Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt have a powerful essay at Reason
about "The Fragile Generation" about how young people today have been raised in such a sheltered environment compared to their previous generations. While my generation used to wander around our neighborhoods and run to the store for our parents, police are now being called in if a child is sighted on his or her own. Parents today are so overprotective that, as they argue, has made kids and young adults more fragile and less able to deal with conflict.
We've had the best of intentions, of course. But efforts to protect our children may be backfiring. When we raise kids unaccustomed to facing anything on their own, including risk, failure, and hurt feelings, our society and even our economy are threatened. Yet modern child-rearing practices and laws seem all but designed to cultivate this lack of preparedness. There's the fear that everything children see, do, eat, hear, and lick could hurt them. And there's a newer belief that has been spreading through higher education that words and ideas themselves can be traumatizing.

How did we come to think a generation of kids can't handle the basic challenges of growing up?

Beginning in the 1980s, American childhood changed. For a variety of reasons—including shifts in parenting norms, new academic expectations, increased regulation, technological advances, and especially a heightened fear of abduction (missing kids on milk cartons made it feel as if this exceedingly rare crime was rampant)—children largely lost the experience of having large swaths of unsupervised time to play, explore, and resolve conflicts on their own. This has left them more fragile, more easily offended, and more reliant on others. They have been taught to seek authority figures to solve their problems and shield them from discomfort, a condition sociologists call "moral dependency."

This poses a threat to the kind of open-mindedness and flexibility young people need to thrive at college and beyond. If they arrive at school or start careers unaccustomed to frustration and misunderstandings, we can expect them to be hypersensitive. And if they don't develop the resources to work through obstacles, molehills come to look like mountains.
Where the attitude used to be that we should let children fail so they can learn to cope when things don't go their way, now young people just can't deal with anything that conflicts with their view of the world. The result is the situations we're seeing on college campuses today.
This magnification of danger and hurt is prevalent on campus today. It no longer matters what a person intended to say, or how a reasonable listener would interpret a statement—what matters is whether any individual feels offended by it. If so, the speaker has committed a "microaggression," and the offended party's purely subjective reaction is a sufficient basis for emailing a dean or filing a complaint with the university's "bias response team." The net effect is that both professors and students today report that they are walking on eggshells. This interferes with the process of free inquiry and open debate—the active ingredients in a college education.

And if that's the case already, what of the kids still in grammar school, constantly reminded they might accidentally hurt each other with the wrong words? When today's 8-year-olds become the 18-year-olds starting college, will they still view free speech as worthy of protecting? As Daniel Shuchman, chairman of the free speech-promoting Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), puts it, "How likely are they to consider the First Amendment essential if they start learning in fifth grade that you're forbidden to say—or even think—certain things, especially at school?"

Parents, teachers, and professors are talking about the growing fragility they see. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the overprotection of children and the hypersensitivity of college students could be two sides of the same coin. By trying so hard to protect our kids, we're making them too safe to succeed.
As they go over how children are raised today, it really is quite shocking to me compared to both how I was raised and how my own kids were raised. I remember leaving the house in the morning and going to wander the neighborhood for hours. I'd wander far afield and play around in a nearby creek and my parents had no idea where I was. Now I'm amazed at that. This was decades before cell phones. While I wasn't that permissive with my daughters, they'd play by themselves outside without adult supervision. But today's kids are raised quite differently and are always under some sort of adult's protection their entire lives.
It's not just that kids aren't playing much on their own. These days, they're not doing much of anything on their own. In an article in The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin admits that "when my daughter was 10, my husband and I suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult."
Think about that. Is that the way you were raised? Is that the way you raised your children?
If you're over 40, chances are good that you had scads of free time as a child—after school, on weekends, over the summer. And chances are also good that, if you were asked about it now, you'd go on and on about playing in the woods and riding your bike until the streetlights came on.

Today many kids are raised like veal. Only 13 percent of them even walk to school. Many who take the bus wait at the stop with parents beside them like bodyguards. For a while, Rhode Island was considering a bill that would prohibit children from getting off the bus in the afternoon if there wasn't an adult waiting to walk them home. This would have applied until seventh grade.

As for summer frolicking, campers don't just have to take a buddy with them wherever they go, including the bathroom. Some are now required to take two—one to stay with whoever gets hurt, the other to run and get a grown-up. Walking to the john is treated like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

After school, kids no longer come home with a latchkey and roam the neighborhood. Instead, they're locked into organized, supervised activities. Youth sports are a $15 billion business that has grown by 55 percent since just 2010. Children as young as third grade are joining traveling teams—which means their parents spend a lot of time in the car, too. Or they're at tutoring. Or they're at music lessons. And if all else fails, they are in their rooms, online.

Even if parents want to shoo their kids outside—and don't come home till dinner!—it's not as easy as it once was. Often, there are no other children around to play with. Even more dishearteningly, adults who believe it's good for young people to run some errands or play kickball down the street have to think twice about letting them, because busybodies, cops, and social workers are primed to equate "unsupervised" with "neglected and in danger."
Now the police will be called if you let your kids play outside by themselves.
You may remember the story of the Meitivs in Maryland, investigated twice for letting their kids, 10 and 6, walk home together from the park. Or the Debra Harrell case in South Carolina, where a mom was thrown in jail for allowing her 9-year-old to play at the sprinkler playground while she worked at McDonald's. Or the 8-year-old Ohio boy who was supposed to get on the bus to Sunday school, but snuck off to the Family Dollar store instead. His dad was arrested for child endangerment.

These examples represent a new outlook: the belief that anytime kids are doing anything on their own, they are automatically under threat. But that outlook is wrong. The crime rate in America is back down to what it was in 1963, which means that most of today's parents grew up playing outside when it was more dangerous than it is today. And it hasn't gotten safer because we're hovering over our kids. All violent crime is down, including against adults.
Skenazy and Haidt point out that, just as life has become safer, we've become paranoid. This story seems like a story from the Onion.
he Boulder Public Library in Colorado recently forbade anyone under 12 to enter without an adult, because "children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or other library patrons." Ah, yes, kids and library furniture. Always a lethal combo.

Happily, the library backed off that rule, perhaps thanks to merciless mocking in the media. But saner minds don't always prevail. At Mesa Elementary School, which also happens to be in Boulder, students got a list of the items they could not bring to the science fair. These included "chemicals," "plants in soil," and "organisms (living or dead)." And we wonder why American children score so low on international tests.

But perhaps the single best example of how fantastically fearful we've become occurred when the city of Richland, Washington, got rid of all the swings on its school playgrounds. The love of swinging is probably older than humanity itself, given our arboreal origins. But as a school district spokesman explained, "Swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground."

You may think your town has avoided such overkill, but is there a merry-go-round at your local park, or a see-saw? Most likely they, too, have gone the way of lawn darts. The Consumer Product Safety Commission even warns parks of "tripping hazards, like…tree stumps and rocks," a fact unearthed (so to speak) by Philip Howard, author of 2010's Life Without Lawyers.

The problem is that kids learn by doing. Trip over a tree stump and you learn to look down. There's an old saying: Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child. We're doing the opposite.
The result of all this overprotection is that we're raising a generation who are unable to cope with ordinary problems like the story they tell of two college students who called the emergency counseling service because they had a mouse in their apartment. When that didn't help, they called the police.
Not letting your kid climb a tree because he might fall robs him of a classic childhood experience. But being emotionally overprotective takes away something else. "We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to…experience failure and realize they can survive it," Gray has said. When Lenore's son came in eighth out of nine teams in a summer camp bowling league, he got an eighth-place trophy. The moral was clear: We don't think you can cope with the negative emotions of finishing second-to-last.

Of course, it's natural to want to see kids happy. But the real secret to happiness isn't more high fives; it's developing emotional resilience. In our mania for physical safety, coupled with our recent tendency to talk about "emotional safety," we have systematically deprived our children of the thousands of challenging—and sometimes upsetting—experiences that they need in order to learn that resiliency. And in our quest to protect them, we have stolen from children the best resilience training known to man: free play.
Too rarely these days are kids just left alone to develop their own play. Instead they're participating in organized activities where the adults are in control. The kids don't get the opportunity to engage their imagination and resolve problems that arise. And they have lost experiences of navigating their ways around their neighborhoods on their own.
The responsibility expected of kids not so long ago has become almost inconceivable. Published in 1979, the book Your 6-Year-old: Loving and Defiant includes a simple checklist for what a child entering first grade should be able to do: Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored? Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels? Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to a store, school, playground, or friend's home?

Hang on. Walk to the store at 6—alone?

It's tempting to blame "helicopter parents" for today's less resilient kids. But when all the first-graders are walking themselves to school, it's easy to add yours to the mix. When your child is the only one, it's harder. And that's where we are today. Norms have dramatically changed. The kind of freedom that seemed unremarkable a generation ago has become taboo, and in some cases even illegal.
They review what has happened to Halloween.
n Waynesboro, Georgia, "trick or treaters" must be 12 or younger; they must be in a costume; and they must be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years of age. So if you have kids who are 15, 10, and 8, you can't send them out together. The 15-year-old is not allowed to dress up, yet she won't be considered old enough to supervise her siblings for another six years. And this is on the one night of the entire year we traditionally let children pretend to be adults.

Other schools and community centers now send letters home asking parents not to let their children wear scary costumes. Some even organize "trunk or treats"—cars parked in a circle, trunks open and filled with candy, thus saving the kids from having to walk around the neighborhood or knock on doors. (That would be tiring and terrifying.) If this is childhood, is it any wonder college kids also expect to be micromanaged on Halloween?
This year, we didn't get one Trick or Treater to our house. They just weren't out there at all even when I looked out in the neighborhood. We went from having seven-eight groups of kids an hour to not having a single one. When I brought in my leftover candy to give my students, several of them told me that they didn't get any kids coming to their houses either. Maybe that is the way it's going to be from now on. Maybe they'll all "Trunk or treat." But it's a shame. I loved Halloween. When I was a kid, the idea that strangers would give me candy if I just asked them to seemed like the best thing ever!

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Ilya Somin commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. After reminding us of the many millions who have died through mass murder and man-made famines. These mass murders were accompanied by deprivations of the freedoms and property rights that we take for granted here. All this from regimes that promised a utopian regime with prosperity and rights for everyone. So why was communism such a failure?
How did an ideology of liberation lead to so much oppression, tyranny and death? Were its failures intrinsic to the communist project, or did they arise from avoidable flaws of particular rulers or nations? Like any great historical development, the failures of communism cannot be reduced to any one single cause. But, by and large, they were indeed inherent.

Two major factors were the most important causes of the atrocities inflicted by communist regimes: perverse incentives and inadequate knowledge. The establishment of the centrally planned economy and society required by socialist ideology necessitated an enormous concentration of power. While communists looked forward to a utopian society in which the state could eventually “wither away,” they believed they first had to establish a state-run economy in order to manage production in the interests of the people. In that respect, they had much in common with other socialists.

To make socialism work, government planners needed to have the authority to direct the production and distribution of virtually all the goods produced by the society. In addition, extensive coercion was necessary to force people to give up their private property, and do the work that the state required. Famine and mass murder was probably the only way the rulers of the USSR, China, and other communist states could compel peasants to give up their land and livestock and accept a new form of serfdom on collective farms – which most were then forbidden to leave without official permission, for fear that they might otherwise seek an easier life elsewhere.

The vast power necessary to establish and maintain the communist system naturally attracted unscrupulous people, including many self-seekers who prioritized their own interests over those of the cause. But it is striking that the biggest communist atrocities were perpetrated not by corrupt party bosses, but by true believers like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Precisely because they were true believers, they were willing to do whatever it might take to make their utopian dreams a reality.

Even as the socialist system created opportunities for vast atrocities by the rulers, it also destroyed production incentives for ordinary people. In the absence of markets (at least legal ones), there was little incentive for workers to either be productive or to focus on making goods that might actually be useful to consumers. Many people tried to do as little work as possible at their official jobs, where possible reserving their real efforts for black market activity. As the old Soviet saying goes, workers had the attitude that “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay.”

Even when socialist planners genuinely sought to produce prosperity and meet consumer demands, they often lacked the information to do so. As Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek described in a famous article, a market economy conveys vital information to producers and consumers alike through the price system. Market prices enable producers to know the relative value of different goods and services, and determine how much consumers value their products. Under socialist central planning, by contrast, there is no substitute for this vital knowledge. As a result, socialist planners often had no way to know what to produce, by what methods, or in way quantities. This is one of the reasons why communists states routinely suffered from shortages of basic goods, while simultaneously producing large quantities of shoddy products for which there was little demand.
I would add in to their lack of knowledge, their inability to understand human behavior. THey seemed to think that it was possible to remake humans into their preferred images to work the way they envisioned society working. They ignored that people respond to both incentives and disincentives. If there is no benefit to working hard, why work hard? But those on the left who still see socialism as a desirable system try to explain away the century of bloody failures from communist regimes.
How did an ideology of liberation lead to so much oppression, tyranny and death? Were its failures intrinsic to the communist project, or did they arise from avoidable flaws of particular rulers or nations? Like any great historical development, the failures of communism cannot be reduced to any one single cause. But, by and large, they were indeed inherent.

Two major factors were the most important causes of the atrocities inflicted by communist regimes: perverse incentives and inadequate knowledge. The establishment of the centrally planned economy and society required by socialist ideology necessitated an enormous concentration of power. While communists looked forward to a utopian society in which the state could eventually “wither away,” they believed they first had to establish a state-run economy in order to manage production in the interests of the people. In that respect, they had much in common with other socialists.

To make socialism work, government planners needed to have the authority to direct the production and distribution of virtually all the goods produced by the society. In addition, extensive coercion was necessary to force people to give up their private property, and do the work that the state required. Famine and mass murder was probably the only way the rulers of the USSR, China, and other communist states could compel peasants to give up their land and livestock and accept a new form of serfdom on collective farms – which most were then forbidden to leave without official permission, for fear that they might otherwise seek an easier life elsewhere.

The vast power necessary to establish and maintain the communist system naturally attracted unscrupulous people, including many self-seekers who prioritized their own interests over those of the cause. But it is striking that the biggest communist atrocities were perpetrated not by corrupt party bosses, but by true believers like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Precisely because they were true believers, they were willing to do whatever it might take to make their utopian dreams a reality.

Even as the socialist system created opportunities for vast atrocities by the rulers, it also destroyed production incentives for ordinary people. In the absence of markets (at least legal ones), there was little incentive for workers to either be productive or to focus on making goods that might actually be useful to consumers. Many people tried to do as little work as possible at their official jobs, where possible reserving their real efforts for black market activity. As the old Soviet saying goes, workers had the attitude that “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay.”

Even when socialist planners genuinely sought to produce prosperity and meet consumer demands, they often lacked the information to do so. As Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek described in a famous article, a market economy conveys vital information to producers and consumers alike through the price system. Market prices enable producers to know the relative value of different goods and services, and determine how much consumers value their products. Under socialist central planning, by contrast, there is no substitute for this vital knowledge. As a result, socialist planners often had no way to know what to produce, by what methods, or in way quantities. This is one of the reasons why communists states routinely suffered from shortages of basic goods, while simultaneously producing large quantities of shoddy products for which there was little demand.
Read the rest of this essay. These lessons are so important, especially today when we see socialist politicians achieving a remarkable degree of popularity.
Even in some long-established democracies, recent economic and social troubles have increased the popularity of avowed old-style socialists such as Bernie Sanders in the United States and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. Both Sanders and Corbyn are longtime admirers of brutal communist regimes. Even if they wanted to do so, it is unlikely that Sanders or Corbyn will be able to establish full-blown socialism in their respective countries. But they can potentially do considerable harm nonetheless.

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Meanwhile, Jay Nordlinger marvels at how Donald Trump happily joked around with foreign leaders on his trip about their disdain for journalists. But there is a difference between Trump railing about #FakeNews and the way Russia's PUtin and the Philippine's Duterte treatment of journalists.
Reporters tried to ask President Duterte of the Philippines about human rights. He shut them down, calling them “spies.” President Trump, sitting next to him, laughed. Earlier this year, Trump sat next to Vladimir Putin. Reporters were trying to ask questions. Putin pointed at them and said to Trump, “Are these the ones who insulted you?” Then the two had a good laugh.

Obviously, democratic leaders have to engage in diplomacy, holding their noses, doing the necessary. If Mao asks you to play ping-pong with him, maybe you do. But democratic leaders, especially the American president, stand for something abroad.

Putin is not just anti–press freedom. He is a killer of journalists. Duterte is not just anti–press freedom. He is a killer of journalists. Recall his famous sentence: “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”

To dictators, a “son of a bitch” is anyone who might inconvenience them.

I think we who spend so much of our day media-bashing have an obligation to remember: Press freedom is a key part of overall freedom. It is key to democracy. It is what we on the right, among others, take advantage of every day.

When the president of the United States is sitting next to the killers of journalists, he should not laugh along with them when it comes to the press. If he cannot defend a free press — the right of people to question and report on their leaders — he should at least refrain from laughing.
Indeed.

CBS Sports decided
to take the idea of Greg Popovich running for president and try to figure out how he'd do. While it may be a fun intellectually exercise, I don't think it would ever happen. Pop is smart enough not to want to throw himself into that political thicket. While he might have strong views, he also knows his limitations. Those people who do run, especially those who think they can start at the top without any experience in office at all are filled with an arrogance that Pop just has never demonstrated. But it sure is fun to contemplate.

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The Democrats are so lame when it comes to trying to block Trump's judicial nominees that they've descended to pretending to find deep meaning in the tweets from Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett. Judge Willett has a sweet and funny Twitter feed, but you know that leftist organizations have been poring over it to try to find some sort of disqualifying tweet. And the humorless Patrick Leahy was ready to interrogate Willet about two supposedly offensive tweets. One was a joke made after California allowed transgender male athletes to compete in female sports competitions.



Then the man whose qualifications for the Senate were his work for SNL, Al Franken, jumped in to question the humor in the joke.
"I don't get it," Franken, a former Saturday Night Live writer and performer, shot back. "But sometimes when you don't get a joke it's because it wasn't a joke."
Well, Franken would know about jokes that aren't jokes. And why did the Democrats put Franken on the Judiciary Committee. That always astounds me.

Another tweet that Leahy pretended not to understand was one that Willett posted after the oral argument in the Obergefell hearing on gay marriage before the Supreme Court. Willett had the effrontery to make a bacon joke.
So now a bacon joke is the basis for Leahy to argue that Willett isn't qualified to hear cases involving LGBT issues. Allahpundit comments,
What makes this stupid, though, isn’t just Leahy’s lame attempt to turn a genial joke into “divisiveness.” It’s that he doesn’t even have his facts straight. The tweet wasn’t sent the day after SCOTUS’s decision on gay marriage, it was sent months earlier, after oral argument in the case. The Supremes hadn’t ruled on the matter yet, in which case Willett’s tweet obviously couldn’t have been a commentary on their decision. Willett himself must have forgotten the timeline because he accepts Leahy’s false claim that he tweeted after the decision itself, not oral argument. But Leahy’s wrong, in addition to being a humorless tool.
Willett tried to explain why he made a bacon joke at that time, but Leahy was having none of it.
"I don't believe I had attacked Supreme Court precedent, but certainly, if I were fortunate enough to be confirmed as a federal circuit judge, I would be honor-bound, categorically, absolutely, to follow every controlling precedent," Willett said.

Leahy said again that Willett had equated same-sex marriage to marrying bacon, saying it indicated a lack of respect for the Supreme Court.

"Senator, as for the bacon tweet, that was the day after the Obergefell decision was issued and it was my attempt to inject a bit of levity," Willett said. "The country was filled with rancor and polarization. It was a divisive time in the nation."

"And you think that cut back the divisiveness with a comment like that?" Leahy asked.

"Senator, I believe every American is entitled to equal worth and dignity," Willett said. "I've never intended to disparage anyone and would never do so. That's not where my heart is."
Guy Benson adds,
To his credit, this is far more polite than I would have been. I'd have been tempted to blurt out something, like "are you kidding me? Does anyone have a legitimate question about something serious?" Unless you're a humorless left-wing scold, here's what obviously happened: With people on various sides of an emotional social issue raging at each other, Willett used the moment to make a unifying crack about America's shared love of bacon. I'm half surprised Leahy didn't follow up with accusation that the pork-joke was insensitive to devout Jews and Muslims. In any case, this criticism was absurdly weak sauce.

Make up your own minds. Go scroll through Willett's Twitter feed. I guarantee that you will have a gentle smile on your face as you do. His posts are a mix of love for this country and Texas along with his feelings for his family sprinkled in with some genial jokes that all but Patrick Leahy and Al Franken would understand.