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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Comment on Drum

Read this excellent post by Kevin Drum on, you guessed it, lead.

I guessed where it was heading after reading the title.

my comment

I have often thought of attempting to write this post and always thought better of it, concluding that you will write it better. And so you did.

I'd like to add one more explanation of resistance to the lead hypothesis. It is offensive to human dignity to argue that a mere metal can undermine human society and distort a human mind. You and I are atheists, but most people in the US believe in some kind of immaterial and (they hope) immortal soul. Any strictly materialistic explanation in psychology is threatenting to this hope (I don't have any such hope to lose). I think there is a similar cause of hostility to psychopharmacology. I think it is one of the reasons that people assert (assume really) that pills cover up the real problem (but don't assert that insulin covers up the real problem of diabetics).

I'd note another right wing hypothesis which competes with lead. There are many who think that the war on poverty had perverse effects by distorting incentives. Another theme of yours is the extreme hatred of "welfare" so of course you have grappled with the argument that welfare created the culture of poverty. The progressive (domestic) program was tried 65-68 & followed by increased social pathology. Totally aside from the fact that the war on poverty didn't last as long as the war in Vietnam (let alone Afghanistan) you can argue that it was a coincidence.

Finally, another left wing hypothesis threatened by lead -- which was I think the counterculter's hypothesis. There was a time when "the affluent society" was pejorative. I think it's (among other things) the title of one of the Galbraith books which I haven't read. The idea was somehow that the immense increase in material wealth in the 60s did something bad to our character or psyche or something. This isn't the explanaton that the counterculter was to blame. Rather it is the explanation which members of the counterculter (and some eminent Harvard economics professors) offered. It too is blasted by lead.

Finally speaking of blasting by lead, the easy availability of guns hypothesis is usually an explanation of US vs rest of rich world murder rates not of the rise in the 60s. It's doing fine.

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