Shutdowns and Unions vs. Women and Children

Monday, July 27, 2020

Back in the pre-scientific days of medicine, diagnosis and cure were largely the province of quacks. Even so, it was still possible to know when a patient was sick and what that might mean if his condition did not improve.

That's how I think of a Politico interview of economist Betsey Stevenson I encountered this morning: I disagree with much of its diagnosis and practically all of its suggested cure, but I think it does well to raise the problems our government is causing or worsening by its poor response to the pandemic.

For those who might not know already, I agree with Ben Bayer and Onkar Ghate, both of the Ayn Rand Institute, that we could have and should have "maintain[ed] a free society while effectively addressing" this epidemic. I also regard the school closures as unnecessary in the first place and am appalled that reopening the schools is even a question at this point.

So, while I agree that the pandemic would have been a problem no matter what, I regard what Stevenson (rightly) calls the "child care crisis" as largely caused and perpetuated by government policy. First, our government should have never imposed the policy of indefinite universal home incarceration that has put so many small businesses (including daycares) at mortal risk. Second, as soon as it became evident that young children neither suffer badly from nor spread this illness, the schools should have reopened. (There has been ample time to plan for this. Instead teachers' unions are fighting this tooth and nail.)

Within that context, I offer a couple of choice quotes from Stevenson's observations:

Image by BBC Creative, via Unsplash, license.
[H]ow terrible would it be ... if we lost all our child care and our schools? ... That would leave not only the current working generation unable to go back to work in the same way, it would mean that we are not preparing the next generation so that they have skills.


... [C]aregiving responsibilities erode a woman's career, it takes a long time. It's about not accepting the job that's going to push you further in your career, because it's going to conflict with your family. It's about taking part-time work so that you get more time at home. It's about choosing the job that has the most flexibility. It's about choosing the job with the shortest commute. Those are the trade-offs. And those trade-offs end up giving them less opportunity, fewer opportunities for promotions or raises. That's why you see much bigger gender gaps for women by age 50 than you saw at age 30. These things just happen slowly over time. Even though the pandemic has come as a big crisis and we saw the labor market crater, I think the impact of the child care crisis on women's outcomes is going to be felt over the next decade.
The good news, such as it is, is that we are finally seeing a discussion of some of the long-term problems our government's un-American and ineffective pandemic response is causing.

The bad news -- and it looks worse every time I go back to that interview -- is that so many people see everything in purely collectivistic terms, including the impacts and, worse, how to mitigate them. The latter includes fighting these effects of central planning with ... even more central planning.

It isn't just that "the economy" is being dragged down, though it is; or that children are losing out on their educations, though they are; or that parents are losing out on opportunities; though they are. We are speaking of countless individuals suffering far more than necessary, and for a much longer time in many cases, because our government has, from the get-go, failed to do what it ought regarding this new disease, and actively made the problems it can cause much worse.

Admitting a problem may be half of the battle, but what a half still remains!

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "It isn't just that ... children are losing out on their educations, though they are..." Though you must admit it's a mixed disaster, since so many are so badly miseducated by the Federal Indoctrination Service, Juvenile Subject Branch. Given such fetid brews as the 1619 Project, all ready to implement in many schools once the kiddies are back, I'm not entirely sad to see the schools closed.

Gus Van Horn said...

True, and here's an old, but on-point satirical take: