28 January 2012

An Interesting Question

Chuck asks if capitalism coopted feminism, and comes to this conclusion:

The free market existed in previous eras, yet the family unit remained intact.  Free-market capitalism is not a values-creating (metaphysical sense) endeavor.  It reacts to prevailing values – which feminism sought to shift.  Entrepreneurs will always be ready to explore new markets, and they either succeed or fail depending upon that value system.  What PA would have to show is that a capitalist system can subvert social bonds.  I maintain that only a larger entity i.e. the State has such power.

Really, the better question would be if the free market could adapt to feminism.  This is essentially like asking if the free market can handle surplus of Oreos (the cookie, not the racial epithet).

Markets are amoral abstractions, not living entities.  Markets exist solely to allocate resources in a non-coercive manner.  Whatever morals markets display are merely reflections of market participants.  Thus, blaming markets for moral shifts is like blaming money for greed.

Anyhow, the point in all this is that feminism cannot alter the basic functioning of markets unless it eliminates markets, which is generally impossible.  At best, one can only hope to introduce some coercive element to the market, but this hardly guarantees that resources are allocated to the specific desires of those introducing the coercive element.  As such, all feminism can do is alter the type and amount of things being traded in the market.

As history shows, feminism did alter the size and scope of the labor market, leading to reduced prices (a.k.a. wages) for labor.  There might also have been a change of increased demand for distinctly feminine products or a reduction in demand for distinctly masculine products, but there is no data to support this claim.  The more salient point is that the market still functions exactly as it always has, allocating scarce resources to where they are generally most demanded.

At this point, the human desire to trade scarce resources is so fundamental that it is highly unlikely that feminism—or any other movement, for that matter—could ever overcome.  At best, a given movement might be able to alter slightly in some way, but there is no way to eliminate man’s desire to trade.  The answer to Chuck’s question, then, is yes.  Capitalism did indeed coopt feminism.  And, in a way, this outcome was inevitable for there is no force stronger than the market.

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