Thursday, April 20, 2006
Truths, Half-Truths, and Extinction: The Hidden Face of The Economist
"A Guide to Womenomics," The Economist, 12 April 2006, pg 73, http://www.economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=6802551 (from Sean Meade at TPMB).
A plan whose success involves your own extermination, whose concept of strategy is limited to high-kinetic conflict, whose description of stability operations is building-guarding, is one doomed to failure.
That's why the recent Economist article on women and work should be read suspiciously. The piece is a slipshod collection of half-truths and deceptions in support of social experiments that destroy the nations which adopt them.
And you thought The Economist was just a girlie magazine.
I. The Economist on the Value of Education
“WHY can't a woman be more like a man?” mused Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”. Future generations might ask why a man can't be more like a woman. In rich countries, girls now do better at school than boys, more women are getting university degrees than men are and females are filling most new jobs. Arguably, women are now the most powerful engine of global growth.
If, however. the editors of The Economist had read tdaxp, they would know that, statistically, white American women do not enter college for higher earning opportunities. Of all ethnic-sex groups, only latin women earn less from higher education than white women.
For a substantial fraction of women, the purpose of college appears to be social life or an "Mrs" degree. The Economist might as well be talking about widespread female education, because of the popularity of manner schools. Of course, that context of that fact is inconvenient, so the magazine does not mention it.
II. The Economist and the Value of Work
Later, the article confuses itself in its economics. Discussing female entry into "paid work," The Economist notes
In other words, value unpaid work at $0, value paid work at the going rate, and -- unsurprisingly -- paid work is valued more. (Not that it's surprising for some not to value unpaid work.)
III. The Economist and Styles of Work
A more serious criticism is found in the articles myopic materialism:
To some extent, the increase in female paid employment has meant fewer hours of unpaid housework. However, the value of housework has fallen by much less than the time spent on it, because of the increased productivity afforded by dishwashers, washing machines and so forth. Paid nannies and cleaners employed by working women now also do some work that used to belong in the non-market economy.
It boggles the mind how wrong this is. America, and the rest of the Old Core, is a capital-rich, labor-poor society. This style of economy is very sensitive to the quality of the workforce. Yet The Economist dismisses the purpose of "housework" as somehow centering on "dishwashers, washing machines and so forth" instead of standing up the next generation. This would be like the US Military ceasing training of Iraqi Police officers, because their hygienic needs can be easily taken care of by "dishwashers, washing machines and so forth."
What The Economist calls paid work is a high-kinetics, low-network-density activity. Likewise, what our British publishing pals call "housework" is lower kinetic but higher density work. Trying to find an essentially Phase III (Combat Operations) force to do a Phase IV job (Nation Building) -- what The Economist suggested by its quick reference to "paid nannies" -- is as insane as having the US Military rebuild the society of a middle eastern nation.
By focusing on monetized gains at the expense of social capital, The Economist is like a general that advocates just blowing things up instead of transitioning to a civilian reconstruction force.
IV. The Economist and Population Implosion
As if that was not bad enough, The Economist wants to lull us into extinction:
It is sometimes argued that it is shortsighted to get more women into paid employment. The more women go out to work, it is said, the fewer children there will be and the lower growth will be in the long run. Yet the facts suggest otherwise. Chart 3 shows that countries with high female labour participation rates, such as Sweden, tend to have higher fertility rates than Germany, Italy and Japan, where fewer women work. Indeed, the decline in fertility has been greatest in several countries where female employment is low.
What the article fails to mention is that Sweden has a death rate higher than the birth rate (0.31 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.) compared to 10.27 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)). America, by contrast and more primitive in the eyes of The Economist, has a birth rate higher than its death rate (8.26 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.) compared to 14.14 births/1,000 population (2006 est.))
It seems that if higher female labour participation is supported by the right policies, it need not reduce fertility. To make full use of their national pools of female talent, governments need to remove obstacles that make it hard for women to combine work with having children. This may mean offering parental leave and child care, allowing more flexible working hours, and reforming tax and social-security systems that create disincentives for women to work.
That might be comforting, if such policies were correlated to higher fertility. Yet as Old Europe has expanded "maternity" services, actual maternities have fallen. The Economist enjoys mentioning corollaries when it suits it in this "finance & economics" article, but not when it's an inconvenient fact.
V. The Economist and Politically Motivated "News"
Though The Economist is based in London, it is trying to change into a leading American newsmagazine. Apparently, part of its transition is social agenda fluff pieces disguised as news and analysis.
I read that article and I must admit that I got caught up its euphoria. However I did notice that it seemed a little strange that everything appeared to be a win-win with no drawbacks. You're right that it is folly to ignore the costs of neglecting the social responsibility of raising children, but you have to have children in the first place. So I wonder if the Economist's narrow monetary focus is more than just the result of the view they are trying to push but also due to the fact that fewer and fewer women in Europe are having children to begin with. Their fertility rate is only about 1.4 children for each woman over her lifetime and several countries have dropped below 1.3 which is like the demographic blackhole from which none have returned to see their societies live on. Spengler, an Asia Times Online columnist, has been beating this issue for the past 4 years and predicts that Europe will be Islamic before the end of the century. Furthermore, he argues that government efforts to stem the tide of declining birth rates will fail for two reasons. 1) The cost of raising a child vastly exceed anything they will be able to offer in tax incentives and 2) having children requires confidence in the future, which is often expressed in the form of religious belief. To support this assertion he performed a logarithmic regression and found a high degree of correlation between the level of nation’s religious belief and its fertility rate. It’s r-square was second only to that of the correlation between female literacy and fertility.
The evidence of a lack of faith in their culture—the embodiment of their future—can be seen everywhere from their response to the Madrid bombing and the Islamic riots in France to their relentless defamation of America. Spengler argues that this failure of confidence has its roots in the death of Christianity in Europe. Having given up on their religious faith, they no longer belief in an eternal afterlife. Without this belief, many choose to maximize their pleasure in this one, like the prodigal son. A person with such an outlook can only view children as a burden rather than a blessing—a promise to a new generation of a better future and the hoped for paradise. Yet for the Christian rebirth is the defining experience. So one can only hope that the prodigal son will come home before it’s too late.
Thankfully I think things are turning around in the US to a more balanced situation where women are starting to place more value on motherhood over their careers. A while ago I read an article that talked about how in the mid 1990s if a woman was at a social gathering and was asked what she did for a living, if she said she was a stay-at-home mom you could hear a pin drop in the room. (Even the phrase sounds a little derogatory, as if to say What do you do? I stay at home. That's all.) But today, it said that women are starting to feel a little jealous of the stay-at-home moms, which indicates that things had swung out of balance. Yet I don't think we could have gotten to this point without first going through the phase of the super-women, who try to have full-time careers and raise a family at the same time. This doesn't mean they completely give up their careers for good. It's just that their priorities are shifting back towards the family, which is a healthy thing. I for one am glad that women have so many opportunities that were denied to them decades ago, but I am also glad that having those opportunities secure, they are starting to remember the value of the family and develop a much healthier balance of the two. For the fact of the matter is, someone has to raise the child and that usually is the woman for biological and sociological reasons. Of course this does not mean that the man cannot be the stay-at-home mom.
Have you heard or read anything on American women's views on the family and career that suggests something different?
Posted by: Gregory McDowall | Friday, April 21, 2006
Gregory, I agree that part of the Economist's orientation comes from blindness -- ignorance that children actually exist in much of the world.
Very strong articles by Spengler. I used one of them in my latest post . Thanks.
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, April 21, 2006
Ho, wait a second or ten. I do get that the Economist is narrow. I also get that extinction and extermination are immanent. I compost. I also get, because of that practice, a fine tuned understanding of the life/death/life cycle and carrying capacity. Connect to that experience one gains by going thru periods of extreme excess, thru decadence and out into aerobic activity, there is a further view of fertility, how it is tied to the land and how to recuture that land. Let us get out of our gender ideologies and into our biology, guys. Please consider us all in our places and how we treat those places. Then come back with some habits that can bring us to feed the qualities of life that are lighter and better than speculation and criticism of fragmented symptoms. None of us in our tribes can find enough out about ourselves as a species to get thru this all and 'win'. That takes the rigors of discipline mixed with joy/sadness of daily life including children and active elders and the dying of all ages.
Is not it interesting that conventional monocultural religious beliefs allow people to tear apart their places and suffer no consequences as more artifice is added to deny people quality of life reflected in basic nutrition? All coming from areas whose ecologies collapsed before becoming so furious?
Posted by: Kim McDodge | Sunday, April 23, 2006
Regarding the sex/gender distinction, please check out the writings of John Hibbing  and Bob Kurzban . Both have done groundbreaking working on sex and biological social sciences. Some of the results are initially surprising.
I agree with you that religious beliefs tend to increase one's quality of life, though I disagree with your interpretation of this. Saying that a higher ideological quality of life allows people to be happy with a lower material quality of life, and thus a focus on ideological quality is a bad thing, reverses the equation.
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, April 23, 2006
Hmm. Could it be that a focus on quantity of people in ascensionist ideologies rather leaves our world, our places and those soils, very vulnerable? I do hope that any connecting again, implying some fracture and certain loosening, re ligamenting, would consider how our habits can make life worse in the long run.
While great fun to read and play in, I found the articles reductionist in tone, less dynamic than deeper pattern recognition. There is a place under gender, religion, tribe and ideology where temperamental and constitutional patterns do take over and expands the imagination, compliments biology rather than furthers divisiveness over differentiation. I am glad you are getting as much as you can out of academia, even if it is the reaction to the pc.
I think my objection is to literalizing ideologies of whatever kinds. Ideas are to be juggled, played with, puzzeled and proded. Often they lead to policies and procedures that have no respect for, indeed contempt of basic biology on which we feed and could be nourished. Moving from utopias to ublopias, or just blopping about looking for a meal....
Posted by: Kim McDodge | Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Kim, what do you mean by ascensionist?
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Tuesday, April 25, 2006
By ascensionist, I mean beliefs that promise ideal lives in other worlds, usually up there, in the clouds, heavens or futures with no understanding of our dependency on places which give us nourishment so that we can see ourselves in a landscape that needs tending, not just a place from which to rip and run. Anyone person or group can fall into the delusions of getting high whether with substances or soulless spirituallities be they within conventional or unconventional frameworks. Luckily, wisdom traditions threading thru all various religions do hold us to mature reflection and careful habits.
Posted by: Kim McDodge | Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Thank you for your definition. A two part answer.
It is not just "ascenionist" philosophies that argue in favor of population growth. For instance, Mao stated that birth control was a tool of the metropole to keep rising peoples down. He did not belive in "another world," just perpetual revolution in this one.
Likewise, high populations can go along with cleaner environments and more secure persons. This point is indirectly dealt with by Howard Bloom in "Global Brain,"  where he mentions the great benefits of cities over agriculture in so many forms of productivity.
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, April 28, 2006
I said nothing about population growth. I think that restraint from a culture that knows its place is necessary. Mao, like many preachers got his power from his people getting high off promise feeding off desire, that he, and most states, offer falsely. We make decisions daily about which volution to lend our efforts to. Most are not headed toward a quality of life that is sustainable.
Yes, Dan dax, this is true about cities but in case you and Bloom had not noticed, one depends on the other and in the long run what we have is not working to support us very well, in fact it has past a generative mark and needs renewal. We do not yet have an understanding or culture that is up to the task of supporting us in a way that is compatible with our basic biology, unless we think that borgdom is an aesthetic way to be....
Posted by: Kim McDodge | Tuesday, May 02, 2006
You mentioned "a focus on quantity of people in ascensionist ideologies." This does not imply population growth?
In what ways do you understandings or cultures conflict with our biologies?
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Wednesday, May 03, 2006
I tend to shy from "overpopulation" and "birth control" not to mince but to offer underneath all the positioning just a notice of carrying capacity of each of our places and restraint. Conventional US ag is not very cultured and prides itself on reductionist science, medicine and business practices to the deterement of people's digestion, indeed with little regard for the care of the life in the soil or in our guts on which we and our kids depend. As women go to being homemakers once again, you and Mr McDowell might find that an interest in plain foods, close to the ground, traditional, cultured ways become important for the well-grounded hope, not false, of well raised and held children:
That's all. Thank you.
Posted by: Kim McDodge | Friday, May 05, 2006