- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

End of shame

“If we think people should marry and shouldn’t cohabit, then shame is a much better way to get there than giving people stupid marriage classes, paying them to get married, or making it illegal for unmarried people to rent an apartment.

“Unlike those other things, the fear of shame triggers a deep, probably pre-verbal, instinctive part of our brain. Think about a time when you were publicly caught doing something you shouldn’t have: Your heart rate increases, the back of your neck crawls with the beginnings of a blush, you instinctively look away from wherever your eyes were just focused. No one has this sort of immediate and uncontrollable physical reaction to the prospect of a tax deduction a year or more hence.

“That’s why shame is a more powerful counterweight to, say, having unprotected sex in a mad moment, or moving in with your boyfriend, than less punitive measures. It’s a more powerful counterweight than the distant, fuzzy knowledge that babies are sometimes expensive and tend to scream a lot. It works because it hurts. And pain is nature’s way of saying, ‘Don’t do that!!!’ ”

- Megan McArdle, writing on “For Shame” on Feb. 17 at her eponymous Atlantic blog

End of confidence

Barack Obama was elected, in part, to restore the public’s confidence in the elites. But he will have a hard time doing so. Obama mistakenly assumes that the problem is political. If the problem were political, a change in the partisan composition of government would be all that was necessary to restore confidence and integrity to the system. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bush administration’s failures did not occur in a vacuum. The problem is systemic. …

“Recently the world’s highest-paid baseball player, Alex Rodriguez, admitted that he had used performance-enhancing drugs during the early part of this decade. A reporter asked President Obama for his reaction to the news. ‘You know what?’ Obama said. ‘There are no shortcuts … When you try to take shortcuts, you may end up tarnishing your entire career.’

“Bunk. In the age of irresponsibility, when you take a shortcut, you end up with $275 million from the New York Yankees.”

- Matthew Continetti, writing on “The Age of Irresponsibility,” in the March 2 issue of the Weekly Standard

End of a career

“Do you remember Chandra Levy? The intern who disappeared? If you do, you will also remember Congressman Gary Condit. The congressman had been having an affair with Levy. When she went missing, so did his political career. He became a suspect, and media story after media story put him in the frame. Condit ended up serving ice cream in Baskin-Robbins.

“But now … it is pretty clear that he had nothing to do with Levy’s murder. Ingmar Guandique, a jailed serial assailant of women, is now the key suspect.

“Is Condit owed an apology? In a feisty piece for the magnificent Daily Beast website, GQ’s Lisa DePaulo - described by the Beast as part of the get-Condit pack - investigates her own actions and decides, no, not really. After all, Condit had an affair with Levy and didn’t answer some questions put to him by Talk magazine. So he can hardly expect an apology when suspected of murder. I always love reading people justifying their own actions. The more unreasonable the behaviour they are defending, the feistier they are defending it.”

- Daniel Finkelstein, writing on “Why Gary Condit deserves an apology” on Feb. 23 at the London Times blog Comment Central

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