Book Review: “Only the Dead: The Persistence of War in the Modern Age” by Bear F. Braumoeller

Bear F. Braumoeller’s Only the Dead: The Persistence of War in the Modern Age is one of the most sophisticated rebuttals to Steven Pinker’s claims about the decline of violence, as presented in Better Angels and elsewhere.  At its core, though, its argument is a variation on the same strategy every rebuttal to Pinker uses: Count something other than war deaths as the numerator or something other than world population as the denominator.

To his credit, the author reveals himself to be unusually self-aware of this issue:

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Book Reviews: Michael Young’s “Rise of the Meritocracy” and Chris Hayes’ “Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy.”

The 2019 college admissions scandal (sentencing underway) brought a wave of thinkpieces and cheeky tweets on the meritocracy, with the consistent message that America isn’t one.  Two critics of meritocracy got a lot of name-checks: Michael Young, who invented the term in Rise of the Meritocracy, and Chris Hayes, whose more recent Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy now seems shockingly prescient.  Both warn that meritocratic ideology is dangerous, but the dangers they each point to are quite different.

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Privilege is real, and we need to stop talking about it so much.

Louis C.K. shows up several times in Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s The Perils of Privilege — not as villain exactly, but as an undeserving beneficiary: A white man who, through, through self-awareness and linguistic finesse, reaps admiration from a culture that values performative “privilege checking.”  Her choice of example aged almost unbelievably well; six months after the book was published, Louis C.K.’s wokeness was revealed to be not just a profitable performance, but a facade for a serial dick-whipper-outter.

Bovy’s critique of privilege comes from the political left; she has no doubt that the kinds of inequalities described as “privilege” exist; rather, she believes the concept of “privilege” is a counterproductive way to describe and analyze those inequalities. And while I imagine Bovy takes no joy in what Louis C.K. turned out to be, it does put her in a great position to say “I told you so.”

(Because Bovy writes from the left, her book probably won’t be of much interest to conservatives, except for the schadenfreude of dozens of examples of liberals own-goaling themselves and treating each other horribly.  If you don’t believe there is much unfair, group-based inequality in the United States today, but you still want to follow along with my reasoning, feel free to imagine you’re reading this in 1964 or 1862.)

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Necessary pedantry: Human genetic engineering is not eugenics.

(Late-breaking epistemic status: I still stand behind the definitional claim in the title, but my attempt to draw connections between the definitional claim and the moral argument were not very coherent.  Also, many people reading this clearly think that “population” just means the sum of individuals, so I’ve clearly got more work to do in that area of the argument as well.)

I’ve recently noticed some advocates of human genetic engineering claim that eugenics is actually a good thing. I’m pretty sure the majority of these people are not in favor of of “eugenics” as the term has historically been used, and I think misusing the word in this way has bad consequences. The distinction I’m about to draw is often ignored in public debate, but it is both pragmatic and morally necessary.

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Hypergamy, serial monogamy, and involuntary celibacy: Is there a connection?

(content warning: Happy Valentine’s Day!  Let’s talk about culture war, inequality, and loneliness.)

For the first time, I made some effort to promote a post on this blog, and I was rewarded with some interesting discussion on r/slatestarcodex.

To recap: The modern sense of the term “hypergamy”, popular mostly on right-leaning parts of the internet, means that women mate across and up dominance hierarchies whereas men mate across and down.  Some have claimed that, in the absence of monogamous norms, hypergamy makes sexual outcomes highly unequal; sometimes this is described as “20 percent of men getting 80 of the sex.”  In my prior post, I narrowed in on a particular set of claims about hypergamy and showed that they are probably not true.

Somewhat to my surprise, no one took issue with any of the data I presented or any of the concrete conclusions I drew from it. I’m satisfied that I made a strong case that hypergamy, in the narrow sense I described, does not exist.

What surprised me is that a lot of people thought I was arguing against weak man, and said that most people in the manosphere don’t actually believe in the theory I argued against.  The most common criticism was that the reason we don’t currently see harem-forming sexual behavior is that monogamy is a currently-enforced social norm, and that the Chad/Stacy dystopia is something that could happen in the future if we stop enforcing it.

I’ll talk about the implications of that broader, more plausible view of hypergamy shortly, with specific attention to issues involving involuntary celibacy, but first I’m going to show that many prominent people in the manosphere believe in the extreme version I originally argued against.

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Not a Simpsons reference: Chicken tenders breaded with pork rinds.

Bacon up that sausage, boy!

When I was a 90’s kid, I read a book on the Atkins Diet.  Twenty years later, science still haven’t resolved whether low-carb diets are a good idea, but what really stuck with me was the recipe for fried chicken that used crumbled pork rinds as breading.  What stopped me was not fear, but rather, inability to make good fried chicken.  The air fryer removed the last obstacle, and here is the result:

keto

The vegetable is spiralized zucchini, air-fryed with spices but no batter.  I battered the chicken with egg and pork rinds, and unshockingly, it was pretty damned good.