Some mansplaining on women’s access to the workplace

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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619 Responses

  1. Avatar Conor says:

    Ceterum autem censeo Comments Section esse delendam.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthago_delenda_estReport

  2. Avatar Patrick says:

    Saying that the reason many people are poor is due to “lifestyle choices” made by women, without (as best as I can see) any discussion as to men’s role in those same choices, is actually pretty sexist.

    Generally, saying, “Gee, it seems irresponsible for (those people) to act (that way)” when (that way) is the way (other people) acted in recent memory… and this was considered “normal”… is more a problem with people being unaware of their own privilege.

    Look, I was a latchkey kid for a portion of my growing up years. It didn’t hurt me. Nobody would have considered my parents out of line for having me bike home in fourth grade and do the laundry and a couple other chores and then sit down in front of the teevee and watch cartoons.

    Nowadays if you did that someone might call CPS if you live in a particular neighborhood. If I went home and drank a bottle of Draino when I was a kid, it would have been tragic. Today, some people might call for criminal negligence charges against my parents.

    None of this says whether or not it’s a good idea for fourth graders to have that much unattended-by-parental-unit time. Maybe it’s freeing and instructional and maybe it leads to unnecessary childhood accidents (and possibly it’s probably a combination of both).

    When you’re saying, “It’s not okay for (those people) to be doing that” when (your people) did it, it’s really hard for that to not come across as racist or sexist or whatever… but it’s probably more about the fact that your ideas of what constitute “those people” vs. “your people” is just effed.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Patrick says:

      Pat,

      I agree with this, but I was trying to say something slightly different.

      The unspoken argument that I am hearing is essentially this:

      Women were given all of these economic freedoms/privileges that men had, and now a bunch of them have gotten pregnant out of wedlock and are poor. That’s bad. Women clearly can’t be trusted with these freedoms/privileges, so we need to change things back to the way they were.

      What I find sexist is that when faced with a negative consequence of a situation that clearly takes both a man and a woman to get from point A to point B, the assumption is made that economic freedoms/privileges must be curtailed for women – but that mens’ economic freedoms/privileges should be allowed to remain intact.Report

      • While it may be true on a superficial, biological level that it takes a man and a woman to get a woman pregnant, socially and politically carrying a child to term is properly called *a choice*, which means that men are not in fact equally responsible for the results.

        I have to ask what you mean by this typification of the argument:

        the assumption is made that economic freedoms/privileges must be curtailed for women – but that mens’ economic freedoms/privileges should be allowed to remain intact.

        Do you think those saying these things mean the freedom ought to be curtailed legislatively? Or that social pressure ought be brought to bear to encourage these women to behave in a different manner? There’s a distinct difference.Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to Neoliberal Kochtopus says:

          Strong aversion to everything here from the name to the content.Report

        • Do you think those saying these things mean the freedom ought to be curtailed legislatively? Or that social pressure ought be brought to bear to encourage these women to behave in a different manner? There’s a distinct difference.

          This is quite accurate, at least up to a point. I am not comfortable applying social pressure or legislative pressure, but I think it is important that we know which we are talking about.

          What would EE have us do, exactly, about this problem? That’s the part of this conversation that I haven’t heard a whole lot about. “There isn’t much we can do” is an answer to that question, though. Is that EE’s?Report

        • There is a difference, yes. In fact, there are probably at least three choices:

          1. Make it so that women only legally allowed to do X.

          2. Have any field legally open to women, but allow it so companies and governments can refuse to hire/promote women based on gender.

          3. Encourage the populace to shame and ostracize women for being successful outside the home.

          But I’m not entirely sure that it matters which if those you choose. None is, in my opinion, morally acceptable; all, if attempted, would relegate the right even farther into national irrelevance; and even if they were successful, none would produce the “no-more-poverty” results Erickson seems to believe they will.

          It’s notable I think that neither Erickson or those defending him are actually suggesting a solution; they seem content to simply blame societies ill on women in the workforce and be done with it.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Tod, I’m sorry, but there is so much more here. . .

            One is the element of classic slut shaming. I don’t think they care if ‘women are in the workforce.’ But the thought of women having babies out of wedlock is a huge problem for them; just ask a single mother. They get derided for not working; leeching off the system, and derided for working and not tending to their obviously troubled children. The problem is that these women either had children out of wedlock or couldn’t manage to hold onto the man who fathered them; they’re sluts in EE&Co’s eyes.Report

            • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

              And if you take Dobb’s little abortion diatribe into account, those women are the absolute worst.

              No where did the speak about father’s responsibility to their children or mother’s of their children; the mother is supposed to be the ‘complement’ of the father; in their world view, there’s no call for him to be the helpmate of the mother. She’s there to serve him.Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to zic says:

              Here’s the issue with buying in to that whole “slut shaming” line of thought:
              There’s no there there.
              It’s not the sexual habits of people that are concerning, but the consequences of doing so foolishly.
              One of my best friends here is a psychologist for the school district. She was telling me that when she first came here, over half of the girls in the graduating class were pregnant. The prevalent line of thought was that by getting pregnant, they would have a man to take care of them after they got out of school.
              It has nothing whatsoever to do with being a slut or not being a slut. The other girls that weren’t getting pregnant were likely having sex as well– they just weren’t getting pregnant from it.
              I’ve also seen this same thing on a number of occasions where a young woman coming from an abusive background feels like she needs someone to love her; and so she beings having children very young. That typically doesn’t work out so well.

              But the whole issue of “slut shaming” acts more as a smoke-screen to ensure that no manner of productive discussion may take place.
              Women having sex is generally accepted in our society. Full stop.

              That said, there are a number of habits related to sex which are generally undesirable, or are indicative of some underlying problem. That’s not a gender-based perception.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

                “Women having sex is generally accepted in our society. Full stop.”

                See: Fluke, SandraReport

              • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

                Kaz, that was fast!Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Will H. says:

                But the whole issue of “slut shaming” acts more as a smoke-screen to ensure that no manner of productive discussion may take place.
                Women having sex is generally accepted in our society. Full stop.

                Men having sex in our society is generally accepted.

                Part of women having sex is that they get pregnant. (I know; I’ve got two children and two active birth control failures.) So I just completely disagree with you here, WillH. It wasn’t all that many months ago that Rush was calling Sandra Fluke a slut when she publicly made the point that reproductive health care includes contraception.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to zic says:

                I think the point that Rush was trying to make was that Fluke wanted contraception subsidized; that someone else’s pocketbook should open up because Fluke wants to have sex.
                And I think he has a point there, though it’s somewhat limited.
                But if you want to focus on the ineptitude of the phrasing of arguments by talk-radio hosts, that could make for a long day. I don’t see anything productive in that.
                Likewise, sound bites don’t interest me. They’re typically incoherent arguments, even when there’s a general point to be made. That would be like asking my brain to live on a diet of marshmallows; a generally unattractive proposition.

                Personally, I think the whole incident was a lost opportunity to bring up supplemental health plans, whether through insurance or HSA’s, and the general failings of the employer-based provider model.
                I guess other things take precedence when the topic of health care comes up though . . .Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

                When men have sex without a condom, impregnate the woman, run out, and leave her needing public assistance, can we call him a slut for our subsidizing his sex? Do we?Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                No. We call that person a criminal.
                States file criminal charges against people for not paying child support these days. It’s not an uncommon charge.

                So, taking your proposition as true, that being referred to in uncomplimentary terms by a talk-radio host is some kind of great social sanction (and there must necessarily be a great many who are thus sanctioned socially), how does that compare with being imprisoned and having a felony crime on your record?
                Can we match the data?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                I should have been clearer. He pays his child support but it is not enough to keep her off assistance.

                The fact is you said society accepts women having sex, “full stop.” Then you brush away one of the most popular radio hosts calling a girl a slut for wanting contraception because his fuzzy math told him her costs implied regular sex.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                Child support isn’t intended to keep mothers off of public assistance. It’s meant to provide for the child.
                And in most states these days, a single mother has to sign a statement authorizing criminal charges to be brought against the father(s) of her children if they fall behind on child support payments in order to be eligible for public assistance.
                So, if the children are being provided for, and the mother is living in poverty, those are two separate issues.

                Talk radio does what talk radio does.
                To ask me to buy in to every idea they might churn up is a bit unsettling. I have a responsibility to assess information. And that would be one of the few occasions where I consider the source above the content.

                But since you’re hung on this particular rung of stupidity . . .

                Fluke doesn’t require one specific form of contraception. Those little sponges with the spermicide in them are amazingly cheap from the local store.
                Regardless of what Rush might have said, the reaction to it was just as bad, if not worse. Rather than attempting to address issues, the pre-determined course became further entrenched.
                I distinguish clearly between ignorance and stupidity.
                And that was stupidity.
                Rush is Rush, and the Real Seats of Power are the Real Seats of Power.
                To confuse the two is inept of monumental proportion.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                So calling a young woman a slut because you think she likes to have sex is evidence that slut shaming isn’t real?Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                No.
                It’s evidence that you take anecdotal behaviors of the most boorishly inclined to paint with broad brush strokes.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                You’re the one who said “full stop”. You took an absolutist approach. All it takes is one boor to disprove it. And given the size of this boor and the folks who rallied around him (including people who used to grace the masthead here), I think it is fair to say he isn’t the lone exemption.

                Sucks when facts get in the way, eh?Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                You know, that particular form of idiocy is not uncommon, but that doesn’t prevent it from being idiocy.
                It’s not very productive.
                Now you get to sit and congratulate yourself on how wonderfully smart you were by focusing on one small word and being able to contrive an entirely different meaning from my words.
                But as far as the objective of communication is the exchange of ideas, you failed.

                There’s all sorts of oxygen trapped in water, but that doesn’t keep people from drowning in it.

                But if you want to play word games, fine.
                The onus is now on you to provide positive proof that a single exception is somehow relevant.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Words mean things.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                No.
                People mean things.
                The degree of volition required to achieve meaning is beyond the capacity of words.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Will H. says:

                No, she wanted her health insurance to cover contraception, just like most plans already cover viagra. Where as viagra isn’t necessary to a man’s health, contraception is central to a woman’s health.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to zic says:

                I understand cost pooling well enough.

                The thing is, I remember going to the store to purchase contraception after going over to my gf’s house without giving some grand speech on how I was being deprived the single most basic of all human rights on account of handing the cc over to the cashier.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

                Fluke’s remarks were in regard to women who need contraception for their physical health — there are certain medical conditions that are treated with female hormones — and because they’re ‘contraception,’ these are not covered by insurance.

                Incidentally, men are also sometimes treated with ‘contraception,’ my father was on the pill while he battled the prostate cancer that killed him.

                This was what got Fluke called a ‘slut.’

                And pregnancy is a health issue. Women die from pregnancy and birth; lack of health care during pregnancy can lead to all sorts of complications.

                Kudos on the condoms; they’re not all that reliable as birth control, though they’re better then nothing; but they’re pretty darned good at preventing the spread of STD.Report

              • Avatar Zane in reply to zic says:

                Will H., have you actually seen or read what Sandra Fluke said? Based upon your characterization, it seems you have not. Here’s a handy link to her full remarks if you are interested. This may not change your position, but at least it might shape how you speak of what she said.

                http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/mar/06/context-sandra-fluke-contraceptives-and-womens-hea/Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to Will H. says:

                Will, Fluke’s friend needed the prescription for medical reasons relating to the growth of cysts in her reproductive organs. The issue was not contraception. This point has been made over and over again. That this rather important distinction keeps getting overlooked never ceases to surprise me.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to DRS says:

                I didn’t follow it that closely. I would say I only followed it to the extent that I was unable to avoid it.
                But that is a pretty big distinction.
                I fact, it seems to undermine all of the arguments I heard concerning providing contraception as part of ‘basic health care.’Report

              • Avatar Barry in reply to Will H. says:

                “I think the point that Rush was trying to make was that Fluke wanted contraception subsidized; that someone else’s pocketbook should open up because Fluke wants to have sex.”

                In the sense of having something covered by insurance. I don’t recall Rush going after a whole raft of things covered by insurance which could be just as well described as ‘contraception subsidized; that someone else’s pocketbook should open up’.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Will H. says:

                Where do the guys fit into this Will. The girls didn’t get preggo by themselves. The guys had the option to use birth control ( if you’re not going to wack it, sack it).Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

                “if you’re not going to wack it, sack it”

                You’re suggesting I fire my penis? Seems a bit harsh.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                “Penis, I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but we’ve decided to go a different way.”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Yes, Tod, we’ve decided to downsize your genitalia.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

                True enough; and it follows the prevailing standard of ignorance.
                And really, each one is indicative of two people who really didn’t have enough time to grow up before adult responsibilities were forced on them.
                But I don’t think many of those high school romances were enduring.
                Sadly, that’s not enough to encourage alternative behavior.Report

        • I do think that there are some unintended consequences to the ubiquity of birth control in damn near all of the country and the availability of abortion in most of it that will start popping up soon… specifically the attitude that “if you have a baby, it’s because you chose to”.

          It’s the pro-lifers who are, ironically, keeping that attitude from taking hold.Report

          • Avatar Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

            The dynamic I see in the longer term is that of a Great Justice.
            First, all children should be instructed from a very early age that human life is without inherent value.
            Second, the teachers of these things will be left at the mercy of those young ones in due time; and their lives will hang in the balance of how well those early lessons were learned.
            I can think of no truer form of Justice.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Patrick says:

      Ironically, the violent crime rate was three times higher when you were a kid.

      I don’t see what that has to do with the topic at hand, though. We’re talking about having children out of wedlock, right? Those who condemn it are pretty consistent about it, aren’t they?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I’d think that for kids home alone, accidents are a bigger issue than crime. Certainly I’d hesitate to leave a 9-year-old alone in the safest of neighborhoods.Report

        • Avatar Lyle in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Actually that raises an interesting point, as noted many of the older of us were allowed to be home alone for at least some time at 9 to 10. I recall being left at home once because a delivery was due and it was not clear when it would come. I think I was 10 at the time. If you think about it there were more ways for a kid to kill themselves at home back then than today, as many insecticides and the like were not as regulated, and although we did not have guns in the house many at the time did. Is it because there are fewer children around that now we value them higher than in the old days, or that the odds of dieing due to sickness are now low enough that these “accidents” become important. Of course we rode around in cars without car seats ( I recall my mother pushed me down(according to her story) before one collision (below the dashboard). Further we rode bikes without helmets. What I wonder is why the change in attitudes in 40-60 years.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Also, we’re talking about a lot of things, because “percentage of households where the chief breadwinner is a woman” covers so many different situations. That’s one reason the conversation is so confused.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Yeah, right up until it’s their daughters. They pause, hug their grandbabies, help her fill out the paper work for public assistance, and then go on condemning those horrid women who work and essentially abandon their children or those lazy *itches who sit around and welch off the system instead of working.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I wonder how many men who make the above arguments grew up in homes with:

    1. Stay-At-Home moms

    2. Remember the situation of their childhood through rose-colored glasses that strongly resemble a Leave It To Beaver episodeReport

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    You seem surprised by the goof ball statement that led you to make this post. None of the things EE said or the follow up responses in the threads here are new or , frankly, surprising. This is a pretty standard line on women from a solid chunk of the right for decades. Nothing really new here.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I have a solution that’ll make everyone happy. Say that in some calendar year the husband earns X and the wife Y. In the problem case where Y > X, simply impose a 100% tax rate on the wife starting at X and award the husband a tax credit of Y-X. The husband is now the primary breadwinner (note that this works even for stay-at-home dads with zero income.)

    * Conservatives get the social order restored. Since it’s revenue-neutral, not even Tea Partiers can complain.
    * Liberals get government social engineering.
    * Men get to feel powerful again.
    * Women get to shake their heads about what idiots men are.

    Next, I’ll fix the Meddle East. Or maybe the Cubs.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      And that’s just glossing over the part that if modern women’s “lifestyle choices” were the primary source of poverty, poverty it would be a pretty new thing, rather than as old as civilization itself.

      The causes of poverty in poor and welathy economies are very different. In poor economies, poverty is the norm due to bad institutions and inadequate capitalization, and it takes extraordinary effort and/or luck to escape it. In wealthy economies, which have generally good economic institutions and high capital-to-labor ratios, poverty is not the norm, and is generally the result of bad choices.

      Poverty may not be new, but poverty in a wealthy economy is.Report

      • Wow – really?

        This begs the question: Do you believe that prior to women being allowed into the workplace there were no wealthy economies, or are have there been societies where women worked with no poverty you can point to?

        I have never heard it argued that poor people in wealthy countries is a new phenomenon. It seems a pretty easily refutable argument. Or is this one of those things where you’re using a definition of “poverty” is made with so many gymnastic bends as to fit only countries that fit a predetermined X criteria?Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Of course poverty in wealthy economies is a new phenomenon—wealthy economies are a new phenomenon. It’s really only been a few generations since first-world economies reached the point where poverty ceased to be the norm.

          I’m not blaming this on women’s entry into the workplace. I haven’t really been following the prior threads, so I didn’t really make that connection. I took the fourth point as largely unrelated to the other three.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            How are you defining poverty?Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

              The federal poverty guidelines, give or take. Median family income in the US in 1945 was only slightly above the federal poverty line for a family of four today.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                So if peoe in 1945 were making the same or less than the 2013 poverty line, they were living in poverty? That makes no sense.

                How are you determining poverty rates in historically poor societies?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

                That’s adjusted for inflation, of course. And I don’t see why it doesn’t make sense. They had a standard of living that we would now describe as poverty. Why would we not call it that?

                How are you determining poverty rates in historically poor societies?

                Tautologically. If a country had a PPP-adjusted per-capita GDP of $4,000, then the poverty rate must have been high.

                What do you mean by “poverty,” if not a low standard of living?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                So is poverty relative or absolute?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

                If your relatives are poor, too — then it’s absolute.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                They had a standard of living that we would now describe as poverty.

                So did Louis XIV; he’s not usefully described as “poor”. We all probably have a standard of living that will seem shockingly deprived in 2100. Anchoring the terms “wealth” and “poverty” to the standard of 2013 makes them meaningless in a historical context.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Well, sort of. He was poor in some senses, but very wealthy in others (huge house, servants, nice clothes, good food, etc.). If we calculated his PPP-adjusted consumption, it would likely be in the tens of millions.

                But all of that is straying a bit far from my point, which is simply that in modern economies it’s far, far easier to avoid being poor than it was in the past.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                There was a really fascinating debate on a usenet group that I posted on several years ago about comparing the elite of the past with the poor or middle class of the present and determining how has a better standard of living. The debate ended inconclusively. The more capitalist-oriented side argued that the poor and middle class are better off than say an upper tier Russian aristocrat because of the material goods and better services they have at their disposal. The more liberal/leftist side argued that you can not really compare past and present.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                “Anchoring the terms “wealth” and “poverty” to the standard of 2013 makes them meaningless in a historical context.”

                So when someone tells me about how “inequality” has changed since some historical time, I can tell them that anchoring the term “inequality” to the standard of 2013 makes it meaningless in a historical context?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                That makes no sense at all. Honestly, it barely even makes no sense.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I’ve said it before. I went to a lecture by Barbara Tuchman, a fine historian and expositor, who told us it was the hallmark of neophyte historians that they looked through the lenses of the present to judge the past.

                There is a way to compare different times, though. We can measure inequality in the era of Gogol’s Ukraine and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County with equal facility because both are fictitious. But both have lasted because they were truer than the data could ever demonstrate. Gogol’s Inspector General is as true today as it ever was, the fawning, corrupt little bureaucrats. Darl Bundren’s still burning down the barn and Addie’s corpse is still stinking.

                There’s no practical difference between now and then. People haven’t evolved that quickly. The rich go on making the excuses they always have, the poor resent them as per the ancients. Beyond that, there’s no comparison.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        My life would be so much easier if I were capable of holding such facile ideas about how the world works, particularly when those facile ideas reinforce my own feeling of superiority.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Can you explain why 4.5% of Americans made bad choices in 2007, and 14% were making bad choices in mid-2009?Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

          Are you talking about the unemployment rate? Because the poverty rate has never been as low as 4.5%.Report

          • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Yes. As a proxy.

            It is easy for the prosperous to blame poverty on the bad character or bad choices of the poor. But both poverty (and unemployment, which is a surefire source of poverty) waver over time, in a way that undermines such facile hypothesizing about its underlying roots.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

              It’s not a great proxy. Unemployment doesn’t necessarily result in poverty, except in a technical sense: income is low, but it can be supplemented by savings. Even at that, the poverty rate has been fluctuating between 11% and 15% for fifty years. Also, the unemployment rate peaked at 10.6%, not 14%, in January 2010. Other measures were higher, but they weren’t as low as 4.5% in 2007, either.

              Is falling into poverty due to involuntary unemployment a result of bad choices? Sometimes, yeah. People should live below their means during good times so that they can save enough to get through bad times. That said, this was the worst recession in 80 years, and even those who were prepared for a normal recession might have got caught short.

              This basically supports my original point: The wealthier a country is, the greater the extent to which poverty reflects personal failure. The US was not as wealthy in 2009 as in 2007, and poverty became a weaker indicator of personal failure.

              Really, I find it hard to take resistance to this point seriously. In the US, an adult with a full-time job and no dependents cannot fall below the poverty line. A 40-hour, minimum-wage job will put you at 130% of the poverty line for a one-person household. As long as you have a full-time job and don’t have any children, you can’t be poor. If you get a roommate with a full-time minimum-wage job, that brings you up to 194%.

              Does anyone here dispute the claim that the poverty rate would fall dramatically if people stopped having children when they couldn’t afford them, or had a significant chance of becoming unable to afford them in the near future? How is that not a bad choice?Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                That’s great. So if you’re laid off from your job when you’re in your ’30’s, the first thing you should do is get rid of the kids and find yourself one of these 40-hour-a-week minimum wage jobs. Then you’re laughing all the way to the bank. And you can make a tidy profit from the sale of the kids as well.

                Genius.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to DRS says:

                Do you or do you not dispute the claim that the poverty rate would fall dramatically if people stopped having children when they couldn’t afford them, or had a significant chance of becoming unable to afford them in the near future?

                Note that “dramatically” does not mean “to zero.”Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I don’t dispute that the poverty rate would fall dramatically if people could tell the future with absolute clarity and know what their economic situation will be at all stages of their life and could adjust their lives accordingly.

                I also don’t dispute that you kind of neglected to address my point that someone who has a good job and loses it, only to find it almost impossible to find an equivalent one, doesn’t seem to have any good options in your view. Or to put it another way: you don’t seem to think they actually exist because they’d mess up your worldview.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to DRS says:

                I didn’t neglect to address it so much as get fed up mid-comment with your obtuseness. If you can’t tell the difference between “generally” and “always,” or actually read the comment to which you responded, or understand that exceptions do not disprove a general rule, that’s not something I’m interested in taking the time to fix.

                And now you’re at it again with this “absolute clarity” nonsense. It seems to me that your worldview is the one with no tolerance for nuance.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to DRS says:

                Hey, I got fed up with your obtuseness too but I soldiered on.

                And again you duck the issue: what do you do if you already have the kids?

                Hint: insulting me doesn’t make that issue go away.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Do you or do you not dispute the claim that the poverty rate would fall dramatically if people stopped having children when they couldn’t afford them, or had a significant chance of becoming unable to afford them in the near future?

                So, er… at what level of income is it considered appropriate… in your opinion… to have children responsibly, by this measure?

                You want the birthrate down to… what? 0.3 or so?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick says:

                While such a low birth rate might decrease poverty for the folk of child-rearing age, wouldn’t it increase poverty for those children, when they’re adults, with such a small cohort of working-age people to care for such a large cohort of elderly people?

                I seem to recall this being one of Douthat’s complaints; and a topic of concern for Japan and China.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

                CarrouselReport

              • Avatar Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                What “near future” are you talking about? You do realize that children don’t magically stop costing money after the age of 5, right?Report

              • I’m not entirely sure where to begin with this.

                I mean, yes, you are correct. Clearly, people with more access to wealth and opportunity have more options in the world. But after nodding along, I’m not sure that gets us anywhere.

                I’m not sure that many people on any end of the financial spectrum have children based on optimum economic conditions. When my wife and I had children, we didn’t run numbers through a spreadsheet to see if we could afford kids. We don’t live in the economic band that we do because we targeted our kids’ birthrates; we live in that band for reasons entirely unrelated to our kids.

                People are going to choose to have children, no matter what. They aren’t going to say, “sheesh, my family all lives on the lower end of the economic spectrum, so I guess I’ll forgo my dreams of ever having sex or raising children.” Would less people be poor if that’s the way human beings worked? Well, probably, but less people would be poor if we all shat food and gold.

                I’m also uncomfortable with the policy implications of such a conclusion. (Not your implications, BB, just where I think others would naturally take such a conclusion.) Do we not allow people with an income above X to have children? Do we take people with certain developmental disabilities who will never be able to create much wealth on their own and sterilize them?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                People are going to choose to have children, no matter what.

                Sure. But let’s dispense with the nonsense about how it’s not their fault. People do all kinds of stupid, irresponsible things, no matter what. Why is this the only one where we’re not supposed to call them on it?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                To explain better where I’m coming from, the core of my political philosophy basically boils down to the idea that wherever possible, people should receive the benefits and bear the costs of their own choices. Any deviation from this creates incentives for people to make choices whose net social costs exceed the net social benefits.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Right. What’s your take on the 2008 mortgage crisis and the people who caused it?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                “To explain better where I’m coming from, the core of my political philosophy basically boils down to the idea that wherever possible, people should receive the benefits and bear the costs of their own choices.”

                So you’ll be ringing the anti-privilege bell at the next march?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Honestly, I don’t understand it well enough to have an educated opinion.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Brandon, I don’t believe you.

                But I could put together a nice reading list if you want some education. Hint: it was only about home mortgages in the abstract.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                That was to BlaiseP.

                Kazzy: For a valid definition of “privilege,” sure. For example, I support increased immigration of skilled workers, something that specifically erodes my privilege as a skilled worker in the US. My objection to left-wing “privilege” rhetoric is not that I like privilege, but that it’s very often simply wrong.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                The core of your philosophy is the point being disputed.

                The idea that everyone should be free to do their own thing, and then be left to deal with the consequences is exactly the atomized individualism that people like me object to on several grounds.
                One is simple utility- there simply isn’t any way to separate the consequences of our decisions from the consequences of everyone else’s; My job depends on decisions made on the other side of the globe, in a vast network of interconnected causalities.
                Insisting that everyone should save and insure and cover themselves against these possible risks is to advocate that we retreat financially into a bunker.

                Morally, it is on even shakier ground- the idea that we reject the family and community obligations of shared risk and sacrifice and reward calls into question the whole concept of community and nation.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                You’re the one rattling on about people saving, Brandon. Most people’s single greatest investment was in their homes. That’s called an Equity Position. When their mortgages were sold and sold again, eventually those people’s monthly mortgage payments became the terms of a bet.

                You could bet on people paying every month — in which case you bought into the credit default swap. Or you could bet against people paying, and sell CDSes.

                Other interesting things were going on. Remember Enron and how they got in trouble? They were running their own card game and when they didn’t like a hand they were dealt, they surreptitiously threw it in the nearest trash can.

                The parallels are very exact between a card game and the 2008 Crash. You don’t want the dealer on both sides of the table. You don’t want the dealer’s friends on the other side of the table. Dealers cheat more than the rubes.

                Basically, the dealers were in cahoots with each other, running their own side games — with each other, playing with the rubes’ money. And they took the house down with them when the whole thing collapsed.

                And they took the rubes’ houses with them as it collapsed. It’s called a Liquidity Crisis. All those rubes, with all those defective mortgages, thinking they were stashing their money away in nice suburban houses, were just making bad personal decisions, if you’re to be taken seriously.

                It’s okay if you don’t have an educated opinion. Just know this, Brandon, millions of fairly intelligent, well-educated people are now bankrupt and their houses are foreclosed on, thanks to a handful of people for whom there were no consequences for their Poor Decisions.

                I resent your implication that these people are making Poor Decisions. The dutch uncle-ing has to stop. For those of us who do understand this problem reasonably well, America’s people weren’t to blame for what’s happened to them in 2008. But what really angers me is your assertion that ordinary people are in a position to make these decisions, independently of the winds and tides of a system beyond their control.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                BB,
                Have you read this: http://ted.coe.wayne.edu/ele3600/mcintosh.html

                Would that qualify as a good starting point for identifying privilege?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Kazzy:
                Yes, I’ve seen that. It’s a mixed knapsack. A few of them just strike me as dubious (The IRS does racial profiling? It’s hard to find black music at stores?), many seem to me to be regrettable but largely unavoidable consequences of being a minority, and still others overlap pretty well with my “Don’t be a jerk” approach to anti-racism.

                I’m not seeing anything there that strikes me as a good example of people externalizing the costs of their own actions.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                It’s hard for me to find dark beer in this town.
                This harms even those who sympathize with dark beer.
                My freedom is being infringed.

                HELP ME PEOPLE ! ! !Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                You live in a Beer Desert. Brew some yourself.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Yeah, I need to.
                I’ve got the grains measured out for a brown porter.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                The idea that everyone should be free to do their own thing, and then be left to deal with the consequences is exactly the atomized individualism that people like me object to on several grounds.

                Doesn’t have to be atomized individualism at all. Those at just scary words designed to end debate, rather than promote it. There’s nothing in Brandon’s view that precludes asking friends, family or charity for assistance, or of offering assistance to friends, family or through charities. LWA’s repeated misrepresentation of libertarians’ positions–his insistence on portraying it as purely self-regarding and devoid of concern for others–has grown tiresome. I call on him to stop it, because it’s untruthful, cannot be made true through his repetition, and his repetition strongly suggests that he is merely a more polite version of M.A., but no more interested in honest discussion.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                What I don’t like about it is that you can use those exact words as prelude for why women should work in the home or why we need to protect traditional marriage.

                Hell, there are people that do.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                BB,

                Based on what you said there, I think you may have an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of privilege. Even if features of it are “unavoidable consequences of being a minority” doesn’t make their inverse any less privileged. The idea of privilege is that there is an unearned advantage bestowed upon some. It doesn’t require malice or deliberate action to exist. So when you speak of people receiving the benefits of their choices… well, no one chooses to be a man or a woman, or black or white, so whatever benefits are inferred from those characteristics inherently violate your philosophy.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                the core of my political philosophy basically boils down to the idea that wherever possible, people should receive the benefits and bear the costs of their own choices.

                So lets talk about the children. They are, presumably, people, too. Your core political philosophy visits the sins of the father upon the son.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I don’t see that in LWA’s position, James.

                What if you have no friends?Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                James, you don’t like that I paint libertarianism as completely self-regarding.
                OK, fine lets go with your assertion that “dealing with the consequences” – for the libertarian- can include begging for help from family and friends.
                Further, lets assume that libertarians are as kind and considerate as anyone else.

                How would a kindly libertarian react to appeals for charity from a family member?
                Is there some moral duty to help, like religious people assert?
                Is there some baseline outcome that absolutely must be observed? Does the victim have some essential human dignity that no libertarian is allowed to violate? Who gets to decide that? Is it enforceable, or voluntary?

                The trouble with Brandon’s assertion isn’t that he isn’t kind; its that the moral philosophy is unformed and embryonic. It doesn’t acknowledge or encounter the vast number of other values and virtues besides liberty that people have.

                I discuss this in more depth below in response to Michael Drew’s comment.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                LWA,

                James, you don’t like that I paint libertarianism as completely self-regarding.

                I don’t like any of this “group X is such-and-such” when said by members of group Y. That includes libertarians saying “liberals are such-and-such,” as well as liberals saying “libertarians are such-and-such.” There’s the whole problem of out-group defining of some other group, whether it’s whites defining blacks, blacks defining Asians, Christians defining Muslims, etc., etc., etc. Something may appear to be a certain way to us, but we really need to be hesitant to say “group X is…”

                How would a kindly libertarian react to appeals for charity from a family member? Is there some moral duty to help…?

                How would a kindly person react to appeals for charity from a family member?

                The issue for libertarians is not that there is something wrong with helping others, but that one person’s mistakes, and even misfortunes, cannot give them a moral claim on someone else in a way that imposes a duty on them. But not having a duty to help does not mean you can’t choose to do so.

                You know the reason this really really irritates me? Because I help people frequently. I help people move, I helped my neighbor build his fence and rebuild the roof of his deck. I had a bicycle my daughter had grown out of that I planned to sell at a garage sale, but when my neighbors’ granddaughter moved in with them I gave it to her. Am I not at least reasonably other-regarding? And yet your claim about libertarianism would say that I cannot be so; that if I do these things then I must abandon any claim to being libertarian.

                Why don’t you ask Brandon if he’s ever helped someone else out of the goodness of his heart? Or Roger? Or Jaybird? Or Jason Kuznicki? Or (apologies to) any libertarian here I left off this list?

                Seriously, why don’t you ask us what we are instead of telling us what we are?

                Does the victim have some essential human dignity that no libertarian is allowed to violate?

                Sure, we just define that violation differently. You seem to be saying that if we don’t help someone we have violated their dignity. We would disagree with that and say if we took a positive action that harmed them we would have violated their dignity. Now I don’t want to argue for whose definition is better, or try to persuade you away from yours; I just ask that you recognize our position on this, that we do have a firm position on not violating a person’s dignity.

                The trouble with Brandon’s assertion isn’t that he isn’t kind; its that the moral philosophy is unformed and embryonic.

                I’m not in perfect agreement with Brandon, but this is not necessarily true. It’s just formed in a different way than yours. I think it’s pretty unthoughtful for you to refuse to accept that a person could just have a different moral philosophy than yours. There isn’t a single moral philosophy that is clearly objectively true or that all the world’s moral philosophers agree on, so those that differ from yours are not necessarily “embryonic” just because it doesn’t have the same contours as yours.

                In truth, I’m tempted to criticize your moral philosophy as poorly formed because based on your arguments here, you seem to view other-regardingness as something that has to take place through government, or at least collective group-level action, rather than something that can occur as individual action, too. But I bet I’d be missing something, and you’d tell me I was wrong. And that would be fair. But then how could you assume that you actually understand Brandon’s moral philosophy well enough to make such a claim about it?

                The problem here, in my opinion, is that you are absolutely unwilling to listen to libertarians. You have defined them in a way that’s satisfactory to you, and you engage in confirmation bias when you read what we have to say, looking for those particular things you can jump on, or that you can conveniently interpret to support your view, but never making any serious effort to understand libertarians on their own terms. But until we understand others–whoever they are–on their own terms, we don’t really understand them.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I resent your implication that these people are making Poor Decisions. The dutch uncle-ing has to stop. For those of us who do understand this problem reasonably well, America’s people weren’t to blame for what’s happened to them in 2008. But what really angers me is your assertion that ordinary people are in a position to make these decisions, independently of the winds and tides of a system beyond their control.

                I understand the crisis very well, as good as anyone else here. I don’t blame America’s people for what happened (I find the “predatory borrower” argument obnoxious). However, there were plenty of people that made bad decisions, especially those that sucked the equity out of their homes or bought homes with no money homes and took out “exotic” mortgages to do so. They left themselves exposed to a slowdown in price appreciation and short-term refi risk (the exotic mortgages were structured to be refinanced once the teaser rates reset). I can’t call that a good decision by any stretch of the imagination.

                However, I see your point, especially when you say independently of the winds and tides of a system beyond their control. Ordinary people need to be in positions where they can make those decisions, but the mortgage market circa 2003-2006-ish was no such place. What was once a functioning source of stable capital became a market dominated by fly-by-night scumbags peddling all sorts of crap that the ratings agencies and regulators should have never let seen the light of day. When the capital exited the market after home prices started to fall, it left the collateral damage in its wake, including a lot of ordinary Americans. Putting ordinary Americans in positions to make decisions in shady as hell markets is a recipe for disaster, one that requires a regulatory solution. Nothing good can come from it.

                Hopefully, the qualified mortgage guidelines set forth by Dodd Frank will address most of these issues. We’ll see how that translates to the securitization markets.Report

              • IS having a child a stupid thing? I think this is where you’re losing me.

                If I had the choice between living in poverty for the rest of my life with my kids or living at with my current economic status and have them erased, it wouldn’t actually even be a choice.

                I don’t think “smart” and “stupid” enters into it with people – except when they’re talking about the kids of other tribes.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Since nobody else has said as much . . .
                This argument is largely irrelevant.

                1) The total of persons living in poverty due to having children is likely very low. At least, we can say they were borderline cases anyway.

                2) Even if the parent is living in poverty from having too many children, the child is an autonomous unit apart from the parent. Even if it’s true that the parents made horrible choices, this is insufficient reason for us, as a society, to take that out on the child.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                There is no more important choice a child makes than picking the right parents, and I don’t see why we should subsidize the ones who screwed it up.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                “let’s dispense with the nonsense about how it’s not their fault.”

                Is it my fault if I was born to parents who drank too much, and as a result I struggled in school and suffer from depression that was never treated, even when I was older because I had no insurance. If so, can you blame me for failing to do well in college and early in work as a result?

                Can you blame my friends who were better internally and psychologically for not having connections that would allow them to get a better job? (NB: most people get jobs through nepotism and networks. It very often is who you know.)

                This idea of yours that we can blame EVERYONE who is poor (not just a slelect few) for being poor is the heart of the madness of modern conservatism. It rests on the thoroughly debunked notion that our choices are not heavily constrained and influenced by our environments and on the equally debunked notion that the poor don’t have options that the rich do.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                +1 ShazbotReport

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I don’t think there is a misunderstanding here at all, actually.

                What you are saying is that there are no positive rights, or moral duties to provide care.
                That’s crystal clear, something you have been very emphatic on.

                I’m not suggesting that you often, or even ever, choose not to.

                What I am saying is that that concept originates from a very different place than contemporary conservatives and liberals start from, and is quite a radical reordering of the moral world.

                As I mention downthread, what I am really not grasping is your “Why?”
                Why do you believe that there are no moral duties? Or rather, why do you think it is morally wrong to oblige you to do so?Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

                Weird- I meant this as a response to Hanley’s post in the indent above.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

                What you are saying is that there are no positive rights, or moral duties to provide… I’m not suggesting that you often, or even ever, choose not to.

                But you are suggesting that, when you say libertarians are not other-regarding. So what’s the deal? Do libertarians do things that show they care about others or are they purely self-regarding? Or is other-regardingness not expressible through individual actions but only through group actions?

                quite a radical reordering of the moral world.

                I’m sorry, but that’s just not true. As a matter of our legal and philosophical traditions there has never been a positive duty to rescue others.

                Why do you believe that there are no moral duties?

                I implore you to be more careful in your phrasing. I did not say “no” moral duties. I have a moral duty not to positively harm you. I don’t have a moral duty to protect you from harm. Why not? Tell me why, when that’s not our legal/philosophical tradition? You are you and I am me–where would I get a moral claim on your charity that would bind you?Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

                First, lets stipulate that you, and all the libertarians here are fine and generous to a fault.
                I just don’t think that is of any interest or relevancy.

                There probably has never been a legal obligation to “rescue” others, but that’s lawyer-ising.

                I assert that Christian theology does endorse a moral duty to help others. But even more, there is in most of the worlds culture a deep ethos of tribal obligations, that people are bound by duty and obligation to their family, clan, village and nation.

                When you read history, don’t you see a pattern of cultures that assume and impose a set of obligations and duties?

                I would enjoy having a discussion of why I don’t think “positive rights” is a useful or valuable way of talking about things, but I think we should get past this part first.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to LWA says:

                Just to go extreme James, do you have a duty to save a drowning child if you are walking by and are an excellent swimmer?Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

                First, lets stipulate that you, and all the libertarians here are fine and generous to a fault.
                I just don’t think that is of any interest or relevancy.

                Wrong, because you essentially claimed the opposite above. As I said above, I don’t want to argue the moral obligation issue because neither of us can persuade the other. I want to talk about your claims about libertarianism.

                You accused libertarians of atomized individualism, but then you agree that libertarians might generously help other people. How do you reconcile that helping with the claim of atomized individualism? Or do you think that maybe atomized individualism wasn’t an accurate description?Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

                Shazbot, I’ll answer any such questions after you answer my question that you repeatedly avoided a few weeks ago: is it legitimate to have a child redistribution lottery, so that mothers with extra children can be required to give an extra child to a want-to-be mother who can’t conceive?

                If you’re not willing to answer my questions, then don’t ask me any questions. I got tired of that game with another commenter here, and I just won’t play it again.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

                When you read history, don’t you see a pattern of cultures that assume and impose a set of obligations and duties?

                Oh, yes. I do see a pattern of tribalism and nationalism that needs to be uprooted and destroyed, as the most harmful and destructive force the world has ever known.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

                I don’t think the personal behavior of libertarians is what I was speaking of- and if that was inferred, my bad.

                Even if libertarians behave generously as individuals, its the denial of the moral duty that is radical. Simply saying, “There does not exist a moral duty to affirmatively assist my tribe” is a radical statement. If that doesn’t constitute an atomization of the individual, what does?

                We can agree or disagree on whether it is a good or bad thing, but what should be universally agreed is that it is very new, and is without precedent.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

                You’re not really ansering my question, but trying to turn it around on me. Let me ask it this way:

                How is “Joe’s made some mistakes, but I really like the guy and want to help him out” atomistic? Doesn’t our liking for others, our desire to help them* bring us together, rather than being atomistic?

                * as opposed to doing it grudgingly from a sense of duty, or having it done by others in our name, often without us even realizing it’s been done (name three poor people your tax dollars helped last week).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LWA says:

                Shaz,

                Do you think health care is a right? Because rights shouldn’t be conditional…Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to LWA says:

                James,

                name three poor people your tax dollars helped last week

                Do you really want to go here? Are you really, really sure?

                A friend’s daughter went to the doctor’s last week, a sports injury. Her insurance is through SCHIP. The doctor she saw works for a non-profit health center, where just about everyone here gets primary medica care, that center was built through a variety of federal, state, programs and matching local money. This family lives in poverty because their business collapsed with the economy; they’re struggling to keep their house. She now cleans houses, which is back-breaking work, and the father manages a local store, neither are able to get health insurance through their jobs. That’s one person, or just about everyone in a 20-mile radius, take your pick.

                I have new neighbors, who just purchased the house next door. Her daughter and grandson will move into her old house down the street, they’re moving out of an affordable housing complex, funded through community block grants from HUD; and this single (and working) mom receives food stamps. She left her husband because he was abusive, so law enforcement was also involved in helping her. That’s person two.

                Today, my son drove a man to get measured for a tux for his son’s wedding. Hard-working carpenter; ripped his rotator cuff on the job. Surgeon who reattached it botched the job, and he cannot move one arm even to his shoulder, has little motor control of the hand. The tux-rental place is in the city, and he doesn’t dare drive there, fearing his one-armed reflexes are not up to city traffic. He has constant pain. He receives disability benefits because he cannot work. He’s proud of his son, who, like him, works hard and is honest and caring.

                These are my neighbors, my friends. They all are trying their best to do the right thing; to care for their families, to be good citizens. They’re all poor. And they are each grateful for the help they get, without that, they know they’d not only be poor, they’d be desperate.

                I, on the other hand, pay AMT most years. I do not begrudge these people one penny of that. The first family didn’t ask people to explode the economy so that the business they’d worked to build for a decade couldn’t maintain enough customer base to keep going. The second’s daughter didn’t ask her ex-husband to decide he could beat her up (this began when she got pregnant). The third would have liked to have his shoulder repaired so that he could have returned to work.

                I picked these three because I have offered them help. They each said no, they’re proud. It’s hard enough to take aid from the government; but they at least feel they helped pay into the system that allows them this help.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

                Yes, zic, I do want to go there. I respect your answers, but I think yo and LWA live in different worlds. And even if he, like you, can name real poor people benefitting from his tax dollars, my question to him still remains: how is helping people out of personal liking atomistic? How would you answer that question?

                Keep in mind I’m not arguing about the moral duty/lack of issue here. I’m just challenging LWA on what seems to me to be a false representation of libertarianism, and on his continued habit of telling libertarians what they are rather than ever listening to them. That is, I’m less interested in subsantive issues here, and more interested in the way the debate is being engaged (an issue where I never have concerns about my conversations with you).Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

                “Doesn’t our liking for others, our desire to help them* bring us together, rather than being atomistic?[… ]as opposed to doing it grudgingly from a sense of duty”

                I think this is the crux of the problem- you are setting up a false dilemma of voluntary charity versus grudging duty.

                You are looking at this only through the lens of individuals- you see that voluntary interactions affirm human bonding, which is true.

                But the freedom to choose to do the right thing also implies the freedom to do the wrong thing; in your preferred system, everyone is at risk, never knowing ahead of time whether the bonds they have formed are going to be honored.

                The point of obligatory bonds (and nationalism and tribalism) is not to create grudging coercion but to create certainty and safety.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

                You are looking at this only through the lens of individuals- you see that voluntary interactions affirm human bonding, which is true.

                Then do you retract your claim about atomistic individualism? You seem reluctant to directly answer my question, and I don’t want to address the rest of your comment until we’ve clarified this point.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

                LWA,

                I am just confused on what this word “duty” means to you.

                A duty is a social obligation. I believe there are all kinds of social obligations. Anyone who doesn’t believe there are social obligations would seem to me to be a bit of a social outcast, perhaps even a psychopath.

                If an able bodied swimmer saw a drowning child and did nothing, everyone in that society would shun and condemn him. I sure would.

                Duty or social obligations serve a purpose in society. They are, generically, a good solution and have probably been strongly reinforced through both biological and cultural evolution for over a hundred thousand years.

                That said, there are certain shared duties which may be dysfunctional. Habits and conventions can be good or bad, and the same goes for duties.

                This classical liberal believes strongly in the basic concepts and value of duty and social responsibility and obligation. This doesn’t mean that I agree with you though on specific obligations. The devil is probably in the detail.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

                James-
                I think we are working off different understandings of the word “atomistic”- I don’t see how anything that we have said contradicts my understanding.
                Roger, “Duty” to me means pretty much what you describe, but in my view, our duties to tribe and nation are very much open ended- to give some examples frequently described by libertarians, if the nation decides that national defense requires conscription; or if the tribe decides that a system of taxpayer funded day care is needed, then so long as there is some recognized form of due process, duty requires compliance.

                Its much more than “rescue”.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

                OK.

                You believe we have a social obligation to pay for day care for others if we follow due process in establishing this obligation. I basically agree.

                I just believe extending duties in this way is often (usually) suboptimal. You are inflicting a series of top down mutual obligations on people in ways which guarantees winners and losers and arms races of exploitation and defense. I believe the proper way to do this TENDS to be to establish mutually agreed upon social or contractual obligations.

                I believe your way leads over time to self amplifying rent seeking, free riding and disincentives to produce. This leads to lower growth rates and over long enough time frames to less prosperity which could be used to fund such activities.

                Yours leads to a duty to subsidize giant agricultural conglomerates to grow ethanol. To duties to allow people who feel depressed to collect disability. To duties to pay single girls to sleep with irresponsible boys knowing we will help pay to raise their offspring. To duties to go to Vietnam and Iraq and kill innocent people for the aggrandizement of politicians. To duties to pay the majority of ones earnings to taxes.

                After a certain point, duty no longer means anything. The only way to prosper in such an environment is either to be a parasite, or to be a middle man skimming off the parasitism (politicians, bureaucrats, state workers). We each try to get more “duties” delivered our way, while avoiding the productivity necessary to actually pay for the responsibilities ( the last one to work is a total sucker). Of course this just leads to the DUTY to work.

                That is the long answer. The short version is after the 20th century I find it hard to believe anyone would think your vision could ever work.

                I’ve provided my vision before, and will not bore everyone with a repeat.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA says:

                LWA,
                I think we are working off different understandings of the word “atomistic”- I don’t see how anything that we have said contradicts my understanding

                Oh, I see where you’re coming from. Very collective, quite Chinese (and I mean Chinese, not communist). But not really very western, for all your claim to the western philosophical tradition. From my perspective, also quite involuntary, and leading to distrust of voluntary organization as a social threat, portending the fracturing of the whole into un amicable subgroups. (Not that I claim you have that distrust, since I don’t know, but the tradition often leads to that distrust.) This is an approach that I find totalitarian in its tendencies.

                Which takes me back to;
                But the freedom to choose to do the right thing also implies the freedom to do the wrong thing

                Yes! And thank god for that! Because without freedom to do the wrong thing there is no freedom. Only total control of individuals can constrain them from doing the wrong things, and of course the controllers get to decide what are wrong things. Unless you can demonstrate a limiting principle your system is totalitarian in theory, even if not in fact.Report

              • Avatar Zane in reply to LWA says:

                The only way to prosper in such an environment is either to be a parasite, or to be a middle man skimming off the parasitism (politicians, bureaucrats, state workers).

                Roger, I have two questions. Could you define “prosper” in this sense? Secondly, do you believe that we are already in such a time and place, that the only prosperers are parasites and thieves? Or is this an eventual dystopia if we continue to follow our current path?

                (Okay, the second question was really two and a half.)Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

                By “prosper” in that sentence I meant moves or actions that one would take to thrive at the game. In properly functioning markets, the path to prosperity is to specialize at solving problems for others in exchange for that which they specialized in.

                In a world where spoils are distributed based upon power, the way to prosper is to avoid being productive and instead focus on achieving a greater part of the spoils of the suckers not playing the game as well. This feeds those in power and their Mandarins, and creates a negative sum game which (if unchecked) will end in Malthusian disaster.

                I do not in any way shape or form believe we are anywhere near such a dystopia. I believe that LWA is an extremist who is entirely out of touch with the ethos of western society. I believe if his vision was more widespread and unchecked over many generations worldwide, that it would lead to such a dystopia. This is unlikely to say the least.

                Extreme, unchecked dystopia always ends in the same place, just as it has across every non enlightened society for ten thousand years. It ends in subsistence living, roughly an average of what we would consider two to three dollars a day per person. Any lower and population plummets, any higher and population rises until it hits this same level.

                So, to clarify, I do not believe we are on this path. I do not find it likely we will get on this path worldwide (some places will, but those that don’t will do the lifting for those that do).

                More realistically, I think that the world includes lots of people and institutions playing zero or negative sum games, and lots playing positive sum games. I believe the path to prosperity is to convert more of the destructive games to constructive games. LWA is a peddler of destructive games, IMO.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Also, I suspect if you went and asked parents in the poorer parts of town if they made a “bad choice” by having their child instead of, say, investing more money into X, the response would be pretty much the same as it would be if you asked on the other side of the tracks.

                I think it’s an incorrect way of looking at raising a child when you start telling people you’ve never met whose children were a “good choice” and which were a “bad choice.”Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                If they’re willing and able to bear the costs themselves, then sure, more power to them. It’s not my business to tell people what personal trade-offs they should be willing to make. But if they’re being subsidized, then their personal opinions about whether they made the right choice isn’t particularly relevant, since they’re not bearing all the costs.Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                To my mind, any ideology fails when it denies essential human nature.Report

              • The problem, I would argue, is that most of them define exactly what human nature SHOULD do and then then can’t be having with it when it inevitably doesn’t.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                But if they’re being subsidized, then their personal opinions about whether they made the right choice isn’t particularly relevant, since they’re not bearing all the costs.

                To be fair to Brandon, Snarky/Tod… I can point to a number of comments on the blog by Jesse from the leftish perspective that heartily endorse this same line of thinking.

                In the argument about universal health care, or the New York soda ban, this was pretty much the same logic.

                I think it’s a bunk argument when put forth by somebody on either side of the fence, but “We put this in the commons (somewhat or entirely) by subsidizing it (somewhat or entirely) so now we get to decrease (the fiscal impact of the tragedy of the commons or moral hazard) by (dictating or constraining) peoples’ behavior” isn’t limited to any one particular political inclination.Report

              • I agree, Pat. When I said “most of them,” the “them” I was referring to was different ideologies, not conservatives.

                And I also think that there is a lot of truth in what Brandon says in this thread.

                I just don’t think see it as a B&W, “eliminate subsidies and no one will be poor in a wealthy country” thing. It seems highly unlikely that subsidizing has no ill effects on anyone in the system; it seems just as unlikely that all of our woes are caused by it.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Patrick,

                I agree with the principle “If we help you, you have an obligation to help us back” that Jessie (and me) and Brandon are appealig to in their arguments.

                However, note how Brandon’s argument is an attempt to show the worst off shouldn’t be able to experience the joy of children whil Jessie (and I) argued that people should be required to forego too much soda to reduce healthcare costs for all.

                Notice how Jessie and I are for improving the situation of the worst off and Brandon is not.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                “I agree with the principle “If we help you, you have an obligation to help us back”…”

                I actually don’t agree with this. At least not that help received actually incurs an obligation. If I give help, it should be freely given; if I am only giving help in exchange for receiving help in the future, I’m not really helping as much as I’m making an exchange, or an investment. Which is an okay thing to do, but I wouldn’t really call it help.

                Now, I might help folks with the idea of cultivating a sort of relationship such that they would want to help me if I were to need it, but I wouldn’t view it as an outstanding debt which I can collect on. And if such person was not reciprocal or otherwise didn’t treat me and our relationship in the way that I wanted, I might cease offering help to that person.

                Ultimately, the outcome isn’t much different, but I think how we think about “help” is rather important.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I agree with the principle “If we help you, you have an obligation to help us back” that Jessie (and me) and Brandon are appealig to in their arguments.

                The problem is that, in practice, it becomes “we are going to help you, like it or not, and you now have an obligation to help us back. Also, if you don’t like it, move to Somalia.”Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                However, note how Brandon’s argument is an attempt to show the worst off shouldn’t be able to experience the joy of children whil Jessie (and I) argued that people should be required to forego too much soda to reduce healthcare costs for all.

                Notice how Jessie and I are for improving the situation of the worst off and Brandon is not.

                This assumes a few things that put a lot of pressure on Brandon that you don’t have to accept. I don’t know that constraining peoples’ choices when it comes to what they can drink or eat or buy with their WIC is improving their situation. It’s certainly not in the same category as “you don’t get to have kids, whether you want ’em or not”, but I know plenty of people that don’t have kids, don’t want kids, but would regard giving up smoking as a very large decrease in the acceptability of their situation. So you dodge some of the consequence, but hardly all of it.

                Kazzy sez:

                I actually don’t agree with this. At least not that help received actually incurs an obligation. If I give help, it should be freely given; if I am only giving help in exchange for receiving help in the future, I’m not really helping as much as I’m making an exchange, or an investment. Which is an okay thing to do, but I wouldn’t really call it help.

                I agree it’s an okay thing to do. I’m incredibly leery of having the government operate this way, however. It’s a fundamental disconnect between myself and the left.

                The government-sponsored commons should exist, I have no argument with that. What we should put in it… we should be very careful of that.

                And when we start blithely saying, “Well, of course, in this case, we’re improving peoples’ lives so it’s okay for us to discharge the consequences of the tragedy of the commons right back on them…” that’s a serious problem, to me.

                Establishing the commons comes with consequences. To the extent that we’re willing to put some of those consequences back on certain subpopulations of the populace and not others, I think that’s very likely to be just effed up.

                If… IF in some cases we have consequences to putting something in the commons and we put those consequences back on everybody, that’s much more likely to be justifiable. But it hardly ever, ever works out that way.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Suckling at the teat (sp?) of Athens means you owe Athens.

                Your parents raised you, so you should help them in old age.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                To build on JB’s point, I always tell my students, “Help that is not wanted is not help at all.” Kids, often with really genuine intentions, often want to help each other, but only end up either A) making the job harder or B) aggravating someone who might benefit from help but who does not want it and feels disrespected to have it thrust upon them.

                I would also say that I’m okay with people saying, “I will help you if you do X,” and then following through on that agreement. I am not okay with saying, “I will help you,” and then later saying, “Oh yea, you owe me X.”Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                My point is that people have a duty to give up smoking.

                Smoking inficts costs on people who are helping you.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Suckling at the teat (sp?) of Athens means you owe Athens.

                Which means that you totally understand the whole “drug tests for people on welfare” thing, right? I mean, even if you don’t agree with it, you totally understand how people who pay taxes might want to say “I don’t want people sucking at my teat to be high when they do it”, right?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                You are required to help society and you will benefit from that help.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                “My point is that people have a duty to give up smoking.

                Smoking inficts costs on people who are helping you.”

                I disagree.

                Now, if the government said, “We will give you insurance IF you stop smoking. But if you don’t, we will not because we will not subsidize that habit,” I could make peace with that position. I wouldn’t like it, but I could make peace with it. But don’t call it universal health care. It’s not. It’s health care for people who fit a certain life style.

                The problem is, we’re not giving people that choice.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Jaybird,

                We already discussed the drug testing for welfare thing in this exact context. Apparently, you forgot.

                I am okay with a welfare work requirement (structured properly) because it helps the worst off by creating good incentives. (Are you not?)

                A drug testing requirement just reduces the dignity of those on welfare who aren’t doing drugs. Those who are doing drugs will be kicked off of welfare, which is thoroughly unjust and is not helping the very people welfare is aimed at helping. It is,just cruelty.

                I certainly would be okay with requiring people on welfare to get a medical checkup. That would help them.

                Conservative (or Republican, rather) policies like drug testing and Brandon’s ideas about kids are (or so it seems to me) designed to PUNISH the poor for making bad choices, because those who made bad choices deserve punishment.

                Liberal policies are designed to help the poor and to require everyone to pitch in helping each out: worker safety laws, environmental regs, seatbelt and car saftey laws, progressive taxes.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                The “drug tests for welfare” is always an odd argument since its deployed, typically, at liberals as a caution against what we push for yet it tends to be republican who push for the drug tests. I know what comes next is that if you give gov a power it will use it and we have to assume people we disagree with will get power and then in a flash we turn all libertarian. But its still a poor argument to suggest what R’s do is an argument against what Libs want to do. Go yell at Rick Scott about drug tests.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I am with Kazzy on this one. All this blether about Personal Responsibility drives me crazy. People will always act in their own best interests as they perceive them. On that we can rely as surely as tomorrow’s sunrise.

                Help unasked-for is not help at all: it’s just some busybody acting in what he perceives to be his best interests. Same goes for advice, may I add. All such “helping” is an attempt to dominate and is always perceived to be such.

                It may well be smoking and overeating and coveting thy neighbour’s ass and various other infractions of the Do Gooder’s ethical standard are not wise. A duty to give up smoking — on your say-so? Buy a one way ticket to Plato’s Republic or Calvin’s Geneva, mister. People do all manner of things that maybe they shouldn’t ought to do. Liberal I may be and often do I scoff at the Libertarians with their earnest schemes — but on one subject, they are become Archilochus’ hedgehog, knowing one great thing: we shall not increase virtue at the price of liberty.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Kazzy,

                But, if you go to the emergency room with lung cancer symptoms, we treat you and pay for the cost. We have to pay that cost if you smoke. So you have a duty not to put that risk on us.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Shaz, I wasn’t asking if you agreed.

                I was asking if you understood.

                I mean, it’s strange that you’re willing to argue that people should not smoke tobacco… but what about cocaine? Are you okay with people on welfare using cocaine so long as they avoid tobacco? Would you say that, unlike tobacco, whether they use cocaine is none of your business?

                Because, seriously, that seems odd to me.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Shazbot, this nation ran a little experiment with the 18th Amendment. How did that work out?

                What’s next? Tell Frito-Lay to quit making tasty snacks because people won’t eat healthy meals? Do you propose to put celery in the vending machines? Where does it stop? We will all end up in the ambulance at the end of our lives and eventually the orderlies will wheel us down to the morgue on a gurney. You want this society to outlaw tobacco — we’ve had this war on drugs now, it’s cost us untold billions, it’s damned near reduced Mexico to an anarchic war zone — it hasn’t solved the demand side of the problem.

                The worthy McSnarksnark observes any ideology will fail when it denies essential human nature. Those who insist on imposing their standards on others would be well-served to consider how well such impositions have worked out in the real world. They’ve filled our prisons, filled the graveyards, reduced whole nation states to rule by gangsters. Risk still equals profit: the drug war has now become a real war. Still we’ve learned nothing.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Shaz,

                Then we have three choices:

                1.) We stop providing free* emergency room care.
                2.) We allow people to make the choices they will and absorb that into the collective costs of providing universal health care.
                3.) We make smoking, and other unhealthy behaviors, illegal.

                Which do you prefer?

                * It’s not really free, but I trust you know what I mean.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Suckling at the teat (sp?) of Athens means you owe Athens.

                No, it doesn’t. There’s a nice speech by Sidney Poitier in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” that you should watch.

                Helping people while you’re imposing duties on them isn’t helping them, that’s saddling them with your ideas of what “help” is and enabling you to load them up with duties you find acceptable. This is a horrible way to approach public policy.

                You want to help people? Fine. You do that because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Not because of you get to tell them what they’re supposed to do; not even as just a consequence instead of an intention.

                Your parents raised you, so you should help them in old age.

                That’s between me and my parents. Whether or not I should help them is up to me and them. The judgement of outsiders on whether or not a child is meeting obligations towards the parents is one of the worst features of patriarchal societies.

                Similarly, if Joe’s Awesome Spiritual Haven Balls-Bustin’ Church gives me a free soup kitchen meal, at the cost of listening to a sermon on the benevolence of Thor delivered by an Elvis impersonator in Swahili, the choice to accept that is up to me and the Church. I’m okay with that.

                You get 50+N % of the folk in town to agree that we’re all going to call “this thing” community property and put our collective taxes towards maintaining it… and then say that in spite of me paying taxes, I don’t get to use “this thing” without giving up smoking or drinking or skiing or swimming or riding a motorcycle or doing my own woodwork with a skil saw, I’m about ready to spit in your eye. You cover the cost, or you don’t provide the service.

                My point is that people have a duty to give up smoking. Smoking inficts costs on people who are helping you.

                You really, really need to come at that from the other end and tell me where your endpoints are. This leads to some terrifying potential conclusions… and, I’ll note, it loads an awful lot of freedom up on the “people that don’t need your help” and takes an awful lot of freedoms away from the poor people.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                You get 50+N % of the folk in town to agree that we’re all going to call “this thing” community property and put our collective taxes towards maintaining it… and then say that in spite of me paying taxes, I don’t get to use “this thing” without giving up smoking or drinking or skiing or swimming or riding a motorcycle or doing my own woodwork with a skil saw, I’m about ready to spit in your eye. You cover the cost, or you don’t provide the service.

                Exactly. If something is bad enough we don’t want it, _outlaw it_. We are a nation of laws, after all. If we want to drug test people, _drug test people_. Don’t run around trying to outlaw drugs _for the poor_, which is functionally what people keep trying to do. (Anyone remember that ‘We will remove financial aid if you test positive for drugs.’ trick. Aka, poor drug users can’t go to college but rich ones can?)

                It’s a very clever plan…create an economic system that is completely broken, and people need our help. So when they _ask_ for our help, we choose what specific rules to put on them, the poor, that the non-poor are not subject to.

                I call bullshit on the entire concept. The _entire system_ is suspect, and appears to create incentive to _keep people dependent on the government_, so we can then control what they do.

                And holy fuck, I just ended up agreeing with the libertarians. Of course, my solution is to _stop telling the poor what to do_ while continuing to help them, whereas the libertarian conclusion is somewhat different.

                Oh, and the next thing to talk about is the fact that a _huge_ percentage of black men in this country are under the control of the prison system. Not actually in prison, mind you, but under the control of it via probation and parole. So now we have a way to subject black people, I mean criminals, I mean people who couldn’t afford a lawyer, to rules that no one else has to follow.

                At some point we just have to agree this entire damn system is nonsense. That we seem to enjoy creating situations where certain types of people need to come crawling to the government for help, and various bigotted asshats can then put rules on those ‘certain types’ of people, rules which no one else has to follow.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Running over every bicyclist ought to be a great place to start.
                Bicycling is a risky behavior.
                The sooner those people are taken out once and for all, the better.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                THE DRUG TESTED TEAT SUCKERS

                Great band.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Lots to reply to. Will probably miss some things.

                JB,

                I understand and refuted your point. What seems weird to you is because you are -to use Anscombe’s phrase- “caught in the grips” of a theory that is changing your intuitions, in this case your extreme libertarianism.

                Patrick (first comment),

                I’m not sure I follow you. (BTW, in general, you always seem critical of libertarianism, liberalism, and conservatism, but do you espouse any normative principles of justic (how we arrange society) or ethics?

                Kazzy and Patrick (second comment),

                This is a pretty fundamental disagreement we have. I am not saying I (or we, through the actions of the state) offer help with the intention of demanding that others help us in return. That is not the psychological motivation for offering help. However, it is a normative consequence of offering help that if X helps Y and Y later needs help, and X can help (i.e. can help easily, though this where we go case by case), then X has a duty to help, even if Y doesn’t ask for it. You owe those who have helped you regardless of whether they helped you for that reason.

                There is a further (extremely difficult) question of which of these duties should be instituted into law. But in brief, the state (on my account of the social contract) can you see you as normatively obligated to help the state because you have been helped by the worst off in the state, even if when the state offered you help, it did so not believing that you could ever offer that help.

                Do we just disagree or do you have an argument that I am wrong? (We’re getting down to normative fundamentals here, so maybe you don’t have an argument, and that is okay.)

                Blaise,

                I’m not sure if there is an argument in there. If there is, it is a slippery slope fallacy.

                Kazzy (second post),

                There is an option 4. We don’t need to ban smoking. We have seen that such total bans fail for addictive substances (the shame and illegality gets in the way of treatment and help, for one thing) and create a backlash of awful consequences in prison sentences. However, we can use policy to reduce smoking by instituting cigarette taxes, increased insurance rates for smokers, banning smoking in restaurants and bars, banning smoking in public buildings, banning smoking around kids (this one might come soon, IMO: watch out teachers who smoke), regulating cigarettes, banning cigarette advertising, etc.

                I am for 4., not 3.

                Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                If smoking is legal, but you’re not alliwed ti smoke anywhere, then smoking isn’t legal. (Also, teachers already can’t smoke on campus – ie when they’re actually around kids.)Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Can smoke in your house if you don’t allow kids in it.

                Can spray leaded gasoline in the air in your house and sniff it if you don’t allow kids in it.

                Totally free to do either. Though you’ll have to make your own leaded gasoline.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Shaz,

                What is the justification for such restrictions and/or discouragement of smoking? Because we want to help smokers be more healthy? Or because we want to cut their health care costs?Report

              • Shaz, the rules as you have them set up are so constrictive that they will be unenforceable. Smokers will not abide by them, just as “No smoking within 25 feet of an entrance” is roundly ignored today. Instead, what you get is mass civil disobedience along with the random assignment of tickets.

                Who do you think cops will give the tickets to, demographically speaking?

                I’d also add to that I’m not sure where renters would be allowed to smoke. There are some serious class issues here.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Will,

                Some of these policies are already making an impact. Most of them are in palce already. (Only the one of no smoking around kids isn’t in place, and that could be handled with law suits. Don’t like your parents and they smoked while you were young. Sue them for second hand smoke poisoning. That is what you would do if they poured leaded gas in your cheerios.)

                Kazzy,

                The answer is both.

                Though, I think it is overall costs to the state from illness and early death, not just healthcare costs of continued smoking, that creates the harm to others done by smokers smoking.

                I’d say the same about seatbelt laws. You have a duty to wear a seatbelt so that if you get in an accident, you are less likely to need expensive hospital care. You alsoshould be forced to do it for you.

                Seatbelt lives may cost the healthcare system money by causing more people to live longer, but this doesn’t refute either of my two reasons, really.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Shaz,

                Will these laws only apply to people who have government-subsidized health care? If I have a private insurer, do I still have to abide by them?Report

              • Shaz, I support a number of them. A lot of them are ignored, though. More area restrictions going forward almost certainly fall into the “will be ignored” category. Some smokers will quit out of frustration. A lot won’t, and not all of them do not own their own houses.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                @ Shaz

                I think we just disagree. I don’t know that we disagree both in principle and in practice but I suspect it’s both.

                However, it is a normative consequence of offering help that if X helps Y and Y later needs help, and X can help (i.e. can help easily, though this where we go case by case), then X has a duty to help, even if Y doesn’t ask for it.

                See, I don’t see it that way at all, but this may be a semantic problem fuddling things, too. “Duty” to me is a very loaded word.

                I think our own personal sense of obligation is (and ought) to be slightly different from our tribal sense of obligation which is (and ought) to be slightly different from our higher-levels-of-abstraction communitarian impulses.

                When I say “it is”, it’s because I think it’s empirically different. Regardless of what we may say in theory, in practice it’s pretty measurably different.

                When I say, “and ought”, again I’m saying that from a descriptive standpoint, not a principled one. Certainly the world would be a better place if our various senses of duties and obligations were all in complete alignment and that alignment was also with an abstract, perfect “Duty” in the Platonic Ideal sense, but I don’t think we can ever get that. So if you’re fighting to get them all to align, it’s more likely that you’re fighting to align them all pointing in the wrong direction than anything else.

                But I think that’s a rather complicated discussion, and I think this is the easier place to talk anyway, so…

                But in brief, the state (on my account of the social contract) can you see you as normatively obligated to help the state because you have been helped by the worst off in the state, even if when the state offered you help, it did so not believing that you could ever offer that help.

                I think this is incredibly fraught with peril. The State, as an aggregate, can’t be credited with the same sort of evaluation capabilities as atomic persons. Like any organizational structure, there’s agency loss and there’s all sorts of perfectly logical and somewhat predictable outcomes for organizational behavior that we would never, ever tolerate in an individual without criminal sanction. And that applies both to governments and all sorts of other organizations, too.

                Debts owed to a person can still have perverse outcomes. Debts owed to concepts are downright dangerous, particularly because it’s never clear when those obligations are met… and unlike a duty to a person, which I can exercise simply by telling them that’s all they get, I can’t exercise a debt to society-as-embedded-in-government processes because the government gets to decide what constitutes proper exercising of that debt.

                In practice, I find myself far more often disagreeing with debt obligations beyond the most abstract. I don’t have a problem with tax obligations (provided they’re not particularly burdensome, and right now I don’t think they’re particularly burdensome and could be increased), but I have a tremendous problem with all sorts of specific, targeted obligations for general sorts of public policy goals.

                BTW, in general, you always seem critical of libertarianism, liberalism, and conservatism, but do you espouse any normative principles of justic (how we arrange society) or ethics?

                Um, that’s a tricky question. I’m not saying that because I’m trying to dodge the question, it’s just that my answer is a lot more complicated than “yes” or “no”.

                My principles of justice are one layer of abstraction removed than most folks. I don’t think a conservative lens, or a liberal lens, or a libertarian lens, or a socialist lens, or even a anarchic lens is always going to give you a clear picture of justice. All of them focused on a particular question of justice in a particular context can be informative; any of them focused on a particular question of justice in the wrong context can be perverse.

                Maybe a better way to illustrate the point (maybe this will just confuse things, though) is using frameworks of moral philosophy. If you’re attempting to analyze a particular question of justice in a particular context and you analyze that question from a utilitarian, Kantian, abstract right, and natural rights framework and three of the four all point to “choose A”, then you’re much more likely to be aligned with justice than if you choose “B”. If you always choose utilitarianism, well, there’s going to be times when you choose “A” when all the rest of those frameworks tell you to choose “B”, and again I think it’s probably more likely that you’re correct if you had picked “B”.

                I’m not a big believer in certainty, generally, outside of mathematics… and I’m really not a big believer in having a lot of certainty in any one frameworks’ utility.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                @Patrick
                The State, as an aggregate, can’t be credited with the same sort of evaluation capabilities as atomic persons. Like any organizational structure, there’s agency loss and there’s all sorts of perfectly logical and somewhat predictable outcomes for organizational behavior that we would never, ever tolerate in an individual without criminal sanction. And that applies both to governments and all sorts of other organizations, too.

                I’ve always thought this was a fundamental different between the left and the right: The left also thinks _individuals_ and private entities can also be assholes.

                While a debt incurred to a private entity might be better, you’re probably looking at this through the lens of hidden privilege, because you’re one of the people who _can_ get help from private individuals, and you generally assume everyone can.

                The government operates off a series of blind rules and regulations, and that can often lead to nonsense. But human beings, OTOH, operate off a series of prejudices about who ‘deserves’ what, and if you’re some old ugly gay black guy you can just rot in a ditch while they ‘charitably’ feed a bunch of cute children who don’t really need it.

                In practice, I find myself far more often disagreeing with debt obligations beyond the most abstract.

                Indeed. Debt obligations on people we help is just a sneaky way of enforcing privilege, a way of creating rules for the poor but not for the rich.

                I don’t want to live in a society where only people don’t have subsided health insurance (aka, the rich) can smoke. (I don’t particularly want _anyone_ to smoke, and think an argument can be made to just slowly banning it over a few decades and not allowing current non-smokers to start, but I don’t want to bar all _but_ the rich.)

                I don’t want to live in a society where only people who get financial aid to college will be unable to go to college if convicted of a drug offense, whereas people who can afford college (aka, the rich) can go there just fine if they have that on their record.

                I don’t want to live in a society where we drug test people who are getting welfare, but not people who are getting a tax deduction.

                If we want laws, _we want laws_. If we want to stop people from smoking, we stop them from smoking. If we want to punish people with drug convictions by keeping them from college, let’s ban them from college. If we want to drug test people, we better damn well just start drug testing people.

                Hell, it’s already fucked up enough that we functionally have a system where all sorts of minor offenses like speeding and parking violations are just fines…meaning the rich can commit them with impunity and the poor can’t. But at some point, we’re going to try to assert that people on welfare are using ‘our gas’ and we can subject them to even _worse_ fines.

                Government aid should have no obligations attached at all. Requirements, sure…we give people food stamps instead of cash, or whatever. But we don’t run around threatening people with _new_ rules, rules others don’t have to follow, when we give them help.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                @ David

                The left also thinks _individuals_ and private entities can also be assholes.

                Oh, they’re right on that score, no argument there.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Was “… and you’ll have an obligation to quit smoking” a part of the agreement when EMTALA was passed?Report

              • And that’s ignoring studies that suggest that smokers save the health care system in the long run (WaPo) (NYT).Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:

                This is more complex than you’re letting on.

                It is true that when people die early, it saves long term healthcare costs for those people.

                But

                1. It is still unclear, even after the studies you cited, whether there is a clear consensus that smoking saves the healthcare system money. One problem is that even when people quit smoking, their bodies are still very damaged, and they still end up requiring a lot of expensive healthcare as a result, and the data we have about how cheap healthcare would be if no one smoked is messed up as a result.

                So, if everyone had never smoked, what would longterm healtcare costs be? Really hard to say. This paper is really interesting and makes a related point:

                “The expectation that smoking does not increase net national health care spending, and by extension that savings may not result from smoking cessation, does not consider the context in which this research has been conducted. The result that smokers cost less than nonsmokers is based on a social analytic perspective that derives almost entirely from smokers dying younger and more quickly than never smokers (Leu and Schaub 1983; Barendregt, Bonneux, and van der Maas 1997). Studies conducted on a cross-sectional basis for specific market segments show that smoking does impose an economic burden on the health care system (Miller et al. 1998; Bartlett et al. 1994; Pronk et al. 1999; Zhang et al. 1999). Although former smokers may be more expensive than continuing smokers in the short run, this effect ought to be transient because health care use among former smokers is likely to fall to levels at or below those of continuing smokers within a few years (Wagner et al. 1995). The ultimate source of this post-quit transient cost increase is also relevant. Former smokers may seek medical care that they had delayed while smoking and incur greater short-term costs as unmet health care needs are addressed. There is also evidence that smoking cessation coincides with, or immediately follows, a health event that motivates the effort to quit (Bartecchi, MacKenzie, and Schyle 1994; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1990; Ockene et al. 1992; Gritz et al. 1993; Rosal et al. 1998). Quitting does not necessarily create more expensive people, rather, quitting likely occurs in the midst of an already expensive health episode.”

                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360912/#!po=12.5000

                That said, I’m open to admitting that smoking saves the state money by killing people off quickly. I’m unsure of the relevance of this. I argue that smokers should pay some kind of sun tax for two reasons: a.) their own good and b.) the good of others. If in this particulat case, b.) turns out to be false, there is still a. (However, there may be some issues -e.g. progressive taxation- where only b. is present.)

                2. The net costs to the government (and also society) of early deaths (in this case caused by smoking) are greater than the costs to the health insurance system. When parents die or become ill, it strains the system in more places than health insurance costs.Report

              • It may be complex, Shaz, but that also applies to your “we should discourage it because it costs us money” when it is far from clear that it does, indeed, cost us money. The notion that early deaths cost the system money is suspect.

                Ultimately, though… ULTIMATELY, none of this matters. Because (a) and (b). This is why I am so skeptical of what I consider to be the crap argument that “it’s costing the system money.” I’ve never heard anybody make that argument that wouldn’t support the same policy set even if smoking and obesity saved the system money. It’s a way to make moralization sound sensible.

                And hey, I’m not 100% against moralization. I support many restrictions on smoking. It has crap to do with what it does or does not cost the system, though.

                Interestingly, the disingenuousness of the argument is its saving grace. If I thought that it was actually meant – that things that cost the system money are therefore subject to system control – I would find that even more disturbing. It’d be enough to make me a hard core libertarian.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Not disingenuous at all.

                I really do think there is a moral basis in, say, progressive taxation in exactly this principle. (Smoking is a worse case as an illustrative example, because it is also justifiable on other grounds.) When you were young or poor, or if you become poor, the state will help you, so you have an obligation to help the state help the poor.

                If you don’t like the word “state” in that sentence, substitute “community.” That changes things, but the point stands.

                We all have reflexive duties to help each other, some of which should be codified into law, others shouldn’t.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Will Truman says:

                We all have reflexive duties to help each other

                We’re not all persuaded on that point, of course, but let’s accept it for the moment and ask, “who decides how far your duty to me extends?”Report

              • Progressive taxes demand sacrifice on the part of the wealthy. Smoking taxes and anti-smoking laws demand sacrifice on the part of the addicted and, disproportionately, the poor.

                Which is not to say that I am against cigarette taxes or anti-smoking laws en-toto. But the notion that they have an obligation to me doesn’t factor into it*.

                * – Errr, okay, I’m a smoker. But I’m not obese. So let’s plug the obese into that sentence. Or smokers once I successfully quit.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Who gets to say?

                We do, collectively. Or rather no one. I’m a contractarian about these things. We all implicitly enter into a contract whereby we get help from others and give it in return. No one person is the authority about what that contract will say.

                Where do we draw the line?

                Well, tough question. Almost as tough as where do we draw the line between bald men and not bald men. But both tough questions have inexact answers that deploy “rough and ready” criteria. But there is a distinction between bald and not bald men, and there is a distinction between duties to help others and cases where you don’t have a duty.

                So, what are the rough and ready criteria for determining when I have a duty to help you?

                Here are some vague criteria:

                If I have the means to save your life, improve your health, provide you with basic education, provide you with more equal opportunity, at little to no cost to myself, and you do not, then I have a duty to use those means to help achieve those ends for you, unless doing so would deprive me of my life, my basic education, my equal opportunities, etc.

                Such a duty is void (i.e. there is no such duty) if it were the case that people would become less long lived, less educated, less healthy, etc. if the duty was generally obeyed. (That is, it’s not a duty if it following it harms everyone in the long run.)

                If others have helped me improve my quality of living, health, education level (or maybe even if they would have helped me had I asked for it, i.e. if they were insuring my health and educational status), and I have the means of providing the same help to them, without significantly decreasing the status of my own health, education, well-being, etc., then I have a duty to offer the means at my disposal to help them. (Again, a no-suicide pacts clause must be part of this rule again.)

                I get that this will be nitpicked. But it is purposefully inexact. If you wish to provide counterexamples, we can refine the criteria together. However, I feel that this dispute will not go in that direction, but rather in a nasty one.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yeah, but smoking taxes also benefit the smokers by making it more likely that they quit.

                This is just the first link I found with some citations:

                http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0022.pdf

                This is an empirical question, so I am up to here differently, but the data suggests that cigarette taxes are beneficial to the poor in the long term and overall.

                I have explicitly said that I am not in favor of policies that demand more from the poor than they can give, especially if the demands harm the poor instead of helping them. But that is not the case for cigarettes, or so it seems, given the data I cited.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I’m not sure that many people on any end of the financial spectrum have children based on optimum economic conditions. When my wife and I had children, we didn’t run numbers through a spreadsheet to see if we could afford kids.

                The more I think about it, the stranger this sounds to me. I mean, if you’re doing well enough that it’s obvious you can afford to have another child, that’s one thing. But for people to make the life-changing decision to have a(nother) child without thinking through the financial consequences just strikes me as grossly irresponsible. Wasn’t that an old fictional trope, the couple lamenting how they’d like to have another child but can’t afford it right now? Was that purely fiction?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I’d dispute it. Your argument is absurd at so many levels, pushing it over is almost embarrassingly trivial.

                What the hell is a Wealthy Nation? Income disparities are more pronounced than ever. Since the 1970s, productivity has gone up and real wages have not. We’re actually worse off now.

                Quit trying to dutch uncle us with this “living within your means” nonsense. Saving requires being able to save. That’s becoming increasingly hard in an era of four dollar gasoline and terrible job prospects for new entries to the job market.

                All this cheap talk about Personal Failure — is this some sort of arch, post-cool snark? Have I missed a very good joke here?Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                In the US, an adult with a full-time job and no dependents cannot fall below the poverty line. A 40-hour, minimum-wage job will put you at 130% of the poverty line for a one-person household. As long as you have a full-time job and don’t have any children, you can’t be poor.

                Of course an adult with a full-time job and no dependents ‘cannot fall below the poverty line. ‘If they’re making 130% of the poverty line, they are not under the poverty line’. No shit, Sherlock. Nice logic skills there. And way to ignore the people who can’t get a full-time job by defining them out of existence. (Along with people who have children, but others have pointed that out. I’m just pointing out _additional_ stupidities.)

                However ‘As long as you have a full-time job and don’t have any children, you can’t be poor.’ is a complete and utter lie. Those people sure as fuck can ‘be poor’. The poverty line defines how much an _average_ person needs in minimum expenses each year.

                Start off someone with a lot of debt, or have a disaster like a house fire or a heath issue, and yes, a single person who has a full time job can be ‘poor’. All they have to do is _have more expenses each year than 130% of the poverty line_, you twit.

                Which is actually…trivially easy. The 30% of 130% of poverty level gives you $3351 ‘above’ the _average_ bare minimum ‘poverty level’ to live. That’s $3351, _before taxes_ at 15%. So only $2848 a year. Wait, we forgot to take half of FICA. $2630 a year.

                That’s $219 a month above the bare minimum considered _possible_ by the government to live on.

                The disparity in _rent_ across the country can more than account for expenses being that much higher than average, to say nothing of food, and that completely ignores _actual emergencies_.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        The presumption that lower-income countries have bad institutions and higher-income countries have good ones is, when you actually look at the policies of individual countries, deeply fallacious. It’s an easy way for neoliberals to blame poor countries for their own poverty and insist nothing can be done about it, rather than look at the international economic structures that perpetuate poverty.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Or maybe the Cubs.

      Dream on, buddy.
      Ain’t gonna happen.Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Actually community property states technically make both spouses earn the same. The wages of both are summed and divided by 2 (legally at least, if you file Married Filing separately in these states I understand you have to do the sum and division process).Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Thank you for this post, Tod. You said some of the things I’ve been trying to say much better than I could have. Well done, sir.Report

  7. Avatar Francis says:

    Here’s a couple more:

    Unemployment, especially among young, minority and less-educated men is a really big deal. Sane solutions do not involve firing and/or cutting the salaries of their wives, girlfriends and baby mommas. Accusing liberals who cheer the rise of female equality of “cheering the production of millions upon millions of utterly hopeless and unemployable, thoroughly alienated and despised young men all around the world” is both inaccurate and not helpful. (I love the strong whiff of Fascism, though.)

    The rise of the single-adult household with children has a lot of causes. Among them are the war on some drugs, offshoring of manufacturing, no-fault divorce, poor education, increased inequality, the availability of government assistance, the rise of women’s salaries, the general empowerment of women, along with poor choices made by many individuals. If conservatives actually want to help rebuild the traditional american family (as opposed to blaming liberals, for electoral advantage), they might want to look at the problem a little more broadly as opposed to just blaming women. (As a Democrat, though, I have to say thanks for the voters.)Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Francis says:

      While I endorse most of your post, offshoring (and bless you for using the correct word) of manufacturing doesn’t cause unemployment.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to James K says:

        ???

        Not on net, in the whole world. But it certainly does in the country being outsourced fromReport

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

          In the ideal world, money gets repatriated and labor markets clear. It’s a nice place, the ideal world.Report

        • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

          No, not even there. Not in the long run. In the short run, of course, the adjustment can be sticky. And the decent new jobs created may not be in your area, or in your skill set.

          Of course the alternative to letting this rough process run its course is to tell us as a matter of law from where we have to buy our products, which seems rather illiberal.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

            The way the theory goes, in the long run pretty much everybody can figure out something to do that gets them a wage or some business income, etc. Wages stick for a while as people resist the reality that they don’t command as much real income; then they accept that; then they go back to work. In theory, in the long run, there’s always full employment (whatever that is in the society in question). Relatively high unemployment is a short-run (or medium-run in bad scenarios) phenomenon. So if offshoring causes higher unemployment in the short term, then it does cause higher unemployment, because that’s the term in which it actually exists.Report

            • Avatar James K in reply to Michael Drew says:

              Except that actual research has been done on this question and it appears that there’s no unemployment even in the short run. In this case the economy adapts very quickly.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to James K says:

                Tell that to Detroit.

                Snark aside, I realize that Detroit is an outlier and in the country-sized economy sense my understanding is that you’re correct.

                But the outliers still exist, yes? If you give sufficient incentive to offshore the right kinds of economic activity, localities can be impacted.

                The greater the push towards specialization, the greater the possible impact. Cutting the defense industry in the early 90s put a huge dent in the Southern California economy that impacted everything from aerospace to construction. The region has since shed a lot of its dependency on aerospace, but there are some communities that don’t adapt so quickly.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Patrick says:

                Eh, the problems of Detroit, and Michigan in general, are of a political making, not an economic making. The basic economic theory assumes there aren’t policies actively deterring economic investment in the area. That’s not so here, although recent policy changes give cause for optimism.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                And I’d add that Michigan’s problems didn’t follow just off-shoring, but also followed moving production to other states. Fort Wayne, Indiana, for example, got a huge GM truck plant in the ’80s. Why Fort Wayne instead of, say, Flint? It was an economic decision where politics determined the economic calculations.

                To a large extent, Muchigan’s problems are explained by the resource curse phenomenon, except not dependent on a particular resource, but a particular industry, and (Grand Rapids excepted) failing to sufficiently diversify beyond it. To be fair, it looked at the time like an unending source of full employment at good wages for people with minimal education, so it was logical to focus on it. But of course it was largely artificial, built on trade restrictions put in place by the federal gov’t, which ultimately were undermined not by WTO or NAFTA, but even before that, when Honda decided to work around the restrictions by building a US plant.

                The Michigan gov’t never caught on to the problem, never stopped focusing on the auto industry to the exclusion of other sectors and until the last few years never git serious about changing the “predatory” policies that lead business leaders to list it as one of the most business unfriendly states in the country.

                All that to say that blaming off shoring for Michigan’s economic woes misses both the reason for the off shoring/out-stating and the slow rebound.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Well, James, you build a big ship to carry lots of cargo because you know the cargo is going to always big in big lots… and suddenly it’s not and smaller ships are kicking your behind, you still have the big ship to deal with.

                Government isn’t particularly more or less nimble than major industries (in the particular case of Michigan, government is probably less nimble when it comes to dealing with adapting to the auto industry precisely because of the auto industry, right?)

                So, you’ve got a point, government’s involved there, but I don’t think you can decouple government and industry and say that government is the problem, either.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                I don’t think you can decouple government and industry and say that government is the problem, either.

                Absolutely. The Big Three have done vast amounts of rent-seeking here in the state, and I was probably remiss not to emphasize that, too. But my point was not that industry is somehow innocent or uninvolved in creating the problem, but that offshoring was not itself the cause of Detroit’s/Michigan’s economic woes. If anything it was more of an effect than a cause.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick says:

                Or Prague, which was a hotbed of software development for a few years before people realized that Russians were even cheaper.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James K says:

                Fair enough. I was just speaking to what the argument would actually amount to if “in the long run” really was the key operative distinction.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …Though I’d add that the initial comment didn’t state that offshoring causes unemployment. It said: “The rise of the single-adult household with children has a lot of causes. Among them are the war on some drugs, offshoring of manufacturing, […]”

                And your argument presumably works on, what, the national level (the exchange rate mechanism implies that’s correct)? (Was the research done at the local level – i.e. studying effects on unemployment in a particular city, or even among the particular workers, where production came to an end when it was moved?)

                IOW, the argument doesn’t necessarily go [national offshoring trend] -> [higher societal unemployment] -> [societal rise in single-adult households with children].

                It may go [local employment backstop offshored (or moved out of state following labor reg arbitrage)] -> ([general nat’l offshoring job destruction trend offset by more jobs created elsewhere from increased exports]) -> [however, that replacement implies major internal shifts in job availability locally, perhaps over medium-to-long term] -> [local rise in single-adult households with children; possibly societal rise if it turns out that the rate of creation of single-adult households with children associated with local job destruction > the rate of decrease in single-adult households with children associated with particular job creation in particular localities where new jobs associated with offshoring are created].

                http://www.amazon.com/When-Work-Disappears-World-Urban/dp/0679724176Report

        • All things being equal, it would. But all things aren’t equal. The increase in imports implied by offshoring shifts your exchange rate, leading to more exports. The money leaving your country is going to come back somehow, and that creates more job opportunities elsewhere.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James K says:

            What would happen if the two use the same currency?Report

            • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              You mean like California and Michigan?

              Unfair, so I don’t really mean it as a challenge to you. But I think the internal US economy is an interesting example. Under the Articles of Confederation the states were beggaring each other with restrictive trade policies and different currencies. That was one of the primary factors, though not the only one, stimulating Hamilton and Madison to begin the push for a revision, and two of the key elements of the Constitution are the interstate commerce clause and the federal government’s exclusive authority over the currency, which turned the United States into a free trade zone, which in turn helped it prosper.

              If we follow the logic of protectionists, there’s no clear economic reson why California and Michigan should have free trade. And in fact we do find lots of buy local movements, and in places like Toledo, OH, attempts to create a de facto (although obviously not de Jude) local currency. But it’s reasonable to ask whether it makes economic sense for trade to be less restricted between Detroit and L.A. (trading cars for movies!) than between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, less than a mile away from each other.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Sure, let’s take that as an example. A company moves from California to a state that’s less friendly to unions, has weaker pollution laws, and entices new business with 10-year tax abatements. There’s no associated reverse currency flow, so there’s nothing to impede the race to the bottom.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                There is indeed an arms race with various dimensions.

                First there is the arms race to produce consumer products as efficiently as possible. This is the source of prosperity which you and I owe our existence to.

                I see no value in pursuing that which is good for unions. Who gives a F? There is an argument for what is best for workers, which is a different matter all together. However, the economic wisdom dating back to at least Mr Smith is that effective markets should focus on consumers, not producers.

                Pollution laws and corporate handouts need to be controlled by politics. I have no idea why anyone would trust politicians with the latter. The former will indeed lead to those communities valuing a clean local environment losing out to those preferring productivity. This is actually an example of efficiency and utility optimization, as long as the winners are not allowed to export their pollution to the losers.

                You are trying to inflict your values on others. Some of us don’t agree with your value rankings on unions, pollution, productivity, etc. I suggest systems where we can voluntarily coordinate our values. You just want to tell the rest of us what to do.

                Dictatorship of the progressives.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Roger says:

                This is where, if I were a libertarian, I’d get on my high horse and complain about how I’m going to leave because this place persecutes people like me. Instead, because I really do believe in open conversation, I’ll just remark on what a narrow set of beliefs the people who have tried to co-opt the word “liberty” find acceptable.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                What? I am pretty tall, but this is all over my head.

                Who is persecuted? Who is leaving? Who is co-opting the word liberty?

                I’m so confused!Report

              • As a Libertarian, I’d like to point out that I am already on my high horse and, indeed, I am used to persecution for my beliefs from statists.

                I might go into a mini-monologue about how, if I wanted to be accepted, I’d just give speeches about how other people should follow this list of rules I’ve been working on in my spare time for my entire life and list them out.

                Then, if I’d want to talk about persecution, I’d talk about Stalin. Maybe I’d talk about Hitler. Maybe I’d talk about FDR. Hey, it’s 1942 somewhere.

                And *THEN*, I would change the subject back to whatever it was that we were talking about.

                What were we talking about?

                Oh, California businesses moving to Texas or something and California being forced with having to resort to “You didn’t build that!” as Texas starts getting all of these sales taxes from all of these people who are now living in Texas and aren’t living in California anymore.

                Here’s a suggestion for California: raise property taxes. You’ve got to make up the shortfall somewhere!Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Amusingly, we did raise taxes recently and it didn’t lead to businesses fleeing to Texas.

                Which has apparently confused the shit out of everybody all the way across the political spectrum.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Libertarians warned us. When Bloomers came for the Bucket’O’Soda not enough of us disagreed hard enough. Then the hammer came down. came down hard and all we can do is weep.

                http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/wsj-editorial-board-member-blasts-totalitarians-behind-nyc?ref=fpblg

                Better to die on your feet then live on a bicycle.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Given enough time, I’m sure the economy will go nutbar at which point the liberals will point to their policy as being effective at managing the economy or it will tank at which point the conservatives will cluck their tongues knowingly and say, “It was only a matter of time”.

                All data points in-between, in the meantime, to be hotly contested as Ivory Tower Academics or Partisan Think Tank Hackery.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                CitiBank is the chief sponsor of the bike-share program. They’ll have to lay off a lot of employees and foreclose on their homes before the WSJ can ever trust them again.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Ugh, all I have to say is, please stop moving to Austin, California people. Pleeeeeeease.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Greg,

                Wow, that was a weird rant by Rabinowitz (of whom I’ve never heard before). All it lacked was a claim that Obama was behind it all.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I thought that was implicit.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                There’s no associated reverse currency flow, so there’s nothing to impede the race to the bottom.

                And yet we don’t see a race to the bottom, do we? We see some states where the public has a “conservative” view of such policy matters as taxation and environmental regulation passing conservative policies, and we see states where the public has a “liberal” view of such policies passing liberal policies…and most of those liberal states are doing ok economically, too.

                Race to the bottom? Great theory, but not really much in evidence. It ain’t a race if others aren’t trying to get ahead of you.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                it’s reasonable to ask whether it makes economic sense for trade to be less restricted between Detroit and L.A. (trading cars for movies!) than between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, less than a mile away from each other.

                It is indeed reasonable. In fact, it’s reasonable in much greater geographical removes as well. One of the responses to the Bangladesh disaster was to question whether Bangladesh should have different building standards than say, the U.S. – i.e. whether that arbitrage opportunity was to the good and justified by whatever scheme it is that has it in place. I thought that was a reasonable question, even if there was a reasonable answer in the affirmative (basically, sovereignty). But if it’s reasonable to ask that question – to question that result of the political principle of state sovereignty – it’s certainly reasonable to question the validity of arbitrage opportunities that arise among American states – i.e. to question that result from the American political principle of federalism, and perhaps even to question the principle itself. (And to do so from a position other than advocacy for universal laissez-faire in all the American states when it comes to state economic regulation – which is to take a position against “free” trade among the states.)Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Yes, I agree. That’s why I said it’s reasonable. More than that, I think it should be mandatory for anyone talking about this issue–whether protectionist or free trader–to test their ideas by applying them to the U.S. internally. After all, many of our states would be high population/GDP states on the global scale if independent. I’m too lazy to check the current numbers, but when I last checked about 8 years ago, California would have been about 7th and Michigan, iirc, 12th, globally in GDP as independent countries. So, yes, it’s reasonable to ask, what if Michigan and California had the freedom to regulate trade like countries have?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                …Or what if much more of their autonomy to regulate economically were taken from them under the same basic justification that justifies the interstate commerce clause – uniformity – but in the context of stringent, interventionist federal regulation? Since the logistical barriers to doing that are far more surmountable than the ones that bar doing it globally (though we can also ask about what might happen if it could be done globally – say, instituting a regime of, if not uniform standards, then still a centralized technocratic regime of standards that balanced need for development with minimum standards given prevailing conditions, etc.).

                People have different visceral reactions to what they perceive to be attacks on sovereignty vice attacks on federalism, even though in this context it’s not all that different a question. (Though actually carrying out such programs is quite plausibly doable in the national -vs.-federalism context, while pretty sketchy in the international context, though of course voluntary trade treaties are common enough.)Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I’m not sure I follow.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Michael and James, I am loving this back and forth. Thanks.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                …I guess what becomes muddy here is that where you say “free trade,” what that actually cashes out is uniformity of rules across political units, not necessarily a small degree of intervention. And “protectionist” doesn’t mean “aggressive regulation,” it means, “pursuing particualr advantage within a given system by engaging in regulatory tactics that differentiate oneself from others in the system.” So a free trade regime in this context could be achieved at a high level of common regulation, which is the point I’m trying to make about what could happen even in a “free trade” context among American states; meanwhile, protectionism (seeking particular advantage within a system of political jurisdictions by manipulating regulations and taxes) typifies the international context, even though the baseline level of general regulation for the whole system is pretty close to laissez-faire (international space is theoretically anarchy, though of course there are various international regimes that nod in the direction of changing that).

                Arguably, it seems to me, higher system-wide regulation might tend to discourage variation and thus arbitrage games. In the American states context, of course, having that view amounts to questioning federalism, which gets one labeled a heretic to some degree. That’s okay; I still question it.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Michael Drew says:

                So a free trade regime in this context could be achieved at a high level of common regulation

                Sure. In fact that’s precisely what the EU has been doing. I’m not persuaded that much regulation is a good idea, though. I get your point about reducing leverage opportunities, but that’s just one value, so we need to think about what we give up to get it.

                I think it’s easy to give up too much. 1) I think locales should be allowed autonomy over things that predominantly affect only that locale. 2) one-size-fits-all rarely does, particularly when there’s significant regional variation. An amusing example comes from a billboard years back that was responding to a (perhaps just proposed) federal rule requiring all employees to have a bathroom within a certain distance–the ad showed a cowboy on his horse out on the range with a toilet strapped to his back. 2a) Local knowledge about such things too often gets overlooked/ignored with centralized rule-making.

                Of course it’s legitimate to argue these aren’t sizable costs. I probably won’t be persuaded, but it’s still reasonable to argue so.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Pleasure, Will. 😉Report

          • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to James K says:

            …That appears to say that the amount of money stays roughly equal, not that they number of jobs do. It’s hardly unusual for labour-intensive jobs to be offshored and investment (within the US) to flow to capital-intensive industries. Which means you have fewer jobs, net, in the country from which they’ve been offshored.

            If the US reduces its exports of cars, but increases its exports of software-knowledge (not of actual computers and parts, which are also produced overseas), you’re going to lose a larger number of jobs at Ford than you gain at Google, reducing the total number of American jobs. The Google jobs will also likely be higher-paying than the Ford ones, but that also ramps up the level of economic inequality and the divide between a small number who thrive in the new knowledge economy and a larger number who are losing the stable economic position they had under the manufacturing economy.Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to James K says:

        Definition of a libertarian: someone whose own job hasn’t been outsourced to a developing nation – yet.Report

  8. Avatar DRS says:

    I think it’s got a lot to do with the American tendency to impose a gloss of moral judgement on almost any discussion of social trends or economic transformations.

    The poor can’t be poor because the medium/low-paying jobs that used to exist in an industrial economy tend to disappear when the economy shifts its focus to the financial realm instead. Today a BA is the equivalent of a high school diploma in the 1950’s – proof that you have some basic level of socialization and an understanding of how to communicate and plan. Physical strength isn’t as important anymore when so much of the mechanization is controlled by computers that can be “manned” (if you’ll pardon the expression) by women. So we have an economy where yesterday’s dads aren’t really needed but mom has better chances.

    But in America, apparently this isn’t the whole story. There’s got to be some kind of moral choice underpinning the whole thing. It’s like Rod Dreyer’s fixed belief that almost any social problem today can be blamed on women having easier access to the Pill since the 1960’s.

    In other countries, there isn’t that same moral discussion. It always makes discussions on this site so frustrating for non-Americans.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to DRS says:

      DRS, I think the reason that there isn’t the same moral discussion in other countries, which I presume you mean other Western countries, is because most European and Canadian conservatives conceded that they lost the 1960s. European and European conservatives were no more happy about the social changes of the 1960s than American conservatives.* Small town France and Germany probably saw the student movement through the same lens as small town America saw the hippies. The difference is that other Western conservatives do not believe that they can turn back the clock and undue the changes. Many American conservatives really do seem to think that the 1960s can be reversed if they wage war hard enough.Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to LeeEsq says:

        No I don’t think so. I think it’s because Americans are not used to feeling that things are outside their control so go looking for reasons why it’s really someone’s own fault that they got laid off or are facing some other economic difficulty. That way America is still wonderful. America cannot fail. It can only be failed.

        Other countries – and no, I’m not just thinking of western Europe and Canada – recognize that economic forces they have no control over are going to have an impact on their country. It’s not seen as a moral failing; it’s just a fact of life that requires adjustments. Americans aren’t used to thinking like that and it scares the hell out of them. Better to blame women who can’t keep their panties on.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DRS says:

      There’s got to be some kind of moral choice underpinning the whole thing.

      The thing is, there actually _is_ a rather serious moral problem in the US right now, due to moral failings of certain types of people, who _used_ to behave in a specific way and have now changed their behavior, nearly destroying society. Those people used to believe everyone was in it together, and they weren’t greedy bastards looking from handouts from the government when things didn’t go their way. They didn’t assert the government had to pay them money or else.

      The people I’m describing, of course, are the _rich_.

      The moral failings of society don’t trace back to the 60s. They trace back to the 80s.Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to DavidTC says:

        Yes. If anyone has lost their moral compasses, it’s the corporate elite whose focus on short term profits and self enrichment at all costs has helped move us toward third world country status with a huge disparity between the wealthy and everyone else.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Michelle says:

          I don’t think it was better earlier. During the Gilded Age and New Deal, many of the corporate elite were similarly short-sighted. It’s just that the politics worked out better for the non-elite for various reasons.Report

          • Avatar Michelle in reply to LeeEsq says:

            You’ve got a point there. But the corporate elite now has a lot more power without as much countervailing power (in the form of unions and other organizations) to stop them.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LeeEsq says:

            _Many_ were short-sighted, true.

            The thing is, it was 25% then, and it’s 95% now. Or whatever the percentages actually were.

            And part of the problem is now that the sense of entitlement has filtered down even lower, to the upper-middle class.

            A while back, on some board, in a discussion about a manager at KFC who fired a woman because she was homeless, I actually explained the actual _job_ of a manager (Aka, _make sure that their workers can do their job_.), and people responded with ‘preach it brother’ and talking about no managers appears to actually know this, which somewhat amazed me. Even goddamn managers thinks their job is to sit around doing nothing while money just magically appears out of fucking nowhere.

            No one actually thinks they have to do an honest day’s work anymore _except_ the working class…and they can’t find any damn jobs, because instead of actually operating companies that _make and sell things_, the superrich have decided to fuck around with credit default swaps and screwing around with buying and selling stocks every nanosecond, while dismantling companies for tax write-offs or who the fuck even knows where money comes from anymore. (It’s sure not from actually _making stuff_.)

            Our current economy is imaginary bullshit built on top of other imaginary bullshit on top of the mortgage of some guy in New Jersey who works at the only plant in America that actually produces anything anymore. And with our luck, it’s DVD players, and is about to fold when the owner refuses to start making Blue-rays.Report

  9. Avatar Just Me says:

    I think it is official. I’m lost and I have no idea what anybody is even talking about anymore.Report

  10. Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

    I’d like to thank CK MacLeod for offering a valuable perspective in the last thread. I’d urge everyone to read the following post, which alternately makes and refutes many of his points, while being significantly more sympathetic to feminism in general.

    http://weeklysift.com/2012/09/10/the-distress-of-the-privileged/Report

    • Yes, that post is excellent. Thanks a lot of the linkReport

    • Well, thanks for the kind words, Mr. Vonder Haar, except that I was thinking of bowing out of these exchanges and you’ve pulled me back in. I also don’t see how that thoroughly decent post you link “refutes” anything I said. Maybe you could be more specific. In the meantime I’ll note incidentally that the critique of “privileged distress” does not only apply to Tea Partiers.

      While I’m here, I feel obligated to point out two other things:

      1) I am sometimes amused by the presumptions people make about the beliefs of anyone who tries to understand and explore opposing points of view. Sometimes, however, people take such presumptions and build on them in ways that can’t be allowed to stand unanswered.

      Just up above we have a reference to a statement of mine that makes an observation on “the production of millions of hopeless and unemployed around the world.” The commenter claims to detect a “whiff of fascism” in my remark (which he or she also claims, oddly, “to love”). Apparently, the observation of unfortunate and well-documented, if frequently ignored facts is now thought fascistic. It’s particularly ironic in this instance given that the famous “Reserve Army of the Unemployed” has also been the reserve army of fascist and other authoritarian and much worse than merely authoritarian political movements.

      It’s bad enough to have been called a bigot a week or so ago – I won’t bother analyzing the charge – but in conjunction with being called a fascist, I am receiving a clear invitation to leave the site altogether, not least because trying to defend oneself against such accusations is only to reinforce them.

      2) Am I really the only here who finds the initial “comment on comments” from Conor, repeating himself from a comments-closed post he did a week or so ago, insulting to everyone who bothers to comment at all? If he didn’t seem to mean it, I’d take it as a joke, even if the sentiment is already annoyingly Clubby coming from some careerist blogger-journalist attacking “comments sections” with a broad brush but really meaning places like Politico or YouTube. At this site it would seem out of place.

      Those are the polite versions.Report

      • Avatar Francis in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        Oh for heaven’s sake buck up. If you’re going throw hard punches you should expect to get some back. Don’t get all whiny because I disapproved of your comment.

        For the record, the sentence you wrote, in response to my comment about a loss of privilege, was: “Go on cheering the production of millions upon millions of utterly hopeless and unemployable, thoroughly alienated and despised young men all around the world. Some significant number of them ought to make for malleable labor forces.”

        Let’s see what’s wrong with that comment:

        A. You’re wrong about me. I do not cheer the production of any unemployment of any group.
        B. It’s a complete red herring. The question on the table was the effect of rising female wages. If you think that there’s a causal link between rising wages and increased unemployment, please contact your nearest economics department.
        C. If you don’t see a reference to a threat of Fascism in the bit about millions of unemployable despised young men you’re either ignorant or a liar.
        D. Putting aside the issue of fascism, your comment was the kind of fear mongering I expect from Fox, not from a commenter of your evident erudition. In the context of a complicated issue, you made a naked appeal to fear. You deserve to get called on it.

        ps: The general rule is that men spell their name “Francis” while women spell it “Frances”.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Francis says:

          In MacLeod’s defense, he’s one astute enough not to view the factoid in a vacuum.
          re: B: It’s irrelevant if the two are causally linked. The fact that they are contemporaneous is sufficient.
          First, there was nothing to suggest that earnings are actually going up; merely the number of households where the primary earner is female. And this comes at a time of near-record unemployment. The whole issue of extended benefits is still on the table.

          From what I gather, his main argument has to do (paraphrasing here) of the extent to which FYIGM has eclipsed the traditional role of the father in the American home.
          Oddly enough, I was reading earlier today how a strong paternal relationship insulates persons from susceptibility to PTSD. I’m sure there are other conditions out there that are similarly related.
          . . . which comes back the the point about “outcomes” being a term of somewhat muddied meaning. If outcomes are defined solely by earnings, that’s one thing; if suffering from some manner of untreated mental illness (or perpetually treated, for that matter) factors in to “outcomes” in any way, then you’re in a different ballpark altogether.

          But the notion that this factoid proclaims some manner of great progress for women is wholly unfounded.Report

        • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Francis says:

          On second thought, I think I might prefer to have you referring to me as a fascist bigot than have to try to sort out a response to that response, Francis. (I’ve noted your gender, and thought you were probably a man, but you never know for sure – given the topic, I thought it better to err on the side of caution…)

          The comment from you that prompted the sentence you find so… packed with meanings… came in the middle of a discussion. You had responded at a point after a series of general statements regarding, in a word, cultural imperialism: I was trying to point out that it had several dimensions generally corresponding to socio-economic strata, extending well beyond the United States. “Rising female wages” may have been on your table, it may still be on your table, but it was not on that table. The discussion had moved well beyond that topic. I had already been arguing that the problems that Megyn Kelly wanted to discuss were only a small part of a possibly much more significant problem, and that in that sense Dobbs and Erickson (and Juan Williams, too) had a point.

          In my own comments I had especially in mind many of the men who fill our prisons, the many men who can’t find decent jobs, the women who can’t find good husbands but might like to, and the many, many other men and women who have for generations around the world been swept aside by “progress.” You returned to the narrow focus on what I guess you imagine to be the main impetus for defense of traditional marriage on the part of the American conservative right. You had written (emphasis added):

          Let’s be clear here: the “radically narrowed horizon for self-realization” is the loss of the unquestioned presumption of the dominant financial role in a marriage.

          Certain losses should be cheered, not mourned. The first generation of children of slave-owners also faced a radically narrowed horizon for self-realization. I don’t weep either group.

          So the idea of cheering, and specifically of your cheering, was something you brought up.

          Not wanting to repeat the several prior comments, I condensed the argument I believed you were effectively making into the statement you’ve quoted. To me, in that conversational context, you were effectively cheering the destruction of communities and the creation of useless men robbed of their basic dignity and of any way to re-gain it. In addition to seemingly proposing an idea about how we should feel about that process, you seemed to have an idea of the kind of dignity “they” should find acceptable, and the costs for them that the rest of us should deem bearable. Perhaps without realizing what you were arguing, in context, you exclaimed a complete lack of interest in their difficulties, since, as you say, “they” are the equivalent of “slaveowners.” Similar sentiments were echoed by Kazzy and Rachael.

          Let me be clear, I don’t think those sentiments are justified in relation to rightwing American Republicans either. I don’t think “equivalent of slaveowner” is a fair or very functional description for masses of people from Dubuque to Jakarta, who, if we have to bring up slavery, would be more like slaves in this picture than owners, since they would have had as little choice as slaves in how they were raised and educated. However, I don’t think that bringing up slavery, or fascism, is helpful. I also don’t care for the personalized attacks on Erickson or his allies, or on fellow commenters. I also don’t think you need to suggest that I’m a liar or ignorant if I don’t agree with your construction of the terms of the debate. I don’t want to escalate a fight with you, which is one reason I’m going on at length here. Frankly, I can see how the general concept or line of discussion would be difficult for you, and not just for you, to process. I’m not completely happy with how I’ve expressed myself, though I won’t bother to make excuses. I also won’t bother to respond to people who seem more interested in scoring personal points against me. In any event the article that James Vonder Haar linked above makes a version of the argument in a way that may be more clear to you.

          Last paragraph: In short, I see you, as well as Kazzy and others, completely disrespecting and rather cruelly discounting the lives, aspirations, and basic dignity of very large numbers of people, while also advocating a theory of gender roles, and of the meaning of resistance to that theory and its implementation, whose terms and real world impacts remain unclear, but apparently involve some severe unintended consequences. I don’t know how far you want to take the theory, and I’m not sure you know, but I do know that you and others are ready to denounce those who are unsure or unprepared to take your good intentions on faith, and whose difficulties – like trying to survive under conditions of most of us can hardly imagine – cannot be reduced to loss of “dominant financial role in a marriage.”Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            CK, I’ve been trying to sort out the point you’re making in my head, but you haven’t really supplied a causal connection between the topic at hand — Erikson et al.’s somewhat confused and confusing lamentations of the increase in the percentage of households with children in which women are the primary breadwinners, which includes single-parent and dual-parent households, two separate things with a complex relationship to women’s increased participation to the workforce – and your point about “many of the men who fill our prisons, the many men who can’t find decent jobs, the women who can’t find good husbands but might like to, and the many, many other men and women who have for generations around the world been swept aside by “’progress,’” or the existence of “useless men robbed of their basic dignity and of any way to re-gain it.” If you could flesh that out a bit, I might be able to offer you a more relevant response.

            As it is, all I feel I can say is that, while it is certainly true that, given that the socialization of males hasn’t kept pace with the progress made in including women in the economy both here in the U.S. and globally, it is certainly inevitable that many men will feel as though society has become more hostile to them and their world view. This is unfortunate, but I’m not sure what conclusions you’d have as draw from that (if this is part of the point you’re making). Should we consider ways to mitigate their alienation without reversing the progress we’ve made in including women in the economy, and without stalling continued improvements in economic freedom for women? Of course we should, because the speed and success of social change is in no small part dependent on them, since they are members of the group that still maintains the bulk of the cultural and economic power. But again, I’m not quite sure if this is consistent with the point you’re trying to make or not.

            I will say this: we have a social and economic system (in fact, the economic system has essentially become the social system) in which one’s freedom, and to a large extent, one’s worth, is inextricably entangled with one’s ability to participate in the economy as an independent actor. This fact (we can debate whether it’s a good thing or not another time) has clashed with traditional gender roles, which, at what we might call the height of the triumph of capitalism (the first half of the 20th century, through the 50s) led to a crisis, one which we still haven’t completely extricated ourselves from today. The crisis was this: because women were largely excluded from the workforce for cultural reasons, their ability to participate in the shaping of culture was limited, resulting in a vicious cycle. In a culture that valued individualism, they were dependent on men, resulting in a sort of second class status. The superiority of men resulted in a culture that was often hostile to women: a culture that implicitly sanctioned violence against women, at least within the confines of marriage, at the same that time it made it virtually impossible for women to escape that violence; a culture that warranted treating women as objects, and even as commodities (if you’re not an actor in the economy, it’s pretty easy to be treated as a commodity in it); a culture that, while it held few limits for men, severely limited the choices that women could made (e.g., a man could choose any of millions of socially acceptable life paths, while women were confined, essentially, to one: get married, have kids, run a household), etc. Two deeply connected developments have vastly improved this situation (though serious problems still exist): increased reproductive freedom, and increased access to the workforce. By increasing reproductive freedom, women have more control over their life path, and more opportunities for financial independence, and by increasing their access to the workforce, they are able to realize those opportunities. This makes it possible for women to escape, or avoid altogether, violent relationships, it makes it possible for them to influence the culture directly, it makes it possible for them to be treated as actors in the economy on part with men, etc.

            I suppose I should just ask you, then, do you think the anxiety that men whose socialization has not kept up with social change should outweigh the increased opportunity for independence, dignity, and worth provided to women by their increased access to the economy? If not, then again, I’m not sure where you’re going with all of this. Do you simply mean to say that we should recognize this, and take steps to reduce the anxiety without necessarily altering the direction of social change? If you do think it should outweigh the progress we’ve made on women’s rights and freedoms, why do you think that? Is there a principled reason? A pragmatic one (everyone is actually better off if women are not treated as cultural and economic equals, which amounts to roughly the same thing, in general, e.g.)? Perhaps if you just laid this stuff out, people would be less likely to project ideas into the large gaps you’ve left them to fill.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

              Kazzy and Chris,

              I’ll answer you together, though I’ll trust that Kazzy will understand if I focus on Chris’s obviously more systematic attempt to think these matters through. The reason that I answer you together is that I think you start out making parallel arguments, as allies, but that Chris’s analysis contains much of my answer to Kazzy, as well as, eventually, my answer to Chris himself.

              Chris’s historical summary largely explains, I think, why formulations like “a system designed to promote men over women” and “uniquely designed to benefit [men]” are inadequate. The “system,” as he shows, is a complex social, economic, and cultural reality, a living history that all participants are born into and that none can be said to have “designed.” To whatever extent that system is more “design” than a vast and imperfect assemblage of interlocking more or less spontaneous adaptations, it would be a positive collective work executed over the entire history of the human species, a quasi-artificial ecosystem of ecosystems within ecosystems within a larger ecosystem.

              For individual human beings, the vast set of adaptations and adaptations within adaptations is experienced as an already given community in an already given larger world. When anyone performs or attempts to perform alterations in this mass-collectively and trans-generationally produced “fabric of life,” according to whatever moral or practical or mixed notions, he or she does not confront commensurate abstractions only, but must address the real existing lives of really living people as we concretely find them. The resultant friction, conflict, contradiction turns up everywhere, on terms familiar from the communitarianism/multiculturalism vs. individual rights debate in theories of liberalism: At what point does any imposition of ideal liberal precepts of “freedom and equality” equate with the destruction of a “community” or “culture” defined by other commitments, and with valid or possibly valid rights of self-determination? At what point are you destroying the village in order to save it? More generally, condensing a critique elaborated elsewhere (I’ll stick to general terms here and leave the full discussion perhpas to some other day or to bibliography if requested), what is the real content of the “better life” supposed to be concretely when eventually every possible social or personal commitment other than to the abstractions of freedom and equality is defined as retrograde and unsupportable?

              Both of you, like others, concede that there may be pain for some people in social change in the direction of your freedom and equality ideal, though to different extents and in different ways you minimize that pain – not the pain itself but its relevance to your program – even in the absence of reliable answers to the above questions. One way to minimize difficulties is to define the discussion in the narrowest and pettiest way possible – for instance, as purely a question, the Megyn Kelly question, of rather successful men uncomfortable with more highly successful women. (Those belonging to neither group may find their personal reserve of sympathy already exhausted by statement of the question.) Another way to minimize and dispense with the concerns of “anxious men” is to treat those men as bearers of collective guilt for the “subjugation of women.” Since men, or at least all men who happen to think and act in the wrong ways as judged by anti-gender essentialists, are unreformed historical criminals, as bad as “slaveowners,” their pain does not matter or otherwise is to be “cheered.”

              I’ve already sought to explain why I find this approach both morally dubious and counterproductive, possibly quite dangerous to the interests of the gender-progressives themselves. To review, I have argued that it is morally dubious first and most obviously because it treats the pain of a certain class of fellow human beings as inconsequential (or desirable). Put in public policy terms, and assuming we are even capable of deciding on a desirable and broadly acceptable rate of social change toward a broadly acceptable and accepted goal or set of goals, we could say that we are presented with some large number of people who have been, as it were, trained for jobs that either no longer exist or soon will no longer exist, and that, to whatever extent they will still exist, will require new skills and qualifications under new conditions. Making the matter even more difficult is that we are not talking about simply about losses in jobs in manufacturing or construction or the military or for that matter journalism, among other historically male-dominated professions, we are also talking about entire ways of life, about identity formation from childhood and the perceived possible meanings of life itself (subjects that we mostly merely pretend to understand, and that return most of us to unexaminable, effectively sacrosanct presumptions). People have invested everything, the entirety of their lives, according to the terms of an apparently fraudulent promise made to them on behalf of society at large. Apparently the Kazzy et al proposal for coping with their predicament is “Tough to be you, ha!”

              For my own part, I find it strange that the inadequacy of that answer seems so difficult for some to process. It’s a bit of a mystery to me. It leads me think that there is much more going on here, having to do with foundational matters or self-concepts on the same or even deeper levels than the ones we already understand are being disturbed or displaced by “social change.”

              People who complain about the complexity of any ensuing discussion that meets this problem on its own terms will have already declared themselves incapable of contributing to it. It may even be that the discussion is inherently too complex: Not just for politics or political discussion but for any of us, since it seems to require us to perform brain surgery on ourselves, or re-think our thinking, for the living organism to modify its own capacity to modify its own capacity to modify its own capacity etc.: It sounds absurd because it describes the final rendering absurd of the only value systems we have for guiding us in the revision of the only value systems we have. It is the logical form, or self-negating illogical form, of that abstract-right/concrete-reality contradiction mentioned earlier – viewed as as though to be resolved one-sidedly in favor of the former. As a matter of political philosophy, it diverts us from policy problems and artificially narrowed FNC debates, and refers us to the nihilistic essence of technologism, a subject that Chris has I think examined at some point, before, like anyone else, returning to his own “false reason” over “none at all.”

              Trying to keep things in bounds conceptually, Chris asks a series of questions that look like they might be clarifying:

              [D]o you think the anxiety that men whose socialization has not kept up with social change should outweigh the increased opportunity for independence, dignity, and worth provided to women by their increased access to the economy?

              Presented on those simple terms, according to certain implied presumptions: Of course not. But the simplicity of the question is deceptive. There is no simple binary decision, nor the same decision in all times and places. It is easy to imagine personal, social, or political predicaments in which the “anxiety” of men or some men, or of many men and women on behalf of men, could entirely justifiably be taken as “outweighing” particular “increased opportunities for independence, dignity, and self-worth.” In general terms, these predicaments will be of the same type (from war to circumstances of sexual reproduction) that occasioned all of those inherited adaptations, all living history, that we imagine ourselves evolving beyond.

              Do you simply mean to say that we should recognize this, and take steps to reduce the anxiety without necessarily altering the direction of social change?

              Again, presuming we know and agree on the direction and content of “social change,” and that under “anxiety” we include the real and complex difficulties of “backwards men and women” in need of re-training and re-education, then why wouldn’t we take such steps? How could we justify not taking them according to any minimally humanitarian standard as as for simple practical reasons? How could we refrain from taking them without destroying the moral and rational basis of the better society to which gender equality is supposed to contribute?

              Last questions:

              If you do think it should outweigh the progress we’ve made on women’s rights and freedoms, why do you think that? Is there a principled reason? A pragmatic one (everyone is actually better off if women are not treated as cultural and economic equals, which amounts to roughly the same thing, in general, e.g.)?

              As I said, I don’t think the equations are as simple as that, or that solutions on such simplified terms are very useful solutions. More interesting to me, maybe me alone, is how the parenthetical definition points to the limit questions. In everyday life, we avoid the limit questions, which tend to be limit contradictions, questions at the points where everything that seems to make sense for us verges on pure nonsense, and the discussion itself tends to seem nonsensical and contradictory, or too complex and self-reflexive for some banal notion of “good writing” in which everything is just what it is, and so on. We let those discourse-bending questions “decide themselves,” which also means that we don’t decide them at all, which means that we prefer to let them decide us, or that we “live the contradictions” as someone somewhere said – maybe some New Ager or maybe a bunch of them or someone a bunch of them read, I don’t know, and it doesn’t come up on a first page Google search, and I’ve already spent my day on this.

              The limit question occurs within the phrase “cultural and economic equals.” I ask again (no one volunteered an answer on the other thread): How far are we supposed to take the critique of gender essentialism? Which if any “differences between men and women” are we prepared to acknowledge as better simply left alone, and why? What are all of those evil retrograde men supposed to be re-educated to believe, and to tell their children, assuming that instruction of their biological offspring will be among their roles? Since the terms of the last “deal” were revised without consulting them, and often against their strong preferences and without regard to their interests as they understood them or their “pain” as they felt it, why should they trust that the new one will be any more reliable? To what extent will the terms of the new deal be mandatory, to what extent optional? If the former, why should they go along peacefully at all, and, if they don’t, what are you going to do about it, and who’s going to do it for you without reinforcing their argument?

              I have a lot more questions. Some of them are as follows: Are the decisions on all of these questions moral decisions or practical ones? Is there a difference between moral and practical on these matters? Is heterosexuality itself something that we should aim to eliminate with the aid of technology? If not, why not? If so, to what end? Who should decide and for whom? By what right?

              If these questions don’t have simple answers, then how do you know what we’re speeding along toward? Could our lack of answers have something to do with why some things don’t seem to be working out so well as the new regime is progressively elaborated? How much friction is too much?

              Perhaps if you just laid this stuff out, people would be less likely to project ideas into the large gaps you’ve left them to fill.

              Maybe. At least the one who weren’t already committed to seeing precisely what they are used to seeing.

              If Chris or anyone else is interested in a discussion at an appropriate level of seriousness, then I’ll try to return to it as time permits.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                “If Chris or anyone else is interested in a discussion at an appropriate level of seriousness, then I’ll try to return to it as time permits.”

                This feels very much like you are only willing to have the conversation on your terms. As such, I will disengage.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                You do that sort of thing way too much.
                Seriously.
                Stop it.

                Now, it’s about:
                I’m going to go pout, and I want you to know that I’m going to be pouting, but I want to look more mature than you are while I’m over here busy pouting.

                It’s really not necessary.

                But I’ve noticed that’s become something of a habit with you; that you like to grind the boot in the face while slamming the door, with airs of gentlemanliness in doing so.

                I don’t care for it.
                I think it’s boorish.

                You would do well to maintain silence in such situations.

                You can ignore me, or think I’m an ass for saying it. I won’t be crushed by that.
                But I think you have something important to gain in considering my words beyond the screen.
                Because those behaviors are likely taking place beyond the screen as well.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

                CK set a certain standard by which he would participate in the conversation. He said he’ll “try to return” to a “discussion at an appropriate level of seriousness.” He said that. Him. Not me. Him. He is setting the terms with which he’ll engage, which he is free to do.

                But I am under no such obligation to meet his terms. As such, I’ve rejected them and wanted to make clear what I was doing and why.

                So why is it that you focus on my refusal to accept his terms instead of his insistence on such narrow terms in the first place?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                And as for why I disengaged with you, it was clear you were not interested in a genuine conversation. You were strawmanning and making light of real oppression, demonstrating the sort of hate that I feel I am unlikely to make ground on, so I saved my energy. Again, you’re free to converse how you want, as am I. But neither of us has an obligation to the other. You seem to think there exists one, largely grounded in what you want and when you want it.

                Yet you pretend you don’t know what privilege is. Case in point.

                Peace.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                Because I don’t see his terms as all that narrow.
                Actually, it would take more space to explain it than I care to expend.

                As for me strawmanning, I don’t think so.
                I was consciously and studiously repeating back to you exactly what you said so that you could hear how ridiculous it was.
                Although you may “feel” quite strongly about “oppression,” I believe your thoughts on it are rather indistinct.
                You began to qualify your statements more and more as the thread progressed.
                You were actually headed somewhere with that.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                So you acknowledge that he set terms, yes? Am I obligated to accept them?

                And you did not quote me. You didn’t seem to understand what the word “or” meant and then acted as if evidence of oppression could not possiblh exist. You were playing games, I was attempting to have a conversation.

                Take that garbage elsewhere.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                CK, I’m not sure whether this will indicate that I am operating at the appropriate level of seriousness, but I would like to begin this response to you with a story. I’m southern, forgive me, it’s how I relate to the world (this drives my New Yorker girlfriend insane, so I will understand it if it does you as well). However, I am telling it for a reason, to illustrate a few points. So I hope you will bear with me.

                My father, a boomer from Georgia, spent the late 60s and early 70s as a student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he became extremely politically active (he had knocked on doors for Johnson in ’64, as a high school student, but this was different). He was an anti-war activist and marched with civil rights protesters. By virtually any measure, he was liberal bordering on radical, particularly for the Nashville of the late 1960s. In other words, it would have been very difficult to have accused him of being one of the “evil retrograde men.” While in medical school (still at Vanderbilt), he met my mother, a devoutly Catholic (Italian Catholic, to boot) communist sympathizer (I hesitate to say she was an outright communist, in part because of the Catholic part, though South America has shown the two to be compatible to a degree), also a student at Vanderbilt. They dated, got married as soon as he finished medical school, and had me soon after, while he was a resident (still at Vanderbilt). When he was finishing his residency, and my mother had given birth to the first of my siblings, my father was courted by several private practices across the South, but ultimately chose to start his own practice with another Vanderbilt alum in a very small town south of Nashville called Franklin. He made this decision without consulting my mother, and in fact before he had even told her about it, he’d gone down to Franklin and purchased a house. He did all this without even thinking about consulting her, because he was the head of the household and these were his decisions to make.

                Don’t get me wrong, even in 1978, these were pretty asshole moves to make (not including her in the decision is one thing, not even telling her about them is another), but in the South of the late 70s, I doubt many other men would have thought so. My mother, on the other hand, harbored a great deal of resentment, understandably, as a result of this and other things my father did based on his ideas of the gender roles in a marriage. It really wasn’t until about 20 years later that she was finally able to forgive him for it. My father’s views of gender have changed a great deal in the intervening 35 years, and he has a much more… contemporary view of gender roles now, though they haven’t caught up entirely (neither have my mothers: when she and I were discussing my sister’s then fiance’s vegetarianism, she expressed the worry that my sister wouldn’t be able to cook him dinners that he liked).

                I tell you this to make a few things clear. First, I love and care for my parents dearly, so it is unlikely that I would think of either of them as evil. It stands to reason that I wouldn’t think people who think as they do, or as they did, are evil either (also, recall that in a discussion here the other day, I said that I don’t think “evil” as a predicate of people makes much sense, and can be quite dangerous because it can be used to dehumanize others). Second, I am roughly equal parts my mother and my father (some days more of one than the other), which means that some of the ideas about gender that I got less from listening than from observing my parents, are deeply ingrained in me. I struggle with them, and always will, so I am not so removed from this issue as you seem to think.

                With that out of the way, then, let me try to answer your questions. First, I should note that when I talk about the weights that we should apply to 0ne thing vs another, I am of course speaking metaphorically, but the metaphorical alignment that I mean to convey is specifically with modeling of the mathematical and computational sort. In such models, variables are given weights that determine their (relative) influence on the output of models. This is precisely a non-binary way of approaching the issue, in that it allows for the possibility of giving weights to multiple cultural, economic, and political vectors.

                Second, to answer your question about how far we should take gender equality, I say as far as it goes. There are undoubtedly differences between men and women, some innate and some learned, and even the learned ones will persist in our culture long after you and I are gone, though their manifestations may be unrecognizable to my parents, or even me, in some cases. However, it’s important to recognize that these differences admit a great deal of variation, and a great deal of overlap in the two distributions, such that limiting the depth and breadth of gender equality generally is as unnatural, and as unfair, as forcing people to recognize that equality.

                What’s more, because our cultural and political systems are so deeply intertwined with our economic system, limiting economic equality has consequences that extend well beyond the work place. For this reason, placing limits on economic equality is highly problematic, and it would take the demonstration of a great deal of harm, harm exceeding that done by unequal access to economic independence, for me to believe otherwise. I don’t think you have demonstrated such harm, or anything even approaching it.

                I should add here that I do think that there is one area in which I think gender inequality is necessary, and is so precisely because of its relationship to economic independence. Because raising children can severely limit one’s economic independence, allowing equal opportunity for economic dependence for both men and women requires that women have full control* over if and when they have children. Without great leaps in medical technology, and significant social change in how we raise children (e.g., a move away from children being raised in nuclear families, and towards more collective child rearing), this is a necessary gender inequality.

                Now, let me say two more things. First, I do not think that it is morally permissible, or socially productive, to ignore the alienation that the men and women who still see the world through the lens of traditional gender roles, in this country or elsewhere. Their alienation is a real form of suffering, and by alienating them those of us who wish to progress further towards gender equality risk a backlash that can hinder that progress, or even undue some of the progress we’ve made to date. I do not think them evil, or retrograde, or whatever other pejorative you want to use. I do, however, think that the steps that we take to mitigate that alienation can only be taken to the extent that they don’t impede that progress. My general view of how these things work is that they are discursive processes, and it is through such processes that we can work towards change while mitigating the suffering of those who have a difficult time adjusting. This means education, demonstration of the practical benefits of change, but also social pressure, as well as the recognition that some people simply won’t be able to make the change to a sufficient degree to avoid all suffering altogether without, again, impeding that progress.

                I saw this a great deal in my small southern town in the 1980s with race relations. There were a lot of people, mostly older but some young as well, who were greatly distressed by the increased involvement of black people in what they had been raised to see as white society. It would have been immoral to impede the progress towards racial equality in order to accommodate these people, but most of them were who they were through no real fault of their own, they had been raised that way, which means that ignoring and vilifying them was impermissible as well (today, I think some vilifying, and a lot of ignoring, is warranted on the issue of racial equality — we’ve reached a point where certain views on race are, and should be, socially unacceptable).

                Second, we don’t live in my preferred system. If it were up to me, our identities, individual and cultural, as well as our dignity and sense of self worth, would be almost if not entirely divorced from our role in the economy. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world, so for now we have to create change here in the world in which we find ourselves thrown.

                Anyway, this is already really long. I hope it clarifies my own position, and I hope it’s at a serious enough level that, should you feel like it, you will continue the discussion.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                Awesome comment. GP worthy.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Agreed. Fantastic comment.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

                “I do, however, think that the steps that we take to mitigate that alienation can only be taken to the extent that they don’t impede that progress.”

                Very, very well said.

                In some ways, this reminds me of a real point of frustration I have, something I’ve mentioned before.

                Ya know those times, where you’re sitting around with family or friends and the drunk uncle or the boundary-pushing dude says something racist or sexist or homophobic? And, this time, you decide to speak up? And then everyone looks at you like you made everything awkward and uncomfortable and it would have just been better to ignore it, even though everyone knew he shouldn’t have said it, because it’s just better not to force the issue? That shit pisses me off. And any attempt at derailing progress to satiate the anxiety of “distressed privilege” does, too. I’m all for bringing those folks along and helping them see that things are not as dire as they might think, and that they may even greatly benefit from the shifts. But I’m going to pretty severely limit the effort I put towards them.Report

              • Avatar Zane in reply to Chris says:

                This really was beautiful, Chris.

                I want to add just a little bit. CK MacLeod said:

                Which if any “differences between men and women” are we prepared to acknowledge as better simply left alone, and why?

                to which Chris replied:

                However, it’s important to recognize that these differences admit a great deal of variation, and a great deal of overlap in the two distributions, such that limiting the depth and breadth of gender equality generally is as unnatural, and as unfair, as forcing people to recognize that equality.

                I think this is really key. Somehow we keep forgetting that in almost all studies of “innate” characteristics of men and women, the diversity within men as a group or within women as a group are almost always much much larger than the differences between men and women as a whole.

                In fact, other than specifically biologically-based examples (pregnancy rates), I’m hard pressed to think of good examples where this is not true.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Chris – and this also goes for Zane and others – if I don’t reply in detail to your comments right now it will not be because I judge them insufficiently “serious” to warrant my or anyone else’s attention. The kind of comments that I specifically had in mind in the closing sentence of my prior comment are ones that focus on personalized attacks on another commenter or on some media personality, or that seek offense or an opportunity to recite a canned polemic, or that prefer to characterize a comment rather than address its argument. More generally, I don’t think any of us should feel obligated, when we have put effort into expressing ourselves, to respond to those who don’t make a complementary and somewhat commensurate effort to understand.

                I agree with Will H that some things are better left unsaid. I’m saying this now because Kazzy certainly, possibly you, and probably others seem to have misconstrued my intentions.

                Just a specific response to your comment: Now that you have clarified what you meant by the question of the comparative weight of concerns, for the purpose of a combined accounting of competing interests rather than for the achievement of simple binary decision, then we could approach that idea in more detail, or we could compare it to other approaches. For now, I’ll take it as reinforcing the main point that I’ve been arguing or attempting to argue since my first comment on a thread inspired by the initial Fox News discussion: that deriding Erick Erickson or the people he is thought to represent is a poor answer to him and for all concerned, and for multiple reasons.

                I’d say more, and try to explain what I find unsatisfactory in your argument, but the aspect of my final sentence that has gone un-noted is “if time permits.” Unfortunately, time doesn’t right now, for me. Don’t really have enough time even to get this comment right.

                For now, thanks for the exchange of views, and I’m glad that it provided an occasion for you to produce such a thoughtful and well-received statement.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                I have to disagree. Erick Erickson should be derided early and often.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                In this entire conversation, I haven’t said a thing about Erikson. If you want to know what I think of him, I think he’s a drone, part of a propaganda machine, as evidenced by his constant use of buzz phrases and talking points to signal to those who already “agree” with him what they should think of various things. I find him wholly uninteresting, and can’t imagine why anyone would want to have a conversation about him specifically. He certainly isn’t contributing anything new or insightful to the debate in the videos in Tod’s two posts.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, I don’t want to know what you think of Erick Erickson. I think I pretty clearly indicated that I generally do not care what anyone thinks about Erickson personally. What he and pointless personal reactions to him may represent are other matters. I thought, and in fact I still think, that you had conceded that much.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                I haven’t really paid much attention to the discussion of what Erikson said specifically. His bit about science is propaganda draped in verisimilitude. Other than that, what does he say that isn’t mere political posturing? How do you respond to that, short of counter posturing? I don’t think he even expresses the issues that you’ve been raising here. He’s more interested in tarring the left than raising real issues.Report

              • Avatar Zane in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                CK MacLeod, you wrote many things, and I think that Chris’ reply is really thoughtful reply. But, what the heck is this?

                Is heterosexuality itself something that we should aim to eliminate with the aid of technology?

                This seems really out of the blue to me. Has someone in this conversation stated that heterosexuality is evil or harmful or… well, anything? Arguing that we should allow same sex couples the same opportunities to marry (which seems a bit tangential to the OP anyway), is not equivalent to saying that there’s anything wrong with straight people.

                What kind of zero-sum world do you imagine we live in?Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Zane says:

                Zane [and Chris, too, I now realize]: I didn’t say anything about same sex relationships, marriage, eroticism, etc. Homosexuality is not the only alternative to heterosexuality or heteronormativity. I was thinking as much or more about the latter when I used the word “heterosexuality,” though a coherent phenomenology of sexuality may not in the end be able to separate the two, if both derive (as we all ourselves actually derive, or so I’m told) from sexual reproduction as “fact of life.”

                Anyway, I wasn’t writing rigorously, after a review of current colloquial and technical usages. Please feel free to propose a better terminology. Perhaps I should have just used the word “sexuality,” though people can maintain very imprecise assumptions about what sexuality is, too. I specifically had in mind the requirements for absolute “cultural and economic gender equality,” or actual achievement of effective androgyny, a true erasure of all vestiges of the sexual division of labor. In more ways than one, Chris quietly contemplates or implies such an eventuality or possibility without, I don’t think, quite committing to it. Yet the one exception to his very progressive and progressed state returns specifically to, as one might expect, a matter of sexual reproduction and child-rearing. My own suspicion is that similar exceptions would go forth and multiply from this initial very exceptional exception as soon as started looking further, eventually putting the underlying concept in question again. I didn’t mean to open this up, but, while I’m on the subject: If, as Chris says, we should just take gender equality “as far as it goes,” but we accept we can’t or don’t want to “go all the way,” then how would we know that we haven’t gone about just as far as it does actually go, or for that matter that we aren’t about to find that we’ve gone too far? If there’s no objective or perfect standard, if it’s just a “discursive” process leading to a series of compromises in particular contexts, then maybe it’s a practical and political, but from a moral perspective somewhat arbitrary or still uncertain matter.

                Anyway, my point was that we, each of us separately and all of us together, despite whatever practical agreements or assumptions, may maintain different and mutually contradictory ideas about the meaning of gender, gender roles, sexuality, masculine vs feminine principles, and so on. You can think of my question in terms of one in terms of one of those libertarian thought experiments: What if we had the option of truly eliminating sexual differences and achieving true gender equality, or the end of gender as a meaningful reference? Make things on this side of the veil of ignorance a little bit more like the ideal state on the other side of it? If we wouldn’t want everyone to take the Androgyny Pill now, or wouldn’t want to produce a global next generation or generation after next of Truly Androgynous People, why not? What would it say about what we value or about the depth of our commitments?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                CK, I hope you now see that it is you who is thinking in terms of simple dichotomies. As I said above, I see gender not as an either/or such that we are growing closer and closer to a simple identity, but as two multidimensional distributions with a great deal of overlap, and as Zane notes, a great deal of within group variation.

                What’s more, you are conflating two things: equality as a function of opportunity, or potential, and equality as a function of actual individuals. My point is that, because “gender” is a concept that admits so much variation, and so much overlap, it is important that culturally, politically, socially, and economically, we not predetermine the potentials of individuals based on simple gender dichotomies. This is a sort of theoretical androgyny that will bear out, well, who knows? You don’t. I don’t. We are limited in our imagination by the fact that our views of genders are so heavily colored by culture. It could turn out that, when potentials are equal, actual individuals will turn out to be pretty much the same, and we will end up with a largely androgynous culture. Or it could turn out that, when potentials are equal, individuals go in a variety of directions and you still end up with two separable distributions corresponding to some degree to biological sex. I see no reason to try to determine that beforehand based on contemporary prejudices (and I mean prejudices in the literal, not the pejorative sense).

                Also, I’m not sure why you include me in the bit about heterosexuality, but I’m not saying anything about romantic or sexual or even Platonic relationships. I’m trying to speak more abstractly than that.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, “simple dichotomies” is indeed the subject, but there are two at least dichotomies here: 1) Perceived or asserted “simple gender dichotomies,” and 2) perceived simple dichotomies between those who argue that operation according to simple gender dichotomies is preferable or necessary, and those who argue that doing is neither preferable nor necessary. If human minds operated or could operate generally according to understanding of mean-variance distributions rather than according to perception of “mean”-ingful regularities, then… the world would be a very different place and the people in it would be different, and vice versa: If the world were a very different place and people were different, then everyone would be “free to be you and me” instead of organized (and self-organized) according to ethnicity, age, gender, clan, and so on – that is according to patterns “determine[d] beforehand” for practical (survival) purposes. If there is no significant threat or lack, if conditions of safety and abundance reign, then there is no need to “determine beforehand.” If human life on Earth is stalked by dangers, including dangers from fellow human beings, then order – “determination beforehand” – will be necessary for those who hope to prosper and survive, perhaps especially when it comes down to the indispensable business of self-reproduction. Before anyone launches some accusation at me, I’m well aware that this discussion returns us to fundamental liberal/progressive vs conservative pre-suppositions about human possibilities and tendencies, or regarding human nature itself – the last being a term very much in play here.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                If human minds operated or could operate generally according to understanding of mean-variance distributions rather than according to perception of “mean”-ingful regularities, then…

                But it can. And it does! The problem is when we impose divisions, in the form of labels, on a set of stimuli. Language creates the binaries. We are perfectly willing to admit variation within our own in-groups, for example, and it’s only when we begin contrasting two groups, usually an in- and an out-group, that we begin to think essentially, and with the law of the excluded middle firmly in mind.

                instead of organized (and self-organized) according to ethnicity, age, gender, clan, and so on – that is according to patterns “determine[d] beforehand” for practical (survival) purposes.

                Precisely, they are determined beforehand for practical purposes, but those purposes are not entirely “natural,” they are largely “cultural,” and therefore capable of being changed. You’ve come to a conclusion — that these things are “natural” — before you’ve even begun the investigation. It’s led you down a dangerous path, I think, not one that is related to left-right or liberal-conservative axes, but one that is entirely determined by an attempt to delve into a depth that is entirely unseen and not experienced, an illusory causality that you’ve plucked blindly out of chaos. If you come back to the surface, the “transcendental field itself, the locus of sense and expression,” I think you’ll find that you’ve led yourself astray. Put differently, I think you’re attempting to find a causal structure for existing prejudices (again, not in the pejorative sense, but simply meaning “pre-judgments”), and begun to take those prejudices for the data, so that you’ve lost touch with the actual data, and its relations to other data, that we’re trying to suss out.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                This move, Chris, including especially the ascription to me of a belief in or operation according to a belief in “an illusory causality that [I’ve] plucked blindly out of chaos,” is the same tactic you applied when “translating” me for zic a hundred years ago or so in discussion of god concepts and atheism. Because the only way, according to your presumption, that the account could work for anyone is according to some primary causal process or “causal structure,” a -> b, you presume that that is how “it” is, because it must be, working for me or for my argument (b a). You begin imposing your presumptions, including ones about what mine must be, among other facts not in evidence, on the way to re-asserting your pre-existing commitments: exactly what you have projected on to me or my argument. In this instance, to make the statement you just made, you have to presume a stable-enough nature-culture, natural-artificial opposition as the basis for your image of progress. In certain contexts doing so might be valid or useful, but it is a falsification of the inquiry when the question of nature vs. culture is the primary and underlying subject of the inquiry itself. To do so in this particular context is just as much for you as for anyone including me, or your version
                of me, to decide the argument ahead of time in your own favor. Your tentative proposition regarding nature and culture is identical to the conclusion you reach regarding nature and culture. Your ending is in your beginning, and the inquiry becomes no inquiry at all. Put differently: you criticize me for supposedly operating under the kind of presumption that you have had to make in order to criticize me, and that you are in the process of elaborating.

                Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                (actually I kinda like a ? b, but it was meant to be a character that serendipitously enough, the LOOG parser doesn’t seem to parse, at least for me… or anyway like I was saying…

                Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                CK, I don’t mean to create a hard and fast division between culture and nature. To me, of course, it is all “natural,” which is not to say all material or all physical. My point, which I made poorly, is that you appear — and perhaps I’m wrong about this — to go from the way things are, and they way they have been predominantly in Western culture, to a claim that this is the way they are in and of themselves. If you aren’t saying this, I apologize for accusing you of doing so.

                My argument, which I haven’t really laid out, is that we don’t have a real picture of the way things are, because we’ve covered the way things are with a veneer in the service not of “survival,” but in the service of power, which is to say in the service of existing and self-perpetuating systems of power that have developed culturally, on top of a biological substrate of course, but to what extent this direction of development, this system of power (or system of systems of power) corresponds directly to that biological substrate is of course one that we can’t answer, because again we’ve only witnessed this world through a haze. I see you, at least here, arguing in the service of that power, and I took you to be saying, in essence, that this power is the way things are in themselves, on some deep level. Again, if I interpreted you incorrectly, I apologize.

                Let me try it another way: it may turn out that, by ceasing to limit cultural, economic, political, and social opportunities along gender lines, we find that things play out roughly as they are now, which is to say that, with some inevitable differences (inevitable because power always distorts surfaces), things look basically like they do now, with men tending to occupy certain roles not because cultural and economic restrictions, but because the system, as you put it, “self-organizes” that way. Or it may turn out that, when those restrictions are removed, it self-organizes in a completely different way, a way that draws the boundaries of gender very differently in all of those spheres I keep mentioning, an entirely different self-organization, and a more organic one. We might discover a multiplicity rather than a dichotomy, a plane rather than a line.

                This isn’t meant to be merely an experiment, though. We have very real evidence that the current structure is harmful not only in that it limits women, but that in so doing it creates the illusion that women, in being limited, are lesser. With fewer opportunities, a fact seen as the natural state of things, they are essentially lesser people, and certain violations of their bodily and mental integrity are seen as warranted. This is not just the culture in which we still feel the need to discuss the shoes a successful woman wears, but the culture in which a level of violence towards women is inevitable, and constant.

                I worry, as I’ve now written this, that you will see this as me once again trying to cut off avenues of inquiry,this time by invoking the specter of violence, but it is not a specter I need to invoke, because it is apparent and at hand, not for you or for me, because we’re men, we’re not its subjects or its objects, but that doesn’t make it any less present. And whether you like it or not, it’s the violence, not my invoking it, that cuts off avenues of inquiry. This is what is at stake, as much, and I would argue more so, than the alienation of those who, if they don’t directly benefit from this particular axis of power, are at least shielded from its negative consequences. And because we live in a society that is dominated by its economic dimension, the only possible way to counter the violence is through increased individual access to the economy. Our history since this inextricable connection between economic status and social status developed makes this apparent: every marginalized group that has managed to become a participant in our society on equal footing, that has managed to reduce the violence direct towards it, has done so through increased access to the economy. Short of a radical change to our culture (and I would love to radically change our culture), we’re left with a choice, one which you may not like, but which is inevitable: continue to to treat women as something less than men, or continue to increase their economic opportunities. As I said above, what this will ultimately mean for our gender dichotomy, neither of us can say, but what it will mean for a moral equality is apparent.Report

              • Avatar Zane in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                I think you’re saying that “heteronormativity” would have been a better term than “heterosexuality” in the sentence I quoted. Let’s try it out:

                Is heteronormativity itself something that we should aim to eliminate with the aid of technology?

                I’m still not getting it. But I think that I am understanding something else.

                You seem to believe that folks want to end gender differences. That is, to bring about androgyny. I’m surprised at this, but I can see you’ve been stating this all along.

                I don’t care that some women are girly and some men butch. Or that some women seek more traditional gender roles within marriage. More power to ’em! I do care when social and legal structures enforce rules that say, “Men and women are of necessity different, and no woman will do X and no man will do Y.” (Perhaps I should have reversed the algebraic terms there?) I do care when it is argued that the loss of relative higher status for holders of unearned privilege is thought to be reason enough to slow or stop or reverse social change that brings equality to those who’ve been denied economic or social opportunity.

                Am I interested in what the loss of relative higher status for holders of unearned privilege means? Yes. I do think that feminism has not convinced enough men that they also benefit from women’s equality. (Though it is arguable that taking care of men’s reactions is not really feminism’s job.) I see that reaction resulting from privilege-loss is a barrier to greater social and economic freedom and opportunity. So this is a topic worth exploring. But the idea that this is a social project to make all men like all women (and vice versa) is simply not true.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Zane says:

                Zane – just noticed this comment: The extreme or furthest implications of “full cultural and economic gender equality” logically would be androgyny or total erasure of sexual difference (thusfar mainly a subject of science fiction). Of course, I don’t believe those arguing on these threads for gender equality envision or seek such a thing, but they express themselves almost as though they do – not just in the abstraction of “full cultural and economic equality,” but the one-sided depiction of the sexual division of labor (a not merely economic institution) as purely “subjugation of women,” akin to “slavery,” and based on “unearned privilege.” In short, some seem hostile, and many others seem at best indifferent on the question of “family values.” Needless to say, the devaluation or indeed negative valuation of the “nuclear family” is hardly a universal view. The reason to ask the androgyny question was simply to discover how far you think we should be willing to go in the traditional or conservative direction, which sees the nuclear family (and the gender roles or sexual differences it embodies and replicates) not merely as valuable but as the source of values and worth reinforcing socially, but, since I don’t think I’ll likely be able to hold up my end of a conversation on this topic, or to explain remaining unclarities systematially, I won’t ask you to expand on your position now. I mostly just wanted you to understand that I’m not out of my mind.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Zane says:

                Fantastic comment, Zane.

                I’ve done a good amount of research on sex differentiation. As a teacher of young children, it is a subject of both great interest and great import to me. I haveno doubt that there are real differences between the sexes when you compare the totality of men to the totality of women (leaving aside those who do not fit this binary for the moment), based on both the research and the empirical evidence.

                So, even without socialized gender roles, there are ways in which the kids may choose different paths because of the primary and secondary characteristics. But there is also a great deal of variation within the sexes. And the differences tend to be of degree, not kind: boys tend to develop gross motor skills abead of girls and girls tend to develop fine motor skills ahead of boys. But both develop both sets of skills: all able-bodied girls will learn to run and jump and all able-bodied boys will one day hold a pencil and write with it. And there are strps we can take that both respect these differences AND allow children to not feel bound for them. The goal is not to make all boys like girls or all girls like boys or both of them little genderless beings. It is to recognize their talents and skills and passions and interests and empower them as best we can to realize their goals in life, which should be formed without external pressure based on their sex or gender.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Zane says:

                Of course, I don’t believe those arguing on these threads for gender equality envision or seek such a thing, but they express themselves almost as though they do – not just in the abstraction of “full cultural and economic equality,” but the one-sided depiction of the sexual division of labor (a not merely economic institution) as purely “subjugation of women,” akin to “slavery,” and based on “unearned privilege.”

                Ugh. Every time I feel bad because you say that I’ve mischaracterized your position, you say something that suggests I haven’t. Once again, this is only a worry if we treat these things as a simple dichotomy, so that “equality” can only mean either one side moving towards the other or the two sides collapsing towards each other.

                It seems to me that the more likely outcome is that your dichotomy, expressed as two ends of a single line, is exploded into a multi-branched tree. People always differentiate themselves on any dimension they can, and nothing we’re saying suggests that we should or will or can eliminate all divisions based on gender. I do suspect, however, that the axis you seem to treat as inherent will be radically redirected (and branched; perhaps better described at the end as a plane rather than the line you’re treating it as).Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                “You seem to believe that folks want to end gender differences. That is, to bring about androgyny.”

                Is that really it? Goodness, I hope not.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Homosexuality is not the only alternative to heterosexuality or heteronormativity. I was thinking as much or more about the latter when I used the word “heterosexuality,”

                I think you’re using the hetronormative to mean ‘gender normative’. While it does include that, I suspect it is confusing people who think it just refers to _relationship_ roles.

                Moreover, you’re not using that right. The entire premise of hetronormative is that there are _assumptions_ built into the world, about gender roles and relationship roles. The hetronormative assumption is: Everyone is either a cis male or a cis female, attracted to the opposite gender, and they will enter a relationship with exactly one person of the opposite gender where the man does the money earning and the woman does the cleaning.

                Not a _single_ word of that is alterable with technology, baring some sort of mind control. Because they are not ‘facts’, but are assumptions. Hetronormative refers to society’s assumptions about people, or, to put it less nicely, society’s prejudices about people. You can’t fix prejudices with technology.

                You seem to think that hetronormative includes the biological fact that people are born (generally) with a specific biological gender. That fact is not something that anyone has a problem with. People may wish to correct their own biological gender, but no one wants to alter _other people’s_. (At least, no one opposing hetronormativity. It’s the people with written-in-stone gender roles that freaked out about intersex and trans people and try to ‘correct’ them to whatever they decide that person ‘really’ is.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:

                “The hetronormative assumption is: Everyone is either a cis male or a cis female, attracted to the opposite gender, and they will enter a relationship with exactly one person of the opposite gender where the man does the money earning and the woman does the cleaning.”

                Is that accurate, DTC? I’ve only recently been exposed to the idea of heteronormativity and have not studied it in any real depth. My assumption was that include the first few phrase there, but does not necessarily assume that “the man does the money earning and the woman does the cleaning.” Is this latter part generally included in the definition?

                I don’t mean to challenge you here. Rather, I seek enlightenment. You strike me as someone more knowledgeable on this than I.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

                Is that accurate, DTC? I’ve only recently been exposed to the idea of heteronormativity and have not studied it in any real depth. My assumption was that include the first few phrase there, but does not necessarily assume that “the man does the money earning and the woman does the cleaning.” Is this latter part generally included in the definition?

                Yes, and no.

                I have a confession to make. You see, _I_ was thinking the exact same thing as you, that heteronormative was essentially just the assumption that LGBT people didn’t exist. I was even going to point out that heteronomative was being misused.

                ..and then I look at it on Wikipedia.

                What I was thinking at first was the _original_ definition, but it apparently has expanded to include gender roles in general. I find this very confusing and annoying. There are reasons we have _different_ words for _different_ things. ‘Heteronormative’ is already the assumption that human beings are composed of straight couples, we don’t need to overload it with ‘gender roles’ assmptions, which, duh, already has the term ‘sexism’. But I’m not in charge of language.

                That said, CK was still misusing it. It doesn’t mean ‘The fact that two biological sexes exist’, nor has anyone, at any time, proposed changing that fact in general. Specific people may end up outside those two sexes, either by choice or otherwise, but no one’s proposed that as any sort of policy or even stated it was an ideal or even _good_ outcome for people in general. (I rather suspect most feminists, like most other people, enjoy being the biological sex they currently are, even if they dislike the discrimination society applies based on that.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:

                Thanks for dropping that knowledge. I share your frustration when we conflate things that are similar but not alike.

                There is a nation-wide organization called “Banana Splits” that helps schools set up support groups for students of divorce or single parent homes. As I understand it, this has morphed to include same-sex couples (I’m not sure if this was done from the top-down or if individual groups changed on their own). Which, to me, seems off. I think both groups of students are likely in need and deserving of support because of the unique challenges that children of such situations tend to face. But they challenges that children of divorce face are different than those that children of same-sex couples face. Not harder or easier or better or worse; just different. Lumping them all in together, in my eyes, actually minimizes the experiences they are facing, ultimately declaring that the group is simply the non-traditional-nuclear-family group. Which is technically true but functionally of little use.

                Extending heteronormativity to include gender norms risks jeopardizing efforts to challenge the original definition of heteronormativity in service of similar but distinct goals. Both ought be sought and, when appropriate, can be done in tandem. But assuming they are one in the same seems wrong.

                Thanks again!Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            CK,

            I have disrespected no one. Being unsympathetic to complaints over lost privilege is not disrespect. It is simply directing my sympathy towards those I feel most deserve it. Not included in that are men who feel lost in a world that is not uniquely designed to benefit them at the exclusion of others.

            I’m not saying these men are bad or evil or anything of the sort. What I am saying is that they have uniquely benefited from a system designed to promote men over women and that the elimination of that unique benefit is a good thing.Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

              “lost privilege”
              You know what my beef is with “lost privilege?”
              For a lot of kids, going to a school where there’s no dominant gang is a “privilege.”

              Privilege is a values judgment; one which demands that all others conform to the same norms.
              All that conformist bs pisses me off.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

                You misunderstand privilege.

                Some privilege is ended by eliminating the benefit.
                Some privilege is ended by extending the benefit to all.

                All students, ideally would go to a school without a dominant gang culture. If that were the case, the privilege enjoyed by those who do over those who don’t would be eliminated. This would be a great thing to accomplish.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will H. says:

                Don’t confuse Privilege with Right. We get the word privilege from the same root as private, Latin privus, one person, legis, a law. A privilege is what one person has and others don’t.

                You’ve got it exactly backward. A privilege is what everyone must acknowledge — the advantage enjoyed by one person. All this weaselly abuse of the English language pisses me off, too.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to BlaiseP says:

                A privilege is what one person has and others don’t.

                More specifically, a privilege is an _exception_ to a general rule, law, or restriction that one person (or set of people) have and another does not. (The fact I own a specific thing and no one else does is not ‘privilege’, assuming that laws about property ownership apply equally. I suspect that’s not what you meant, but it could be read that way.)

                Privilege is not really when laws are aimed at specific people. That is technically true, but it’s easier to think of it the other way around, because that’s usually how it’s set up…the law legally applies to everyone, but somehow the ‘privileged’ people don’t actually suffer from it. _Everyone_ technically has to show papers…but only Hispanic people will be _asked_.

                Privilege is when society decides that rules are not for specific people. It is when rules somehow deflect around people like Sue Storm deflects light around her. There are good people, and we’ll waive the rules for them, and there are…those other people. You know the ones. We need to make sure they stay in line.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

                That is technically true, but it’s easier to think of it the other way around, because that’s usually how it’s set up…the law legally applies to everyone, but somehow the ‘privileged’ people don’t actually suffer from it.

                And it’s worth pointing out that the most overreaching privileged laws, the one everyone _does_ see a problem, usually fail at this ‘fairness’.

                For the obvious example, the law that, if you were convicted of a drug offense, you couldn’t get financial aid and to go to college.

                Even people who don’t normally examine any of their privilege at all said ‘Hey, wait a second…why are we deliberately setting up laws where rich drug offenders can go to college but middle class drug offenders can’t?’.

                Or maybe the problem there was just that the privilege excluded white middle class people. Actually, nevermind this post, that seems much more likely.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        Hey, CK. One of the things that helps me is to use these discussions as a weathervane. I’m arrogant enough to suspect that these people here are mostly the Brahmin in charge of figuring out which memes will take and which won’t.

        Well… maybe not the guys in charge of them. But they’ve adopted the mindset and, as such, are good proxies.

        There was a phrase I saw a while back that said something to the effect of “show me the institutions that absolutely will not brook any mockery and I will show you the de facto state religion” and that statement has been stuck in my craw ever since. It strikes me as accurate.

        This website is the best indicator I’ve yet found that points to what we will believe tomorrow.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          I’m arrogant enough to suspect that these people here are mostly the Brahmin in charge of figuring out which memes will take and which won’t.

          Which people where?Report

          • Well… maybe not the guys in charge of them. But they’ve adopted the mindset and, as such, are good proxies.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

              I still don’t get it; who are they?Report

              • “The Educated Elites” that I imagine have the ears of the various idiots who get elected to office. The guys who get invited to meetings at the White House and then write columns making similar points the next day. The smart folks who sift and sort through the dreck out there and pick out the best memes that will likely prove to be the fittest when they get thrown out there into The Real World.

                The Brahmin.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                You’re continuing to refine your description of the people you’re pointing at. That wasn’t the question. The question was, What people are you pointing at?Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I don’t see quite the collective that Jaybird does. I do see the set, though; I just don’t think they’re coordinated.

                Look at the guys who work for the top 50 of the Fortune 100 and then get appointments as heads of bureaus and then when they’re done with that wind up with a better job at one of those 50. Maybe, they’re on a board or three of public for-profit corporations. Maybe, they’re on a board of regents at a prominent university.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick says:

                I think you’re doing the same thing, Pat.

                I really think you guys are making Mike’s (and my) question more challenging than it is. I think Mike just didn’t get who “these people here” was referring to – like, the actual people. Who? Us? I’m not on a corporate board, are you? Maybe Roger is. Is Jaybird talking about us? Who is he talking about with “these people here”?Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

                I think Mike just didn’t get who “these people here” was referring to

                It’s a response to James Vonder Haar’s initial comment, I think.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

                So you want me to say “Dan Smythe, Wallace Whittaker III, and Sam Johnson (no relation to the West Coast Johnsons)”?

                Are you hoping I’ll say “The Rothschilds”?

                I don’t know any names. I just know that there is a very particular type of educated elite that ends up running things. I mean, let’s think about John Kerry’s debate prep team. I’d say that the people here, on this very website, would be good proxies for John Kerry’s debate prep team and arguments that our folks here are capable of destroying are arguments that will also be attacked by that team. Arguments that aren’t destroyed but are easy to deflect by our guys here will likely be deflected in the same way.

                And the same for Obama’s debate prep team.

                And the same for Obama’s damage control team.

                You can see how arguments about, say, Gay Marriage, Gun Control, Marijuana, and, yes, Equality are handled here and make some pretty good assumptions about what you will hear from various talking heads on the Sunday Morning Television Shows.

                You see what arguments work here and which arguments leave folks floundering (I’m sure you’ve noticed the difference between the arguments we’ve had about Benghazi and the arguments we’ve had about the IRS being used as a political tool).Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick says:

                It just wasn’t clear to me you were talking about the people who “end[] up running things.” Yes, clearly, they are Brahmin.

                I just didn’t know that that’s who “these people here” referred to.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick says:

                Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just straight up us. We are mostly the Brahmin in charge of figuring out which memes will take and which won’t. Well… maybe we’re not the guys in charge of th[at]. But we’ve adopted the mindset and, as such, are good proxies.

                I wonder, does that include Jaybird? Are you just on a different debate prep team, is all? Or not, even? Or you’re just not one of these, maybe. That’s us.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

                Me? Naw, dude. I’m crazy.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick says:

                Right, I didn’t think you would apply that flattering assessment to yourself.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Patrick says:

                No, you’re right, that was facetious.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Yes. Now I know who the Brahmins are, but I don’t know who their proxies are, or why you brought them up, or how they count as “these people here”. Or what they have to do with the fact that Erickson and Dobbs are douchebags.

                Other than that I’m good. But if the next response is going to be another few cryptic sentences instead of a full explanation, don’t bother, because the whole thing is very, very frustrating.Report

              • Well, in my opinion, we make for a decent set of proxies for the Brahmin. That is: an argument that flies here will fly among them, an argument that we destroy easily will be destroyed easily by them, and an argument that they can’t handle won’t be handled well here.

                Why I brought them up was because CK was making notes about leaving and I was doing my best to come up with an argument for why he shouldn’t.

                As for what they have to do with the fact that Erickson and Dobbs are douchebags, I’d say that the nigh-unanimity will indicate how that particular tempest in a teapot will play out (that is, of course, if it still has any juice on Monday). Just look through the threads. It’s a preview of the arguments you’ll see other people have. You should hear echoes.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                That’s actually pretty condescending. “Don’t take these people seriously enough to let them upset you, just do what I do and find value in their performances.”Report

              • I don’t intend to condescend. (I mean, the political ideology found here is the dominant one. How do you condescend to that?)

                I’d also use a very different word than “performances”. I’d probably instead say “philosophy”.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

          “This website is the best indicator I’ve yet found that points to what we will believe tomorrow.”

          For what it’s worth… this is exactly why I visit (and only occasionally comment); in fact, it is very nearly exactly the phrasing I use when I encourage my other crazy traditionalist communitarian Catholics to read this site as homework.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        “the production of millions of hopeless and unemployed around the world.”

        Since you never explained who they were, what will produce them, or how you propose to avoid that, it was a difficult statement to engage with.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        It’s bad enough to have been called a bigot a week or so ago – I won’t bother analyzing the charge – but in conjunction with being called a fascist, I am receiving a clear invitation to leave the site altogether, not least because trying to defend oneself against such accusations is only to reinforce them.

        That’s the clearest thing I’ve read from you.

        William Zinsser said, “Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.” It is not, I think, that you’re receiving a ‘clear invitation to leave the site,’ but that you seem too prideful to value those hallmarks of clear communication — clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.

        This is a failing of many potentially great thinkers; instead of having their genius appreciated, valued and admired, they often end viewed as pompous asses. It’s sad to witness someone who thinks deeply and might contribute valuable alternative points of view and constructive criticisms relegated to that dusty bin.Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to zic says:

          If he writes a lot, he’s a pompous ass.

          If he writes only a little, he’s more interested in snark than discussion.

          If he writes just enough then it doesn’t matter how much he writes when he’s wrong.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Jim Heffman says:

            Is that how it came off?

            If so, I apologize.

            But writing to be understood seems an important part of writing. I don’t get much indication that C.K. intends to be understood; rather that he relishes speaking over other’s heads.

            It’s possible I’m wrong.

            But I did make a living writing; and if what I wrote was beyond my audience (I’m not the first to say something in the last few days,) I’d be grateful to have it pointed out. I realize most people don’t feel that way.Report

            • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to zic says:

              “if what I wrote was beyond my audience I’d be grateful to have it pointed out.”

              You presume that you’re the audience. Maybe what the writer figures is that if you’re too scared of words to read a long post then you aren’t worth speaking to.

              Modern Americans have this bizarre fear of the written form of communication. I had a thirty-minute conversation with my boss today, wherein he tried to get me to agree to never send email again, and I kept asking him why not, and he burbled and muttered about “getting lost in the shuffle” and “if it’s too long then it’s too long” and “can’t keep up with all the traffic”.

              Near the end I was practically begging him to please, *please* tell me that he had some reason for this other than that he never learned to read.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                Message @short @concise @brief #modern!Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                Maybe what the writer figures is that if you’re too scared of words to read a long post then you aren’t worth speaking to.

                TL/DR syndrome is only the tip of the iceberg.

                Did your boss have some other reason? (A big one, in some work situations, migt be the e-trail coming back to haunt you for speaking freely and honestly.)Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

                I’m with zic here. I’m not advocating CK leave, but his writing style smacks of pompous academia where the primary purpose is to impress with style and obfuscate just enough to make direct refutation of substance impossible. It’s the kind of thing that made the Sokal hoax possible. I was taught to use writing to communicate ideas clearly.

                The writer should do the work so the reader doesn’t have to, for two reasons. One, it’s the best way to avoid the frustration of people refusing to read you or too readily misunderstanding you. Second, as my mentor taught me, it’s the considerate thing to do.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                I know I’m always the one who defends CK, but I honestly don’t think he’s writing to be pompous or purposefully obfuscatory. He writes enough comments, often enough, that it seems pretty clear that this is just the way he writes, and it would be unfair to ask him to try to write differently.

                This is not to say that he is not at least partially to blame for some of the misinterpretation or failure to understand what he’s getting at. Even if it is just his style, it’s still impenetrable enough to make such things inevitable. Hell, I’m one of his biggest defenders here and it sometimes takes multiple comments for me to figure out what he’s getting at, if I ever do. I just don’t think it’s fair to make personal judgments from his writing style.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

                don’t think he’s writing to be pompous or purposefully obfuscatory.

                That’s probably true. It’s quite likely it’s just a really bad habit he picked up.

                it would be unfair to ask him to try to write differently.

                No, no, it wouldn’t. It’s never unfair to ask people to make an effort to be clear. As my mentor said, it’s the cordial thing to do. To do otherwise is an act of rudeness, even though nit intended as such.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Eh, I think there are two ways to approach it. One: this is the way he thinks, this is the way he writes. Asking him to change that would be to ask him to be someone other than who is. The other is that, if he expects people to discuss these things with them, he should try his best to communicate with them, and it’s clear he hasn’t been doing that very effectively. I think a happy medium is the right way to approach it: try to be clearer, without changing style or substance.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Chris says:

                To put it in as positive a light as possible, I too would love it if CK tried to write more clearly and directly. Just saying.

                And yes, I realize I am a terrible writer.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                A writer will find that the more precisely, conscientiously, appropriately he expresses himself, the more obscure the literary result . . . . people know what they want because they know what other people want. Regard for the object, rather than for communication, is suspect in any expression: anything specific, not taken from pre-existent patterns, appears inconsiderate, a symptom of eccentricity, almost of confusion. . . . Few things contribute so much to the demoralization of intellectuals. Those who would escape it must recognize the advocates of communicability as traitors to what they communicate.

                Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

                I will say my ability to respond to CK was, at times, limited by having no real idea what he was saying. Maybe that is on me, maybe that is on him… I dunno… but it did prove an issue.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                On the other hand, there’s also the axiom my sister uses when reviewing submissions for the academic journal she edits:

                “Just because no one knows what the hell you’re trying to say doesn’t make you the next James Joyce. 99 times out of 100 you’re just really bad at effective writing.”

                Which is not to say that this applies to you, CK; I don’t believe that it does. Just throwing an additional quote on to that pile.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Chris says:

                Quoting Adorno is not helping you.

                Orwell:

                “As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think…People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning — they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another — but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.”Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                (I don’t have access right now to the original, so am using a widely used English translation: I have in the past translated the end of the last sentence as ” the advocates of communication as traitors to that which is to be communicated,” but I suspect now that the evocation of infectious disease in the word “communicability” and the peculiar difficulty of “what they communicate” may have both been intended, or in other words that my effort to soften the hard thought, for the sake of “communication,” may itself have been the kind of betrayal Adorno was indicting.)Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Chris says:

                longwrite bad. mytime plusportant.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                In the past, I have asked people to write down to my level. I tend to see this as a “me” problem rather than an “other person” problem, though.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Vague expression permits the hearer to imagine whatever suits him and what he already thinks in any case.

                You left that part out.

                I think you have to walk a fine line, particularly in a forum like this, between communicating something and expressing something accurately and precisely. I think you do actually sometimes fail at both, but you sometimes achieve the latter. I find reading your blog, where you have more space and more time (I assume), you are much clearer and more precise.

                Also, Shaz shows his work.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

                longwrite bad. mytime plusportant.

                I think you meant “longwrite doubleplusungood”, but otherwise plusgood done.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                This reminds me of one of my favorite things from the Solzhenitsyn some of us have just read: the Language of Universal Clarity.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                To be precise, Chris, I didn’t “leave that part out.” It was left out by the author of the piece in which I located the passage this morning.

                If I never “failed at both,” then that could mean only that I hadn’t often aimed for the latter. Not often trying, or for some commenters never trying and indeed taking a stand especially against doing so, then awaiting accolades or at least murmurs of agreement to the same as ever said yet once again, seems more common in “a forum like this” as well as in superficially very different fora. It virtually defines the “forum.” This problem is one of the oldest problems, or the very birth of problems.

                Adorno’s difficulty, as in the notorious and tellingly lurid circumstances of his death, appears to be his remnant attachment to his first home on the Left or at an even more basic level in democratism and the modern. One summary: http://onthepast.blog.co.uk/2009/08/18/who-or-what-is-to-blame-for-adorno-s-death-6750621/ His sometimes enthusiastic, sometime begrudgingly accepted negation of that attachment seems to have provided a terminal point of attraction for both his intellectual and his actual life.

                I don’t understand that part about Shazbot.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

                Doubleplus good on the Orwell quote. (I bet he’d be annoyed today that he didn’t think of the even briefer +1.)Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Chris says:

                Thanks Chris and James,

                And Chris and Patrick, I want to apologize for being a jerk a few threads back.

                That was all on me. I was going through a hard time and venting on you guys.

                If I wasn’t anonymous (“Shazbot” isn’t my real name, in case you didn’t know), I wouldn’t show my face.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

                Wasn’t the Language of Universal Clarity just Russian that avoided loanwords and, where necessary, invented new words from Russian roots? In other words, the same sort of thing Poul Anderson played with in Unclefitsh Beholding (i.e. “Atomic Theory”.)Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Mike, yes, it was.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

                Thank you, James.

                I think he has perspective, insight and understanding I would like to grapple with, but I am unable to do the work required, I don’t even know which words I should be looking up for obscure meanings I don’t realize they have.

                That I said something about his writing style should be read as indication that I want to engage.

                Most people don’t take constructive criticism well. It requires a willingness to question yourself in an effort to improve yourself. I’m sure you’re familiar with it from your teaching experiences.

                I also know how difficult having your writing edited can be, you reach a point you either learn to view it as a way of improving your communication skills, or you get out of the writing business. I’ve worked with and watched dozens of editors; and most would toss McCloud’s writing aside, no matter how deep his points.

                From the things McCloud writes about, from the probing of human nature he displays, I’d like to think he’s willing to question himself, that he holds a desire to communicate clearly and precisely; and I wonder if the desire for precision is actually the problem here. Perhaps we shall see if he has the flexibility.

                Because I think he’s right that we haven’t done a good job of addressing the erosion of the roles men have held for a long time. Right now, I’d guess he thinks I’m too stupid to engage in that discussion (or any other) in a meaningful way.Report

              • Avatar Johanna in reply to zic says:

                I think he’s right that we haven’t done a good job of addressing the erosion of the roles men have held for a long time

                Maybe. But there’s also a perspective that such a request amounts to asking “why aren’t you addressing my loss of privilege to my satisfaction?”

                As a policy issue, looked at objectively, I think it’s worth addressing; as a “what about me” issue, I don’t. To the extent it’s unclear which way he’s asking the question, that’s his problem.

                I agree about editors. I sometimes write for a policy institute, and they have a great editor who makes my writing–which I know without boasting is already fairly good–even better, by making many of my sentences much crisper (I’m sure this sentence would have some changes).Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

                Dammit, that was me.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                “I think he’s right that we haven’t done a good job of addressing the erosion of the roles men have held for a long time…”

                But isn’t this just another example of privilege? Change can only happen in a way that still puts their needs or response to it at the forefront?

                Many women (and their male allies) are standing up and saying, “We have been and continue to be the victims of oppression via legal and/or social mechanisms designed to limit our options.” Until and unless these men are willing to address their concerns, I have limited (not zero, but limited) interest in addressing their own.

                Addressing concerns is not zero-sum (paging Roger, paging Roger); it is possible to do both. But as (I believe?) Chris said, if addressing the needs of lost privilege undermines the effort to address female oppression, than the primacy is on the men, not the women and we are at that point perpetuating privilege.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

                James & Kazzy, yes. Absolutely.

                My point would be that the devaluing of things feminine, including many jobs/professions traditionally feminine, is part of what holds women back. Take nursing; there are many more male nurses, and the profession is better paid. Teaching.

                When the barriers are broken down in the reverse direction, and the things typically done by women also begin to be done by men, they seem more valued. (Teaching has issues, but those stem from other things, I think.)

                Or consider domestic violence. Men are victims, too. I cannot imagine being a man on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, and in need of help exiting that relationship. If there are children involved, it must be even worse.

                So I’m not sure I’d frame such a discussion as reinforcing privilege of men; but right now we’re at a place where the things of men are taken more seriously, and making sure it’s okay for men to identify with the realms traditionally of women would help women, too. And the men so inclined.

                Any place we stumble upon something and think, “You throw like a girl,” is a place where we ought to be examining gender inequality, and not just for the girl.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                To be frank, I have absolutely no clue what CK and Chris are even debating.

                I would however, like to add something on the issue of loss of privilege.

                I find this a fascinating topic. Once privilege is granted, it can often cement itself into society. An example: A lemonade salesman lobbies (unfairly) for monopoly status as the only permitted peddler of lemonade in town. He then sells his business at fair market value to a fine and fair minded citizen. Now we have a situation where the fair minded person will be harmed by the loss of privilege (the loss of monopoly).

                The point being that once privilege is granted, it becomes hard to take it away. Incumbents of privilege may actually have something to lose. They were just playing by the rules at the time, changing the rules mid game can actively and, from their perspective, unfairly harm them.

                I am not sure if this scenario applies to gender.

                I am also not sure what privileges males have over females in America today. Examples?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                Roger,

                That presumes there is only one way to end privilege: stopping the sale of lemonade.

                But another way to end it is to extend the benefit to others. So rather than one person operating under a monopoly, everyone is free to sell lemonade. No one, not even the monopolizer, is restricted. The “loss” he suffers is from no longer having a monopoly, something he should not have had in the first place.

                This is a common misunderstanding. WHen we talk about ending privilege, it is far more often the case that we want to EXTEND benefits rather than limit them. Not always, but more often than not.

                I don’t want white people to get pulled over for “driving while white”; I want black people to not get pulled over for “driving while black.”
                I don’t want men to be told they can’t be bankers or they have to be teachers; I want women to be told they can be bankers or teachers or whatever else they hell they want to be.
                I don’t want fewer books for children featuring white characters; I want more books for children featuring characters of color. And if that means we need a bigger library, so be it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                Roger,

                FYI, I “paged” you there because I know you are a big advocate of not thinking that things are zero sum.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

                “I am also not sure what privileges males have over females in America today. Examples?”

                My knee jerk response to this question would be, for starters, the ability to make more than your spouse without being seen as unnatural, less than a woman (whatever the hell that means), and accountable for all the world’s ills.

                Now, I will be the first to admit that this particular lack of privilege is a far cry from, say, not being allowed to vote. And I suppose it’s possible that it exists with no ill effects in the job market in regards to things like considerations for executive position, salary, expectation & performance review, etc. – but that seems unlikely to me. (I have no data to back that up, btw, that’s merely a sniff-test thing.)Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

                Kazzy, this is a good way of putting it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                Tod,

                I think there is a big divide between folks who think that only legal or other forcefully enforced barriers qualify as oppression and those who think that social pressures, norms, and expectations can qualify as such. I recognize the answer you offer as evidence of privilege. But a lot of people would look at that and say, “Well, no one is telling them they can’t take those jobs.”

                I’d respond by saying, “Yes, but the ability to choose a job without derision is a privilege enjoyed by men.”Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

                Zic,

                When the barriers are broken down in the reverse direction, and the things typically done by women also begin to be done by men, they seem more valued.

                I claim no expertise here, but I have heard a conflicting claim. That as women become more prominent in traditionally male occupations, those occupations lose status. E.g., lawyering and doctoring. But there may be other contemporary factors involved in that change as well. I don’t really know.

                Or consider domestic violence. Men are victims, too. I cannot imagine being a man on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, and in need of help exiting that relationship. If there are children involved, it must be even worse.

                Yes. I have a friend, normally ludicrously optimistic, who was driven to attempt suicide because of an abusive spouse. He pulled the gun away from his face at the last second only because of the thought of his kid, escaping with only the loss of hearing in one ear. Admitting that as a 6′ 3″ 230 lb man he couldn’t bear the abuse of his thin 5 1/2 foot tall wife wasn’t an easy thing.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                To clarify, I was not suggesting the harm was not being able to sell lemonade, it was the loss of monopoly profits. The fair minded person paid fair maket value based upon one set of unfair rules and resetting the rules harms this incumbent. He becomes a secondary victim.

                I am also not defending privilege, which I abhor, as much as I am explaining how someone could rationally oppose eliminating it. I used to think the privileged were exploiting others, I now see that they can just be innocently playing by the rules that came before them.

                Here is another example. We all hate agricultural ethanol subsidies, right? Well consider if you bought a farm today growing corn. Part of the price of the land is the money that can be made via the hideous subsidy. After you buy it, fairly and innocently, any subsequent elimination of the ethanol subsidy, regardless of how logical, can unfairly harm you. It could even bankrupt you. It would be reasonable to expect you to rationalize a slew of reasons NOT to eliminate the subsidy.

                I of course agree we should never have established the privileges in the first place. With emphasis. My rationalizing of the incumbents’ position isn’t meant as any kind of defense of the practice.

                Where I get nervous about your extending of privileges is that in at least some cases you seem to be placing a burden on someone to produce these privileges. This can lead to a higher level of privilege of the recipients vs the producer. It also leads to master planning where accepted and unaccepted forms of privilege are defined and coercively enforced. You rationalize requiring more African American children stories relative to white. What about Asian? Chinese? Fijian? Blonde? Short? Left handed?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

                It seems odd for a libertarian to call someone who suddenly has to deal with competition in the marketplace a “victim.” It’s sort of like an advocate of beach erosion control suggesting that the people with property a few hundred yards inland are victims because they’re not going to end up with beachfront properties.

                Anyway, I thought this was a positive sum game.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                “My knee jerk response to this question would be, for starters, the ability to make more than your spouse without being seen as unnatural, less than a woman (whatever the hell that means), and accountable for all the world’s ills.”

                This raises more questions than answers..

                Doesn’t it cut both ways? Ie the ability to make less than your spouse without being seen as unnatural and unworthy?

                What you are actually addressing here is not privilege but expectations and world views of people. Which world view is the correct one? Who gets to decide? How do we arbitrate disagreements? How much coercion and master planning do we do to accomplish this? What are the pros and cons of this master planning and enlightened brainwashing?Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

                Kazzy,

                It’s true that the lemonade seller shouldn’t have had the monopoly privilege, but the point of Rogers’s post is that he has done nothing wrong, hasn’t even sought out that privilege (Roger made him the second owner to keep him “innocent” for purposes of discussion). He’s made a good faith investment, so the rules change does in fact harm him.

                Roger’s not saying the rules shouldn’t be changed, just that we shouldn’t pretend that doing away with certain privileges doesn’t sometimes create real–if temporary–harm (even though that harm is outweighed by the collective benefits of ending privilege). The seller made an investment based on a certain set of assumptions that were correct at the time. Had that not been the case, he would have invested less. Extrapolating that to what CK is talking about, and the issue is, I think, really about the violation of expectations, which is often a very stressful–hence actually harmful–thing for humans. (And if that is all CK is really saying, I’m in agreement, up to a point; that point being whether that concern should make us hesitate to eliminate privilege.)

                In theory, since there is a net social benefit (the good done outweighs the harm done), those harmed can be compensated so there is not only net social gain, but no one loses out–everyone comes out ahead or at least even. Economists call this a Pareto optimal outcome, after the economist Wilfredo Pareto.

                In the lemonade seller case compensation would be comparatively easy; the government could pay him an amount equal to his “overinvestment.” (Of course if he’s already made a sufficient amount through his monopoly status, no compensation may be necessary–there is some complication in the details.). In the case of people who have suffered a psychic harm, compensation is a far stickier wicket. Ideally, they’d all just come to realize they haven’t lost much. I find that attitude easy because I have three daughters, so whatever loss I might have felt is more than made up for by knowing how much greater opportunity my offspring will have. But that in itself is an odd form of privilege, because if I was 1) more traditional in my outlook and 2) the father of three sons instead of daughters, I wouldn’t have that ready compensation.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                “It seems odd for a libertarian to call someone who suddenly has to deal with competition in the marketplace a “victim.” ”

                You aren’t giving my comments anything close to a fair reading, Chris. I am explaining the rationalization process of the person who benefitted from earlier privileges to which they were not a guilty party in creating. In their mind they are a victim and they will be harmed in some ways. Seriously man, reread my comment.

                “Anyway, I thought this was a positive sum game.”

                Privilege interferes with positive sum games. I can give hundreds of examples, but I assume it would be overkill. I strongly and vehemently oppose the creation of privilege and I heartily endorse eliminating privilege where it exists. If you re read my comments you may see what we are up against in doing so though.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

                What you are actually addressing here is not privilege but expectations and world views of people.

                Well, maybe. If the expectation (which is an internal, psychological property of an individual) is based on entrenched cultural norms (which are external objective properties of social groups) then the expectation is potentially a reflection of culturally established privilege.

                Which world view is the correct one? Who gets to decide? How do we arbitrate disagreements? How much coercion and master planning do we do to accomplish this? What are the pros and cons of this master planning and enlightened brainwashing?

                And that’s where ideologies collide, no? It’s an observable fact that some people have expectations based on established cultural privileges which they are rationally justified in preserving out of self-interest. If people were different than they in fact are, then maybe lots of the questions you ask would have clear-cut answers. But people – notoriously! – are what they are and not another thing.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

                Sorry to have misread you, Roger.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

                “It seems odd for a libertarian to call someone who suddenly has to deal with competition in the marketplace a “victim.” ”

                Truthfully, I don’t find it odd at all, particularly when you replace your replacement word “victim,” with his original word, “harm.” It’s mot that the libertarian is defending the privilege, but that he is criticizing the rules that incentivize* people to invest more than they ought. To recognize the outcome of the subsequent rules change as a harm to that person is not to advocate for either the rule in the first place nor its continuation.

                Roger–I’m looking forward to finally meeting you, since you ducked out if town last time I came. 😉

                ____________
                *Sorry. I know that’s an aesthetically appalling word.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                Roger and JH,

                I misread; I did not realize you were speaking of the second investor.

                That does indeed change things.

                However, how would you compare this to someone who unwittingly bought stolen goods? The person has ill-gotten gains through no fault of his own, but has no right to claim them.

                I wouldn’t object to steps taken to make such a person whole, provided they didn’t come at FURTHER expense to the primary victim.

                And there is a temporal element. If the second lemonade stand operator held his monopoly for 15 years, I would say he has derived enough additional, unearned benefit that he is likely whole several times over.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                I will also say that there are differences between saying…

                “There are people harmed by ceasing this privilege. Therefore we should not cease privilege.”

                -and-

                “There are people harmed by ceasing this privilege. We should temper our efforts to cease privilege to minimize their harm.”

                -and-

                “There are people harmed by ceasing this privilege. We should be mindful of their harm and mitigate it where possible such that we do not interfere with ceasing the privilege.”

                It’s not clear to me which of those CKM is advocating. What must be remembered is that harm is being done by the mere existence of privilege. It might be unseen or unfelt, especially to those in privilege, or so baked in that even the victims do not actively realize it’s presence, but it is there. Every day. Which is why calls for patience can be so frustrating.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                “I’d respond by saying, “Yes, but the ability to choose a job without derision is a privilege enjoyed by men.””

                I cannot believe that you think this only cuts one way. There are lots of jobs where men will get derision. Perhaps this is unimportant, but I am not exactly sure what this logic is.

                I asked for examples of male privilege. The answers so far seem dubious at best. Zic actually came the closest to answering it with her comment on the worth of jobs, but I would guess the actual economics works exactly opposite to her assumptions. The less a job is valued socially, the fewer people would go into it and the higher wages would have to rise to attract people. Teacher salaries are not low because too few people value them, but that too many people want to be teachers.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to zic says:

                Well, there are a lot of things connected to other things that are connected to yet other things and I suspect that we have a veritable goldmine of unintended consequences to follow the significant cultural changes that will come with a re-calibration of privilege.

                Especially because I’m not sure that the end state of the re-calibration will get us to where we want to be… let alone where we say we want to be.

                Ann Althouse (I know, I know) made an interesting point a few months back where she was reading an article about how women should find partners that support their career choices and whatnot. She noted that, traditionally, men got good jobs so that they could support their wives and have a family. Now the discussion is that women should find a good partner so that they can have a career…

                Maybe I’m an old romantic but that seems to me that, like, “Cat’s In The Cradle” was totally about this.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                Chris, it is all good, bro’.

                Stillwater,

                I simply recommend, as a general rule, rational persuasion. You and I know the world would be better without privilege, and we can voice those beliefs into persuasive arguments.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

                James, that makes sense, and I like that you’ve changed the word from “victim” to “harm.” It may seem trivial, but I think “victim” is a call for action whereas “harm” doesn’t have to be.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

                Roger, the field of home-health care aid is a great example of predominately female work force with very low pay; and yet an example of the kind of job that helps lower overall health-care spending; particularly for helping to eliminate need for re-admission after hospitalization and avoiding long-term nursing home care, which is extremely expensive.

                http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311011.htmReport

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                James,

                Yeah, I look forward to meeting you at dinner. Will you and Johanna also attend the Blues Fest?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                Roger,

                I know full well that men are derided for certain career choices. I am one of those men: a male preschool teacher. I’ve gotten my fair share of shit for it. But when I leave my classroom, I return to a world where my value is affirmed, not further challenged.

                I do not get overcharged at mechanics. I do not get called a slut because of my sexual proclivities. I am not expected to take my wife’s last name and be seen as an extension of her (and before that, an extension of my mother via her last name).

                Are there other areas when men suffer indignities? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve mentioned before that our future caregiver communicates exclusively with my wife, despite me being the primary point person for childcare; I suspect she just assumes that is the female role (perhaps because it is for most families).

                Privilege is not an either/or. You are not either privileged or you are not. There are situations where I have privilege and situations where I don’t. As a male, when privilege is offered or denied because of gender, I tend to enjoy it. So, in total, I have male privilege, but this does not necessarily extend to every situation or interaction.

                Ideally, we would end ALL privilege. I cannot speak enough about the harm we do children by denying them positive male role models in schools because we stigmatize the men who seek such positions. The harm is pervasive.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                Kazzy,

                I think we see eye to eye on this issue. I think the property should be returned to the first victim and the thief should return the money to the unwitting purchaser. Absent the latter, I think the law states the burden of responsibility falls on the buyer of stolen goods. Seems like a good if not perfect rule.

                And to clarify, my argument is primarily one against establishing privilege in the first place. It festers and grows and seemingly justifies or rationalizes itself over time in all kinds of pernicious ways.

                However, not to start a new fight, you all (not aimed so much on Kazzy) do realize that classical liberals can pull out a list a mile long of privileges that progressives actively champion? Minimum wage for example is a privilege, as is the privilege of excluding non union workers from a workplace. Affirmative action is often institutionalized as a privilege. My guess is progressives are justifying this as privileges to offset or balance prior privileges of a worse nature. Either that or they justify it on the oppressor/oppressed spectrum (privileges are ok for the oppressed).

                I actually wrote a guest post on the latter last year.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                But I am not sure what the point is, Zic. Are you arguing the pay is low due to gender distribution? How does this work?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

                Roger, there has been ample evidence of predominately-female fields being lower paid; one of the startling things about the PEW study was that this seems to be correcting; though I’d wonder if the correction is for lower pay across a range of jobs do to fierce job competition.

                I’d be happy to put together lots of studies/examples if you want, I don’t have time right now, I’ve got some work deadlines coming up.

                And in general, this long subthread discussion has been tops; thanks James, Roger, Kazzy, & Chris (and if I missed anyone, you too!)Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                Kazzy,

                The trouble with these last areas of discussion is that we are dealing with people’s norms and expectations and world views. They do cut both ways. I feel horribly repressed because people think that is am a male and thus should be a good mechanic and be up on sports and protect my wife from scary spiders.

                My emphasis is simply that the appropriate way to change these is usually not via reverse privilege or mandating sex balancing, but by enlightened rational discussion.

                When all is said and done, I believe men and women will still be quite different. We will still make different distributions of decisions, choose different distributions of careers, and so on.

                In addition, I will still urge my grand kids to beware of being unladylike or unmasculine. The reason is that we are playing interdependent games here, and I expect them to do well and part of doing well involves responding to and being aware of others expectations.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                Roger,

                A key component of “privilege” is that it is unearned. The case could be made that beneficiaries of affirmative action earned their privilege by bearing the cost of discrimination. Of course, this is predicated upon the idea that affirmative action is intended to counter discrimination, which is just one of many potential justifications (some of which I find better than others and, unfortunately, rarely do the advocates clearly delineate which they seek and therefore which approach is best… but that’s for another day). As for offering privilege more broadly to the oppressed… I see that as an incomplete but potentially acceptable approach to ceasing privilege in the overall, provided it is temporary. Still, I’d prefer another route.

                And, for the record, I support the rights of private sector workers to unionize under their freedom of association, I am vehemently against restrictions on hiring non-union labor. As I believe we discussed recently, I have my doubts about the rights of public sector workers. On minimum wages, I am of mixed feelings. I listened to a recent IQ2 debate and I think the anti-MW people had really compelling arguments. For me, the devil would be in the details in terms of how we would roll out a cessation of MW.

                But, I’m curious, how is MW a privilege? I’m not sure it fits the classical definition of such. It is unearned in that people are potentially being given a wage that their value created does not justify, but seeing as how it is universally (at least theoretically applied) it does not seem to favor any one group over another. None of which means it isn’t problematic; I’m just not sure it is “privilege” as I mean it here.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                “My emphasis is simply that the appropriate way to change these is usually not via reverse privilege or mandating sex balancing, but by enlightened rational discussion.”

                Have I said anything that indicates I believe otherwise?

                As I said in a comment above, when working with young children, I don’t attempt to beat the gender or sex out of them. If a group of boys want to play with trucks, far be it from me to stop them. But if they got that next step, to saying that girls can’t play with trucks or that Billy who would rather play with trucks isn’t a real boy, I step in. I also do a lot of modeling. I make sure the kids see Mr. Kazzy building blocks and racing cars AND holding baby dolls and drawing flowers, so that they see a man can be any or all of these things and maintain his stature in a community. There are times where I will address certain structures to make them more accessible to one gender or the other. For instance, boys often eschew an art area that is just about coloring or two-dimensional representation. These activities tend not to tap into their “boyness”. So I make sure there are three-dimensional materials for them to construct with. Ultimately, everyone ends up using the space and are challenged and stretched by one another, all kids, boys and girls alike, benefiting. Conversely, girls are often intimidated in the block area by boys with superior building skills. To combat this, I tape off sections of the floor, 2’x2′ or 3’x3′ squares, which children can lay claim to and build unfettered in. Sometimes we ignore the lines and give them the entire space, again giving everyone an opportunity to engage in the space in a way that feels right to them AND the chance to grow and become a master of it.

                Do I think that, historically, art areas and block areas were set up to explicitly favor a particular gender? That’s very unlikely. But the outcome was such all the same, largely because we didn’t *really* understand the difference between the sexes. And it all became self-fulfilling. Boys tend to work three-dimensionally so they choose blocks over art and, over time, become much better at blocks and continue to choose it. The inverse is true for the girls, who are more drawn to two-dimensional work and continually choose art and develop these skills. Etc, etc, etc.

                I’m not trying to turn the world on its head, dress boys in skirts, and tell girls to call their vaginas penises. I just think everyone should have every opportunity available to them so that they can carve their own path.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                I am aware of the basic data, I reject the causative flow. Said another way, I believe men and women tend to have different values and tradeoffs and interests and this amplifies out in even to totally different distributions and average outcomes. Some of these value/interest differences are intrinsic, some are cultural, and the relationship between them is complex.

                As an example, if there is any difference between genders, innate or cultural, in proclivity to accept dangerous, “physical” jobs that require extensive hourly commitment, then you will see a different distribution by gender. The prevailing wage will settle at a point where one gender will tend to find it more acceptable on average than the other. This will self amplify with cultural expectations.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                I agree, Kazzy.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                “This will self amplify with cultural expectations.”

                Are you opposed to concerted, non-governmental, non-coercive efforts to change cultural expectations?Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                Minimum wage is a privilege for those with an affected job or slightly higher skills vs those willing and able to do the job for less but precluded from doing so by law.

                It is well known that unions and racists long supported higher minimum wage, as it cemented their privileges against the less skilled, new entrants and minorities.

                The analogy I used once for minimum wage is that it like Movado campaigning for a minimum watch price of three hundred dollars. This is unfair to Swatch and Timex. It gives privileged status to makers of fine watches.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                “Are you opposed to concerted, non-governmental, non-coercive efforts to change cultural expectations?”

                I don’t think so. As a general rule, I endorse such voluntary, coordinated activity.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

                Roger, you say:
                It is well known that unions and racists long supported higher minimum wage, as it cemented their privileges against the less skilled, new entrants and minorities.

                Which is very similar to what I said about jobs predominately held by women; you argued against that, and then said this; the basic difference being I argued relative, you’re saying minimum wage.

                Something doesn’t add up here; please reconsider things.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

                Roger,

                We’ll probably be at the Blues Festival. We’re staying with a friend we lost touch with for twenty years who’s recently resurfaced in Chicago, so it’s possible that catching up with her will take precedence. But she may want to go to the festival as well. This weekend looks to be all kinds of win for Johanna and me.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic says:

                Zic,

                But it’s also the case that males’ higher wages come at the cost of much greater risk of on-job injury/death, and diminished life spans. The numbers are pretty startling (unfortunately I don’t have time right now to find them).

                That doesn’t account for unequal pay for the same work, of course.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                I’d be glad to reconsider, but it does seem to me that what separates the two are coercion and the time frame . Minimum wage and laws against hiring non union labor are coercively enforced by a regional monopolist.

                I fail to see how all the various firms and self employers are conspiring to only hire women and to arbitrarily keep their wages below that of supply and demand. It would require an incredibly effective conspiracy of monumental proportions.

                The other obvious difference is that there probably WERE coercive laws against hiring women in the past. There ARE still coercive laws against hiring unskilled labor below minimum wage.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                Roger,

                I’m a bit confused by the logic here, so hopefully you can shed some (more) light on it.

                I’m not sure how MW laws discriminate against the unskilled; they can still be hired, just at a higher wage than their skill-level might justify. But if a position needs filling, it is going to be filled. I’m confident I’m missing something here though, as your logic is generally pretty sound.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                That’s a strange anecdote. Does he not want to get email from anyone, or does he not want to get it from you in particular?Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                Usually when someone refuses to respond to email and only response to in-person communication, they (consciously or subconsciously) don’t want a record of agreeing to anything.

                I once knew a guy who would never respond to email. Never. I assumed he just didn’t like reading his email, or he couldn’t type, so I took to seeking him out and having conversations with him directly.

                And then I found out that whenever there was a dispute about anything he said, he pulled the Congressional Committee Hearing Defense: “I don’t recall that conversation”. So then I started meeting with him in person, and then after the meeting I’d take the time to write up what we talked about and email it to him… “As discussed today, here’s what’s going on, and my understanding of what needs to happen next, which is waiting upon you to do blah, foo, bar before I can do anything to move the next part of this thing forward.”

                And then he started responding to those emails. By saying, every single time, “I don’t have the time to respond to this fully, but we need to meet again to clarify that last blah…”

                And that’s when I came to the conclusion that he was utterly useless and was an irreconcilable impediment to getting anything done.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:

                My boss tries to avoid email, I suspect for this very reason. It is incredibly frustrating, especially since there are enough anecdotes of her going back on her word to make people actively want to have a record of what’s been said.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Patrick says:

                I’m disagreeing with any of the complaints about people who wont’ use e-mail. I prefer it many times so i have a record of what was said. There is another side thought that it some cases makes e-mail or texts a worse option. I work with families in custody and divorce cases. There is tons of bitterness, anger and poor communication. While a record is good, written communication, which in this day and age means email and text, loses a lot of important context and cues. People takes short to the point texts as nasty or can’t tell when someone is trying to tell a joke. In some cases written communication makes it harder for people to get along since it magnifies the problems they already have. Yes i do know that some people just can’t communicate directly since they will blow up everything into a fight and can’t stand to look at each other. Oh boy do i know that. Just trying to point out a downside email/text.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

                Great point, Greg. As teachers, we try to avoid having “sticky” conversations with parents via email, for just the reasons you offered. We’ll usually say, “Let’s talk more about this. In person or on phone is probably best; when are you available?” I tend to take copious notes, not just for my own records but in case I ever need to go back and remind someone what was discussed.

                But I think this is different than a boss telling an employee, “Don’t email me… ever…”Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

                It’s perfectly fine to prefer in-person communication due to nuance and all that. I don’t have a problem with people that have that preference, particularly when they’re in dicey problem domains.

                But still, when I deal with those people now, I write up my understanding of what we just talked about and email it to them. Not only because I like having a record of what we decided, but because I’ve sat in face-to-face meetings with a group of five people and then after the meeting met individually with three of them and found that all three had completely different ideas of what was decided at that meeting. They all heard what they wanted to hear instead of what people were saying.

                There’s an awful lot of email in my “sent” folder that includes the lines, “Unless I hear back from you by (date), I’m going ahead with (action item 1)…”Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy says:

                As teachers, we try to avoid having “sticky” conversations with parents via email

                Fast forward the students a few years, and I’m doing the same with them.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Of course, James, you also have to be mindful of a whole host of other things when meeting with students, I presume, particularly female ones… yes?

                Does your institution give guidelines or outline specific protocol, which violations of themselves are cause for discipline? Or do they leave people to sort it out for themselves?Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy says:

                It’s amazing how many students automatically close the door when they come into my office, particularly if I had it mostly closed because of noise. It’s an automatic reaction, not something they’re thinking about or doing purposefully, but I always ask them to leave it open, particularly if it’s a female student, and particularly if I don’t know her well and she’s not doing well. The only time I purposely closed the door was when I was had the come to Jesus talk about classroom decorum with a male student I knew well (and who in any case was a 4.0 student).

                We don’t have very clear guidelines, but I’d just play it safe anyway. I haven’t yet had to do it, but there are three female profs in my hallway, and I wouldn’t hesitate to ask one to sit in with me and a student if anything felt weird.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

                “there are three female profs in my hallway, and I wouldn’t hesitate to ask one to sit in with me and a student if anything felt weird.”

                Wow, James, you ARE freaky!!!Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’ve been coming to LoOG on a pretty spotty basis for a while (deep in a project), and I only now just realized that that cranky “J@m3z Aitch” feller was Prof. Hanley!

                Hey! Glad you’re still around!Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy says:

                Snarky, I made the change while you were away, trying to throw you off the scent.

                Tod, thank god none of my hallway colleagues read his blog.

                By the way, apropos of nothing, if any of you are Jeopardy watchers, and remember a perky blonde who won a bunch of games not too long ago, that’s one of my hallway neighbors, a history prof. She’s now the highest winning female ever on Jeopardy. She’s front and center in this pic.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Patrick says:

                This would make sense.

                I think in the context of this thread and Jim’s specific complaints, I wasn’t sure if it was a case that his boss didn’t like emails or that his bass was telling him to be quick and to the point when writing them.

                Because I know in business that is a thing.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Nope; he just didn’t want to read. Even in meetings, he requested that people read charts out loud, and repeatedly asked for pictures instead of “all that eye-chart stuff”. Present a chart? Better have a big green arrow saying “GOOD” or a big red arrow saying “BAD” because otherwise you might as well have not bothered.

                It wasn’t dishonesty, or poor writing, or Just Me; this happened to everyone. The man simply refused to interact with the written word.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                “he requested that people read charts out loud”

                This made me laugh out loud.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                “OK, there’s this pie – but it’s not the kind of pie that you eat! At it has four pieces, and each one is a different color.”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                For some of the charts I’ve seen presented at meetings (four clusters of a half-dozen bars of different heights, width, and colors, captioned in 6-point type), “Tell me in two sentences what the fish this means” is an entirely appropriate response.Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                Sounds like someone who was losing their eyesight.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    This is off the topic of the OP, but picks up on a subthread that I found pretty compelling above. So I’m sorry to reinforce that threadjacking, but I think Brandon Berg here clarifies an important point that separates people who think like him on the topic of aid to the poor from people who don’t, and I think we owe him some gratitude for his openness on this point and for the conceptual clarity it offers on the issue:

    Really, I find it hard to take resistance to this point seriously. In the US, an adult with a full-time job and no dependents cannot fall below the poverty line. A 40-hour, minimum-wage job will put you at 130% of the poverty line for a one-person household. As long as you have a full-time job and don’t have any children, you can’t be poor. If you get a roommate with a full-time minimum-wage job, that brings you up to 194%.

    Does anyone here dispute the claim that the poverty rate would fall dramatically if people stopped having children when they couldn’t afford them, or had a significant chance of becoming unable to afford them in the near future? How is that not a bad choice?

    and

    To explain better where I’m coming from, the core of my political philosophy basically boils down to the idea that wherever possible, people should receive the benefits and bear the costs of their own choices. Any deviation from this creates incentives for people to make choices whose net social costs exceed the net social benefits.

    Basically, I think that he’s right to say that there is a fundamental difference in political philosophy between people who think like him on these questions and those who don’t. Essentially, Brandon doesn’t want to support behaviors that lead to poverty among the poor, and, as a result, doesn’t want to give public aid to people who are in poverty as a result of their own choices. (And, contra James Hanley, he is actually rather more explicit about what he thinks should happen than James allows that LWA has cause to think, and leaves quite open to question what his view on private charity to such people would be, given this statement (with my added emphasis): “wherever possible, people should receive the benefits and bear the costs of their own choices.” How does that view counsel for charity, public or private, in any case where a person is simply experiencing the natural consequence of her own actions? I’m not sure I see how it does.)

    The alternative view is simply that, if you are poor, we want you to receive aid. We understand that that probably means you made some choices along the way that contributed to your situation. We don’t think that means you shouldn’t have children. (Perhaps we would counsel you to consider whether doing so while you are struggling financially is a wise choice, but ultimately, it’s not always the case that that consideration is the primary or final one in making that choice.) You may be addicted to chemicals: it doesn’t help you get better to remain in poverty. You may have significantly underdeveloped employable skills: it doesn’t help you to develop them to remain in poverty. You may have behavior problems that are entirely your own fault that cause you to be unable to keep a job for very long: if you are poor, therefore you are suffering, and we want you to receive aid to help alleviate your suffering, even though you don’t deserve it.

    I think it’s valuable to note that, as a rough matter, these really are the views on welfare that there are to choose from. Yes, they can be shaded, and the modes of distribution and level of generosity can be tweaked to help manage the obvious incentive problems attendant to the second general viewpoint.But ultimately, I think you kind of see things one of these basic ways. Maybe I’m wrong about that; I’d like to hear about it if I am.

    Again, I applaud Brandon for his clarity in knowing what side of this divide he is on. I know what said I am on (everyone can guess which one it is – though I am also committed to working through what are the best tweaks to apply to a general program of directly, comprehensively alleviating poverty throughout society (the comprehensive requirement being the reason I am not willing to leave this function to private charity) to improve incentives for increasing self-reliance and sustainable self-support).

    As I say, I’m increasingly of the mind that, unless one is simply indifferent, one kind of has to choose one of these basic sides to be on, though as I say, particulars of preferred policy can be shaded on either side once you’ve chosen. I encourage everyone to give it some thought – about whether you agree that a person kind of has to make this basic choice of viewpoint (and if not, what the available alternative approaches are), and about which side you see yourself coming down on. And again, I owe Brandon thanks for helping to clarify the question a bit more for me.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      “support behaviors that lead to poverty among the poor“? Har har har redundant.

      What I meant there was “support behaviors among the poor that lead [or led] to [their] poverty.” Obviously.Report

    • Avatar Michelle in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Thanks for laying this dichotomy out so clearly.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

      “I know what side I am on… though I am also committed to working through what are the best tweaks to apply to a general program of directly, comprehensively alleviating poverty throughout society… to improve incentives for increasing self-reliance and sustainable self-support. ”

      Me too.

      The most important person affecting the success of an able bodied adult, is the person themself. As such, personal responsibility is critical. Effective societies need to promote personal responsibility and need to avoid undermining it. Of course effective societies also need to have effective safety nets for those that are unfortunate.

      Of course improperly designed safety nets can and do undermine the ” incentives for increasing self-reliance and sustainable self-support. ”

      This includes improperly designed systems of subsidizing single mothers. When designed wrong we will in effect subsidize and encourage more single motherhood, more father abandonment, and more improperly socialized youngsters.

      We need an ethos of strong personal responsibility, strong safety nets, and strong interdependence, and institutions which foster all the above. The path to this is the same as the path to all social progress, but I will respectfully not repeat it here.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Roger says:

        As a follow up to my post below, how would you respond to someone who asserts that we have, at this present time, exactly the society that you propose? What is wrong with the status quo?Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

          The problem with the status quo, in my opinion, is that we are fostering dependency. We are promoting unemployment, unwed motherhood and free riding. I would create better safety nets which discouraged their own use. Creating monopoly institutions which thrive upon the existence of dependence is absurd. It virtually guarantees that the very institutions built to solve a problem actually promote it.

          By the way, we are NOT trying to weed out the sluggish and stupid (from your comment below) This would be social Darwinism. We are trying to weed out sluggishness and stupidity and free riding. The weeding out process is aimed at the level of ideas, habits and actions, not at the level of people. Big difference. The goals is cultural progress toward better problem solving. Not biological evolution.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Roger says:

            The problem with the status quo, in my opinion, is that we are fostering dependency.

            or, inversely, we’re failing to foster opportunity. That’s what most of my problem with growing income inequality settles. But I am an angel investor, I create jobs. I know a lot of people a lot richer then I am who create profits, but don’t do much on the creating jobs end of things. There are too many corporations that overwork too few employees while they sit on piles of cash, because the can get away with it.Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

              Employees agree to the working conditions in exchange for wages. Those not agreeing are free to go elsewhere. It’s all good.

              Of courses they can “get away” with sitting on piles of cash. It is their cash. This isn’t a crime or moral failing. Nor is it a market failure. Absent opportunities to invest or reinvest that money productively, they should sit on it. And by sitting on it, that means it is reinvested via our banking system. Either that or they have really big mattresses or lots of old coffee cans somewhere in their backyard.Report

              • Avatar Michelle in reply to Roger says:

                Oh nonsense. The power differential between mega-corporations and most employees is huge and heavily skewed toward the corporation. Given the scarcity of decent jobs and relatively high unemployment, employees have little choice but to “agree” to their working conditions. It’s not easy to go elsewhere, especially if you have a family to support. You’re describing the ideal world–not the world most people inhabit.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Michelle says:

                I will call your nonsense and raise you.

                With a large supply of employers and potential employees, the competition isn’t really between evil corporations and noble workers, it is between workers for better slots. Granted the oversupply of workers due to rampant interference with markets has intensified the competition and thrown out the less skilled. Guess what my recommended solution is? It rhymes with wess winterference.

                Interestingly, the data clearly shows that hours at work per week have been dropping for about a hundred years, and that one of the major differences between top and bottom quintile families is hours worked. The long, grueling hours are increasingly going not to the poor. But to the wealthy.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Roger says:

                This is really silly, Roger.

                Hours worked per household, particularly for lower-middle class households, has nearly doubled while their income has remained flat or increased slightly. Meanwhile, much of the work required to run a household and raise children still falls to the woman in the family. And costs have increased significantly, particularly the costs of child care, health care, and education. Those upper-income folks who work so much? They can afford someone to clean, to wash the laundry, to chauffer the kids around; they can afford summer camp and tutors.

                And while work-hours per week may be going down, weeks worked doesn’t; those same lower-income families are least likely to get more then a week off and least likely to get paid for that week off.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                Zic,

                Over the past 150 years or so, lifetime leisure hours have on average roughly quadrupled, while hours spent working or on chores has dropped by about a third.

                http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us

                More recent trends show that hours worked per week for the average employed person continues to drop, with most of the leisure time gains going to non whites and females.

                The last data I am aware of reveals that the average lowest income quintile family works an average of 13 hours per week. The top quintile family works 74 hours per week.

                Standards of living fluctuate with economic trends, but leisure hours, work hours, working conditions, and household income continue to improve over all reasonable time frames for the majority of Americans.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

                It seems you might be talking past each other a bit.

                Time spent at one’s profession may have risen, while leisure time may also have risen, given the technological advances that have made household work quicker and easier.

                How we quantify this for women, for whom many their professional work was their household work, is something I’m not sure about.

                But I don’t think “work hours increased” and “leisure hours increased” are mutually exclusive.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to zic says:

                “I don’t think “work hours increased” and “leisure hours increased” are mutually exclusive.”

                The issue is that when someone says “work hours increased!” they are, in my experience, invariably making a guns-or-butter statement. What they’re actually saying is “because work hours increased leisure hours decreased because there are a finite number of hours in the day“.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to zic says:

                I’m pretty sure “hours in the day” are a “guns or butter” sort of deal, Jim. There only *are* 24 of ’em.

                Now, on the other hand, I’m also certain that “hours worked” and “hours spent on leisure time” are in fact overlapping sets, because I’m pretty sure that most folk who are “working” are also doing things that aren’t related entirely to work, at the same time. Even working the line at the slaughterhouse, there were guys who were working productively there, the whole time, and guys who weren’t (although, of course, that’s a different sort of leisure time than arguing on the League).Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                I agree with Jim, Kazzy and Patrick.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        “We need an ethos of strong personal responsibility…”

        I find it interesting that the people who most champion personal responsibility also seem to be the most privileged.

        Some things are zero sum. Not all. But some. And when people are competing for resources that are zero sum and privilege plays a role in who acquires the resource and who doesn’t, the idea of “personal responsibility” quickly goes out the window.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

          Now we are back to what do you mean by privileged? My experience is that people who practice and encourage personal responsibility are indeed more successful. That is of course my whole point. I want people to be more successful. It is a damn good trick, and should be touted widely.

          I don’t necessarily disagree with your last paragraph. I believe zero sum games are counterproductive and that privileged status is fundamentally unfair. Everything about my worldview rejects privilege and injustice. I believe in equal, simple, fair and impartial rules and have previously laid out the best path to achieve these.

          As a postscript… Zero sum games can be subverted into positive sum games. Call it COOPETITION. You can design a zero sum game which produces positive sum externalities. Science, sports and markets all thrive upon this dynamic.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

            I define privilege as “unearned advantage”.

            Some privilege is best eliminated by extending the benefit to all, thus eliminating any advantage. I would say that is what we are seeing with regards to women’s employment. I would not seek to level the playing field by similarly restricting men’s freedom, but instead by eliminating restrictions on women’s freedom. If both groups are equally unfettered in pursuing the career choices/paths they desire, than privilege evaporates.
            Some privilege is best eliminated by removing the benefit from those who have it. When the TSA agent looks the other way when I have liquids in my bag because I don’t seem terroristy, he is offering me a benefit I ought not have. (This presumes that the restrictions are legitimate in the first place, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but that’s for another day.)

            Thing is, we quickly get into some tricky areas. I graduated with zero student loans. This was because my grandmother left me money for education when she passed. I cannot overstate how beneficial it was to graduate debt free. I would not be where I am today if I had been saddled with the requisite debt it would have taken me to get my degrees sans assistance. And while my grandmother (presumably) worked hard and earned that money, earned the advantages that came with it… I did no such thing. I was fortunate to have her as a grandmother instead of someone else less well positioned. So, I would still consider myself privileged in this regard because I have an unearned advantage over those with less wealthy family.

            But I don’t know that there is a proper way to eliminate this sort of privilege. We could explore huge taxes on inheritances, but people will find workarounds and I’m not sure that is any more moral even if they didn’t.

            So you’re left with someone like me, who made choices X, Y, and Z and achieved benefits A, B, C and someone like my friend, who also made choices X, Y, and Z, but only achieved benefits A and B because he was paying off student loans. Now, we could pull back farther and say he shouldn’t have made the same choices I made because he wasn’t as well situated as me, but that would seem to exacerbate privilege, to make people more or less limited based on their birth circumstances, something entirely out of their control.

            So when I hear about personal responsibility, something I agree with in the abstract and which I think we should generally trend towards, there is also a part of me that says, “We have zero capacity to appropriately determine who is responsible for what and, consequently, what it is they are or are not entitled to.”

            I’m not pretending to have answers and I appreciate your words about opposing privilege. I would love to explore methods to turn zero sum games into positive sum games, though I’m not certain we can do that with all such games; some things are finite. But I do think we should be careful and consider how much of an individual’s outcomes are actually the result of independent decisions made by that person.Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

              I greatly agree, but let me pick a few minor knits.

              I don’t see you as racing with me in regards to your education. The fact that your grandmother helped you didn’t hurt me in any way shape or form. Indeed, since markets and education are positive sum games, long term everyone else probably gains from your privilege. We have a bright guy efucating our youngsters and passing the privilege along to twenty kids a year for forty years. The more people with rich grandmas paying their educations the better for all of us.

              Envy is a negative sum game. I recommend against it. In general we should all try to appreciate all the advantages we have and quit hoping out neighbor’s cow dies. Progressives tend to revel in envy, btw. And you are not a progressive.

              One other thing. Some things are finite, but our utility is not. Things can be combined and used in a virtually infinite number of ways. There are more ways to arrange 52 cards than there are atoms in the universe. There is no fundamental limit to what humans can accomplish. Oddly, LWA kind of said the same thing, though in a negative way.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                You and I need not be racing for privilege to rear its ugly head.

                Am I debt free because of good choices? Or happenstance of birth? Or both? I assume you’d agree it is good to be debt free, or at least that less debt is better than more debt. So, I am better situated than people who did not have the same happenstance of birth as I did. But if we only look at outcomes and assume a 1-to-1 correlation between “good decisions” and “good outcomes”, folks may wrongly assume that I made better decision than the person with the less wealthy grandma, and that not only is the advantage I currently hold well earned, but that I am entitled to even MORE advantages because I’m demonstrated myself to be a good decision maker.

                I suppose I’m railing against the moralizing that tends to come hand-in-hand with pleas for personal responsibility.
                “If only you hadn’t made so many bad decisions, your lot in life would be better. But you didn’t make better decisions. So your life sucks. And damned if I’m going to help you fix it. Personal responsibility, ya know.”
                “That guy worked hard and made the right call, hence his success. He should be the kind of guy we help and promote because he has earned better for himself. Personal responsibility, ya know.”
                Reality is simply not that, well, simple.

                Now, I realize you balanced your advocacy of personal responsibility with a strong safety net and the like, so these criticisms are more broad based than specific to you.

                So, if the question is, “Should Kazzy be saddled with debt so he bears the cost of attending a private university outside his means?”, I’d say the answer is, “No.”
                If the question is, “Should Other Guy have his debt relieved so his cost of attending the same private university as Kazzy is equal?”, I’d say the answer is, “No.”
                If the question is, “Should we assume that the difference in their circumstances is evidence of the difference in their choices and thus we can justify further stratification between the two because of personal responsibility?” I’d again say the answer is, “No.”

                “There are more ways to arrange 52 cards than there are atoms in the universe.”
                Holy crap… is that really true?!?! I guess 52*51*50… gets real big, real fast. WOW!Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

                I agree. Personal responsibility is a good ethic. It may be correlated to success, but good luck goes a long way in the real world.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

                And I wish good luck to all. I wouldn’t count on it though.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

          The other problem with personal responsibility is that lots of people take personal responsibility, do everything “right” with delayed gratification and hardwork and still fail miserably and have horrible things beyond their control happen to them. Personal responsibility does not protect against the vagrancies of life. It might help somewhat but it does not protect.

          My personal belief is that every human should be entitled to a certain lifestyle in terms of material goods, education, and leisure simply because they are human. This minimal life style should be provided by state programs like public education, universal healthcare, public or at least subsidized housing, food stamps, etc. These shoudl be funded by a vigorous progressive income tax. If people want more they can either work for it or inherent the lifestyle if they are lucky and privileged enough.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to LeeEsq says:

            That’s why we also pursue good safety nets.

            If you want to subsidize every single person alive today and for all time, then I suggest you and those agreeing with you step up and do so. I would be very offended if you wish to force others who disagree with you to go along against their will. Indeed I would support their freedom to forcefully refuse. If there is justice in the world, I hope they prevail.

            Your vision assumes the pie. Assume a pie. Divide equally. The problem of course is that in the real world someone has to actually bake the pie. The key to cultural progress is not to squabble over the pie we have, it is to continuously bake bigger and better and sweeter pies.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

          The other problem with personal responsibility is that lots of people take personal responsibility, do everything “right” with delayed gratification and hardwork and still fail miserably and have horrible things beyond their control happen to them. Personal responsibility does not protect against the vagrancies of life. It might help somewhat but it does not protect.

          My personal belief is that every human should be entitled to a certain lifestyle in terms of material goods, education, and leisure simply because they are human. This minimal life style should be provided by state programs like public education, universal healthcare, public or at least subsidized housing, food stamps, etc. These shoudl be funded by a vigorous progressive income tax. If people want more they can either work for it or inherent the lifestyle if they are lucky and privileged enough.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Lee,

            If we look at things on a global scale, that would be achieved by taxing folks like you and I as if we were in the 1%, because odds are that we would be, or close to it. Of course, that might also mean taxing America’s 1% even higher, but still, you and I might have to give up certain luxuries like cable TV, high speed internet, organic food, and leather pants so that people in Africa or Asia or Central America can have a roof over their head, water to drink, and food to eat. I mean, they’re human too, right? Oddly enough, it’d likely lead to treating much of American’s poorer classes as if they were the world’s middle or perhaps even upper classes. Rather than redistributing wealth to them, they’d be giving up what meager things they do have to those who are even less well off than them.

            Which doesn’t mean your belief is wrong. But I’m curious how you propose, practically, that we get there. I’d need to see more specifics than “vigorous progressive income tax” before signing on.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

              I meant this to be a more of a country by country system rather than something implemented universally, which isn’t really feasible bureaucratically or politically.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                But couldn’t that lead to different countries having different standards? If you declare a certain standard for Americans and say, “Their humanity demands this!” how can you accept the Sudanese living with a different standard? Doesn’t their humanity deserve the same?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Different countries ought to be allowed to have different standards within a certain tolerance. Beyond that tolerance, it becomes our responsibility to change them or kill them.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                Actually, I think almost everyone in 2013 agrees that we should, beyond a certain level of tolerance, go to war. Most of us just place that level of tolerance really high (like, say, genocide).Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Chris says:

                We had to kill them to save them.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Allies: Nations who have McDonald’s.

                Strained Relations: Foreign nations resisting the Golden Arches coming down in their most revered historical site.

                Enemies: Nations which refuse to permit McDonald’s.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will H. says:

                I have a title for Friedman’s next book: A Lumpy World: the Dumb shall inherit the Earth.

                Friedmanisms make me wince. Yugoslavia had McDonalds franchises all over — didn’t stop them from fighting.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                I don’t think Mickey D’s has won over the Vatican yet.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                Apparently, they’ve half-won over St. Louis though . . .Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                JB,

                To clarify my position here, I don’t necessarily disagree with Lee here, but I think he is going about making the argument incorrectly.

                Arguing that simply being a human demands a certain standard and then arguing that American humans are deserving of a different standard than Sudanese humans takes us down a really, really ugly road.Report

      • Avatar Zane in reply to Roger says:

        The most important person affecting the success of an able bodied adult, is the person themself.

        I agree with this as stated. However, I think that the the most important factor affecting individual success is not personal. It’s structural. I think we are probably in agreement on that as well. We may begin to differ when we try to decide how much relative impact any person has on their own success within any particular economic and political system.

        I agree with everything you say with the possible exception of your last sentence, which will perhaps come up at a later time.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Zane says:

          I agree completely, Zane. I was alluding to structural systems and shared protocols when I used the term “institutions.” A widespread, shared ethos of personal responsibility is itself what I would consider an institution or protocol.

          Kazzy also made the point that personal responsibility only gets us so far. Further, I would say part of personal responsibility is responsibility to plan for the future and for disaster, and responsibility to help those that are in dire straights, knowing that they too may help you.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Laying out the dichotomy this way is common, but is one of the reasons we end up talking past each other.
      The poles boil down to:
      A. People should suffer the consequences of their actions, whenever possible;
      B. People should receive help when needed.

      They are both valuable virtues, that reasonable people can embrace. Except even those qualifiers at the end don’t offer help bridge the gap to bring them together, since we don’t have a framework or measuring device to determine where the line should be.

      What we are lacking is the “Why?” Why is self-reliance a good thing? Why is charity a good thing?
      What are we hoping to acheive by the proper balance between the two?
      Some sort of utility that we can measure? IOW, are we trying to maximize national GDP by self-reliance? Raise the mean income level through charity?

      Or is it some sort of morality? Are we trying to create a more sturdy and thrifty populace? Weed out the sluggish and stupid? Or are we trying to create a kinder and gentler society?

      As I have commented before, conservatives and liberals are operating from a common root of values, that (I suspect) libertarians are not.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

        Self reliance, freedom, interdepence and philanthropy are not necessarily good in and of themselves. They are (primarily) good for consequential reasons. They are good to the extent that they solve problems which humans are interested in solving.

        To focus on self reliance, the reason I say it is good is that there is no better person to evaluate the effects of one’s actions. The self is more familiar with one’s goals, values, context and tradeoffs. The self experiences feedback (positive and negative) of one’s actions, this aligns actions and results. Self reliance also reduces opportunities for free riding.

        I will add though that extreme individualism is not the same as responsibility. The reason is that cultural beings can accomplish more together, cooperatively, than they can apart. Thus it behooves people to take responsibility to work well with others.

        As to whether classical liberals differ from others, my argument is simply consequentialist. Stillwater and others are also consequentialists. How are your values different?Report

        • Avatar LWA in reply to Roger says:

          This comment sounds like you are firmly in a utility camp; You aren’t interested in a moral vision of how society should be, you just see these qualities as virtues, to the extent they solve problems.

          And to the extent they don’t? The thing about utility is that it is like science- it is amoral, and allows for a near-infinite range of solutions.

          Except we haven’t really clarified what a “solution” is. For example, in WWII, the “solution” was to maximize production of plane and tanks; to that end, the government effectively seized control of private property and capital. Respecting individual liberty and freedom to choose was assigned a lesser importance.

          Would I be wrong to suggest that you actually have more than utility in mind? That for you, an effective solution – by definition- always has respect for individual autonomy?Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

            No, I do not believe individual autonomy trumps effectiveness. Full stop. Autonomy is primarily utilitarian.*

            I have spent the last few years of my life thinking about what solutions are. Solutions are movements toward a more preferred state according to the person doing the movement. Another imperfect word might be accomplishment. Of course accomplishments can accumulate into longer range success. Lack thereof can accumulate into failure.

            The problem with translating individual accomplishments and success into progress is that gains for one (person or goal) can often lead to losses or impediments for others. The key to progress is net, long term, widespread accomplishment, and this is very unlikely where gains to one come from losses to another.

            As a general rule, the way to ensure that gains to one do not come from losses to another is to agree to play by a set of rules where interaction is voluntary on the part of all participants wherever possible. Where it is not, the agreement can be promoted up a level to that of the rules themselves. Buchanan refers to this unanimous agreement at the constitutional level.

            By the way, people do value moral outcomes or accomplishments. That is much of what they pursue. My warning is to avoid forcing one’s views on others. This is just asking for a zero sum, destructive, win lose battle on values. And yes, I agree conservatives and progressives do this to a fault.

            * though I am not a utilitarian, nor have I ever met one. Egoists and altruists can often benefit by playing utilitarian “games.”Report

            • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Roger says:

              The concept of success leads me to consider so-called meritocracies and their implications. We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, meritocracies may be fairer and more efficient than some alternatives. But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it. A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate–these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others. As the Gospel of Luke says (and I am sure my rabbi will forgive me for quoting the New Testament in a good cause): “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

              Ben Bernanke, yesterdayReport

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

                An odd combo of wisdom and total BS from Ben.

                The part I disagree with is the sentence on ethical muster and fairness. A system CAN be considered fair that does not require those that succeed to help those that did not. It depends upon the institutional rules they agreed to when the game began. Personally I would choose the game fostered the most utility and which minimized the risks of failure in such a way as to not substantially reduce total utility. Rawls would choose somewhat differently.

                What I agree with is the value of duty, obligation, status and responsibility being placed on the most successful to contribute to others. I think this is a very productive use of cultural institutions. I strongly recommend creating status games among the successful to help the less fortunate. I have half a post composed on this very topic. We need more social pressure on the rich, not less.Report

  12. Avatar Barry says:

    The title of this post was quite honest – page after page after page of mansplaining.Report

  13. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    A fine post, pointing out things that ought to be (but clearly aren’t) blatantly obvious.Report

  14. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Roger –

    Apologies for replying to your reply down here, but so much has gone on in that single-column stream since you made it and I didn’t want to gum up what seems like a good conversation between you, Chris, Kaz and zic.

    Having said that…

    In regards to my example of privilege, you say, “What you are actually addressing here is not privilege but expectations and world views of people.” I think that you are somewhere in between correct and incorrect with this.

    An example of where your correct might be Peter, a guy I worked with many years ago during my very brief (yet excruciatingly long) tenure as a copier salesman. Though my age, Peter’s views on women were probably more at home in my father’s generation. He would occasionally complain to the other men in the office that our manager was a woman; what was the company doing giving such a position to a person that by definition of her sex did not know how to lead other people? He was occasionally found stealing sales leads from women in the office, on the basis that “hey, the company wants sales, and men are better sales people than women, so…” He once corrected our manager in a sales training meeting, saying that you shouldn’t bother going over “numbers” with office female managers/purchasers/CFOs because they were incapable of understanding them; you should simply play up how much “prettier” our copiers were than the competition’s.

    In the above case, it’s hard to argue a lack of privilege. Our manager was a woman, after all, as was the president of the company. Sure, this was more than twenty plus years ago, but it was Portland, Oregon – so when Peter said outlandish things everyone just rolled their eyes and ignored him. The primary “victim” of Peter’s beliefs was Peter; he wasn’t likable and offended most people including prospects, so no one ever bought anything from him and he made $0 in commissions each month. So if there’s a lack of privilege there it’s hard for me to see.

    But let’s say you live in a part of the country where Peter’s (and Erickson’s) beliefs are more mainstream. (To be honest, I would have bet until this came up that there really weren’t that many people who still thought like that, which shows how much I know.)

    If you’re a woman and you live in a county where most of the people in high-paying and high-responsibility jobs are men – and the reason for that is because the culture of that county is such that it is assumed that it’s “natural” for it to be that way – then I think it is very much an issue of privilege. If you are a woman in such a community, then there are far less opportunities to create wealth than there are for men.

    You might be qualified to manager a department or a division, or be a corporate salesperson, along with all the perks that go along with such a position. (Including the one perk that is rarely talked about in these conversations – being a salaried employee rather than an hourly “on-the-clock” employee, and therefore having far more flexibility to deal with things like kid doctor appointments.) You might have more experience, more education, and better skills than those you are competing against – but if the culture in that place is that your sex makes all of those things highly suspect, then you are by definition at an economic disadvantage. If you are a man, on the other hand, you might be afforded an automatic assumption of greater skill, experience and knowledge than a woman by a potential employer – even if you clearly do not possess them on paper.

    That’s what I meant when I used the word privilege.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Fair enough, and thanks for starting a new thread. Those long skinny ones get difficult.

      I agree that IF everyone believes blondes are dumb, then blondes will be working against a headwind. Even worse, I believe that IF (heaven forbid) blondes really are on average dumber, that an above average blonde would be working unfairly against a headwind.

      I am not sure if I see the best word for either of these as being a lack of privilege. I would call this an unfair or unsubstantiated negative bias. To eliminate the first bias I would recommend shining the light of knowledge upon it.

      I am not sure what we can do to eradicate my second hypothetical though. If blondes did happen to be dumber than average, people are going to rationally use this well known pattern in their decision making. The best solution, I guess would be for the blonde in question to signal her above average intelligence in other ways. Maybe wear glasses or get a pocket protector, or, goddess forbid, speak like CK writes.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        “The best solution, I guess would be for the blonde in question to signal her above average intelligence in other ways. Maybe wear glasses or get a pocket protector, or, goddess forbid, speak like CK writes.”

        If this is serious, and I’m not certain that it is, you’ve now imposed a burden on the blonde for no good reason.Report

        • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy says:

          My pocket protector is not a burden; it’s how I signal my intellctual superiority withou deigning to speak to my inferiors.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

          Well I was of course trying to be funny, but I think there was a serious point under it all.

          My response is that I did not impose a burden on her. Reality did. There is a big difference. I just noticed it and called it out. Reality is not always fair, but I am wide open to creative ways to cheat reality and improve the world by making it more fair and transparent.

          Examples of cultural solutions to make the world more fair: Diplomas. Credit reports. GPA’s. Transcripts. Resumes. Office gossip. Shared progress reports.Report

          • Avatar Michelle in reply to Roger says:

            Really? GPAs can be inflated through cheating and other manipulations. Credit reports can really screw over people who’ve had a major catastrophe in their lives such as a bank-breaking illness. Office gossip is notoriously inaccurate. Diplomas depend to some extent on the ability of the person to afford college. And so on.

            These things are tools that employers and others use but they don’t necessarily make the world more fair.Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to Michelle says:

              All you are saying is nothing is perfect. Each of these are imperfect tools to signal various strengths and weaknesses to fellow humans. Are you really going to disagree with this, Michelle?

              What makes the world more fair to you?Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’m not sure how MW laws discriminate against the unskilled; they can still be hired, just at a higher wage than their skill-level might justify. But if a position needs filling, it is going to be filled. I’m confident I’m missing something here though, as your logic is generally pretty sound.

    Would you buy an 80″ television for $200? Heck, for that price, I could see buying two and trying to find a place for the second one. Rearranging the bedroom! Rearranging the library! Rearranging the bathroom! I can sit on the toilet and watch my shows! I live in the future!

    As it turns out, the 80″ television that they have at the Costco is $3299 (if memory serves… it could be as low as $3099).

    As such, I’m not interested. Hell, I’m not even interested in having a conversation about theoretically being interested. It’d h