1. The state government of Massachussets is engaged in a brinksmanship battle over gambling: how many casino resorts to allow, how many slots-only casinos, etc. Why is this up to the state government? I don’t think there is any compelling state interest here. If the owners of the relevant property, which is apparently properly zoned already, want to build casinos, why shouldn’t that be up to them? And if people want to patronize the casinos—or not—why shouldn’t that be up to those people as well?
2. I recently heard a professor of rhetoric lecturing her students about proper argument form. Her example was: The Arizona immigration law is morally wrong because it was motivated by “bias and bigotry.” I don’t presume to know what was in the hearts and minds of the people who support that law, though they are almost unanimous in denying that bias and bigotry are what motivates them. Putting that aside, I don’t think her example argument works. A law or policy might be morally right or wrong regardless of the motivations of the people who support or believe in it. People might support a good law for either the right or the wrong reasons; similarly, they might support a bad law for either as well. In fact, I would say that people’s motivations should be irrelevant to our judgment of the law: the law is good or bad all on its own—and that’s quite enough to let us judge it, without requiring us to engage in ad hominem speculations.
3. It turns out that Americans have recently been cutting back on their use of health services, apparently because they are worried about rising costs and their effects on their household budgets. Good for them! They are recognizing, as rational agents should, the price signals, relating them to their subjective schedule of values and the relative scarcity of their resources, and adjusting their behavior accordingly. If we let people be exposed to more of the costs of their own health care, similar rational allocations would further take place. Remember a couple years ago, as oil was heading north of $100 per barrel, and there was apocalyptic talk about what would happen? Then, people, as if led by an invisible hand, began spontaneously reducing their consumption. They started giving up their SUVs, buying higher-mileage vehicles, reducing their unnecessary trips. People respond to incentives. That is why markets work, if only we let them.
4. Finally, one of the most depressing and disheartening articles I have read in a long time is the cover article in the July/August issue of The Atlantic, entitled “The End of Men.” The article details just how thoroughly women are coming to dominate life in the United States, in everything from earning the majority of college degrees to dominating most aspects of family life. That’s perfectly fine by me. What I find so distressing about the article is its further claim that men are therefore increasingly irrelevant—as fathers, as breadwinners, as protectors, as moral exemplars, as defenders of honor. Men are accordingly increasingly lapsing into listlessness, immaturity, and lassitude, exactly what one would expect from a group of people who have no real purpose in life.
Some of the choicer passages from the article:
Fathers, roughouse all you want. But we, gatekeeper moms, are in charge of the rest. We could give you detailed instruction, and you still couldn’t possibly do it as well. [...] The bad news for Dad is that despite the common perception [that he is necessary or at least important to the family], there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution.
The increasing expectation of male incompetence is, the article alleges, leading to the increasing reality of male incompetence. This is from a female college admissions officer:
Maybe these boys are genetically like canaries in a coal mine, absorbing so many toxins and bad things in the environment that their DNA is shifting. Maybe they’re like those frogs–they’re more vulnerable or something, so they’ve gotten deformed.
That is a particularly offensive claim, I think. Men are “deformed”? The article’s author, Hanna Rosin, adds helpfully:
But again, it’s not all that clear that boys have become more dysfunctional—or have changed in any way. What’s clear is that schools, like the economy, now value the self-control, focus, and verbal aptitude that seem to come more easily to young girls.
Why are men dropping out and, as the article puts it, simply “drifting away’? The answer, I think, is embedded in this line from the article:
The women don’t want them as husbands, and they have no steady income to provide. So what do they have?
What indeed. How have we come to this sorry state? Not all is lost, of course, but growing numbers of pointless and purposeless men is bad for everyone—men, women, and children. As one of those men, and one who believes and wants to believe his life has meaning and purpose, I cannot but greet an article like this with a combination of outrage, offense, and even foreboding about the future.
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