June 7th, 2010

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Identity Economics -- Interesting

I flag this as something I'm clearly going to have to read more about, but it appeals to me from what little I've seen. Akerloff (of "Market for Lemons" fame) and Rachel Kranton have written a book about how the concept of "identity" influences economic behavior. This goes beyond traditional ideas about taste or preference. It explains why people will, for example, needlessly run up their electric bill to demonstrate their opposition to what they see as an opposing movement asking everyone to turn off their lights for one day.

Review and links here: http://www.openleft.com/diary/18984/identity-economicsa-major-breakthrough
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Helen Thomas Business

OK, this is just weird. Helen Thomas apparently, in all seriousness, told random vblogger with a camera on the White House lawn asking everyone their views on Israel that "they" (meaning the Jewish citizens) should go "back home" to Europe and America.

Thomas' view, I should point out, is a fairly common one among a particular segment of Palestinian supporters and is not something I view as antisemetic per se. It is the idea that Judaism is a religion, not a nationality or ethnicity, and therefore there is no such thing as a "Jewish" homeland. (A subset think any Jewish state in reparation for the Holocaust should be located in Germany as a matter of reparations.) The current State of Israel is, in this view, merely a residual form of western imperialism similar to Boer/British occupation of South Africa -- with the difference being that a lot more people support shipping the Jews in Israel "back" to Europe (ignoring that many did not come from there in the first place) than support shipping the white South Africans "home" to the Europe.

As I say, I don't view this as "antisemetc." I do view it as both a-historical and about as useful as suggesting the creation of a Palestinian state in either Sinai or "Transjordan." It ain't gonna happen, so holding it out as the appropriate solution is pretty useless.

What's weird is Helen Thomas is not some random loony, or someone from a part of the world where these views are considered reasonable. The notion that someone of Thomas' experience and stature would casually pop out with something like that is just utterly bizarre to me.
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That's Queer-- Recent Polling on Attitudes Toward Gay and Lesbian Relationships Show Inversion

Very interesting Op Ed on this this Gallup Poll tracking the shift in attitudes on whether gay/lesbian relationships are considered "morally acceptable."

While a single poll, it is interesting longitudinally because it tracks the same questions from 2006 to 2010. It is noteworthy for the fact that, for the first time, the majority of Americans, taken together, consider such relationships "morally acceptable." It is even more noteworthy, IMO, for the fact that this change is a product of a huge shift in opinion by men in all age demographics. The view on such relationships by women of all age demographics remains relatively stable. Even more interesting, the shift in men's view jumped significantly between 2009 and 2010.

Indeed, in the two age demographics provided, more men than women now consider such relationships morally acceptable, although the difference is not statistically significant. But it is astounding when considering that between 2009 and 2010, there was significant movement to "morally acceptable" among men of both groups, flat growth among women ages 18-49, and actual reduction of 1% for women ages 50+.

The op ed postulates three theories for the shift: rising egalitarian trends among men generally (although why this should be is not adequately explained, but it's just an op ed), greater exposure to openly gay couples and individuals, and a fear that express homophobia may indicate homosexual tendencies. This last may actually contribute to a "Wilder effect" where men have not actually shifted their attitudes, but prefer to state a more favorable opinion to pollsters.

I would add same that sex marriage and same sex relationships received enormous news coverage in 2009-10. This may be a subcategory of the "exposure" theory. But I think it's more than just exposure. The debates around same sex marriage and ending Don't Ask Don't Tell are encouraging individuals to actually examine underlying assumptions at a time when a variety of circumstances is making it ripe for them to do so. But this also does not explain the disparity between men and women in terms of overall change in opinion in the last several years unless we postulate some sort of natural ceiling/threshold for moral acceptance which men have now reached. But this is profoundly unsatisfying because there is no evidence or theory to explain this.

It would be interesting to know if there are other, similar social norms where there has been a dramatic shift in opinion in one gender but not the other.