Your zen minute
Posted by aogThursday, 15 March 2012 at 08:51 TrackBack Ping URL

Let us take a minute to ponder the strength, moral authority, and wisdom of our current President.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
AVeryRoughRoadAhead - Winter is coming... Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 10:52

Given our current demographic situation, and indeed the world’s, the LAST thing that we should be doing is publicly subsidizing birth control. If anything we should be handing out couples’ vouchers for dinner, a movie and plenty o’ booze. Pay Hollywood to make more romcoms about the wacky joys of young couples who find out that they’re expecting.

As a subset of that thought, it occurs to me that one of the reasons that people don’t want to get pregnant is so that they can finish higher education of some sort. But given the current dynamic between the immediate & ongoing costs of getting credentialed and the diminished pay-back for completing such in most fields, why don’t we more-heavily subsidize child-rearing and cut back on subsidizing students?

More action points for when I become King of the World…

erp Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 13:42

How ‘bout we just stop subsidizing.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 14:17

erp;

Yes.

AVRRA;

That’s been tried in various places (e.g. France, Singapore) and has not had much success. The best explanation I have seen is over-regulation. This makes children less beneficial and more costly, both of which suppress reproduction. For example, getting arrested because your daughter draws a picture of you with a gun or all of the “zero tolerance” anecdotes1. Car seat requirements2. The excesses of child “protective” services. College expenses. If you’re going to be King of the World, you need to look at the structure and not subsidy garnishes on the side.

1 Here’s a mordantly amusing link I found during research. The website claims that problem with “zero tolerance” are overblown, while having a link labeled “FEATURED SERVICE: EXPERT WITNESS & LITIGATION CONSULTING - SCHOOL SAFETY”. Yeah, such a non-problem you feature legal lawsuits that drive the policy excesses.

2 Here in Illinois it’s until 8 years old or 80 pounds. The original law was sufficiently restricted that even Illinois had to change it, as it caused short skinny girls in drivers education to legally require car seats.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead - Winter is coming... Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 17:10

The best explanation I have seen is over-regulation. This makes children less beneficial and more costly, both of which suppress reproduction.

I fail to be impressed by such explanations. While they make an intuitive sense, they don’t even begin to address why birth rates would be falling in such places as Iran, Somalia, Yemen, et al.

Further, such over-regulation might make larger families much less convenient, but are they really so much of a burden as to positively explain why so many couples in, say, Italy choose to remain completely childless?

AVeryRoughRoadAhead - Winter is coming... Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 17:13

…getting arrested because your daughter draws a picture of you with a gun…

That is completely insane, assuming that we can trust the newspaper report.

If this happened to me, I’d immediately begin planning to emigrate to anywhere else.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 17:29

they don’t even begin to address why birth rates would be falling in such places as Iran, Somalia, Yemen, et al.

Because with decreased infant / child mortality additional children are less valuable. But I think that alone only pushes the birth rate down somewhat (based on data, to around 3 or 4). To go beyond that you have to disadvantage children, either through societal regulation or social disapproval, although those tend to walk hand in hand. No society that mocks and denigrates mothers is going to survive long term.

erp Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 18:31

Rough, I don’t think there is another country in the world where ordinary citizens can legally own guns, so I guess you better stay here and work to rid us of the socialist infestation.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead - Winter is coming... Friday, 16 March 2012 at 01:18

;-)

Hey Skipper Friday, 16 March 2012 at 09:51
Given our current demographic situation, and indeed the world’s …

It is entirely possible that, given the choice, women (on average) will not choose to have enough children to keep humanity from eventual extinction.

Regardless of the societal arrangements.

Bret Friday, 16 March 2012 at 12:21

Hey Skipper,

It depends if you think that’s nature or nurture. Even if currently women (on average) choose not to have enough kids to at least replace themselves, if the number of children a woman chooses to have is primarily genetic, then those women with low number of children genes will die out and the population of women with high number of desired children genes will grow.

I think its mostly nature and I’m not too worried.

Hey Skipper Friday, 16 March 2012 at 15:49

That’s a big “if”.

I think post-modern societies, which is what everyone will be living in eventually, inescapably contain a broad spectrum of incentives to lower total lifetime fertility. As soon as women gain access to education and birth control (never mind post-modern living conditions), fertility sinks like a greased safe.

We know that female mammals will bear offspring at roughly their biological limit. There is no precedent in evolutionary history for a female mammal with the brains to make a choice, and the means to implement it.

Just as there is no precedent in evolutionary history of a species that has self-restricted its birth rate to well below replacement.

Bret Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 15:11

Hey Skipper,

As a side note, Brothers Judd started deleting my comments on this very topic when I pointed out that even at 1.5 children per women, it would take hundreds of years before the population of France or England dropped to what it was in 1900.

I’m surprised at your response, since my recollection is that you’re often a nature trumps nurture kinda guy. Surely you’ve noticed that some women are more into children than others. Do you really think there’s no genetic component to that?

For thousands of years, urban areas have been population sinks, rural areas population sources. Urbanity is correlated with “access to education” and “modern living conditions” so your observation of correlation is correct, but I don’t think your implied underlying cause is. The point being that as the population decreases in the short to medium term, urbanity will shrink more rapidly than rural areas and the population will ultimately stabilize. Or at least that’s my guess, but in any case neither of us will be around to see since it’s so far in the future.

I’m not sure what you mean by biological limit. For example, coyotes’ litter sizes vary hugely depending on population density and prey availability leading to a more stable population than would be based on raw ability to have pups. I have little doubt that the coyote and other predator populations have shrunk at numerous points in evolutionary history without relying completely on starvation and disease, instead relying at least partly on birth rates.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 16:51

I would say there is a very large cultural component, as alluded to in my previous comments. But the evolutionary argument works just as well there. It’s one reason I think religion will persist for a very long time given its cultural bias towards reproduction.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead - Winter is coming... Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 05:09

I would say there is a very large cultural component…

Absolutely. For instance, as of 1981 among observant church-going people, American Mormon families were averaging 3.25 children per couple, which was nearly 50% higher than American Catholics, and far higher than the nat’l average among all groups of peoples. As of 1985, the birthrate per thousand women for Utah was 50% higher than the nat’l birthrate.

Bret’s natural selection argument appears to be sound as well.

So whether through nature or nuture, I have no fears whatsoever that humanity will choose extinction due to lack of desire to reproduce. Although of course future populations may well be far smaller than today’s for the reasons that Skipper mentions.

On the woo-woo side, it’s possible that advanced, educated women with wide access to birth control simply want to reproduce later, not never. With advances in biotek, we may well find healthy 21st century women beginning their families at age sixty, and the total fertility rate might recover, just with the child-bearing years time-shifted.

erp Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 10:59

It’s already happening, even in my own family, that young folks are freezing eggs and sperm so that any future children will have the benefit of their optimal younger selves as parental units. Although I don’t know why they think having kids when they’re 60 will be a good way to spend their retirement years.

I got a surprise gift on Friday — a new iPad and am having a stunningly good time playing with it. It’s so unbelievably well designed and gorgeous (even the packaging) that my two year old notebook is beginning to look like one of those old manual typewriters now in museums.

Hey Skipper Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 13:24
I’m surprised at your response, since my recollection is that you’re often a nature trumps nurture kinda guy. Surely you’ve noticed that some women are more into children than others. Do you really think there’s no genetic component to that?

I find Stephen Pinker’s point of view persuasive: we are not blank slates, but we are not automatons, either.

Yes, some women are more into children then others, but essentially all women are much less into children now than even forty years ago. The decrease in fertility is both much greater and faster than anyone could have imagined even twenty years ago.

AVRRA’s statistics point out (although I’m not sure he intended to) problems with both the evolutionary and religious reasons to be sanguine about fertility trends. IIRC, the average number of children per observant Mormon woman in the mid-20th century was 5.5. As of 2009, Utah’s TFR was 2.63; that’s less than half what it was a generation earlier. Even granting a couple caveats — the rate of change in that rate can’t go on, and that TFR includes an increasing number of non-Mormons — that has to mean that Mormons are increasingly not buying into Mormonism’s eschatological claims.

And I think it also gives plenty of reason to be be cautious with natural selection claims. Given a culture that encourages women to have as many children as they can, when interleaved with the ability to choose, the population’s preference for children is, roughly speaking, no more than half what the “natural” rate is.

This doesn’t make Bret’s argument wrong. After all, it is possible that there is sufficient variation in maternal instinct that succeeding generations will have a sufficient proportion of women who will desire to have more than two children. But that is really an assumption without evidence—the situation is so unprecedented there is nothing to go on. One child satisfies the maternal desire infinitely more than none, but the increase in satisfaction in going from one to two can’t possibly be that large.

Coyote litter sizes don’t really help here. I don’t know whether there is some biological control related to resources that limits the number of litters, or the number per litter, or the survival rate; it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that the human female response to abundance and choice is in exactly and dramatically the opposite direction.

I got a surprise gift on Friday — a new iPad and am having a stunningly good time playing with it. It’s so unbelievably well designed and gorgeous (even the packaging) that my two year old notebook is beginning to look like one of those old manual typewriters now in museums.

Last December I dropped my Kindle (accidentally, I promise), gooning up the display. Hmmm. Replace it for $100, or drop seven times that on an iPad?

Went the iPad route. At first I used it mostly to read books, but on my last trip I cut the laptop umbilical. That thing may never go on the road again.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 14:45

All;

One wonders what real life extension would do to birthrates. Now, the decision to have children is one of the biggest decisions you can make, consuming a vast amount of your lifetime. But if you expected to live to 200 or 300, it’s much less of a big deal.

erp;

Congrats! It’s nice to find somethings in the world are getting better.

Jeff Guinn Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 17:10
One wonders what real life extension would do to birthrates.

My bet is that our maximum mean lifespan will never be much beyond the average of those who survive to 65 is now — something in the mid-80s.

—-

Regarding the iPad: I agree with erp. Especially considering the iPad is only a couple years old, the whole thing is astonishingly well done. I think it is going to be a game changer in a nearly endless number of ways. If I my occupation was anywhere in the paper supply chain, I’d be looking for a way out.

erp Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 18:41

For $20/month, I can get online even from the top of Mt. Everest, should I elect to go there and at no extra cost, with Apple Cloud, I can access my all my files while up there as well. :-}

I love technology!

Yikes, I just downloaded the User’s Guide and it’s 143 pps. long — desperately calculating how many brain cells and how much time I have left … Thank God I had my kids 50 years ago and don’t have to bother about that now too.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead - Winter is coming... Monday, 19 March 2012 at 04:24

My bet is that our maximum mean lifespan will never be much beyond the average of those who survive to 65 is now — something in the mid-80s.

I’d take that bet and give you odds, ya Luddite.

200 - 300 years is purely speculative, but we know that humans can live to be 120 even without advanced technology, medicine or optimized foodstuffs.

Unless you’re thinking that for most people, human behavior will negate the effects of longevity advances. Given today’s obesity rate among the populations of all advanced nations world-wide, even the Japanese, that may be a telling point.

Hey Skipper Monday, 19 March 2012 at 13:17
… but we know that humans can live to be 120 even without advanced technology, medicine, or optimized foodstuffs …

And with all those things, regardless of behavior, while the mean on the mortality distribution curve has shifted drastically, the tail hasn’t budged.

Which means with lifespan, as in so many other things, technology is running into fundamental, systemic limits.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 11:59

That’s why we’ll never break the sound barrier :-)

On the demographics, here is a decent point from James Taranto about the evolutionary effects of culture.

What’s additional interesting is how the people studying the failure of their “education” efforts still can’t bring themselves to actually talk to the people for whom they are failing. I don’t know if that’s because they are so uncomfortable talking to people with different opinions or whether it simply does not occur to them it would be worth while. I also don’t know which is more pathetic.

Hey Skipper Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 11:31
That’s why we’ll never break the sound barrier :-)

You just made my point for me. How much faster is air travel now than 40 years ago?

On the demographics, here is a decent point from James Taranto about the evolutionary effects of culture.

Except for, perhaps, Sowell, I admire Taranto as much as any public intellectual alive. He could well be right, but there is also the possibility his point is self-contradicting. IMHO, ecomentalism (along with progressivism, feminism, et al) is really a religion. Since a propensity to religious belief is heritable, then we will never run out of people who sign on to these things, because the religious have children.

His notion of the Roe Effect is very original, and not necessarily wrong. But there is a critical bit of information that he is assuming without demonstrating: the abortion rate is higher among lower birth rate women. Sounds reasonable, but that doesn’t mean it is so. For one, the number of abortions in a year seems too high to be confined to a particular portion of the demographic.

erp:

Yikes, I just downloaded the User’s Guide and it’s 143 pps. long —

Unless it is 378. Unless it is 238. Depends on how you hold it.

I recommend you just scan it to find out what it can do, then look a little harder at what you want to do. The thing is so well integrated that once you have figured out how to make one thing work, you know at least 85% of everything else, and the remaining 15% is practically obvious by inspection.

erp Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 14:07

Skipper, I downloaded the pdf to my notebook so I could read it while I fiddled with the new baby.

I may get back to you for some tips, like can I get rid of the reading pane in email? I really hate it. Apple support says no, but I’m sure it can be done … and can I get around iCloud wanting me to use Outlook 2007? I’m using, and want to continue to use, Office 2003.

I’ve been called the Scott Joplin of the keyboard and typing on the iPad is a bit of a problem partially solved by enlarging the keyboard for human fingers (how you guys use it amazes me, I have a very small hand and it’s not easy for me!). Even short email replies move at glacial speed.

Does every bookmark need an app? Why can’t Safari keep bookmarks on site like Firefox and IE does?

I need to get familiar with shortcuts.

BTW - Apple is obviously prejudiced against the Vertical because the handly little suede cover only works in the Horizontal. We of short stature mostly favor the taller narrower view.

Don’t say it, I know — look it up and I will.

;-}

Hey Skipper Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 16:32
can I get rid of the reading pane in email?

The only way I know of to adjust the display is to hide/display the message list, and that only works in the portrait orientation.

can I get around iCloud wanting me to use Outlook 2007? I’m using, and want to continue to use, Office 2003.

Given the relatively simple nature of my scheduling and email requirements, I have found Apple’s offerings sufficient. So, outside Excel/Powerpoint/Word, I’m really not familiar enough to say.

typing on the iPad is a bit of a problem

Yes, it is.

I solved that problem by getting Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. At $70, it is spendy. However, several things in its favor. It is about the smallest full size keyboard around. Because of the aluminum chassis, it is rugged; since I’m on the road a lot, that matters. Finally, it is exactly the same as what I use at home.

Does every bookmark need an app? Why can’t Safari keep bookmarks on site like Firefox and IE does?

I don’t quite understand the first question.

AFAIK, Safari does keep bookmarks on every device. You can set up iCloud (through preferences) to synchronize all your Safari bookmarks among all your devices. The Foxmarks extension will synchronize between Firefox and Google Chrome. I used to use Firefox, but my son convinced me Chrome is much better. That still leaves me with a gulf I don’t know how to bridge between my iPad and my desktop/laptop.

—-

IMHO, there are a couple of must-have applications.

Dropbox provides an absolutely seamless, invisible, automatic way to synchronize directories between multiple computers, as well as providing a means to work with them from any computer. I have shifted my entire Documents directory to Dropbox. It also keeps the last seven versions of a file, which has already been a real life saver. My daughter called in tears a few weeks ago. Somehow (I suspect operator error), the last 3/4 of a paper due later that day had disappeared. I went to DB through the web portal, and restored her paper in just about the same amount of time as it takes to write about it. 5GB of storage comes at no charge. I pay $100/year for 50GB.

1Password. Probably the most well designed program ever. With it you can keep track of all your sensitive information in just about any form it might take, accessible only through one password you choose (mine isn’t in a dictionary, or written down anywhere). Synchronizes among all your computers and mobile devices. Works with both Windows and OS X. I think it cost $40. I’d pay $400.

erp Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 20:35

Skipper, thanks so much for all this info. I’ll print it and try to follow it, but I don’t even understand a lot of terms or how my devices interact?

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 22:44

I feel almost guilty about getting back on topic — but here’s another essay on the nexus between culture and demographics. And while religious fervor probably has a genetic component, not all religions promote reproduction, which again shows that you can’t discount culture either.

erp;

As long as we are using my comments to feed you technical support, and I keep forgetting to reply to your email, and when I do it fails, try looking at Library Thing as it may do what you want without a lot of programming.

erp Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 08:38

Sorry. ;-{

erp Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 08:51

Kids will be easy prey for religious cults which encourage childbearing as a way to increase their membership if schools are allowed to continue to teach leftwing propaganda instead of the three r’s, history, geography and morality through reading the classics.

I don’t know if it’s a harbinger of anything, but the fashion shows I like are featuring women’s clothing that is attractive and even “pretty” — not the edgy stuff that’s been the rule for a long time.

aog, thanks for the tip about the Library Thing and I can’t imagine why my email is going though???

Again, I apologize for going so far o/t.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 10:32

Not a problem, I’m just teasing.

erp Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 11:35

I know. :-)

Hey Skipper Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 12:21
… here’s another essay on the nexus between culture and demographics.

Interesting. To me it appeared to be more on the nexus between economics and demographics. The list of arguments against the minimum wage is nearly endless; it would be difficult to find a more damning indictment against collectivist decision making. However, it had never occurred to me that in addition to the manifest insults against freedom and economic sense, the minimum wage is helping to cause population implosions.

Shouldn’t be a surprise, though. Essentially all collectivist policies end up producing consequences completely at odds with collectivist goals. (E.g., Employment protection laws lead to less employment.)

… not all religions promote reproduction, which again shows that you can’t discount culture either.

True, but I don’t think the mainstream culture — as opposed to a few of the religious collectivisms within post-modern cultures — in any country is particularly anti-natal. Rather, IMHO the entire milieu consists of unintended and unavoidable incentives to have fewer children. I’ll pick one tiny example: seat belt laws. Clearly kids are better off belted in, but the inevitable effect of seat belt laws is to reduce the number of kids you can put into a car, which means either much bigger and more expensive vehicles, or fewer kids. There are probably another million such seemingly minor things that in and of themselves don’t mean much, but each of them points towards having fewer children.

There isn’t one I can think of that points the other way.

—-

erp, the reason I’m doing the OT here instead of by email is that in my best moment a couple lives ago, my expertise in this area was, and here I succumb to sheer optimism, as much as 10% of AOGs.

Which means if I toss up a howler, he is there to smack it down.

To help de-boggle what I wrote, Dropbox.com has a pretty good demo of how the whole thing works.

erp Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 14:26

Skipper, don’t despair, neither you nor aog were even born when I was at the top of my game.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 14:27

Skipper;

What you describe is precisely what I meant by over-regulation. It’s definitely not any one thing, but the grinding accumulation.

And I do not see how a culture can be anti-motherhood without being anti-natal.

erp Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 14:30

Arghhhhhhhhhhhh. I hate videoized instructions.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 14:43

I hear ya, sister.

Hey Skipper Thursday, 22 March 2012 at 21:04
What you describe is precisely what I meant by over-regulation.

Yes, there is plenty of over-regulation. But this is just as much societal as legal. Even in the absence of laws, no, or hardly any, women would care to be seen with four kids free-ranging in the back of a station wagon.

Regardless of regulations, or the unending impositions of collectivists immune to experience, the marginal utility of additional children quickly becomes negative.

Since people, including women, are not automatons, they are capable of (statistically speaking) acting in ways to optimize marginal utility.

Which is why I predict, in complete safety, that allowing women the freedom to choose their TLF will end in the extinction of humanity.

Just sayin.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 12:26

This item is making the rounds. I am not sure how accurate it is but if true is quite illustrative of the point I tried to make in these comments. The gist is that a high school student painted a mural of a man’s life which ends with him getting married and having children. The authorities objected to it as inappropriate and tried to convince the student to change her mural.

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