Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wouldn't there be a movement for a blood entitlement, and how would demographic factors shape that program?

I can't NOT link to a blog post titled "More Vampire Economics, Please." I know I have nothing to say about it other than shrieking with delight about the very existence of said blog post, but I don't really care. Here's my favorite section:

The most interesting thing, though, is that there’s a news scroll at the bottom of the screen, and as the debate is wrapping up, a headline noting the blood shortage scrolls by, followed by the line, “Vampire economists say…”

And then it cuts away.

This happened at the beginning of the film. And it drove me COMPLETELY. NUTS. for the following 90 minutes. What do vampire economists think about the blood crisis? I really want to know! Is there a vampire central blood bank? Are there interest rates? Does it get used as currency? Maybe they went off the blood standard at some point?

Okay, that’s probably getting a little too nerdy. But the implication is that there’s this whole social structure organized around blood allocation. Yet all we see is a single company that stupidly burns through its resources without any interest in, say, setting up more efficient, long-term sustainable blood farms; surely a ripe human should be able to pump blood into the system for 60 or 70 years.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I still don't really know what I think of the health care summit

So I'll just point you to things I've read on the subject that I liked. Like Matt Welch's post. Also, Arnold Kling.

Paul Ryan's speech was also somewhat heartening.

Weariness and stuffiness continues. In that vein, possibly the problem is that my neurons are just firing at lower than normal speed, but Internet feels dull. Does anyone have suggestions for things I should write about? Please leave in comments.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


... because I am too tired and too sick with Pnin's cold to write anything especially coherent. I made it through the early part of the week on an adrenaline binge aimed at defeating a particular piece of bad legislation, but for naught. Now, the rush is giving out, and I'm on the point of crashing. Grrr. Well, anyway:

1)It's reassuring that my weakness for salt may be doing me less harm than I thought.

2)National juries would be awesome, except that they would deprive my fellow political junkies and me of some sense that we mattered. Then again, that might be a feature rather than a bug. (Kicks article to member of her household who actually knows something about the subject.)


4)Should it not be "Objectification SENDS"? Because "Objectification" is the subject there, not "women?"

There are days when I grow frustrated with the right, and then I remind myself that Montagnard liberals who put up signs really are even more annoying.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Here is Richard Epstein...

saying something that is intelligent and interesting.

Derbyshire, the American Renaissance, and "free speech culture"

John Derbyshire defends the America Renaissance movement. Oh dear. There's much here that is cringeworthy. Jews are okay because they look white! And why is it that conservative Jewish intellectuals so frequently decline to grace white supremacy groups with lecture appearances? Also, some white supremacists are actually quite cultured!

This feels awfully Libertarianism 101, but here goes nothing. Yes, the people who want to stop the American Renaissance convention should not have used death threats and other threats of violence to get their way. Yes, the sponsoring hotels had the right -- perhaps, even, the responsibility -- to call the police once they heard such threats.

But we libertarians are committed to freedom of speech when such means freedom from state action. This does not mea that a private hotel has any duty to sponsor groups it finds offensive. And similarly, private individuals and groups have every right to use moral suasion to stop private hotels from harboring groups whose views ought to be beyond the pale.

The more interesting angle to problems like the above, which Derbyshire doesn't explore: groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education occasionally publish things about the need for "free speech culture" on campus. Even private universities which aren't state actors for First Amendment purposes, they argue, ought to inculcate in their students respect for freedom of expression and dissent. In the name of creating such a "free speech culture," universities should regulate speech with a light hand even when they legally can do otherwise. I am not so sure I agree. Yes, FIRE is good at pointing to egregious cases. But universities also have had traditionally some responsibility for the moral and ethical formation of their students, a responsibility which makes it difficult for universities to act like small scale libertarian states.

Hotels, of course, are different from universities. They have no traditional responsibility to encourage respect for freedom of expression and dissent. But what role should non-academic institutions play in creating "free speech culture?" Put another way, I don't think that this hotel's actions compromise freedom in any significant way. But it may have compromised "free speech culture," which may be as problematic in a different way. Derbyshire would have done better to spin this out more clearly.

The Repogle plan to restore parity

I've written already about potential reasons to support Joe Asch '79's candidacy for Dartmouth's alumni trustee board. Recently, the Powerline guys have weighed in on reasons to vote against his opponent John Repogle.

The most interesting facet of Repogle's candidacy so far: his alternative plan to restore parity to the Board of Trustees by having each graduating class vote one of their own to the Board of Trustees. These young alums would then serve for four years apiece.

Involving more young alumni on the Board isn't necessarily an awful idea. They* have a better intuitive sense of what's going on day to day at the College than older alums do. On the other hand, young alums may have a tendency to overgeneralize from their own experiences. I had mostly positive personal experiences with the Greek system. Yet plenty of other women wrote scathing op-eds about experiences that were quite different from mine. Suppose that someone produced more systematic data showing that their more experiences were more typical than mine. I'd be inclined to try to discount it based on my biases.

Ditto my not getting exercised about long class wait lists, a fate I avoided almost entirely by studying history and art history. Again, the board would really be better off with someone who looked solely at the numbers.

Very young candidates would also likely be left on (national) political issues than would older candidates. A poll of my graduating class showed that 80% of my classmates supported Kerry, and just 5% Bush in 2004. It's true that I don't have comparable data for older alumni, and Pnin does love to point out that contrary to popular Churchillian wisdom, most people's political affiliations don't change much as they age. This is supposed to be especially true of the highly educated, meaning that we Dartmouth people should be unusually inflexible in our views.
Sill, I'd be hard pressed to imagine that older alumni could be significantly more liberal than the 80/5 liberal/conservative breakdown suggests.

Dartmouth's conservatives and libertarians have also been using the logic of collective action to our benefit. That is, most non-conservative alumni didn't (and don't) really care about trustee elections. But we do, and we show up to vote. And there are enough of us that we can win elections. But outgoing liberal seniors still do care deeply about the place that they're about to leave. They're still living and breathing Dartmouth, in a way that people twenty ( years out simply aren't.

Frivolous concluding note: Burt's Bees, the firm that Repogle heads, does sell very nice lip gloss. But I have never had any luck with their shampoos, which leave my hair unpleasantly greasy. Those readers rich enough to afford something nicer than whatever is on sale at the drugstore, you're advised to shell out for Kiehl's instead.

*At five years out, I can't say "we" here anymore, can I?

Monday, February 22, 2010

I should probably stop writing about markets and meritocracy

... lest I bore all five of my readers to death. But see Sandy Levinson, a generally smart and thoughtful guy who here lets his passions get the better of him:

We must recognize that all public servants are, in their own ways, "heroes." The Republican Party for the past generation has systematically viewed all public servants, save for the military, as chumps, who if they had any real talent, would be working in the private sector (perhaps in Goldman Sachs, etc.).

There's much about this particular post that is... overheated... in tone. Yeah, the progressivism as cancer comment probably was not Glenn Beck's finest moment; I'm no Beck fan either. But I strongly suspect that it was just a florid metaphor, and that Beck does not really harbor any desire to exterminate progressives. As I said above, though, some of Levinson's more, uh,
temperate stuff is interesting, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here. So I do find it telling that he would reach for a variation of the "contemporary conservatism is nothing more than warmed over Social Darwinism" trope in his moment of frustration with the right.

For the record, I proudly disclaim being a heroine in any way. (Does the grand term "public servant" apply to all government employees? Even to, say, the secretaries, janitors, and other people whose work is nearly identical to their private sector counterparts?)

Owls of the world, unite!

Let us take up arms against our lark oppressors!

Much to my amusement, I find that I fit the owl stereotype quite well.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Temple Grandin's WSJ interview on Asperger's

I don't really know if Asperger's syndrome really exists; the Internet tells me that I have it, and I suppose I empathized somewhat with the sketch of the disease in Tyler Cowen's excellent Create Your Own Economy. Still, the criteria for diagnosis seem loose enough that about a third of the people with whom I went to college probably also fit it, and I am wary of the over-medicalization of American life generally.

Still, this WSJ interview with Temple Grandin about her Asperger's is fascinating.

Letters I will never send, #4

Dear social conservatives , including those inclined to boo my friend Alex McCobin at CPAC:

Please read Jason Kuznicki's post "Hardly A Life to Be Lived" regarding gays and conservatism over at Positive Liberty sometime. It would be good if you could offer a better response to the questions that he's posing than Maggie Gallagher did. I am much more likely to start listening to you if you could.

In a related vein, please also read this excellent article about Tom Palmer's role in the 2nd amendment litigation, which contains the very good sentence "And it would have been one of those modestly ironic moments if my colleague might have been murdered in a gay bashing, when he was straight."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

From the flle of unlikely but pleasant intellectual coincidences:

I happened to read this Bryan Caplan post on "fear budgets" at the same time as listening to a recently downloaded song titled "There Goes The Fear." It's so rare that I read blog posts with appropriate musical soundtracks. For the record, I actually don't know what I think of the fear budget hypothesis; it's certainly interesting, but I have no real expertise vis-a-vis these things.

Side note: I've had surprisingly good luck finding likable music from whatever's being played over the store loudspeakers in Anthropologie, including the album from which "There Goes the Fear" comes. This fact is probably deeply probative of uncoolness on my part, but I never claimed to be cool. My music collection largely signals that I had two friends from the Dartmouth paper who were semi-serious music nerds who could orient me toward suitably cool music c. 2003. Since graduating, they moved to Brooklyn and took up endeavors like working for The Daily Show and various independent film and music producers. I, on the other hand, moved to D.C. and took up endeavors which involved working with actual Republicans, which made it harder and harder for them to stand me. So, thus lacking in guidance, my coolness has declined exponentially, and I flail about cluelessly. But at least I make a point of flailing non-pretentiously.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I would not actually have the comparative advantage at doing this

...but somewhere, there should be a guide to CPAC events arranged in order of target I.Q. of attendees.

There should also be a similar guide to D.C. right of center happy hours/social events. It would be funnier if there were one-paragraph descriptions of each event complete with quotes from attendees, explaining why the author came up with the target I.Q. that he or she did.

Not that I really feel like writing more about biocons

...but there's an entertaining OkCupid piece up titled "The Case for an Older Woman, complete with pictures. (via)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Quotable quotes

"Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come."

-- Victor Hugo

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One last post on markets and meritocracy

I know, I've already written too much about markets and meritocracy, but I couldn't resist piling on once more. Bryan Caplan fires back at Shikha Dalmia with:

Dalmia approvingly quotes Hayek:

"It is probably a misfortune that, especially in the USA, popular writers like Samuel Smiles and Horatio Alger, and later the sociologist W.G. Sumner, have defended free enterprise on the ground that it regularly rewards the deserving, and it bodes ill for the defence of it which is understood by the general public. That it has largely become the basis of the self-esteem of the businessman often gives him an air of self-righteousness which does not make him more popular."
I'm not convinced. Whenever any other group in society feels disrespected - whether it's women, gays, blacks, immigrants, nerds, or whatever - we advise them to stand up for themselves. We tell them to demand that their fellow citiziens give them the respect they deserve. Why shouldn't businesspeople and high-earners follow the same strategy? Yes, in the short-run, this might be, in Dalmia's words, "off-putting." In the long-run, though, pride movements are pretty effective.

Imagine a world where people feel as uncomfortable publicly criticizing "the rich" as they now feel about lashing out at blacks or gays. Imagine a world where politicians nervously fumble, "I'm not complaining about the rich, merely certain aspects of rich culture, because of course rich people make many great contributions to our society..." It won't be easy, but contra Hayek, this is exactly the direction free-market advocates should be pushing in.

Actually, it's rather common for the more moderate elements of a movement to tell the more radical elements to tone it down. I'm reminded of the classic Onion article, "Gay Pride Parade Gets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years." Of course it's satire. But the point is that the humor works because lots of moderate liberals have had similar thoughts about the more flagrant and off-putting aspects of the gay pride movement. Libertarians and defenders of busines can make the same mistake, and we should be careful to avoid it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Could there be a Hominoid Rights Commission?

Why I make a terrible Burkean conservative, chapter 917: I read this article on whether we should clone Neanderthals and thought immediately, "Ooooh, yes! And could I have one to play with?"

I've long found ancient hominoid life fascinating. It's struck me as absolutely wondrous and amazing that humans co-existed with another form of hominoids who were like us, and yet not. There's part of me that wishes I had another career to sink into studying the evolution of humans. As it is, I just content myself with wandering around D.C.'s Museum of Natural History once in a while and marveling at all the exhibits on ancient life.

There's also a fun legal discussion near the end of the article. There was a story that circulated around my law school about an arch-gunner who raised his hand on the first day of Con Law I to ask if the "We the People" clause in the Constitution covered cyborgs. An interesting inquiry, yes... but perhaps not the best one to bring up in an 80 person class, especially if it appears that the professor was more interested in focusing the group on other topics. Note that these issues may alternatively be covered in a one on one colloquy after class, or perhaps during office hours. Law school applicants, take note.

Markets and meritocracy, take two

Shikha Dalmia has an excellent follow-up on the markets and meritocracy question, posted up at Bryan Caplan's blog. My favorite excerpt, which again echoes the point I was trying to make in the advice for young libertarians post:

The view that merit powers markets creates a sense of entitlement on the part of smart people that some portion of the world is rightfully theirs. The world owes them something. This is hugely off-putting to the vast rung of humanity (even non-Rawlsians). The sense of superiority of these smart people blinds them to the broader "ecological rationality" of the environment in which they operate. They think they are the ones who make markets tick - instead of the other way round. They think they are the market and what benefits their business, benefits everybody - a mindset that was captured in the immortal slogan: What's good for GM is good for the country! Two, conversely, when they lose in the market - especially to someone or some product they consider inferior -- they regard it as a symptom of market failure and demand corrective action in the form of government regulations to ensure that their competitors' products meet certain quality standards or are not made in sweat shops etc. etc.

Hayek has a brilliant, finely textured discussion of all of this in the chapter on Social or Distributive Justice in the second volume of Law, Legislation and Liberty that is well worth reading. But let me conclude with Hayek's protest against those who have previously espoused Bryan's position:

"It is probably a misfortune that, especially in the USA, popular writers like Samuel Smiles and Horatio Alger, and later the sociologist W.G. Sumner, have defended free enterprise on the ground that it regularly rewards the deserving, and it bodes ill for the defence of it which is understood by the general public. That it has largely become the basis of the self-esteem of the businessman often gives him an air of self-righteousness which does not make him more popular."

Monday, February 15, 2010

On markets and meritocracy

Bryan Caplan has some harsh words for a Shikha Dalmia piece in Forbes titled "The Fable of Market Meritocracy." I made some of the same points in a post about whether young libertarians should go to law school, so it should be no surprise to anyone that I agree with Dalmia.

Caplan's right, of course, that markets generally do a better job rewarding merit than other systems. Still, I fear he underestimates how off-putting this stuff about markets and meritocracy can be to people who otherwise have some sympathies to libertarian ideas. I can tell plenty of anecdotes from my own experience, but here's a great data point: Ed Kilgore's essay on the crackup of the never very strong liberaltarian alliance. Kilgore concedes some tactical value for his fellow liberals in making alliances with libertarians. He even admits to liking some libertarians like David Boaz personally. But Kilgore can't quite bring himself to embrace a permanent alliance in large part because he's squicked out by "Nietzschean disdain for the poor and minorities" -- i.e. by libertarians' uncritical embrace of the idea that markets promote merit.

Like Arnold Kling, I agree that some of Kilgore's rhetoric about the libertarian movement's secret crypto-racist tendencies is silly. But unlike Kling, I don't want to write off people like this altogether. Even less than perfect liberal allies can be valuable. And at least some of the burden ought to be on us to try to keep them happy. Making an effort to step away from meritocracy-based defenses of markets is a worthwhile start.

Last Lori Gottlieb post -- on optimal search theory

Okay, I am now going to create a private right of action which is enforceable against me if I ever blog about about Lori Gottlieb again. If I ever do, any reader of this blog post can call me on it, and I'll buy you a drink and a nice dinner somewhere in the D.C. area, or else any other city in which the gentle reader and I are both spending time. Sometimes I need the threat of financial loss to do things that are good for me -- i.e. to stop rubbernecking at teh crazies of the Internet.

Pnin and I found a copy of her magnum opus prominently displayed in our local Barnes & Noble. I am briefly considering it reading parts of it while sitting on the floor. Note that I would not buy it -- my morbid curiosity does not run that strong -- but I spend a significant portion of my early twenties sitting on the floor of that Barnes and Noble* reading books that I felt were too stupid to buy and then writing snarky reviews of them. Since I wasn't actually good at making friends with people, this struck me as as good a use of one's twenty-third year of life as any. Some old habits die hard.

Anyway, I made this point to Pnin, and he said, "Actually, someone should write a review about how to apply the insights of optimal search theory to mating." He went on to characterize Gottlieb's thesis as "Women should try to find someone who is right at their reservation price, rather than someone who is above their reservation price. " I would translate Gottlieb's thesis into economic terminology somewhat differently: that women should lower their reservation prices. As I understood her original Atlantic piece, she was arguing that women should set lower minimum standards for what's acceptable in a partner. A third possibility: that she herself doesn't know which way to come out. I'm curious how others would so translate her thesis.

The biocons often are clear that women ought to lower their reservation prices. As I read them, their claim is that most women are in the grip of powerful false consciousness narratives due to Stone Age hard wiring. We're biologically drawn to certain kinds of men who send out signals of dominance, they claim. If we women are left to our own devices, we'll be inexorably drawn to waste our precious years of fleeting beauty pining after a few "alpha" types. We'll spurn all the perfectly appropriate "beta" males only until some too late date at which our ovaries have already dried up. The only way for a woman to avoid this terrible fate is to settle early, no matter her subjective feelings of unhappiness at the prospect. Her subjective feelings are unreliable anyway. Granted, I'm not sure that Gottlieb goes quite so far in endorsing all of this as the biocons do. But she winds up in much the same place, for seemingly the same reasons.

I of course wouldn't endorse that reasoning. I generally don't think "Ignore your subjective feelings now and do what I say; you'll thank me later" is good advice to follow in most other life situations either, such as choosing a college major, graduate program, or job. In the relationship context, inarticulate panic about being victim of a false consciousness narrative generally doesn't work out so well either. Gottlieb's "Fat Like Me" essay may actually illustrate the point. Granted, I couldn't quite figure out whether her issue with "Tim" was that a)she was attracted to him, but other people didn't think he was attractive, and she was embarrassed or b)she wasn't actually attracted to him, but thought that she should be and was going to try to make things work anyway. If the latter, she might have spared the poor guy considerable misery by not trying to force things.

Another interesting point Pnin made: in light of Gottlieb's "Tim" essay, it may make more sense for someone who's demanding during relationships to try to settle in choosing a partner. Of course, for other people, it might make sense to do just the opposite: be selective in choosing a partner up front, but then be as easy-going and laid-back as possible during the course of the relationship. The second strategy is wiser in my view. It's hard to get people to change.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lori Gottlieb is from Venus. I am from Vulcan.

I suspected that Lori Gottlieb, author of the infamous Marry Him, may have been kind of not the best source of relationship advice. I may have been more right than I realized:

Everything was a test. One afternoon, she calls me at work and tells me I have to come over immediately to kill a spider. I'm like "You realize Diane Keaton already did this in Annie Hall, right?" No, it was evidence of whether I really cared about her, would I stay at work and finish the assignment the senior partner wanted on his desk in two hours, or would I drive to Brentwood and kill the spider for her. So, yeah, that spider made me have to switch law firms and lose several years before I could become partner. Most expensive spider in the world.

But see Double X.

On my fair home planet, things like this do not happen.

On my generation's sense of e-mail etiquette

I never know what to do when I read things like this post on excessively informal student/professor e-mail exchanges. Some thoughts:

1. I hate seeing improper spelling, grammar, and punctuation in e-mail. Not so much the kind of typos that creep in just because someone was writing quickly -- that's an inevitable part of life -- but I hate seeing "u" used for "you" and the like. My objection is not so much that this is unprofessional as that it sends a poor signal about my correspondent's I.Q. that remembering that the word is actually "you" requires visible mental effort. It's embarrassing in the same way that pulling out a calculator to add single digits would be embarrassing. I adhere to this principle in personal as well as professional life situations -- I am on the record as having said that I won't date anyone who can't handle using proper spelling and grammar e-mail.

2.Are there really people who write to professors using that kind of slangy diction? Am I just sheltered because the college and law school that I went to were fairly high up on the totem pole? Still, the law school with which the author is affiliated -- Brooklyn Law -- isn't at the top of the pecking order, but it's not at the bottom of it either.

3. Various people (okay, mostly Pnin) tell me that I am too terrified of authority figures for my own good. I usually mumble in response that I was raised by a German father, and that office hours would have felt more natural if only I could have called faculty "Herr Docktor Professor" without them laughing at me. One particularly tricky variation of this: I feel extremely ill at ease referring to people over the age of 35 or so by their first names. Yet actually calling one's colleagues or professional acquaintances "Mr. Smith" seems overkill in the opposite direction. So I sense that my intuitions lead me to be overly formal with authority figures. But I also fear disregarding my intuitions altogether, lest I go too far in the other direction.

4. That said, the comment about sending multiple questions in too quick session just seems odd. It has never even occurred even to me to worry about doing that.

5. The outline question isn't so much unprofessional as just... not pointed enough. Something like "I'm afraid I've misstated the holding of X case" or "I'm worried that my outline doesn't reflect how Case Y modified Case X. Could you help?" would be better.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowmaggedon update: usage of "celebrity" edition, with added commentary on youthfulness

Like probably every other D.C. resident, I've been checking in on the Washington Post's local weather coverage obsessively over the last few days. I'm hoping for some oracular pronouncement that my fair city is about to return to normal. Maybe they'll tell me that my agency can re-open, or that my street will be plowed, and even that grocery store stocking might return to normal shortly. It looks like I'll have no such luck, but hope springs eternal.

One of the sillier pieces there: an article titled "Celebrities' snow days just as mundane as ours." The snark practically writes itself, especially because I have never heard of most of the local "celebrities" mentioned in the article. I nonetheless note it because it throws into relief a key question that Pnin and I have debated many times: how to define who is and is not a celebrity? Especially in our fair city, where connections, rather than lucre, is the coin of the realm.

I tend to throw around the term liberally when describing real life friends of mine as quasi-celebrity bloggers and the like. Pnin thinks this is mostly ridiculous. I freely acknowledge being ridiculous, at least with regard to most of things, but here my more liberal use of the term is in line with the Post's. One complication: that many of the people I want to characterize as such are well-known within particular subcultures, but not much outside of them. Perhaps it's best just to split the baby and call such people quasi-celebrities?

Relatedly, I wish to apologize for anything derogatory I might have said about the Uggs and North Face look. I know, I know, were I to have capitulated, I fear I'd be mistaken for a GWU freshman* even more frequently than I already am. But my beloved rubber elephant patterned boots are starting to fall apart from frequency of wear. They're also not as appropriately warm as they might be, and they're perhaps no longer as appropriate from a pure partisan perspective as they once were. Clearly the Ugg-clad hordes were more prescient than I was.

*No, I don't really understand the biocons' obsession with female youth either. Perhaps it's because I didn't feel I was more attractive when I was 15 or 16 either. Skin quality is one important variable; I still had terrible acne at that age, which didn't disappear altogether until college or so. Another is having a more well-developed sense of fashion; I have a much better sense of what will look good and what horrible now than I did then. Third is that I have more disposable income to spend on my looks than I did then, though I suspect that the mileage of non-lawyer types differs from mine here.

Also, as far as I can tell, nearly everyone I encounter in real life pegs my age at around 18-20, or worse, younger. I have a long litany of ridiculous stories in this regard. I can't order alcohol in restaurants without being carded -- even in the kinds of upscale places where, presumably, nineteen-year-olds are not going to get wasted. Most of the career staff at my agency thought I was a college-age intern for the first three months that I worked there. They then became extremely apologetic and deferential when I gave them my actual title, which privately amused me to no end. If I go to the Hill for briefings, often someone stops me to ask which member or Senator I'm interning for this semester, and also where I go to school. Perhaps the most ridiculous anecdote in this vein comes from the time that Clarissa Dalloway came to visit me two summers ago, when we were both 26, and this guy on the S2 was convinced that we both must have come to town to visit colleges. Note: we did not actually look old enough to be in college at the time. We looked like we were the right age to be applying to college.

I once tried Googling how to seem older. I came across a stupid article that said that I should focus on trying to seem more mature by a)increasing my vocabulary and b)improving my knowledge of politics and current events. Despite my feeling intellectually weak on both counts, the allegedly objective indicators indicate that I'm way out the right tail on both of those. So no help there...

Anyway, the moral of these stories seems to be that 1)many people aren't good at pinning down young women's ages precisely and b)there is significant variation in how old or young women of a particular age look -- both of which seem to counsel against Charlotte Allen inflicted panic about hitting the wall in one's mid-20s.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Charlotte Allen: also no Florence King

Obligatory acknowledgment of the train wreck that is Charlotte Allen's Weekly Standard piece on the sexual revolution. I'm reminded of the time that George Will observed that he wished Teddy Roosevelt hadn't built the goddamn Panama Canal, as building it would have given Bill Kristol an admirable outlet for his prodigious energies. So, too, one wonders: what up, WS? Can't you come up with articles about dubious nation-building adventures to slap on the cover instead?

So among the gems: I learn that according to Kay Hymnowitz that, as I have reached the ripe old age of 28, my fertility has gone down and I am no longer luscious. Good thing I am getting married in September. I'm of course over the median age of 26, which is regrettable too, as Allen longs for the days when the median age of first marriage was 20.

Note to Roger Devlin: learning how to bake an apple pie is actually not very difficult. You can do a search on and figure out how in about thirty-five seconds, in fact. There are also videos and illustrations available on sites like and YouTube, should you need additional help. It is quite easy to pursue a fancy degree and/or hold down a demanding job and still find a Saturday afternoon to make one once in a while. The modern world being what it is, it is even possible to pull cases from Lexis (!) or write a section of a memo while, say, the crust is blind baking.

I know I have posted on this before, but my problem with Charlotte Allen is that she is no Florence King. A review of Confessions Of a Failed Southern Lady once called King "America's funniest bisexual monarchist Republican," which she of course was. King never married, and she detailed in Confessions a series of youthful lesbian and straight love affairs that would doubtless leave Charlotte Allen flushing crimson. King carried out all of this while standing somewhere to the right of Ayn Rand on economic and regulatory policy.

King didn't have an easy life. She worked her way up through a series of big Southern newspapers while churning out reams of pulp romances to pay the bills. Finally, late in life, she landed a National Review column. Yet if anything stands out about her work, it's her stubborn refusal to feel sorry for herself. Charlotte Allen would have me on the floor, sobbing, because it's just sooooo hard to find someone who will marry me and roast red peppers in the oven and find things in Bluebook all at the same time. Florence King would shoot me a Look, tell me to "Bucky up, ducky," then toss off some mordantly clever literary reference.

I'd rather be friends with King, needless to say, and I'd also rather have someone like her leading my intellectual movement. One of my college classmates wrote a series of broadsides targeted at "crybaby conservatives," which I really appreciated. My beef with Allen is a variation on Beck's theme: at the risk of sounding crudely partisan and obnoxious, isn't whining best left to left-liberals?

Yes, life is hard! Mating is hard! But... there are fine books to be read, bread to be baked, dogs to be adopted and loved, children to be tutored, and plenty more hobbies to pursue. Self-reliance, strength, and being interesting are virtues that ought to be at the core of any right-of-center feminism. See generally also this, which describes the type of woman to which a libertarian or conservative feminist ought to aspire to be.

Obligatory Snowmaggedon Post

Yes, I'm still fine. Haven't turned into an icicle yet.

Megan McArdle and Bryan Caplan have interesting reports from the ground. My experiences are similar to theirs.

Our Whole Foods was out of all salad greens yesterday. I felt as though I was witnessing some weird form of Yuppified apocalypse, with people grasping desperately at the last cans of San Marzano tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. But our Trader Joe's indeed had arugula and a pretty good supply of other things. So Pnin and I are prepared tomorrow....

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More amusing sentences

"An important reason Justice Scalia's dissent appears so persuasive today lies not in its formalist command of constitutional text or original understanding, which have been well-criticized, but rather in a functionalist argument which my student John Vecchione, former President of Georgetown Law Center's Federalist Society, once called the "Terminator argument." That is, the independent counsel is set up like Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in The Terminator, a movie set in a future where machines are conquering Earth and have developed cyborg assassins like Arnold to take out designated humans. Like the Terminator, the independent counsel is programmed to investigate, prosecute, and ultimately take out a designated human being. Like the Terminator, the independent counsel shuts down once she or he has done so. Like the Terminator, the independent counsel is frightening even if a possibly defensible creation. 27 What is frightening is the creation of a prosecutorial apparatus unfettered by normal fiscal, political, and fairness limits."


A footnote adds, "In Terminator II, Arnold plays a "good" Terminator sent back in time to protect humans from assassination by a "bad" Terminator. Draw your own constitutional or political parallels."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Are women at work insufficiently obnoxious?

I am trying to decide what I think of this. I've seen the phenomenon-- I saw it particularly plainly when I was on the editorial board of my college paper. We made all the incoming applicants write out essays about why they thought they should get their board of choice, and one of the questions asked them to identify their weaknesses. There was a pronounced variation by gender -- the women all wrote long, self-flagellating things like "Sometimes I think I am too passive-aggressive when criticized," and the men all wrote brief sentences to the effect of "I had too many proofreading errors in my early stuff, but I've basically fixed that by now."

The title "Will Wilkinson Wants People to Be More Like Will Wilkinson" is glib and kind of funny. But it's not really fair. Most people want others to be more like ourselves. Or, at least, to value what we value. It's not so much narcissistic as human.

Also, unlike PEG, I don't think Wilkinson and Shirky's suggestions are mutually exclusive. Extreme exemplars of either tendency probably should be tryin to meet each other in the middle.

This also reminds me of a conversation Pnin and I had about his experiences at a conference with many Asian academics. He noted that norms among them were quite different than in the States; people were much more respectful and deferential, less inclined to ask gotcha questions, etc. I had been perhaps influenced by too many of the multi-paragraph ads for Asia-based Biglaw recruiters that pop up on Above the Law, but I wondered aloud then if more women shouldn't make a point of trying to work in Asia instead of the U.S. After all, from Pnin's description (and from others, too) it sounds like Asian corporations might be more hospitable to stereotypically female personality types than American ones are. This is all a bit quixotic, I know, but perhaps not totally ridiculous.

Very amusing sentences

"Note here a similarity between needle-sharing and unsafe sex: at the point of risk--shooting up and orgasmic exchange of bodily fluids--the "decision maker" is least likely to be "processing" information in a rational cost-benefit way. Again, Aristotle might be right to suggest that at certain moments we take leave of reason and throw ourselves into craving and compulsion. Choices to shoot up or to go for a risky orgasm under these circumstances can be understood as made under diminished capacity--momentary choices that cannot be considered utility-maximizing. Interestingly, the two phenomena, drugs and sex, sometimes combine in a synergism of risk. Studies suggest that partners are more likely to engage in HIV-risky sexual activities when they have been using drugs. 34 By clouding the mind or releasing inhibitions, drugs can induce an acquiescent or skewed judgment yielding a momentary utility calculation not reflective of one's ordinary thinking. We are reluctant to consider such scenarios as utility-maximizing for both participants."

-- William Eskridge, "The Economics Epidemic in an AIDS Perspective," 61 U. Chi. L. Rev. 733, 750 (Spring, 1994)