Bryan Caplan  

Make That Maternalism

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A fun time was had by most at the Balan-Hanson debate on paternalism. In the post-debate discussion, someone raised the question of whether men or women are more "paternalistic." Given my earlier work (not to mention casual comparison of lenient fathers versus meddling mothers) I naturally guessed that the right answer was women.

The GSS confirms my suspicion. Men are unsurprisingly more opposed to laws against pornography. But they are also markedly more favorable towards legalizing marijuana, and even to condone suicide if a person "Is tired of living and ready to die."

People generally giggle when you mention the men's rights movement. But once again, it looks like they've got a point. Fathers take the semantic blame for paternalism, but mothers seem to be its more enthusiastic proponents.

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Brandon Berg writes:

The really surprising one is that men are slightly more likely than women to want abortion to be legal for any reason (the ABANY variable in the GSS).

T.G.G.P writes:

Brandon, I did not find that surprising at all. Assuming the abortion issue is a men vs women thing is as off as assuming the political parties of today either do currently or could feasibly rely on class-interest for their support. Very few people have an accurate view of the nature of political disputes, most especially those who are involved in them. As Eliezer says, politics is the mind-killer.

Dan Klein writes:

Excellent post. As for terminology, I think parentalism makes most sense.

Robin Hanson writes:

FYI, I was the one who raised the question; I said that among the parents I know personally, the mother was more controlling and the father more lenient about choices like whether to let kids stay up late.

Matt writes:

Prohibition followed on the heels of women's suffrage. John Adams to his wife Abigail:

"Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems. Although they are in full force, you know they are little more than theory. We dare not exert our power in its full latitude. We are obliged to go fair and softly, and, in practice, you know we are the subjects.

"We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight."

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