping and wrong generalization that sparked in the first place. Or at least you don't get to without retreating a bit from the broad and wrong generalization.

In the comments I made a statement regarding the impact of abstinence only on STD rates that was not fully supported by the evidence. I subsequently admitted that I had it wrong on this one point, but that the discussion should be broader than abstinence vs. existing sex ed in the US.

novakant did an exemplary job of broadening that discussion.

"For example, the conservative stance against family planning, contraception, AIDS education and comprehensive sex education (abstinence only!) exacerbates problems associated with teen pregnancies, out of wedlock births, unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

That is neither monocausal, nor mono-resultant."

It is either monocausal or completely unsupported depending on how you read "the conservative stance".

There is almost no evidence whatsoever that the family planning stance in the United States is well correlated (much less causally correlated) to "teen pregnancies, out of wedlock births, unwanted pregnancies and STDs."

The best evidence I've seen suggests that when you take out economic trends family planning programs and sex education have nothing or almost nothing to do with the stats you link them to. And that factor, you don't even mention in relation to those stats.

And you go further:

"By highlighting the disparaties in the rates of these social ills in Red States vs. Blue States, liberals are making an argument about the comparative efficacy of the two approaches. Or at the very least, showing that the current approach in the Red States isn't working."

You claim that these social ills which are NOT IN FACT correlated MUCH LESS causally linked to the causes you claim demonstrate the comparative efficacy of the two approaches.

They of course can't do any such thing because the correlations you use to demonstrate them do not in fact exist.

In theory, there may be all sorts of other things which support the thesis that these social ills have something to do with other bad facets of conservative lawmaking. But the ones you are trying to link it to are not any such things.

And this is what I find so frustrating, here on obsidianwings. If I were to make an unsupported (much less, heaven forbid factually wrong) sweeping statement like that I would be peppered with sarcastic requests for citations.

But an unsupported sweeping statement of that magnitude gets not only a pass, but when I point out that it seems to be factually wrong and provide a fairly strong citations to that fact, I'm the one getting jumped on. And that happens even after the citations that Eric brings to the table, support what I'm saying.

I mean it is one thing to be skeptical, but have a little consistency.

/whine

Wait now Seb. I brought citations re: the limited issue of abstinence only as leading to higher rates of STDs. One of the two citations didn't support my argument, the other did.

Further, as pointed out above, this is the position of most of the top medical associations (non-partisan). Perhaps you can ask those scientists why they espouse the views they do, since I am not exactly an expert though I rely on them.

Do you really want me to find data that says that greater AIDS education reduces rates of HIV infection? Because that would be easy.

Also: Availability of comprehensive family planning (that teaches about abortion options) and supporting the availability of contraceptions do impact rates of teen pregnancy, unwanted pregnancies and out of wedlock birth rates.

"contraceptives"

You claim that these social ills which are NOT IN FACT correlated MUCH LESS causally linked to the causes you claim demonstrate the comparative efficacy of the two approaches.

But my argument was based on the correlation given by Douthat, Salam and Drum. If I'm wrong to address the correlation, then they would be wrong in making it.

Either way, as I mentioned above, you took one part of the full range of factors, attacked that part, and then claimed the rest were equally dubious based on your one point.

"you took one part of the full range of factors, attacked that part, and then claimed the rest were equally dubious based on your one point."

No, the AIDS education point is pretty much your only strong one out of that list of factors.

The sex education one is flat out false as presented. I'm sure you believed it was true, but it turns out it isn't.

The family planning one is generally untrue except perhaps as to 'unwanted pregnancies'. It is not well correlated to lowering teen pregnancies for example (certainly less so than economic contributors). It is not well correlated to lowering out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

"I brought citations re: the limited issue of abstinence only as leading to higher rates of STDs. One of the two citations didn't support my argument, the other did."

And I brought citations as to teen pregnancies, sexual activity, out-of-wedlock births, and STDs, three out of the four of which were areas of concern that you raised in the thesis of your post.

"But my argument was based on the correlation given by Douthat, Salam and Drum. If I'm wrong to address the correlation, then they would be wrong in making it."

No it isn't. That is a misreading of their posts. The correlations they are discussing are as to Republican-leaning states, certain social ills and why people in such states seem to be concerned about such issues.

The correlation you are making is to Republican-leaning states and family planning policies. That isn't the same correlation at all.

Their discussion is about why people in Republican-leaning states seem more concerned about certain family issues. The proposed explanation is that they have seen them close up more than in some other states. I'm not sure I buy it, but that is the discussion they were having.

You assert that the policies caused the social ills being discussed. That is a whole 'nother world with a whole different kind of proof needed.

I'm relatively government-skeptical. I think for the most part the breakdown and negative social ills being discussed are indirect results of other factors both governmental and non-governmental, and that most direct government action in that area has been non-impacting.

The thing is, I don't think that the lowering of the marginal income tax rates have done that much for working folks, either.

I don't believe that many people stop to consider who is really benefiting from any tax break. Too often I hear the refrain that "Democrats want to take your money" and "Obama will raise my taxes" from colleagues, family and friends who either are part of the "working class" or not far removed from it (technicians and drafters and such).

In the same manner (emotional reaction instead of rational reaction) much of the support of the repeal of the "death tax" is from people who aren't going to inherit a business worth over $2 million. The actual dollar figure don't come into consideration, only the emotional message that the government would take away any inheritance, and therefore the "death tax" is bad.

Sebastian, maybe you can enlighten us as to why the US teenage birth rate is about four times the EU average.

"I knew I couldn't slip a comment by without Gary beating me up."

Odd metaphor: I asked you some simple questions about your assertion. Possibly you might answer them, and/or defend your assertions? I'm assuming you believe what you wrote after all, so I'm curious as to the rest of what you believe. If those were terrible programs, why not try to convince the rest of us with facts?

Or was, in fact, the Great Society, a bunch of terrible programs? What do you think, and why?

Proverbs says "For whom the Lord loves he corrects" and I've always assumed that Gary sees himself as doing the Lord's work ;-)

Hmm. I don't think anything is that benign in blog land, even though I'm sure Gary is a swell guy in person.

What's not to wuv about me? I be nine all the time; I'm just a child at heart, you know, with a child-like sense of wonder.

And I was using the same vocabulary at age nine, too; an excess of early reading will do that.

But I'm very happy to defend most (not all) of the Great Society programs as having made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans, all Americans, really, then and now, to the point where most of the programs are just taken for granted and are seen as benign as mom and apple pie. Who here wants to argue that we're better off with endlessly more polluted air, water, and land, the way we were before Great Society? Who here wants to argue against the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts? Who here wants to stand up against medical aid for the poor and elderly? And so on.

If you want to bandy about nonsense about how most of these programs didn't help us all, then perhaps you'd like to defend your notions. If not, why bother making such ignorant claims?

I missed your point re: correlation. Now I get what you are saying.

Keep in mind, the conservative policies in question reflect social attitudes in the populations that push for them. So yes, we agree, non-governmental factors are equally if not more important.

Regarding the specifics:

It seems that we both agree that I was right about unwanted pregnancies and STDs (even if not just in the abstince v. sex ed discrepancy), but not about out of wedlock births and teen pregnancies.

So I was right in part, even if my list was too long.

Also, you left out contraception. Widespread acceptance, education and dissemanation of contraceptives do affect teen pregnancy rates, unwanted pregnancies and unintentional out-of-wedlock births (we should clarify because some out of wedlock births are both intended and not a social ill).

Looks like a mixed record.

Odd metaphor: I asked you some simple questions about your assertion.

Wow, Gary, it's almost like you've never heard of the Socratic method.

"Wow, Gary, it's almost like you've never heard of the Socratic method."

This is Socratic?

If you take of the worst of left (disastrously high federal government spending on terrible domestic programs), and the worst of the right (social intolerance and the squashing of counter-culture), you'd probably end up with something like the "Grand New Party".
Eric: "I missed your point re: correlation. Now I get what you are saying."

If I might suggest, Eric, it's traditional to quote a few words, at least, of what one is responding to, so as to be clear what and who one is responding to. (Something a lot of blog commenters seem to have never picked up as a sine qua non of online communication, I have to say; I blame a lack of RFCs. And, of course, society, and liberalism. And also the Democratic Party.)

If I might suggest, Eric, it's traditional to quote a few words, at least, of what one is responding to, so as to be clear what and who one is responding to.

Point taken. It happens when I don't see the intervening comments because I'm assuming that I'll be next in the queue. Not a solid assumption however.

"Keep in mind, the conservative policies in question reflect social attitudes in the populations that push for them. So yes, we agree, non-governmental factors are equally if not more important."

Again, you can think that and argue that, but it is actually the opposite of what Douthat, Salam and Drum were saying. They are suggesting that people in Republican-leaning states are pushing for solutions because they have seen more of certain social ills that people in Democratic-leaning states. In their discussion the interest in discouraging unwed motherhood, for example, comes from their witness of lots of the bad effects of unwed motherhood.

Your understanding, and really the common liberal understanding, is that the attitudes and laws CAUSED the unwed motherhood problem that is being worried about.

(I'm sure that for almost everybody on both sides of that question, they will admit that it is some of both, just that one concept predominates).

I tend to believe that in the specific case of unwed motherhood and general sexual activity, technology, peer influence, and general affluence are MUCH more dispositive than government policy. Enough that it may be that discussions of government policy are pretty much moot. Conservative policies, liberal policies--in this area there is enough else going on that the policies don't actually matter much.

(Note I'm not making this as a general claim about governmental policy in everything.)

This is Socratic?

I wasn't suggesting it was *LT Nixon* who was engaging in something like the Socratic method.

"Sebastian, maybe you can enlighten us as to why the US teenage birth rate is about four times the EU average."

Nope. I don't have huge amounts of special insight into that question. I do however know that the studies suggest that whatever the answer is, it isn't actually sex education in the US nor is it 'family planning' as generally dealt with in the US that causes the difference (especially not at the 4X level).

To be clear, states which have the policies you seem to be interested in (say California and New York) don't have 1/4 the teen pregnancy rate of states which have policies you don't like. (CA and NY rank 7 and 14 out of 50 in terms of highest teen pregnancy rates). Texas is 5th. Nevada is 1st (not a state known for its conservative values)! See the Guttmacher report, selected mostly so I won't have to defend it. :)

Again, you can think that and argue that, but it is actually the opposite of what Douthat, Salam and Drum were saying. They are suggesting that people in Republican-leaning states are pushing for solutions because they have seen more of certain social ills that people in Democratic-leaning states.

Yes, that was the source of my disagreement with the three mentioned. That, and Drum's characterization (don't know if he was repeating it as per Douthat & Salam) of liberals as pointing to Red State social ills and crying "hypocrites" and "lead by example."

I don't disagree with the essence of what you are saying regarding governmental action. But it's not just governmental, it's NGO as well. And further, I do think that the underlying attitudes toward human sexuality are a great aggravator of these trends.

I do not, for the record, believe that governmental policies alone are the sole creator (or even primary creator) of these social ills. We're talking about managing problems, and making improvements at the margins. Governmental policies can be effective in that sense. Or not.

. I do however know that the studies suggest that whatever the answer is, it isn't actually sex education in the US nor is it 'family planning' as generally dealt with in the US that causes the difference (especially not at the 4X level).

Possibly the studies just aren't asking the right questions.

For example, do teenagers in the US routinely and easily have access to free birth control - are condoms free and easily available? Can any girl or woman, any age, go to any doctor and get a prescription for birth control and have it filled at no charge to herself at any pharmacist? (Well, obviously not one of the pro-abortion pharmacists?) Because if not, that in itself would account for a lot of unprotected sex.

As I noted above, in the UK studies have shown that teenagers are a lot less likely to have unprotected sex if they're (a) fully informed about contraception (b) strongly encouraged to use contraception whenever they have sex (c) have contraception readily available for free.

Pro-abortion pharmacies are about the weirdest example of the US pro-life movement. In the UK there is one chain of pharmacies that had to admit (when a woman asked for emergency contraception and was denied and had to spend a morning at her local A&E department as a result) that it has employment policies that allow a pharmacist "freedom of conscience" to deny a woman emergency contraception. I've boycotted that chain ever since, of course - the notion that a pharmacist should be allowed to decide that a woman should have to have an abortion is just as repugnant to me as the notion that they should get to decide a woman shouldn't have an abortion - but that pharmacies deny women birth control as part of the pro-life movement is really quite nakedly pro-abortion, and I gather they're increasingly common in the US.

In 2004, 60.3 in every thousand 15-19 year olds became pregnant in England and Wales. I This is a fall of 1% from the previous year - the rates have steadily been falling - but is still considered alarmingly high by European standards. There are (by the Guttmacher report) a handful of states in the US that do better than we do, but not many, and I think we have lower abortion rates overall - 17.8 per 1,000 resident* women aged 15-44 in 2004, which in the US is 19.69 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Which suggests that the UK policy of providing birth control free to all women on the NHS has some good effect.

*That won't include women who come in from other countries to have an abortion in the UK.

"Which suggests that the UK policy of providing birth control free to all women on the NHS has some good effect."

Again, you are noting a correlation and calling it a cause.

To make an over-strong analogy: in the UK they have a queen. Which suggests that the UK policy of providing a queen has some good effect on pre-teen pregnancy rates. But of course it doesn't.

It may be that the policy you outline has the effect you suggest. It might not. And just because it might seem logical that it should have such an effect doesn't mean that it actually has an effect.

Everyone would think that Head Start should have some long term impact on education (I certainly would), but it turns out that it doesn't. (To take a relatively non controversial example.)

"Which suggests that the UK policy of providing birth control free to all women on the NHS has some good effect."

Again, you are noting a correlation and calling it a cause.

To make an over-strong analogy: in the UK they have a queen. Which suggests that the UK policy of providing a queen has some good effect on pre-teen pregnancy rates. But of course it doesn't.

It may be that the policy you outline has the effect you suggest. It might not. And just because it might seem logical that it should have such an effect doesn't mean that it actually has an effect.

Everyone would think that Head Start should have some long term impact on education (I certainly would), but it turns out that it doesn't. (To take a relatively non controversial example.)

Seb, take a look at this UNICEF report, it's very detailed and weighs a lot of different factors against each other, but the bottom-line is consistent with Eric's assumption: concerted and comprehensive efforts to educate about sex and contraception combined with a liberal and fair socioeconomic environment lead to low rates of teenage birth. There are exceptions like Japan and South Korea were a strong traditional value system leads to the same result. As I see it, the US is stuck somewhere in between: the traditional value system has crumbled in the face of an unrestrained capitalism that leads to social exclusion. Conservatives want both, but they are forever pulling in opposite directions - it's not going to work.

Again, you are noting a correlation and calling it a cause.

Sebastian, I'm aware this is not of much direct personal interest to you, but let me explain.

If a heterosexually-active woman has intercourse and does not use contraception, she is quite likely to get pregnant. If a woman becomes pregnant without wishing to, she is more likely than not to abort, if abortion is (legally or illegally) available to her. If contraception is readily and freely available, she is less likely to become pregnant, and therefore less likely to have an abortion.

You see, there is a cause in there - less unprotected sex means fewer abortions.

Whereas queens tend not to make a difference to the abortion rate.

Jesurgislac, when did abortion come up? I go out of my way not to talk about it with you anymore.

Novakant: "concerted and comprehensive efforts to educate about sex and contraception combined with a liberal and fair socioeconomic environment lead to low rates of teenage birth."

For the first part the correlation with education is strong in 3rd world countries, not so strong in 1st world. In other words education doesn't appear to be a decisive factor in countries like the US.

"As I see it, the US is stuck somewhere in between: the traditional value system has crumbled in the face of an unrestrained capitalism that leads to social exclusion. Conservatives want both, but they are forever pulling in opposite directions - it's not going to work."

I think you're going too far with the unrestrained capitalism explanation, but I will agree that part of the problem is a partial breakdown of the traditional structure (which discouraged sex in many ways) without replacing it with a more sexually free culture. But sex education classes doesn't seem to be the bridge from one to the other so far as the data in the US indicates. The US is a large enough demographic to have good studies. They suggest that for various reasons which I certainly don't know, sex education doesn't fulfill the aims that you think it does.

That isn't to suggest that nothing possibly could, but that the answer might not be found in sex education.

aimai writes:
Sebastian, at this point, literally doesn't care what he is saying, so long as he is negating what he thinks is a liberal belief...Its just fodder for a left/right war of attrition.

I think there is another way to view this, and it is the fact that Sebastian is a minority here, so the dynamic sort of dictates the way his interactions work. He's limited to disputing cites that are provided, because for these flash points, we first of all can't agree on sources for information (note the back and forth about the Guttmacher institute/HRR) so, given the population here, Sebastian is limited to turning the sources that are presented and arguing points from there. Given that they are presumably broadly supportive of the points that are made, it can't help but turn into a war of attrition. If the situations were reversed, the same dynamic would emerge. Unfortunately, this doesn't tell us anything about which side is right, it's just the way things work.

Unfortunately, for the topics that have been made into friction points, there doesn't seem to be any way to unbreak the egg.

Jesurgislac, when did abortion come up? I go out of my way not to talk about it with you anymore.

We're talking about denial of contraception to teenagers, and the obvious - inevitable - results. One of those obvious results is a high abortion rate. (Another is a high teenage birthrate - in the UK, teenagers with ambitions and expectations of themselves that involve education and a career, tend to have abortions, so there's a definite correlation between higher (or at least better) levels of education, and a low teenage birthrate.

There is no intended denial of contraception to teenagers in the UK, not any more, but there is a lot of... well, call it individual obstructionism - teenagers who don't have access to a neutral source for free contraception, and family doctors who don't make clear enough to their teenage patients that they are entitled to free contraception. In the US, I don't believe there's any consistent effort to ensure teenagers have access to free contraception to prevent abortions/teenage parenthood.

not so strong in 1st world

But it is strong in the 1st world:

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Sweden and Switzerland have reduced their teenage birth rates by three-quarters or more in the last 30 years.The Czech Republic, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway have achieved a reduction of two thirds or more. (...) Norway has seen teen births fall by 72 per cent.

Now even taking into account shifting value systems and socioeconomic circumstances, i.e. there were more wanted and socially accepted teenage births 30 years ago, these figures are astonishing.

As I said, and is pointed out in the study, there is no monocausal explanation. But since the number of teenage abortions hasn't gone up, it is beyond obvious that sex education and the availability of contraceptives is one of the major causes.

If you're really interested in lowering the rates of socially detrimental consequences of teenage sex, you have to study the cases in which they were minimized: everybody in this field analyzes the system in the Netherlands and Northern Europe.

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