Monday, June 6, 2016

The Paradox of Feminism

It’s easily summed up:
(1) 19th century industrial capitalism drew in women and children into exploitative and cruel working conditions, which helped to shatter family life and undercut the wages and employment prospects of men;

(2) 19th century and early 20th century trade unions, socialist movements and labour-based political parties fought to ban child labour and improve real wages for men so that men could be breadwinners for their wives and children, without throwing women and children onto the labour force. This largely succeeded by the mid-20th century;

(3) modern feminism emphasises the ideal of women being able to work and be independent (which in and of itself is fine, don’t get me wrong), but an actual major cause of women entering the labour force from the 1970s onwards has been the neoliberal assault on real wages and the need for women to contribute to real household income to maintain living standards (the trend can be seen here).
So, first of all, it is not at all clear that most women voluntarily prefer to pursue careers above marriage and family life. Just look at the stunning results of this survey here. Fundamentally, of the US women surveyed, 71% said motherhood is more important than having a career, and only 11% said a career is more important than being a mother. In France, 82% of women surveyed said motherhood is more important than a career. Only 6% thought a career was more important.

Even though 54% of American women said that they aspire to both being a mother and having a career, there is a big difference between people’s aspirations and reality, and the aspiration in question is probably unrealistic for most women. Above all, in badly-managed economies like ours with chronic unemployment problems and with more people forced into wretched low-paying part-time and causal work, how realistic is such an aspiration?

This intuitive insight is confirmed by empirical research like Catherine Hakim’s Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine: The Flawed Thinking behind Calls for Further Equality (Centre for Policy Studies, London, UK, (2011) (quick news summaries here and here). Most notably, this report also shatters many of the Third Wave Feminist gender pay gap myths.

If we go back to (3) above, what effect did (3) have on family life in the West and on children? (e.g., the consequences of separating young children from their mothers who return to work shortly after giving birth). Have modern feminists unwittingly aided neoliberalism?

In the Third World, from the 1970s onwards, multinational industrial capitalism has gone back to its old love of exploiting women and children in factories, with predictable and horrible consequences.


  1. Going by the abstract, this would seem to underscore what Hakim is getting at:

    The demand for equality at all costs & in every single corner of existence blinds some people to the reality that sometimes there needs to be help given to one part of the population that isn't given to everyone.

    It's too bad Obama couldn't have had the cajones to stick with the plan and help Men in the area where they've been hit the hardest. Multiple articles have been written since 2009 that would indicate Men are lagging behind Women in getting back to the workforce.

  2. If men and women are both part of the same household, wouldn't women entering the workforce increase wages for the household, even if it means lower wages for the man?

    1. When now or in the 19th century?

      Not if the man is made unemployed.

    2. With the two incomes Increasing household incomes and bidding up house prices, making two incomes more of a necessity for paying house buying costs, Ricardo's law of rent.

  3. The blog lost me with his emphasis on "Future Patriarchs" and cherry-picking Bible verses in order to buttress a "fill your quiver" view. Also, there seems to be no addressing of the fact that after the kids grow up, most women in today's economy will have little to do at home unless they live in an agrarian culture. It would make perfect sense for her to work outside the home then, so that she's contributing and not just living off her husband's labor.

    In the long run, I'd say what he describes is what's wrong with the housing market as a whole. Probably the government needs to step in and regulate things so that costs of housing reflects the actual cost of building a house. Seems less arbitrary that way.

  4. As an afterthought, I think the description given of the housing market is a bit off. People who make an average living in the LA Metro area (to take an example) tend to leave that behind and move to my state - Oregon - where land and housing is much cheaper and one can have a bigger or better house on the same dime. They don't just coalesce around the most desired areas and only lower their expectations when they aren outbid. This is what the Free Northerner appears to be saying:

    "The price of a house has less to do with the actual materials making the house and more with the desirability of the land the house resides on. This is why a house in New York costs so much more than the cost of a similar house in, say, Detroit.

    The other reason is that people are using extra income buying larger homes.

    For both these reasons, as people’s incomes grow higher they will generally increase their housing costs to match a proportion of their income"

    But household incomes aren't in an upward trajectory, lifting everyone's buying power exponentially. And even if they are, I seriously doubt everyone will want to retire on an income that would be more challenging in a hi-rent district. They'll move where the cost of living is lowered so they can maintain a good standard at a cheaper rate.

  5. At this point LK I think if you bit into a rotten fruit you'd curse neo-liberalism for it.

    1. Poppycock, Ken B.

      Neoliberalism has a well defined meaning and clear economic program. It emerged from the 1970s as Friedman's monetarism, New Classical economics, supply side economics, New Keynesianism, and finally the "New Consensus Macroeconomics" became the ruling orthodoxy.

      The New Consensus has failed spectacularly. It has resulted in:

      (1) deficient investment and large-scale unemployment in country after country

      (2) stagnant or poor real wage increases, which have driven people into private debt and driven women into the workforce

      (3) deregulation of financial markets and banks, which have pumped out debt to speculators and caused devastating asset bubbles and financial crises, e.g., East Asian crisis, 1990s tech bubble collapse, 2000 housing bubble, 2008 financial crisis.

      (3) a diseased capitalism where private debt has been the only real and unsustainable source of demand, and where private debt levels are catastrophically high in country after country and housing and real estate prices gross distorted.
      If that is "success" from "neoliberalism at work" (as you say below), you are seriously delusional.

  6. Seriously, just look at what has happened to world poverty in recent decades. If that is neoliberalism at work, and you want to stop it, you've got some 'splainin' to do.

    Your remarks about capitalism having not just loves but old ones is embarassing. Does it have a favorite song too?

    You need to read Krugman on sweat shops too.

    1. "If that is neoliberalism at work, . . . "
      One example?
      " Over 700m people have been lifted from deprivation in China alone."
      So China is a 'neo-liberal' society?

  7. "Seriously, just look at what has happened to world poverty in recent decades."

    Neoliberalism delivers some poverty reduction. That isn't the issue. The issue is: is there a BETTER system not prone to the crises and instabilities of neoliberalism that will lift even more people out of poverty?

    Yours is a stupid straw man, Ken B.

    As for actual history, the greatest success stories have been in South Korea, Taiwan, China and Japan -- all countries whose industrialisation and success have little to do with neoliberalism.

    South Korea, Taiwan and Japan industrialised because of massive anti-free market, state-directed industrial policies combined with access to Western markets.

    China is a mixed economy with state-directed industrial policy and neo-mercantilism.

    1. As far as i learnt singapore did the same at first post war decades

  8. " The issue is: is there a BETTER system not prone to the crises and instabilities of neoliberalism that will lift even more people out of poverty?"

    That's always the issue with any policy. But just asking that means nothing. Got evidence or experience? What you deride as neoliberalism has worked to reduce global poverty quite remarkably in the past 40 years.

    Maybe we should give up anti-biotics and trust in homeopathy.

    1. There is overwhelming evidence.

      I can only assume you are simply unfamiliar with it.

      From the 1940s to 1970s there was a space for independent economic development in the Third World especially by import substitution industrialisation, and per capita growth rates in the Third world were higher back then than in the neoliberal era.

      But anyway, let's start with the First world.

      Here are the average OECD real per capita GDP growth rates for various periods over the past three centuries:

      1700–1820 – 0.2%
      1820–1913 – 1.2%
      1919–1940 – 1.9%
      1950–1973 – 4.9%
      1973–1990 – 2.5%
      Davidson, P. 1999. “Global Employment and Open Economy Macroeconomics,” in J. Deprez and J. T. Harvey (eds), Foundations of International Economics: Post Keynesian Perspectives, Routledge, London and New York. 9–34, at p. 22.
      Why did growth rates slump from the 1970s onwards?

      The reason: because governments gave up Keynesian full employment and aggregate demand management. Capitalism requires strong demand for strong growth and once demand is gutted, growth sumps.

      In any case, you have the clear data right before you. Explain it.

    2. Holy hell LK. You leave out the past 25 years, the period you say is the one which is a disaster?

    3. Couldn't the growth in the 1950-1973 period just be cath up due to earlier low growth?

    4. "Holy hell LK. You leave out the past 25 years"

      False, Ken B. I cited you a study below called Scorecard on Globalization 1980–2000: 20 Years of Diminished Progress (July 2001), which as you can plainly see goes up to 2000.

      These trends weren't reversed in the 2000s or 2010s, and if anything post-2008 following the Great Recession there has seen anaemic growth all over the place -- apart perhaps from a huge Keynesian deficit spender like China, though even China has succumbed now to the disease of partly liberalised banks and asset bubbles.


    1. ken b

      of course people been taken from extreme poverty some of this change happened because of chinese mercantalist policies and rapid growth.

      some of it because of third world rich of commodities countries which were able to exchange them for essential imports.

      and some of them happened to be because of the race to the bottom and neoliberal policies.

      the question is this is truly been the best way to take this people out of poverty?

      there been no better way to do so without all the hugely increasing inequality in this countries and in the west?

      without recessions and lack of basic demand?

      and more than that there been a chacne to do so in a way in which this countries will able rapidly develop into first world countries?

      the answer is big yes as taiwan japan china singapore south korea proved.

      while there is no example of a country which was able to develop itself to first world country level by the so called free market and no intervention if its not some kind of commodity powerhouse (chile copper).

      or small financial tax haven or powerhouse (honk kong or virign islands and etc).

    2. Wow Ken, I can copy/paste links & spam everywhere, too! ;-)

    3. Look people. LK says that the world is in the grip of neoliberalism and the sky is falling. OF COURSE the fact that the past 20 or 30 years has seen a huge decrease in world poverty is a cogent rebuttal. You can believe that some other system might work better but that is not the point. If LK is right about neoliberalism being in control then he is wrong about the consequences.

      Learn some fucking logic.

    4. "OF COURSE the fact that the past 20 or 30 years has seen a huge decrease in world poverty is a cogent rebuttal."

      And we already dealt with this by showing that a lot of this reduction of poverty happened in East Asia, and that South Korea, Taiwan and Japan industrialised because of massive anti-free market, state-directed industrial policies combined with access to Western markets. China is following a similar playbook with a mixed economy with state-directed industrial policy and neo-mercantilism. This is not -- repeat *not* -- neoliberalism.

      You've not addressed this point, nor the devastating data below on GDP growth in the rest of the Third World, nor the slump in real GDP/real per capita GD in the advanced world.

      Your tone also suggests you know you've been refuted and it hurts to admit the truth, Ken B.

      But don't worry we've here for you -- and for all recovering libertarians.

    5. Time to take the red pill, Ken B:

      The truth hurts, but you'll be stronger for it. lol..

    6. From your Economist article, Ken B:

      It says "China pulled 680m people out of misery in 1981-2010" -- which means of the 1 billion people pulled out of extreme poverty the article mentions 75% were in China. It even admits the failures in Africa and other parts of the Third world.

      You just confirmed what I said.

  10. I've already answered you on this but you have ignored my answer.

    The late Angus Maddison is widely recognized as a leading scholar on the history of rates of economic growth. In 1995, Maddison published a study called Monitoring the World Economy 1820–1992 (OECD Development Centre, Paris, 1995), the first authoritative study on the effects of globalization and neoliberalism on growth rates in the developing and developed world, as compared with the Bretton Woods era.

    Maddison compared growth rates both in GDP and per capita GDP in seven major regions of the world from 1950 to 1973 with those in the early era of globalization (1974-1992). He found that there were **significant declines** in the average annual growth rates in six of the seven areas: in fact the average annual rate of growth of world GDP was only half of what it had been under Bretton Woods. That is, world economic growth was about 50% lower than in the Bretton Woods era.

    The only region that showed an increase was East Asia, precisely the region dominated by the protectionist state-led model of industrialization, led by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and (from the early 1990s) China.

    Maddison’s study was updated by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in 2001 in the Scorecard on Globalization 1980–2000: 20 Years of Diminished Progress (July 2001).

    Since the full effects of neoliberalism were not really felt until after 1979, their updated version which studies economic growth rates from 1980 to 2000 gives us a much more accurate measure of the consequences of orthodox neoliberalism or globalization on the world economy. The era of globalization was a disaster for much of the Third World. In Latin America (where the adoption of neoliberalism was somewhat later than in the West), real capita GDP grew by 82 percent from 1960–1980. But from 1980–2000, per capita GDP grew by only 9 percent.

    However, it is correct that global poverty has fallen over the last 20 years: but, as I said, the overwhelming number of such people are in China and East Asia, where governments largely reject the orthodox policy prescriptions of globalization/neoliberalism.

    But the devastating proof of the failure of neoliberalism is the fact that those countries that have followed the rules – in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America – have seen growth rates collapse to a level lower than the Bretton Woods era, and in some areas poverty rates have got worse.

  11. More:

    "The most tragic picture appears in the [sc. GDP] data for the poorest countries (per capita GDP between $375 and $1,121). In the first period, 1960 to 1980, these countries sustained a rate of growth of per capita GDP that averaged 1.9 percent. While this is lower than the growth rate for
    the other four groups, it was at least positive and not trivial. By contrast, the seventeen countries that were in this income grouping in the second period actually experienced negative growth, on average, over the period from 1980 to 2000. Among the countries in this grouping for the first period (beginning 1960) are Ethiopia, Romania, Indonesia, and Chad. In the second period (beginning 1980), Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Niger were among the countries that started at this income level.

    Summing up the evidence on per capita income growth, countries at every level of per capita GDP performed worse on average in the period of globalization than in the period from
    1960 to 1980. The largest absolute falloff occurred for countries that stood near the middle of the rankings of income distribution. .... For these countries to miss out on the growth opportunities of the kind that were available in the previous two decades
    means that many millions of people who could have escaped a lifetime of poverty were unable to do so.

    But perhaps the most disturbing development was the fact that the poorest countries went from a modest rate of positive to per capita GDP growth to declining per capita GDP in the second period."

    Scorecard on Globalization 1980–2000: 20 Years of Diminished Progress (July 2001), p. 8.

  12. Yeah, I understand that side of the argument - I just think it oversells people's propensity to look for the most expensive possible option "just because" they gotta have it.

  13. People try to find a place close to work of course is cheaper to find a place in god forgotten place with no employment perspective where you will be underemployled or unemployed your entire life but most of the people prefer to have a job and thats what push them to big cities.

  14. Oregon is "god forgotten?" ;-)

    It's only been the #1 destination for out-of-state movers for 3 years in a row.

  15. The 'poster boy' for Neoliberalism?

    "How Neoliberal Tax and Financial Policy Impoverishes Russia – Needlessly"

  16. "Neoliberalism lowers life expectancy"

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