Los Lonely Seniors

Robin Hanson:

In the United States, a million and a half adults are under the care of guardians, either family members or professionals, who control some two hundred and seventy-three billion dollars in assets.… [A] quarter of guardianship petitions in New York were brought by nursing homes and hospitals, sometimes as a means of collecting on overdue bills.

More childless, unmarried, and debt-ridden young people today means even more seniors tomorrow who are not just residents but wards of nursing homes and other facilities. (How many family-less Millennials will have enough savings to fork out $90,000 a year for a nursing home?)

But the greater cost is social and emotional, not economic. “Social isolation is a growing epidemic—one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.” “Childlessness has a particularly powerful effect on the probability of isolation.” Family-less seniors will be among the hardest hit. (They already are, here and elsewhere.)

In comparison with our ancestors, who overcame war, famine, and plague, we are incalculably impoverished.


They’ll Believe Anything

Neighbors Get Anonymous "Warning" Over Yard Sign

[I]t’s the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in May-fair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.

CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Spotts on Modernism

How We Can Stop Building Ugly Architecture | The Plaza Perspective

Modernists were indeed revolutionaries. They rejected the notion that art must be rooted in a nation’s history, and they deliberately sought change and experimentation. ‘To every age its own art’ was the founding principle of the Vienna Secession in 1897. It was permissible for art to be ‘ugly’ and to emulate the blunt energy of ‘primitivism’. They were more concerned for truth and doubts than for beauty and certainties, more interested in questions than in answers, more anxious to communicate feelings … than to portray visual reality. … Modernists celebrated disorder and uncertainty. Far from shunning the epithet of elitist, they raised it to a high principle that artists were independent of society and that culture was a sphere unto itself. The gulf that had opened between Modernists and the public was not their fault; it was the public that had lost its aesthetic sense and gone its own way. Nothing could have been more foreign to the Modernists than the idea that they had an obligation to society. Inculcating national pride or providing the public with security, beauty and joy, not to mention a refuge from life’s travails, was not what they had in mind.

Frederic Spotts, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics

Selective Skepticism

Lilly Wachowski Slams Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump on Twitter | WIRED

“I’m skeptical about low-status conspiracy theories but not about the unquestionable dogmas of my time” = “I’m not a skeptic.”

A certain amount of skepticism is healthy. But if you are much more skeptical about aliens, ghosts, HCQ, capitalism, and organized religion than you are about lockdowns, hate hoaxes, democracy, “social justice,” and the like, then you are not a skeptic at all but a conformist acolyte of the Blue Establishment. Selective skepticism is not real skepticism.

(And yes, Boomer conservatives peddling conspiracy theories should also be more skeptical. But the most dangerous “conspiracy theories” are the ones that are Establishment-approved.)

There Is No Paradox

Nasty Women' Exhibits Raise $50,000 for Planned Parenthood | Fortune

By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well‐being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women’s declining relative well‐being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well‐being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries.

Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness”

But of course there is no paradox. Women (like men) are much happier married, and yet marriage rates are at their lowest in over a century. Women with 2-4 children (unlike childless woman) grow happier over time, and yet women are having fewer and fewer children.

(And the decline in women’s happiness is even worse than Stevenson and Wolfers realize. “23% of women in their 40s and 50s take antidepressants.” Modern women are unhappier even though their happiness is artificially propped up with drugs. Presumably, they would be even more unhappy otherwise.)

Careers and hookups don’t make most women happy—families do. Until a few decades ago, almost all women understood this. But then second-wave feminism was foisted upon us by the Blue Establishment (did you know Gloria Steinem was bankrolled by the CIA?), and now—”paradoxically”—women are unhappier.

The future is nasty indeed.

Amish Health Care

Community Health Clinic

Scott Alexander (who just recently un-cancelled his blog) offers his thoughts on the Amish health care system.

My takeaways, in no particular order:

  • Small, tight-knit, high-trust communities of faith can be extremely powerful and life-giving—not just relationally but economically.
  • The standard American lifestyle (especially the standard American diet) isn’t healthy at all: “[M]aybe [the Amish’s] system relies on a very low rate of mental illness and chronic disease. … [T]heir autoimmune disease rates are amazing, and when you take out the stresses of modern life maybe a lot of the ailments the American system was set up to deal with just stop being problems.”
  • At a certain point, expensive end-of-life care isn’t worth it.
  • Honesty and non-litigiousness go a long way. (Maybe Jesus was onto something after all!)
  • We need to think in terms of improving health outcomes rather than expanding access to health care, which may or may not be an effective way of actually improving health.
  • “[T]here’s something to be said for a faceless but impartial bureaucracy, compared to having all your neighbors judging your lifestyle all the time.” Good thing we non-Amish slaves to bureaucracies don’t have to worry about being judged by each other!
  • “I asked my literal grandmother, a 95 year old former nurse, how health care worked in her day. She said it just wasn’t a problem. Hospitals were supported by wealthy philanthropists and religious organizations. Poor people got treated for free. Middle class people paid as much as they could afford, which was often the whole bill, because bills were cheap. Rich people paid extra for fancy hospital suites and helped subsidize everyone else.”
  • Government-provided health insurance is suboptimal, to say the least.

I’d love to see more churches and other similar groups experiment with models like that of the Amish. Of course, they’d only be able to do so if they had similarly tight-knit communities. And that’s an uphill battle since Americans (including American Christians) have been so thoroughly atomized.

The Trigger

Rantz: Activists, media pretend Portland isn't under siege by ...

The Washington Examiner:

Turchin wrote that the violence of the ’70s “provides us with a kind of a road map as to what to expect in the next few years.” The first thing to expect is an escalation of language that draws battle lines, fuses together the in-groups that will later spearhead violence, and demonizes and dehumanizes the dissidents’ opponents. The next phase, the “trigger,” has yet to happen. It is typically a “highly symbolic event,” often involving a “sacrificial victim.” For the Weather Underground and other similar groups in the 1970s, the trigger was the killing of the Black Panther Fred Hampton during a police raid in December 1969. After the trigger comes the spiral of violence and counterviolence.

That was written on March 12. George Floyd died two months later.

Handle on Cancel Culture

It’s often the case that you can learn more from random bloggers than prestigious “experts.” It’s also often the case that you can learn more from anonymous comments on blog posts than the blog posts themselves.

With that in mind, here‘s commenter Handle at Arnold Kling’s blog talking about cancel culture:

No one can say where the lines are or will be in ten minutes, they change and escalate all the time…. One can get by ok as a tamed heretic to a known thing, but not to an unknown thing. You can’t lead a blameless life if you don’t know from one day to the next what you’re going to be blamed for. … [T]he persecutions are *the point*, the thing that makes people feel the sadistic thrill of costless domination and punishment that means – in the way most fulfilling of core instincts – that one is higher status than one’s victims. … There has been a whole century of people trying to explain why untempered liberalism contained within it the seed of its own demise, and now we finally get to witness the path of progress leading to regress. … [T]he old progressive religion could advertise its positive vision through … the “The Smiling Multicultural Diversity Poster” manifested through various mediums. … Doesn’t it feel like that poster has been ripped down or papered over with new ones showing angry, brutal fists clenching rifles? … This is different. This is worse. *Much* worse.

And here:

Whatever the ideological “Cause” at a time or place happens to be, preaching it provides a useful way for outsider elites to undermine the legitimacy of the power held by insider elites. The trouble is, it never stops being useful. When it works, the former outsider elites become insider elites, but that only means there is a new set of outsider elites, and they are always going to try the same trick. … The Cause always provides a theory, explicit or tacit, of the legitimate uses and ends of power: that is, to further The Cause. … At some point things start spin really out of control and become chaotic and unstable and no one is safe in any position for a minute, because there is always something, some kind of heresy, infidelity, sin, or ideological kompromat someone can use to drag the new guy back down.[N]othing is ever enough. When The Cause is corrupted to give its troops and clients what they want, eventually it comes to the point where it can’t give them what they want…. And the intellectuals desperately revising and refining The Cause cannot catch up to such urges with anything approaching intellectual coherence.

The R-Word

The recently #cancelled classic Gone with the Wind

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

There is racial and ethic hatred and bigotry of all kinds. But these days the word “racism” has little to do with actual hatred and bigotry. Increasingly, it is no more than a political weapon that has no definite meaning at all.

Merriam-Webster is redefining “racism” to reflect more recent developments in critical theory. But you don’t need a dictionary to notice the creativity with which accusations of “racism” are currently thrown around. Math is racist. “Guac” is racist. Coco Pops are racist. Seat belts are racist. Accurate crime alerts are racist. Colorblindness (remember “I Have a Dream”?) is racist. White flight is racist. The reversal of white flight is racist. Time is racist. Earth, wind, fire, and water are racist. Capitalism is racist. Socialism is racist. Lots of things are racisteverything is racist (except prejudice against white people).

Such flexible and ever-changing usage is not an accident. Politics is war, and in political war language may be the most important weapon. Language corrupts thought; thought shapes values; values shape what we buy, vote for, and retweet; money, votes, and retweets are important sources of power. The incentives aren’t complicated, and all political movements respond to them by weaponizing language somehow or other. (That said, since the Establishment is Blue, Blue’s weaponization is much more pervasive and effective. If you don’t believe me, just check out The New York Times Best Sellers List.)

With the word “racism” in particular, the weaponization strategy is simple: Pretty much everyone thinks “racism” is bad. So if (the activist wing of) the Establishment can control what people think is “racist,” it can control what they think is bad. It can control their outrage, their—our—mental, emotional, and even spiritual focus. It can blame anything on “racism,” whether or not any actual hatred or injustice was involved. And it can #cancel anyone who doesn’t fall into line and (literally) bend the knee.

Oh, and it can make money. Lots of money. There’s a whole “anti-racism” industry, which may or may not actually be helping black and other nonwhite Americans but is definitely helping professional activists and “anti-racists” (not to mention good ol’-fashioned scammers): “[A]bout one-quarter of Black Lives Matter expenditures in fiscal year 2019 went to salaries, benefits, and payroll taxes and 46% went to ‘consultant fees.'” (Don’t worry, the Minnesota Freedom Fund—which spent less than 1% of its donations on bailouts of arrested protesters—is “working on doing more.”)

This weaponization strategy isn’t new. Orwell noticed the same pattern with the word “fascism” back in 1944:

It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.

Then: astrology, women, dogs. Now: math, “guac,” Coco Pops.

At least since the time of FDR, the Blue Establishment has used this weaponization strategy to take over pretty much the whole world. For decades, it’s been able to defeat almost all opposition by calling it “racist” (or “fascist”). Language control is thought control, and thought control is emotional control, and emotional control is power. By mastering such control, the Blue Establishment has become the most powerful establishment the world has ever seen. And here’s the proof: Even most of its opponents (on both the Right and far Left) willingly submit to its mental and emotional policing. If that ain’t power, then I don’t know what power is.

Why, however, should we put up with the Establishment’s thought policing? “Racism” is not a biblical concept, and at this point it’s not even a concept at all—it’s an anti-concept, a political weapon designed to mean whatever the activists want it to mean. It obscures rather than illuminates, referring to an omnipresent but nebulous malevolent force rather than to anything concrete—and giving the powers of this world (rather than God) ultimate control over our moral outlook and priorities.

“But doesn’t systemic racism obviously exist?” No, not really (at least not in the way you think): “[W]hile studies about anti-black bias that are well-designed generally find either no bias at all, small effects or ambiguous results, the existence of a huge pro-black bias in a variety of settings has been documented over and over.”

“But what’s the big deal? Isn’t this just semantics?” No. Besides what I’ve already said:

  • Oftentimes facts are wrongly discounted as “racist” (or “sexist,” or…) even though they are true. (Example: “African-American [college] applicants receive the largest race/ethnic preference (by a factor of 5.5 over whites).”) Consequently, the word “racist” (by design!) impedes our ability to see the world accurately.
  • As I’ve said, in the background of most “racism” talk is the presupposition that “racism” is an omnipresent malevolent force. Underlying this presupposition is an entire Narrative of historical, economic, and sociological assumptions. But this Narrative, which is perpetuated by words like “racist,” is mostly false.
  • Lots of Christians claim that “racism” is a sin. At first glance, this claim might seem obviously right. But if the word “racism” has no stable and definite meaning, then it’s not only wrong but dangerous, because it subjects the Church’s moral vision to the chaos and corruption of modern culture wars. When the Church uses the world’s language, it is robbed of its unique vocabulary and voice and ultimately reduced to cowardly pandering: “Please don’t hate us, we think racism is bad, too!”
  • To reiterate: Nowadays the word “racism” has precious little to do with hatred and other actual sins. For instance, this Racism Test asks lots of questions about the offensiveness of jokes but none about hatred of different ethnic groups. Accordingly, contemporary anti-“racism” is first and foremost about #cancelculture insanity, not the teachings of Jesus Christ (or the well-being of nonwhite Americans). The word “racist”—and the associated constellation of Woke neo-Marxist terminology (“marginalized,” “privileged,” “intersectional,” “problematic,” etc.)—sucks us into the vortex of modern activist thought instead of drawing us closer to Christ.
  • Actual people all over the world are deeply hurting in all kinds of ways. Focusing on Establishment myths like “systemic racism” distracts us from the issues which matter most to actual hurting people like extreme poverty abroad and the loneliness epidemic at home. (Moreover, it distracts us from solutions to social and political problems that actually work and genuinely help those in need.)

For all those reasons and more, I avoid using the r-word. Instead, I use good ol’-fashioned words like “hatred” and “bigotry.” They aren’t perfect, but they usually get the job done, and they haven’t been politicized to the same extent. At the end of the day, I don’t want the Establishment to control my thoughts; I want Reality to control my thoughts. What about you?

I oppose hatred and cruelty. I’m repelled by them whenever I encounter them, regardless of who their target is: blacks, whites, Mexicans, cops, Muslims, Christians, or any other group.

But I refuse to bend the mental knee to the powers of this world, which are much more interested in their own wealth and power than in the plight of black Americans. I refuse to play their language games. I refuse to give them my emotional and verbal allegiance.