Orlando's picture

    Hey Ross Douthat: What’s Your Point?

    I love it when men pontificate about what is wrong with women. Really (not really). I mean it (I don’t mean it).

    Love. It.

    That’s why I was so pleased to see Ross Douthat’s New York Times column today in which he discusses a new paper that a couple of economists have written, detailing how American women are less happy today than their 1960s counterparts (and also less happy than men).

    Douthat walks a very thin line, trying very hard not to come off as sexist while basically coming off as sexist. As far as I can tell, his main point is that society should make it easier to balance raising children with work, which is hard to argue against. But he suggests we start by socially stigmatizing fathers who don’t participate in their kids’ lives. While I agree that fathers should be full and active participants, emotionally and financially, I would suggest that social stigma is hardly the way to achieve happier women.

    • Here are some alternative ideas:
    • universal health care;
    • affordable child care;
    • quality education for all kids;
    • college tuition that doesn’t bury graduates in debt until they are well into middle age; and
    • a living wage.

    In the 1960s, regardless of your position on mothers in the workplace, it was possible to maintain a middle class family on one blue-collar income. Today, it is pretty much impossible.

    If I had to venture a guess at why women report themselves unhappy, in addition to all of the factors that Douthat puts forth, I would add a general sense of economic insecurity. Even before our economy entered its current state, we had the first generation in the history of our country that isn’t going to do better financially than their parents did. That’s got to be a big piece of the puzzle.



    What Orlando said. Universal health care rightly being No. 1.

    I love it when people pontificate about happiness. Really (not really).

    No one understands how happiness works or even what it is really. I'm curious how those economists measured it. But even if you could truly measure happiness, it's essentially impossible to determine how external factors affect it a macro level.

    And I'm not sure that it really matters. Policy should not be designed to increase emotional happiness. For instance, it's arguable whether middle class wealth makes people happier, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't enact policies to eradicate poverty. Policies should be designed to maximize liberty, opportunity, security, education, and satisfaction of basic needs. How people maximize their own emotional happiness within that context is between them and their therapists.

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