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Self in Society Roundup 6

Transmissions, manufactured homes, suicide, vaccines, abortion, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
June 18, 2022; ported here on June 4, 2024

Welcome to my new roundup. I've been super-busy lately, so I'm behind on my notes. Eventually I'll catch up. If you didn't catch my podcast with Dave Kopel on tyranny and guns, I hope you'll check it out.

Changing Gears

"Chances are the manual transmission won't be with us much longer. It's a dying breed," says Car and Driver. You can still get a new manual car if you like.

I was sad that my 1998 Honda Civic recently started having cooling problems after about 225K miles. Maybe it's repairable, maybe not, but I figured it was time to move on. I picked up a decade-old Honda Fit with a manual transmission, and, once I got used to that again, I rediscovered the joys of the stick shift. You have a lot more control over the car.

I figure my next car will be electric—I'm hoping new entries will drive down prices—and there's no point to having a manual transmission with an EV. Rather than using the gearing mechanism to help control your speed, you want to recapture some of that energy of slowing to recharge the battery. Even with gas gars, the trend is toward variable automatic transmissions that help with efficiency.

I figure my Fit easily will run another decade, hopefully longer. So I expect I'll be able to teach my now-six-year-old kid to drive a stick shift. His may be the last generation to pick up that skill. Or maybe people will continue to drive manual-transmission gas cars more as a hobby.

Here's Rush playing "Red Barchetta," about a car.

How Government Killed Manufactured Homes

From Kriston Capps on a Biden Administration proposal on manufactured housing:

It would . . . ease barriers around approvals and construction. One notorious regulation that could go up for review is a longstanding rule that manufactured homes must be delivered with a chassis still attached, even if the homes are built in place permanently. . . . Local governments, in the suburbs especially, zoned manufactured housing into the least desirable locations.

James Schmitz also discusses the history (via Alex Tabarrok):

[Small-modular homes] . . . are blocked from most areas of the country—it's simply illegal for a household to purchase such a home and place it on land owned by the household. In areas where they are "allowed," they are often zoned for areas like manufacturing districts and dumps. Even then, regulations mean higher production costs for these homes in factories. . . . The homes are of high-quality, built to a strict national building code. They are manufactured at a cost per square foot that is one-third to one-half less than the cost per square foot to construct homes with traditional methods.

More on a Suicide Study

Previously I discussed a study on guns and suicide. I review a couple other details here.

Here are the big raw numbers: "A total of 676,425 cohort members acquired one or more handguns, and 1,457,981 died; 17,894 died by suicide, of which 6691 were suicides by firearm." In other words, just under one percent of the total group committed suicide with a gun.

This is interesting: "Handgun owners did not have higher rates of suicide by other methods or higher all-cause mortality." Indeed, "Handgun owners had lower rates of all-cause mortality than nonowners." Why? The authors write:

The lower risk of all-cause mortality detected among handgun owners should not be interpreted as a protective effect because it stems largely from owners' lower rates of death from common chronic diseases (e.g., cancer or heart disease) that do not have a clear relationship to handgun ownership. Two other explanations are more plausible. First, handgun acquisition involves participation in commerce. In California, this includes personal appearance at a dealer, which necessitates a degree of physical mobility and well-being. Second, handguns are expensive. People who can afford to buy them are wealthier, and wealth is positively associated with health.

Bayer on Vaccines

Ben Bayer of the Ayn Rand Institute takes an indirect swipe at those "Objectivists" who fell for anti-vaccine lunacy:

While some people have good medical reasons not to get vaccinated, others are disproportionately worried about rare side effects. Of these, far too many are irrationally allowing themselves to be taken in by quackery and conspiracism.

Good for Bayer. As I mentioned during my podcast episode with Robert Tracinski, I've been surprised by how many self-proclaimed "Objectivists" have fallen into either Trumpism, anti-vaccine nuttery, or both.

Abortion Watch

As I have argued, abortion should be legal at least in the vast majority of cases (with some possible exceptions late in term). Restrictions and bans on abortion have serious practical consequences, sometimes hurting and even killing women. Following are assorted notes about abortion.

STAT relates a story:

[A woman] had flown to Kansas for an abortion that was outlawed in her home state, though she and her doctor considered it medically appropriate. Scans had shown the fetus inside her had a lethal form of skeletal dysplasia. If it survived childbirth, which was extremely unlikely, doctors expected the newborn to soon suffocate from under-developed lungs. The baby's bones would be so brittle, they would break just from being held.

[The woman] and her husband got the news shortly after Texas passed a highly restrictive abortion law, banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. Her own doctor was so afraid of being sued, he didn't bring up the possibility of ending the pregnancy.


Oklahoma is poised to implement the strictest anti-abortion law in the nation after state lawmakers on Wednesday gave final passage to a Texas-style ban that begins at conception. Nearly all abortions would be prohibited under the legislation that would take effect immediately upon Gov. Kevin Stitt's signature.

Abortion bans do "work" in the sense that they force many women to give birth. One consequence will be more babies born into financial and medical distress, as Axios reports.

The San Francisco Chronicle has the story about two women prosecuted for stillbirths after abusing drugs.

GOP Watch

Parts of U.S. Republican Party are morphing into an outright fascist party that has created a personality cult around Donald Trump and that attempted to overturn the presidential election.

In Pennsylvania Doug Mastriano is the GOP candidate for governor. He actively worked to overturn the presidential election results and seeks to create "God's kingdom" on Earth, MSNBC reports.

Pandemic Hurt Child Development

Natalie Wexler reviews:

Research has shown that the number of conversational turns affects brain development and is a key predictor of children's school readiness, social-emotional development, and other life outcomes. Language development drives vocabulary, and vocabulary drives reading readiness. . . . Babies born during the pandemic . . . are vocalizing less and experiencing fewer conversational turns.

Independently, another study from Brown University's Advanced Baby Imaging Lab found similar results. The lab has been tracking over 1700 families with young children since 2010. One year into the pandemic, researchers found that children's average cognitive performance was the lowest it had been since the study began.

This squares with my personal experiences; I've talked with a number of parents with such concerns. My family locked down pretty thoroughly during part of the pandemic, but we (the three of us) were always together and constantly socializing. And we kept up regular reading, plus social contacts via Zoom and telephone. So I think my child avoided the problems at hand.

Matt Bateman thinks Montessori's approach to education can help boost children's literacy.

Quick Takes

Child Abuse: Thousands of U.S. schools still beat students. This is child abuse, and the adults responsible should be in prison for assault.

Boldly Going: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds "takes a blowtorch to the official Federation/Star Fleet ideology," Ilya Somin notes. Specifically, the series suggests both the Prime Directive and the ban on genetic engineering are stupid and wrong. And they are. Colonialism and non-intervention are a false dichotomy.

Justice: "Last month, a grieving father stood up in court to protect the due process rights of his daughter's alleged killer," Jonathan Blanks summarizes.

Science: Steve Spangler recently put on his last science show on Ellen DeGeneres's show. Last year I recorded a podcast episode with Spangler.

Guns: "Washington gun shops are reporting record sales in the final weeks leading up to the state's ban on firearm magazines with more than 10 rounds," reports the Seattle Times. One gun show owner predicted "there will be more magazines here than a decade worth of normal sales."

Saudi Arabia: "A shadowy network of detention centers in Saudi Arabia exists to punish women for disobedience—often for reporting their abusers to the police—and other such 'crimes,'" reports Lynzy Billing.

Crime: "Institutionalized punishment serves to restore reciprocal cooperation in three small-scale societies." Paper by Léo Fitouchi and Manvir Singh.

Humans: Manvir Singh also thinks that, contrary to widely accepted views, early humans often did not fit the "nomadic-egalitarian model of hunter-gatherers" (video). See also the related paper by Singh and Luke Lowacki.

Education: A direct-instruction program in Kenya worked very well, relates Alex Tabarrok.

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