July 15, 2002

Yes, People Should Make Sure Someone Edits Their Weblog

Does Mickey Kaus really think that Wanda Dunn, 37 year-old African-American Stone Mountain web designer, would be on AFDC if not for the mid-1990s welfare reform?

Miscegenation, By Mickey Kaus

...the increase in black women dating white men.... Why the shift?... [I]sn't there another possible factor, something that happened in, say, the mid-90s, something like ...(the suspense must be killing you) ... welfare reform?... when you're working the virtues of pooling your income with a male earner are now far more obvious than in the days when that could cost you your AFDC check. If there aren't enough "marriageable" black men around... then women expand their "options," as one African-American Web designer puts it: "I'm not going to sit on a porch in a rocking chair, all alone at 80 years old because of color," says Wanda Dunn, a 37-year-old Stone Mountain Web designer...

Posted by DeLong at July 15, 2002 02:50 PM


Most exalted one:

When I, your humble and unworthy servant, stand on one foot and squint, I can read the Kaus piece in a way that allows me to see your subtle point. However, sensei, I fear that your "context-mangler" has, between this and the Scalia piece, been working overtime. I only hope you pay for the mangler by the day and not the word, 'cause you sure used it a lot today. And it was a good day, o most righteous and excellent dude, and we exalt your works.


Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 16, 2002 10:17 PM

You really had to stand on one foot and squint? It leaped right out at me and grabbed me...

Brad DeLong

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 17, 2002 09:31 AM

Welfare reform is a running joke Kaus's columns: he tries to find a way of linking anything and everything to welfare reform. He is, obviously, firmly in favor of it, but he's also aware of how an idee fix can mangle a writer's worldview. He apparently tries to defuse the tendency in himself by trying deliberately trying to force-fit welfare reform into the unlikeliest contexts (up to and including Islamic terrorism). So I think he very deliberately picked an unlikely candidate for AFDC to poke fun at his own obsession with the subject.

Like all running gags, sometimes it's hilarious and sometimes it comes off as an incomprehensible inside joke.

Posted by: Neel Krishnaswami on July 17, 2002 01:05 PM

Thanks. Interesting point. I'm not sure whether your point is true, or whether Kaus is not quite right in the head.

Brad DeLong

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 17, 2002 01:28 PM

I'm sure its been a long day, but is:

"I'm not sure whether your point is true, or whether Kaus is not quite right in the head"

the level of manners to which we aspire?

Yor excerpting of Kaus's piece strives more for advocacy than accuracy. Kaus is commenting on a story by Blake from the Atlanta Journal Constitution Blake makes some points about blacks and whites meeting, dating, and marrying; Mickey adds his (perenial) point that welfare reform put more black women out in a "meeting" mode. Blake has a colorful quote humanizing the point that black woman really want to broaden their choices, so Kaus uses it to support the notion that the broad theme of women seeking more choices is correct; then Kaus segues into what he intends as an interesting and amusing rap on sexuality.

Relying on just your excerpts, a reader might be misled. However, I had read the story prior to seeing your link, and it had never occurred to me to read it that way - the logical flow and substance of Kaus's argument was quite clear.

I have some advice on following other's arguments that might provide guidanc:

"If the substance of the issue is against you you drop the substance--try your best to make the listener forget what the big issue is...and, instead, argue that there is something wrong with your adversary's procedure.

This is, I think, the reason that we economists regard most lawyers...(as)... Flighty things. Unable to keep their minds focused on what matters."

I'm sure Mr. Kaus would be disappointed to learn that no all of his readers were able to follow his normally lucid prose. But if, Professor, you wren't really confused at all, you might want to focus on the substance of Kaus's argument, rather than what you, as a seemingly lonely voice, regard as a stylistic blunder.

For those of you without a scorecard, that advice is excerpted from an earlier admonition by Bradford to his readers.

As to whether Kaus is right in the head, I am sure that as an economist you are not offering an opinion.


Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 17, 2002 04:27 PM
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