Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Contradiction in Modern Liberalism

Something that I've noticed from my outspoken liberal acquaintances (Facebook friends), is a tendency to indulge in a scary little doublethink. They rightfully oppose the actions of the police in cases like Ferguson, but then at the same time advocate for giving the state, and therefore agents of the state, additional power to regulate various enterprises. In essence, they are simultaneously advocating increasing the bullying power of the police, while trying to stop the police from bullying. The problem with this position is that giving a group more power is going to have the reverse incentive, and will encourage more bullying.

In our system, this is somewhat mitigated by having multiple government agencies which compete for various legal playgrounds. Police departments have Internal Affairs, which are supposed to bully the bullies. The courts are supposed to ensure that the police can only punish people when they follow the rules. The problem with this is that the legal system is complicated and expensive, so even the threat of legal action can be a deterrent for most people. This means that the police can threated innocent people with lengthy court proceedings, or government inspections, as a means to bully. Even if the police department cannot directly enforce the regulations introduced, they can threaten to contact the agency that does enforce the regulations.

If liberals found a way to end police aggression, and solve the problems of police brutality, then I don't think that this would be a huge problem. I have not seen a good solutions from liberals on this particular front. There is an idea that in a democracy, we can just vote some one in or out, and that will solve the problem. And this is true to some extent, but we don't vote on individual police officers. We don't vote on the policies which govern the police directly. In the current system, we have to rely on elected officials appointing people who understand these problems and institute policies which can help mitigate the systemic incentives. I'm not particularly hopeful in this regard.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Thoughts on Feminism

With Emma Watson's recent speech to the UN, and starting a campaign #HeForShe, I think now is a good time to express some of my thoughts about feminism. By dictionary definitions like the one that Ms. Watson recited in her speech, I am a feminist. I support equal rights, privileges and responsibilities for men and women, and all people generally. I don't usually take the label of feminist, though, because I don't think the definition she cited is the only, or the most accurate definition. Even in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there is a second definition: "organized activity in support of women's rights or interests." Feminism is not just about equal rights.

Something I see fairly frequently in feminist rhetoric is language that excludes men from concern or consideration. For example, on the HeForShe website, we have the following text introduction:

"A solidarity movement for Gender Equality. The movement for gender equality was originally conceived as a struggle led only by women for women. In recent years men have begun to stand-up in addressing inequality and discrimination faced by women and girls. Now it’s time to unify our efforts. HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all."

The commitment statement is as follows:
"Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls."

So gender equality is not only a women's issue, but we are only taking action against violence and discrimination faced by... women and girls. So I guess it is a women and girls issue? This is just the latest example of feminist rhetoric that is poisoned by being too specific, while claiming to be supporting everyone. Even HeForShe admits it "...brings together one half of humanity is support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all." Wait, so only one half of humanity gets support? In an equality movement?

I would be much more inclined to support, at least nominally, these campaigns if they, at least nominally, were willing to correct the gender of these statements:
Gender equality is not only a women's issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.