What makes a good life? This 12-minute TED talk from a 75-year study (which originally only included men, but in the past decade they finally started studying those men’s wives, too), explains it.
National identities can encourage solidarity with fellow citizens and lead individuals to sacrifice personal gain for the common good. Patriotic individuals, for instance, are less likely to cheat on their taxes, and politicians with a strong commitment to a national cause are more focused on providing public goods—such as infrastructure, health care, and schooling—and less inclined to narrowly cater to their base.
Infrastructure, health care, and schooling—wouldn’t that be nice?! The way to get there is not so mysterious—share power. When people feel they are included in power structures, that they are a legitimate and welcomed part of the country, they feel proud of it and inclined to invest in it and its other members. When people feel excluded from power, they feel, well, excluded, and less likely to identify with and invest in the country. People feel included and proud and like power is being shared when their ethnic and racial groups have representation at the highest levels of government. When, for example, African-Americans, or Sunni Syrians, or French-speaking Swiss see members of their group fairly represented, they feel like they are a part of the country. When they don’t see their group in any positions of power, they see they are excluded from power and not a valued part of that country. Proportional representation ensures power-sharing by ensuring every group has a voice in government. The United States, with its long history of excluding entire racial and ethnic groups from power, has created a country where it is hard to invest in infrastructure, health care, and schooling.
The first detailed political memory I have is watching Oliver North testify before Congress during the summer of 1987. My dad and I were painting our living room and we had the TV on while we worked. Even in our relatively conservative household it was shocking to watch the guy admit to mountains of near-treasonous crimes—and wrap himself in the flag while doing so. His staggering hypocrisy—his blithe contempt for the law—was so theatrical that it was in a way compelling. He is, no doubt, a perfect choice to head up the NRA, and Eli Sanders’ Oliver North explainer is a great starting point for those who were too young to remember the events.
I enjoyed reading Charles Mudede on Ta-Nehisi Coates on Kanye West.
I’m eager to read Jonathan Rauch’s new book on the “happiness curve,” the idea that people seem almost hardwired to experience declining happiness up until middle age followed by steady increases in well-being into the golden years.
I was fascinated (and horrified?) by the emerging techniques of reducing depression and increasing happiness levels by using low voltage electric stimulation of targeted regions of the brain. Can you overdose on happiness?
In a surprising (and, to me anyway, baffling) turnabout, renewable energy companies in the US are largely supporting Republican candidates, and have been since the 2016 elections. Prior to 2016, solar and wind PAC giving skewed heavily to Democrats, with over 70% of contributions going to Democratic candidates in the 2014 elections. So far this year, wind and solar PACs have given almost $250,000 to Republicans, and less than $140,000 to Democrats. Is this a good sign or a bad sign? I honestly have no idea.
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Not at all surprising, however, is that Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, began building a new pipeline earlier this year right through the middle of a predominantly low-income black community in Louisiana, despite that fact that the company was already facing multiple legal challenges to the project. Apparently in addition to completely disregarding the already-heavy pollution burden of the community, the company also neglected to include an emergency response plan, although only a single road leads into or out of the town, making emergency evacuation all but impossible. Thankfully a Louisiana judge has ruled that state regulators issued the coastal use permit illegally. It remains to be seen whether or not the company will stop construction because of the ruling.
We’ve heard a lot in the last couple years about the tech habits of kids, but what about the tech habits of parents? This article from the Atlantic gave me some good food for thought about how I interact with my kid when screens are present.
Democracy Now! reported on May primary elections in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina. Among the results: “Female candidates were also big winners on Tuesday.”
The New Yorker’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells ran this report on the results in the same primary states.
John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Weekend Reading and other posts.