Are You Type A or Type B?

Robin Hanson sets out descrip­tions of two dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple in a post this morning:

TYPE *A* folks . . . love nature, travel, and explo­ration, and they move more often to new com­mu­ni­ties. . . . They talk openly about sex, are more sex­u­ally promis­cu­ous, and more accept­ing of divorce, abor­tion, homo­sex­u­al­ity, and pre-​​marital and extra-​​marital sex. They have fewer kids, who they are more reluc­tant to dis­ci­pline or constrain.

. . . .

TYPE *B* folks travel less, and move less often from where they grew up. They are more polite and care more for clean­li­ness and order. They have more self-​​sacrifice and self-​​control, which makes them more stressed and sui­ci­dal. They work harder and longer at more tedious and less healthy jobs, and are more faith­ful to their spouses and their communities.

These types correspond–roughly but well–to the cul­tural divide in the West. They also cor­re­spond to the divide between farm­ers and foragers.

Type As, the for­agers, do well in times of plenty when pro­vid­ing for min­i­mum needs is easy. Type Bs, the farm­ers, do bet­ter in lean times, when strong com­mu­ni­ties and being able to pro­vide for one­self and one’s fam­ily is dif­fi­cult and thus para­mount.  Has the West’s pros­per­ity for the last half-​​century or so has made Type As dom­i­nant? If any­thing, at least in the United States, Type Bs were polit­i­cally dom­i­nant. If the forager-​​against-​​farmer dichotomy is cor­rect, why? Was it the fear of immi­nent destruc­tion by the Soviets or the mem­o­ries of the Great Depression and the World Wars that made the farm­ers ascen­dant? If so, will fear of ter­ror­ism or envi­ron­men­tal apoc­a­lypse keep them ascendant?

Hanson will be blog­ging about the types this week. I’m look­ing for­ward to it.

Conservatism, racism, and the Ground Zero mosque

Conservatism has been unfairly maligned as racist, Gerard Alexander writes in op-​​ed in today’s Washington Post. “From an immi­gra­tion law in Arizona to a planned mosque near Ground Zero to Glenn Beck emot­ing at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniver­sary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” he writes,

the con­tro­ver­sies roil­ing American pol­i­tics in recent weeks and months have fea­tured an ugly under­tone, sug­gest­ing mean­ness, prej­u­dice and, in the eyes of some, out­right racism. And it is conservatives—whether Republican politi­cians, Fox News com­men­ta­tors or mem­bers of the “tea party” movement—who are invari­ably painted with that brush.

I agree with Alexander’s broad point: American con­ser­vatism is not racist, either in the­ory or in prac­tice, and most of the accu­sa­tions hurled against con­ser­v­a­tives are ill-​​founded. His analy­sis of debate about the mosque near Ground Zero, though, is too hasty. “The planned Islamic cen­ter near Ground Zero raises alarms, in part, because the insen­si­tiv­ity of its archi­tects to 9/11’s emo­tional legacy sug­gests their deeper dis­tance from American sen­si­bil­i­ties.” Conservatives’ oppo­si­tion to the cen­ter, he argues, rests on the prin­ci­ple that “[j]ust because some­one has a legal right to do some­thing . . . does not mean it is a wise, desir­able[,] or respect­ful thing to do.” But it’s only unwise, unde­sir­able, or dis­re­spect­ful to build an Islamic cen­ter near Ground Zero if you take the posi­tion that the mosque’s sup­port­ers and future patrons are and will be Muslims, just like the 911 hijack­ers.

But they are 2 dif­fer­ent sets of Muslims. The mosque’s sup­port­ers are part of the American cul­tural pas­tiche, and should be presumed—unless shown otherwise—to accept America’s world stand­ing and to be nor­mal, loyal Americans who are not com­mit­ted to the vio­lent over­throw of the United States. (Whether they agree with cur­rent American poli­cies is irrel­e­vant; no one—not even the president—agrees with all cur­rent American poli­cies. We don’t hand out build­ing per­mits on the basis of pol­icy pref­er­ences.) The 911 hijack­ers, as they demon­strated to hor­rific effect, were com­mit­ted to the vio­lent over­throw of the United States.

Sure, both groups read from the same Qur’an, and so some New Yorkers might be reminded of the hijack­ers when they see the mosque near Ground Zero. I do not begrudge the per­son who invol­un­tar­ily makes that con­nec­tion, but the con­nec­tion is unfortunate—something to be over­come, not accom­mo­dated. It would be unwise to make an excep­tion to America’s plu­ral­ist ideals until the 911 gen­er­a­tion dies off in 60 or 70 years. Allowing the mosque to be built will allow more non-​​Muslim Americans to meet and know their Muslim fel­low cit­i­zens, and hope­fully to develop new con­nec­tions so that the thought of Islam does not imme­di­ately bring to mind 911.

Objecting to Political Activity

Jane Mayer has a bone to pick with the David and Charles Koch, bil­lion­aire broth­ers who spend (some of) their money sup­port­ing lib­er­tar­ian causes and fight­ing gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion. Their spend­ing, she seems to think, is cen­tral to the Obama administration’s cur­rent (extended) bout of polit­i­cal mis­for­tune. She also insin­u­ates they’ve used their money dirt­ily, some­how improp­erly influ­enc­ing the polit­i­cal process. But, though she spends nearly 10,000 words in her New Yorker arti­cle pick­ing through their his­tory and fol­low­ing their money trails, it’s not clear that there’s much there there. What there is is a lot of spend­ing money to sup­port causes that Mayer appar­ently finds dis­taste­ful, a few (seri­ous) lapses by the broth­ers’ cor­po­ra­tion, and absolutely noth­ing (apart from quo­ta­tions from Democratic Party oper­a­tives) to sug­gest that the Kochs have man­aged to man­u­fac­ture a polit­i­cal move­ment out of thin air. And there is absolutely noth­ing in her arti­cle to sug­gest that the Kochs have engaged in inap­pro­pri­ate or ille­gal polit­i­cal activity.

*   * *

She recounts how the two broth­ers took the oil com­pany that their father left to them (and two other broth­ers, whom David and Charles bought out), and, after renam­ing it Koch Industries in their father’s honor,  turned it into the second-​​largest pri­vate com­pany in the U.S., with hold­ings that include “oil refiner­ies in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, . . . Brawny paper tow­els, Dixie cups, Georgia-​​Pacific lum­ber, Stainmaster car­pet, and Lycra.” WIth their money, they’ve taken to donat­ing funds to orga­ni­za­tions that share their views. Among them are the Cato Institute, a non­par­ti­san lib­er­tar­ian think tank, the Mercatus Center, an eco­nom­ics think tank based at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, and the Institute for Justice, a lib­er­tar­ian public-​​interest law firm that spends its time fight­ing “emi­nent domain abuse” and oner­ous bureau­cratic red tape.

Though Mayer accuses the broth­ers of “[sub­si­diz­ing] a pro-​​corporate move­ment,” even she acknowl­edges that their money hasn’t been lim­ited to their own finan­cial interests:

The Kochs have gone well beyond their imme­di­ate self-​​interest, . . . fund­ing orga­ni­za­tions that aim to push the coun­try in a lib­er­tar­ian direc­tion. . . . Many of the orga­ni­za­tions funded by the Kochs employ spe­cial­ists who write posi­tion papers that are sub­se­quently quoted by politi­cians and pun­dits. David Koch has acknowl­edged that the fam­ily exerts tight ide­o­log­i­cal con­trol. “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent,” he told [an inter­viewer]. “And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we with­draw funding.”

It’s not clear what the prob­lem is with this. It’s per­fectly fine for indi­vid­u­als or orga­ni­za­tions to try to affect pub­lic debate. The wealthy and pow­er­ful are not denied that right, and Mayer notes (and does not object to) George Soros’ Open Society Institute spend­ing up to $100 mil­lion a year in the U.S. George Soros hap­pens to sup­port greater social wel­fare spend­ing, and the Kochs don’t agree. Are they pro­hib­ited from spend­ing money to sup­port freer mar­kets just because it would ben­e­fit them?

As Joseph Lawler notes, the lan­guage she uses to describe the Koch broth­ers is awfully extreme rel­a­tive to the activ­i­ties she’s describ­ing. In response to Mayer’s descrip­tion of David Koch’s pro­mo­tion of lib­er­tar­i­an­ism as “[fund­ing] stealth attacks on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, and on the Obama Administration in par­tic­u­lar,” Lawler asks

If that is how you describe peace­ful, law­ful activism, then what words are left to describe, for instance, the actions of al Qaeda, which funded an actual stealth attack on the fed­eral government?

Though Mayer weaves a good story, she mostly weaves it by insin­u­a­tion of polit­i­cal impro­pri­ety, unfounded by evi­dence. (She does cite main­te­nance and safety fail­ures at Koch Industries in the 1990s, some seri­ous, includ­ing a leak that led to an explo­sion that killed 2 peo­ple. Safety fail­ures are lam­en­ta­ble and should be cor­rected, and Koch Industries should com­ply with the law and face con­se­quences when it fails to. But any large orga­ni­za­tion is bound to make mistakes—sometimes seri­ous ones; such mis­takes don’t dis­qual­ify the cor­po­ra­tions from defend­ing their own interests.)

*   * *

Update: Lots of folks have com­mented on Mayer’s piece. And, appar­ently, Koch Industries saw fit to link to my blog post. I’m happy for the atten­tion, and just in case anyone’s won­der­ing, noth­ing (and no one) prompted my post but the ques­tion­able innu­endo in the New Yorker piece.

—Nathan, August 30, 2010 at 9:52 p.m.

Elena Kagan’s nomination to be S.G.

A friend sends this email:

So, I have some friends and fam­ily that want me to start a small rev­o­lu­tion over the nom­i­na­tion of Elena Kagan for Solictor General. What do you think of her?
I am sorta scared that this is def­i­nitely a pre­quel to the replace­ment of Ginsburg. I’m think­ing Kagan is per­haps left of Ginsburg too?
I thought this might be right up your alley.

My response? No: nei­ther Josh nor con­ser­v­a­tives gen­er­ally should oppose Elena Kagan’s nom­i­na­tion to be the United States’ Solicitor General.

Dean Kagan might be more left­ist than Justice Ginsburg or whomever she might replace on the Court (empha­sis on both mights), but being on the left (or on the right) does not dis­qual­ify some­one from being the Solicitor General. To get through this cur­rent nom­i­na­tion, Kagan should demon­strate that she is qual­i­fied to act as the fed­eral government’s advo­cate before the Supreme Court. This includes demon­strat­ing a will­ing­ness to defend the all of the laws of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, includ­ing the laws she dis­agrees with. She has demon­strated that abil­ity in her nom­i­na­tion hearings.

Josh’s key con­cern isn’t Kagan’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion to be Solicitor General, though. Rather, Josh sus­pects that Kagan, the out­go­ing dean of Harvard Law School, is in line to take a spot on the Supreme Court when the next vacancy occurs. Several legal observers share his suspicion.

Opposing Kagan’s cur­rent nom­i­na­tion would con­tinue a unfor­tu­nate, harm­ful D.C. pas­time. The game—blocking your oppo­nents’ poten­tial Supreme Court nominees—goes some­thing like this.

  1. Identify ris­ing legal stars in the oppo­site polit­i­cal or judi­cial camp.
  2. When a pres­i­dent nom­i­nates these ris­ing legal starts to “pipeline” posi­tions that could lead to a seat on the Supreme Court, fight their nom­i­na­tions with every sub­stan­tive com­plaint and pro­ce­dural maneu­ver you can man­age. (The pub­lic doesn’t pay much atten­tion to this round of the game, so if you want to defeat nom­i­nees that would be hard to oppose in the attention-​​grabbing Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion round, this is your chance. Be sure to oppose the nom­i­na­tions of women and racial minori­ties with zeal.)
  3. Don’t let your guard down when you defeat one nom­i­na­tion; you can’t let any­one through. That way, the pres­i­dent will be forced to nom­i­nate some­one you like (or at least some­one you like bet­ter than the nom­i­nee you defeated).

President Bush’s nom­i­nees were often the pawns in this game. Peter Keisler’s nom­i­na­tion was defeated this way. Miguel Estrada’s, too. (His par­tic­u­larly dis­taste­ful ordeal was recounted here. It’s note­wor­thy that he has endorsed his Kagan, his for­mer class­mate, in her nom­i­na­tion.) Kagan her­self has been sub­ject to this before. Her nom­i­na­tion by President Clinton, to the D.C. Circuit in 1999, was defeated this way.

But the nation’s judi­cial process is more than a game, and it does not ben­e­fit us when our judges (and those in promi­nent legal posi­tions) are forced through a tit-​​for-​​tat nom­i­na­tion process. Qualified and inter­est­ing can­di­dates get culled from the nom­i­na­tion pool (or never let them­selves be con­sid­ered). Lawyers who might oth­er­wise advance legal debate silence them­selves, fear­ful of cre­at­ing a record for the oppo­site side to ful­mi­nate against. Blameless indi­vid­u­als must endure name-​​calling and invec­tive that is dis­re­spect­ful of them and the judi­cial process.

Beyond the neg­a­tive effects of this game, the play­ers in it seem to take a dim view of the president’s pre­rog­a­tive to nom­i­nate indi­vid­u­als whose views fit his own. The pres­i­dent, duly elected by at least 270 elec­tors, is enti­tled to nom­i­nate qual­i­fied indi­vid­u­als whose under­stand­ing of the law and the Constitution fits his own. As we have heard many times, “elec­tions have con­se­quences.” Though it may be hard for elec­toral losers to accept, a key con­se­quence of a loss at the bal­lot box is the loss of the abil­ity to put their pre­ferred nom­i­nees on the bench. And it’s not appro­pri­ate to do an end run around this pres­i­den­tial pre­rog­a­tive by oppos­ing poten­tial judi­cial nom­i­nees at an ear­lier stage.

But the elec­toral losers should take heart: in America, nei­ther of the major par­ties is ever out of power for long. Today’s con­ser­v­a­tive minor­ity, loud while on the out­side look­ing in, will be tomorrow’s con­ser­v­a­tive major­ity. When the White House is again in Republican hands, con­ser­v­a­tives will (rightly) talk about the president’s right to nom­i­nate the sort of judges he promised to nom­i­nate. They were talk­ing that way just last year.

We should not be naïve: this game did not start with Obama’s inau­gu­ra­tion. Or Bush’s or Clinton’s, for that mat­ter. It likely will not end. Democrats will rage against Republican obstruc­tion this term (ignor­ing their own obstruc­tion, the way this blog post seems to), and Republicans will rage again in a term or two. Perpetuating the game, how­ever, harms America and its judi­cial process. We should not aid and abet in that harm.

Note: This post was edited for style and for spelling errors on February 262009.

California’s lose-​​lose Proposition 8

California’s Proposition 8 would write the tra­di­tional def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage into the state’s con­sti­tu­tion. The out­come on November 4 will be sad, regard­less of who wins.

The mar­riage that Americans have known for most of their lives—with its expec­ta­tions, rights, and responsibilities—is a recent inno­va­tion his­tor­i­cally speak­ing. The received wis­dom about mar­riage has changed a lot. Polygamy and exclu­siv­ity have been praised and scorned. Legal, eccle­si­as­ti­cal, and parental approval have been some­times nec­es­sary, some­times not. The abil­ity of spouses to inherit prop­erty has shifted: some­times with, and some­times inde­pen­dent of, views on sex roles.

Considering the West’s cur­rent embrace of roman­tic, two-​​person love, and its slow but evi­dent accep­tance of same-​​sex roman­tic rela­tion­ships, for­mal and soci­etal recog­ni­tion of same-​​sex mar­riage seems inevitable. California would do well to embrace that reality.

But California has not embraced same-​​sex marriage—and that is what makes the upcom­ing vote so prob­lem­atic, regard­less of the vic­tor. Yes, the California Supreme Court directed state offi­cials to rec­og­nize same-​​sex mar­riages, but that hardly counts as an embrace by We­–the­­­–People California. The high court’s deci­sion was dik­tat, and it over­turned the 2000 ref­er­en­dum that wrote the tra­di­tional def­i­n­i­tion into statute.

It is not con­cern­ing that the court over­turned a popularly-​​backed statute. After all, when a court over­turns any leg­isla­tive statute, it is over­turn­ing a law backed by the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple. If we accept that courts right­fully have judi­cial review, we should not com­plain that a court might over­turn a referendum’s result.

Rather, the court’s deci­sion is con­cern­ing because it is an exam­ple of a type of law-​​making that is unfor­tu­nately com­mon in America. A group with a pol­icy goal, unable to win through the leg­isla­tive process, turns to the courts. The courts, find­ing an implied com­mand in the either the state or fed­eral con­sti­tu­tion, call the pol­icy con­sti­tu­tion­ally required, and so immune from mod­i­fi­ca­tion except by con­sti­tu­tional amendment.

We have seen this law-​​making by judi­cial dik­tat too many times: abor­tion, affir­ma­tive action, and crim­i­nal pro­ce­dure each have inspired inap­pro­pri­ate deci­sions. The case of abor­tion is instruc­tive. Before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade deci­sion in 1973, states were lib­er­al­iz­ing their abor­tion laws. It was quite pos­si­ble that abor­tion would become legal for a major­ity of Americans in short order.

Roe cir­cum­vented those leg­isla­tive efforts, forc­ing a one-​​size-​​fits-​​all solu­tion on the whole coun­try. Whether the legal­iza­tion of abor­tion is cor­rect as a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple is beyond the sub­ject of this post: the effects of the legal­iza­tion of abor­tion are lam­en­ta­ble. Opponents of abor­tion prob­a­bly would have accepted polit­i­cal defeats in some states as the price of polit­i­cal vic­to­ries in oth­ers. With Roe, how­ever, they felt (jus­ti­fi­ably) they had lost a rigged fight. Rather than sim­ply skulk­ing off and accept­ing defeat, they orga­nized mil­lions of their fel­lows, many of whom would not have par­tic­i­pated in pol­i­tics absent Roe. Now, pro-​​lifers fight, and angrily, for they see a judi­cial field stacked against them. Pro-​​choicers fight too, but for a legal frame­work that seems pre­car­i­ous and under siege.

Compare the American expe­ri­ence to the European expe­ri­ence. There, abor­tion is much closer to being a set­tled mat­ter. Politically, the two sides have fought to a draw. Abortion law there is gen­er­ally nuanced, avoid­ing the either-​​or propo­si­tions of the abor­tion partisans.

The American gay mar­riage debate looks much like its abor­tion debate, and with much the same results. In sev­eral states, pro­po­nents have won out­right vic­to­ries through the courts. In many more states, gay mar­riage is flatly banned. For pro­gres­sives, it must smart that the president’s 2004 vic­tory in Ohio is read­ily attrib­ut­able to the Massachusetts court deci­sion from that year: no court deci­sion, no huge con­ser­v­a­tive turnout, no Bush.

What is the alter­na­tive to judicially-​​recognized same-​​sex mar­riage? Legislatively-​​recognized same-​​sex mar­riage. Perhaps no same-​​sex mar­riage would exist in the U.S. today. Nonetheless, it would not be long before some states would rec­og­nize such unions; and though the acri­mony would be intense for a time, the result would be more sta­ble, because oppo­nents would accept a fair loss (or a com­pro­mise) much more read­ily than losses endured at the hands of a few judges.

A vic­tory for Proposition 8 in California next week would mean a tri­umph of legit­i­macy over chi­canery. It would also be an unfor­tu­nate and offen­sive slap in the faces of California’s gays and les­bians. And it did not have to be this way.

For an excel­lent explo­ration of the con­stantly chang­ing role of mar­riage, read Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage, a History (Penguin 2005). Though she def­i­nitely comes out in favor of the “love match,” and betrays dis­taste for tra­di­tion­al­ists what­ever the cen­tury, her treat­ment of marriage’s his­tory is gen­er­ally fair and readable.