One of H.L. Mencken’s most famous essays is his 1927 essay “The Sexual Desire of the Ugly.” Traveling by train through western Pennsylvania, Mencken was appalled by what he considered the terrifyingly ugly buildings and houses that could be seen from the tracks. Since the inhabitants of this region were, by the standards of the day, reasonably well-paid American workers and businessmen, Mencken refused to explain the ugliness as a consequence of poverty. Instead, Mencken concluded that the people of that region simply had a taste for ugliness.
I offer no opinion as to the accuracy or appropriateness of Mencken’s aesthetic judgment. If I were on the same train with him, I might have shared his rating. or not. I have no way of knowing.
but me an act He believes Mencken has laid his finger on a real, yet largely overlooked, phenomenon, the role played in society by some of the questionable tastes of individuals. When we notice in other people’s habits and tendencies that baffle or annoy us, the explanation is sometimes as simple as “that’s just what they like to do.”
I thought of Minkin’s article recently when I heard an NPR “report” that claimed that among the “contributors” to child poverty is the so-called “gender wage gap.” Forget what ostensibly is a file sexThe payment gap is actually a gap that is explained by differences in productivity, which means that differences in wages are not explained by intolerant discrimination against women, but instead by healthy market forces that bring workers’ wages closely in line with worker productivity. Instead, ask: Why does this wage gap contribute to child poverty?
Surprisingly, the NPR “report” itself is unhelpful in revealing an answer. I suspect that both the NPR reporter and the interviewed activist take for granted that since a disproportionately large number of American children in poverty live in single-mother households, if the “gender wage gap” were closed, working mothers would earn an income Bigger and, accordingly, fewer children will be in poverty.
But this conclusion is superficial. Of course it is true that if single working mothers would have higher real incomes, they would have more resources for their children. Yet this “fact” is merely an arithmetic. Don’t tell us anything interesting about reality. Why do so many single mothers have poor job skills? Are there institutional barriers that prevent or discourage many women from acquiring more rewarding work skills? And what are the potential consequences of a government attempting to close the gender wage gap by dictating, for example, by allowing “low-paid” women to sue their employers for higher wages?
These are just some of the crucial and interesting questions to be asked about the poverty of children living with single mothers. However, no such questions are asked or answered in the NPR report, which as a result is nothing but superficial gossip. So I conclude that both the reporter and the interviewee strongly prefer the superficial. Intelligent people without such a preference would not babble as frivolously as they did.
Once the reality of sexual desire is accepted as superficial, many phenomena are better understood.
It is easy to understand and excuse intellectually uninvolved people for falling into protectionist myths. And there is certainly no mystery about why businessmen and politicians advocate protectionism: protective tariffs and subsidies inflate CEOs’ wallets and cash, and boost politicians’ electoral prospects. But it always baffles me that protectionism is supported by so many educated and intellectually active people who have nothing to gain personally from protectionism.
After all, the argument against protectionism, as they say, is not rocket science. In fact, it could be internalized by a reasonably alert eighth grader: Because the essence of protectionist policies is the forcible reduction of the supply of goods and services available in the home country, protectionism reduces the amount of goods and services available, on average, for each citizen of the home country. to consume. Protectionism makes people at home poorer than they would be otherwise.
Although the argument against protectionism is simple, some An intellectual effort is required to understand the fact that imports do not increase overall unemployment in the home country. A few moments of reflection are necessary to understand the fact that imports are not gifts, but instead represent foreigners’ demands for our exports or investment in our country. some Thinking deeper than the surface we must understand that when we import more, we either export more, or we see our country’s capital grow larger than otherwise, and both of those outcomes create jobs to offset the jobs “destroyed” by imports.
These additional thoughts about the consequences of international trade on employment are not difficult. I am not exaggerating when I write that this logic can be operated by an eighth grader. But it’s clearly much more than that for a lot of people Interesting For some reason like kindergarten. Tracking the hiring consequences of international trade requires digging a little below the surface, a task that anyone with a sexual craving for the superficial will of course resist. This person’s senses are satiated by his focus exclusively on the superficial. The prospect of considering a trade even a little deeper seems distasteful to such a person, perhaps in the same way that eating a pizza topped with anchovies seems distasteful to someone who doesn’t like fish.
The task is not remotely difficult. It’s easy to accomplish. But many people simply don’t desire to get it done.
Absorbing the reality of sexual desire for superficiality makes the world more understandable. Realizing this fact now, I would be less surprised to meet intelligent people who would passionately argue that minimum wage legislation is a perfect boon to the working poor, or that status is good for both the environment and the economy. Likewise, I finally understood why so many intellectuals with advanced degrees would defend and even praise Nancy McClain’s simplified fiction about the work and influence of my fellow Nobel laureate, the late James Buchanan. Compared to embracing the truth about Buchanan, adopting a cartoon version of McClain instead is way more fun!
While I do not understand We take Superficial libido, I now understand that many people actually have such libido. And they cherish it. The fact that this sexual desire is a fact is to be taken for a given in the same way that we take it for the universal reality of attraction, or of the cold weather of New England in winter. Just live with it.