The Conversation

Responses and reverberations

Jonathan Meer
College Station, Texas

The expression “out of sight, out of mind” is right-on when considering why the rich don’t give, but here’s another factor: the general lack of observable, measurable, and effective results produced or demonstrated by many nonprofit charitable organizations that provide services to the poor and dispossessed. If programs were more effective, money would stream in.

Richard L. Baron
Seattle, Wash.

Ken Stern replies:

With respect to Jonathan Meer’s letter, it is worth noting that he does not disagree with the central tenets of the article: that the rich give less and differently. The question of why that is the case is still a source of fair debate. Whatever the limitations of The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s methodology, the research that I am aware of suggests that geography and exposure to need do affect giving patterns. Meer cites James Andreoni on this point, but Andreoni also writes that giving begins “with a stimulus that elevates sympathy or empathy in the mind of the potential giver, much like the smell of freshly baked bread can pique appetite”—which supports the concept that interaction with need generates giving.

Richard Baron’s point ties in closely with the core argument of my recent book, With Charity for All, so all I can say is: amen, brother.

A Democratic Age?

In April, Molly Ball dissected a major problem for the GOP: young Obama voters are unlikely to turn into conservatives as they grow older.

Molly Ball makes the case that members of the Millennial generation, like many before them, will settle down with the political party they voted for in their formative years. As a result, the most-recent presidential elections would seem to suggest that the largest and most diverse generation in U.S. history is squarely on the side of the Democrats. However, a Roosevelt Institute Campus Network report called “Government by and for Millennial America” indicates that this generation views politics and government differently than previous generations do, and has no interest in party orthodoxy. Instead, Millennials will look to progressive institutions and people committed to overhauling the broken in favor of what works. That is a mentality that does not favor the status quo upheld by an old guard, whatever party it represents.

Taylor Jo Isenberg
National Director, Roosevelt Institute Campus Network
New York, N.Y.


In the January/February issue, Dan Slater detailed the effect online dating has had on relationships.

Dan Slater quotes several prognosticators warning of a future rise in divorce rates, and one business executive who believes the Internet “may be partly responsible for a rise in the divorce rates.” Unfortunately for Slater’s narrative, and conveniently left out of the article, divorce rates have been falling steadily since the mid-1990s. While it remains possible that online dating is increasing divorce rates, at the very least there are much bigger forces at work.

Greg Srolestar
Los Angeles, Calif.

The lack of female perspective in this piece is irritating and disheartening. I was particularly bothered by the generalization reinforcing the outdated, oversimplified assumption that women withhold sex as a dating strategy. Without any significant mention of how women experience the online-dating world, this piece is woefully unbalanced.

Tara S. Whitty
San Diego, Calif.

Dan Slater replies:

In January I published a book, Love in the Time of Algorithms. It chronicles the 50-year development of the online-dating industry and explores how technology is affecting relationships in different ways, for better or for worse.

Chapter 5 is titled “Better Relationships But More Divorce: What Technology Means for Commitment.” I argue that for certain relationships—namely, suboptimal ones—the enhanced availability of new mates, via online dating, will lead to a decrease in commitment. In other words, for many of the 100-plus online daters I interviewed for my book—male and female, young and old, gay and straight—online dating had made it easier for them to leave unsatisfactory relationships and find new ones. The bar for what they considered a happy relationship had been raised. The result, I hypothesize, is better relationships and, consequently, more relationship breakup. When the chapter was excerpted in The Atlantic under the title “A Million First Dates,” the magazine solicited a passel of online responses. Some skeptics cited census data showing that divorce rates are declining after decades of increase. Fair enough. But it’s also the case that marriage rates are at historic lows, and continue to decline precipitously. Of course, many factors are fueling the latter trend, and I address a few of them in the book. Other responders, including at least one Atlantic staffer, complained that I’d consulted no women. The excerpt constituted a small fraction of Algorithms, a book in which the online daters whose stories I tell are predominantly female.

Follow-Up: Monarch in the Middle

The April issue featured Jeffrey Goldberg’s profile of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, “the most pro-American ruler in the Arab world.” In a series of conversations, Abdullah was remarkably candid.

“It’s probably the most indiscreet interview I’ve ever read a head of state give,” said Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, on NBC’s Morning Joe.

Abdullah shared sharp criticisms and colorful anecdotes about his fellow Middle Eastern leaders, including Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi (“There’s no depth to the guy”) and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad (“He never heard of jet lag”). He also criticized the leaders of political factions in his own country, calling the heads of the National Current Party “old dinosaurs”; and declared his distrust of the state secret police, whose forces are sworn to protect the king. The Muslim Brotherhood, Abdullah said, is run by “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

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