Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Class Taste Reflects Our Conception of Happiness

We are now interviewing college graduates to see the connection between their tastes and their social class fraction. We started asking about why our subjects chose particular things or chose particular services. We soon realized though, that the more important question, the prior question, is to ask which choices seem like just utilitarian selection, and which choices involve a moral element.

I have over the past few years also been studying happiness, looking for what makes for a happy society.

I now see a point of convergence between these two lines of inquiry:  to ask people which of their choices seem to involve a moral element is to ask them their conception of the happy life.  In these questions, as we add them up, we are discovering (together with our subjects) their vision of eudaemonia - of a flourishing life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gov. Beshear Restores the Voting Rights of 180,000+ Nonviolent Felons in Kentucky

Kentucky is one of the few states that does not automatically restore voting rights to felons after they have completed their sentence.

Outgoing Governor Beshear, in a fine act of statesmanship, signed an executive order to restore voting rights to more than 180,000 nonviolent felons.

This is a good day for democracy.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Positive Civility Requires a Thick Skin

Here is a good centrist idea:

To take a positive step toward creating civility in society, be relentlessly reasonable.

Have a thick skin.

Don't get upset over potential problems.

Cut other people some slack when they are insensitive or thoughtless. (You undoubtedly need the same slack cut for you sometimes.)

Too often we think of civility as consisting of what we do not do - not being extreme, not getting worked up over minor issues, not calling names.

I offer this idea as something that centrists (or anyone interested in civility) can do to actively promote the happy society.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Millennials are the Most Willing to Use Government Censorship in a Good Cause. This is Still Wrong, But Teachable.

It is alarming that 40% of Millennials would be willing to have government prevent people from saying things that are offensive to minority groups.

Still, I see this as a vice of their virtues.  They are trying to overcome America's long history of racism.  The tool they have chosen - government censorship - is a cure worse than the disease, but they are trying to cure a disease.  Millennials are young, and famously less informed about history, including the historical use of government suppression of free speech to oppress minority groups.

I think most Millennials are not far from supporting other, less oppressive means of helping denigrated minorities. The traditional mechanism for opposing outright racists - public shaming - is effective and not as dangerous as government suppression.

For most people, though, the problem is not so much outright racism as it is insensitivity to unexamined denigration.  The cure for insensitivity is gentle consciousness raising.  And that applies to educating Millennials who are insensitive to the dangers of government censorship.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Only about Six Percent of the Electorate Supports Donald Trump

Donald Trump is the current front-runner among Republican presidential candidates.  Some take this to be a very scary sign about the tastes of the republic.

It is helpful to remember, therefore, that all that really means is that a quarter of Republicans favor him now, at this early stage.  And Republicans make up only a quarter of the electorate.  A quarter of a quarter is about six percent of the whole.

Moreover, unlike most of the other Republican (or Democratic) candidates, Trump has very high negatives.  Almost twice as many people have an unfavorable view of him as have a favorable view.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Presbyterians Have the Highest Level of Church Involvement Among Mainliners

The Pew Research Center has an interesting study of just how involved in church the members in different denominations are.

In general, evangelicals are twice as involved in their churches as mainliners - 41% "highly involved" for evangelicals on average, versus only 20% for the average mainline denomination.

Among mainline Protestant denominations, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members show the highest level of involvement, with 31% highly involved.

Interestingly, that is about the same proportion highly involved in the evangelical Presbyterian Church of America.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Democracy is Winning in Burma/Myanmar

One of the best stories of the last couple of weeks is that Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won an overwhelming victory in elections to parliament, taking over 80% of the open seats.

The military junta still controls the government, will take months to actually relinquish the seats the NLD just won, and re-wrote the constitution to specifically bar "the Lady" from becoming president.

Moreover, the last time Suu Kyi's party won an election, the junta simply invalidated it and continued the dictatorship.  They put the leader of the opposition under years of house arrest.  The world noticed her continued civilized resistance, and gave her the Nobel Peace Prize.

I am very hopeful that this time we will see the junta finally start to let go.  Full democracy will come to Burma/Myanmar.