Donald Trump and the Lost Cause (Angie Maxwell, March 30, 2016, VQR)

Southern whiteness is not just about race. Yes, that is how it started. But as Southern whites faced the changing twentieth century, they became the “other” or foil to American identity. Each time the criticism poured in, they defined themselves in opposition to a growing pantheon of enemies. Southern whiteness expands beyond racial identity and supremacy, encapsulating rigid stances on religion, education, the role of government, the view of art, an opposition to science and expertise and immigrants and feminism, and any other topic that comes under attack. This ideological web of inseparable strands envelops a community and covers everything, and it is easily (and intentionally by Donald Trump) snagged.

The key environmental conditions (if we learn from Adler’s pattern again) that made it more likely, in the wake of such criticism, for an individual to develop an inferiority complex were poverty, lack of education, and authoritarian religion. The Southern white triptych or trap. For those of us who were born here or have spent our lives in the South, other than the sheer distinctive levels of violence, the trap remains the most painful dynamic to witness. The need to maintain white supremacy and patriarchy at all costs has, indeed, cost us almost everything. The price to maintain segregation, both legal and cultural, is limited access to and the denouncement of education. The price to maintain white economic power is the proliferation of pay-day lenders and right-to-work laws and the vilification of the “undeserving” on welfare and food stamps. The price to maintain male authority is the failure of almost all Southern states to ratify women’s suffrage in the 1920s (though they did so symbolically decades later, including Mississippi finally in 1984) or the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and 1980s (renewed efforts failed in both Virginia and Arkansas just last year) and the wholesale demonization of feminism. The price to maintain fundamentalist Christian values includes the banning of textbooks, the denigration of non-Christians and of science in general. The price is so high that Southern states rank forty-eighth and forty-ninth and fiftieth time and again on almost every measure that matters to quality of life. And those rankings serve as alarms as well, and the whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, an inescapable trap laid by the very folks it ensnares.

So public criticism for many white Southerners is constant and damaging and creates a defensive and extreme response that only causes more damage. In-migration to the South has diluted this community, but for many whites who self-identify as Southern, the inferiority complex is alive and well. We know from our own academic polling that whites who claim a Southern identity score significantly higher than those who do not on scales measuring racism, sexism, and fundamentalism. Whites who claim a Southern identity prove to be more decisive on public-policy issues, with significantly fewer respondents choosing a neutral or independent stance on health-care reform or gay marriage or abortion or affirmative action. In his letter to Life magazine in 1956, William Faulkner warned of this Southern white penchant for polarization. In the battle over integration, Faulkner questioned, “Where will we go, if the middle becomes untenable? If we have to vacate it in order to keep from being trampled?” They run to the right.

So George Wallace’s mantra of “You’re either for it or you’re against it” vibrates on a frequency that white Southerners recognize. It’s a team rally cry, sport-like with signs and tailgates. Even the pushed-up primary in the South was given a sports-conference moniker—SEC. Trump is the brashy, defiant, absolutist celebrity coach. The more he and his supporters are criticized, the more entrenched they become. And his fans want nothing less than a national championship.

They, of course, are not the only Americans who hear that dog whistle. Perhaps there is something to the “southernization of America” described by both Peter Applebome and John Egerton several years ago. NASCAR and country music and the spread of the Southern Baptist denomination across the country follow the American defeat of its own war in Vietnam. Whatever the reason, politicians learned over the last four decades that it is acceptable, even welcomed, to blow the dog whistles of racism and sexism and fundamentalism harder and louder in the South, and when they do the sound reverberates throughout the country. For white Southerners, the sounds are hard to distinguish; the battle for whiteness and patriarchy and church over state are compounded so fully that few can untie the knots in their own hearts and minds.

But outside of the region, in the other states that Trump has won—Illinois and Michigan and Nevada and New Hampshire—he need only strike one of these chords among voters. Maybe immigration is fueling nativism in one community, maybe the legalization of gay marriage has deeply upset another. Maybe some don’t want a female president. After all, white Southerners aren’t the only people who feel down and out or who feel discriminated against, which is clear in the simultaneous, yet separate, national rise of men’s rights movements (mostly notably in the online “Manosphere”), EEOC claims of reverse discrimination, and the belief (among 56 percent of Republicans) in a “war on Christmas.” Trump’s Southern strategy turns out to be less about geography and more about identity. And many want to go back to an America in which people like them run the show.

MAGA is just Identitarianism for white men. The Right is theb Left.


Chasing Lions: Don Quixote in Pursuit of the Beautiful (Jacob Terneus, January 15th, 2024, Imaginative Conservative)

Chivalry and tales of it, therefore, dispose man to virtue, drawing him into closer union with the people and things which he loves, the things which “delight and amaze” him. To the extent that a chivalric knight becomes more like a beautiful thing and begins to understand it for what it really is, he cannot help treating it well and virtuously, as a part of himself which is good and noble. […]

Focused on truly good things, he is not easily distracted by trivial matters, even if the world considers them important. In a manner reminiscent of the instructions given to those other travelers—“He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts”[6]—Don Quixote laughably neglects to bring money on his first foray, trusting that chivalry and good-will would be sufficient (DQ, 37). Again, despite suffering numerous bludgeoning, he never seems to give them too much weight, accepting them as necessary nuisances on his journey of chivalry. Even his squire Sancho eventually learns from him to take a phlegmatic attitude to such beatings and inconveniences. We see this attitude explicitly when Don Quixote hears the crimes of the prisoners he encounters; he considers it “excessively harsh to make slaves of those whom God and nature made free,” and tells their guards to let them go and “let each answer for his sins in the other world” (DQ, 183). Their crimes are, to him, secondary to their worth as human beings, so he disregards the sins and frees the men. So also, when lying on his deathbed, he realizes that chivalry itself, is not the most beautiful thing he can achieve, so he pushes it aside for an even greater end, to be “Alonso Quixano the Good.” He does not cease to desire beauty, but simply concentrates on dying a holy death.[7] Here, too, he is not distracted by lesser things, but strives always after the most beautiful object he can see in the moment.

Instructively, the first novel is the first where the text escaped the control of the author, a critique of chivalry becoming a celebration and the Don the hero, the rest fools.


Kiki’s Delivery Service & The Gift Economy (Houston Coley, Dec 28, 2023, Rabbit Room)

For what it is, I don’t think Kiki’s Delivery Service is even being entirely intentional about its depiction of the concept, but perhaps the notions of reciprocal gifts and hospitality are marginally more baked into the culture of Japan than much of the west. Kiki is a character who survives and thrives on gifts—gifts which draw her further into relationship with others.

The opening 10 minutes of the film feature two major gifts: Kiki’s iconic flying broomstick, which belonged to her mother and is said to “never lose its way, even in a storm,” and Kiki’s bright red portable radio, which is gifted by her father. As Kiki sets off into the brave world, broomstick coasting on the breeze and radio blasting ‘Rouge no Dengon’ by Yumi Matsutoya, she is already resting on the bed of generosity from her parents.

Many other gifts follow. When it begins to thunderstorm in the middle of the night, Kiki drops down into an empty boxcar and sleeps in the hay, serendipitously carried by the train to her next destination. When she arrives in the seaside town of Koriko, after wandering around aimlessly for an afternoon and being refused housing at various hotels because she’s not an adult, Kiki happens to meet the pregnant baker Osono. Osono is running out of her bakery holding a pacifier belonging to a woman and her baby who left moments ago—and in Kiki’s first act of generosity with her magic, she offers to fly the pacifier down to them at the bottom of the hill, leaving Osono gaping with wonder at her abilities.

Kiki’s singular gift—using her flying broomstick to deliver a small object to a woman who needs it—prompts Osono to invite her inside and offer her the hospitality of a cup of coffee…along with a bowl of milk for Kiki’s black cat Jiji. After hearing Kiki’s situation, she also generously extends the first major gift Kiki receives in Koriko: she offers to let her have the spare bedroom next to her bakery to stay for free, even if it’s caked in baking flour. Kiki, in turn, offers on numerous occasions to help out around the bakery.

Kiki’s ability to use her gift to give is what prompts her to consider a delivery service in the first place, reasoning that “I have one skill—flying—so I thought a delivery service was a good idea.” Kiki suggests using the money she’s saved up to pay for a phone for the delivery service, but Osono subsequently (and generously) says she’ll allow Kiki to use her phone and her bakery as the headquarters instead…and even spreads the word to her friends about what Kiki is doing.

As Kiki’s delivery service gains popularity, the concept of gifts becomes central to her life. The first thing Kiki delivers is a birthday gift, and when she returns from the delivery, Osono’s husband has kindly crafted her own “delivery service” signage for her from wood.

If you haven’t clued into it already, many of the characters in Kiki’s Delivery Service are just all-around lovely. I remember the first time I watched the movie, I was anxiously waiting for the moment when the “twist villain” would show up, more in line with western animation, and introduce the necessity of contrived conflict into the story. But the delightful thing about Kiki’s Delivery Service is that there are no real villains; just people being kind and generous to each other, and sometimes misunderstanding or getting burned out and nervous. It’s one of the reasons the movie is a comfort watch, and one of the reasons it’s a touching example of gift economy.


In the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Guyana After the Jonestown Massacre (Tim Cahill, January 25, 1979, Rolling Stone Magazine)

The Park Hotel is a big, faded, white, four-story frame building surrounded by palms. Someone in the Guyanese government had decided to put all the survivors of the massacre on the same floor with the survivors of the Port Kaituma ambush (during which Representative Leo Ryan of California and four others were murdered; he had traveled to Guyana at the request of some constituents, who were troubled about relatives living in Jonestown).

On the second floor of the Park is a large ballroom. A white ribbed dome rises some seventy feet above the floor where there are a dozen or so tables with three or four chairs apiece. Just under the dome is a balcony, which leads to the rooms. The ballroom is open to the wind on three sides. A white wooden railing keeps inebriated guests from stumbling off the floor and plummeting into the gardenias below. In deference to the periodic downpours that last an hour or more, there is a green metal awning, hung with pots of various tropical flowers and ferns. I thought of the place as the Graham Greene room.

Guyanese soldiers stood about conspicuously. Reporters occupied most of the tables. The survivors were confined to the third floor, sometimes two, three and four to a small, un-air-conditioned room. They were forced to leave their doors and windows open for the breeze, and they lay sweating under yellowing canopies of mosquito netting. When they couldn’t stand the rooms anymore, they came down to the ballroom, where the reporters swarmed around them like hungry locusts on a single ear of corn.

One afternoon a steel-drum band called the Pegasus Sound Wave took the stage and played lilting versions of popular songs. The musicians wore red baseball caps and enjoyed their own music. They liked Christmas carols in particular, and smiled and laughed their way through “Jingle Bells” and “Jolly Old Saint Nick” several times, to the obvious delight of the local crowd.

Off to the side, over bottles of Banks beer, the survivors talked to reporters. You’d hear the most heart-wrenching, bloody awful details – “Part of her skull landed in my lap”; “… lost five children out there… “; “My child was dead, and my wife was dying” – over the din of laughter and applause and Christmas carols.

It began to rain, cooling the room. Rain hammered on the awning, then let up. The sun burst through, and its light glittered on the wet palms swaying in the trade winds.

The survivors, some of them children, stared at the reporters with vacant, ancient eyes. There were literally hundreds of journalists from at least five continents in Georgetown. It was madness. Virulent lunacy. And when you tried to assemble bits and pieces of the story, none of it fit together. There was no perspective, no center.

And so we assaulted the survivors in the Graham Greene room at the Park. There were three distinct groups. First came the voices of dissent: those who had gone with Congressman Ryan and survived the shoot-out at Port Kaituma. This group included the Bogue family, the Parks family and Harold Cordell. They hated Jones and Jonestown. The press counted them as the most reliable sources.

The second group consisted of those who had escaped the carnage at Jonestown. Odell Rhodes and Stanley Clayton made up half of the total number. Both were articulate, both had witnessed the final moments.

On Saturday, the third group – Tim Carter, 30, his younger brother, Mike, and Mike Prokes, 31 – came walking up the steps of the Park to the Graham Greene room. Both Tim Carter and Mike Prokes had held leadership positions in Jones’ organization. They were accompanied by several Guyanese soldiers, and they looked terribly frightened.

They sat at one of the tables and the press pounced. Lights, cameras, microphones, tape recorders, half a dozen people shouting out questions. Tim Carter, in particular, fascinated me. It was his eyes. He looked like a beaten fighter in the fifteenth round, one who just caught a stiff right cross he never saw coming. Tim Carter was a beaten man, and his eyes had the watery, glazed and unfocused look of a boxer who can no longer defend himself and who is simply going to absorb punches until he falls.

“I heard a lot of screaming,” Carter said, his voice breaking, “and I went up to the pavilion and the first thing I saw was that my wife and child were dead. I had a choice of staying there,” he continued, close to tears, “and I left. And these people [referring to the dissenters who had lived through Port Kaituma] are saying we are after them and it is ridiculous.”

We had heard a remarkably similar story from the dissenting survivors. Jim Jones had promised that anyone who left Jonestown would be tracked down and killed. And yet, leaders of the organization had left in the midst of the suicides. They had with them a suitcase containing $500,000 in American currency.

“The money was given to us by one of the secretaries,” Prokes said. He identified Maria Katsaris, a top aide and mistress to Jones. “She said, ‘Things are out of control. Take this.’ We left. The money was in a suitcase.”

Prokes and the Carters said they were running for their lives, and the suitcase was too heavy so they buried it. When they arrived at Port Kaituma, they told the police about the suitcase and took them to it.

“You saw your wife and child take poison?” someone asked Tim Carter. His eyes swam. “I didn’t see them take poison. My baby was dead. My wife was dying. I’m trying to forget about it. Everything you thought you believed in, everything you were working for was a lie, it was, it was… a lie.

“All I can say is that it was a nightmare, a nightmare. [The Carters and Mike Prokes had gone back to help identify bodies.] It was the most grotesque thing I’ve ever seen. We were there two days later and I couldn’t even recognize people I’d known for six years.”

Prokes said, “We’ve all lost loved ones. We feel we’ve been more than cooperative. We would like to be alone for a while.” They got up and sat by themselves at a far table. I saw one reporter label his tape punks.

The band was still playing Christmas carols. I bought a beer and watched the “punks” from across the room. They were constantly checking the position of the Guyanese soldiers, and, I imagined, looking for an escape route. They feared the dissenting survivors and felt they might be killed because of the nature of their escape and their leadership positions. They refused to go to their rooms on the third floor. Escape routes there were limited.

So the “punks” were forced to stay in the Graham Greene room. Despite their wishes, reporters would still try to sit with them. When this happened, it triggered another rush of cameras and microphones. “The circumstances were different,” Tim Carter said for the fourth or fifth time. “We were asked to leave. We were given a suitcase and told to take it to the embassy. I heard crying and screaming. And I went up, like I said, and I saw my wife and son… please, I don’t want to talk about it.”

But they had little choice. As long as they stayed in the Greene room, one reporter, bolder than the rest, would approach them, and it would start all over again. I was reminded of the way a bitch weans her puppies. She may be sleeping when they waddle over and begin to suckle. Annoyed, she gets up and walks to the far side of the room. The puppies regard one another in dismay. Soon enough, one, bolder than the rest, waddles over to mother. The others, fearing that they won’t get their fair share, make a mad comic dash.

And so it was with Prokes and the Carters. Through the carols and the rain and the moments of sunshine, we all stopped at their table to suckle more information. The letter to the embassy, for instance. The one in the suitcase with the money. It was addressed to the Soviet embassy. Mike Carter explained, “Jones told us the Soviet Union supported liberation movements.”

News of the massacre broke when we were sitting for the SAT with Essay.

The topic: A comic strip character from the 1940s named Pogo Possum once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Practically wrote itself.


Wrestling With the Founding in the Culture Wars (Thomas W. Merrill, 1/11/24, Law & Liberty)

Thomas Jefferson was weirder and more complex than our political discourse today can easily acknowledge. Consider these two facts. On the one hand, Jefferson was, as we might say today, French Revolution adjacent. He was sympathetic to the revolution for a long time, perhaps longer than we today feel comfortable with. In a well-known letter to William Short in 1793, Jefferson praised, or at least accepted, the violence of the revolution as necessary for the cause of human freedom. On the other hand, at the end of his life, Jefferson was Southern secessionist adjacent. The whole point of the famous letter to John Holmes of 1820, sometimes called the “wolf by the ear” letter, is that if Congress tried to regulate slavery in the territories, the Southern states would break the Union. Contrary to Abraham Lincoln’s later appeals to a “founding consensus” on slavery in the territories, carefully crafted for his political audiences, Jefferson thought and argued that slavery should in fact spread throughout the territories.

This Jefferson makes us feel uncomfortable. How can you describe a figure who wrote the Declaration of Independence, sympathized with the radical parts of the French Revolution, and yet still ended up in a place close to what the proslavery South became? We don’t have a name for this. Jefferson continues to frustrate our desire for clear political categories.

What are we to make of this? Perhaps this observation might help. For most of us, the first word that comes to mind when we hear the name Jefferson is “hypocrite.” And of course, it is hard to argue with that, for all the reasons that we already know. The man wrote the Declaration, but owned slaves; he orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase against his narrow interpretation of executive power; the list goes on. At the same time, the word hypocrite doesn’t really do justice to the Jefferson phenomenon. For one thing, hypocrite leads us to think about the situation largely in terms of personal moral behavior, as though it were simply a matter of someone preaching one thing in public but acting differently in private. Now, there is a dimension of Jefferson’s actions that fits this—think of Sally Hemings.

But there’s another word that fits Jefferson better. That word is tragedy or grand self-contradiction. In tragedy, precisely at the moment when he becomes himself most fully, the hero also undermines everything he holds highest.


For Enslaved Cooks, Persimmon Beer Combined Ingenuity and Joy: A conversation with Michael Twitty about the powerful history behind a centuries-old beverage. (DIANA HUBBELL, NOVEMBER 12, 2021, Atlas Obscura)

MICHAEL TWITTY, THE JAMES BEARD Award–winning culinary historian, estimates he has brewed his grandmother’s persimmon beer about a dozen times. Made by fermenting Diospyros virginiana, the diminutive North American persimmon, with sugar, honey, and yeast, persimmon beer is more akin to fruit wine or liqueur than anything brewed with barley, malt, and hops. Twitty continues to make his family recipe for its sweet-tart flavor and striking amber hue imbued by red pine straw. More than anything, though, he continues the tradition of fermenting this gently boozy elixir because of its deep ties to Black American history and its power to start conversations.

In his book The Cooking Gene, Twitty describes the experience of sharing a batch with contemporary Civil War reenactors. “Persimmon beer became my social lubricant of choice, even with a whole troop of Confederate soldiers,” he writes. Twitty notes that it was likely the very same drink with which his ancestors would have toasted their freedom in 1865.

For generations of Black families across the American South in the 18th and 19th centuries, persimmon beer played an integral role in daily life. In his quest to uncover more about the foodways of his ancestors, Twitty learned that American persimmon trees are a genetic echo of fruit trees in West Africa, and that both the plant and the beverage provide a thread across the history and geography of the African diaspora.

With ’simmon season currently in full swing, Gastro Obscura spoke to Twitty about his family history, the importance and evolution of foraging, and how much a single recipe can reveal.


What’s a prez to do? Grant and the Klan (H. W. BRANDS, JAN 27, 2024, A User’s Guide to History)

South Carolina was the test case. South Carolina had long been the most troublesome of states; it was the loudest agitator for states’ rights and the first state to vote for secession. In 1871, South Carolina allowed the Klan to rampage out of control, threatening and committing violence, including murder, against black men who were trying to exercise their right to vote. Judges and juries in South Carolina, even if they had been inclined to deliver justice to black victims, were themselves intimidated.

Grant had to decide what to do. If he did nothing, much of the victory his army had won during the war might be lost during the peace. Federal authority would be nullified even without secession. South Carolina’s bad example would surely spread.

He pondering deploying the army, but he wasn’t sure of his authority to do so. Under the Constitution he was commander in chief, but that didn’t mean he could dispatch the army whenever and wherever he wished. Moreover, once he sent in the army, how would he extricate it? The army might impose good behavior on South Carolinians, but what would prevent them from bad behavior once the army left? The army couldn’t stay in South Carolina forever.

Grand decided he couldn’t do nothing. To bolster his authority, he had his allies in Congress present a bill to authorize the use of force against the Klan. His model was a force act Congress had approved in the 1830s giving Jackson authority to suppress a potential rebellion in South Carolina when that state was complaining about a tariff it didn’t like. The Ku Klux Klan Act, as it was called when passed, aligned the legislative branch with the executive on the matter of enforcing federal law in the South. Whether the judicial branch would object remain to be seen.

Grant was willing to take that chance. He ordered the army into South Carolina for the purpose of enforcing federal law and breaking up the Klan. Martial law allowed the arrest of many hundreds of Klansmen and fellow travelers without the requirement of habeas corpus. Others got the message and fled ahead of the troops.

Southerners and Democrats howled that Grant was making himself a military dictator. Having been called worse things during the war— butcher and drunkard, most often—he was unfazed.

The action was more successful than he had hoped. Although the detainees couldn’t be charged under federal law with anything worse than conspiring to deprive people of their civil rights— murder, assault and most other crimes remained under the exclusive jurisdiction of states in those days— several hundred were prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned or fined.

The political effect was the most important consequence. The Klansmen and their abettors realized they weren’t beyond the reach of the law. Grant’s action ended the reign of the Klan in the South, until it was resurrected and expanded to other sections of the country in the 20th century.


Statistical Significance—and Why It Matters for Parenting (Emily Oster, Jan 29 2024, Parent Data)

Publication bias and p-hacking are two shorthand, jargony ways to describe journal and researcher behaviors that make it more likely that the results we observe in published papers are occurring just by chance.

First: Academic journals are more likely to publish papers that find significant results. It’s not hard to see why this might be true. It’s not very interesting to publish a result saying that M&M color doesn’t impact multiplication speed — that’s kind of what we expected. But a result that says it does matter — that’s more surprising, and more likely to spark the interest of a journal editor.

This is what we call publication bias, and it turns out that this pattern means that the results we see in print are actually a lot more likely to be statistical accidents. Often, many researchers are looking into the same question. It’s not just my research team who is interested in the M&M-multiplication relationship — imagine there are 99 other teams doing the same thing. Even if there is no relationship, on average 5 of those teams will find something significant.

These 5 “successful” teams are more likely to get their results published. That’s what we all see in journals, but what we do not see is the 95 times it didn’t work. When we read these studies, we’re assuming, implicitly, that we are seeing all the studies that were run. But we’re not, and we’re more likely to see the significant-by-chance results.

The issue of publication bias would be problematic just on its own. But it’s even more problematic when it interacts with researchers’ incentives. Researchers need to publish, and (see above) it is easier to do so when results are significant. This can lead to what people sometimes call p-hacking (the “p” stands for probability).

When researchers run a study, there are often a lot of ways to analyze the data. You can analyze the impact on different subgroups of the population. You can analyze the impact of different circumstances. You can test many different treatments. The idea of the xkcd cartoon is that you could test the impact of all the different M&M colors on some outcome.

The more of these tests you do, the more likely you are to get a significant effect by chance. If you do 100 tests, you expect 5 of them to be significant at the 5% level. And then, because of publication bias, you write up the results focusing only on the significant groups or significant M&M colors. Of course, those are just accidental. But as a consumer of research, we do not see all the other things that happened in the background.

For these two reasons: some of what we see published, even if it is from a randomized experiment, is likely to be a result of statistical chance. There is a somewhat notorious paper that suggests that “most” research findings are false; I think this is overkill, but it’s a perspective.


Some people just want to watch the world burn: the prevalence, psychology and politics of the ‘Need for Chaos’ (Kevin Arceneaux, Timothy B. Gravelle, Mathias Osmundsen, Michael Bang Petersen, Jason Reifler and Thomas J. Scotto, 22 February 2021, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society)

Across all four countries, most people fell in the Low Chaos category and few people fell in the High Chaos category, but combining the Rebuild and High Chaos categories showed that there is support for some degree of chaos-seeking at around 20% in the four Anglo-Saxon countries. Is this something that should be worrying from a normative standpoint? We believe that the Latent Profile Analysis helps answer this question. If 20% of a country yearned for a violent overthrow of the current system, it would be worrying, but it seems that a considerable fraction of this 20% does not want destruction for the sake of destruction, but rather they imagine rebuilding society’s institutions in a way that does not involve violence. We leave aside whether their particular vision is a ‘good’ one, and simply note that most Utopian visions begin with the notion that society must be remade in some fundamental way.

We then turned our attention to exploring whether demographic and political characteristics help differentiate who falls in the different latent profile categories. Echoing previous research, we found evidence that chaos-seeking tends to be higher among the young, men and those with less than a college degree. Interestingly, we did not find consistent differences in terms of demographics between the Rebuilder and High Chaos subtypes. This would suggest that chaos-seekers, whether they like destruction for the sake of destruction or not, may be motivated by a sense of marginalization and grievance that exists at high levels in Western society today [7].

We also found that individuals who identify as Right wing were also more likely to fall in the High Chaos category, yet when we turned our attention to the political preferences of these individuals, the only consistent pattern that emerged was a dislike of immigration. Consistent with [8], we do not find much evidence that individuals in the High Chaos category are idealistic visionaries who want to dismantle social and political institutions to build a better world. Our evidence was much more consistent with the results of previous research that paint individuals high on the NFCChaos scale as nihilists who are only looking out for themselves. In contrast, individuals who fell in the Rebuild category did seem to have something approaching a social outlook. They do not like new lifestyles and, in the USA, they are not fans of capitalism. Perhaps these individuals want to replace established political institutions to make the world a better place (at least their view of what constitutes ‘better’.).


Unseen Innovation (Donald J. Boudreaux, February 1, 2024, AIER)

[E]ven when the market’s achievements are within plain sight — literally visible to the naked eye — they are often overlooked. Some innovations, such as the microwave oven in the 1970s and the smartphone in the first decade of this century, are so novel when they arrive on the scene that they’re oohhhed and aahhhed at first. But because the market soon makes these goodies affordable to almost everyone, they quickly become commonplace and expected.

And if, as is almost always the case, continued innovation and market competition drive the prices of these marvelous and amazing goods ever-further downward, they soon come to be regarded as cheap and frivolous trinkets — evidence, it is said, of the market elevating the shallow, the material, and the atomized individual over the profound, the spiritual, and the soul-sustaining community. Only sociopathic homo economicus and his silly defenders resist efforts to protect workers and communities from the vicious and soulless global competition that greedily spews out the baubles and gee-gaws available at Walmart and Target.

Workers and communities, apparently, would be far better off if the market were sclerotic and kept the likes of microwave ovens, smartphones, fresh blueberries in winter, and 1,200 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets so scarce as to be affordable only by hedge-fund managers and Hollywood starlets. Hoi polloi, noticing these luxuries being consumed by the superrich, might suffer a bit of envy, but this displeasure would be, we are told, swamped by the benefits that ordinary people would enjoy from the stability of their jobs and communities. One cannot put a price on the satisfaction experienced by welder Jones knowing that, like his father and grandfather before him, his sons and grandsons after him will also work as welders.

…we are so immersed in affluence we don’t notice it.