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E-Pluribus | October 24, 2022
If it bleeds, it still leads; the Lost Boys... and Men; and how not to "fix" the free market.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Eric Medlin: The News Has A Catastrophizing Problem
In one of the most important pieces of journalism of the 21st century (ahem, ahem), I wrote in March about how Hyperbolic Discourse Is Literally Destroying Democracy. In a similar vein, Eric Medlin writes at Arc Digital about the tendency of the news media to focus on worst case scenarios and the distortion this introduces into the minds of the public.
[S]ome sectors in the media, some news operations, some journalists, find themselves unable to process the world’s happenings apart from a pessimistic editorial frame.
The following is needlessly fear-inducing, and yet it’s the conclusion one would naturally draw from being exposed day in and day out to these sorts of news sources: Russian victory means that Ukraine is one step closer to despotism, while Ukrainian victory puts the world closer to being irradiated.
This deep-lying cynicism isn’t coming from a philosophically nihilistic place—no, the cynicism is at least partly a function of the financial and social incentives to being a fear-peddler. News outlets and journalists are likely not convinced that the BQ.1 variant will kill millions of Americans or that a loss of the Donbas will cause Russia to nuke New York. Instead, they’ve realized that doom and fear-mongering garner clicks and retweets more reliably than other approaches.
When these news sources use fear to pad their bottom lines, this has a dual impact on readers. In some instances, readers take predictions of doom more seriously than is healthy for them. Their approach to life takes on an air of anxiety and fear. The cable news talk shows and the social algorithms know what they’re doing—users simply cannot look away. The other thing it does to readers is convey that the standard frame for understanding world events is catastrophe and apocalypse. The problem is that it flattens our understanding of what should count as an ordeal of that magnitute [sic] and what should not—now it all gets counted.
Read it all here.
Richard V Reeves: The Boys Feminism Left Behind
Richard Reeves writes at Bari Weiss’s Common Sense that the progress women have made over the past century or so in American society has redounded to the benefit of not just women but wider society as well, but did not come without a cost. As roles of and positions for women have opened up, roles for men have unavoidably shifted as well, and Reeves says we need to do a better job preparing men and boys for the new realities.
There are now more young women than men with university degrees in every advanced economy. Male wage growth has been sluggish in these countries; and men’s employment rates have been dropping around the world.
Some hear all of this and come to the conclusion that the women's movement has been a mistake and the solution is to wind back the clock. I disagree. The movement to liberate women has unleashed the power and talent of half of the global population—to the benefit of us all. But like all revolutions, it has generated real challenges, too. You don’t upend a 12,000-year-old social order without experiencing cultural side effects. In this case, it is the dislocation of many of our boys and men.
It is past time we recognized and started to address these problems. Doing so does not signal a retreat from feminism—or a belief that all misogyny and sexism have been eradicated. It is a recognition of our collective responsibility to deal with the downsides of radical change, as well as celebrate the upsides. For the longest time—pretty much all of history—the cause of gender equality has been synonymous with the cause of girls and women. No longer. It is now necessary to consider gender inequalities in both directions.
Doing this is in women’s economic self-interest. A world of floundering men is unlikely to be a world of flourishing women. If men struggle to find work or decent wages, that puts more pressure on women as breadwinners. Except in the richest U.S. families (i.e., the top fifth), all of the growth in household income since 1979 has resulted from the increased working hours and earnings of women. Since women also continue to take most responsibility for childcare, they often also end up working what the sociologist Arlie Hochshild labeled a “second shift” of domestic labor on top of their job. The double shift is most acute, of course, for those who are raising children alone. All those disconnected fathers mean that one in four children under 18 are being raised by a single adult—82 percent of whom are mothers.
Read it all.
Veronique de Rugy: Markets Aren't Perfect, but Government Is Worse
It is said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others; the same might be said of the free market and economic systems. At Reason, Veronique de Rugy takes a look at a new book by Samuel Gregg and the temptation to use the power of the state to tweak the market, but that the cure can be worse than the disease.
[. . .] Samuel Gregg [has written a] wonderful new book, The Next American Economy. Gregg's case for the free market goes beyond the classic economic argument.
He writes that "the case for free markets involves rooting such an economy in what some of its most influential Founders thought should be America's political destiny; that is, a modern commercial republic." He adds that "politically, this ideal embodies the idea of a self-governing state in which the governed are regularly consulted; in which the use of the state power is limited by strong commitments to constitutionalism, the rule of law, and private property rights; and those citizens consciously embrace the specific habits and disciplines needed to sustain such a republic."
[. . .]
No serious free marketer believes that markets are perfect. We aren't utopians. Unfortunately, perfect markets and perfect competition are often the starting point of economic textbooks. This rosy starting point leads many to conclude that when conditions are less than perfect, the best course of action for a correction is government intervention. It's wrong.
Not only is government itself imperfect, as anyone can plainly see, but the market is a process to find and fix errors. A market imperfection is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to profit. As Arnold Kling recently wrote, "Markets fail. Use markets." That's because, Kling adds, "entrepreneurial innovation and creative destruction tends to solve economic problems, including market failures."
This isn't to say that the government plays no role aside from protecting property rights. But it means that faith in government intervention should be tempered with an acknowledgment of government's own flaws, including a tendency to favor one group of people over another and an inability to adapt when policies fail or circumstances change.
Read the whole thing.
Who’s “white”? The New York Times wants to know:
A short back-and-forth on how some use the word “democratic”:
And finally, could a guest writer soon be read on Pluribus? Stay tuned: