Sunday, February 19, 2006

Liberalism is good for women...so who's surprised?


Children, the Littlest Politicians - New York Times

IT was not so long ago that men and women voted along similar lines. Both sexes went overwhelmingly for Richard Nixon in 1972 and narrowly for Jimmy Carter in 1976. Today, though, the gender gap — that men lean right and women lean left — has become a political truism, and a series of new studies suggests that gender plays an even bigger role in politics than many believed. Having a son tends to make parents more conservative, it appears, while a daughter makes them more liberal.

Here's some data--and conjectures about the explanation, including the usual guff about women being soft and social while men are hard and individualistic: "Men...tend to prefer that individuals make decisions, a view that fits with Republican beliefs, while women prefer community solutions."

That hypothesis however doesn't explain why the gender gap is a relative novelty: biology doesn't change (at least not that fast) and if anything this hypothesis would predict abigger gender gap 30 years ago before feminism took hold, when women were socialized to be more "feminine."

The explanation, as most of the quotes suggest, is economic--but deeper than they suggest and not merely a matter of concerns about health care and safety nets as such. Women, like members of visible minorities, know that the race is not to the swift and that they are constrained because of accidents of birth that are visible and immutable. They recognize that the constraints are informal and social rather than formal and political--that their options for getting jobs and promotions, houses, mortgages and car loans are constrained because they're female or black. For us, government is the liberator that loosens those constraints and provides us with more options by prohibiting discriminatory practices. For white males those policies impose constraints, narrow options and pull away safety nets. There's an irreconcilable conflict of interests which, for men, is only diminished when they start to think about their daughters' prospects.

30 years ago women didn't have to worry about jobs, mortgages or car loans--or at least most didn't think they had to worry. Men would support them--work outside the home was optional--and men would qualify for the mortgages and car loans. Men's jobs would provide the health insurance and men would be their safety nets. Subsequently most women discovered that they were wrong. Marriage wouldn't provide security, men wouldn't commit to lifelong marriage or lifelong financial support, and even if they stayed married they would be forced out of the home and into the labor force. One way or the other they would have to compete for jobs and qualify for loans and the only way to see to it that they got a fair shake was to support government intervention to loosen the constraints on their getting these options on their own steam.

This hypothesis has the virtues of simplicity and power, and confirms the fundamental doctrine that people, male or female, respond to incentives. Everyone wants the greatest possible scope for desire satisfaction, the widest possible range of options. For white males the way to get is by minimizing the role of government; for the rest of us the way to get it is by maximizing the role of government. Everyone wants the same thing, viz. the greatest possible range of opportunities to get what they want.

7 comments:

Andrew Brown said...

Nothing to do with your post, which I think is eminently sensible and clear. A strange blogger bug. there is an apparently hidden link on your page to the next blogger blog, which is called "my-free-{a popular card game in which the object is to make you cards add up to 21}.blogger.com"

Does blogger put these links in itself? How can you report them? I only discovered this by pushing the space bar, which, in Opera, will take you to the "next" link if there is one.

Andrew Brown said...

And, re the post, particularly interesting in the way that it shows how things move apart, and the centre fails to hold.

H. E. said...

I poked around in the template for this blog and couldn't find anything obvious that would link to any other blogs. Blogger is pretty much a turnkey operation and the trade off for not having to mess with anything is they get to mess with everything. There are also rems in the code indicating that by the terms of the agreement certain items have to stay in. I'll try poking around some more later and see if I can find and work around this issue.

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Anonymous said...

H. E

Just because you are not able to stick to principles beyond what benefits yourself does not mean nobody else are.

What simple reductionism you prepose.

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of Occam's Razor?

I prepose a simpler explanation. Everybody knows men are bette able to take care of themselves whereas women are more dependent of welfare help from a big state.

H. E. said...

Taking care of oneself is getting a lot harder in modern societies where the number of jobs for guys who aren't too smart but can lift heavy things is diminishing.

That's why the US now runs special welfare programs for them that are much bigger and more expensive than "welfare as we knew it"--namely, the military and the prison system.