Scheduled for Squawk Box: January 2, 2020 6:50 AM EST: Talking Points

Comment of the Day: Kaleberg: Feminism 'I think your tone is good enough, but I think that a lot more was going on than simply rising productivity. (1) Women do better in monetized societies, that is, in places where there is an objective measure of value that can translate into social status. (2) Women do better in urbanized societies, that is, in places with a variety of trades and where one is forced to accept one's interdependence. (3)Women do better in demilitarized societies, that is, in places where the use of armed force is a less important component of citizenship. These all overlap. The Enlightenment ideas of the early 18th century encouraged thinking in terms of objective measures of value being more important than ancestry, recognizing that no man is an island unto himself and the increasing professionalization of armed forces...

...The big reason women are subordinate in almost every society is because human females are generally physically weaker than human males, and, in the end, social value was strongly correlated with one's ability to physically harm others. This was and is, in some circles, a big part of masculinity. The ability to beat someone else in a fight was a cornerstone of societal structure. England didn't repeal trial by combat until 1818. It wasn't just the ability to fight. Being able to beat someone in a fight was so important that societies often limited who was allowed to fight. Quite often peasants and townsmen were exterminated for daring to defend themselves in armed combat. Fighting was respected, and subordinates were not allowed to fight lest they win. Smith and Wesson, the great equalizer, ended that. As the state took the right to use physical force more and more as its own, it became less and less definitional in masculinity.

Increased productivity may have made women's lives better, but this was partly because it was part of urbanization, monetization and specialization. Mechanization also made a difference. Physical strength used to be a valuable, marketable attribute, but machines made it less valuable. There's a reason Trump supporters make a fetish of District 12 and its hard rock coal minors. They are worshiping the physical strength required. The controls on a dragline require little more force than one needs to operate an automobile.

I'd consider opening your argument to address more than just productivity. As you point out, even the daughters of nobles were legally limited despite their ability to command resources allowing them to eat well even as peasants starved. It wasn't just the increased availability of resources. It was more about how those resources were produced, the end of agriculture as the primary source of resources and the deprecation of physical strength in obtaining resources.

P.S. Maybe I'm off base. You are the economics professor, not me...

#commentoftheday #equitablegrowth #2019-01-03