441 Comments

This hits on an underlying theme of much of Matt’s writing: there’s something fundamentally unlikable about many American leftists. Figure out how to be more relatable/likable/normal and win more elections.

Expand full comment

That’s something I’ve noticed for a while. I’m in a weird space politically because I’m a democrat and center-left. But there is something I hate about the culture of the left that I find off-putting.

A self-righteousness, preachy, pretentiousness, a rejection of natural values such as in-group solidarity, patriotism, faith. A strong contempt for people who don’t think like them.

There’s a bit of a hipster mentality that likes being off-putting to normies. Take ACAB, that is cool among leftists but very off putting to regular people who may have law-enforcement in their families such as mine. Or thinking it’s cool to be unpatriotic when most Americans, tend to like America.

The culture of the left is a kind of rejection and contempt toward the American civic culture

Expand full comment

It's always amusing to me, as somebody on the Left, whne people talk about

The entire culture of the Right, from Goldwater on, was about destroying the American civic culture that was built by FDR, Eisenhower, and LBJ, whatevr their faults, from trying to block gay teachers from being able to teach to attacking Dukakis as unAmerican for being a member of the ACLU to swift boating Kerry to everything w/ Obama, etc.

Like, 40% of the country believes the election was stolen and teachers are in league w/ pedophile groomers, but some organizers who can't even win elections within their own urban area half the time are the ones destroying things, and I say this, as somebody who thinks the capital-L left is dumb on several poltical matters.

Expand full comment

"The entire culture of the Right, from Goldwater on, was about destroying the American civic culture:

Lol

Expand full comment

This is just straight blue-anon. Calm down.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

I mean, the American civic culture gets remade all the time. We're just in another process of that, where people are let into being equal parts of the culture, as opposed to a sideshow.

Expand full comment

A bunch of very left-leaning folks I know are fond of the "whitelash" theory that is the unstated corollary to this post, but I'll be frank:

Horseshit. The mainstream of American culture is more accepting towards and appreciative of African-, Hispanic-, and Asian-American cultural contributions and people than anytime in history, along with LGB folk, arguably T folks too, and basically every other minority group. That was an organic process, not complete but making substantial forward progress decade by decade.

The woke left's response to the last several decades of progress has been to basically yank the football, start screaming about "cultural appropriation", "unconscious bias", and "institutional racism", then back a bunch of supposedly pro-minority policies that the majority of those minority groups don't support.

This is *clearly* driven by the same hipster mentality bullshit that Sharty cites upthread regarding music; the post-scarcity politics of the woke left are not driven by material concerns or a desire to fix policy issues, but by social pressures and the desire to feel superior. All of its pathologies, and the unease/dislike with which it's regarded by the American-in-the-street, come down to this, and they're all splashing on the Democratic Party at the worst possible time.

The liberal tradition had come within a hair's breadth of winning the whole damned war for tolerance, the once-large majority of racists and prejudiced folks was reduced to a rump minority, and then the leftists decided to try to burn the whole edifice down.

Now, I get that this is in large part a response to the rightist idiocy and pathologies you describe above, but the fact is that the traditional liberal position is now held by the mushy middle and we could have built on it, maybe still could, if there weren't so many people busy chanting "Defund the Police!"

Expand full comment

The problem is you can't "let" people into culture. It has to be organic. The best example of a movement whose efforts led to their inclusion in civic life was the outing movement undertaken by gay people that began in the 1980's. It didn't ask people to do anything affirmatively. It merely assumed, correctly so, that by people realizing that many of the people who they knew and liked were gay, their acceptance would happen organically over time. The same approach should be used with spankers. Every spanker is a candidate to become a non-spanker, but not if you condemn them for believing in spanking. All that does is harden their position and it will take longer to convert them.

Expand full comment

We should have encouraged this sub-demographic to focus their energies on hating popular bands for the sole reason that they were popular.

I mean this about 40% in jest, but I think there's a similar pre-political id going on here.

Expand full comment

I agree in substance, but to some extent I think that your are appropriately disliking a caricature of (or the 10% most leftist part of) "the Left" deliberately created by the Right. Take legal processing of asylum seekers which would deny entry to almost all of them. That would certainly not be "Open Borders" but Fox News would say it was.

Expand full comment

"self-righteousness, preachy"

Lack of moral humility, perhaps? Cromwell's rule comes to mind: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, consider that you may be wrong."

A Canadian perspective: Joseph Heath suggests that the classic mistake of the Canadian left is to appeal to people's altruism rather than their self-interest. http://induecourse.ca/lessons-for-the-left-from-olivia-chows-faltering-campaign/

Expand full comment

Cromwell certainly did not apply that to his own fanaticism!

I'd say the mistake it to appeal to altruism (assuming the issue is zero sum) when there are non-zero sum ways of framing it. If there really is an altruism dimension (as with social distancing/masking/vaccinations) then honestly appeal to it.

Expand full comment

I agree with your former point about the lack of moral humility, even just epistemic humility more broadly, but isn't the altruistic appeal pretty radically successful in Canada for the most part? Like, the Liberals didn't forge a post-national immigrant-loving state on the basis of self-interest.

Expand full comment

"isn't the altruistic appeal pretty radically successful in Canada for the most part?"

Not really. Canadian immigration policy is primarily based on selection of people who are able to integrate and contribute to the Canadian economy (based on language, work skills, level of education, and family connections) - that is, it's win-win, making both the immigrants and Canadians as a whole better off. Refugee resettlement (which is primarily altruistic) is relatively small in comparison.

Another striking example: "There can be no doubt that many Canadians pay lip service to the idea of environmental protection. But when it comes to making sacrifices in order to protect Canada’s natural beauty, they turn out to be a lot less enthusiastic. When asked whether they would be 'willing to support price increases in order to protect declining or endangered wildlife from air pollution, acid rain, oil spills and pesticides,' 48 per cent of Canadians said no. That is a rather extraordinary number."

Popular support for multiculturalism is based on the fact that it works well. A detailed discussion of multiculturalism: http://induecourse.ca/canadian-exceptionalism/

Expand full comment

“that is cool among leftists but very off putting to regular people who may have law-enforcement in their families such as mine. ”

It’s also very off putting to people who don’t have any cops in their families and perhaps don’t even know any cop personally but:

1. Think these kind of generalizations are wrong, toxic and indecent

2. Think this specific rhetoric is classist

3. Thinks this notion is idiotic and dangerous because we effing need law enforcement and public safety and alienating them is moronic.

Expand full comment

CF Tabarrok's repeated posts about under-policing in the US.https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2022/08/still-under-policed-and-over-imprisoned.html

But still let keep in mind that relative few (even one is too many but few) real live politicians ever HAVE been anti-law enforcement/"defund the police." That is partly a Rightwing canard.

Expand full comment

Very few? Are DAs not politicians? They are elected office holders. Are mayors not? Multiple ones on some of the most major cities in the us were quite straightforwardly anti police around summer 2020 even if some of them (by no means all) have since walked back from that or have been recalled.

Expand full comment

I'd make a distinction of DA from mayors (and I don't know how many said what) DA's should be anti-police misbehavior w/o being necessarily anti-police. And that is a still different issue from how to prosecute minor crimes. That could be an error without it being anti-police

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

I’d agree excpet I’d change “ w/o being necessarily anti-police” to “while being broadly supportive of the police as a crucial part of law enforcement” or some such.

Unfortunately many DAs failed in their basic mission (to be fair not a few told voters exactly what they were about and were elected anyway. Voters were then dismayed when they did precisely what they promised they would do, to predictably horrendous results).

Expand full comment

I've been trying to reclaim that term as "Assigned Cop At Birth". It doesn't seem to go over well with leftists though. Can't imagine why - almost like some topics are Too Serious to ever joke about...

(More seriously, I can respect cops while still feeling involuntarily terrified around them due to universally poor personal interactions + media hype. This seems like a much more productive inroad to discussions on ideal policing. Such nuance is lost in the catchy slogan though...no profit, only pain. Just like Defund.)

Expand full comment

I agree with you, self-righteousness and preachiness are very off-putting. Glad to have this thread as an antidote to all of that. Leftists should try to emulate this way of communicating with people

Expand full comment

Double plus like Todd’s point

Expand full comment

What's ACAB ?

Expand full comment

All Cops Are Bastards. It’s said by very online leftist types.

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

I always read it as Assigned Cop At Birth. Constantly confuses me.

Expand full comment

I think in Boston and a few other big East Coast cities that's a legitimate identification.

Expand full comment

Also for 82 White Chain Born in Emptiness Returns to Subdue Evil, according to Tom Parkinson-Morgan.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

This is a point that I've made elsewhere - the very noticeable decline of the "patriotic" left, which I think starts post-WW1 and especially accelerates post-1960s. It's quite striking if you go back and look at American leftwing oriented political materials pre-WW2 (and especially pre-WW1) how much emphasis there was on continuity with "traditional" American values and presenting themselves as the "real successors" to the values of the Founders/Framers and that the rich industrialists/capitalists had corrupted the country and caused it to deviate from its founding ideals. You'll definitely find relatively little, "America is not just bad today, but has always been bad" content.

Expand full comment

The decline of the "patriotic" left parallels the rise to dominance of defaulting-to-sympathy-of-communism in the academy, I think. Once you start with "capitalism is bad and communism was a noble idea that unfortunately doesn't work in practice", it's very hard to maintain genuine enthusiasm for a country that is definitely more capitalist than the average First World country.

Expand full comment

Judging by what I see going on these days, I'd say that the right hates patriotism at least as much as the left.

Expand full comment

Of course what Leftists hate is not "patriotism" but the mistaken or cynical use of "patriotism" to re-enforce certain aspect of the status quo that Leftists think should be reformed. They need to make that distinction clear.

Expand full comment

You dropped “should” between leftists and hate in your first sentence. In point of fact some, esp. the in the loud Twitter faction absolutely do hate patriotism. And we can’t simply dismiss them under the no true Scotsman fallacy.

Expand full comment

Maybe the word I let out was "most." Only Fox news pretends to believe that Progressives/Leftists/Liberals is identical with the loudest Twitter faction. But I do accept that to the extent any do hate patriotism, they should not.

What could be less patriotic that saying that America needs to be made great "again" as it it is not now?

Expand full comment

Leaving aside the non sequitur in pointing out the other side isn’t patriotic either, I actually think that thinking you’re country isn’t good enough and seeking to improve it* is very much in line with, and perhaps necessary for, sober patriotism, which is the only worthy kind of patriotism. It’s also precisely the kind of patriotism the left exhibits at its best.

* I’m aware that I just made a significant paraphrase and positive spin on “make America great again”

Expand full comment

I mean, you're just wrong about this. A lot of young leftists will straight up happily tell you they hate America and think it's an evil empire.

Expand full comment

OK, I did not intend to say that no Leftist could be found that does not hate "patriotism." I do not believe that. But to say that "leftists" hate patriotism is more a Rightest canard than an empirical generalization.

Expand full comment

It would be interesting to see survey data since we all seem to agree that **some** leftists hate America but that they tend to be young and are probably a minority of leftists. Seemingly, the disagreement is in how prevalent they are.

I'd argue they're much more prevalent in twitter than in real life, where I've never actually met one. But I definitely know they exist.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

I see what you are getting at, but I think you underestimate the difficulty many find in embracing the views of people who define patriotism simply as worship of the military/police and wearing a flag pin

Expand full comment

How about we “reclaim” it as the kids say?

Expand full comment

As long as we start with the Chinese and Russian nation states, that could be a good idea. :)

Expand full comment

When you believe America is an engine of oppression then how can you be patriotic?

Expand full comment

But how many people believe that? And ones who do not should talk about THEIR values, the America that sticks up for the little guy, the America that create opportunities for children to have a better life than the parents, the America that people want to immigrate to to build a better life for themselves whale enriching actual residents.

Expand full comment

I don’t think many do. I do think the ones that do have a moral leverage in many institutions. Pushing back against this perspective comes at a price for Democrats.

Expand full comment

But also an electoral reward. :)

Expand full comment
deletedAug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

AFAICT there's _always_ going to be in-group solidarity - so the best you can do is help define the groups.

The advantage of nationalism/patriotism and a melting-pot approach is you're trying to define about as large a group as you reasonably can, and one that overlaps with the country you're actually trying to govern.

And then, you try to frame things like OBA in a patriotic pro-in-group way, including inviting more people into the group. But most people are status-quo biased, so they want to feel like their group isn't going to radically change when you do that.

Expand full comment

I think this is mostly right. I would modify it by saying that the best you can do is to help groups that don't perform as well as the in group, learn how to do better. I think most people can agree on this.

Expand full comment
Aug 19, 2022·edited Aug 19, 2022

Also, in this case the "in-group" we've been given to work with is the third most populous country in the world with a very ethnically mixed population and a national identity largely built around the immigrant experience. In terms of mitigating the most harmful side effects of in-group solidarity the US is already in a relatively good position. It would be much different if we were in a small homogenous ethnostate.

Expand full comment

Because then we basically wouldn't have either a social or political structure at that point.

People aren't 'atomized' individuals with no group ties.

Expand full comment

Would you also apply that same logic to family bonds as a form in/out-group? Is it OK to support your own family in ways that you wouldn't support strangers?

Expand full comment

The family is the basic unit of in-group organization on which all others are built, which is why you do see extreme movements try to dismantle it from time to time. Many flavors of Communism notably were quite hostile to the family, as were some iterations of radical Puritanism back in the 1600s [that generation where Puritans had everyone raise someone else's kids to avoid coddling them].

Expand full comment

You can extend that to friendships too. Family and friends are the most ubiquitous in/out groups in the world, and they are both functionally impossible without a sense of elevated responsibility within them.

Expand full comment

This is naive and I think is of a piece with susceptibility to EA-type utopian thinking where everyone in the whole world agrees on and conducts themselves in accordance with some objective God's-eye perspective of collective utility for humanity as a whole (in the most extreme cases, not just current living humanity but all future humanity too), rather than looking out for themselves and/or their community.

It's naive because it imagines that human relations and culture are reducible to something other than power, specifically relative power. That's one thing the postmodernists and critical theorists are right about. It's all about power, and the best to hope for is organizing ourselves into manageable-sized communities within which power is distributed in a tolerably equitable way. That only works if there's a decent amount of in-group affinity to move people to share power within the group. The globe is too large for that -- national communities are the largest feasible, and sometimes they're even too large.

Expand full comment

It wouldn’t let me like allan’s point, but i strongly agree with it

Expand full comment

That the postmodernists might be right is not a reason for their theory being forced onto people who are willing to be subordinate in exchange for the things the more dominant group can provide for them. Unless of course they have an alternative method of providing those things which they do not have. This is the problem in a nutshell. The transition from spanking to non-spanking has to be organic and the parent needs to learn how to discipline their child in a different way. If you demean them for using spanking as a form of discipline, your chance of getting them to vote for you is pretty low. The Dens make this mistake in election after election (deplorables) and it costs them just enough votes to tip the election to the other side.

Expand full comment
Aug 19, 2022·edited Aug 19, 2022

There is nothing more naive than thinking that “it’s all about power”.

Expand full comment

Well sure, we can all agree that such crude monocausalism is lame. But if that's really what I was suggesting I wouldn't be also talking about the importance of localized communities where in-group affinity --shared identities and cultural ties -- can operate to mitigate and constrain raw power, would I?

Expand full comment

For whatever reason, the discussion the other day about home cooking being bad comes to mind. Telling people "No, actually, cooking for your family is bad because -isms" seems like a great way to seem out of touch and alienate them.

(https://www.slowboring.com/p/matts-mailbox-1f6/comments#comment-8411431)

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

Terrific example, Stay out of my kitchen

Expand full comment

Updated James Carville-ism, from what I can see. And I mean that as a compliment.

Expand full comment

Helpful clarification!

Expand full comment

I’m atheist and never was raised religious, but I actually like it when people touting liberal ideas (helping the poor, being more tolerant toward minorities , etc) couch it in Christian values because I know it will be palatable to a lot of people. I find it cringey when people (like Dawkins for example) talk about how dumb religion is. Of course it’s a little dumb but come on these are things many people hold sacred chill out.

Expand full comment

Calling it “dumb” is a bit like calling literature dumb or love disappointing, it’s just too big and general of a thing in which too many people participated for too long in a myriad of ways to generalize like that. Some religious ideas and practices as understood by some people can be reasonably called stupid because some people are stupid , but some are wise and profound because some people are that too. That’s my secular take on it in any case.

Expand full comment

It's never quite clear to me how numerically large that slice of American leftists are, relative to how noisy they are online.

I know these people exist, but I suspect people overestimate how high a % they are of the Democratic party they actually are.

Expand full comment

Megan McArdle says the number of people in an average Twitter mob fills an average-size high school football stadium. Of course, not every Twitter mob includes every American leftist, but I think it is a nice visual representation of online life.

Expand full comment

The example I use is Megan Markel claimed that she was driven out of the UK by an avalanche of racist abuse on social media. The British government traced all the thousand of messages back to 30ish people.

Expand full comment

See also: any time the FCC gets correspondence about anything allegedly indecent on television.

Expand full comment

This is a great point that I've known to some extent for a while, but I thank Megan for distilling it to an easy analogy.

Expand full comment

Which is why I think it's good practice not to make generalizations of a political tendency based on them, any more than you'd people to make generalizations about conservatives based on some random megachurch.

Expand full comment

I wonder if some people who are less likely to support policies when they are told they have a larger benefit for historically marginalized groups

Do so due to general “ugh, those scoldy people on the left” sentiment.

Expand full comment

In other words, progressives shouldn't treat normal people the way you just treated them?

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

Maybe you find people who don’t hit their kids, are fine with all sorts of gays and don’t think the stuff in the bible happened to be really unlikeable. But I think a different way if stating Matt’s point is “modernization of values happens more unevenly in a society than us very-modernized people realize, due to social sorting.”

Expand full comment

I recommend taking a break from social media. Sounds like you're being shown a lot of opinions you hate

Expand full comment

Its worth trying to empathize with the spankers. Physical discipline is probably more effective in the short term. I tell my eight year old to control his voice multiple times a day. Usually, he deflects, sometimes he even makes fun of me by repeating what I say in an hysterical falsetto. I bet he wouldn’t do that if I popped him a few times! I might also extract more domestic labor from him if I used a broader spectrum of coercion.

I stick to the mildest forms of coercion because my child can “fail” safety. But if my respectability were hanging by a thread and I were afraid of social services being called if we didn’t hold the line, or I needed Charlie to do the laundry because I were working two jobs, or even if I spent much of my weekends doing chores because we couldn’t afford help, I might give more weight to the short term efficacy of spanking and worry less about modeling non-violence.

Expand full comment

Even liberal parents use physical coercion. What do you do if your child refuses to meekly submit to a time out? I pick him up and carry him to his room. That’s only possible because I am much stronger than him, my tactical advantage is so vast I can physically compel him without risking injury.

Expand full comment

The poll Matt cites uses the language "sometimes necessary" with regards to spanking. I'd love to have more granular information than that.

I think I was spanked four or five times in all of my childhood. Read strictly, that's absolutely an affirmative vote that my parents felt it was "sometimes necessary". But was their mindset more similar to a spanking abolitionist or to a tyrannical switch-wielder?

Expand full comment

It also uses the modifiers "good and hard" to describe spanking. That's the language that nudges me from disagree to strongly disagree.

Expand full comment

I think that's what makes the results even more striking (lol), that with that language in there, it's still so palatable to so much of the population.

Expand full comment

Yeah, that phrase didn't need to be in there.

Expand full comment

The question certainly looks different with that phrase removed. Too bad there was not a cohort that got the question without the phrase.

Expand full comment

So I got my kids to take up MMA and Krav Maga... End result? If I tell my kids "either you do X or I'm going to spank you", their reply is "yeah, just try and see what happens"... and they got the skills to back that up (I haven't trained seriously enough in decades)... :)

Expand full comment

Krav Maga. That's going to be my new vocabulary word for the day.

Expand full comment

Say the r hard and emphasize the 'ga' syllable like an Israeli, it sounds even cooler.

Expand full comment

That only lasts so long, especially if you lift with your back.

Expand full comment

I was thinking more in terms of the 3.5 year old who wanders into traffic. I can half imagine a quick spank—obviously not forceful enough to inflict actual pain but enough to get their attention—would potentially serve as a life-saving heuristic by imparting a strong negative association to a very dangerous practice. I mean, at that age their powers of reasoning are limited.

I'm strongly anti-corporal punishment of any kind, for what it's worth. But I wouldn't call a parent who engaged in the above a monster.

Expand full comment

I find strong anti-corporal punishment ideals a little odd in general. I'm talking here about the general case, not only in parenting That's because it feels arbitrary to draw a line between physical punishment and other forms of punishment and call the one cruel and unusual and other acceptable. Some physical punishments are truly horrible, but some would be easy to shrug off. And likewise for non-physical. For example, if I personally had to choose between a Singapore-style caning and life imprisonment I would go for the former.

Similarly when I think about the times my parents punished me I one of the worst I can remember was a day when my dad got frustrated and called me "a little piece of ****". It took me months to get over that. But the sole single time he physically disciplined me I got over it right away. And it's worth noting that I completely got the point and never did anything like that thing again (I was 8 or 9 and kind of rough-housing or pushing around a girl at the playground).

Expand full comment

>>>I find strong anti-corporal punishment ideals a little odd in general.<<<

I was referring principally to parenting. I haven't thought much about its use in criminal justice, mainly because most countries I'm interested in don't employ it, so I haven't found it particularly relevant.

I'm opposed to the use of corporal punishment in child-rearing, but as I hope my original comment made clear, I'm no zealot or extremist on this issue. I think the most compelling reason not to hit a child is that doing so might cause him or her physical harm. Sure, the vast majority of persons wouldn't deliberately harm a child in this manner, but humans don't always exercise sufficient restraint; so on the whole, I think de-normalizing the corporal punishment of children, to the extent we've been able to do so, is highly desirable.

Expand full comment

I concur - all punishment is using a psychological negative to deter behavior you deem negative. Doesn't matter whether the punishment is time out, grounding, loss of privilege, spanking, etc. Some clearly don't have a place at any point, others used appropriately can help guide behavior to develop good habits and successful approach to life.

When I was younger, right after I had gotten a spanking from my dad, an older family member told me that I would come to appreciate the swiftness involved. At the time, my thought was "you're crazy, that hurt!" Thirty years later, how I wish the consequences for some of my own stupidity could be over in a 5 minute talk about exactly how I behaved in way I knew was wrong followed by 90 seconds of moderate pain.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

Yes, that's why you always want to set expectations and avoid punishing for them when they act in ignorance. Which can be hard! Little punks do random stupid stuff at the worst times and seem to delight in doing it when you're emotionally/physically exhausted.

On the other hand, once you explained not to do something, then there should be negative consequences for doing it. They should be reasonable and proportionate to the circumstances, but failing to provide that lesson is negligent parenting.

Expand full comment

Kids are frustrating. Discipline can be hard to separate from stress relief for the parent. As you point out, verbal ‘discipline’ can be a channel for the parents frustration just like physical. for most of us, the risk is not equal, and I’d wager the pro spanking group is not generally self knowing on this. But sometimes quick decisions need to be made on the fly and you know you aren’t coming up with the best option, parenting happens 24/7 not just when you’re rested and everything is going well etc etc.

So anyway, practically, what are some helpful rules? Don’t curse at your kids, don’t call them names, don’t hit them. These are all ways to smuggle some stress relief into disciplining your kid, when in reality properly executing the discipline should be an additional source of stress for you (generally at the worst possible moment)

we live in an imperfect world. If your dad saw you hit a girl and he hit you (or said something hurtful) it might work! Hurtful but not scarring, and achieve the desired result. But that’s not a plan for life, it’s reacting. Although sometimes it seems that’s all we can do.

How do you work stuff like this into a statement on Values? It feels like I’m talking about practicalities but from where I’m sitting that’s how life tends to play out…

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

Liberals would not be a big fan of Buddhism's idea of the two arrows of pain and suffering -- that one can feel pain but not suffer, or one can feel little pain but suffer greatly anyway. They are big fans of a more materialist theory of life in which basically the quality of your life is strictly determined by how good or bad your subjective experience of that life is. Probably the most inconvenient fact for the broader ideological project of Western liberalism (meaning here this package of individualism, economic prosperity, material well-being) is that these wealthy and well-off groups with lots of individualism have staggeringly high rates of depression and suicide.

Expand full comment

I once told my now nominally adult daughter that “corporal punishment was invented for children like you so you are lucky that I don’t believe in it.“

Expand full comment

That’s the only situation in which I’ve ever applied physical force beyond just carrying my kid somewhere; she ran out, almost got hit by a car, and was too young to understand the consequences so she got an immediate whack to the back of the hand to provide a substitute, and “that car would have hurt like this only much worse.”

The research mostly says that physical punishment doesn’t work because it’s not understood as a consequence for a prior action. When you’re using it in the traditional manner, which is basically vengeance, it doesn’t.

This did; she yells “a car is coming”every time we come to a crosswalk and waits for me even when she’s run off ahead. Maybe she would have done that after just a stern yelling, but I doubt it.

Expand full comment

I called these types of episodes "life and limb" and I did not hesitate to put a spank on a butt for that. I was slapped in the face by my mother and spanked when needed by my father. I was also called many names by both. I never wanted to be like my parents, consequently never slapped nor called my kids names, time out or loss of privilege was my main avenue of punishment, except for life and limb

Expand full comment

I've actually seen that happen and I think it's fine.

Expand full comment

I remember distinctly that being exactly the circumstance in which I received one of very few (less than 5 I'm sure) wallops. I don't hold any grudges for that.

But yeah it's a bad thing to do as a general rule.

Expand full comment

Spanking was only delivered as a consequence for running-into-traffic type behavior when I was a kid. And then only a handful of times. Both my parents were certainly spanked as children — often and hard. This seems to be a norm that has only shifted in the last generation at most.

Expand full comment

When we had our kids I read up on spanking etc. and the result I reached was that there was some evidence that spanking worked under roughly the following circumstance:

(IIRC it attempted to actually do controls)

You've imposed a time-out(let's assume for good reasons). The kid will _not_ stay in time out. The paper found the next best step was to put the kid in a time-out that they could not escape. Failing this, a quick spank as a consequence _NOT_ for the bad behavior, but for leaving time out, could help enforce the time out norm, which is the punishment you _actually_ want to impose. It also helps you not do it in anger - you limit it to a consequence just for leaving timeout, not anything else.

Expand full comment

This sounds like good advice. I'm at a loss with what to do with my 4 year old when she's in her worst tantrums.

Expand full comment

I found that young kid's moods are very volatile, which is bad in that they can go bad very quickly, but also that turning my son upside down and shaking him made him laugh.* Hard to throw a fit when you're laughing. Once I reset his mood, then we could actually move forward. Didn't always work, especially if he was in trouble. But at that age, something that works 70% of the time was a lifesaver.

*Negative side affect was that he really enjoyed it and wanted me to keep doing it. Which was fine when he was little, but my back now has regrets. Also, not sure when the switch flips, but if you swung me around like I do him, I would scream bloody murder and puke my guts out.

Expand full comment

Yea, now that she rarely throws a tantrum at all we often short-circuit them by redirecting. But early on we wanted her to get better at self-regulating so we left her to it for a few months first.

Expand full comment

I can’t speak to how general this is, but when our 4 year old throws one we basically just blow her off until she’s able to snuffle her way somewhat calmly through a request, unless whatever she initially threw it over was an urgent physical need in which case we’ll provide it anyway.

She doesn’t throw them often. Not sure how much of that is innate because how much is because she understands they get her nothing.

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

Yeah, that's basically what I do. It's rough though since blowing her off will lead her to escalate. She'll get in my face Jerry Springer style and start yelling or sort of hitting at me. And at that point I can't blow it off, so she gets put in her room until she calms down, but that can take a while and I almost always need to eventually "change the mood" in some way by making her forget about why she was angry; she doesn't seem capable of doing that herself, or at least it takes longer than the 15 minutes I give her to try.

I don't know what's with her or where she gets that. I don't really have great comparison points, but according to my mom I almost never had tantrums.

Expand full comment

I think David R.'s approach seems sound, though like so much with kids it can depend on them. Kids *especially little kids* have only one way to get what they want - to convince you. So they will experimentally try stuff to see what works. If screaming works when asking doesn't, they'll scream. If screaming doesn't work, then they'll try other experiments on you. Try to reward the behavior you want while ignoring/rebuking the behavior you don't.

Expand full comment

"it can depend on them."

This is a very polite phrase for "we have no bloody clue what the little bastards are thinking". I prefer the latter.

:-D

Expand full comment

Hmm. So ours won’t escalate to hitting… but 15 minutes definitely wasn’t enough when we started and she would really get stuck in. I let her stew in it for 45 once before she calmed down and then things seemed to taper off from there.

Expand full comment

That's useful to hear.

Expand full comment

For a while we had an old high-chair with a buckle and we made that the timeout chair. They were capable of getting out of it, but it took a little bit of doing, which made it an easier thing to have a "don't cross that line" line. (By the time they were too big for it overall it was easier to explain consequences, take away electronics etc)

Of course every kid is different. We have twins and they definitely had different reactions to this stuff.

I wish you the best of luck.

Expand full comment

Great point. I would add that high SES and low SES parents are raising very different children. On average, low SES children will be more difficult to raise not just because of the circumstances of the parent but because of the genetic traits of the child.

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

This is horrible borderline eugenics stuff here. Unless I misunderstand and you’re not actually implying poor people are genetically inferior ?

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

I'm not sure how true that is, but how could you deny that it's possibly part of the equation? Would you deny:

* Parents are somewhat like their children in terms of personality

* Some or most of that is culture, ie how they were raised, but some indeterminate but noticeably part is genetics. Some people are stubborn, for example, or risk-avoiding or risk-seeking. Those traits seem to be passed in my family, for example.

* Personality traits have some bearing on your success in life, and therefore your SES status.

Would you disagree with any of those items? Boiling that down to "poor people are genetically inferior" is kind of the worst-faith interpretation of them. For example, if we found that risk-seeking/avoidance has a genetic component, and that one of the other correlated with high or low SES, I still certainly wouldn't describe one version of that trait as superior and the other as inferior. Different people can be successful in different ways in different situations - think Accountant vs. Navy Seal or Pro Surfer.

But there still may be correlates that relate back to the topic at hand. And this is an under-researched topic. There may be genetic traits that predispose a person to one or more anti-social behaviors. Or there may not be, neither of us know for sure! But suppose there are - they would likely also correlate with poverty and difficult children.

Expand full comment

I really disagree. A risk taking teen from a high SES family gets loaded and steals a car. He gets caught, no charges are filed, at most he sees a therapist. 20 years later its an anecdote in his memoir about how he's always taken risks, including founding ShittyTech Inc., the hot new tech company that does nothing and is valued at a trillion dollars. A risk taking kid from a low SES family does the same thing. He gets arrested. He goes to juvie, and joins a gang for protection. Released at age 19 with no diploma, no GED, and no familial safety net, he continues working with the gang selling and using drugs and spends the next twenty years in and out of custody before dying during a botched robbery. Genetics may have provided their personalities, but class determined their fates.

Expand full comment

This is now onto a totally different topic, but in this "just so" story, where do you want the state or system to act differently? It would be nice if we could dismantle and disband all drug gangs, for example, but that's easier said than done. I'm not clear on why charges aren't filed in the first example (isn't that up to the victim?) but it seems like the problem is more that, in the unusual case of a rich kid stealing the car, he should have also gone to juvie. In the latter case, I'm not sure what should have been done differently - as far as I understand first time juvenile offenders are generally treated pretty lightly, even for serious crimes.

Expand full comment

To clarify: the rich kid gets dropped back with his parents by the cops, because "boys will be boys". The poor kid in the rough neighborhood doesn't get that kind of favor. "Pressing charges" isn't really a thing. A crime victim who wants the offender punished can encourage the prosecutor, but ultimately its a matter of prosecutorial discretion. Conversely, a victim refusing to cooperate with the investigation won't stop a prosecutor from pursuing the case.

In my other response, I peg the genetic/nature source of antisocial behaviors at at least 75%. The rest should be environmental/nurture. Low SES people may be more exposed to the "nurture" sources of antisocial behavior, so it may be that a slightly higher percentage of low SES people have antisocial behaviors. What can govt do? One, provide infant and early childhood care and resources to low SES families. Two, equalize public school funding. No more differing school budgets based on rich neighborhoods property taxes. Antisocial, high SES people are more able to access adult resources like mental health treatment and drug rehab. Govt should aggressively extend those resources down the ladder. Finally, in my view, high-SES society often rewards antisocial high-SES individuals. Adam Neumann, for example: a known, documented charlatan, con artist and sociopath, is getting hundreds of millions in funding for his new venture from established investors who should know better. Neumann's venture will fail, he will get richer, and his enablers will pass the loss onto their investors, insurance companies, and probably taxpayers. Not sure how, but govt should stop those behaviors, too.

Expand full comment

So you're saying that environmental factors are a driver in SES outcomes. Everyone here likely agrees with you! I agree with you. The question is not whether SES contributes to outcomes, but how much it contributes to outcomes versus inherited traits.

How about this true story: parents in a blue collar neighborhood raise 3 kids. The eldest boy goes on to be a doctor. The middle girl goes on to run a yoga studio. The youngest boy is a drug dealer who lived at the top of my mom's street mean-mugging passersby and recently pistol whipped and shot at a customer who tried to rob him at knifepoint. A year prior his ear was almost sliced off in knife fight. Did class determine their fates?

Expand full comment

(Late response; I got busy at work)

Yes, class determined their fates, too. Because in the wealthy family across town, the eldest son is not just a doctor but a celebrity doctor. His younger sister owns a chain of Pilates studios. And his youngest brother is in finance, has a cocaine habit, has been subject to three separate SEC investigations, and committed more than one sexual assault in his fraternity days.

Or look at the Trumps. Raised in wealth. One sister a middle class "normie", one a distinguished federal judge. One brother a successful businessman, one dead from alcoholism, the third accused of multiple sexual assaults, financial improprieties, and instigating violence.

As I see it, these hazily described antisocial behaviors we're discussing are primarily (>75%) genetic. But the life outcomes those behaviors bring are probably 90% attributable to class, and the behaviors are distributed almost equally (see other response) up and down the socioeconomic ladder. The OP seemed to imply that the poor and the criminal are such because of genetic predisposition; I disagree.

Expand full comment

Yes, thank you!

Expand full comment

I think you're overestimating the relative incidence of these two stories you're spinning here.

I seriously doubt " a similar subset of all teens act crazy, it's just the socioeconomic status that determines what happens to them when they act crazy" is near the whole story."

Expand full comment

Perhaps, but what drives them crazy is also a question.

Expand full comment

I would start by being at a minimum agnostic about point no. 2.

I would continue by asking precisely how much bearing “personality traits” have compared to the environment you’re raised in, the opportunities you get etc.

Expand full comment

You're really agnostic about even the general claim that some fraction of personality is genetically determined? If personality is a physical trait existing in the brain, how can that possibly be true?

Expand full comment

The brain is made by genes.

Expand full comment

Is it though ? “Personality” is actually a very complex concept. I don’t think it’s as simple as “a physical trait existing in the brain” and my geneticist significant other always alerts me to the great complexity of I heritage even when it comes to far more straightforward things .

Expand full comment

Story time fwiw:

I have a friend with 6 daughters - 2 by adoption and 4 biological. His 4 bio daughters are incredibly well behaved, and judging by that as well as his values and resources they will also probably do very well in life (as long as they didn't inherit the alcoholism that destroyed their maternal grandparents and put their mother and aunt in foster care).

His 2 adopted girls are from the same mother but different fathers. That woman has now had at least 3 daughters by 3 different fathers and each one was ordered by the state courts to be put up for adoption / fostering. They are muuuuuuuch more difficult to raise. The one barely started talking at age 4 and has scary scary temper tantrums where she hurts herself and others. The other has an issue that may be autism. I hope they turn out well and from an environment standpoint they've lucked out. But it's possible that they've been dealt a rough hand, genetically speaking.

Expand full comment

I have neighbors that had two daughters of their own, but also took on a third girl from her sister, who is just fundamentally unfit to be a parent. It's been clear that each one is showing the traits, for better or worse, of their mothers thus far.

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

You do realize that there could be 100 confounding factors, yes? There are also factors like situation in pregnancy and epigenetics that confound things further. Finally there are precisely inverse anecdotes, e.g. famous lawsuit in Japan where two babies were accidentally switched in childbirth, one from a very well off family, one poor and working class. Each turned out precisely like their adoptive family. The one adopted to the working class who grew up to be working class little education bad health outcomes etc found out the truth and sued for millions in damages (and lost as I recall).

This is also an anecdote but arguably a better one because here i believe the parents actually didn’t know the kids were de facto adopted so didn’t treat th any different (even subconsciously) nor did the kids know this growing up, which may well be a confounding factor in cases such as the one you describe.

P.S.

Children given up for adoption can hardly be assumed to be representative of a whole class.

Finally, The argument that genetic factors can sometimes effect outcomes is far more limited than suggesting that this is something that can be generalized about the *average* member of a class.

Expand full comment

Personality has a large impact. So much so that it is the basis for many hiring assessments into adulthood.

Which is legally defensible and widely used because it reasonably accurately predicts job performance across a wide range of jobs, professional and not.

I do not endorse the parent comment that poor kids are harder to raise on average, btw. There’s a spectrum of personality traits across all backgrounds.

And would also note that there’s a decent sized literature on neighborhood parenting interactions that suggest that harsher parenting in less problematic in worse neighborhoods. Had to jump in on personality though!

Expand full comment

I'm certainly also agnostic on the relative size of the inputs - is it 10% nature and 90% nurture or is it the other way around? I truly have no idea and I believe it's unresolved in the scientific literature. But there is clearly **some** genetic component and that's obvious to most people.

Have you ever read stories on twins separated at birth? There is a really fascinating one on 2 sets of twins in Bogota where 1 of each pair was accidentally swapped. One pair was very introverted, the other extroverted, and that followed biological lines, not the example of the parents that raised them. One pair was raised middle class and urban, the other rural and very poor, which is also interesting.

https://www.npr.org/transcripts/705487258

"I would continue by asking precisely how much bearing “personality traits” have compared to the environment you’re raised in, the opportunities you get etc" Personality traits and environment likewise both contribute to success in life. So does luck. I'm sure that the share of all 3 is more than zero, but other than that I can't say with any certainty and I'm sure it varies by individual circumstances.

So some poor people may be poor mostly because of traits, some because they never had a chance, and others mostly because of bad luck. That still means the original poster is not wrong if he/she meant that **on average** poorer people have traits that **on average** lead to poverty.

Expand full comment

Nature and nurture seem to be pretty close to 50/50 as influencers of adult behavior. Of course, parents are only part of the nurture equation, there are also grandparents, teachers and the broader community. Also, because if meiosis, a fertile man and woman can produce 80 trillion different genetic combinations of offspring. Siblings can vary quite a bit, as they represent different throws of the meiotic dice

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

But even that is oversimplified. Perhaps some traits *lead* to poverty whereas others *keep* you in poverty ? Perhaps some of those that lead you into poverty are also more likely to lead the next generation out of it? Perhaps a certain combination of traits cancels out. Even if genetics have some effects on personality on the individual level it’s just a dozen huge logical leaps to conclude that the poor overall are on average thus with some different genetic traits. If anything, I’d wager that the rich strata are likely to have more disadvantageous heritable personality traits because they’re more likely to be able to afford to have them, but I’m skeptical of that too.

P.S.

Are the traits likely to lead one to be poor today the same as two generations ago? If not, how does that compare with just having a poor grandparent is a likely factor in being poor for non-genetic reasons (environment, opportunities etc)? Wouldn’t the changing needs of the economy over time contrast with the statistically significant likelihood of people remaining in the class they grow up work against the hypothesis that classes can develop distinct personality-related genetic traits?

Expand full comment

While uncomfortable, there may be some truth to this. Checkout Yglesias's Oct 2021 interview of Kathryn Paige Harden that covers her relevant research and book, "The Genetic Lottery". [1] This fragments of her answer to a question seems particularly relevant.

> When people think about genetics, they so often think about it purely in the vein that we've been talking about it so far, which is how are parents like their kids, right? How are kids like their parents? But half of the genetic variability is within families. Right. Genetics is also about difference and the way that differences play out. How are my kids different from me, how are my kids different from one another? And so, you know, often when people kind of back up to a very strong you know, “there is no way that genetics influences something like education or intelligence or personality.” I really am like, have you ever spent time with children before? Like, have you been around them? Because I think if you are around them, particularly if you're around, you know, siblings or cousins, you have this front row seat to see how genetic difference plays out, very early in development. Like my children as infants felt very, very different to me in terms of their temperament. And then also like what they elicited from me in terms of my maternal behavior.

[1] https://www.slowboring.com/p/interview-with-kathryn-paige-harden

Expand full comment

And to be clear, none of this research implies "poor people are genetically inferior". A key point that Kathryn Paige Harden discusses and develops in her book is that variation among people is a good thing, but our social systems can unfairly reward and punish people for variations that may have at least a partial genetic component. One of her chief motivations for writing the book is to highlight the inequities of our current institutions with regard to people’s innate differences.

And these innate differences aren’t deterministically genetic. Due to random genetic shuffling, the genetic siblings of a single couple can still vary considerably. One child may receive a particularly favorable set of genetic gifts—favorable within our current institutions and social/economic structures—while their sibling may receive fewer. Yet neither sibling should be massively rewarded nor penalized in their dignity and quality of life due their luck of the “Genetic Lottery”.

Expand full comment

“…none of this research implies ‘poor people are genetically inferior.’”

“Inferior” is a value judgement, not a scientific one, unless discussing a very narrow and well-defined topic. I, for instance, am dramatically more likely to develop skin cancer than my wife is, given the same amount of exposure to sunlight. That in no reasonable sense indicates that I am broadly genetically inferior.

Expand full comment

Worse genetics does not then imply eugenics. It is, though, absurd and crazy to deny that the poor, on average, are less intelligent, less patient, and more impulsive.

Expand full comment

Not sure that’s at all “absurd and crazy” to deny those stereotypes but even if that’s correct I don’t see why that proves that those characteristics are innate let alone genetic

Expand full comment

I judiciously spank my kids when I deem it necessary.

But even here in Alabama you have to be careful about admitting it, because you might have some annoying progressive busybody waiting for an excuse to call CPS on you.

If a small minority of people are able to dominate the direction of social pressure in this way, I think it's appropriate to call that true, actual 'privilege'.

Expand full comment

Are there any other groups of people you think it should be legal to use violence on to get them to act like you want?

Expand full comment
founding

I'm not Belisarius, but YES!

- People who drive slowly in the left lane

- People who play overly-loud stereo systems in their cars

- People who emphasize and use "THE" before Ohio State University

- Instagram Influencers

- People who don't pick up their dog's poo. (Yeah, I'm talking about you, Frank)

I'm sure there are others.

Expand full comment

- People who in a buffet line who decide to pick all the good tomatoes out of the salad bowl while taking their own sweet time as everyone behind them stares

- Anyone who drives a Harley and purposefully makes it louder.

- People who write personal checks at the grocery store and decide to, despite the long line of people waiting, decide to try to strike up a conversation

- Anyone who "rolls coal"

Expand full comment

O-H!

Expand full comment

People in a long line at a fast food place who wait until they get to cashier to only then and very very slowly start to ponder what it is they might order after further due consideration.

Expand full comment

Doesn't sound very freedom maximizing.

Expand full comment

Strawman.

Expand full comment

I think there’s a correlation between the first group and the third group. I lived in Ohio briefly and there’s an extraordinarily high population of people who don’t understand proper usage of the left lane. Sorry, Buckeyes, pet peeve.

Expand full comment

I don't root for anyone in college football, but was thrilling to see Michigan proverbially spank OSU on the field last season just so some of their fans could be taken down a notch with some of the overboard stuff they do.

Expand full comment

I did even know about the UM v OSU rivalry until I went to OSU for grad school, and seeing OSU fan behavior was enough to lead me to minimize ever mentioning my having gone there. (I trust you all to keep my secret safe.)

Expand full comment

Believe me, the thrill doubles when your brother-in-law is an OSU grad and your favorite QB went to Michigan.

Expand full comment
RemovedAug 18, 2022·edited Aug 19, 2022
Comment removed
Expand full comment

My favorite is when I slow down to turn left into my own goddamn driveway and someone who was riding my ass (on our two lane, 25 mph residential street) honks then swerved to pass me ON THE LEFT just as I was starting to turn. This happened to us two days in a row, same guy… my husband is a big guy, he steps out of the car the second time and starts walking to toward the guy, who was scared shitless- never happened again

Expand full comment

Cars predate the internet in fostering aggressive anonymous behavior that few people would actually follow through when they're face to face with people.

Expand full comment

I referenced this here some time ago and someone yelled at me for it, but when some kid called my daughter a “chink” on the playground, I waited for his mom to jump on it, then loudly and performatively yelled over to her to beat his ass until he was bleeding on the ground if he did it again, then stared down mom.

Have seen them since. The little shit stays quiet.

The world runs on the threat of violence and anyone who would have you pretend otherwise is a deluded fool who has successfully outsourced that job far enough away that they can pretend it’s not necessary.

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

You can be for or against whether spanking is correct, but do remember that violence is the underlying mechanism behind the state's coercive power. To answer your question, the state believes it can use violence against every group of people to get them to do what it wants.

Expand full comment

You mean like the government? The police?

Children are...children.

I doubt you would react well to being locked up for most of the day for 12-13 years at this point in your life. But we require kids to go to school, and we should.

When it comes down to it, every society is built upon the principle that if you don't do what society tells you to, then they will send men after you to physically force compliance and/or lock you up.

Expand full comment

Yes, the issue is how much society should tell you to do and the proper calibration of force when it is needed.

Expand full comment

I don’t understand this. In general I can dictate many terms to my child and employ different coercion than I can to an adult. Legally I am required to, or else the state will take my child away as my negligence would be endangering them.

Expand full comment

Are there any other groups of people from whom I can confiscate possessions, or imprison in their room, like I do when my kids act up? I don’t spank my kids but “what if it wasn’t your kid” is not a serious answer to anything involving child discipline, because parents are just in a different relationship with their kids than with everyone else.

Expand full comment

This is a total non-sequitur and not a clever a rebuttal

Expand full comment

Okay, more specifically yes - we use physical force and even violence to stop people from doing bad things. If you saw a someone beating up a smaller person, would you intervene even if you had to use violence to stop it? If someone was taking your car or various other stuff, would you fight to keep it?

You can make a reasonable case that spanking has net negative outcomes, so make that case. Declaring outright that violence is de facto bad and so we don't use it is clearly incorrect and therefore silly.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve handled a few of these cases. If a parent uses physical discipline against an older boy who fights back rather than submitting, that sometimes is prosecuted. Even worse, the go to charge is a felony, so a decent person whose never even had a DUI in 42 years can be facing a few years in prison if a jury convicts him.

Expand full comment

Why is the deciding factor whether the child fights back?

Expand full comment

because that escalates violence beyond a simple spanking into the “politically feasible to prosecute” range. also, a kid who fights back is more likely to call the cops on his dad then one who doesn’t

Expand full comment

A few years in prison for misdemeanor assault?

Expand full comment

He said it's commonly charged as a felony in his state.

Expand full comment

To be fair to Henry's question, was that spanking in a generally accepted way? I'm sure I couldn't answer, but I feel like spanking becomes less generally accepted as a child ages.

Expand full comment

Sounds like the problem was, the parent didn't realize their child could fight back.

Expand full comment

I think this is wrong. I think effective discipline just requires escalation. My father was exceptionally quiet. When he raised his voice, we were scared as shit. If you yell all the time then, yes you may need corporal punishment. If you keep a more metered approach through the upbringing process then you probably do not.

I agree, nonetheless that we should be more empathetic about it. I don't think spanking is inherently bad. It is the risk of the spankers emotions getting mixed up in it and it not being proportional that is most concerning.

Expand full comment

Agreed - with _any_ punishment/consequence it's easy for emotions to run high in the moment - spanking is a particularly risky to let your emotions get control of.

Expand full comment

For me, the bottom line is that I just can't bring myself to hit my son. That's not the kind of relationship I want to have with him.

My principles are:

-Apply the minimum amount of coercion necessary to achieve needed result.

-Persuasion and appealing to my son's mind/values is always better than coercion, if possible. E.g., I'd rather he did x because "that's what nice kids do, and I'm a nice kid" than "if I don't do x, Mommy will be angry." Of course, YMMV depending on the child's age; my son is 7.

-Target the behavior, not the child. E.g., "z is the wrong thing to do," not "you're a bad kid for doing z." Let him know that I love him even when he's behaving in a way I don't like.

Expand full comment

And now, to balance the liberal viewpoint above, I'll post something conservative-ish.

I firmly believe that people ought not to have children unless they are in a happy, stable marriage. Raising a child this way - being calm and patient, trying to reason with them when they're being bratty, rather than just smacking them or yelling at them - is very hard and emotionally taxing. You really ought not to do this unless you have a loving, supportive, committed spouse sharing the workload with you. Also, when you're both the sole parent and the sole breadwinner, you are naturally going to be more stressed and exhausted, and that will have an effect on how you relate to your kid.

Expand full comment

How does this balance the liberal viewpoint? Most liberal elites, especially those with kids, are married. And I'm sure they try, at least as much as conservatives, for those marriages to be happy and stable.

Expand full comment

Yes, but some left-wing people would claim that it's conservative/classist/racist to expect all parents to be married, or to value married parenthood over single parenthood.

Expand full comment

I think the softer, more common lefty version of this would go something along the lines of "It's great for kids to have two loving people in a stable relationship. That can be via formal marriage or informal cohabitation. But if the parents can't work out their arguments to the point of detriment to the kids, we should give single parents the support they need to make it work best for the kids.".

Expand full comment

I agree that there's often a gap between what these folks say and what they do. But what they actually do is kind of important too.

Expand full comment

but we’ll never get to one billion americans if only stable couples with moderate or better means spawn. the working class exists in its present form because many people spawn despite not checking all the boxes. if the workers stopped having kids, the high ses kids would have to fight even harder over the declining number of professional jobs, and plenty would wind up performing service labor

Expand full comment

The loss of the expectation that an unexpected pregnancy would result in a marriage is...not great, in my opinion.

Not universally, not with exception, but overall.

Expand full comment

In many cases it should rather result in an abortion. An unwanted child is not a good idea. Single parenthood isn’t a good idea either but nor is marriage between people who didn’t otherwise want to be together. Exceptions apply to all of the above needless to say.

Expand full comment

I'm concerned about climate change and resource depletion, so I consider not getting to one billion Americans a feature, not a bug.

Expand full comment

I'd say that I agree with almost all of that...except that in certain circumstances, behavior needs to be corrected immediately, and that's when I'd deploy spanking.

I have 4 kids under 12, and it's pretty rare that I have felt the need to do it past age 4-5, with a couple notable exceptions.

Expand full comment

If you hit your kid when he does something you don't like, you're teaching him that it's OK to hit people when they do something he doesn't like. And then you get a call from the school telling you he's getting a detention because he hit somebody. That's why spanking is a bad idea.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

This is roughly the situation in which police are allowed to use force, and I think it’s an important distinction: getting compliance in the moment vs. delivering a session of pain to an already complaint, helpless subject as a “lesson” or a deterrent for the future.

Expand full comment

The seasoned politician's advice to the novice:

"In a life of public service, the most important thing is sincerity.

Once you can fake that, the rest is easy."

Expand full comment

The subtitle to Matt’s article should be: Why Liberals Should Live in Suburban Georgia. I am friends with Christians, spankers, anti-vaxers and election deniers. They all have responsible jobs or are married to a man who does. Most of them even bathe and suckle their young. The median human brain is capable, under certain conditions, of rationalizing slavery, mass poverty, endemic warfare and even ritual suicide. Nor do most cosmopolitans values hold up that well once you dig deep. It’s easy to be anti racist when you have fancy degrees and are expecting a moderate inheritance, harder when you are scrambling for housing and health insurance.

Expand full comment

I think there is a lot of truth to this. What Matt is really saying is that the left shouldn't hold people whose policies they disagree with in disdain. Quite often they need a sliver of them in order to get elected.

Expand full comment

I think Christianity can help here. I've often thought there is plenty in Christian values that a leftist type can relate with: love your enemies, do unto others, all people are equal in the eyes of God, the meek shall inherit the earth, Jesus kicking the money lenders out of the temple, etc. Why doesn't this work better? I had a lot of exposure to social justice theology as a Catholic school kid and I always thought the left is a better fit for Christians than the right in a lot of ways.

Expand full comment

Because it supports the cis-hetero patriarchy and a whole load of other societal structures that leftists are against. Religion is enemy number two right after capitalism.

Expand full comment

I would be curious how support of the cis-hetero patriarchy polls. I think if you frame it positively you get 70%:. Something like: "Men and women have different strengths and roles within a family, and often the man is the natural leader."

I'm not endorsing that statement, but I think cis-hetero patriarchy remains fairly attractive to Matt's point . Some tolerance for that world view is probably necessary to represent the public.

Expand full comment

As I said in a top level comment, I too am curious about questions surrounding this topic.

Expand full comment

"Because it supports the cis-hetero patriarchy and a whole load of other societal structures that leftists are against. Religion is enemy number two right after capitalism."

I know this sentiment exists, it seems to be extremely rare. I see plenty of people complain about patriarchal religious intuitions, but it's uncommon for that to be extended to religion in general.

Expand full comment

Random thoughts from another Georgian:

Demographic trends might make that a thing. Haven't there been a bunch of Hollywood types moving to the ATL area for a while? Didn't a bunch of blue-staters move down from the Midwest and Northeast? Where's their focus group? What's happened to their policy preferences and political choices?

One of my favorite things to point out to people about Georgia is that all their favorite Disney/Marvel/Star Wars moves are made there and are funding a radical Christianist ideologue who owns the studios. Used to be the Chik-fil-A family but it's someone else now. Renamed the company "Trilith." Largest film studio in North America outside of Burbank. So, sure, go enjoy the new Thor! Drives them nuts to be "complicit". It's also true of Netflix - Stranger Things, same deal.

Lastly, nearby Peachtree City is an interesting case in using government to build out a master-planned community. I've seen similar things written about The Villages - that they're an example of the kind of large scale "urban" planning that just doesn't get done anymore in the US. PTC is another example and it even has a large scale alternative transit system in the form of golf carts and over a hundred miles of golf cart paths. Teens drive golf carts to school and families drive them to the grocery store, shopping, or to go out for a meal. Many/Most are eclectic, thus offering an environmentally friendly way to get around town. Perhaps they will even qualify for the new electric vehicle tax credit? Probably the only thing ruining PTC is that it's sort of transitioning to a retirement community and it's screwing up the local schools which were top-notch.

Expand full comment

I live in Peachtree City. My kid is in a private montessori, we put him there to have physical school during the pandemic and have kept him there because he has a wonderful teacher. Our neighbors use the public schools and, though some could afford private schools, they speak highly of the public schools. My kid will enter public school in fourth grade because we want him to play more with the other PTC kids and don’t want to drive to Newnan for play dates.

I do find the golf carts decadent, I think the trails should be for bikes and I think my wife could have found a better use for much of her bonus.

The best thing about Peachtree City is there are almost no poor people. It’s a nice, safe place a far remove from poverty and desperation. It reminds me of Canada, though the houses here are bigger. And we have a lot of Canadians, I have four Canadian friends who live in PTC. It’s probably like the tonier suburbs of Toronto, but with nicer weather.

Expand full comment

How would those Suburban Georgia-ites think of Matt's cosmopolitan liberal friends?

Expand full comment

I think that Matt is much cooler than his friends and often settles for milk toast framings of his points (especially on gender and transsexuals) because he is afraid of being ostracized by his fellow bubble dwellers.

I further think he has become more confident as his readership has increased, as he has picked up provincial subscribers who don’t care what is politically correct, and as the odds he ever needs a gig for the Atlantic or Vox have plummeted.

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

He was plenty outspoken on vox and signed the Harper’s letter at the height of cancel culture craze during the terrible summer of 2020, before SB started I believe. I have been somewhat harsh in critiquing MY in some respects here but I also want to give credit where it’s due. In my opinion he has shown himself to be pretty brave, in multiple ways, including in being consistently outspoken in his heterodox politics AND defending the heterodoxy of others. It’s pretty rare in this day and age.

Expand full comment

Agree completely with this.

Expand full comment

Most of my elite educated parliamentary debate friends from college unfriended me over the past decade because my politics offend them. I’m very leery of big cities and those who live in them, can’t believe I lived in Atlanta 16 years.

Expand full comment

That would seem to be evidence against your suggestion that more exposure to people of differing political persuasions would make liberals more positive about moderates/conservatives.

Expand full comment

it’s easy to shun your one friend who moves to georgia, harder to shun your entire community

Expand full comment

But why is it harder to be anti-racist when you're "scrambling for housing and health insurance," beyond the trivial sense of "it's harder to focus on any big-picture societal problems when you're preoccupied with immediate survival (i.e. Maslow's hierarchy in action)"?

Please note, I'm not talking about being anti-racist in the idiotic far left sense of "every white person is subconsciously racist, and if you deny it, you're a racist." I'm talking about being anti-racist in the sense that MLK talked about; recognizing that we, white, Black, Asian, Latino, mixed-race, etc. are all fellow Americans, and we should care about each other.

If anything, if more working-class and poor white Americans were anti-racist in the sense I mean, it would be good for them in the long run! If we had more solidarity with each other across racial lines, we (Americans as a whole) could have a better social safety net and other good things. I've read that one reason why the American social safety net sucks compared with other wealthy countries is that too many white Americans think, or used to think, "I don't want my tax money to go toward supporting Black people."

Expand full comment

It feels like this is recapitulating the "economic anxiety" debate.

Expand full comment

I'm not sure what you mean. Does economic anxiety make people more racist? Do economically anxious people instinctively pull together with others like them, and become less trusting of outgroups?

Expand full comment

It's a reference to a 2017-vintage debate about why certain groups voted for Trump and what role racism played. Some people emphasized material factors, and this was nicknamed "economic anxiety". Here's an example posting.

(I'm trying to offer a balanced summary of the discussion, not taking a particular stance.)

Here's an example post --

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/12/15/racial-resentment-is-why-41-percent-of-white-millennials-voted-for-trump-in-2016/

Expand full comment
Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022

I find Americans aversion to atheism truly puzzling. Especially in recent years, when the secularization gap with Europe is fast closing down it’s kind of shocking that it’s so rare among political elites (and to a lesser extent the public) to be “out” as an atheist (indeed , that one even has to use the term “out” in this context. )

And the 2018 Bible poll is truly shocking to me. I attribute it, at least in part, to the fact that the Bible is not taught in American public schools. That’s bad. Ignorance is never the answer.

Expand full comment