Wanna Buy a Brett Favre Jersey?

December 29, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

After last season, the Jets traded away Chad Pennington in order to get the future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Favre then spent the latter half of the season leading the Jets out of the playoffs.

Steven Dubner of Freakonomics writes what purports to be a post about “deadweight loss” and the inefficiency of gifts but is really a disappointed fan’s angry kvetch. In between nasty digs at the great QB (all supported by data), Dubner asks the economic question:

So how do all those people who paid $80 for Favre Jets jerseys feel today? Do they wish they’d spent their money elsewhere? How much would they pay for the same jersey today? Did they derive $80 worth of pleasure from it up to this point — i.e., was the thrill of the first two-thirds of the season worth the pain of the last third?

To answer the question, I checked Craig’s List, and apparently the owners of those Favre jerseys are not rushing to unload them at any cost. I looked in Sporting Goods and Clothing. Here are the results
  • Individuals selling Favre jerseys: 2
  • Asking price: $60
(Three other sellers had the Jets #4, but they were commercial dealers not disgruntled fans.)

For comparison, I also checked Eli Manning jerseys. (The Giants are in the playoffs, having won their division handily with a 12-4 record.)
  • Individuals selling Manning jerseys: 2
  • Asking price: $60
(Jets fans note: dealers on Craig’s List in Miami are asking $55 for Chad Pennington jerseys.)

Job Search - Parody Version

December 29, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

The MLA parodists, Aaron Winter and Andy Warren, are worth detour. This year, they’ve done letters of application and recommendation.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The allusions are literary, but you don’t have to be an insider to get most of them. (I never took Latin, but I’m guessing that the motto of their Riverdale University,
Ex limoni ut mellitus, is something like, “When you have lemons, make lemonade.”)

The full file, with links to back issues, is here.

Ideological Purity . . . and Danger

December 28, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Jenn Lena blogged recently about Chip Saltsman, who wants to be head of the Republican National Committee. To woo Republicans, Saltsman released a CD of anti-Democratic song parodies like “Love Client #9” (raise your hand if you remember The Clovers. No, not The Searchers, The Clovers). OK, Spitzer is fair game, and maybe the song is actually funny.

But what’s interesting is how offensive most of the titles are: “The Star-Spanglish Banner,” “Ivory and Ebony,” and (as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up) “Barack the Magic Negro.”

The CD title is “We Hate the USA.”

I hope the RNC picks Saltsman. It looks like he’s the man to complete the process started by George W. Bush and pushed along briefly by Sarah Palin: turning the Republicans from a majority party into small cult of the self-righteous.

Their message is, “If you don’t agree with us, you must hate the USA.” Or as Sarah Palin implied, you are not a “real American.” That’s a good strategy for solidifying “the base.” The danger is that it drives away potential adherents. What a contrast with Obama’s message of inclusiveness.

Claiming sole ownership of virtue and truth runs against the American grain. We have an ethic of tolerance for diversity. “My way or the highway” may be O.K. for football coaches, but when national politicians start shouting it, a lot of people discover the attractive features of the broad highway with all those different cars and trucks and buses.

Apparently that includes the highway to Heaven. Most Americans, when asked which religions can “lead to eternal life,” say that the gate of Heaven is open to religions other than their own. By more than 2-1, Americans choose, “Many religions can lead to eternal life” over “My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life.”

Even among white evangelicals, despite the message their preachers repeat regularly, a majority thought that Jews and Catholics could make it past St. Peter’s velvet rope. And about a third of white evangelicals thought that Heaven was open to Hindus, Muslims, and people with no religious faith.
(For a larger view, click on the image.)

I draw two lessons from this
  • People at the top are more ideologically consistent than are the rank and file.
  • The rank and file are more tolerant of diversity than are the leaders.
I suspect that the first is an axiom of organizational theory. After all, the leaders are in the ideology business. They spend a lot of time thinking about it, so they cannot ignore or deny inconsistencies. But the second may be a particularly American variation.

The data are from a Pew report. The New York Times converted Pew’s tables to graphs (including three in addition to the ones above) to accompany a nice op-ed by Charles M. Blow on the Pew study.

Taking a Mulligan on the Economy

December 27, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

I often use unemployment when I’m trying to explain the difference between social facts and individual facts. To explain why an individual doesn’t have a job, use individual facts – lack of education, bad work habits, etc. But when the unemployment rate rises by a few tenths of a percent, when hundreds of thousands of people who were working a few months ago are now jobless, we think not about individual characteristics but about “the economy.”

Mills uses this example in The Sociological Imagination, and it’s an easy one for intro sociology students to grasp. But maybe Mills and I are wrong.

Are Employers Unwilling to Hire,

or Are Some Workers Unwilling to Work?

By Casey B. Mulligan

Casey B. Mulligan is an economist at the University of Chicago.

The recent decrease in employment may be due less to employers’ unwillingness to hire more workers and more to workers’ unwillingness to work. . . .

Of course, people have not suddenly become lazy, but the experiment gives similar results to the actual situation in which some employees face financial incentives that encourage them not to work and some employers face financial incentives not to create jobs. [Emphasis added.]

Mulligan must be right. After all, the New York Times is publishing this (on Dec. 24, a Christmas gift to workers), and Mulligan is a professor of economics at Chicago. He must know.

Back in October, the Times published another Mulligan piece saying that “the economy doesn’t really need saving. It’s stronger than we think. . . . If you are not employed by the financial industry (94 percent of you are not), don’t worry. The current unemployment rate of 6.1 percent is not alarming.”

The unemployment rate for November was up to 6.7%, also not alarming, I suppose – just another half million people responding to those incentives not to work.

I always thought that the unemployment rate measured only people who were looking for work. Those who had given up and dropped out of the labor force were not officially “unemployed.” So I’m not sure what Mulligan means by “incentives that encourage them not to work.” Whatever. In any case, in the past year, the number of the officially unemployed in the US has risen by nearly 3 million, bringing the total to 10 million.

That's a lot of people with no incentive to work. But I’m sticking with Mulligan. Not to worry. No cause for alarm. It’s not the economy, stupid.

“Don’t give me a book. I have a book.”

December 25, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

To all Sociology bloggers and blog readers.
Merry Christmas

(Tree stolen shamelessly from Magda of Ce que tu piques.)

The subject line for this post – I’m pretty sure it’s Mae West’s response when someone asked her what she wanted for Christmas. But Google though I might, I can’t find it.

A Child Is Born

December 24, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

France’s minister of justice is unmarried and very pregnant, yet she still refuses to identify the father of the child. Gossip speculation on the matter includes several prominent Europeans including the former prime minster of Spain.

I’m not sure how that scenario would play in this country, but I do remember that Bush’s first Attorney General, John Ashcroft, an Evangelical Christian, had the DOJ spend $8000 for drapery to cover the bare breast on a statue.

But the Evangelical relation to sex and pregnancy is complicated. At first blush, it seems monolithically puritanical – no unmarried sex, no sex education, abstinence pledges. But as the evangelical reaction to Bristol Palin showed, it is also understanding and forgiving. When it was revealed that Palin, seventeen and unmarried, was pregnant, evangelicals were not the first to cast stones. Instead, they seemed to accept the pregnancy as one of those things that just happen. And since Bristol was not going to have an abortion, and since she was going to marry the father, a difficult situation would be resolved for the best. Difficult, but for evangelicals, not at all unusual. Palin’s mother Sarah seems to have taken a similar path (either that or her eldest child was several weeks premature).
As Marlys Popma, the head of evangelical outreach for the McCain campaign, told National Review, “There hasn’t been one evangelical family that hasn’t gone through some sort of situation.”

That’s from “Red Sex, Blue Sex,” by Margaret Talbot in the New Yorker last month. Evangelicals, especially teenagers, face a large gap between values and beliefs on the one hand and behavior on the other. Compared with other teens, they favor abstinence (by a wide margin), fear that partners will lose respect for them if they have sex, and do not anticipate that sex will be pleasurable. Yet on average, they start sex at an earlier age (16) and get pregnant more often. I’m not sure how they handle the cognitive dissonance.

Talbot cites the work of some sociologists (Peter Bearman and Hannah Brückner, Mark Regnerus) on factors that influence whether virginity pledges work – mostly how embedded a teen is in networks (friends, family) that support abstinence. The basic data on abstinence seem to reinforce what should by now be a sociological truism: situational forces matter far more than personal factors like character or statements of intent.

Oh to be in Finland

December 21, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

This is just a coincidence, right?

Which countries would you rank the highest in terms of education?
Darling Hammond: Finland ranks the highest generally across the board.
(From a Newsweek interview with “Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond [who] has been the brains behind Obama's education policy over the past year as a lead education advisor on the campaign and during the transition.”)

The [survey] results were combined into an index of . . .“sociosexuality” . . . a measure of how sexually liberal people are in thought and behaviour. Most individuals scored between 4 and 65.
The country with the highest rating was Finland, with an average of 51.

(The London Times reporting on a survey of 14,000 people in 48 countries, a project headed by David Schmitt of Bradley University. )

Sending a Message - But Who's Listening?

December 20, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

The Republicans tried to run on symbolic issues – Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers. The Republicans cried “country first” and whined that Obama “pals around with terrorists.” You’d have thought that once elected Obama was going to make Al Qaeda his chief of staff.

It didn’t work. People voted for Democrats mostly because the Republicans had done so disastrously on real issues – the war and the economy.

Now it’s the left’s turn. Obama chooses Rick Warren to give the Inauguration invocation, and people on the left are up in arms, as though a 30-second prayer were the equivalent of a cabinet appointment.

Symbolic gestures like this appeal to our emotions; they make a difference in how we feel. Symbols are easy to respond to, and the response is often binary. Us vs. them, good vs. evil. Rev. Warren opposes gay marriage, therefore he’s a bad guy.

Policy is different. It’s about what actually happens on the ground, and it’s far more complex. It doesn’t lend itself to Manichaeanism (that’s one of the reasons the Bushies messed up so badly). It doesn’t require emotion, it requires thought . . . and data.

Still, the moralists must insist that symbolic issues are real. They must also claim not just that evildoers are evil, but that “if we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them here.” Iraq was no threat to the US, but the invasion would “send a message” to the terroists. War as candy-gram.

Similarly, the anti-Warrenists insist that his half-minute as invocator-in-chief, will “send a message” that anti-gay bigotry is all right. As Andrew Perrin over at Scatterplot puts it, “That message will be heard, loud and clear, and it’s quite reasonable to expect that real people’s real lives will really be affected by it.”

Now, I’ve always thought that when someone says, “It is reasonable to expect,” what they really mean is “I have absolutely no evidence to support this.” But Andrew is an honorable man, and presumably he does know of evidence. Still, I’ve been skeptical about send-a-message arguments ever since my days in the crim biz.

Back then, send-a-message was usually a call for harsh sentences in celebrated cases. The death penalty would “send a message” to potential murderers. Long and mandatory sentences would “send a message” to drug dealers, robbers, Enronistas, or whatever evildoer was currently in the headlines. Whatever this week’s crime of the century was, an acquittal or a sentence less than the maximum would send a message that this crime was O.K., a message which would be heard loud and clear, and nobody would be safe.

The trouble was that evidence of actual deterrence was hard to find, and to the extent that punishment does deter, it’s more a matter of increasing the certainty of arrest, not the severity of sentences.

The symbolic messages of celebrated cases make for good TV – the sorts of things Bill O’Reilly types get all riled up about – and they may be morally satisfying. But they have no impact on what people actually do.

If I were concerned about gay marriage, I’d be much more worried about who’s getting out the vote and who’s getting appointed to the judiciary than about who’s praying at the Inauguration.

Deflationary Psycholoogy

December 19, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Are lower prices bad? In Monday’s Times, David Leonhardt explains the dangers of consumer thinking.
There is good reason to fear deflation. Once prices start to fall, many consumers may decide to reduce their spending even more than they already have. Why buy a minivan today, after all, if it’s going to be cheaper in a few months? Multiplied by millions, such decisions weaken the economy further, forcing companies to reduce prices even more.”
This seemed reasonable to me. Then I thought about all those digital cameras and flat-screen TVs and computers and flash drives and all other electronic gadgetry. People buy this stuff even though they know that in a few months they’ll be able to get either the same thing for less money or a better version for the same money.

With all the doubt cast recently on economic rationality, it would be nice to have some evidence on what really happens during deflation. Do economists have such evidence, and if so, where did they get that evidence? How many deflationary periods are there for us to sample?

Does consumer spending rise in tandem with inflation? And even if it does, there are two possible explanations. One is the flip side of the deflation mentality Leonhardt mentions: buy it now before the price goes up. The other is that inflation means higher wages, and people with increased incomes feel they have more money to spend.

I should know this, but I don't. Economic sociologists, please speak up.

Fifties Food

December 17, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Jenn Lena has a link to the Gallery of Regrettable Food, a site which looks back at US food a half century ago and asks, “What were they thinking?”

At Sociological Images, eallen has a more thoughtful take. She looks at the ads with recipes for baked bean pizza or broiled spam on canned peaches and chalks up the reliance on canned or prepared food to “the Atomic Age’s fascination with technologically advanced cookery.”

We look back, and we laugh – “Spiffy Then, Hilarious Now” is the title of eallen’s post. Ah yes, we are so superior in what we eat today.

The trouble with this sort of smugness is that its ethnocentrism stops any further sociological thinking. Fifties food was laughably bad. The end. It’s like watching Mad Men and chuckling at the hair styles and habits (smoking, drinking) and boat-like automobiles, and not looking for the less visible structures that shaped work, family, gender, and consumer choices.

A little cultural relativism and conflict theory might be more helpful. Food is fashion, just like clothing. What tastes good, like what looks good, is what’s in fashion. In a few decades, we may look back at Ugg boots and chicken Caesar wraps the way we now look back on poodle skirts and Jello everything.

Also, like fashions in clothing, fashions in food don’t just happen. They are part of history, and they have an industry behind them. The fifties were the post-War era. The Spam and canned peaches were leftovers, left over from the War. More importantly, so was the industrial set-up producing them. These ads are part of the food industry’s effort to create “a peacetime market for wartime foods. . . . factories were ready to keep right on canning, freezing, and dehydrating food as if the nation’s life still depended on it.”

“What the industry had to do was persuade millions of Americans to develop a lasting taste for meals that were a lot like field rations.”

Both quotes are from Something From the Oven, by Laura Shapiro, who also has more than a few words to say about how these food fashions relate to the social constraints on the role of women. It’s kind of embarrassing when the best sociology on a topic is done by a dance critic.

Music and Violence

December 15, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. Or enrage it.

At Gitmo, “harsh interrogations” include Heavy Metal. We’ve known that for a while. Here’s the latest twist:
Musicians are banding together to demand the U.S. military stop using their songs as weapons. . . . groups including Massive Attack and musicians such as Tom Morello, who played with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.

For many Afghan detainees - where music was prohibited under Taliban rule - interrogations by U.S. forces marked their first exposure to the rhythms, played at top volume. (New York Newsday, Dec. 10)

Music as torture –good ideas like this are hard to stop from spreading.
A Colorado judge who noticed that many of the people who showed up in his courtroom for violating noise ordinances were repeat offenders has decided to quit fooling around: new offenders may find themselves sentenced to an hour of listening to Barry Manilow or the theme tune from the children's TV show ''Barney and Friends.'' (New York Times, Nov. 28)
(The judge’s cruel and unusual list also included The Platters and The Carpenters.)

In the US the music-and-violence flap has been mostly about rap. But in some places, even easy listening isn’t so easy.
International: Karaoke singer killed after hogging mic

A Malaysian karaoke enthusiast hogged the microphone for so long that he was set upon and stabbed to death.

Karaoke rage is not uncommon, especially in Asia. There have been several reported instances of singers being assaulted, shot or stabbed mid-performance, usually over how songs are sung.

In Seattle last year, a woman with an apparent aversion for Coldplay attacked a singer who had just embarked on a rendition of Yellow.

Frank Sinatra's My Way has reportedly generated such outbursts of hostility that some bars in the Philippines now no longer serve it up on the karaoke menu.

In Thailand this year, a gunman killed eight people after tiring of endless renditions of a John Denver tune.
(The Guardian)

Billy Elliot -- That Was Newcastle, This Is Flint

December 13, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

I saw the musical Billy Elliot last night. It sets the world of dance – joyful, hopeful, not quite real – against the grim reality of the 1984 coal strike in northern England. As the program notes say, Thatcher was “determined to crush the unions.” And she did.

At the end of the show, as the strike and the strikers have been broken, Billy’s brother, a miner, tells Billy that when he comes back from Royal Ballet School in London, there will be no more work in the mines up here in the North. In village after village, men will be without work.
“We’re dinosaurs,” he says.

He was right. Before Thatcher, the coal industry employed 300,000. Today, less than 1,000, and almost all coal burned in Britain is imported.

Despite the magic of theater, I couldn’t quite suspend my thoughts about reality (maybe because I was far away from the stage – next-to-last row, rear mezz). I kept thinking about Detroit and wondering if it was now like Yorkshire, with the US auto industry, now apparently on the brink of extinction thanks to bad decisions and high costs. It’s hard to imagine a world without Ford and Chevy, but then again, in Yorkshire in 1983 it was probably impossible to imagine an England without coal. I wonder if the people who work in the GM plants – Michael Moore’s friends in Flint – are saying to their children, “We’re dinosaurs.”

We don’t know exactly why the real dinosaurs disappeared. It certainly wasn’t because of government policy. But the NUM had Maggie Thatcher and the Conservative Party, willing to destroy an industry to crush a union. But of course that wouldn’t happen here.

I turned out my computer this morning, and the top story on Google News was a link to the LA Times.
Auto bailout's death seen as a Republican blow at unions
For some Senate Republicans, a vote against the bailout was a vote against the United Auto Workers, and against organized labor in general.

Clearance Rates - Bad News?

December 11, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Crime is news only when it’s bad. Most crime stories are reports of individual crimes, the worse the better. But even when the media report on general trends and statistics, they look for trouble. Good news is no news.

This week, it was the clearance rate for homicide – the percentage of murders where the police made an arrest. “More Getting Away With Murder,” was a typical headline.
Despite the rise of DNA fingerprinting and other "CSI"-style crimefighting wizardry, more and more people are getting away with murder.

FBI figures show that the homicide clearance rate, as detectives call it, dropped from 91% in 1963 - the first year records were kept in the manner they are now - to 61% in 2007. (From the Chicago Sun-Times)
The big decrease in clearance rates accompanied a big increase in murder that began, coincidentally, in 1963.

It wasn’t that a tide of incompetence was washing over homicide bureaus nationwide. The problem was that more of the murders were the kind where it’s hard to know who to arrest. The easy ones are the arguments and fights between family members and acquaintances. But much of the increase in homicide came from killings committed during robberies or between rival drug dealers, and those murders are much harder to solve.

Clearance rates fell from 91% in 1963 to 67% in 1991, the peak year for homicide. Since then, murder rates have declined dramatically. Clearance rates, too, still continued to slide, though less steeply, from 67% to 61%.

That’s the bad news. If you want the good news, look at the actual numbers of cases.

From 1991 to 2006, the number of uncleared murders declined. In 1991, about 8000 people “got away with murder.” By 2006, that number had decreased to about 6,300. The number of cleared murders also decreased. The real news is that Americans are killing one another far less frequently than they did fifteen or twenty years ago. The clearance rate has decreased because the murders that are easy to solve have decreased more rapidly than the kind that are hard to solve.

So while “More Getting Away With Murder” has the virtue of appealing to our sense of moral outrage, it has the disadvantage of being untrue.

Dumbing Down

December 6, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Quiz shows on early TV combined big brains and big money. “The $64 Question” of 1940s radio became “The $64,000* Question” of 1950s television. And the questions were difficult – questions you couldn’t possibly know the answer to. Questions that people could get only if they were incredibly smart. Or if the show was rigged, which it was.

“Jeopardy” goes more for questions that many viewers can get. Even the higher-priced questions are the kind that when the contestant gives the answer, you might snap your fingers and think: right, I knew that, and I would have remembered it, too, given a little more time.

Now there’s “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” With “$64,000 Question,” you were far below the level of the players. With “Jeopardy,” you’re in the same neighborhood, though probably on a different street.** But Fifth Grader can give you that Jerry Springer sense of superiority (the show is on Fox, not surprisingly).

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

(When I first read that Sarah Palin had thought Africa was a country, I dismissed it as a canard launched out by the snarky, dissatisfied guys in the McCain campaign. Now, I’m not so sure.)

One final thought. Fifth Grader also rests on the idea that children are superior to adults, a theme that suffuses most American movies and TV shows that have children in them (think “Home Alone”). On Fifth Grader, adults cheat off the kids, peeking at their answers or copying them outright.

I got the clip from Funny or Die, thanks to a tip from Wesleying.

* About a half million in 2008 dollars

** Full disclosure: I was a contestant on Jeopardy many, many years ago.

Would It Be Funny in Japan?

December 4, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Chris Uggen posted this New Yorker cartoon on Monday.
The funny thing is, in Japan, nobody would get the joke. To begin with, a Japanese cartoonist probably wouldn’t even consider the idea of choice. So Chris’s “I’m in” comment on the cartoon, which I smiled at, wouldn’t be amusing in Japan. Of course you’re in.

Besides that, in Japan, the idea of work after work isn’t a comic possibility. It’s reality. The distinction between work and after work is much fuzzier, mainly one of setting. You leave the office and go out to a bar, but you’re with the same group of people that you work with. There’s more liquor and less formality, but it’s still the same work group.

The Japanese equivalent of the office party is the nomikai (飲み会), though it’s rarely held in the office. Kai is a general term for get-together, and nomikai is usually translated as “drinking party” But “drink meeting” might better convey the idea that the drinkers are also co-workers. More to the point, co-workers often go for drinks together as a group though not at the level of an official nomikai. It’s more like the situation in the cartoon.

Thanksgiving – False Consciousness vs. Solidarity

December 2, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

I guess professors at Harvard Law don’t have to read Durkheim.

Jon Hanson, Alfred Smart Professor in Law at Harvard, has a post on “Thanksgiving as System Justification.” I didn’t come across this post till after Thanksgiving, and Hanson posted it for Thanksgiving 2007 (The Situationist reposted it). Still, it’s worth mentioning.

Hanson sees Thanksgiving as an exercise in false consciousness. He doesn’t use that term, but he’s arguing that the message of Thanksgiving is, “Don’t complain, be thankful.” And when people are justifying and giving thanks for a system that’s basically screwing them, that’s false consciousness. By giving thanks for what we have, we are supporting the status quo.

Hanson quotes stuff he’s found on the Internet (I have boldfaced the key phrases) :
  • your goal should be to move the spirit of Thanksgiving from a one-day event to a basic life attitude. . . . This means being thankful no matter what our situation in life.. . . Are you thankful for your job even when you feel overworked and underpaid? [implying that if you’re not thankful for your exploitative job, you should be]

  • The Pilgrims recognized that everything we have is a gift from God – even our sorrows.

  • The deeper meaning is that we have the capacity to produce such wealth and that we live in a country that affords us our right to exercise the virtue of productivity and to reap its rewards. So let’s celebrate wealth and the power in us to produce it; let’s welcome this most wonderful time of the year and partake without guilt of the bounty we each have earned.
That last one is a bit political – telling the wealthy and powerful they need not feel any guilt – and obviously written for Republicans. But Thanksgiving is inherently conservative. Its message that we should be thankful for what we have is another way of saying, “Whatever is is right.”

It’s right, as these formulations tell us, because it is the work of God. Or as President Bush said in last year’s Thanksgiving declaration, “We give thanks to the Author of Life . . . who watches over our nation every day.” If God is watching over us every day, things must be O.K.

But Hanson misses the larger, Durkheimian insight: Rituals exist for the benefit of the society (or whatever group that stages them). The goal of any ritual is social solidarity, solidarity among all members of the society. Your basic religious ritual, for example, exalts God. But God, as Durkheim showed, functions as a representation of the society. So all rituals are inherently conservative; they idealize and uphold the society as a whole and promote the attachment of individuals to that whole.

The sacred world of ritual may be conservative in this sense, but elsewhere, in the profane world, change happens – change we can be thankful for. I just wonder whether godly conservatives, those who “recognize that everything we have is a gift from God” included the election of Obama as one of those gifts . . . and gave thanks for it last Thursday.