nhaliday + org:theos   25

Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point: https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/02/22/christianity-is-the-schelling-point/
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/04/morals-should-be-adaptive.html
I agree with this
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.) - Reason.com
This is like a reversal of the industrious revolution studied in my JEBO paper: new consumption technologies are money cheap but time pricey

participation has changed along an understudied margin of labor supply. I find that “in-and-outs”—men who temporarily leave the labor force—represent a growing fraction of prime age men across multiple data sources and are responsible for roughly one third of the decline in the participation rate since 1977. In-and-outs take short, infrequent breaks out of the labor force in between jobs, but they are otherwise continuously attached to the labor force. Leading explanations for the growing share of permanent labor force dropouts, such as disability, do not apply to in-and-outs. Instead, reduced-form evidence and a structural model of household labor supply both indicate that the rise of in-and-outs reflects a shift in labor supply, largely due to the increasing earnings of men’s partners and the growth of men living with their parents.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen. My thoughts:

1. When we think of labor force participation declining, we think of, say, John Smith, deciding to never work again. What this paper is saying is that the statistics reflect something different. One month Smith takes a break, then next month he gets a job and Tom Jones takes a break.

2. I think we have always had a large number of workers who are not fully employed year round. That is, there have always been a lot of workers who take breaks between jobs. This is common in construction work, for example.

3. I don’t know if this matters for the phenomenon at hand, but we used to have inventory recessions. In those cases, workers would be out of a job for a while, but they would still be in the labor force, because they were waiting to be recalled by the firm that had laid them off.

4. It seems to me that this is an important paper. Re-read the last sentence in the quoted excerpt.

Job outlook growing worse for young American men: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/01/02/job-outlook-growing-worse-young-american-men-opinion/996922001/
As one might imagine, the absence of a job, quality education, or spouse has not bred otherwise productive citizens. Multiple studies have found that young men have replaced what would otherwise be working hours with leisure time at a near 1-1 ratio. Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, found that young men spent a startling 75 percent of this leisure time playing video games, with many spending more than 30 hours a week gaming and over 5 million Americans spending more than 45 hours per week.

Higher suicide rates, violent crime, and drug addiction among young men have followed. Suicide rates in the United States are at a 30-year high, with men more than three and a half times more likely to take their own lives than women. Around the United States, violent crimes, homicide in particular, has increased in two-thirds of American cities, with overwhelming young male perpetrators driving the increase. A 2015 Brookings Institute study estimated that nearly half of working-age American men who are out of the labor force are using painkillers, daily.

These problems have been “invisible” for too long.

As video games get better, young men work less and play more: http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/video-games-get-better-young-men-work-less-and-play-more

Why Are Prime-Age Men Vanishing from the Labor Force?: https://www.kansascityfed.org/~/media/files/publicat/econrev/econrevarchive/2018/1q18tuzemen.pdf

Prime-Age Men May Never Return to U.S. Workforce, Fed Paper Says: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-23/prime-age-men-may-never-return-to-u-s-workforce-fed-paper-says
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Historicity of the Bible - Wikipedia
Archaeological discoveries since the 19th century is open to interpretation, but broadly speaking they lend support to few of the Old Testament's historical narratives and offer evidence to challenge others.[a][3][4][b][c][d][8]

Pentateuch: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11646c.htm
Biblical Chronology: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03731a.htm

cf this guy's blog:

and Greg's twitter comment here (on unrelated subject):
Most wars known to have happened in historical times haven't left much of an archaeological record.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Hand that Rocks the Cradle | Rachel Lu | First Things
Factoring out the differentials in fertility, the sociologists estimated that without them, the American public would be more pro-choice by about 5 percent. That doesn’t fully account for the actual shift in attitudes. But it does suggest that fertility differentials have a real impact on public opinion.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Liberalism's Future by R. R. Reno | Articles | First Things
The survey was designed to expose two ranges of preferences. The first concerns how individuals rank their self-interest as compared to the interests of others. A fair-minded person sees them as equal. A selfish person is more likely to prefer his own interests. An “intermediate” person (the term the research paper uses) falls in between. The second preference concerns the relative importance of equality as compared to efficiency. A person who favors equality is willing to accept lower efficiency, while those who favor efficiency focus on growing the pie rather than cutting it evenly.

About half the Yale Law students are intermediates, people who give themselves a bit of a preference. The other half tilts strongly in the direction of the selfish. When it comes to equality or efficiency, which is to say, pie growing, the Yale Law students overwhelmingly opt for the latter.

To illuminate these results, the researchers did some comparative work. They mined data about under­graduates from the University of California at Berkeley. Then they looked at Americans in general.

The comparative results are fascinating. Under­graduates at the University of California at Berkeley tilt even more strongly in the selfish direction than the Yale Law students. They’re also efficiency-focused, though less so. The general population, by contrast, shows markedly different preferences. They’re significantly more likely to be fair-minded than selfish. They’re also more likely to favor cutting the pie equally rather than emphasizing efficiency to grow the pie.


The remarkable preference for efficiency we see in the overwhelmingly Democratic student body at Yale Law School also sheds light on today’s progressive priorities, which focus on identity politics, especially sexual identity. Gay rights are favored by rich liberals in large part because they’re seen as a cost-free way toward greater equality. There are lots of well-educated gays and les­bians who look, act, and think just like other elites. Sexual ­orientation “diversity” requires no bending of meritocratic rules, no set-asides, and no expensive, large-scale government programs.


I regret that places like Yale now use young people in such transparent ways: minorities bring “diversity,” rich kids keep the money flowing, foreign students facilitate the formation of a new global network, and meritocratic winners ensure “excellence.” There’s something intrinsically ugly about engineered “communities,” especially ones engineered for the purpose of maintaining and extending power. (Why would anyone concerned about the future of our society give money to these universities?)

So I wish Yale President Peter Salovey the worst. May the universities continue on their trajectory toward becoming rigid, mechanical, and artificial communities dominated by rent-seeking faculty, populated by alienated students, and governed by feckless administrators. Such institutions cannot attract loyalty, and they cannot create a culture for the future.

In some ways, this is a natural evolution of the increasing importance that racial inclusion has taken on in academic environments. Since the civil rights movement, racial inclusion has in the United States been the central measure of whether an institution has stood by its ethical commitments. Universities and academics were, more than any other institutions, the ones that pursued and promoted that measure of legitimacy, as it was meanwhile incorporated into law in the form of disparate impact legislation and a large portion of federal regulations; clearly their commitment to that ideology extends beyond affirmative action in admissions. Universities seemingly sincerely believe that their role in the world would diminish if they were seen to be non-inclusive institutions. (Seen to be is perhaps the operative term here, since visible diversity is what is most important.) When that ideology turns against the institution itself, what can a college president do but bow before it?

But there probably is still one more source of the inversion of power. Colleges and Universities garner an increasing portion of their donations not from the ordinary millionaires of old, but from the mega-rich created by our New Gilded Age. While the merely rich probably swing conservative in their political beliefs, this is not at all clear of the very richest people in the world; Carlos Slim, for example, #2 on the 2014 list, is the largest shareholder in the New York Times whose editorial board endorsed the protesters, and speakers aligned with the Black Lives Matters protests are have been regular guests at Aspen Ideas, Davos, and similar gatherings of the global rich. Whether Eisgruber is bowing before an impassioned undergraduate– or before the Davos Set’s priorities– is hard to know.
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april 2017 by nhaliday

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