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Egalitarianism, Patriachy, & Feminism

I was just reading A Female Conservative Critique of Feminism when I came across this paragraph:
Who is not inspired by the thought of an egalitarian society, where an equal distribution of wealth, power and influence is the norm . . . and NOT a mere utopian dream? Who is not inspired by the elimination of poverty? The elimination of patriarchy?

The answer, "Lots of people," came immediately to mind. Who? Well, most of my fellow Libertarians, neo-cons, William A. Henry, and just about everyone outside of liberal academia.

As for Patriarchy, I think Christiane Northrup said it best:
The word patriarchy, unfortunately, is usually accompanied by blaming men, but blame is one of the key behaviors that keeps people stuck in systems that harm them. Neither women, nor men, nor society as a whole can move on and heal as long as one sex blames the other. We have to decide to move on, to leave blame behind us. Both men and women perpetuate the system in which we live with our daily addictive behaviors and attitudes. ...the way our society functions is harmful to both men and women and... both genders participate fully in this system.

For those who did not follow the "Libertarians" link above, here's the nugget I hoped people who did follow the link would find there:
I get the impression that a fair percentage of the libertarian ranks would take great pleasure in watching certain catagories of people flounder and fail when their government crutches get kicked out from under them. The number one objection I get to the idea of supporting the Libertarian Party on election day is that "Libertarians don't care about the poor." I vote Libertarian, but the impression that I get from reading the posts of a good many of my fellow libertarians is that they really don't care about the poor and take great satisfaction in seeing how miserable and pathetic the lives of people who don't share their ideology can become.

And where do I stand? Well, my opinions haven't gelled, much less ossified, yet on this topic, but at first blush I'd say that perfect egalitarianism cannot be acheived. Even so, some unattainable goals, like perfect justice, remain worthy of pursuit. Does egalitarianism fall into that catagory? I don't think so. I doubt that anyone would want to live in a world in which everyone had the same life experience, and as long as people have divergent experiences and make judgments, some folks will make the judgment that someone else has a better life than they do and that it's not fair.

I think egalitarianism and capitalism remain utterly incompatible. So long as the people with capital can loan or invest it and make a handsome return on that capital without doing anything that a farmer, mechanic, engineer, or blue collar slob would recognize as work, the life-style differential between those who work and those who receive tribute based on the value of their capital resourses will only continue to increase.

Does that mean I'm against capitalism? I'm certainly critical of the corporate-oligarchy brand of capitalism that we practice here at the beginning of the 21st Century, but I have no plan for transitioning to another system, and I don't much care to live in what would result from the attempt to transform the US and the world at large into a socialist paradise.

I'm finding it difficult to wrap this up because I don't have a point of view that I'm trying to sell to you. I'm not making an argument or working towards a preconceived conclussion. Well, when in doubt, end with a quotation.

Despite the crepehangers, romanticists, and anti-intellectuals, the world steadily grows better becasue the human mind, applying itself to environment, makes it better. With hands... with tools... with horse sense and science and engineering.

-Robert A. Heinlein


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2004 12:12 pm (UTC)
I suppose I disagree with your statement that egalitarianism and capitalism are mutually exclusive. Well, I don't disagree exactly; most systems of capitalism are broadly incompatible with what we (I, at least) think of first when 'egalitarianism' is mentioned. But I want to emphasize that capitalism, and egalitarianism, aren't defined exactly, set down in stone somewhere, and immutable. There are some simple changes that could make our society vastly more egalitarian, to what I, a rapid social liberal and an economist, would call egalitarian enough; the estate tax is enormously progressive and anti-plutocratic; fixing abuses of the system, such as the corporate scandals that broke or the handful of scandals that never got public attention; campaign finance reform; and some more.

Investing, though, isn't at fault. There's nothing wrong with owning some capital and getting a return on it. No modern economy would work without that (I almost said no modern non-state economy, but China has been transitioning to a market system in this respect, and the other state economies, like that of Laos or North Korea, can hardly be said to be working). Private investment is the mechanism relied upon to allocate investment capital throughout the economy in such a fashion that the projects with the brightest prospects are funded. Largely with the help of mutual funds held by pension programs and such, most American households (? I think the statistic is 65% of American households) are owners of stock. There isn't a sharp divide between the heroic and productive proletariat and the avaricious and parasitic bourgeois. Most Americans are both, and they're productive in both roles.

Say I work until I'm 40 and have $50,000 in savings. My friend comes up to me and says he's starting a widget factory but is short of capital. Right now, I'm making 4% per year interest at the bank (and I'm making this because the bank is lending out my money at 7% and keeping 3%). I decide that I can get more return by putting this money into my friends' company, so I take it out of the bank and buy stocks or bonds. Say I get 8% return. I didn't get my hands dirty for this 8%, although I did take risk. The entire economy benefits from private investment. There's nothing sinister about efficient allocation.

Income inequality can, and must, be reduced, but not by attacking the system as a whole. I say 'must' both for personal normative reasons and for emerging evidence that income inequality is a significant factor in population health problems.

I guess the main reason I responded is that this sentence bugged me: "So long as the people with capital can loan or invest it and make a handsome return on that capital without doing anything that a farmer, mechanic, engineer, or blue collar slob would recognize as work, the life-style differential between those who work and those who receive tribute based on the value of their capital resourses will only continue to increase." This statement, along with being, I believe, false, also seemed victim to the unfortunate perception that private investment per se was somehow negative.
Jan. 8th, 2004 12:13 pm (UTC)
rapid social liberal -> rabid social liberal
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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