Evolutionary Stability is Real.

From time to time, Cold Spring Shops calls attention to the effects of the sexual revolution and hook-up culture on human unhappiness.  Two observations from a 2011 post structure that argument.  First, “contemporary mating practices and admissions policies might not be evolutionarily stable.”  Second, “younger people have different time horizons, and different rates of time preferences.”  Those observations tended to rely on opinion columns.  The mini-dissertation below the jump will engage recent Serious Scholarship on those themes.

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It’s A Little Late to Develop A Conscience.

Matt “Dean Dad” Reed offers an instructive look at what Jascha Mounck felicitiously describes as the “cage of norms.”  That book is among those stacked to be reviewed.  Maybe this year?
Some of my earliest lessons in ethical behavior, as a child, came in the form of a question: “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” It was reasonably effective because it was simple. I could guess how I would feel, and I didn’t want to make anyone else feel that way. Although I couldn’t have spelled the word at the time, the theory underlying that lesson was reciprocity.

Reciprocity relies on an underlying sense of relevant equality. You and I may be different people in any number of ways, but we’re both fully human, and that entails some basic respect. There’s an implicit politics within the ethical norm of reciprocity, too. I’m no better than anyone else, but I’m no worse, either. Taken seriously, that ethical position tends to lead to a rough egalitarianism. There may be hierarchical roles for various reasons, but the people occupying those roles are just people. They have the same human flaws as everybody else. And the power they’re granted is both a grant—that is, removable—and for a limited purpose. It is not license. Nobody is entitled to abuse anyone else, and nobody deserves abuse.
There’s a lot going on in those two paragraphs.  In that “How would you feel” is the basis for the first rule of interaction in the three Faiths of the Book.  There’s an important corollary, as well: the precocious child might ask Mom or Dad “How would you like being put in time-out?”  Kids don’t like being put in time-out, and the wise parent will note something to the effect that the grown-up version of time-out lasts for days, not minutes, in a place called “jail”.  The concept of reciprocity, though, is a straightforward elaboration of the things that matter that are learned in kindergarten.

The second paragraph appeals to the Framing of the Declaration of Independence.  The “endowed by their Creator” passage vesting rights in individuals is a rebuttal to the divine right of kings: it was not the Hand of God that made the Stuart Tudor Hanover Battenberg Windsor family Defenders of the Faith, Emperors of India, and sovereigns over British North America.  People consented to their rule, and people had the right to withdraw their consent.  Note, dear reader, how the Holy Spirit has been more catholic in identifying popes, a position of power that up to 1978 seemed to be reserved to Italian cardinals.  Ideally, a rough egalitarianism ought to hold in education as well. Yale Law do not hold the franchise on staffing the High Bench, nor is the Southeastern Conference endowed with the right to dominate football.

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Isn’t It Simpler to Speak of Bourgeois Norms?

Or perhaps, where people from different backgrounds find themselves in more frequent interactions with each other, to have concepts such as diplomacy (for the leadership classes) or simple good manners?

A political scientist called Eric Kaufmann coined the expression “whiteshift” to refer to the current evolution of those norms, when the modal ancestry of the polity is shifting.  It’s not enough to sell a book of that title, his “How Can We Manage the Process of Western ‘Whiteshift’?” is for Quillette subscribers only.  Fair enough, an academician has to earn a living too.

I have the book, and it’s in the stack of stuff to read and review, if perhaps in the “this is not off to a compelling start and I’m not obligated to stay current with stuff that makes me sleepy” part of the stack.

Michael Barone read, or at least skimmed, the book, in order to see if there’s any punditry to do.

Kaufmann, a Canadian who teaches in Britain and is of Jewish, Chinese, and Latino ancestry. His most recent book is called Whiteshift, which he defines as “the mixture of many non-whites into the white group through voluntary assimilation.”

As he points out, something like this has happened before. A hundred years ago, Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish immigrants pouring into Ellis Island were considered to be of different “races” by white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elites.

Half a century ago, their descendants were regarded as still culturally and politically distinctive in Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s description of New York ethnics groups, Beyond the Melting Pot. A “balanced” ticket in those days had to include Irish, Italian, and Jewish candidates.

Today, all these groups are lumped together as “whites,” even though there are still perceptible, though muted, differences in political attitudes and perspectives between those with different ancestries.

I vaguely recall some of that writing about “unmeltable ethnics” during my adolescence in Milwaukee. Although Americans All was a rallying cry during Woodrow Wilson’s war, the existence of a Croatian soccer collective different from the Serbian soccer collective still meant someone not conversant with the past millennium of feudin’ and fussin’ in the Balkans ought be circumspect.

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