Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boyd Cothran's "Remembering the Modoc War"

Boyd Cothran is an assistant professor of U.S. Indigenous and Cultural History in the Department of History at York University in Toronto, Ontario.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Remembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence, and reported the following:
How have Americans remembered the Indian Wars and justified their violence? Remembering the Modoc War delves into this question by exploring how historical memories of the Modoc War of 1872-73, California's so-called Last Indian War, have persisted over the last century and a half. Histories of nineteenth-century U.S.-Indian violence evoked a legacy of conquest, cultivating a self-image of the United States as an innocent rather than expansionistic colonial power. Casting their actions as fundamentally innocent, Americans imagined themselves as the victims of frontier violence by representing Indians as the irrational aggressors and violators of a civilized nation’s just laws.

The book shows how stories about the Modoc War have changed over time. Page 99 describes how the prolific dime novel industry of the Gilded Age transformed the Modoc War into a tragic romance for East Coast American audiences to experience and consume. Most of these novels used the actual events and real Indigenous people merely as props for their romantic dramas. Such is the case in Seth Hardinge's Modoc Jack; or, The Lion of the Lava Beds (1873) or T.C. Harbaugh's The Squaw Spy; or, The Rangers of the Lava-Beds (1873), both of which relied upon well-developed nineteenth century literary tropes such as the tragic Indian chief and the romantic Pocahontas-like Indian princess.

But not all works of popular literature at the time reinforced notions of American innocence through romantic portrayals of Indigenous people. Some, like Joaquin Miller's Life amongst the Modocs indicted American postbellum Indian policy and anticipated many of the arguments reformers such as Helen Hunt Jackson would make a full decade later in A Century of Dishonor (1881) and her popular romance, Ramona (1884). As Page 99 quotes Miller's preface to his quasi-biographical novel:
"This narrative is not particularly of myself, but of a race of people that has lived centuries of history and never yet had a historian; that has suffered nearly four hundred years of wrong, and never yet had an advocate…. When I die I shall take this book in my hand, and hold it up in the Day of Judgment, as a sworn indictment against the rulers of my country for the destruction of these people."
Page 99, then, shows how the dynamics of the Gilded Age dime novel industry promulgated narratives of Americans innocence but also created a platform for contesting these representations, an ongoing struggle that is at the heart of Remembering the Modoc War and whose significance stretches into the present day.
Learn more about Remembering the Modoc War at the University of North Carolina Press website, and visit Boyd Cothran's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 17, 2014

Conevery Bolton Valencius's "The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes"

Conevery Bolton Valencius is associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she teaches environmental history, history of science and medicine, and the American Civil War. She is the author of The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her 2013 book, The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, the Cherokees are in trouble.

Earthquakes have disrupted the places where they had fished, hunted, and farmed near the thriving Mississippi River trading center of New Madrid, in what is now the Missouri bootheel.

After massive tremors in the winter of 1811 and 1812 (now estimated at around magnitude 7.2), most of the Cherokees left. Instead, Americans poured in. People like a certain nasty Mr Hunt roamed Cherokee lands, killing cattle that he “claimed as his own.” “A very bad man,” as one Cherokee complained, Hunt went about “insulting them and telling them that he will soon have them out of the Country.”

Unfortunately, it’s not only the Cherokees who are in trouble.

The New Madrid tremors had reverberations in many parts of Indian lands. The earthquakes emptied regions of the former New Madrid hinterland and intensified conflict in the areas further west where earthquake refugees fled. The quakes impelled a bloody Cherokee/Osage war, a conflict dangerously amplified when earthquake refugees streamed … into settlements claimed by the Osages along the White and Arkansas Rivers. Trouble with the Osages had been brewing for decades before the quakes. Earthquake flight made everything worse.

Why does this matter?

It matters because when those Cherokees left, the Americans who came after were able to forget that they were ever there. The New Madrid earthquakes made possible a flood of American emigration that erased the prior Native American history of the middle Mississippi Valley.

In the rest of this book, I show other ways the quakes mattered – to religious revival, to scientific discussion, to Indian confederacy, to the War of 1812.

I show why the quakes were forgotten, because of environmental, social, and scientific transformations.

I also show how they matter still. The New Madrid earthquakes are some of the most powerful and well-documented examples of quakes in the middle of a tectonic plate. This is not an academic interest: intraplate quakes have killed hundreds of thousands in China, and they visit the middle Mississippi Valley with geologic regularity.

In page 99 of The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, just like in the book itself, we are in the midst of stories of how these long-ago American earthquakes shaped how our contemporary society and our contemporary sciences came to be.
Learn more about The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Catherine Gildiner's "Coming Ashore: A Memoir"

Catherine Gildiner’s childhood memoir Too Close to the Falls (1999) was a New York Times bestseller and on the Globe and Mail’s bestseller list for over a year. In 2010, she published a sequel, After the Falls, also a bestseller.

Gildiner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Coming Ashore, the third title in her memoir series, and reported the following:
The choice of page 99 is prescient. On this page Clive Hunter-Parsons, an English upper crust Oxford Student declares his love for Cathy McClure the brash American. It is the only page in the entire book where love is declared. He announces that he has been in love with her since he met her. He marvelled at her inappropriate attire at high table and the other follies she was involved with since coming to Oxford. He was astonished and impressed that she drove through the post office on her bike when she couldn't find the brakes and 'wasn't even sorry.' It is, in a way, a back handed compliment because Clive acknowledges he has made an 'inappropriate choice' but he can't help loving her. This passage, of course, turns out to be what is wrong with the relationship. He 'loves' her but wants her to change. Never a recipe for happiness.
Visit Catherine Gildiner's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: After the Falls.

My Book, The Movie: Coming Ashore.

Writers Read: Catherine Gildiner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Roger Moorhouse's "The Devils' Alliance"

Roger Moorhouse is a historian and author specializing in modern German and Central European history, with particular interest in Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and World War Two in Europe. He is the author of a number of books on modern German history, including Killing Hitler and Berlin at War, and is a regular commentator in the specialist and general press.

Moorhouse applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941, and reported the following:
I love the premise of the “Page 99 Test”; the idea that a single page of a book may, in either style or content, be indicative of the whole. The Devils' Alliance is about the much-overlooked Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939-1941, which saw the world’s two most barbarous totalitarian regimes find common cause and brought war to Europe.

Page 99 is the opening page of a chapter on the response of the world’s communists and fascists to the news of the Pact. It tells the story of Harry Pollitt, General Secretary of the British Communist Party, who unwisely advocated the defence of Poland in 1939, before the propaganda line dictated to him by Moscow changed and he was deposed by his more ideologically-obedient comrades.

The page is – unsurprisingly perhaps – both representative of the remainder of the book, and it is not. On the one hand, given that the scene described on that page plays out in London, it is geographically distant from the epicentre of events in the rest of the book, which is broadly the area between Berlin and Moscow – what Tim Snyder aptly called the “Bloodlands” – a region in which countless thousands suffered persecution, deportation or death as a direct result of the Pact.

In a broader sense, however, the page is representative of the whole. It certainly demonstrates my overall approach to my writing, for instance that of seeking to ask questions that other historians have not addressed before. It also chimes with my desire to always tell the story in such a way that personal experiences and ‘human stories’, such as Pollitt’s, can be foregrounded so as to better engage the reader.

On reflection, I suppose Pollitt’s experience (from page 99) really isn’t so different from the rest of the book. Though geographically distant from events, he was nonetheless subjected to the same seismic shift that others were with the signature of the Pact. True, his life was never under direct threat, but beyond that his world was turned upside down, just as much as if he had been a Pole from Volhynia, or a Latvian, or a Bessarabian. The Devils' Alliance is the story of a forgotten political earthquake, and Harry Pollitt felt the tremors as much as anyone.
© Roger Moorhouse 2014
Visit Roger Moorhouse's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jonathan Eig's "The Birth of the Pill"

Jonathan Eig is the New York Times best-selling author of four books: Luckiest Man, Opening Day, Get Capone, and, most recently, The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. He is currently working on a biography of Muhammad Ali.

Eig applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Birth of the Pill and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Birth of the Pill contains this thrilling quotation: “The foregoing experiments demonstrate unequivocally that it is possible to inhibit ovulation in the rabbit and successful breeding in the rat with progesterone…. It has been determined furthermore that following the sterile period, normal reproduction may ensue.”

Sterility in rabbits and rats? Does it get any better than that?

Fortunately, it does. You see, the characters in my book have embarked on one of the most audacious scientific missions of the twentieth century. They’re going to try to create a hormonal birth-control pill for women, never mind that birth control remains illegal in thirty states, the Catholic Church is sure to put up a fight, and the FDA has never approved anything remotely like this. In many ways, their mission seems like a hopeless cause.

But science doesn’t permit shortcuts. And if the biologist Gregory Pincus is serious about trying to give Margaret Sanger the pill’s she’s been searching for, he’s got to start with basic research, which means rabbit and rats and a lot of mundane work.

In the passage I quoted above, it’s 1952 and Pincus is writing to Planned Parenthood, asking for about $3,000 to fund his work for the next year. He’s explaining that progesterone shut down ovulation in lab animals. He’s also pointing out that the animals were able to reproduce again after the progesterone made them sterile. That’s important because Pincus would be in big trouble if he gave progesterone to women and rendered them permanently infertile. But even with the encouraging early results, Planned Parenthood executives were reluctant to give Pincus money. To them, it seemed like a risky leap from rabbits and rats to women.

So while this passage focuses on administrative details, it’s important because it shows the enormous obstacles he and Sanger are facing. If they can get the money, and if the science works, and if they can find women willing to try this untested drug, and if the pill proves safe and effective, and if they can get a drug company to manufacture it, and if they can get the FDA to approve it, and if the Catholic Church doesn’t attack them… Well, then maybe they really can pull this off. But as of Page 99, it seems highly unlikely.
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

The Page 99 Test: Get Capone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 13, 2014

Rebecca Frankel's "War Dogs"

Rebecca Frankel has been writing about war dogs since 2010 in her Friday column called “Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week.” Her photo essay “War Dog,” is one of the most-viewed pieces in Foreign Policy’s history. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, National Geographic, and elsewhere. She has been a commentator on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and MSNBC among others. In 2011, she was named one of 12 women in foreign policy to follow on Twitter by the Daily Muse. Frankel is currently senior editor, special projects at Foreign Policy magazine.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love, and reported the following:
If you turn to page 99 of War Dogs, you’ll find not quite halfway through the book, but smack dab in the middle of a close-up look at a dog’s superior senses.

Dogs have excellent hearing and their eyesight is, in many ways, far more discerning than ours, but it’s their sense of smell that is really remarkable. It’s not just that a dog’s nose is stronger than a human’s – and it is about a thousand times more sensitive -- but the way dogs use their noses is vastly more layered and more evolved. On page 98, I describe it this way: “A dog hunting for scent is like a linguist who, even when standing before the Tower of Babel (or more practically speaking, an international airport), can hear not only a cacophony of many tongues clamoring at once, but who can pull apart the sounds to find and comprehend the individual voices.”

In the wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most effective and insidious weapons that were used (and still are being used) are Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)—bombs cunningly hidden along roadsides, under bridges, or in the walls of buildings. And during these wars, regardless of the money and advances spent on developing technology to combat this risk, a dog trained in explosive-material detection is the most effective way of avoiding those bombs.

But the real reason why page 99 is, indeed, a snapshot of this book’s core is revealed in these lines (and, in some ways, what’s in between them):
To find such deadly weapons, handler and explosive-detecting dogs need to be prepared, focused. In addition to keeping watch on the wind, and on his dog, a handler must also keep his eye on the ground and the path ahead, watching for disturbances—wires, rock piles, things that do not belong—as well as any other sign of human interference, adding the keenness of the human eye to the power of the dog’s extraordinary nose.
Because no matter how amazing a dog’s nose is or how cautious and careful a handler is, at the end of the day, at the end of a patrol, neither one can do the job of finding bombs on his own as well as they can do it together. A dog and his handler have to operate as a team, one secured by a deep bond built on trust, training, and often, I believe, love.

In the unforgiving conditions of combat theater, a handler and dog depend on each other for safety and for comfort and that relationship extends between them, yes, but also to those around them, if not simply because they’re keeping the men and women who walk behind them safe. And together they are saving lives.
Visit Rebecca Frankel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Colin G. Calloway's "The Victory with No Name"

Colin G. Calloway is Professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. He is the author of many books, including Scratch of a Pen and Pen and Ink Witchcraft.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Building and sustaining the confederacy depended on the character and charisma of leaders whose reputation, war record, spiritual power, oratory, and sound counsel could attract warriors and keep them committed to the cause. Those individuals sometimes differed in their positions, advocated different strategies, or altered their stance....”
On November 4, 1791 a coalition of Indian nations destroyed an American army led by General Arthur St. Clair that was invading their Ohio homeland. The battle was the biggest victory Native Americans ever won. It caused alarm and repercussions in the United States. It aggravated the growing divisions that eventually led to the creation of the first political parties. It produced the first congressional investigation in American history and in the process saw the birth of the principle of executive privilege. It increased the federal government’s role in shaping western development. It increased the president’s power to raise troops. It changed how Americans viewed, raised, organized, and paid for their armies and it provided the impetus for creating a new army to expand the American republic.

But most Americans today have not even heard of the battle, and explanations of how supposedly savage Indians could destroy an American army have usually emphasized how the Americans lost rather than how the Indians won—so the battle is called “St. Clair’s Defeat.” In fact, it was a clash between two recently formed and fragile American confederations as well as between two American armies. The United States under the new Constitution was still finding its feet and the Indian nations northwest of the Ohio River had formed a confederation primarily to defend their lands against American expansion. As the passage from page 99 indicates, establishing and maintaining a coalition of different tribes required consensus, conciliation, and accommodation. The American defeat owed much to military failings and contractor fraud but the Indian victory was as much diplomatic as military, achieved by holding together an alliance that was subject to divisive strains and local agendas, and bringing a united force of warriors to bear at the decisive moment. A new U. S. army defeated the Indian confederacy three years later and St. Clair’s Defeat was set aside as an aberration and largely forgotten. But the battle was hugely important at the time and it deserves to be remembered as both an American disaster and a Native American victory.
Learn more about The Victory with No Name at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pen and Ink Witchcraft.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rosamond L. Naylor's "The Evolving Sphere of Food Security"

Rosamond Naylor is the Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, Professor of Environmental Earth System Science, and Associate Professor of Economics (by courtesy) at Stanford University. She is also the William Wrigley Senior Fellow at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Naylor applied the “Page 99 Test” to the new book she edited, The Evolving Sphere of Food Security, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls within Chapter 4, "Institutions, Interests, and Incentives in American Food and Agriculture Policy." The four co-authors of this chapter - Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, David Lazarus, Walter P. Falcon and myself - explore the history of U.S. agricultural policy (particularly the "Farm Bill"), including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As we write on page 99:
In 2012, the U.S. thrifty food budget resulted in a poverty line of about $24,000 for a family of four. That year, some 47 million Americans - about 15 percent of the entire nation - received SNAP payments. Support was restricted to those families with net incomes less than the poverty line, with the actual amount of support increasing the further below that line income levels fell. If a hypothetical family of four had zero net income, they would have received $8,000 in SNAP payments for the year; if their net income was $12,000, they would have received payments of $4,000. Overall, payments averaged approximately $1,600 per person for the year.

As a consequence mainly of these four factors, the SNAP portion of the Farm Bill budget totaled $73 billion in 2012. In addition, the budget provided for $19 billion for school lunches; $8 billion in assistance for nursing and pregnant women, infants and children; and $12 billion in supplemental assistance for new nutrition initiatives. The $112 billion consumer package now constitutes the core of USDA's budget, and not surprisingly, its size and prominence are making the traditional farm constituencies extremely nervous. As discussed subsequently, nutritional costs now seriously threaten the rural-urban political coalition that has been necessary to pass recent Farm Bills.
The Evolving Sphere of Food Security is global in scope - the 19 contributing authors from Stanford University bring decades of collective field research experience in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America. Although Chapter 4, from which the above passage is quoted, is the only chapter that focuses on the United States, it remains an apt representation of the book for two reasons.

First, because it underscores the fact that despite being the wealthiest economy in the world, the U.S. still grapples with alarming rates of food insecurity. As we write in this passage, about 15% of Americans receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits because they cannot otherwise afford sufficient, nutritious food.

Second, this passage represents the book well because it demonstrates the many challenges faced by governments in addressing food insecurity. Policymakers in the U.S. - as in every country - struggle to respond to the root causes of hunger within their borders: mainly poverty, but also problems with food production, distribution, price and quality. They also face a delicate and often elusive balance between the interests of consumers, who prefer cheap food, and the interests of farmers, whose incomes rise with food prices.

In the remainder of this chapter, we delve into the history of U.S. agricultural policy, and highlight the political and economic complexities of the current U.S. Farm Bill. We examine how biofuels policy affects food prices and food availability in the United States and overseas. We explore the domestic political structure that shapes agricultural policy, as well as how U.S. farm and nutrition subsidies compare with other countries. And we look at how the Farm Bill itself - originally a rural poverty-reduction program born out of the Great Depression - has shifted the average American diet and fueled rising rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other symptoms of "overnutrition."

As I write in the book's opening, "Hunger is an intensely human experience" that knows no geographic boundaries. The book's other 13 chapters (plus a foreword by Kofi Annan) explore the many faces and facets of food insecurity around the globe. Drawing on a multidisciplinary team of Stanford authors from fields as diverse as law, medicine, economics, earth science and international security, The Evolving Sphere of Food Security aims to illuminate a deeply complex issue and guide readers in how to craft sustainable solutions.
Learn more about The Evolving Sphere of Food Security at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brian Hayden's "The Power of Feasts"

Brian Hayden is Professor Emeritus in the Archaeology Department at Simon Fraser University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Power of Feasts: From Prehistory to the Present, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In California, Hildebrandt and Rosenthal (2009) have shown that, beginning over 2,500 years ago, marine shellfish were transported more than 25 kilometers inland, probably reflecting feasting activities in interior areas. The unusually large and well-made stone bifaces such as those displayed as wealth items as part of the Hupa feasts may also provide archaeological indications of feasting contexts (Goldschmidt and Driver 1943). As already mentioned in the ethnographic section, the large stone bowls found in many parts of California were apparently used by the elites for feasting.

In the south of California,Maxwell (2003) and Fagan et al. (2006) have identified several feasting deposits on San Nicolas Island that are similar to other deposits in the region that were identified as feasting remains associated with mourning rituals or secret society ('antap) rituals. These deposits included hundreds of large abalone shells and thousands of animal bones. Hull et al. (2013:26-7,42-3) have expanded the number of identified mourning sites in Southern California but concentrated on the ritual rather than the feasting aspects at these sites. As is common, they attribute
Page 99 features one of the most important messages of The Power of Feasts, to wit: that large competitive feasts are part and parcel of complex hunting and gathering cultures like the ones ethnographically and archaeologically recorded on the Northwest Coast, and California. Feasts are important in traditional societies because they are means of converting surpluses into key benefits for hosts, including acquiring military allies, marriage partners, and political power. Feasts were probably also the driving force behind the domestication of plants and animals, the development of important new technologies such as pottery, and constituted a major technique used to create social and economic inequalities. A key point is that feasting does not seem to occur among simple hunters and gatherers who existed for the first 2.5 million years of human existence. Feasting only seems to occur among complex hunters and gatherers who first emerged in a few resource-rich areas in the Upper Paleolithic of Europe (c. 30,000-12,000 years ago) and subsequently became more widespread following technological innovations.

Because feasts provided important survival, reproductive, and life-quality benefits, and because they were based on the production of surpluses, feasts were generally competitive. Ambitious people tried to find ways of producing more and more surplus food in order to obtain more benefits and better benefits than others. This constituted a major new force for food production that had not existed before, a sociopolitical purpose for producing food, not only more food, but foods with more appeal: beer, bread, fat-rich meats, chocolates, tobacco, emulsified nut oil drinks, and many more delicacies of the time. The extra labor required to produce these foods was more than compensated for by the potential benefits that could be obtained. The key cultural watershed was not domestication per se, as most textbooks would have it, but the development of complex hunting and gathering cultures centered on feasts like the Northwest Coast potlatch. Over generations, as people constantly strove to improve crop yields through selecting seeds for planting with desired qualities, people were eventually able to increase surplus foods in favorable localities. Greater surpluses led to more and larger feasts, more benefits, and larger debt systems that resulted in more complex social and political organizations, ultimately leading to civilization. It is no accident that early civilizations such as the Incans, the Sumerians, and the Egyptians essentially ran on beer, bread, and feasts.
Learn more about The Power of Feasts at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jason Weeden & Robert Kurzban's "The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind"

Jason Weeden is a senior researcher with the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology (PLEEP) and a lawyer in Washington, DC. Robert Kurzban is professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of PLEEP. He is the author of Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won't Admit It, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind begins not with politics, but with sports:
In sports, the rules matter. And, crucially, different rules help some people and hurt others. Salary caps might help teams in smaller markets and hurt teams in larger markets. Race-based limitations might help second-tier whites and hurt top-tier African Americans. And there are countless other examples, of course. Raising the pitcher’s mound helps pitchers and hurts hitters. Requiring both feet in bounds for a catch in football hurts wide receivers but helps defensive backs. The foul-out rule in basketball hurts high-impact players but helps bench players get more minutes. Time limits in golf help speedier players and hurt slower players.

Unsurprisingly, athletes know where their interests lie and tend to support the rules that help themselves.
These paragraphs end our introductory section to chapter 5, which focuses on public opinion regarding the government’s role in helping (or harming) different people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, the country they were born in, and so on – issues such as affirmative action, school prayer, same-sex marriage, and immigration. We use the opening section to ease into this material with sports analogies before beginning the difficult work of discussing topics about which many people (ourselves included) have passionate views. The middle of page 99 begins a section called “Back to Reality,” starting with the line: “In life as in sports, people fight over rules that help some and hurt others.”

While the previous chapter talked about sex and reproductive issues – abortion, birth control, pornography, premarital sex, and marijuana legalization -- chapter 5 talks about issues that relate to policies surrounding groups. The next chapter follows up with a discussion of issues relating to income redistribution and government safety nets.

Page 99 provides a nice overview of one of the big themes in the book. While many scholars focus on relatively abstract factors when discussing political issue opinions – ideologies, values, principles, personality features, and so on – we’re convinced that they often overlook the central fact that many issues present competing alternatives (in cases where there’s no such thing as neutral rules) that really do make some people better off at the expense of others.

We show that people’s particular issue positions are broadly predictable based on whether policies hurt or help them. This is true not only with issues relating to income redistribution, but also with issues where scholars rarely consider interest-based explanations, like abortion and marijuana legalization.

We understand, of course, that it’s not exactly polite to tell people that many of their cherished political positions are probably driven by self-interest. We add insult to injury by discussing psychological research indicating that people are fundamentally self-deceptive about being self-interested.

But, to return to sports analogies, our job as number-crunching social scientists isn’t to cheer on our own political team, but to analyze data and then call ‘em like we see ‘em.
Learn more about The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite.

--Marshal Zeringue