Questions that are rarely asked

by on March 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm in History, Philosophy, Science | Permalink

So, my libertarian devotees of evolutionary psychology, you can’t have it both ways.  If feminism is wrong to think we can and/or should resist the dispositions that evolution has given us, then why is it wrong for defenders of the classical liberal order to think we can and/or should resist those dispositions when it comes to our evolved instincts toward the morality of socialism?  Or put the other way around:  if resisting our evolved moral instincts and obeying the rules of just conduct work to generate a civilized, cooperative economic order, why should gender issues be any different?

That is from Steve Horwitz.

Dkr March 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

“obeying the rules of just conduct work to generate a civilized, cooperative economic order”

Perhaps their rules will result in the disintegration of economic order.

john personna March 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I think I’ve raised evolutionary psychology in these pages, and faced libertarian resistance. A certain subset of libertarians have a sort of mythic vision that is half blank slate and half man as a solitary creature, forming intentional associations. It’s clear though that we traveled in bands before we were even human. Rules, including fairness rules, began then. Hunters and gatherers (and even other primates) have rules for sharing out. Makers and takers are in flux, and so sharing has a group advantage. Perhaps we should focus our policies on keeping makers and takers in flux …

TallDave March 9, 2013 at 11:06 pm

It’s interesting, that’s largely the thesis of Acemoglu and Robinson — poor states are generally poor because growth would threaten the elites who use the status quo to extract wealth. The rich countries are those in which it’s possible to innovate at the expense of elites.

Ray Lopez March 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Seems Steve Horwitz is saying that men are natural rapists? Anyway, a muddled strawman argument appears to be his thesis.

john pesonna March 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I think the evolutionary observation has been that human groups have stricter rules against in-group violence, and we achieve more peaceful societies by expanding the in-group. Weird things like those Egyptian assaults-in-pubic are rare.

kt March 10, 2013 at 12:14 am

It’s hard to say which would be weirder: That you meant to write that and you are an odd wee duck or that you didn’t and it’s one of the the greatest slips of the Freud ever.

dirk March 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm

The point isn’t that it’s wrong to resist the dispositions evolution has given us. For instance, even Libertarians tend to believe that it’s better to resist our instincts for violence and instead defer to authorities when it comes to dispute resolution. The point is that it is good to *acknowledge* the dispositions evolution has given us. Feminism, in general, seems aghast at even acknowledging a lot of innate gender differences.

msgkings March 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Yes, the moderate middle would be for feminists to at least acknowledge and account for and accept some differences, but then the evo psych types have to acknowledge and account for the fact that we are no longer apes, that we have big brains that can and do trump our pre-human impulses, and that it’s not a bad thing to shoot for fairness and respect and justice instead of thinking whatever our lizard brains tell us is irresistible and even desirable.

And like all arguments, the crazy wing nuts on both sides get all the press, and the other side uses the opposing wing nut position to demonize the whole other side even the moderates. It would be tragic, but fortunately most of this tempest plays out in the teacup of blog comments, so it’s not like it matters much.

Todd March 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm

+1

john personna March 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm

As an evo psych type, I’d call that a very superficial view of “our pre-human impulses.” Not least, some of the “control” you mention is seen in ape relatives.

Tom West March 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Feminism, in general, seems aghast at even acknowledging a lot of innate gender differences.

Perhaps. But lets face reality. The fight for equality is a political battle on both sides. And most of us realize that acknowledging that ‘nature’ has any part in current inequality has historically and will continue to be used as a weapon to go *far* beyond that nature to try and force all women (and men) into roles that they might only statistically tend towards. Man likes to categorize, and we are continually insisting that any statistical correlation above 0 must be 1.

So, if you know that acknowledging that a given ratio might actually be 0.4 and 0.6 will be turned into a very politically effective argument that the ratios must be mandated as 0 and 1, you can be forgiven for claiming the ratio is 0.5 and 0.5 despite some evidence to the contrary. It also doesn’t help that in quite a number of cases, it turns out the accepted wisdom is pretty much wrong, and once we conduct experiments to eliminate the cultural component, results between genders are far closer than original experiments indicated.

dirk March 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Pitting truth against equality sounds like a bad strategy.

Tom West March 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I’ve yet to see a political campaign where conceding a fact to the opponent wasn’t turned into turned into “my opponent has publicly acknowledged that our position is correct”.

It’s why I’ll stick with blog policy discussions rather than enter politics. The cost for actually getting things done is too high a personal cost, and I do *not* say this as a matter of pride. My ego that demands that I acknowledge all aspects (that I see) of an argument is larger than my desire to see the good of my chosen policy prevail.

dirk March 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm

“I’ve yet to see a political campaign where conceding a fact to the opponent wasn’t turned into turned into “my opponent has publicly acknowledged that our position is correct”.”

If this were a debate over corn subsidies, I would get your point. Mendacity would prevail in Washington as always, and I would understand why. But feminism seems to seek intellectual integrity. As stated in the post: “You can’t have it both ways.”

Tom West March 9, 2013 at 10:33 pm

But feminism seems to seek intellectual integrity.

Well, first, most feminists aren’t claiming that there’s strict natural equality between the genders, either. However, the idea that most feminists (as if there’s a single position) would make that claim is a popular (if incorrect) meme, and I figured I’d point out why it makes sense for at least some to embrace it.

(That and my personal experience with teachers (teachers!) who took a certain Harvard president’s words as “proof” that women can’t do math made me pretty sensitive to the reality that people work hard to misinterpret tiny factoids to make them into giant edifices that can have profound effects on many, many others. It’s certainly left me sympathetic to those who want to err on the side of assuming more equality of nature, especially given the uncertainty in any claims as to what’s nature and what’s culture.)

Also, I’m not certain I’d equate politics with mendacity, which is a very judgmental term. Law and politics (in a democracy) are all battles within a set of rules. It’s one of those delightful contradictions that while lawyers and a politicians fight for their side rather than directly for justice or good government, neither justice nor good government could occur without their rather more self-centered efforts.

mike March 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm

It’s more like the natural ratio is .9 and .1, and the current political status quo is to mandate .5 and .5.

Tom West March 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Would that be the 0.9 women who can’t do math or the 0.9 of women who can’t navigate or the 0.9 women who’d rather stay at home and raise babies? As I said, it’s amazing how ratios change once the cultural constraints are lessened.

Secondly, I, at least, see very little mandated (some US college sports excepted). The *vast* majority of the feminism-directed changes I see were cultural and legislative changes that allowed that 0.1 to actually participate rather than get shut out. And then, what do you know, with time that 0.1 became pretty darn close to 0.5 after all!

Plamus March 10, 2013 at 4:07 am

Tom West: “I, at least, see very little mandated” – disparate impact?

So Much for Subtlety March 9, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I am sorry but why do you think that fairness and respect and justice are not actually hard wired in the human species by evolution? I would have thought that most libertarians would say there is no contradiction between evolution and libertarianism. Because we have evolved to be the way we are. And the way we are is partly selfish but also fair, respectful of others and interested in justice. Which is also why socialism and feminism cannot work.

However even if we said that we have big brains and we can change society if we want to, should we want to? Sure, we can fight evolution and make young girls want to be Mother Teresa, but would it make them happy? Socially useful as the poor of Calcutta get someone who gives a f**k about them before they die, but was MT happy? The Modern West has said since Freud that fighting and denying our instincts is a guarantee of unhappiness. So why bother?

Payam March 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm

+1

Anthony March 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

The more optimistic sort of libertarian, especially including the anarcho-capitalists, seem to believe that human nature automatically inclines us towards non-aggression and capitalist morality. However, the rest believe that government is necessary precisely because humans *aren’t* that way, and a minimal level of coercion is required to keep them acting that way; but that coercion (and only that coercion) is justified because suppressing certain instincts generates much better results (both socially and economically).

nickik March 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm

I am a AnCap and as far as I can tell almost nobody belive that humans are good and tend towards non-aggression. At least not anymore then any other libertarians.

I would rather argue that a monopoly on violence will probebly be used by the people that tend towards violence. I think its idiotic to argue that humans are bad thats why we need a goverment, I would rather argue that because humans are bad we should not have goverment.

P A March 9, 2013 at 7:43 pm

+1

DocMerlin March 10, 2013 at 4:58 am

This.

Locke March 13, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Bingo.

So Much for Subtlety March 9, 2013 at 8:22 pm

However, the rest believe that government is necessary precisely because humans *aren’t* that way, and a minimal level of coercion is required to keep them acting that way; but that coercion (and only that coercion) is justified because suppressing certain instincts generates much better results (both socially and economically).

Yes. It is an interesting argument, often found among traditional Catholics – we are inherently sinful and so we need a strong government to restrain our evil natures. Which makes sense for Catholics because they can claim their government rests on the Church which is guided by Jesus Christ.

But for everyone else? We are inherently evil so we need to allow the most cynical and opportunistic to float to the surface and hold varying degrees of power over everyone else, and we know they won’t abuse their power because Just Shut Up!? This seems to be an odd argument. If we are evil and not guided by the supernatural, the sensible conclusion should be libertarianism, not liberalism.

Skip Intro March 10, 2013 at 9:50 am

You could actually read some political philosophy, political science, and economics. It’s amazing how many different answers exist to the questions you raise in your third paragraph.

So Much for Subtlety March 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Ahh, bless your heart. That is sweet.

I could. But it would not explain why political philosophers, political scientists and even economists have largely rejected the older view of the inherent sinfulness of man’s nature for some watered down version of the Blank Slate. Although it would ease their consciences when it comes to embracing the totalitarian state.

... because the answer is not satisfying? March 9, 2013 at 12:51 pm

libertarians are just as internally inconsistent, blind spot prone, and defensive of their fantastical world views as anyone else. (they are still human, right?) that they don’t know how to engage groups suffering under the power structures they (quietly) promote is not a surprise. maybe they hold themselves to a higher standard and allow internal debates?

John Skookum March 9, 2013 at 12:51 pm

@john personna: “Hunters and gatherers (and even other primates) have rules for sharing out. Makers and takers are in flux, and so sharing has a group advantage. Perhaps we should focus our policies on keeping makers and takers in flux …”

A prescription for starvation and misery. When hunting and gathering was all we did, and no work beyond a few hours’ lazy foraging was enough to feed the band of apes, this made some sense.

Now, feeding our teeming billions and providing them with the housing, health care, jet airplanes and iphones they demand depends on someone being properly incentivized to do so. That incentive can either come from the prospect of getting rich, or it can come because a government piece of shit points a gun at you and orders you into the fields. There is no third option, and the mountain of 250 million emaciated and bullet-riddled corpses piled up by the collectivist monsters over the last hundred years is all the proof anyone should need.

Collectivists are all alike. Nazis, communists, socialists, fascists. No difference. Enemies of humanity, one and all. All of them should be excised from public life like a cancer, and shunned by all decent people.

I am in favor of a new, aggressive McCarthyism to root out all collectivists from our universities, government, and other institutions.

GiT March 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Poe’s law? This has to be trolling.

john personna March 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I’m sure it is trolling. Certainly it ignores that sharing rules in hunter and gatherer cultures did in fact favor “the maker.”

CG March 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm

The bigger problem (if he isn’t actually trolling) is that he doesn’t seem to realize the obvious contradiction between his ideals and the means of achieving those ideals, and how this makes him no different from the very groups he derides.

TMC March 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Why trolling? His post is factually accurate. Collectivism is a race to the bottom, as history has shown. Certainly it is not black and white, but he is still mostly right.

GiT March 9, 2013 at 8:58 pm

“Collectivists are all alike. They should be excised from society like a cancer.”

John Skookum March 9, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I’m quite serious. Socialism kills.

In a few places where it seems to succeed, it is only because of life support from some combination of the vestiges of capitalism in a mixed economy, the blessings of unearned oil or other resource wealth, a homogenous and congenitally hard-working culture, and/or the sheltering umbrella of the post-war Pax Americana.

Everywhere else in the world, it is a prescription for guaranteed misery and suffering. Its advocates should be treated like neo-Nazis and drummed out of government employment and all other positions of influence. I don’t care if it takes a Constitutional amendment, I want collectivists out of power and preferably out of my country.

john personna March 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

OK, socialists have killed (Cambodia) and not (Sweden), but you hung that off some weird linkage that sharing equals socialism. By that absolutism, charity equals socialism. (You may say charity is always voluntary, but things like tithes have persisted through time.)

So Much for Subtlety March 9, 2013 at 8:06 pm

But Sweden is not a socialist country. It is a rather liberal capitalist country with a long history of being ruled by socialists. Which is not the same thing. As their thing has been redistribution, not socialism.

In Sweden a large part of social services like the ambulances and fire brigades are provided by private companies. Always have been. Volvo is not now and never has been owned by the State. Nor has ABBA.

Rahul March 9, 2013 at 11:33 pm

@So Much for Subtlety

No True Scotsman?

So Much for Subtlety March 10, 2013 at 1:11 am

Rahul, I hope not. Surely we can agree there is a definition of socialism. Wikipedia starts out by saying:

“Socialism is an economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy.”

By that standard Sweden is not socialist. Never has been. In fact it would be hard to find an economy where a smaller section of the economy is in government hands:

“Approximately 90% of all resources and companies are privately owned, with a minority of 5% owned by the state and another 5% operating as either consumer or producer cooperatives”.

Sweden has adopted a welfare-based economy that would appeal to John Stuart Mill. The production side of the economy is more or less liberal. No one even complained when the Chinese bought Volvo. I find it hard to believe anyone would be happy if the Chinese bought GM. The distribution side of the economy is heavily redistributive. Sweden ranks as the thirteenth easiest economy in the world to do business – way ahead of France (at 34) or Italy (at 72). No country in the world is ahead of Sweden except the major English-speaking economies, three other Nordic economies, South Korea, Malaysia and Georgia. The Nordic model pre-dates socialism and so is actually very liberal.

(For the record, the countries are: Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, United States, Denmark, Norway, United Kingdom, South Korea, Georgia, Australia, Finland, Malaysia, Sweden)

It ought to be possible to say Idi Amin is not a True Scotsman.

AC March 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm

The market ideally channels human selfishness in prosocial directions. Pray tell, what direction does feminism channel human selfishness in?

mw March 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Well, what fraction of libertarians are women? 10%? Seems perfectly rational to me.

maguro March 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Humans are instinctively socialists, really? According to who?

If socialism is so natural and instinctive, why so much coercion always required to implement it?

john personna March 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm

To my knowledge neither the libertarian nor the socialist ideal were found in nature. They are both modern simplifications and idealizations.

maguro March 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Sure. But the whole basis of this guy’s question is that people have “evolved instincts toward the morality of socialism”. That seems questionable to me.

john personna March 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I’d say we have evolved instincts towards some proto-capitalism and proto-socialism alike. The moderate might seek balance.

Tom West March 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Odd, our current government is, by Libertarian standards, horribly socialist. Are you claiming that it exists only by mass coercion?

If so, has there every been any society that hasn’t?

mike March 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

“Are you claiming that it exists only by mass coercion?”

I’m incredulous that anyone could suggest that it isn’t. Are you aware of the events that transpired in the early 1860s?

Tom West March 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Given that the US is probably less socialist than almost any other country, the statement If socialism is so natural and instinctive, why so much coercion always required to implement it? is pretty much useless. It’s essentially saying man’s existence involves coercion, given we’ve never seen a functional anarchy.

So Much for Subtlety March 9, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Medieval Iceland? Looks pretty functional to me. But we do see functioning anarchies. After disasters, law and order literally breaks down, or at least the mechanisms to enforce it are no longer operational. People’s responses vary but if they are middle class (the two words I would prefer not to use are White and Christian) the results tend to be moderately good. When Sandy hit New York, ordinary middle class people came out to feed the victims. There was little looting or violence. Compare that with the 1977 New York blackout that saw widespread looting. But then compare that with the 1965 blackout which did not, or the 2005 Northeast power cut that also did not see much in the way of trouble. No doubt I should throw in a mention of Katrina somewhere.

The rule seems to be that criminals are still criminals with the lights out but all at the same time. But YMMV.

maguro March 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I think you’ve lost sight of the context of my remark, I was merely disagreeing the claim in the original post that humans have “evolved instincts toward the morality of socialism”. I don’t believe this to be the case.

Now, I think it would be equally false (or equally true) to say that humans have evolved instincts toward the morality of capitalism, or military dictatorships or fuedallism or absolute monarchy or whatever. Humans are able to live under all those systems, and many more. Evolution gave humans a brain flexible and adaptable enough to come up with all those different political systems and our instincts aren’t permanently tuned to any of them.

Tom West March 10, 2013 at 11:58 pm

> maguro

Now, I think it would be equally false (or equally true) to say that humans have evolved instincts toward…

Ah, I see we’re in agreement then. (Well, I’d say we have instincts towards *all* these systems, but still…) However, I simply couldn’t let your wonderful bumper sticker-worthy quote go completely unchallenged :-).

Anthony March 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Try not paying your taxes if you aren’t sure that our semi-socialist system isn’t upheld by coercion.

CG March 9, 2013 at 2:06 pm

That’s exactly what I thought. What does socialism have anything to do with our “evolved instincts”? If anything, the pursuit of self-interest, bartering and trade seems to be just as instinctual as collectivism. Regardless, the general appeal to “evolutionary instincts” is a cover-up for sloppy thinking.

derek March 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm

And considering the results over time. Socialist societies are characterized by low birth rates and in most cases economic default. The libertarian paradises thrown in their faces are usually results of the societal failure of socialist regimes.

Todd March 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm

My answer to the above is that gender issues should NOT be different but people should also be free to choose whether or not to violate those norms, especially since conforming to them doesn’t necessarily violate human rights. YMMV though.

Abe Froman March 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Hasn’t this been essentially addressed by WD Hamilton? Inclusive fitness, as I understand it, suggests that people are just holders for their own genes. To the extent they pass them to their children… parents essentially internalize their own children’s welfare in a roughly congruent percentage as total genetic makeup.

If so, why is this an evolutionary endorsement of greater socialism? If my tax money is appropriated for people 1000 miles away, that’s awfully far removed from my own inclusive fitness. Of course no one is indifferent to their problems of close neighbors – But this is a poor excuse to justify really really terrible social institutions that most often do more harm than good.

Coase’s Theory of the Firm looks a lot like socialism of the firm… but it’s the foundation of the law and economics movement. It would be awfully strange to say that Coase promotes institutional/governmental socialism. I think the same is true of evolutionary pyschology. I see sociobiology as just biology’s version of The Theory of the Firm.

Zach March 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Does anybody honestly have an evolved moral response to socialism? It was my impression that the “natural” size of a hunter-gatherer band is a couple of dozen. Basically, fewer people than live on your block.

Reasoning by superficial analogy, alas, probably *is* selected for by evolution.

mike March 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm

“Reasoning by superficial analogy, alas, probably *is* selected for by evolution.”

lol’d at this

Rahul March 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

That statement had so many negatives in it that I had to read it a dozen times to try and understand it.

Michael March 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Horwitz’s point is trivial: the naturalistic fallacy is a fallacy.

John Durant March 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm

+1,000

CIP March 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Proclaiming an idea you dislike to be a fallacy is hardly an argument. Argument requires fact and logic, neither of which appear accessible to you.

derek March 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Why would anyone in their right mind argue over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?

You want facts and logic, for what? Some kind of onanistic speculation?

spandrell March 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Evolutionary psychology doesn’t tell us that feminism is wrong. It tells us that men’s evolutionary interest is in having as many women as possible, i.e. polygyny, while women’s evolutionary interest is in getting the best man available according to million years old criteria, i.e. hypergamy.

Restraining both those instincts is what led to monogamy, which is the bedrock of civilization. Also a very unnatural system.
Monogamy is a much stronger and harder restrain on innate sexual instincts than feminism. Feminism is just allowing women to pursue hypergamy while disregarding men’s interests. That of course obviously leads to men disinvesting in family formation and working in general.

How can you people not get it?

BC March 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I think the question is rarely asked because, as far as I know, pro-rape sentiment is no stronger among libertarians than non-libertarians.

The Horwitz post, the post by Sarah Skwire that prompted Horwitz’s post, and some of the readers’ comments to both of these posts did highlight for me that there seems to be a profound difference in the context in which various groups view rape. Many people view rape as a violent crime against an individual, in the same category as murder, armed robbery, (non-sexual) assault, etc. I have no idea whether this view is the prevailing one among libertarians, although I would not be surprised if that were the case. Others though, including feminists and Horwitz apparently, view rape as a “gender issue”, an example of societal bias against women (collectively), in the same category as so-called pay inequality, affordable daycare, featuring physically attractive women as actresses and models, etc. In this conception, in the case of Petty Officer Blumer [referred to in Skwire’s post], women (collectively) are the victim, not Petty Officer Blumer as an individual.

To the extent that there is a perception that libertarians do not take “gender issues” seriously, perhaps it is because libertarians resist reasoning along the lines of, “Rape is wrong. Therefore, we must subsidize daycare.” Interestingly, the original Skwire post seems to de-emphasize, if not reject entirely, the notion of rape as a “gender issue”. The point of the post is to see rape in the context of a horrific crime against an individual, made worse “when institutions circle their wagons to protect themselves,” i.e., libertarians should see rape as another example of dysfunctional institutions overwhelming individuals. Yet, somehow, after the readers’ comments along with Horwitz’s response to those comments, the discussion morphed into one about “gender issues”.

Careless March 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm

+1 (admittedly, I couldn’t be bothered to read the comments after the two posts there)

Plamus March 10, 2013 at 4:45 am

“Many people view rape as a violent crime against an individual, in the same category as murder, armed robbery, (non-sexual) assault, etc. I have no idea whether this view is the prevailing one among libertarians, although I would not be surprised if that were the case.” – I do not know for sure that it is the prevailing view, but from my circle of acquaintance (ranging from pretty left libertarians to hardcore anarcho-capitalists) I would infer a resounding “yes”. Many (most) libertarians do consider the human property of its owner (hence inviolable), and even those who do not go that far hold consent in pretty high esteem.

As a broad generalization, I’d say libertarians consider many offenses other consider lesser (e.g. theft, intimidation, fraud) to be more serious. The crimes widely considered to be serious that some (not all, and not for all examples) libertarians see as less serious are non-violent and mostly result from perceived government infringement on negative rights – crimes that derive from anti-discrimination statutes, limitations on freedom of speech (e.g. hate speech), taxation, regulation (e.g. gun rights), etc.

Kent Guida March 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm

The real answer to Horwitz is that Hayek is wrong about socialist ethics being the product of human evolution.

A far better way of looking at the relationship of evolutionary psychology to political philosophy can be found in the works of Larry Arnhart.

JasonL March 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I do think it’s fair to suggest that swaths of libertarians have an unfair knee jerk against any form of feminist critique of modern society. I also think it’s fair to suggest that gender studies have not helped themselves one bit in telling this story in a way relatable to those outside the bubble and also perhaps in insisting that “patriarchy” is the answer to every question that starts with “What is the root cause of …”

My personal take on this is that libertarians will be naturally skeptical of institutional answers to emergent social phenomena. It is fine to suggest libertarians should express greater concern and appreciation for very real gender biases and even baked in threats such as wolf whistling. It is much more problematic to suggest libertarians should support top down regulatory or legal answers to those concerns. A perfectly libertarian response, it seems to me, might be something in the arena of actual empowerment of women. Like – arm them. If men actually feared women, a lot of this concern could well evaporate. I think a world in which it actually enters a man’s mind “she might shoot me if I’m aggressive” is a better world. I’m not sure a world in which Washington creates a Task Force or differential sentencing for violence against women is really the same thing.

Millian March 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I don’t know if the broad category “stuff feminism is against” (apologies – I am not expert enough to know an apt word, and the usual “patriarchy” talk is ridiculous and bordering on anti-male rhetoric) counts as an emergent social phenomenon. I think they tend to oppose very long-standing social phenomena.

“arm them” seems a lot like you want someone to force women to carry guns – totally out of keeping with women’s typical opinions on guns, i.e. they are worse than men think they are. Furthermore, there is little evidence that guns make societies safer, or that highly-armed cultures have less violence. Well-armed American urban centres are often very violent, and, because they have been for so many years, the selection bias rebuttal is invalid.

My proposal is that American libertarians are normally not women, and they need to speak to and understand more women.

JasonL March 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I’m not proposing mandatory arming or anything of the sort. I’m suggesting that at the very core of gender issues is the deep down fact that men do not fear women. At all. Sexist customs and patriarchy ensue.

Millian March 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

People still hate and oppress those whom they fear, like young urban ethnic-minority people in America in my previous example. Fear does not exclude systematic differences in good relations/power/respect.

Careless March 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm

When a symptom is “rape” I think it’s important to treat the symptom, if possible, and if the underlying condition is not easy to solve

Plamus March 10, 2013 at 5:13 am

“People still hate and oppress those whom they fear…” – ummm, hate – yes, oppress – only if they can. If I am in the forest and see a mushroom that I know is delicious and harmless, I pick it up. If it’s one that has a poisonous doppelganger, I let it be – although I still want to oppress it (i.e. eat it). It’s true that fear does not “exclude systematic differences in good relations/power/respect”, but why such a ridiculously high standard? Vaccinations do not (generally) exclude diseases, and healthy eating does not exclude health problems, but both are still highly reasonable and non-controversial.

Patrick March 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I’m (broadly) self identified as libertarian and I regularly reference institutional rape in the military as evidence for its inherent immorality (being based on aggression and the dissolution of individual rights on nearly every level), and as an example of how watchmen are largely incapable of watching themselves.

“most libertarians” believe stupid stuff. So do most democrats, socialist, republicans, conservatives and any other political affiliation. That is because most people believe stupid stuff, and by extension the majority of any group believe stupid stuff.

It’s completely disingenuous strawmanning to argue against what “most” anything do or don’t do as opposed to actually engaging ideas and principles of libertarianism/socialism/conservatism etc.

Without any objectively measurable criteria, or evidence that changing what “most” people think or do would have a positive effect, it is also completely pointless.

Libertarianisn is at its heart a philosophy about individual rights. If libertarians seem mute on “gender issues”, its most likely because they have no proclivity for picking sides in gender wars, and because is anathema for a libertarian to favour special treatment of someone due to the group they happen to belong in (gender, race, religion etc).

Libertarians can’t support campaigns about “violence against women” because a true libertarian cares no more about violence against women than a violence against men. They care about violence, and as such would support campaigns against violence to any individual. If it so happened that most of the individuals suffering violence were women then that’s where their attention would go. As it happens, women are actually far less likely to be victims of violence of any type, unless you don’t count prison rape (since prisoners aren’t real people).

Millian March 9, 2013 at 4:17 pm

In practice, this rhetorical neutrality doesn’t happen. Libertarians rightly note the consequences of the war against drugs on ethnic minorities, of the minimum wage on poor people, of the US War on Terror on American Muslims, and of violent foreign policy on foreigners generally (often poor and Muslim).

I think libertarians use this rhetoric because, once again rightly, they are sensitive to the critique that libertarianism would worsen existing inequalities of power in society. Libertarianism has an unfortunate habit of shrugging in response to the prospect of man’s oppressing man (with “man” to include women), which remains a big problem, bigger than government oppression in many fields. Serious people note this lacuna in libertarian theory. Similarly, serious people largely don’t believe in non-market economics, i.e. anything to the left of European social democracy, because it shrugs when presented with Hayek’s criticism of socialism on information grounds.

To illustrate this in your specific example, libertarians rarely campaign “against violence to any individual”. They often oppose violence in general (military activity) and often support violence (gun ownership is associated with violence).

Plamus March 10, 2013 at 5:41 am

“To illustrate this in your specific example, libertarians rarely campaign “against violence to any individual”. They often oppose violence in general (military activity) and often support violence (gun ownership is associated with violence).” – Sorry, major strawman. Libertarians do not oppose “violence in general”; they oppose initiation of violence. From there, gun ownership is perfectly consistent – I will not shoot you, if you do not threaten me, but if you do, I will. But really, “gun ownership is associated with violence”, therefore libertarians support violence? Do they also support rape because they support condoms?

bmcburney March 9, 2013 at 3:45 pm

“if resisting our evolved moral instincts and obeying the rules of just conduct work to generate a civilized, cooperative economic order, why should gender issues be any different?”

It’s different because in the case of economics, resisting (some of) our “evolved moral instincts” produces sustained tangible benifits and even produces a more “civilized” and “cooperative” economic order in the medium and long run (also in the short run but less obviously so). Classical liberal economic policies result in the vast majority of citizens obtaining a better material life and a more meaningful personal life, while socialist policies make almost everyone poorer and substitute a coerced quasi-solidarity for real life. There is no analogous benefit to feminism which only makes almost everyone, both male and female, more miserable personally (and also more improverished, etc. because feminism must enact its favored policies via socialist means).

Millian March 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm

“feminism … makes almost everyone, both male and female, more miserable personally”

I would love to hear a justification for this, primarily because I expect it to be funny. Which is the least-feminist rich country, and are women happier than in the USA/France/Sweden? I doubt it.

mike March 9, 2013 at 7:28 pm

How about Switzerland and Yes.

mike March 9, 2013 at 7:29 pm

France is also not particularly feminist, except in the mind of ignorant Americans. Definitely significantly less so than the United States.

Alexei Sadeski March 9, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Least feminist rich country should be Japan, no?

Agree with mike that US is more feminist than many/most/practically all continental European nations.

Suspect the latin nations of Italy/France/Spain are far less feminist than Switzerland…

Sbard March 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I’d put South Korea over Japan.

CIP March 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Our evolved moral instincts are complex, and there are complexities to our response. We need to consider those instincts carefully though. I don’t think strict libertarianism is compatible with human nature, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of libertarian ideas aren’t useful. It’s clear that our instincts imply different behaviors toward the in-group and the out-group, so a crucial question is who gets which consideration.

derek March 9, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Of course not, we all have a tendency to want what others have and meddle in the affairs of others. If we can harness the might of the state to do it, so much the better.

Successful societies are the ones that keep a lid on those tendencies.

Engineer March 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Or put the other way around: if resisting our evolved moral instincts and obeying the rules of just conduct work to generate a civilized, cooperative economic order, why should gender issues be any different?

We all have moral instincts. But we don’t all have the _same_ moral instincts.

And there is no reason to think that the moral instincts associated with today’s liberal monoculture are particularly “evolved” rather than simply unexamined and glib.

Scoop March 9, 2013 at 4:28 pm

It’s a question that’s rarely asked because it’s stupid. There’s no need to “have it both ways.”

Folks who think evolved traits explain much of how we behave today — be they libertarian or not — don’t actually argue that there’s some moral or practical imperative that we act on evolved behavioral tendencies (and be allowed to act on evolved tendencies) at all times. They simply acknowledge that such tendencies do exist and many (but by no means all) attempts to suppress them backfire and reduce welfare.

Suppressing general tendencies toward socialism (assuming those are evolved) is wise for the same reason as suppressing the individual tendency to overindulge in crappy food: experience shows that even though evolution programs us to want easy abundance, it’s bad for most individuals and disastrous for the hurd.

Suppressing evolved tendencies to create artificial barriers to female achievement is similarly wise (particularly now that lower fertility and labor-saving devices have obviated the need to use 50% of society in domestic tasks, leading to a choice of women working or their human capital being wasted) and experience demonstrates this too. Societies where women work enjoy higher standards of living than more traditional societies.

Suppressing all inequalities in workplace achievement between the sexes, however, is not wise in a world where men evolved with more of the drive and skills needed to excel in the workplace. The evolution cannot be undone. Women, in aggregate, cannot be made equal in ability. So equality can only be achieved in one way, by somehow handicapping more able-productive-experienced-dedicated men and replacing them with less able-experienced-productive-dedicated women. And that makes society worse off.

No contradiction. Not even close. If Steve doesn’t understand that, he shouldn’t be writing on the topic.

I call bullshit March 9, 2013 at 4:56 pm

“a world where men evolved with more of the drive and skills needed to excel in the workplace. The evolution cannot be undone. Women, in aggregate, cannot be made equal in ability. So equality can only be achieved in one way, by somehow handicapping more able-productive-experienced-dedicated men and replacing them with less able-experienced-productive-dedicated women. And that makes society worse off.”

Seriously? I bet the feudal lords said the same thing about the poor peasants too. If you hold someone back or tell them they are not worth as much as the others (less able-experienced-productive-dedicated), guess what: many will meet your expectations…but that does not *prove* that it was a natural outcome. Equality that is achieved by protecting human dignity does not make society worse off.

derek March 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm

For all intents and purposes the choices open to women and men are very close to being equal right now, and have been for a while. What we see is that women and men chose differently, oddly enough they chose as a group what would tend to fit the old stereotypes. With exceptions of course.

I am an employer in one of the better technical trades. Have been in the business for a while now, and have yet to have a woman show any interest at all. I have many people asking me about how they can get training, what is the best school, how to get a job, etc. Never yet has there been a woman. Why would that be? I have an idea, which involves the physical nature of the work and the ability to carry heavy things from time to time. Not that there aren’t women capable of doing it, but not all women, and the women who could have many many other choices. Not all men can do the work either, but a larger proportion.

In British Columbia there was a challenge to the male dominated forestry fire fighting work force. What happened was that the qualifications of the job, the ability to carry weight, etc., disqualified most women. The province redesigned the fire fighting procedures, eliminated the need for much of the physical labor. The job was redesigned around the capabilities of women. These are pretty nice jobs for a young person, seasonal and the pay is pretty good, and you are in the bush, riding helicopters, seeing different parts of the country. It is still mostly men however.

There will never be equality between men and women for the simple reason that men and women are sufficiently different on so many different levels that each will find ways that best fit their capabilities and ability to contribute. A man hitting a woman is going to do damage in most cases, a woman hitting a man is not, again in most cases. For example. A woman carries a child and is needed to nurture the infant. A man’s role in that process is as necessary, but far different. Any ideology or society or world view that denies those differences is just plain silly.

still not impressed March 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm

No, calling women “less able-experienced-productive-dedicated” than men in the workplace on aggregate is just plain silly. (Actually I think offensive might be a better label.)

I agree with you that men and women tend to have *different* skills and talents and interests, but that was NOT Scoop’s statement. I notice you responded to me and not to him. If the world is so equal why do his silly views go unchecked and I get a lecture on gender roles? That is what is so freaking annoying with libertarians here!! Women are individuals too.

mike March 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Did you cross-post this comment on Microaggressions at the same time?

mike March 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm

“I bet the feudal lords said the same thing about the poor peasants too.”

And they were probably right, but what does that have to do with anything?

Alexei Sadeski March 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I see no interest in holding women back in the previous post.

Scoop March 10, 2013 at 1:36 pm

You misunderstand both the original posting and my response to it.

I’m not making any assertion about the relative abilities of men and women. I’m simply demonstrating that it can be entirely rational for a person who already believes two things — that evolution has both predisposed everyone to like socialism and predisposed men to outperform women in the workplace — to support policies that override the first predisposition while opposing some of those that would override the second.

It simply is not philosophically inconsistent.

P A March 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm

+1

Eric Auld March 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I thought the role of evolutionary psychology would be to catalog those biases, rather than to prescribe that we succumb to them, no? Maybe the field has acquired a normative overtone?

Dismalist March 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Evolution can certainly be undone, by further evolution. What has been called “equity feminism” has contributed to cultural evolution to make us more productive, on average. As a prediction, I don’t think “gender feminism” has anything to contribute to us, on average, just as no class oriented interest has ever made us more productive. Thus, it, too, will disappear. Until it disappears, it’s an interest group like any other, wanting more.

Max March 9, 2013 at 7:33 pm

When government removes the shame in taking more than one needs, we must resist the natural instinct towards socialism.

Bryan Willman March 9, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Actually, the two issues can be distinguished quite easily.

“Extreme and Pure Equality” will always require a set of rules that create the restrictions of a command economy. And will always suffer the information limits and computational limits that assure command economies cannot do well. In other other words, any form of socialism will suffer the misallocations and boondogles of a command economy, even without the explicit command system. (And indeed, parts of the world stlll have “share all with all” sorts of social rules – and it seems very apparent they are chained to serious poverty at least in part by these rules.)

Gender restrictions arise from three sources: (a) social constructions – those can indeed be changed, (b) biological constraints – we’re stuck with those for the near term, (c) natural selection rules – which change with the environment.

(a) is the source of much pointless discrimination – and can be punted without information or selection function trouble.
(c) would seem formidable – but any selection function is set by its environment – and since we’re not “hunter gatherers” anymore, the natural selection rules that apply to such socities don’t apply to us any more. In particular, “have as many children as possible as early as possible” is no longer a particularly good way of assuring grandchildren.

(b) is harder – to the extent that women find themselves unable to compete in, say, the NFL, due to size and strength issues – well, that’s just life.

Bryan Willman March 9, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I further suggest that the real test is “which set of constructions make societies more successful in their real environment?” (See Dismalist above)

It is unlikely that such a set of constructions will be “consistent” in any theoretical sense.

It is further quite unlikely that the constructions which work well for one place will work at all in another. (So arguing that the US should be like Sweden or Kenya like the US is in general a fool’s errand.)

Because in the real world there are always “special roles” with “special status” no matter what the formal system rules, some will have more status and others less. Put another way, there is no such thing as “full equality” in the real world. What we can hope for and work towards is less pointless nastiness.

asdf March 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Going against evolution is hard.

Going against evolution is sometimes necessary to improve civilization (you might say what we call civilization involves curbing some natural evolutionary impulses).

Successful societies figure out what evolutionary impulses to nudge in what direction using various means (social, government, technology, etc).

Like all past societies, it seems likely that our current policies are not perfect. Naturally, some will think there are better ones.

The group I consider least likely to understand this issue are nerdy liberatarian wonks, who are usually quite poor socially and with women.

Dismalist March 9, 2013 at 9:24 pm

ASDF, societies don’t figure out anything, only people do, and that imperfectly. Nerdy libertarian wonks may well be quite poor socially and with women, but then, women have the potential to improve their tastes, too! I’m talking about the average; many have been smart for long :-)

asdf March 10, 2013 at 12:11 am

So when for thousands of years most people got married in a church that wasn’t a social institution, but rather billions of people all deciding the exact same thing is exactely what they want via their own amazing brains at random.

Add a million other things we refer to as culture and public policy.

Grow up man. Society is a real thing.

“women have the potential to improve their tastes, too”

Dating nerdy libertarians would definately not be an improvement in women’s taste. Sometimes evolution gets it just right.

Sbard March 10, 2013 at 5:45 pm

For thousands of years, formal marriage was only really the concern of the elites of society. Most of the peasantry lived in something more like common-law marriage, not to mention all the people outside of the reach of Christianity (Most of Asia, the Americas, Sub-saharan Africa, etc.)

Steve Sailer March 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Both feminism and, to a lesser extent, libertarianism are anti-knowledge. The libertarians are probably the least anti-knowledge of any major ideology.

TallDave March 9, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Seems like a false premise. People’s evolved instincts are just conduct.

The only question is whether institutions align incentives properly to reward just conduct. Communism was in one sense an experiment in seeing if human society could function without economic incentives, and pretty well proved that trying to short-circuit our evolved instincts doesn’t work so well.

Infopractical March 10, 2013 at 12:30 am

The problem with the challenge behind this quote that is it rests on a faulty premise. Feminism is a moving target, philosophically speaking. It means different things to different people. All too often it’s simply used as a weapon of confusion in discourse. Unless it’s defined in context, it’s mostly pointless to discuss whether “it” is “wrong”.

Personally, I have no idea what perceived contradiction Horwitz is pointing out. How could I?

Thomas Skadedyrsbekæmpelse March 10, 2013 at 10:45 am

amassing haw 4 lines can start such a big drama, gender discussions above all other!

gender issues should not be any different, if you ask me and there are no more to come claim for the feminist, its all about the men getting the things back to equal now.

choncan March 10, 2013 at 11:17 am

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

Careless March 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm

You know, if you’d just led your post off with his line:
I just want to tell the deniers of rape culture that they don’t see it because, in the words of an old commercial, “you’re soaking in it,”

We could just have carried on ignoring this idiot like he deserves.

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