Bill Bennett, as you already know, is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. His rhetorical style begins with his predetermined conclusion before devoting far more words than necessary to all types of fallacies of reasoning in an attempt to support it. Most recently he has shared his thoughts on the often bemoaned (but not actually a real thing) "Crisis of Manhood" afflicting young men today.

Long story short, women are now getting more college degrees than men, and their incomes are rising at a dramatically sharper rate. Could that second point have anything to do with the fact that female incomes are basically, you know, still catching up with males, Bill? The thing about growth rates is that they look really high when you start with such a small number.
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But I digress. Men aren't growing up. It's an extended, and possibly permanent, state of adolescence, as men become slackers in their twenties rather than employees, homeowners, husbands, or fathers.
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The sad thing is that there is an important point to be made here, and instead Bennett is trying to twist reality around his "Men aren't manly enough anymore since women cut their balls off" thesis. The real issue, which he hints at while pointing out that 18-24 year old males play more daily hours of video games than 12-17 year olds, is much more compelling: we have entire generations of people who aren't growing up because they are not going through the normal socialization process that is supposed to follow college graduation. When U.S. News estimates that 85% – !!!! – of the Spring 2011 graduating class moved back in with their parents, we have a bigger problem here than 1970s feminists making men feel all butthurt or whatever his point is.

Two real whoppers deserve further comment:

If you don't believe the numbers, just ask young women about men today. You will find them talking about prolonged adolescence and men who refuse to grow up. I've heard too many young women asking, "Where are the decent single men?" There is a maturity deficit among men out there, and men are falling behind.

Classic Bennett, with a dash of Friedmanesque unattributed quotes from strangers for good measure. I may be biased here, but Bill, the absolute last demographic that should be consulted on issues of maturity and adulthood is Twentysomething Women. I deal with men and women in this age group all day, every day, and I have the added benefit of having just been divorced by a 28 year old who spent the majority of the seven years we were acquainted struggling with issues related to direction, motivation, and maturity. I hold this against no one. My point is simply that it's beyond comical to point to 24 year old women for commentary on the state of male maturity. If there is a maturity gap, it isn't very big. The average 24 year old woman may think it is, but part of being immature is being deluded about one's own maturity level. For every young man sitting in mom's basement playing Call of Duty, there is a female counterpart either living with the 'rents or burning through their money living the same kind of extended adolescence Bennett bemoans – spending most of her days starting a dozen new "creative" projects she'll never finish, dressing like a Ugandan refugee, and wondering why no one else is mature like her.

Then, this:

While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families.

Uh, care to cite some stats there, Bill? Women are graduating college and finding…that the job market is shit, just like it is for us grunting cavemen. Setting aside the fact that women are more likely than men to get degrees in fields with little income potential – Again, I don't judge. I have two political science degrees and I earn exactly shit. – how does the fact that they have pulled ahead in degrees granted lead to the assumption that they are "finding good jobs"? Again, what we have here is an economic issue that Bennett is somehow trying to make a gender issue.

It isn't. It's a symptom of a larger problem: that young people are graduating college but continuing to live and act like children.
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Why wouldn't they? They're not earning anything, so they continue the Broke Undergrad lifestyle to which they are accustomed. They don't have jobs to force them into an "adult" routine of hauling their asses to work and back every day, for better or worse. They fail to become financially or emotionally independent of their families. They lack the means to take on responsibilities like home ownership, marriage, or parenting even if they were motivated to do so.
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But they lack motivation because they graduate into a world that has nothing for them except "No Vacancy" signs. Twentysomethings are disturbingly immature, perhaps even more so than in past generations, because they cannot get onto the conveyor belt that takes people to the kind of job-kids-spouse-house version of adulthood that Bennett believes they need.

Oh, and despite all that growth, women still earn less than men across the board.

But other than that, great points, Bill.

49 thoughts on “DELAYED DEVELOPMENT”

  • I graduated college in 1996. I was a good student but had exactly zero plans for my future other than "maybe grad. school or law school."

    Went back home to DC. Shared a cheap-ass but decent apartment with a fellow graduate. Woke up on a Monday morning and went to one of a few dozen temp agencies in the city.

    By lunch, because I could type pretty well, I had a job. A boring job, but one that paid well enough until something better came along. It did.

    I joke about this with my younger friends, but I have a hell of a lot of sympathy for today's 20-somethings. The idea that you could just walk into a temp agency and come out an hour later with a reasonably secure position is just alien to them.

    And Bill Bennett is a fucking douche-nozzle.

  • My parents found me a job cause they wanted me to move out (connections). It was a good job and it worked. That was 1989, when the economy sucked. After that, the mid-to-late 90s was an amazing job market, not likely to be repeated soon.

    The extended adolescence is definitely a defense mechanism. I'd go insane living with my parents now.

    Re: maturity. The human brain finishes developing at 27, when your executive functions finally mature. It's "no accident" car insurance starts to go down then.

  • Oh lord, not The Robert Putnam Argument again. Hey, old dudes: modern life looks different from your 1950s phantasm. People today live in different ways! The Elks club is closed because it's retarded, and wearing a jaunty chapeau only makes you look like a douche. Get used to it.

  • "The thing about growth rates …"

    I've remarked this in another forum, but conservatives have a terrible time understanding anything that involves a 2d derivative.

    If health care spending goes up, it proves that ObamaCare doesn't work.

    If the absolute number of jobs in Texas goes up (while the population expands at the same rate), it's a Texas miracle!

    "the absolute last demographic that should be consulted on issues of maturity and adulthood is Twentysomething Women"

    Also, about the last person I would consult on the views of twentysomething women is Bill Bennett. Yeah, I'm sure he's got his finger on the pulse of today's youth zeitgeist.

    "too many men are not going to work"

    I'm too lazy to look up citations, but I believe it's true that men have been hit proportionally harder than women in the current recession/depression, because traditional blue-color jobs have all gone away. Of course, that's not a case of slackerdom, it's a case of being in the middle of a fucking Second Great Depression.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    I would ignore Bill, shit-tub, Bennett; he never made sense and always was a verbal hoodlum.

    Come to think of it, what do we mean by maturity? The dictionary says its the quality or state of being at full development. It seems to imply that you start with no development.

    It sounds to me that we look at a person and compare her/him to an average parent with two kids, a house in a suburbs and a new car. Substitute your own Mature Citizen. Most twentysome did not get there yet and now without jobs it will take them more time.

    Ed, I divorced more times than you did. I also have three kids. Eventually all three got there, each at his own pace. Some never get there. I think that it was the same in 1911.

  • Leave Bill Bennett aloooone! He's just suffering a bit of indigestion from swallowing too many slot machines.

  • What can we say about the maturity of American males? The dictionary defines maturity as "the state of being mature." Many movies and video games have ratings for maturity. In conclusion, America is a land of contrasts.

  • Let's check Mr. Bennett's biography here.

    Hmmmmm…………..born in 1943.

    That would make him 18 in 1951. I think there was a bit of a "police action" going on in Korea right around then. I'm surprised someone as "manly" as Mr. Bennett didn't find his way there. Front line against the Communist hordes and all that.

    And then there was that little thing in Vietnam. He would have been 21 in 1964. Since he passed up on his chance in Korea he could have made up for it there. I notice he managed to stay in college all through the Vietnam years.

    How convenient.

  • It would actually make him 8 in 1951. I am sure he was a brave little boy, but I imagine they'd have told him he was too small to fit the uniforms.

    I'm awesomely befuddled by how you managed to goof that one despite accurately stating his age in 1964 immediately after. Was he frozen in carbonite for the intervening thirteen years?

  • You're right. I just finished a long flight and my math skills are not working right now.

    Sigh, and it was such a good rant too. Oh well.

  • I like the idea of freezing him in carbonite, though.

    Perhaps until some future century when there's a cure for neoconservatism?

  • The sad thing is that there is an important point to be made here, and instead Bennett is trying to twist reality around his "Men aren't manly enough anymore since women cut their balls off" thesis.

    Agreed. Michael Kimmel wrote a really interesting book, on a similar theme, but with different conclusions, called Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.

    Bennett is obviously harking back to an entirely bygone age, where it was possible for a man in his early twenties to find a job that would enable him to pony up for a gigantic diamond, buy a house, and support a wife and pile of children. I can't mourn the death of the breadwinner wage model, but I think it's utterly obnoxious for socially conservative commentators like Bennett to pretend that that didn't portend the need for constructing a different type of masculinity.

    Kimmel's argument is essentially that the absence of all of these milestone markers in the lives of twenty-something men, makes it necessary for them to create and police all of these other signifiers of masculinity. Retreating into a twilight world of Call of Duty and wall-to-wall porn is, therefore, a way of deferring the economically impossible, and kind of boring sounding, wife-and-kids scenario, and a way of communicating to your buddies (masculinity being a homosocial experience performed for other men) that you are all dude.

    I think the idea of being this stoic, emotionless ATM, with a harpy wife who only puts out if you give her diamonds (qua the mythos of romantic love sold by popular culture) would drive me further in to the arms of the first-person shooter. I think that men and women both deserve better thinking about what it means to 'man up'.

  • As a person holding his first full time salaried job at the age of 68, after a life of being a self employed musician and stone mason, I can attest that the full-time job mostly just rots your mind, i.e., eats up all the space formerly available for creative thought. Being the same age as Mr. Bennett, I can attest that he's always been a pontificating ass hole. I think what happened was, his brother the lawyer got all the practical sense.

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    Fiddlin Bill is right. Maybe the reason guys play call of duty and watch porn is that video games and jerking off are fun. And maybe the reason they don't get married, make babies, and buy houses is that being married sucks, having kids is a drag, and a mortgage is a giant chain around one's neck.

    I'm a single academic renter. I used to worry that I wasn't being "successful" in life, because I wasn't doing any of those "grownup" things. Then as I got older, I realized more and more that, hey, maybe I didn't really WANT those things anyway. There is no scorekeeper in life. The crazy thing about this country is that you really CAN do whatever the fuck you like within the limits of the law.

    (This is not to discount the economic argument about the lack of jobs available for young males, particularly those with less than a college education. And yes, there are statistics that show that low-skilled women are having a better time of it in the labor market than low-skilled men these days, although the market generally sucks for both of them).

  • c u n d gulag says:

    You want the safest bet on the planet?

    You can bet that no matter what the subject is, Bennett has no clue!

  • I have several twenty-something female friends who are graduating school and trying to enter the job market. For those raised with a feminist ideology of empowerment and all that, it is quite a let-down when they realize that having a Bachelors or even a Master's degree does not let them slide right into “something they like to do,” and that the world of work largely sucks, for both men and women. My entire generation was told, “get a degree in something you like, work hard, and you will be rewarded.” That worked for those before us, not so much now. The sucky thing for women is that they are still largely hired and evaluated within a company based on appearance.

  • This was a great, great article.

    It amazes me how many people (conservatives and otherwise) just can't get it through their heads that the American economic order of the 1950s-1980s is just plain over. We had a freakshow version of it in the '90s, some kind of tripped-out kamikaze version of it in the early aughts, but it is now definitively dead and buried. The old "study hard-go to college-study harder-grad school-get a great job-stay there for life" paradigm has come crashing down, thanks almost entirely to the ways the Baby Boomers abused the system. (Outsourcing, offshoring, downsizing, you know the drill.)
    I have a white-collar job with a modicum of stability that I think I would probably kill to protect, because I really do not know what the hell else I would do. But even so, I had to find and pay for my own health insurance, because my employer just doesn't offer it. This is so hard for my parents to understand that I have to re-explain it to them several times a year. In their day, if one had a job, one had health insurance; that was all. But that's all over now, for the majority of us anyway.

  • Yeah, one of my conservative relatives posted a link to this article on FB yesterday. When I saw Bennett's name in the summary, I figured that it would be an argument along these lines. I was too lazy to read it and leave a comment, so thanks for doing the work for me!

  • My wife finished her teaching MAT program last April. Not only could she not get a job, she didn't score an interview until a month ago. Meanwhile, we're living on my massive, socialist, non-producer teacher salary and savings.

    Now she may have a job 4 hours away, teaching at an elementary school…wait for it…next to her mom and dad's house! And the only reason she will get this job is that she went to high school with the current principal. (Note: she is qualified, but in times like these, education hiring is all about who you know, not qualifications!)

    She will move in with the 'rents, but she will be working a full-time, career job. How's that for fucking with the dominant paradigm!

    @HoosierPoli: Hey, I like a jaunty chapeau!

  • I graduated in the mid-2Ks, and upon graduation moved back in with the 'rents. But, unlike Bennett's little imaginary world where only castrated non-males do this, I did it for a very specific reason: To rid myself of all traces of debt before starting 'life proper'. Three months later I had a full-time job (through a stroke of luck on an employer specifically looking to hire fresh college grads — such a situation was exceedingly rare even then, let alone now), and just under a year later my student loans were behind me and I was apartment hunting.

    Debt free, single, and apartment-living ever since. I have no use for a house until I can plunk down cash for a very small, very modest one (specifically to eliminate monthly payments). I have no desire for a wife that I am not in mutual, utterly mad love with — I am in no rush to become part of the 50% statistic, and am just fine biding my time until The Right One™ comes along. Children annoy me, always have and always will (Why yes, I was a child once, and I was an annoying little shit).

    Bennett's values could use some updating. It's not the goddamn 50s anymore.

  • Bennett is a fine historian. His two volume American history is spectacular, at least until he gets to the 1980s. That's because he's a historian, and not a political philosopher, much to his chagrin.

  • Funny how there are some interesting parallels between our two lives. My fiance ended our 7 year relationship in July by cancelling our wedding the day before the ceremony. That'll do a lot to tweak a man fo' sho.' BTW, it was great to get back to Beloit last weekend. Man, those people (WI folk) are so friggin nice!

  • Actually the 50's weren't even the 50's as people idealize them.

    I'd recommend The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz.

  • @Mike

    "I've remarked this in another forum, but conservatives have a terrible time understanding anything that involves a 2d derivative."

    As an old conservative engineer/math instructor (Adjunct company, SIR), I have to disagree that conservative or liberal politics (at least in 20 year olds) is in any way correlated w/ the ability to plumb the depths of derivatives of any variety.

    It is instructive that the third derivative (wrt to time) of position is called "jerk"

    Somehow this should apply to Secretary Bennett…


  • What does "maturity" even mean – not sure it's a useful term. Maybe the more important developmental marker is: willing to accept responsibility for their lives, the lives of others and the world around them. I think it's totally possible to achieve that while still living with your parents and playing video games and jerking off all day. By the same token, plenty of people who are married with a mortgage and a car, etc., have no sense of responsibility. Still, by that standard, I do think 20-somethings are piss-poor. Partly not their fault since there are no jobs and all they've been told since they were toddlers is that the world was their oyster.

    Bennett's a tremendous twat, in any case.

  • johnsmith1882 says:

    @Major Kong: no, the 50's weren't really the 50's as idealized, but in comparison to today? Opportunities were plentiful in the 50's (no, not the land of milk and honey and white picket fences as fetishized, but still), and opportunities are scarce today.

    Take someone who was born in '39, using a little Gladwell Outliers logic. He was ahead of the Baby Boom, so if he was 22 after graduating college in '51, he has a glut of opportunity; demand is high due to a larger population and he has the good fortune to get in ahead of the curve, add to that that he was born in the demographic trough of the mid to late '30's so he has less competition. With a college degree, he has every opportunity to start a career, start a family, has little to no debt because college was actually affordable, and in Bennet's words grow up and be a man. Likely, his wife did not go to college, probably had a job until kids started coming, then became a homemaker. She didn't need to work because life in America was still affordable enough that women didn't re-enter the workforce en masse until the late 70's, when household debt and inflation made two salaries necessary. He had every opportunity possible.

    Contrast that to a 22 year old college graduate today. He enters a job market with little demand, jobs are scarce. College degrees are more plentiful, so that doesn't get him as far. College tuition is magnitudes more expensive, so he carries a load of debt. Any woman that he would like to marry also has a college degree, would need to work to make a family unit thrive, also has a boatload of debt. The cost of raising a child is magnitudes greater, the housing market hangs by a thread. His opportunities are greatly diminished.

    Pretty sure that we would agree on the main point (Bennet is flat-out wrong), but I gotta disagree with you on the '50's not being opportunity-deep.

  • "While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families."

    How are too many men not getting married? There aren't many places for women to marry each other, and in those places, men can also marry each other. I'd assume fairly equal numbers of men and women are getting married at any given time.

    I'd also venture a guess that about the same percentage of families are being raised without those men as has been the case for a long time. I do know more families now where the male is the primary caregiver for the children, but I doubt that's something that's even entered his radar.

  • johnsmith1882 says:

    haha, apparently I can't add, either. my little go-getter born in '39 would be 12 in '51. gumption. and moxie, kid's got it in spades. sassafrass too. still, i think that my example holds; the 50's offered much more opportunity for success, and for 'growing up'.

  • I've been away for a while, hence I couldn't keep up with this blog, which I used to devour daily. I'm shocked to hear you got divorced, Ed. Real sorry about that. I guess divorce hits us academics about as much as policemen. It happened to me too, toward the tail end of grad school. Fortunately, I had a couple of really good friends who helped me slowly move on. I hope you too will find the strength to deal with this misfortune.

    If it's any consolation, I'm sure your second marriage will be for ever. Take it from a pro.

  • I'm with elle, all the way, but I have to say that maturity (for a given definition of maturity) is in short supply. But why limit it to the young? Signs of immaturity include whining about one's personal lot while doing nothing to correct it; indulging in excess beyond reason (be it caloric, financial, chemical, or whatever); taking collateral events personally (from corporate voicemail trees to ATM fees to getting shorted one McNugget at the drive-thru); rudeness (whether in public, at work, or with family); and generally behaving childishly (thoughtless reactions, uncontrolled emotions, egocentrism — all Id, all the time.)

    These things seem society-wide these days, certainly not limited to any age, sex, or class. Even the more grown-up types seem to think that respect must always imply admiration, rather than polite observation of boundaries, and that good behavior toward someone with an opposing view shows lack of conviction for the Good Right And True side, which is always his side. Or hers.

    People like this wear me out, and I run into them all the time. Immaturity might be the best word for it. It's not illegal, it's not even immoral, but it's childish as hell.

  • @ladiesbane

    "It's not illegal, it's not even immoral, but it's childish as hell."

    Agree, but..

    I think there are several religious systems that I could present arguments from that state that rude, self centered behavior is "immoral" for adherents thereto.


  • @ js1882:

    "the 50's offered much more opportunity for success,"
    True as long you were WASP male. Female or minority–outta luck.

  • While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families.

    sounds like Mr. Bennett thinks this is only wrong if it's the WOMEN graduating college and working – if the MEN graduated colleges and found good jobs, and the women didn't work, got married and raised families, he'd be just fine with that.

  • @bb in GA: "It is instructive that the third derivative (wrt to time) of position is called "jerk"

    Yeah, and the fourth derivative is inauguration. So, inauguration is change of jerk. I learned that from an elevator engineerand checked it in some old calculus books.


    Bennett seems unaware that people respond to incentives.

    Women are getting a lot more education, because they need a whole extra rung to get the same pay as a man. A male HS grad gets the same pay as a college woman. A man with a BA, gets as much as a woman with an MA. Cut the sexist pay gap and women will start rethinking how much schooling they need.

    Similarly, it costs money to start a family. The US had massive government intervention – backing labor unions, regulation, high marginal taxes, scholarships – to create middle class jobs in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s, so men could earn family supporting wages. This was undone in the 80s, so women had to work too. Now, even with both parties working, supporting a family is nearly impossible.

    It's the classic conservative fallacy. No man is an island as much as conservatives pretend it were so.

  • I'm sure this might have come up before, but in this dismal job market it's not hard to understand why more women may be getting jobs or their earnings may appear to be rising against those of men. Since women typically receive lower wages and salaries, it makes sense for companies to hire them. It's no different from construction contractors hiring immigrants.

  • @bb: perhaps you could, but my own sin was the short cut. So many people have merged "immoral" with "unethical" that I used the three-syllable word for flow. Mea culpa. But I would like to hear more about a religion that considers it immoral for adults to throw tantrums, act spoiled, cut in front of children in lines, stay seated on the bus while pregnant ladies stand, and so on. The only religion I know that considers courtesy a mark of probity is Islam, but I don't think failure is considered immoral or sinful, only simply less than ideal. I may well be wrong.

    And Arslan nailed the job situation for women. Of course, if Eric Cantor has his way, we'll have a return to the Industrial Revolution, pre-reform: poisoned air and water, men unemployed, women dying of phossie jaw, children working until they are disabled from inhaling fumes or lint or dust — with no healthcare or workers' comp, of course — while factory owners hoard wealth and pressure management to cut costs. More women being hired than men in this economy is not a sign that women are moving up; it's a mile marker toward the 19th century oligarchy that is Cantor's goal.

  • This is not the direction of Ed's post, but the failure to employ young people, particularly in debt college grads is the seed of revolution. It will take longer in the US because our children have grown up with so much, but it will happen. Revolutions are almost always lead by the young and the middle class. Add the boomers who are waking up to the reality of homes they cannot sell, pensions stolen and former 401's that are now 201's.

    Anger delayed is much more violent than anger displayed.

  • Hey guys, we can put the ladies back in the kitchen where Bill Bennet wants 'em if only we can give up our collective video game addiction. Wait, what's that? Battlefield 3 is coming out in two weeks? Nevermind. Honey, you go be the breadwinner, I've got some 12-17 year olds to school.

  • I'd like to know when was this mythical time to which Bill Bennett is comparing today? You know, the one when 20-something women weren't complaining about the immaturity of 20-something men. I've never seen it, though I'm only in my thirties. And while, in retrospect, I can see my own immaturity in my twenties, both genders are pretty damn immature in their twenties. I'm pretty sure that I'll be lamenting my immature 30s in my 40s, my immature 40s in my 50s, and so on.

    But in the end, I definitely think using the opinions of one gender about the maturity of the other gender, at any age, is a flawed guage of either party's maturity… especially when maturity isn't terribly well defined.

  • … I've heard too many young women asking, "Where are the decent single men? …

    Truly this is the first time in modern history that such a question has been asked!


    But they lack motivation because they graduate into a world that has nothing for them except "No Vacancy" signs.

    There's always the military. Permanent War Economy electric boogaloo! Is feature not bug

  • Oh I'm sure they'll start employing young people, as soon as they lower the age restrictions or find a way to pay them less than the minimum wage.

  • I did the mature thing when I was in my twenties. It was, however, the Republican version of maturity: buying shit I didn't really need via debt. I got married, adopted a six-year-old, bought a house I couldn't afford, had another series of children, finished college, went to grad school, got a shitty job, got a real job and then had it all collapse under the weight of too much make-believe. The marriage ended, the job sucks balls, I live mortgage free but my mom moved in, finished paying off the minivan, and am happy as a clam now that I'm living within my means.

    I'm fucking lucky to be living in a house with no mortgage. There are plenty of times I'd trade my mom for a mortgage payment, but I know which one will last thirty years and which one won't. Why spend money for something I don't need when I can pay off debts and do more important things like support my children? As for dating? Most of the women my age (early 40s) have their own shitty situations. Either they're poor and back in school getting another degree, finally in school after trying the housewife and kids thing, unmarried and willing to date someone who lives with his mom because loneliness sucks, or all three. There are also a lot of women in shitty relationships looking for diversions, but that's another story. Immature behavior doesn't come with the Y chromosome, it comes from a lack of any actual rewards for good behavior.

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