Features Australia

Lies, groceries and feminist statistics

9 March 2019

9:00 AM

9 March 2019

9:00 AM

Successful politics is impossible without lies. Politicians know being truthful doesn’t work. Voters, for all their claims about wanting honest politics, vote for the side they like, or the lies they like, rather than for politicians who tell the truth. They prefer simple untruths to sophisticated reality. Donald Trump is criticised for telling lies, but all politicians lie, and he’s no better or worse than other politicians. As in politics, so in life. Politicians mirror our views because they need our votes.

But what about politicians who tell barefaced, ideological lies – who make claims which are simply untrue? Tanya Plibersek is either lying or ignorant when she states that the gender pay gap is the result of sexism.

If women were working the same jobs as men, if women were working the same hours as men, and if women were working the same heavy, dangerous jobs as men, then women would be paid the same as men. But women are doing none of these things. Choice, the ultimate ground on which feminism’s legitimacy rests, is thrown out the door when left-wing ideology enters the room.

If we take a crude measurement of women’s pay across an economy, which is what feminist ideologues like Plibersek do, then women’s pay is lower than men’s. But this reading of the statistics is disingenuous. It hides more than it reveals. The fact that Plibersek can state that the gender pay gap is a result of sexism while ignoring a mountain of evidence which refutes her argument is dishonest. We know this because Plibersek ridicules people who use this tactic when it suits her politics.

Imagine her reaction if someone said that Indigenous Australians have a greater propensity to commit crime because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up 28 per cent of Australia’s prison system while comprising two per cent of Australia’s population – which, in crude terms, is statistically true. She would accuse the person of being a racist, claim the situation was complicated and say that blunt statements of fact like this obscure the causes of Indigenous crime. And her purported statement would be true. People commit crimes for all sorts of reasons, only one of which is culture. Plibersek’s dishonesty about the pay gap, though, is better than her possible ineptitude or ignorance. At least dishonesty reveals a degree of intelligence.

The causes of the gender pay gap are simple. Sexism is not one of them. Women’s career and consumer choices explain why men are paid more than women. Economists have known this for years. To deny this truth is equivalent to a physicist denying gravity. Yet the myth won’t die because politicians are willing to lie with a straight face about the gender pay gap.

‘Lies, damned lies, and statistics’ is a quote ascribed to various people, including Lord Balfour and Mark Twain. The quote captures the phenomenon of lying with statistics. Or how charlatans bamboozle the public by saying something that on the surface is true but on a deeper level is patently false.

Barack Obama hid behind the gross statistical average of women’s income to lie about the gender pay gap. His spokesman tied himself in knots explaining why women were not paid as much as men in Obama’s White House. The answer Obama’s spokesman should have given is that women make different career choices to men, and that there’s no discrimination. But this would not have advanced Obama’s ideological agenda. So Obama and his spokesman lied. And Obama is still wearing the halo.

Another argument that feminists make to explain the gender pay gap is that women’s work is undervalued. Endemic sexism, we’re told, undervalues women’s roles in society, including careers traditionally associated with women. If women were valued as much as men, so the argument goes, then the gender pay gap would disappear. Plibersek says: ‘what worries me is that “women’s work” is valued less’. And she quotes Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, to support her claim: ‘if a woman is doing it or saying it – it is just not as important.’

Apart from this being self-pitying nonsense, it gets everything exactly backwards. The market determines the price of goods and services, and also the price of labour. Women buy 70  to 80 per cent of consumer goods in America. The statistics are similar in other First World countries, including Australia. In 2013, women’s global spend was 29 trillion American dollars. Each time a woman buys a good or a service she bids the price of the good or service up or down. Countless consumer decisions in a market economy determine the price of labour. And because the price system is blind, neutral and democratic, it is women who are ‘undervaluing’, through their purchases, the jobs that women choose as careers. In other words, women are discriminating against women when they go shopping. Feminists, oblivious to the simple laws of economics, blame sexism instead of women’s consumer choices and its effect on the price of labour. Women, exercising choice – the buzzword of feminism – are responsible for the gender pay gap. Feminists, though, don’t understand that choice means people choosing different things, including things that feminists don’t like. Feminists, like all puritans, try to force everyone, including women, to conform to their values. This is the opposite of choice. It’s coercion. It’s also hypocritical and anti-democratic. Choice is freedom. Or, to paraphrase a feminist slogan: take your morals off my groceries.

Economic growth has done more for women than all the boilerplate, anti-intellectual rhetoric of the sisterhood. The prosperity enjoyed by women in the 21st century is the result of economic freedom, despite the concerted attempt by feminists to undermine capitalism. The claim that feminism is about choice is empty nonsense. Women, buying and selling in an open market, make the economic world go round. It is, ironically, women’s choices which feminists ultimately rail against.

‘You can have any colour you like as long as it is black,’ said Henry Ford. Feminist attitudes to choice are similar. Feminists don’t like freedom, which is what capitalism is, writ large.

If feminists valued choice, they’d celebrate the freedom women enjoy in First World countries because of capitalism and stop telling lies about non-existent discrimination in the labour market.

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