Weekly Digest: Vacation Open Thread
Welcome to my weekly digest for July 21, 2022.
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Vacation Open Thread
I am going to be on vacation starting tomorrow and there will be no posts next week. While I’m away I’m opening comments on this post to everyone, subscriber or not, for discussion. I’d love to hear your opinion on:
Jordan Peterson. What do you think of him? Why is he so popular? What do you think of his recent evolution?
Topics or questions you’d like me to address in the post.
Thoughts on the status of society and its institutions.
Anything else you are interested in.
Jocko Willink on Handling Breakups
It’s not just Jordan Peterson that young men are turning to. There are many other online gurus, big and small. One of them is former Navy Seal Jocko Willink, co-author of Extreme Ownership. This four minute clip on how to handle a breakup will give you a flavor of why men are turning to these online gurus instead of traditional institutions and authority figures. This is accurate, practical, actionable advice.
New Content and Media Mentions
Rod Dreher also responds to Jordan Peterson’s message to the churches video. He doesn’t cite me, but I found it interesting that he independently interpreted Peterson’s video as a “Man up!” lecture. Also, Dreher was a recent guest on Peterson’s podcast.
One correction from last week’s digest. I misidentified the George Yancey twitter account as the philosopher at Emory rather than the sociologist at Baylor.
New this week:
In case you missed it, check out this month’s longform newsletter on the need for more focus tending the health and strength of our own communities.
What are the standards for women? (Subscriber Only) - I examine how reticent pastors and others are to define any sort of standard women are expected to measure up to, and the kind of blowback that can result when they do.
At American Reformer, Cory Higdon writes on Baptists and religious liberty.
Matthew Yglesias on the Low Trust Society
One of the recurring themes of my work has been the decline of social trust, and the implication of becoming a lower trust society. For example, read newsletter #35 on rebalancing away from institutions, or newsletter #49 on defending institutional integrity.
The Democratic wonk Matthew Yglesias recently echoes this theme in his newsletter. In his weekly mailbag issue, he addresses a reader question on this point:
Charles Hancock: Do you see Elon Musk backing out of his contract to buy Twitter and the likely upcoming legal battles as just an interesting business story or as another indication of erosion in American Rule of Law?
It’s not “the rule of law” exactly, but I do think there is a deep normative foundation of American capitalism that’s been eroding over the past several generations. The normative foundation is the idea that there is something to being a good businessman other than purely making a lot of money. Something we learned about Donald Trump is that back when he was doing actual property development, he would frequently refuse to pay contractors what he’d agreed to pay. Then after falling badly into arrears, he would offer people who complained a choice: pursue costly litigation against him and his team of lawyers in which he would publicly impugn the quality of their work or accept less than full payment right now. This turned out to work pretty well. The American legal system gives rich people the ability to bully middle-class business owners. Historically, rich people haven’t fully taken advantage of that opportunity in part because they worry about concrete reputational damage and in part because it’s the wrong thing to do.
But the more a “greed is good” mentality takes over, not only is the “I won’t do that, that would be wrong” motive eroded but the amount of reputational damage is eroded, too. And it means we’re transforming into more of a low-trust society where you have to ask yourself questions like, “it’s true that we made this business agreement, but what practical recourse do I have to enforce it if the other party breaches?” And even in a country with a strong rule of law, practical recourse can be hard to come by.
What Musk is doing seems like an example of this. He made a deal to buy Twitter, and then by coincidence the macroeconomic situation changed very quickly soon after he made the deal. Higher interest rates pushed down the price of tech stocks in a way that made Musk personally quite a bit poorer and meant that his agreed-upon acquisition price was a much higher premium over the market rate than he’d initially intended. So he’s pulling stunts in order to try to secure a better deal rather than saying “damn, I hit some bad luck but a deal’s a deal.”
Over time, that kind of savvy norm-erosion is going to make the United States a poorer country like we see here in Italy and elsewhere in southern Europe where people insist on personal relationships rather than arm’s length contracting in a way that makes it harder for companies to grow and scale and undermines competition. [emphasis added]
You might want to check out Yglesias’ Slow Boring newsletter, which is pretty good. We are seeing a diversity of thoughtful writers recognizing this trust erosion, and following the implications to their unsettling conclusions. It isn’t just me telling you this.
Best of the Web
The New Yorker had a special issue on the family. Among the articles was this disturbing look at a hookup app called Feeld. Reader discretion advised. Naomi Schaeffer Riley critiques the issue as a whole.
Dating used to be about the end result. Its shift to an online business has made it about the journey. That might not be great for the longevity of consumers’ relationships, but it should continue to benefit investors’ love affair with publicly traded companies like Match Group and Bumble
A former Bumble product manager says that a majority of women on the platform tend to set a floor of 6 feet for men, which would limit their candidate pool to about 15% of the population.
Rob Henderson: First base is hooking up, second base is talking, third base is going on a date and fourth base is dating - a depressing look at online dating apps.
Kay Hymowitz: Still coming apart
As Kearney demonstrates in her new paper, the lower middle-class family has all but collapsed. While the children of the least and highest-educated mothers continue to live in the same general family arrangements as they did in 1990, the percentage of their working-class peers growing up in two-parent families fell from 83% to 60 percent. They now resemble their poorer and least-advantaged sisters more than they do their college-educated peers. In this respect, Kearney’s paper adds to the considerable literature on the “hollowing of the middle class;” the middle class is dwindling while the ranks of the lower skilled and affluent grow further apart.
American Compass: Pursuing the Reunification of Home and Work
Mere Orthodoxy: The Uselessness of “Christian Nationalism”