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Daddy Issues
June 9, 2011 9:27 AM   Subscribe

The Daughter Test. Steven Levitt of Freakonomics decides he's ok with the government restricting things if they're something he wouldn't want his (extremely cute) daughter to do. Kevin Drum responds. Ross Douthat responds. Feminists are squicked.

Andrew Sullivan has a roundup as well.
posted by emjaybee (112 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm glad I hated this guy's (first?) book so that I wouldn't seem I'm piling on by hating him now.
posted by DU at 9:28 AM on June 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: It's not paternalist sexism when it's your daughter.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:30 AM on June 9, 2011 [37 favorites]


Wow. Most of the time, accusing people you disagree with of "parentalism" is just a rhetorical device. But in this case, it's quite literally true. Ick.

Dear Mr Levitt,

I already have a father, and (I am fairly certain) you are not him. Your relationship with your daughter is not an appropriate model to use when considering the government's relationship with adults. Even as a heuristic, it's intellectually lazy. Cut it out.

V/R,
Kadin
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:32 AM on June 9, 2011 [50 favorites]


Just like DU, I always thought these guys were twits. Nice to have it confirmed.

Besides, Tina Fey already did this, and she did it funny.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:32 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't want my hypothetical daughter to write badly researched and poorly thought out editorials, so let's make that illegal.

See also: leggings as pants, unprotected facebook accounts.
posted by jeather at 9:34 AM on June 9, 2011 [51 favorites]


Soooo, my dreams of my daughter becoming a drug kingpin are wrong?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:36 AM on June 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


What's this "AP-class" cohort that Drum seems to think is important? I couldn't find anything on Acronymfinder that seemed relevant. Would I have been informed if I am a member?
posted by nowonmai at 9:37 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I imagine my daughter growing up to be a professional poker player, my reaction is to think that would be a great outcome!

Yes because that's obviously the most likely outcome of someone taking up internet poker
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:37 AM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, and I should have said: via Feministing's Jos Truitt, whose piece I did link up there, but who really did the heavy lifting in putting all these commenters together in one place.
posted by emjaybee at 9:38 AM on June 9, 2011


If you're basing the judgment of his daughter's extreme cuteness on the picture at the first link, note that it is identified as a stock photo.
posted by Trurl at 9:39 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Any law that prohibits my daughter from doing anything she wants should be struck down because she is a perfect princess who deserves everything.

Also, pass laws making her CEO of every company and President for life of the US.
posted by Eideteker at 9:40 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Steven Levitt of Freakonomics decides he hasn't had enough attention recently; internet helps out.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:40 AM on June 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


If you're basing the judgment of his daughter's extreme cuteness on the picture at the first link, note that it is identified as a stock photo.

Well, crap. That's what you get for trying to add a little happy color to a post. Though I'm sure she is cute.

/derail
posted by emjaybee at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2011


Isn't he just rewording the argument that "things I don't like should be illegal"? Not every father will have the same views about what their daughters should and shouldn't do.

Of course, daughters are people too, with rights and personal agency and the ability to think and decide for themselves. He's writing off his daughter as though she weren't a human being who ultimately, will be an adult. With rights, part of society.

I find his theory of government and his idea of parenting to be highly suspect.
posted by mrgoat at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2011 [12 favorites]


I don't agree with Levitt to any extent that this is how public policy ought do be determined. I do credit him for being (1) honest about his actual thought processes and not some idealized version of them and (2) a fair sight better in describing the thought underpinnings of his moral system than most people who want to talk down to others about morality.

I think also that upon further reflection Levitt might not have chosen "daughter" as the metric, although maybe he only has a daughter or daughters and is hewing tightly to talking about people who exist. Obviously that affects his feelings about fine distinctions in what should and shouldn't be allowed by law, but the core of his idea is generalizable to "offspring" in a way that probably answers gender-based criticisms.

Again, I don't think this is a good way to make law, but it's no worse than a lot of existing discussion of moral sentiments.

What's this "AP-class" cohort that Drum seems to think is important?

Advanced Placement classea are a way for US high school students to earn college credits before entering college and be exposed to more difficult subject matter versus non-AP classes. They have been subject to frequent criticism on equitable (which schools can afford classes?) and cost/benefit grounds (are they worthwhile?). They are a signifier of middle-class or wealthier status in many parts of the US.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


nowonmai, AP classes are "advanced placement" classes in high school that you can take for college credit (based on your performance on the AP Test at the end of the school year).

Drum is lording his wealth of AP credits over us all, still, years after graduation. Kinda sad, really.
posted by Eideteker at 9:42 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


OK, I was joking, but Inspector.Gadget up there seems to suggest that I'm right on the money.
posted by Eideteker at 9:44 AM on June 9, 2011


Straight up sexism. He should be just as unconcerned for his daughter's welfare as he is for his son's. He says he doesn't want his daughter want his daughter being a prostitute or cocaine addict, but he is fine with little jimmy turning tricks for blow. Yet another example of male privilege.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:44 AM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


What's this "AP-class" cohort that Drum seems to think is important? I couldn't find anything on Acronymfinder that seemed relevant. Would I have been informed if I am a member?

That stuck out to me too - I think its a reference to Advanced Placement courses, which is a fucking weird thing to be using to signify your "eliteness" and "impulse-control".

Mostly because those are the same kids who develop drinking problems in college before blowing their first three paychecks on coke, and ending up with a sweet job but only slightly fulfilling family life.
posted by Chipmazing at 9:44 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


See, the maddening thing about the sort of inertia built into the mass-media punditocratic machine is that once you've lodged yourself in there as an expert/bestseller/authority, you can demonstrate, in awesomely vivid ways, that your thinking's weak and your intellectual rigour lacking and your general worthiness as a "serious thinker" full-on ridiculous, you can for example with a straight face suggest in stentorian tones that the purpose of government is to outlaw things that make you, and I quote, "queasy," and still serious people will think you need to be taken seriously and your ideas - no matter how half-assed or baseless - need to be responded to as serious ideas.

From here on out, we should refer to this process as friedmanization, after its patron saint, Tom "Flathead" Friedman. As in: Man, I was going to respond to that post, but then I saw it was the Freakonomics guys and they totally friedmanned themselves years ago.
posted by gompa at 9:46 AM on June 9, 2011 [55 favorites]


I wouldn't want to pass laws to keep my daughter from doing things I don't approve of; it's far simpler to just kill every person of questionable character that she ever comes in contact with.
posted by oddman at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please, don't Douthat.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure which pisses me off more: that this is a universally dumb idea, or that this argument was used to whine about online internet poker being shut off. My guess is that he has a few grand locked up in a Full Tilt account.

I'm still trying to parse out if he was really implying that abortion rights are on a similar standing as the right to internet poker. Might as well have invoked Hitler in that same essay.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:48 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


The bottom line here is that having children makes you go crazy.
posted by dortmunder at 9:48 AM on June 9, 2011 [18 favorites]


This editorial could have been written by anyone. Anyone. There is literally nothing in here indicative of Levitt having any more thought or insight than literally anyone else I have ever met ever. Ugh. I hate pundits, and it makes me angry that I can't just become one myself, so that I could write my own stupid screeds and have people a-titter over them.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


Thanks, IG and Chipmazing, and thanks (I think) Eideteker. I'll treat this as a signifier that I can play as little attention to Drum's opinions as I do Levitt's. It's nice to see the other two pieces pouring some reason and common sense on the fire.
posted by nowonmai at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2011


nowonmai, I *think* it's "academic-professional." But I have no cite for that.

And now, having actually RTFA, I have to say fuck you to EVERYONE except the good folks at Feministing for framing this as the "daughter test" rather than the "child test," because yeah, ew. However, I think it's possible to read the original Freakonomics post as just one guy musing on why he has different types of knee-jerk reactions to different kinds of crimes, which is fair enough. But even if that's true, that's definitely not the flavor taken in the responses.

I have two children, a daughter and a son. My daughter is 4 and a half, my son is seven months old. What scares *me* to death is the idea that they'll grow up in a culture with no class mobility, where the cost of education is rising so much faster than inflation that soon only the very rich will be able to afford a college degree, where there is no access to health care unless you're part of that academic-professional class. Compared to that, the risks of either of my children choosing legal prostitution as a career seem pretty slim, particularly considering that we live in the US. It's one thing to sling around the pejorative "nanny-staters," but this dude literally wants the state to be his nanny. As someone who is both a daughter and a grown-ass adult? Fuck him.
posted by KathrynT at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2011 [18 favorites]


Mostly because those are the same kids who develop drinking problems in college before blowing their first three paychecks on coke, and ending up with a sweet job but only slightly fulfilling family life.

Do you have idiotic stereotypes of any other demographics you'd like to share with us, or do you just have the one?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:53 AM on June 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


Parenting influences opinions. Whoda thunk?

Like KathrynT, I think Levitt's column sounds like simple musings, not a passionate defense. Leave it for sympathetic knuckleheads like Douthat to run with it, and subsequently get slapped down.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't want my hypothetical daughter to write badly researched and poorly thought out editorials, so let's make that illegal.

"Editorial" usually suggests a third party decided it was good enough for their publication to print. This is just someone semi-famous posting outlandish things to his blog to get hits. Speaking of which, is anyone else checking user numbers in case there's a Scott Adams style cameo?
posted by Gary at 9:57 AM on June 9, 2011


"Editorial" usually suggests a third party decided it was good enough for their publication to print. This is just someone semi-famous posting outlandish things to his blog to get hits.

Thankfully, I am okay with my daughter posting poorly thought out comments on metafilter.
posted by jeather at 9:59 AM on June 9, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "Soooo, my dreams of my daughter becoming a drug kingpin are wrong?"

"Soon, every motherfucker in New York is gonna want to be... BRANDI BLATCHER!" (piles of coke)
posted by boo_radley at 9:59 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I give him credit for examining exactly why his knee jerks when it does. Even if he's not sentient enough to understand that that's what he's doing, and even though it doesn't matter to anyone but, presumably, his daughter's mother.
posted by rusty at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2011


Seems like everyone's getting worked up for nothing. I didn't see anything in the article about what should be legal, or not, or what his daughter should/shouldn't be able to do. What I read was a blog post about exploring the fact that his emotional responses to certain laws don't jibe with his rational assessments of those laws, and realizing that in these instances his personal views on what should/shouldn't be legal jibes with what he personally hopes his daughter will/won't do with her life.

In short, he's a rational economics guy who discovered he has an irrational moral center, and it's freak(onomics)ing him out.
posted by davejay at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


"Soooo, my dreams of my daughter becoming a drug kingpin are wrong?"

Only if she hasn't taken AP classes - if she has, she will have good enough impulse control for being a drug kingpin to be a pleasant diversion.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't mind this - I don't think it's the best thought out moral position but it's a good step towards Rawls' Veil of Ignorance surely?
posted by treblekicker at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2011


A huge problem with the "child test" is that he's intentionally making his frame of reference his own family, socioeconomic status, etc. When he balks at legalizing drugs, he's mistaking the disappointment and fear that he'd justifiably have if his daughter were to have a coke habit with any sort of rational argument as to whether or not throwing addicts in jail for having coke is a policy that works. I also bet that, were his daughter to, God forbid, get caught with coke, he wouldn't be stoically shrugging his shoulders when she goes to prison - he'd probably just hire a lawyer to make it go away, all the while thinking that drug laws are fine for other people, just not his daughter.

It's like when Rush Limbaugh was revealed to be a criminal drug addict. He didn't soften his stance against other criminals, he just justified to himself and others how his problem was a sad tale of victimhood and obviously totally different from all those other people who deserve to be in prison.

The "child test" is a terrible test because it encourages narcissism, ignorance, denial of privilege, and insulation from thinking about policy objectives in an informed, rational way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:03 AM on June 9, 2011 [71 favorites]


Also, the core of this is actually not a bad idea -- the test isn't "if I don't want my child doing that it should be illegal!" The test should be "if my child were doing this activity, what would I want our policy to be, in order to best maintain his or her safety and rights, and the safety and rights of others?"

Of course, most grownups with a developed sense of empathy can substitute "my child, hypothetically" with "all of the people who are somebody's child and are engaged in this activity right now."
posted by rusty at 10:05 AM on June 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


Compulsory comicbook readings for all daughters!
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


once you've lodged yourself in there as an expert/bestseller/authority, you can demonstrate, in awesomely vivid ways, that your thinking's weak and your intellectual rigour lacking and your general worthiness as a "serious thinker" full-on ridiculous

I think you're giving the pundit-machine far too much credit by suggesting that these people's idiocy is only revealed after they've been anointed as experts. In many cases these people were useful idiots from the very start of their career, people who became omnipresent talking heads not because they started out as deep thinkers and then got swollen heads, but rather because their glibness was ideologically useful. Friedman is a clear example of this, with his rise to prominence as a cheerleader first for corporate globalization and then for Bush's wars, and I think Levitt fits this picture pretty well too, as an economic ideologue who provides a sunny picture of capitalism in a wrapper of counterintuitive science-of-human-nature just-so stories.
posted by RogerB at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I imagine my daughter growing up to be a professional poker player, my reaction is to think that would be a great outcome!

Odd than an economist would think that his daughter entering a profession which generates no new wealth or value would be a "great outcome".
posted by jcreigh at 10:08 AM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm still trying to parse out if he was really implying that abortion rights are on a similar standing as the right to internet poker.

That's just it - there's nothing to parse. Absolutely nothing. Junior high civics essays are composed with more rigour. Comfortable rich dude wonders what sorts of things make him queasy as a parent, compares that to things that don't but are inexplicably illegal anyway. Ain't life strange?

That's all there is. Stuff most of us abandon as idle daydreaming by the time we've shut the shower taps, the Stephen Levitts of the world make six figures inflating to column length. Bet his speaking fee per 40-minute "lecture" verges on what we pay teachers for a year's work.

And finally, because it simply can't be shared too often, David Rees' masterful "How Green Was My Mustache."
posted by gompa at 10:09 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have to admit that I sometimes vote based on the daughter test. If there's a particularly complex piece of legislation on the ballot that I haven't had time to inform myself sufficiently about, we may call her up and ask her opinion. She's politically active, too, and well informed. We value her perspective. In conclusion, I think the daughter test is a great idea. Our daughters have a lot to teach us, when we are ready to listen. Our sons, too. But Cousin Eddy is right out.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:10 AM on June 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm still trying to parse out if he was really implying that abortion rights are on a similar standing as the right to internet poker.

I understand your uncertainty here; I see it a lot where I've worked in the last decade or so. One person takes a subtle characterization and attempts to clarify it by sharing an extreme example of that characterization, and someone else thinks they're implying an equivalency. It's a tough call at times.

For instance, I might say that I have no trouble speaking to an audience with notes, but without notes I'm quite nervous, even if I never need the notes. To clarify the subtle difference that triggers my nervousness, I might suggest that it's like the difference between walking a tightrope and walking a tightrope without a net, and a literal-minded person would understand that. But if I hadn't been so explicit and had simply said "For me, public speaking without notes is like walking a tightrope without a net", a literal-minded person might assume I'm suggesting a direct equivalency between public speaking and tightrope walking, or between the potential downside of a pubilc speaking engagement going wrong vs falling off a tightrope without a net.
posted by davejay at 10:10 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think most people have done a very good job of reading the original essay. He isn't making a policy recommendation; he never says, "Everything I'm uncomfortable with the idea of my daughter doing should be illegal."

He says, "There is this group of things that we might or might not make illegal, usually things that seem unhealthy or maybe immoral but where it could be argued no one is really hurt. I find that I'm not consistent about whether I think the things in this gray area should be illegal or not. On reflection, I realize that I am more comfortable with something in this gray area being illegal if it is something I would not want my daughter to do." He's recognizing the lack of logical consistency in his own position, and reflecting on that.

Getting all het up about the "daughter" thing is mostly a red herring. If he had sons, he could as easily say the same things he says here: that he would not want his son to grow up to be a drug addict, or to not have access to abortion in case of a partner's unplanned pregnancy.

I really can't see why there is so much commentary about this, except for people reading into it meanings that I don't find there.
posted by not that girl at 10:12 AM on June 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


Friedman is a clear example of this, with his rise to prominence as a cheerleader first for corporate globalization and then for Bush's wars

Yeah, but he actually got the cheerleader gig because he won a Pulitzer for actual reporting in the Middle East. It was only once he became "Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman" that media gatekeepers and fellow pundits decided it'd be too risky to point out his dumb-assedness as a columnist and instead took to nodding along in Charlie Rose self-seriousness at every random hiccup.
posted by gompa at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2011


Yup, just "I don't like X so it should be illegal" dressed up with a cute three year old.

However, and while the pileon is fun, I think the attitude he expressed is probably quite common, and probably explains a lot of the stupidity America has on various topics. We've known for a very long time that the War on Drugs is a terrible failure by absolutely any measure. But we keep pouring money into it, and we keep putting (mostly black) people in prison for long sentences, and I think it's mostly because a lot of voters are thinking that they don't want their daughters doing drugs.

Paternalism, like patriarchy and racism, is a deep rooted part of our culture, and if we don't address it we won't be able to fix the problems.

What bothers me is that I haven't got the slightest idea how to effectively address the paternalistic attitude Levitt expressed and I suspect a huge number of Americans agree with.
posted by sotonohito at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2011


The worst thing I can say about this article is that it's *even dumber* than the comments here led me to believe before reading it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:16 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, Kevin Drum is a giant asshat:

[If you are a type of person he clearly considers an inferior, you must think:] just as soon your daughter didn't get involved with that stuff because you've seen too often the effect it has on people with moderate education, moderate to poor impulse control, moderate to low incomes, and non-great support networks.

Yeah, because everyone knows that drug and gambling problems only affect the poor. No one in the "AP-class" cadre ever succumbs to drugs or gambling, because they all have "self-control" and/or social support.

IANAAddict, but I've seen it happen to enough "AP-class" (ick) friends to feel pretty sick at this kind of attitude.
posted by gurple at 10:18 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter!
posted by Artw at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh.

Wow, you know, that song really isn't about vegetarianism as I'd thought.
posted by Artw at 10:21 AM on June 9, 2011


He isn't concerned with the welfare of his son because his son has been dead for about six years. It's called the "daughter test" because he has only remaining child.

Paternalistic, yes. Straight up sexism, not proven. Aliveism, sure, knock yourself out.
posted by adipocere at 10:21 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer the "daughter test" of "If I wouldn't mind my daughter going to jail for it, then I don't mind the government passing a law against it."

This one has the added benefit of being more culturally neutral: the results don't seem to change when I replace "my daughter" with "my father", "my least favorite pundits", "myself", "my elected officials"...
posted by roystgnr at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Of course, most grownups with a developed sense of empathy can substitute "my child, hypothetically" with "all of the people who are somebody's child and are engaged in this activity right now."

I agree that the "core" behind this idea can lead to people being more considerate about others and the effects of laws and policies on them.

But, on the other hand, there's still some potential for conflict. For example, my answer to the question "What would I want the policy to be if my child were confronted by a group of police officers who thought he was brandishing a weapon with the intent to use it against them?" is necessarily at odds with my answer to the question "What would I want the policy to be if my child were a police officer and she confronted someone who appeared to be brandishing a weapon with the intent to use it against her?"

Then again, maybe getting people to realize the conflict there -- and, as you said, realizing that everyone in that situation is someone's child -- would nevertheless lead us to policies that are better than "Police just need to immediately shoot the holy living hell out of everybody, taser everyone into full, whimpering compliance, and generally do what they want without fear of repercussions." We'd be hard-pressed to come up with something that's worse than the current policy, that's for sure.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:23 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


> This is just someone semi-famous posting outlandish things to his blog to get hits.

I guess being a Pundit is like being an Artist. If you make the right connections and achieve the right types of success, you make the leap to Pundit and then anything you have to say is, in the eyes of the media, worth hearing or reading. Eventually you become convinced of your own genius and you become Tom Friedman or Rick Reilly.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:24 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't want my (hypothetical) daughter to turn out Steven Levitt-style drivel for a living, but I also wouldn't support a law against it. I also wouldn't want said daughter to become the CEO of a major tobacco company (unless she was secretly dismantling it from the inside out), but that's not a reasonable argument for banning cigarettes.

The feminist angle isn't my main concern here. Rather, it's just a dumb argument. Most of us have grown up enough to recognize that effectively governing a society takes more thought and judgement than seat-of-the-pants calls about whether having your daughter do something would squick you out. Things can be illegal that I don't like (murder), and things can be illegal that I do like (parking my car wherever I want). Why are Levitt's personal preferences for his family applicable to society as a whole? Plenty of people wouldn't want their daughter to marry someone of another race or religion, and there are sadly a hell of a lot of people in the US who wouldn't want their daughter to marry someone of the same sex, but that personal discomfort does not constitute an argument for the passage of legislation that has to apply to everyone.
posted by zachlipton at 10:26 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


When he balks at legalizing drugs, he's mistaking the disappointment and fear that he'd justifiably have if his daughter were to have a coke habit with any sort of rational argument as to whether or not throwing addicts in jail for having coke is a policy that works.

Right, this is viewpoint based a lot more on virtues and vices than about effective policies that work in the real world. I think that's why so many people vote to ban gay marriage even though it has no actual effect on their own lives, because they care less about the actual consequences of gay marriage and more about having the government ban something that they don't approve of. Which in a lot of cases is understandable because "Do I approve of this behavior" is a lot easier question to answer than "Will this policy change, with all of its known and unknown consequences, have a positive or negative impact on me and the world I live in?"
posted by burnmp3s at 10:27 AM on June 9, 2011


Wow. Wow. I'm usually willing to hear Steven Levitt out, but this is pretty dumb. Luckily, he's not suggesting this be a basis for policy, just admitting to his (all too common in this country) biases in connection with policy matters. I'd like to think that if he were still paying his dues as a columnist and actually had to go through a few drafts of something before it was published, this collection of random thoughts would have been discarded entirely as Something Stoopid Which is Best Kept Private and Perhaps Reconsidered as a Logical Underpinning. But now I'm probably being way too optimistic.

(Bonus points to Feministing for their selection of a photo from one of those super gross Daddy-Daughter Dance / Purity Ball things. Really drives the point home. Ick)

The paternalism on display in this piece and the reactions to it is nasty enough, but I'm also baffled and disgusted by the bald-faced classism in the Drum piece. Some laws are necessary cuz folks outside the non-AP-class cohort (seriously?) just can't help themselves. Holy hell! I'm staggered. And yeah, the super-depressing thing is that both of these attitudes (Daughters Need Protection from Decision Making and The Poor Can't Help Fucking Up) are built right into the deep structures of culture in the United States. Certain folks can't handle liberty, ain't it sad? - good thing Big Daddy White Boss is there to help'em out.

Protestantism and Milton Friedman's conception of capitalism have fucked up this nation's hivemind far, far worse than gambling, prostitution or drugs ever could. If we're gonna outlaw stuff cuz some folks can't handle it, let's put it all on the table, shall we?
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:36 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Has anybody pointed out that his immediate reaction to "something is bad for people" is "outlaw it"? The lack of subtlety or curiosity about peoples motivations is a bit jaw-dropping, coming from an economist.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:48 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Granted, it's not a very good argument descriptor. It is an attempt, I think, to provide one way of imagining why we establish regulations. However, it may be more descriptive rather than prescriptive, but in that case, Adam Smith in A Theory of Moral Sentiments was far better.

Not to the topic - but I do think that we underestimate how children model adults, and for this reason there is some truth that what a parent values will influence what a child values. I'm skeptical that we consistently make autonomous decisions, though it may feel good to believe we do. To put it another way, "paternalism" or even "maternalism" are not simply prescriptive or normative, but descriptions of how people actually learn behavior.
posted by john wilkins at 10:51 AM on June 9, 2011


The thing about the Drum piece is that in a way, he's right. WAIT HEAR ME OUT!! What I mean is that socially-damaging behaviors are often less damaging in higher SES cohorts, simply because higher SES individuals and the people around them have more resources to insulate them from the damage from their behavior. That would imply that an equal prevalence of socially-damaging behavior would still have a grossly disproportionate impact on lower-SES cohorts.

Of course, the answer isn't to pass laws against it that rich people will be able to skate out from while poor people get caught in the bear trap of Consequences. The answer is to create social safety nets to help minimize the damage, period.
posted by KathrynT at 10:53 AM on June 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


My daughter's pretty cute, and pretty soon she'll be talking to boys. I disapprove of this. I think the government should make a law so that boys are illegal.

But now that I think about it, she might want to talk to girls. I disapprove of that, too. I think we need two laws, one making boys illegal, and one making girls except mine illegal.

Yes, this is definitely a well-thought-out plan I have here.
posted by mhoye at 10:55 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Paternalism, like patriarchy and racism, is a deep rooted part of our culture, and if
> we don't address it we won't be able to fix the problems.

Paternalism check: ask the girl's mother. If dad wants to prevent the girl from becoming a crack ho but mom is OK with it then dad is being controlling and paternalistic.

Otherwise, not.
posted by jfuller at 11:09 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is the classic example of why conservatives and liberals hate libertarian ideals: on one hand, (limited or expansive) government is supposed to ensure freedom for individuals and on the other hand freedom for individuals means that someone will have the freedom to do something you don't like.

Or on third hand, this is likely one of those "insights" you have after smoking some really potent skunk weed.
posted by three blind mice at 11:11 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Douthat reads Kant so wrong it is not even funny. He sounds like one of my fair-to-middling undergrads desperate to draw a connection that just is not there.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:13 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


lord_wolf: Yeah, definitely. I did try to include this with "what would I want our policy to be, in order to best maintain his or her safety and rights, and the safety and rights of others?" But your point about realizing than everyone involved is somebody's child is exactly on point.
posted by rusty at 11:13 AM on June 9, 2011


jfuller: I think you kind of miss the point. "Paternalism" describes a state model, where the state mimics the hierarchical family. Parents are paternalistic (and maternalistic, and in fact just plain parental) because kids are not always able to make good choices, and need to learn from parents experience. It's ok to be paternalistic when you're, you know, a Dad.

The problem is when the state starts acting as Daddy to the people, instead of the state being an ongoing agreement among equals about what the rules should be. When we talk about paternalism, that's what we're talking about. Not whether fathers and mothers differ in their child-rearing views.

Which maybe you know and you were just joking, and if so, sorry I'm earnest and cheerless and please ignore me. :-)
posted by rusty at 11:22 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


The family is not a good metaphor for the state. The way legal decisions work is not parallel to the way family decisions work. The way interests must be considered among state actors is not the same as the way interests are considered among family members. The feelings we have about family members are not the same as the feelings we have about fellow citizens. The president does not stand in the role of father to the nation; neither does Congress.

On preview, yay, rusty.
posted by Frowner at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2011


I really don't think this is about sexism or public policy. I think everyone is reading into it. I don't think Levitt's proscribing a morality test; I think he's describing a heuristic for understanding his own opinion patterns.

So the guy votes for a political party that supports the worldview he desires his daughter to grow up in. So what? 1) Can anybody say they do anything different? 2) does it matter?
posted by rebent at 11:45 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


on one hand, (limited or expansive) government is supposed to ensure freedom for individuals

As someone who's rather liberal (on Metafilter? g'wan!), when I support expanding government it's with an understanding that it curtails individual freedoms. It's a conscious trade-off. I highly value individual freedoms, but I don't hold them to always be the most important element. That's why I disagree with most Libertarians.

Now pass that skunk over here.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:46 AM on June 9, 2011


Douthat reads Kant so wrong it is not even funny.

To be fair, most people read Kant wrong. Because he's fairly impenetrable. Essential but impenetrable.
posted by blucevalo at 11:49 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hence the SI Unit of philosophical depth: the Kant Fathom.
posted by weston at 11:54 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


It seems like pretty much everything I read or hear about from those guys is about defending the powerful and incumbent powers. Everything from ignoring global warming to supporting pimping (presumably he'd be OK with his daughter pimping, just not whoring, then?)

I also read a post from him talking about how income inequality wasn't a big deal because rich people actually only got the same amount and type of stuff that poor people did - they just got way nicer stuff. (well, he ignored the way nicer bit, but whatever)
posted by delmoi at 12:01 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The other thing is that it's totally brainless. I mean, just look at this quote:
If the answer is that I wouldn’t want my daughter to do it, then I don’t mind the government passing a law against it. I wouldn’t want my daughter to be a cocaine addict or a prostitute, so in spite of the fact that it would probably be more economically efficient to legalize drugs and prostitution subject to heavy regulation/taxation, I don’t mind those activities being illegal.
Just look at lindsay fucking lohan. The fact that coke is illegal doesn't prevent people from becoming coke addicts!!. If your daughter were a coke addict wouldn't you rather have the government provide treatment for her rather then incarceration? Of course maybe he just wants to throw black dudes in jail and leave treatment for the pretty white girls. Wouldn't surprise me given his other bullshit.
posted by delmoi at 12:05 PM on June 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


Lindsay can stop any time, man.
posted by Mister_A at 12:10 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really, really don't want my daughter to be suckered into the JESUS LOVES YOU SO LOVE HIM BACK OR YOU WILL BURN IN EVERLASTING HELL thing... so please make that illegal. Thanks.
posted by Huck500 at 12:14 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is when the state starts acting as Daddy to the people, instead of the state being an ongoing agreement among equals about what the rules should be. When we talk about paternalism, that's what we're talking about.

I can't say for certain, but jfuller may be aware of this and subtly pointing out (among other things) that in some cases (say, on metafilter) people can be "maternally" paternalistic. See KathrynT's comment (which I agree with, fwiw).

In any case, I'm with rebent here. The sexism angle is way overplayed here. Leavitt is more or less exploring his reactions to the legality of some actions which people are apparently happy to engage in but which may ultimately be stunting or destructive. The gender of the parent or the child is mostly irrelevant; he's mostly invoking the relationship context in which most people are likely to find this kind of concern activated (I am not a parent, but I suspect that being a parent -- the father *or* mother of a son *or* a daughter -- activates concern on this level like nothing else).

The general paternalism accusations are more apt, but I think as Leavitt acknowledges, there's room for reasonable people to disagree here. On one hand, if there's something you wouldn't want the people you care about most in the world to ever get involved in (even if you otherwise on principle might not want to prohibit it for *other* people)... well, maybe the reasons for that feeling deserve a closer look and maybe even some kind of policy response. On the other hand, while I believe my Dad and Mom care about me, I have my doubts about how well giving their parental preferences the force of law would turn out.
posted by weston at 12:29 PM on June 9, 2011


But we keep pouring money into it, and we keep putting (mostly black) people in prison for long sentences, and I think it's mostly because a lot of voters are thinking that they don't want their daughters doing drugs.


I think some voters are thinking that they don't want their daughters doing black guys.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:32 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Parents should not allowed to make any policy decisions at all. Ever.

I say this because I live near several schools and no longer go outside during school run times because it is just too dangerous.

Parents are sociopaths.
posted by srboisvert at 12:34 PM on June 9, 2011


Ha ha, no sexism inherent in this example? Really. I guess people make those same fucking stupid jokes about locking their sons up when they hit dating age as they do about their daughters?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:44 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Parents should not allowed to make any policy decisions at all. Ever.

How about this: After you spawn, your vote transfers to your children.

Actually, the problem is the parents of small children. We should allow parents of adult children to vote, as their concerns are now the concerns of adults. And frankly, after 18 years or so people kind of get sick of their kids anyway.
posted by delmoi at 12:51 PM on June 9, 2011


Hrmm. Dude makes post on his own blog trying to rationalize his internal thought processes on why he stands where he stands on certain legal issues, comes up with fuzzy theory about it involving his relationship with his daughter. Internet asplodes. Sounds about right.
posted by antifuse at 12:55 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't want my daughter to become addicted to shopping or casual sex with dangerous men, but neither should be illegal.

See also: leggings as pants

I cannot fathom the anti-tights-as-pants brigade. There are women walking around with no pants on ... and you are complaining?!

Odd than an economist would think that his daughter entering a profession which generates no new wealth or value would be a "great outcome".

It certainly generates wealth in the form of advertising revenue. It's not much different in principle from any professional sport.

He's recognizing the lack of logical consistency in his own position, and reflecting on that.

He may be recognizing it, but he sure isn't "reflecting" on it.

More on the idiocy of trying to prohibit internet poker soon.

I think we've seen enough idiocy here already.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:55 PM on June 9, 2011


mandymanwasregistered: "Ha ha, no sexism inherent in this example? Really. I guess people make those same fucking stupid jokes about locking their sons up when they hit dating age as they do about their daughters"

Let's see - these are the things that he wishes for his daughter:
  • I wouldn’t want my daughter to be a cocaine addict or a prostitute
  • if my daughter had good reasons to want an abortion, I would want her to be able to have one
  • When I imagine my daughter growing up to be a professional poker player, my reaction is to think that would be a great outcome!

    On preview:

    antifuse: "Hrmm. Dude makes post on his own blog trying to rationalize his internal thought processes on why he stands where he stands on certain legal issues, comes up with fuzzy theory about it involving his relationship with his daughter. Internet asplodes. Sounds about right"

    Yeah, sure does.

  • posted by charred husk at 12:57 PM on June 9, 2011


    I cannot fathom the anti-tights-as-pants brigade. There are women walking around with no pants on ... and you are complaining?!

    There are positive and negative examples of this fad. I've seen some FANTASTIC examples of tights as pants, that I would certainly have no problem with. I've also seen some RIDICULOUSLY bad looking ones too. So, like all things fashion: sometimes good, sometimes bad.
    posted by antifuse at 1:09 PM on June 9, 2011


    See also: leggings as pants

    I cannot fathom the anti-tights-as-pants brigade. There are women walking around with no pants on ... and you are complaining?!


    It seriously depends on the woman.
    posted by localroger at 1:10 PM on June 9, 2011


    From here on out, we should refer to this process as friedmanization, after its patron saint, Tom "Flathead" Friedman.

    BTW, you should never let Thomas Friedman use your toilet.
    posted by homunculus at 1:40 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I think people are approaching this from the wrong direction, as I already said. I thought of another thing to say, so I'll say it, in 3, 2, 1....

    He's not saying "I have these opinions about how my daughter should have to live her life. Let me go make them a law"

    He is saying "I'm in the position to support or combat laws that are being made. How should I decide which laws to support and which ones to fight?"
    posted by rebent at 1:53 PM on June 9, 2011


    It seriously depends on the woman.

    Aha. So people are only against *some* people wearing tights as pants.

    ...

    That's even worse! ^_^

    He is saying "I'm in the position to support or combat laws that are being made. How should I decide which laws to support and which ones to fight?"

    I think we get that. And some of us are saying that's a shitty way to establish a political philosophy. It's the epitome of NIMBYism.
    posted by mrgrimm at 2:02 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


    He is saying "I'm in the position to support or combat laws that are being made. How should I decide which laws to support and which ones to fight?"

    No, he's not saying "How should I decide" - he's saying "How do I decide." And he's coming up with a pretty un-interesting answer and not exploring beyond that.

    If he had actually bothered to even ask how he should decide, there might be something here worth reading.
    posted by nickmark at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


    See also: If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?
    posted by nasreddin at 2:30 PM on June 9, 2011


    sotonohito: "Paternalism, like patriarchy and racism, is a deep rooted part of our culture, and if we don't address it we won't be able to fix the problems.

    What bothers me is that I haven't got the slightest idea how to effectively address the paternalistic attitude Levitt expressed and I suspect a huge number of Americans agree with.
    "

    I don't think paternalism is part of the culture, per se. It's part of our biology, a set of instinctive emotional reactions that occur in human beings all over the world, and has been inside everyone (man and woman) since the metaphorical beginning of time. The key isn't to wipe out paternalism (and other instinctively rooted brands of authoritarianism), but rather to acknowledge its existence, and deal with it as an element of the debate on issues like drug laws and abortion. To have a truly free discussion of such things, we need to acknowledge the instinctive, irrational reactions that many people feel, not so they can be excoriated or mocked, but so they can be acknowledged as irrational and consciously discarded.
    posted by Kevin Street at 2:38 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I don't think paternalism is part of the culture, per se. It's part of our biology, a set of instinctive emotional reactions that occur in human beings all over the world, and has been inside everyone (man and woman) since the metaphorical beginning of time.

    Uh, I kind of agree with you. There is an innate desire to protect those in our care from perceived dangers. Just as the state's fundamental obligation is to protect the safety of its citizens. But, it's practically irrelevant in this context.

    Regardless of why we're choosing to protect somebody, the fundamental question always comes down to "what do you consider dangerous?". And here, we're not talking about obvious physically dangerous shit--foreign invasion or assault. Rather, the most interesting sector of this discussion, corresponding to Levitt's own examples, is comprised of those things which are either dangerous only in a moral or social sense, or which are only made physically dangerous by their illegality.

    For me, for my hypothetical never-to-exist daughter (or son)... I can say that I think (independent or brothel-based) prostitution would be an acceptable career them if it weren't made massively more dangerous by its prohibition. And I certainly can't say that I consider (most) drug use (or addiction) especially inherently dangerous--aside from its illegality. On the other hand, most people are fucking terrible drivers, so I'd like stricter licensing laws.

    Which is all to show that the determination of danger or morality comes first, then the paternalism. People take all the shit that they find dangerous in the world, and then attempt to protect their charges from it.

    For this reason, I don't even think Levitt has really discovered much about himself. His issue with his daughter whoring has nothing to do with analyzing whether she'd be happy in such a profession. Rather, he "knows" on a moral level that whoring is "wrong" and so seeks to protect his daughter from it. He has made a mistake in his self-reflection and concluded that the tail wags the dog. His is simple moralism.
    posted by Netzapper at 3:37 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I can't believe people are getting up in arms over a short article which basically only says, "There are things I don't want my daughter to do," and, "I wish that online poker were still legal." He barely makes a point at all, much less an unreasonable prescriptivist one. He's just describing how he ends up making decisions emotionally, not even saying that his process has value, really.

    A year or so ago, when the two judges in Pennsylvania were charged with corruption involved with funneling tons of minors into juvenile corrections facilities, I made a comment saying that I couldn't fathom the justifications I would have to make to myself in order to defend them. People jumped on me for saying that I didn't believe the judges deserved justice, but that wasn't what I'd said. I just forgot that y'all didn't have my context for the statement, as I was working in Criminal Defense at the time. My point was more about me, personally, and the trouble I would have mounting a vigorous defense for two people who had perverted the system in order to incarcerate innocent children for money. It was about me, and needed context which I failed to provide.

    I think that's similar here. The context for Levitt is that his job is to study this sort of thing rationally, from an economics perspective. Here, he is simply saying an quite natural and obvious factor clouds his rational, economic judgment. I really don't see what the fuss is all about.
    posted by Navelgazer at 4:16 PM on June 9, 2011


    Odd than an economist would think that his daughter entering a profession which generates no new wealth or value would be a "great outcome".
    It certainly generates wealth in the form of advertising revenue. It's not much different in principle from any professional sport.
    In my opinion, it is somewhat different. If the Steelers beat the 49ers, both teams still get paid, because their payment doesn't come from the other team, it comes indirectly from the fact that people like to watch sports, whereas in poker, if you want to get paid, somebody else has to lose money. And this is an essential part of the game: If it doesn't hurt to lose, you're not really playing poker.

    Now, people like to watch poker too, and that brings some of the same sort of advertising revenue in, but the game is still almost zero-sum. If nobody watched the World Series of Poker, I think that almost everybody that plays in that tournament would still enter, because the point is the giant stack of cash if you win, not their sponsorship deal.

    And that's not even considering that the vast majority of "professional" poker players (in the sense that playing poker is their primary income) are not famous and never appear on TV: Rather, they grind it out, day after day, either online or in brick and mortar poker rooms, taking money from people who aren't quite as good as them. What value do those players create?
    posted by jcreigh at 4:31 PM on June 9, 2011


    The thing about the Drum piece is that in a way, he's right. WAIT HEAR ME OUT!! What I mean is that socially-damaging behaviors are often less damaging in higher SES cohorts, simply because higher SES individuals and the people around them have more resources to insulate them from the damage from their behavior. That would imply that an equal prevalence of socially-damaging behavior would still have a grossly disproportionate impact on lower-SES cohorts.
    (KathrynT)


    Although he doesn't spell it out explicitly, I think Drum is also making a larger point that people of all classes tend to forget that the rest of the world operates under very different constraints.

    I've actually had a discussion of FLSA where the other guy seemed actually incapable of understanding the idea of involuntary unemployment. All of his opinions on labor law came down to the idea that employer and employee should work out a contract as best suited their particular situation. If that wasn't possible, he would just find a more amenable employer, because for a man with his professional skills, labor was a seller's market. Despite enormous good-faith effort I don't think he ever really appreciated the consequences of simultaneously lacking the skills to find another job and also lacking the savings to quit without a new offer in hand.

    Of course, the answer isn't to pass laws against it that rich people will be able to skate out from while poor people get caught in the bear trap of Consequences. The answer is to create social safety nets to help minimize the damage, period. (KathrynT)

    But if you're this guy I was talking to, can you imagine how it might be difficult to see the benefit in a government (mis-)managed healthcare plan, when that plan will invariably pay less than the worst private plan you've ever considered? It's not like upper-class people sit around asking themselves how they can grind the hoi polloi underfoot, it's that they're habituated to reasoning from the particular assumptions that apply to their own situation, and have great difficulty setting them aside in order to think about the consequences of another man's assumptions.
    posted by d. z. wang at 5:17 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


    On the other hand, if my daughter had good reasons to want an abortion, I would want her to be able to have one, so I’m weakly in favor of abortion being legal, even though I put a lot of value on unborn fetuses.

    If you accuse Levitt of paternalism for nothing else, note that he gets to decide what the "good reasons" for wanting an abortion are. I wonder what he'd think ought to happen if his daughter wanted to have an abortion for what he thought were bad reasons.
    posted by immlass at 8:19 PM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


    During the American health-care debate Ross Douthat The Pious suggested that since we all die, we shouldn't worry so much about access to affordable health-care.

    Seriously. He gets paid a lot of money to write "serious" things like that in the NYT.

    Fuck Douthat and anybody who has ever paid him to produce his shit-tastic drivel.
    posted by bardic at 8:50 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I can't believe people are getting up in arms over a short article which basically only says, "There are things I don't want my daughter to do," and, "I wish that online poker were still legal." He barely makes a point at all, much less an unreasonable prescriptivist one. He's just describing how he ends up making decisions emotionally, not even saying that his process has value, really.

    I think that the way you describe the article is accurate enough, but the context in which he writes is one of saying "hey, here's this smart way of thinking about public policy" when in real life it's simply not. But to be fair (to me), I'm not so much up in arms about the article some dude posts on his own blog - God knows I posted some lame ones back when I had a blog - but my first exposure to this was on the radio, on NPR's Marketplace. And while you may be right that it's not worth getting up in arms over "there are things I don't want my daughter do do" and "I wish that online poker were still legal," perhaps we can also agree that those two sentiments, on their own, don't merit the attention of national media?

    (I should maybe mention that I heard the NPR piece while giving my younger daughter a bottle and listening to my wife give my older daughter a bath, and the paternalistic bullshit pushed all kinds of feminist dad buttons for me -- it took a lot of cooing and a poop to bring my blood pressure down.)
    posted by nickmark at 9:45 PM on June 9, 2011


    Metafilter: it took a lot of cooing and a poop to bring my blood pressure down
    posted by Proofs and Refutations at 12:02 AM on June 10, 2011


    I always thought Levitt, the economist, was the smart one, and Dubner, the journalist (who's friends with Glenn Beck), was the idiot, but it seems that they're both idiots.
    posted by DanCall at 12:59 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I'm outraged! He talks about his daughter being a poker champion. There's a picture of her surrounded by cards, chips and money. This confirms that he's serious about pushing for drastic legal reforms. Also, I've never liked him, and I distrust economists, because...globalisation, or something.
    posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:31 AM on June 10, 2011


    "hey, here's this smart way of thinking about public policy"

    Where did he say anything even remotely like this?
    posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:34 AM on June 10, 2011


    I read levitt's first book. the first thirty pages were about how brilliant the author was. the rest was pretty much filler.
    posted by moorooka at 3:36 AM on June 10, 2011


    Thank god the thread finally turned in the direction of an important issue.

    I cannot fathom the anti-tights-as-pants brigade. There are women walking around with no pants on ... and you are complaining?!

    YES! The problem is as follows:

    1. Many, perhaps even most, women simply look bad with tights as pants, because they emphasize all that you'd rather conceal, and conceal all that you'd like to emphasize.

    2. Those exceedingly few women that would, you'd think, look good wearing tights as pants, because of possessing a body type that matches your personal aesthetic ideal in every way still look bad wearing tights as pants because something about tights makes you look like you have a fat ass, shapeless pencil legs, and cankles no matter how perfect you actually are.

    If women were actually walking around with no pants on, well, occasionally I'd regret that but for the most part I'd be right there in the cheering section with you. Unfortunately, they are not. Oh, they are so, so not.
    posted by rusty at 7:11 AM on June 10, 2011


    Many, perhaps even most, women simply look bad with tights as pants

    But that's, like, your opinion, man.

    something about tights makes you look like you have a fat ass, shapeless pencil legs, and cankles no matter how perfect you actually are.

    Those are jeggings, not tights.
    posted by mrgrimm at 8:53 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I would assert that it's jeggings or tights, but that is, in fact, just, like, my opinion. Man.
    posted by rusty at 11:02 AM on June 10, 2011


    If you accuse Levitt of paternalism for nothing else, note that he gets to decide what the "good reasons" for wanting an abortion are.

    This is not what he says.

    Though the paragraph is noteworthy; paternalism is being used to support abortion.
    posted by weston at 4:22 PM on June 10, 2011


    This is not what he says.

    The "in my opinion" isn't stated but that caveat holds for anyone who believes that the right to abortion isn't absolute, and Levitt's pretty clear that he's squicked by the whole thing.

    Though the paragraph is noteworthy; paternalism is being used to support abortion.

    Meh, more like "people I care about should be allowed to have abortions". That he comes down on the side of abortion rights, narrowly, is less bad than if he were against them, but he's not what I would call a solid pro-choice voter. There are a lot of people who effectively believe the way he does (my daughter should be allowed to have one when she "needs" it) who are against abortion rights. Cf this set of anecdotes which has previously been linked on the blue.
    posted by immlass at 4:35 PM on June 10, 2011


    Meh, more like "people I care about should be allowed to have abortions".

    O-kay.

    I don't think there's much else to do here other than quote exactly what Leavitt says:
    if my daughter had good reasons to want an abortion, I would want her to be able to have one, so I’m weakly in favor of abortion being legal, even though I put a lot of value on unborn fetuses.
    My paraphrase would be:

    "Even though I value fetuses in some unspecified way that would likely imply strongly pro-fetus public policy, by thinking of someone I care about (my daughter), I've realized that there are good reasons for abortions, and that they should be legal."

    Your paraphrase is apparently:

    "people I care about should be allowed to have abortions."

    I'll just let anybody reading the discussion make their own judgment about which one seems more apt and who's doing a more careful reading.
    posted by weston at 1:35 PM on June 11, 2011


    Jesus ass-blasting Christ.

    "I wouldn’t want my daughter to be a cocaine addict or a prostitute, so in spite of the fact that it would probably be more economically efficient to legalize drugs and prostitution subject to heavy regulation/taxation, I don’t mind those activities being illegal."

    Never have I heard a more ignorant, narrow-minded, paternalistic sentence spoken by an ostensibly rational individual.
    posted by tehloki at 2:02 PM on June 11, 2011


    Your paraphrase is apparently:

    "people I care about should be allowed to have abortions."


    If you're reading Levitt that carefully, I'm not surprised we disagree. Levitt's judgey about reasons his daughter might seek an abortion, never mind other women outside the daughter test. He would want his daughter to be able to obtain an abortion if she had (in his opinion) a good reason, implying that he might not support her right to have an abortion for a bad reason. He puts a high value on unborn fetuses--a value that would equal or be greater than the value of adult women if it weren't for his daughter--but because he wouldn't want his daughter to be forced to continue a pregnancy, he weakly supports legal abortion (more or, likely as not, less broadly).

    Your emphasis is on Levitt's compassion for his daughter. My emphasis is on his judgement of her reasoning, the way that he talks about the value of fetuses but not the value of women (other than his daughter) and the similarity of his views (my daughter should be able to get an abortion even though I think abortion is bad) to anti-abortion-rights hypocrites.

    My actual paraphrase of Levitt would be something closer to "Even though I think abortion is wrong, I wouldn't want my daughter to be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy or to have an unsafe illegal abortion, so I support keeping abortion legal despite the possibility of women having abortions for bad reasons". YMM (and clearly does) V.
    posted by immlass at 2:27 PM on June 11, 2011


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