Tuesday, March 8, 2016

This ‘Women’s History Month,’ Distinguish Between Just and Unjust Equality

March is “Women’s History Month.” This is the first I’ve heard of that. Anyway, Laurel Brennan, secretary-treasurer of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, penned a guest column for the New Jersey Star-Ledger titled  Women’s History: N.J. women continue to lead charge for equality.

Brennan, however, blurs the distinction between just and unjust equality. And the difference is black and white. Here are some excerpts from the article:

During the month of March, we celebrate Women's History by honoring the heroic deeds of the many women who have made life better for families through acts of selflessness.

We remember such pioneers as Charlotte Forten, a Philadelphia teacher who was among the first to volunteer to educate newly freed slaves in the South; Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, who fearlessly fought for workers' rights during the early 1900s; and Alice Paul, a New Jersey resident who was the strategist in the campaign for women's right to vote.

As is evident from these examples, the struggle for women's equality and economic justice often has been led by trailblazers in the labor movement. As the beneficiaries of their actions, we pay homage to our union and non-union sisters alike.

This year, gender pay equity, ensuring that all workers earn a living wage and organizing workers against vicious right-wing attacks are of particular concern.

Women's History Month fulfills an important role in highlighting how far we've come over the past two centuries.

But it also reminds us that our journey won't be finished until women receive equal pay for equal work, the minimum wage is a living wage and attacks on labor unions are overcome.

Brennan mixes together economic equality with political equality. But the first is unjust. The second is just. That is the black and the white.

I left these comments, edited for clarity:

Equating today’s women’s equality movement with the women’s suffrage movement is like equating an armed thug with his victims’ defenders.

Rights are guarantees to freedom of action that does not impose unchosen burdens on others, not a claim to economic benefits that others must be forced to provide. Women’s suffrage was about removing government-enforced impediments to a woman voting, which poses no threat to men’s right to vote. So-called gender pay equity and minimum or living wage laws, and laws granting unions the power to force themselves on unwilling workers and employers, are impositions of unchosen burdens. The first removes government aggression against individuals; the second imposes aggression. The first protects rights; the second violates rights.

Take so-called “equal pay for equal work.” Such laws violate the rights of employers and employees to negotiate voluntary compensation agreements by forcing employers to pay certain employees more than they mutually agreed upon.

So, isn’t “equal pay for equal work” fair. Taken abstractly, yes. But not if imposed by government force—not even if the government official can somehow objectively determine that the work in question is being performed equally, which he can’t.

Equality of rights before the law—equality of freedom of action—is the only kind of equality consistent with justice and reality. Any other kind of equality is an injustice and, in fact, a myth. There is no such thing as “equal work.” As anybody who has ever worked among other people can see, two people in the same job can be vastly different in terms of productiveness, reliability, and other factors, thus deserving of differing pay levels. But two people theoretically equal in all respects can also be different in terms of personal goals. My daughter, a working mom, knows she could command a higher salary, but she instead negotiated for more time to work from home rather than push for higher pay. The job flexibility is more important to her while her kids are young than a bigger paycheck.

Yet, gender pay equity crusaders discount this natural human diversity. They treat women like homogenous, mindless robots. They do not care about actual human beings. They only care about statistical averages, and the chance to give gold-diggers a shot at a lawsuit shakedown of employers. The “gender pay equity” movement is a boon to incompetents who don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives, and who see the chance of getting something they haven’t earned. The movement is also hurtful to women who voluntarily agreed to accept jobs at a certain pay level for reasons of their own.

The gender pay equity movement is an insult to the women’s suffrage movement. The same goes for minimum or living wage laws, laws that empower coercive unionization, and any other so-called “economic justice” laws that seek to equalize economic outcomes. Such laws begin with aggressive (aka initiatory) force—i.e., the violation of someone’s rights—and are thus immoral. There is no right to any particular level of compensation, and no right to force other human beings to pay you more than they are willing to pay. There is only the right to pursue the best pay agreement through voluntary agreement to mutual advantage with employers. Women’s suffrage fighters sought equal rights for women.  Today’s women’s equality fighters seek special unearned economic privileges for women secured at the point of a legalized gun, with the government as their hired gun. The two movements are moral opposites.


Political equality and economic equality are opposites. The first leads to freedom. The second leads to tyranny. It’s either/or.

Related Reading:

Taking vs. Earning a "Livable Wage"

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