1-27-12: #4 Who Needs Children?

Who needs children?

The Euro debt crisis and the presidential debate season together have unearthed a submerged debate over the value of families on the Right.

The Wall Street Journal actually singled out as the one “most disappointing” part of Rick Santorum’s tax plan the “proposal to triple the tax credit for children.”

(Actually Santorum proposes to triple the personal deduction for children, not the tax credit, but I digress).

To the Wall Street Journal editors protecting family income from government depredation is merely “a hobby horse of the Christian right,” or “social policy masquerading as economics..” because such a tax provision will not spur economic growth, “it merely rewards taxpayers who have children over those who don’t.”

Are children necessary to a vigorous growing economy and society? Not, in the Wall Street Journal’s distorted view: Children are just one of many possible consumer choices, about which government (or tax policy at any rate) should be neutral. A man who chooses to buy porn or a Porsche should be taxed just the same as the one who is spending money to support three children? This is a view simultaneously short-sighted and narrow minded and masquerading as intellectually sophisticated to boot.

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Why We Liked Dole

Barely two years later, after having been chosen Time Magazine‘s Man of the Year, Gingrich had plummeted in public esteem to where, in a CBS-New York Times poll, just 14 percent of voters had favorable personal feelings toward the speaker.

This prompted an apocryphal Washington exchange between a perplexed Gingrich and Dole. “Why do people take such an instant dislike to me?” asked a perplexed Gingrich, to whom Dole bluntly explained: “Because it saves them time.”

The Invention of Heterosexuality

Over at Salon.com an historian Hanne Blank, author of a book called “Straight” discusses how we came to divide humanity into gay and straight.  The Invention of the Heterosexual  (Hint: Freud did it.)

(One thing I appreciate is that in the midst of a fairly standard narrative about how our generation invented love, sex and desire—gee, our generation is so great!—she at least acknowledges that marriage as a social idea was rooted in the need to manage procreation:

As you point out in the book, for much of human history, marriage had absolutely nothing to do with sexuality or sex.

It’s more that marriage didn’t have a lot to do with desire. Marriage has always had to do with sex, and the ability to have marital sex and preferably procreate has always been central to marriage. But what was not so important was whether or not you necessarily wanted to have sex with that person. It was your duty, it was paying the marriage debt, and you were gonna do it, by golly, but this was a co-worker, this a partner in business enterprise—not a person you chose to satisfy your own personal whims and desires with. If you happen to also like them and think that they were swell or pretty or handsome then that’s great. But that’s not what you were in it for.

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Monogamy or Monogamish?

Gingrich’s second ex-wife’s revelations lead to a spirited discussion in the New York Times on how we need to move beyond “norms” of fidelity in favor of individually negotiated honest communication about our intimate desires (plus Prof. Brad Wilcox who points out the dangers of de-norming fidelity for women and children): The Gingrich Question

Two economists at Princeton suggest we bring market values into the heart of marriage:

Perhaps we can learn something from our working lives. With both your boss and your spouse, the goal is to form a long-lasting relationship that makes both sides better off. In both our working and romantic relationships, we live under “at-will” rules: either party can end the relationship if it isn’t working for them. But in our employment relationships we negotiate individualized terms directly with our bosses, haggling over wages, benefits, working hours, job tasks and vacation days. This individual contracting lets you define the relationship that works best for both you and your boss. We should take the same approach to our romantic relationships.

Marriage can be strengthened by shifting to individualized marital contracts that emphasize those things essential to making each relationship work.

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The Growing Science of Sex Difference

The headline at the online magazine Miller-McCune.com just about says it all: “Sex on the Brain Proves Costly for Men.”

In an intriguing set of empirical studies just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a team of social scientists led by professor Sanne Nauts shows that the mere prospect of speaking with an unknown woman reduces men’s (but not women’s) performance on cognitive tasks.


1-20-12: #3 Was Newt’s Divorce a Personal Tragedy?

As I write, ABC is debating when to air an interview with Newt Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne.

Team Gingrich is on the case. Speaker Gingrich’s two daughters from his first wife stepped forward as designated blockers, to run interference for their dad took the high road. Divorce is messy and painful, memories differ: ” We will not say anything negative about our father’s ex-wife. He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves.”

Meanwhile Bob Walker, a senior Gingrich adviser, got a tad ugly: “It is pretty nasty to use personal tragedy for political exploitation,” he says. “That was a very bitter divorce, and you’re talking about somebody who is still, probably, very bitter.”

“Nasty” and “bitter” definitely count in my book as “negative” things to say about Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife. In fact, it’s the classic stereotype a way to dismiss the discarded wife.

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1-13-11: #2 The Cultural Conservative Moment

Sometimes you pick the man and the moment. Sometimes he — and it — pick you.

Social conservatives in American politics are facing a question this week: who represents the face of our movement?

Right now is the moment.

We have a few days or at most a week to either choose a leader, or to let history move without us. Doing the latter is a choice to be irrelevant as a force and a movement within the Republican Party, to let other people define us and our movement.

When it comes to standing down, indecisively demonstrating our irrelevance in presidential politics, social conservatives have done this before.

It’s one of the reasons we are not taken as seriously as our numbers deserve. With all our assets, with all the millions of voters who share our values and views, with truth and justice on ours side, we have not yet created political institutions or a political movement that can push the levers of power effectively, much less decisively.

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