Lawrence Auster has a really interesting post up that I didn't want to let pass without comment. He notes that the supposedly "conservative" party in the UK is talking about setting up set-aside MP positions for women only. For crying out loud.
But we're all used to new absurdities coming out of England every day. One can't even keep up with them. The interesting thing to arise out of this is Auster's speculation:
It appears to be the case that if a society gives equal political rights to women, then over time there will inevitably be an expectation of equal political outcomes for women.
Auster's provocative conclusion, if I understand him correctly, is that women shouldn't be allowed to vote, so that this expectation wouldn't get off the ground in the first place.
Some readers will remember our marathon discussion of this topic here at W4. And those who don't will be able to look at it if I have time to find the link! (This post is being written in some haste. Don't make me live and die by every word in it, please.) [Found the link. If you start with my comment linked above and read down, you'll find most of the debate.]
And while I can't remember everything I said in that marathon thread, I do remember that I wasn't willing to foam at the mouth and denounce the proposition that it might be okay if women had never received the right to vote. It just isn't a mouth-foaming thing for me. For that matter, year after year I find fewer and fewer people I want to vote for anyway, so...
But more seriously, Auster's conjecture obviously has implications for a lot more than just the female franchise. It has obvious implications in the explosive area of race, for example. I imagine that plenty of conservatives, including mainstream conservatives, neo-cons, and all sorts, would be very uncomfortable with the idea of racially set-aside positions in Congress. Yet we all know that, whether it is inevitable or not, the dynamic Auster describes has occurred racially--that is, we have moved from a demand for equality of opportunity to a demand for equality of outcome, racially. Now, what if that movement is "inevitable"? That's a scary thought.
Logically, of course, it isn't inevitable. And from that I take some hope. Say what you like about them (and I imagine my many "dissident con" and various-other-con readers would have plenty to say), America still has lots of conservatives who do object, loudly, to the move from equality of opportunity to equality of outcome. You may excoriate them as meritocrats and individualists (if you happen not to like individualism and meritocracy), you may say that such views aren't really conservative, but I defy you to find any logical necessity for demanding equality of outcome, determined by group bean-counting, if one wants there to be (in some sense) equality of opportunity. You simply cannot get, logically, from, "It's a good idea for women to have the vote," to "Women should make up half of all our politicians." And the same mutatis mutandis for members of any particular group, racial or otherwise.
Well, okay, but is there some sociological law that says that the demand for equality of outcome will follow, as the night the day, the granting of equal political rights to some group?
It seems to me that there has to be an additional set of factors involved for this to happen, a set of factors that was, alas, involved in American politics: If the people who sought equality of political rights in the first place expected equality of outcome eventually so long as the procedures were all fair, if such equality was deeply important to them from the beginning, so important that it was at least as important as, if not more important than, procedural equality, and if they happened to hand on this deep commitment to and faith in equality of outcomes to their ideological successors, then [deep breath]
...it is overwhelmingly likely that, if the equality of outcomes isn't forthcoming, the ideological successors will swiftly ditch the commitment to equality of procedure and demand quotas to guarantee equality of outcome.
Now, if more people who kinda-sorta-like equality of political and procedural rights (like me) were more like me in other respects, we wouldn't have this problem. See, I don't really care much about equality of group outcomes. "Let the chips fall where they may" is something I can say with sincerity. As far as I'm concerned, whether or not, say, short people, women, blacks, whites, or Naphtunkians are math-disadvantaged, not so good at politics, or whatever, is entirely an empirical issue. And we only find out the answer to it by observation in the Great Laboratory of Contingent History. We can't know it a priori. And if it turns out that My People (short, white, right-handed, etc., women) aren't as good as some other group at X, Y, or Z, so what? I mean, really, so what? And if that's true, wouldn't I rather know the truth than have it covered up by the pretense of quotas and set-asides?
Now, suppose everybody thought that way. Then we could have political procedural equality, but nobody would particularly expect, and certainly nobody would demand, equality of outcome. And we wouldn't get crazy bulletins like this from the UK, the EEOC would be shut down, and Utopia would arrive. Well, okay, let's not get carried away. But you get the point.
But, you say, people don't think like that. And, yes, that is the problem. But I've never really understood why they don't. It seems to me that it must result from a notion that justice and injustice lie intrinsically in outcomes, an idea that has been dinned into Americans' heads for several generations now, unfortunately. The most I can say there is that its having become so popular is itself an historically contingent matter, and we can at least hope that the popularity of such a silly idea was in no sense inevitable from the time our great nation was founded.