[political] scarcity vs abundance economics and the pill

Thou Shalt Not Have Fun.

And if you do, Thou Shalt Suffer the Consequences.

Apparently that’s written in the Bible somewhere, because a crapload of people are saying the Pill is immoral, and both allows and encourages immoral behavior. well…

Let’s back this up a step, without the whining and yelling (for now).

Back in 1965, the US Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v Connecticut that people’s sex lives were nobody else’s business. A law that prohibited the use of “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception” was rendered unconstitutional.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI released an encyclical that said anything that interfered with the commandment “be fruitful and multiply” was evil. (Yes, I’m simplifying).

All of this was driven by the release of The Pill. Use of the pill meant sex for fun didn’t have to rest on the guy remembering to use a condom or the woman having her IUD in place or having the fortitude to say “no” in the heat of passion — or the strength to resist HIS passion.

Now instead of morality, let’s slip over to practicality.

The consequence of sex before the pill was a lot of children. Too many children, or children to parents who couldn’t even support themselves, meant poverty and starvation and misery. Married couples were more likely to be able to provide for them, especially when women weren’t allowed to work.

And from a bidnessman point of view non-working women made sense. If one of your workers can’t be there for six to eight months because of pregnancy and has to split attention between work and caring for the child for the first half a year, well, of COURSE women can’t work. They’re busy with a full-time job, and it’s the responsibility of the men to make enough to feed not only the men but the woman and children.

Heck, even from the non-misogynistic point of view that’s a fair bargain. The stuff about not owning property and such is extra, a power-play spinoff that relied on the fact women who were pregnant or taking care of new-borns were busy and distracted. But I digress.

When viewed in this light, sex out of wedlock’s immorality makes a practical sense. It led to children who were very likely to starve; a burden on our consciences and (since we provided aid) our wealth.

Then came the pill. The chance of getting pregnant on the pill is, well, extremely small. Suddenly the consequences of sex out of wedlock, sex for fun, went away.

“Free” sex went from being scarce to being abundant. It was, by every definition, a paradigm change.

When I was in grad school getting my MLS, “paradigm change” was considered the most overused phrase. It got the free square for buzzword bingo because of how often we heard it. Looking back, I think it’s because we realized (consciously or not) that the majority of things being called such, weren’t.

I’ve come to believe that the biggest way to tell if it’s truly a paradigm change is to look at the resistance. The stronger, the heavier the resistance attempting to stuff the djini back into the bottle, the more likely it’s a paradigm change.

And for the past few decades, almost all the real paradigm changers have been those that shifted a market from scarcity to abundance. Heck, I’ll go further and say that’s been an extremely common element for a lot longer.

I am a cornucopiast. I’m an optimistic liberal. I believe we can make things better. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so many who were doing well on the old way of things will lose – some short term, some long. It will also be uncomfortable for everyone as instincts and habits that were good become bad. It is inevitable that those who dislike the discomfort and who lose when the change happens will resist. Those facing loss of power will spend their resources resisting, and because they’re in power they will be effective.

It is no surprise to me that we see things like Arizona’s slut-shaming bill. It saddens me, and I’ll fight against it and its equivalents to the best of my ability. (Despite the fact that will literally have no impact on me – I’m white, male, and the hump of middle age is a distant memory.) Because I’ve read history and know of the inevitable changes I know the fight, the resistance, is inevitable.

But it’s wrong, and it is ultimately futile, and so I fight.

For tomorrow, and for freedom.


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