From time to time I’ve mentioned the addition my wife and I put on our house several years ago. I don’t know that I’ve ever explained what originally impelled it. We were faced with the prospect of needing to take care of both of our elderly mothers.
We added a full first floor wheelchair accessible bath and created what is in effect a complete efficiency apartment on our first floor. Our new kitchen adjoins a “hearth room” as my architect brother-in-law calls it in open plan and that room would make a perfectly suitable bedroom.
As it turned out the need never arose. My mother-in-law needed more care than we could provide and my mother was nearly completely independent until the day she died. If our addition turns out to have been practical, it will be for our needs as we become less willing to climb stairs rather than for our mothers.
I think that one of the things missing from th lifestyle adopted by so many of my peers, transitioning from oversized house to empty nest to condo (or, in some cases, even more oversized house) is that aspect of care. We don’t care for our elderly relations any more. That has been professionalized and I believe we are poorer for it.
Virtue is a habit. We become courageous by acting courageously and caring by performing acts of care. That is the good sense in Cheryl Magness’s reaction to Emanuel Ezekiel’s expressed preference for dying at 75:
My 84-year-old mother lives with me. She has done so for more than five years now, and it has not been easy. She is not bedridden, nor does she suffer from a debilitating illness. But she is old, and old age, as the saying goes, is not for the faint of heart. My mother has pain and she forgets things. She can be quite negative. She is not very active, nor is she a fountain bubbling over with wisdom day in and day out. She is tired, and spends her days watching television, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and taking naps in her chair. But her mere presence in our house is a blessing because of what it requires of those around her.
If we want a more caring society, we will not accomplish it by paying our taxes dutifully or voting the right people into office but by caring for others ourselves. She’s right. It’s a blessing.
Based on Edward Kupiec’s Wall Street Journal op-ed I can’t quite make out whether he opposes bank regulation because it’s ineffective:
Macroprudential regulation, macro-pru for short, is the newest regulatory fad. It refers to policies that raise and lower regulatory requirements for financial institutions in an attempt to control their lending to prevent financial bubbles.
These policies will not succeed. Consider the most common macroprudential tool: raising or lowering bank minimum capital standards. Academic research—including a recent study I co-authored with Yan Lee of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Claire Rosenfeld of the College of William and Mary—has found that increasing a bank’s minimum capital requirements by 1% will decrease bank lending growth by about six one-hundredths of a percent.
or because it’s effective. It may be a more general distaste for regulation:
Government regulators are no better than private investors at predicting which individual investments are justified and which are folly. The cost of macroprudential regulation in the name of financial stability is almost certainly even slower economic growth than the anemic recovery has so far yielded.
In my view the only possible sense that the “save the banks and bankers first” strategy we have used made was as an emergency measure. Whatever emergency there was passed long ago. I can only guess that some combination of self-interest and the baleful effect of mathematics on economics has not only prolonged emergency measures but turned them into an investment strategy.
The reality is that while the economy will be weaker without sound banks, banks cannot becvome sound without a solid underlying economy and regulators, legislators, politicians, and pundits have fought any measure that might have put the economy on a sounder footing with all of their might.
I want to commend this essay at The Guardian by scholar Karen Armstrong. I found it very thought-provoking not the least for the implication that the Enlightenment, the separation of church and state, and the Westphalian state are a seamless garment. Here’s a snippet:
When secularisation was implemented in the developing world, it was experienced as a profound disruption – just as it had originally been in Europe. Because it usually came with colonial rule, it was seen as a foreign import and rejected as profoundly unnatural. In almost every region of the world where secular governments have been established with a goal of separating religion and politics, a counter-cultural movement has developed in response, determined to bring religion back into public life. What we call “fundamentalism” has always existed in a symbiotic relationship with a secularisation that is experienced as cruel, violent and invasive. All too often an aggressive secularism has pushed religion into a violent riposte. Every fundamentalist movement that I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is rooted in a profound fear of annihilation, convinced that the liberal or secular establishment is determined to destroy their way of life. This has been tragically apparent in the Middle East.
It is inevitable that modern attorneys general be the very worst officals of any given administration? It that an artifact of the lawfare that has become the norm in pursuing policy goals?
When you’re assessing risks there are two factors you need to weigh: the magnitude of the loss that can be incurred and the likelihood that the loss will take place. I think there’s another factor worth considering: trend, i.e. whether the threat is growing or receding.
Now let’s consider our foreign policy risks in that light. The biggest loss we face would come as a result of a nuclear exchange with Russia. Fortunately, the likelihood of that is pretty low although the trend right now is going the wrong way. Our bilateral relationship is deteriorating rather than improving, something I attribute mostly to us.
China, on the other hand, while in possession of the ability to do us serious damage does not have the ability to end us not to mention the rest of the world with us as Russia does. For a variety of reasons including the culture of the Chinese elite, internal Chinese politics, and missteps by us, I think we have conveyed to the Chinese elite a false message of our own helplessness. They are, not unexpectedly, stretching their muscles and in recent years Chinese general have repeatedly made statements extremely threatening to the United States. To my eye this trend, too, is in the wrong direction and deteriorating faster than our bilateral relationship with Russia.
By comparison ISIS/ISIL presents very little threat. It is callous to think of death and destruction this way but the reality is that they can inflict pinpricks on us. And their ability to inflict the pinpricks is itself limited. Additionally, right off the top of my head I can think of a dozen ways we could mitigate whatever threat they present. Let me just name a few. We could make it harder to become a U. S. citizen and easier for a naturalized citizen to lose his or her citizenship. We could ban dual citizenship. We could make travel to and from the Middle East must more restrictive. We could restrict travel within the United States by foreign visitors. We could reduce the number of American citizens exposed to risk in the Middle East. The list is almost endless.
We have decided or, at least, our elites have decided that the threats presented by violent Islamist militants are too low to take any of those steps. I do not see the sense in arguing on the one hand that the threats presented by ISIS/ISIL are too low for our to change our behavior while arguing on the other hand that the risks are so high that we should be lobbing bombs that will inevitably kill innocents along with the guilty.
Nearly every day I learn something new. Today I learned that a plurality of the state healthcare exchange portals are written using WordPress, the content management system that is the engine of this blog, as their basis.
I also learned that many of them are hosted by GoDaddy (the web host that uses Danica Patrick as its spokesperson).
This is the threat to us about which I’m most concerned—the belief on the part of some Chinese generals that China can defeat us in battle:
The bad news first. The People’s Republic of China now believes it can successfully prevent the United States from intervening in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or some other military assault by Beijing.
Now the good news. China is wrong—and for one major reason. It apparently disregards the decisive power of America’s nuclear-powered submarines.
That’s the sort of departure from reality that encourages adventurism. For years now Chinese generals have been making very provocative statements, frequently unremarked on by Western journalists.
Now that the U. S. has started bombing ISIS in Syria I have seen a familiar pattern emerging. Some are already declaring success while others are immediately declaring failure. That is what we saw in each of the Obama Administration’s major initiatives—the stimulus package, healthcare reform, and now operations against ISIS. Either one is tremendously premature. Success can only be measured against strategic objectives and simply because the bombs detonated or struck their intended targets does not mean that there is a clear strategic objective to accomplish, that progress has been made in accomplishing it, or that the strategic objectives can be accomplished by means we are willing to employ.
For that we will need to wait for weeks, months, or even years. Frankly, I do not believe we can achieve any real last, strategic victory unless we’re willing to occupy large portions of the Middle East for a century or more, something I do not believe we are willing to do or should be. Consequently, I tend not to be sanguine about this latest campaign.