46 thoughts on “Making stuff unfashionable as social policy”

  1. “Help Wanted: Female”
    “Help Wanted: Male”
    These were two sections of the Classifieds when I first started reading the newspaper at the age of about 10 (mid-1960s).

      1. Yes, I know. But weren’t drunk driving and using the services of prostitutes “always” illegal?

  2. Okay, you had me until the last one. When in recent history was that considered okay? (And I say that as one who does consider it okay, both for the purchaser and the provider.)

  3. Merely reread your list and ask the question, are those many of the “liberties” our Tea-Partying-Limbaugh-led-brethren are fighting for?

    1. Interesting. I imagine their list would be things that are not now acceptable because of wimpy political correctness, and that should be acceptable.
      It makes the list a little easier:
      Treating women as mere sex objects.
      Defining masculinity by how “tough” a man is.
      Acknowledging that there are many valuable non-European cultures in America.
      Treating gays as decent human beings.
      Accepting that atheists or non-believers, or God-forbid… Muslims(!), can be moral, decent people.
      Caring for and respecting the environment.
      Recognizing that foreign citizens have human rights.
      Making accommodations for the disabled.
      Acknowledging that might does not make right, and that expressing one’s feelings is often the clearest path to peace.
      The idea of the unconscious.
      The concept that tradition isn’t an argument by itself.

  4. I live in a city of ~150,000 in a very red state. I would describe numbers 6 and 7 as non-applicable and 1 and 5 as of limited applicability.

  5. “Not Done”, or done, but not discussed? As long as there are husbands who are frustrated with their wives and women without other job skills, buyers and sellers of sexual services will find a way to make ends meet.

  6. Littering.
    Wearing fur.
    Not recycling (this one in particular is at least partially reinforced by the idea that regardless of how you feel about recycling, you’re an asshole for not separating stuff, just because you force other people to do it.)
    I feel like the standard tip is creeping up too, from 15% to 20%

  7. MYOB: it is not so much that there are “women without other job skills,” as there are too many subsistence jobs, and abuse, and addiction. Someone is making money off them, and for the most part, it ain’t them.

    Your ideas about women could use some work.

  8. For men: Rising from the table in a restaurant anytime your wife arrives at or leaves from the table.

    For everyone: Staying quiet during a movie showing at a cinema.

    1. i’ve noticed that expecting people to be quiet during a movie has become an object of derision and disgust. a few months ago i watched an argument during “deathly hallows 2” in which a person talking on their phone was shushed by another patron. a couple of the folks with him left the theater to get someone to remove the shusher for bothering them. happily it didn’t work out the way they were hoping but i don’t think it’ll be long before the talkers win.

  9. OK, now we are really reaching. Let’s not forget lynchings, burning witches (really lynching but with a different excuse), sacraficing virgins (another form of lynching?) and slavery. Odd that dueling was outlawed before slavery. Was lynching ever legal?
    @karl: In europe public urination is quite acceptable along roadways so long as you turn away from the road. Ladies always find a tree to go behind before dropping trou.

    1. Duelling was generally illegal. But it was an accepted practice. Kind of like Goldman Sachs.

  10. It will take more to get people to give up driving. For one, large parts of this country have no public transit, and won’t realistically ever have it. So we’re expecting to shame a certain portion of the population to give up driving, but not a different (and much larger) portion. That could happen but the dynamic will be very different. And people will end up splitting hairs over whether you “really could have walked,” or “she’s too old to walk that far,” or the like.

  11. Being Italian/Irish/Polish I can appreciate a good ethnic joke. My Jewish father-in-Law tells the best Jewish jokes I’ve heard. So, I have have a bit of a problem with #5 since it is another indication of how I believe people in our society are losing their sense of humor, and becoming way too thin-skinned.
    Number 7 is a personal choice. Let’s not go down the slippery slope of complaining how that behavior cost the rest of us money in increased medical bills. By that logic, we will all soon be restricted to doing nothing for fear of an insurance-triggering injury.
    Although misguided, I can understand how conservatives get annoyed at what they call PC.

    1. Maybe #5 should have read: “Ethnic denigration practiced by a non-ethnic.” Your Jewish father-in-law has a license to tell Jewish jokes. You don’t, although you might have a license to tell Catholic jokes, which a Jew does not.

  12. Hopefully to come on the future list of accepted behaviors that switch to “not done”…being overweight

  13. “What did we miss?”

    Just about everything. A whole way of life buoyed by cheap energy and an intricate weave of military empire and a host of government subsidies…and we’re going to radically change that by making driving a socially ostracized behavior? You know, this is just about as pointless as advocating OWS would be best served by diving wholeheartedly into small bore Democratic Party politics. I mean, this strikes me as detached from reality.

  14. Rich, it isn’t that people are too thin-skinned to take a joke, but that there are too many people who didn’t understand that the joke was, in fact, only a joke, and treated the butt as if it were true. So, not too many with no sense of humor but too many with no sense.

  15. Surely not every such thing that has recently been turned unfashionable/uncouth has been bad…right?

    I’m not coming up with any good examples…but some thoughts:

    Seems like my students now might regard it as uncouth to criticize (even the most horrific errors of) other cultures.

    They also may regard it as uncouth to disagree with other students in class…I’ve heard this said, and it would explain a lot…but I don’t know.

    In academia, at least, owning firearms and hunting are both widely regarded as not only uncouth but possible insane. But that’s academia.

    Again, some students have told me that studying is looked down upon (not because it’s cool to be dumb, but, rather, because it’s cooler to appear to be effortlessly knowledgeable)

    These are all about the weird subculture of academia, I now realize…

    1. “Seems like my students now might regard it as uncouth to criticize (even the most horrific errors of) other cultures.”

      I’ve always maintained that Pope Benedict XVI is a deeply evil man heading a deeply evil organization, but I have to agree with him 100% when he says that moral relativism is a huge problem facing society today. Of course, I’m sure we think that for vastly different reasons, but it’s still true. A society that cannot point out certain behaviors as being fundamentally, morally, unequivocally wrong is a society that is doomed.

      1. I couldn’t agree more. The cure for ethnocentric dogmatism is not cultural relativism. That’s hopping out of the philosophical frying pan and into the fire. On the other hand, the actual practical consequences of relativism seem to be fairly benign…unlike those of ethnocentric dogmatism. One reason many of my students seem to be relativists of one sort or another is that they falsely believe that to be a liberal you should be a relativist.

        1. A colleague pointed out to me that his students’ multiculturalism can be summarized as “Anything your own culture did in the past was a monstrosity for which you should condemn them without mercy but anything another culture is doing now (even the very same thing) should not be subjected to judgment”.

  16. Allowing children to run free outdoors, unsupervised, alone or in groups.

    Men joining fraternal organizations.

    Steeply progressive taxes.

    Dogs running free in towns and suburbs.

    Women fainting under stress.

    Boys carrying pocketknives.

    1. Right on the last one. I still remember the first week of grad school, when I took out my pocket knife to open a box of books, and one of my fellow students exclaimed, in horror, “You carry a KNIFE????” I looked at her blankly and said something like “no, I don’t ‘carry a knife’ for chrissake…this is a *pocketknife*”. I was from the Missouri Ozarks; she was from urban Pennsylvania, and some serious failure to communicate ensued.

  17. When I was growing up spitting on the sidewalk was definitely considered vulgar. By nowadays people do it all the time. It seems to have come back quite strongly over the last 20 years or so. Why is that?

    I suspect immigration from countries where it is not considered vulgar coupled with the fact that commenting on someone’s “foreign” social customs is now considered vulgar and is not allowed.

    1. Really? What ethnic groups are you referring to? I know Chinese culture seems to enjoy hocking loogeys. But I’d hardly see them as leading our youth astray. By the way, what other “vulgar” social customs have you noticed among foreigners? I don’t know about you, but I see plenty from my fellow Americans, and whether or not I comment has little to do with worrying about offending someone. For instance, why do so many smokers think nothing of littering the streets with their addiction-refuse?

    2. I agree that it’s way more common than it should be, but it mostly seems to be teenagers with attitudes, and not people from any particular ethnic group.

  18. Spitting on the sidewalk is convenient, so men (mostly men) tend to do it. That’s why it had to be outlawed, and the law enforced, to eradicate tuberculosis (with public-health campaigns built around the attractive slogan “Sputum is death”). Once tuberculosis ceased to be a significant public-health problem, enforcement likewise ceased, and spitting on the sidewalk returned, at least here in Chicago. The head of the city’s public health department was surprised to be informed that the activity used to be illegal; he regarded it as de rigeur.

  19. I don’t think this works for driving in 95% of the US, at least not until there’s a reasonable alternative for transportation. But I wonder if and how it could be made to work for guns. Just a thought.

  20. I liked your post regarding activities that are now more frowned on in the past.

    But I have a few quibbles:

    1. Drunk driving is definitely more frowned upon than before. But
    the majority of people who do it are young people, and I don’t think
    the stigma has fully set-in yet, or passed a majority. We will know
    drunk driving really hits bottom when suburban bars-those that are
    almost completely dependent on drinking and driving for income-start
    going belly-up en masse, though I don’t know where that employment and
    economic activity will go to…

    2. I am surprised with how many people still do not wear seat-belts
    or where motorcycle helmets. I think in Ohio it is still legal to
    ride without a helmet…

    3. My main quibble is with purchasing sexual services. If anything,
    this has become more accepted over the last 50-60 years than a
    rejected practices. The rise of strip clubs, the almost de-facto
    legalization of the activity in NYC, LA, and SF via escort services,
    and the rise of escort services nationally really undermines this
    whole point.

    And for someone who argues that cost-benefit analysis should apply to
    vice laws, I would think you would a proponent of the Dutch or
    Australian system of commercial sex, rather than of the US system. I
    don’t think one can really argue that the American system results in
    less harm than the Dutch or Australian system, which is regulated, and
    at least for the Dutch nation as a whole, results in less STDs than
    the US.

  21. As mentioned above, making driving unfashionable would be like making eating unfashionable.

    I think there’s more hope to make intentionally picking a house far away from things unfashionable. The idea that the heat that leaves one’s ceiling, just goes out to warm the Earth instead of to heat someone else’s apartment, is pretty appalling even before you look at the actual numbers.

  22. Mr O’Hare is incorrect. With a half century of subsidies to make automobile-centered life practical, it will take vast sums of money to redesign the US to be less car centric. Starting today, by changing zoning for residential and urban areas, it will be a decade before enough changes happen to make a non-car life feasible.

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