Society


1
Aug 07

Violent youth bulges

From this article in the Financial Times

when 15 to 29-year-olds make up more than 30 per cent of the population, violence tends to happen; when large percentages are under 15, violence is often imminent. The “causes” in the name of which that violence is committed can be immaterial. There are 67 countries in the world with such “youth bulges” now and 60 of them are undergoing some kind of civil war or mass killing.

Read the whole thing.


1
Aug 07

Restless Leg Syndrome

The Freakonomics guys have a post on Restless Leg Syndrome. Virginia Postrel comments

If something is a “disease,” it is worth treating. If it isn’t a “disease,” you should just live with it. But why? Why not treat a biological condition you just don’t like? (I’m assuming that you are directly or indirectly paying for the treatment.) We don’t have to call Restless Leg Syndrome a disease to acknowledge that it disturbs some people’s sleep and that those people would like relief. Contrary to what you may have heard, the only sort of character suffering builds is the ability to suffer–a useful ability in a world where suffering is the routine nature of life but not a virtue that makes the world a better place.

RLS is hardly the worst thing that one can have, but why not use all that modern society has to offer.


1
Jul 07

We’re entering the age of the Loner!

I came across this article on diversity and society somewhere on the City Journal. To quote:

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about releasing his new research, and understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. He fears that his work on the surprisingly negative effects of diversity will become part of the immigration debate, even though he finds that in the long run, people do forge new communities and new ties.

Putnam’s study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn’t ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors. This proved true in communities large and small, from big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston to tiny Yakima, Washington, rural South Dakota, and the mountains of West Virginia. In diverse San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 30 percent of people say that they trust neighbors a lot. In ethnically homogeneous communities in the Dakotas, the figure is 70 percent to 80 percent.

It all makes sense, the more diverse, the less one has in common with one’s neighbors. The less one has in common, the fewer common goals, the more group competition and the payoff for community action is less. Therefore, you get less of it.

This would explain why people tend to live near people a lot like them. It would be upsetting to people who think we should all live in neatly arranged boxes supporting the “community” goals instead of our own individual ones. I think there’s lots of hugging in those boxes too.


3
May 07

Crazy vegans and social evolution

This horrifying article appeared in today’s AJC

Vegan parents guilty in infant murder
6-week-old died of starvation after being fed diet of soy milk, apple juice
The parents of a baby that died of starvation after being fed a vegan diet have been found guilty of malice murder, felony murder and first degree cruelty to children.

Prosecutors said it was a chilling case of murder by starvation, a painful and prolonged death. Attorneys representing Sanders and Thomas told jurors the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to their vegan lifestyle. Vegans typically live free of animal products.

It’s troubling in many ways; it raises the question of do we need an official (i.e. government) of raising children (no), and how could these two be so stupid as to not notice that their baby was shrinking?

The truly rare thing is how did these two avoid the self-appointed legions of women who see an infant as an invitation to ask the parents questions on every conceivable subject? It’s not like you have to seek out child-rearing advice when it comes flying out of the woodwork in public places. I imagine it’s decent advice too, just repetitive.

Perhaps it’s an evolved behavior. Post-partum depression being common a society with an army of cooing watchdogs is the first line of defense against neglect or abuse.


19
Apr 07

A foppish post

From National Review’s Mark Steyn. He makes the valid point that people in their 20s are not children, but the asinine part is

They’re not “children.” The students at Virginia Tech were grown women and — if you’ll forgive the expression — men. They would be regarded as adults by any other society in the history of our planet. Granted, we live in a selectively infantilized culture where twentysomethings are “children” if they’re serving in the Third Infantry Division in Ramadi but grown-ups making rational choices if they drop to the broadloom in President Clinton’s Oval Office. Nonetheless, it’s deeply damaging to portray fit fully formed adults as children who need to be protected. We should be raising them to understand that there will be moments in life when you need to protect yourself — and, in a “horrible” world, there may come moments when you have to choose between protecting yourself or others. It is a poor reflection on us that, in those first critical seconds where one has to make a decision, only an elderly Holocaust survivor, Professor Librescu, understood instinctively the obligation to act.

It presumes that all of the victims were cowering in fear while they were shot. My initial thought is that since the fatality count is so high suggests that people were attempting to fight, and died trying. Furthermore, a gun-wielding attacker is qualitatively different from a knife-wielding attacker. If six men rush someone with a knife, it’s reasonable to expect, say two, of the six to die, but their side would prevail. Against a gun, it’s likely that all six would fall, and their side would lose (presuming a sufficient start distance). And suicidal attacks with no expectation of victory are a trademark of the Islamic extremists that Steyn usually rails against.


18
Apr 07

A curious ommission

From this article in the NYT on attitudes on the Iraq war by age group, specifically

Forty-eight percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while 45 percent said the United States should have stayed out. That is in sharp contrast to the opinions of those 65 and older, who have lived through many other wars. Twenty eight percent of that age group said the United States did the right thing, while 67 percent said the United States should have stayed out.

“We’ve experienced more than the younger people. Older people are wiser. We’ve seen war and we know.”

Anyway, it goes on like that. One thing that was not mentioned was the fact that the time horizons are quite different. Someone 65 is looking at an outer range of 30 years more of life, whereas someone age 25 is looking at 60 more years of life. It’s quite plausible that younger people might be more favorable to risky experiments with possible longer term benefits, the same way they like investing in risky stocks and mutual funds – to wit, they have more time to play with, so they can take more risks.

I’m not saying this is the reason for the disparity, but it’s odd it wasn’t addressed.


6
Mar 07

The funniest thing I read today

From Time Magazine no less

Like all language or thought police, the nigger-nazis are humorless snobs who dream of a world without toilets.


6
Mar 07

Your tax dollars at work

In Lilburn in this case:

Shut up and drink, Lilburn bar patrons told

Earlier, the city outlawed pool — the game that spelled trouble in the musical “The Music Man” — in its watering holes. Now it’s also barring karaoke and just about any other party game from places that serve alcohol.

America is getting ridiculous at an increasing rate. However, my zoning for no-children idea is gaining good feedback in my informal polls.


18
Feb 07

An interesting movie

I finally finished watching the documentary Bastards of the Party, an interesting history of gang activity in Los Angeles from the 40s to the present day. It’s not a balanced take and doesn’t pretend to be, which is quite refreshing.

One quibble – the historian explaining the rise of crack traced it back to Iran-Contra and the CIA-crack folklore. I’ve always found this ridiculous. It assumes that the government was that clever (doubtful) and also that no one else would have thought of taking a commodity that sells for five cents in South America and selling it for fifty dollars in the US.

Beyond that though, well worth watching.


4
Feb 07

Infuriating comments

From this CNN.com article

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, for example, is a sponsor of a bill that would call for troops to come home in 180 days and allow for a minimum number of forces to be left behind to hunt down terrorists and train Iraqi security forces.

“Read the Constitution,” Boxer told her colleagues last week. “The Congress has the power to declare war. And on multiple occasions, we used our power to end conflicts.”

This idea is coming to her now? It’s nauseating how we elect these people. There are countless acts of courage and kindness that happen when the cameras aren’t running, but as soon as they start everyone puts their head down and genuflects to the conventional wisdom. Congress gives war making authority to the president, who of course was only enforcing UN resolutions. All to avoid criticism or losing a job, which very few of them need.

That’s an odd thing about American; risk taking is private. That’s good I suppose.