That Debate


    

They were both so dreadful in so many ways that I don’t have the heart to review it all.

But just because it came near the very end, this is what sticks in my mind.

I am paraphrasing from memory here, but I believe that Mrs. Clinton “accused” Mr. Trump of having said that:

  1. Pregnancy is inconvenient to employers.
  2. When a female employee is less productive than a male employee, it is reasonable for that female employee to be paid less.

Quite independent of the question of whether Mr. Trump did or did not say these things, in what sense are these accusations? Specifically:

  1. Does Mrs. Clinton actually not understand that pregnancy is frequently inconvenient for employers? If not, she is so thoroughly out of touch with the realities of running a business that this alone would be a good reason not to vote for her.
  2. Does Mrs. Clinton actually not understand that it’s a good thing for more effective employees to be paid more than less effective employees — not least because this sends a signal to those less effective employees that they might be more socially useful doing something different? If so, she is so thoroughly out of touch with how markets work (and should work), and so thoroughly oblivious to the importance of efficient resource allocation, that it should be almost unthinkable to vote for her.
Share/Save

49 Responses to “That Debate”


  1. 1 1 Bennett Haselton

    At
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEHPrYUcoi0&t=147m30s
    (the link skips straight to the key moment), she says that Trump “said women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men”.

    But if you look at her dismissively pursing her lips when she says the “do as good a job as men” part — I think clearly she is sarcastically quoting what Trump has said, and criticizing the belief that women make less because they don’t “do as good a job”.

    This is clearer from her earlier statement:
    http://www.factcheck.org/2016/06/clintons-equal-pay-claim/
    “He says women will start making equal pay as soon as we do as good a job as men, as if we aren’t already.”

    She is not taking a position on whether, hypothetically, it is OK to pay women less if they are actually less productive (either in particular jobs, or overall).

    I’m sure you counted plenty of economic fallacies in the rest of the debate, but I don’t think you can ding her for this one.

    p.s. I watched the debate in a crowded bar where I couldn’t see her face on the screen, and the first time I heard this line, I thought she just stumbled over the wording. Watching the video, I think she delivered it exactly as she intended, but you have to watch her face to get how she meant it.

  2. 2 2 Alejandro

    I was surprised as well by (b), in particular because the ususal talking point is that someone like Trump would oppose “equal pay for equal work”, so my first thought was that she misspoke.

    If that is not the case, my best way to interpret it is that she was accusing Trump of having said something like “It is OK that women are paid less, because they do a worse job”, and attacking his premise that women do a worse job as sexist.

  3. 3 3 Harold

    I remember reading in one of your books that more people, that is more children, are a positive externality. If women are penalised for having children we will get “too few” children. Pregnancy may be inconvenient to employers, bit not nearly as inconvenient as having no employees or customers, which is what would happen without pregnancies.

    As a society we need to find ways to stop penalising women if we want to have more children. One way is to ensure they do not suffer lower pay because they perform the task of child-rearing for all of us.

  4. 4 4 Steve Landsburg

    Harold: Yes, we need people to raise children. We also need firemen. It does not follow that we should encourage firefighting by allowing firefighters to perform brain surgery.

    The way to encourage social valuable activities is to reward those activities, not to reward alternative activities. If child-rearing makes you a less effective cab driver, it’s important for you to receive market signals to let you know that maybe your time could be spent in more valuable ways than driving a cab.

  5. 5 5 Jeffrey

    Generous maternity and paternity leave programs are a benefit that employers choose to offer to their employees in order to retain highly productive individuals. So, it’s “inconvenient” in the same way that it’s inconvenient to pay people for completing doing their work – something you may not have to do, if you’re “smart.”

    From CEPR’s report from 2011:

    Most employers report that PFL had either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity (89 percent), profitability/performance (91 percent), turnover (96 percent), and employee morale (99 percent).

    http://cepr.net/documents/publications/paid-family-leave-1-2011.pdf

  6. 6 6 Zazooba

    They were both so dreadful in so many ways that I don’t have the heart to review it all.

    Unbelievably painful.

    I now dislike both of them much more than I did before.

  7. 7 7 nobody.really

    Yes, we need people to raise children….

    The way to encourage social valuable activities is to reward those activities, not to reward alternative activities. If child-rearing makes you a less effective cab driver, it’s important for you to receive market signals to let you know that maybe your time could be spent in more valuable ways than driving a cab.

    OH MY GOD–Landsburg, are you ok? Did you just have a heart attack or something?

    Because it would appear that you were just on the verge of saying Yes, we should reward valuable activities such as child-rearing, and thus if child rearing generates social value we should provide social mechanisms to compensate people who engage in child-rearing. Yet you inexplicably stopped short.

    I hope you recover soon!

  8. 8 8 Jon

    Regarding (b), I think you totally misunderstood. The gist of Trump’s statement to which Hillary was referring was that the gender wage gap exists because woman *are* less productive workers. Hillary wasn’t hitting Trump for believing that less productive workers should be paid less, rather she was hitting him for believing that woman are inherently less productive workers.

  9. 9 9 Steve Landsburg

    nobody.really: I thought it was quite unnecessary to state the obvious: The way to encourage socially valuable activities is to reward those activities, not to distort the rewards for other activities. In particular, the way to encourage child-rearing is to reward child-rearing, not to distort the rewards to marketplace activities. Insofar as the value of child-rearing is internalized by the parents, child-rearing provides its own rewards. Insofar as there are external benefits, there is an argument for subsidies. As with any case for subsidies and/or taxes, that argument might or might not be outweighed by additional considerations (such as the possibility that the subsidies and/or taxes will be administered in ways that negate their value). Etc.

  10. 10 10 Roger

    It is very much a feminist objective that women be paid as much as men, regardless of productivity or other business considerations. I think that Clinton meant what she said, and she is against the idea that women should have to do as good a job to get the same pay.

  11. 11 11 Richard D.

    SL:
    “… she is so thoroughly out of touch with the realities of
    running a business that this alone would be a good reason not
    to vote for her.”

    I didn’t watch.

    But my knee-jerk response would be “Mrs. Clinton, what
    do you know about running a private business? You’re a
    lawyer, you’ve spent the last 40 years in Washington,
    climbing the power pole, thinking up new ways to siphon
    taxes from business into your pocket, and now you’re
    qualified to dictate their pay levels?”

    I wonder, what are the ground rules for these spectacles
    (not ‘debates’)? Is Trump permitted to interject such
    comments? Did his handlers tell him to avoid personal attacks?

  12. 12 12 nobody.really

    a. Does Mrs. Clinton actually not understand that pregnancy is frequently inconvenient for employers? If not, she is so thoroughly out of touch with the realities of running a business that this alone would be a good reason not to vote for her.

    b. Does Mrs. Clinton actually not understand that it’s a good thing for more effective employees to be paid more than less effective employees — not least because this sends a signal to those less effective employees that they might be more socially useful doing something different? If so, she is so thoroughly out of touch with how markets work (and should work), and so thoroughly oblivious to the importance of efficient resource allocation, that it should be almost unthinkable to vote for her.

    * * *

    [T]he way to encourage child-rearing is to reward child-rearing, not to distort the rewards to marketplace activities. Insofar as the value of child-rearing is internalized by the parents, child-rearing provides its own rewards. Insofar as there are external benefits, there is an argument for subsidies. As with any case for subsidies and/or taxes, that argument might or might not be outweighed by additional considerations (such as the possibility that the subsidies and/or taxes will be administered in ways that negate their value).

    Ah, yes: Insofar as the rewards of child-rearing are internalized by the parents child-rearing provides its own rewards. Parents. A nice gender-neutral term.

    Yet the topic of discussion was pregnancy–a curiously non-gender-neutral phenomenon.

    Again, if we’re disparaging Clinton for her lack of respect for market forces, remind us how market forces reward women and men for their oh-so-productive acts of reproduction. Is the thesis that women, and only women, derive those internalized rewards? Or do men also derive those rewards? And if so, then do dads also get dinged in the labor market?

    Or does the labor market reflect an ENORMOUS MARKET FAILURE, in that pregnant moms bear an enormous cost for doing something as productive as generating kids, while a large portion of those benefits get derived by the dad? And when mom and dad get divorced with joint custody, how does mom get compensated for the hit she took by being out of the labor market in order to labor?

    I share Landsburg’s concern about people who fail to understand how labor markets work. But I have the same concern about people who fail to understand how they don’t.

  13. 13 13 James Kahn

    “Or does the labor market reflect an ENORMOUS MARKET FAILURE, in that pregnant moms bear an enormous cost for doing something as productive as generating kids, while a large portion of those benefits get derived by the dad?”

    As Landsburg suggested, that’s a (enormous) market failure only if there is a (enormous) external or societal benefits over and above those that the households derive themselves. Otherwise it can be worked out within the household, it’s not the government’s business. There probably is some external benefit, but whether it is “enormous” is debatable.

    But many policy proposals (including Trump’s) seem to do the opposite: Subsidize day care so that both parents can work. That would only make sense if we thought there’s a market failure resulting in too many stay-at-home moms. So which is it? I don’t think it can be both.

  14. 14 14 nobody.really

    Or does the labor market reflect an ENORMOUS MARKET FAILURE, in that pregnant moms bear an enormous cost for doing something as productive as generating kids, while a large portion of those benefits get derived by the dad? And when mom and dad get divorced with joint custody, how does mom get compensated for the hit she took by being out of the labor market in order to labor?

    [T]hat’s a (enormous) market failure only if there is a (enormous) external or societal benefits over and above those that the households derive themselves.

    Oh, right, those contracts in which a mom gains a secured interest in the dad’s hard assets in proportion to the lost value of the mom’s labor market participation. Give the frequency of procreation, I’d guess you should be able to find draft contracts on pretty much any legal form web site. Yet I can’t seem to find any….

    Face it, this is one of those libertarian fantasies. Rather, relations between dads and moms are governed by culture and tradition, with some legal reinforcement as an afterthought. The fact that our society has endured this long suggests that culture and tradition have provided a reasonably stable system. But those cultures and traditions have been changing, and it’s unclear that the legal structures have kept pace.

    For example, traditional methods gave moms the equivalent of a secured interest in the dad’s income. The man would pay a bride price to the woman’s parents; they would keep this sum even if the bride were subsequently expelled out of the man’s household. The woman’s family might in turn pay a dower to the man, but it would be held in trust for the woman; if the man were to die, the woman would retain the property and become a dowager. Similarly, it was traditional for men to provide women with expensive engagement rings, as a kind of down payment. Out-of-wedlock births were less socially acceptable. Divorce was much harder to obtain—and when obtained, the magnitude of the payments might reflect the fault of the parties; in contrast, today’s no-fault divorces generally involve child support and a property settlement, but generally don’t involve fault-based payments.

    These were practical mechanisms to defend a woman’s financial interest in her marriageability—even if she had little value in the labor market. All of these protective mechanisms have declined in utility.

    (Of course, the mechanism protecting the mom’s/wife’s interest were far from perfect. Prior to the rise of Social Security numbers, men had the option of simply emptying the family bank account and move to the next town under an assumed name. He could start a new life immediately, while the wife would then be left to wait seven years before she could declare the man legally dead and re-marry. And, in the absence of easy divorce, the rate of domestic homicide was higher.)

    Otherwise it can be worked out within the household, it’s not the government’s business.

    Tell it to the family court; I can’t wait to hear what the judge has to say.

  15. 15 15 nobody.really

    There probably is some external benefit [from procreation], but whether it is “enormous” is debatable.

    But many policy proposals (including Trump’s) seem to do the opposite: Subsidize day care so that both parents can work. That would only make sense if we thought there’s a market failure resulting in too many stay-at-home moms.

    I do not recant anything I have thus far argued. That said:
    Many recent books–Eric Brynjolfsson’s and Andrew McAfee’s Race Against the Machine (2011); Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over (2013); Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots (2015); Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014); and Ryan Avent’s The Wealth of Humans (2016), for example—argue that productivity gains would increase so quickly as to overtake Say’s Law, and we would have to find non-market means to cope with the glut of labor. Avent notes that this theory is hardly new:

    In 1930, the British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote an essay describing his view of how the economic future would unfold. At the time, the world was caught in a deepening depression. ‘We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism,’ Keynes noted in the opening to his essay, ‘Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren’….

    Keynes believed that, once the world had overcome its Depression, growth would resume and living standards would return to the upward path they’d been on previously. He acknowledged that rapid technological improvement would cause some short-term discomfort (‘a temporary phase of maladjustment’), but urged readers not to lose sight of the big picture:

    All this means in the long run that mankind is solving its economic problem. I would predict that the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high as it is today….

    ….Time spent working would dwindle to perhaps fifteen hours a week, and then to nothing. And the main problem humanity would face would be just what to do with itself in a world of abundant leisure.

    Keynes’s forecast of progress in living standard has proven correct. [R]ich economies have already experienced at least a fourfold improvement in living standards. It seems likely that some will, by 2030, have enjoyed an eightfold rise.

    [This glut of leisure will result in great social struggle:] It will be an individual struggle – what the hell should I do with my day? How and what do I teach my kids about a life well led? How do I provide for my family? And a societal one – how should we tax the fantastically rich. What does the state won a middle class whose incomes have not grown for most of the last two decades? How welcoming should residents in advanced economies be to those who wish to move there from other countries in search of better lives, or to poor places that want to sell their goods and services to rich consumers? (And similarly, how passively should the world’s poorer countries accept an isolationist, or nationalist, turn in richer countries?) If we can’t offer our children meaning and identity in work, how do we channel their energies toward healthy alternatives, rather than ideological extremism, or social nihilism?

    Given this dynamic, it’s unclear how useful it is to analyze reproduction as a factor of production. Hell, if the US wants more labor, it can just relax its immigration standards. (Or would Trump characterize this as another example of the US outsourcing labor?)

    Instead, perhaps it makes more sense to look on reproduction as consumption. Yes, we still have a male/female inequity issue. But perhaps It’s no longer appropriate to think that pregnant moms are sacrificing their careers for the public good.

  16. 16 16 James Kahn

    “Oh, right, those contracts in which a mom gains a secured interest in the dad’s hard assets in proportion to the lost value of the mom’s labor market participation.”

    Isn’t that pretty much what alimony is? There’s no “contract” (absent a pre-nup) but common law practice for exactly that. I will concede though that I am not a lawyer and maybe the law has evolved to where that is no longer the norm.

  17. 17 17 Harold

    This is turning into a bit of an extended thesis, so apologies if I wander off topic.

    #12. “As Landsburg suggested, that’s a (enormous) market failure only if there is a (enormous) external or societal benefits over and above those that the households derive themselves.”
    I think the benefit is enormous, as a consideration of what would happen if there were no more children tells us. Or read (or watch) “Children of Men”.

    “Or does the labor market reflect an ENORMOUS MARKET FAILURE, in that pregnant moms bear an enormous cost for doing something as productive as generating kids, while a large portion of those benefits get derived by the dad?”

    It is a bit of a conundrum. Dads do get something of a free ride -they get the benefits of parenthood and the societal benefits of society continuing to exist through children.

    We are all burdened by stereotypes – until recently women were reasonably happy to be stay at home mums, but they had few career opportunities anyway, so not really a free choice.

    The problem of looking at everything through a market lens is that it takes preferences as a given and assumes they are optimum for the individuals concerned. Girls are programmed by stereotypes to value caring over other activities. Boys are programmed to avoid caring professions. Probably more women than men would naturally prefer caring options, but plenty of women would naturally choose the opposite. Plenty of men would also prefer caring, but choose other options because of societal pressure.

    This is huge failure. Loads of men are doing jobs that do not suit them because they were put off caring careers as children. Plenty of potential women engineers are doing caring roles because they were put off “male” professions as children.

    “Meet the Parents” provides a good illustration. The main male character chose to be a nurse instead of a doctor. This is viewed as very, very odd and required much courage to overcome societies’ disproval. This whole film would not work unless most of the audience understands this and accepts it as reality. He is also called Gaylord and that is part of the joke, ho ho.

    Economists presumably think that everyone should be doing their “natural” preference as that will maximise utility and be best for everyone. Programming is akin to fraud – people choose it, but it is based on incomplete information.

    So do we simply remove regulatory barriers, and let the market eventually sort out this inefficient allocation of resources? Or do we try to take a shortcut by anticipating what the market will eventually arrive at and encouraging that?

    I view race equality laws as doing just that. The market left to run its course would eventually cause employers to disregard race. There are market pressures to make this happen. However, if the customers are racist, a non-racist employer may still prefer to employ only whites if that is what his customers prefer. There are only weak market pressures to prevent this happening, nd this could all take a very long time to work through. By forcing employers and customers to experience people of different races in different roles equality laws erode stereotypes and accelerate the removal of race as a spurious criterion for employment, or anything else.

    I think there is scope for similar interventions to combat sexism. We can accelerate the progression to everyone doing what they genuinely prefer for the appropriate reward. If that means giving women returning to work some extra help to make up the lost time, then so be it, and market be damned.

  18. 18 18 Zazooba

    Charles Murray has turned heretic:

    “I have had to undergo a great deal of rethinking on all of this this year… [now] I want to shut down low-skill immigration for a while,” Charles Murray told a D.C. event hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies.

    “The thing that has gotten to me over this year … has been the very simple idea that the citizens of a nation owe something to each other that is over and above our general obligation to other human beings” outside the United States, Murray said Sept. 26.

  19. 19 19 Roger

    That Murray quote is amusing. He hates Trump because Trump is right.

  20. 20 20 Floccina

    Also it seems if you are for higher taxes, it is not hypocritical to not pay extra tax money to the Government. You play by the existing rules and it is understandable to say I will only anti-up when we all do. But if you then criticise someone else who is working within the current rules and paying no taxes or being against trade but making products overseas, that is hypocritical.

  21. 21 21 James Kahn

    “I think the benefit is enormous, as a consideration of what would happen if there were no more children tells us. Or read (or watch) “Children of Men”.”

    The discussion wasn’t about having children, as I understood it, but rearing them, i.e. having a parent stay at home vs. join the labor market. Obviously those aren’t completely separate decisions, but I was only speaking about the latter. I agree that having children has a broader social benefit, though again whether it is “enormous” (over and above the “internal benefits”) is at least debatable. There are many (not I) who argue that beyond replacement the social benefit is zero or negative.

  22. 22 22 iceman

    “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names”. In that spirit, I’m not seeing how a biological fact can be a “market failure” – IMO there are far fewer market failures and public goods, strictly speaking, than people often want to suggest – or for that matter how biology is discriminatory. There may still be policy implications we choose to pursue in the name of fairness or some synonym, but I think it’s important to be clear with the language / diagnosis. Sometimes no one is to blame for a problem or dilemma. But that flies against our nature (so to speak).

    So back to the original question, per the 2nd link in Bennett #1, HRC’s subtle twist is replacing “if” with “as soon as”, which lets her imply that Trump is implying women are inherently less productive. But in the same link he mentions paying some women more than men because they’re more productive. Which should get us back to if there is an overall net gap, what are the causes? A female professor at U of Chic studied this recently and attributed it almost entirely to preferences (not competence) — to balance career and family, and for less stressful roles in general. I guess we can still debate to what extent those are the result of cultural suasions, versus at what point we’re trying to sway people into new behavioral patterns. E.g. some question whether the feminist movement has made (many) women happier. Of course politicians ignore such evidence and breeze over such nuances to continue to trumpet the 70-ish cents on the dollar type applause lines, which brings us to Roger #10.

    nr #14 interesting stuff on the historical arrangements

  23. 23 23 nobody.really

    “I think the benefit is enormous, as a consideration of what would happen if there were no more children tells us. Or read (or watch) “Children of Men”.”

    The discussion wasn’t about having children, as I understood it, but rearing them, i.e. having a parent stay at home vs. join the labor market.

    For my part, as I noted @15, the issue is not whether it is productive for the human race to produce kids, but whether we need policies to encourage Americans to produce kids. The nation does not appear to be under any particular threat from a labor shortage, given the numbers of people who are willing to immigrate.

    Note, however, that some people forecast that the world will reach peak population around 2050, and populations will begin declining thereafter. (But the UN just forecast that populations would continue to grow through 2100.) If and when populations start to decline, the US may have to compete to attract the immigrants that currently come knocking on our doors. And when the cost of that competition grows too large, we may then want to return to the idea of affirmatively promoting domestic production.

  24. 24 24 nobody.really

    I’m not seeing how a biological fact can be a “market failure.”

    Nor do I. But the failure does not arise from the facts; it arises from culture—as, indeed, do markets.

    Classical economic theory suggests that people be paid for doing things for which there is a demand, where “demand” is understood as meeting a need for people with resources, and where a person is understood to have the power to consent or withhold consent to provide those services, and to control the results of their labors. Yet culture has often restricted women’s power to own resources, to pursue remunerative careers, and to control their own reproduction. Do you mean to suggest that these dynamics are the result of biology?

    Even today, while biology decrees that it is women who will get pregnant, it is culture who decides who gets the results of that pregnancy. When a person labors to create a book, we let that person own the book, and derive the proceeds it generates. When a mother labors to create a child, we don’t let the mother own the child. Why not? Well, lots of reasons—but they are cultural reasons, not economic ones. Exploring those reasons leads to the breakdown of assumptions about autonomy that lie at the heart of the Enlightenment and Western society, so pretty much nobody wants to go there.

    [S]ome question whether the feminist movement has made (many) women happier.

    Last I checked, white women’s report of happiness has tended to decline over the decades. What accounts for this? Two dynamics.

    1. Measures of “happiness” tend to test the extent to which a person’s life conforms to expectations. If the most you can aspire to is becoming a wife and mother, there’s a substantial likelihood that you’ll succeed. If you aspire to become an astronaut, there’s a substantial likelihood you’ll fail. Women’s liberation has meant that more women aspire to become astronauts.

    2. Women’s liberation has liberated women to pursue more opportunities available to men—while leaving them with the social expectation of fulfilling all the duties previously fulfilled by women.

    This isn’t simply a matter of expecting women to dress in a certain way and cook. It’s a matter of expecting women to fulfill the role of full-time career woman AND full-time mom. Career women feel judged for not being full-time moms, while full-time moms feel judged for not being career women; whether anyone is actually judging them is beside the point. So they’re in a no-win situation—and that cannot help but depress reports of happiness.

    So here’s one of those libertarian ironies: Freedom and responsibility breed anxiety, while a lack of options can sooth the mind. The person who feels most threatened in a dark alley is the person carrying the gun; unarmed people report feeling less anxiety. The person to picked his favorite picture, and saw the other alternatives destroyed, is more content with his choice than the person who has the option to change his mind later. By the same token, the woman with options feels anxious and judged for making decisions that cannot help but fail to conform to somebody’s expectations—including their own. But as people age and lose viable abilities to change their life’s path, they become more content in their path.

    NOTE: This is NOT the same as saying that people prefer to deprive themselves of options. The fact that women with low expectations report higher satisfaction is not the same as saying that they’re glad they were raised with low expectations—although, if asked, they might in fact say that they were, given that they recognize that they have no viable means to change their past. In short, measurements of “happiness” do not necessarily measure what people think they measure.

  25. 25 25 Dave H.

    I thought that was weird as well. (I spent plenty of time yelling at my TV that night, but that was one of the few occasions where I yelled at Hillary.) Her exact quote was something to the effect that Trump said “women will start making equal pay as soon as we do as good a job as men.”

    First of all, Trump never said that. He was talking to a specific woman, and he told her that if she did as good a job as a man, she would get paid like one.

    Second, even to that one specific woman, he was not insulting her. Instead he was describing his vision of free-market economics. (He was preaching the philosophy that everyone should get paid exactly what they are worth.)

    Third, and this is important, he was right. You should not get paid the same as any other employee until you do as good a job as that other employee.

  26. 26 26 Zazooba

    It is weird reading this discussion of having children analyzed in terms of maximizing an economic objective function.

    It is weird because the point of having children is to propagate the species, and as the theory of evolution argues, having children and raising them to adulthood is not just an important objective function, it is the ONLY objective function. Our economic objective functions are irrelevant except insofar as they further the evolutionary objective function.

    The benefit to parents to having children is that their genes will propagate in the future. Parts of this discussion ring hollow because it doesn’t acknowledge that.

    While Western Civilization is busily maximizing economic objective functions, it is quietly going extinct.

  27. 27 27 Josh

    I agree. I’m probably going to vote for Clinton because I can’t fathom Trump as president. But my god you can believe pregnancy is good for the world while also realizing it’s a disruption to many people, the WOMEN WHO ARE PREGNANT included!! Why is this so wrong to admit?

    Also, the equal pay for equal work thing seems somewhat illogical or at least tough to enforce fairly even if in theory you thought it was fair. It seems like trying to calculate what is “equal work” would be very difficult in many cases. And what if the woman is better than the man she works with in the same job? Are you then saying it’s all good if the pay is equal? Why not let the market sort this out??

  28. 28 28 nobody.really

    It is weird reading this discussion of having children analyzed in terms of maximizing an economic objective function.

    It is weird because the point of having children is to propagate the species, and as the theory of evolution argues, having children and raising them to adulthood is not just an important objective function, it is the ONLY objective function….

    The benefit to parents to having children is that their genes will propagate in the future. Parts of this discussion ring hollow because it doesn’t acknowledge that.

    I disagree.

    1. To the extent that we’re discussion appropriate public policy, it matters. I believe in the importance of breathing for purposes of propagation of the species. Should we therefore adopt policies to encourage the practice? Since a sufficiently large number of people seem inclined to pursue breathing without any added inducements, I don’t see the need for the policy. The same analysis applies to having kids. Whatever threat humanity faces of extinction, the threat does not arise from a lack of reproduction. If that changes, THEN we can add incentives.

    2. I don’t generally subscribe to teleology. Thus, while I subscribe to contemporary theories of evolution, I do not conclude that evolution demonstrates a “point” or “objective.” Nature may give me cause to engage in fight-or-flight behaviors, but it does not therefore follow that I should esteem fight-or-flight behaviors as good or just or “the point” or “the objective” of life. To the contrary, I hold in high esteem people who can transcend fight-or-flight behaviors.

    For what it’s worth, nature appears to causes people to pursue sex, not reproduction per se. Indeed, many people take pains to avoid reproducing. In contrast, fertility clinics often find that they must pay men to provide sperm.

    That said:

    Our economic objective functions are irrelevant except insofar as they further the evolutionary objective function….
    While Western Civilization is busily maximizing economic objective functions, it is quietly going extinct.

    A while back Landsburg posed some thought-provoking hypotheticals about the value of preservation of the species, as distinct from the value of preservation of any specific individual.

    As I recall it, he noted that experiencing the death of a loved one is quite painful. So he asked which we would prefer: (1) a 100% chance that one member of each couple would die instantly, (2) a 100% chance that 50% of people would die instantly, or (3) a 50% chance that all humans would die instantly, plus a 50% chance of retaining the status quo.

    If the goal is to minimize mourning, (3) is the obvious choice. Yet pretty much everyone seemed to have an instinctual aversion to that option. Apparently we hold some value in the perpetuation of “our team,” quite apart from the perpetuation of ourselves as individuals—and indeed, we’re willing to endure additional pain in order to ensure the perpetuation of our team. So, maybe score a point for teleology?

    (In my memory, Landsburg then posed a second hypothetical: If childless couples stated a preference for having one member live and one die, would you secretly select the option of having a 50% chance that both would live, or that both would die? If you gave the parties what they asked for, there would be uniform grief among the survivors. But if you substituted the alternative, there would be uniform rejoicing among the survivors. What’s not to like?)

  29. 29 29 Zazooba

    @nobody.really

    I don’t generally subscribe to teleology. Thus, while I subscribe to contemporary theories of evolution, I do not conclude that evolution demonstrates a “point” or “objective.”

    You are 100% correct. It is easy to forget this and slip into speaking of “evolution’s objective”.

    Let me say instead that “evolution tends to shape organisms so they maximize the number of offspring they raise to adulthood, and evolution does this by naturally selecting such organisms through there becoming more numerous over time.” Focusing on economic objectives may or may not make a group successful in an evolutionary sense.

    The point I was getting at is that the core of human behavior has historically been adapted to to produce offspring and raise them to adulthood. Yet, when discussing policy, we almost always focus on maximization of GDP or utility. While these objectives have historically been important for evolutionary success (especially when starvation was a big deal) today we have the spectacle of people obsessing with economic objectives, but failing to address propagation of the species … to the point of looming extinction. The two seem to have decoupled.

    I am speaking very loosely here, and I’m not sure of where this line of thought leads. It just struck me as odd.

    One thing that can be said, though, is that, even if we don’t “solve” this problem, evolution will continue to work. If there is some subset of Western Civilization that can propagate itself, they will inherit Western Civilization. Or, some outgroup will inherit Western Civilization and may change it dramatically in the process.

  30. 30 30 Zazooba

    @nobody.really

    I believe in the importance of breathing for purposes of propagation of the species. Should we therefore adopt policies to encourage the practice? Since a sufficiently large number of people seem inclined to pursue breathing without any added inducements, I don’t see the need for the policy.

    Agree. Some public policies aid propagation of the species.

    For what it’s worth, nature appears to causes people to pursue sex, not reproduction per se. Indeed, many people take pains to avoid reproducing.

    Agree.

    Historically, pursuit of sex has helped to propagate the species because sex was closely linked to procreation (within a very complex social system that strengthened the link between the two).

    But now, they are not closely linked. Likely result? Extinction.

    Question: is the economics we know and love now out-of-date and off-the-mark, i.e., are our old notions of “good incentives” (crafted to maximize GDP) still relevant? Behavior that is adaptive in one environment may cease to be adaptive if the environment changes.

  31. 31 31 nobody.really

    [T]oday we have the spectacle of people obsessing with economic objectives, but failing to address propagation of the species … to the point of looming extinction….

    Historically, pursuit of sex has helped to propagate the species because sex was closely linked to procreation…. But now, they are not closely linked. Likely result? Extinction.

    Just to recap:

    1. What extinction? There have never been more human beings than there are today and, barring some calamity, the numbers will continue to grow until 2050 at the earliest—and perhaps beyond 2100. Humans as a species are not endangered. Or, at least, not endangered by lack of procreation.

    2. Moreover, even if this were accurate, it does not follow that people have any duty to value perpetuation of the species merely because natural selection promotes that end. National selection is not normative. It makes no more sense to say that we should value perpetuation of the species because of natural selection than it does to say that man should not fly because we were not born with wings.

    If there is some subset of Western Civilization that can propagate itself, they will inherit Western Civilization. Or, some outgroup will inherit Western Civilization and may change it dramatically in the process.

    Ok, now you’re talkin.’ Yes, groups with a higher rate of reproduction may well come to dominate groups with a lower rate. For example, given the growing rate of atheism, when will atheists become the majority of the US population? Not soon—in part because atheists have many fewer kids than theists do.

    Of course, your team can endure without reproducing—provided you’re really good at recruiting. Thus, while the future looks reasonably bright for theists, it doesn’t look so good for mainline Protestant denominations. Historically they gained members not by evangelizing from the “unchurched,” but from recruiting from lower-status Christian churches—especially Catholics and Baptists. Those were the working-class churches. But as soon as a laborer got promoted to supervisor, he’d get a raise and move to the fancier part of town where the other supervisors lived—and where the mainline Protestant churches were. Bingo, the mainline churches got a new member as part of upward mobility. Today there is less social stigma/class attached to being Catholic/Baptist, so people who are upwardly mobile don’t feel the need to convert. And lo, in the absence of better recruiting, the mainline churches are starved for new members.

    Will the West be able to recruit enough members to offset its loss of reproduction? Who knows? But I’d keep an eye on Japan: Strong, exclusionary culture + no babies = ??? But the US needn’t face Japan’s fate because, for all its faults, the US has a world-famous reputation for integrating foreigners. At least, we did before the Trump campaign….

  32. 32 32 Harold

    The is/ought problem rises its head again. Evolution has resulted in desire for sex and reproduction, but ought we therefore follow these urges? The is cannot answer the ought question.

    Regarding GDP, I think economic theory does not specifically value GDP. There is the saying, don’t value what you measure, but measure what you value. Nobody (almost?) values GDP for its own sake. It is supposed to be a shorthand measure of what we really value. It clearly is not that good a measure, since it fails to properly account for leisure for one thing. We do not really know what we value – happiness, utility, well-being? We do know that we cannot measure any of those things very well. So GDP is used as a substitute. I think economists would agree that someone who prefers to have less money and more leisure is economically efficient by working less, but this is not captured by measuring GDP. Have we come to value what we measure?

  33. 33 33 Zazooba

    @nobody.really

    What extinction? There have never been more human beings than there are today and, barring some calamity, the numbers will continue to grow until 2050 at the earliest—and perhaps beyond 2100. Humans as a species are not endangered. Or, at least, not endangered by lack of procreation.

    I’m referring specifically to the extinction of Western cultures. The human race as a whole is increasing, although, low birthrates may spread to currently fertile cultures.

    Of course, your team can endure without reproducing—provided you’re really good at recruiting.

    Disagree with this. As has been pointed out previously on this blog, evolution works only at the individual organism or gene level. While “teams” may, in some sense, persist, evolution is at best a poor analogy for the process. Pinker nailed this pretty convincingly.

    Interesting aside: is “extinction” the end result of TFRs around 1.0? Or does the population just dwindle to a small subgroup, or get mixed in with the rest of the population genetically? Is there any real difference, though?

    But the US needn’t face Japan’s fate because, for all its faults, the US has a world-famous reputation for integrating foreigners.

    People who say this tend to forget that the US’s integration of foreigners required roughly a 40-year near-moratorium on immigration, and a Depression and World War, to accomplish a sense of a unified culture. The US also failed to integrate a large chunk of the population.

  34. 34 34 Harold

    Zazooba. “Of course, your team can endure without reproducing—provided you’re really good at recruiting.

    Disagree with this. As has been pointed out previously on this blog, evolution works only at the individual organism or gene level. While “teams” may, in some sense, persist, evolution is at best a poor analogy for the process. ”

    I am not sure what your point is. Biological evolution works on the gene level, yes, but you are talking specifically about cultures. There is no requirement for this to operate on a reproductive basis.

    Major cultural ideas propagate very effectively through recruitment, take Christianity and Islam for example.

  35. 35 35 Daniel

    Does Trump actually believe that Mexico’s VAT tax is bad for American exports to Mexico. If so, this is reason enough not to vote for him.

  36. 36 36 Daniel

    What’s more inconvenient for employers. If women stay out of the workforce, take pregnancy leave, or if women are let go whenever they have a baby? Clearly being in the workforce is more productive for society then being out of the workforce. Also clearly separation is less productive then temporary leave, since when a woman returns from leave they are already experienced in comparison to hiring and training a new employee. However a strategy of threatening separation or leaving it ambiguous may lower the pregnancy rate among your female employees and make your company more productive. This is counterproductive for society since we are below replacement level total fertility rate. A mandated pregnancy leave law, protects society from such adverse threats, and makes clear to women that want to be in the workforce and have children that they will not experience an adverse separation. Trump’s comments about pregnancy being inconvenient, should be placed in relative context to the alternatives. The fact that Trump says things which may be true but doesn’t have an ability to put them in broader context is what Clinton may object to.

  37. 37 37 Zazooba

    @nobody.really, @Harold

    I am not sure what your point is. Biological evolution works on the gene level, yes, but you are talking specifically about cultures. There is no requirement for this to operate on a reproductive basis.

    Yes, I have muddled the terminology by conflating the propagation of culture with the propagation of individual organisms. I don’t really have a point I am trying to make; I am just thinking aloud.

    This brings up a rather interesting question. Western culture/peoples/civilization are all in danger of extinction in some sense. But, while the three potential extinctions are related, they are not synonymous, and the analysis is different for each question. So what is the relevant analysis? What should individual people care about? Which should we (vaguely defined) collectively act to prevent?

    Other interesting subsidiary questions pop up as you go along, such as: What does it mean for a culture to survive or to avoid extinction? If a culture changes dramatically, in what sense has it survived? When talking about biological survival, you have the physical reality of gene-propagation as a basis to work from, but culture/civilization is much more ephemeral (iirc, this was one of Pinker’s main points).

  38. 38 38 Zazooba

    More on-topic:

    With the debate making each candidate even more appalling than before, it appears that we now have a choice between Bozo The Clown and Stalin.

    Pretty tough choice.

  39. 39 39 iceman

    Daniel 36 – interesting, but even if you believe there’s a positive externality, isn’t it better for the govt to *compensate* the employer (I’m assuming that’s more conducive to maintaining the employment than paying the employee), rather than creating another unfunded mandate? E.g. the latter approach always has the unintended consequence of making the intended beneficiary group less hire-able in the first place. With the bonus of giving rise to new cottage legal industries

  40. 40 40 iceman

    Nobody #24 – I think/hope I’m tracking with you. Maybe we’re on about semantics here but to me markets can only match supply to *revealed* preferences, whereas “cultural failure” is a level removed and on pretty normative ground — e.g. divining “true” demand? and concluding culturally-influenced market outcomes are suboptimal. Certainly the freedoms to acquire assets, pursue any career etc. should not be “literally” curtailed, and I hope we’ve largely addressed those issues over time. But from there to me it gets awfully messy sorting out how past and present-offsetting cultural influences are net encouraging or discouraging behaviors relative to their “innate” levels. (Having said all this I’m sure I could be presented with some uncomfortable stylized cases.)

    As an example, the scenario I wonder if you are fully factoring in is where things swing to the point that a woman feels pressured to focus on career and later regrets not having spent more time on family when the kids were young, or having delayed starting the family, or even having missed the opportunity entirely. (Not because she feels judged per se but because it turns out that was her “true” preference all along.) That’s not like toothpaste where if I pick the wrong one out of the 25 options on the shelf I can always go back to the store. Is that a market failure as well, where the previous cultural limitations have been removed?

    I agree with you this is something for libertarians, or anyone, to process, but it also sounds like we agree “ignorance is bliss” is not an acceptable landing point. Not sure I follow the gun analogy — I would think the more anxious person gets the gun, but having it does not increase his anxiety.

  41. 41 41 Harold

    Zazooba. I chuckled at the bozo vs stalin choice. All cultures are doomed to extinction, which is why the old are so despairing of the young. It is difficult to detail what exactly it is we wish to avoid becoming extinct when we talk of culture.

  42. 42 42 nobody.really

    All cultures are doomed to extinction, which is why the old are so despairing of the young.

    HI–YO, HI-YO, DISCERNIBLE TODAY
    (A Song After Reading Toynbee)

    Has it come to your attention how the race of man
    Has been climbing upward since time began,
    How it’s been climbing steady, and it’s climbing there still,
    But every time you notice it, it’s going down hill?

    Going down hill is the natural way,
    For the old folks work and the young folks play,
    And the pioneer morals universally decay—
    Yet a definite improvement is discernible today!

    Hi-yo, hi-yo, discernible today!

    Now there’s been a quite demonstrable and healthy gain
    In the higher mathematics and the size of the brain,
    Between us and the oyster there were great strides made—
    But every time you look at us, we’re slipping down grade.

    Going down hill is the natural trend,
    For the old folks gather and the young folks spend,
    Yet line up all our forebears on the path that we descend
    And a definite improvement is apparent at this end!

    Hi-yo, hi-yo, apparent at this end!

    The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Greeks and Romans, too
    Hung up some fancy records when their world was new,
    And some they hung so high the boys are shooting at them still—
    But they saw themselves continually going down hill.

    Going down hill is the way things run,
    For the old have illusions and the young have fun,
    And our manners and religions everlastingly decay,
    Yet astonishing improvement is discernible today!

    Hi-yo, Hi-yo, discernible today!

    -Maxwell Anderson

  43. 43 43 Zazooba

    Here is a video of Charles Murray discussing at more length his recent thoughts on low-skilled immigration:

    http://cis.org/Videos/American-Workers-Panel (scroll down)

    Very interesting, thoughtful, humane, and honest thoughts from a person who has for decades been a god among men IMHO.

    The Amy Wax video is also very interesting and chock full of interesting information.

  44. 44 44 Zazooba

    Charles Murray talking about the change in attitudes regarding immigration says that the times they are a-changing:

    I think probably restrictions on low-skill immigration is an idea whose time has come… The fact that Donald Trump has gotten the response he has cannot be lost upon Democratic politicians who want to have – win governorships and senatorships and House of Representatives, and things like that. [It's] just simply too obvious that there’s out there a kind of sea change in the mood created by Donald Trump.

    http://cis.org/PanelTranscripts/American-Workers-Panel

    http://cis.org/Videos/American-Workers-Panel (scroll down)

  45. 45 45 Mark

    @Nobody.really

    You seem to be suggesting in some of your posts that the state (or company’s at the requirement of the state) compensate women for having children. This, in fact, would be an enormous market failure.

    First of all, women don’t have children for the benefit of society. They have children for themselves. Now, you can point to the positive externality, but the idea of mandatory compensation for positive externalities is both economically and morally atrocious. If someone mows my lawn without asking me, should I be forced to pay them? ANd what’s more, should I have to pay them their asking price? If so, guess what happens: a bunch of people start mowing other people’s lawns without asking them whether they even want their lawns mowed and even when they do’t need mowing just to collect a check which overstates the market value of the service.

    There’s already a solution to the “problem” of women supposedly bearing the brunt of the cost of childbearing (I say supposedly because it’s debatable, if not outright false; between alimony, child support, and voluntary financial arrangements between husbands and wives, there is already an enormous transfer of wealth in this country from men to women to compensate them for bearing children; this is, ironically, a big reason men have to do more salaried work than women, earn more money on paper even though women ultimately spend more disposable income, and hence the numerical ‘gender gap’ in income). The solution is: a man who wants to have a kid pays a woman to have a child by him. Informally, we already have this arrangement.

    It is, of course, a profoundly hypocritical arrangement too. A woman can choose whether to have a child at any point post-conception, and even post-birth considering adoption. A man, on the other hand, must pay a woman (in many states even if she forced him to have sex with him and even if he was under the age of consent) to have the child even if he doesn’t want it. In a sane world, all financial obligation would fall on the person who has all the choice over whether to have the kid: the mother. And if she can’t afford it, she can abort it. If shewants a man to pay her to have a kid, she can find a man who will agree to do so. There is absolutely no reason, however, economically or morally, why the taxpaying public should have to pay a woman to have a kid that the rest of us don’t want her to have.

  46. 46 46 Mark

    Also, I think that given Clinton’s support for the redundant (gender discriminaation in wages is already illegal) ‘equal pay’ act, and her repeated trotting out of the ’78 cents’ myth (or whatever the number is these days), it’s safe to assume she thinks women should be paid the same as men even when less productive. She refuses to acknowledge that the reason women make less money is because they work fewer hours, take more long stretches off, take more sick days, take more vacation days, and work jobs with more comfortable environments and more flexible hours. By pretending the income gap is a form of discrimination, she is implicitly calling for a woman to be paid the same as a man despite working fewer hours and having less experience.

    Women already get equal pay for equal work. People who want women to make more should encourage women to work more, like men, or work higher paying (but more dangerous and less comfortable) jobs. Incidentally, a great way to increase women’s pay would be to do away with compulsory child support and alimony. Women would earn more money because they’d have to earn more money. Something feminists forget is that men make mainly more not because their privileged, but because they have to (by law, due to alimony, child support, etc.) or are expected to (including by women) to work more.

  47. 47 47 Harold

    ” the idea of mandatory compensation for positive externalities is both economically and morally atrocious.”

    Leaving out morals for now, you think that an arrangement where everybody ends up better off according to their own preferences is economically atrocious?

  48. 48 48 Daniel

    @iceman,

    I agree, the government should compensate employers for their losses related to parental leave to smooth losses due to uncertainty.

  49. 49 49 iceman

    *If* there is in fact a positive net externality to having kids of course. And of course this is not the form in which a “mandated pregnancy leave law” is likely to be proposed in the real world anytime soon. In which case it may not be such a great idea

  1. 1 Some Links - Cafe Hayek
Comments are currently closed.