Thank you for that generous introduction, Cappy Shopneck, Independence Institute Board of Directors Chairman, and I thank you so much for inviting me here today. I am truly honored to be here. I would also like to thank Debbie Donner for introducing me to the Independence Institute. Finally, I would like to thank Jon Caldara, President of this fine organization, Independence Institute, for inviting me to join you this afternoon.
Dear Ladies and Gentleman: It is a pleasure to be here today with you.
Established upon the “eternal truths” of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, one of the greatest and most monumental documents ever written, the Independence Institute is a great organization that is working hard to restore individual freedom in Colorado and throughout the nation.
I AM especially happy to be here with the Independence Institute because we share a common goal, as you can tell from the name of the organization of which I am president: the Independent Women’s Forum.
As the Declaration of Independence so poignantly states, at the Independent Women’s Forum, we believe that — all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. At the Independent Women’s Forum, we are doing our best to make sure that these rights are, and remain, secure. We are home to the next wave of the most prestigious women scholars committed to these ideals and I hope that each of you will consider joining and becoming a part of the IWF family.
IWF is a non-partisan, non-profit 501 (c) (3) educational institution. We do not advocate or oppose legislation, although we do have members. As an educational institution, we are dedicated to advancing and supporting economic and political freedom at home and abroad. Our mission is to foster a greater respect for limited government, free markets, equality under the law, property rights, strong families, and a powerful and effective national defense and foreign policy. So, you see, we have much in common with the Independence Institute.
At IWF, our mantra is “all issues are women’s issues”. Frequently, when one hears the phrase women’s issues, one immediately thinks about abortion, and the discussion stops there. IWF is the antidote to this phenomenon because we don’t discuss abortion- ever. There are lots of other organizations out there that do so. Also, there is no earthly reason whatsoever for women’s issues to revolve around our ovaries. Like I said, all issues are women’s issues.
We believe that health care, Social Security, education, our culture–or what’s left of it, taxes, free trade, terrorism and national security are all women’s issues. Frequently, because of the way the media sometimes portrays women’s issues, women get left out of the policy discussions that affect our everyday lives. IWF tries to be a part of all of these policy debates because each and every one of them is a “women’s issue.” When you think about it, it’s pretty clear: “Every issue affects women, our freedom, our well-being, and our opportunities.”
There are many, many women’s organizations today that are a voice for women on a variety of political and policy issues. Some, like the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority, or even the National Council of Women’s Organizations, are more advocacy-type organizations than IWF.
If I had to say what differentiates IWF from these organizations, I would say that it is our philosophy of how best to achieve equality among men and women. It is an argument, or philosophical difference in opinion, over feminism. We believe that certain questions are at the crux of the differences between IWF and some of these other organizations.Questions like:
First, what does it mean to be a feminist?
Second, how should we go about achieving equality between the sexes?
Third, what is the proper role of government in our lives?
Are women more free and more sovereign if we limit the role of government in our lives or if we increase the power of government over our lives?
How do we, as a nation, strike the right balance?
The answers to these questions demonstrate the difference between IWF and some of the organizations I mentioned.
At IWF, we believe that, in a perfect society, women would neither be oppressed by nor receive any special privileges under the law simply because we are women. The police and court systems would not treat violence against women any differently from violence against any other human being. The law would not extend economic privileges to women or men just because of their sex. WE DO NOT LIVE IN THAT SOCIETY YET, SO THE QUESTION IS HOW DO WE GET THERE?
At IWF, our brand of feminism holds that women and men are human beings whose commonalities far outweigh our differences. We believe that men and women share the same political interests. We believe that free markets liberate women and that, although technology can be used for harmful purposes, it tends to be beneficial because it empowers us as individuals.
Modern feminism actually has roots in a historic movement for individual rights. In the 1830s, the abolitionists, then considered a radical anti-slavery movement, declared that every human being had a natural right over his or her person that no one may violate. It declared that all human beings had a natural, inalienable right to be free. It is my opinion that abolitionism provided the context from which American feminism originally emerged. Abolitionism was a movement for human rights, NOT male rights.
Women were encouraged to speak to mixed audiences of women and men. However, not all anti-slavery advocates embraced women’s rights, and women felt it. Organized feminism was born when women started to ask whether they were only advocating for the rights of male slaves.
In 1840, during the World Anti-Slavery Conference held in London, British abolitionists protested the inclusion of American women as delegates to the convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others were refused seats at the convention and had to sit apart from the proceedings. When they came home, Lucretia Mott and Mrs. Stanton began planning the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention specifically to discuss the promotion of women’s rights.
This first wave of feminism supported the values of respect, dignity, and opportunity for the individual.
The 1920s saw women like Suzanne LaFollette, whose book Concerning Women defended free markets and laissez-faire capitalism and opposed state intrusion into women’s lives through mechanisms like the minimum wage and protective labor laws.? She championed the liberating force of technology and argued that the industrial revolution had done more than anything else to allow women to enjoy new freedoms.
The second wave of feminism, the feminism of the ’60s and ’70s, lost the vision of that free-market path to equality and sought the promise of protection in government paternalism. Second-wave feminism made the mistake of relying on the power of government instead of on the power of the individual.
Another failure of second-wave feminism was its refusal to recognize that there are in fact differences between men and women. These differences do not in any way mean that women are unequal to men. It’s simply a biological fact–we are different. The failure to recognize this is what is hurting our relationships, our children, and our jobs.
IWF represents the third wave of feminism, the feminism of the 21st century, the feminism that recognizes that men and women are equal, but not the same, the feminism that recognizes that the free market is the playing field that fosters opportunity for everyone.
Women have made tremendous progress since the days when we were, ironically, rejected at the World Anti-Slavery Convention. Next month, IWF is releasing a book titled Women’s Progress, How Women are Wealthier, Healthier, and More Independent Than Ever Before. It tells the tale of an increasingly educated pool of women entering the workforce and succeeding in their chosen professions. Women today enjoy new work options, making it easier for them to balance their desires both to have fulfilling careers and to provide hands-on care to family members.
At the Independent Women’s Forum, we believe that economic freedom, not paternalistic government, is the key to this progress and success.
That’s why every issue is a women’s issue. At the heart of every political issue lies the question: Do we expand or limit government control?
The free market, with minimal government control, is the best economic system for fostering prosperity and well-being. Because the free market keeps wages high and prices low, workers can purchase more goods and services and better provide for their families. The free market also drives the creation of new technology that reduces the amount of time required for domestic chores, changes the types of jobs that are available, and allows for greater flexibility in work arrangements. And the free market allows workers and employers room to negotiate work arrangements that suit the needs of both.
Well-being cannot be measured simply in terms of the goods and services we can purchase. It is also measured in how much time people have available to do the things they love, with the people they love. In other words, hours not spent on the job are important to quality of life. The prosperity of the free market gives workers the opportunity to earn enough to provide for themselves and their families, and it also allows them the flexibility to enjoy leisure time with their loved ones. It’s the win-win of the free market: financial prosperity and the family time to enjoy it.
To be most effective in creating opportunity and prosperity, market freedom must be worldwide. Without the freedom to trade around the globe, the market is not truly free. The growth that comes from a free economy is stunted by economic isolationism.
Let’s talk about some specific examples. One of the few specific items in the Democrats’ agenda for 2007 is a minimum wage increase. Like most Americans who don’t look closely at this policy, many women see it as economic common sense. The reality, as with all market interventions, is that a higher mandated wage comes with hidden costs like unemployment and higher consumer prices. Employers forced to increase wages must find compensating ways to cut costs or to increase revenue. This may mean reducing other salaries, laying off employees, hiring fewer workers, or raising prices on consumers. The minimum wage doesn’t promote prosperity; the free market does.
Another area where well-meaning but misguided people seek to replace the power of the market with the power of government is health care. As everyone knows, our health care system is in need of reform. This is especially important for women, who live and rely on medical treatment longer. But government control of health care invariably means lower quality and less patient choice. The system must be reformed in a way that restores–not further diminishes–the power of the free market to nurture the development and delivery of high-quality, affordable treatments.
Social Security is another example of the harm of government intervention. If a woman is married, stays at home, and takes care of her kids, and, nine years later, her husband leaves her for a woman he met on a business trip, she has put nothing into the Social Security system during those nine years when she was a stay-at-home mom; if her ex-husband passes away, she is not entitled to a portion of his benefits because they were not married for 10 years. Women rely on Social Security income more than men do for retirement income. In the next 75 years, Social Security will face a $4 trillion shortfall. Women will be disproportionately affected by this shortfall. That’s why Social Security reform that expands individual freedom to save for the future is so important for women.
Taxes represent one of the biggest financial burdens on families. And that means that taxes have a major impact on the choices that women can make, whether to work outside the home, either full- or part-time, whether to start a home-based business, or whether to focus exclusively on child-rearing.
Democrats have derided the Bush tax cuts as solely rewarding the rich. But if the Bush tax cuts are reversed, middle-class families will learn how much these tax laws have benefited them. In four years, the child tax credit will be cut in half; the marriage penalty will soar, and the bottom income tax bracket will increase by half from 10 percent to 15 percent. Middle-class families may be surprised to discover that the Democrats’ consider them rich when their taxes skyrocket.
The availability of quality education for our children is another factor that affects women and the choices we can make, and, as usual, the best solution is the one that expands freedom and consumer choice. If their taxes are not supporting satisfactory public schools, families have a few choices: They can move to communities that offer better educational opportunities; they can put their kids in private school; they can home school. All these decisions affect mothers’ lives. Moving might mean greater distance from supportive extended family; private school might mean that the mother has to work for wages; on the other hand, home schooling probably means that she can’t work outside the home.
That’s one reason why school choice is so important for women and their families. School choice affords families more flexibility and expands consumer power in education. School choice programs improve student outcomes and increase parental satisfaction with their children’s education. Too many middle-class families struggle to make ends meet while providing solid education, consistent with their values, for their children. School choice is part of the solution to this problem.
Women are poorly served in higher education as well. Students who make the mistake of enrolling in women’s studies classes are conditioned to reject “traditional forms of inquiry, concepts, and explanatory systems” in favor of “contracts of self-grading, diaries and journals, even meditation or ritual.” By teaching women to reject the rigors of critical thinking, women’s studies classes weaken their ability to succeed. Radical feminist ideas, presented not just in women’s studies classes but even in core requirements like mandatory English classes, and reinforced by campus “resource centers” for women and other liberal student organizations, give students a distorted perspective. Many young women leave college with an unhealthy view of marriage and misguided ideas about what it takes to succeed in the workplace. Freshman sitting through days of orientation are presented with grossly inaccurate rape statistics–a scare tactic employed by radical feminists to present men as the enemy and women as their victims.
Still other students find their favorite male sports teams missing-falling victim to the well-meaning but misinterpreted Title IX, which too often is used to take opportunities away from men instead of providing new opportunities for women.
Universities are the fertile fields where the damaging seeds of political correctness are sown. Teaching PC attitudes threatens the values that support republican government?respect for the individual, personal freedom and responsibility?and that are the foundation for success and well-being for both men and women.
It’s ironic that American values are so denigrated on college campuses at a time when those values have done so much to liberate women around the world.? In addition to the vital domestic issues I?ve been talking about, the Independent Women?s Forum is significantly involved in national security and terrorism. That’s because these crucial issues have a profound impact around the globe on women and their rights.
Women often suffer the first and the hardest from war, conflict, and economic upheaval. They suffered tremendously under the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Despite years of degradation under these regimes, both Afghan and Iraqi women have emerged as participants in civil and public life as their countries embarked on the path to democratization. This wouldn’t have happened without the influence of the American values of individual freedom and the dignity of the human person.
But much more work remains for these women. Despite their sizeable representation in government, Iraqi and Afghan women still face considerable challenges. Political instability, lack of security, and discriminatory social and religious mores continue to prevent women from being full participants in the political process. But the future is on their side. Education and employment opportunities for women will ensure that future generations of qualified women assume leadership positions in the private and public sectors.
These gains by Middle Eastern women, following the light of republican principles and aided by the generosity of the United States and our allies, reflect the worldwide reality that women are soaring. There have been female heads of state in Liberia (Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf), Jamaica (Portia Simpson Miller), Chile (Michelle Bachelet), India (Indira Gandhi), Great Britain (Margaret Thatcher), Dominca, Iceland, Norway, Pakistan (Benazir Bhutto)–the list goes on and on.
But, at the same time, women and girls remain the most vulnerable in many parts of the world. While we struggle for a more free market in the United States and elsewhere, women and girls are the commodities traded on the black market in some of the poorest places in the world. Human trafficking and forced labor leaves millions enslaved in brothels, dead from HIV, or trapped in debt bondage.Trafficking in human beings is the contemporary slave trade. The U.S. government estimates that more than 800,000 people are trafficked annually. 80 percent of these human beings are female, and 50 percent are children. The women’s movement was born of the movement to abolish slavery in the United States; today women are still enslaved in other parts of the world. It is the belief in the dignity of the individual that sparked the abolition movement in the United States and led to the women’s rights movement, and it is that belief that will eventually liberate the women and girls who even today are held in the worst kind of human bondage.
Foreign policy is a women’s issue. And the solution for these women is the same as the solution for women in the United States: economic and political freedom and respect for individual rights.
The future has never looked brighter for women at home or abroad. But reaching the promise of that future will continue to require hard work and commitment to the principles that the Independence Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum stand for, the principles that the first wave of feminism stood for, the principles that the third wave of feminism is recovering.
The way to help women around the globe is the same as the way to help women here in the United States: “expand individual liberty and economic freedom.” History has shown, time and again, that personal and economic freedom pave the path to prosperity and well-being.
These are the things that the Independence Institute stands for, and that’s why it’s such a pleasure to work with you and to be here with you today. Thank you.
The Independence Institute is established upon the eternal truths of the Declaration of Independence. Founded in 1985, the Independence Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization dedicated to providing timely information to concerned citizens, government officials, and public opinion leaders.