Mailvox: chopping the apple

Discordia writes: Have you ever heard of the phrase “post hoc ergo propter hoc”? It’s a fallacy that states that because A happens after B, then it stands to reason that B caused A. I haven’t yet seen any actual concrete evidence that women’s sufferage actually caused any of the things you claim it did. Do you have any, and if so, can I see it? That’s not all. You seem to be arguing that women’s sufferage has caused “divorce, illegitimacy, homosexuality and falling real wages”. How is this possible? You yourself point out that we don’t have a pure democracy, but a representative one. No one could selectively vote to relax divorce laws, or vote on a specific series of economic plans to cause a drop in wages.

Furthermore, I don’t even know how one would go about voting for illegitimacy or homosexuality. You have fallen prey to another fallacy – confirmation bias. In order to prove that sufferage is bad for America, you selected four things that have (at least in your opinion) worsened since. Again, can you actually prove that any of these things are connected to women’s voting rights?

Unlike the Human Pinata, Eris is taking a correct line of argument against my anti-suffragism. Can I prove the connection between the various social ills and women voting with mathematical certainty? No, because the social “sciences” do not permit such precision. But I believe I can make the case to a reasonable individual’s satisfaction.

First, a non-causal relationship is non-predictive. If one knows that it is raining in China, this does not help one predict the movement of gasoline prices in Wisconsin. Furthermore, as readers of science fiction know, long-term predictions are extraordinarily difficult. To accurately predict events 80 years in the future is hard enough, to do so based on wholly unrelated factors is massively improbable. One need only peruse predictions made in 1980 about what the world would look like in 2000 to see how difficult future projection is. As the Original Cyberpunk likes to say: “where’s my flying car?”

Despite this daunting improbability, the opponents of women’s suffrage were able, prior to 1920, to correctly predict the increase in divorce, illegitimacy and even homosexuality that we have seen realized 80 years later. As late as the mid-1980s, newspapers like the Star Tribune were mocking these old anti-suffragist predictions as being Neanderthalian lunacy disproved by subsequent events. (This was around the time of the introduction of the Susan B. Anthony dollar and I remember thinking what a bizarre concept it was, given the obvious increases in divorce and illegitimacy – although clearly we hadn’t seen anything yet.) Now, these accurate predictions do not prove the causal relationship, but they either indicate that a) the anti-suffragists were wildly and improbably lucky, or b) there is in fact a relationship of some sort, possibly causal.

Second, Eris appears to suggest that there is no link between voting and social changes This is shallow and silly, so I suspect mild disingenuousness here. No, one seldom votes for no-fault divorce, but one votes for the judges and state politicians who create the institution. The easiest way to demonstrate the probability of a historically causal link is to note who is defending such ills and attempting to perpetuate them. Unilateral divorce is initiated about 80 percent of the time by women and women are 40 percent more likely to live in poverty (and presumably receive welfare – no stats on that). Welfare reform, anti-abortion laws and divorce reform are all bitterly opposed by women’s groups and the political party that is primarily dependent on women; it would seem most strange to argue that these groups now defending existing laws did not support enacting them in the first place, and even stranger to suggest those now opposing such laws were originally in favor of them.

However, relevant law is not the only influence. The huge 250 percent jump in American divorce began in 1960, while the first no-fault law was not passed until 1969, halfway through that 20-year period. (The law was signed by Ronald Reagan, ironically enough). The salient factor was the massive entry of women into the workplace that began in 1950 – AFTER the war, before anyone starts up with that misguided line – and the direct connection between women voting and women working was made by both suffragists and anti-suffragists prior to 1920. I’ve already written on falling real wages, you can read that here if you like.

As I said before, none of this completely proves my point beyond any shadow of a doubt, but should suffice to demonstrate this is not a simple matter of post hoc propter hoc here. Still, the social changes brought about by the 50-year Congressional rule of the Democratic Party could never have happened without the women’s vote, for as the Party Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party said: ““When women vote, Democrats win.” And the Center for American Women and Politics states that there is an average nine-point partisan gap in Congressional races, ranging to twelve percent in the previous Presidential election.

Left-liberals cannot have it both ways. Either it makes no difference who wins office – in which case the venom directed at socially conservative Republicans makes no sense – or the boost that women’s voting has given the socially progressive Democrats has made a significant impact on society over the last 84 years. “Progress” does not just happen on its own, the accident theory of history notwithstanding.

Finally, a comparison with Switzerland, where women received the right to vote 51 years later than in the USA, is telling. Only 30 percent of women now work outside the home, (59.8% in America), the divorce rate is less than half the American rate, (although it has risen five-fold since 1950), and abortion was only legalized in 2001. This comparison thus tends to support my contention that women’s suffrage is indeed a causal factor with relation to three of the four various social ills I mentioned. I’ll get to the fourth in my forthcoming response to Bartholomew.