Archive for December, 2019

Young Men More and More Active in Politics

In 1919, young men were becoming more active in politics. Is that true in 2019? Even if so, they still have perhaps the lowest political activity rate of any age/gender combo.

Only 33% of men aged 18-29 voted in the 2018 midterm election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Higher percentages of women in that age group voted (38%), and a far higher percentage of men aged 65+ voted (68%).

The consequences were literally world-changing. Donald Trump very likely would have lost if most the young men who claimed to strongly oppose him — which numbered millions — actually voted for Hillary Clinton. Instead, millions of young men who professed to dislike both Trump and Clinton didn’t vote at all.

(And even a not-insubstantial number of young men who did vote cast ballots for third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or write-in votes for Bernie Sanders or Ron Paul.)

This 1919 article doesn’t have similar turnout data, since such statistics were barely collected back then, if at all. It does include this explanatory quote from Republican National Committee Chair Will H. Hays, who tied the rise of young men in politics to the end of World War I the year prior:

It is a natural aftermath of war. During the last few years millions who hitherto thought that they could do nothing for their country have given generously themselves, their time, their money. It has been a revalation.

Millions of boys realized that the future of the nation was in their keeping. Those who had never thought of any of the serious things which make up America were suddenly brought face to face with reality. As they crossed the continent, as they crowded into ships to make the perilous journey overseas, as they worked and fought in France and as they rested they thought in unfamiliar ways of their country.

It seems to me that the spirit which was awakened under the stimulation of the conflict will not be content to forget the service of that high season. Young men will not forget. The nation which had the supreme demand upon them in time of war still wants their service and they know it. And they know their country needs this service.

Most interesting to modern eyes is FDR being listed in an accompanying photo compilation of young men in politics. Roosevelt, then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, was 37 at the time. Today, we tend to think of him more as the grandfatherly figure he had become by his presidency, particularly his 1940s-era third and fourth terms when he led the nation during WWII.

Young Men More and More Active in Politics: Will H. Hays, Republican National Chairman, Says Stern Duty of Taking Part in Public Life Confronts Youth of the Country (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 28, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 27th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Republican Candidates: Wood, Harding and Lowden Avowed Possibilities in the Presidential Campaign

Who would become the Republican presidential nominee in 1920? In December 1919, three candidates led. Warren Harding ended up as president. Frank Lowden and Leonard Wood were largely forgotten by history.

This article broke down the pros and cons of each:

Ohio Senator Warren Harding

Advantages:

  • “Senator Harding stands out most conspicuously in the eyes of the Republican powers that be as a safe man… He apparently knows the secret of making advances in life without arousing antagonisms.”
  • “His greatest advantage from a political standpoint is that he hails from a pivotal State, a doubtful one with a big electoral vote. From being considered a rock-ribbed Republican State, Ohio has gone Democratic in the last two Presidential elections.” [Indeed, Ohio would vote Republican for Harding the following year. And it remains among the bigger swing states today.]

Disadvantages:

  • “Senator Harding has failed to come out in a clear-cut fashion on some of the important issues that have arisen in this country since the armistice, his opponents point out. They have waited in vain, they assert, to hear from him on the steel strike, the coal strike, the Plumb plan, and on radicalism generally.” [Indeed, this flip-flopping / wait-and-see approach were major marks against recent losing candidates John Kerry, Mitt Romney, and currently Joe Biden.]

Illinois Governor Frank Lowden

Advantages:

  • “In Governor Lowden’s career, starting from a humble beginning, there is a quality that has its appeal to the voter. He is the son of a village blacksmith.”
  • “He has an excellent record as administrator and reformer of the Illinois State Government… When he was elected Governor in 1916 there were 128 State commissions, overlapping in wastefulness and inefficiency. These were consolidated into nine departments and an effective budget system was introduced.”

Disadvantages:

  • “He lives in a State which is regarded as safely Republican.” [But so was Illinois a safely Democratic state for Barack Obama, so this argument seems flimsy to modern ears.]
  • “His large wealth could be made the target of attack to prejudice labor against him.” [Donald Trump is literally one of the wealthiest people on planet earth, and certainly in America, yet that didn’t seem to prejudice voters against him.]

Major General Leonard Wood

Advantages:

  • A beloved military hero. “In 1886, in the campaign against the Apaches in the West, his conduct as a medical and line officer won for him the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
  • “Because of his close association with Theodore Roosevelt, the following of the late leader is rallying to him.” [Roosevelt, a beloved two-term president whose face would later be carved into Mount Rushmore, had died in January of that year.]

Disadvantages:

  • “As the campaign unfolds, General Wood, as an officer under the President as Commander in Chief of the Army, is withheld from making known his views on questions uppermost before the people, or in putting his own energy in the fight for the nomination.”
  • “There is nothing in the army regulations to prevent him from becoming a candidate for the Presidency, but the ethics of it is another question, it is stated.”

 

Of these three leading Republican candidates at the time, Harding would go on to win both the nomination and the presidency.

But ’tis not always thus. Trump wasn’t in the top three Republican candidates before he announced — in fact, most people didn’t even think he was actually going to run at all. (He had been talking about running for president since at least 1988, but most people dismissed it at self-promotional since he’d never actually pulled the trigger.)

Of the top four Democratic candidates right now, three of them were initially viewed as top tier contenders — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders — but current fourth place Pete Buttigieg most certainly was not. Indeed, most people hadn’t even heard of him back on January 1.

 

Republican Candidates: Wood, Harding and Lowden Avowed Possibilities in the Presidential Campaign, With Some Dark Horses in Background Republican Candidates (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 21, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 20th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Criminal Is a Defective, but Not a Type

Which matters more for influencing criminal behavior: nature or nuture? This 1919 paper from England, “the most complete first hand scientific study of the criminal that exists in any language,” found it was nature.

Presenting what seems to be the most complete first hand scientific study of the criminal that exists in any language, it goes a long way toward proving that there is no “criminal type,” and casts grave doubt upon the previously held theory that the criminal is a product chiefly of environment.

Dr. Goring comes to the conclusion that physical and mental defectiveness, like many other human qualities, is inherited, and he infers that crime is, to a large extent, a product of nature rather than of nurture and environment.

So what indeed determines criminal behavior, according to the study? Primarily inherited mental disorders:

First convictions show a preilection for the age period 15 to 25, which Dr. Goring concludes to be significant. Comparing this fact with the age incidences of liability to various diseases, he is inclined to interpret the facts as evidence that a “mental constitutional proclivity is the primal source of the habitual criminal’s career.”

The nature vs. nurture debate still plagues us today. Coming down on the nature side is the thought-provoking book  Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa. I actually had an email correspondence with Kanazawa after reading his book, and he was very friendly and helpful in elucidating some of his book’s ideas further. Coming down more on the nurture side is the 2018 documentary Three Identical Strangers, which I’d also highly recommend.

Every month I listen to the debate show Intelligence Squared U.S., in which teams of two debate a topic and the audience votes on which side most changed their minds. October’s episode on nature vs. nurture was terrific. I won’t spoil which side won, but the final score was +7% to +5%, one of the closest matches in the history of the show.

 

Criminal Is a Defective, but Not a Type: Conclusions from Biometrical Study of 3,000 British Convicts Discredit Lombroso’s Theory and Minimize the Influence of Environment (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 21, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 19th, 2019 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Science,True Crime

Nervous Invalids Back on a Peace Basis

The end of World War I was great news for everyone, but especially for psychiatrists. Shouldn’t war have meant more need for psychiatrists, and peace meant less need? Actually, it was apparently the opposite.

They’re all back, it seems — that neurotic clan of wealthy women, ranging from hysterical debutantes to idle spinsters — from the victims of coddling husbands to “misunderstood wives.” Before the war their favorite indoor sport was symptoms. From April 1917 to November 1918, the neurosthenic market had a sensational slump. But the war is over — for the ladies, if not for prohibitionists.

One professional explained how the war had slashed demand for psychological services.

“Young girls,” said the doctor, “whose sole end in life had been to succeed in society and to make a ‘suitable match’ got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floors of canteens and hospitals. They had no time for introspection. Moreover, they had an emotional outlet, since patriotism is as intense an experience as religion.”

Interestingly, something similar may be happening currently. America is not at war, yet people seem to be more worried. Therapists have reported huge post-2016 spikes in people citing Donald Trump as a cause of their stress, worry, or psychological symptoms. (Those on the right call this “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”)

 

Nervous Invalids Back on a Peace Basis: War’s Compensatory Outlets Closed, the Neurologists’ Waiting Rooms Are Crowded Again, and the Sanitaria for the Newly and Idly Rich Are Booming (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 14, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 10th, 2019 at 11:10 am

Posted in Health

Outer Government Entrenched at Washington

How did Washington, D.C. become “the swamp”? Around 1900, the rise of lobbying organizations in the nation’s capitol caused great controversy. By 1919, it was considered normal.

When one side of a case is represented only, the reaction is likely to be one-sided. This situation, from the first, has been the great magnet in bringing new national organizations to Washington.

This movement began more than twenty years ago, when lobbying was becoming a national scandal, and has grown to its present proportion almost unnoticed by the country. In order that its side of any proposed legislation might be legitimately represented, one organization after another made Washington its headquarters.

That’s only become more true by 2019. In August, I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the SWEET Act, which would end the federal subsidy for the sugar industry. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA10), who represents the Pennsylvania district where Hershey is located. If the federal sugar subsidy was eliminated, smaller manufacturers would have a much harder time withstanding the blow — massive corporations like Hershey would survive.

Of course, perhaps the most famous lobbying organization is the one described by humor writer Dave Barry in his book Lessons From Lucy earlier this year:

AARP is a powerful lobbying group representing the interests of senior citizens. Like, if a member of Congress even thinks about cutting Social Security benefits, an elite AARP tactical assault lobbying squad will descend on the congressperson’s office at a slow rate of speed and wave their catheters around in a threatening manner until the congressperson sees the light.

This blog’s created and former lead writer David Friedman now works for the AARP, producing videos and documentaries for their website and social media channels.

 

Outer Government Entrenched at Washington: Organizations Which Encircle the Capitol Dome and Influence Legislation for the Special Classes and Interests They Represent (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 7, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 4th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics