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Weekly Digest: Americans Dying Young
Welcome to my weekly digest for April 13, 2023.
For new subscribers, this contains a roundup of my recent writings and podcasts, as well as links to the best articles from around the web this week. You can control what emails you get from me by visiting your account page.
This week’s digest is a day early since I’m traveling to Cincinnati to speak at a conference tomorrow. This month’s main newsletter will be out on Monday.
If anyone reading this contributed movies to my movies for men database under the name “The Den” (or maybe The Dan), please email me at email@example.com. Don’t worry - you’re not in trouble.
Three Worlds of Evangelicalism Event in New York
American Reformer and First Things magazine are co-hosting an event with me in New York City to discuss my three worlds of evangelicalism article and recent events in the world. The event is April 27th at 7pm at First Things offices in Midtown, 9 E. 40th St, 10th Floor. Here is a link to the event registration. Please do register as space is limited.
In case you missed it, I also recently announced I will have a book coming out next year on the same topic called Life in the Negative World: Confronting Challenges in an Anti-Christian Culture.
Americans Dying Young
John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times wrote an article on Americans’ low life expectancy. The FT has a pretty tough paywall, but the gist is available in his Twitter thread (complete with charts). He writes:
I’m not sure people fully appreciate how dire the US life expectancy / mortality situation has gotten.
1) At *every* point on the income distribution, Americans live shorter lives than the English.
2) It’s actually worse than that chart made out, because at most points on the income distribution, Americans earn much more than Brits. If we plot the same data by actual income instead of percentile, the US deficit is vast. 5 fewer years even among the comfortably-off.
Things have deteriorated so much that the average American now has the same healthy life expectancy (years lived in good health) as someone in Blackpool, the town with England’s lowest life expectancy (by far), synonymous with deep-rooted social decline.
There’s much more in this thread. Apparently one out of twenty-five of today’s American five year olds will die before age 40. These premature deaths are the major contributor to the US-UK disparity. As Burn-Murdoch writes, “No parent should ever have to bury their child, but on average across the US one set of parents from every kindergarten class most likely will.”
Read the whole thing.
Political Beliefs and Parenting Styles
The Institute for Family Studies ran an interesting column by Leonard Sax on how political beliefs are affecting parenting styles.
A mom brought her six-year-old daughter into the office with a fever and a sore throat. I asked the little girl to open her mouth and say “Ah.” She shook her head and clenched her mouth shut. “Mom, it looks like I’m going to need your help here," I said. "Could you please ask your daughter to open her mouth and say ‘Ah’?” Mom arched her eyebrows and replied, “Her body, her choice.”
Wow. This mom was invoking the “My body, my choice” slogan of abortion-rights activists to defend her 6-year-old daughter's refusal to let me, the doctor, look at her daughter’s throat.
Every day that I am in the office, I now encounter parents who believe in “gentle parenting,” or its close relatives, mindful parenting or intentional parenting. The gentle parent lets the child decide. The gentle parent never uses punishments of any kind, not even time-outs. The gentle parent does not toilet train the child, but instead “models” toileting for the toddler, which will (it is hoped) inspire the toddler to want to use the toilet instead of the diaper. One mother was playing with her son, then gently let him know that she needed to take a break from playing with him in order to do some housework. Her son exploded in anger, hitting and kicking his mom. That mom reached out to Robin Einzig, a leading guru of gentle parenting, to ask what she should do in that situation. Einzig responded without hesitation, “He’s telling you very clearly that right now he needs your presence.” In other words, forget the housecleaning; you have to play with the boy until he decides to stop. Jessica Winter, writing for The New Yorker, observes that gentle parenting requires the parent to transform himself/herself into a “a self-renouncing, perpetually present humanoid who has nothing but time and who is programmed for nothing but calm.” Winter predicts that the next generation can “anticipate blaming their high rates of depression and anxiety on the over validation and under correction native to gentle parenting.”
When our son was younger, my wife told me about people online who practiced what sounded like a radical form of child-led parenting. The idea was that the child would make the decision about when to be potty trained, when stop sleeping with mom and dad, etc. It sounded like one of the many fads I’ve seen over the years, but apparently is more widespread than I thought. It’s also heavily linked to left wing politics:
As a family doctor, I simply did not encounter this kind of parenting 10 years ago. Now I see it every day. And the parents who are practicing gentle parenting are (in my experience) almost always politically left-of-center….As recently as 10 years ago, it wasn't unusual to find left-of-center parents who were authoritative, even strict. That is less common today.
I guess this is all part of the big sort writ large. The author author also suggests this parenting style plays a role in the fact that liberal teenagers are much more likely to be depressed than conservative ones.
Related: Is Therapy-Speak Making Us Selfish?
Best of the Web
Tanner Greer takes a look back at 19th and early 20th century voluntary associations and what we can learn from them.
In my last digest, I posted one of the rare critiques I’ve seen of Generation X. Gen Z has also not yet had a lot of critical analysis thrown their way, but a recent Twitter thread takes them to task, saying, “The entire Zoomer outlook on life boils down to not taking anything seriously.”
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New Content and Media Mentions
I was the inaugural guest on the Manhattan Insights podcast with Reihan Salam. We discussed the past, present, future, and character of Chicago.
New posts and podcasts:
On Barbells and Antifragility (paid only) - Practical applications of Nassim Taleb.
I also had a great discussion with Dr. Nicholas Hall about Christian Halls International, his effort to reinvent Christian higher education. Paid subscribers can read the transcript.