Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Echidne's Deep Thought For The Day: Another Invisible Elephant in Political Debates.
This one is about the way people tend to ignore the invisible alternatives or consequences when tackling a political, economic or social problem. Examples are the best way to show what I mean:
Take divorce and its impact on children. If I got a chocolate bar for each time I've read that divorce is bad for children and people should not get divorced I'd not only be a glorious goddess but a giant one.
It's not hard to agree that divorce can be bad for children. But what these generalizing statements ignore is the very important question: What alternative do we have in mind when we talk about the effects of divorce on children? Parents who fight non-stop? Parents who don't speak to each other? Or a perfectly happy married couple with children, a couple who would never consider getting divorced in the first place?
It's that last option, I think. Whenever the debate focuses on a problem, the invisible alternative is something like perfect paradise.
Another example: I have read that some women leave mathematical and scientific careers because they were forced into them by feminists (those powerful Maffia-type feminist enforcers), yet soon realized that they were just not interested in such manly fields. This is an argument from the innate side of education differences between men and women. It's brought out to explain why women don't thrive but never brought out to explain why men don't thrive.
But I digress. The point is that some women leave all sorts of careers because they realize they don't like the job, after all. Men leave all sorts of careers for that reason, too. Yet when the example applies to scientific and mathematical careers, we are expected to assume that no woman ever had later found a career-path she chose not to her liking, except in the cases where the feminazis forced her on it.
I see this same phenomenon take place right now in the political debates. Those who wish to cut all domestic spending never tell us how the elderly will be taken care of if Medicare and Medicaid are decimated, or what the elderly (predominantly women) are going to live on if Social Security is curtailed. The alternatives are simply invisible, though I suspect that many believe women should take care of the elderly, the way they mostly take care of children, and that nobody else would have to pay for that.
Neither do the eager right-wing government cutters tell us what the poor are going to do for a living in that presumed paradise where the minimum wages would be abolished and the bootstrap solution to poverty would apply, except that schools would no longer hire many teachers, cutting off the educational route to a better life. That all this would increase crime rates and drug trafficking and other lawless activities seems pretty obvious to me. These are costs of the government cutting program, but they are invisible costs.