Monday, February 18, 2013

The Feminist Economic and Social Death Spiral

Vox lays out how feminism leads to economic and social doom:
The reason "gender equality" stalled is because it is an economic impossibility. The reason the average hours worked is so much higher than in the more "sexist" 1960s is because primarily there are more women in the workforce. While immigration too plays a role here, the only significant effect native women have when they enter the labor force in greater numbers is to depress the price of labor. Unlike immigrants, they don't bring in new consumption to help mitigate their wage-depressing effects; the reason real hourly wages peaked in 1973 and have been falling ever since is because that was the year that the number of men younger than 20 and older than 65 leaving the labor force was surpassed by educated, middle-class women entering it.
One-third of working class women have always worked. The change brought by feminism is that now middle class and upper middle class married women work as well. And the more women that work, the more women have to work and the less time women who don't work will have with their husbands who support them, because an INCREASE in the SUPPLY of labor necessitates a DECREASE in the PRICE of labor, demand remaining constant.
And to make matters worse, demand does not remain constant, but actually declines, because a woman who works is statistically much less likely to eventually become a wife and mother, and even when she does, she becomes one several years later and has fewer children. This means that feminism is a structural economic failure as it creates a downward-spiraling vicious circle of three easily identifiable revolutions:
1) The increase in the supply of labor causes wages to go down. This is indisputable in either logical or empirical terms.
2) Female hypergamy, female independence, and opportunity cost reduces the marriage rate and the average birth rate, while increased male work hours and work-related romantic opportunities increases the divorce rate. These connections are all logically sound and readily observable.
3) The reduced birth rate has a negative effect on consumption, and therefore the demand for labor, 20 years before the consequent negative effects on the supply of labor can help balance it out, putting further negative pressure on wage rates. This is also indisputable, both logically and empirically.
We moderns think that feminism has never been tried, and that we are so much wiser than the rubes who preceded us.  We should consider the possibility that the reason why patriarchal civilizations were so successful...and why matriarchal / feminist civilizations don't exist anywhere for very long* that the sort of "gender equality" that is fashionable today is economically, demographically, and politically unsustainable for a society more complex than hunter-gatherer / light agrarian.

Interestingly, while Ms. Coontz' NYT article engages in economically illiterate wage gap mythologizing and predictably calls for more government intervention in the market to make businesses more "family friendly"**, there is an alternative read of Ms. Coontz' monograph.  And that is American families have already recognized and are adjusting for the pain of the incongruency between their family model and the dominant economic model (i.e., industrialization):
As late as 1977, two-thirds of Americans believed that it was “much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.” By 1994, two-thirds of Americans rejected this notion.
 But during the second half of the 1990s and first few years of the 2000s, the equality revolution seemed to stall. Between 1994 and 2004, the percentage of Americans preferring the male breadwinner/female homemaker family model actually rose to 40 percent from 34 percent. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of full-time working mothers who said they would prefer to work part time increased to 60 percent from 48 percent. In 1997, a quarter of stay-at-home mothers said full-time work would be ideal. By 2007, only 16 percent of stay-at-home mothers wanted to work full time.
Women’s labor-force participation in the United States also leveled off in the second half of the 1990s, in contrast to its continued increase in most other countries. Gender desegregation of college majors and occupations slowed. And although single mothers continued to increase their hours of paid labor, there was a significant jump in the percentage of married women, especially married women with infants, who left the labor force. By 2004, a smaller percentage of married women with children under 3 were in the labor force than in 1993. [emphases mine]
I personally would like to see a re-orientation away from the Industrial Revolution-era "breadwinner" family model that pulls men and fathers out of the home and leaves women and wives (or paid substitutes) to look after the home and children.  Our culture is paying a huge price for removing the father from the family home and reducing his provision to that of merely financial.  But barring some significant, revolutionary changes in how goods are produced (the knowledge economy doesn't seem to be sufficient), I don't see the breadwinner-homemaker family model changing anytime soon.

That is not to say that I think men killing themselves in the workplace and bored, idle, frustrated, envious women stuck at home is a great idea. Women were meant to labor so as to help their men support a household and multiply the species. A clear-eyed read of the Bible makes this clear.  The challenge I think will be to (re?)establish men's spheres and women's spheres of work and labor in a way that are complementary...where women don't appreciably compete with men (and thus drive down their wages/make them ineligible as mates to naturally hypergamic women) and women aren't left with raising the next generation all alone.

* Yes I know about the Mosuo.  I suspect there is a reason why they only number 40,000.  They don't have the dynamism to get any larger, or adequately compete against other challengers for resources.

** Making the workplace "family friendly" is an activist's code phrase for using social pressure and / or government force to reshape the workplace in ways more accommodative to choice mothers. In effect,  businesses are required to subsidize the family choices of a politically active segment of their employees. This subsidy isn't free: the costs are socialized to other employees (in the form of lower wages and longer working hours taking up the workload left behind by the family-policy slacker) and by customers.


ClarenceComments said...

In the end you are competing against robots and slave labor.

This whole issue of women working is a distraction, sort of like "gay marriage".

As Ferd and others (on his old blog) have commented: we need a fundamental rethink of our economic system because the value of human labor - even at the higher end of abstraction - is going to keep going down and down outside the strictly personal services. And that market isn't infinite in size.

As for the larger ideas of yours: with robotic production and genetic engineering human technology can probably "sustain" whatever type of society we want, such as transhumanism. There's no doubt that some aspects of patriarchy make women happy,but I fail to see a mass move to give men back real power in their marriages.

ray said...

there are no easy fixes for the totalitarian gynarchies of the west, so profitable to so many . . . but many less, each day

nibbling around the edges of evil wont get the bulldoggie fed

like the numberless nameless she persecuted, and persecutes still, babylon's got nowhere left to go, her reward is sealed

Elusive Wapiti said...


Lots of themes wrapped together in your short comment.

The singularity and mechanization: yeah, we can count on continued substitution of capital for labor, particularly as globalization completes itself and the cost of labor equalizes across poltical lines, and the arbitrage benefits of offshoring production start to tail off.

As a result, I think men hoping for the "good old days" (ugh) of man-provider/woman-homemaker are whistling Dixie. Those days ain't coming back. Which is probably good in the long run for all involved, for it decouples the male gender role from materiel provision. It was/is a gross mistake to tie male domestic headship to economic production. Better to anchor male family headship in more secure, say, religion.

"There's no doubt that some aspects of patriarchy make women happy"

Patriarchy makes women materially better off--as well as safer--but they think they're happier in a matriarchy where they have more overt control. Eve's curse and all that.

Thus I think you're correct; I too am having difficulty conceiving of a Western future where men's place in the family is restored and protected. It's possible, but my imagination struggles with women giving up their power--even if it accrues more net benefits to them in the long run.

Now Eastern cultures OTOH that haven't had an Enlightenment, that's a different story and there's hope for those folks yet.

El Bastardo said...

With the advent of miniaturization; you may get your wish of more and more men being in the home with family?

Sad thing is, it may be a bloody revolution before feminists finally let go of their theft of power. Lets hope not, but you never know?

Christina said...

The challenge I think will be to (re?)establish men's spheres and women's spheres of work and labor in a way that are complementary...where women don't appreciably compete with men (and thus drive down their wages/make them ineligible as mates to naturally hypergamic women) and women aren't left with raising the next generation all alone.

There's a two-fold problem here - women aren't working to (or given the opportunity to) cultivate healthy relationships with the father, so they are grooming their children into emotional fluffers for mommy dearest.

So you end up with emasculated momma's boys and mom's best friend slut princess. No male role model for children and no emotional go to person for mom.

I've been challenging my husband on going out to visit friends with me. His solution is that he stays home and I take the kids. I've been working on pointing out to him that my relationship to my kids is not the most important thing - my relationship with HIM is. In 9-10 years, my kids are going to hate me. In 20-30 years, my son is going to abandon me for a wife and my daughter will begin using me on an as-needed basis. To rely on my children for long term relationships is a doomed prospect. I'd be much wiser to invest that time in someone who I hope will love me and stay by my side for the next 45+ years.

Elusive Wapiti said...

I think that's wise, Christina. It's a pretty easy trap to fall into, to over-invest in one's children at the expense of the primary and frankly higher-priority relationship with one's spouse.

I have a post coming up soon where this very thing (investing in one's kids and neglecting the marriage) became one of many significant lessons-learned post-divorce.