Saying Yes to Saying No
By Meghan Clyne, Wall Street Journal
An excerpt: If you've already ditched your New Year's resolution, you are not alone: These days, self-control isn't exactly America's strong suit. Our economy is hobbled because too many of us bought homes we couldn't afford. Obesity is rampant—fueling demand for devices like the "Liftseat 600," a motorized toilet that will raise a 600-pound person to a standing position. Even when failure carries a hefty price, self-restraint is hard: Had Brett Favre only counted to 10 before hitting "send," he might have avoided a $50,000 fine from the NFL—and kept some last shred of dignity.
In "We Have Met the Enemy," Daniel Akst argues that the aggregate of such individual failings is a troubled society, one that has lost all sense of self- restraint. Why has our willpower so spectacularly abandoned us? In Mr. Akst's view, new technologies have removed the built-in delays that gave reason time to tame our baser instincts. Meanwhile, the erosion of community and hierarchy, of church and family, has robbed us of the external supports we relied on to keep ourselves in check. And while democracy and capitalism both demand and nurture self-mastery, they can also corrode it.
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