Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bryce Covert On Reproductive Rights As An Economic Issue

Bryce Covert writes about the false distinctions between "social" or "cultural" and " economic" when political ideas are put into different boxes.  Her context is the recent renewed debate about whether the Democratic Party should support forced birth candidates if otherwise those candidates promote all sorts of yummy dishes on the lefty political menu.

Her point is an important one:  The so-called "cultural" or "social" issues are intertwined with economic issues for all those of us who draw the short stick in the worldview of "social conservatives." 

For instance, if employers or landlords/ladies are allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, well, that has a direct financial impact on that group.  If the forced-birth movement succeeds in making abortion and most woman-controlled forms of contraception illegal, well, that has a direct financial impact on women's ability to control their fertility, to plan their education or their working lives.*

I have always been exasperated by that distinction between "cultural" and "economic" issues in politics, because the former are not about the cuisines, music, art or literature of various cultural groups but partly about which people are allowed to compete in the economic sphere on equal grounds.  To not see that might mean that you didn't draw that short stick in the games the social conservatives play. 

For two extreme examples of the economic impact of cultural or religious rules,  consider societies such as the apartheid era South Africa or today's Saudi Arabia:  The segregation of races or sexes** directly handicaps the less powerful segregated group, because they will be isolated from the ruling powers, the best jobs and the ability to influence societal decision-making.

*  And also because sex discrimination would become more rampant.  Few employer would be willing to promote or train workers who might have to drop out without any notice because of unplanned pregnancies.  This type of statistical discrimination against fertile-age women as a group is already happening, but it would be far stronger in the forced-birth dystopian world.

**  The latter is a clearer example of cultural or social issues than the former.  You might want to think why that is the case.  I suspect it's because sexism is still a fairly acceptable global value with long and deep roots in religions and essentialist thinking.