--- ECONOMIST: CONTRACEPTIVE CULTURE SHIFTS
ECONOMIC POWER AWAY FROM WOMEN
By Kathleen Gilbert
April 14, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The contraception
revolution has, contrary to its image, shifted wealth and
power away from women and is in effect "deeply sexist,"
according to one economist's analysis.
In the essay, entitled "Bitter Pill" and appearing in the
latest edition of First Things magazine, economist Timothy
Reichert argues that the case against contraception can be
effectively articulated "using the language of social
science, which is the language of the mainstream." Rather
than framing the debate as "a case of faith and reason
talking past each other," those who oppose contraception can
frame the debate in terms of the objective societal damage
According to Reichert, a major source of the problem is that
contraception separates the traditional mating "market" into
two separate markets: a market for marriage, and a market
for free sex, created thanks to the significant cost
reduction of sex uncoupled from pregnancy. But, he says,
while this situation is not intrinsically bad from an
economic standpoint, if there are “imbalances” in the two
markets then “the 'price' of either marriage or sex tilts in
favor of one or the other gender."
Whereas in the past, he says, "the marriage market was, by
definition, populated by roughly the same number of men as
women, there is no guarantee that once it has been separated
into two markets, men and women will sort themselves into
the sex and marriage markets in such a way that roughly
equal numbers of each gender will inhabit each market."
As it turns out, Reichert maintains, women end up entering
the marriage market in greater numbers than men, due to
their natural interest in raising children in a stable
household. Meanwhile, the economist notes that men, who can
reproduce much later in life than women and are required by
nature to invest much less in the childbearing process, face
far fewer incentives to move from one market to the next.
"The result is easy to see," writes Reichert. While women
have higher bargaining power in the sex market as the
"scarce commodity," he writes, "the picture is very
different once these same women make the switch to the
marriage market": "The relative scarcity of marriageable men
means that the competition among women for marriageable men
is far fiercer than that faced by prior generations of
"Over time, this means that the 'deals they cut' become
worse for them and better for men."
Marriage as an institution, he writes, subsequently loses
its contractual character to foster women and their
children, becoming instead something that is "more frail and
resembles a spot market exchange." The result is that "men
take more and more of the 'gains from trade' that marriage
creates, and women take fewer and fewer."
Reichert enumerates some of the damaging fallout of this
redistribution, including higher divorce rates, a housing
market driven up by two-earner households, easier
infidelity, and an increased demand for abortion.
Regarding the abortion increase, Reichert says that women
who have invested in a future career will predictably
"demand abortions" if contraception happens to fail.
cost today of an unwanted pregnancy is not a shotgun
wedding," he writes. "Rather, the cost is the loss of
tremendous investments in human capital geared toward
labor-market participation during the early phases of one’s
life. This increases the demand for abortions (which prevent
the loss of that human capital)."
The impact on children, he contends, inevitably mirrors the
impact on their mothers: "Given that women’s welfare largely
determines the welfare of children, this redistribution has
in part been 'funded' by a loss of welfare from children,"
writes the economist. "In other words, the worse off are
women, the worse off are the children they support. On net,
women and children are the big losers in the contraceptive
Reichert concludes that contraception's redistribution of
welfare is "profound—and alarming."
"Societies are structured around many objectives, but one of
their chief reasons to be is the protection of the weak," he
writes. "This means the old, the young, and childbearing and
childrearing women. Contraception undermines this
fundamental imperative, and, in so doing, undermines the
legitimacy of the social contract.
"When the social fabric of a society is geared to move
welfare from the weak to the strong, rather than the other
way around, it cannot survive in the long run."
The essay will be available online later this week. (http://www.firstthings.com/feature-archive)
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