Hey, Where the Atheist Women At?

In a recent post, Micha blames the modal libertarian's lack of sympathy with feminism for women's rejection of libertarianism:

It always amuses me when white male libertarians wonder why there are so few non-white non-male libertarians out there. This is why.

The problem with this hypothesis, at least with respect to women, is that it doesn't fit the data. According to the General Social Survey*, men are more than twice as likely as women to be atheists (3.6% vs. 1.6%) or agnostics (6.2% vs. 2.5%). I assume that those who agree with Micha's hypothesis would also agree with the proposition that atheists are, in general, much more feminist and/or "pro-woman" than the religious. By the same logic, we would expect women to be less religious than men; in fact the opposite is true.

My suspicion is that women tend towards different political beliefs than men do for the same reason they tend towards different religious beliefs—i.e., that there are differences in the way men and women think, and that these differences are rooted in biology. I can't prove this, and I'm not 100% sure of it, but it fits the available data better than the hypothesis Micha offers.

*I can't find a way to link to my data tabulation, so you'll have to reproduce the results yourself, but it's pretty simple if you can figure out how to use the software.


Addendum: To clarify, I'm not saying that the evidence I cite proves that there are biologically-rooted differences in the way men and women think—lower rates of atheism amoung women could plausibly have cultural roots. I'm just pointing out that Micha's explanation for why women reject libertarianism—that it's dominated by anti-feminists—is inconsistent with their tendency to embrace religion, which is similarly dominated by anti-feminists. The last paragraph is just me stating my personal conjecture based on a variety of things. Share this

I felt that Micha's point

I felt that Micha's point was that marketing teams pitch to target demographics in different ways, and that the LP could learn something from that.

By the same logic, we would expect women to be less religious than men; in fact the opposite is true.

This assumes that people use logic when choosing a religion. It also assumes that atheism is a type of religion.

This assumes that people use

This assumes that people use logic when choosing a religion.

An assumption about as valid as the assumption that people use logic when choosing their political beliefs.

True, some people replace

True, some people replace morals for logic in either situation. The problem I have is that your rebuttal is based on a survey that doesn't take that into account.

You can disagree with Micha all you want, but I find your survey data to be irrelevant.

I don't understand your

I don't understand your objection at all. My entire point is that women's rejection of libertarianism is not a rational reaction to libertarian rejection of feminism—if it were, they would reject religion for the same reason. My argument doesn't assume anything about the reasons they embrace religion disproportionately; the mere fact that they do argues against Micha's hypothesis.

For the record, my

For the record, my "hypothesis" is not simply that women tend to reject libertarianism because libertarians tend to reject feminism; my hypothesis is that women tend to reject libertarianism partly because libertarians are often rude to women, come across as an all white boys club, and see nothing wrong with that image. Of course, most women will continue to reject libertarianism for the same reasons that most men will continue to reject libertarianism, but we certainly don't need to make ourselves look unnecessarily unattractive, unless our goal is to create as few like-minded people as possible.

my hypothesis is that women

my hypothesis is that women tend to reject libertarianism partly because libertarians are often rude to women...

How so? Sure, some libertarians are rude to some women sometimes, but unless you count disagreement as rudeness I don't see that this is peculiar to libertarianism.

...and come across as an all white boys club...

Libertarianism comes acress as an all-white-boys club because women and non-whites reject libertarianism, not because they're not welcome.

Libertarianism comes across

Libertarianism comes across as an all-white-boys club because women and non-whites reject libertarianism, not because they're not welcome.

Yes, and more specifically, libertarian principles typically bring one down on a side that would allow for private discrimination, saliently against women and non-whites. I suspect this is the main reason for the imbalance. In a mirror world where blacks and women historically had been dominant over whites and men, and employers tended to discriminate against white men, libertarians would probably be an all-black-girls club.

Them's is the shakes. Of course, this perhaps would make it wise to protest, even when criticizing forbidding private discrimination, that we nonetheless think it's wrong to discriminate: we just believe people should be free to do so. And many libertarians do just this. But these pleas usually come across as hollow and are seldom convincing.

It is not wrong to

It is not wrong to discriminate. Discrimination is necessary to the conduct of any business, you discriminate good candidates from bad candidates, good mates from bad mates, etc. Ah, but what about discrimination based on criteria which are irrelevant for the purpose of the choice. Well, this is stupid at worst, but not morally wrong.

The only way to perceive this as morally wrong is to look at the aggregate effect of this practice. Believing discrimination is wrong is a bit collectivist.

People who feel strongly about gender, skin color or sexual orientation of their employees are stupid and misguided, not evil. That includes those who practice affirmative action of course.

The case for markets

And many libertarians do just this. But these pleas usually come across as hollow and are seldom convincing.

But there's a case for markets and for freedom as a highly effective solution to discrimination. Competition in the marketplace punishes discrimination. The argument is so familiar to libertarians and to anyone who is economically literate that a lot of them can probably mumble it in their sleep. If you don't like discrimination, then free the market! Get rid of e.g. the Jim Crow laws legally requiring discrimination.

The same reasoning applies to a broad range of irrational decisions.

In contrast, legally requiring something is for a large class of things a notoriously bad way to get it. There are many examples illustrating this point, generally involving an unintended - but predictable - consequence of the legal requirement. For example, we can hear that in some European countries, where it is extremely difficult for an employer to get rid of an employee - a law which is intended to benefit people who rely on their jobs - an unintended but predictable consequence is that employers will be reluctant to hire unproven workers in the first place.

Another example is laws against drug use. The enforcement of these laws by the same means as other laws is so futile that over time the state has given the drug enforcers ever greater power. And still people use drugs. And the enforcement has many unintended consequences which make matters worse.

The problem is that people do not understand economics. This situation is not made better by the intervention of a number of economically literate people who put a great deal of energy into debating and casting doubt on any and all economic arguments which conflict with their ideological prejudices. We know the drill. The first attack is often that economic models are psychologically unrealistic, assuming that people are perfectly rational utility maximizers. There are responses to this - as there are to the other attacks - but the damage is done. The lesson is obscured by a cloud of sophistry, and no one not well versed in the subject and who is not willing to commit a significant amount of his own mental effort is able to discern who is right.

I agree that economic

I agree that economic illiteracy exacerbates the problem.

I don't think this argument

I don't think this argument is as strong as it's made to be. Replace "not discriminating" with "working 14 hours a day". Economics does not dictate that entrepreneur should work 14 hours a day to succeed, yes those who do may tend to outcompete the rest. If the preference for non black / non women employees is strong enough and relatively shared among labor consumers it may very well result in an equilibrium with lower wages for the population discriminated against.

All it takes is a minority who are interested in money

Replace "not discriminating" with "working 14 hours a day". Economics does not dictate that entrepreneur should work 14 hours a day to succeed, yes those who do may tend to outcompete the rest.

No, sorry, do not perform that replacement. These are dissimilar. If you can't make the argument you're trying to make without the substitution, then you are benefiting from the dissimilarity.

If the preference for non black / non women employees is strong enough and relatively shared among labor consumers it may very well result in an equilibrium with lower wages for the population discriminated against.

It only requires a minority who is more interested in making money than in discriminating - a minority who is not willing to let hundreds or thousands of dollars a day in potential profit slip through their grasp in order to enjoy the nonmonetary fruits of racial or sexual discrimination. The preference would have to be utterly universal, and it would have to be shared by all possible employers. That is, both black and white employers - without exception - would need to strongly prefer to see white faces in the office.

And it is empirically verifiable that plenty of employers have no such compunction. We can see just by looking that employers are literally willing to go to the opposite end of the globe in search of the best bang for the buck, regardless of the color of the face that delivers it. Sweatshops in Vietnam, outsourcing to India. Anti-capitalists (both left and right) hate that capitalists do this. The critics of foreign sweatshops and of outsourcing, who seek to block these by means of the state, are some of the best friends that racists ever had. It is the advocates of laissez-faire who are the enemies of racism - and have been since before Adam Smith's critique of protectionism.

It only requires a minority

It only requires a minority who is more interested in making money than in discriminating - a minority who is not willing to let hundreds or thousands of dollars a day in potential profit slip through their grasp in order to enjoy the nonmonetary fruits of racial or sexual discrimination.

If overall there is less demand on the job market for black workers, the wages of black worker will be lower. The larger the people who do not mind black workers, the smaller the discrepancy of wages.

Basic economics is no answer

If overall there is less demand on the job market for black workers, the wages of black worker will be lower.

That is basic economics. A truism. A fundamental of economic theory - the economic theory which you are attacking.

The demand for an input to production is a function of its capacity to contribute to production. Consequently, the wage a person can command in the marketplace will be a function of his productivity.

The larger the people who do not mind black workers, the smaller the discrepancy of wages.

Only to some small extent. I agree that if absolutely no one could tolerate black workers, including other black workers, then blacks could not get work. But it only requires that a minuscule fraction of the population not mind black workers, in order for black salaries to equal the salaries of whites with equal ability. And that is only at a given moment in time. Racism is not a fixed thing, and desire for more money is a (much more) fixed thing, and the latter, being fixed and being opposed to racism, will tend to push against racism at least to the point where the desire for more money no longer conflicted with racism - i.e., to the point at which a person's race does not affect his salary.

If 95% of all whites threw up and blacked out every time they were in the same room as a black, then blacks could still easily command the same salary as whites, simply by working either for each other or for the 5% of whites who don't mind them.

That is basic economics. A

That is basic economics. A truism

Aren't you attacking that truism ?

The demand for an input to production is a function of its capacity to contribute to production. Consequently, the wage a person can command in the marketplace will be a function of his productivity.

A employee belonging to a group discriminated against is less productive because he can associate with fewer employers.

If 95% of all whites threw up and blacked out every time they were in the same room as a black, then blacks could still easily command the same salary as whites, simply by working either for each other or for the 5% of whites who don't mind them.

Probably, but it's not a simple case. It's also very important that the white do not mind trading with the companies hiring black people nor mind investing in those companies. I agree with your conclusion, but the case that wage arbitrage alone eliminates discrimination is not that strong.

No, I'm not

Aren't you attacking that truism ?

No, I am not, and your belief that I am suggests that you do not understand the economic argument, which takes it as given and moves on from there. Please let us be clear: I have not anywhere here given the economic argument. I have referred to it and lightly described it. Keep in mind that the argument I am referring to is an argument given by economists and derived from the very economic theory which you claim I am attacking. If I am attacking the truism, then economic theory is attacking itself.

A employee belonging to a group discriminated against is less productive because he can associate with fewer employers.

Well, actually, getting the concept of "productive" right is key to getting a clear definition of discrimination. And you're getting it wrong for that purpose, because you're defining it in a way that justifies racial discrimination.

The idea is simple: to discriminate against blacks is to be willing to pay a white employee more than an equally productive black employee. That is to say, if both the white and the black can and would do the same work equally as well, then it is racial discrimination to nevertheless offer the black a lower wage - and thus to be unwilling to hire the black at the same wage as the white.

But as you have defined "productivity" here, the black is for this very reason "less productive" than the white. But if we accept this, then we can no longer consider it racially discriminatory, since it is no longer the case that a black is being denied the same wage as an equally productive white. You've essentially erased racism by defining productivity in a way that cancels out the hiring and wage discrepancy.

It's also very important that the white do not mind trading with the companies hiring black people nor mind investing in those companies.

In the vast majority of cases, the customer cannot be bothered to, and would find it very inconvenient to, check who is behind the product farther than the face behind the counter. In fact dozens if not hundreds of people have cooperated in producing ordinary products, and customers need to deal with only one.

That is basic economics. A

That is basic economics. A truism

Aren't you attacking that truism ?

The demand for an input to production is a function of its capacity to contribute to production. Consequently, the wage a person can command in the marketplace will be a function of his productivity.

A employee belonging to a group discriminated against is less productive because he can associate with fewer employers.

If 95% of all whites threw up and blacked out every time they were in the same room as a black, then blacks could still easily command the same salary as whites, simply by working either for each other or for the 5% of whites who don't mind them.

Probably, but it's not a simple case. It's also very important that the white do not mind trading with the companies hiring black people nor mind investing in those companies. I agree with your conclusion, but the case that wage arbitrage alone eliminates discrimination is not that strong.

If discussing scientific

If discussing scientific theories is being rude, I don't want to be polite.

What sort of adaptive

What sort of adaptive mechanism rooted in biology explains the existence of a tiny minority of atheists, and the gender balance among this tiny group?

The only supporting argument

The only supporting argument I have heard so far comes from data that cannot be trusted for reasons previously stated.

I'm just pointing out that Micha's explanation for why women reject libertarianism—that it's dominated by anti-feminists—is inconsistent with their tendency to embrace religion, which is similarly dominated by anti-feminists.

Which means I can only see the above as opinion, it lacks any sort of enumerative substance.

The explanation I gave

The explanation I gave accounts for both phenomenons. Women could be more likely to value submission to authority than men. There are obvious evopsy arguments that support this hypothesis (although it could be true only in patriarchies, where men have more to gain by questioning authority). It is testable but I don't know any studies that have done so. Strikes me as the most plausible explanation though.

Really?

"I assume that those who agree with Micha's hypothesis would also agree with the proposition that atheists are, in general, much more feminist and/or "pro-woman" than the religious."

Really? Although I'm not religious, most of the atheists I know are left wing. I assume the majority of atheists are left wing. I find that sympathy for women suffering under the yoke of Islam to be rare among left wingers. The universities are FILLED (yes, filled) with professors who will explain to you why Islam is better for women than mean old capitalism.

Human Rights Groups, NGO's, and other such entities are generally run by the lefty, non-religious types. These groups have been VERY SLOW to come around to the idea that Islam is poison to women. I dare say I RARELY meet a feminist who is doesn't bristle at criticism of Islam and its attendant (and integral) horrors, believing that one must be a Bush partisan to even utter such things.

And given the hostility that ideological feminism has to both rationality and liberty, why on earth would anyone care whether feminists want to be libertarians? They are just avoiding those whose ideas they hold in contempt.

Really? Although I'm not

Really? Although I'm not religious, most of the atheists I know are left wing. I assume the majority of atheists are left wing

That's a US thing. In Europe I think it's pretty much evenly spread. I think atheism doesn't make you more likely to be more left-wing than the median.

I find that sympathy for women suffering under the yoke of Islam to be rare among left wingers.

Again, it's probably a US thing. In France, left-wing feminists are continuously ranting against Islam.