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Sunday, November 11, 2007


My response to a response to something somewhere else:

My Foil: That's a silly argument. How is innovation and resource extraction mutually exclusive?

Me: It's called economics. Economics is "the study of the distribution of scarce resources." Labor is a scarce resource. You can drill for oil all day, or innovate all day, or do half and half. The decision is based on comparative advantage. We have the comparative advantage in innovation. Saudi Arabia has the comparative advantage in oil. Because this particular advantage is so extreme in Saudi Arabia, they do almost nothing but drill for oil and produce services for internal use.

My Foil: When the US was the world leader in oil production, was that because we put innovation on hold in order to concentrate on it?

Me: Yes. See above.

My Foil: So you've noticed that Saudi Arabia is not a democracy. But it is also a model of the social paradigm that you favor, where men rule their wives and make the decisions.

Me: I'm an anarchist. I oppose patriarchy AND democracy. However, for practical purposes, I prefer democracy. It's the least bad system, as has been noted. So no, I don't prefer that social paradigm. I don't think anyone here does.

My Foil: You don't see many nations with male only suffrage, it's either universal suffrage or no suffrage. Why is that?

Me: Because men try to be fair. If you support democracy as an end in itself, then universal suffrage is quite reasonable. I note that we don't allow felons to vote in some states.

My Foil: So if we're going to roll back the clock on suffrage, why stop at women's suffrage? On what basis do you deny it to women but give it to propertyless men?

Me: I don't really want propertiless men voting either, but I think our voter turnout statistics say they don't. Anyway, if you have democracy as its own goal, then universal suffrage is ideal.

However, if you believe that democracy is only a pragmatic method of trying to reach certain goals - like the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - then obviously there is some group that will vote "better" than others. If you're a socialist, then you can make the same argument for denying male suffrage. Of course, it may only be "white and cuban males between the ages of 27 and 53, who drink moderately but can't handle a manual transmission" who vote better. Sa na.

The question is, how do you get a group small enough that it tends to vote for the goals that you want it to, yet large enough that it is statistically predictable? Is any group actually capable of not oppressing the nonvoters?

If Vox is to be believed, women may have been relatively worse off than men before women's suffrage, but we are all absolutely worse off today.


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