Gender Benders Redux

I'd like to follow up on one point I missed in my previous critique of Daniel Moore's post about libertarianism/Objectivism and gender.

In his original argument, Moore writes:

Capitalism places the importance of action on the market system. So, the only actors that matter, that have agency in this system are those that contribute to the market. Is it surprising to anyone that women are traditionally left out of the market? The raising of children, a task that has traditionally fallen to women, produces no market good. The making of a home, a task that has traditionally fallen to women, produces no market good. Indeed, down the list of tasks that traditionally are given to women is a string of things that produce no market goods. How can a system that gives agency to only those that produce market goods give agency to an entire group that traditionally does not?

I think this gets things exactly backwards. Far from condemning women to a life that is of little value in a market society, the technological and industrial revolutions brought about as a result of an expansion of the division of labor and an increase in market trade in fact liberated women (albeit partially; more is still necessary) from their previously subjugated roles. To wit, from David Friedman's text on law and economics, Law's Order: What Economics Has To Do With Law and Why It Matters:

If traditional marriage provides a solution to the problems of relationship-specific sunk costs, why have we abandoned it? One answer is that in traditional societies child rearing was something close to a full time job and child rearing plus household management at least a full time job. One profession, housewife, absorbed almost half the labor force. Most individual women were specialized to the job of being the wife of a particular man.

Two things changed that. One was the enormous drop in infant mortality over the past two centuries. It used to be the case that in order to be reasonably sure of ending up with two or three children, a woman had to produce children practically nonstop during her fertile years. Today, a family that wants two children has two children.

The second change was the shift of production out of the home. Clothes are now made in factories by machines, bacon is cured by professionals. Clothes may be washed in the home, but most of the work is done by the washing machine. The job of housewife has, for most families, gone from a full time to a part time job. The result is that women are less specialized to a particular job and a particular man. There are still substantial costs to breaking up a marriage, but they are considerably lower than two hundred years ago and, as a result, more marriages break up. Our legal institutions have changed accordingly, shifting away from indissoluble marriage to something close to divorce on demand.

Technologies like washing machines and cars did more to free women from oppressive roles than any populist uprising. The relentless pursuit of self-interest--employers looking to expand the pool of labor--did more to promote women's role in the workplace than any organization like NOW. It is the market, more than anything else, which has removed gender barriers.

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