Pur Autre Vie

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

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Metaphors for the Sexual Revolution

In my previous post, I modeled the sexual revolution. A concise way to summarize it is that freedom came at the expense of egalitarianism and children. That is, the sexual revolution undermined a social institution (the long-term committed relationship) that has a positive distributional effect and that provides a stable environment for child-raising. Of course, the sexual revolution did so by freeing women to exercise their agency, so on net the trade-off was more liberty, better outcomes for some people, worse outcomes for others.

I have analogized this to right-to-work laws and the shift to private schooling. I will add a third social change: the abandonment of conscription.

1. Right-to-work laws are laws that ban "closed shop" unionization. In a "closed shop," workers cannot be hired by an employer without joining the union. The laws are called "right-to-work" laws because the thought is that workers should be able to work without being compelled to join a union. In that sense, the laws can be seen as liberty-enhancing.

However, the logic of closed-shop unionization is that if workers can enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining without paying dues (and making other commitments, like the commitment to go on strike), then they will free-ride on the union members, undermining the union and making things worse for all workers.

The analogy to the sexual revolution is pretty direct: it was an infringement on women's liberty to stigmatize them for having casual sex, but in the absence of that stigma there is no way to solve the collective-action problem and keep women's "wages" up. As a result, women's bargaining power has collapsed, and along with it the institution of marriage.

2. When everyone is expected to send their kids to public schools, everyone has a stake in the quality of those schools. Rich people will vote for higher taxes and demand accountability for results (not just test scores, but school safety, arts programs, etc.). When rich people can "exit" rather than raise their voices, public schools will suffer. Of course, to force people to send their kids to public school would be a fairly serious intrusion on liberty (one that I wouldn't support).

The sexual revolution empowered "rich" (that is, sexually attractive) people to exit the long-term committed relationship "market," eliminating the subsidy that previously supported people who were pregnant, ill, or unemployed.

3. Conscription forces everyone (well, all young males) to share alike when bloodshed is called for. Absent conscription, the poor and oppressed will disproportionately be the ones getting killed, getting their legs blown off, getting traumatized. I am not sure this is true, but I read that more Vietnam veterans committed suicide than were killed outright in Vietnam.

Anyway, conscription forces everyone into the pool and makes elites less likely to support wars. But of course, conscription is a violation of personal liberty. The elimination of conscription, like the sexual revolution, ushered in an era when the privileged flourished and the less-well-off suffered.


Blogger Sarang said...

This: "The sexual revolution empowered "rich" (that is, sexually attractive) people to exit the long-term committed relationship "market," eliminating the subsidy that previously supported people who were pregnant, ill, or unemployed" makes no sense to me as stated. Are you claiming that good looks subsidize pregnancies?

10:55 PM  
Blogger James said...

No, LTCRs subsidize pregnancies. I'll write a post.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

The other big problem is that you're assuming all women have the same interests. Yes we all deserve equality, but no we don't all want traditional relationships/marriages/children.

And what's this idea that 'sexually attractive' people to exit 'relationship market?' You seem to be suggesting that this segment of the population prefers random sex to relationships, and that in general humans (men?) choose random sex over relationships if that option is possible.

Well, once again, good for them. Better to be single than saddled with a lecherous, cheating spouse. Marriages should be about love, not financial dependence. Isn't that what Scandinavia teaches us?

10:56 AM  
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