Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Soviet Russia, You Have Model with Sex

Again lifting Sarang's comments from a previous post:

Well, but this is exactly the entire point! As everyone in this argument has been pointing out, a model (I would say the default model) of the SR is one in which WL removes a workplace constraint on women that had been keeping singleness artificially low (and artificially inflating demand for husbands), thus leading to the SR. No jobs, no SR. The further effects are the system equilibrating to the new, lower levels of demand. On this picture, the story you want to tell -- "supply of husbands decreased b'se of SR and therefore SR was bad for women" -- is missing the crucial demand-shock element. What your corn post implies is something like, "women's lib decreased demand for husbands and the SR decreased supply of husbands; these are separate phenomena." However, on the default worldview this is an absurd thing to say, because _the entire story_ is about the system adjusting to a decrease in demand for husbands. And the ultimate effect of a collapse in demand for husbands is unlikely to be an increase in the price of husbands rel. to baseline.

Now you are free to disagree with this admittedly oversimplified model (I offer it mostly for purposes of contrast). But to the extent that it is plausible, separating the SR from women's lib doesn't make sense.
So Sarang had referred to women's liberation leading to the sexual revolution before, but I had not grasped that in his model, the sexual revolution is really nothing but a subset of women's liberation: new job opportunities led to a fall in the demand for men in the LTCR market, possibly followed by a fall in supply of men in the LTCR market. I wish that Sarang had made his model explicit earlier (though I am not sure it would have changed my conclusion - see below).

I was confused because I had originally made the explicit assumption that "the sexual revolution consisted of (A) reducing society's promotion of LTCRs, and (B) reducing society's stigmatization of women's participation in the sex market." Sarang's story only deals with norms and stigma incidentally, if at all, whereas in my model they are the whole story. (I was responding, originally, to the idea that "sexual mores were loosening" during the 60's - something that, I pointed out, is not strictly good for women. I got some pushback on this point, and so I "formalized" it into a model. I never realized that Sarang was using a different model. Not to put words in his mouth, but Sarang may argue that norms and stigma respond to the underlying economic reality - that they are mere epiphenomena, and that jobs drove everything. A discussion for another time. Suffice it to say that I have been thinking in terms of my stated assumptions all along.)

So now it becomes clear why from my viewpoint the sexual revolution doesn't get credit for the improvement in women's job opportunities, while for Sarang this seems silly because in his view the sexual revolution consisted of the improvement in women's job opportunities (as they played out in the LTCR and sex marketplaces). In other words, I was thinking of the sexual revolution as a move from the LTCR market into the sex market, with no significant effect on jobs. Sarang was thinking of the sexual revolution as a move from the LTCR market into the labor force, with casual sex as a side-effect. Note that these models could each be somewhat "accurate" - it could be that some women entered the sex market because of relaxed norms, while others entered the sex market because they no longer relied on an LTCR for economic self-sufficiency. In practice, for many women it was probably a bit of both, with no easy way to disentangle the contributing factors.

But anyway I'm not sure it boils down to anything more than a modeling/terminological issue. Whether you give the sexual revolution "credit" for women's improved career opportunities depends on whether you confine the term "sexual revolution" to the increase in casual sex. In my model, this comes naturally; in Sarang's model one could draw the line either before or after the increase in job opportunities. Sarang finds it intuitive to "bundle" the two together. I am not so sure - after all, a woman with economic opportunities need not leave the LTCR market or change her sexual behavior at all. In fact, imagine a woman who has no desire for sex outsides of an LTCR. If, as a result of women's liberation, she has career opportunities such that she has no economic need for an LTCR, would we say that her increased bargaining power in the LTCR market is attributable to the sexual revolution? This seems like a stretch to me, but I admit this is a fairly subjective question. I'll just say that I view it as more intuitive to define the sexual revolution in sexual terms - changes in sexual behavior and norms.

But assume that Sarang's model is 100% right and mine is 100% wrong (that is, norms played no causal role - the entire shift was driven by a shift from the LTCR market to the labor market). I don't think Sarang is correct in his implicit assumption that the supply response of men in the LTCR market must be overwhelmed by the initial negative shock to the demand for men. That would be true in a traditional supply/demand model (in which we would expect no shift in the supply curve at all, merely a shift along the supply curve). However, in this case changes in the sex market feed back into the supply of men in the LTCR market - the supply curve shifts as men depart for the sex market. Depending on parameters, it would be possible for women to undergo an "immiserating" decrease in demand for men in the LTCR market (that is, the "price" may shift in favor of men, a counter-intuitive result).

So I stand by my ceteris paribus arguments, but I acknowledge they become less compelling if you adopt Sarang's model in lieu of mine. But even if you use Sarang's model, and even if you include intra-LTCR-market effects within the "sexual revolution," this does not mean women have gained bargaining power in the LTCR market as a result of the sexual revolution, and it does not mean that the incentive for men to be "suitable" has increased.

8 Comments:

Blogger Sarang said...

I suppose I'm glad I repeated myself for the Nth time -- I _thought_ my model was explicit from the start (or at least from my last comment on your first post)! I'm glad we at least agree on what our models are, which basically means agreeing to disagree; but I will make a few minor points:

(1) I was _always_ disagreeing with your model -- i.e., the set of assumptions/axioms -- as a reasonable account of the SR, and _never_ arguing that your deductions were wrong within the (to my mind odd) assumptions of the model. (There is a difference between "simplified" and "wrong", and I was trying to make the case that your model was the latter.)

(2) Of course I believe that norms respond to underlying economic realities, at least in a fairly heterogeneous society like the US. (A minimal version of this point is that ostracism is a weaker deterrent, for a woman in a desperately unhappy marriage, than destitution.) But as you say this is a discussion for another time.

(3) I am aware of the existence of varieties of supply/demand curves in which a decrease in demand leads ultimately to an increase in price. This is why I used the word "unlikely" rather than "impossible" in my last comment. It seems to me that, on most natural assumptions about this market, you won't get a decrease in price: there are always just as many men, they all want to have sex, etc.

(And I could also respond to this with "tu quoque": even if the real dynamic consisted of men drifting out of the LTCR market the result could -- by your logic -- be a decrease in the price of men.)

9:11 PM  
Blogger James said...

I see, I misread that comment, if I read it at all.

1. I understand that you were always disagreeing with my model, what I hadn't grasped is that you disagreed about what constituted the sexual revolution in the first place.

2. Yes. See Order Without Law by Ellickson for a vision of norms that affect the world.

3. I think you are missing my point. New post.

9:40 PM  
Blogger James said...

But on point 1, I find it quite implausible that the sexual revolution is all about jobs and not at all about norms. Wouldn't that imply that teenage sexual behavior shouldn't have changed much?

10:10 PM  
Blogger Sarang said...

Oh there is a largely economic story for that too, of course. Once women are economically independent and marriage declines the chastity-until-marriage taboo/bonus naturally goes away and therefore teenage girls become more sexually active than previously. I certainly do not want to claim that norms _didn't_ change at all, just that this is mostly an epiphenomenon, and clearly the way you raise your kids depends on what you think they will do when they grow up. (There is also the matter of cheap contraception of course.)

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