Freakonomics’ Big Revelation

So I just read Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics, in which they present the astounding connection between access to abortion and crime: twenty years after Roe v. Wade, the U.S. crime rate dropped.

Astounding indeed. That men are so surprised by that! I mean, just how clueless are you guys? —about the power, the influence, of parenting, about the effect of being forced to be pregnant, to be saddled with a squalling baby you do not want, on an income you do not have, because you’ve got a squalling baby you do not want… What did you guys think would happen in situations like that? The women would get “Mother of the Year” awards for raising psychologically healthy adults?

What I find surprising is that access to abortion isn’t related to infanticide. Pity. Given the Freakonomics boys.


The Arithmetic of Morality

I limit my fuel consumption—I ration myself to one trip into town a week and I haven’t taken a ‘joy ride’ since the ‘70s. For what? My neighbour thinks nothing of going into town three times in one day, half the male population drives gas-guzzling pick-ups and never pick up anything, and the other half drive mini-vans because they’re big. I keep myself colder than I’d like and I live in a dark house, while the lights and computers stay on 24/7 in some guy’s place of business and his advertisements light up the world.

Still, it’s the principle that counts. Really? Unless there’s a god, it’s the consequence that counts. ‘Using only what you need’ is right because it’s wrong to take more than you need if that means others will have less than they need. If, however, you take more apples than you need because otherwise they’ll just rot on the ground, what’s wrong with that?

Of course, if enough people decrease their fuel consumption (and a corresponding number don’t increase their consumption), there would be a consequence. Possibly even a moral consequence. (Though that’s arguable: less fossil fuel leads to less carbon emission, which leads to less global warming, which leads to less climate change—tell me when I get to the moral good…)


Land Ownership

I’ve somewhat unthinkingly agreed with indigenous claims that they got ripped off with regard to their land, didn’t get paid a fair price. But suddenly it occurred to me: what gave them the right to ask a price in the first place? That is, on what basis was the land theirs to sell? On what basis did they own it?

Typically, we own, and therefore can sell, what we make—what we add our labor to (leaving aside, for the moment, the question of how we came to own the raw materials we added our labor to—because it’s really the same as the main question here). But no one made land.

So, occupancy? But a person can technically occupy no more than, say, two cubic meters at a time. So how are we defining ‘occupancy’? By a broader definition of spatial occupancy? Or by some temporal occupancy? Surely anything we come up with in this regard will be relatively arbitrary.

So, improvement? When one improves the land, one gains ownership over it? ‘Course, then one has to define ‘improvement’. My neighbour thinks cutting down trees and putting buildings on the land is an improvement. ‘Improvement for who’ is but one question that needs an answer here. ‘Improvement to do what’ is another.

Maybe the matter is better solved not by focusing on how one comes to own land, but by focusing on how one comes to own land. That is, if we look not at individuals, but, instead, at groups, maybe we can define ‘occupy’ more effectively. ‘Course, then we have to define the sort of groups we consider legitimate for this purpose. And, I’ll anticipate here, why should genetic heritage count more than any other criterion of group membership?


Being Unprofessional

As in exhibiting ‘unprofessional behaviour’ or wearing ‘unprofessional attire’. As in something ‘not good’. As in ’cause for dismissal’. Given that extreme consequence, we’d better define ‘unprofessional’. Easier said than done.

The word ‘professional’ means, literally, ‘pertaining to the profession’. Not helpful. Let’s assume that the profession’s standards are being referred to, standards which, presumably, identify a certain minimum regarding quality of performance. For example, good counselling depends on trust; specifically, for example, the counsellee trusts the counsellor not to tell others what has been discussed during the session. Therefore, a counsellor who fails to maintain confidentiality is being unprofessional. To mention another example, it is incontestable that certain professions are best carried out when their practitioners do not accept bribes. So if a police officer or a lawyer did accept a bribe, s/he would be guilty of unprofessional behaviour. So far, so good. Continue reading


Whose Violence?

I read the other day that “Violence in our society continues to be a problem.” One, duh. Two, no wonder. I mean, we haven’t even got it named right yet.

‘Violence in our society.’ It sounds so—inclusive. So gender-inclusive. But about 85% of all the violent crime is committed by men. The gangs are made up of men, the bar brawls are fought by men, the corner stores are held up by men, the rapists are men, the muggers are men, the drive-by shooters are men. This is sex-specific. The problem is male violence.

So it does no good to look at ‘society’, to look at our schools, our workplaces, our televisions. We need to look at our boys. We need to look at how we raise them—to become men. Because our girls don’t grow up to commit assault and homicide on a regular basis.

For starters, let’s admit that Continue reading


I’m not a feminist. Feminism is so over. We live in a post-feminist world.

It used to be that men pressured women to have sexual intercourse with them. And despite the fact that it meant risking years of unhappiness for us (unwanted pregnancy, unwanted children), for ten seconds of bliss or relief for them, we’d do it. How stupid was that?

Of course, without the weight of the patriarchy, fewer of us wouldn’t’ve done it, but still. (And by ‘the weight of patriarchy,’ I include the social bit of being raised to yield to men and the economic bit of having to marry one in order to have children.)

But now? Nothing’s changed. Damn right you’re not feminists, as all you young things proclaim with revulsion. Because you’re still servicing men. Only now it’s with blow jobs. You’re still trading your pleasure for theirs. (Your clitoris isn’t in your throat.)

When a boy makes a girl come and keeps his own pants on, when a boy becomes popular (or a professional) because he knows what to do with his hands and his tongue, then you can say it’s so over.


The Freedom to Fail, the Right to Succeed

Call it what you will, ‘bell curving’ or ‘marks inflation’ or ‘social passing’, or even ‘maintaining a certain flexibility with regard to evaluation’, an A is not necessarily an A.


True, the more students fail, the more apt they are to drop out, and the fewer students a school has, the less money it gets. But to lie to students about the quality of their work in order to get more money is to use them. Furthermore, if the students who fail did quit (and perhaps they should—institutionalized education, academic education, is not the be-all and end-all for everyone, and those who say it is are probably just trying to save their jobs), well, the institution may not need the money. So what’s the problem? A ‘money for the sake of money’ mentality is the problem. (Unless of course that money would benefit other students, those who don’t quit; but then it’s X’s benefit gained at Y’s expense.)


And true, the greater the number of failures, the worse the teacher or the school looks. But, well, looks can be deceiving.


Continue reading


Let’s Talk About Sex

Disc jockeys generally come in two sexes: male and female. So what, you may think; sex doesn’t matter. Oh but it does, so sad to say.

On any given night, one or two of several things might happen. And until recently, I never gave them much thought. But when all of these things happened during a single night, it suddenly seemed clear to me that all those hitherto separate things were, in fact, related. They were all related to my sex.

On the night in question, I had agreed to fill in for a friend, to do his regular gig at a basement bar. When I arrived early for a show-and-tell with his system, I was immediately struck by – size. Mike and I started out as deejays at the same time: we went through training together, we apprenticed with the same outfit, and then we each bought out our identical systems and started our own businesses. I have pretty much kept the same system – a couple cassette players, a search deck, a mixer, an amp, and a pair of 12″ X 16″ speakers on tripods, with a microprocessor. Mike, I now saw, had added. And he’d added big: he now had two pairs of speakers, each 3′ by 2′, a second amp of course, and a couple CD players.

What is it with men? Continue reading


The Olympians

Insofar as competition is the measure of oneself against another, it entails the view that the other is more important than oneself. Otherwise, it would be sufficient to measure oneself against oneself (a past self, a hoped-for future self) or against some absolute standard not necessarily related to any self. Such an other-regarding view usually indicates low self-esteem.

It does no good to claim that one competes, rather, to better one’s own best: it must be asked why one needs to perform alongside another in order to better oneself – a stopwatch or tape measure or videotape should suffice. That such competing against oneself is insufficient to bring out one’s best suggests, again, that what matters is what the other does, thinks, etc.

This seems odd, though: most world class athletes have such self-discipline and have achieved such a level of excellence that for their self-esteem to remain low, they’d have to be quite out of touch with reality. Bingo.

The hierarchal nature of competitive sport is such that Continue reading


Figure Skating: A Very Gendered Thing

Many call figure skating a sissy sport, a feminine thing. To the contrary, and to my unrelenting irritation, it is a very gender-inclusive sport, a sport of both sexes, a sport where men must be men and women must be, well, girls.

Consider the costumes. The men usually wear ordinary long pants and a more or less ordinary shirt. The women, on the other hand, with such consistency I suspect an actual rule, show their legs–their whole legs–and almost as much of their upper body as they can get away with. And they always wear that cutesy short little girl skirt. What is it with that? Or they wear a negligée. (Ah. It’s the standard turn-on for sick men: sexy – child.) (Why is child sexy to men? Because child guarantees power over. And that’s what sex is to men–power, not pleasure. Or rather, the power is the pleasure. Probably because they don’t recognize the responsibility of power.) (So even in a sport without frequent legs-wide-apart positions, the woman’s costume would be questionable. But I believe it’s actually a rule–the female skaters must show leg. Like most rules women are expected to follow, this one surely was made by men, for men. As if women exist for men’s viewing pleasure.) Continue reading