Am I Catallaxy’s lone feminist?

By skepticlawyer

…With apologies to Andrew Norton.

Over at Thoughts on Freedom, there’s a lively debate going on about some comments of Hayek’s, where among other things, John Quiggin noted that:

Hayek opposed what he called ‘dogmatic democracy’. He suggested denying the vote to government employees and recipients of welfare benefits, as a possible first step towards a system in which voting was restricted to male property-owners over forty.

Wolfgang Kasper then got dragged into the act, as he’d allegedly made some similar comments in favour of franchise restriction in a CIS publication. A large and impressive barney then ensued, with Sinclair Davidson dragging out the original context for the quotation, although few people made note of Hayek’s sexism. Nick Gruen then wandered into the conversation, commenting that

I confess I’m shocked by that. What on earth is going on? I’ve read most of the 28 comments and no-one I’ve seen has even commented on it.

I then decided to have a little stir, and made this comment:

Okay, as Catallaxy’s lone feminist, I’ll bite.

Switzerland didn’t give women the franchise until 1971 – the year before I was born, so I always remember it.

It’s long been my view that the most significant difference between western civilization now and western civilization, say, 500 years ago, was the status of women. Not technology. Not free markets. Not modern warfare. Europe 500 years ago made Iran’s current treatment of women look exemplary. The idea isn’t new – even the totalitarian Plato recognised that Athens was ‘half a state’, and that one of the reasons Sparta handed their arses to them was the better exploitation of their available human resources. It’s also why fundamentalist Islam is doomed.

That said, the remarkable speed with which thinkers like Friedman and Mill, say, managed to catch on to the idea of gender equality is notable. Hayek, for all his great gifts, was operating out of a European tradition where women’s rights lagged behind those in the US and the UK, and for that reason I forgive him this lapse.

Similarly, too, Hayek was a keen social observer, and I’ve long maintained that just as men stand to learn much from women – the traditionally ‘feminine’ characteristics of cooperation and empathy – women have just as much to learn from men – the traditionally ‘masculine’ traits of individuality and courage.

I’ve long been of the view that when women ‘pile on’, it’s just as nasty, and it’s made worse because the rules are less clear. One of the reasons for my libertarianism is my tendency to be individualistic to the point of eccentricity. I’ve learned that this requires courage, sometimes even recklessness.

This is not something traditionally rewarded in women.

The comment was made on the fly, so I’ve got no idea whether any of it holds, or whether Hayek was an acute enough social observer to notice the female tendency to reward conformity, or the male tendency to reward recklessness, or if the former worried him. A few people have commented that there are many fewer female than male libertarians – at least in the US – and I’ve copped a few jibes from the LP crowd about being Catallaxy’s only female staffwriter.

I’m interested, then, in a Libertarian/classical liberal approach to feminism. I need my individuality and eccentricity almost as much as I need air, but that’s me. Why are there (relatively) fewer female libertarians? What would libertarian feminism look like?

UPDATE John Humphreys points me to this ‘libertarian feminist’ website. I’ve linked to their FAQ, which is excellent.


  1. Jason Soon
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t actually remember the ‘male’ bit from reading Hayek and didn’t notice it till it was pointed out. I’m hoping someone else will check it. This was one of John’s sillier pieces so I haven’t bothered though it’s possible that the quote is correct.

  2. Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    classical liberal approach to feminism

    Greer, for that matter?
    All pretty liberal.

  3. John Humphreys
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Nick was wrong when he said that no libertarians had commented on the ‘male-only’ issue. In the comments thread I had said:

    I don’t like the “male property owners over 40″ line. Sex should not be an issue

  4. c8to
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    training all girls and women to use firearms is the first step.

    id love to see every woman in australia armed and concealed carry.

    rape and other violent crimes against women would be very rare indeed.

  5. Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    I must admit I’ve tended to have a peace through superior firepower approach myself, although I recognize I’ve got certain advantages (183cm, 80kg, black belt, shooter). Lots of women don’t, though, and I’m wondering if that leads to some of the other issues I’ve flagged.

    ‘Pile on’ is (I think) another phrase I discovered through GMB, and it describes what a lot of women do to other women when a chick sticks her head above the parapet.

  6. JC.
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    people who haven’t paid taxs should not be allowed to vote… Period.

    It’s the same thing as allowing a bankrupt to vote at his own creditors meeting.

  7. Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just changed the headline because once again this piece isn’t showing up in ‘recent comments’.

    Gender exclusion I say!

  8. Jason Soon
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Count on Nick to take a holier than thou attitude. I suspect most people didn’t actually notice the ‘male’ bit. I’d skim read the entry and only noticed and addressed the ‘property owners’ bit because that was the main thing it had in common with the Kasper quote. I think because I had started the debate on the ‘property franchise’ issue most other people just read that from thereon and argued that point.

  9. Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    That’s fair enough, Jason. I don’t have my antennae tuned to every possible denial of women’s rights. Only the really egregious stuff (like Hilaly) sticks out like dogs’ nuts.

    Even so, I think a libertarian approach could yield some useful insights – I presume you’re aware there are strands of feminism known as ‘socialist feminism’ and ‘radical feminism’ among many others. If they can have theirs, we can have ours I say!

  10. John Humphreys
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard J.S. Mill referred to previously as the first male feminist. Wendy McElroy is a US libertarian feminist who runs

  11. JC.
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    “Why are there (relatively) fewer female libertarians? What would libertarian feminism look like?”

    There are fewer female libertarians because women generally prefer to vote for redistributionist parties until they are married and have a mortgage. It’s only then some seem to find ” religion’.

    This is really the unspoken issue in the western electorates since women were given the vote. Crank up a gimme a free lunch policy and women will run over themselves for the party offering the freebie. So these days parties that would be more free market orientated are forced to cater to this undeserving bunch with handouts galore. In other words women have perverted the political system since they were given the vote. The same argument people use about Iraqis not being ready for democracy could also apply to women. I think it’s a genetic predisposition women have about having males take care of their needs. This is ironic because women are equally likely to be starting businesses etc. as males these days.

    “What would libertarian feminism look like?”
    These days feminism is mostly an offshoot of leftist affiliations so there would be no such thing.

    You see this in the US voting patterns.

    65% of white males who can look after themslves vote GOP. Single women overwhelmingly vote Dem. Marry them off and they start voting GOP.

    The only reason Bush was able to hold on at the last election was because he appeared more ” in tune” with female voters concern with terror attacks, otheriwse they would have simply gone back to their bad old ways.

    Hope like hell wifey doesn’t see this.

  12. Posted November 20, 2006 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I think John is right about JS Mill. He worked bloody hard for female suffrage, and his arguments (in the best liberal tradition) were hard to beat.

    I don’t like the fact that most ‘feminisms’ are leftist offshoots, JC, which is why I wrote the post. I don’t think they should have to be, and that this is yet another area where we on this side of the house have allowed ‘the other side’ to colonize the intellectual field.

    Start thinking people!

  13. Sinclair Davidson
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I think we need to place Hayek in his time and place. It’s not clear that he was being sexist (even if he was). Please all read footnote 4 in chapter 7 – it is an observation about voting in Switzerland.

    There are more male (59%) to female (41%) libertarians in the US. See table 10 of this Cato document.

    I’m not sure what a ‘libertarian feminism’ would entail, or if such a thing were possible. To the extent that ‘all (wo)men are born equal’ and it’s up to them from there, I don’t know if gender is important (apart from fertility differences).

  14. Posted November 20, 2006 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Wollstonecraft is also very similar to Paine in style and thinking (they were friends), and I think her writing is good value for libertarians.

  15. JC.
    Posted November 20, 2006 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Start thinking about what?

    If we have gender equality now, what is there to think about? What can feminism offer we don’t have now. There is not a school girl in the country who thinks she is of lower worth than her bro… in all respects.

  16. Sinclair Davidson
    Posted November 21, 2006 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    From SL’s feminist libertarian site

    Individualist feminism, or ifeminism, advocates the equal treatment of men and women as individuals under just law. The core principle of individualist feminism is that all human beings have a moral and legal claim to their own persons and property. It is sometimes called libertarian feminism.

    I thought this was mainstream libertarian thought already. This site is applying existing principles in order to make libertarianism attractive to women.

  17. Posted November 21, 2006 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Using their logic, you could come up with some very sophisticated pro-abortion arguments. The other varieties of feminism (derived from socialist ideas) are, I think, the same in the other direction – designed to attract slightly more than half of the population to their ‘side’.

    All sides can play that game, I think.

  18. Rococo Liberal
    Posted November 21, 2006 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    “Using their logic, you could come up with some very sophisticated pro-abortion arguments.”

    Yes, but why would you want to do so?

    I any case isn’t that putting the cart before the horse?

    I know that as lawyers we have to construct arguments so as to justify the conclusions sought by our clients. However, as philosophers, historians and cultural commentators we should use the reverse mental process if we are to be taken seriously. We should act like Judges, not like advocates. What your words imply is that you are viscerally pro-abortion, but don’t really have any real reason for your prejudice. Therefore, you will go and find evidence to back your prejudice.

  19. Posted November 21, 2006 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Beats me what’s “holier than thou” about my comment. I was nearly as amazed to find the word ‘male’ in there as I would have been to have found the word ‘white’, and I remain amazed.

    John H, you’re quite right you did write that and I did read it at the time. As is often the case comments are written in haste. I guess the line about ‘male’ just completely floored me. It amazed me that it had not become a more central focus of the discussion.

  20. Jason Soon
    Posted November 21, 2006 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    As I explained very clearly above, Nick, the ‘holier than thou’ related to the assumption on your part that people had consciously ignored the Hayek reference to the ‘male’ bit rather than the obvious assumption that most people just picked up where the thread had gone (i.e. what the Hayek and Kasper quotes had in common) and didn’t read the Hayek quote carefully.

    And you’re at it again. Your sanctimony clearly does not bottom out.

    Very strong streak of moral vanity in you Nick. Perhaps you would have been comfortable in the Red Guards making and extracting public confessions of sin?

  21. Posted November 21, 2006 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    As far as I’m concerned, a feminist can look however she likes. Yeah for Helen!!!

    It’s clear to me – as Guy Rundle’s item in Crikey today indicates – that female bloggers get short shrift, so you go girl.

    What’s all this stuff on Crikey about Catallaxy, by the way.

    By the way, he declares most bloggers to be irrelevant. Bully for him. My favourite Australian blog is Cablog by Adrian the Cabbie. He didn’t make it onto Rundle’s list. While Adrian is not strictly political, his take on politics is often more interesting than other bloggers because it’s melded with anecdotes from driving. What Rundle’s list indicates is that old notions of what constitutes the political still prevail.

  22. Jason Soon
    Posted November 21, 2006 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Guy Rundle is an irrelevant old hard-left dreamer. He has as much influence on intellectual currents as a beer fart has on global warming.

    And I don’t subscribe to the gutter press so I haven’t read this Rundle piece.

  23. Jason Soon
    Posted November 21, 2006 at 11:48 pm | Permalink


  24. Posted November 22, 2006 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Yes, there seems to be a problem with something or rather, Jason.

    I don’t subscribe to Crikey either.

    I should say that Catallaxy – though it’s often over my head – is my third favourite blog, after LP. Catallaxy has gotten much better since you’ve had Helen (got Helen, done whatever with Helen).

  25. yobbo
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Guy Who?

  26. Jason Soon
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    Rundle has been going on about the irrelevance of blogs forever

  27. Posted November 22, 2006 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Few problems with the new server, Jason?

    Doesn’t matter.

    I think there has been a lot of talk on blogs about the relationship between the MSM and blogs. A lot of bloggers have gone on about the separation/superiority of blogs. Now we find blogs popping up on the Herald Sun’s site etc and that view hardly seems to count anymore. Rundle’s free to criticise blogs if he likes, but I’m also free to say in response that his analysis is limited, as is the way he’s prepared to read blogs (and the blogs he’s prepared to read). Frankly, the blogs I read the most are by friends (Bek’s blog –, Rachy’s blog ( Other blogs, like Yobbo’s, I read for fun and to get midly annoyed at his stereotyping of certain women. Some blogs give me the tom-tits, so I read them rarely or not at all, at least one of which is on Rundle’s list.

  28. GMB
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    “I recognize I’ve got certain advantages (183cm, 80kg, black belt, shooter). ”

    And a lawyer. Don’t forget that.

    Just imagine a series of pre-nuptial agreement negotiations. With dudes of all backgrounds shapes and sizes.

    Could make for its own reality-series right there.

    It would be like watching the Americans shaking down the Pakistani Dictator in the first week after 9/11 when those post-moderns could still maintain the rage.

    It would be like watching Tom Hagen show up for a friendly chat when all the cards were in the Corleone families hands.

  29. Posted November 22, 2006 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    We’ve been Crikied again, Darlene. Other blogs got a mention, but Catallaxy and Road to Surfdom got an extra special Guy Rundle ‘I hate blogs’ pasting. We also got Courier-Mailed (although I haven’t seen this yet). Two on the same day when we’ve just migrated to our new server ain’t fun.

  30. Jason Soon
    Posted November 21, 2006 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    well as I was telling SL on email now that I’ve actually read the Rundle piece, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The first half was actually pretty flattering.

    So now I feel a tad guilty about my ‘beer fart’ crack about Rundle.

  31. Posted November 22, 2006 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    JC says “I think it’s a genetic predisposition women have about having males take care of their needs”.

    Just out of interest, JC, who washes your socks?

  32. GMB
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 4:06 pm | Permalink


    Have they said nasty things about this blog?

    You couldn’t link them could you?

    Rundle hey?

    Might have to have a chat to him.

  33. Jason Soon
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Do you know Rundle, Graeme?

    Actually I’ve now read Rundle’s piece and it wasn’t that bad. The first bit was actually pretty flattering. So I’m feeling a bit bad about comparing his influence to a beer fart in my comment above.

  34. GMB
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Where’s the link fella?

    The name seems real familiar.

    I cannot place his attitudes more generally.

  35. Posted November 22, 2006 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Well, if it sends up our revenue, all the better (memo to Guy, if you’re reading this: I actually like markets).

  36. Posted November 22, 2006 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Jason, forward the Crikey piece to Graeme if you’ve still got it. I’m at work and don’t have Graeme’s address with me.

  37. Jason Soon
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I don;t have a link, it’s subscriber only and skeptic sent me the full piece,

  38. Jason Soon
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just sent it to GMB by email.

  39. Posted November 22, 2006 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Jason. It’s item 20. To be fair he was mainly having a go at me and Tim Dunlop (Surfdom).

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