SYNDICATED COLUMN: Suicide Kills More Americans Than Gun Violence

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As I waited for the body of a man who jumped in front of my train to be cleared from the tracks — less than a week before another train I was riding struck a suicide victim — it occurred to me that (a) I should check whether suicide rates are increasing due to the bad economy (they are, especially among men in their 50s), and that (b) talking about suicide is long overdue.

With modernity comes depression; depression sometimes leads to suicide. And it’s a global phenomenon. “The World Health Organization reports that suicide rates have increased 60 percent over the past 50 years, most strikingly in the developing world, and that by 2020 depression will be the second most prevalent medical condition in the world,” T.M. Luhrmann wrote in The New York Times recently.

Why are so many people opting out?

Can we eliminate or reduce the number of our brothers and sisters who kill themselves?

Disclosure: my best friend committed suicide when we were 15. Bill’s death, and his inability/unwillingness to find a reason to keep living among his friends and family, left me angry and confused, unable to process an unsolvable equation. No day passes without me thinking about Bill hanging himself. His death makes me question my own daily decisions to go on living. I am not in touch with anyone else who knew him, but I imagine their trauma was not wildly dissimilar from mine.

So, yeah, it’s a personal issue for me. Given that 30,000 Americans commit suicide and 800,000 attempt it every year, it’s personal for 5,000,000 survivors of close friends and relatives too.

Nobody talks about it, but suicide is a national epidemic. Suicide by gun kills more Americans — a lot more Americans — than gun violence committed against others. (Though research shows that having a gun in your house greatly increases the chance that you’ll shoot yourself.) More American soldiers have killed themselves than have died in the war against Afghanistan.

Perhaps public discussion is inhibited by the cultural myth of the rugged individual, personal responsibility, etc. — hey, it’s your choice to live or die — but we’re all in this together. We need to save as many people as we can.

One way to reduce the suicide rate would be to get rid of capitalism. Though not a truly communist state, citizens of the Soviet Union were far less likely to kill themselves before the collapse of socialism in 1991.

There is a relentless tendency toward monopoly, consolidation of wealth and rising inequality under capitalism. Inequality — specifically, awareness of inequality — kills.

Studies show that relative poverty — how much poorer you are than your societal peers — is strongly correlated to mental illness, including depression. Of course, you can find a study to support just about anything; there’s even a theory that country music prompts people to kill themselves. Still, as Lurhmann says: “We know that social position affects both when you die and how sick you get: The higher your social position, the healthier you are. It turns out that your sense of relative social rank — literally, where you draw a line on an abstract ladder to show where you are with respect to others — predicts many health outcomes, including depression, sometimes even more powerfully than your objective socioeconomic status alone.”

Being poor doesn’t bum people out. Being poorer than other people — people whose relative wealth you personally witness — does. Mali, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are poor countries. Yet their rates of inequality are low, similar to those of Germany and the Scandinavian countries. And so are their suicide rates.

“Overall life expectancy also tracks with inequality, with a bigger wage gap meaning shorter lives and worse health — for both rich and poor, though the poor are hit much harder,” Maia Szalavitz wrote in a much-cited 2011 Time magazine article. “Researchers suspect that this gradient is linked to stress caused by our place in the social hierarchy: Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky, for example, has found that even in baboons, lower ranked animals have higher levels of stress hormones and worse health. But when status conflicts are reduced, producing a more egalitarian situation, these differences are also reduced.”

In a famous 2003 experiment with monkeys, the animals refused to accept small food allotments than those offered to neighboring monkeys. They became angry at the researchers, throwing objects at them — apparently because they blamed them for unequal distribution of the treats.

Those monkeys were on to something. Better to turn our rage against those responsible for inequality than against ourselves.

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68 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Suicide Kills More Americans Than Gun Violence

  1. Feminism. Here, in two paragraphs, is exactly what’s wrong with “feminism” today.

    Every year, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has a walk-for-the-cure thing for breast cancer research. It’s a huge to-do. People eat yogurts with pink lids because those generate 10 cents each in donations for research. Sorry. Wait. Back up. 10 cents each up to a preset limit (usually a pretty small figure, all in all) amount. So the yogurt you bought might not generate a penny for breast cancer research. But still, something goes for breast research, so it’s still good. Sorry. Wait. Back up. The execs at SGK get paid QUITE well. You could eat six yogurts a day until you die and not a penny would have gone to actual research. But the execs who retired with golden parachutes are probably quite grateful that you bought yogurt. Nancy Brinker, CEO of SGK? Makes $684,000 a year. But it’s okay. Susan G. Komen was her sister. If you can’t use your dead sister to make yourself rich, well, you’re doing something wrong.

    The walk-a-thon treats (barely) a symptom, rather than going for the cure. The cure? Breast cancer occurs due to genetics and/or environmental issues. Can’t fix the genetics quite yet. But smoking kills millions of women. When was the last time SGK held a senate office protest? Where’s their relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation to get major companies to pull tobacco from the shelves? Where is the tireless media campaign outlining which corporations are pouring chemical waste and other carcinogenic filth into the water supply? Where’s the talking points about why chemical pesticides are going to keep causing cancer in women? Right.

    The original feminists, if they saw how the current crop can’t think or plan, would have put down their picket signs, gone home, asked their husbands what they’d like for dinner, cooked it, served it, then gone upstairs and hanged themselves in disgust.

    • Quite right, Alex. Feminism has been reduced to tokenism in all too many cases. For example, yesterday I read a piece about how first look media is being criticized by some progressives for not having enough women reporters. Now it is true that it is a problem that there are not enough women reporters. But the bigger problem is that there are not enough good reporters. Unfortunately, the distraction over gender is distracting us from the bigger picture. Even if first look media winds up with 90% female journalists, that’s not going to necessarily make it good.

  2. Ted,

    It’s like what happens in the nursing homes. Ever see those old wrecks with a feeding tube, a diaper, covered in bed sores, and all the rest? And they hang on for months or years, costing a fortune. And if you showed the 35-year-old version of them their end-stage selves, they’d be the first ones to grab a pillow and go Indian Chief on them.

    When you become unemployed, especially at an older age, you don’t just move in with a friend and sleep on their couch until you can grab a gig waiting tables. You lose everything you worked for, a little bit at a time. And each loss hurts that much more. Until finally, it doesn’t hurt at all anymore. It’s just one more indignity and you’ve lost all your dignity, so there’s no more pain.

    I’ve been there. I was lucky. I found a job again. But a lot of people don’t. You think the suicide rate is high now? Wait until all the Baby Boomers reach the end of their 401(k)s. The most coddled generation ever will discover what happens when you’re weak and old and only have social security. Sales for rope and stepstools will soar.

    • As usual, Alex, that is very eloquent and perfectly written. That’s exactly how it is. Moreover, as automation continues to take away jobs and there is no attempt whatsoever to justly redistribute wealth from those few who still have jobs to those who don’t, there’s going to be a lot of misery before it turns into the anger that it ought to have started as.

  3. Great post, Ted! Here are a couple other factors to throw into the mix:

    As this article — http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com/2014/03/homicide-rates-suicide-rates-and-modern.html — points out, it’s even worse than we might think based on just looking at suicide (and homicide) rates, since a flat or slightly increasing suicide rate during greatly improving emergency medical technology probably equates to a much, much greater increase in suicide attempts (and homicide attempts for the same reason).

    Also, when the Soviet Union collapsed, as Ted points out, suicides increased. This was largely among people who’d had it good during the previous reality and had identified themselves with careers that no longer existed. Look for that in our own slow-mo economic collapse. People who are already poor, people in charge of domestic duties like childcare, people who never identified with the system, etc. don’t have as big a collapse in their self-identity when the system fails to support their career selves.

  4. Men committing suicide at higher rates? Does not compute. They enjoy the myriad privileges of the undefeatable patriarchy.

    Seriously though: credit to Ted for at least mentioning a dark fact for the modern male, even if he did not pursue it here. It was beyond the scope of the column. I wonder how many of those men kill themselves because the family courts have helped their ex-wives steal their children, wages, homes, years, and lives?

    Try to get through this paragraph with your preconceptions suspended. There’s little time for men’s issues: we have to give all the feminist fantasy conspiracies play: pay gap, rape culture, ‘war’ on women, slut-shaming, etc. One day, I think, feminism will run out of boogeymen, and the doomed-from-the-start movement will peter out. It is already beginning: men are waking up to the fact that marriage has become a disaster as feminist women are unmarriageable. Men no longer feel the powerful impetus to become family providers now that women marry later and have their own means and would likely divorce them anyway. All the tougher that many employers prefer to hire women. More and more women are realizing that feminism infantilizes them. Some man is always at fault for their mistakes. The female biased laws undermine successful women’s career accomplishments. They’re tired of all the clashing messages. They want to feel free to be wives and mothers without being shamed by feminists for not putting career first. Others have found that the feminist prescription for a happy life leaves no fertile years for having a family. It is cruel: this trick played upon women by women. Even self-identified feminists find themselves disgusted with their husbands for making less money, being stay-at-home dads, or doing traditionally wifely chores. These younger men and women have been sold the lie all their lives that men and women are fundamentally the same. Most attraction triggers are biologically fixed; a couple generations of social engineering won’t change that. And despite the ubiquitous sex-positive propaganda, many women still understand that promiscuity damages their value for a committed relationship. You want an unfair double standard? A man gets a woman pregnant and is expected to be responsible. A woman gets herself pregnant and is encouraged to the abortion clinic.

    This stuff really isn’t hard to understand. And there is no understanding the degeneration of modern society without recognizing the negative consequences of feminism run wild. It permeates everything. The same as many other issues we all care about: corporate dominance, imperialism, fiat currency, boom-bust economic cycles, inflation, wage stagnation, military-industrial-surveillance complex, etc.

    One thing I would love to see studied, but it never will be because of its monumental political incorrectness: correlation/causation of the growth of government with women’s suffrage/turnout. Women are more likely both to be authoritarian AND support a welfare state. It is hard to believe that those facts have not contributed to the nightmarish behemoth that is 21st century government and debt.

    One note (which will be overlooked), I have criticized feminist ideology, which is NOT the same as attacking women.

    • You’ve criticized a caricature of feminism.

      The feminist critique has been valuable for moving our society closer to a true egalitarianism. That there might be some growing pains is not unexpected.

      Businesses that prefer to hire woman usually do that because they are cheaper and more compliant. As women resist lower wages that effect will be reduced.

      Assuming there are family courts that routinely award custody, etc to women without careful consideration of each family’s situation, such courts would not, in fact, be feminist at all.

    • ” I have criticized feminist ideology, which is NOT the same as attacking women.”

      Fail.

      Attacking women’s rights is the exact, same, thing as attacking women, and all the hand waving in the world won’t change that one whit.

      • CrazyH: Depends on the “women’s rights.” We should support equal treatment between the genders, not special treatment for women. Yet some feminist writers (and many feminists I know) want special treatment while excluding others. Isn’t it hypocritical to demand businesses offer equal pay and generous maternity leave, but completely ignore things like paternity leave or living wages for all workers?

        Jack: I don’t know why you’re so hung up on abortion; men and women are both expected to be responsible for any child they conceive. Do you think society lauds women who have abortions?

      • Sorry. Women’s rights and feminist theory are two different things. I question whether the former exists and whether the latter makes any sense. Rights are supposed to apply to everyone; they are inseparable from personhood. Feminist theory is an interesting sociological subfield, but Valerie Solanas is not an academic. Her wikipdia entry describes her as an “American radical feminist writer.” I’d say 1.5 of those words were correct in her case.

    • @ Jack Heart –

      Factor in the ability of two or three women to conspire against a male co-worker whom they don’t like. “If each of us will report to the boss that he has been sexually harassing us, we can get his ass fired!” The reality is there; it happened to me when I was just one month short of completing my “trial period” on a Federal job. Try to prove a negative: It did *not* happen!

      • Derleher: lest we forget, that is pretty much the scenario that resulted in the recent court-martial of the US general in charge of the 82nd airborne. It’s pretty clear that his accuser was lying.

      • @ CrazyH –
        ..
        I’m aware of everything you’ve mentioned, although I thought the “shirtless” requirement was rather facetious.
        ..
        Still, if “equality” means what it’s supposed to mean, why are there arbitrary distinctions made with preference towards females? “Equal work for equal pay” should mean exactly what it says, with no special exceptions.

      • @derlehrer

        That’s what I was striving for – a gender neutral definition of ‘equal work.’

        Yes, there are some women getting away with shirking the ‘equal work’ part, but there are many more getting less pay for truly equal work in fields that don’t require heavy lifting When the latter’s fixed I’ll worry more about the former – but I suspect it will be moot by that point.

        Men do tend to have greater upper body strength, which would naturally make them better qualified for some fields. Women tend to have steadier hands and better fine motor control, one might conclude that women would make better surgeons. (in general – you can find exceptions to any rule)

        In spite of Jack’s assertion above, even when you factor in experience, performance, etc., women *still* come out on the short end of the stick. Sure, there are reports out there that exaggerate the gap; but I challenge anyone to find one that shows no gap whatsoever. (conservapedia and/or anything coming from Rich Limpbone are excluded)

        The shirkers and the exaggerators do poison the well, but then there are even more lies and roadblocks going the other way. I don’t condone either, but have considerably more sympathy for the ladies.

        Not sure who brought it up, but many companies do give paternity leave to fathers. Isn’t that a case where men are getting equal pay for a helluva lot less work?

    • I’m surprised at all the thoughtful responses. Even CrazyH wasn’t as bad as usual.

      Russell,

      I am talking indeed of real feminists. Take a stop over at Jezebel for a moment; I’ll wait. So much misplaced rage. They aren’t all this extreme, but when it comes down to it, most feminist writers or regular feminist women are more concerned with providing cover for their sisters than supporting egalitarianism. Why not just call themselves egalitarian, if that is what they are? The truth is that the identity and label of ‘feminism’ leads to their general belief in the primacy of women and women’s issues. Regardless, I am probably one of the only commenters here that is emphatically not egalitarian, but equal in the eyes of the law is still not what we have today. Your definition of feminism is simply not applicable because it is not accurate. Most feminist thought is more accurately distilled to: support for whatever favors women.

      And Russell, this isn’t some hypothetical: conservatively, women are the ones who file for divorce 7/10 times. They get custody 8/10 times. Men are terrified of divorce because they know they will likely lose their children and pay through the nose for the privilege. Talk to some divorce lawyers or just look it up. As soon as the man moves out, which is typical, it becomes that much easier for the soon-to-be-ex-wife to get the house and kids because she already has them at that point.. Even as these guys are run through the wringer, they continue to be considerate of their wives, “Well, I’m the man. I should leave the home not her.” “She’s the mother of my children; I still care about her.” It is a crime how many men are in prison because they cannot afford the child support ordered. If the guys manage to survive all that though, they are much more likely than women to be happily remarried. There’s the silver lining. I don’t know the numbers, but it must be rare, but it still happens: in a marriage of a few years, a man could be paying alimony to an ex for decades even if she is remarried. He could pay alimony even if she makes more money than he does! This kind of injustice should concern us all, perhaps, especially liberals, but I’m not holding my breath. The importance of fathers has been reduced to a wallet by the courts. It is sick. Children need fathers in the home.

      SenatorBleary,

      I appreciate your comment. I only briefly mentioned abortion, but I think I failed to put it the best way. A better way: if a woman has an accidental/unwanted pregnancy, she has a sacrosanct right to choose to have that baby. If a man is faced with an accidental/unwanted pregnancy, he has NO choice. If he does not want the baby and she does, too bad. He’ll be billed for 18 years. If he wants the child, and she does not, too bad. She can kill his baby. I cannot think of anything less fair or more personal in modern society. If feminists were egalitarian, this would concern them. And I’m purposefully not emphasizing the morality of abortion. This is plainly about a blatant lack of equality. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I want to be wrong about that so badly. You have no idea.

      The 77 cents on the dollar lie repeated by Obama is one we should all be concerned with. This has been debunked. Of course there should be equal pay for equal work. The problem is that those statistics are not for equal work. They crudely compare all women’s earnings with men’s without consideration of time worked, experience, field, education. Women overall choose to work less hours and in lower-paying professions. With these factors considered, the most conservative estimates would have it at least in the 90s of cents on the dollar. Militant feminists have so polluted sociology and academia that their rape studies for example are terribly politically biased in order to bolster the claim of rape culture. More objective studies don’t make the headlines. Got to stick to the narrative.

      The man reason I now criticize feminism is that I have seen its terrible effects on real people. I judge people on what they do, not what they say and that is the other main reason I can longer be a feminist. It is so hard to find a feminist ‘thinker’ who is not a hypocrite. One day they want equal treatment, the next they want power and choices without the responsibility, then they want to know why chivalry is dead, the following day they’re annoyed they have to work instead of stay home with their children. And personally, I as well as many other men were taught always to respect a woman’s feelings, thoughts, and choices even if we didn’t like or understand. Well, my success with women shot through the roof when I stopped responding to their tantrums and whims and became apathetic to their bullshit. Deep down, even the fiercest feminist can’t help but get hot for a man who won’t put up with their crap. I now don’t tolerate stupidity and immaturity from anyone, men or women. This is why I cringed reading Ted’s last column on porn and college: “Being a feminist means taking women at their word.” It strains my imagination to think of an attitude more detrimental to a man. Judge all people by their actions. There are a lot of men out there who think women are just dishonest, but I think more accurately, women simply don’t know what they respond to and also communicate covertly as opposed to bluntly like most men. Common example: “Let’s just be friends.” Hint: she’s probably not really interested in being friends. Another ubiquitous example: a guy’s female friend tells him, “You’re such a great guy. You’re going to make some lucky girl really happy.” The guy thinks, “If you think I’m so great, why aren’t you interested?” When it comes to sex and relationships, women don’t know what they want and ‘all the hand waving in the world won’t change that one whit.’ And I go here because there is no honestly discussing feminism without discussing real sexuality, despite how often I see it attempted.

      Riddle me this, CrazyH, if women don’t like men to be in charge, why is 50 Shades of Grey so insanely popular?

      derlehrer,

      I am really sorry to hear that. Frankly, it is an all too common story. That is what happens when people are given free reign to abuse the law. It is even worse when a woman regrets drunken sex and cries rape. These cases cannot hold up in real court usually, but they get play in college campus courts. Innocent men’s lives are ruined, and a few bad women making false accusations undermine the pain endured by real rape or harassment victims. The former at least, one would think, would seriously concern feminists.

      I think it is safe to say that everyone here has near the top of his list of political/economic concerns that wages are so low. We talk a lot about globalization, stagnant minimum wage, inflation, technology, deregulation, etc. But what could be a bigger factor than this: simple supply and demand. In the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, women were thrilled to be able to work more freely outside the home. Families enjoyed the huge income increase, but over the decades, it ceased to be an option. Two income families are now the reality. Whodathunk that roughly doubling the labor pool would put wages in the toilet? This corresponds with the loss of buying power since the late 60s for the average American. Mainly men used to be enough to provide goods and services for everyone, remember.

      • I have to say one more thing about ‘taking women at their word.’ Surely, all you guys here have had a relationship in which things were falling apart. Your girlfriend or wife said you needed to do X, Y, and Z to fix it. So you fixed all those things, but lo and behold, the relationship still failed. Many failed marriages go this way. The guy is bewildered, and everyone tells him he just needs to do whatever she says, so he does. It still doesn’t help the situation, so they go to marriage counseling, which has the same message: you’re screwing up, husband; you need to listen to your wife! It’s a sick joke. If saving marriages were as easy as that, we wouldn’t have all these divorces. Think about it. Full disclosure: yeah, this happened to me too. If you want to know what the guy really should do, I can answer that.

      • > Riddle me this, CrazyH, if women don’t like men to be in charge, why is 50 Shades of Grey so insanely popular?

        Pffft. Specious logic as usual. The Story of O was popular, so one could just as easily (and erroneously) assume that women want to be fucked to death.

        You want to know a feminist slant on 50 shades? Here, educate yourself

        While we’re on the subject, the popularity of this book and others by the same author conclusively prove that men want to be dominated by women.

        While this list conclusively proves that men want to be dominated by other men.

        Hey, have you ever considered that your hatred for women might just be your inner homosexual trying to get out? It’s a well known fact that most homophobes are actually repressing their own desires. Try the other side of the street, what have you got to lose? (Other than your anger and bitterness, that is.)

      • > If you want to know what the guy really should do…

        … I have a suggestion. :: grinchly grin ::

      • @Jack

        THANK YOU! For the first time I hit amazon dot com & looked up 50 Shades. The most popular reviews are the *extremely* negative ones, and they are abso-freaking-lutely hilarious.

        I assume you’ve got a copy next to your toilet with most of the pages stuck together.

      • It’s true that some women who call themselves feminist are also- or merely- sexist. I still think feminism helps to move us towards a more egalitarian society.

        My wife and I got counseling and while our counselor- a woman- did point out ways I could be more supportive, she was also assertive about confronting my wife with her issues.

      • Russell, I think that’s exactly the crux of the matter: many self identified feminists are actually matriarchal sexists. Real feminism is about egalitarianism.

      • @Ted –

        At the risk of feeding the Trolls, that is unfortunately true. Feminists can be divided into two camps, those who love women and those who hate men.

        The latter are the reason so many young women today *don’t* identify as feminists. They’ve been turned off by the misandrists.

        It’s fun (although occasionally embarrassing) to read Gloria Steinem, but the pure hatred seeping off every page of Andrea Dworkin’s writings prevent me from reading more than a few at a time.

        Her “husband” is even worse – far from fixing the problems, he exacerbates them.. He provides confirmation bias for every over-the-top caricature of men ever put forth.

        Whereas we *could* solve the race problem by killing off every race but one, we really can’t solve the gender problems by killing off every gender but one. Either we learn to live with each other or the human race dies out.

        (although that would do wonders for the health of every other specie on the planet)

      • @ Jack Heart –

        “Of course there should be equal pay for equal work.”
        .
        Your comment brought to mind something said by a warehouse worker at Heaven Hills distillery in Kentucky, when I toured there many years ago. He told me that the female workers were paid on a par with the male workers: “Equal pay for equal work.”
        .
        He further informed me that the warehouse workers were entrusted with the chore of lifting full whiskey barrels from the ground floor onto the upper racks. The women didn’t have the upper-body strength to accomplish the task, so they inevitably called upon a male co-worker to do that for them. What is this “Equal pay for equal work” bullshit, anyhow?????

      • Derlehrer, yes, particularly in occupations that involve physical labor, women are discriminated against. But discrimination across gender lines definitely cuts both ways, and both need to be eliminated. For example, many bars now find that they make more money by hiring attractive female bartenders, making it much more difficult for male bartenders to find work.

      • @derlehrer

        I’ve seen that which you are talking about as well. Someone earlier said that there are bound to be glitches as we move to true equality. That’s one.

        The real criterion is “can lift whiskey barrel’ and rather than making assumptions based on the applicants’ gender, the hiring process should include lifting a barrel.

        The Fire Department went through that when they starting to accept women, they chose the criterion, “can carry 150 lbs (down the stairs?)”

        ‘course, I did see one add for construction workers which said, “Willing to work long hours outside without shirt on” >;->

        I’m involved in hiring, and my profession is known for its color/gender/orientation blindness. There’s no heavy lifting required, it’s pure brain power. We do see fewer female applicants. I honestly don’t know whether that’s nature or nurture (I suspect it’s a little of both) But once hired, most of us do our damnedest to ensure that our employees are evaluated based on their contribution rather than their plumbing.

        Proficiency in software correlates very closely with a proficiency in math. The current record holder for highest IQ (228) is indeed a mathematician. Her name is Marylin vos Savant.

      • Russell,

        You should count yourself extremely fortunate to have had such a fair counselor.

        der lehrer,

        That is a really funny story. 😀

      • Oh, and I think the overriding point, the takeaway here is that even though we can agree on some problems from the application of feminism, these things are never talked about because guys are terrified to bring it up lest they be shouted down as woman-hating assholes. The first step of course, in addressing an issue, it just that: acknowledge it exists. We cannot do that in the public forum today. Anyone who does is just a Men Rights lunatic.

    • Those who are being hard on Jack, I think, aren’t really attention to the nuances in what he is saying. It is a fact that men’s issues have been neglected during the feminist. In fact, this has been a major concern of feminists like Gloria Steinem and so on.

      Many divorce courts have swung from one extreme to another, going from screwing over divorced moms like my own to bankrupting divorced fathers by ordering them to pay more than they can afford. Jack’s point about pregnancy is perfectly valid; it seems more than a little unfair to give the decision whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy exclusively to the woman and then demand that a man finance the results of her decision.

      As far as marriage goes, I would argue that marriage is an inherently flawed institution that serves neither man nor women particularly well.

      • My ears are burning!

        When I was 17, my girlfriend got pregnant on purpose. She fully expected me to support her in the manner in which she intended to become accustomed. I wound up paying through the nose for 20 years, delaying my education and screwing up my finances all for a son who hates my guts.

        So, yes, I do understand that aspect better than most. In that particular area, women have greater legal rights than men – and that most certainly needs to be rectified before we achieve true equality.

        But Jack’s comments aren’t ‘nuanced’ in the least. It’s simply a laundry list of every bad thing he can think of to say. He’s one of the few true misogynists I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading.

        Even with what I went through, I don’t hate all women – just the one, particular, one who fucked up my life.

      • Ted,

        Thank you. I don’t expect anyone to agree with everything I say, but it is nice that anything I say about men and women is actually considered. Not much is more frustrating than informed, intelligent people denying a problem I believe to be obvious. I’ve been feeling like quite the outcast here for a few months. Just you, der lehrer, and Russell being civil and productive here has restored some faith for me in this blog and in leftists in general, quite honestly, just knowing that ideology is not impermeable. I was starting to think so.

        CrazyH,

        You just can’t stand that everyone else who replied to me found SOMETHING reasonable/agreeable/relatable in what I’ve said. And once they did affirm a part of what I said, you agreed with them, and by the transitive property, you have agreed with me.

        You should look to yourself. Can you answer me without passive-agressive sarcasm? Even when you aren’t replying to me, your posts typically drip with rage. Why does EVERYTHING make you so angry?

        You ignore everything I say and attack my sexuality and fairness. Well, if you really were as logical as you THINK you are, you would know that my beliefs have no bearing on the truthfulness of my points. Even if I were a misogynist or homosexual, my points could and do hold water. The truth remains that I love women and they love me. I can tell you that the best feeling in the world is a beautiful woman looking at me like I’m the king of the world. Clearly, that is something you have never experienced or you would look at the world much differently.

        Oh, and you should know that your personal tragedy (and it is one), is not yours alone. You talk like she was the only one who ever did that to a guy. Have some compassion for your fellow man.

      • Ted,

        With marriage becoming what it is, I know I will never get married and would advise any man to abstain, but I am inclined to think it has served civilization well; it could reasonably be considered the basis for our success as a species. It’s been so important as perhaps to be irreplaceable. It remains to be seen. Anyway, I do understand your criticisms of it. Still, I think of it in terms of attempting to fulfill the needs of both man and woman and particularly, child.

      • Jack, the idea that human beings owe our success as a species to marriage is belied by the fact that marriage is such a new institution. There is no precedent whatsoever for message more than a few thousand years ago, and marriage for love – its current form – goes back only a few decades. And it’s not doing terribly well, with a 50% success rate.

      • @Jack – you seem to be obsessed with me. That’s your problem, not mine. Look at the number of times you mention me in your posts, the number of empty yet insulting replies you make, etc.

        Let me remind you AGAIN, that YOU are the one who wanted to have a flame war. I tried to have a respectful conversation with you and you started your juvenile name calling. Eventually, I gave up and responded in kind. Once AGAIN, “If you can’t stand the heat, don’t start the fire.”

        You come in here talking about taking people’s civil rights away. It wouldn’t matter even if you did phrase your hate-filled screeds sweetly (which you don’t) I see no reason to reply nicely to someone who is talking about harming people they don’t even know.

        I remind you AGAIN, this is a liberal blog – you start spouting right wing talking points, you’re going to get pushback. If you want to talk about how evil women are, there are plenty of sites where you will be welcomed. When I post over there (and I do) I don’t expect any hugs and kissies, and in fact I get flamed far worse than I’ve ever done to you.

        You obviously want to discuss economics, yet just as obviously you don’t know anything about the subject. It’s real hard to say, “You’re WAY off the mark” without sounding condescending. If you don’t like my replies, perhaps you should try learning a little something about the subject before stating your opinions in public.

        You seem to read a lot into my posts that simply isn’t there. You put words in my mouth, and then get upset about them. At that point I’m not even involved, you’re just making yourself unhappy.

        e.g. “You talk like she was the only one who ever did that to a guy.” I have no idea how you got that out of my post. All I did was relate my personal story as an EXAMPLE of a the unfairness of our current laws. An example is implicitly one-of-many.

        Yes, I’m angry about a number of subjects, and I express myself in a bitingly sarcastic manner. If you don’t like that approach, I have to wonder why you read Ted.

        BTW – My beautiful wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary a few months ago.

      • @Ted

        It seems to me that humans (the animal) were designed/created/evolved to pair bond. A gravid female in the wild can’t hunt or protect herself, our pups take well over a decade before they can fend for themselves, etc. Two parents seem like a minimum, but nature never gives more than we need, so two also seems like a maximum.

        What we call, “love” is the same thing as we call “mating instinct” in other animals. It’s a way to get two to get together, make babies, and stick around long enough to get them raised up.

        But then, the original design wasn’t intended to live for seventy years. In the dark past, you’d scramble to find a mate, bring up a couple kids to adolescence and die by age thirty if you were lucky.

        Everyone either hunted or gathered. There wasn’t all that much difference between individuals. Not much to agree or disagree with. Survival was a full-time job, there wasn’t much time left over for bickering about who holds the remote.

        Today, we live a long time, have a vast diversity of pursuits, copious free time, and one other thing: ridiculous expectations primarily due to the media’s portrayal of romance. Perfect man meets perfect woman and everyone lives happily ever after. Doesn’t work that way, but too many of us expect it to. Especially the younger of us – those of “marriageable age” By the time you’re mature enough to have developed realistic expectations, you’ve already divorced.

        Our environment has changed faster than evolution can keep up. I think marriage needs to be re-thunk. Maybe we need to try line marriages; maybe we need to start thinking of marriage as a contract between two people that lasts only until the kids can fend for themselves. Maybe we need to accept serial monogamy. At that point, the 50% isn’t a failure rate so much as a half-life.

      • @ CrazyH –

        That’s a pretty pessimistic take on marriage and survival. I’m glad I don’t fit the mold.
        .
        My wife and I decided to marry after only six weeks of courtship; and we’ll have been together for 46 years in June.
        .
        Also, I’m at “check-out” time for this world, since I’ll be 71-years-old in April.
        .
        Damn, where did the time go?
        😀 😀 😀

      • @der

        Perhaps. I calls ’em as I sees ’em.

        Congrats on beating the odds. As I expressed somewhere on this long, wandering thread, my marriage has lasted over 25 years. Me & thee are proof that it can be done.

        Society’s only legitimate concern with unholy matrimony is the health and well being of children. Who’s “married” to whom, how many participate, what gender, how long it lasts, etc, ain’t nobody’s business but those directly involved.

      • @ CrazyH –

        I neglected to mention (and I probably should have done so) that I married “good German stock”; she was reared in the German tradition, so her husband received the benefits of her upbringing. 🙂

        She became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. when she was 16-years-old, a few years before we met.

        I think the German women of today probably have adopted much of the behavior of U.S. women that they find “appealing.” (I don’t know; I haven’t visited Germany in a number of years.)

      • @Ted Rall
        “Actuarially, der, you have at least another 15. Rock on!”
        ,
        Oh, shit! I hope not.
        .
        Each night as I go to bed I keep hoping that when I wake up in the morning I’ll be dead, having departed this world peacefully in my sleep. I’ve had all of the bullshit I can handle.
        .
        I wouldn’t consider suicide anymore at my age, but I think death would be a welcome relief. Fifteen years? That would make me 86?
        .
        I used to joke that I wanted to live to be 120 – and die in bed having sex with six 20-year-old women to match my age. Funny, when I saw my daughter last week, she remembered the part about 120 years, but not the six 20-year-old women. 😀 😀 😀

      • Ted,

        This is the problem I have with egalitarianism. No two people are ever completely equal. Someone always has a little more social power or status than another. It is built into us. And really just by learning a bit about social interactions, one can informally and abruptly shift that balance. It is fascinating. Hell, democracy hasn’t been going so well! But there is no voting in a 2 person partnership. One person is always in charge whether or not either knows or acknowledges it. One person must be calling the shots or nothing would get done. Modern marriage sucks more because men seem willing to give up the leadership role in the relationship than women coveting the leadership role for themselves. Barring outlying examples, this is the single most important aspect to a successful sexual relationship. The man leads it. That’s it. Women are always going on about how much they love a man who is strong, confident, assertive, powerful, challenging, etc., but guys just don’t give it to them anymore. They’re too busy being awkward, sensitive, and needy.

        I do mean that marriage has been important in that civilization is when humanity really started ‘running’ in progress. Some form of marriage has been important for our civilized success. It provides order. I think a lot of men thought that the sexual revolution would mean more sex for themselves, but today roughly 80% of women are only after 20% of men. That leaves a lot of men out. Regular guys who used only to have lifelong financial and emotional support to offer in exchange for a woman. So long as the current sexual market continues, many men will remain deprived and frustrated because most women will never lust for them first when they can get a more attractive guy for a night or longer fling…and continue to hope they can tie him down eventually.

        And another thing about marriage: it has been more important for the success for society and humanity than it has for individuals. It has regulated to some extent the antagonistic mating strategies of men and women. Men favor polygamy. They want as many partners as they can manage. Women favor serial monogamy or polyandry if you like. They want the best partner they can get at the time. Without some kind of social institution to balance these forces, endless chaos and conflict are the result, which we are witnessing today. And actually, again, it has been worse for women because men now expect sex very early, so women can no longer hold it back, waiting for commitment, since a man will just move on…

        CrazyH:

        you seem to be obsessed with me. That’s your problem, not mine. Look at the number of times you mention me in your posts, the number of empty yet insulting replies you make, etc.

        Let me remind you AGAIN, that YOU are the one who wanted to have a flame war. I tried to have a respectful conversation with you and you started your juvenile name calling. Eventually, I gave up and responded in kind. Once AGAIN, “If you can’t stand the heat, don’t start the fire.”

        You come in here talking about taking people’s civil rights away. It wouldn’t matter even if you did phrase your hate-filled screeds sweetly (which you don’t) I see no reason to reply nicely to someone who is talking about harming people they don’t even know.

        You obviously want to discuss economics, yet just as obviously you don’t know anything about the subject. It’s real hard to say, “You’re WAY off the mark” without sounding condescending. If you don’t like my replies, perhaps you should try learning a little something about the subject before stating your opinions in public.

        You seem to read a lot into my posts that simply isn’t there. You put words in my mouth, and then get upset about them. At that point I’m not even involved, you’re just making yourself unhappy.

        …It’s like he is writing exactly what I’ve been saying to HIM. Eerie.

      • @Ted – “Fuck serial monogamy”

        I merely suggested it as one alternative. A line marriage most certainly isn’t a monogamous relationship. The point being that the relationship should be defined by those participating – not by society, not by the gubbmint, and not by your local sermon stuffer.

        My own wedding vows purposely skipped the “Cleave unto me only” part. (As well as the ‘obey’) It’s worked for us for over a quarter century, your mileage may vary.

      • @Jack,

        Care to name even ONE instance where I’ve advocated taking someone’s civil rights away? (anticipating your response: you’re against abortion rights and the right of gay people to raise their own children. QED.)

        You know about economics, eh? Sorry, your fascination with the gold standard shoots that one down as well. Adam Smith figured it out over two hundred years ago, and J.M. Keynes reiterated it in 1932. Our premier economist today is probably Paul Krugman, and here’s what he’s got to say on the subject.

      • @Jack, egalitarianism doesn’t mean all people are equal. It means they should be treated with equal respect.

        You say one person is always in charge whether or not either knows or acknowledges it. I think in a healthy relationship that role needs to shift sometimes.

        In my marriage my wife would like to always be in charge. I’m good with that about 2/3 of the time, when I’m not she follows my lead about half the time, and for the rest we butt heads. Hard.

        My wife would not respect me if I were not confident and assertive but neither would I respect her if she were not.

        Look at me like I’m the king of the world? That’s nice once in a while but it gets saccharine pretty quickly.

      • @Jack – As long as we’re wasting bandwidth on this nonsense, here is our first exchange.

        You start out by disparaging unmarried women, women who choose to terminate a pregnancy, consenting adults who agree to trade sex for money, people who get a thrill out of gambling, unwed fathers, drug users, and progressives in general. I fit into more than one of those categories, so yeah, I take it personally even though you did not explicitly address me. You could have argued against certain behaviors without disparaging those who engage in them. You chose not to.

        My first response is in kind. (“Jack spake unto us…”) sarcastic, yes, but not directly insulting. It’s no more contentious than your original post. I do talk about a general category, “pro-life fucktards” – a naughty word, but I’m characterizing a group. Earlier, you chose “stupid” and “disgusting’ while characterizing groups of which I am a member.

        Your *first* direct reply is *personally* insulting to me, “I see I need to spell it out….…do I have to finish this thought?” “Some intellectual honestly here would be nice.” “and you tried to make me out to be the crazy one” (??) That’s it, Jack – the first time either of us directly insulted the other, and you are the speaker.

        You also state that “Everyone should have full access to education” which immediately removes you from the category of people I called “fucktards”, You can’t claim to be insulted by a generalization which doesn’t apply.

        Next round, you say, “You’re disgusting.” Yet in that entire thread, I do not ever directly and personally insult you. It was a few days later that I finally got fed up and let you have it.

        Go ahead, get the last word in, I do not intend to waste any more time on this subject. But the next time you start whining about how I’m so mean to poor, innocent, little Jack I’ll just post a link back here.

        To everyone else, my apologies for this interruption. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

      • CrazyH,

        Oh, I will get the last word.

        Civil rights? Easy. You don’t believe the unborn have a right to life. You don’t believe entrepreneurs have a right to the fruits of their enterprise. I’m sure you want to take away gun rights. You are such a cookie cutter Leftie. I could go on. Bleh.

        Economics? You don’t even know what intrinsic value is. You are completely discredited.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrinsic_value_%28finance%29

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_coin

        “A silver coin has a stable value and an intrinsic value. Silver has been an ever rare metal.”

        So easy. A simple wiki check shows you to be a fool.

        And why would I think what a mainstream economist thinks is some kind of gospel? He is an academic! Where is his real world success? I appreciate his opinions, but a person who has actually made money in the real world knows much more. Not to mention, every elite has a vested interest in downplaying real money and supporting the fiat system. Did I really just have to explain that? You know who is buying gold and silver? China. And rich people. Get a clue.

      • We simply disagree upon what constitutes insulting language, but you’re too dense to realize that. I believe you fired the first salvo, but at this point, it no longer matters. You are consistently caustic and wrong.

      • @ Jack Heart –

        Meh!
        .
        I wish you guys would get past the personal problems and address the issues.
        .
        What benefit do you two think is derived from: “You started it!”
        .
        “Did not!”
        .
        “Did, too!”
        .
        “Did not!”
        .
        “Did, too!”
        .
        Excuse me for interfering in this child-like banter, but others of us would like to discuss (and read) really relevant material that addresses the issues.
        .
        Thus saith “derlehrer” as he steps off his soapbox.
        😀

  5. Uh, crazy, it’s not the government that owns the means of production, it’s the people. In a true communist society, the people are the government, the representatives are very locally based (workplace) and subject to immediate recall. You’re seemingly working from the old Stalinist example, but even there it wasn’t that the government owned anything. I mean come on, think about it – the bureaucrats in the Soviet Union had it better than the regular folk, but not that much better, certainly not in terms of loot.

    • Sounds like you’re conflating socialism and communism. Pretty common nowadays, but it does tend to make discussion difficult.

      As with the link Ted provided, the USSR wasn’t a communist state, despite rumors to the contrary. At best they were socialists, at worst, liars.

    • “the representatives are very locally based (workplace) and subject to immediate recall”

      That’s anarcho-syndicalism. I don’t believe it has ever really been tried.

      Guaranteed full employment would be a good start. Government work programs whenever unemployment exceeds 2%. Index corporate and upper-level personal tax rates to the non-government unemployment rate to pay for it.

      • > Index corporate and upper-level personal tax rates to the non-government unemployment rate to pay for it.

        I li-i-i-ike it.

        Unknown to most “capitalists” today is the fact that Adam Smith was in favor of a progressive tax rate.

      • Russell, I would also add a guaranteed minimum wage to that. Just because you are unemployed doesn’t mean that you don’t want to work. And just because you are unemployed doesn’t mean that you should starve to death.

  6. “Better to turn our rage against those responsible for inequality than against ourselves.”

    True. After all, what is murder but an extroverted suicide.

    • There’s a lot of truth in that.

      I saw a study a while back. I don’t remember the precise numbers, but it showed that countries with a high suicide rate tend to have a low murder rate and vice versa.

      It’s a cultural thing: some of us take our frustrations out on others, some of us take it out on ourselves. Either way, the fix is to eliminate the frustrations – you can’t solve a problem by concentrating on the symptoms.

  7. “Suicide Kills More Americans Than Gun Violence”

    I didn’t know that. I do know that toddlers with guns killed more people in America in 2013 than terrorists did.

    One of the big drivers of depression is the feeling that you can’t change your circumstances. Sometimes it’s just the sufferers’ perceptions, but sometimes it’s all too real, as in our current economy.

    I don’t think that completely killing capitalism is the answer. Communism only works with small groups of dedicated people with a common cause – just doesn’t scale up to hundreds of millions. Socialism: no freaking way am I going to give the government that kind of power. But our unregulated capitalism obviously doesn’t work either.

    I suspect some sort of blend would work better. Ensure everyone gets food, shelter, medical care, etc. Provide a path for anyone who is willing to work to do so; provide retraining for anyone displaced by new technology.

    Cap CEO pay, destroy corporations’ ability to buy cheap labor overseas & sell the products at a ridiculous profit at home. Outlaw corporate influence in politics. (that one’s dreaming unfortunately, but we could certainly cut it down.)

    We absolutely must get big money interests out of politics, but again – how can we do that without destroying democracy altogether? The Koch brothers have just as much right to free speech as anyone else, and the alternative is to put the government in charge of deciding who can speak, who can vote, etc. Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would help.

    Bring back the 90% tax bracket, those who’ve benefited most from our system should pay for the privilege of being wealthy.

    • “I suspect some sort of blend would work better. Ensure everyone gets food, shelter, medical care, etc. Provide a path for anyone who is willing to work to do so; provide retraining for anyone displaced by new technology.”

      LOL — you mean like what we have today?

      Do you EVER make sense?

      • What color is the sky on your planet?

        Should you ever deign to visit planet earth, you’d find that the USA has 600,00 homeless and 10.5 million unemployed.

    • @ CrazyH –

      “Socialism: no freaking way am I going to give the government that kind of power.”

      I guess I’m just ignorant. Your suggested solutions seem to me to be the epitome of socialism. How does this compose a “blend”?

      • No you’re not ignorant. There’s a reason he’s “crazy”. Because he doesn’t make any sense. Ever.

      • I absolutely do not want the gov’t owning the means of production. It’d work just fine so long as every politician was honest and altruistic. Not gonna bet my future on that one.

        Strict communism is even more idealistic. However, there’s some good thinking as a place to start. “From each according to his abilities, and to each according to his needs.” (Marx) That seems to me to be the reason humans banded together in the first place.

        Today Fortune 500 CEOs make 204 times regular workers on average. The ratio is up from 120-to-1 in 2000, 42-to-1 in 1980 and 20-to-1 in 1950.

        That’s sick. Ford makes its money by selling cars. The UAW builds the cars while the top brass reaps the benefits. Seems obvious to me that the people who create the wealth deserve a larger portion than 1/204 of what the CEO takes home.

        Capitalism does have its benefits – a truly free market (which we ain’t got one of now) does drive technological progress. It provides incentives that strict communism doesn’t.

        But – as Keynes said, “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

        Marx was right that capitalism as simply replaced the nobility with the board of directors. So, it’s obvious that unregulated capitalism just doesn’t work. It fails to provide for all, grants too much power to the already wealthy, leads to booms and busts, etc, etc.

        What to do? Some sort of blend seems to be in order, although I don’t know the details of what that would look like.

      • @ CrazyH –

        “… I don’t know the details of what that would look like.”
        .
        There’s the rub. Constructive criticism is one thing. Throwing out the status quo without an alternative concrete plan is ill-advised.

      • @derlehrer

        Oh, I agree there. Just following Keynes’ vision of capitalism would get us much further along.

        I’m an engineer – first step is to define the problem, next step is to look at alternative solutions. For a complex problem, we break it down into smaller problems and solve those individually.

        Even I’m not arrogant enough to suppose I know the whole solution to such a complex problem. But I do think I know *some* of the solutions to *some* of the pieces. And even if not – my opinions might inspire someone else to come up with a better solution.

      • @ CrazyH –
        .
        Your last post describes my philosophy of life in a nutshell. (I don’t think you’re “crazy” at all.”) 😀

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