Monday, April 03, 2006

Bare Branch culture

Today's vocabulary phrase is "bare branch". As this article by Johnathan Rauch explains, a bare branch is an unmarried male who will leave no descendants:

Two political scientists, Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer, ponder those consequences in their 2004 book Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population. Summarizing their findings in a Washington Post article, they write: "Scarcity of women leads to a situation in which men with advantages — money, skills, education — will marry, but men without such advantages — poor, unskilled, illiterate — will not. A permanent subclass of bare branches [unmarriageable men] from the lowest socioeconomic classes is created. In China and India, for example, by the year 2020 bare branches will make up 12 to 15 percent of the young adult male population."

The problem in China and India is sex-selective abortion (and sometimes infanticide), not polygamy; where the marriage market is concerned, however, the two are functional equivalents. In their book, Hudson and den Boer note that "bare branches are more likely than other males to turn to vice and violence." To get ahead, they "may turn to appropriation of resources, using force if necessary." Such men are ripe for recruitment by gangs, and in groups they "exhibit even more exaggerated risky and violent behavior." The result is "a significant increase in societal, and possibly intersocietal, violence."

Crime rates, according to the authors, tend to be higher in polygynous societies. Worse, "high-sex-ratio societies are governable only by authoritarian regimes capable of suppressing violence at home and exporting it abroad through colonization or war." In medieval Portugal, "the regime would send bare branches on foreign adventures of conquest and colonization." (An equivalent today may be jihad.) In 19th-century China, where as many as 25 percent of men were unable to marry, "these young men became natural recruits for bandit gangs and local militia," which nearly toppled the government. In what is now Taiwan, unattached males fomented regular revolts and became "entrepreneurs of violence."

Hudson and den Boer suggest that societies become inherently unstable when sex ratios reach something like 120 males to 100 females: in other words, when one-sixth of men are surplus goods on the marriage market. The United States as a whole would reach that ratio if, for example, 5 percent of men took two wives, 3 percent took three wives, and 2 percent took four wives — numbers that are quite imaginable, if polygamy were legal for a while. In particular communities — inner cities, for example — polygamy could take a toll much more quickly. Even a handful of "Solomons" (high-status men taking multiple wives) could create brigades of new recruits for street gangs and drug lords, the last thing those communities need.

Such problems are not merely theoretical. In northern Arizona, a polygamous Mormon sect has managed its surplus males by dumping them on the street --
literally. The sect, reports The Arizona Republic, "has orphaned more than 400 teenagers ... in order to leave young women for marriage to the older men." The paper goes on to say that the boys "are dropped off in neighboring towns, facing hunger, homelessness, and homesickness, and most cripplingly, a belief in a future of suffering and darkness."


Such dynamics put paid to the notion that a social regime based on radical individual autonomy governed by no taboos is possible, or that it would maximise the distribution of freedoms and options among a population. As the author points out, the distribution of marriage partners is a zero sum game. Social relations cannot be subjected to the sort of laissez faire free market treatment that economic resources are given in our capitalist system. This is one of the main reasons that I do not call myself a Libertarian.

The key factor that will hopefully help prevent polygamous marriages from proliferating, should they become legal in the US, is the growing economic status of women, and the increased autonomy that said status affords them in society. The main benefit that women gain from being a partner to a polygynous marriage in those societies that still practice it are economic and personal security. Where women are not allowed to participate freely in the economy, they out of necessity become dependents upon men. And in primitive economies governed by authoritarian rule and the spoils system, the concentration of wives follows the concentration of wealth.

But if men in the US increasingly avoid the responsibilities of marriage and child rearing, economically challenged single mothers may just see joining a polygamous marriage as a way to avoid the overwhelming burdens of being the sole provider and caregiver for their children. All boats have not risen equally in the high tide of economic emancipation for women in the last 30 years. The unfortunate rise in single motherhood has countered many of the gains that other women have made. Indeed, single motherhood is the primary predictor of poverty status in the US.

It is ironic that the monogamous marriage could be considered a taboo, or an unfair personal restriction imposed by society, since compared to the historical alternative of polygynous marriages it represents a liberation for the common man, who can now afford to enjoy the benefits of matrimony previously hoarded by the wealthy and powerful. Such enjoyment goes beyond the mere physical benefits of sexual gratification. Married men are happier, healthier, wealthier, and live longer than single men. So, to use a Skipper-ism, if the "Good" is determened by what works, then the monogamous marriage taboo is the case of a socially imposed restriction that actually facilitates greater individual benefits than a radically autonomous, individualized, no taboos regime could deliver.

This discussion segues nicely to this discussion about reactionary Islam and the status of women by blogger Pat Santy (via Instapundit):

Enormous effort goes into veiling women, dressing women modestly, silencing women, covering women's bodies, punishing women, controlling women, reviling women, humiliating women, beating women, subjugating women, avoiding the dishonor of women, keeping women uneducated, policing women, infantilizing women--in short, dehumanizing women -- all under the guise of "protecting" and "honoring" them as they relegate them to animal-like status.

The women in this misogynistic Islam are brainwashed from birth into thinking that this cultural preoccupation somehow is necessary and that it "liberates" them in some bizarre manner.

Amazingly, this medieval culture has grasped the fundamentals of both Orwellian and postmodern rhetorical rationalizations, that are so prominent in certain intellectual quarters within our own culture! I have heard the canned rationalizations coming from their lips of muslim women myself; and they all claim that it frees them from having to be "sexual objects."

On the contrary, in Islamic society that is apparently the only role open to women. That, and breeders for the jihad.

This societal psychopathology poisons all interactions between the genders; takes up an incredible amount of time and effort in so-called "intellectual" circles and is the subject of religious edicts and innumerable rules and strictures on women's behavior and in the religious and social life; and causes the pseudoscientific rantings of arrogantly pathetic men (like the one above) who try to justify their misogyny so that they don't have to deal with the reality of their frightened and impotent masculinity.

Women become mere possessions-vessels/repositories of the impotent male's honor. That men and women could relate equally in every sphere of human endeavor is a concept that is so alien and so threatening; I suspect it is what partly drives the rage the males feel toward western culture in general.

Without the subjugated woman, the entire house of cards of Islam and Arab culture will come tumbling down.

I have said it before and I will say it again here: the treatment of women under Islam is not only the key to understanding the pathology of the culture, but also the key to developing an antidote to its most poisonous and toxic elements. Unveiling the women of Islam and eliminating their second-class status; empowering them in the oppressive Islamic countries where their individuality and self-expression has been crushed-- may cause a ripple effect that could eventually alter a family structure that currently encourages the development of generation after generation of dysfunctional and pathological men and women.


It should be noted that the repression of women under such hyper-patriarchal regimes is also very repressive to men. It necessarily generates the conditions which generate the aforementioned bare branches, disenfranchised men with no healthy outlet for their sexual needs, no better way to find a meaningful role in society than as cannon fodder in a colonial war or jihad. For the sake of men and women everywhere, lets give up on the misguided application of "open-mindedness" where it applies to our most valued human relationship, marriage, and accept the hard-earned lessons of history, for once.

30 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I have not digested all of that yet, but it leaps out to a person resident in Hawaii that these generalizations fit the history of Filipino immigrants to the islands in the 20th century poorly.

This is a very complicated subject, but it can be said that although the M/F sex ratio for much of the period was at least 9/1, Filipino men were not notably more violent or gangsterish than other ethnic groups.

Setting aside their sexual behavior, they were typically ready to delay marriage until they were past 60, when they would return to their homeland and marry young women, who were happy to have them, because they would enjoy Social Security payments in their long widowhoods.

Somewhere in my library, though I cannot put my hands on it, this gets inextricably related to the production of garlic on Luzon.

April 03, 2006 11:23 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

"Somewhere in my library, though I cannot put my hands on it, this gets inextricably related to the production of garlic on Luzon."

A classic Harryism if ever there was one. That line goes straight into your Greatest Hits collection.

....

Watching footage of a couple of 'bare branch' male oryx engaged in a marathon headbutting contest to move one feeble rung up a long status ladder (on the magnificent BBC nature series Planet Earth (if it comes to the US, don't miss it)) the other day, it occured to me that being a male loser in a hareem system must really suck.

There's not much to do except fight.

But even in monogamous systems with plenty of females, males arrange themselves into gangs for mischief until they reach a certain age and get hitched.

If there aren't any females to get hitched to, would they still all carry on roaming around in geriatric mobs? Dissafection and violence are games for young men.

I suppose that's why we have alcohol, monasteries and train spotting.

April 04, 2006 2:12 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I'm not sure that ending feminine oppression would actually do that much for primitive societies.

The men don't tend to do anything useful with their "freedom" of action - it's likely that if women reached equal status in those cultures, there'd be some political and social upheaval, but little substantial change. (Except that fewer kids would die, and they'd be more well nourished; aid groups have found that, regardless of culture, if you want to help kids you have to give the money to women).

Women in Saudi Arabia have many restrictions on dress and travel, but few on intellectual pursuits. There are Saudi female newscasters, businesswomen, reporters, and gov't officials.
Further, no Saudi citizen does scut work; they hire less fortunate foreign people for that.

But, despite all of their freedoms and advantages, there's been no outpouring of Saudi art, literature, music, science...

Bill Gates, Britney Spears, Stephen Hawking, Bill Joy, John Grisham, Bruce Sterling, Amy Ray & Emily Saliers, Steve Jobs, and Michael Crichton, between them, have produced more of value than the entire Arab and Persian world during the entire 20th century.

Their societies don't tend to value creativity or productivity, although places like Dubai and Qatar have shown what they could be like.

Tiny Israel, all of six million strong, can outfight and outproduce all Arab nations combined, if we exclude oil.

Free women won't change that.

April 04, 2006 5:16 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Fine as far as it goes, Duck (although of all the problems in the Muslim world, the health of marriage and the family doesn't exactly jump out). But, if you will forgive me, old man, you are arguing like an old man. Just what are you going to say to a group of cynical, sexually-experienced young men raised on a diet of individual freedom, liberation and personal choice? That your sociological stats show they should marry because they will live seven years longer with a wife who nags them incessantly for half a century? That the nation calls upon them to give it all up to keep the streets gang-free? Marriage implies a surrender of personal freedom and kids deprive us of our money, health, freedom and peace of mind. Don't you think they know that? I think it is very naive to hope your cool rationalism will sway our hot-blooded, self-regarding youth.

For several generations now, pretty much everyone except pushy grandmothers-to-be has seen marriage and children as private matters of personal choice and not social obligations. It's pretty clear that that hung on the assumption that most people would naturally make those choices. Now, we're not so sure what with falling birthrates, divorce and "serial monogamy", and we are all nervously checking our evolution texts to persuade us some force is gouing to get it all back on track naturally. Good luck.

I think you need to find a little poetry to round out your wisdom.

April 04, 2006 5:50 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Gee, Peter, you really can't let yourself agree with anyone, can you? If Harry is the master of arcania, you have certainly raised disagreement to an art form. I'll have to start calling you "Contrary Pete".

Poetry? I could write a limerick to convince the masses to say "no" to polygamy, but I don't think that it will be more convincing. Give me a little time.

April 04, 2006 7:15 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

The book is 'Emigrants, Entrepreneurs and Evil Spirits' by Stephen Griffiths.

It is obscure all right, ranked 3.7 millionth in Amazon's sales.

April 04, 2006 12:23 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Oroborous says: 'Women in Saudi Arabia have many restrictions on dress and travel, but few on intellectual pursuits.'

Well, apart from growing up illiterate.

I had figured it out from reading translations of novels about French colonial Africa, but one of the problems with Islam is that most Muslims are illiterate. Practically all the women are; and many of the men who are counted (eg, by the UN) as literate have only memorized the Koran (or a lot of it) in Classical Arabic, a language which means nothing to them or to anyone else aside from a few scholars.

I was pleased to learn, from Bernard Lewis in 'From Babel to Dragomans,' that my deduction was correct.

As to 'no healthy sexual outlet,' different strokes for different folks, but T.E. Lawrence, in '7 Pillars of Wisdom,' said that while on maneuvers his Arab warriors satisfied their requirements 'in their own clean bodies' (quoting from memory).

He did not elaborate but I suppose he meant cleaner than the diseased harlots of Port Said. Perhaps he was thinking of sheep, I don't know.

I also don't know that I buy the woman's idea that sexual inequality is the root problem of Islam, but I'm sure I don't buy Peter's notion that it's the least of Islam's problems.

One imagines -- without having been inside to observe -- that the alpha male phenomenon as it develops inside a patriarchal Arab family, insulated from all outside observation, results in more or less universal incest of fathers with daughters, with consequentially, it may be, the well-observed sexual perversion of the sons.

It's a very sick society.

I liken it, conceptually, to the English Victorian upper middle and aristocratic habit of starving their children, then releasing them to become truffle-guzzling late adolescents.

That, also, was a sick society.

April 04, 2006 10:14 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

One imagines -- without having been inside to observe -- that the alpha male phenomenon as it develops inside a patriarchal Arab family, insulated from all outside observation, results in more or less universal incest of fathers with daughters, with consequentially, it may be, the well-observed sexual perversion of the sons.

Yes, one imagines, one does.

April 05, 2006 5:47 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I have to imagine it because I haven't been there, the same way I have to imagine how the Taj Mahal smells.

That doesn't mean I don't have evidence for either proposition.

April 05, 2006 11:42 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Brit,
Whenever I watch those nature programs showing the male mating rituals, sorting out their hierarches through head-butting or plumage displays, I get flashbacks of the schoolyard.

April 05, 2006 4:08 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry,
I can see how you can imagine that for a culture that can stomach allowing their daughters to burn alive rather than be seen uncovered, or have their genitals horribly mutilated, the sexual exploitation of minors wouldn't be that much of a stretch.

April 05, 2006 4:11 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Such dynamics put paid to the notion that a social regime based on radical individual autonomy governed by no taboos is possible, or that it would maximise the distribution of freedoms and options among a population.

Isn't the current American society pretty free and based on individual autonomy ?
What prevents most Americans, (depending on state), from having a dozen partners of any gender, like Hugh Hefner and his seven live-in girlfriends ?

The ability to legally have seven husbands or wives would seem to merely formalize relationships that most Americans could enjoy now, and so if polygamy becomes legal again, I don't expect many to stick with polygamous marriages.
Marriages between only two people seem difficult enough.

As the author points out, the distribution of marriage partners is a zero sum game.

But in a society where divorce is common and accepted, easy and initiable by either party, it won't always be the same 20% of men unmarried at any given time.
There will be a core group of "nevermarrieds", and a group of men who have been married, or who will be in the future.

The key factor that will hopefully help prevent polygamous marriages from proliferating, should they become legal in the US, is the growing economic status of women...

Female autonomy is indeed the key to making polyamorous societies work. That cannot be stressed enough.

When men can't just collect women, they have to work to keep them, then successful, good men will tend to have many partners, and lame men, or successful but beastly men, will tend to end up with none.

That strikes me as an entirely satisfactory outcome.

April 05, 2006 9:11 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

From my childhood reading I dredge up an anecdote from, I think, National Geographic and attributed, I think, to a Muslim from East Africa.

Having two wives, he offered, was difficult to manage, becuase they fought; and with three, two would gang up on one; whereas four were more easily manageable. But he had only one.

The motivation to have more than one wife (at a time) may not be all that general.

As for extrapolating from heinous treatment of women in public to incest in private, Duck, that's probably valid, but that is not the kind of evidence I am relying on.

There are considerable differences across Islam by economic status, ethnicity etc. But there are some things that happen generally everywhere.

When it comes to incest, I have somewhere a treatise that divides it into eight categories. One amounts to 'rural boredom incest.' I encounter, at one or sometimes two removes, a lot of that around me now.

Combine that with Lord Acton's one sensible observation, and the potential starts looking very like a n odds-on bet.

April 05, 2006 10:20 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Duck:

There's no more brutal demonstration of man's innate inclination to bestial heirarchy than a playground, since all schoolchildren know exactly where they and everybody else stands on the social ladder.

Or as Samuel Johnson put it, with his unequalled gift for stating the obvious: "It is not true that people are naturally equal for no two people can be together for even a half an hour without one acquiring an evident superiority over the other."

April 06, 2006 1:41 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

Such dynamics put paid to the notion that a social regime based on radical individual autonomy governed by no taboos is possible, or that it would maximise the distribution of freedoms and options among a population. [...] Social relations cannot be subjected to the sort of laissez faire free market treatment that economic resources are given in our capitalist system. This is one of the main reasons that I do not call myself a Libertarian.


Ummm. Maybe. One wonders how much autonomy the young women have. Certainly the teenage boys of the Mormon sect in question don't have much.

To a large degree, social relations are governed by market forces. Both men and women compete individually go gain the best match they can manage. Additionally, it seems the equilibrium state in our culture, characterized by nearly all marriagable men materially capable of supporting a family, is monogamous (if serial) marriage. As Oroborous noted above, women could, if they chose, enter into polyamorous relationships.

But they don't. Why? Because they would rather have 100% of a sufficient pie than 50% (or less) of a larger one.

(BTW -- being a Libertarian has nothing to do with social customs, but rather the degree of government imposition. IMHO, the major problem with Libertarianism is the inability to deal with the free-rider problem.)

Interestingly, we have something of the opposite of the bare-branch problem here in the US. There are many women in their 40s and beyond who are either unmarried, or have never married. In that demographic, for various reasons, there is a serious shortage of marriagable men. Is there a sound argument against polygamy here?

The key factor that will hopefully help prevent polygamous marriages from proliferating, should they become legal in the US, is the growing economic status of women ...

I disagree. There are two key factors: female autonomy, and widespread material sufficiency among men.

Married men are happier, healthier, wealthier, and live longer than single men.

This belongs in the bin, by now heaped to overflowing, of humid, steaming, bad science. Unless you are willing to assert that women are utterly inept at their choice of mates, hence that married men are simply a random selected subset of the male population, then you must concede that the set of married men is not identical to unmarried men.

So the proper conclusion from the study is that men who are healthy and self-disciplined (both conducive to longer lives in and of themselves) are more likely to be married.

I am not arguing for polygamy here, but rather intend to point out that the conditions leading to polygamy simply don't abide anywhere in the post-industrial world. And they wouldn't apply in China except for some entrenched social customs. And it won't abide there for long, either. Within another generation, due to market forces, daughters will become extremely valuable.

April 06, 2006 5:29 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

When it comes to incest, I have somewhere a treatise that divides it into eight categories.

Harry, I have a new name for you. You are Mycroft, Sherlock Holmes' brother, who he often consulted because of his encyclopedic knowledge.

April 06, 2006 6:54 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

To a large degree, social relations are governed by market forces. Both men and women compete individually go gain the best match they can manage.

You would think so, but I don't think it works out that way in practice. It it is a market, it is one with a very poor retail distribution channel. Aside from the "meat market" of singles bars, there is no supermarket for mates, and since selection between buyer and seller must be mutual, it is a lot more complicated than buying shoes. Imagine that you really want the penny loafers, but they won't have anything to do with you. You end up settling for wingtips.

This belongs in the bin, by now heaped to overflowing, of humid, steaming, bad science.

Unless you are willing to assert that women are utterly inept at their choice of mates,

Not utterly, just mostly.

hence that married men are simply a random selected subset of the male population, then you must concede that the set of married men is not identical to unmarried men.

The book by Gallagher and Waite is based on a wide range of studies, and takes into account the self-selecting factor that you mention. It is not that health and self-discipline have nothing to do with a man's overall wealth, health and happiness, but that the health, wealth and happiness of any man are improved by being married.

I haven't the book but I have listened to an in-depth interview of Waite, and she addressed these factors. It makes sense. Women have a moderating influence on men's inherently risk seeking nature. And risk seeking behavior, unsurprisingly, is negatively correlated with health and wealth. And for both men and women a marriage partner provides a support system, both emotionally and economically, that mitigates the problems associated with bad physical and mental health. Many men wouldn't regularly visit a doctor if not for their "nagging" wives.

April 06, 2006 7:29 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

No supermarket for mates?

Someone at BrothersJudd once dismissed America's higher education system as nothing but a government-supported dating service.

++++

It isn't really possible to have 'encyclopedic' knowledge any more. Not even of one subject.

James Watson, when he put out a revised, two-volume version of genetics, commented that his effort would be the last occasion when one compendium, however big, could contain the subject.

I actually have a sort of half-baked epistemology, which says that in a flood of information (or garbage), while most people should specialize in one sort (of either learning or recycling), a few individuals can make a profitable (in the psychic sense, it's never made me much money though it did pay for my honeymoon) living by just taking random bits and looking for interesting matches.

This is not, however, doing what James Burke does, which is to manufacture meaningful relationships.

I don't necessarily claim that my matches mean anything. They're just matches.

April 06, 2006 9:11 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

No supermarket for mates?

Someone at BrothersJudd once dismissed America's higher education system as nothing but a government-supported dating service.

++++

It isn't really possible to have 'encyclopedic' knowledge any more. Not even of one subject.

James Watson, when he put out a revised, two-volume version of genetics, commented that his effort would be the last occasion when one compendium, however big, could contain the subject.

I actually have a sort of half-baked epistemology, which says that in a flood of information (or garbage), while most people should specialize in one sort (of either learning or recycling), a few individuals can make a profitable (in the psychic sense, it's never made me much money though it did pay for my honeymoon) living by just taking random bits and looking for interesting matches.

This is not, however, doing what James Burke does, which is to manufacture meaningful relationships.

I don't necessarily claim that my matches mean anything. They're just matches.

April 06, 2006 9:12 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

...America's higher education system as nothing but a government-supported dating service.

Well, that is Brigham Young University in a nutshell.
Dunno about the rest of America's colleges.

Aside from the "meat market" of singles bars, there is no supermarket for mates, and since selection between buyer and seller must be mutual, it is a lot more complicated than buying shoes.

Will we, then, see eHarmony.com and the like become the primary source of matchmaking ?
You can browse across America for someone with whom you have something in common.

Seems better than hoping that someone worthy will randomly cross your path.

There are many women in their 40s and beyond who are either unmarried, or have never married. In that demographic, for various reasons, there is a serious shortage of marriagable men.

I thought of that too, but it seems to me that the older one gets, the less reward there is in taking on another spouse.
The advantages for the unmarried women are obvious, although not overwhelming, but what's in it for a long-married monogamous empty-nest straight woman, to open the relationship ?

I can think of a half-dozen scenarios in which both older partners would find it acceptable to take on more spouses, but all of them apply only to small minorities of people.

"It is not true that people are naturally equal for no two people can be together for even a half an hour without one acquiring an evident superiority over the other."

I don't find that to be at all true.
Or am I reading the quote too literally ?

It is certainly occasionally true that one person will stand out from the rest, in a short period of time, but it has not been my experience that it's usually true in self-selected situations.

April 06, 2006 7:08 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Given the age/health curves by sex in the US, there's good reason for widowed/never married/divorced women over, say, 50 not to marry.

Unless they marry much younger (about 15 years) men.

April 06, 2006 9:18 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Oroborous:

With respect to the lack of marriagable men for women in or beyond their forties, there are primarily three reasons.

The lesser of the two is higher male mortality throughout all phases of life. The natal 106-100 M:F ratio becomes even by (IIRC) about 6 yrs old, then it swings to an excess of females that only increases over time.

More significantly, women almost never marry younger men (or, on the flip side of that coin, men have a preference for younger women). I'm sure Peter will agree that the world is rife withl men dumping their wives for younger models. In effect, men have a much larger population from which to choose.

Finally, and I don't have any real source for this other than sheer guesswork, but I'll bet that a significant percentage of men -- somewhere around 10% -- are completely inadequate to the task of marriage.

Anyway, taken together, a woman who has either not married by her forties, or becomes single after entering her forties, has a signficantly reduced chance of remarrying, due simply to lack of available mates.

So Duck's "bare branch" argument against polygamy makes sense for the population between 20 and 40, it fails after that.

I did a little googling on this a couple days ago, and stumbled over a fair amount of stuff asserting that laws against polygamy infringe the 1st Amendment.

Unfortunately, they all neglected to consider what is, implicitly, the zeroeth amendment: The Constitution will not sanction any activity that, if conducted by everyone, would threaten the Constitution.

We could call it the "What Makes You So Special" amendment.

April 07, 2006 5:01 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I don't find that to be at all true. Or am I reading the quote too literally ?

You're reading it too literally. The statement uses intentional hyperbole to make it's point. It points out how, with the exception of the narrow elite that thrives on the competition to be Top Dog, the vast majority of people find status games to be demeaning and dehumanizing and would rather avoid them altogether.

Our friendships are places where we try put status games out of bounds. But such selection is much easier today than it has been in the past, where mobility, both social and geographic, was much restricted for the vast majority of people.

The workplace, for those of us who are not self-employed, is still the one social arena where status games cannot be avoided. I'd say that it is the most unsavory aspect of the working life. It puts the "work" in work. The actual productive part of work, the making of things or information, is usually not the thing that people hate, and in many cases actually enjoy.

April 07, 2006 7:11 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

More significantly, women almost never marry younger men (or, on the flip side of that coin, men have a preference for younger women).

This may just be anecdotal information, but I have two male relatives who have or will be marrying women more than 10 years their senior. For both women these are second marriages, and first marriages for the men. I'm not sure that the old rules apply anymore.

I'm sure Peter will agree that the world is rife withl men dumping their wives for younger models. In effect, men have a much larger population from which to choose.

Generally it is only the most desirable men who are able to pull this off. Desireable meaning high status (money). But since most women are capable of making their own money and status, this rule may be slipping by the boards as well. One rule that seems to be holding is that men generally are still reluctant to marry women that make more money than themselves.

April 07, 2006 7:27 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

In the main post, Duck wrote: "As the author points out, the distribution of marriage partners is a zero sum game."

Only in the static analyses. The descendents of the non-bare branches may potentially be better off. I have no idea whether or not they will be, but if the least desirable folk end up as bare branches then that should increase the fitness of the remaining meme (and possibly gene) pool.

"For the sake of men and women everywhere, lets give up on the misguided application of "open-mindedness" where it applies to our most valued human relationship, marriage, and accept the hard-earned lessons of history, for once."

No worries. History will repeat itself and humanity will naturally and evolutionarily rediscover those traits it needs to survive. For the other side of the story, I like The Return of Patriarchy. Here's an excerpt:

"Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best."

I don't know if this view is correct either, but the point is that those that breed and indoctrinate will, by definition, inherit the earth from those who do neither well. Unfortunately, that which survives may not make the earth particularly pleasant for either men or women.

April 07, 2006 11:41 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't know of any society that ever went extinct by failing to breed -- at least, not absent some pretty powerful external factors.

Parsees and Jews are sometimes cited as groups fast on the way to failing to breed themselves into a next generation.

But it has never happened before.

April 08, 2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Depends on how you define "society." I'm much more interested in the memetic decline of societies (as opposed to genetic). One part of a culture is language, and I consider language extinction to be a sign that a culture/society has gone extinct. In the vast majority of cases, the culprit is just a lack of indoctrination. In other words, the culture/society doesn't pass on their values to their children - rather a more aggressive culture absorbs them and they adopt the absorbing culture's language and customs.

There have been dozens of languages that have died in the last few hundred years and probably thousands will die (out of approximately 6900) in the next few hundred years. I suspect French will be one of them.

April 08, 2006 2:18 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I'm not sure about French. They are just ornery enough to hold onto their precious culture. But we'll see a lot of the smaller ethnic groups lose their language first, like Albanian, Estonian, etc. I believe that Gaelic and Welsh are pretty close to extinction.

Bret, I like the way you put society in the context of memes instead of genes. Certailnly American culture is one of the most successful memetic cultures of all time. The continental European cultures, especially French and German, are strictly genetically based, and will lose out from their inability to be transmitted to immigrants.

April 08, 2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "I'm not sure about French. They are just ornery enough to hold onto their precious culture."

That's the problem. They hold onto their culture and aren't very good at spreading it to others. That, with low birthrates, might be a problem over the next several hundred years.

Maybe not though. I was talking with a Dutch client last week (my comments were scarce last week because I was innundated by customers), and he said the trend was that there are two distinct groups in The Netherlands now. Those with no children and those with many children (three and more is very common). The no children group (men and women) are, I suppose, their own sort of "bare branch" culture, and are, at this moment, the larger portion of the population However, as they die off, the multiple children culture might grow relatively larger and cause the population to hit a steady state, or perhaps even a repopulation will occur.

We can certainly see such divisions in the United States (Red vs. Blue for example), and I imagine France could have such subcultures as well.

April 08, 2006 6:00 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

An historian, Arnold Zemin I think, wrote that at the start of the Second Republic, only 6% of the people in France spoke French.

There was no discussion attached to that statement, but I suppose he was treating each of the various patois as 'not Ile de Seine French.'

The situation was not much different in Italy. One of my high school classmates was from a mountain village somewhere in Liguria. Although he spoke 'Italian,' allegedly the only people who could understand it were his co-villagers and the people in the next village.

We might have a long discussion about memes, language, Arabic and Islam. My knowledge on this subject is even more superficial than on other subjects, but it is not at all clear to me that the givers of the new language to so much of western Asia and North Africa replaced very much of the pre-Mohammedan memes.

April 09, 2006 12:49 PM  

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