Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Donald, and on and on and on. There can no longer be any doubt about the existence of male privilege and how it breeds sexual entitlement. Something has to change.

The obvious answer for men on the individual level is to call out instances of misogyny and loudly condemn any sexual assault within our own immediate vicinity (in addition to not being a pig). But what to do on a systemic level? A lot of the commentary coming out now casually connects misogynist culture with some notion of capitalism, but it’s not clear to me what role the American economic system plays in all this.

[Anyone who has ever read this blog knows my sympathies to the market economy, though I’ll admit it’s not perfect and there can always be productive tinkering.]

Capitalism, in most real world manifestations of the word, allocates resources based on consumers’ preferences. When inequality is such as it is in the United States, rich people’s preferences are overrepresented massively because consumption is a function of income. If the consumers’ dollar is their vote, people with more dollars have a lot more votes. Money is power and I don’t think this is up for debate. In this sense, movies will be made that reflect men’s view of the opposite gender because they write the checks for the movies to be made and have more money to spend on movie tickets. If those with more money don’t want to see football players kneeling in social protest, then the profit-maximizing action for the NFL is to make a rule disallowing kneeling during the national anthem. Essentially, a capitalist system will shake out to reflect the interests of those with money and power, even if those interests are discriminatory and completely exploitative like in the case of Harvey Weinstein. Under these scenarios, I admit, the market economy is a system that rewards and perpetuates unethical behavior. [Not all corporate behavior is done under profit-maximizing conditions, however.]

On the other hand, I’m cognizant of arguments that show the market economy as being a force for good in this debate. Money talks, but this can go both ways. Bill O’Reilly was effectively forced out from Fox News because advertisers were boycotting. They didn’t want to be associated with such a vulgar human being. Were their decisions based on ethics, or just avoiding bad PR? Either way, the boycott worked. Similarly, Harvey Weinstein was forced out from his own company and seemingly blacklisted from the entire industry. Compare this to the President: his first wife alleged marital rape, he’s had countless sexual assault allegations, and the Access Hollywood tape was a smoking gun showing what kind of person he is. But he’s still in power. He’s not the only politician or person in government to retain their position after doing terrible things. We can all choose to support companies that we think are ethical and not use our dollar votes to support unethical ones, yet we are all bound to pay taxes to the same government.

So then I wonder: Under what circumstances do market forces punish men for this behavior better than the democratic process? It’s easy to look at the very real faults of a consumer-driven market economy and see an alternate system based on public control as the antidote. But if culture is the real problem, a new economic system might not make much of a difference. In fact, high-quality legislation from the democratic process could be disappointingly ineffective if the underlying culture is so engrained. If you think of different countries around the world with less ‘capitalist’ economies, how much of an improvement is there? For European countries that boast higher female participation in corporate boardrooms or the legislature, was it because of their culture or some sort of tinkering in how their economy is structured? I’m skeptical that replacing the current US economic system with, say, a full-on Bernie Sanders system will improve much. A sexist culture will still put sexist men in charge, though often we assume the right democratic outcome weeds them out.

The economy is not always a zero-sum game. We can both be better off without it coming at the expense of someone else. But power is a zero-sum game. So the asymmetric power of men, reenforced by their asymmetric holdings of money and connections, does come at the expense of women. Closing this power gap absolutely needs to be a policy priority, but more importantly it must be a cultural priority. Market forces should be used in tandem with legislation and the democratic process; anyone suggesting only markets or only a new economic system will cause the change which we would like to see should rethink their approach.

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Will informed me the other day that John Stossel is leaving his long time home at ABC to join FOX. The NY times reports:

Mr. Stossel will start work in October, and his weekly program, named “Stossel,” will begin someti me in the fourth quarter. Fox said “Stossel” would include news segments and conversations about “libertarian issues in the United States and abroad,” including free-market economics and civil liberties.

In a post on his ABC blog, Mr. Stossel said he wanted to “dig into the meaning of the words ‘liberty’ and ‘limited government’ ” on the program.

“ABC enabled me to do some of that, but Fox offers me more air time and a new challenge,” he added.

…Mr. Stossel publicly fumed after ABC chose to run a report in late June about Michael Jackson’s death instead of a segment he had prepared about the dangers of government-run health care systems. “I am sick of the coverage of Michael Jackson,” he wrote in a blog post. The segment was eventually shown four weeks later.

Stossel has been the most articulate free market advocate on TV for a long time (here’s the first part of one of my favorite old Stossel classics on greed). I’m afraid, though, that the move to FOX is going to seriously undermine his credibility. On ABC, he was a libertarian voice questioning the conventional wisdom of the mainstream television pundits. On FOX, he becomes part of the tea-bagger echo chamber. I don’t agree with Stossel on everything, but I think he’s far better than any part of the supposedly free-market oriented Hannity-Cavuto-Beck-O’Reilly team of right wing stooges. I cringe every time I hear Glenn Beck call himself a libertarian (this is actually a big part of my reluctance to apply the term to myself), and I think it’ll be hard for Stossel to distinguish himself in the minds of most viewers from the nationalist, collectivist, flag-fetishizing anti-intellectualism espoused by most of his new colleagues.