Our weekly series sharing some of the more interesting things I’ve read this week
The LGBT Global Values Gap by Christian Caryl (Foreign Policy)
There’s one aspect of the controversy [over the Sochi Olympics], though, that hasn’t come in for much discussion. There’s every indication that the fight over the Olympics merely dramatizes a much longer and deeper split between the nations of the West, where citizens are growing increasingly tolerant towards their LGBT compatriots, and a large bloc of other countries where anti-gay sentiments are, if anything, becoming even more entrenched.
Don’t get me wrong: This is not to discount the forces of intolerance that, goodness knows, remain strong in various parts of the United States and Europe. But the trends are fairly clear: young people in the West, many of whom increasingly have openly LGBT friends or acquaintances, steadily demonstrate less of an inclination to demonize their peers on the basis of their sexual orientations. A remarkable 2011 study of international attitudes by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles Law School tracks the evolution quite clearly: from 1991 to 2008, the number of Americans who described homosexuality as “always wrong” dropped from 67.4 percent to 53.6 percent. (Polls that have tracked American sentiments on the issue over the past five yearsshow even more dramatic movement toward tolerance.)
The shift is increasingly finding expression in laws excluding discrimination and allowing for equal civil rights, up to and including single-sex marriage. (Just this week, on Nov. 7, for example, the United States Senate passed a law dramatically upgrading workplace protections for gay and transgender Americans — another big step forward.)
Yet the situation is starkly different in other parts of the world. When, according to the Williams Institute study, pollsters asked Russians in 1991 if being gay was “always wrong,” 58.7 percent of them agreed with the sentiment; by 2008, that percentage had gone up to 64.2. It’s hard to see how this number is going to improve, given that the recently passed law will likely make it even harder for LGBT Russians to be open about their preferences, thus diminishing the already small number of Russians who have personal contact with (as Russian officials grimly refer to it) “people of non-traditional sexual orientations.” The increasingly prominent political role of the Russian Orthodox Church, which propagates unapologetically homophobic views, is also a factor. And I question whether younger Russians — who make up the bulk of the participants at the nationalist rallies like the one we saw in Moscow earlier this week — are necessarily more tolerant than their elders.
These Films Prove Why Movie Ratings Are Insane by Jordan Zakarin (Buzzfeed)
One movie that comes out next weekend features a sweet old Catholic lady who goes searching for her long-lost son. Another is about a war-torn dystopian hellscape that celebrates and makes sport of children murdering each other. Which one was originally rated PG-13, and which film had to put up a public campaign to get that rating?
There was never any question that you’d be able to get into The Hunger Games: Catching Fire without a problem. But, until Wednesday afternoon, if you were under 17, you were going to need a parent or guardian to accompany you to see Judi Dench in the new dramedy Philomena……the MPAA, which employs 10 anonymous ratings board members whose rulings dictate what most American theatergoers can and can’t see, initially decided that the film is ill-suited for the ears of anyone younger than 17…all because the word “fuck” is used twice throughout the film’s two hours. It is, technically, one utterance of “one of the harsher sexually derived words” too many.
Going by the MPAA’s guidelines, there are strict tripwires for language and sexual content that trigger the R ratings, while the interpretation of how much violence is too much violence is left to subjective deliberation. The official guideline for a PG-13 film is that the violence is “generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent.” But over the years, the limits for the kind of carnage permitted in PG-13 movies have been pushed further and further. There has been no similar slack when it comes to the restrictions on language and sexuality; only on appeal do these movies have a chance of becoming PG-13.
Why the discrepancy? It is no coincidence that the film industry has self-segregated over the last decade, with the six major studios largely relying on big, violent franchise movies, and independent production companies focusing more on dialogue-heavy films.
The Rise of the New New Left by Peter Beinart (Buzzfeed)
It is these two factors—their economic hardship in an age of limited government protection and their resistance to right-wing cultural populism—that best explain why on economic issues, Millennials lean so far left. In 2010, Pew found that two-thirds of Millennials favored a bigger government with more services over a cheaper one with fewer services, a margin 25 points above the rest of the population. While large majorities of older and middle-aged Americans favored repealing Obamacare in late 2012, Millennials favored expanding it, by 17 points. Millennials are substantially more pro–labor union than the population at large.
Most striking of all, Millennials are more willing than their elders to challenge cherished American myths about capitalism and class. According to a 2011 Pew study, Americans under 30 are the only segment of the population to describe themselves as “have nots” rather than “haves.” They are far more likely than older Americans to say that business enjoys more control over their lives than government. And unlike older Americans, who favor capitalism over socialism by roughly 25 points, Millennials, narrowly, favor socialism.
Krugman’s most spectacular failure has been his prediction of the dissolution of the eurozone. As Niall Ferguson has noted, Krugman “wrote about the imminent break-up of the euro at least eleven times between April 2010 and July 2012.” Well, that didn’t happen. Not only did the eurozone remain intact but in 2009, Slovakia joined, as did Estonia in 2011; Latvia is set to join in January 2014.
While anyone can make a mistake, Krugman’s error was more profound, indicating a lack of understanding. He treated the eurozone as primarily a system of fixed exchange rates, ignoring that it is a currency union with centralized clearing of payments. As the euro crisis evolved, uncleared payment balances piled up. The best way of dissolving these imbalances was by restoring confidence in the euro system, which the European Central Bank (ECB) has done, sensibly, since July 2012. A breakup of the eurozone, on the other hand, would have resulted in large debts and claims of the various members, leading to major financial destabilization.
In the last century, three multi-nation currency unions in Europe have endured disorderly breakups — namely the Habsburg Empire, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. In each case, the outcome was multiple hyperinflations from which several countries have still not recovered two decades later. To my knowledge, Krugman has never mentioned this aspect in print. Nor was it self-evident that the EU and its single market would survive if the euro system broke up. This was truly unchartered territory. However, ECB President Mario Draghi did understand the dangers, and in July 2012 he declared that ECB would “do what it takes” to save the euro. And while Krugman advised against saving the euro, he had (rightly) praised the “do what it takes” philosophy.
When it comes to fiscal policy, Krugman is single-minded in his focus on aggregate demand rather than supply, seemingly unaware of how constrained supply has been in the EU, not least because of overregulated labor and service markets. He has persistently favored fiscal “stimulus,” larger budget deficits, and slower fiscal adjustment. Today, the record is clear. The countries that have followed his advice and increased their deficits (the South European crisis countries), have done far worse in terms of economic growth and employment than the North Europeans and particularly the Baltic countries that honored fiscal responsibility.