#36 On freedom and equity

Dear Master F,

We should just deal quickly with this notion of “rigidity” but then I think we can move on. If I understand you correctly you call M/F rigid because it has a broadness and simplicity that makes it difficult to change or to cope with the subtleties.* Whereas I take rigid to mean something so precise so as to be either very useful when applied correctly or very unuseful (or damaging) when incorrectly applied. So the fact that the M/F categorisation is so rough and barely adds any information makes it unrigid in my view but rigid in yours. You used the word reliable, that’s more what I meant.

Our earlier letters spent a lot of time on science and physics and I worried about their asymmetry. You’d spend most of your time asking questions and I’d spend my time rattling off opinion. But we’re moving well into your territory, so I look forward to stumbling through with mostly questions. I used to be on the same page as you but these last couple of years we’ve diverged, and I’m now thoroughly confused about this stuff.

My first and main question is: What makes you sure you’re not being ideological? If I understand your argument, you’re saying hero diversity improves the world therefore we need asexual hero representation to make this happen.

But in contexts like these people like Hume, Kahneman and Haidt would suggest we check the reverse causation. Perhaps you want asexual heroes (because you’re ideological about equality) and hero diversity being good is the strongest argument to support this. As those skeptics would attest, the “ideology then justification” route is most common in contexts as complex as society in which there’s very little reliable evidence to stand on. And actually you wouldn’t even need the hero diversity argument because you could insist that the outcome is important enough to make the details about how it works irrelevant (like whether patriarchy -> culture -> patriarchy or whether biology -> culture -> patriarchy).

What evidence I’ve found suggests more freedom or a genderless hero narrative does not necessarily lead to more female heroes. In free systems or markets (analogy to freedom) without expectations (analogy to no assumed gender roles) two things happen. 1) Innate preferences become more stark, and 2) the distribution of outcomes becomes more unequal. The graphs I’ve seen show strong correlations between gender role asymmetry and the amount of effort to level the playing field with respect to gender in vocations. It’s makes sense that freedom simply makes people free to act on their innate preferences, allows competence to dictate success, and drives more inequitable outcomes.

Can you clarify this stuff for me? I happen to know that you accept the innate inequity of free markets as the cost of an efficient system of production.** And you believe that about as much as the literature on cognitive biases around justified belief. And your last letters have certainly been anti-ideology. How does this all work out?


*Which incidentally gets it relatively close to a “good” explanation.
**And your wariness of market interventions to “fix” issues to satisfy ideologies.

Also published on Medium.