An Interview With Robin Hanson, the Sex Redistribution Professor
I listed a number of concrete examples. But I didn’t think of those as obviously the best, just the things that we know about, or come to my mind. There was legalizing prostitution. There is giving people money who have less sex, so they could use it for various things. There is perhaps some training they could undergo. There is promotion of monogamy and discouragement of promiscuity, because those apparently seem to have influenced the distribution of sex. And I gave the example of promoting monogamy to show that societies have had policies in this space for a long time that have been effective. So it’s not like it’s impossible to have any policies here, or that nobody’s interested.
As I mentioned many times over the years, many people say explicitly sex is a big thing to them. Many people say explicitly that not having sex is a big thing. And that sounds plausible to me of course because I’ve sometimes had less than at other times. And that was a big thing for me. And of course, sex is a huge part of literature and common conversation. So it’s obviously a big thing to people. One question is how big, perhaps. But note, for the structure of my argument, I don’t need to claim that sex is as important or more important than income. I just need to say that it’s in the ballpark, comparable. That it’s the sort of thing you might consider. So you don’t actually have to choose between dealing with income inequality and sex inequality. You could be trying to deal with both, even if one is smaller than the other. To me the interesting point is that many people are all over and into income redistribution. And those people seem hostile to the idea of sex redistribution. And on the other side, the people interested in sex redistribution don’t seem to be very interested in income redistribution. And that’s an interesting phenomenon and puzzle.
– So are you trying to highlight the hypocrisy of people who support income redistribution but are not open to an idea like sex redistribution? Or are you just genuinely confused about why people who favor one don’t favor the other?
I am not sure why we treat these things differently. I suspect we may not have a good reason for treating them differently, but I don’t know that. One of the reasons we treat them differently may well be hypocrisy. That’s certainly one of the theories on the table. But it’s also true on the other side that the people who are interested in sex inequality but not interested in income inequality would also be hypocrites under that theory. But that’s one of the theories on the table. It’s not a strong conclusion.
A problem with our usual political world is that we expect people to be taking stances and that the main reason that they’re in that sort of world is to push some sort of view. So the stance of an analyst standing back and saying gee, I wonder why you do these things, I expect feels a little odd to people who hear the usual policy advocacy in this space.
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