Love & Marriage 2019

November 14, 2019

A major new study by the Pew folks has been looking at changes in marriage and cohabitation in the US.  The major findings:

“The share of U.S. adults who are currently married has declined modestly in recent decades, from 58% in 1995 to 53% today. Over the same period, the share of adults who are living with an unmarried partner has risen from 3% to 7%. While the share who are currently cohabiting remains far smaller than the share who are married, the share of adults ages 18 to 44 who have ever lived with an unmarried partner (59%) has surpassed the share who has ever been married (50%)”

These attitudes have shifted immensely, even just in my lifetime.  By the time my first wife and I were getting seriously involved in the late 1960s in London, it was — with more or less reluctance — generally accepted in our social circle that those engaged would probably have sex with each other before marriage. That was something, I guess, that could be managed between families.  However, the notion that my girlfriend and I would actually take up residence and live together publicly before we married was still subject to enormous pressure from the wider society and neither we, nor most of our friends, took that step.

In England, at least, that would have put us right on the cusp of that attitudinal change because I recall there was far less pressure NOT to cohabit by the early-mid 1970s when I was divorced and dating again.


London Lauderettes

October 22, 2019

The always interesting Creative Review has an article on a new photographic book about launderettes in London:

 

I adore the images, but I also had strong empathy with the author’s discussion about the research:

“When I started I was very haphazard. If I went to a friend’s house or dropped my son at football, I’d look for nearby launderettes to visit. Later, I became much more methodical. I used Google Maps and online telephone directories to create a map of London’s launderettes, then I would set aside time to focus on individual postcodes and boroughs. I won’t deny that halfway through the project I was starting to doubt my sanity. Driving from north west London to the outer reaches of Croydon, Enfield and Ealing to photograph launderettes isn’t normal, and by launderette number 350 it was definitely feeling like a marathon.”

 

 


Opium Of The Masses Less Potent Today

October 17, 2019

The Pew Research Centre has issued a major new study entitled “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues At Rapid Pace“.

“In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009 …

“all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009.”

The decline affects all geographic and socio-economic groups in the States:

 

The odd thing, of course, is that the evangelicals continue their pervasive hold over the Republican Party (even with an idolatrous and adulterous buffoon as leader). I suspect their conservatism will harden even further as their numbers (and influence in the wider community) continue to deteriorate.  But the longterm outlook is bleak for them, and the GOP may disappear along with organized religion if these trends continue and the party doesn’t find another source of support.

‘Religious “nones” are growing faster among Democrats than Republicans, though their ranks are swelling in both partisan coalitions. And although the religiously unaffiliated are on the rise among younger people and most groups of older adults, their growth is most pronounced among young adults.”

There is an enormous amount of valuable data to absorb from this survey and I have only touched on a few high points.  This is well worth studying in more depth.


The Modern Workplace (or Prison)

October 15, 2019

The modern workplace is becoming more like a prison every day, with total surveillance systems as thorough as anything in China.  Just a couple of examples. The first, from the Economist:

Run the short movie. It is worth it and no-one’s watching you do it — maybe.

The Guardian has a broader take, featuring a pizza checker from Domino’s that is, of course, only for training not punishment (right!).

Whatever happened to trust?  That goodness I am retired!

 


Social Network Nostalgia

October 9, 2019

This evocative animated trip through time, from 2004 through to today, shows the growth and decline of the most popular social networks.  Worth the 2 minutes for the nostalgia. Turn off sound unless you like pretentious Muzak.

 

Thanks to the always interesting Visual Capitalist and YouTube.


Kids Abandon TV

October 8, 2019

At least in the UK, youth have abandoned TV almost completely.

“While the average person aged 65 and over watches 33 minutes of TV news a day, this falls to just two minutes among people aged 16-24, according the [British] media regulator’s annual news consumption report.  The decline has been driven by audiences moving away from traditional live broadcast channels, where they might watch a popular drama and leave the channel on during the evening news bulletin, towards watching catchup content from streaming services … TV news is still the main way that the British public learn about current affairs, however, in part because older viewers have remained loyal to traditional services …

“The Ofcom report also highlights that annual sales of national print newspapers have halved from 22m in 2010 to 10.4m in 2018 …

“The findings provide further evidence that the British media is splitting along generational and ethnic lines. Older people and white Britons are largely sticking with television and print newspaper outlets, while younger people and those from minority ethnic backgrounds are following a largely separate news agenda on social media.”

As “an average person aged 65 and over” in Vancouver, I do watch about 33 minutes of TV news each day, but that is local news. TV news is definitely NOT “the main way that [I] learn about current affairs”.  That honour goes to online news sources, both online versions of print newspapers and other online and social networking sites.  Not sure if that is good or bad, but it is the way it is.

It would be interesting to see some comparative figures from other countries.

 

 


Democracy In Chains

October 8, 2019

There are plenty more libertarian role models available in our culture than there are anarchistic ones; and given the apparent similarities between the two concepts of individual liberty, I occasionally have to remind myself why I am an anarchist and not a libertarian. It’s the economy, stupid, and everything that flows from that.

  • Libertarians believe in the exploitation of the capitalist system (stripped of State-imposed rules and regulations) and the supreme sanctity of private property no matter how acquired; many have a tendency toward exclusionary -isms (racism, sexism, nationalism, fascism); they believe in no government other than that which protects their interests and assets (police, army, judiciary; jails);
  • Anarchists conceive of a non-exploitative production/consumption system and have a strong tendency toward inclusive community building; they believe in autonomous self-government by individuals and consensual groupings only.

We are currently living through an experiment in which the Libertarian fringe has taken control of the central government.  Earlier this year, I was read an article about how the GOP in Missouri were working to overturn a state constitutional amendment improving ethical governance that passed overwhelmingly by popular vote just a month ago. They noted:

“the Republican Party’s newfound disdain for democracy. Republican leaders across the country have tried to make voting more difficult; to keep some Americans from voting; to interrupt vote counts before they are complete; to gerrymander in the extreme; and now, in Missouri, to repudiate a constitutional amendment approved by 62 percent of the state’s voters.”

Everything in that paragraph is true, except that the Republican’s dislike for genuine democracy is hardly “newfound.” I have been reminded of this most recently through reading Nancy MacLean‘s vital Democracy In Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right;s Stealth Plan For America. which is a book that every resister needs to read to understand what it is we are facing.  The thesis of the book is that current libertarian bent of the far rights financiers (a la Koch brothers and too many others) is fuelled and driven by the political-economic theories propounded by James M. Buchanan who was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics in 1986.  Buchanan developed his theories in the 1950s and 1960s when the current wave of capitalist barons were being educated.  [Page number references are to this volume).

“Buchanan believed that “majority rule, under modern conditions, had created … a risk to capitalism … The goal of the cause, Buchanan announced … must shift from who rules to changing the rules … the cause must figure out how to put [constitutional] shackles on public officials.”  [pages xxv-xxvi]  “A government based in the naked principle that the majority ought to govern, Calhoun [had] warned, was sure to filch other men’s property and violate their liberty.”  “The power to tax is the power to destroy,” wrote F.A. Harper. Democratic government was increasing “the power of certain persons to destroy other persons.” [6, 132]  Buchanan said modern rules fail to establish ironclad rules for “curbing the appetites of majority coalitions … There are relatively few effective limits on the fiscal exploitation of minorities through orderly democratic procedures.”  [150]  “The project must aim toward the practical ‘removal of the sacrosanct status assigned to majority rule’.”  [184]

Buchanan first made his name opposing taxes to pay for schools.  If a constitution enabled what Buchanan would call socialism — “which in Virginia’s case meant requiring a system of public schools — it would be nearly impossible [to achieve] his vision of radical transformation, without changing the constitution.” [72]  An important supporter, Oliver Hill, NAACP lawyer opposed to tax-paid vouchers for private schools, opined that: “No one in a democratic society has a right to have his private prejudices financed at public expense.” [69]  This group of thinkers were often opposed to educating the masses at all. As Gordon Tullock put it: “we may be producing a positively dangerous class situation” by raising their sights. [106]

More broadly, Buchanan criticised modern economics and its value system

“because the very idea that inequality was a bad thing led to looking for remedies, which in turn led the discipline toward an applied ‘mathematics of social engineering’.” [96-97].  He  “wanted not just to rein in taxation and regulation, but also to dethrone the dominant paradigm of Keynsian econonics that was the core of the mid-century social contract.”  [136]  A later disciple, Paul Ryan said “public provision for popular needs not only violates the liberty of the taxpayers whose earnings are transferred to others, but also violates the recipients’ spiritual need to earn their own sustenance.” [213]  Liberty Fund economist Gary M. Anderson alleges that public health is nothing more than “a device use by organized interest groups to redistribute wealth to themselves.”  [214]

And Buchanan’s theories began to enter the realm of social conservatism.  A Virginia petition of the early 1960s was very clear about its position:  “Individual liberty is a higher good than racial equality.”  [94]  The Goldwater campaign of 1964 openly attacked the Civil Rights Act on Buchananite-libertarian grounds, complaining

“that it used coercive means to make all conform to the values of the majority, in violation of the liberty of the white minority that opposed it.” [84]

Buchanan eventually came to believe that

despotism may be the only organizational alternative ... There was no glossing over it anymore: democracy was inimical to economic freedom” [151-152]  Charles Koch called Greenspan and others “sellouts”  because they sought “to make government work more efficiently when the true libertarian should be tearing it out at the root.” [135]  Buchanan “valued economic liberty so much more than political freedom that he simply did not care about the invitation to abuse inherent [as in Chile] in giving nearly unchecked power to an alliance of capital and the armed forces.”  [165]  He wrote in 2005 that those who fail to save for their future needs “are to be treated as subordinate members of the species, akin to … animals who are dependent’.”  [214]

Given the static two-party system in the US, it came as no surprise that Buchananite disciples discovered the Republican Party as a ready-made vehicle for political advancement.

“But while these radicals of the right operate within the Republican Party … the cadre’s loyalty is not to the Grand Old Party … Their loyalty is to their revolutionary cause … The Republican Party is now in the control of a group of true believers for whom compromise is a dirty word”  [xxvii-xxvii]

Political theorist S.M. Amadae says Buchanan “was mapping a social contract based on ‘unremitting coercive bargaining’ in which individuals treated one another as instruments towards their own ends, not fellow beings of intrinsic value.”  [151]

*****

This is a significant addition to our knowledge of how the elites run our lives and what they have in store for us.  Well worth the read.