On his blog, Lawrence Auster addresses the question, "Is women's political equality a good thing?"
Part of the discussion seems to take off from an interview Dr. John Lott gave to Frontpage Magazine discussing his new book Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and other Half-Baked Theories Don't. Apparently, in the book, Lott links the growth of government to women's suffrage, claiming that "giving women the right to vote explain[s] at least a third of the growth in government for about 45 years."
Lott gives two (or maybe one) reasons to support his claim. First, women are more risk averse, and see government as a way to insure themselves against the bad things life can bring. Second, divorced mothers are particuarly likely to seek out the government for protection.
Suppose Dr. Lott is generally correct in his analysis. What comes next?
There is much to be said for the view that affording women political rights (as distinct from the protection of their human rights, property rights, and civil rights) inevitably leads society in the direction of the Nanny State that we see in full bloom in today's Britain and Europe, leading ultimately to the end of national sovereignty and the onset of global governance.
But, even given Lott's conclusions, there's nothing that says the state must inevitably continue to grow and grow, until we're all trapped in a one-world socialist nightmare.
Think about it: why might women be more risk-averse than men? You can give an evolutionary story to explain some of the risk aversion, I'm sure. But surely, the way women have been historically treated might just have something to do with their risk aversion.
Traditionally, women have had few options and none of the most significant legal rights. Even relatively privileged women had few freedoms and little choice of opportunities. They could not own property, nor were people willing to hire them. Both the legal system (which defines rights) and general attitudes were against them. This placed them in almost state-of-nature kind of situation, their fate almost entirely in the hands of others -- men who were all-too-willing to inflict violence on them.
Wouldn't YOU be risk averse in that kind of environment?
Well, the legal system changed, as did attitudes. But arguably the law changed more quickly than attitudes, or at least the attitudes of those that mattered: those of the men who had control over the options -- employers, mainly. Women were granted formal rights but their substantive option set remained narrow and fixed. This got them a little further from the state-of-nature, but only a bit.
What women did gain was the opportunity to petition the government to expand their options, through subsidies, anti-discrimination legislation, and so on. Although it can be risky to increase the size of government, women were faced with an almost Hobbesian-like choice: give the government more power, or risk going back to the state-of-nature.
And, for Hobbes, the state-of-nature is so bad that any government is an improvement on it.
Having missed out on the Nazis, Hobbes was probably wrong about this... but he would have been the first to admit that legal rights are not enough to transcend the state-of-nature. The state-of-nature is bad, NOT because people are without legal rights, but because they have no options (life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, etc.)
Lawrence Auster doesn't want to limit the rights and options women presently enjoy. At least, I don't think so. But he isn't looking at the big picture: women were granted formal rights, but their substantive option set was not expanded to the same degree. This was mainly because of the bad, anti-feminist attitudes of powerful men.
If we're all now under the boot of a powerful government, it's because we're paying the debts those men incurred for their misogyny.