Can We Redistribute Sex Like We Redistribute Wealth?

Redistributing wealth from the middle class to the top 1%.

Can we redistribute sex the way we redistribute wealth?

George Mason economist and libertarian Robin Hanson seems to think so.

He proposed that men should start threatening women with violence if their sex demands are not met. The horrifying idea arose in response to a Toronto terrorist attack on women that was sparked by anger over being an involuntary celibate or “incel.”

Why did Prof. Hanson say this? To establish that he is uncaring and misogynistic? To establish that libertarians are uncaring and misogynistic?

Surely he’s not serious. He seems to be drawing the analogy to make this libertarian case: Just as women should not be threatened with violence for not giving sex they don’t want to give, the rich should not be threatened with fines or imprisonment for not giving money they don’t want to give via taxes.*

But the sense is lost in translation.

The redistribution of wealth leaves the rich with less money, but women cannot be left with less sex if they’re forced to give sex to men. And taxes don’t damage in the way that killing and rape do.

In fact the happiest nations on earth are consistently those Nordic peoples who redistribute wealth the most. But the happiest countries would never be those where women are violently forced to give sex they don’t want to give.

Why did Prof. Hanson propose that women should be threatened with violence to make his point?

It’s the sort of thing that happens when people lack empathy. Having no experience with it, they don’t know how to spark empathy in others. And as it is libertarians are the most empathy-challenged of any political persuasion. These poor souls seek to create understanding and compassion for the rich and their tax burden yet have no idea how to do it. And so they can end up sounding like creepy misogynists.


* I’ll leave aside for the moment that economies collapse under libertarian policy which leaves most people with no money to spend and a downward spiral in sales and profits. (That’s why the World Bank and International Monetary Fund quit forcing the countries “aided” to live by libertarian ideals.)

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 7, 2018, in politics/class inequality and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. The expertise of economists clearly does not extend to sexuality. Maybe this guy is a closet intel.

  2. Before I start, I want to mention that there are genuinely awesome libertarian socialist and libertarian communist (also called anarcho-communist) political philosophies out there and their adherents. But when most people in the US think of libertarianism, they think of capitalist libertarianism (also called anarcho-capitalism) and aren’t even aware the other kind exists.

    I have one tiny bit of empathy for capitalist libertarians. I was raised with an oppressive religious background and it was drilled into me that all of my selfishness was part of human nature but morally abhorrent and despised by God. Capitalist libertarianism was the first philosophy I encountered that said it was okay to have and act upon self-interest. I loved the idea that I didn’t need to hate myself every waking moment for wanting good food and sex and vacations and books and games. So for a while capitalist libertarianism was my salvation.

    But over time I realized that the biggest factor in economic success in a capitalist society is luck, and using luck to determine who thrives and who starves is immoral.

    All libertarians agree to the individual right to private property. The dispute is over ownership of the means of production – the factory, the restaurant, the hotel, the hospital. Capitalist libertarians believe one person or group can own those things and derive profit (means to obtain additional shares in means of production). Socialist libertarians do not, they believe all people working on some form of production have an equal say in the distribution of profit from it, the organization of labor, and so forth.

    • Ok, but economies tend to collapse under the system where its been tried. Because the wealth moves to the top 1% (as is happening here as we have become more and more libertarian since the Reagan revolution). Also see Pinochet in Chile or the World Bank and IMF pressuring countries to take on libertarian policies — and seeing their economies subsequently collapse.

      Why does this happen? With no redistribution of wealth the powerful become even more powerful and can force people to take no more than subsistence wages (in the US it’s called union busting and “Right to work [for less]”) leaving workers with little money in their pockets. Sales and profits fall and the spiral continues downward.

      Also the disbelief in public education means we have no educated workforce and difficulty with entrepreneurship since people aren’t educated enough to create their own successful businesses.

    • “But over time I realized that the biggest factor in economic success in a capitalist society is luck, and using luck to determine who thrives and who starves is immoral.”

      This is totally false.

      You would have me believe that education, talent, skill, intelligence, business savvy, etc are all irrelevant to success?

      • You mean the education I was lucky enough that my parents paid for, the talent I was lucky enough to inherit from my parents, the skill I learned from people I was lucky enough to meet, the intelligence I was lucky enough to inherit from my parents, the business savvy I learned from meeting the right mentors, and above all the tremendous luck that had me born in a middle class section of the United States instead of a poverty zone are irrelevant?

        If there are ten factors that influence economic success, luck is the first nine and hard work is the tenth. The libertarian and conservative fantasy is that the overwhelming majority of people struggling with money failed at hard work. The reality is that the overwhelming majority failed at luck.

      • Mike, luck is not a thing. It’s nothing. When you say luck is the cause of something, it’s a lazy way of saying you haven’t put in the energy to find the real cause. If luck was a cause of anything, I would ask you to produce evidence of the existence of this mechanism so we could examine it, and see how it works. But we can’t, because it’s shorthand for “I’m too lazy to understand”.

      • “If there are ten factors that influence economic success, luck is the first nine and hard work is the tenth.”

        BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        You people on left believe in the victimization crap. I went to several top-tier universities, including Vanderbilt. That was NOT luck. As a high school student I spent many hours reading and doing my homework. My parents (not single parent) taught us the importance of education and disciple. That is NOT luck.

        In college and graduate school I did the same. Lots of study. I had NO mentor. Yet, I was able to do well in life. I am Black and have earned my way with savvy, persistence, intelligence, great education, and hard work.

        I am neither special nor lucky. This is happening every day in America.

        So, is every American in college lucky? What about Asian-Americans who have the highest SAT scores (so much so that Harvard penalizes them on admissions) and highest annual incomes? Are they luck too?

        Are the immigrants, including illegals, lucky too when they come to America and within one generation or less become middle class? NO they are highly motivated, study hard, work hard, and sacrifice. IT IS NOT LUCK!

      • The main way that luck figures in is that rich people have a difficult time failing and people in poverty can have a difficult time succeeding.

        George W. Bush had several businesses fail but his rich and powerful father had connections that helped him get back on his feet every time. And he never would have been president without his father having been president. Donald Trump inherited millions of dollars which helped him greatly to succeed.

        But children who are so poor that they are hungry and lack medical care have a difficult time attending or focusing in school. They may be sick a lot or lack eyeglasses to read. A local teacher said that he can always tell the hungry students because they have such a hard time focusing. It’s not their fault they don’t have food. And if you don’t have food at a very young age your brain never forms properly.

        Studies have found that when poor children get food and medical care they are much more likely to graduate from high school and go to college and get good jobs. The ones who don’t are more likely to have children at a young age and continue the cycle of poverty or turn to crime which costs the rest of us a lot of money in police, courts and prisons. For every dollar we spend on early childhood education we save $7 on the other end.

        But libertarians don’t believe in making sure that poor children have food and medical care or even public education.

        Countries that go libertarian find their economies collapsing.

  3. You’re mischaractising the argument as about the rich paying tax. Almost everybody pays tax. Working class people pay tax. They do it at the point of a gun, in that if you don’t pay you will be jailed. This is violence. And working to pay your tax is an imposition on the freedom of you’re bodily integrity. People are damaged by their work, not just through injuries, but through the wear and tear of time. We are conditioned to accept it, just like women in certain cultures are conditioned to give up sex on demand. That’s the philosophical argument, which you’ve not really interacted with. You’ve advocated here making it criminal for men to pay for sex with consenting women..

    • I’m not mischaracterizing the argument at all. I clarified that what you said IS his argument. And that this argument lacks empathy.

      Yes, we all pay taxes. But being forced to pay taxes doesn’t come close to the violence and hurt of experiencing sexual assault. If you were raped that would be far, far worse than paying taxes.

      And there’s a big difference between selling sex and sexual assault — so long as the seller is freely selling.

    • Of course, this point comes up every time libertarianism is discussed. The law and courts protect property rights for citizens. The police enforce those laws. Every citizen benefits. Further, the roads, the air and water without poisons and chemicals, communication standards, and so forth – all run by the government and funded by taxes.

      And there’s no realistic way to refuse. You can’t say, “I live in Kansas but I want no part in this. So I won’t pay taxes, and in turn I won’t use any American roads, do business inside US borders, breathe the air here, drink the water, accept police protection, communicate by phone, radio, or internet, or buy or consume any food whose safety has been guaranteed by the FDA.”

      Now we must discuss and debate what the government handles and what it does not. I have plenty of problems with US law and US government activities. But the argument that taxes are violence is ludicrous.

      • The law and courts protect property rights for citizens. The police enforce those laws.

        Interestingly, these seem to be among the few government functions that libertarians, as a whole, are happy to leave in the hands of government. After all, their precious “property rights” (about the only thing they seem to hold sacred) can’t be protected in the absence of a functional police force (or as a certain Kim Stanley Robinson put it, “That’s libertarians for you – anarchists who want police protection from their slaves”)!

  4. Yes it does lack empathy. Look whose back for moment with the blogs ha

    • Good to hear from you. I guess we’re both taking a break. I’m down to about once a month or less.

      But I do plan to post something by you in June 🙂

      • Yeah I haven’t posted in a while because I haven’t seen you post in awhile. Hmm, a post by me, that has me curios. I remember some stuff I brought up in the past that you like. I’m wondering there was a one in relation to gangland and clips I brought up and you like that. Is it that or something else I talked about before?

      • It’s a comment you wrote that I turned into a post. If you will comment on some much earlier post I’ll send you the draft I edited.(I don’t want to write it here because then everyone will see it as a comment just before I post it.)

        I could also send you what you wrote about gangland — I don’t have time to do a lot of writing maybe you could read through the material and basically let me know what you would like to communicate and I can edit it and post it with you as author.

  5. That feels like an incredibly irresponsible argument to make, even in theory. Money and bodies are not the same. And we are ‘forced’ to pay taxes as a sort of rent in exchange for being citizens of a certain country, and that country then provides its citizens with services, like protections, infrastructure, health care, education, etc etc.

    • Exactly. When you pay taxes you get a lot out of it. Countries that don’t pay taxes end up collapsing. That’s not good for anyone.

    • I think my high school economics teacher put it best when he said that although only a fool enjoys paying them, taxes are very much necessary for a functional society (another thing he taught us which I think is very true is that there are some services that the government simply does a better job of providing than private enterprise, and that the best-run economies are “mixed” ones ie ones in which both the government and free market are involved in the running of the economy).

      One workaround I’ve seen a lot of libertarians suggest for keeping society running while abolishing most, if not all, taxation is private charity, which always makes me roll my eyes. Not only is charity alone woefully inadequate at helping all those in need and keeping society running, but I seriously doubt that the average libertarian, who seems to see selfishness as one of the supreme virtues, donates much to charity anyway! On a related note, one of the more peculiar creatures I’ve seen online (and surprisingly often too!) is the libertarian who also happens to be a Christian fundamentalist. This is particularly weird because these individuals tend to simultaneously believe that “the human heart is wicked in all things” (or somesuch codswallop), and that government is largely unnecessary because people in general can be relied upon to help the needy through charity (presumably through the goodness of their hearts that you’ve just said is non-existent!).. I always wonder how they manage to deal with that particular bit of cognitive dissonance!

  6. It’s a comment you wrote that I turned into a post. If you will comment on some much earlier post I’ll send you the draft I edited.(I don’t want to write it here because then everyone will see it as a comment just before I post it.)”

    thanks, and no problem, will do

  7. Such an odd… and dangerous idea. You are rigor, the happiest countries are those ones were women are not forced to have sex if they don’ t want to. This means that they are respected and not considered sexual objects… hence, sex is just not merely sex… it is a whole complex issue which involves the place women are given in a specific society as well and among other things
    What happens in Toronto was awful and the explanations behind it are as irrational as the attack itself. Such an extraordinary thing would’t be a pretext for such general statements, in any way…all the best to you, dear Georgia 😊👍

    • If women were forced to have sex can you imagine the trauma our mothers would be in? Or daughters and sisters? And potential spouses? With all the PTSD, this insane notion wouldn’t be good for men either.

      • I remember once coming upon an exceedingly creepy suggestion by some guy who said that male bosses had a perfect right to expect sex from their female employees, and that the only way those employees should be allowed to refuse it would be if their employment contracts specifically stated that they didn’t have to have sex with their boss! The guy who made this suggestion (some Norwegian incel-type called Eivind Berge, who, judging from other things I’ve heard about him, seems set to become the next Anders Breivik) did so on a blog not renowned for its feminist sympathies, and even the other commenters all thought he was nuts! While I don’t know if he was a libertarian, his suggestion does seem rather libertarian in nature in that it seems to assume all transactions between employers and workers are perfectly voluntary and consensual, and that no-one ever agrees to be exploited in the workplace because they’re too hungry and desperate to leave a bad job.

      • You make some really good points.

  8. I just read this article. I did not see where the author is advocating violence against women. Actually, he notes that often a threat of violence has moved society to address say income equality etc.

    His piece seems to focus on the incel issue with men. These men, in a few instances, have used violence the result of their sexual frustration. Clearly most of society, including the author Robin Hanson, do NOT advocate such.

    How can one redistribute sex? Simple. Create an incentive (subsidy) for women to have sex with these incels. Those women who wish to partake would receive $$$$ subsidies. It is strictly voluntary. No rape. No violence.

    Of course this will (and should not) ever happen.

    Frankly, in 2018 I cannot grasp why a man is not able to get sex (unless he is married). Outside of being married (read emasculated), a single man today has tons of opportunities for sex. Maybe the sex is not with the most attractive women. But, if you are that desperate to get laid, then don’t be so picky. Just find a woman who wants to have sex with you…..They are not hard to find.

    • Well we already have that financial incentive. It’s called prostitution. It’s just that most women aren’t interested in having sex for money. But like you said there’s no reason that a man can’t get sex. Prostitutes are already available.

      Otherwise, his piece sounds like he is advocating terrorism toward women. Women risk being murdered or raped if they don’t give sex, even if they don’t want to have it.

      Of course I actually don’t think he is serious. I think he is empathy-challenged. Trying to provoke empathy for rich people who get taxed so that the rest of us can get Social Security, Medicare, etc. Even though the billionaires who are funding this guy wouldn’t live their lives any differently if they got their tax money back. But those who would be without Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid would be suffering mightily.

  9. While I’ll admit there were times when I was almost seduced by libertarianism (largely because of its opposition to such things as the idiotic War on Drugs), I ended up being turned off it when I realized that its underlying philosophy essentially boiled down to: “Power in the hands of government – BAD! That same power in the hands of large, faceless corporations with even less accountability to those they screw over than the government – GOOD!” (or alternatively, “The government doesn’t have the right to tell you how to live your life, but your employer sure does!”). Right now in my country, we have a government that seems intent on giving us all the bad bits of libertarianism (ie unfettered freedom for the almighty MARKET (all praise its glorious name, and blessed be its infallible decisions!) to treat the majority of the population as little more than slaves) and none of the (few) good bits (such as getting the government to butt out of its subjects’ private lives). Usually the people who espouse that particularly ghastly ideology here describe themselves as “socially conservative and economically liberal” (blech), even though, when you think about it, social conservatism and economic liberalism are incompatible in a lot of ways.

  10. I tried to attach this to Huggy Bear’s response to me, but I don’t see how.

    @Huggy Bear, you wrote: ” My parents (not single parent) taught us the importance of education and disciple. That is NOT luck. ”

    It’s not luck, really? So you chose the womb you came from, and knew enough as a prior-to-zygote entity to select one with two people that would instill the value of education and discipline in you? Well, good for you.

    I got parents that taught me the value of education and discipline too. But believe it or not, I don’t get any credit for picking them. I don’t get any credit for the fact that they made sure I did my homework. Or that they could afford to live in a good school district with good teachers and a low crime rate. Or that my dad was a mathematician and could tutor me in calculus. Or that I got plenty of food as a kid.

    That was all luck.

    And the biggest luck of all is that I didn’t develop a chronic disease like my brother and end up unable to hold a job. And that I didn’t develop brain cancer as a preschooler and die like my cousin.

    Luck, luck, luck, luck, luck. All luck. Yes I work hard. I busted my behind in college and I push myself at work. But luck is still a million times more important, and there are tens of millions of people in this country that work harder than I ever have and are still financially wrecked – or dead.

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