Ease up on Assisted Reproductive Technologies to close the gender wage gap

Of course, there is debate over whether the gender wage-gap exists or not. I, for one, believe it does exist but that the answer does not lie in legislating protection for maternal (or even paternal) leave. Charlotte Bowyer wrote about how firms such as Apple and Facebook have begun to offer female employees the opportunity to freeze their eggs (so that they can delay pregnancy until later in their career).

One reason for the gender wage-gap is that women in modern society most often face the dilemma of having children earlier and potentially jeopardising career progress or having children much later and hopefully advancing their career. Each option has its pros and cons but neither is particularly appealing for many women. It’s a choice between probable fertility, children and significantly lower pay or probable infertility, childlessness and career success. Unsurprisingly, a sizeable proportion of women opt for the former and this means that the gender wage-gap persists (of course, econometricians can make it disappear using a bunch of control variables and certain methodologies).

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) helps alleviate the situation for many women. Sure, they don’t provide what many might currentlyconsider a ‘natural’ conception, pregnancy or birth (as contemporary social perceptions depict them) but it does mean that there is an alternative to women being constrained one way or another.

Some Assisted Reproductive Technologies are completely unregulated, some are loosely regulated and some are definitely quite heavily regulated. For example, in certain jurisdictions where forms of ART is available, laws stipulate that only heterosexual couples (as opposed to say, a homosexual couple or a single person) can use these technologies. Such a restriction means that marriage is a pre-requisite for ART; again, however, this constrains her. We need to completely abolish restrictions like these (which exhibit a clear, conservative bias) in order for ART to be an effective means by which the biological causes of gender wage-gap persistence are overcome.

More importantly, we should ensure that the current freedom of access to ART is defended against misinformed, prejudiced zealots. This ensures not only that people have more freedom to choose but also partially addresses the social inequity and labour market outcome inequity arising from biological gender-inequality via the technological innovation that a relatively free market makes possible.

Free movement and discrimination: the case of football

The more you open markets up, the less discrimination you get on grounds of ‘taste’ (racism). The stuff left over is usually ‘statistical‘ (i.e. where certain groups are different in their average levels of job-relevant criteria). There was already a great paper showing this for the Fantasy Premier League (which I play avidly), but now there’s also one for the real Premiership!

Pierre Deschamps and José de Sousa look at the impact of the 1995 Bosman Ruling on the gap between black and white footballer wages in the English league. They find that when only 20 clubs competed for their skills, black players were underpaid relative to white ones, indicating that owners were able to indulge their preference against non-whites (or indulge their fans’ preferences).

But once the whole of Europe were effectively on an equal footing, blacks became highly mobile and garnered equal pay for their efforts:

This paper assesses the impact of labor mobility on racial discrimination. We present an equilibrium search model that reveals an inverted U-shaped relationship between labor mobility and race-based wage differentials. We explore this relationship empirically with an exogenous mobility shock on the European soccer labor market. The Bosman ruling by the European Court of Justice in 1995 lifted restrictions on soccer player mobility.

Using a panel of all clubs in the English first division from 1981 to 2008, we compare the pre- and post-Bosman ruling market to identify the causal effect of intensified mobility on race-based wage differentials. Consistent with a taste-based explanation, we find evidence that increasing labor market mobility decreases racial discrimination.

The figure below shows how the ‘turnover’ (i.e. churn between clubs) of black English players jumped when European markets opened up. Market freedoms; exit; a sort of ‘voting with their feet’, outperformed voice in bringing equality. And we know from ASI research that this did not harm the English national team.

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This is in line with a lot of what we have been saying recently—markets are a good way to bring about justice!

The marijuana multiplier effect

Public sentiment is currently quite a way away from being conducive to drug-legalisation in its entirety. However, opinion concerning marijuana laws around the world is shifting and, since it is one of the most popular substances in the UK, legalisation (or at least decriminalisation) is certainly feasible. It’s worth examining some of the economic consequences of the oft-ignored behavioural implications of marijuana usage.

So, besides the fact that many marijuana producers would open up, jobs would be created, marijuana would be safer, policing costs would decrease and there would be less crime, there are common behavioural symptoms of marijuana usage such as that which is colloquially referred to as ‘the munchies’, the medicinal, therapeutic effects and also the potential for enhancement of creativity.

The ‘munchies’ is characterised by increased hunger, thirst and a heightened sensitivity to smells and taste. This peculiar behavioural phenomenon often leads users to indulge in both a greater quantity and variety of goods that they normally would not. In fact, if marijuana usage was legalised then the increase in its usage would also be accompanied by an increase in the consumption of goods and services that are associated with the behavioural changes (or, at the very least, changes in patterns of consumption would occur).

There is also potential for an increase in productivity from the increased happiness or well being that could accompany marijuana usage since many would be able to fully enjoy the medical benefits (health being an obvious, important component of well being) and some would simply gain from recreational use. Incidentally, it’s noteworthy that Bhutan, the only country in the world that employs the Gross National Happiness measure, also has marijuana growing freely on the streets.  Productivity increases associated with well being amelioration (amongst other things) would improve the morale of the workforce and lead to a supply-side-based multiplier effect that increased output and, therefore, incomes across the economy (since happiness is contagious, after all).

Finally, the link between marijuana and creativity is controversial and debated but it is possible that there is something in the postulate that it enhances creativity. If this is true, then the legalisation of marijuana would help encourage divergent thinking and, thereby, help fuel innovation across various industries.

It rather depends on what you think the police are for

We admit to sometimes being a little archaic around here. For example, in our attitudes to freedom and liberty. And so it is with our attitude towards policing: we are rather Peelite in what we think the entire game is about. We thus disagree with the police in this particular matter:

A gadget that alerts speeding drivers when emergency vehicles are nearby was last night facing calls by police and motoring organisations to be banned.

… a dashboard-mounted device which, astonishingly, is perfectly legal, according to its makers.

It can detect when police cars – even unmarked vehicles – are more than half a mile away by picking up encoded radio signals, and then sends a warning to the motorist.

When a 999 vehicle is within 1,200 yards, it sets off a green light on the display. As it gets nearer, the lights go to amber and finally they go red when it is just yards away. The device can even detect the radio signals from police officers on the beat and force helicopters.

… But last night Gwent Police Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston called for them to be banned.

He said: ‘This device is a passport to villainy and there is no legitimate reason for a law-abiding person to have one. The sellers are being very naive if they believe that they will be used to reduce accidents.

‘A criminal will carry out a drug deal, see a light on their dashboard and then ditch their illegal stash, only to pick it up when the police aren’t around – or a motorist will be speeding on the motorway, an alert will pop up and they’ll slow down.’

Devices that detect the position of speed cameras are legal for use on UK roads. Several years ago, legislation was proposed to make detectors with radar and laser illegal, but the ban did not go ahead.

If you think that the purpose of the police, of having a criminal justice system at all, is to punish the bad guys then you will be on the side of the police here. But if you are, like us and Sir Robert, of the belief that the having of those police, that justice system, is to reduce the number of bad things that happen then you will be entirely happy with this device. For, in that speeding example, it is not true that we wish to punish those who speed. We wish to reduce the amount of dangerous speeding that goes on, that’s our primary goal. And if this comes about without having to punish anyone because people are not speeding then we are happier at that outcome than we would be if we had to expend resources to punish those who had sped.

It is exactly the Peelite argument: the police should reduce the amount of crime simply by their existence, by their presence. Punishment is only a back up to that idea. And here we have gadgetry which increases the amount of crime that does not happen for any particular police presence. It is a multiplier of the power of policing itself to achieve our goal. And who wouldn’t want that?

The innocence principle

Like freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence before proof of guilt is something that almost everyone agrees is important in principle, but are occasionally reluctant to apply in practice. In recent weeks we have witnessed some examples of this reluctance that, to me, seem chilling.

Eric Garner was an obese African-American who was killed by police officers holding him in a chokehold while they arrested him for illegally selling individual cigarettes in New York City. His last words are here.

Virtually everyone who has seen the video agrees that they acted with an extreme amount of force against a man who was not fighting back although he was resisting arrest (passively – that is, in a way that would not harm the officers).

A Grand Jury found that the police officers who killed Eric Garner did not act unlawfully. I defer to the Grand Jury on this, but assuming they are correct this suggests that the scope for lawful killing by police officers is extremely broad. As law professor Glenn Reynolds (and others) has noted, killings by police are treated much more sympathetically by juries than killings by civilians.

Michael Brown was an African-American teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer during an arrest after he (seemingly) robbed a convenience store in Ferguson, Missouri. There is still some disagreement about what happened here. The initial reports suggested that the officer executed Brown as he fled or begged for his life, but the subsequent Grand Jury investigation seems quite conclusive that Brown assaulted the police officer. The Grand Jury’s conclusions prompted looting by people in Ferguson.

If Brown’s shooting was unjust, the Garner lesson applies. But if the narrative found by the Grand Jury is correct then the protests, lootings and slandering of the police officer involved are wrong. In that case, it is the media’s presumption of guilt on the part of the police officer involved (even after the Grand Jury verdict) that has led to significant destruction and violence. People suspended the innocence principle to advance a political point, and the results have been bleak.

Jackie is a student at the University of Virginia by a Rolling Stone article which alleged that she had been gang-raped by a group of fraternity men. Last week Rolling Stone retracted the story after a number of facts given by Jackie in her story proved to be false.

The aftermath of the Rolling Stone story has been extremely disturbing, with very prominent people proudly dispensing with the innocence principle. The Washington Post ran a piece titled “No matter what Jackie said, we should automatically believe rape claims” (this was later changed to “generally” believe them). The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti wrote that “I choose to believe Jackie. I lose nothing by doing so, even if I’m later proven wrong”, and that “the current frenzy to prove Jackie’s story false – whether because the horror of a violent gang rape is too much to face or because disbelief is the misogynist status quo – will do incredible damage to all rape victims.” [my emphasis]

Has Valenti considered that someone else may lose something if we chooses to believe an accusation that is untrue? Or that we may have other reasons than misogyny or incredulity to want to know if a criminal accusation is false?

Sexual assault is very common, but this does not mean that false accusations do not occur. An estimated 1.5% to 7.5% of accusations may be false. Staggeringly, a 2012 study that used DNA testing of old physical evidence and exonerated between 8% and 15% of convicted rapists.

I know why Valenti is eager to believe Jackie: because not believing a genuine story is horrendous for the victim and makes other rape victims less likely to come forward, and hence makes rape an easier crime to commit. But the inverse is also true: believing a false story is horrendous for the wrongly-accused and makes other false accusations more likely. (The Rolling Stone story did not name individuals, but guilt-by-implication can still be enormously harmful.)

In all of these cases, people who would normally say that the presumption of innocence before proof of guilt is a good thing have assumed the opposite. The rule might work in general, they may say, but this case is an exception. Police need to be able to subdue people resisting arrest. The death of an 18-year old must be unjust. Rape is too serious an allegation to question.

Like the principle of free speech, the innocence principle only produces good results if we apply it rigidly and in cases where doing so may feel deeply unsettling.

The innocence principle matters because people who seem guilty may in fact be innocent. This is why mechanisms like jury trials exist – like the ‘thick’ version of free speech that I argued for recently, they are a mechanism for sorting the truth from lies.

Hayek speculated that liberal institutions like these evolved over time, because the societies that lacked them eventually fell behind the ones that upheld them. Politically and culturally, we may be witnessing an erosion of these institutions now. That would be a catastrophe. But it is not too late to change course.