Is the United States a Patriarchy or a Matriarchy? (Part 2)

    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. 

    Are you reading Top Tech Blog by Paul Worthington? It’s like seeing the future.

    If you hate my blog, you’ll really hate my book.

Is the United States a Patriarchy or a Matriarchy? (Part 1)

    Today we start the Rationality Engine (invented in this blog) to see if the process can settle for us the question of whether the United States is a patriarchy or a matriarchy. 

    Here we stipulate that the country has been a patriarchy from its founding until modern times. The claim we are testing is that the country has recently transformed from a patriarchy to a matriarchy.


    Patriarchy: Men have the most power in society

    Matriarchy: Women have the most power in society

    We all agree that women had a bad deal throughout history. We also agree that modern men do not experience anything similar to the types of problems women have experienced through history. It’s not a competition about history. And if it were, men would lose. Let’s agree on that.

    We also stipulate the obvious, that no two situations are alike. Your situation will not resemble the average. Nor will mine. So while anecdotes are useful for explaining ideas, they are not reasons, and they are not data. If I say the sky is blue, assume everyone understands there might be at least one cloud up there. It’s still basically blue-looking

    Explanation of Bias

    For those of you new to the Rationality Engine, phase one involves your host (me) confessing his biases so you can keep me honest. So here goes.

    1. My views on gender match those of the most well-informed feminists. I’m a strong supporter of equal treatment. Society works best that way.

    2. My career in banking ended when my boss told me the company asked her to stop promoting white men because there were already too many in upper management. (She told me this in direct language.)

    3. My career at Pacific Bell ended when my boss told me the company asked him to stop promoting white men because there were already too many in upper management. (Again, he said this in direct language.)

    Some folks are confused because in my books I confessed to being incompetent at my corporate jobs. That’s true. But I also had top performance reviews and oversized raises throughout that era because my bosses couldn’t tell the difference. To them, I was a rising star.

    4. When my corporate careers stalled, I turned to cartooning and things worked out. Folks assume I am bitter because gender discrimination ended my corporate careers. I probably would be bitter if I were not typing this next to the fireplace in my mansion. Getting rich takes the sting out of a lot of things. 

    5. I was once married, and delighted that I had the experience. My ex moved one block away (to stay near) and we are best friends. I love her more than ever. I’m healthy, single, rich and totally free to do what I want, whenever I want. My personal life is extraordinary. I mention this because there is speculation that I am a bitter Golem lashing out at a cruel world that won’t give me sex. The reality is that I live in California, and I don’t know any healthy single people here who can’t find plenty of sex. 

    You should assume I have bias on this topic, as nearly anyone would. The test of the Rationality Engine is whether your scrutiny will suppress my bias. When you see it creeping in, call me out in the comments and I will try to correct.

    Claims Phase

    In this phase I present a series of claims and present my preliminary verdict on their validity. These are claims of fact, not a final verdict. Once you see my preliminary verdicts on the claims, you can critique them in the comments and I will adjust as needed. This is a living debate that is intended to improve over time. 

    To keep things simple, I will focus on one area today: Political power

    Claim: Women have the most political power in the United States because more women than men vote.

    Preliminary Verdict: True. 

    In the 2008 presidential election, according to CNN, 70 million women voted compared to only 61 million men. That’s enough of a difference to say women could control decisions in the United States if they collectively decided to do so, according to the rules of our Constitution.

    In upcoming posts I will discuss gender differences in economics, job opportunities, family dynamics, and other power-related topics. But for today let’s focus on political power. Do you agree that women have enough of a majority to control political outcomes?

    Remember, the past doesn’t count. Everyone agrees that the past was a patriarchy. We’re focusing on today.

    Let me know what you think in the comments.

    If you think my blog is terrible, you should see my book.

    If you have been following my Trump Persuasion Series, you will recognize what I did in this tweet and why. 

The Value of Men

    I live in drought country (California) and this place is starting to turn into a prequel for Mad Max. Every other pickup truck on the road has huge water containers strapped to the back. That’s because the local waste water treatment plant gives away recycled water (non-drinkable) to anyone who wants to keep their lawn alive. 

    I have yet to see a woman driving one of these improvised water trucks, although I’m sure it happens because this is not Saudi Arabia. But generally speaking, these bringers-of-water are manly men who know how to fix things and do things. Somehow they all figured out how to convert their vehicles into water trucks, complete with safety straps and portable pumps to get the water to the lawn. Some have gravity solutions. It is all quite impressive. Lots of ingenuity in play.

    I reckon each of these manly men spend half a day each week keeping their lawns on life support. These are resourceful men. Men of action. Men who care about their homes.

    Oh, and they are all married, I assume. No single guy would do that stupid shit. Single guys would just let the lawn die, like 80% of their neighbors that have no trucks.

    So why do married guys put so much effort into keeping a small patch of grass alive? Well, maybe it is because they think the drought is temporary. But that would not be well-informed. We’re in this for years unless you see a guy named Noah building an ark.

    Maybe some of the men enjoy the challenge. I have to admit I felt some jealousy that these men of action were saving precious blades of grass with their ingenuity while I sat idle. My guy-genes want in on this. Trucks, tanks, hoses, pumps, and – best of all – the smug drive across town with my own improvised water truck. That is good stuff, and I totally get it. But I don’t think that thrill is what is compelling these men to action.

    My hypothesis is that the married men with trucks are trying to improve their perceived value in the eyes of their spouses.

    Humans are visual creatures. If I see you do something valuable right in front of me it means more than if I hear about something you did in the past. It works the same at your job. If your boss sees you doing something, it means more than if she hears about it later. Optics rule our perceptions.

    For many homes, the lawn is the biggest visual cue to a husband’s contribution. In all likelihood, the husband did not build the house. In a two-income household, he didn’t even pay for the entire house. But given our sexist culture, he is probably in charge of the lawn. So if the lawn goes south, he has little to show of his value. His spouse, on the other hand, is often doing one visual thing after another, involving grocery bags, kids, dinner, and keeping up the home. The husband is home at night and on weekends to witness a lot of that action, and, according to studies, he is usually doing less than half of the chores. The husband can witness his wife’s value in a clear, visual way. 

    The children themselves are also a visual representation of a woman’s value. The man contributed some sperm long ago, probably in the dark. His contribution was visually empty. But nine months of carrying a human in your belly, followed by birth, nursing, and childcare is as visual as you can get.

    A typical husband’s contribution to the family happens when he is at work. And unlike the old days where the guy might drag home some animal he killed –which would be visually impressive – today he probably has direct deposit. No one even sees a paycheck.

    In 2015, a husband is just an asshole who disappears for half of the day while the wife does all the work. I’m exaggerating, but you see my point that the man’s contribution to a marriage has turned into an abstract concept that is easily taken for granted. If money keeps showing up in the bank account, thanks to direct deposit, human nature says we will start to devalue where it came from.

    But if that same husband spends half a day each week doing his manly water-gathering task, and his lawn is the greenest on the street, and his big manly water truck is parked in the driveway, that’s a guy who contributes in a visual way. I think that is the driver of this behavior.

    My other hypothesis is that I don’t own a truck so I am writing an insulting post about men who do. I can’t rule that out. 


    In Top Tech Blog:

    – Ford is putting cameras on the exterior of its cars. If others follow, it won’t be long before someone builds a storage device so you have a record of everything that happened around you. Being a criminal keeps getting harder.

    Drone technology is coming to toys. Soon we will have many more ways to terrorize a sibling.

    – And some engineers at Stanford figured out a cheap way to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. I wonder what it feels like to invent something that could change the entire world. I drew a comic today.

Science Fails Again (to communicate) on Gender Issues

    As a clarification, I have little interest in the politics of gender discrimination in the workplace. But the psychology of it fascinates me like few things have. 

    I doubt I have seen worse arguments on both sides of an issue. Most people identify as either a man or a woman, so the “my team” problem overwhelms our rational capacity. No one, including me, can come anywhere near objectivity on this issue. So how do you make rational decisions on a topic in which no human has even the slightest potential to be rational?

    I like the challenge. And few people would be reckless enough to go where I plan to go on this. 

    Every time I see an article on the Internet about gender issues in the workplace, I see these two opposing comments:

    1. There are many studies that show gender bias. For example, teachers give better grades on math tests to male students, but the difference vanishes when the tests have no name on them. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, has lots of references to similar study results, or so I hear. And Vivian Giang got some of you riled up with examples here

    2. Another set of folks (all men) invariably point me to studies that suggest there is no pay difference between men and women once you adjust for experience and time on the job. And I hear there are studies saying there is no difference for younger women just entering the workplace.

    How can both views be true?

    So I declare a link war. 

    I appoint myself the judge in this contest. Give me links to studies that support your point of view. I will assess those studies and pick a winner. Or I might declare that the studies are not clear when viewed in total. I will ask any interested parties (including Vivian Giang) to comment on the reliability and usefulness of the studies.

    I have no idea how this will turn out. But I think you need to know my starting bias to assess my judging skills.

    Keep in mind that the POINT of this is my ignorance. And my bias. I put it on full display for you because I think that is helpful on this issue. If you don’t know what others are thinking, you can not hope to communicate effectively. So as a public service, I present my biased, ignorant, male perspective. But I am open to revising my opinion based on data. Would you ask any more of me?

    Here is my starting bias:

    1. Gender discrimination in the workplace is a big problem, according to some types of studies and countless first-hand accounts. With so much smoke, I assume there is fire. 

    2. The problem of gender discrimination is curiously invisible to men, and that includes me. All I see is a confused ball of incomplete thinking on all sides. But that tells us nothing about how big the problem is. Cognitive dissonance is a reasonable hypothesis for why lots of folks fail to see the obvious. I see no reason to exclude myself from the ranks of the deluded. 

    3. My working hypothesis is that studies showing gender bias in controlled tests don’t translate into the workplace as pay differentials – at least in this country – because educated adults are on the alert for gender bias. So we use our reason to compensate for the bias, if for no other reason than to avoid lawsuits. Any time I am involved in hiring, the risk of unintentional bias is always top of mind. And since men have a biological impulse to be successful and powerful to attract quality mates, hiring the right employees (and avoiding lawsuits) is in our best interest. 

    4. Some men are bullies and assholes. And most men are assholes at least some of the time. When men are bullies and assholes to each other, we interpret it as exactly that. But if I observe those same bullies and assholes mistreating a woman, I interpret it as sexism. I assume others see it the same way.

    5. I have also blogged that I think women should have a few superior rights to men because they handle the vital function of reproduction. In general, society grants extra rights to folks who take on extra responsibility. That’s why cops can speed, soldiers can kill, and so on. One example of extra rights in this context is that I think only women should have a vote on abortion laws. 

    Things get thornier when you are talking about a workplace with pregnant women, potentially pregnant women, and moms. Big companies can absorb some extra friction for the larger benefit of society, but small ones do not have that option. If you own a small business, you don’t want to have two of your three employees out on maternity leave at the same time, to pick a worst-case scenario. A rational small business owner will discriminate in that case and hope to get away with it. And a rational victim of discrimination in that case will sue. That part of the story seems clear to everyone. And I have not heard a proposed solution. But if a proposed solution provided superior rights for women without hurting small businesses, I can imagine that working for me.

    6. The other day a good friend who works as a massage therapist was describing a time in her past she was a victim of gender discrimination. The story sounded convincing to me. Then I asked if she knew I would not have considered her as my massage therapist if she were a man. 

    Cricket noises.

    Personally, I have willfully discriminated by gender in my business dealings at least … oh, a hundred times. And every time it was in favor of women, simply because I prefer the energy. I spend way too much time with men because of shared interests. I need balance in my life, so I bend the rules to get it. I have never considered using a male real estate broker, for example. I get the same service from a woman and it is a great break from the dude-centric rest of my life.

    My larger point today is that any discussion of gender in the workplace is like two blind people standing on an elephant and arguing whether the elephant is a sandwich or a bar of soap. Both are 100% wrong. That includes me. 

    Evolution did not give us brains that can comprehend our reality. All we have is the type of brains that did not get our ancestors killed. So our brains create delusions of reality and we try to force reason onto them. That’s why men and women are looking at the same elephant but one sees a bar of soap and the other sees a sandwich. 

    Is it possible to get to a clearer view of this topic? THAT is the interesting part to me. This is in the category of things that cannot be communicated, which is a big interest of mine.

    Part of the problem is that anyone dumb enough to engage in this topic becomes a target for the angry villagers with pitchforks. The only reason I can be this reckless is that I already made all the money I will ever need and I feel as if getting some clarity on this topic would be a public good. And seriously, who else would even try to be objective on this topic in public? This is a suicide mission. 

    And if you think any of this is good for traffic to my site, you would be wrong. There will be a two-day traffic bump followed by 5% of regular readers swearing off this site for good. That is the usual pattern for a hot topic here.

    Ladies and gentlemen, please provide your links and your insights on gender bias and discrimination in the workplace. I will compile them in summary form and give my verdict. 

    Long-winded comments will be ignored unless the first sentence or two are awesome.

    Let’s do this.



    In other news, a start-up called EnChroma figured out how to make glasses that correct color blindness. As a bonus, the glasses also make colors pop for everyone else too. Will spectacles start replacing contacts and laser eye surgery because the color you see with these glasses is so much better? Could happen.

    And what about a finger-attached device for the blind that reads aloud what they point to on a page? This is a good year for people with vision problems. 

Military Almost Done Building Flying Dragons

    Did you hear that the U.S. military is developing flying dragons that shoot laser beams from their eyes? They don’t say that directly, but you can see the parts coming together.

    A drone is about halfway to being a flying dragon already. And recently the military tested a laser weapon that destroyed a truck at a distance. It is only a matter of time before the military miniaturizes laser weapons and puts them on drones.

    I think the first generation of laser drones will look boring, like today. But eventually someone will say, “Let’s make the drones look like flying dragons that shoot laser beams out of their eyes!” Someone else will point out that a flying dragon will not be as aerodynamic as a normal drone. But that is a small price to pay for the coolness of it all. Just think of the bragging rights.

    North Korea: “We have developed long range missiles with nuclear warheads. Death to the Americans!”

    U.S.: “We have ten-thousand flying dragons that feel no pain and shoot lasers from their eyes. They are permanently circling your country looking for anything that leaves the ground. On the plus side, just point to your hibachi and we’ll light it for you from the sky. Oh, and our satellites are seeing an irregular mole on your back. You should see someone about that.”

    In the long run, I expect we will develop a robot army, including drones, to create a virtual fence around ISIS-held territory. The robots would kill anything with a heat signature that came within a mile of the border. And the drones might be able to jam all communications in the area too. I would be amazed if the military is not working toward that containment strategy. The dragon part is a bit less likely.

    But as someone said in the comments, waiting for ISIS to self-destruct is a good option too. As the movement succeeds, it attracts people who have slightly different views until the whole thing becomes like the American Congress that can’t get anything done. Good luck with that, ISIS.


    My post today was boring, but luckily my blogging partners did better.

    Vivian Giang explains why men are better than women when it comes to the workplace. (Expect a twist.) I buy every part of her post, as it is based on studies and the obvious. But in an upcoming post I plan to have a link war to figure out how everything Vivian describes can be true at the same time other studies show no pay differential after you adjust for experience. I believe both assertions even though they are in direct conflict. What is up with that?

    In other news, a company created a frickin’ car with 3D printers. What????

    And a Berkeley-related start-up has an app that could alleviate a lot of poverty. How do you ignore that?

    Scott Adams