How principled are opponents of scientific research?

How principled are opponents of scientific research?

How principled are opponents of scientific research?

What's happening in our readers' forum.
July 7 2006 2:48 PM

Stem Sellouts

How principled are opponents of scientific research?

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Probably the best summary of the anecdotal arguments' abstract implication comes from jeejee:

There's not a lot of room for the success of the type of feminism O'Rourke is fawning over. Are feminists really going to convince women to abandon their preferences/choices and overcome their sense of obligation to their families... all in service to some abstract idea that doesn't seem to be much in favor anyway? Will women really sacrifice their choices only so future mothers are denied an option they themselves appreciate? Not in a million years.


In fact, the most common philosophical objection to Hirshman's position seems to come from the classical liberal view that only personal autonomy can secure the collective good. ElbowRuum, autonomous ideologue, argues:

The only kind of feminism is the "choice" variety. What Hirschman is pissy about is that feminism empowers individual woman to have choices in how and why to live their lives where that choice didn't exist before. What it ISN'T for is to turn females into a unified bloc, which consequently is where her vitriol comes from against the stay-at-home moms.

For a grab bag of other great posts, I recommend Bromba's financial analysis of day care for low earners and littlelawyergirl's questionable analysis of welfare's fiscal advantages. Houdini has an intriguing insight about increasing longevity's role in this debate. Ravnwing offers a historical survey, positing that the discussion of women in the workforce only makes sense in the context of a vanishing deviation from "the historical norm for women to work." I also recommend  this excellent post from srcichterstl, showing how alienating the entire discourse of choice can be for those of us living accidental lives.

If you're looking for something to do between World Cup matches this weekend, you should definitely spend some time in The Highbrow Fray. GA 4:30pm PDT


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Barbara Ehrenreich and Jason Furman's weeklong epistolary exchange on the morality and economics of Wal-Mart's labor policies generated passionate debate.

Human contemplates a "perfect liberal dream" scenario in which "Walmart arbitrarily decided to increase their worker's pay by $2 an hour … funded by a voluntary pay cut by top management" and the attendant consequences:

Say a Wal-Mart worker has been taking some classes and learning some new skills. This guy was making $7.50 an hour before the arbitrary Wal-Mart pay increase, now he's making $9.50. He sees a job opportunity that is slightly more skilled than his current one, a job in which he can use his newly learned abilities--but this job only pays $8.50 an hour. Perhaps it's a job in a small business who's owners can't afford to simply give away free wage increases.

So the guy continues working at Wal-Mart. The $8.50 job goes unfilled, a casualty to the Wal-Mart job that is only worth $7.50 but is overpaid at $9.50.

Society loses that $1.00 an hour of extra value that would have come from the job switch. In other words, the more skilled job that would have provided more benefit to society is lost to the less skilled job.

But the problems don't stop there. Now consider a new entry to the workforce who is willing to work for 7.50. If Wal-Mart hadn't arbitrarily raised wages, that extra-skilled guy would've left and the new worker could have taken his place. But they did, so she loses a job opportunity…

Capitalism is a good system because it is an efficient system. When everyone works for their value, no more and no less, the total wealth of society goes up. Yes, there are problems. Wal-Mart workers should be able to live better lives. But these problems are best solved by government acting as much outside the economic system as possible, not by big business arbitrarily raising wages.

run75441 has this rebuttal: "Walmart make it a point of underpaying and directs its workers to medicaid and other welfare programs to make up the difference. Society loses more than a $1 and it pays $3 per hour to subsidize Wal-Mart employees with benefits unpaid by Wal-Mart. Don't you agree? Why should I subsidize Wal-Mart?"

Martin_Straub points out as a practical matter that pay increases are not at the whim of management but up to shareholders and concludes with this caveat: "The idea of punishing the most successful company is extremely counter-productive. It shrinks the whole pie."