Carrie Lukas, the IWF’s policy vice president, has written a terrific book titled “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.” It’s gotten trashed in a review in Reason magazine (sorry, it’s not online, but there’s an excerpt below).
What–Reason? Our friends the libertarians? Wouldn’t they enjoy Carrie’s witty, statistics-loaded, enjoyably written argument against the militant-feminist machine that seeks to use the heavy hand of government to bring us, oh, massive, unthinkably expensive, bureaucratically top-heavy federally funded day-care centers that the femi-nazis wouldn’t be caught dead sending their own kids to?
Ah, but it’s true. Reason reviewer Shannon Chamberlain, who also takes on Caitlin Flanagan’s “To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife,” says that because both books argue that combining motherhood with the 9-5 working world exacts costs on kids, what Caitlin and Carrie are really trying to do is force mothers to stay at home. Chamberlain writes:
“Although they start at different points, the Flanagans and the Lukases, leftist and rightist critics of women’s choices, arrive at the same place for the same reason: a refusal to see women as autonomous beings, capable of weighing alternatives and arriving at conclusions based on individual circumstances that the commanders of the Mommy Wars simply can’t possess, no matter how many polls they conduct. Whether the particular narrative about motherhood has women conscripted into service by capitalism or feminism, what’s missing is the cool-headed free market analysis, which would regard women as actors in an arena of choices, without the conceit of top-down management.”
Carrie responds ably in a column for National Review Online:
“Chamberlain doesn’t clarify how either Flanagan or I attempt to ‘command’ other women by means of books that can only be purchased and read voluntarily. Presumably, she means that our rhetoric attempts to convince women that staying home is best. I would take issue with that generalization, but, regardless, attempting to persuade someone is quite different from dictating their choice. In fact, this kind of information makes markets work.
“On this Chamberlain and I agree: Individual freedom is the foundation of a well-functioning society. Individuals are uniquely situated to know their circumstances and preferences, and are better off in a system that allows them to make choices based on those preferences, whether the choice is whom to marry, what job to pursue, where to live, or what kind of car to buy. Yet not all markets are equally efficient: Markets with greater options and information are more likely to generate positive outcomes.
“Consider the market for consumer goods. Just a few decades ago, a person making a major purchase – buying a new car or television, for instance – had limited information. You could read Consumer Reports, talk to your friends and colleagues about their similar purchases, and visit a few stores. Today, consumers are awash in information. Numerous websites offer expert advice and enable consumers around the world to offer feedback. You can check prices online and read message boards and articles dedicated to illuminating the benefits and drawbacks of a specific product or brand. The authors of the articles aren’t attempting to dictate your choice. It’s up to you to synthesize the information and make your selection. But because of this information, you’re better positioned to make a wise purchase than the consumer of the past.
“Other decisions work the same way. Having more information about a job or a life choice enables individuals to make better decisions. Individuals are free to ignore any advice or perspective, but, as a general rule, having more information is preferable to having less. In our books, both Flanagan and I attempt to offer women opinions and information about life choices.”
Of course, that’s Reason magazine for you. On matters concerning economic freedom and the costs to both economy and society of government efforts to plan and control markets, it’s tops. It also nicely lances the boils of political correctness, as in this worth-its weight-in-gold expose of the hypocrisy and New Class snobbery running through Judith Levine’s “Not Buying It,” chronicling Levine’s decisision to stick it to corporations and Republicans by forgoing shopping for a year:
“As her experiment begins, Levine claims that she means to limit herself to the necessities of daily life. One scans through Levine’s list of necessities with growing incredulity. High-speed DSL (hey, it’s for work!), cable television, the occasional $55 haircut, ‘organic French roast coffee beans,’ skiing?!
“Levine airily insists that necessities in New York are different from those of a ‘farmer in Bangladesh.’ But she seems to forget this relative wealth when she describes the daily life she leads with her partner, Paul. She paints a pitiful picture: This ‘highly insecure’ existence includes two residences (an apartment in Brooklyn and a house in Vermont), flexible work that allows the couple to take off and ski in the afternoon, three cars, a windsurfer, and a healthy diet of such Whole Foods staples as ‘Thai sweet black rice’ and ‘Mexican huitlacoche fungus.’
“Moreover, throughout their ostensibly shopping-free year, the couple expands their Vermont home. (Since they agreed to do so before Levine’s pledge, they figure spending $30,000 on renovations doesn’t count.)”
This is the sort of stuff that makes Reason worth reading. But its editors and contributors are unremittingly hostile to anything that smacks in the slightest of social conservatism–such as stay-at-home motherhood–even when it’s offered, as in Carrie’s and Caitlin’s books, in an utterly noncoercive way as the mother’s free but informed choice. What I’ve read of Chamberlain’s review strikes me as just plain paranoid–a near-literal throwing out of the baby with the big-government bathwater.
Correction: I erroneously named Reason reviewer Shannon Chamberlain as “Susan” Chamberlain. My careless bad. I’ve now named her correctly.