Read Part 1, a prior post, before reading this.
The claim we explored yesterday is that there are substantially more women voters than men, and therefore women have more political power – in that limited sense – than men. (We’ll discuss the other forms of power later.)
Many of you had objections to the preliminary verdict. I will address your objections here and render an updated verdict. (All verdicts in the Rationality Engine are subject to change. Keep that in mind.)
I will address your objections individually in the form of claims.
Claim 1. Real political power is held by rich people and corporations who use money to control politicians. Most of the rich people are men.
Verdict: True. Money has a big impact on political results. But no evidence is presented that the men with money are pursuing objectives contrary to the interests of women. Corporations, for example, usually strive to be seen as family-friendly. So we would expect the money influence to be gender-positive whenever the influence can be noticed by the public, even if men are doing the dealing. It is smart business to be woman-friendly in 2015. It is bad business to do otherwise because women have enough power to take down any corporation that doesn’t play nice.
I can be persuaded to change this verdict if you have examples showing that American corporations are successfully lobbying to pass laws (in the past three years) that women overwhelmingly do not support.
This link shows that men and women invest in stocks quite differently. Women pick different companies than men. That means the lobbyists are sometimes mostly working for men and sometimes less so. And of course any wealth that flows to a family unit becomes shared.
While the claim that rich people control politics is true, it is also true that corporations do not have the flexibility (nor should they) to pull any puppet strings that 51% of the public finds objectionable.
Claim 2. The people who provide the limited options upon which you vote have the real power. Most are men.
Verdict: True. But no claim has been made that those men serve themselves more than they serve the interests of women. When you eat at a restaurant, and you give your order to the server, you don’t say the server is in charge. The server is just writing down stuff and carrying food around for you. Likewise, the people who write laws, and the people who run for office, create options that will be friendly to the people who vote. And the people who actually vote are, by a substantial margin, women. (See prior post for stats.)
Claim 4. Women often vote the way their husbands want them to vote.
Verdict: Unknown. No data was offered for this hypothesis and it does not match my personal experience for present day. But in any case, women have the option of getting their research from any source they want. Trusting the opinion of a spouse is not the same as abdicating power.
Claim 5. Women do not vote as a bloc, so they have no “combined” power in any realistic sense.
Verdict: False. What we observe is that no laws are ever proposed in this country that would inspire women to vote as a bloc. That suggests that women either have soft power (influence) or that men are much nicer than all of recorded history would suggest.
Technically, women could vote as a bloc and win for sure if they chose to do so on some particular issue. Men (who actually vote) do not have that option because of numbers. The design of our system favors whoever has the most voters. But the reality – as many of you noted – is that any issue so important to women that they might vote for it as a bloc is almost certainly important enough for men to want the same thing for their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.
So women have two sources of power in this scenario. One is that they can vote as a bloc and get anything they want because of their numbers. But this power is never exercised because women also have the power to influence men to vote for their legitimate interests. I can think of no realistic future issue where women would not have male voting power at least partly on their side.
By analogy, a loaded gun in your nightstand is power even if no one breaks into your house. If women never need to vote as a bloc, it suggests they influence men enough to never need that power.
But the gun is still in the nightstand. We assign value to insurance policies even if we never file a claim.
Claim 6. If someone influences you to vote a certain way, can it be said the power is with the puppet or the puppet-master? Most puppet-masters (the media for example) are men.
Verdict: Depends on your worldview.
If free will is real, we have the power to recognize what influences us and to use our reason to overcome bias, at least most of the time. We all know, for example, that FOX News and MSNBC will have opposing biases. We use our free will and reason to overcome those influences. Regular readers know I consider this worldview magical thinking. But I can’t support my view with hard data so I won’t use it for a verdict.
My personal worldview is what I call the Moist Robot idea. Under this way of thinking, we’re all just particles bumping around according to the laws of physics. What we think is our sense of reason is really nothing but rationalization after the fact, at least for the big decisions. Under this worldview, both the puppet and the puppet-master are puppets of physics. No one has any real power in this view.
No verdict can be rendered on a philosophical question about cause and effect and free will. But logically, if people can influence you, then it follows that the influencers themselves are being influenced by something else. We don’t know how far to chase that chain of influence. But if we follow the chain back to early childhood, mom is usually the biggest influence. And mom probably influenced her son to do right by women.
Claim 7: There are roughly equal numbers of adult men and women in the United States who are eligible to vote. The political power of your vote exists whether you decide to use it or not.
Verdict: True (but incomplete). We would also need to know gender differences in rates of incarceration, occupations that don’t provide time to vote, mental health, education, political interest, marital status, income, and more. My working assumption is that there is something structural in society that inhibits male voting. I am skeptical that so many men simply decide not to vote, but it could be the case. My guess is that more men than women are incapable of voting for one reason or another. For example, ten-times more men than women are incarcerated. That alone is about 10% of the voting gap.
Summary: As many of you noted, there are too many power variables to isolate any one of them. The biggest grey area is in the domain of influence. If I influence you to push a button, who had the power? I will discuss influence separately in another post.
But what we can say for sure is that in the narrow sense of voting, the law of the land accidentally gives more power to women because (for whatever reason) more of them vote in modern times. And a gun in the nightstand is power even if you haven’t yet used it.
Next up: Economic power.
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