In 2006 I had an essay on teaching about sexual orientation published in a book in the “Opposing Viewpoints” series.

Upper Michigan, 2019-9

I had almost overlooked that in 2006 an essay of mine was officially published by a trade publisher (not self-published). It was published under my nickname (then pen-name) “Bill”.

The essay is “Editorial: Teaching about Homosexuality in Public High Schools”, originally posted in late 2004, after I had been subbing for a while.  (That would come to a head in late 2005, but that’s another discussion, and also the plot for a screenplay I am working on now, already embedded as a subordinate background incident in my completed “Second Epiphany”). 

The essay was picked up for the 2006 anthology “Teenage Sexuality: Opposing Viewpoints”, in a series published by Greenhaven Press of Thomson Gale in Farmington Hills, MI, ISBN 0-7377-3362-4 library hardcover, 224 pages.  There are 22 essays, divided into four chapters that pose a debate question.  Mine is the third essay, a “pro” answer to the Chapter 4 question, “What Should Teens Be Taught About Sex?”  The Amazon Site Stripe is this link, and the book now is rather pricey.  The other questions in that Chapter deal with abstinence and condoms.

The con response to my essay is by Linda P. Harvey.

My pro answer included teaching the science and anthropology, which by high school teens should be understand when they take biology.  But my essay also stressed that a lot of homophobia in the past is cultural, beyond merely religious:  it is about the expectation that everyone should be socialized to fit into a family structure as a supposedly necessary part of social stability, surrounding the sharing of otherwise individualized risks and burdens for a common good and lineage.

Today that is what the alt-right believes, more or less.  The far Left, however, as we know, from other postings, is challenging the idea of behavioral sexual orientation in cis-men, and seems to believe that everything comes down to “choosing” a gender idea that suits your inborn capabilities.

Video about the right-wing, sexuality, and especially the incel issue

At the time of publication of this book, no one seriously thought you could introduce these topics to younger children or soften their future critical attitudes.  Things have really changed.

The concept of presenting opposing viewpoints is also the mission of a group called Braver Angels, and I have attended and reported on their debates. At one time, I wanted to set up an opposing viewpoints “database” on my own “doaskdotell” legacy site.

For my own progress, I visited (for the first time in over two years), an overpacked storage locker (Extra Space) to see what kind of inventory of my books I might have.  The locker was so overstuffed I could not tell yet. 

(Posted: Monday, June 13, 2022 at 11 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Books “Johnny the Walrus” and “Irreversible Damage” called “transphobic”; but what they seem to do is challenge intersectionality as an ideology to drive “critical gender theory”, barely touching conventional gay rights issues of the past

Unusual bracket fungus in Alexandria VA, on walk to Alexandria Pride Sat. June 4

I’ll do two book reviews here.  But first a general statement.  I do think a lot of the focus on some young people wanting to claim they are transgender or nonbinary comes from their perception that they are not “competitive” or attractive in their accepted birth sex.  They want the idea of the “merit” of being attractive according to the norms for your own sex to become less important to others. So they have a reason to rationalize an ideology encouraging some kind of transition — in many instances.

Recently, there were demonstrations at Amazon’s HQ in Seattle maintain that the sale of two particular books on their platform could lead to attacks on non-binary people.  Lauren Rosenblatt provides a story for the Seattle Times.   A Twitter thread from Katherine Long shows illustrations of the “die-in”.

One of the books is the cardboard stock children’s book by Matt Walsh (illustrations by K. Reece), “Johnny the Walrus“.  The publication data is DW Books (Daily Wire, admittedly a conservative channel), ISBN 978-1-956007-05-3.

Johnny the Walrus book video

  A little boy thinks he is a walrus and becomes one.  That attracts anger of others and he goes back to being human, “as he really is”, according to the (“conservative”) author. “Accept yourself as you really are” (a slogan for my first novel attempt, “The Proles“). As an aside: When I was stationed at Fort Eustis Va (all of 1969) when I was in the Army, one of the other guys in the barracks called himself “The Walrus”.  We gave animal names to people (“lizard”, “ostrich”, “ocelot” [it was desirable to be a cat], and I was “chickenman”, based on a Saturday morning cartoon at the time. “He’s everywhere”.  Well, on the Internet, maybe I am. And I have traveled a lot.  Quantum superposition, maybe?

Fort Eustis VA 2015; I worked in a wooden building here in 1969, USACDCTA

The other book is “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters”, by Abigail Shrier.  The publication data is: paper, Regnery Publishing (a conservative publisher connected to the Washington Times), 2020, ISBN,, 978-1-68451-228-7, 274 pages, index and endnotes, text ends on p. 227; Foreword (which discusses protests against the book) and Introduction take 30 Roman numeral pages.  [By the way, I think books should start on p. 1 and use only regular numerals.), 11 chapters and an Epilogue.  

Irreversible Damage book video

The author’s premise is what the subtitle says.  She posits that since around 2013 or so, the increasing use of algorithms in social media has particularly affected what pre-teen girls see online, before puberty, making them very self-conscious of their standing socially (Likeonomics). This surprisingly destructive result from social media business models, developing since about 2013, has been pointed out by Johnathan Haidt (yesterday’s post).  A disproportionate percentage of these girls develop the idea that they want to become men, or at least nonbinary.  Maybe what they really want is a world in which looks don’t count.  That might have applied to me in the 50s, but I doubled down, turning to internal upward affiliation, along with a separation into my own sovereign world functioning as an “alien observer” reporting on everything without skin in the game.

She does cover many aspects of the problem.  In blue states or cities, some school boards go woke and reinforce these ideas with social transitioning, even allowing students to name their pronouns and new names without parents’ knowledge in some cases.  (This gets into SEL, discussed below; it’s unclear how widespread this is, whatever you make of the @LibsofTikTok Twitter account.) Some physicians go overboard with puberty blockers or other treatments; she will later claim that about 70% of the time the persons want to detransition back later, but physical damage can be severe (in a few cases, life threatening infections result).  She makes the point that puberty for most people is a necessary step, which actually improves brain performance in school (for both sexes).   She gives numerous case histories (with an afterword covering them today).  In a couple cases, young women went away to college and tried to transition, unbeknownst to their parents, who felt betrayed.  This runs parallel to my own expulsion as a freshman from William and Mary in 1961 for being gay.

rebuttal to Shrier’s book by a trans adult

Numerous times she mentions that “transitioning” girls are startled to see male body hair.  She doesn’t mention that this is much more significant with Caucasian (generally, “white”) people, and with people of color never has much chance to become noticed or significant.

Her book, by and large, does not discuss teenage boys, and does not mention the Intersex issue, which needs to be put in proper perspective. Well, she has a chapter “The Dissidents” where she discusses Ray Blanchard and J. Michael Bailey.  There is an allusion to the issue of whether some “sissy” boys are really non-binary or trans, but they typically grow up to be cisgendered gay men, because masculinity itself fascinate them. (I remember resisting the idea of a first shave at the age of 14 or so.)   

First, teenage boys particularly really benefit from puberty;  some problems like ADD go away with puberty.  But bringing up boys takes us back to a larger view of the various facets of transgenderism or non-binary-ism, and Intersex.

Intersex is generally a different issue from transgenderism or non-binary as commonly encountered. A video by Sci-Show linked here on a June 1, 2022 comment for the May 9. 2022 posting explains the myriad of chromosomal or known genetic configurations that cause genuine Intersexiam. (It is the “I” in GLBTQIA; “A” is asexual, or at least disinclination to have intercourse at all – it might move over into “incel” but that is another discussion).   About 1.7% of the general population is born with a biological configuration that could be called Intersex.  Often there are few or no indications; but the other side is that sometimes doctors have done unnecessary treatments (sometimes surgeries). 

A number of red states have proposed laws prohibiting medical treatment to change gender before 18, regardless of permission of the parents, but generally there states have made exceptions for known Intersex patients.  But one or two states have proposed laws mandating treatment for Intersex if medically possible to original sex, and most civil libertarians would say such laws are inappropriate (maybe unconstitutional). 

It seems, instead, that most of the “transgenderism” attracting controversy in practice is generated by fad behavior exacerbated by certain social media practices.  Shrier wants to keep smart phones from kids completely until they are perhaps 16.  (Problem, we see teens on YT who are incredibly mature at 14 or 15, the exceptions.)  About 1 in maybe 400 children (thru early grades) may truly be “trans” without an identifiable biological cause.  School systems do need policies (not abusive state laws) to handle theses situations, as well as to handle Intersex.  The aims of SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) programs may sound laudable, but they need very careful planning, with consideration of enlarging science.  It would be helpful if well-informed and news-familiar parents would run for school boards and get elected.

Shrier does have a simple solution for bullying:  Ban it, regardless of the victim.  I got called into the nurse’s office in ninth grade for spreading rumors about a boy who had epilepsy in class (in 1958). I mention this in my first book.  If that happened today I should have wound up in an alternative high school for a year. The 2010 case of teen violinist Tyler Clementi at Rutgers is truly tragic, however, and needs better explanations, and would make for a good documentary film investigation.

We’re also left to ponder the “drag queen story hour” events at some pride festivals this month.  I sat in on one in Alexandria, VA last Saturday and it seemed to stay in bounds. The parents brought the kids, and it was outside the school systems.   There was no tipping, but a little fist clenching (leftist) and a few kids hugged the drag queen.

My take on Alexandria ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’

Not so in Dallas (“Drag the Kids to Pride”), apparently. That’s two weeks after I had visited the Cedar Springs strip myself.

Dallas “Drag the Kids to Pride” protest

I’ll add, I see there is at least a parallelism to the arguments I used against “don’t ask don’t tell” two-plus decades ago, and the issue of what kids should be taught about gender and sexuality in schools or what parents may wisely expose them to.   Hints have been dropped to me, why didn’t enter the childrens and gay rights books business, to prove I could sell books?  Well, partly because I have no kids.  Abd partly because the issues are really much harder to settle.  Although gays in the military didn’t look easy at first, and it took 17 years.  I have gotten rebuffs for using the phrase “gay conservative” in a book title (like that is hate speech) or the idea of a chapter titled “The Virtue of Maleness” in book 3, as if to attack those who were less cis than others.  Yes, a lot of people go around looking for ways to say their tribe is victimized, and that somehow that gives them a new identity.

There is a shift in LQBTQ activism, from the issue of sexual attraction (the former issues of sodomy laws, DADT, and then gay marriage) to a kind of “critical gender theory” today which I find much more problematic.  The latter is more what drives the idea of anti-LQBTQ zones in eastern Europe and is partly what also generates the anti-LGBTQ ideas in Russia, which Putin himself has tried to exploit in the Ukraine wars — grave stuff.  There is, also, though, the issue of declining birth rates, and less family formation.

All of this is winding back to the problems of personal agency, which I will continue to explore.

(Posted on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at 10:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Lex Fridman and Jonathan Haidt discuss the Internet and political polarization (and the effect on kids)

KS-CO border 2022-5-22

Lex Fridman (whose ancestry includes Russian and Ukrainian) interviews Jonathan Haidt, “The Case Against Social Media”, 102 minutes, June 4.

Lex Fridman interviews Johnathan Haidt

Haidt, recall, is a co-author of “The Coddling of the American Mind” (my 2019 review ; Amazon Site Stripe).

Lex has made several clips from this on his “Lex Clips” YouTube Channel.

Haidt has previously noted the “safeyism” that started to affect parents in the 1990s, when they would be less likely to let their kids play outside unsupervised (at least the richer kids).

He notes that the Internet gradually became more important to people as a source of information, with blogs and flat sites first, and then with social media (starting with Myspace) gradually becoming more important in the 2000’s.  (Remember all those Dr. Phil programs like around 2007, “Internet Mistakes” on Myspace first).  There were other problems, too (as shown by the NBC series “To Catch a Predator” that started in 2005), and some infamous incidents (like with Justin Berry). 

Starting around 2012 or so, after Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and YouTube, were more established, all larger tech companies started using algorithms based on recording visitor behavior and coordinating it with advertisers.  This business model tended to give people what they wanted to see. But it gradually drove political polarization, which enemies (like Russia) could subvert even before the 2016 election, when  Trump won.  Political polarization tends to lead to cancel culture, because people fear being “attacked” on a medium like Twitter by their “enemies”. 

But the algorithms also did something else. They particularly affected pre-teens (allowed to join most services around age 13), especially teen girls, who would become inordinately concerned about their social popularity online and their potential sexual competitiveness with boys before they had even finished puberty.   Some people argue this is driving some pre-teen girls to believe they are transgender and to seek social accommodation and treatment. (This will be covered again in another book discussion).

Haidt believes that people under 16 should not be allowed to have their own social media accounts, and that other online activities before 16 should be limited.

However, you run into some teenagers who were incredibly mature when they started Internet usage with their channels (like Max Reisinger and John Fish).  The social problems may be more severe for girls.

I’ll also share a recent video from PragerU about China’s recent “progress” with its social credit system.

(Posted: Tuesday, June 7, 2022 at 9 PM EDT)

“Julia”: film biography of a famous television cooking personality (and an earlier film of that name)

Cuisine at a Comfort Inn, recent trip

On Sunday, May 29, 2022, CNN aired the documentary biography “Julia”, directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, chronicling the life and public cooking career of Julia Carolyn McWilliams (1912-2004), married as Julia Child in 1946. The 2021 theatrical lease belongs to Sony Pictures Classics.  It also has played on HBO Max.   

trailer “Julia” Sony Pictures Classics

Julia (too tall to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps – remember the film “Never Wave at a WAC”) worked as a civilian clerk in Naval Intelligence.  She became interested in French cuisine when her husband moved to Paris in 1948.

trailer “Julia” Sony Pictures Classics

Julia launched her media career by authoring the encyclopediac book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (1961), with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, published by Knopf (Houghton Mifflin had the first contract and didn’t like the style – which today works in cookbooks).  She would go on to author many others, but gradually she moved into television, with cooking shows where she aimed to become entertaining with an impromptu style of presentation, allowing herself to make mistakes and using a lot of metaphors in her speech.

I can recall there were other cooking shows when I was growing up, like ‘Homemaker’s Exchange”.  Should little boys have noticed?

She apparently had a breast cancer mastectomy in the 1960s and she was never able to have children. Nevertheless, he views of the world could be quite conservative, even homophobic, until she learned about AIDS after a close friend died, and then she would assist with food for AIDS-related fundraisers.

There was another film by this name in 1977,  Julia (1977, 20th Century Fox, dir. Fred Zinnemann, 118 min, PG-13), I saw this film on the upper East Side in Manhattan, NYC that year, and the audience gave it an ovation at the end. This is the story of the relationship between playwright Lillian Hellmann (Jane Fonda) (from her memoir Pentimento) and her long term friend Julia (Vanessa Redgrave), who eventually enlists Lilian to help smuggle funds to the anti-Nazi resistance. I remember a climactic encounter in a bar in Berlin where the two friends meet near the end of the movie, when Julia then has only one leg.

trailer “Julia” 1977 film of Lillian Hellmann’s memoir

Never Wave at a WAC” (1952, RKO Radio / Independent Artists, dir. Norman Z. McLeod) Jo McBain (Rosalind Russell) joins the Army during WWII to be closer to her boyfriend (that sounds like unit cohesion with heterosexuals in the military, doesn’t it) and has a hard time (to say the least) with Army life. She winds up testing clothes and gets into some I-Love-Lucy like comedy.  The trailers on YT are colorized, but The Film Detective offers the original BW full feature free.

“Never Wave at a WAC” full film

I saw that film with Mother on the way to pick up father at the airport, still remember it (same story for “High Noon”).

Waffle House in Moore, OK, favorite of Fox5DC weather host Matthew Cappucci (my trip 2022-5)

(Posted: Wednesday, June 1, 2022 at 2 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Double Life, Double Murder”: ABC 2020 episode looks at a possible wrongful conviction associated with homophobia

Cedar Springs area, Dallas 2022-5

On Friday, May 20, 2022, ABC 2020 presented a two hour mystery “Double Life Double Murder”. The viewing link (may require cable subscription) is this, and ABC main article is this. ABC affiliate WFAA has a detailed article. I actually watched it in a motel in Amarillo TX ( 8 PM Central) on a road trip.

Helium atom, Amarillo TX, NW of downtown off US 66, business 40

This is the case of a middle-aged couple, Dennis and Norma Woodruff, shot and stabbed late on a Sunday evening Oct. 16, 2005.  The couple had been downsizing by moving from a home in Heath, near Lake Ray Hubbard in the eastern suburbs of Dallas (which tend to be more conservative than the rest of the area – I lived in Dallas 1979-1988) to Royse City, farther into Collin and Hunt counties along I-30. 

Their 18 year old son Brandon apparently had dinner in their new place with them early Sunday evening and then says he was in a gay bar before returning to college at Abilene Christina University.  Other friends tried to call them and they did not answer. Their bodies were found on Tuesday.

There seems to be very little physical evidence.  Some time later a knife would be found with Dennis’s blood on it, maybe from a previous cut.

Nevertheless Brandon would become the main person of interest and then suspect, mainly from circumstantial evidence, although there seems to be serious questions whether the proposed timeline could have happened.

There is a paperback book by Phillip Crawford, “Railroaded: The Homophobic Prosecution of Brandon Woodruff for His Parents’ Murders”, Amazon Create Space, 2018, 161 pages, Site stripe link.

The Dallas Voice, article by David Taffett, reviews the episode with details of the case here. The Innocence Project is looking into this. Brandon’s grandmother supports his claims of innocence and has funded appeal attempts. The 2020 episode features a detailed interview of a near middle aged Brandon by ABC journalist John Quionenes where Brandon insists he did nothing. The episode included interviews with a female juror who insisted there was no homophobia in the deliberations although several jurors tended to see homosexuality per se as a (religious) sin.

I was just on a brief trip to Dallas and then several surrounding places (actually three other states). The Cedar Springs area close to downtown has rainbow paint on the main intersection (at Throckmorton St) and has some of the largest gay bars in the nation (Station4 disco [previously the Village Station] and Roundup, the latter a country-western place that is busy even on weeknights). Reasonably secure lot parking is available for $5 weekend nights. I did not have time to visit Royse City but it appears from Google Maps to be an upscale bedroom community like many in north Texas. Here is a Wikipedia picture of main street. Here is a picture of the Jacob’s Dream statue at Abilene Christian University.

The Crossroads plaque at Cedar Springs and Throckmorton 2022-5

I also did not have time to revisit Ranger, TX on I-20 (where the highway “climbs” on top of the Palo Pinto “Mountains”) which had serious fire damage last March (local Fox video). I did see grass fire damage on NM 406 (near the Oklahoma Panhandle Black Mesa) but there was no place to stop and film it. More details about the trip will be forthcoming.

(Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at 8 PM EDT)

“Cold Civil War” by Jim Belcher (book review)

From pro-abortion protesters after SCOTUS leak, 2022-5-16, pretty graphic language on some posters, particularly about the prospect of another Trump presidency term

Review of book “The Cold Civil War: Overcoming Polarization, Discovering Unity and Healing the Nation”. (Amazon Sitestripes link).

Author: Jim Belcher, formerly president of Providence Christian College in Pasadena CA and founding lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach CA. Ph.D from Georgetown University.

Foreword by John D. Wilsey.

Details: 2022, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 340 pages hardcover, 274 of main text, with three parts, thirteen chapters, and a conclusion.  Endnotes.

Interview of author Belcher

The author tackles the “cold civil war” between animus-bearing portions of US society, and certainly would agree that democracy as we know it is in danger.  His conclusion (spoiler) is that religion, both as an interfaith effort and in his purview a Christian priority, needs to stand with the political order in bringing about reforms.  However, he does not go into the legal details of the reforms (such as how to shore up election integrity and the loopholes and imbalances in our democracy, which seem to favor rural and smaller places).

Interview of author Belcher

He presents the core of his argument pictorially on p. 37 with a kind of Nolan chart (remember “the world’s smallest political quiz”).  It is bounded by a square with Left and Right, and with Order and Freedom as the other two edges. There are three concentric circles that pass through each quadrant.  3 is the most extreme, 2 is closer to the ruling establishment, and 1 is presented at the end as his proposed center, which will comprise four souls: Freedom Left becomes the constitutional soul, Order Left becomes the republican soul, Freedom Right becomes the middle class soul, and Order Right becomes the statesman soul.

Again, very graphic language on posters about women’s body integrity

 Chapter 12 is “Patriotic Citizenship” and Chapter 13 is called “Christianity: The Second Constitution”.  He argues that Christianity provides a “soft” but stable, appropriately flexible (and non-denominational but essentially western derivation from what Christianity added to Judaism in his view) set of moral principles to evolve constitutional principles as technology overwrites older ways of doing things.  That claim in interesting to me personally because Chapter 6 of my first DADT book had proposed specific constitutional amendments to add to the Bill of Rights, as a Bill of Rights 2.  Admittedly, since this dates to about 1997 (when my own mainframe I.T. career was in its full maturity according to the world then) some of the proposals are outrun by history.  And that’s the problem with my trying to make such specific prescriptions and why some sort of systemic approach is needed.  (Ironically I talked about the first amendment and about bodily privacy a lot, and even the beginnings of “freedom of reach”, but not about the second amendment).

Belcher is most graphic in describing extremism on all sides.  He winds up forcing to conclude that the far Left, with the doctrine of anti-racism interpreted as required indoctrination (and now it seems that “critical gender theory” has sometimes joined the indoctrination when SEL is implemented in some school systems), becomes as authoritarian as the far Right.  They have both evolved into anti-individualism and hyper tribalism.   In fact, I think we need a book, or at least an essay, on “individualism v. tribalism”.  Probably Dave Rubin would be a good starting point for that effort (book “Don’t Burn this Book” Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason”, 2020, Sentinel, Amazon stripes link).  Belcher points out that the extreme Order Right is willing to use violent or illegal means to get what it wants (January 6, and all the “stop the steal” business) but doesn’t get into the specific weaknesses (like the Electoral Count Act of 1887 which definitely needs revision).  The far Left, however, is at least willing to disrupt individuals and small businesses with violence and vandalism in demands for tribute (well, Marxist revolution).

The moral common denominator seems to be how individuals see themselves, how they balance their own utility with greater common good.  As one of the videos below shows, this comes up with some social issues in rather obvious ways:  abortion, vaccination, and end-of-life (as in the Catholic video below), but in some other ways to.  Think about the loss of freedom and implicit sacrifice in the coronavirus lockdowns, and in conscription (just of men?).  Public health particularly pits individual autonomy against the good of the larger community as a whole (and this could have been said about the AIDS crisis in the 80s, which was very different from COVID). 

Authoritarian systems limit the individual by requiring “em” to personally identify with tribal priorities. Marxist systems pretend that everyone should start out equal and that belonging to a victimized class is a legitimate source of personal identity. Far right (“alt-right”) authoritarianism assumes that a ruling class comprises inherently “superior” people entitled to rule, and follows survival of the fittest (except inside the nuclear or extended family or inner tribe). However often a far-right “order” mentality appeals to the notion that its tribe had one time been abused.  This is certainly true in the Old Testament with the Israelites.

My Body My Choice, Very Flawed Logic

(Posted Monday, May 16, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

Piketty’s “A Brief History of Equality” (Review)

Harvard Yard 2015-8

Review of Thomas Piketty’s “A Brief History of Equality” (Amazon Sitestripe link).

Specifics: Translated from French by Steven Randall. Piketty is professor at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS and the Paris School of Economics, and Conductor of the World Inequality Lab.

Publisher:  2022, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London; ISBN 978-0-674-27355-9; Introduction and ten chapters; Contents; Lists; Index; footnotes are on pages; main text runs through page 44; entire book (hardcover) is 274 pages. Harvard owns the copyright.

Piketty is already known for authoring “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (2014) (my legacy review).  This book purports to be more modest.

For someone crusading to make the world a fairer place, the narratives are quite abstract, emphasizing France and other European powers more than the US.  The book maintains that the world has gradually become a more equitable place since the late 18th century, more or less about the time of the American and French revolutions, after which a “patrimonial” middle class became visible, Early, struggles concerned specifically colonialism and slavery, and then soon the exploitation of manual labor as the industrial revolutions came on.  But it was not always a straight line.  (Look at the 3/5 rule in the US).

He spends some space on reparations – but at first reimbursement of slaveowners when their “property” was freed.  Now in the most extreme corners of the left, the talk is about paying some descendants of slavery from institutions and possibly some overly privileged white individuals.  Reimbursement of slaveholders would seem to go in the opposite direction.

Piketty talks a lot about the whole idea of using property as a way to at least indirectly exercise power over other people, less favored, with rentiership.

Piketty migrates toward a discussion of inheritance and proposes “inheritance for all” as a component perhaps of universal basic income.

I can remember back in December 1972 siting in a drafty rowhouse in Newark NJ spying on Spock’s “People’s Parry of New Jersey” where angry activists wanted to limit income to everyone to $50000 a year, and to abolish all inherited wealth, as unearned by labor.  Equality was to be achieved by limiting the opportunities of or expropriating the property or money of the individually over-privileged.  It is time to raid and murder the czars and their families again. I was covertly an enemy, a privileged computer person then making $14K a year.

Piketty, however, speaks of dispersed or decentralized and localized participatory democratic socialism. Yes, he wants confiscatory income and wealth taxes and gleefully summarizes the time from FDR up to the start of Reagan when for a time the highest marginal income tax rate had been 91%.  It’s true, society seemed more stable except, well, for civil rights and segregation and exclusion of certain peoples from some places. 

On p. 217 Piketty writes “The idea that each country (or worse yet, each person in each country) is individually responsible for its production and its wealth from a historical point of view.” That indeed contradicts a statement in the Introduction of my own DADT-1 book, “My central question on personal values is this: do we believe in the principle that every adult person is totally responsible for himself or herself? This objectivistic notion would limit the responsibilities of government to consequentialism. Individuals, through their own conduct and performance, would become their own moral agents. An individual will, in principle, be held accountable for her actions regardless of biological or circumstantial parentage. When may an individual rightfully set her own personal priorities, and when should she consider the recognized and established interests of family and larger community first?”  Indeed, the answer to that postulate about personal agency had carried through to David Callahan’s 2004 critique of hyperindividualism and extreme capitalism, “The Cheating Culture”.

I do think that inequity, when it gets bad enough in volume, leads to social instability, especially when there is a sudden external hardship (as we saw in 2020 — but the cracks were starting to show as Trump got elected in 2016). The far Left attributes it to group causes (as does Piketty) but especially systemic racism (CRT), which in some sense absolves individuals unless they are somehow collared into Marxist-style indoctrination (as in some schools, apparently, if you follow “libsofTikTok” etc on Twitter; this sort of thinking gets blown up by social media algorithms). But I can see the idea of individually tailored reforms, like expected behaviors when individual adults do receive inheritances. If one inherits a house to live in, they (“e’) might reasonably be expected to keep it ready to receive refugees, for example. Imagine that.

In the last two chapters Piketty discusses moving away from “neocolonialism” (a euphemism indeed) to his vaguely constructed democratic socialism (maybe only after war or destructive revolution) and in the last chapter takes a comparative look at China, which he considers partially successful, having also partially returned the right of citizens to some private property (in 2004).  I don’t think the lockdowns some individual Chinese are living through now (for a future common good and safety) seems very tolerable.  Piketty also notes well the difficulties western countries, and their citizens will have with climate change, having created more than their fair share of the warming before developing countries had a chance (China is questionable).

(Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2022, at 4 PM by John W. Boushka)