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Weekly Digest: What's Going On in Chicago?
Welcome to my weekly digest for July 15, 2022.
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.
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Chicago’s Glass Half-Full
You’ve probably been reading about the terrible violence plaguing Chicago. While this and other problems are very real, in my latest Governing column I argue that there are still many reasons to be optimistic about the city.
Despite the departure of Citadel, Chicago will remain an important financial node so long as the CME Group, the world’s most important financial exchange, remains in the city. O’Hare Airport remains a key national hub, and the region a critical logistics center in general. The University of Chicago and Northwestern University are nationally prominent. In short, Chicago retains a powerful collection of economic assets.
The city is also physically beautiful, with a magnificent lakefront setting. In a country with precious little genuine urbanism — dense, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and extensive transit — Chicago has all of that. And its urbanism comes at a price unavailable elsewhere. With the city’s real estate values having lagged since the Great Recession, and urban real estate prices in other Midwestern cities having soared, the city is now actually one of America’s bargains on a quality-price ratio basis. It’s still possible for a professional couple to buy a decently spacious condo with enough room for a family, and with a parking spot to boot. This is unachievable for all but the rich in New York City.
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New Content and Media Mentions
Joel Kotkin references a previous essay of mine on a universal basic income.
Ron Hale mentions my three worlds framework in an article about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Philosopher George Yancey had a tweet thread that does not reference my three worlds framework, but explicitly notes that secular society exhibits “hostility” towards evangelicals and sees them as a “threat.” Whether you agree with his proposed cause or not, this is great external validation of my negative world thesis.
New this week:
Jordan Peterson’s Third Way - A look back at “peak” Jordan Peterson in 2018, and what his appearance on the UK’s Channel 4 tells us about public engagement.
Jordan Peterson’s Message to the Christian Churches - My take to Peterson’s brand new video that speaks directly to the church.
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Jordan Peterson’s Message to the Churches
I transcribed a portion of Jordan Peterson’s message to the churches video, should reading be more convenient than watching.
The Christian Church is there to remind people - young men included, and perhaps even first and foremost - that they have a woman to find, a garden to walk in, a family to nurture, an ark to build, land to conquer, a ladder to heaven to build, and the utter catastrophe of life to face stalwartly in truth, devoted to love, and without fear.
Invite the young men back. Say, literally, to those young me, ‘You are welcome here. If no one else wants what you have to offer, we do. We want to call you to the highest purpose of your life. We want your time, energy, and effort, and your will, and your good will. We want to work with you to make things better., to produce life more abundant, for you, and for your wife and children, and for your community, and for your country - and the world. And we have problems in the Christian Church. We are moribund, and sometimes - far too often - corrupt, and sometimes deeply so. We are outdated, as are all institutions with their roots in the dead but still often wise past. So join us. We’ll help fix you up. And you can help fix us up. And together we’ll aim up.’
And here’s a message to those young men, skeptical about such things. What else do you have? You can abandon the churches in your cynicism and disbelief. You can say to yourself, narcissistically and solpisistically, ‘The church does not express what I believe properly.’ Who cares what you believe? Why is this about you? Do you even want it to be about you? What it if was about others? What if it was about your duty to the past, and to the broader community that surrounds you in the present? What if it was incumbent upon you, and vital to your health and willingness even to live to rescue your dead father from the belly of the beast, where he has always resided? And to restore him to life.
Once again, to the churches. Protestant - you’re the worst at the moment - Catholic, Orthodox, invite young men. Put up a billboard saying, ‘Young men are welcome here.’ Print some flyers and put them in a box by the billboard. Signal the existence of those flyers with an arrow with the words, ‘More information about attending here.’ Tell those who have never been in a church exactly what to do: how to dress, when to show up, who to contact. And more importantly, what they can do. Ask more, not less of those you are inviting. As more of them than anyone ever has. Remind them who they are in the deepest sense, and help them become that. You’re churches, for God’s sake. Quit fighting for social justice. Quit saving the bloody planet. Attend to some souls. That’s what you are supposed to do. That’s your holy duty. Do it. Now. Before it’s too late. And the hour is nigh.
Best of the Web
Patrick T. Brown at the Ethics and Public Policy Center put out a superb family almanac with over 80 charts about various aspects of family structure and life in America. It’s an incredible resource to have in your back pocked.
Mere Orthodoxy: One Year Later: Reflecting on Evangelicalism’s Six-Way Fracturing - Here’s a follow-up on an alternative six group framework of the evangelical landscape that was very popular when published. I always say that it’s important to try out multiple lenses on a situation, so here’s another one for you to check out.
The Kirk Center has an interesting symposium on French philosopher Chantal Delsol’s book The End of the Christian World. Her own lead essay, The Return to Paganism, is a great précis of the book. I think her framing of today’s world as retrogression rather than progression is potentially powerful and should be explored further.
The Institute for Family Studies: The surprising case for marrying young
A new NBER paper on how our tax system discourages marriage, particularly among the low income.
Slate: How Americans Became Convinced Divorce Is Bad for Kids - this piece pushing back on all the studies showing divorce is bad for children will be catnip for the left. Among their arguments is that it’s actually poverty not divorce that causes the bad outcomes (as if poverty is independent of divorce). They also flirt (inadvertently?) with the alt-right contention that higher black divorce rates could be due to genetics.
NYT: The Age of Distracti-pression - Use of psychotropic medications is up a lot, including a 41% increase in teenage anti-depressant use since 2014.
London Review of Books: Shanghai Shelf-Life
‘Can you pay cash?’ the chef asked. It was a bizarre request: Shanghai abandoned paper money years ago. ‘My neighbours reported me for hosting private dinners at home. It’s better that you pay cash so there will be no proof of a commercial transaction. And by the way, if anyone asks, just say you have come to celebrate my mother’s birthday. Tiptoe upstairs if you can.’ I wasn’t going to disagree. I told my fellow foodies and went to the bank to withdraw some old-school notes, wondering how many birthdays the chef’s mother has had recently. Before the dinner, everyone took a PCR test to show the doorman at the apartment block. You also can’t use public transport without a negative test result. They’re valid for 72 hours: people joke that a Shanghainese’s ‘shelf life’ is shorter than that of a loaf of bread.
Choose a more human way of life.