Capitalism & Equality: Opportunity & Crisis

A couple years ago I was listening to NPR. A Chinese factory worker described his long hours and low pay. Then he said that as a subsistence farmer he could barely feed his family, but as a factory worker he had just bought a TV. And his daughter was continuing with school. Her life would be even better.

Capitalism is the greatest anti-poverty program ever. It created such a dramatic rise in the standard of living that today’s poor are rich by historical standards. But some gain much more than others, and that stuck in Karl Marx’s craw.

Slavery is incompatible with capitalism because capitalism depends on incentive and innovation while slavery encourages passive resistance; and capitalism needs an increasingly educated workforce, while education is a tool for slave rebellion. Abolitionists always existed, but capitalism made their quest politically viable.

Not long ago when New York state was working to legalize gay marriage, Wall Street executives spoke up in support. Their motivation was indeed financial: people spend a lot on weddings, and gay marriage means a new specialty market. But this does not detract from a genuine moral support for equality – even within the same individual.

The same is true for the women’s movement. Before capitalism most women spent most of their adult lives pregnant or caring for children. Without effective birth control, and the likelihood of being dead by age 40, biology really was destiny. Without machines men were beasts of burden, and this hard labour killed men’s bodies.

Capitalism created lucrative, low risk jobs. And innovation created reproductive control. That there would be political opposition to this sea change in lifestyle is to be expected – people don’t like change – but successful change was nonetheless inevitable.

Without capitalism we never would have had a women’s rights movement. Not that women wouldn’t have wanted it, but rather that no economic structure would have existed to support it. Look at China: egalitarianism is a communist ideal, but no women’s rights movement blossomed under Mao. Instead, women were forced to have abortions.

Capitalism has been a boon for women, even if this point has been lost on Marxist and socialist feminists. Promoting free markets and free global trade will greatly improve women’s and men’s lives in the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

In The Birth of Plenty, William Bernstein claims there are five essential ingredients for great economic growth: property rights, scientific rationalism, capital markets, and technology for communication and transportation. These conditions never existed together until the early 1800s in Europe and North American, and these continents surged ahead. But when a country tried to discard one of these, as with property rights and capital markets in the Soviet Union, things eventually fell apart. Religion’s not uncommon opposition to scientific rationalism is an economic barrier in the Middle East today.

But what does this mean for men? By the mid-twentieth century men had thought they could rescue women from the drudgery of labour, with washing machines and vacuum cleaners making home tasks far easier. But most of us want to achieve our full potential, so women entered the workforce en masse.

Men are still judged by their incomes, but are no longer necessary for material support. And because high growth must eventually level off, young men today find themselves on the wrong side of the economic curve.

The men’s rights movement is not economically inevitable the way feminism was. Capitalism freed women from biological destiny while women gained direct access to resources, replacing their indirect access via men’s obligation to labour for women’s support.

But capitalism does not remove a man’s obligation to transfer wealth to others, though capitalism does remove a man’s need to do so directly. Men’s provider role was always direct via marriage, but today it’s often indirect via divorce (alimony, child support) and through taxation (men pay the majority of taxes but women benefit more from social spending).

With women creating their own wealth, or in the absence of that co-opting the wealth of others via the welfare state and taxation (usually stated as necessary for the good of the children), men need something unique to offer.

Yet, for all the talk about flexible gender roles and men being more involved parents, a recent report from Britain found no support for househusbands whatsoever.

With divorce and the welfare state, women only need men on the periphery of their lives. But men’s direct involvement in women’s lives is still necessary, even if briefly, as a quick and low-cost means for having children (artificial insemination is an option, but it’s too expense for most women).

The impending advent (2017?) of a “male birth control pill”, which is not really a pill but an injection into the vas deferens to block sperm (and which can be reversed with another injection), could improve men’s equality with women over reproduction.

How this may or may not change the equation remains to be seen. It could bring men back from the periphery, at least somewhat. On the other hand, women could lobby for government subsidized artificial insemination.

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14 thoughts on “Capitalism & Equality: Opportunity & Crisis

  1. Totally agree with your analysis on capitalism. With respect to your final sentence, in the UK we already have government-financed (i.e. 72% male income taxpayer-financed) sperm banks for single women and lesbians:

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/nhs-to-fund-sperm-bank-for-lesbians-and-single-women-taxpayers-pay-for-a-new-generation-of-fatherless-families/

    The state is the enemy of marriage and nuclear families, and fatherhood in particular.

    Mike Buchanan

    JUSTICE FOR MEN & BOYS
    (and the women who love them)

    http://j4mb.org.uk

  2. Good post. Men’s role in the gender equation is changing as is their role in the economy. One problem with all these changes is that men provide far more to society then just their economic contributions. As a culture we barely recognize and acknowledge this, but the implications are quite profound.

    You said, “men need something unique to offer.” They already do offer several unique things, things that only men can provide, things that are being lost in the shuffle. We already know what the absence of men does in the family equation, with single parents being more likely to exist in poverty, kids more likely to get involved in drugs and alcohol, crime, violence. No matter how awesome some single parents are, they simply can’t replace what’s missing from the equation. It’s not just money, it’s leadership, guidance, role models, all sorts of emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs go unfulfilled in the absence of men.

    Economically speaking, I suspect one reason many men innovate, create, build, is to provide for women, to leave something for their children. The more removed from women that men become, the more distanced from their children, the less motivation there will be to invest themselves economically.

    This is not to say that men’s sole value revolves around what they can provide to women and children, it’s just that much of civilization has come into existence to support the notion of family. Would men have built, innovated, created all the things they have, without that family motivation? I’m doubtful. A few perhaps, but not many. The men I know who do not have families, dream of having adventures, gold mining, exploring, sailing off into the sunset. Beyond providing for their own basic needs, they show little interest in the economy at large.

    1. Insanitybytes22 said:

      Beyond providing for their own basic needs, they show little interest in the economy at large.

      It is my experience that those that create an innovate follow their passions, regardless of familial situations. Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates were building empires long before they were married.

      1. Do you think some of what motivated them to build empires may have been to increase their chances of marrying up?

        I honestly don’t know, this is pure speculation, it’s just that biology plays a huge role in people’s behavior, and when you take away biological incentives, the whole equation changes.

      2. Do you think some of what motivated them to build empires may have been to increase their chances of marrying up?

        Some part, I’m sure, but some part may or may not indicate a significant part. Jobs was a creative egotist. Branson is a team builder. Gates is a strategist. I’m still learning about Elon Musk. People are complex and subject to more than their basic biological drives, important as they may be. There are many things that I am passionate about that have zero to do with women, or being attractive, or having a high social standing. I do them because I love them. Consider the simple advocacy for men’s rights. This just ain’t the shit that’s likely to get you laid or popular with the ladies. That I make wine, study food preservation, build little mechanical sculptures has everything to do with getting my creative ya-ya’s off, and I suspect that these men, are driven in large part by the same desire: to build something for it’s own sake.

  3. Capitalism freed women from biological destiny while women gained direct access to resources, replacing their indirect access via men’s obligation to labour for women’s support.

    Very interesting. I’ve written something similar, but you are much more precise. http://francisdroy.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/feminism-is-a-jewish-plot-to-take-over-the-world/

    But capitalism does not remove a man’s obligation to transfer wealth to others, though capitalism does remove a man’s need to do so directly. Men’s provider role was always direct via marriage, but today it’s often indirect via divorce (alimony, child support) and through taxation (men pay the majority of taxes but women benefit more from social spending).

    This to me is central. You are pointing out an unspoken and central inequity to men. I can think of three ways to resolve this. The first, is for men to find a way to not be forced to transfer our labour and wealth–and how would we do that? Another is to force an equitable solution on women–yet they might use their formidable tactics of persuasion to maintain the status quo–and how do we deal with this? The third is, if funds and labour is to be inevitable, to ensure an equitable redistribution–and how do we argue what is genuinely equitable and then implement it in the face of a power structure heavily influenced by socialism and gynocentrism.

    You put your finger on something important. Do you have any practical notions of how to address this? I, for one, at this moment, am at a loss.

    1. I’m at a loss as well. Leaning libertarian, I’m disinclined to legislating this or that requirement because such legislation could backfire. And I like the idea of combating paternity fraud and reforming family court.

      1. Libertarian leaning does not mean you ought to be against additional legislation. It means you ought to agree with legislating more restrictions onto the government.

        One example would be: “No property shall change ownership due to of matrimonial status, nor because of a change of matrimonial status. No court of this State shall have authority to transfer ownership of any property based on matrimonial status or changes thereto.”

        This law would solve a massive amount of family destruction. No woman could ever obtain any asset through marriage, being married, nor through divorce.

        Of course, women will immediately ask what the exceptions are… they’re always trying to make a crack in the door, so that they can frame their every attempted theft as though it fit into one of the exceptions. So, we might have to add “, under any conditions, regardless of any extenuating circumstances.” (“Abuse”, “I’m afraid”, “foregone education” or “foregone earnings”, etc)

  4. Wish we could edit comments. The line that reads “The third is, if funds and labour is to be inevitable” should read “The third is, if the transfer of funds and labour is to be inevitable…”

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