Monthly Archives: February 2014

Freakonomics on Marriage Part II

Last week, we linked to the first part of Freakonomics podcast on motivations for marriage. This week, to quote the late Paul Harvey, is “the rest of the story.”

Here is a description of “Why Marry? (Part 2)”:

In last week’s podcast, “Why Marry? (Part 1),” we talked with economists Justin Wolfers and Claudia Goldin about how marriage has changed over the last half century. How popular is marriage these days? Are married people happier? Isdivorce as prevalent as we hear?

Now it’s time for “Why Marry? (Part 2).” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.) With the U.S. marriage rate at an all-time low, around 50 percent, we try to find out the causes, and consequences, of the decline of the institution.

First, to get a picture of who marries today and who does not, we talk with Ivory Toldson, a professor of counseling psychology at Howard University and research analyst at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. He tells us:

TOLDSON: People who are less educated tend to be married less than people who are more educated. People who have higher incomes are more likely to be married than those who have lower incomes. And people in smaller cities are more likely to be married than people in larger cities. And that’s true across all races.

One area of particular interest to Toldson is the marriage rate among African-Americans. He talks about his research into the question “Are there enough successful black men for the black women who want them?” The answer is nuanced — but surprising nonetheless.

We also hear from Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and strategist and co-author of the bookWhat Women Really Want. Lake has spent much of her career looking into the intersection of marriage and politics. For instance:

LAKE: We asked married men and married women: Do you usually vote the same way as your spouse? And 73 percent of married men said confidently yes, and 49 percent of married women say yes. And I call that the “sure honey” factor.

Lake talks about one of the most striking consequences of the low marriage rate: the number of unmarried women who are having children. She tells us that in 1980, 18 percent of births were to unmarried women, while the number today is just over 40 percent. There are inevitable economic ramifications to such a dramatic shift:

LAKE: Two-thirds of unmarried women say that there was some basic cost that they had in their families that they couldn’t make ends meet in the last year. They couldn’t pay the bill compared to 40 percent of married mothers.

For  years, marriage has been promoted as a way to fight poverty, particularly for women with children. But would these mothers be better off if they were married? The answer isn’t clear.

What is clear is that the old model of marriage is nowhere near as attractive as it once was. So how about a new model? What would happen if marriage were treated more like an employment contract?

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February 25, 2014 · 12:57 pm

H.L.A Hart and Legal Philosophy

Earlier today, the Philosophy Bites podcast sat down with Law Professor Nicola Lacey to discuss H.L.A Hart’s legal philosophy, particularly his legal positivism. 

Here is a description of the podcast: 

Nicola Lacey, author of a biography of the legal philosopher H.L.A. Hart, discusses his legal positivism with Nigel Warburton in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast. 

Listen to Nicola Lacey on H.L.A. Hart on Legal Positivism

An earlier interview with Nicola Lacey on Criminal Responsibility

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February 24, 2014 · 8:15 pm

Sunday Funday: SNL, Nancy Grace and Marijuana

This edition of Sunday Funday brings a Saturday Night Live sketch satirizing Nancy Grace and her tough stance on marijuana.  Grace asks the tough question about marijuana legalization, “what about the babies?” 

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February 23, 2014 · 12:39 pm

Feel Good Friday: Ellen Page Speaks, Comes Out

In a raw, moving speech to the Human Rights Campaign, actress Ellen Page, star of Juno and Inception, spoke about her sexuality, revealing her homosexuality.

Here are some of the most notable passages from Page’s speech:

I know there are people in this room who go to school every day and get treated like shit for no reason. Or you go home and you feel like you can’t tell your parents the whole truth about yourself. Beyond putting yourself in one box or another, you worry about the future. About college or work or even your physical safety. Trying to create that mental picture of your life—of what on earth is going to happen to you—can crush you a little bit every day. It is toxic and painful and deeply unfair. . . .

[T]his world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another. If we took just 5 minutes to recognize each other’s beauty, instead of attacking each other for our differences. That’s not hard. It’s really an easier and better way to live. And ultimately, it saves lives.

Then again, it’s not easy at all. It can be the hardest thing, because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves. I know many of you have struggled with this. I draw upon your strength and your support, and have, in ways you will never know.

I’m here today because I am gay. And because… maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.

Maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. … I also do it selfishly because I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered. My mental health suffered. My relationships suffered. I’m standing here today with all of you on the other side of that pain. . I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.

The excepts from the speech are taken from, where it can be read in its entirety.

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February 21, 2014 · 1:05 pm

Freakonomics on Marriage Part I

Recently, the Freakonomics podcast release the first part of a two part episode about the economics of marriage. One of the fascinating features of the show is how much of the common wisdom about marriage is false.  For instance, the divorce rate is actually at an all time low since it peaked in the 1960s/1970s.  

Here is a description of the show: 

This episode is about all the ways that marriage has changed over the last 50 years. We begin by challenging some of the myths of modern marriage. For instance:does marriage make you happier? Is divorce as common as we think? The discussion then moves on to how the institution of marriage is perceived these days, and to what degree it has outlived its original purpose.

We begin by hearing the voices of people all around the country, talking about why they got married or want to. As you might imagine, their reasoning runs from pure romance (love!) to hardcore pragmatic (a visa, a pregnancy, to conform).

Stephen Dubner spends a lot of time talking with Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Michigan and the Brookings Institution. Along with his partner/co-economistBetsey Stevenson, Wolfers has done significant research on marriage, divorce, and family. He explains one dramatic change to marriage over the past half-century — from a factory-style model of “production complementarities,” where the mister went off to work and the missus ran the household, to something very different:

WOLFERS: We’ve moved to what economists would call consumption complementarities. We have more time, more money, and so you want to spend it with someone that you’ll enjoy. So, similar interests and passions. We call this the model of hedonic marriage. But really it’s a lot more familiar than that. This is just economists giving a jargon name to love. So you want someone who’s actually remarkably similar to you or has similar passions that you do. So it fundamentally changes who marries who.

But this new model hasn’t just changed the way marriage looks; it has also changed the numbers. In 1960, two-thirds of all Americans aged 15 and older were married. By 1990, that number had fallen to 58.7 percent. Now? It’s dropped to around 50 percent. Harvard economistClaudia Goldin, who has done extensive research on women’s career and family attainments, tells us what accounts for this drop:

GOLDIN: In the U.S., one group of individuals who eventually marry, marry late. And one group is not marrying — the lower-educated, lower-income Americans are not marrying for lots of different reasons. So I wouldn’t say that marriage is still the institution that it once was.


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February 20, 2014 · 5:04 pm

“Public health vs individual freedom”

This was the title of the most recent episode of the BBC’s Moral Maze podcast.  The programme fosters an interesting (although admittedly, at times, dry) debate about the role of the state in regulating public health and its limits.  For instance, do you have an individual right to Twinkies? Does the should the state regulate the size of sodas (NYC)?

Here is a description of the show:  

When should society step in and save us from ourselves? Our apparently insatiable appetites for smoking, drinking and eating are all in the news this week, but where and how should we draw the line between individual freedom and public health? Is it purely a utilitarian calculation; that the consequences are such a drain on the national purse that we can no longer afford the luxury of letting people do what they want? Or does that just reduce the value of our bodies to the lowest common denominator – the bottom line on a balance sheet? And even if we could afford it, should the common good outweigh individual freedom? Is expecting other people to pay for the consequences of our own behaviour immoral? And what if we could invent a cheap and effective pill to allow us to drink as much as we want without suffering a hangover, or eat what we like without the risk of diabetes? We might herald the scientific advance, but would it make us better humans? Is there something morally, as well as corporally corrupting about defiling our bodies with intoxicants and excess? Or does that sound hopelessly Victorian and censorious in an age that has come to prize self-indulgence and hedonism almost as much human rights? Are policies to control our appetites the worst kind of nanny-statism that punishes the responsible and infantilises the rest or a sensible response to a public health crisis?

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Claire Fox, Michael Portillo, Anne McElvoy, Matthew Taylor.

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February 18, 2014 · 10:55 pm