Feminism versus the Gedanken Policy Test

Few proposals of social reform fail the Gedanken Policy Test as completely and ignominiously as feminism. Clearly, then, any sane society would repudiate feminism.

Not because it hates women, but because it wants to survive; indeed, because it wants more women (the supply of women is the rate limiting factor of social survival: few women few children few women … so, women are precious; men on the other hand are cheap, ergo relatively expendable (in war, the hunt, dangerous work, and so forth)).

To recapitulate the Test:

Here’s the experimental set up. Take two experimental subjects. They are two nations, or two peoples, that are exactly similar in every way – same population, same genetic inheritance, same natural resources, same climate, same customs and traditions, same system of political economy, same religion, same technical and industrial capacities, same wealth, same everything. Assume no natural disasters or benisons that afflict or benefit either group differently. Both are faced with exactly the same set of environmental factors.

Having taken this step, you have controlled for all the factors of social success and failure, other than the policy you are interested to test. So, now, you are ready to test your proposed policy. Apply it to one group, but not to the other. Which is more likely to prosper: the group that adopts the proposed policy, or the group that does not?

Notice that we are not asking which group will be nicer or more fair or more just. Justice, fairness and niceness are optional only for societies that have managed to prevail and survive in the competition with their neighbours. We are only asking which group will be wealthier, more powerful, larger and more capable; and which group will have greater morale, commitment, ingenuity, all the moral, emotional and intellectual factors of demographic success. So, it’s purely a question of natural selection; like asking which is likely to do better, as between a pig and a pig with opposable thumbs.

The nifty thing about the Gedanken Policy Test is that it excises from our consideration all questions about how society should be ordered according to some scheme or other, or according to what we think society ought to be. Ideology ain’t in it; nor are any of our preferences or biases. So, the Test can be conducted without rancor, and with no grinding of axes. About its findings, there is no reason to feel either upset or angry, on the one hand, or triumphantly vindicated, on the other: they are what they are.

OK then: how does latter day feminism fare under the Test?

O, my gosh, it fails hard.

To wit: of two otherwise identical groups, which is more likely to prosper, flourish and eventually prevail: the one that adopts feminist policies and thereby reduces total fertility, or the one that does not? As usual, the question posed by the Test answers itself. And this is due, not to any tendentious shaping of the question. There is no controversy about whether deferring marriage and childbearing until after a woman has established herself in a career or business will reduce fertility. Obviously it will. Ditto for expecting women to work outside the home, for labor is a zero sum quantity: an hour spent in the office is an hour taken away from the nurture of children, and an increase in their cost; res ipsa loquitur. The same goes for all the other policies encouraged by 2nd and 3rd wave feminism: contraception, abortion, no fault divorce, premarital sex, serial monogamy, promiscuity, sex work, and so on: all of them reduce net social investment in children at the margin, with obvious and direct negative consequences for fertility.

Given these results, we don’t even need to ask about other possible negative consequences of feminist policies that might result in attenuated social disorder, such as the widely noticed and massive endemic uptick in depression, anxiety, and other psychopathologies, mood disorders, and adverse life outcomes (such as loneliness and alienation in old age) among modern liberated feminists, as compared with traditionally feminine women. Nor do we need to ask whether it is fair to expect women to aspire first and foremost to have and raise children in a traditional marriage. None of those things can begin to matter if there are not enough children around to keep society going.

It is only fair to ask whether there is anything a society can gain by feminist policies. The answer of course is yes. Women in particular gain some value from feminist lives, or such lives would never be pursued, or even thought reasonable.

But while it is fair to ask that question, it is also irrelevant. A people suffering demographic collapse – as all modern societies are – is in no position to quibble about the ancillary benefits of feminism to women or to society at large. It is, rather, in a state of emergency, from which few peoples recover. It must, above all else, do everything it can to increase total fertility. If it does not succeed in so doing, then it is doomed to vanish from history, taking with it all the notions that its experiment with them showed are manifestly perverse and maladaptive.

Two vexed questions remain, that the Test does not apparently very obviously or quickly answer. First, is patriarchy maladaptive? Second, does women’s suffrage fail the Test? These questions both reduce to a simpler: does it work, mutatis mutandis, to grant women de jure political power? This question reduces in turn to a more general question, which we have already Tested and answered in the negative: does it work, all things considered, for women to spend lots of time on activities not directly contributory to the welfare of the children of their families?

Note now that none of this is to recommend that women be immured in the household compound, as in traditional Islamic societies. Nor is it to recommend that women be absolutely prevented from activities outside the domestic sphere. Both those proposed policies fail the Test, too. Better than most formal law and regulation, it seems, to leave people alone to make their own decisions as much as possible, and let the devil take the hindmost (as he will in any case eventually), so culling the herd of the foolish and weak of mind or heart or gut.

The sad fact is that *almost all proposed policies are going to fail the Test.* This in turn is due to the fact that most innovations are lethal, or at least morbid … because there are so many more ways to miss the mark than there are to hit it.

So may we see that the Gedanken Policy Test is a dry run. Natural selection among peoples is the wet run – wet with blood and guts – of the same procedure. Nature does not care whether a people is sapient or prudent enough to run Gedanken Policy Tests honestly and consistently, ahead of time. Nature is going to run the test in real life, willy nilly. And it is individual men, women and children who pay the price of policies that fail the Test: social disaster is mediated and carried out via personal disasters. So much so that we could almost say that personal disaster is the stock in trade of social reformers. The catastrophes of the French and Communist revolutions are the obvious examples, but even the most anodyne, harmless seeming, most beneficent reforms can ruin millions of lives; viz., public school.

Administering the Gedanken Policy Test is like looking over the edge of a great sheer cliff, thousands of feet high. The view is exhilarating, beautiful, majestic, terrifying … and curiously alluring. The Test can furnish the moral wherewithal to step back away from the edge before the temptation to give in to the Fall becomes irresistible.


One final note: the Test works also on questions of personal morality. E.g., with respect to the sin of gluttony, which man Jack is more likely to suffer an early painful death, and which is more likely to prosper and flourish in good health: the Jack who indulges his gluttony without let or hindrance, or the Jack who eats prudently, or even abstemiously? As with almost all questions about what any organism ought to do next, the question answers itself. So then the answer can provide guidance that leads to propriety of life.


Post Scriptum: It goes without saying that sexual perversions of all sorts also fail the Test a fortiori and spectacularly. A careful and honest examination of the sexual sins that are not perverse – as porneia, extramarital sex, masturbation, and so forth, indeed lust in general – reveals that they, too, fail it.

11 thoughts on “Feminism versus the Gedanken Policy Test

  1. “an hour spent in the office is an hour taken away from the nurture of children, and an increase in their cost; res ipsa loquitur.

    Non constat, if the hourly earnings exceed the cost of child-care.

    Another thought occurs to me. How much of women’s time was actually devoted to child-care, before they went out to work?

    Take my grandmother, born in 1885 as typical. She married at 17 and found herself managing a household of a Cook-Housekeeper, Kitchen Maid, Lady’s Maid and Housemaid, all of whom lived in and a Char-woman who came in daily for the heavy cleaning and a Laundress, who came once or twice a week. These were the days before household appliances, such as vacuum-cleaners, washing machines, fridge-freezers and electric power.

    She had to supervise the ordering, cooking and laundry for the family and for 5 single farm workers, who lived in the bothy.

    She ran a poultry business, traditionally the housewife’s perk, and was active in pest control, riding to hounds 3 or 4 times a week in the season (3 horses and a riding groom).

    She had 5 children and employed a Nursemaid and a Nursery Maid to look after them. When t hey reached 8, they were sent to boarding-school for 39 weeks in the year (3 13-week terms)

    • Time spent on the maintenance of a homestead counts as time spent on the nurture of children; more so than time spent in a law office or insurance agency or factory, anyway.

      Your grandmother does not sound typical! Not, that is, unless we totally discount her servants, farm hands, the faculty and staff of the boarding schools, and their families in our statistical calculation of typicality. She sounds, not like a typical housewife, but rather a typical gentlewoman, in charge of a large estate. Nothing wrong with that, of course. You won’t find any hatred of hierarchy or nobility anywhere around the Orthosphere.

      The proper comparison is between the conditions of your grandmother’s estate with or without her direct involvement in its maintenance. That is an interesting comparison, because it reduces to the same question as that of familiar monarchy, pro or con. The question is this: is a social organism (whether family, estate, or kingdom) healthier – more likely to prosper, flourish, and succeed – when its government is in the hands of an unfamiliar hireling, or when it is in the hands of a familiar with genetic ties to his wards, and thus a visceral (rather than a merely fiduciary) feeling of duty toward them, and toward their good – a visceral feeling of love, i.e.? I believe the question answers itself.

      If your grandmother had hired a manager to run the household in her stead, and gone off to a job that paid more (after tax and business expenses such as commuting) than the (before tax) salary of the manager, it would not at all have followed that the family – or the nation! – would have been better off than if she had stayed home and run the place herself, so that the manager remained available to the labor market. The push by government to get women out of the home and into the labor market is intended to increase the income tax base, and thus government revenues. It does not at bottom intend the good of women, or of families – or, in the long run, of the polity *and its tax base.*

      • The push by government to get women out of the home and into the labor market is intended to increase the income tax base

        I would remark in passing that, when my grandmother married, Income Tax in the UK was 1/-2d (one shilling and twopence) in the pound old money or 6p in the current decimal coinage; this, despite (or because of) the fact that, between 1871 and 1911, the population had grown from 31 m to 42 m, a 35% increase.

        her servants, farm hands, the faculty and staff of the boarding schools

        The servants (all unmarried) lived in, as did bachelor farm labourers, who lived in the bothy.

        In the case of married labourers, married couples were always hired jointly and both worked on the farm. Each couple lived in a tied cottage, which had at least ¼ acre of ground for a “kale yard” (kitchen garden). They kept poultry and they had grass for a cow on the common grazings, including winter hay.

        In the case of the boarding schools, the boys’ schools operated the House system. As part of his contract, the House Master was allowed to take a certain number of boarders. He received their boarding fees and a portion of their tuition fees. His wife (House Masters were always married) was responsible for looking after them, dealing with tradesmen and employed her own staff to do so. She was very much præposita domum. Assistant masters were unmarried.

        My 2 aunts went to convent schools in Belgium, as had my grandmother (Her first piano teacher was a pupil of Clara Schumann; a distinction she shared with Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

        familiar monarchy

        150 years earlier, this was well described by Dr Johnson, on his visit to the Highlands:

        “The name of highest dignity is Laird, of which there are in the extensive Isle of Sky only three, Macdonald, Macleod, and Mackinnon. The Laird is the original owner of the land, whose natural power must be very great, where no man lives but by agriculture; and where the produce of the land is not conveyed through the labyrinths of traffick (sic), but passes directly from the hand that gathers it to the mouth that eats it. The Laird has all those in his power that live upon his farms. Kings can, for the most part, only exalt or degrade. The Laird at pleasure can feed or starve, can give bread, or withold it. This inherent power was yet strengthened by the kindness of consanguinity, and the reverence of patriarchal authority. The Laird was the father of the Clan, and his tenants commonly bore his name. And to these principles of original command was added, for many ages, an exclusive right of legal jurisdiction.

        This multifarious, and extensive obligation operated with force scarcely credible. Every duty, moral or political, was absorbed in affection and adherence to the Chief. Not many years have passed since the clans knew no law but the Laird’s will. He told them to whom they should be friends or enemies, what King they should obey, and what religion they should profess.”

        As to its effects, Johnson notes, “Civility seems part of the national character of Highlanders. Every chieftain is a monarch, and politeness, the natural product of royal government, is diffused from the laird through the whole clan.”

      • Wow, terrific quotes from Johnson. Re “laird,” of relevant interest:

        Lord: mid-13c., laverd, loverd, from Old English hlaford “master of a household, ruler, feudal lord, superior; husband,” also “God,” translating Latin dominus, Greek kyrios in the New Testament, Hebrew yahweh in the Old (though Old English dryhten was more frequent). Old English hlaford is a contraction of earlier hlafweard, literally “one who guards the loaves,” from hlaf “bread, loaf” (see loaf (n.)) + weard “keeper, guardian” (from PIE root *wer- (3) “perceive, watch out for”).

        Confer “watcher,” “shepherd.”

      • a contraction of earlier hlafweard, literally “one who guards the loave

        Similarly, “lady” comes from hlæfdige or loaf-kneader

        Peasant proprietors like my family, working their home farm and with a few vassals, are known by the disparaging name of “bonnet lairds,” as they wore the bonnet of the common people, rather than the hat of the gentry.

        A “laird” in the Lowlands (We are in Ayrshire) meant a heritable proprietor (the equivalent of the English freeholder) of land worth “40 shillings of Old Extent” (an ancient land tax assessment carried out by King Alexander III in 1280) – Round here, that would be about 60 acres – and with at least one vassal, who held of him heritably and irredeemably. That qualified him to matriculate arms from the Lyon Court with a territorial designation, e.g. “Paterson-Seymour of Boyd.”

        As a result, no one round here ever uses my surname (I fancy some of them don’t even know it); I am always “Mr Boyd,” the name of my land. That is why, in Scotland, one finds names like “Moncrieff of that ilk.” “Ilk” means “same,” as in the old poem,

        “The cap he wore was crimson red,
        And of that ilk his morning gown.”

        Or in the old version of Matt 25:6, “He wha had gotten the five talents gaed, an’ coft an’ trocked wi’ that ilk.”

        In other words, “Moncrieff of that same” or “Moncrieff of Moncrieff,” the branch of the Moncrieff family still living on the lands of Moncrieff. A mere tacksman (lease-holder) would be “Johnson at Boyd.”

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  3. M. Paterson-Seymour, I just read an article that would interest you (and perhaps others): https://www.crisismagazine.com/opinion/a-unified-theory-of-backwardism (grâce à Père Z).

    Relevant to this thread, today I looked at a gingerbread man’s packaging from a local bakery. The backing described the product as a “Decorated Gingerbread Person.” It disgusted me. Old Kraut Freddy famously described feminism as the uglification of Europe. Our philologist was guilty of excess. It was, and remains, simply uglification. It mars whatever it touches.

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  5. Sure, but that is not the test liberals use. It is more like “Does proposing this policy make me look nice and caring?”

    I mean… given that the opinion of one person is very very unlikely to lead to an actual policy change, the only real use for expressing one is either curiosity (this is mine and I think yours as well, everybody who reads this post probably agrees already, so I think your motivation for posting is curiosity about people developing the idea further) or influencing how others see us.

    Now liberalism is basically the fast-food version of that later. Creating an image of responsibility, foresight etc. is long hard work. It is faster and easier to create the image of the nice person, with words that generally communicate a kind of a warm fuzzy caring comforting feeling. Emitting liberal policy proposals are basically the equivalent of hugs or thumb ups.

    • Creating an image of responsibility, foresight etc. is long hard work. It is faster and easier to create the image of the nice person …

      O gosh, that’s a keeper.

  6. The problem with feminism is a similar one identified by Pascal centuries ago with the Jesuits, particularly from the fifth letter, which in part reads, “Their idea is briefly this: They have such good opinion of themselves as to believe that it is useful, and in some sort essentially necessary to the good of religion, that their influence should extend everywhere, and that they should govern all consciences…Accordingly, having to deal with persons of all classes and of all different nations, they find it necessary to have casuists assorted to match this diversity.” I can’t be the only one to notice how often feminist arguments resemble those old arguments about proximate powers?

    I do not mean to trivialize the Jesuit order; which has produced some great saints and incisive thinkers, but there is a secular resemblance as both at their core start with activism– the base subject/verb for Jesuits and feminists alike is “I exercise”– and accusing it of failure or of being wrong does not address this.


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