Saturday, 12 March 2016

Aardvark Comment: 15 Impossible Things To Believe...

On 8 March 2016 AMOC reader 'Erick' posted a comment on AMOC responding to Dave Sim's 15 Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast, which originally appeared in the essay Tangent in Cerebus #265, April 2001:

1. "A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time."

Since you did not specify whether or not the mother in question is married, divorced or not interested in any relationship, I say yes. A single working Mother who loves, feeds, clothes and provides for her child and has a fully vetted non-family member -the stranger(s) watch her child during the daytime, is just as good or better than a Mother who stays at home and has no income other than government largesse. If you want to talk about married women, then let’s be specific.

2. "It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society"

Is that $10 or $10,000? Let’s be generous and say it is $10,000. Raising a child is very expensive. But nowhere near as much as incarcerating someone.

3. "A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus."

If the Doctor from his or her experience determines that the woman’s life is in danger from carrying the child, then yes that doctor has a more valid claim than that of the father who does not possess the requisite knowledge.

4. "So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice."

Whose ethics form the baseline assumption?

5. "A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership."

A camel with two humps stores more enriched reserves of nourishment in tissues than a one humped camel.

6. "It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded."

There may be people who argue that, but there are also people who argue the earth is flat. They have a right to an opinion, but you do not have to give it credence, nor do they represent the majority.

7. "Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society."

It is never just in a fair society to unfairly apportion opportunities based upon gender or race.

8. "It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public."

It is important to note that there are physical differences between the sexes. But it is also important to note that no one, male or female should be in a position that they are unfit for, be it physically or mentally.

9. "Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically."

We live in a completely just and fair society where men and women from all walks of life compete on a level playing field. The United States would never embrace anyone who would discriminate based upon race or religion or gender. Would never tolerate such beliefs. Because we have indeed moved into a post racial post gender society that treats everyone as equals. Canada on the other hand…

10. "Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone."

Since no. 6 does not exist in the real world, this point is irrelevant.

11. "Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals."

If the woman is raising the child of the man who earns more than she does then the man should pay the bulk. This has nothing to do with the inherent and absolute equality of the sexes.

12. "An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more."

That depends on the state they reside in. And a simple pre-nup - that any wealthy individual male or female should obtain before marriage can insure that they retain their wealth as affirmed time and time again in divorce court cases.

13. "A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself."

Some women chose artificial insemination, but I digress. Who says that a man’s opinion is invalid on how to raise the child? I just saw that Guy Ritchie was awarded full custody over his multimillionaire wife Madonna. Guess who pays alimony and child support in that one?

14. "Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist."

Just because you typed that statement does not make it so.

15. "Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer."

Perhaps some people might think that, but once again there are folks who believe that the earth is flat. They are entitled to think what they will, but they do not represent the majority.

Submit your Aardvark Comments to: momentofcerebus [at] gmail [dot] com 


Travis Pelkie said...

Huh. When I first read the Impossible Things, I think I figured I agreed with about half, and disagreed with the rest, so let's compare what I think with Erick here.

1. Hmm. Considering that the typical 9-5 job basically coincides with a child's school day, a working mother or a stay at home mom both cede some of the child rearing to strangers. So you're talking more summers and other holidays, when the kids have to go to daycare. This is one where I think anecdotal evidence can shore up either viewpoint (of working mothers vs stay at homes and who does "better"). (I'm a fence sitter!)

2. Well, we're not talking about incarceration here, Erick. And I assume that education cost in the link refers to what each state spends in their schools. What Dave is talking about is state funded daycare to allow women to have their kids in daycare while they work. If Dave's numbers are accurate (hmmm), then yes, he seems to be correct, it doesn't make sense to spend more in tax dollars than what are taken in from the mother working. Dave seems to be talking, with these points, about women that are second household incomes, and extraneous ones -- women who work because that's what the feminist idea is of "having it all", career and family. What percentage of women that is in reality, I'm not sure. But for the point itself, I'd say Dave is probably correct here.

3. I'd agree with Erick's statement here, that medically the doctor has a greater claim because of greater knowledge, in the case of medical danger. I would say in general, if there is a loving and communicating relationship, the decision will be made by the couple together. If the mother (who, remember, is the one who would be carrying the fetus to term) decides on her own not to carry out a pregnancy, the relationship probably isn't all that strong in the first place, and a baby shouldn't be brought into it.

4. I'm not sure where Dave gets this one.

5. Well, to mix the transportation metaphors here, Dave is talking about a car where the two people are each trying to direct it the way they want to go. Sure, in a good relationship, lots of times it will go the same way, but sometimes not. Erick's talking about a car with double size trunk space. Or to go by Erick's metaphor, Erick's talking about extra nourishment to travel by, while Dave would have a person sitting on each hump, each one trying to direct the camel where they want to go, again, sometimes going the same way, sometimes not.

And of course, what Dave's saying is right, it's not more efficient. Presumably, though, in the best relationships, one partner is willing to "go along for the ride" at times without trying to seize the wheel.

6. Hmm. I don't think the viewpoint is as minority as Erick is trying to claim. There have been men only groups that have been lambasted for being men only, and there are groups where men are not welcome, because they "take over the conversation" and such. I saw footage of one of the campus protests recently (brain can't think of which one -- the one where the communications professor wanted some muscle to get some camera person away from covering the news of the protest, I think) where a group of black students asked that non-blacks leave so they would have a safe place to converse.

I don't think it's wrong for certain groups to ask that others be excluded from certain meetings. I think the main objection with breaking up men only meetings is that traditionally, places like golf courses and the such that have been men only are the places where business is "really" conducted, so shutting out women shuts them out of the business world.

On the face of it, it is hypocritical to ask for men only meetings to be broken up but not allow men in certain women's only meetings.

Travis Pelkie said...

7. I don't think it's ever been explicitly stated that the desire is to take jobs away from men, just to expand the entire field so that women have a chance in all fields. (This ties in to the letters Jeff was posting about that university head -- is it that women are taking jobs/spots in a college away from men, or has the field expanded so that more of the new people in the field are women in order to try to even things out a bit more?) I don't think it's wrong to give opportunities to women who wouldn't normally have them by suggesting to those who hire that they look outside the network, which has traditionally been guys hiring other guys who look like them. Mandating a certain amount seems ethically unwise. (Side note, I watch the Samantha Bee show on TBS, and one recent episode [ok, they're ALL recent, she's only done 5 so far] she mentioned that the US government awarded a whopping 5% of contracts to women led entrepreneurial companies last year, I think, which is a percentage goal they put in place 10-20 years ago. If the Feminist Theocracy is working hard on the government contracts front, they aren't doing a very good job...)

8. I'm not sure anyone is pushing for lower physical standards. I have seen that the top brass in the military has warned of the possible lowering of standards in order to allow more women into the military positions that have been opened up by the Obama administration, but they're also lowering standards to allow fat guys another chance to meet weight for positions because they apparently aren't filling positions because the guys don't meet the standards. But no, physical standards shouldn't be lowered, nor should women who meet those standards be barred from those jobs.

9. Um, I think Erick is being sarcastic here.

Again, this ties to those letters Jeff hasn't posted(!) from the university head. I've read things that conclude that boys aren't led into intellectual pursuits for various reasons (which may include an overly high diagnosis of ADHD), so they don't go on to college. Barry Deutsch said that men are given affirmative action to go to college. I don't think that there are people who think that men are getting an unfair academic advantage if more women are enrolled, so I don't think I can support this one from Dave.

10. Well, I think Erick dismisses this one too quickly. I think we've seen plenty of examples of expressions of free speech that are deemed sexist that are shot down quickly. Mind you, I think things like Gamer Gate and other types of these things are mostly sexist and deserve to be shouted down, but there are also plenty of things that are shouted down as sexist without examining the underlying statement (I'm thinking of those Lawrence Summers [sp?] comments several years back about women and sciences, and I seem to recall that some scientists, even women scientists, who point out that there are definite differences in male and female brains are called out as sexist for saying so. That sort of thing is wrong.)

11. I think Dave wants things both ways here -- his earlier points seem to say that he thinks the traditional man as breadwinner/woman as homemaker is the ideal. If so, in a divorce, the man would need to pay alimony and child support, as the woman would have no outside income. You can probably point to this stat (again, if accurate) and say that equality of the sexes is a sham, but in Dave's apparent ideal, this would have to be the case, the man financially supporting the woman.

Travis Pelkie said...

12. Well, I think that in California, regardless of the pre-nup, the spousal income during the marriage is considered 50-50 (I'm not positive, though). "and probably more" is obviously ridiculous and I'm not sure who believes that. Half of what was made each year of the marriage? Well, do you believe that in the marriage, the income of both parties becomes the household income? Do you think that by being married, having the woman able to concentrate on home stuff so that the ballplayer could focus on being a good ballplayer was a job itself? I'd lean that way, particularly if there were kids in the marriage. Over half, definitely not. Half? I think a case can be made.

13. Well, this one was written before the great rise in stay at home dads. I'm not sure it was a big issue before that, either, though. "Just wait until your father gets home!" seems to me to be ceding to a man's opinion on how to raise a child.

I think if you impregnate a woman you do have a financial obligation, certainly. Greater? In what sense?

14. I'm not sure that anyone agrees with all of these statements, so I don't think that you can really claim this.

15. I believe in Iraq, maybe Egypt, maybe Saudi Arabia, there are legislative seats allocated by law to women (for them to make up a percentage of the legislative body/parliament/house of representatives/what have you). I think to legislate this as something with an end date is ok -- these are places where women would have no chance at all of being allowed to participate in government, to even get to the elective stage, let alone get elected, and to set a date of 10 years, say, where there must be a certain percentage of women in the legislature and then from there let democracy (which hopefully is fully embraced at that point) decide how many women make the legislature isn't a wholly bad thing. Women are about half of the population, and mandating that 15-35% of them are in the legislature isn't something that seems all bad. Again, have an end date so that once the idea of women representatives are in place, democracy can then determine how many stay in after that.

Hmm. Overall, I think I agreed with about half again. I'm not sure that Erick made a great case against the 15 points, and I doubt that I made that great a case against the ones I disagreed with. But I think they are worth thinking about.

Barry Deutsch said...

Tavis wrote: "If Dave's numbers are accurate (hmmm), then yes, he seems to be correct, it doesn't make sense to spend more in tax dollars than what are taken in from the mother working. Dave seems to be talking, with these points, about women that are second household incomes, and extraneous ones -- women who work because that's what the feminist idea is of "having it all", career and family. What percentage of women that is in reality, I'm not sure. But for the point itself, I'd say Dave is probably correct here."

I don't know if Dave's numbers were correct when he wrote that passage; they look low to me, but I can't say for sure because I'm not sure what year he was writing in.

But today, the average employed Canadian woman earns $34,100 a year, and if she lives in Ontario her income tax bill will be about $4200. Plus, she'll be paying about 8% sales tax, and she's also paying property taxes (either directly, or if she rents, indirectly through her rent). So her total tax payments will be much higher than $2000.

Still, on average, the short-term increase to taxes paid by a working mother who'd otherwise stay home is less than the annual cost of child care. So Dave's right about that, even if he exaggerates his numbers.

But both you and Dave write as if the only question to consider is if short-term taxes taken in are greater than tax outlays. But that's obviously not true; if government spending is only worthwhile when taxes taken in by a policy are greater than spending, then it would never make sense for the government to build roads, or to pay for schools at all, or to have fire and police departments.

Some more factors to consider: (continued in next comment)

Barry Deutsch said...

1) Economic studies have shown that taking years off from work for childcare lowers one's income for the person's entire subsequent working life. So even if we're only concerned with women's taxes paid vs cost of childcare, we'd logically have to compare the increased tax receipts for the woman's lifetime vs the cost of childcare for the years she needs it.

2) But that's not the government's only concern. The government should be focused on maximizing GDP, not just on maximizing tax receipts. So we have to consider not only what the woman pays in taxes, but how much her increased productivity (over the course of her entire career) will add to the GDP; how much the employment created by the childcare industry increases both the tax base and GDP; and how much the multiplier effects of all of this add to the tax base and GDP.

("Multiplier effects" refers to the fact that if a childcare worker is employed for $40,000 a year, that $40,000 isn't burned in the fireplace; it's spent on groceries and rent and all sorts of other purchases, increasing the size of the economy. And because childcare is an extremely labor-intensive industry, it has an especially strong multiplier effect.)

This is hardly a radical position - plenty of economists believe that childcare is a net benefit for the economy.

3) For a significant number of children, early child care makes them more productive throughout their lives (leading to higher GDP, higher tax receipts, etc). Here I'm going to quote from the report "Economic Impacts of Early Care and Education in California."

James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics and University of Chicago professor, argues that investment in young children is a win-win. “Investing in disadvantaged young children reduces the inequality associated with the accident of birth and at the same time raises the productivity of society at large” (Heckman & Masterov 2007, p.446). Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has remarked that “Although education and the acquisition of skills is a lifelong process, starting early in life is crucial. Recent research ... has documented the high returns that early childhood programs can pay in terms of subsequent educational attainment and in lower rates of social problems ....”

Ultimately, the cost of high-quality ECE is recouped many times over due to participants’ higher earnings, lower crime rates, and lower use of public services.

4) Finally, even if the economic benefits of childcare don't outweigh the costs - and I don't think that's true, but let's consider it for the sake of argument - does that alone mean that it can't make sense for the government to spend money on childcare? The purpose of government is to benefit society; something might cost money but still be beneficial. (Parks, for example. A prison system. Benefits for wounded veterans. Etc, etc.)

* * *

Of course, there are things I've written here that reasonable people could disagree with.

And that's fine. I'm not the one denying that sensible people can disagree with me; Dave is.

Dave's central claim in the "fifteen impossible things" is that it's not possible for any reasonable and informed person to logically disagree with anything on Dave's list. (Indeed, in his original intro to the list, Dave says that ideas such as daycare had to come "from a gender which has no ethics, no scruples, no sense of right and wrong.")

There's nothing at all impossible about believing that daycare provides a net economic benefit such that it makes sense for the government to support it.

Travis Pelkie said...

It's Travis, btw. But I was trying to see the points Dave was making from the POV that I think he has, where the traditional 2 parent home, father breadwinner/mother homemaker is the ideal and the feminists have "screwed it up" by taking these positions. I think Dave's general view is that things were good until feminists thought women should all work outside the home and cede care of their kids to others. I don't necessarily believe that (in whole or part) but from a pure numbers standpoint on that particular point, it doesn't "make sense" for the government to provide paid daycare for a woman who's making less money/paying less taxes than what it costs to pay for the daycare.

However, I think I agree with you overall, that you can make a legitimate case that there is a net benefit from making childcare available.

I think we agree more than we disagree from what I've read you write here before, Barry. I was interested in seeing how much I agreed with Dave or Erick here as an intellectual exercise, as I wasn't sure that Erick did a persuasive job at arguing against the Impossible Things.

Also, I've read at least the first Hereville book (maybe the second too, I'm not sure, it's been awhile) from a local library, and thought it was highly enjoyable. Much recommended, folks!

Barry Deutsch said...


Thanks so much! I'm really glad you liked Hereville. There's a third book that just came out recently, btw. (Dave, I'm sorry I haven't sent it to you yet; sending out comps is on my to-do list, but it hasn't been the highest priority.)

I certainly agree that taking on a premise as an intellectual exercise and seeing where it leads is a worthwhile thing to do.

However, I don't agree that "impossible things" 2 is rescued if we accept the argument in "impossible things" 1.

The argument Dave made in I.T.2 was wrong. It could entirely make sense for government to subsidize childcare above the level of increased tax revenues due to more women being able to work; to consider only that one source of tax revenue, as if no other economic benefits of childcare exist and should be part of the cost/benefit analysis, makes no sense.

If childcare is bad for children, as Dave argued in I.T.1, then that would be a good argument against subsidizing childcare; but that still wouldn't rescue I.T.2 from being a bad argument.

(Is childcare bad for children? Evidence is mixed; not all daycare is alike, and not all children are alike. But, to massively oversimplify, it looks like children in childcare wind up with some cognitive benefits, but are also a little more likely to act out. However, both effect sizes are fairly small.)