My Aeon newsletter this morning contained this provocative article by Paul Sagar about how prophetic this maligned book by Fukuyama was regarding what’s ailing liberal democracy around the world now.
The first link above leads to a nice explanation of the results of the paper, and the second leads to an extended abstract that readers who are adept in econometrics (and other statistics-savvy people) will want to read closely.
It seems to me that the marginal benefit of same-sex marriage legalization includes the saving of many lives. The marginal economic cost is negligible, if it is even positive, compared to such a marginal benefit. Individuals wishing to argue that the moral marginal cost outweighs the marginal benefit will find it very hard to convince me of their case.
UPDATE: I changed “suicides” to “suicide attempts” in the title of this post for higher accuracy.
Philosopher of social science, Daniel Little, has written a blog post that places the political force that put Donald Trump in the White House in the context of right-wing movements in Europe that have, over several decades, pushed forward a populism based on racism, xenophobia, and an anti-democratic attitude towards the “corrupt elites” that pervade the previously mainstream political system. The post is well worth reading and contains many links of interest.
I just wrote a post with emphasis on the environment, not necessarily what people might have expected on the day after the momentous US election. Here is why:
I have no children of my own but I do love dearly a number of young people and generally feel for the plight of the young and the unborn to whom we leave this mess. Quite apart from the economic disaster that this election result is likely to produce, it does set back the recent world-wide progress on the environment, small and halting as it has been, and I find this casts a huge dark cloud over my thoughts.
Hatred must always be fought and vanquished. We have extra work to do now to keep vanquishing hatred, to stand by vulnerable people, to stand for our rights and freedoms, to protect the environment from the depredations of humanity.
Taking a global view, I worry that Earth’s ecosystem will purge homo “sapiens” if said species continues in its destructive ways, with strife overtaking cooperation, with walls being built instead of bridges, with mutual distrust raising the chance of hideous weapons being used again.
This election is another indication, among many in the last decades, that our species is not managing its affairs in its own long-term benefit. Thinking people, we have the duty to think of paths that will take us to a better place and to do what we can to steer humanity in its direction, with malice toward none. It’s a tall order, but I refuse to accept it is an impossible aspiration.
Or we can leave a literally scorched Earth to thriving populations of rats and cockroaches, species that seem to have awesome staying power in a changing environment. That seems eminently feasible, and inevitable if we do not actively fight the good fight.
(As posted to my Facebook timeline this morning, in reaction to the US election result.)
Hoshein Derakhshan has a thoughtful post on Medium entitled “Text vs. World Trumps“. The idea that the prominence of video on the Web is detrimental to political discourse is not new, but he makes a compelling case that it has become a threat to our civilization. Food for thought: How can we fight against this?
Yesterday I read a long article by the historian Timothy Snyder that is still rumbling around in my head. Granted, the article was published a few months ago, but it was new to me yesterday.
The premise is that we are not so far from living in Hitler’s world as we may think, we in the Western democracies. The environment is getting steadily worse, the economy is getting steadily more unkind to the non-rich, and easy, populist explanations blaming the Other are appealing to more and more people.
I highly recommend the essay by Snyder. Further, it taught me something that surprised me: Hitler accomplished most of his genocidal “achievements” in areas where he managed to destroy state institutions that supported some sort of rule of law. Destroying the center of authority does not create the conditions for a new democracy to flourish; witness what the US has done to Iraq. As I am thinking hard about the importance of social norms and social cooperation as the foundation for any sort of human welfare and prosperity, this struck me hard, especially as the frontrunner of the GOP presidential nomination gives every indication that he would relish smashing democratic institutions that stand in his way, to the extent his popular support allows.
Logician Kurt Gödel, famously, had serious reservations about taking the oath of US citizenship, because he saw how the US constitution does not preclude the establishment of a Hitler-style dictatorship. His buddies Albert Einstein and Oskar Morgenstern convinced him to not make a big fuss about it in front of the judge, so Gödel became a US citizen. Whether this story is correct or a little overblown, it seems to me Gödels’ worry cannot be breezily dismissed, especially in a world in which the threat of environmental catastrophe will tempt people to fight for resources, potentially killing billions, instead of reaching for scientific solutions. Snyder’s discussion poignantly points out that, while Hitler worried about feeding the German Volk, which needed Lebensraum to grow and prosper, he totally missed that the Green Revolution, already partially started with the efforts of German scientists, would in short order feed a growing human population without strain, and without the need for the kind of universal war Hitler started.
Here is Tyler Cowen in two posts (one, two) regarding the ineptitude of the Greek government. I think the link to Dani Rodrik’s piece a few years ago is an excellent reason to follow these posts (it’s in the second one; the first one is just a link to an amazing example of random behavior by a Greek government official).