Tuesday, December 20, 2011

15 Things That Even Conservatives Should Admit

Conservative blogger, John Hawkins, over at Right Wing News, recently put up a posting in which he laid out 15 statements, claimed that these statements are factual and uncontroversial, and then dared Liberals to disagree with them.  Of course, you can take a look at his 15 statements and you'll find that just about all of them are based on his opinion, are highly contestable, and are not really rooted in objective fact.  But, I'd like to throw the challenge back to him and his conservative minions and dare them to agree to the following statements:

1. Guns actually do kill living creatures, including people.  In fact, that's what they're designed to do.
2. There is no persecution of Christians in the United States.  This meme is both a myth and a lie.
3. Waterboarding is torture.
4. Two gay people getting married has zero impact on my own heterosexual marriage and it has zero impact on my personal religious faith.
5. The electoral college violates the one-person, one-vote concept by giving individual citizens in small population states disproportionate representation in presidential elections.
6. Intelligence is desirable and is a virtue.
7. Obama is a natural-born citizen of the United States.
8. The death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime.
9. Liberal Americans are patriotic Americans.
10. Most people who voted for Obama did so for reasons other than his race, just as most people who voted against Obama did so for reasons other than his race.
11. Encouraging diversity and multiculturalism is a good thing.
12. Conservative approaches to illegal immigration are antithetical to free market principles when it comes to labor and thus are economically regressive policies.
13. Women not receiving equal pay for equal work is an injustice and thus requires remedy by state institutions.
14. The Obama administration found and killed Osama bin Laden.
15. The United States is a flawed country, and acknowledging these flaws is not treason.


Eric said...

1. Yes to the first part only. Some guns and some munitions are designed to do things other than kill.
2. Yup.
3. Absolutely, but then so is being forced to listen to Justin Bieber sing.
4. Agreed.
5. Agreed, with the caveat that small states are rightfully and Constitutionally entitled to disproportionate representation in areas other than Presidential elections.
6. Sure.
7. Yep.
8. There is empirical evidence supporting both sides. I can't agree to this one but would say that even if your statement was true I'd still support the death penalty.
9. Most are, not all.
10. Agreed.
11. It can be a good thing. It can also be a bad thing. It can also have neutral value. Really depends on the context.
12. Agree, with two caveats: 1) in economic terms conservative immigration policies would be more correctly termed as "protectionist" than "regressive", 2) based on our current labor laws, there is not a political party espousing a 'free market' alternative to the current status quo (i.e., its not like liberals are espousing a free-market alternative to conservative immigration ideas).
13. Disagree. Not all pay is transactionally based on 'work produced', nor should it be.
14. Agreed.
15. Agreed, unless said acknowledgement publicly reveals information that expressly endangers the lives of active duty military deployed in a theater of war.

Huck said...

All sensible responses, Eric. I take your point on number 12. I struggled for how to get across what I wanted to get across, and I poorly worded it. But you are right on both the points you raised. It's not necessarily "conservative" to espouse regulated and policed borders; a vast majority of Americans (and I'm one of them) recognize the need for policing borders even at the expense of perhaps greater economic reward; and "protectionist" is a much better term to use than "regressive." All that said, any restrictions on the flow of labor freely across borders is inconsistent with free market theories and the greater wealth production that such free market theories advance.

I don't understand what your disagreement is with number 13. It seems to me that you are saying that gender discrimination is a fair reason for pay differentials, all other factors being equal. What I wanted to convey is the assumption of ceteris paribus in all things except gender in terms of pay for labor/productivity.

Your response to number 11 is how I felt about just about all of John Hawkins' 15 things. Context in listing such "things" matters a great deal.

Eric said...

Re: #13, There's a lot I would say about it, but cutting straight to the controversial part: when deciding on a compensation contract, I believe an employer has a right to factor in the consequences of an employee who may become pregnant and need to take extended time off.

I've been in the position before of hiring a woman who told me up front she was planning on having children in the next few years and putting her career on hiatus. She was the best candidate for the job, we hired her, and we valued having her on staff, but quite simply we didn't invest as much in her (in terms of salary and training) as we'd have invested in somebody who we felt confident was more dedicated to their career. She eventually left and started a family after her husband got a promotion at his job. It was a good deal for her, it was a good deal for the company I was working for, and I don't see anything ethically wrong with those types of decisions.

Huck said...

Eric - Let's think about your position a bit more. What's the difference in factoring an uncertain pregnancy and an uncertain cancer diagnosis or an uncertain automobile accident or an uncertain nasty divorce/child custody battle, etc., into one's wages? And how does one factor into any uncertainty about whether a person will be around for the longer term in a particular position? You are basically arguing that the simple condition of being a woman is a "risk" calculation somehow unique from any other risk calculation that justifies a lower wage for the same work. I just don't see it because I can think of a million other uncertain "risk" calculations to rationalize wage inequity. I just think these risk calculations, because they are arbitrary and infinite, are irrelevant to the question of paying someone for the value of the work product.

It's hard to argue that a woman whose remuneration for actual work performance in the moment, performance that is equal on every measure to that of a man, is worth less simply because of an uncertain future outcome related solely and exclusively to her gender.

It would be like arguing that a black man's work is worth less than his white colleague for doing the exact same work simply because he is much more likely to be diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia than his male counterpart. Or paying an overweight person less than a thinner person because of an increased likelihood NOT of doing the job well, but because of some future uncertain outcome related to his physical condition (i.e. diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.) I think this line of reason is dangerous; and I think it is both exploitative and unethical.

Eric said...

Huck, I agree that it is hard to make a precise risk determination based solely on sex, but the fact is that employers are more likely to have to deal with these issues when they hire women, as opposed to men, and the government should not prevent them from factoring that into their compensation decisions. That's not always going to be fair to women, but "equal pay for equal work" isn't always going to be fair to employers either.

A man or a woman who is dedicated to building a career is more valuable to an employer than one who is only seeking employment until they can leave the workforce to focus on caring for a family, or even one who is undecided on which path to follow. In some areas and in some cultures, women are far more likely than men to be the ones who leave the workforce when a pregnancy occurs. Employers have a right to take that under consideration.

Huck said...

Eric - I still don't think it is justifiable because you are singling out women for lower pay because of an uncertain possibility of pregnancy, yet you don't apply the same rationale for other future uncertainties like paying a smoker a lower income because of his higher risk of contracting lung cancer or paying a black person a lower income because of a higher risk of sickle-cell anemia. Do employers have a right to take these factors into consideration? I can think of a million other factors that could negatively impact an employee's future productivity.

What if a woman declares her intentions not to have children? What if a woman is physically unable to have children?

What you are proposing is a dangerous slippery slope that justifies paying someone less money for the same work based on a vague and indeterminate future uncertainty.

What employer can ever know what the future holds for his employees and his present investment in them?

Eric said...

"Do employers have a right to take these factors into consideration?"

I would argue yes, but those are a bit different from your #13 question and here's why: a majority of women will be pregnant at some point in their lifetime, and often during their most productive years. They are a much riskier bet than lung cancer or sickle-cell anemia.

"What if a woman declares her intentions not to have children? What if a woman is physically unable to have children?"

An employer should be able to ask those kinds of questions without fearing a lawsuit, yes.

"What employer can ever know what the future holds for his employees and his present investment in them?"

Very little, and don't get me wrong, I'm not saying employers are going to make the right call every time. I'm just saying it is every bit as wrong for the government to force an employer to ignore their own risk calculations as it is for an employer to invest less money in a female's career because he thinks she is going to quit her job and start a family.

As for getting paid the same dollars for the same amount of work, if you want to talk about dangerous slopes, just try enforcing that! I'd have never gotten in on the ground floor of my industry if I'd have demanded the same pay that more qualified people were being offered to do the same job. I convinced them to hire me for much less than their standard entry level wage, and I worked much harder than anybody else in that office while being paid less... until one day I wasn't. Your idea of "equal work for equal pay" would have prevented me from ever getting that job.

Huck said...

"I'm just saying it is every bit as wrong for the government to force an employer to ignore their own risk calculations as it is for an employer to invest less money in a female's career because he thinks she is going to quit her job and start a family."

OK. So if you think both reactions are wrong, I'll amend my #13 to read: "Women not receiving equal pay for equal work than a man, all things being equal except for gender, is an injustice." And leave it at that. Whether the state has any role in mitigating such injustice is another question, but let's go with that modification and take it from there.

"until one day I wasn't."

And herein lies the difference in your own personal example. All things were not equal between you and others; but when you equalized them by your hard work (i.e., developed experience, knowledge, efficiencies, etc.) then you were compensated accordingly. One could argue in your example that you weren't doing equal work, and that your willingness to work for less pay acknowledged that you were initially "less qualified" for the job. What would have been an injustice in your example would have been if you had become equally as qualified as the next guy and were doing the same job, but were paid less for your work only because you were "married with young children" and thus, in the employer's mind, you were more likely to be unwilling or unable to travel as much as the job required, even if your intention and commitment was to travel as much as necessary.

Eric said...

"Women not receiving equal pay for equal work than a man, all things being equal except for gender, is an injustice."

I'd go along with that.

"What would have been an injustice... would have been if you ... were paid less for your work only because... in the employer's mind, you were more likely to be unwilling or unable to travel as much as the job required."

I don't see that as injustice. I see it as hard luck. Either I don't have the skills to convince my employer of my value or the employer doesn't have the intelligence to recognize it... either way, the situation is made worse for me when the employer has those types of concerns about my commitment and won't discuss them with me out of fear of a lawsuit. You can pass all the laws you want, but my prospects with such a company are limited as long as the employer has that perception.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I'll take a look.
1. While this is true, I don't think it's particularly useful. Many things can be used to kill people. And I _do_ believe there's a right to self-defense. (Even though I lost my parents to gunshot wounds.)
2. Agreed. In fact, I think a little bit of persecution might be useful, as it might get people to decide how committed they are.
3. Not sure. It does no permanent physical damage, but even if it did and was, I might be willing to permit in "ticking bomb scenarios."
4. Yep.
5. Yep, but that's a feature, not a bug. This is not a direct democracy, nor should it be.
6. Sure.
7. Sure.
8. Well, it certainly prevents recidivism. (And again, I actually have skin in the game on this one.)
9. Some are; some aren't. Likewise on the right. I think there's a real risk of totalitarianism on both ends of the spectrum.
10. Yep.
11. Encouraging I'm fine with. "Mandating", "setting quotas for", "substituting relativism for"... not so much. In a way it's like the gun thing. It's the use of the tool that is problematic, not the tool per se.
12. Yes. At the same time, nations that have not been able to control their borders haven't remained nations for terribly long.
13. See above discussion.
14. I'll give half-credit for this one. It happened on his watch, and I'll commend that. However, I doubt the guys on SEAL Team 6 were political appointees, nor were the agents who figured out where OBL was.
15. Yep, I agree, but I also think the US remains an exceptional country, and I'm not willing to throw babies out with bathwater.

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