What’s wrong with white people?

The title of this post is perhaps unduly provocative.  I don’t intend to bash all white people, just 21st century white Americans.  Let me also assure readers that some of my best friends are white folks.

About 5 years ago I noticed something wrong with white people, but first a little perspective.  I grew up in the racially-charged 1960s, when there was much turmoil over issues like school desegregation.  Many white parents didn’t want to send their kids to schools that had lots of black children, out of fear that the academic standards would be too low.  Then about 5 years ago I read about white parents in California who pulled their kids out of heavily Asian school districts, fearing the academic standards were too high.  This struck me as odd; can’t white parents make up their minds about whether they want low standards or high standards?

I was reminded of this when I read of the huge hubbub over the Amy Chua book on strict Chinese parenting.  Apparently many people were outraged that Ms. Chua pushed her kids too hard to succeed.  Once again, this brought back memories of when I was younger, and I’d hear middle class white people complaining that welfare moms don’t push their kids hard enough to succeed.

What’s the right way to raise kids?  In my post “The arrogance of the here and now” I hinted at one answer.  The right way to raise kids is the way “we” raise kids “right now” around here.  Isn’t that obvious?

I know that some commenters will accuse me of “relativism.”  I seem to be claiming there is no right or wrong way, and we have no right to criticize others.  They’ll insist there is objective evidence that welfare moms don’t do a good job raising kids.  They’ll point to high rates of incarceration and low levels of income for kids brought up by welfare moms.  OK, let’s say that’s true.  Let’s say it proves “our way” is superior.  Isn’t it also true that Chinese-American kids earn even more than white kids when they grow up?  And aren’t they less likely to go to prison than white kids?  If so, then what’s wrong with white kids?  Why aren’t they pushed harder to succeed?

Some may argue that the big fuss over Amy Chua had no broader implications.  It wasn’t an implied criticism of Chinese parenting styles, just an expression of outrage against a single person.  Yeah, and the huge fuss over the mother of octuplets who got public assistance was just about one family, with no broader implications about society’s attitudes toward welfare moms.

If those with stricter parenting styles than us are bad people, and those with less strict parenting styles are also bad people, then doesn’t this imply that we also used to be bad people?  After all, weren’t our ancestors much stricter with kids a few hundred years ago?  And aren’t our descendants also likely to be bad people too, after all (extrapolating current trends) they are likely to be much less strict than we are.  I find most people are happy to confidently declare that “we” raise kids better than welfare moms, and better than tiger moms, and better than moms who used to send their 12 year old daughters to work in textile mills.  But they don’t necessarily agree with my view that the future moms will also be horrible.  I think that’s because in some sense “the test of time” is implicitly viewed as providing the last word as to what’s right or wrong.

Richard Rorty was once asked what people meant when they said “people currently believe X, but eventually it will be shown that Y was true.”  He responded that this was no more than an implied prediction that people would later believe Y.  I’m predicting that future parenting styles will be very different, and that they will look back at moms of 2011 as some sort of horrible monsters, cruelly abusing children.

Part 2:  Hollywood’s ultimate insult

Each January, Hollywood inflicts upon the world an insult so exquisitely cruel, so mind-bogglingly un-PC, so appalling lacking in taste and refinement, that it goes by completely unnoticed.  I’m referring of course to the best picture nominations.  As you know, in recent years they’ve had to struggle to find 5 worthy entries.  To cover up this embarrassment they recently expanded the category to 10 pictures, in the hope that the mind-numbing mediocrity will be hidden my sheer numbers.

Consider the following 8 best picture nominees:  Grand Illusion (1938), Z (1969), The Emigrants (1972), Cries and Whispers (1973), Gandhi (1982), The Postman (1995), Life is Beautiful (1998), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000.)  I’m not certain, but I believe these are the only 8 films ever nominated where English was not the dominant language of the film (some films are bilingual.)

Now I know what you are thinking, “Sumner’s going to complain that they didn’t nominate more of those artsy foreign films that nobody wants to watch.  This is our celebration, let Cannes cover the foreign films.”  Actually, that wouldn’t be a good argument, as there are lots of great foreign commercial films.  No, you’ve misjudged me, the real outrage is that they’ve nominated 8 too many!  It’s what makes the insult so sublime.

Suppose no foreign films had ever been nominated.  What would people say?  Obviously many people would point to the separate category for foreign films at the Oscars, and perhaps note that it makes sense to have two separate categories.  Not optimal, but perhaps at least somewhat defensible.

Alternatively, Hollywood might have nominated around 200 foreign films, out of the roughly 400 films that have received nominations.  Again, it’s slightly insulting to the rest of the world to claim that we have produced half of all the great films, but then people could say “naturally Hollywood would focus a bit more on their own films, which they know best.”

But Hollywood didn’t choose either option.  Instead they nominated about one foreign film a decade, and only Gandhi actually won.  And Gandhi was partly in English, so no completely non-English film has ever won best picture, not once in 83 years.  Why 8 films?  Why not 200?  Or zero?  Here’s my theory.  Hollywood has an inferiority complex.  They constant prattle on about being “artists” precisely because they know that they aren’t artists.  They are resentful of all the critics who rave about uncommercial films by Antonioni, or Kairostami, or Hou Hsiao Hsien.

So they devised the ultimate insult.  Open up the best picture category to all films, of any language, but never let any non-English language films win.  That will show all those snobby French cineastes who’s really on top of the world.  You might then wonder why they didn’t nominate zero foreign films, to maximize the insult.  Ah, but that’s the beauty of this outrage.  If no foreign film was ever nominated, it would be assumed that, de facto, the category was only open to English language films.  Especially given that there is a separate category for foreign language films.  No, this is much better, have the category open to all films, and then nominate roughly one foreign film a decade to remind the rest of the world that we do consider your movies, we just don’t find any that meet our high standards.  Truly an insult of John Malkovichian subtlety.

Just as white folks don’t like parenting styles that are more or less strict than their own; Hollywood doesn’t like films that are more or less “artistic” than their own.  BTW, when I say “artistic” in scare quotes I don’t mean having aesthetic merit.  Lord knows that’s not what determines which films get nominated for best picture.  If you don’t believe me, just look at a list of films directed by Hitchcock in the late 1950s, and then look at the films nominated for best picture in the late 1950s.  No, Hollywood equates “artistic” with films about the way we live.  And by “we” I mean English-speaking people.  More specifically, white English-speaking people.  Movies with which “we” can identify.



38 Responses to “What’s wrong with white people?”

  1. Gravatar of David Pinto David Pinto
    26. January 2011 at 19:37

    I don’t remember any foreign languages in Gandhi. It’s been almost 30 years since I saw it, but I remember English spoken in the whole film.

  2. Gravatar of cassander cassander
    26. January 2011 at 19:46

    In other shocking news, 85% of people rate themselves as above average drivers! Seriously Scott, what have you pointed out here except that people tend to be smug, myopic, and provincial? Why are you surprised that in a mostly white, English speaking country our smug provincialism caters to white English speakers? What’s next, outrage over the fact that an American baseball team wins the “World” Series every year?

  3. Gravatar of Doc Merlin Doc Merlin
    26. January 2011 at 20:59

    Nah, #2 is way simpler than the senario you paint. Academy members vote for films they have seen and enjoyed, almost all members speech english, thus english speaking films win.

  4. Gravatar of Greg Ransom Greg Ransom
    26. January 2011 at 21:50

    Let’s think about Rorty’s claim in the context of the famous developmental “ball behind a box” experiment. Children at 8 months or so don’t understand the that ball continues to exist after it’s out of sight.

    So here’s the great Rorty explaining that:

    “Children at 8 months currently believe X, but eventually it will be shown to them that Y was true. This is no more than the prediction that infants will later believe Y.”

    You don’t know how boring Cartesian / Rortarian epistomological mistakes can be until you’ve spend years teaching them to freshmen.

  5. Gravatar of Mikko Mikko
    26. January 2011 at 22:36

    Scott, let me propose a hypothesis that there are two different variables that people mix together when it comes to raising kids. The other variable is strictness and the other is involvement. I would claim that when people claim that someone is too lax – a lot of the time it is really the lack of involvement that is the problem.

  6. Gravatar of woupiestek woupiestek
    27. January 2011 at 00:29

    @cassander: 85% if people can be better than average drivers… if they have differing notions of “better”.

  7. Gravatar of tadhgin tadhgin
    27. January 2011 at 01:42

    85% of people can be better than average drivers… consider 100 drivers.

    99 score 100 on a test of driving skills

    1 scores 0 on a test of driving skills

    The average driver score is 99

    99% of drivers are better than average

    (and is it really unlikely that some drivers are absolutely appaling — drink, drugs speed — while the rest of us are about the same)

  8. Gravatar of David E David E
    27. January 2011 at 05:53

    What’s wrong with Amy Chua?

    1) Gives advice (and criticizes others parenting) after having only two kids (I don’t trust advice from parents with less than four)
    2) Cites no objective evidence her advice is any good
    3) Has not heard of statistics
    4) Has not heard of genetics
    5) Implies that the same type of (tiger) parenting is responsible for her success when she got tenure at Yale primarily based on who she married (only one scholarly article).

    If Amy Smith or Amy Jones had the same characteristics, I wouldn’t like her advice either

  9. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    27. January 2011 at 06:35


    I think that the different between the World Series and film awards is that most of the world makes movies, whereas almost no-one outside of the US and one or two Asian nations plays baseball.

    Prof. Sumner,

    What DO you/the Academy Awards mean by ‘artistic’? Obviously, a film awards ceremony that didn’t give award to “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” cannot possibly be taken seriously as a measure of ‘artistry’ as I understand it.

    It would almost be worth the effort to look back at the Academy awards from various periods and formalise the criteria that the judges were using, if it wasn’t such a trivial and complex matter.

    As for the general thrust of your post, I think it’s always worthwhile looking both at what people say (“Children need more discipline and instruction!”) and what people do (hands-off parenting). The disparity is often a result of the fact that there are things that we want to be done, but which we’d rather other people do: parents generally want sex education for their kids, but they’re largely willing to delegate this difficult task to teachers and television, and then complain when they don’t get exactly what is wanted.

    Now, there’s a lot of good in such delegation (in a world of working mums, perhaps we need to become more comfortable with the idea of others raising our children) but only if we recall Shakespeare’s message in “King Lear”, which is that one shouldn’t give up responsibility unless one is willing to give up power.

  10. Gravatar of Indy Indy
    27. January 2011 at 07:38

    As for part 2, this is pretty simple: The Academy Awards (just like all the other entertainment-industry awards shows) exists as (A) An explicit attempt to market the American Film Industry (and that means especially the high-dollar-production films of the big studios), both here and abroad, and (B) A marketable event in its own right that makes money by selling tickets and advertising.

    You are correct that they throw in some low-budget, independent, or foreign films mostly as pretense, but it’s not a pretense that favors a bias of “Superior American Artistry”, but one that that favors the real commercial purposes of the whole charade. If a foreign movie sneaks in, it’s probably because something about it has big-money US-market viewing and distribution potential. The Oscars will never be like The Science Nobels.

    As for part 1 – there’s just too much subject there for a short blog comment. I’d recommend Joshua Dunn’s book “Complex Justice” for some of the legal context behind desegregation in Kansas City, Missouri (where I was raised).

    Kansas City is kind of a unique case because the state-line and the relatively undeveloped (at the time) Kansas side, especially Johnson County, made “jurisdiction escape” so easy. Move one mile West and you’re in a different state, county, city, school district, tax-base, federal district court, etc.

    Lots of people became very upset with what happened to the Kansas City School District after the desegregation supervision began, but while it’s easy to jump to accusations of “Racist!”, (unfalsifiable), they genuinely had other reasons.

    One of those reasons was how quickly politicized and corrupt the district had become. After almost 20 years, KCSD quickly transitioned from being supervised by the federal court for desegregation, to being supervised by the state of Missouri for corrupt practices and severely inadequate standards and performance. But early on, it contributed to how quickly shut-out from school issues many parents felt – especially since with forced-busing, the school their kids attended wasn’t the local school, and it was a serious hassle to go to meetings and participate. It’s like Hirschman’s “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.” Many parents felt they had lost their “voice” which diminished their “loyalty” and since they weren’t captive, and escape was so easy, they chose “exit”.

    They voted with their feet. Not just “white people” but plenty of middle-class blacks too. They even gave this phenomenon a name called “creaming”. The parents who were most concerned with education and thought their kids were getting a bad shake became the marginal exiters. When they left, they created a new group of marginal exiters.

    When this process repeats a few times – you end up with a school district totally adrift because the only families left are those that don’t care to leave or can’t leave – and the administrators get down to hiring all their friends and distributing goodies instead of focusing on teaching the kids.

    Now Kansas City is *far* more segregated than it ever was prior to the desegregation case. It gone from having small blocks of ethnic neighborhoods, to having giant exclusively poor black areas on one side, and exclusively White-Asian-and-middle-class-blacks on the other.

    At any rate – to reduce all that to being “idosyncatically-centrist” about “standards” I think is oversimplification of an extremely complex phenomenon. As for running away from high-performing Asians, I’m still skeptical this is a real trend. In America, high-performers will tend to eventually live in the same areas and associate by wealth, education, and class more than by ethnic origin.

    As for the Amy Chua stuff – I think it’s a proxy for lots of pent-up issues and feelings that, in the PC age, no one feels free to talk about openly because it’s simple not acceptable to discuss certain topics in polite company, or, at the very least, you can never be sure when someone who has power over you might feel obliged to punish you for having said such things in the past.

    Notice – most people have no problem with stories of the parents pushing their kids ridiculously hard, and from the youngest ages, to be stars in certain sports. Like Earl Woods with Tiger, and so on. That’s because we only hear about the success stories, and lots of ordinary families have this same dream. It’s like the lottery or American Idol. We don’t hear about the 99% of failures that any tournament market produces, and we generally don’t think about the lost opportunity costs of so many people spending so much effort on something only a tiny few of them can achieve.

    I will say that I think we’re becoming an increasingly aristocratic society, with our elite parents becoming overly obsessed with obtaining credentials for their kids from certain elite named institutions. There are indeed real rat-race losses from the competition of more and more kids to get into a fixed number of available positions at these elite places. And the notion that only these elite places “matter” is corrosive and pernicious and spreading.

    Here we are, with probably the best idea of Macroeconomic management coming from Bentley, and Interfluidity, a truly great compositionist on matters financial, economic, and moral at Kentucky – and yet my impression and experience is that the false attitude of “If it’s not in the top-20, it’s worthless” (especially pervasive in Law) is spreading, exacerbating anxieties, and distorting the decisions of millions of people.

    People have a sense that competition is good, but that through a kind of unmanaged ratcheting process it can be taken too far and drive us to insane, counterproductive, and human-happiness diminishing places. I think if you said, “Ok, all the kids can only study for three hours after school per day, and then whatever results emerge from that are fair” people could accept that. But if everybody studies two more hours a night to “keep up” with the hardest-pushed kids, the “spoils” of that effort will be the same, and probably distributed to the same people. But while all that extra “studying effort” isn’t exactly “wasted” if it helps build character and work-ethic and good habit, I think the impression is that, especially for the kind of stuff they make you learn in most schools, the opportunity cost of those extra hours is high. What would Robin Hanson say?

    For decades we’ve heard this from Socialist or Labor Union types decrying the “race to the bottom” and “unfair low-wage competition” or some such, because of the “exploitations of the capitalists” or some such. But I’m starting to think they’re a parallel attitude that people have about the “race to the top”. That’s part of why Chua’s book pushes people’s buttons.

  11. Gravatar of Nick Rowe Nick Rowe
    27. January 2011 at 08:33

    “I’m predicting that future parenting styles will be very different, and that they will look back at moms of 2011 as some sort of horrible monsters, cruelly abusing children.”

    A safe prediction. But can you predict in which direction they will be different?

    By the way, the real Amy Chua (and her book) are apparently not the same as that NYT(?) article excerpted from it. She later describes how she thought she overdid it.

  12. Gravatar of OGT OGT
    27. January 2011 at 08:46

    Right. In my town it’s not uncommon to hear the very same people complain about both the ‘dirt bags’ that hang out downtown now and that the city’s proposed redevelopment efforts will bring uppity Manholo Blanhik shoe shoppers downtown.

    Of course, George Carlin expressed it well talking about driving. Everyone that drives slower than him is a blanking idiot, and everyone that drives faster than him is blanking crazy.

    Same as it ever was.

    Indy- I think there’s a something to your comment though, in an age of job polarization status, educational, and employment competition feel more like tournament competitions and less like mutually beneficial exercizes. That is probably an overdrawn fear, but I think it’s out there and heightened by the recession.

  13. Gravatar of unfriendly unfriendly
    27. January 2011 at 09:04

    Of course, Scott’s point about welfare mothers and Amy Chua seems to be the best case against large, heterogeneous nations. At some point, people will fight about what the proper norms of behavior are. No matter how libertarian the formal rules are (and of course they won’t be) there will be struggles about social norms of behavior. And parents criticizing Chua are afraid that Asian parenting will move the needle on the “new normal.”

    Gee, I bet they don’t have such debates in Japan (not that they don’t have debates about behavior in Japan but that these debates don’t mix diff preferences with racial struggles as in our fights about welfare mothers or Asian parenting).

  14. Gravatar of Bababooey Bababooey
    27. January 2011 at 09:55

    Your transition from “I read about white parents in California who pulled their kids out of heavily Asian school districts” to “can’t white parents make up their minds” requires a pretty long bridge; the characteristics of a dozen or so parents is ascribed to millions. (The bloggers outraged by the Amy Chua excerpt in the WSJ are more than a dozen, but still very tiny.)

    The white parents I know don’t care about Chua, the Asian school district of San Marino, or welfare parenting enough to polemicize their heartfelt opinions in conversation. I conclude that this tiny group is representative of most white parents, who also don’t care about the things you say they do.

  15. Gravatar of scott sumner scott sumner
    27. January 2011 at 10:40

    David, I’ve never seen it, I relied on Wikipedia.

    Cassander, It was actually supposed to be sort of a joke.

    Doc Merlin, You are spoiling all the fun.

    Greg, The Rorty sentence was the only thing serious in the entire post.

    Mikko, Yes, that’s true.

    woupiestek, Yes, I made that point in an earlier post.

    tadhgan, Yes, but I think most people really mean “median” when they say average driver.

    David, You may be right, I never read her stuff. I wasn’t really reacting to her, I was amused at how threatened people seemed to be by her remarks, which made me think it was much more than just about one person. Lots of bloggingheads episodes immediately debated the issue of being a demanding parent.

    Based on what little I know, I doubt I would agree with her.

    W. Peden, I think they see artistic movies as those that address issues about the way we live. Stuff like The Kids are All Right, or The Social Network. Through the years socially or politically “serious” films have generally come out ahead of the more stylistically interesting films, like Aguirre, although there are certainly exceptions. Obviously when you have lots of different voters, it’s hard to generalize. Some best picture winners have great artistic merit–The 2 Godfather films, for instance.

    Those are good points about child rearing.

    Indy, I’m not sure I agree, with a few exceptions such as Titanic and Lord of the Rings, the best picture doesn’t generally go to the big moneymakers. Big moneymakers are aimed at teens, and those movies usually don’t win. I think voters really do think these movies have great artistic merit. Last year The Hurt Locker won, not a popular film.

    Thanks for those interesting observations about KC.

    I really don’t have strong views about parenting. But I do find the strong views of others to be highly amusing–hence this post, which I wrote just to have some fun.

    Nick, That’s why the future is so fascinating. You can never predict where change is coming from. If you had told me 30 years ago that people opposed to gay marriage in 2011 would be viewed as Neanderthals, I would have been shocked.

    Maybe we’ll be shocked that parents forced their kids to eat meat. Or that spanking was still legal in 2011. I really don’t know. If you went back to 1800 and told people that parents letting their children work in factories would be viewed as child abusers, their first reaction would be “what’s a child abuser?” and then they’d wonder why 12 year olds shouldn’t work.

    Yes, I saw Chua interviewed by Colbert, and also got that impression. Of course my post didn’t really take any stand on Chua, I couldn’t care less how she raises her kids.

    OGT, Yes, there’s nothing new in my post, I was just joking around.

    Unfriendly, You sure live up to your name. Diversity is great, it makes our society much more fascinating than a homogeneous culture. You are wrong about Japan, the disputes about child raising are so intense that mothers commit suicide because their kids aren’t accepted into the in group. And if the kids aren’t accepted, the moms won’t be accepted by other moms. I’d just as soon avoid that sort of conformity.

  16. Gravatar of CA CA
    27. January 2011 at 10:45

    “She later describes how she thought she overdid it.”

    But she also says that if she had it to do all over again she wouldn’t change a thing.(I’ve listened to her give numerous interviews since the excerpt was published in the WSJ)

    My objection to her parenting style is not that she was too strict-strict can be good. I disliked how she denigrated and derided her children by calling them “garbage,” and refusing birthday cards her kids made for her because they weren’t “good enough.”

    You can be strict without being a (rhymes with itch).

  17. Gravatar of scott sumner scott sumner
    27. January 2011 at 10:46

    Bababooey, This was really aimed at the bloggers who were so indignant about Chua, I was just trying to have some fun. I thought people would understand that I was just joking about hating white people. I agree that most white people don’t care about Chua. Satire almost always exaggerates.

    The only semi-serious point is that the reason people think “our way” is best, is because it’s “our way.” But as several commenters pointed out, that’s not exactly earth-shaking news.

  18. Gravatar of scott sumner scott sumner
    27. January 2011 at 10:47

    CA, Yes, but why did people care so much? What was really at stake?

  19. Gravatar of CA CA
    27. January 2011 at 11:35

    People care because everywhere you look there are articles about America’s decline, and China’s rise to preeminence.

    For many, the Chua way is the Chinese way. And the Chinese way is kicking our butt right now.

  20. Gravatar of Dirk Dirk
    27. January 2011 at 11:37

    To quote George Carlin: “Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is a moron and anyone driving faster than you is fucking insane?”

  21. Gravatar of ISLM ISLM
    27. January 2011 at 12:05

    While we’re on the topic of parenting, I would highlight the fine parenting skills of Sarah Palin. Indeed, I look forward to Scott’s press conferences when he is NEC Director in a future Palin administration when the subject of this blog post is raised. (It might have been Kocherlakota, but Palin couldn’t pronounce his entire name.)

  22. Gravatar of Dirk Dirk
    27. January 2011 at 14:43

    Oh. I see OGT beat me to the Carlin punchline.

    I like these sorts of posts, BTW. There’s more to being Sumnerian than promoting NGDP targeting.

  23. Gravatar of ChacoKevy ChacoKevy
    27. January 2011 at 15:11

    I think you are safe to refer to The Postman by its native title, “Il Postino”. I say this because I absolutely lost my mind for a few moments wondering how you were classifying the Kevin Costner “epic” as a foreign film.

    General Bethlehem: You see the reason you don’t want to die for anything is because you have nothing to die for. That’s the difference between you and me. You don’t believe in anything.
    The Postman: I believe in the United States.

    Cringe-worthy, sure, but a foreign language?

    That said, Waterworld is awesome and totally under-rated!!!

  24. Gravatar of Bonnie Bonnie
    27. January 2011 at 15:26

    I spend a lot of time with my kids and teach them what I think they should know and let what they learn in school fill in the gaps. My son, 14, is far more interested in learning than I was at his age and my daughter, who is now 24, liked the attention but wasn’t so interested in actual learning so I didn’t push it any farther than I thought I could get away with. I think what’s really important either way is that parenthood is a committment and kids need to be nurtured into adulthood to improve their chances in life. And I think that’s something that is missing in today’s busy society.

    While I don’t believe in shoving kids into a mold of my choice and pushing them hard, I also don’t think they should be left with TV, video games, and just hanging out either. Sure there’s time for doing those things in my family, but it isn’t just school and that. They have to hang out with mom for a of couple hours a day and talk about history, science, math, economics, life and setting personal goals.

  25. Gravatar of Mark A. Sadowski Mark A. Sadowski
    27. January 2011 at 15:42

    I think there are two issues in this post.

    1) What’s a matter with (American) white people?

    They’re coddled. My (European) parents subjected me to a rigid schedule of education and training as a child. On Saturdays I had piano lessons in the morning followed by handwriting lessons and essay writing lessons in the afternoon at my private school. On Sundays I attended Confraternity of Christian Doctrine after mass. I don’t recall ever really having a day off.

    That’s why in graduate school I was more comfortable burning the midnight oil with people from Cote D’Ivoire, Romania, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, China, Turkey etc. etc. And when I say burning the midnight oil that’s an understatement. I remember more than once holding a problem set roundtable to the break of dawn and then we just kept on going.

    (American) white people need to learn to suck it up.

    2) What’s a matter with Hollywood?

    Nothing, at least tere wasn’t before about 1970.

    I’m a huge chauvinist for American culture when it comes to old American films. No matter what anyone tells you, the best films of all time were all made in America before 1970. I was watching what I consider to be a ultramodern film the other night, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”. In my opinion it is the best role Alan Arkin ever did, and he doesn’t even utter a single intelligible line (in any language). It’s brilliant and gets better with repeat viewing (and for some reason he still didn’t win the Oscar, although he was nominated).

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I like foreign cinema as well. I love a good Fellini or Bergman film (Satyricon and Wild Strawberries instantly come to mind). But nothing will ever beat good *old* American cinema. In fact I’m still mourning the mysterious and premature death of Thelma Todd. And I say this as someone who’s bashing American white people.

  26. Gravatar of Mark A. Sadowski Mark A. Sadowski
    27. January 2011 at 16:06

    By the way, with respect to parenting, Bonnie’s comment had me thinking about my father. His mother was a High School Principal (rare in rural 1930s Poland, and probably everywhere at that time). But he never worked in education other than to command the training of special forces paratroopers during WW II. Nevertheless he was a teacher at heart. He subjected me to many a Socratic dialogue and I miss him dearly. In retrospect, thanks to him, I easily learned as much at home as I ever did away from home.

  27. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    27. January 2011 at 16:23

    The here and now–a great phrase.

    Applies to a lot of topics too. Does anyone remember it was the Republican Party, stalwart conservatives such as Senator Taft, who blocked our entry in WWII until Pearl Harbor was bombed? Who refused to even mobilize? And then FDR could only declare war on Japan, except Germany went ahead and declared war on us, so we were in. Germany had invaded Poland, France, Hungary, Czech and I think Russia by the time the right wing thought we should do something. Japan had been occupying countries for 10 years or so, with incredible cruelty the norm.

    Who remembers that we demobilized after WWII? That Republican Pres. Eisenhower yanked us out of Korea (Truman’s War). Eisenhower also gave an interesting speech to cap his career.

    Now, any hint of demobilizing is met with jeers from Republicans.

    The here and now is the best way to do things. I think you raise kids to be happy. They will follow whatever path they will, but if they have a happy childhood, they likely will be happy adults. Intensive teaching usually wears off as children become adults–those with less education tend to catch up.

    On Hollywood, I gotta say I don’t care. It is a local event–do American movies win in overseas film worship-fests? To get ahead in Hollywood, you have to learn to be sincere–when you can fake that, the rest is easy.

  28. Gravatar of Mark A. Sadowski Mark A. Sadowski
    27. January 2011 at 16:49

    I believe you left out Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg (and indirectly the Baltic States if one counts the pact with the Soviets). But whose counting? It was a long tome ago. (Or was it?)

  29. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    27. January 2011 at 17:46


    In some recent research I did on Harley Earl, I found archives to the effect that General Motors Euro division was sending roses to Emma Goering (wife of the Goering) after Germany had invaded France. GM had Opel plants, producing vehicles for the Nazis. Not really but choice, but appeasement was the norm.

    Anyone who makes fun of Neville Chamberlain should review the US Senate in the run-up to WWII. The Republicans did not want to appease, they wanted to cooperate.

    Allen Sloan, the GM organizational genius, thought Germany would easily defeat the USA and the Allies.

    In fact, I think vigilance against tyranny is necessary. But the extraordinarily expensive US military mobilization after the collapse of the Soviets is worth pondering….

  30. Gravatar of Mark A. Sadowski Mark A. Sadowski
    27. January 2011 at 18:01

    As a car geek you temporarily pricked my brain with the mention of the name Harley Earl.

    It is depressing to think that America could ever lend support to the Nazis. But then, these days, nothing surprises me anymore.

    P.S. You mentioned Allen Sloan. My father spent the remainder of his salaried life (not his whole life of course) working for the Dupont Corporation.

  31. Gravatar of Contemplationist Contemplationist
    27. January 2011 at 22:17


    The Republican Party is not the same people as it was back then. It has been infiltrated and now dominated by neo-conservative foreign policy ideologues. The Old Right was pushed out by the neocons. Only Ron Paul is left from the tradition of the Old Right.

  32. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    28. January 2011 at 11:17

    in an age of job polarization status, educational, and employment competition feel more like tournament competitions and less like mutually beneficial exercizes.

    Schooling is far more testing and grading humans than it is education.

  33. Gravatar of Lucas Lucas
    29. January 2011 at 01:03

    Please be realistic. Is is so much of an insult that this is the case in the film industry? I mean come on, are you actually serious. How arrogant do you have to be to write a piece like this. Have you ever considered the possibility that the majority of the best films in the world would be in English. Understand that this is a film festival run by Americans, in America, for largely an American audiences. Now understand that the majority of the films are made in America. This being true, it seems obvious that the majority of the best films would come from America according the the source, and moreover, those films would be in English. I know you are thinking this in fact sounds arrogant of me myself to pose that just because America makes the most movies they would have the most of the best movies. But the fact of the matter is, that it something isn’t wrong just because it seems wrong. To say that Americans are the best in the world that is arrogant. To say that Americans make the best films in the world is not, however.

  34. Gravatar of scott sumner scott sumner
    29. January 2011 at 07:34

    CA, That’s exactly what I thought. By the way, that is not the Chinese way. That’s the Chua way. I know lots of Chinese moms, and they are much softer than Chua.

    Thanks Dirk.

    ISLM, When I start advocating tight money you’ll know I’m angling for a position in the Palin administration.

    ChacoKevy, I actually though of doing the foreign title, but then thought people would complain I didn’t do it for all the others–including Crouching Tiger. Maybe they’ll make of a film of Chua’s book—Crouching Tiger Mom, Hidden Dad.

    Bonnie, Sounds like you are doing a great job, although I should add that I agree with Caplan that parenting styles often are unable to overcome other factors in the lives of kids (everything from genetics to broader cultural environment.) I’ve seen many families where the kids all turned out very differently, despite the same parents.

    Mark, You said;

    “No matter what anyone tells you, the best films of all time were all made in America before 1970.”

    I partly agree (although certainly not all of the best.) But I also think that most of the best films since 1970 have been made overseas, especially Asia and Russia.

    Your father sounds like a great guy.

    Benjamin, You asked:

    “It is a local event-do American movies win in overseas film worship-fests?”

    Yes, quite often.

    I’m also puzzled by why we spend so much on the military, now that the Soviet empire has collapse. (I know people will respond how naive I am, missing either the threats, or the corruption that causes the spending.)

    Lucas, You said;

    “Please be realistic. Is is so much of an insult that this is the case in the film industry? I mean come on, are you actually serious. How arrogant do you have to be to write a piece like this. Have you ever considered the possibility that the majority of the best films in the world would be in English. Understand that this is a film festival run by Americans, in America, for largely an American audiences. Now understand that the majority of the films are made in America. This being true, it seems obvious that the majority of the best films would come from America according the the source, and moreover, those films would be in English.”

    Hmmm, I wonder how many errors there are in this comment. Do you actually know anything about foreign films? There are single countries that produce more feature films than America.

  35. Gravatar of David Pearson David Pearson
    29. January 2011 at 10:43


    This question on 4q10 gdp is OT, but it pertains to the same behavior of RGDP and NGDP that we saw in 2q08.

    NGDP growth fell from 4.8% in 3q10 to 3.5% in 4q10. The deflator of .3% came in way below expectations, and accounted for the acceleration in RGDP. A similar dynamic happened in 2q08. The “noise” in the deflator comes from import prices. The price of oil imports (and other imports) accounted for the bulk of inflation in the quarter, and as imports are subtracted to get to RGDP, so is most of the quarter’s increase in the deflator. If the deflator had come in as economists’ had forecasted (apparently 1.6%), RGDP would have been much lower.

    My point is, earlier you said that NGDP is the more-reliable estimate. So should we expect to see a major downward revision to 4q10 RGDP, as happened to that of 2q08?

  36. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    29. January 2011 at 10:54

    David, You might be right, but I don’t know enough about the oil issue to comment. Cutting the other way is that the fall in inventories was suspiciously large. Might they re-estimate that to be smaller?

  37. Gravatar of David Pearson David Pearson
    29. January 2011 at 11:57


    Agreed on inventories, and by implication NGDP would be revised up as well in that case. I also have to say that the decline in imports in the quarter was suspicious given stronger final demand. I suspect that its just the timing of restocking: in 4q10, we drew down inventories instead of buying from abroad, whereas in 1q11 we will likely buy from abroad again to restock inventories.

  38. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. January 2011 at 07:20

    David, That sounds plausible.

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